ClicBonjour à tous!
It was a pretty sick week! Literally...both me and my companion are fighting nasty colds. Haha. But it's all good! This work will still go on and we were still able to accomplish a lot this week.
I think the biggest thing I've realized this week is how there are so many hungry souls out there--spiritually hungry. And we've got to feed them! But we cannot do that before we first feed ourselves. If we have no spiritual strength ourselves, how would we be able to go administer it to others?
We made visits to quite a few less-actives and members this week. With each one we talked about two of what I consider our greatest treasures--the temple and General Conference. Why do I consider these so valuable? Because these are the occasions when we don't just spiritually snack or nibble, but it truly is a feast. You are made full in so many ways. It was so interesting to me to see the reactions of these brothers and sisters, especially the less-actives, as we asked them questions like, "How do you feel when you're in the temple? Or watching General Conference?" Immediately their eyes get watery and a light comes to them. They can't contain their smile. They have each said how much peace, joy, and clarity comes to them in these settings. The temple and General Conference are our spiritual schools. We become students to the Lord's voice in these settings. We can receive so many answers to our questions, so much peace to our troubled hearts, and so much direction as to how we can reach our full potential.
But just like a massive Thanksgiving feast requires hours and hours of shopping, cooking, and preparing, our spiritual feasts require the same dedication to get ready. If we all sat down at the table Thanksgiving day and had never even made the initial step of going to the grocery store, we'd sit down to an empty table with growling stomachs. We cannot simply just "show up" to General Conference this week and expect to retain the full benefits that we are capable of receiving. So, like we asked all of our brothers and sisters this week, I ask you, what are you doing to prepare for your spiritual feast this weekend? Here's a suggestion. Something I've been doing is reading the First Presidency's messages from the past 5 years. The more familiar we are with their words, the more easily we'll be able to recognize what their words mean to us as they speak. I've also begun to write down questions I have that I want to find an answer to. For me, it ranges to just about anything from how I can be a more charitable companion to know how to have more courage to share my testimony. How do we expect to find answers if we never even first posed a question?
But most importantly, the key to spiritual preparation is doing things that will invite the spirit in. That way, when the time comes to be fed, you will be in a state that will allow the spirit to really speak to you. What you feel during Conference is much more important than what you hear. With each message, I know the spirit is trying to communicate to each of us how it is to apply specifically to us. And it will probably apply differently to each listener. So we have to know how to listen! We can't listen or even hear if we don't make of ourselves and our home a place where the spirit can be there to talk to us. So, this week, really try to fortify yourself and your home, and make of your home a temple. Do not let music, shows, video games, books, thoughts, words, or any other influences that can push the spirit away enter into your hearts or home. But just blocking negative influences out isn't enough. You have to invite good influences in! Make an extra effort this week to study the gospel, especially the words of the living prophets. Make your prayers, both personal and as a family, more frequent and heart-felt. Look for extra opportunities to extend service to others. Just be happy and grateful. There's countless ways to invite the spirit in!
I promise you that as you make of your home a holy school, your Conference experience this week will be so much more fulfilling. You will learn how each message is to apply to you. Don't just write down what the speakers are saying, you can read all of that later. Write down what you feel. It could be completely unrelated to the topic being taught. Maybe someone will talk about tithing, and then a thought will come to your mind that a certain lonely sister in your ward could use a visit this week. It could be anything, but because of your effort to invite the spirit in to teach you, he will speak to you through any given opportunity.
If at any moment during Conference you feel your attention or interest waning, imagine Jesus Christ Himself up at the pulpit addressing us all. Because that is exactly what is happening, actually. He's just speaking through His instruments, His mouthpieces, our beloved prophet, His apostles and other servants.
Quoting Elder Robert D. Hales: "In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us...This is possible because the Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand. When I take notes at conference, I do not always write down exactly what the speaker is saying; I note the personalized direction the Spirit is giving me. What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel. That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the Spirit can be clearly heard, felt, and understood. Oh, how we need general conference! Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened. And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days."
T-5 days!! Are you ready?
Soeur Shields k here to edit.
It was a really busy week! It went by in the blink of an eye. We had all sorts of adventures, lessons, and crazy things happen to us. Where to begin...
I think the main thing I realized this week is how humility is the key to allowing the gospel take a real place in your heart. By that, what I mean is that a humble heart is what permits us to actually live our religion. I've been reading a lot lately on the life of Jesus Christ, and I've noticed a common trend. Although He is perfect, He was still capable of being passionate and aggressive in His teaching, because He was just and holy in doing so. The moments where this was most commonly manifested was when He would rebuke people for being hypocrites. Hypocrisy greatly saddens and frustrates Jesus Christ. He does not like when we profess to love Him with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him. Ask yourself how you might be susceptible to that. Can I give you a hint? It almost always comes with judgments that we make about others. ANY judgment we make about others is a form of hypocrisy. Why? Because we each have something that we could be judged for as well!
Our Heavenly Father made every human being different. Why wouldn't He want us all to just be clones? Because differences allow us to be tested. They test us to see if we're going to give into the temptation to judge others according to our differences. It's easy to look at others for their shortcomings and weaknesses. Its easy to look at others for the ways in which they are different from us. But think about how much happier we would be if we focused on each person's merits and strengths. We would spend a lot less time pointing the finger, and a lot more time trying to improve our own selves by learning from the good examples of others.
I read an interesting story where two sisters were together and one of them kept having the most trivial criticisms go through her mind. "Why doesn't she ever pay attention in class." "Why doesn't she ever help clean up after dinner." "Why does she wear her makeup like that." And then one day this sister had a dream. And in this dream, Jesus Christ came up to her and said, "I'm the only one who is perfect. In my eyes, you two don't look much different." This is a realization that we must all come to. Compared to Christ, we all look pretty shabby. He is the only one who is perfect and can therefore pass judgement. We have no right. Don't go looking for the faults of others when there are plenty of things we could be improving about our very own self.
