Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Have you received his image in your countenances?" Alma 5:14,19

I am aware that I am repeating this theme, however, I can't help it because it is so true. This week has gone by so fast! If this is how my whole mission goes I am going to be home before I feel like I've even begun. I received some great news this week, (well I think it's great others might not think it's that important), Korea has $4 dress shops!!  And according to natives they have really good stuff. Just thinking about the possibility makes me smile. Hello my name is Annie and I'm a shopaholic... There I said it. It's not a secret, but I have never admitted it. Before I entered the mission I had the notion that I would leave all of my clothes in Korea and pack my suitcase with all things Korean. The news of this shopper’s paradise has just solidified that idea. I can't even wait.

 I have been exhausted this whole week. Up until now, most of my life has been spent in school, but my brain has never felt so over taxed. There is just so much to learn and so much to remember that at times it can feel overwhelming. Every day it's something new. Every day we're expected to improve and become better. Some days it happens, and others it doesn't.

I've been thinking a lot about improvement this week. In class we are expected to speak in as much Korean as we can and I have noticed that it is easier to tell myself I don't know how to say something in Korean and instead say it in English without ever really trying. In the lessons I teach I keep my sentences very simple as well, not because I can't make them more complex but because simple sentences are comfortable and I feel confident doing them. As I have been thinking about improvement I have realized that this is not the way to progress.

When learning a language, and also in other life tasks, we cannot stay where we are comfortable. Rather, we must stretch and reach for something higher, something greater. That is progression. We need to constantly be telling ourselves that we can do better and that we can be better. Then reaching for those goals creates a path of progression. In the devotional on Tuesday night Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy said something that made me think deeper about how I view the time that I spend working toward the task of learning a new language. He said, "You've been preparing for this mission since before you were born; so don't waste a minute." It is such a simple statement, but it made me realize that I wasn't doing everything I could, that I could try harder and do more in the language and in my gospel study. I thought about not just how hard I have worked in this life preparing for a mission, but my time spent doing the same in the preexistence. I thought, “what a colossal waste of time if I squandered the opportunity now that I had been given to take advantage of such intensive instruction.”  Similarly, I also saw the parallel to our life on earth as a whole. Before this life we lived with our Father in Heaven and we chose to come to earth so that we could have the chance to become like Him. I grew and progressed there. I must have made wise choices with my time, and now I am on earth shouldn’t I be doing the same? I asked myself, is what I am doing in the MTC exactly what I should be doing in my daily life? Shouldn’t I be trying to progress, gaining more knowledge, and striving for become something greater? Shouldn’t I be trying to become the best I can be so that when I return to live with my Heavenly Father I can tell Him I used my time wisely? When I put personal life progress in that perspective, and change the quote a little bit, it could read "You've been preparing for the mission of life since before you were born; so don't waste a minute."

We haven’t been sent here without instruction. Jesus Christ is our example in this life to pattern our life after. He was perfect and he showed us the way we should live. If becoming like Christ is my end goal, if it's what I am trying to progress towards, why would I want to waste one minute not doing what I know I am supposed to? What is the purpose of that wasted time?

The promise of eternal life with my Father in Heaven and my family is an unparalleled motivator, and yet I know I can't get there on my own. I know that there will be times when I am reaching and trying to climb that I will fall. Sometimes I will be trying to hold on and my fingers will just give out. But I also know, without a doubt, that in those times Jesus Christ, through his Atonement, will be there to catch me. In Moroni 9:25 Mormon writes to his son, "may Christ lift thee up". I have faith that Christ will catch me and I believe that he will do the same for every single one of us. It is up to us to recognize that we have been caught and accept it. I know that it is through Christ and His Atonement that as we strive to progress in this life he will offer a pathway that will guide us toward perfection. Let Christ catch you. Let him lift you up.

