Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 11, 2016

From Mom:

Dear Elder Smith,
We are deep into juggling right now at our house.
1) Cody is over. He's the only one packed for Trek. Dad and the boys are scrambling to find mess kits and bed rolls. We could probably find sleeping bags if,
2) The house was more organized and clean. So, if I clean up and dejunk, we could find all our stuff to....
3) Pack up for traveling to see Grandpa and Grandma. Actually, both sets of grandparents, as...
4) The girls are staying in Glenwood while we're away.
I seem to just be going in circles. So....I'll just write you an email and maybe I will be more productive after that. :)

Mostly, I wanted to share an experience I had last week. I went to pay a speeding ticket at the court house and ended up in a line of 20 people. After about 10 minutes of waiting, I had cleaned out my purse out of boredom, ate some old fruit snacks I found at the bottom, then started to people watch. I noticed a mom come through security with a newborn baby and a young son. Before that, I noticed another mom with two rambunctious children and I thought, "phew! I'm glad those days are over for me," and I didn't feel so bad about having to wait by myself. After a couple more minutes, I could hear one of the moms saying, "would you two stop it?" They were at the back of the slow line and it looked like those kids were just as bored as I was.
I immediately had the thought to trade places with that woman as I was now near the front of the line. But I didn't want to trade, so I sat there arguing with my shoulder angels for a minute or two. Finally I thought, "this might be a gentle nudge by the Spirit to help someone out" and I got really curious as to what might happen. So, I asked the people in line behind me if they would mind if I traded spots. They agreed, so I walked to the back and asked her if she wanted my spot in line. She seriously stared at me in disbelief before she agreed with a very relieved expression on her face.

As I took her spot near the back of the line, I realized I was in front of the other mom with the newborn baby. We chatted a bit, then she told me this was her first time fighting a ticket. She was really nervous. I was able to walk her through the process and minimize her worry, discuss parenting ideas and commiserate on the evils of traffic tickets. Her husband had been out of work for 3 months. She received a 'failing to stop at a stop sign' ticket for $388, and they just didn't have any money to pay it. She said she might have come to a rolling stop once but is a very conscientious driver. She looked to be Mennonite with a longer shirt and hair in a bun. My blood started to boil as to our ridiculous traffic ticket cash cow Albertan government. We discussed how believing in God can help us through difficult times. She wondered if she was a law abiding citizen if she fought the ticket. We talked about accountability and how to have a voice when we feel injustice.

It was a pretty deep conversation and my second round of going through the line again seemed very short. In the end, I paid my ticket and she decided to take hers to trial. She felt good about that decision. As we walked out we saw the other mom sitting with her kids in the waiting area to see the judge. She looked so sad, and I wondered what was going on in her life. We waved and wished her good luck. I felt like 'Mom's of the world. UNITE!' hahaha

Anyway, the point of the story is that Heavenly Father knows what is going on in every person's life and if we follow the Spirit, we can be contributing citizens and help those around us. Never suppress a generous thought because you just never know.

I'm so grateful for the Gospel and the promptings of the Spirit.

Now, if I could just use the power of God to help me get organised for the summer. Hm. Maybe I can.

Love you lots!

Mom

P.S. I got another picture of you from the bishop's wife last night. Soon, I'll have a photo album full of you eating supper with your companions. Lol!

From Josh:

