Monday, October 24, 2016

Blessings that Don't even need a Disguise

Dearest Darlingist Momsie and Popsicle and all the rest o y'all. 

This week has been probably one of the best of my entire mission, quizás of my entire life. SO. MANY. MIRACLES OCCURRED! And I´ve never felt so much love for my Savior and my Father in Heaven, and so much gratitude for the many blessings (99% of them being PEOPLE... the other 1% is divided between Peanut Butter Cups and Goldfish Crackers) that He has sent me, this week and throughout my life. 

First off, I just want to say THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR THE BIRTHDAY WISHES/TREATS/LOVE!!!! This has definitely been one of the best birthdays of my life, and I haven't even technically had it yet. I celebrated a little early.... hehe. But it was indeed SUPER fabulous, and I'm so grateful for you all!!! 

OK. So. To start off this incredible week, we had preparation day, where we headed over to the Playa of our area with one of our ward's recent converts and ate at a really yummy Burger restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea! It's October, and about 80 Degrees maximum, so all the tourists have left for the season. (Apart from the odd little straggler here and there) which is alright by us! It was nice to enjoy one of the last days of "summer" here in Gandía. After that, we went and knocked a few buildings, which, I'm going to be honest here, is a hit-or-miss kind of situation. I just had to keep thinking about President Uchtdorf's talk about "Fourth Floor, Last Door", and it became a bit of a mantra as we went on. We didn't end up finding anyone that night, but we've got a WHOLE lot more buildings to check up in, so we're not quitting just yet. :) 

TUESDAY was fantastic. We woke up, got ready, and got on the train to Valencia for interviews with President and Hermana Dayton. I don't think I've expressed this NEARLY as much as I should have, but can I just tell you how much I love them? I love them SO MUCH. They are absolutely incredible, and I absolutely adore them. President said something that really struck me during our interview; he said that people talk all the time about how much of a "sacrifice" the mission is... but, really, it's not much of a sacrifice! Yes, we don't have cell phones and we don't watch movies for a few months, but we've got the rest of our lives to do that. It's true we don't get to see our families for this time, but our Father and Savior have made it possible for us to be with them forever! Really, the only true sacrifice that we can make on a mission, and really, throughout our lives, is our will - a broken heart and a contrite spirit. That's one thing that he will NEVER take from us, or anyone else. And it's one thing that we are asked to give to him so that he can bless us more than we can imagine. I loved thinking about that! I'm still thinking about it, and boy, it's a lot harder than it seems to give 100%, but luckily for us, he has asked for our best, and has given us time to practice. It's something I don't think we can do without His help, and I think it's the ultimate gauge of success on a mission and in life. I'm lucky to be surrounded by incredible examples of this; by President and Hermana Dayton, companions and other missionaries, friends, relatives, and, of course, my awe-inspiring Mom and Dad. :) 
We decided to just walk to the train station from the chapel after interviews, because it wasn't really that far away, but we ended up getting a little lost. (Poor Hermana McBride has experienced more than her fair share of my poor navigation skills) and it ended up taking us about 2 hours to finally find the train station. On the way, though, we accidentally found a store that sells things from America! (Called "Taste of America" haha) and we decided to stop in for a second to rest. While all of it was too expensive to buy, it was funny to see all the things that we've gone so long without - like jello and maple syrup and Root Beer - and we felt a bit like we were in some kind of strange museum, haha. 'Murica. 
We finally made it home, and it started POURING rain, so at the end of the day, we celebrated with Hot Chocolate and christmas music again. Teehee. 

Wednesday was good, we had another lesson with Yana and this time we brought along one of our good friends from the ward, Monica. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes after we got there, Yana had to go with her family to go look at a few different pisos (though Yana reassured us that she's still going to be here in Gandia), so we didn't get to finish out lesson of the Plan of Salvation. We're hopefully going to be meeting with her later on this week, so we'll be able to finish that. After that, we went and taught English Class, which had an abnormal number of students, which was super exciting! We ended up dividing the classes into "basic" and "advanced" and we, the hermanas, took the basic-level students and taught them about adjectives and descriptions. That was actually really fun, and we shared "Atributos Cristianos" at the end and talked about the character of Christ. Great night!

