Christmas & Car Crashes‏

It’s Christmaaaaaaaaas in *Floridaaaa* & it’s hard to ignore that it feels like summer all the time. It’s good to be alive.

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That song came on at a restaurant we were at last week & it made me really happy. We call that a tender mercy, my friends.

So, yeah. This week has been quite the week. People keep asking me what the hardest part about my mission has been so far & I always answer, “Being trapped in the MTC” & now I will be able to have a different answer! Yay! This week was fun in a lot of ways. We had a member take us out for lunch at the best mexican place I’ve ever been to in my entire life. I had a fish taco & they make the guacamole right there at your table. I thought I had died & gone to culinary heaven. We’ve been what we like to call “carol tracting” all week, which basically includes us caroling at stranger’s houses & forcing them to watch “He Is The Gift.” It was really effective!  & also we went to 4 different dinners between Christmas Eve & Christmas. & plus I got to talk to my cute family so that was great.

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Lunch at the Flying Iguana

The day after Christmas my companion & I were pulling out of a parking lot & we got hit by a car. The accident was pretty bad, but luckily none of us were injured too badly. I cannot say the same for the two cars involved, unfortunately. We had to cancel our dinner & lessons for that night & drive to Jacksonville to get a new car. & then I got to drive! Which was great. I had been waiting for that day since I got here. Fast forward to this morning at the grocery store, when I was pulling out my wallet to get my debit card, I realized my wallet was missing! Oh how fun! As you know, Sister Pasko is also in a boot for a sprained ankle so we can’t ride bikes right now (which I haven’t been too sad about until now, if we’re being totally honest) & my wallet has my driver’s license in it. So….basically we can only see people & places that are within walking distance unless a member can pick us up & take us somewhere. I’m sad that I lost my wallet, first and foremost because it’s really really really incredibly inconvenient for missionary work, especially under the circumstances we are in. I’ve been having a fun time being patient. I’m so used to just being able to drive down to the DMV or drive wherever I need to whenever I want, or call my banks & cancel my cards at my convenience. But I am a missionary now & I cannot just take care of things like that all by myself anymore & I have to be patient & wait for them to kind of just work themselves out. I’m hoping this all doesn’t send my anxiety through the roof, but it just might. Say lots of prayers that we’ll find my wallet. My cute Bekah friend just emailed me saying that a new license without being there to get it in person will take 90 days to process & then another 7-9 weeks to get mailed out. Nobody’s got time for that! Especially missionaries.

It has definitely been an eventful week, as you already know. It just seems like someone is trying to stop us from doing missionary work…..I wonder who that could be (:

Our whiteboard with investigators

Our whiteboard with investigators

One of our investigators.

One of our investigators.

Know I am well & happy, although stressed out at the current moment. That will pass, though. OH AND I SAW A TURTLE THIS MORNING THAT WAS HUGE JUST CHILLIN OUT AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. I am on an African safari, I swear.

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P.S. MY WALLET HAS BEEN FOUND!  A member just texted me and said that she found it in her car. Blessings all around. I called my Zone Leaders right after we found it, & they said they had literally just finished a prayer asking that we would find it, because like I said in my last email, IT WOULD BE LITERALLY ONE OF THE WORST THINGS EVER IF I LOST MY LICENSE. Love y’all & you each give me strength everyday. I feel your prayers everyday. I hope you feel mine too.

Love y’all a lot. Stay safe. (:

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I’m Dreaming of a Wet/Sunny/Sometimes Cloudy Christmas

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It seems like last P-Day was 15 years ago and also yesterday at the same time. Time is weird here.

It was so sunny & warm last week and also sometimes freezing cold & this week it has been really rainy which has been really fun!

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This week during our morning studies we got a phone call! Turns out that it was this woman who had been taught by the sister missionaries in the past, but was never ready to commit to baptism. She said that she wanted us to come over so we could meet her & also to bring 3 Book of Mormons so she could give them to her family for Christmas. We go over to her house later that day and she tells us that she’s finally ready to leave her abusive boyfriend and get baptized by Easter!

I feel like my whole mission has just been miracles so far because I feel like every other day Sister Paskos is like, “This just doesn’t happen everyday!” “This is every missionary’s dream!”, so in other words, eventually it’s going to stop being miracles everyday & I’m going to be sad. Because this is what I am used to!