The spirit is truly a wonderful thing and I love its constant companionship it has helped me a lot whenever I am confused or wondering about something.
This week I have been pondering over the role of opposition, just yesterday while in sacrement meeting, I was sitting and listening to some beautiful testimonies, the first councelor is being released and we are getting a new one so Bro Paulson (the former first councelor) gave a wonderful testimony on recieving revelation... but as I was listening I was suddenly overcome for the first time with a feeling of being completely overwhelmed to the point where I could physically feel it, we are supposed to go on splitts with the Elders and High priest in our ward to go to appointments on wednesday and I have to set appointments to fill an hour of time for both me and Elder Postelnicu that feels overwhelming and we are teaching a non member family how to do family home evening, while on top of that I have to plan out our days, give trainings to Elder Postelnicu, finding new people, and also there have been a lot of people really ragging on us about what we believe.
one experience, we were going to visit a inactive member the Bishop wanted us to check on and when we were walking up we heard a voice behind us "Your kind aren't aloud in these parts" turning around we saw a shirtless man who looked to be around 50 glaring at us from the other side of a wall, my first thought I was startled and I would have felt more threatened if 1. he was not on the other side of a wall, and 2. if that line didn't sound like an old western film. 
"I won't have you going around and spreading your lies to my neibors" he said
I asked him if he knew what religion we were
"you are mormon and I need to tell you that you are working for the devil, I don't know how you got into that cult but you need to get out now, because your souls can't be redeemed by Christs redeeming sacrifice if you are working for satin for he is a clever deciever and you need to give up that book of yours and turn back to the bible"
"I do study the bible, in fact I read it just as devoutly as I read the Book of Mormon" I replied, after a couple of seconds he said
"The Book of Mormon is a false book" to which I countered, "have you ever read the book of mormon?"
"Bits and peice but I have read enough about it to know its wrong" an answer that I have begun to get used to.
"Where did you hear it was wrong?"
"I am not going to tell you because you have been trained to counter anything I say"
"I have not been trained in anything but let me ask you this, If I didn't believe that the Bible was true what would you
tell me to do to discover its truth?"
he didn't answer for a couple minutes, "thats a good question... I would tell you to read it and pray about it so that the Holy Ghost will minister to you and tell you it is true"
"All of the bible? or just bits and peices?" I asked refering to his infrequent study of the Book of Mormon
"All of it cover to cover, that is the only way you can discover its truth"
"Then we invite you to do the same with the Book of Mormon"
"No it is false and if you are not going to listen then I can't help you!" and he walked off
this is only one experience of a few that have happened and with this one I had been given in the very moment what I should say, but there have been times where I have not, and those times are discouraging because I always desire the spirit to work through me and I love every time I am given that chance to have the spirit speak through me. 
So all these experiences and duties combined to make me feel so overwhelmed and sad and negative against my ability as a missionary. So after Church we went to our apartment to take lunch and I just said a quiet prayer in my heart and felt like I should read the Ensign and I read the talk "Oposition in all things by Dallin H Oaks" and determined that this is a chance to grow and be stronger for the trials and hardships I will face. That and going and visiting awesome members and eating at the Bishops really helped me to regain a cheerful attitude.
Another experience where we met a basher was a potential investigator visit, he let us in and we sat down and started talking about our message, I said that we had a living prophet today, and he asked for how we knew I told him of the Book of Mormon and as soon as I did I could see from the look on his face that we were in deep, and he started quoting verses from the bible, Revelations 22:18-19 and then asked how many books are in the bible... I replied that I didn't know, he then turned slowly to Elder Postelnicu and asked him if he knew, when he didn't he shook his head and said that there were 66 books in the old and new testiment, then asked if we knew what Jerimiah said, I said I didn't he looked at Elder Postelnicu and asked him if he knew, he said he didn't, he shook his head and said something about in the last days there would be false prophets and by this time I was sick and tired of being treated like an idiot, I didn't have the spirit because I did not like this guy, I was praying that the spirit would tell me to know what to say but I didn't recieve anything, because all I wanted to do was to make this guy look like an idiot. The whole time I was trying to respond and kept stumbling over my words and confusing myself more and more, once he was finished belittling me and smiling at me like the child I was, he looked over at Elder Postelnicu and told him to talk because he had been quiet this whole time and I thought, 'oh no he has only been on his mission for 3 weeks!'
Elder Postelnicu sat there for a little bit in silence then simply and beautifully asked "have you read the Book of Mormon?" he said he had perused it but hadn't read the whole thing.
Elder Postelnicu then bore a simple but glorious testimony of the blessing he had recieved from reading it, he knew it was from God because of the change it had brought in him and invited the guy to read it. The spirit came into the room and I felt so grateful for my companion, who though young as a missionary had the sense to bare a simple sweet testimony in the face of high intelect. We ended up leaving having done nothing but my love for elder Postelnicu grow so much.
I love being a missionary, it is truly an emotional, spiritual and physical roller coster ride and I have grown so much and I also know more then ever of my own nothingness compared to God, I am not the smartest person and neither the strongest, but I have a testimony of this divine work, it is the work of God and we are proclaiming the truth of the fullness of the Gospel.
I love you all and hope you are all staying safe.
Joshua


July 5, 2016

Jul 5
Dear Josh,

How was your Fourth of July? I really loved getting a random picture of you from a stranger. She tells me I raised a very good man, and I believe her. 😊
She also tells me she is always giving you groceries. I can see what you mean about trying to keep the pounds off! Lol!
There are a few things you can do to help with that.
1) Don't eat anything after 6 p.m. At that point anything you eat will go straight to fat as you slow down and rest for the night.
2) Take smaller portions of meat and carbs (bread, rice, potatoes) if you can at meals but load up on veggies. You can't eat too many of those.
3) Drink lots of water, which I assume you are doing already due to the heat, but especially in the morning when you wake up. This gets your metabolism kick started and reduces sugar cravings.
4) Reduce or eliminate sugar. OR, eat your sugar earlier in the day. Sugar goes straight to fat, especially at rest.
5) Eat something small every two hours. I know, I know, but if you have a few snacks in your pack like veggies, fruit or cheese cubes (maybe they would melt? I don't know) but the idea of eating a snack every two hours boosts your metabolism, levels out blood sugars and keeps a person from loading up at supper.
Once a Mom, always a Mom. 😉 And I love you, so get used to advice. Lol!

