Monday, June 24, 2013

"Be still and know that I am God" Doctrine & Covenants 101:16

I am in Korea right this second!!! I still can hardly believe it, it's all a bit surreal to me, like tomorrow I am going to wake up and be back in the MTC. But as I look out the window all of the signs are definitely in Korean, that's all the proof I need.

So a quick wrap up of my journey and the first couple of days in Korea. We left the MTC at 4:30 am Monday morning and traveled for a very long time. Making pit stops in L.A. and Tokyo. We arrived in Busan Tuesday night and I was so happy to be done traveling. I felt dirty and gross and so tired. The mission president Pres. Gilbert and his wife met us at the airport and it was exciting to finally meet them, they are wonderful. All of the new arrivals stayed at the mission home that night. Wednesday was mostly training and orientation meetings. Wednesday afternoon they brought all of the missionaries in who would be training. We didn't get assigned our companions at that point but we did go out and proselyte with them just switching around every so often. That was an intense experience I'll just say that. That was probably the moment when I realized that I actually don't speak any Korean. We slept at the mission home again Wednesday night and then Thursday we got our trainers. My trainers name is Sis. Baker and she is wonderful. This is her last transfer and I feel so lucky to have her training me, I know that I will learn so much from her.

I am serving in Geoje right now. It's an island off the southern coast of Korea and it is beautiful. Sis. Baker and I are the only missionaries on the island so it's all up to us. The ward here has about 15 people (including us) that come to church regularly, so we've got plenty of work to do. It's going to be hard but we are going to try our very best.

Getting dropped into a foreign country has been a challenge. This week has been interesting to say the least. It is a strange and terrifying feeling to be somewhere that you can't communicate with anyone and you also can't find your way around. I can honestly say that this has been the hardest part of my mission so far. But it has also been great to be able to actually be out doing work.

There have been times this week that were harder than others and which made me re-evaluate my purpose here a little bit. At one point I was having a small panic attack thinking about doing this for the next 16 months and the scripture ran through my head, "be still and know that I am God". It calmed me down very quickly. I have turned my life over to God for these next 16 months. Who better to have in control of your life than God? He knows everything, he loves you and he has a plan for you. I can't think of a source of guidance in my life. I can parallel a mission to life. In our earthly life we don't know everything. Sometimes we don’t always keep the perspective in mind what the end result will be, as well as the blessings to come in the future. Blessings are rarely immediate, but we have to hold fast to the faith that they do come. We must have faith and trust in God. He will guide us if we, like the scripture says, be still. It is in those quiet moments that we can hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and hear the directions God has for us.

That is what I want to strive to do. I know I can't do this on my own and this thought scares me more than I could have ever imagined. But I have faith that if I trust God and remember that He is omnipotent, I know that He can, and will, guide me. He will make me into more than I could ever be on my own, because He has faith in me.

This week I invite you to be still and listen for the Holy Ghost to guide you in your life.

I love you all and I miss you.
Sister Annie

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Doctrine & Covenants 84:88 "and my angels round about you, to bear you up"

I'm leavin' on a jet plane... The time is finally here! I am leaving early (so very early) Monday morning for the beautiful land of Korea! I am so excited to go. I can't wait until it's time to hop onto the bus and leave the MTC forever! As excited as I am to leave, I am not loving all the packing that I have to do before I go. 100 pounds is really not very much stuff, but it's okay. I think I will be able to make it work, so I don't want anyone to worry about me...

Today I want to take a little bit of space to say happy birthday to my mom! It is actually her birthday as I write this so it worked out pretty nicely. She is the best mother in the whole world; I wouldn't trade her for anything. She is loving and kind, poised and gracious, and oh so stylish. I'm so lucky to have her.

Since it is also Father’s Day, I want to tell the whole world (or whoever reads this blog) that my dad is the most wonderful father ever, and I'm not exaggerating. He has supported me and given me strength my entire life. He has always been an example to me in every way. Whenever people tell me I'm just like my dad I love it, because who wouldn't want to be like him?

Over the past week it has slowly dawned on me that I am actually leaving the country, my home, and the MTC. With this realization has come a little bit of anxiety and perhaps even a little nervousness. There have been a few times where I've begun to doubt myself. During these moments I've started questioning what in the world have I gotten myself into? Who am I to think that I can learn Korean? Or, that I am capable of representing Christ and being an example to the people I will meet? In those times it is hard to remember the strength that I do have. It is also difficult to remember that I have been set apart as a servant of Jesus Christ, sent to preach the gospel in Korean. However, the lapse is momentary, and then I remember that I do have mental, physical and spiritual strength, along with the power of God. I just need to keep it in the forefront of my thoughts.

