There is a nice message on your Facebook page from Jennifer Garibay that says, "Our family misses you!! We hope you are doing well on your mission. We hope to see you soon. May this new year bring you peace, joy and many, many blessings. You are doing an awesome job!! Happy New Year!!!"
I can't remember if we told you but the Garibays contacted Dad and told him how thankful they were for you. They said you greatly impacted their lives with your spiritual maturity. It made us feel pretty good! And made us realize that you are where you need to be. So, you probably know better than us, but it seems that your 2016 was filled with some joyful moments. I like reflecting on the past year and recording those moments, knowing that there are more to come in the upcoming year.
When I think about our 2016, it was pretty spectacular... a son on a mission (remember your New Year's call saying you finally made it to the Halifax Mission?), a trip to Utah and Sweden, witnessing my parents on their mission in Lithuania, building a new house and moving... Wow! So many changes for us BUT you know what the true highlight of the year was for me? And when I say highlight, I mean HIGHLIGHT.
It was witnessing my brother Steven in the temple getting all of his temple covenants restored and being sealed to his family, and by default reconnecting his sealing to us and my mom and dad. It was so powerful, Josh. I felt "something new" that day that cemented my testimony of temple ordinances. I was sitting in the sealing room with the double mirrors, looking at my brothers and their wives. Mom and Dad were still on their mission, so I felt like I was the boss by default. I arrived early to help dress the kids in their white clothes, then went up to the sealing room to wait. Steve and Taylie came in with their temple clothes on and knelt across the altar from each other. As the Temple Sealer said the words of the covenant, I felt a shock run through my body as if "something" was returned to me that I didn't even know was lost. It was Steven. I didn't realize that he was a missing part of our family for a long time, ever since his excommunication years ago. When the covenant was restored to him, it was a very tangible feeling of completeness. I couldn't believe how tangible it felt. Mom and Dad told me afterwards that they felt it in Lithuania. Mom spent the day in tears.
And I adore seeing Steven now. He is so much more himself, if you know what I mean. His countenance is joyful and his testimony is stronger than ever. He's helped me to realize and know better than ever that this Gospel is designed to bring us joy in this life and family is central to that joy.
On the first day of 2016, we went to church in Sparwood and the discussion in Sunday School was about the purpose of fear and trembling. Lol! Mark, Steve, David, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma and Kurri all made profound and important remarks. I had a moment of wonder that my entire family was strong in the Gospel and that we strengthen each other. A big epiphany came to me about the importance of feeling humble, that the Lord is clear about the consequences of sin so we will fear a little and hopefully it brings us to humility and NOT depression, anxiety or feelings of failure. Mark clarified and said those depressive feelings do not come from God, so we shouldn't give in to them. Enter the Atonement. I love the Saviour and all He did for me, for you and for all mankind. We still have to go through hard things but we can do it confidently and peacefully. I'm so grateful for the Atonement. What a great way to start a new year.
I'm also grateful for you, too, Elder Smith. So much. Your mission is blessing us, you know. It's blessing you but that blessing extends to us. Thank you for serving the Lord. It is the best work of all.
We arrived home last night from our yearly Christmas pilgrimage. The Smiths rented a lodge in the foothills where we all had our own rooms. It was near Payne Lake so we could skate, icefish, roast marshmallows, toboggan or whatever. We played board games and did puzzles. It was fun.
The Bruce's mashed in to Gma and Gpa's house and I've never heard so many crying babies in my life. It was the loudest chaos yet. Despite all that, we still had fun. The Uncles are as crazy as they've ever been. I was impressed with David, who made everyone homemade jam. We skated at the rink, went to the church to blow off some steam, swam at the pool, did Chinese Christmas and all the regular stuff. I loved it, but I'm glad to be home.
2017 will be all about finishing this Wizard Lake house (garage, deck, eavestroughs), putting in a garden, and sticking around home. There is a lot to do but we are really enjoying it. We've only been here a month but Ben said, "Our new house if beginning to feel like home. It has a comfortable feeling." We're excited for you to see it in a year. Hopefully we'll have everything done by then. I'm not really looking forward to spring, which will reveal a sea of mud with our house in the middle. But, oh well. We'll face it with fortitude. We rented our Leduc house to some nice people. It's a little weird to own it but not own it at the same time.