It's been very busy lately, but a good kind of busy so I'm not complaining. Cody and Benson spent last week hanging out with us. We did ask the usual stuff: geocaching, going to the river, buying junk food and gaming, me making them work doing house chores and gardening. Haha. The encouraging thing for me was they were willing to participate in family prayer and scripture study. Benson kept asking if he could say the prayer. And Cody read when it was his turn. They're good kids and respectful.
Then Mark and Shannon and family showed up for traditional Canada Day stuff. We ran the Canada Day Road Race, saw the parade (the adults were mostly entertained by a guy who showed up and moved a barricade and changed the parade route, 😆), went to the river, had a fire, watched the fireworks, etc.) Brin is 2 years old now and she was carrying around our little red book of The Call of the Wild. I said, "Brinny, what book do you have?" And she said in her little voice, "Jesus Christ." Hahaha. I suppose it could have looked like scripture with its gold edges pages. Their children are all adorable. The best highlight (for me) about Canada Day was accidentally walking past the Civic Centre (old library) during a formal flag raising. Six Mounties stood at attention and as they raised the flag, the speaker prayed that "we, as a nation, would proceed with love and acceptance with Divine assistance." A chill ran up my spine with a conviction of the love I have for Canada and for the good people all around us.

But THIS was the busy highlight of the week. Saturday morning, July 2, I woke up early to bring the Ames boys home to Red Deer, then I continued on to Cardston where Steve and Taylie were sealed together with their children for time and all eternity in the temple. Seeing them all in their whites was something to behold. It's actually quite difficult to describe my feelings ... like something I didn't know was lost was restored, like something clicked into place that I didn't know was out of joint, or like the last piece of the puzzle was found and I didn't even know the puzzle was incomplete. It was relief and joy and family love all together. My testimony was strengthened by a leap and a bound regarding the value of covenants. 

Families ARE central to the Plan of Salvation. I knew that already, but now I know it even better.

Afterwards I asked Steven how he was feeling and the short answer is mostly deep and abiding gratitude for the Atonement. He said he felt like the leper who was restored to health or the blind man who was given his sight back. Because I love my brother, I also felt gratitude for the Saviour for restoring him back to us and also for Steven for choosing to do so. Best. Day. Ever.

Also, we put in a new paving stone patio in the front. It looks so good. We spent all of FHE finishing it. Even Sam, who worked an 11 hour day, came home and helped for 2 hours. The girls hauled bricks, Ben tamped, Dad rented equipment and made it happen. We all worked together and got 'er done.

In other news, we're excited you get to train! What is your new companion's name? And where is he from?

Regardless of the insecurities you feel, I am confident that you're proceeding with humility and grace and doing better than you think. Don't worry, you'll hit your stride soon. We pray for you every prayer, so you DO have that extra help. 😉 If anything else, KEEP MOVING. Elder Peterson, who is currently serving in our ward, shared a story in testimony meeting. He said about a month ago all their appointments for the entire day cancelled in a 5 minute period and they were discouraged. In desperation, they got in their car and started driving, just to do SOMETHING. They drove past a house with a SOLD sign in the front and he had a thought to go ask the people if they needed help moving. He second guessed himself because it's a random thing to do, but it was better than doing nothing so they did it. They came to find out that these older people were calling to churches and community groups for help moving with no luck. Through the service the missionaries provided this couple is now taking the discussions. Elder Peterson said, "The Spirit is so gentle." So keep moving and follow the goods thoughts that pop into your brain.

We love you so much, Elder Smith. You are where you need to be, and you are doing a great work. Watch for those miracles and tender mercies which abound and reassure us we are on the right path. Life is good. God is good. 

There are so many things to celebrate.

Love forever,
Mom
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From Dad:

Hi Josh,

So sorry we didn't write last week. We were just coming home from our trip to Utah and missed the chance. No excuse, just didn't do it. Repenting now :)

Thanks for writing to us about your experience as a trainer. The Lord certainly trusts you and I'm sure it is getting better over time. That's how the Lord changes us, he stretches us. 

