Christ’s Love‏

We are accidentally twins!

We are accidentally twins!

I love Dunn Avenue. There is nowhere like it in the entire world, I bet. On the way to church, we have to pass by an old run down strip club & the Budweiser factory. We almost went there for a free tour (the latter, not the former) today, but then we took two hour naps instead. Time well spent. I haven’t been sleeping well lately so it was good to feel like I kind of caught up. Kind of, being the operative word.

I wish that I could bring all of you loved ones to church with me on Sunday to show them all the amazing, crazy, humble people I have in my life right now. This ward is very unique. I never understood why we have poverty in America & children dying of hunger out here in our own backyards because I was never around it & I never saw it. It’s right here in Jacksonville Florida, though. There’s a line in our missionary rule-book that says, “Be thoughtful by not eating too much if food is in short supply.” I am ashamed to admit that I used to think that only applied to missionaries in third world countries. Let me tell you, my friends. There is third world living in this first world country. But the people….the people are the KINDEST, most humble, loving, giving people you will ever meet. Yeah, the organization of the ward has much to be desired, but man are they trying. Maybe 60% of them don’t have teeth or an education of any kind, but their hearts & souls are so beautiful. If everyone in Utah could spend two months in this ward, their whole view about what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is would make a 180. I know mine did. It’s not about having the funnest youth activities or the best talks in sacrament. It’s not about making sure our make up is perfect and our kids are well dressed and squeaky clean so everyone thinks our lives are perfect.

It is about charity.

It isn’t about you at all. It’s about your visiting teachee who, yes for the third time in the past six months, is once again out of food. It’s about recognizing needs & tackling them. It’s about ASSUMING BEST INTENTIONS. it’s about giving all…literally all. Our time, our talents, our money, our resources, our knowledge, our time, our time, our time, to the Lord (which mean God’s children). It’s about faithfully observing the laws of the gospel including & especially tithes & fast offerings. This ward has changed my vision as to where Christ would be spending His time & who he would be spending it with if he were here today. He wouldn’t be putting in a hefty tithe, but not take His time to help someone move in or out. He wouldn’t give the best talks in sacrament without sitting next to someone in the congregation that was alone & friendless. He wouldn’t pick & choose which commandments to follow & by glory, he sure wouldn’t skip out on the commandment to love one another.

We have seen many mighty miracles this week. I’ve had some amazing studies in the Book of Mormon & Preach My Gospel. I’ve had view altering & faith strengthening conversations with strangers & friends alike. There is literally nothing like serving a mission.

More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among His children.”

 

Sister Aure

My FAVORITE place to eat! There's one downtown it turns out!

My FAVORITE place to eat! There’s one downtown it turns out!

Cutest Lizard

Cutest Lizard

My FAVORITE SNACK OH MY GOOOOSH. (other than warm sour gummy worms of course)

My FAVORITE SNACK OH MY GOOOOSH. (other than warm sour gummy worms of course)

Someday, I will follow that sign

Someday, I will follow that sign

Guys, we got rained on so hard.

Guys, we got rained on so hard.

Sister Coutts' and i's motto

Sister Coutts’ and I’s motto

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The Longest Email I’ve Ever Written

Do you feel like this week has flown by just like I do? All things considered, it was only 6 days instead of 7 days since I’ve emailed you last, but whatevs.

Sister Coutts and I had an awesome week here in Dunn! First off, it was a MILLION degrees everyday & I had the pleasure & privilege of experiencing “dripping sweat” for the first time in my life. Did you know your body can actually DRIP SWEAT instead of just getting slightly & uncomfortably moist? Well, I didn’t. But now I do. And I wish I didn’t. But it’s too late now.
It's 7/11 even in Florida!

It’s 7/11 even in Florida!

I guess I'm a real missionary now. Look at those tan lines!

I guess I’m a real missionary now. Look at those tan lines!

There was this fun glitch in our iPad area book app this past month where every single referral we’ve gotten from church headquarters in the past….5 years maybe? Got kick backed to us. We were commanded by our mission president to go revisit each of these referrals to “make sure none slipped through the cracks.” So we did. Each. One. We’ve been working through our list pretty quickly & only have a handful left now. Well, on Monday we stopped by one of them named Angel. She said she never got her bible that she ordered 6 months ago, but was so glad we were there to give it to her. She had so many questions of the soul! Such as why are there so many churches, can you really be forgiven of sins, are there missing books of scripture, and is the trinity true or false! She said she used to be wary of other books besides the bible but that she was open to reading the Book of Mormon. We taught her the whole restoration. As we were leaving, she asked if its too late to be forgiven after you die. Good thing the next lesson we teach is aaaaaaall about that! Miracles!

