What is it about a new year that brings a sense of renewal and a desire to start fresh and set and commit to finish those same goals we probably set and broke last year! This year is going to be different by golly!
When I pause and reflect on 2016, though, I have to say that in so many ways we achieved far more than I ever imagined and we did and accomplished things I didn’t even set goals for!
This Christmas was bounteous to say the least, especially considering being in our new home.
One of the things that has been on my mind a lot is considering how we can take the miracle of being here and having this land and find ways to use it to bless the lives of others. It is really causing me to look for ways to make our land and home a place where others will want to come and be uplifted and helped when here.
One somewhat silly example of how this thought affects us is demonstrated in this little experience we had on our way home New Years on Sparwood.
After spending some wonderful time with my family at the Payne Lake Lodge, we committed to Auntie Liz and Uncle Jeff and their family to stop by their place on our way home to see their new place and visit. We are very excited for their new home being built. For Christmas they got an air hockey table and we enjoyed playing that with them. The next day at work, I was curious how much an Air Hockey table would be on Kijiji, so I scouted around. Turns out I found someone looking to sell one for $150 that day! When I got home, I talked to Jen about it and she convinced me that we should buy it on the premise that we want our home to be a place of gathering and fun. So we did it! Crazy, eh!.
This week’s house project has been the building of the library shelves. Mom got some great ideas from Pinterest and we were able, with the help of Sam and the kids to build some Ikea shelves on our library wall and make a wonderful floor to ceiling bookshelf. It is super exciting to start putting books in and it is just another tender mercy of seeing some of our dreams come true!
One of my favorite gifts this Christmas was the book “The Washington Hypothesis”. It is a second book by this author that discusses the powerful impact that Abraham Lincoln and George Washington had on preparing the way for the restoration of the gospel and temple covenants by restoring the National Book of Mormon Covenant (Keep the commandments and prosper else be destroyed). One insight that really struck me was the discussion of why if this is the promised land with a covenant of prosperity based on righteous living do so many righteous people including members and non-members sometime struggle economically? The suggestion in this book is that there is a difference between the promise of the promise land based on the general righteousness of the people vs. the individual covenants we make with the Lord. The National covenant means that everyone will have the freedom to make individual covenants and that there will be general prosperity to help protect and grow the restored gospel and church. Individually, we will undergo the necessary trials to help us spiritually become like God and sometimes that may mean economic struggles. It has caused me to think a lot about covenants and again about how we can covenant this land we now live on to the building up of the kingdom of God.
This week we had a fun YM activity down at the lake below the Patrick’s. Bro. Patrick cleared a spot on the lake and we had spotlights set up for a good old Canadian shinny hockey game. We had a bonfire going and had about 5 people on each team. I was pretty sore when it was done, but it was great fun.
I suggested in my last letter that I would like to share some of my mission experiences with you.
One of the most treasured experiences of my mission came right at the end. I have probably shared this experience before, but here it is:
It was the end of a long day of tracting and missionary work and we were on our way home for the day. I was serving in Ottawa and my companion was Elder Weckesser. As we left the last apartment we were tracting in, a pretty Haitian lady was climbing the stairs as we descended. I felt the prompting to GQ her and she couldn’t talk then but gave us her name and number. Her name was Catherine Chery. As we began to teach her she felt the spirit and came to both English and French church with us. On the 3rd discussion she struggled to understand the need for 1 true church and the importance of prophets and apostles. We invited her to kneel with us and we took turns praying. This is what I wrote in my journal. “After the prayer we stayed on our knees, heads bowed and felt the spirit burn within us. She felt it strongly and could hardly talk. We told her it wsa the spirit of the Lord testifying to her that what we were telling her is true. The spirit stayed strong as we finished the discussion”. I also recall that while we were kneeling the phone rang and she waited for a few rings, quickly stood up answered and told them she was busy and knelt down again, not wanting to lose the feelings of the spirit.
After some wonderful teaching experiences and some fasting and prayer, Catherine was my last baptism of my mission the Sunday before I left. Here is the Journal entry from that day:
We surely enjoyed seeing and talking with you and we love to hear your experiences.
Have a great and productive week. Seek and teach by the spirit.
My how time flies, I have been with my companion Elder Blodgett for almost three months now and transfers are next week, I have a feeling I will be moving but that will be confirmed next week, I have to say though that I hope I don't, this ward is really fun to be around, lots of amazing people and great adventures already, Sherman Oaks has a range of landscapes.
But I really don't know if I would live here or not, this land is the land of the movie business, and its prices are prices for really rich people. Example:
But I love it out here nonetheless,
The other day we were knocking down this back street and it was getting dark, we knocked on this one door and this big black guy opened up, he didn't look happy, this guy had to be nearly a foot taller then both of us, and his arms were as thick as tree trunks, he told us that he wasn't religious and I nearly had to choke out the words I spoke, but luckily the spirit came in and we asked if we could share a message with him and his family, he told us to make it short, and so we started in on the restoration, he didn't look really receptive pretty much the whole time but we used short simple statements and testified of each one being unified in purpose we switched off and the words seemed to flow from our mouths so beautifully and finally we told him about the Book of Mormon how it is the witness of all we talked about, he stopped us and said he had a question, I was preparing myself to answer his question through the scriptures when he asked something I didn't expect "where can I buy a copy of that book?" I was taken aback for a couple seconds, luckily my companion jumped in and said that we would give him a copy for free for him to find out what was true. I asked him if he was an honest seeker of truth and he told us only when the truth presented itself to be found, and I boldly testified that this was that very moment that the truth was right in front of him and he was getting access to it now. when I said that his hardened face broke into a smile not a smile of humor but of joy and of sincere happiness, he accepted a copy of The Book of Mormon and a date to come back next week and teach his family these things. I know that the Spirit truly comes at the very hour we need it as long as we treasure up in our hearts those things that will benefit the lives of others.
Honestly being a missionary is wonderful, but it can be hard sometimes, you need to have an abiding trust in God a hope that things will turn out for the good in your life and the lives of others. When you can learn to maintain an eternal perspective you will be able to see trials for what they are, opportunities to learn and grow, experiences meant for your benifit, I really love the knowledge we have of the plan of salvation, that when we know we can be together forever, death becomes simply a momentary parting where we can have a hope to see each other again. So when you experience hardship in life remember to always take it as it is a learning experience.
I love you all so much!
Our district at Buffalo Wild Wings, two elders did what is called the blazing challenge where you have to eat 12 wings in six minutes with their hottest sauce...
Another weekly planning photo...
I love your experience of meeting the tree trunk man! It goes to show that you never can tell from the outside. The Lord looks on the heart. I wish I could do that. :)
Time is going to go really fast now, Josh. Make it matter!
P.S. You have two packages on the way. One from us (I like calling it your New Year's package) and one from Kurri and the rest of the family.
Haha I couldn't do it either, it was literally the spirit because all I was thinking about was trying not to pee myself.
Yay, I am excited for the packages! I love you so much!
(Ben is at school, Dad is at work.)
NOOOOOOO! Puffed wheat squares my only weakness!!
Do you think they'll last three weeks in the mail? If you like them rock hard, we could give it a shot! Lol!