To close, it is really important to me that you know how much we love you. Stephanie prayed that you "would feel our love for you across the distance." Dad and I are so very proud. "Proud" is a weird word to use but mostly we are so happy/relieved/peaceful/joyful that you have embraced a relationship with the Divine and seek to do his will. It's a bit of a dichotomy to be a believer in God and also function in the world we live in. The two are so completely opposite from each other but embracing Divinity brings a peace that the other cannot even fathom. We love you. Keep moving and praying and acknowledging all those tender mercies.
Mom (and Dad)
Oh man, I miss you all a ton and a half, I love seeing so many amazing pictures of so many people I love and adore, I can't wait to join the fun next year... well I can, and I will, but I look to the future excited while living in a wonderful journey.
There was something said about being a missionary that I heard, "do you know what sucks? being a missionary...do you know what the best thing in the world is? being a missionary" and it is true to an extent, being a missionary is physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally taxing, everything you do is so hard and at times disappointing and depressing. I have been discouraged, overwhelmed, yelled at, hated, chased by a dog, felt alone, hurt, exhausted, looked down upon. I have had all these things happen, and so has every other missionary. but on the flip side I have been uplifted, built, strengthened, born powerful testimony, felt the spirit so strong I have nearly fallen, joy so profound that I couldn't help but dance, and sing to the whole world hymns of praise and exaltation, i have been lifted up in moments of despair and grief, been given strength when I have none left. It all is such a roller coaster of emotions and experiences and there is nothing I would rather be doing now then this, I have grown attaches to the highs of service, a most rewarding and uplifting feeling that is so worth all the time I spent.
A year still seems like forever, but when I look back at all that I did last year it all goes by so fast and everyday I have been trying to appreciate more and more, I know that in no time it will all be over never again to happen in this way at this time. What a thought.
As for much updates in the smaller spectrum, I have really been zeroing in on losing weight, I have gotten protein and healthy stuff galore... and I don't know how those healthy people do it, it sucks to subject yourself to a diet, I just can't do it, so I only buy healthy stuff so that I am forced into being healthy, so far I have lost five pounds! and I am super happy... we shall see how long it lasts.
Other then that, our investigators won't meet with us. Sam and Ben you will feel such frustrations as well... unless you go to mexico or the Philippines then you will experience different problems but rest assured we will all face some trials that will be hard for us.
Well another week another set of trials, a new year with more chances for opportunities, many things will change and many will stay the same, love will abound as it always does, error will appear, truth will be present for the finding, hate may be strong but can be overcome, temptations beset the unaware and weary alike, to stay strong in the storm seek the kingdom of God, read the words of the prophets, pray to him who gave us life, serve one another and never stop believing in miracles.
quote of the day
"True commitment is what you do after the feeling is gone" so whatever goals you set this year remember that the feeling of excitement and determination will fade to nothing if you don't keep stoking the flame and in those times when it does disappear then keep on.
Remember to have Faith, believe in something greater then yourself
Repent, change your behavior, attitude, thoughts, feelings and desires to become more like Jesus Christ
Keep your covenants that you have made, commit then recommit and live to your full potential as sons and daughters of God.
Follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, learn to give and receive help from others divine and mortal help is all around us.
and most important, Endure to the End, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, or get to work. This church is a church of sacrifice and work. "Put your shoulder to the wheel" hymn #252
"A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things does not have the power to develop the faith sufficient to save" ~Joseph Smith
These are they who cannot enter into the kingdom of God those who murder, steal... and are not Valiant in the Testimony which they have of Christ.
So be Valiant, love truth, continually seek after the well being of others, look unto the light of the atonement and never turn from that which you know is true, Pray to God when you have doubts, he will always, always answer your prayers in ways you may not expect, in his own time. "trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understandings, In all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path" Proverbs 3:5-6
I love you all so much and can feel your love daily.
The other day we got bashed by a Jewish rabbi a direct descendant of Aaron, he told us that what we believed is wrong, and spent 10 minutes telling us how evil we were, the spirit of contention entered into my heart so I chose not to confront him on anything too much, I asked though, why they don't do sacrifices, I learned that it is because they are waiting for a temple at Jerusalem, it was never rebuilt after the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD, and I have also heard that they are awaiting a prophet to tell them and direct them as to how to build it. all in all it was an interesting encounter, remember never to bash people on your missions, you cannot teach unless you have the spirit.
Me in a Christmas chair!
Some more pictures you might like: