Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 13, 2017 - Shafts in the Whirlwind

From Josh:

This week I realized something pretty scary, during the beginning part of the week a lot of our lessons when I went to go teach the words would catch in my mouth and when I did speak It always came out confusing, so I really had to look at my life and found that a lot of the problem had been that I was neglecting my studies, the spirit had not been able to come into my life as strong because I was not creating an environment where it could thrive, this had several negative effects in my ministry, I became less confident, confused as to the things I was teaching, I began to doubt a few things that I believed... and I realized that neglecting even a few days worth of study can lead to these things and It scared me into re evaluating not only how I was studying but why I was doing studies in the first place, was it because I was told to? or because I wanted the spirit that day? was it because I was following a mission challenge or because I was honestly seeking the truths found in the Book of Mormon and the Bible? I hope that everyone can learn from my experience and recognize that without the small and simple things we would be open to all the shafts that Satan is throwing at us daily.

Another thing I seem to be struggling with at this current time is Charity, I have realized that I get frustrated with many things people do, missionaries, people, right now I hesitate to talk to people who claim a certain religion, there is a specific denomination which preaches Anti Mormon sermons and they love to take our time and debate as to religion and relate opposing views to convince us of our devilish ways, and whenever I come in contact with them I struggle to share our beliefs because I know that it will most definitely lead to a confrontational experience. I fear that at every moment Satan is doing anything and everything in his power to negate the effect of God on this world and to the few faithful he will try everything to stop them from sharing the Gospel. And it is worse that we relate outcomes on past experiences, if those past experiences of sharing the Gospel have been negative then there is a fear that comes into sharing the gospel. 

This week I have been surviving on Hot Pockets and eggs... its not that I have not money, it is that 
1. I have developed a "quick" meal mentality and that has kept me from buying any time consuming ingredients 
2. My mind shuts down when i shop. 
3. I am not good at planning my shopping list.

any tips for shopping? 

Other then that my companion is getting really trunky as he is on his last three weeks and a few of the members here have found my weakness, as they relate superhero lore and future movies, that make me pretty excited, they also get my companion sent into a trunky wave. 


If you want a few more details all you gotta do is ask. I am not really good at thinking about my week on my own. :)

From Dad:

Shoot Josh, 

Sorry I didn't get a letter off and this is probably too late. I'll send some info anyways so you get it next week.

It's been a crazy week in many ways. From a flooding basement to end of the year concerts and Seminary graduation, we've been running a lot.

I'm grateful you are recognizing the times when you need to improve and are taking steps to do it. I need to follow you example. I'm not studying as consistently as I need to lately either and it does make a difference.

I don't think there is anything wrong with being wise about who you look to share the gospel with. You are there to find and teach those whom the Lord has prepared. Discerning by the spirit those who are more interested in berating and bashing than learning and accepting the gospel is part of your calling. Recall the story of Alma as he taught the people in Alma 32 when he turned away from those who weren't ready to hear and instead taught those who were humbled and ready.

Last week, Ben competed and did well in provincial festival. He was very relieved to be done piano competitions for the year. I was proud of him. I had an awkward parent moment during the performance. I hadn’t listened to the whole Beethoven piece end to end very many times, and when Ben completed one movement and was about to move into the next of his first piece, I thought he was done and needed to wait for the adjudicator to make notes so I began whispering almost unconsciously “Wait, wait”. It caused Ben to look up in a bit of confusion before he went ahead and finished the second movement. I was quite embarrassed and ducked my head a little and thought that there is always endless opportunities for humility!



He had a fun chance to play his “fun” songs (Root beer rag, Lost Boys, Waterfall) during his school choir concert at Hawerlak park in front of about 200 people! He was asked to do some preview music before the concert and he played “Lost Boys” and “Waterfall”. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t play “Root Beer Rag” by Billy Joel, as he had never had a chance or forum to play it, until I learned that he would be playing again while they took down the Jazz band setup. His teacher, Mr. Steinwinkl stood up and announced to the crowd “Who wants to hear Ben Smith play again?” This was greeted by a chorus of cheers and Ben sat down, tested the volume on the piano and proceeded to let his fingers fly! He was so into it he barely noticed that the choir was ready to start and had to get a cut off signal from his teacher before ending it a little early. The crowd cheered and some stood up and gave him a partial standing ovation. He cooly acknowledged the applause and took his place in the choir. It was a fun, proud parent moment.