We had a fantastic trip to Utah. We spent some quality and fun time with Steph and Tyler in Provo and Salt Lake and finished off with some adventure in Zion's national park with Dave Crowther doing some mountain climbing and canyoneering (similar to what you and Mom did with him and Shelly last time you guys went down there). It was really fun. My favorite part was watching Abby and Ben rappel for the first time. There is so much power in doing hard things, conquering our fears. It brings confidence. As you work through this challenge of training a new missionary so early in your mission, you will grow and gain confidence so much more than if you hadn't had the opportunity.

 

One of the trips we did in Zion's park was to climb a mountain called "Angel's Landing". It is a very steep, and somewhat treacherous trail that requires chains to make it up the last half. I have a love/hate relationship with hikes like that. I love the challenge and the feeling when I conquer it, but I hate the clenching feeling of being up so high with such a close proximity of tragedy, especially when I'm watching my kids do it. This time I was very proud of all our kids. Abby and Mia were brave and fearless and much more relaxed than I was. They've got some of their Mom's genes in them.  I wasn't as nervous for them as I thought I would be. In the end the view was amazing and the feeling of accomplishment wonderful. Lots of analogies to life.

 

Today I'm teaching the YM and the topic for July is Ordinances and Covenants. I'm sure we talked about this before, but I love the analogy of rock climbing or rappelling when it comes to this topic. The analogy of anchor points along our journey (ordinances) that we can choose to clip into (making covenants) to help us safely navigate treacherous journeys is powerful to me. As we rappelled down various sections of Keyhole canyon, I thought too, how even though we have clipped into an ordinance and consciously chosen to do that by covenant, we are still the one holding the rope and deciding when to move forward by letting the rope slide (service, good works, priesthood duty) and when to brake by pulling the rope back (before temptation). Ordinances and covenants give us  that choice.

 

Celebrating Canada day reminded us again of the wonderful country we live in and the amazing opportunity to be free to choose our path and destiny. We enjoyed having Mark and Shannon and their kids over again (it's becoming a tradition). Mark, Mom and Shannon did the 5K race and we watched the Leduc parade and went to the spray park. 

We are making good progress on the yard, and hope to have most of it done by the time we head to Sweden. Focusing on the paving stone landing off the step right now. 

 

We had the opportunity to stop in on the way home from Utah and visit with Grandma and Grandpa Smith. We were excited to help them with the railings on the new deck they just built on the garage side of their house. Grandpa was pretty tired as he just had surgery on his bladder and they found another tumor after that they may have to go in again and get out. Keep praying for him.
 

Trek is only 1.5 weeks away and final preparations are almost done. Nervous but excited to pull it off. Such a great experience for the youth to have.

Lately I've been pondering a lot about the concept of the balance between the current moment and the future self. The idea that we often sacrifice future happiness and goals because the immediacy of the moment is hard to resist when we are trying to sacrifice current wants for future benefit. The classic example is exercise, but it can be applied to overcoming pornography, achieving goals, doing home teaching and building family relationships, etc.. I read a really interesting article about staying in the moment when we are struggling with these choices of now vs later and really trying to analyze why we are feeling what we are feeling and what the underlying causes and triggers are that causes us to sacrifice future good for the tempting now. Taking time to really examine ourselves in those moments instead of escaping into the easy path will help us gain self-mastery and ultimately allow us to become who we need to be. I certainly have a long way to go in this regard, but I have hope that I can inch forward and become a little better every day.

Hope that is enough pictures and some thoughts to brighten your week. We love you and are so proud of you. 

Good luck with your soul stretching opportunities. 

Love Dad.

PS. We love hearing some of the details of your experiences both personally and with the people you work with. Keep them coming. 

P.S.S. Mia keeps asking about any baptism experiences you have had. Anything to share in this area?

From: Joshua

Dad, thank you for all the pictures, It makes me feel connected and part of the family even though I am thousands of miles away.
It is so great to hear about all your marvelous adventures and I wish I could be there with you, but I know I am here to serve, and I am loving it.
It is so hard training a new missionary when I feel like I have only been out for two months myself, I am continually lost, confused and constantly drawing blanks in planning, in lessons, and in trainings, in the morning we have 1 hour of personal study, 1 hour of comp study (which I have to lead) then another hour of training (where I have to direct) and I am overwhelmed uncertain and tired... but the interesting thing is I would have it no other way, I love it so much, and I know I am growing faster then ever before, I know that God answers prayers because this is exactly what I have been praying for!
Recently we have been teaching a Reorginized Latter day Saint, and it has been challenging because of our conflicting opinions but similar beliefs, and I have been really bothered by it, its something that has taken presidence in my mind, and I have been constantly studying to understand his point of view while establishing what my view is. 