"I just love your daughter!"  ~ ward relief society president where Sister Aure is serving.

“I just love your daughter!” ~ sent to the missionary mama by one of the ward Relief Society presidents.

The members have been spoiling us so much this past week. They’re always giving us things or wanting us to come over for dinner and just being the best. So mom & dad, pass on the karma! Be extra nice to the missionaries where you’re at so members will continue being super nice to me. Also, we joined the ward choir! So we got to sing in church on Sunday. It was so fun. It’s incredible how the Lord can magnify our talents. If we are willing to put in the work, He will fill in the rest for us & help us to become even better.

My favorite moment this week happened a few days ago. We were in an apartment complex after all of our appointments didn’t answer the door, trying to figure out what to do with our suddenly free evening when we saw a Christmas tree flickering in a window on the top floor. I really wanted to go sing a Christmas carol to that door for some reason, so we went up, rang the door bell & started singing Silent Night. A middle aged man opened the door & listened & thanked us. We then shared with him He is the Gift as tears came to his eyes. He shared with us how special that video was to him & how his mother passed away a year ago on that day. He said he was having a hard time having Christmas without her around this year. He expressed his desire to have his 10 year old daughter involved in some sort of religion and excitedly invited us over this coming weekend. I hope he was able to recognize God’s hand in his life in that moment & how much He cares for that man & wants him (along with everyone else) to feel His love. God has us find the 1 of 99 often & I’m so grateful for that.

Christmas is this week & the biggest THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me cards and packages. I feel not so far away from home.

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I love you & think of you daily.

Sister Aure

Ugh! Nasty, gross cockroach!

Ugh! Nasty, gross cockroach!

P.S. this week, I had the privilege of seeing three  3+ inch cockroaches in our apartment, soooo……that’s fun.

JAX Beaches

Florida is my jam. It’s hard to say whether or not I will ever leave here, I think I’m in love.

With Sister Pasko

With Sister Pasko

We have a lot of meetings and so much studying in the morning, we usually don’t leave the house until about noon. That surprised me. Like I said in the last e-mail, we’re living in Ponte Vedra and are about a five minute drive to the beach….which we still haven’t seen. Hoping to finish up this e-mail quickly so we can go before our appointment at 6. A lot of the work that we do here is Less Active (LA) work. We have a giant map in our apt of our area with green dots for active (A) members and yellow dots for LA’s. the LA’s number the A’s at least by 60% It is so sad. So we are just visiting people all day every day trying to get them to come back to church. & sometimes it works!

This week’s miracle happened last night. We had been walking around sharing the He Is the Gift video with everybody and anybody who would listen (which weren’t a lot of people), Sister Pasko has the flu and although she’s stubborn and goes out every single day anyway, she usually starts losing her momentum around 7:30. It was about 7:45, we had just stopped by another person’s house that didn’t want to talk about Christmas with us and we were about to go home so she could get some extra sleep, when a dog ran out of nowhere and started running around us! Her owner (a young woman in 20’s) came from behind a a car and said she was so sorry and that she never runs away like that. She struck up a conversation with us & she was totally 100% genuine and interested in what we were doing. (As a preface, young, white, affluent, normal people rarely want to talk to us so this was all really exciting)  We talked about her job with non profit organizations and were about to share the video with her when her fiance pulled into the driveway. It turns out he is a local musician and just got done playing a show. He invited us inside so we could watch the video on the big screen. We started talking and I had never felt more comfortable in a stranger’s house in my entire life. They are both people that I would totally hang out with in real life. They wanted to hear all about what we were doing. We bore our testimony’s about God’s love for us (as he lit up a cigarette) and told them why we’re doing what we’re doing and why the sacrifice’s we’re making for the next 18 months are worth it. When we talked about being away from our families for so long she started tearing up & it was a really incredible moment where four people that just met were sharing love and energy and testimony and feelings and everything. She REALLY wanted to read the Book of Mormon, so we left one with her. They were sad when we had to go and force fed us the most delicious chili & she didn’t let me leave without taking her spaghetti sauce from Trader Joe’s. Ashley & Charlie are both leaving this week for a trip until the start of the new year, but they were both really excited when we told them that we would still be here in the area when we get back. We talked about how grateful she was that her dog ran into the middle of the street and we talked about how grateful we were that we didn’t go home early. We were able to help her recognize God’s hand in that. Whether they decide to accept the gospel into their lives or not, it was a huge reminder to me of how special we all are to God. For the first time since I’ve been out, I really felt like there is maybe a reason that I specifically am out here. There are people here that I really connect with and sometimes they are going to want to listen to me like Charlie & Ashley did. They learned from us & I was able to learn from them as well. It was a truly incredible experience.

