I hope you all are loving turkey break. It's so good to hear from you all. Ben, that picture of a guy on a horse made me laugh so hard! :D All the other missionaries turned around and looked at me weird. Then they looked at my screen and laughed too.
It's been a good month - I can't believe December is next week! I'm excited for all the holidays coming up. The members here are like family & take care of us super well. I'm glad you got the picture! Mom, you and Sister Hagfelt would be best friends if they lived in Fayetteville. They have two kids, a boy who has autism and a girl, and are the nicest family ever. Brother Hagfelt served in Brazil as well, so it's been fun to talk with him in Portuguese.
That must be so fun having Rynda home - I always loved when she came and visited. Learn as much Portuguese as possible from her so that you are all ready if you also get sent to Brazil! High school flies by so fast, so make the most of it Blake! I would love to try those zumba Brazilian dances, haha. That sounds fun.
That's exciting news that Kevin Burns is home! It's always neat to see how much people change from the time they leave to the time they get back. Elder Burns must've been an awesome missionary. I loved what Bryce said about how a mission changes you:
What I'm learning here feels like the continuation of a long observational learning process that started a long time ago. ...Missionary work is important and I know that God really cares about all of us individually. He uses imperfect beings to accomplish his perfect purposes. We are his tools and he sharpens us by sanding off our rough edge weaknesses. We get dull faster than any cheap knife, but he still chooses to help us and use us the best he can.
Going on a mission has helped me discover my many weaknesses and "polish" them through the enabling power of the Atonement. I love reading Bryce's letters every week.
Good luck this week in basketball! The last time I remember playing team basketball over turkey break was during the ice storm. (It just started to get cold this week!) We play basketball most mornings at the stake center.
I loved the Silver Dollar City pictures and letter - thank you Rynda! The blue tree is so cool. That's fun that you got to hang out with the twinners, Rynda. That's a hard challenge, haha, trying to be serious on all the rides! I remember going to SDC, and Brooks came with Abby, Tim, and I. We had so much fun. Brooks and Braxton, you are getting so tall! You definitely have been eating your vegetables.
This week, probably because of Thanksgiving, I have felt an overwhelming gratitude for everything. Even for simple things like rain, carpet, a bike, etc. It rained for the first time on my mission! for three days straight. I loved it. We are lucky to have a part-time car. I don't think I'll be that fortunate in Brazil so I'm counting my blessings. :) In a member's home, Burnie, I saw a quote that I liked: "Life isn't about learning how to dodge the storms, but rather how to dance in the rain." (I'll have to tell you more things about Burnie another time - he's awesome)
A scripture we shared this week with a lady named Katie that I love is in Alma 26:35-37:
Now if this is aboasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. (Whoa)
37 ...Now my brethren, we see that God is amindful of everybpeople, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.
God is amazing. Every time I read that verse I think a time this past summer when we sang All Creatures of our God and King in church, and I felt so much gratitude for life, friends, family, and The Gospel. Elder Payne is an a really good singer, so Burnie, Katie, he, and I sang Praise to the Lord, The Almighty and we all were near tears.
There is nothing like the opportunity to teach others about Christ 24/7. I have learned you learn more teaching than you do learning! Listening is such a valuable Christlike attribute. I love the people here so much. My favorite hymn sums it up well "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me."
We are children of a living God - who is actively involved in our lives. He knows the details. We are His hands. I like the analogy that God is weaving a quilt and we can only see one thread at a time. Some threads are dark colored (trials) and others are brighter. Someday we will be able to look back with a broader perspective and see the whole picture - the whole quilt. That image will be so breath-taking that "eye hath not seen...the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
One of the dimensions of worshipping a living God is to know that he is alive and living in the sense of seeing and acting. He is not a retired God whose best years are past, to whom we should pay a retroactive obeisance, worshipping him for what he has already done. He is the living God who is, at once, in all the dimensions of time—the past and present and future—while we labor constrained by the limitations of time itself. - Neal A Maxwell
This life is such a small moment in the span of eternity, but it means so much. That's why it's essential to record experiences that make us grateful. This Mormon message is what encouraged me to keep a gratitude journal every night. https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2009-05-22-o-remember-remember?lang=eng (O Remember, Remember, President Eyring) It has brought so many blessings. As a missionary you give lots of invitations to people to help them draw closer to Christ, so here is my invitation to you: Keep a daily gratitude journal starting Thanksgiving. When you count your blessings, God opens up the "windows of Heaven."
Another idea an investigator brought up to Elder Payne and I, is something called thanksonly prayers, where you tell Heavenly Father only things you are thankful for, and don't ask for anything. Every day we try to do that, and it's neat to see how it changes your outlook.
There is so much more I want to tell you, but I will have to write it down and save it for next week. I love you so much! You are always in my prayers.