I have found in myself a drive to discover truth and if something is presented to me that I don't know about the Gospel and the church it will take over my mind until I have recieved an answer that satisfies me and there have been a lot of things that I have had to tell myself that I may never learn it till I go up to my heavenly father. 
while we were knocking doors we knocked in to some Grace Baptists, and as soon as I heard which religion they were from I had to mentally prepare myself for a full on assault on my beliefs, we were handed a couple anti-mormon Pamphletts of theirs and admonished to read and pray about it, in turn we gave them one of ours and told them to discover the truth of what we said by that same method... curiosity took over me and I read the anti pamphlet, and realized that it wasn't consistent with anything I had ever heard, the thing about it was that it relied on lies and half truths, first it enraged the reader by saying Joseph Smith said that all christian churches were wrong "and he was told that he must join none of them" and then talked about how he spread lies, then talked about the adam God theory that Brigham talked about, but failed to mention the later part of the discourse where he speaks about how he was wrong to say what he said. I remember Elder Wilson saying that there is no new anti, all of the anti that comes out will always be based on things said in the past and rely on half truths. Because it was only spoke half truths it had no foundation, and earlier in the day we had talked about how having a foundation rooted in the Gospel would keep you from the shafts and the wirlwinds of satin. Not that I am going to go search out more anti but the pamphlet I read only seemed to strengthen my conviction and testimony of the Gospel and the church, I love our method of convincing people, we never tell people they are wrong but allow them to read and pray and study to determine the truth for themselves. in all of my time spent as a missionary not one person who has tried to convince me I am false has tried to uplift me. the worlds method is to bring us down so and degrade, the truth is not degrading or hurtful, but it is joy and happiness, if we are not spreading relief, uplifting, and joyous messages how can we call it the truth... don't get me wrong, we are not a church that spreads flowers fuzzy feelings, being a member of the church, like mom said brings covenants, and Iove the analogy of clipping in, I have used it so many times (thanks dad) to illistrate making covanants with the Lord, one person I was talking to told me this about insurance, "I trust my insurance agent, even though it is a lot more expensive at least I can sleep through the night knowing that I don't have to worry about a thing." this Gospel is the truth, sure it is a lot more expensive, we have been given commandments that may seem hard to keep, the word of wisdom, law of chastity. but at least when we lie down to sleep at night we can have the full confidence that we are doing what we should. 
So my invitation to you is to center yourself on the Gospel, if you don't have a full testimony get one. Pray to be humble enough to be taught, Put your trust in the Lord, he gave his life for you, why not give your life for him.
The new missionary that I am training his name is Elder Postelnicu (Post-el-nee-koo) he lives in Pleasant Grove Utah, he is really fun to be around and we are basically learning together a lot of things. He doesn't do much at home he worked at walmart, and has never been on a date, he is 20 like me and the reason he didn't go on a mission at first was because he felt too shy to preach the Gospel.
I hope things are going well with you all and I love you so much!
Joshua Smith


Me and Elder Postelnicu on a mountain range, there was an air fire fighter station nearby so we went and got pictures next to their Helicopter. 

June 27, 2016

Dear Family,

Wow it has been quite a week and I am so grateful for every experience, This was my first week doing things on my own and let me just say, it has been a learning process, I am still in my area and I am driving now.
I have discovered that I don't know my area as much as I thought I did, I have realized that I have relied on previous companions to know what they are doing in planning and companion study, so now that I am doing most of that we are having a heck of a time, during this week I have
Gotten us lost,
spent forever in planning staring blankly at my planner while my companion is looking at me like I should know what I have been doing.
and there have been many awkward moments where we have had to talk to people and I don't know what to say, my companion is looking at me like I should know what I am doing and the person who we are talking to is looking at me to carry on the conversation and I am frantically trying to figure out what to say.
don't even get me started on companion study and the extra hour that I get to train, its  definitely hard to come up with things to talk about, much less train about, because I still feel as if I have been out here for only two months myself. Its hard to believe that six months have flown by. 


I have had many wonderful experiences on my mission and if it is okay I would like to tell of a certain one that happened to me recently, Throughout this week I have been hearing stories of how many people have been having experiences of hearing what the spirit tell them something and also feeling a distinct impression to do something or say something by the spirit and I got selfish and in a hurried prayer I asked why I couldn't get such distinct revelation from the spirit. I felt entitled at that time to more then I had been given, and the next day at church I was sitting in Gospel principles and we were discussing spiritual gifts, the teacher said something about it mid lesson that I felt was an answer to my prayers, he said that everyone has at least one spiritual gift but none of us have all of them. I thought about that and the idea came to my mind that maybe my spiritual gifts are of a different sort, maybe I can't specifically hear words of the spirit or strong spiritual promptings, but I will follow what I know to be good because if I am doing my best to do Gods work then I will be an instrument in his hands regardless of what I may feel, the spirit will still work through me.