Spaghetti and Cucumbers.

Spaghetti and Cucumbers.

1st Saltwater!

1st Saltwater!

Now. A few people have been asking me what I want for Christmas and I am here to tell you the answer to that question. This is for every single person that ever reads this & it’s really important to me, so I hope you do it.

Please invite a family, or couple, or single person over to your home the next week or two. They need to be someone who doesn’t have the light of Christ in their life and that probably won’t have a spiritual experience this Christmas without your help. Invite them over for a Christmas themed night where you pray and read the Christmas stories and play games and eat cookies and sing Christmas songs around the piano. Take some time to pull up the He Is The Gift video and share that with them. Share your testimony in a not so formal way about what Christmas means to you. Help them feel the Christmas spirit.

All I want for Christmas is for you to spend quality time with the ones you love. Listen to inspiring Christmas music & really pray together. Do service together & share the gospel of Christ together. Love each other for me since I can’t be there to do it myself. After you’ve done this, spend a few minutes writing down your experiences and please share them with me. For Christmas, I want to hear about those experiences.

And for bonus points, you can invite the missionaries over for an evening to share a message with you and decorate Christmas cookies with you. Because I bet they really miss their families & I bet they really wish that someone would invite them over to do stuff like that. Maybe even invite them over for Christmas or Christmas Eve because I can guarantee that they’d rather be with a family that they don’t know than by themselves.

I’m grateful to be here at such a special time of year when people’s hearts are a little softer & when there is such an incredible message to share with everyone.

Spread that Christmas Love,
Sister Aure

1st Day Picture With President and Sister Craig

President and Sister Craig

President and Sister Craig

Hello hello hello! I have made it to Florida! We left off from SLC as the sun was rising, and I was so grateful for the tender mercy of being able to watch the pink sunrise over my salty city one last time for 18 months. The plane ride was great, but after waking up at 3 AM, I was just so tired. I still am so tired, but my heart is bursting with love for this beautiful beautiful BEAUTIFUL state and the selfless, loving, and best ever mission parents. As we flew into Florida I almost wept with how beautiful everything was, and I felt within the depths of my soul that I was home. This mission I am on is going to be so hard, & it’s going to try me to my limits, & some days I’m going to want to come home. But I won’t until my 18 months is over, because I could never deny that this is exactly where I need to be. I know you & I will both be eternally blessed for the service I will be doing in the future. Thank you for always lifting my spirits & thank you for the endless love and support you send me. I feel your prayers daily & I hope you feel mine. I know that our Saviour Jesus Christ died for you, & I and would have done it a thousand times over if it means we can come back to live with him again. God bless & share God’s light with someone who needs it this special Christmas season.

With all the love in my little heart,
Sister Aure

TRC and Dying

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This week was so long and so short all at the same time. We all felt a little jaded that we were supposed to have left earlier this week, but it ended up being a blessing because we really all became great friends this week. We were also much more prepared to teach our first real investigator, Chad! Other than me being sick and getting to go off campus to go to the dr’s, Chad was the most exciting thing about this week. Oh and Vocal Point performed for an hour to us last Sunday, so that was pretty cool too. Also we heard from Elder Evans of the 70. He taught us about how we need to share the gift of Jesus Christ to everyone in our lives, including and especially our loved ones back home.

The MTC has this program called TRC (Idk what that stands for) where they hire people to come in and be taught by the missionaries for practice. really, I just think it’s an ingenius way to get non mormons to listen to all the lessons. I guess they had 3 baptisms from it in the past six months. Some of the people they hire are recent converts that just act like they are not converted yet and act like they used to before they were converted. But we don’t know who is and who isn’t a member. We were assigned Chad.
1st real investigator. Mixed emotions.

