Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Week 12 - Merry Christmas

This week was Christmas and that means...Christmas Zone Conference! It definitely was the best zone conference yet. Awkward/missionary appropriate games and skits followed by some spiritual enlightenment and Filipino catering. (The elders always love the food part.)

San Jose Sisters
This week I got to pick up my NEW companion, Sister Ricketts from Dayton, Nevada. Straight from the MTC! It's always the first few moments of awkwardness when you get a new companion, but we got over that quickly. My first week as a trainer is definitely the most exhausting. I have a feeling I will just be tired pretty much every day for the next 12 weeks. Not that I haven't already been exhausted every day. Every day as a missionary you constantly evaluate yourself and ask what you could do better. (Usually that list is longer than the list of good things you did that day.) Becoming a trainer, especially when I still feel like a new missionary, I've found that I multiply that list of things I need to do better by 10, and then you factor in no sleep, no eating, just STRESS. Constant stress. Because you realize you don't know what the heck you're doing every day and every hour of the day. I've really realized how real the Atonement is for us. The only way we can get through these trials is if we rely on the Savior's atonement.  I think sometimes in life we just want to run away from hard things because we don't believe in ourselves. But Christ reminds us of who He thinks we are what we can become. Even though it takes some refinement and hard experiences, The Lord knows that these will make us better. The road to discipleship is never easy and never will be but it's worth it. And I only have 12 weeks to help this sister feel of Heavenly Father's love for her.

Branch Christmas Party!
At zone conference we watched The Nativity and it made me think about how Christ really was the epitome of humility, even when he was born. He was born in humble circumstances, to a humble mother, and lived a humble selfless life. Everything about his life was humble and meek. This Christmas, President Peterson reminded us that the only thing we have to really give to Christ is our hearts. I was reminded of the song Consider the Lily's that says, "He will heal those who trust him, and make their hearts as gold." The process by which our hearts become gold is not easy. In fact, it's sometimes even painful. Refining our lives to become more like him is painful. But after all that, Christ promises us to make our hearts as gold. And who wouldn't want a heart of gold, crafted by our Savior? I think that's the most precious kind of gold there is.

CHRISTMAS EVE ROCKED. We ate mac and cheese and some other Filipino dishes that I don't remember the name of or the ingredients in. (I think I've finally gotten over that and just decided not to ask since most of their dishes have either pork or chicken.) Christmas day we skyped our families which was hectic. Actually, everything was just hectic. Cleaning, laundry, etc.---All the normal activities of Preparation Day. But then add running around to all the internet shops trying to find enough cameras to skype. Everyone and their dog is out and about on this day, all trying to go to the same place, LIPA! After we finally were able to skype our families, we went and ate a BOMB dinner with the senior couple missionaries, the one and only Elder and Sister Smith. Potatoes, ham, and veggies! LOVE AMERICAN FOOD. With three American sisters now living together in one house with one Filipina, we were pretty excited to see some of our country's good food.

Even though my Christmas was spent differently this year, I'm more grateful than ever to be
here. I know that through these trials I will be able to become more like Christ, even though it's hard and painful at times I hope that my heart can be crafted into Gold by the Master who knows all things. He knows how to change us if we let him. But we have to let him do what He needs to so we can change. This year I'm giving my heart to Christ and becoming the person He needs me to be in this ever changing world.

Maligayang Pasko Y'ALL and a Happy New Year!

Sister Seastrand

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week 11

This week has definitely been a very tiring week to say the least. Who am I kidding though. EVERY WEEK is tiring.

This week on Thursday we went to good old San Pablo to meet with all the new trainers. Traveling ALL DAY is definitely not the most fun thing to do. As soon as I left that meeting I felt an extreme amount of weight/mantle on my shoulders to be perfect. Becoming a trainer isn't easy one bit... and my trainee isn't even here. I JUST finished the 12 week training program and now I have to train? WHY. President told all the new trainers in the meeting how this church is a church of callings that we don't always ask for. But we take them and magnify them as much as possible, and do our best never looking back but looking forward at all the things we can do. He also told us how much he prayed and fasted for revelation to who would train. That made me feel a little better to know that it wasn't just any calling, but something that truly was thought out. And then he told us how trainers set the course for the trainee's entire mission. And then I felt that mantle get just a little bit heavier. Sometimes when President talks I just slump in my chair because I know he is always right, and I quickly change the way I think because I know I am always wrong. Most of the time.

Too many times on this mission do I always ask, "Why?"

"Why do I have to do this?"
"Why is this so hard?"
"Why am I getting a new companion at Christmas?"


Christ never asked why. He just did. He did ALL that the Father asked with a willing and loving heart. His sacrifice was the supreme expression of love. And so maybe I should tweak this question a leeeetle bit and stop asking "Why?" and instead ask "What?"

"What can I learn from this?"
"What can I do to help my new companion feel happy even though she just said goodbye to her country and everything she knew?"
"What can I do to become more like my Savior?"

