Monday, December 18, 2017

Last Six Weeks (update #72)

Hellooo Everyone!!

This week officially marks the beginning of my last transfer (6 weeks) as a missionary. Lots of crazy emotions that we don't need to go into right now. But, what that means for the moment is that Soeur Gowans left me :( it was really sad to say goodbye to her, we've had a lot of good, funny, spiritual, crazy moments these last 12 weeks and it was rough to see her go. (For me and all our amies).
 But also so exciting because she's heading home back to America and school and dating and all the exciting things haha.

And my new companion is... SOEUR BROOKSBY!!
 She is honestly the greatest. She was in Carcassonne and Angoulême (close to Toulouse) the whole time I've been here so she's been here for exchanges, district meetings and zone conferences so many times. It's really fun getting a companion that I know (a little) and love (a lot).

In other news this has been such a fun week as we went around having final rendezvous (for Soeur Gowans) with all of our amis.

On Sunday we got to go to our amie Paloma's evangelist church before leaving and it was such a fun experience. They sang a lot of hymns that I've never hear before, all to the beat of bongo drums. It was a very different experience, but very eye opening to see how so many people worship God in different, but beautiful ways.

It made me so happy to see other ways of worship, but it also made me a little sad to think of the very essential element of the gospel that they're missing: eternal families. They're missing the temple and the ability to be sealed to our families for time an all eternity. They are stuck in the belief that marriage and earth relationships are only "till death do we part." It's something we've talked about a lot with our amie. She wants to believe in eternal families and temple marriages, but her education makes it hard for her.

It makes me so incredibly grateful for the knowledge that we have that families can be eternal. That because Jesus Christ conquered death, each one of us can live with our families again after this life on earth. The grave has no victory.

Especially during this Christmas season, a lot of people I meet are really surprised that I won't be going home for Christmas and that I haven't seen my family in 17 months. They always ask me if it's hard. I never have a good response. Because it is hard to be away from my family... I love them more than anything and of course all I want for Christmas is to be with them. But on the other hand, it's really not hard at all to be here in France as a missionary because I know that my family is forever. And the chance to share the joy of forever families with other people is more than worth every one of these 18 months I'm spending across the ocean from my family.

This week we saw Marie and talked about temples and it just reminded me of all of these beautiful blessings that come from temples and eternal marriages and families. Marie has become such an amazing friend these last 12 weeks and I can't even express how much I love teaching/ spending time with her. Before my mission I never thought that our amis (de l'église) would actually become my friends. I don't really have words to describe how amazing it is to share the joy of the gospel with real friends.

Speaking of which, Lucille got her recommendation to receive her patriarchal blessing AND go to the temple for baptism for the dead this week!!! #purejoy
Well, I think that's all for this week. I love you all and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Don't forget to #LighttheWorld


Some picturesque spots around Toulouse:   

Dinner with Lucille, where I ate a fish eyeball.  

Some more shots from around town: 

The other Toulousian missionaries:  

Our Metro stop:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Angels Near and Far (update #71)


First off, here are some pictures from Lucille's baptism, since I didn't have any to show last week:

I wanted to start this email with a funny story, but the only thing I could think of was was more embarrassing than funny.   Today at the marché de Noël in centre ville we were at a stand and Soeur Gowans and I were speaking in English and there were two French ladies that came up to look at the stand. One of them cracked a joke about leather and Christmas cows and without meaning to I laughed super loudly. It kind of just came out and they both looked at me super weird like I was an alien and then walked away. Haha. C'est la vie.

One thing that I wanted to share was from this Thursday. It was a little bit of a rough day in general. Actually a really good day, but I wasn't feeling like myself. I felt like I was doing a lot of things wrong and basically just exhausted from running around and still never doing everything that needs to be done. When we finally got home to our apartment after a whole day of running from place to place in the cold rain I just sat down on the couch and wanted to never move again. Anyway, I opened my iPad and read an email from Ash (currently in the MTC going on her mission to Armenia) where she shared the scripture Alma 32:7 (I think) which says: "be humble, and be submissive and
gentle. full of patience and long suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God."

Reading her email it felt like God was sending me a clear message:  "you're doing a good job. Stop feeling bad for yourself. Pick yourself up off the couch, be humble and be diligent in keeping my commandments. I'm here to help." I love that our ministering angels can be seen or unseen. That cold, rainy day in France my angel that I needed was my best friend thousands of miles away in Utah. Sometimes angels come from heaven, sometimes they're the people around us and sometimes they're people really far away.