I love you all so much and hope that all is well.

Love,

Joshua

June 20, 2016

From Dad:

Hi Josh,

How was your week? We've had a busy one including a family trip to Utah to see Steph and Tyler. We left Thursday night after work and drove down to see the Bectells. The cousins stayed up late to see us and the kids made sure to create another movie trailer together the next morning.

While we were there, they got a call from Grandma Smith. Grandpa's surgery went well, but in a CT scan a few days later they noticed another tumor. Good chance he'll have to go for another surgery so keep praying for him.

Friday we were on the road all day. The kids did great and we didn't have any fighting. We stopped in Salt Lake to pick up Tyler from work and drove to Provo. We are coming to love Tyler more and more. He is so interested in what each of us are doing and is so creative. He spent time with Abby developing photographs in the dark room (their kitchen with black paper over the doors and windows. He also went and got pipe and supplies and built a bottle rocket with Sam. It was super cool!



  

It's been super hot here. We went for a hike up to a waterfall in provo canyon and had fun running under the waterfall. I bruised the bottom of my feet pretty good and decided to keep my shoes on when I went through again with Mom. We were a bit of a clumsy couple as we stumbled at the end and wiped out and banged into each other. Mom also forgot that her phone was in her pocket.



Saturday night we were chilling out and the neighbor across the street came and asked for help getting her miter saw unstuck. I tried but couldn't get it to move and Tyler came over and saved the day. Her name was Kiya. She is a single Mom who is in Stephs ward.

At church Sunday, a girl stood up to speak and I thought she was a Laurel until she mentioned Tyler and I helped her the night before and I realized it was Kiya. She talked about Fathers and one thing that really struck me from her talk was the idea of oscillating family narratives. The concept is that there is a lot of power in family stories that parents tell their children. Oscillating means to tell both the good and the bad. I think we have done that well in our families. Especially Mom.

Father's Day I was spoiled with a fantastic roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. I got bbq utensils, a blue tooth speaker, a nice card from Steph, and a photo of me and Mia at Telford lake from Tyler's lab. The little girls gave me fun cards and a key chain from activity days.

I'm truly blessed to have all my wonderful children. I love you son. I'm thankful for you and proud of you. We have had some fun conversations remembering good times with you.

Have a great week, son.

Ps. Some picture from the trip.

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From Josh:

Sounds like a fun trip! wish I could be with you guys, but I know where I am meant to be and that is here, I am starting to love it here, and I am continually trying to be the best I can be.

Before I start into anything I want to say, happy fathers day! I have to agree with you on our upbringing I know for me you and mom helped me be who I am today, I am thankful for a dad who has been a constant example of faith and duty throughout my whole life, you have always been there for me and even when it was hard for you, you would always make time for us. I am grateful for the life skills that you helped me gain, like changing a tire, I never thought I would need that on my mission, I am so glad for the memories we have together I remember you pushing me on my bike all those years ago down a narrow sidewalk and the confidence that I had when you were pushing me, that has been present for my whole life, I have never had to worry because I always knew you were pushing me down the correct path of life, with your steady had always guiding me, and even now when I am so far away I can feel your constant support for me, like riding a bike you eventually had to let go for me to truly learn how do it right. I love you dad, you are my hero, my role model, and my best friend, whenever someone asks me who I see as great, my first thoughts turn to you.

Transfer calls were today, I will be training a new Elder, and boy do I feel inadequate, but though all my uncertainty my testimony is strengthened that the Lord does answer blessings, I have been asking and praying for a long time to be able to grow into a better missionary, to have an increased trust in the Lord, and here is my opportunity, the opportunity that the Lord has presented to me and I am confident that he will help me through this training to grow not only myself but this new Elder... did you train on your mission? do you have any advice?

I love you guys and will try to get a new camera so I can send some pictures to you!

June 12, 2016

From: Dad

Hi Josh,

Sorry I didn't get a letter off to you last week. Good thing  you have two parents who can keep you updated and remind you how much we love and pray for you.

Your last letter sounded a little discouraged. Hope you are having a better week this week. I remember those kind of weeks. Missions are like life microcosms. Full of intense ups and downs and everything in between. I could sense behind your words faith and hope for better weeks and that is the key. Remember the words of the temple ceremony, and that In fact that is the purpose of life to learn by our own experience the good from the bad. Opposition, and the choice to work through it with faith is what changes and shapes us into heavenly beings.