I love you all and hope you are well,

Sister Annie

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Awake my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul." 2 Nephi 4:26-29

This week was wonderful. The weather was beautiful and that always makes me a little bit happier. Being able to study outside is the highlight of my day sometimes. Exciting news of this week, Elder Russell M. Nelson came and spoke to us for our Tuesday night devotional. It was so good. Something that he addressed made an impression on me, it was about our time on a mission, and our time on this earth: "This isn't a place for people to rest, it's a time for people to progress." I loved it. Sometimes, even though all I want to do is take a 14-hour nap, I have this time that I have been set apart as a missionary and it is not a time to rest. It is time for me to dig in my heels and work, like I have never worked before.

This week went by so fast. Sometimes when I sit down to write I can hardly believe that an entire week has gone by. I'm very excited to now be able to say that my time here in the MTC is officially halfway over. On the one hand I get giddy simply thinking about finally getting out of here and being in Korea, however on the other hand I have what I can only describe as utter terror of the unknown. Contemplating I will be in an entirely different country in approximately 4 short weeks, where let's face it, I can understand almost nothing of what is being said scares the curls right out of my head. Don't misunderstand me, I want to be there so badly it hurts, and my Korean is improving every day, but sometimes it's far too easy to think that I can't do this, that it's too much, and that it's too hard.

My post today will be somewhat similar to what I wrote last week. When I start to think about what I want to write I think about questions and problems that I have. I need help preparing my thoughts on those things, and that forces me to make a plan to search for scriptures and gospel principles that will help me say what I feel. So apparently I did not learn my lesson well enough last week.

In my day-to-day life at the MTC, as well as back at home, there are plenty of things that can be frustrating to me, things that can cause me to become upset. I will give you two very quick examples from my life here at the MTC. Living with girls 24/7 is not easy for me. I feel as though I am a little bit too independent to have someone around me all of the time, yet here that is what I must do. It's not always fun for me, and some days I get a little frustrated. I love the girls in my district and usually we get along well, however, there are those times when personalities grate just a bit and then I have to bite my tongue. I need my space. Another frustration is my language study. Similar to needing my space, most days go along fairly well and I feel pretty good about Korean and about the pace at which I am learning. Then those bad days come along. The days where I feel like I haven't learned anything in the past 4 weeks or that I just cannot seem to grasp a concept. Those days aren't fun and they usually aren't productive either. Frustrations tend to build up over time, but the day they come to fruition seems to negate all the positive days, which far outweigh the other.

When these periodically frustrating days happen it is very easy to let ourselves become stymied, to hold on to the little things that go wrong and not move on. I have recognized in myself, and in those that I come in contact with here, that holding on to that anger or frustration only holds us back. It bars us from progressing by causing us to dwell in the past.

Last week I mentioned that the Plan of Salvation is a plan of happiness. God does not want us to dwell in unhappiness or frustration. It is Satan who wants us to give up for whatever reason, or to feel like we can not do something. He wants us to get frustrated at little things, like if so and so doesn't read their scriptures. Then with anger in our hearts, we fail to get anything out of our own scripture study. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to shed that anger, and leave that frustration and discouragement behind. That is one of the reasons we have the Atonement, Christ suffered all of our discouragements or frustrations. He knows exactly what we are going through and He can help. If we seek to apply the Atonement in our lives and turn to Him in sincere prayer, asking for help, I know we will receive it.

Ultimately it is our choice. It is up to us to decide if we will let ourselves get upset or frustrated, or if we will turn to the Lord and continue to press on, with a happy attitude and work as hard as we can. Just as it says in 2 Nephi 2:27, "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." Being frustrated is captivity.

I want to end with one more quote from Elder Nelson. He said, "When you meet people for the first time do so with a smile. Men are that they might have joy -- Look like it!" (2 Nephi 2:25)

Men are that they might have joy. I hope the next time you choose anger or frustration you remember this scripture, and instead, let it go and turn to the Lord. I know that I want to try my best to do so.

I love you all and hope you are well.