Last Wednesday, I had a frustrating evening as none of the Priests showed up for our canoeing activity on Wizard Lake. So I sent a few text messages and Sam and I went Canoeing anyways. I sure love your brother Sam. He’s going to make a great missionary. He was called on to report his experience going to a fireside with Elder Ballard on Saturday on the spur of the moment in church and didn’t even hesitate and did an amazing job.

   




(I’m not a very good selfie taker. I can’t seem to avoid the double chin affect 😊 )

We also enjoyed going to Abby’s end of year concert for Acro Dance. She did well and I was blown away at how much she’s grown up and looks like a YW now. Especially with make up!



As for your question about shopping and eating, I probably wasn’t much better. I ate mostly potatoes and hamburger gravy on my mission with Poutine and cheese toast hot dogs supplementing. Hopefully member meals help with the nutrition! Just remember how closely our bodies and spirits are connected! Taking time to rejuvenate the body with good food will help your body and by extension your mind, thoughts and ability to teach by the spirit.

I’d challenge you, Josh, to lead out and help your companion finish strong to the end. These are the most effective weeks and months of your mission. You have learned by your own experience the ups and downs, how to teach by the spirit. Show the Lord you are “All In” and willing to serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength to the end.

You’re an inspiration and a blessing to us as a family. Because of your choice to serve, your siblings will serve and the blessings of the Gospel will continue in our family “for all generations of time and throughout all eternity”.

We are sending your license so when you get it make sure the Mission President knows so you can drive again 😊

Love,

Dad.

June 5 - Progress


From Mom: 
Dear Josh,

We are excited to hear about your new area! Change is good. You wouldn't want your life to be boring or anything. 😉

How is your companion? Is that monthly $20 making a difference? When do you usually get up in the morning? What is your favourite thing about California? Where do you do your laundry? Can you give us one way to make personal scripture study time more effective?

Ben just admitted to us yesterday that he woke up at 5:30 a.m. every day this seminary year to read the New Testament but has no memory of most of it because he was so tired. I think he must still get some blessings from effort, don't you? 😂 And speaking of Ben, he somehow beat Dad in one game of ping-pong. Dad promised him some Marble Slab ice cream if he ever beat him, so Ben is pretty proud. And yes, now we have a Marble Slab Creamery in Leduc. Whoop! Perfect date night destination.

Everything is going well at home. Our current project is parging the exterior above-grade basement walls. My Auntie Wendy is living in her trailer in our front yard and is the boss of this project. She has Sam tacking up insulation and mesh. She has the girls screening sand and mixing concrete, and I do whatever else there is. She applies the cement and it looks good.




I figure it will take us about a month to get it finished. Sometimes I'm impatient about how long it takes to get things done, but I decided as long as there is progress every day, I will be happy. It is SO satisfying to see progress. And I really love working together as a family. I had a 3-day laugh at the girls, who started singing "Deliver Us," the slave song from Prince of Egypt, when they were required to screen sand until all four planters were full. (The screened sand is used for mixing into the cement.)



Sam's last hurdle for mission papers is getting his wisdom teeth out and writing the GED, hopefully both will be done next month. He's picked up the guitar and has been playing every day. We all love it, even Coco. I was reminded of you picking up and excelling in voice your last year at home. Sam is doing the same thing except with guitar.



The mosquitoes are out in full force. This is why Sam's pants are rolled up ... he slathered anti-itch ointment on his ankles, where his mosquito bites are the worst.

The weather has been nice and hot lately (well, hot for us) and we've spent some time at the river. It's high and muddy but the girls are loving it. We also discovered a very gruelling bike path in the Devon river valley. These stairs are called Legs of Fire Stairs ... and for good reason.



We've also been enjoying the end of seminary, which gives us more time as a family in the morning. We started the Book of Mormon again and I'm always pleasantly shocked at the good spirit that comes into our home as a result. In my personal study, I'm just finishing King Benjamin's address. I've always wondered at how he converted his entire people to the Gospel and discovered a formula. Look up Mosiah 5 and see if you can find it.

