Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Letter dated December 23, 2013 - Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!!!
I am so excited that it's finally Christmas this week! I get to call home, and have so much fun spending Christmas with my sweet companion Sister Winkler, and the awesome Elizabethtown Ward! oh man, I wish you all could have been there for the Christmas Sacrament Program yesterday! It was sooooo good! and SOOO pretty! Oh my goodness! The spirit just filled the  chapel with such pretty musical numbers and wonderful narrations.  This Christmas season Sister Winkler and I have been sharing messages of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, and we often times would use the story of the Wise men in Matthew chapter 2:9-11, that reads: 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
 11 ¶And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
and we would focus on the star, how wise the Wise men really were for following the sign that was given to lead them to the Savior, and what are some of the "stars" that are in our lives that lead us to the Savior? What are those stars in your life? We had some of the most amazing answers, we had people that said the scriptures, prayer, the temple, families, the Spirit...ect.
and then how marvelous that was that the first thing they did is fall down to their knees to worship the Savior, and how we get to do that, every morning and every night to get to kneel down, and show our love for the Savior as we pray.  And that the Wise Men presented gifts to Christ.  What kind of gifts can we give the Savior? we had a lot of answers of Service, and keeping the commandments, and all of these wonderful things, but the one that struck me the most was that we could give him our will.  And yesterday in the program someone said something, and they were quoting someone..but I can't tell you who exactly...but they said, "when we give our money- we give much, when we give our time- we give more, and when we give our will- we give all." and that is so true....the only thing that we can give with all of our whole heart, and all of our mind, might, and strength, is our will.  Everything else is a gift to us. So I would just like to invite each of you this Christmas Season, and always, to find at least one way that we can change our will to be more in harmony with the Savior and his teachings.  To be able to give back to the Savior, and our Heavenly Father.
I'm so excited that I have the opportunity to experience Christmas on a mission! :) I feel like I'm gaining a better understanding of the true meaning of Christmas, it isn't about receiving (even though I've loved all of your packages in the mail :)) but it's about giving back, Serving the Lord for the next 13 months with all that I have, because this time is not mine, but His.  And for the opportunity I have to quickly learn from the spirit how to be changing my will to be more in line with His. I'm thankful for the Spirit of Christmas that I have been able to feel from all the members, and the  non-members as this season is directed toward Christ, and His birth, and not only his birth, but the life that he lived.  I'm so thankful that I have a savior that loves me so much, and showed me every step of the way, how I can become a better person, how I can be learning and improving in the gospel, and learning how I can better help others come unto him, and join his fold, or to help Him find his lost and wondering sheep that they can come safely back into the fold once more.  I love my Savior. I'm growing a deeper relationship with him as I pray often, and I read the scriptures, and keep his commandments.  I'm thankful for the love He shows me, and each of you! This is a season of so much love! and I am so thankful that I get to experience it this way.
I hope you all have a very Happy, Merry, Joyful, Loving, Christ Centered Christmas! :)

Thank you so much for thinking of me! and sending all your love! :) :) :)
Love always!