Sister Annie

Friday, May 10, 2013

2 Nephi 9:52 "Let your hearts rejoice".

 "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." Proverbs 17:22
Welcome to my blog, thank you for joining me today. Secret confession, I've always wanted to host my own cooking/talk show and that's how I would start it. Except I would substitute the word home for blog. But that's off subject (a place my mother taught me was fun to go sometimes). What I really want to say is that this coming Wednesday I will be halfway through my time here at the MTC! I am feeling utterly elated about this. Even though time goes by very fast here at the MTC, it also feels like I've been here my whole life. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is a real world outside these walls and that this isn't real life, but rather life intensified and secluded.

The time I have spent at the MTC so far is what I want to tell you about. I suppose that's what every post has been about so far, but this is more of a summary of my experiences, or rather a certain aspect of them.
Second confession of the day- I'm a whiner in my mind. Thankfully it's not all of the time, but occasionally I'll get into these ruts where nothing is really what I want it to be. It's a problem. Its even more of a problem Here because I have had compatriots to commiserate with.

About two and a half weeks into my stay here I noticed the tale tale signs of a whining binge coming on ( I hope you're okay with me calling it that - if you're not, I apologize, it is what it is.) I would whine about class or about how hard Korean was. I would whine about the food, a lot. Whatever it was, I was just sick of it. I began to notice that most of my district was getting the same way, we were all just a little burned out. So, we had a little district meeting and as a group we decided to try and be more positive. We had seven more weeks here and whining wasn't going to make it go by any quicker. Plus, it wasn't fair to our teachers or to each other to continue  with a negative attitude. I personally decided that postivity was something I really wanted to pursue. What could it hurt? So I started thinking of ways to implement a more positive attitude.

As I thought over my plan of action I decided that firstly, when I have negative thoughts I need to keep them to myself. It's not kind or considerate to make those around me deal with my grumpiness. Secondly, I should search for something every day that I am truly thankful for. Since I've been at the MTC I start my journal entry every night with something I am thankful for that day. Sadly, they had not been very meaningful lately. It appears that I would just write something to get it out of the way, just so I could check it off my list. I began to really think about my day and spend more time pondering the days events before I wrote anything down. Third confession of the day- to be honest with you, some days I was really thankful that I could put on stretchy pants in my room at night, and it was truly what I was most thankful for that day. Even in the short time I've been working on my positivity I've noticed a difference in my attitude, because even on the bad days I can still find at least one thing I am sincerely thankful for - and that gives me hope. Thirdly, and finally, I have promised myself that when I get discouraged I will only look at the improvement I've made. It often seems that it is too easy to compare our happiness with the perceived happiness of others. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of this, however, maybe you aren't. We all learn at different speeds and in different ways. It's easy in the MTC to think, "well they are better at conjugation than I am" or "they know so many more vocab words than I do". I think that this is so gratitude defeating. So I decided that instead of comparing my progress (or lack thereof),with others, is that I will only compare myself to where I was yesterday. Doing this creates the opportunity to set goals for myself and then encourages me to strive and reach them, whether others surpass me or not. This is how I can focus on the future and gage how far I've come, not how much I still need to do.
I am a firm believer that attitude is everything. If we are excited and want to have a good experience, we will have a good experience. The responsibiltiy to be happy is on our own shoulders. We reap the benefits.
We can take comfort in knowing that our Father in Heaven wants us to be happy. This gospel is a gospel of happiness. There is a reason we call it the Plan of Happiness. This is what he wants for every single one of us. Happiness! Over and over in the Scriptures He tells us to rejoice. To put our faith and trust in Him and rejoice. There is a scripture in Proverbs that reads, "...and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20) That is the true solution. First we must do all we can to create our own happiness, it is then we gain our happiness by trusting in the Lord's plan. In reference to the title of this post, the scripture reads: "Behold my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice." (2 Nephi 9:52)

I invite all of you to rejoice. To examine your lives and look past the bad (and often the perceived bad), and to find the small, sweet, tender and incredible blessings God has given you. I testify that pondering these things will bring happiness. Doing this daily has brought me so much more happiness, and in just the short time I have done it - it has greatly elevated my attitude.
I love you all and wish you the best.

