Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy Early Birthday Brooks and Braxton!

Happy early birthday Brooks and Braxton!!  I can't believe you guys are already almost 9! (see bonus math problem for the twins" under p.s.) I hope you have an awesome birthday.  I'm glad we got to celebrate your party before I left for Utah. & congrats on the football games!  Football season is the best season of the year.  (futbol in Brazil)

So many amazing things have happened since last Tuesday.  If I had time to write about them all I would end up sending a book home every Tuesday. :)  

Thank you everyone for all of the emails, letters, and packages.  My district loved the brownies! & I didn't know that you knew my favorite kind of tootsie roll was the blue kind. :) It made my day. 

I'm so excited to see Elder Palmer here this week!  I'll look for him at lunch tomorrow.  It's fun having people here that I know & it's crazy how many are from our stake.  Sister Haight left on Monday; I'll attach a picture we took before she left.

One of the highlights from this week was singing Nearer My God to Thee it was arranged for us, and with a choir twice as big as the MoTab, it sounded amazing.  What I loved more than the arrangement, though, was the meaning the director gave to the words when he told us how it was written.  You may have heard the story before, but it gave me a whole new perspective.  

Originally the hymn was written as a poem for a protestant preacher in the early 1900s.  His sermon was about why God gives us trials & addresses the question: if there is so much hatred and sorrow in the world, how could there be a God?

The song answers that question, referencing the story of Jacob & Esau.  At surface level, the situation Jacob after he receives a blessing from Isaac doesn't seem promising.  Jacob is threatened by Esau and follows the advice of his mom & leaves the family to get away from his brother.  Jacob has lived righteously his whole life,k yet is told to leave home.  He goes, and that night, sleeps on a rock in the wilderness - no home or source of comfort.

The message the song portrays is how God turned Jacob's bad situation into a good one.  Jacob had a dream (an "endowment of knowledge") that taught him the steps he needed to take (Jacob's ladder) to reach Heaven.  God, all along, had been with Jacob and gave him comfort through his trials.  God allows us to have trials for the same reason a steel refiner heats steel to a hot temperature.    A refiner heats steel to make it malleable so that it can be turned into something greater.  God refines us with trials and comforts us through it all  (when we pray and study the scriptures) to refine us to be more like Christ.  

After understanding the story behind the hymn, it made it that much more powerful to sing Nearer My God to Theewith 2,000 other missionaries.  It also gave me perspective on how to view the hard times I will have in Brazil.  (The "furnace of affliction"in Teresina may be more literal than I now realize. :)

Nearer, my God , to Thee, Nearer to Thee!
Eén thought it be a cross that raiseth me.
Still all my song shall be 
Nearer, my God, to Thee,

Though like the wanderer, (Jacob) 
The sun gone down,
darkness be over me,
My rest a stone
Yet in my dreams I'd be 
nearer, my God, to Thee

There let the way appear, Steps unto heav'n 
All that thou sendest me, In mercy giv'n 
Angels to beckon me, 
Nearer, my God, to Thee.

Nearer, to Thee.

(I'll finish the rest of this email after taking a laundry break)


this is the twin's ps. from the main letter

P.S.  math problem for Brooks and Braxton

Add the digits of Bryce's next birthday together 1/11/14(1+1+1+1+4) and you will get a number that is the same as your age.

Add the digits of your birthday together (9/27/13) and you will a number that is the age Bryce will be when he celebrates his birthday after his mission.

Food for thought.
Have a great week!



And one more story:

You don't need to put this on the blog, but I thought it would be fun to share with the family.  Every day at gym time I run, do a workout and then either play 4 square or volleyball, which is a lot of fun.  Right when you walk in the door, they have a big MTC fitness records board.  The records are super high because of the millions of missionaries that have been through the MTC the past couple of decades.  My goal was to attempt to beat one record, fail or succeed, each week.  On Saturday I tried to beat the bench press record (sitting plyo) which was 150lbs, 133 reps.  I spent the whole gym time until I had to stop because gym time was over to try and beat the record.  I set the record at 1,351 reps.  When Blake, Ben, and Brooks and Braxton come that would be fun to see if they can beat it. :) 
 Our family thought that the 1,351 must have been a typo so we asked him in an email and Brandyn responded -

haha. No, it wasn't a typo.  It wasn't free weights though, so that made it a little more doable. :D 

On Saturday I tried to break the sit up record which was 1,701 sit-ups.  Since it was September 21st, the 190th anniversary of Angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith, I tried for 1823; but reached 1,704.  I had to stop because gym time was over.  It's fun to have something to look forward to every gym time.  I am trying to set a precedent for myself to work hard throughout my mission.  When it gets tough in Brazil I'll remember that there was a reason I tried to beat the MTC gym records. :)

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