Reunited

Reunited

On WEDNESDAY we got to drive to Mandarin to pick up SISTER PASKO!! Oh man that was a flashback!! It was such a tender mercy to be able to spend her last day in the mission field with her. She’s a beautiful soul. I can’t wait to see all of the after mission adventures she goes on. Then we dropped her off at my favorite couple the Winters’ apartment that night & got to say goodbye to two other sweet sisters leaving the mission. It is incredibly incredibly weird to think that will be me someday. Good thing I’ve got, like, forever till I have to worry about THAT mess. So yeah. That was real fun.

Stank face

Stank face

So, I may or may have not found the people I’m in Dunn for. I’m Dunn for! Hahahahahhhh….oh man. Sorry.

Ahem. The Litelliars!! Sister Litelliar was baptized in ’65 with her family in her teenage years. Shortly after that, she stopped going to church & never went back. She’s married to a very nice man now who is not a member. Once upon a time, her daughter was meeting with the sisters Kloepfer & McCook in Mandarin 1st. In walks Sister Litelliar & she’s like, “oh yeah, I’m Mormon! I was baptized once!” So those sisters got her info & got her records sent to the right place. Which is Dunn Ave. SO. She is basically like an investigator because she doesn’t remember anything from before. But she LOVES it. She’s reading through the gospel principles book & Doctrine & Covenants & everything. She really wants to come back to church. But she doesn’t want to go without her husband. & he’s been a hard egg to crack. But this week, we brought an older ward missionary couple with us. The Moellmers. We talked about eternal families & temple work & asked them to read The Family: A Proclamation to the World together for homework. We even sang our well practiced Star Spangled Banner for them! Man, was the spirit there with us in their home, or WHAT. it was amazing. Brother Litelliar opened up so much & even said, “Well, I’m afraid that if I come to church, your job will be done & you’ll never come back to visit!” They are so cute. I love them SO much. & they loved the Moellmers so much that they asked us to bring them back every time that we come(: I am so excited to continue use teaching them. Keep them in your prayers, please!

Saturday, I spoke at a baptism of a teenager that the elders were teaching. I talked about the gift of the Holy Ghost. It helped me remember how lucky I am to have this heavenly gift from a loving Heavenly Father & how important it is that I never take Him anywhere where He would be embarrassed.

“When you hear true teachings or testimonies of Christ, the Holy Ghost touches His spirit with yours to let you know that what you are hearing is true. You may hear that phrased as ‘feeling the spirit’. This is the first step to gaining a testimony ourselves.”

Sunday was SO COOL. The Dunn Ave ward has a yearly tradition of having a “musical testimony meeting”. It’s kind of like testimony meeting, except you bear a one minute testimony about a hymn that changed your life & then the congregation  sings one chosen verse of that hymn. You know I love music, so this was amazing for me. I think this needs to be a thing everywhere!

Something I’ve been doing for the past four months or so is reading a general conference talk every morning from the year I was born. From there, I plan on doing eventful years of my life, such as when my brother was born, when I moved or started at a new school, when something traumatic happened. It has been AMAZING. I feel like every talk I read was written just for me in mind & somehow what I read always ties into something that’s going on that day or the day before. I tell you this just so you can start & hopefully have the same life-changing experiences that I’ve had. & also because President Craig just emailed everyone this morning saying that we can’t read general conference talks from years other than the current year….so hopefully you can continue the tradition for me & share with me the things you learn from it.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from our beloved Prophet Thomas S Monson & the testimony I have of the restored gospel. I know that the power of God (the priesthood) is very real & I know that Christ used it on the earth to heal the sick & forgive the sins of mortals. I know that that authority was lost when he was brutally crucified & His apostles run off. I know that Heavenly Father never intended  to leave us without the amazing blessings of the priesthood & that’s why He needed to restore the church through a new, modern day line of prophets starting with Joseph Smith. I know that only through being baptized by that authority & only through keeping the covenants we make with Him at that baptism & daily repentance, that we can return to live with our Father in Heaven & our family for eternity. Why would anyone want to jeopardize THAT amazing blessing?

Without any further adieu….this email is too long already anyway.
“Mortality is a period of testing, a time to prove ourselves worthy to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. In order to be tested, we must sometimes face challenges and difficulties. At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel’s end–no dawn to break the night’s darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, I plead with you to turn to our Heavenly Father in faith. He will lift you and guide you. He will not always take your afflictions from you, but He will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face.” (Looking Back and Moving Forward: President Thomas S. Monson)
 
-Sister Aure

“Everything About Chik-Fil-A Strengthens My Testimony.”- Sis Coutts‏

I love serving by the city

I love serving by the city

Happy Independence week, everyone!!!

