Literally no complaints about this week. It was perfect. Celebrating Christmas in a different country is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life. Talking to each of you was the highlight. Everything about this week really just screams JOY!
REALLY QUICK! I must tell a cool story that happened this week. For those of you who don't know, I received the most prized gift one could ever receive on a mission. My cute dad wrote me a letter about his experience on his mission. I knew he was an amazing missionary by the way he leads his life now, so I wanted to hear how he did it. Was it him, or his area? How did he learn such a hard language? Never before in my life have I so sincerely and deeply appreciated and yearned for advice from my wise dad. So one morning this week I slipped it out of its very protective place and read it again. I was SO inspired again as I read how he would point out the Spirit in a lesson. As a missionary, that is super intimidating. I pretty much always feel the Spirit so I thought I had no idea how to tell if they were feeling the Spirit. About 2 hours after reading that, I was in a lesson with an amazing young girl. We were teaching about the restoration of the gospel (see video about Joseph Smith at the end of the Learn More page), and the Spirit was there. It was my turn to speak and I remembered the letter and knew I felt the Spirit... so I boldly gave it a try. IT WORKS!!!!!! After I pointed it out, the Spirit confirmed to me that it had been touching her, and me pointing it out allowed her the opportunity to recognize it. I felt emotional as I thought about how proud my dad would be haha. That was a huge game-changer for the rest of my mission and I know I am eternally grateful for my wise dad and his loving advice and amazing example as a missionary.
So? How did we celebrate the Holidays? On Christmas eve, we were able to carol and really see joy in the eyes of those around us. I LOVE Slovenes! That night, our district leader made us CAFE RIO! I REPEAT! CAFE RIO! One thing about Slovenia... literally no Mexican food. This was the best dinner ever. We were all so happy. Such a good Christmas eve dinner!!!!! Then we played a few games as we waited for midnight mass (mind you... I have not stayed up past 22.30 in almost a year) it was a STRUGGLE to stay awake haha. We walked to center in time to get some seats and sat ourselves in the very front row of one of the many amazing catholic churches here in Maribor. Midnight Mass is... quite a converting experience. I will never forget it. I love our church. It is so true. I still smell like incense. It was such a good experience and I am so glad I went! We got to bed around 3... so we slept in the next day. Of course my obedient and trained body woke me up just before 6.30, but I managed to fall asleep again so all is well haha.
The next morning we walked in our pajamas to the senior couple house. There were more people out than I expected... the walk is about 20 minutes. and Slovenes celebrate christmas MUCH differently. I am sure I stood out haha. But I was proud. We opened up presents and it felt like a normal Christmas. I got a Slovene story book and a few Disney movies in Slovene to enjoy after my mission (which I am so so so so so excited about I can hardly stand it) I also got a Holly plant which I LOVE!!!!! Then we had some french toast and relaxed. We watched "A Man's Search for Happiness" for my first time. I cannot believe missionaries used to use that video. Hats off to you! We went on a walk down by the beautiful river that was just filled with swans as always. I love this country. Then finally it was time to skype home. Oh how I loved that. I love love love talking to my family. You all asked such good questions! It was weird seeing my sisters hold babies they claim to be theirs (sorry, still struggling to believe that! haha) my mom and dad's voices are my favorite. It was such an uplifting experience talking to family and sharing my testimony in a language I have grown to love. It was awesome! After that, we had a turkey dinner (no idea how awesome my senior couple is for finding a turkey here) and she even made home made pumpkin pie (we don't have canned pumpkin here either) She is so cool. I was so impressed. It was such a cool day. Being a missionary at Christmas is an experience I will never forget and treasure. I LOVED christmas in Slovenia.
Well... 2016 starts this week! How did that happen? With that in view, I am sure you are all setting goals! I thought I would take a second and talk about that. As a missionary, I literally set goals all the time. We have transfer goals (every 9 weeks) Monthly goals, weekly goals, daily goals, even hourly goals. Man, I have set goals for half hours. Goals help us progress. So with the idea of setting goals for a whole YEAR I had no idea where to even start! Not to mention... during this next year I will be a missionary for about 8 months of it, and a normal person for 4. How do you set goals for that? I decided with the Spirit, to make a THEME for this year and then set smaller goals to accomplish my theme. I prayed and wrote down ideas for my 2016 theme. I thought about where I want to be at the end of it. I finally chose my theme. It is LOVE. This was very directed by the Spirit. I have made my goals with the motivation behind them being love... mostly the love I have for God and His love for me.
I have learned that when setting goals, if they are prompted by the Spirit when setting them, the motivation to achieve them comes naturally! You feel that this is what GOD wants you to do... if God wants you to loose some weight... the desire is much deeper! If God wants you to find 6 new investigators today, you talk to every single person! So my advice would be to take a second and kneel down. Pray to know what you need to do this year to progress on HIS plan for you. Ask to see the end from the beginning! Ask to see where you could be at the end of this year if you are sufficiently humble and faithful. When I receive promptings to change from the Holy Ghost, the change is not only more likely to happen, but it is permanent! This is the type of change possible when we rely on the atonement. It is awesome if you have a vision for where you want to go in life. But try to get God's vision of where he wants you to go for perspective. I know from experience that when you drop everything you want and do what He wants... even if that means stopping your schooling and sincere desire to be a mom to go on a mission haha... that at the end of the day you will look at what He has done with you and who He has made you and realize it is sooo much better than anything you could have accomplished by yourself. The atonement is real. The power to change is real. Apply it in 2016! I also am so thankful that yesterday and every single Sunday we can take the sacrament. I am so glad that I am starting 2016 with a clean slate knowing that I can stand blameless before God in His work. I know that repentance is real and powerful and forgiveness is strong and lasting. I love it. I repent a lot haha.
One last thought..... I was wondering... what would happen if the prophets and apostles got up in April and gave the exact same talks they gave in October? Wouldn't that be powerful? Wouldnt that just SCREAM to the nations, "Hey look, I am giving you all this great advice and telling you how you need to improve and what you need to focus on for me to bless you... and none of you are listening! This is it! This is my advice! MASTER IT!" I thought about how I would react. If the Spirit prompted you to do something during conference and you have not yet done it. DO IT! If the Spirit prompted you to do something last year and you have not yet done it, DO IT!! God will give promptings to those who listen and only to those He knows will respond. I have learned this many many times the hard way.
I am so grateful for the power to progress. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who really does give me countless opportunities to apply my heart to my understanding. I am eternally grateful for earthly parents who are there with open arms every time I fall back and who walk with me and cheer me on each and every time I take a step towards progression. I am excited for 2016. It should be a great year! I am glad I get to be a missionary for more than part of it! I am glad I get to see my family at the end of it. I am thankful I get to serve the Lord every day of it. And I will.
I love you all!