Believe ---> Spirit changes hearts ---> Faith ---> great knowledge ---> JOY ---> desire to make covenants ---> becoming children of Christ ---> MADE FREE ---> enduring obedience ---> vs. 15

I think Mosiah 5:15 will become my new ponderize scripture, which is the pop-up on my phone every day. Anyway, I would love your thoughts on this chapter if you have the time one of these p-days. I'll be thinking about it for awhile.

We sure love you, my boy. Serving your mission has blessed our family so much and has far reaching effects. Sam attributes his desire to serve because of your example and I'm so grateful for it. Keep striving. Keep moving forward. Keep your heart on the Lord. I love this Gospel and can say with confidence that all of the good things in my life have come because of it.

Love you forever,

Mom

P.S. We have new additions to the family ... four bunnies.




Two grey and two white, Charlie, Buddy, Worm and Teddy. Right now we have them in a cage up in the treehouse (too stinky for the real house). Somehow Teddy (the white escape artist), got out of the cage and down from the treehouse and out in the woods. Mia and Abby were frantic. I wasn't too worried as I knew we just had to leave food out and wait, but my lack of concern was very concerning to Mia. Unbeknownst to me, she went and prayed for help. Not long after, I got a text from Auntie, who saw the little bunny out her trailer window and managed somehow to catch it. She said, "send the girls out and tell them I have a surprise." Mia was overjoyed to get her bunny back and felt like Heavenly Father directly answered her prayer through Auntie.

She bore her testimony about it in church too and my Auntie feels very gratified to know she answered a little girl's prayer.

I love believing in a God who answers our prayers. 😊

Have a great week!

P.S.S. The cousins have been spending more time here, which is really nice. 

From Josh:

This week we have really cracked down on going on exchanged in the district, we went on one with the Zone Leaders, one with the Spanish Elders in our district (so I got to speak the limited Spanish that I picked up when I was in the San Fernando Valley) then the Assistants went on a brief exchange with us and so as of yet I have almost spent more time out of my area then in and have been still trying to grasp the map of the area as well as members names, but I am sure I will get to know them in time. 

My Companion is pretty fun to be around he ability to switch any conversation to a deep doctrine discussion and it can be pretty cool since he is very knowledgeable when it comes to the gospel, he is also on his last transfer so that shakes things up a bit, so we go through times of intense missionary work and times when things take a bit of a lapse but I am really trying to move forward as effectively as I can, which then is a struggle because of my lack of knowledge of this area, so its a working progress.

The Monthly 20$  you send mom is so helpful especially when I don't plan my budget in a month, or when in transfers when i have to get a ton of food to stock up in a new area, so thakn you!   

We get up in the morning at around 6:25, it depends on the day but our nights are spent a lot of times talking and updating and working on individual assignments, sad to say we have gotten to bed late for the past week so the early morning have been a little tough, but I find when we go for exercises and after we are done a little bit of workout I am up and feel good, stepping outside on a brisk morning or going for a walk is an effective way to wake up, pretty much the whole purpose for the work out in missionary work is so we can be awake for our studies, so pro tip to anyone who wants to study early take a step outside, go for a run, get your blood pumping.   

I love California, the weather may be super hot and some of the people not so nice but honestly when you find a good person they are a good person, I love the exotic feel of the palm trees and how much cool things there are to see (ie. famous places where movies were filmed, and cool TV actors)  So I think the coolest thing for me and my favourite thing about Calfornia  is how casual people are, "Yea the Mcfly house is just next door" or  "I talk a lot about starwars with my next door neighbor, she acted one of the jedi in star wars episode three." it just amazes me, one of our investigators in my previous area cleaned cars for Eddie Murphie. 

Our apartment is super cool and has a built in dryer and a really good gym and a walk in closet. definitely spoiled here. 

Case in Point:


One way to improve scripture study is to ask specifically for the spirit to be with you as you study and that you may understand what you read. Prayer at the beginning and the end of scripture study is powerful.

Anyway my week has been full of fun, the problem is we have two churches in our area besides ours 1: Grace baptist, and 2: Saint Cateries catholic church. 
We get Bashed a lot by the Grace baptists and they really try to shatter our testimonies as best as they can, many have a lot of good points though none have read the Book of Mormon, we have to be very careful because a lot of these people are very adept at drawing out my bashing side, it is so much easier to testify and leave especially if they have not had the chance to read the Book of Mormon. 