America’s still the best country, even on the other side of it. The highlight of the week was the Fourth of July. Obviously. However, in order to tell this story correctly, we must flashback to my very first day in the mission field. The assistants at the time were Elder Layton & Elder Cordon. They picked us up from the airport & packed most of the sisters into the 12 seater mission van. I went with the right people, because they took the scenic route through downtown, over the big bridge. Which now happens to be the ward I’m serving in. Elder Layton was telling us about how during the Fourth of July, the city has a firework show over the river. I asked what area this was. “Dunn Avenue” thy replied. “What do you think the odds of me serving here for my one & only mission Fourth of July are?” “Very slim. There’s only one set of sisters in that area.”

WELL, WHATUP. HERE I AM.

So, I was so excited all week. I was the 1%. I was one of two sisters serving in this mission that lived in the area of the big firework show. But guess what? It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like we should be there.

WHAT?!!?? You mean……ugh.

Those were my emotions.

So instead, we caroled. On the 4th of July. Thank you Mr. Mortgous for making us sing the star spangled banner every year in show choir so I had the alto part memorized. It went really well! One family stopped us & said, “We don’t celebrate flag day.” I assumed it was because they were obviously from a different country, but it turned out they were actually Jehovah’s Witness! Whoops! They gave us a bible. It was very nice. My favorite couple we carolled to, however, was the last couple. At 8:45 P.M. A man opened the door & what was on his head? None other than a good ol’ BYU hat! I’d never seen him at church before so after we sang, I (because I don’t have normal social skills anymore) nonchalantly asked, “Hey, so what’s up with your hat?”  Turns out he’s just really into college football & likes the team. His wife gave us some Gatorade, we said a prayer with them, & I shared Alma 48:7-10 with them.

“7 Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.
 
8 Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.
 
9 And in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men; and thus he did fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
 
10 And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.”
I love America & I that’s one of the reasons I love the Book of Mormon so much. The Book of Mormon IS ABOUT AMERICA. We shared with these fine folks how God needed a country with religious freedom before He could restore His true gospel to the earth once more. How true that is! So although I didn’t get to see THE fireworks, I did get to see some fireworks. But more importantly, I got to share a book that I love that is about a country that I love. I am so lucky.

God bless America.

The best 4th of July out you'll ever see!!!

The best 4th of July out you’ll ever see!!!

The rest of the week was pretty good. It rained a LOT. so much rain. Thank you for my cute crocs & waterproof bag.

Laura is just the best missionary ever. She gave a Book of Mormon to one of her coworkers & invited him to lunch with us for some “church talk”! He has lots of questions & is meeting with us right now purely for information. But he had such a great time, that he asked to do it again this week. so hopefully we’ll be able to help him think a little more about the things he believes & why he believes them.

I got sick one day & slept in until TEN. I haven’t done that since I was dying in the emptysea. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

So, I’ve been in the same zone my whole mission so far which has been really fun, because I always know at least one person every time I get moved. We had a zone service project where we cleaned garbage from this GIIIIIIAAAAAANT dog park. It was fun. & I got to see all my old companions minus Sister Pasko. WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT POINT

Yesterday I, Sister Aure, had the best idea in the world. & by me, I actually mean that the Holy Ghost probs told meh. Humility….humility….I’ll figure it out someday. Since I’ve always been in the mission home Zone (JAX East Zone) I’ve always had a sister that’s going home hang out with us for the day. So we called the assistants & volunteered to take Sister Pasko for the day!! Which is so fun! Because we’ve both been her companion!! & we’re so excited!!!! YAY!!! I can’t believe it’s been 4 1/2 months since I’ve been her companion. & I also can’t believe she is going home! What the heck is life. Too fast, man.

So, yeah. I love this mission, I love this area, & I love America.

Jville pride

Jville pride

You know I love art!

You know I love art!

There’s no other way I’d rather spend celebrating my freedom than being on the most liberating adventure of my life.

Victory hand🏻️

Sister Aure

Life

The field is white all  aeady to harvest....and lo he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not but bro gets salvation to his soul!

The field is white all aeady to harvest….and lo he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not but bro gets salvation to his soul!

This weeks email isn’t really going to be about my week here. That’s your warning. Sorry, not sorry.