Sister Thomas! :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Letter Dated December 16, 2013 - Crazy Week :)

Oh man! I'm soo sorry! I'm so lame and I've missed a couple weeks of weekly updates. BUT man oh man...this week was CRAZY! :) in a good way of course! :)
Okay, so last Sunday Sister Winkler and I and the Elders in the ward set up a meeting with the bishop just to see what more we could be doing to make his job easier and what else he expects of us and so forth.  And he pretty much said that everything has been going well and that he wasn't expecting any more from us than what we've already been doing.  SWEET! so then we go back to class and continue on throughout the day, no big deal. And right before the meeting that we have with our Ward Mission Leader the bishop asked if he could speak to Sister Winkler and I.  So we go into his office, and he tells us, "I don't know what you two have done...." oh great...I'm already getting into trouble. haha surprise, surprise. but then he went on, " Evan want's to be baptized this next Sunday." ....wait...what? We haven't even been teaching Evan.  Evan has been good friends with the McBride's and they have been inviting him to come to church for almost a year now. His parents wouldn't let him be baptized for the longest time and apparently they had finally agreed to let him make his own decision and were allowing him to be baptized.  AWESOME!! Evan is such a golden Child! He comes to church religiously, almost every Sundayhe's there! and he is so involved with the quorums and with attending mutual, he's enrolled in early morning seminary, he reads his scriptures all the time, get's up in fast and testimony meeting to bear his testimony, and so on! he's just a boss!  He was so prepared! and then bishop proceeds to tell us that it's a super secret because Evan wanted to surprise the McBride's when he was going to announce it.  Bishop said that he had already done a mini interview, and he had passed with flying colors, so what we needed to do as missionaries was to have the District Leader interview him, and then have us quickly teach him all the lessons and commandments in a weeks time. So we called the next morning and set up appointments to have us come over and teach him, and called and got the District Leader to come over on Tuesday to interview him.  Evan was seriously leaps and bounds ahead of anyone I've ever taught (not that I've taught a million people since I've only been out 5 months...but still...very impressive.) We told him that most people take the discussions over a longer period of time and get an interview at the end of all the lessons the week before they're baptized....but Evan was being interviewed before any of the discussions had been given, and within the same week that he's being baptized.  He is seriously a miracle child! he's awesome! So we got to go over, and Brother McBride actually came to a couple of the lessons with us and he jumped right in and was such a huge help! He did all the hard work for us! He made the programs, and got all the songs that Evan wanted to be sung, who would be speaking, who would say the prayers and be the witnesses, and then Brother McBride was actually the one that got to baptize Evan! It was such an amazing process and truly touched my heart.  Evan just has such a desire to learn more about the gospel, and he's already so knowledgeable, heck I think he knows more than I do! And he wants to be a missionary so badly, and do what's right, and live the way he should. He's already such an amazing missionary, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him! it was amazing! We got to teach all the lessons and commandments in three lessons.....they were longer lessons that normal, but they were just solid lessons, and he knew all the right answers, and has such a strong testimony! So amazing!
Monday night to Tuesday morning, we got a pretty big snow, and so we parked the car, and after we had a lesson with Evan we went out and shoveled peoples driveways. It was fun! :) and the snow had stopped, so later that night we got to go to Tina's for dinner! :) it was SO fun! I've never made a ginger bread house before so I was so excited when we got there and she had made little ginger bread men for us, and shared a wonderful spiritual message to us, (that's always a nice change :) and afterward we got to make a cute little village! haha...but don't let me fool you.....I totally cheated! I tried so hard to put it together with the frosting...but it kept falling apart. So....I suggested to Tina to get the hot glue gun to make my process go by a little bit faster. :) haha We got to decorate them and everything! it was a blast! :) She's so sweet! She just takes such good care of us! and her and her husband even actually bought us a cute little Christmas tree with some little ornaments to put on! :) Soooo fun! and so cute! so when we got home we put the village under the tree! :)
We are now teaching Brandon, who is Jalinn's husband. She's a member, and her family is so awesome! :) We are so excited that we get to go over and teach him and their family. They are so nice and are always making me laugh! hahaha they have the greatest personalities! I love them so much! so we got to have a lesson with him on Monday night, which was fun! We got to talk more about the Restoration, and prophets.  He grew up a lot of different religions and is having a hard time with the concept of prophets, but enjoys the church, and has begun reading the Book of Mormon! :) It has been so much fun to begin teaching him because he has a lot of really good questions and is truly seeking to find truth. :) I'm excited  to see where it goes from here! :) we get to have another lesson with him tomorrow! and we got to just go see Jalinn last week, and she was telling us that it's really cool to see small changes in Brandon, and how excited she was when he picked up the Book of Mormon and began to read it on his own.  :) She had a strategy of putting Books of Mormon all over the house hoping one day he'd subconsciously pick it up and start reading it since he sees it so often.  I think it paid off! ;) haha! She was telling us that she has always wanted so badly to be able to be sealed in the temple. :) its always so touching to hear people talk about things like that and express the importance of the things that draw us nearer to our Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ.  :) I'm definitely serving in the best mission ever! :)
Carol, another member in our ward that we've been working with took us out to a yummy Chinese dinner! :) it was sooo yummy! and we had so much fun just talking for so long! She has some really wonderful stories that are so touching, and you can just feel the spirit so strongly when she's speaking them! :) She and her husband were converts to the church, and she's faced a lot of really hard things in her life. But she's just a superstar! :) I love her! SO much!