Thursday was pouring rain again, and we had little luck contacting after weekly planning. We were also looking for decorations for the Karaoke Activity that we're in charge of this coming Saturday, which was more stressful than we had previously thought it was going to be. (Turns out they don't have streamers here... go figure!) Halloween isn't super big here, but we found a couple of party stores that had what we were looking for. (And a little more... I'm still not a huge fan of Halloween-scary masks and figures and things like that, and I was scared right out of my chapa a few more times than I'd like to admit just by looking around. Motion-detecting Halloween things are just not my friends.) We returned home drenched, and had just enough time to change, gather up our things, and head to Valencia. 
We spent the night there with the hermanas from Valencia and Catarroja, and all got to bed because the next day would be CRAZY!

The next morning we got up at 5 to get ready for the day. At 6 we headed over to the train Station,  and our train left at 7:30. Luckily for us, the seats we happened to be in were designed to sleep in, and we all crashed pretty hard for the next three hours. We finally got into Barcelona at about 10:30, took the metro to the Stake Center, and prepared ourselves for the Conference of a lifetime. EVERY missionary in El Faro was there, which is a SUPER rare occurrence, as we typically divide conferences and such in half because of the distance of travel. But everyone was there! It was a fun reunion with the hermanas from my district way back in the Provo MTC and old companions, and we then got all set up and prepped for a mission-wide photo with the guests of honor: President Russel M. Nelson and Elder Kearon and their wives! We got all set up ahead of time, and to keep the reverence in the room, we started humming hymns. After a bit, he entered and the room was in complete silence as we snapped the photo and then went one by one and shook the hand of one of the special witnesses of the Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Right from the beginning of the meeting the Spirit was SO strong. Everyone was attentive and soaking in every word of testimony and counsel from first President and Hermana Dayton, then Hermana and Elder Kearon, and finally Hermana and President Nelson. Each of the testimonies held so much power, and made me think of the scriptures that said that Christ and other prophets spoke as "with power and Authority from God". My prayers, and questions that I didn't even know that I had, were answered, and the Spirit testified to me once again that this is the work of Almighty God, and that these are some of His chosen servants. Sister Kearon shared a sacred experience that they had as a young couple, learning about the Plan of Salvation through the loss of their firstborn son, that left each of us in tears of gratitude for the great plan of our God. One of the strongest lessons that I have learned in the ten months that I have had here in Spain is of the reality and perfection of the Plan of Happiness. I'm so eternally grateful for the opportunity that I have to be linked forever to those whom I love most in this life, and that by obedience we can again return to the presence of our loving Father. Elder Kearon reminded us of how to find true happiness and success in this life and in the mission, and how to find joy in every day. Haha something that he said that I loved was something along the lines of "Just stop being so anxious. Don't worry. Work hard." And "You're a Mormon! You, we, thrive on adversity!!!!" Haha that made us all laugh. He advised us to approach every aspect of our day with Vigor- especially our personal prayers in the morning. That we should be pleading, with passion and whole energy of soul, and giving thanks and expressing our love for our Father as soon as we wake up. That's a sure fire way to have a good day, don't you agree? 
President and Hermana Nelson talked about the importance of sharing the plan of Salvation and Family History work with those we meet in the street, because it's something that we have knowledge of that nobody else in the world does! And that the gathering of israel and the signs of the second coming are already happening. Isn't that interesting? I always kind of thought that it was something we were looking out for in the future, but it's happening! We're a part of it! 
It was an INCREDIBLE conference, absolutely life changing. It was only three hours long, but it was probably one of my favorite moments EVER. I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I had to be there, in the presence of some of the Lord's Finest! 
After the conference, Hermana McBride and I booked it to the office, and, after waiting for a little bit, received the long-anticipated packages from home. If you want to know kinda how we felt, see Proverbs 25:25 {As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.}, and then picture a small child on Christmas. Hehe. We couldn't wait very long, in fact, we made it onto the train and sat down before curiosity overcame us and we had to open up the packages. (Just one week early!) Thank you soooo much, all of you, for the gifts and the cards and the LOVE! It means SO much to me!!!! And we cried and we laughed and we just basked in the glory of such an incredible day. 
We spent the night again in the piso of the Hermanas of Valencia, and then came back to Gandia to finish off the day. 

Anyway, that's about all the time I've got, but I just want to say again how much I love you and am grateful for all of you! I can't believe how blessed I am to have you each in my life, and I want to let you all know that I know my Savior lives. I know that He is there. I know that He really sacrificed Himself for us, and that He truly took upon himself our griefs and sorrows and pains and afflictions. I know that He is there. 
I love you!!!

Hermana Larson

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