In The Doctrine and Covenants section 84, verse 88 it says, "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

It gives me strength in my soul and peace in my heart to know that He is by my side. It sustains me to know that I am not alone. It helps to know that I am not struggling to learn the Korean language and then preach the gospel in the same language all by myself. I know that Christ is always with me. This scripture assures me that He will be on my right and on my left. Additionally, He promises that angels will be round about me. With such a promise, how can I doubt that I can do this? I know that I cannot do it but, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me." (Philippians 4:13)   

As I found, or re-discovered both of these scriptures this week my testimony has been enlarged, and I recalled the promises that Christ has given me, and all of us who seek to follow Him. He will not leave me alone to do His work, which is “…to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”, (Moses 1:39). In fact he will not leave us alone to do anything in our lives, if we turn to him and then we ask him for help, he will take our burdens and he will make them light. (Matthew 11: 30).

This post is short and sweet, because the message is succinct. I want to challenge you to strive to remember the strength and support Christ has promised you. If you ever feel like you can't go on, like you can't accomplish something, just turn to Christ. Let him help you, let his angels "bear you up". I know without a doubt that they will, because they have carried me all the while I have prepared to go to Korea.

I pray you all have a wonderful week. The next post will be from Korea so be excited for that! I miss you all and I love you,

Sister Annie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." Proverbs 31:10

I want to start this post by giving a big birthday shout-out to my best friend Ashley! It's a little late, but I hope it is still appreciated. If you know Ashley, you should tell her happy birthday, she's pretty great.

Today I am supposed to receive my travel plans, it hasn't happened yet, but there is still a lot of day left. Maybe once I have them in hand it will hit me that I'm actually leaving. I know in my head that I only have 10 days left, but my heart is still feeling like I might just serve the duration of my mission in the MTC trying to learn Korean.

I have learned a lot in the MTC, a little Korean, but mostly I have learned things about myself. I realize more each day what I want my mission to be, as well as who I am striving to become. The MTC has been difficult, however, overall it has been a good experience for me and I am grateful for the time that I was able to spend here.

This week in my personal study I had the scripture that titles this post pop into my head. I couldn't remember where it was so I went to the topical guide in the scriptures and looked it up. After I found it and re-read it I thought, "that's a really good scripture". However, I realized that I had never read the verses surrounding it. So I had no idea the context in which that scripture is given. Often we focus, (we meaning I), on a singular verse of scripture and fail to be enlightened because our focus is too narrowly defined by “pop” church cultural connotations. But as I pondered the chapter as a whole, and particularly verses 10-31, I began thinking about the attributes of a virtuous woman, especially in contemporary society. This started me thinking about the kind of woman I want to be.

Females in today's popular society set an example that I personally find less than desirable. There is so much importance put on our appearance and being physically appealing, not just to men, but to other women also.  This creates an environment that disregards virtue of any kind. The word virtue means moral ethics, or things that are right and good. It is not that beauty is not good, as I am sure beauty comes from God. But physical beauty defined by society is arbitrary and it can and does change with each generation. However, I believe that virtue is what ignites lasting beauty. As I was reading I noted several virtues that are derided in our culture, I guess you could call them lost virtues, specifically, kindness, poise and grace, (or what my mother calls class), and charity. As a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I know that I am more than my body. I know that I have more to offer the world than a pretty face or figure. My understanding of my divine heritage tells me this. I know that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father. I recognize my divine nature is what comprises my essence, rather than my body. I also know that my body is a very important part of my earthly life. It is a fascinating and wonderful machine that is capable of amazing things. As it is part of my whole self I do not want to discount my body, as it will be with me for eternity. In that context I recognize that I need to take care of it, keep it fit and healthy, clean and shiny, and adorn it to respect that divinity within me. It is this understanding through which I know that I am important, loved, and cherished in God's eyes.

In Proverbs 31 I have found the example of the woman that I want to become, regardless if it is revered in contemporary society.

In verse 17 it says, "She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms." A virtuous woman isn't weak.  This verse tells us that she strengtheneth her ams. She is in the process. We do not know when it started, but we know that it is still continuing and that it is a conscious effort on her part to become stronger. What I love about the way it is stated here is that this woman might not have been born with this strength. For all we know she might have started out the weakest of them all, however she did not let herself stay that way. In our lives we might not feel like we are the strongest or the best, but we can change that. Through diligent effort on our part and with the help of our Heavenly Father we can become stronger, physically, mentally, and spiritually. As Latter-day Saint women we should be recognized as one who “ girdeth her loins with strength”.

In verse 22 it tells us, "her clothing is silk and purple". Historically purple is identified as the color of royalty, and silk was considered the finest and costliest woven cloth. The symbolism of this verse identifies the virtuous woman as the daughter of a king, worthy of all the royal rights promises, and blessings that come with her status. I know that in the church we hear that phrase a lot, we say it often and it is told to us from a very early age. I wonder however, if we feel a truth of our conviction behind the words. Ask yourself, do I actually know and believe that I am a princess? A daughter of a king? I hope you do.