Speaking of angels, here's a video that a lady in our ward made that shows a big Christmas service project we helped with last week.  It was such a cool thing to be a part of and you can see a couple glimpses of me and Soeur Gowans in there if you look!  I love being a small part of  #LIGHTtheWORLD

Something I love about this whole #lighttheworld thing is that every single day so many people are taking just a little more time than usual to turn outwards and help others. And in doing that we become the Savior's hands and the angels of this mortal world. Thank you for your lights.

This upcoming week is Soeur Gowans' last week as a missionary so we are living it up over here in Toulouse seeing all our amies, and going to member's houses and trying to eat as many patisseries as possible ;)
Speaking of finishing missions... shout out to Katy who is going home from Argentina this week!! So proud of you, you're my role model.  Well, that's all the time I have, love you lots!


Monday, December 4, 2017

ÉclairerleMonde (update #70)

Joyeux Noël tout le monde!!

I think I'm going to start every email from now until Christmas with Merry Christmas because I'm sooo happy it's Christmas :))

I'm sad because I don't have a picture of the most important thing that happened this week: Lucille's baptism!!! It was so beautiful. As she came out of the water and up the steps of the baptism font she just fell into our arms and was crying tears of joy and relief to "finally" be baptized. As I hugged a warm, wet and very happy Lucille it was so obvious that she was completely at peace and happy with her decision. I feel like before my mission I always imagined what it might feel like to "baptize someone" or teach someone who chooses to be baptized. The funny thing is that it doesn't feel much different from going to the baptism of a sibling or a friend. It's so special and you love the person so much, but the most breathtaking part isn't the fact that we taught the person, it's that someone we love so much has taken such a huge step of faith to come unto Christ.

Also, s/o to Mama Goold for making the programs for the baptism!!
They were perfect and Lucille was SO sparked that they were made by someone in America who loves her (even without really knowing her).

This week we also hung out with Marie and the Thomas family (super cool Americans in our ward).
It was SO much fun!! We talked, ate delicious potato soup, watched a Christmas video and had a great time. Honestly being with Marie is just like being with a friend. And the best part is that part of being her friend is also helping her (slowly but surely) come to know Heavenly Father. She wasn't raised in a very believing family, but religion is gradually becoming a part of her life. I love love watching the huge difference it makes to begin to understand the simple belief that Heavenly Father is real, that he loves us and has a plan for us. It simplifies and changes everything about life.

Speaking of simplifying, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of simplicity this week. It has been a crazy, busy couple of weeks here in Toulouse. We've had conferences, exchanges, meetings, ward parties, just so many things!
 And I've loved every minute of it. If you know me, you know that I'm a busy person. I like to have things to do, and when I don't have things to do I usually find something to keep me busy haha. But sometimes I get so caught up in my "busyness" that I forget WHY I like to be busy. The point of doing things isn't just for the sake of doing something. the point of doing things is to edify and be édifiéd, to learn and grow, to give and receive love, to appreciate and make the most of this beautiful Heavenly Father has given us.

I love this Dieter F Uchtdorf quote:
"If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."
And what better time of the year than Christmas to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember what matters most? I LOVE the #LighttheWorld (Éclairer le monde) initiative the church is doing in December. The best way to find ourselves and remember our divine identity as children of God is to turn towards others and help them recognize their own divine potential.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the thought that I'm supposed to "light the world." But what I love about lighting the world is that it isn't about changing the world all at once. We're not setting the world on fire. We're not expected to fill the world with light alone. We're just giving the little we have to give. No light is too small to cast out darkness. It's a smile, a hug, a kind word, an invitation. And at the end of the day, we are just spreading the perfect, all encompassing light of the only perfect human ever to walk the earth: Jesus Christ. So what good does it do to worry about how big or small my light might be?? None!

"This is a work of love and not statistics" - Mother Theresa

In other words, it's not about how much we do or what we do, but the motivation with which we do it.

We had an activity Saturday after Lucille's baptism to #Eclairerlemonde by making little shoe boxes filled with food and little presents for families in need in our area. Soo much fun!! I'm mostly just in awe with how people can come together and make things happen. Everyone brings what they have to contribute and then all together it lights the world.

Other highlights this week included Christmas conference today with all the Bordeaux, Toulouse and Montpellier zones (and the Browns)!! We had so much fun and even watched Cars 3. Super weird to sit down and watch a movie haha... it's been a while. it was actually really good though.

Well I have to run but I love you!! Thank you for the lights that you are in the world and the inspiration you are to me.

Je vous aime fort!
Sœur Cami Goold