1st real investigator. Mixed emotions.

The day we met Chad, we were able to connect to him instantly. It was the first time in my life that I could physically feel the spirit working through me, prompting me to say what Chad needed to hear and prompting me to to sometimes be quiet and just listen. I never want that to go away. I always want to be worthy to be that kind of vessel for the spirit, it was incredible, I can’t even explain it.

Anyway, we talked about his life and his divorce and his background as a catholic and then as an atheist.

The second day we taught him, I wrote in my journal:
“My words on these pages will be unable to express the spirit I have felt today. Today we taught Chad again. He told us about how our church makes the most sense. How God, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have to be separate beings. He said, “What, did Jesus Christ pray to himself on the cross and in the garden of Gethsemane?” He said that an all-loving God wouldn’t make salvation as impossible as non LDS churches do. He said, “It doesn’t make sense to me that a guy in Papa New Guinea that lived an honest life and never saw white man in his entire life would be damned just because he wasn’t baptized as catholic.” We were able to teach him about D&C 137 & he loved that because it. makes. sense. He loved that we don’t believe in original sin, too. The Holy Ghost helped me remember a scripture in Mosiah that deals directly with why we don’t baptize infants. He was amazed that the Book of Mormon has so many answers to the questions of our souls.

“Today I have been able to see fractional glimpses of who I am going to be at the end of this mission. And she is an incredible person that seems so far from where I am. But I know that through faith in Jesus Christ and the trials I will go through will bring me to her.”

I am grateful everyday that I get to bear my testimony in my native tongue. I am blessed that I can use descriptive, complete sentences.I’m grateful that in studies, I really get to focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ instead of the verbs I just can’t get right. And plus, I would never survive 6-9 weeks here. No thanks!

The next day Chad taught ME about his favourite scripture in the bible which is John 15:18-19. he said, “I often used to wonder, if there is a God, then why is he letting me go through so much pain? Why doesn’t He stop this? When I read those scriptures, it really hit me how much God loved His Son Jesus Christ. It made me think about how if God loved His Son so much that He didn’t stop His pain, then maybe the pain I’m going through doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love or care about me. Maybe it’s possible that he loves me that much too.”

1st investigator, Chad.

1st investigator, Chad.

After that lesson, we went to class and the TRC supervisor (who isn’t a member) came all the way to our building, found our classroom, and pulled Sister Bolos & I out. He said, “As the ‘supervisor’ I have to check up on all the investigators to see if they feel they are being treated well by the missionaries. I’ve known Chad for awhile, & I have never seen him so happy or smile with his eyes like he has been. Whatever you’re doing, please keep it up.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOSH! Is this what it feels like to be a missionary?!?!? This is incredible!!

i wish i could tell you everything that i learned from chad this week, but there simply isn’t enough time & I honestly don’t think anyone cares as much as I do. haha. The last day we taught him, we invited him to baptism, he declined but said that he’s open to the idea. I know if we had more time with him, he would have developed enough faith, but it’s time for us to move on. He thanked us and told us that we made him feel things that no other companionship ever had. He asked for our emails and to take a picture with us. I have so much love for that man & so does our father in heaven. Without Chad, I would not be the person I now am after just four short lessons with him. God knows what we need and He knew I needed Chad.

Moral of the story, although most days I am on my death bed with illness, there is nowhere else I would rather be on my deathbed. Next time you hear from me, I will be in Florida teaching more real life investigators.

Sick in bed studying every day. My cute Bolos made me an acorn.

Sick in bed studying every day. My cute Bolos made me an acorn.

I love all of the emails and letters and dear elders. Please keep them coming, it is just a great boost at the end of the day.

I am so blessed and happy to be here.

With all the love in the world,

Sister Aure

Thanksgiving week & Black Friday sales in the MTC‏

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Okay, so we actually don’t have black Friday sales here. In fact, all the shops are actually closed, so during the holidays we’re even more cut off from everything than usual.

Let’s start from the beginning.