In verse 26 speaking of her character we are told, "in her tongue is the law of kindness". In one of my earlier posts I mentioned that we should strive to remember that everyone we come in contact with is also a child of God and so should be treated as such. Personally I feel it would be wonderful if people described me as having the “law of kindness in my tongue”. Kindness is an incredible attribute and one that I know I will probably never have enough of. My mother has often told me she thinks it is the most underrated personal attribute of ones character. I am just now beginning to see what she means.  I'm not sure if it is ever possible to have enough kindness, it is this trait of my Savior that I want to work on.

The last quote I want to share from this chapter is the last verse, it reads, "Give her the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates". Ladies, it is what we sow that defines our beauty. If we live our lives striving to be the best we can and draw as close to God as we can, no one will ever have to ask whether or not we were virtuous. Our works and our actions will speak for themselves. That is what I believe beauty is. It comes in a majestic cacophony of colors, heights, weights, talents, and means, and it is what graces the presence of our Savior.

I hope you are all doing well and I miss you all terribly.

Sister Annie

Saturday, June 1, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:5 "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord"

So it's not like I'm counting or anything like that, but I only have 17 days left in the MTC! I'm not sure if I have ever been more excited for anything in my life. Korea here I come! In all reality though, it's way too early for me to be counting down the days until I leave, but I can't help it. We will be getting our travel plans next Friday and I can't even talk about it because I get so excited. Picture if you will, a Chihuahua when it gets excited, how it starts shaking and jumping, that is basically me when I start talking about Korean travel plans.

This week was wonderful. Wednesday I was a host for the first time to the new missionaries entering the MTC, which was so fun. It was strange to be out on the curb watching it all happen and not being a part of it this time. It was such a different experience from when I was the one being welcomed. However, it did bring on a little PTSD. Apparently, there were some memories I tried not to think about, (feeling like I was abandoned by my family). Okay so I might be exaggerating a little bit, but it was an interesting perspective to experience from the other side of the curb.

Before this week we had about 35 people in our branch, which comprised all the people in the entire MTC that were going Korean speaking. This week alone we got 68 new missionaries who are going Korean speaking. This is incredible. It is amazing to me how much growth there really has been in missionary work in the past few months.

Here comes the inevitable part of my post where I talk about learning the language. It's still hard. I'm not sure if you were expecting me to say anything different, but I have to tell the truth. It's haaaard! This week we went over the more complicated sentence structures, like indirect discourses and indirect questions. It seems like every time I start feeling a little more comfortable with what I know in Korean they bring out something new and I am right back where I started. I am grateful for that though, it keeps me from becoming complacent. Heavenly Father knows that I need to be kept humble - and He knows just how to help me stay that way. Even though it is a difficult language I have come to appreciate Korean so much more than I used to. It really is a beautiful language that is both rich and complex.

This week I've been thinking about what being on a mission really means as it applies to my life AM, (after mission), as well as how it is impacting both my personality and my desires for personal accomplishments. In doing so I've started to realize that this time isn't mine, it’s the Lord’s and His brothers and sisters in Korea. This mission isn't for me. I have faith that I will be blessed for my efforts and service, but that is not the reason I am here. The reason I am here is to serve my Savior. To serve the Lord and to serve those people in Korea who I will meet and who I will teach. In a devotional a couple weeks ago by Mary Edmunds she said, "In order to be disciples we need to be servants." I believe that. In order to be a disciple of Christ I need to serve him in whatever way he needs me to. And I need to be whoever he needs me to be. In accepting my call as a missionary and coming on a mission I have promised the Lord everything. For the next 18 months of my life I promised Him everything that I am. I promised everything, so I need to give everything. Now that I am here I can't go back and rethink the promise I've made. Mary Edmunds said something else that I really liked, "You said yes to your call. Continue to say yes every day." Every day when I wake up I need to promise the Lord, and promise myself, that everything I have that day will go towards serving my mission and moving the gospel forward.

In Doctrine & Covenants 59:21 it says, "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things" In thinking about promising everything to the Lord I realized that what I am doing is promising what is already his. Everything I have in this life came from God. Even the air I breathe. I see every day as a gift. How can I keep anything back from the Lord when he has given me everything, when I was purchased through His atonement?

Since everything comes from God, through Christ, I need to make sure that I am using all of the incredible gifts he has given me for whatever purpose He desires, not only using them, but also using them wisely. With this epiphany I have made it my goal to rededicate the gifts I have been given to Him, and to use them for a good purpose. I feel a renewed consciousness to serve by bringing the gospel to His children, to give them the tools to find their own way back to Him. I also want to just serve as a fellow human being who is aware that life is hard, and we need each other, regardless if we accept the gift of the gospel or not. I recognize that God has given me so much; my life experience so far has been relatively easy and carefree. For this I am humbled and grateful and because of it I feel an overwhelming need to give back to Him through others. I know the way to do that is through service. It is just as it says in Matthew 25 :40, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

I pray that we can all take time out of our busy lives to serve, to look at our blessings with perspective, and to thank God for everything that he has abundantly blessed us with.

Sister Annie