The last couple of weeks have been busy and good. This week-end we made good progress on the yard. We rented a bobcat and trailer and dug out our front yard hills and started prepping for some paving stone and sod. I had two good learning experiences doing this.

First Experience: The skid steer I rented wasn't a bobcat but a John Deer and it was one of those hand controlled versions. No foot pedals. All controlled from the hands. It was a fundamental paradigm shift and initially it caused me huge frustrations. The left had is a joystick that  controls direction. The right hand controls the bucket. Forward=down, Backward=up, Right=Tilt down, Left=Tilt up. As you can imagine, my muscle memory of how to run a skid-steer was completely contrary to this and I spent the first 2 hours bouncing around and unfortunately remembering some of the curse words I heard daily in high school. I finally had the whole family clear out of the yard for fear of killing someone by accident. 

Eventually, though, after repenting for swearing,I started to learn it and by the end I was able to do a decent job of spreading the yard. I'm always intrigued and amazed at the potential of the human soul and the power the Lord has given us to learn and grow and become. Even in little things we see manifest the creative and trans-formative power the Lord has endowed us with.

Second Experience: While loading the dump trailer I rented, I was a bit over-eager on the second load. Because the dump had closed for the night, I loaded it up for the morning with lots of dirt and clay. It was Friday night and Sam came home from work on the sod crew and needed a ride out to the Days for a Venturer bike trip. Since our van is in the shop getting inspected, I didn't have a good way to take Sam and his bike. So I decided to take the truck and loaded trailer out with Sams bike in the back and dump the dirt at the acreage. As I got in the truck I noticed the gas was below quarter tank but figured I would have enough. The load was heavy and it took a little longer than normal to get to the Day's acreage. It was about 8:30 pm when I dropped Sam off. Then I headed to the acreage, noticing that the gas gage was near the empty mark. Still not worried. 

I took the trailer to the back NE corner but when I tried to dump it, the hydraulic lift was not strong enough for the amount of material in the trailer! Shoot! I was without a shovel even. Somewhat desperate, I tried to use my hands to take the top layer off, but no luck. As I pondered my options, I thought of my new neighbour, Nick Charest, who bought Milner's house. Was he home, I wondered. Fortunately, I had made his acquaintance a few weeks back and had his phone number. I texted him and providently he was home! He offered to bring his little tractor by and a shovel. He was able to take some big scoops out of the trailer with the tractor and soon I was able to dump it. What a relief. 

As I thought about the experience, a couple of impressions came to mind. One, there are so many good people around us. All trying to make a go of it and I was very touched by his cheerful service. The second impression I had was how powerful relationships are and when we cultivate them, they turn to our good. Especially our relationship with the Lord who was definitely watching out for me that night.

Last week, as Mom mentioned, I was in California on a business trip in San Ramon. I actually looked up the distance and route to your mission (you're 6 hours south of where I was at :) ).

We also had a great Pre-Trek fireside. about 180 kids showed up and I was so proud of Sam for his role on the committee. He presented twice, once with his testimony about the experience of Trek, and then as he led the group through how to pack for Trek. He was fearless and funny and Ben said he reminded him of you with your sense of humor and poise. He's growing up and will soon be out testifying like you on a  mission. Mom and I were commenting the other day how we are both happy and sad to see our family grow up. You are all amazing.

Speaking of amazing, we went to watch Abby's Acro-dance performance last night at the Maclab theatre. She did amazing and is so flexible. At the end they were giving out a few select awards and I had a strong premonition that Abby would get an award even though this is her first year and she is one among many. but the feeling persisted and sure enough she was recognized as showing the most potential as a dancer and received a $400 scholarship for dance next year! 

Mom and I are so blessed as promised by my patriarchal blessing which states: 

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So, my son, I hope you know how much the Lord is aware of you and wants you to grow, learn, change and develop important lasting relationships in your service. As you serve the people of California, build relationships and love them first, then help them find conversion through the power of the Holy Ghost. I'm so proud of you and think you are amazing and courageous. I love to see the spiritual maturity and fire in your letters. Keep it up!

Love you lots,

Dad.

Ps. Today was Jacobs farewell and Seminary Grad. Ava gave a fantastic talk at Grad. Super passionate. Both she and Bailey are prepping for mission. 

Pss attaching some random pics from the week. 

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From: Mom

Hi, Sweetie.
I just wanted to tell you a quick experience I had this week.