Did I ever tell you one of the ladies that we visit has a pig for a pet? well....they do. and they named it Scrapple. hahaha! Its a Pennsylvania Dutch thing that really is made out of pig.  If I understood correctly, Scrapple is I don't know what part of the pig...but pig, mixed with corn meal and they eat it with breakfast....kinda like's not very good.  I didn't like it.....but I thought it was soooo funny to hear that they had named their pet pig scrapple. haha! :) we also got to visit them this week! :)
We also go to go see Erin! :) She's so awesome! :) She is just always so sweet, and she is such a good mom! she's a member, but has been less active for a long time.  But we always just have the best time when we get to go visit her.  :) She's so awesome! We got to help her put her tree up a while ago, and she also let us borrow a baby tree for our apartment! :) It has been so fun! We got to go teach her more about the Plan of Salvation, and had a really good conversation on what the Plan of Salvation could mean for her and her family! :) it was so fun, and before we ended up leaving, she had us open up a gift that she got for Sister Winkler and I.  We each got one, and we opened it up, and it was the most precious ornament that her mother had made for us, that she had cross stitched, and it was so sweet! :) Erin has the most elaborate cross stitched Christmas  socks for each member of her family that her mom had made, and we had been commenting on it the time before when we were there, and later that night she had called her mom and asked her mom to make them for us! They are so cute, and on the back it has their family name with the town that they live in! It is going to be something that will always remind me of them and the memories I've made by serving in this area! :)
oh man, and Friday, we had Zone Conference! It was SOOOOOO good! we always get the best training on how we can become better missionaries! :) They're so fun because our Zone gets together, and we get to see some of the missionaries that we haven't been able to see in a while, and we get to come together to study the scriptures, to recognize the way that the Savior served and how we can apply that to the way we serve! It's the most amazing thing! I wish I could elaborate more, but I'm almost out of time.  But I got to see my MTC companion Sister Hurdsman. :) :) that was soo fun! I tell you what, I better get to serve with her again before my mission is over! she is amazing! :) and she quotes Nacho Libre with me! :) hahaha!! I've missed that!  But it was such a fun, spiritually uplifting conference. :) and after that was over we went on exchanges. 
Exchanges is where we get to change companions for 24 hours for the purpose of learning other ways of doing things, other ways of teaching.  :) its fun! and so we got to go on exchanges....and one of the missionaries cars battery died during the conference, and we rode with the Zone Leaders, and they had to take the other missionaries to not just one store...but two stores to find some jumper cables, and so Sister Denney and I were stuck at the chapel alone for a while, while they were on a trek for Jumper cables.  That took a while, and was quite an interesting way to start the exchange..but we finally made it  home, had dinner, and taught a couple lessons that night.  The next day we had our last lesson with Evan, and taught a couple other people and had lunch before it was time to switch back....well while we were at our late lunch appointment it started to snow...and it was sticking pretty good.  We were supposed to meet at the church at 4:30 but didn't get there until about 5 because the roads were so bad. By the time we got to the church to switch companions back, it was dark and still coming down a lot.  So the Sister Training Leader called Sister Topham, our mission Presidents wife, and got permission for us to stay at their apartment that night.  It was so much fun...but also very interesting....because I didn't have ANYTHING. nothing. not even a stinkin toothbrush because I wasn't planning on staying the night I wore the same outfit two days in a row...didn't have pajamas, I didn't have a blanket or a pillow or anything..Sister Winkler had some stuff because she stayed at their apartment the night before...but I didn't have anything.  So after I showered I got to get in my yucky dirty clothes again....and that's what I ended up wearing to church the next day because our house is too far from the church to drive back to change and do everything I I went to church with no makeup....having brushed my teeth with a tiny little mini toothbrush thinger....and wearing the same clothes I had been wearing the day before. haha! awesome! It was still way fun, and we got to have a "movie night" at the apartment and we watched 17 Miracles and it was so fun! despite the fact that one of our investigators got kicked out of his house the same night it was blizzarding and freeze he called us in distress and so we had to make a bunch of phone calls to get it all worked out.  In the end it worked out since Brother Raleigh is the best Ward Mission Leader in the whole world and took care of it for us....he pretty much risked his life by going to pick him up and take him to a friends house in this kind of weather, but he just rock so he did it anyway. He's the best! :)
And then Sunday, we got to have a baptism! :) :) Yay!! :) it was so exciting! and so worth it! Evan's family came and supported him, and it was just a great experience! the speakers did a great job! Sister Calvert did the talk on baptism, she is Evans Sunday School teacher, and Brother Greenway gave a talk on the Holy Ghost! It was really good! He used an analogy of a pen, and a cap to explain the gift of the Holy Ghost! It was really good! (I just have to give a shout-out to Brother Greenway and his family for just being so awesome! :) they always take such good  care of us, and they tell us some of the funnies stories! :) especially when Brother Greenway takes all the missionaries out to for pizza! haha) and the McBrides did a beautiful musical number! and at the end, Evan bore his testimony! He's such a good kid! It was so fun! and a great experience! even though I was smelly and I didn't have any makeup on! ha! It was awesome!