Instead, it’s going to be about the past 7 months & the past two years. Being on a mission, one of the very first “get to know you questions” is “Why did you decide to serve a mission?” When I first got here, my answer was long winded and full of plot twists. I’ve condensed it down to, “Because God wanted me to.” So, you’re welcome future companions & ward members. Regardless, I’ve been able to think a lot about that question & the events that transpired to me getting where I am today in sweaty, hot, beautiful, humid, sweaty, sweaty, sweaty, swe-oh, sorry. It’s just….really sweaty. Like, the air is sweaty. It feels like you’re always at a concert in the pit at a venue with no air conditioning, but worse because you can’t even jump up to get a little fresh air every once in awhile.

Now that I’ve gotten totally off topic, I’ll try starting again. One of my dearest & best friends sent me an email this week reminiscing about what we were doing with our lives two years ago, this week. It was this week, 2 years ago, that drastically changed both of our lives forever & I can definitely say I would not be here on a mission if things didn’t happen exactly the way that they happened. The things I went through were really hard & really different from what I was used to. Things that from the outside look like boring young adult problems, but when you yourself are in the thick of it, it’s so real & it’s all you have. Those young adult problems are your reality. My reality 2 years ago was pretty crappy & I can fully credit myself for that. Although I wouldn’t wish upon anyone the things she & I both experienced at this time, my dear friend wrote the most beautiful thing about it.

She said, “There is no doubt that He was preparing us so that we would be able to understand the Atonement and therefore share His glad message. He needed us to be stronger women. He needed us to learn to rely wholly on Him. I feel so grateful for the course my life has taken and I just love Heavenly Father for loving me enough to guide and direct my life as He sees fit.”

A truer statement has never been said. How lucky I am to have so many inspired, Godly women in my life.

However, this message she shared with me meant a lot to me for more than our two year anniversary of Life Changing Decisions Week reason.

The last 4-5 weeks that I was in my beloved JAX Beach, I had a series of panic attacks and depressive episodes. For those of you who know me well, this stuff is old hat so y’all can probably skip the next couple paragraphs. I thought about writing about it while it was happening, but I figured it would probably mean a lot more when I was on the other side of it. I’m glad I waited.

I’ll spare you most of the gory details, but there was a lot of crying & a lot of me not understanding why my brain was telling me certain things & a lot of patience & love from Sister Jensen. She’s going straight to the celestial kingdom. I thought I wasn’t going to make it out alive most days & I was really really really mad at my inability to function at a normal level. I’m a fairly independent person, so it took me about 2 weeks of feeling like this until I approached Sister Winter, our mission nurse, & asked for help. I can honestly say that I could not see the end of how I was feeling anywhere in sight, but I trusted in a loving Heavenly Father that sent me here & did NOT send me here to fail or become worse than I was. If 9 weeks ago you told me I would be grateful for that experience someday, I probably would have punched you in the face. Well. Here I am being grateful for it. I learned more in that 4-5 week period of time about repentance & the atonement & changing my nature than I ever have in my entire life. The lessons I learned are & will continue to be of eternal importance to me. So when I got the email from my friend with her prophetic paragraph in it, it meant so much to me on so many levels.

Because of my hardships before & during this mission, “…there is no doubt that He was preparing [me] so that [I] would be able to understand the Atonement and therefore share His glad message. He needed [me] to be a stronger [woman]. He needed [me] to learn to rely wholly on Him. I feel so grateful for the course my life has taken and I just love Heavenly Father for loving me enough to guide and direct my life as He sees fit.”

I add my testimony to hers, for I know that not only does He live, but He is such an integral part of every time we want to change something about ourselves. I’ve tried to change on my own without His help & it takes so much more effort with such a smaller result than with. I know my Savior loves me because He is helping me become someone I could before only ever dream about. Through feeling my Savior’s love & by using His atoning sacrifice, I have been able to understand my divine rights & worth as a daughter of God. THIS is why I am serving a mission. Because every person on this beautiful green earth needs to know that their loving older brother Jesus Christ suffered for them, so that they don’t have to.

Not to worry, I am doing fine & working everyday to develop better emotional & mental habits & I have the best dream team support group ever. I’m lucky that I didn’t come into the mission field imagining it to be easy. I knew it would be hard eventually, but I never would have guessed it would be for the reasons it was. That shows me that God knows us better than we can begin to comprehend.

Moral of the story: God is good. Missions are hard. Missions are worth it. Let Christ heal & help you.

I have a lot of love for you right now. Whoever you are reading this.

Every time you think your life is hard, just imagine me crying in my bed on my favorite holiday because I can’t watch fireworks & eat lemonade pie with my family.

Light some sparklers for me.
Sister AureCollision symbol