Leduc was hit with a surreal storm on Saturday afternoon. We knew it was coming because the county was under a severe thunderstorm watch. Honestly, I wasn't too worried when I went out for my afternoon run because although overcast, there was hardly any rain and no wind and sometimes those "watches" aren't very accurate.
I ran for about 2 km with perfect running weather; not too hot, not too cold but I was struggling to catch my breath for some reason and I was getting a stitch in my side, which isn't normal. I also had a headache so it was a bit of a half-hearted effort. I was actually a little relieved when Sue called, so I could stop and talk to her. We chatted for a few minutes when suddenly I was hit with a blast of wind and a wall of rain. I quickly hung up and started running home. At this point, I was right beside Telford Lake, 2.5 km away from home.
I put my hood up and started putting all my effort into pumping my legs. Actually, I kind of enjoy running in the rain. Once a person gets wet enough, it's just plain fun. The wetness cools you down, it's ridiculously child-like and satisfying to run through puddles, etc. So I wasn't too worried, UNTIL the thunder and lightening started.
Boom! Crash! The sky was a light show. I started wondering what it was like to get struck by lightening and if I could survive it. People were honking at me. I ran faster.
Then, the hail started. Those little buggers hurt! I felt like I was getting shot in the face. I really couldn't see very far ahead, it was coming down so hard and the hail was bouncing at my feet and filling the sidewalk. I envisioned getting struck by lightening, falling in the ditch and dying of hypothermia as the temperature dropped. Ha! I ran faster.

Guess what? Thinking back, I wasn't really aware of the stitch in my side or my headache or my out-of-breathness. And it was the fastest 2.5 km I ever ran. I think I did it in 11 minutes. A record.
Apparently there was some damage in Leduc from the storm. Trees felled. Some flooding. They're trying to determine if a tornado touched down. And you know what? I was right in the middle of it.

It made me think about the storms of life. Fill in the blank with whatever you're struggling with right now. Sometimes the only solution is to move your feet; put your head down and go. A principle of the Gospel is movement.

Just. Don't. Stop.

Before I knew it, I was home. Ironically the storm ended just as I turned up the alley. It left as quickly as it came. As I was warming up, I was thinking about how hard the run was when I had a stitch in my side and how quickly I forgot it when a real challenge came up. Lol!
It's all good, my boy. I think I'll end with a quote by C.S. Lewis:
"Experience, that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn."

So, it's all learning, Josh. Valuable learning. Rejoice in that. 😃

Love you forever,
Mom

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From:Josh

That is a crazy experience mom, and it reminds me of a scripture I have been pondering, it is Ether 12:27 it holds a ton of meaning, I like it because it is saying that when we come unto Christ its not a safe haven, in fact it is when we turn to him that he shows us how weak we are, basically we are given all our weaknesses on a platter and shown how insignificant we are, and he says his purpose for it, "I give unto men weakness that they may become humble" Humility is truly a gift from God, and is the strongest attribute one can possess, when you are humble you learn quicker, you understand and seek to understand, you make friends easier, you can feel the Holy Ghost easier and are more willing to do the things that will make not only others happier but will give you an abundance of joy that nothing else can give. It is when we are humble that we can enjoy the fruit of the tree of life more, we are slower to anger and quicker to kindness.

In Alma 27:17-18 it tells how Ammon fainted with joy, and verse 18 says, "which happiness come only to the truly penitent and humble seekers of happiness"
Something I heard that clarified humility for me was this. " humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less"
So my invitation to the world would be to be humble, Pride is the root of all evil, so the root of all good must be humility. Humility is not weakness, it is  strength. "then will I make weak things become strong unto them"

This past month has been a trial for me and I have been shown a lot of the weak things about me, I have come to know that I am still really hesitant a speaker, and I am not very confident in taking action, and I know that as I turn my will to the Lord he will make these weaknesses become strength, and the fact that we go through hard times is because we are being tried and humbled, every trial we go through is meant for us to grow, to learn and to be humble.

I had a cool experience just yesterday, we were knocking doors and not having much success, it was overcast (which is very rare in California) and we were all tired and not very motivated, the last door we knocked on we heard a dog barking and saw a man through the door window come down the stairs and grab the dog and leave, discouraged because when that happens it usually meant they aren't going to answer the door, so we started walking away, but I still clung to the hope that he would come down, so I continued to look back as we were walking away and though the window I saw him coming back so I turned and walked right back just in time to extend my hand and say "Hi I am Elder Smith a missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" he responded that his name was Edie and though our conversation we found he had never talked to missionaries, he wasn't really religious but believed in a higher power, we were able to teach him the first discussion testify of its truth and give him a Book of Mormon and a pamphlet to read and pray about, we closed with a prayer and set a date to come back Friday, so we will see what happens.

I am grateful for this work and I know that this truly is the work of God, I love you all and hope the week goes well.

Josh

Sorry these are old pictures, I have to mooch off other peoples cameras from now on, I am looking for a new one and will see how fast that goes.
:)