How about we always ask the "What" instead of the "Why." Just change the one worded question that we always ask when we receive something hard. I promise it will change your entire outlook on your trials, hardships, challenges, good times, etc., and just on life in general.

It does not even FEEL like Christmas to me, maybe because it doesn't even look like Christmas when you're living on some islands with palm trees. And you can't disregard the fact that I just sweat. Everywhere, everyday, ALL THE TIME. I'm pretty sure Christmas is supposed to be WHITE. And cold. I would definitely have to say that is a tender mercy from the Lord--mostly cause I think if I saw snow, I would just die and want to go home. Heavenly Father knows us WELL. Especially the details.
We went and watched the Christmas devotional at Lipa on Sunday. It was awesome. Honestly the talks were sublime.

Nothing can ever top the Christmas Devotional with the Prophet. I especially liked Elder Nelson's talk about Christ.

Christmas really is different here on a mission. Not for the obvious reasons, but for the reasons that most people like Christmas for: Stuff. I think it's because on your misson, you have no stuff. You just have your companion, and the people around you to make you happy. I realized how much we emphasize stuff at Christmas, but what happens when Christmas is over, and the anticipation has died down? What do we have left? These people have nothing all year round, and yet they have shown me what true happiness is and it surely does not come from stuff. Happiness comes from the Savior. Our true and lasting peace will ALWAYS come from Him and His gospel. So instead of being a Grinch this Christmas about being away from home, becoming a new trainer who doesn't know anything, and having a brand new companion that I'm not used to, (because there are many things I could say that are hard right now at this point in my mission), what if I listed all the things I was grateful for? What if I gave the gift of compassion and most importantly, the Gospel? What if I helped someone give their heart to Christ this Christmas? These things are the REAL meaning of Christmas. Not letting another year go to waste, on stuff. (Although I do miss some of my stuff.)

But stuff will ALWAYS be there. Our relationship with our Savior might not always be there.

I'm so grateful for this Christmas season that we have to strengthen our testimonies of Christ and give our hearts more fully to Him to heal us, just like He wants to if we will let Him. Here's to a new companion this Thursday and Christmas with palm trees and hot sunny days.

xoxo, Sister Seastrand

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Week 10

This week has been a very interesting one, yet really good. First, our tracting is starting to pay off, and now we have a nice big teaching pool full of investigators who want to hear the gospel, which is PERFECT!

Minda, one of the investigators we have debated dropping for awhile has come out of nowhere this week.

She is never home every time we go to teach her, and she has been really cold to us lately.... we decided we would give her a break for awhile and see if she still is interested in our message. She has been telling us that she wants to be baptized, and yet she hasn't kept the one commitment we have extended to her at least a dozen times: Will you come to church? We decided to go to her one more time and give her our expectations and let her know we really need her to come to church if she has a desire to be baptized. We know she has a testimony and knows that it is true, but every Sunday we hope and pray she will come....but nope. Not to be seen. This week we taught her. She opened up to us and told us how hard her trials have been, and just cried and cried. We told her how much we cared about her and how much we wanted to help her and how the gospel could help her. We then extended the commitment:   Will you come to church this Sunday?
Waiting for a bus in Lipa
We get to the chapel and are standing in the doorway of our tiny little meeting house. Just waiting. Looking at the gate to see if she will turn the corner into our chapel. Feeling really, REALLY doubtful, looking at the rain come down, Then there she was! Walking with her little baby and an umbrella. Minda came to church this week! And she even shared in Relief Society her story. And the best part is, she loved it. And wants to come again. Sometimes the best things happen when we want to give up most. The Lord is always so patient with us.. Why should we not be patient with our fellow men?

This mission has taught me a lot about patience. Patience in learning the language, patience in your investigators, and patience in the Lord. All of those things are really hard, and yet as we are patient we learn more about God. I think this life isn't just about overcoming sin. It's about learning how God lives, everyday. And as we overcome our sins and weaknesses, we learn more about how our Heavenly Father lives, and what he wants us to live like, too.
Local Cemetary...no "6 feet under" here!

It's great, this mission life. Really. It's perfect. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Transfers are coming up soon......not so sure how I feel about being with a new companion again, but I gotta have that faith that the Lord knows me and what I need in this mission. It will be DEC 18. One week before Christmas! I REFUSE TO BE TRANSFERRED! YOU CANT MAKE ME GO PRESIDENT! (If only I could really say that.)

The best part about missions is you learn all your faults and strengths all at the same time. And you grow with each investigator, as you extend them commitments you can also keep yourself. This gospel is TRUE. It's perfect and everything we need. Anything and everything else we get is just extra stuff. I'm grateful to be here. The Philippines are a blessed country and they are so ready for the gospel, I can't even handle it.

Merry Christmas!

Here's to another week in my new home,
xoxo, Sister Seastrand