After I emailed you  last Saturday, I had the opportunity to do initiatories at the temple with my zone. I’m not going to lie to you, last week was really rough. It’s a hard transition to go from being completely independent to being with a thousand people 24/7. I was having a hard time feeling the spirit and being happy like I wanted to. So Friday night, I said some prayers to my Heavenly Father that I might feel a little better.

Within 5 seconds of walking into the temple, I see my friend Kevin Kemp from my last single’s ward! He’s the one that set up all my mission interviews for my stake president. then after I got dressed, I saw my best ever ex-roommate Arie standing there folding her clothes. I almost cried. She’s one of the sweetest people  it was so great to feel like I was part of the real world again. THEN I saw my best sister friend Sydni Carr! She even said she decided to go to the temple out of the blue. (I think we all know why she was prompted to go….(: ) THEN (if you can even believe it) I saw my pageant friend Ashley Robinson there working!! What the heck! I was at the temple for about 3 hours and saw four people that I know & that mean so much to me. Not only was going to the temple the biggest blessing, but being able to see my cute friends again before I left for Florida was the best thing in the whole world. I felt so loved that day.

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Sunday was a good day, but I was very tired. My branch President asked me to sing a solo in sacrament on the last Sunday we have here. (I decided yesterday on the solo version of The Olive Tree. It is perfect for saying farewell & good luck to my branch, I think.)

We also got to watch the music & the spoken word & oh my gosh! There was the MOST BEAUTIFUL version of Come Thou Fount that MoTab sang. If you can find it anywhere, i suggest you listen to it. It blew my face off. It had the full bell choir & everything. So pretty.

Monday, I woke up CRAZY sick. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I thought my throat was on fire, and my sinuses were off the charts. So I got to sleep the whole day. That was nice, but it was not nice being sick. Especially since I had been practicing a song to audition with for the Thanksgiving program. My accompanist had been working so hard on it, so when Tuesday came, even though I felt like death, I still wanted to audition just so she felt like it wasn’t wasted. We auditioned for the MTC President’s wife & I couldn’t even hit any of the notes & I was so embarrassed & I walked out of there as soon as I was done so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.

On Tuesday Elder Oaks & his cute wife came & spoke to us. He spoke mostly about how important it is that we live up to our missionary title. He said that by wearing this black tag, I am representing myself, my family’s name, the church, and Jesus Christ. These are all people that I do not want to disrespect! I want to make these people proud! I also got to sing Nearer My God To Thee in the choir for that. It was so beautiful.

Then I found out that I was 1 of 2 people in the MTC that was chosen to sing for the Thanksgiving program. I was terrified.  I was still so sick. I don’t like performing unless I can do it perfectly.

Anyway. Thanksgiving lunch was really gross and disappointing…. then we did a giant service project where we made over 35,000 meals for hungry urban children! It was fun and we got to listen to that awesome primary song voicemail album the whole time. i love my acapella.

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We then had a devotional by Elder Bednar that was off the hook. He basically did a question and answer session the whole time. People asked some pretty cool questions but my favorite thing he said, was when he promised, “If you feast upon your scriptures daily and pray morning and night, you can never fall away from the true light of Christ. I promise that.” What an amazing promise from a prophet of God. How blessed I was to hear personally from two in one week.

I then had to sing. I hadn’t hit any high notes in the song I was singing (A higher than usual arrangement of Maybe This Time) all week, so I said the biggest prayer of my life that I would somehow miraculously be able to do it.

Guys.

I have performed that song a million times in my life & it has never been better than it was that night. I was riffing all over the place and sliding and hitting notes that are way out of my range even on normal good days. It was crazy. I had faith that I would be helped in order to provide some actual entertainment for these missionaries, and the Lord came through for me.

Yesterday was average & today is today. I have reached my halfway mark in the MTC! 10 days and I’ll be out of here.

I’ve LOVED the dearelders I’ve been getting & would also love any hand written letters. Also, I want you to send me pictures! I have very few, & I want some from that family shoot that Haley did right before I left. Also, friends, send me your favourite picture of us!

That my life here at the empty sea (MTC)

I’m keepin on & the Lord is blessing me, just like I hope he is blessing you!

I get to hang out with the coolest cats ever all day er day, so i couldn’t be luckier.

All my love,
Sister Aure