Sister Annie Atwood
P.S. Questions, comments, concerns? Write me a letter or email me. I promise I'll respond. If you email me make sure to include your physical address because I will probably have to write you a letter in response.

Sister Annabell Margaret Atwood
MTC Mailbox #17
KOR-BUS 0618
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793
My email:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mosiah 7:46 "If ye have not charity ye are nothing"

Salutations again from within the walls of the MTC. To begin this post I would like share with all of you some of the Korean customs that I have been informed of in the last week.
  • Whenever something is handed to you, you take it with two hands. This shows respect and gratitude. Taking it with one hand suggests that whatever they are giving you is worthless or unappreciated.
  • When you shake hands you put your other hand on your elbow. This is also a sign of respect.
  • Along with that custom, women never shake hands. Not with each other and especially not with men.
  • When you leave a room or a house you are not supposed to turn your back to the person you are leaving. To do so would be showing disrespect to someone who has let you into their home. Also you are supposed to continue to bow as you exit.
  • When someone lets you in you are always supposed to sit last.
  • If you are sitting and someone else stands you are also supposed to stand. The idea is that you should be as uncomfortable as the least comfortable person in the room.

It is amazing to me how much of the Korean culture is based on respect and gratitude. It is very different from the world I come from and I think it is wonderful. The world can never have too much respect and gratitude.

This past week has been interesting. I can honestly say that I have never done anything this hard in my life. To say that is so cliché and yet it is so very true. I will take a moment and be utterly honest with you. Korean is hard. I know that may surprise you, but I swear it's the truth. I can barely string sentences together on my own and I know maybe 60 words. But as I said in my last post, I still have to teach my investigators. In class we had a discussion about charity and the reason why it is such an important quality for a missionary to have. Something that I took away from that discussion was that the best way we can bring others to Christ is by loving them. That has been my objective in my lessons. If I am not able to convey a single thing in Korean during my lesson, I want to leave the investigator knowing that I love them, and that I care what happens to them. I am amazed at how charity is such a motivating factor. As I have been praying for charity for my investigators I have noticed a difference. I'm not trying to imply that I am the most charitable person in the world, because I am definitely not. However, the small amount of charity I have been able to develop has already changed my life. I have begun to realize that some of the frustration I feel while sharing gospel lessons is not simply because I cannot speak the language, but because I cannot convey this beautiful message of Christ’s love with the investigator. I so desperately try to express how God's love is proved in His plan of salvation, but I fail still. This frustration has caused me to work harder and to study more diligently, both the Korean language and the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do this so that I might be able to have knowledge to back up my testimony. I am convinced that this will help them not only understand my message, but feel it too.

Charity is not easy. As imperfect humans, it is too easy to dwell on selfish thoughts and to put our desires before others. Charity is one of the Christ like attributes listed in Preach My Gospel, and now I understand why. Christ was never selfish; He was continually searching to find ways to serve. He constantly showed His love for the people around Him through His actions. Elder David A. Bednar, in a talk called The Character of Christ, said; "When the natural man would turn in, Christ turns out." Bednar says that Christ is the perfect example of charity, He gave everything of Himself just so that we could gain salvation. Becoming charitable is one of my main goals as a missionary. I am seeking to know and exemplify how Christ loved. If I can achieve this then even if I never have the opportunity to verbally share the gospel message, my actions will show them that I love them and that God loves them. There is a passage in Preach My Gospel that says something I love: "Charity is a gift from God, but we have to ask for it." It doesn't come without work, nothing good in life does, but if our goal is to become like Christ, and to be an example of the believers, I am convinced that the first step is to love those around us and to strive to see them as our Father in Heaven sees them. When you say to yourself, "I am a child of God." make sure to remember that everyone else is too, and treat them the way He would.

I want to share something Sister Esplin from the General Primary Presidency said to the sisters in the MTC, "When we are filled with love and light we can't contain it, and others will notice."
This is my goal: To be so filled with love that it oozes from me so that I cannot contain it.

I love you all so much and I wish you well,

Sister Annie Atwood

p.s. If you leave a comment I will get it and respond.