I love you all and hope your week is filled with blessings and thoughts on Holy Things. 

Joshua Smith. 





May 29, 2017 - Summer Salutations and "New Everything"

From Dad:

Hey Josh,

Hope you are enjoying your warm weather! Are you in your new area yet?

First thing to do when you get this is take a picture of your passport with your camera and send it to us with your email today!

We are finally getting some real summer weather here and we are loving it. We even got some southern Alberta style wind on Wednesday that blew down a few trees and tore off all the Tyvek from the garage side of the house. 

Carlsons gave the girls some bunnies so we had a FHE to make bunny hutches that we hope to finish tonight because they are a little messy to keep in the house. That's why we moved to an acreage though, right :)



We are making slow and steady progress on the house and were able to get some basics in place for building the garage. I'm ever thankful to Sam for his help doing this work. Ben isn't quite as enthusiastic about it but I'll have to recruit him more when Sam goes on his mission. 

Sam is getting more and more ready to go. He gave an excellent talk last Saturday about the Aaronic Priesthood preparing him for the Melchesidek Priesthood and a mission. We also finally were able to throw an 18th birthday party for him on Friday. A couple of nice girls from Laurel Priest conference came over too and that was a treat and a validation for him. We had a belated birthday breakfast in bed on Sunday and gave him a new white shirt and a guitar stand for his birthday.


Auntie Wendy is staying in our yard in her trailer and it looks like we'll be able to hire her to do the parging for our house. Hoping it all turns out well for her and for us. She's looking for work and may get a job at the mines in Sparwood.

Mom and I have been having lots of discussion about how to be concerned about and helpful to family and friends who are struggling but not become co-dependent on their situation for us to be happy and productive in our own lives. It's a challenging balance and part of our growth and experience in this life. 

Mom and I are going to try and stay off refined sugar this next two weeks in preparation for a 5K run mom is organizing for some of the women in our ward.

All in all, life is challenging and exciting. We are thankful for your example and diligence in the work of the Lord.

Love,

Dad


A few pics attached. 




From Josh:

I have a new companion, a new area, a new zone and I am having to become someone new in order to be able to serve here. 

I am currently serving in what is called Seco Canyon, it is up near Saugus where I served exactly a year ago and they border each other so often we will go into that area on accident and i will get flash backs of my time there. 

My companion, His name is Elder Long, he is from Texas and is quite a character, he loves deep doctrine so we have had a few discussions about the church and the conclusion that we keep getting to is that the church is true. Another fun fact is that he has served here in Seco Canyon for a year so he is pretty confident in this area and is also the district leader so I am looking to him for a lot of information in these first few days. 

It is kind of crazy being in a ward who has many people again, we got into church and there hardly was any spots for us to sit in, it really reminded my of home, a few of the members came up to me and said they were either from Canada, or had served a mission there, but all in all I felt really welcome, i am looking for my purpose here, I am trying to find what I need to learn and what I need to do, every area I have served in God has given me those things, I can pretty much guaranty when I am leaving an area when I learn something new and when I impact something or someone. 
God has a purpose for us all, we are all here on earth to learn for ourselves how to become as God would have us become and also to be an instrument in his hands to bring others to the blessings of the gospel, to impact others lived, I know that as we put our trust in him he will make more of us than we ever could. 

This week I have had many experiences.

I am in basher country up here in Santa Clarita, we have a very big Grace Baptist Church in this area, I have nothing against them and I love everyone who we talk to from there, but they all seem to be the most against the mormon belief, I have nearly experienced all the tactics of bashing, the slow lead in where they are super friendly asking very neutral questions and slowly and steadily will lead into a full on scripture war, then there are those who ask trap questions who try to twist your words and get you to say things that will condemn you. When I was last here it got so crazy that I literally started making a book called "how to bash 101" Luckily Elder Long has located all the Bashers since he has been here so long. 
So there have been many experiences with tense conversations, "Intellectual discussions" and passive arguments, but I almost enjoy those conversations because when I rely on the spirit and testify about the things I know to be true there is so much power that comes into my voice and its really the best kind of high that we can ever feel is the feeling of the spirit. 

Just know I love you all and that you are all amazing. 

Love Josh.