We just have the worlds best ward! They've made sure that we have somewhere to go on Christmas and Christmas Eve, and a place to Skype, and that all of our needs are taken care of! Sister Greenway even made us a Christmas CD, and Brother McBride gave me some music! They just rock! I love them all so much
I also have the best family in the world! :) I love them all and am missing them so much in the Christmas Season. 
And, I have THE WORLDS GREATEST AUNT PEGGY!! !:) :) She sent my companion and I the 12 days of Christmas :) and it has been so fun to open something. :) It totally has made our week! Thank you sooo much for everything that y'all do for me! I love and miss you all!
I'll talk to you soon!
Sister Thomas :)   
Ornaments that a member hand made for them 

Evan and the family 

Evan's baptism day

The alarm clock didn't work... 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Letter dated December 2, 2013 Happy Turkey Day

Heeyyy Everyone!
I'm sorry I'm so lame and I missed email last week! But man oh man! Thanksgiving was awesome! :) I was so nervous, because that was like, my first major holiday away from home, and of course I missed everyone! But it was just a neat experience to have it out on the mission! :) We got to wake up and go to the Turkey Bowl and play two touch football with the ward! :) It was so fun!! and no one got hurt, so that's a bonus! It started at 8 and it was reeealllly cold! thank heavens we were all running around to keep warm! haha! There were so many people that came out, we had huge teams! Sister Winkler and I had a blast! And I guess its tradition to go over to the Kenley's house for breakfast afterward! We all made our way over (well except for the super hard core football players that wanted to keep playing. :) haha) and we had some really yummy pull aparts and chocolate milk and we just had a chance to visit with everyone and get to know people better! :) The E-town ward rocks! They are just so close to one another! They truly are a ward family! its so neat! :) Then we had to go shower and get ready for the day, since we were smelly from playing our little hearts out. :) and we got to go over to the Jacobs for dinner! :) Sister Winkler and I got to go over early and help finish cooking dinner and getting everything ready! :) The Jacobs are the best family ever! they are just so sweet to always be taking care of us and having us over for dinner! They also had the Elders over, Elder Jones and Elder Cooper and another family from the ward, The Allens, and then some of Sister Jacobs family was there! It was a big fun crowd! With tons of yummy food, and TONS of dessert! haha it was a blast! Then we got to play some games!
Then we went to a less actives house and put up a Christmas tree! that was so fun! We had the best time! Our day went by so fast, and it was awesome to just have the chance to reflect back and think about all of the many things that I'm grateful for!
We also had a great week as far as teaching goes, we got to have some of the most wonderful experiences with Grace, she's a lady we've been teaching for a while to get her to come back to church, and she totally just came out and was wanting to come to church, and to pay her tithing and to receive her temple recommend again so she can do work for the ones that she loves!! What? Yeah buddy! We were so excited!!! I love Grace sooo much! She is just the greatest sweetest old women! She just rocks! :)
I'm sorry my stories are so short! We've got a crazy day today! but I love you all, and I'll save some stories for next week! I hope you all had a wonderful turkey day! :)
Sister Thomas