I saw this a lot this week as we taught many inactives and amis. They each come from very different backgrounds from me. I don't know their entire life's story, what challenges they've faced, or what trials they struggle with. Sometimes it's easy for me to want to think things like, "Why don't you read your Book of Mormon? It's not that hard. You're trying to tell me you don't have 5 minutes in the entire week?" Or "I don't want to hear you're too tired to come to church. You don't think I'm tired too?" I have to quickly try to push these thoughts out of my mind and remember that I am working with a child of God who has different weakness and struggles than me. What may come easy and be logical to me, could be a mountain to climb for them. And what may be simple for them, could be a huge challenge to me. I think of the fact that we are all equal and on the same level in Christ's eyes. That allows my love for them to increase and understanding and compassion to fill my heart and mind, instead of criticism and judgment. And then I can have the spirit with me to respond to these issues and help them overcome these challenges in a Christ-like manner.
It's not always easy and I'm not perfect at it. But when I pray and really plead with God to have the ability to see His children through His eyes and love them as He does, gradually He enables me to have this gift. But it takes effort...Lots of prayer, lots of repenting, and lots of practice.
2 weeks till General Conference!! I hope you're all preparing.
Have a wonderful week!
Bonjour tout le monde! It was a really great week. I have so many different things that I want to share. I'm already learning so much this transfer. One thing I feel impressed to talk about is something I've learned this time around while training my companion. I think since it was still so early on in my mission the first time I trained, that I didn't really recognize this concept. But now that I'm considered one of the "seasoned" missionaries (still feel like a bleu though) I've come to understand how allowing trials allows growth. There are certain things that are no longer quite so difficult for me--like speaking French, talking to strangers, teaching the lessons of the gospel, etc. But these are some of the most difficult challenges for a new missionary. So, naturally, when I see my companion struggling for a word or searching for an idea, I want to intervene right away and help her, because I love her. And when I do that, it brings her instant relief because she doesn't have to struggle. But then I think about who my companion is, and I know she is someone who studies hard, has the spirit with her, and is therefore completely capable. So I stop myself from coming to the rescue instantly, and I let her work at it alone. And then something awesome happens! It's uncomfortable at first. It may be even a little painful or scary. But eventually, she manages to succeed in whatever it was she was working to do. This is so much like our Heavenly Father and the way in which he allows us to grow and progress. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Even when we think we're incapable of accomplishing something, He knows we can succeed. He knows it will require letting us struggle at it without His instant-intervening. It's not easy for Him to watch us struggle, but He knows it will be worth it in the end. Because He loves us so much, He wants to give us the opportunity to really stretch ourselves. It's in these moments where we're really required to trust that through God, all things are possible. So we try our best and do all we can do, and eventually, we succeed. It may have been a rocky road to get there, but over time, we do arrive. That is how true growth occurs, and we realize what we're made of--we're made of God. Our President said to us, "Your greatest accomplishments will follow on the heels of failure." I know that this is true. In those moments where you're praying and asking for help and you feel like nothing or no one is coming to your aide, thank your Heavenly Father. He is giving you an opportunity to really grow and progress. It's funny, in the moments where we think God has abandoned us, it's when He is really the most involved. But we must surely never abandon Him. I've thought a lot about that concept in terms of what it took to get me on a mission. I went through a lot of struggles until I was able to accept the Lord's call for me to serve. And how grateful I am that He let me go through all of those challenges and didn't come to my rescue right away. I got to come closer to Him...close enough to accept His will for me. His will was for me to be here, and I'm so grateful this is the path He guided me to. This has been the best decision of my life. Did I mention the Lord knows us so much better than we know ourselves? Trust Him. I hope you all have a wonderful week! Love, Soeur Shields P.S. General Conference is in 19 days!! I hope you're preparing! I invite you to start reading the First Presidency's and Quorum of the 12 Apostle's messages from the last session. Also, start writing down your questions that you want more insight on in these next upcoming sessions! P.S.S. #gocougsx2
Bonjour tout le monde! First of all, really great news. Tony, one of my very first amis that I ever taught on my mission, that Soeur Cherry and I found, just got baptized this past weekend! It's so cool to see the progress he's made. So proud of him!
What an awesome first week here in Lyon! It feels so good to be back in a big city! It's slightly overwhelming to get back into the swing of the hustle and bustle of city-life, but I really love it. We have an incredible ward here, and we're teaching some pretty cool people. So I'll give you some highlights of the week. First thing is a pretty huge miracle that happened our very first night here. We get a random phone call from an unknown number. Often times I'm hesitant to answer those because they don't usually turn out to be very positive. But I decided to answer this time. Well, turns out who called us is a sister who has been inactive for the last 30 years named Michelle. She is actually the sister of the less-active couple I worked with a lot in Chambery. She was spending the last couple of weeks at their house for vacation. Well, the elders in Chambery happened to be over at their house one night while she was there. They found out last Friday I was getting transferred to Michelle's ward, and so they told the family there, who then told her that she had to contact me. Well, when she got home on Monday, that's exactly what she did! She calls us up and we fixed a RDV with her for later in the week. We get to her house and she tells us she's just had a complete change of heart, and wants more than anything to come , back to church. So now we are re-integrating this once-lost sheep back into the fold! She's preparing to receive her patriarchal blessing and to go to the temple. We've gotten her her own set of scriptures, we're subscribing her to get the ensign, getting her home and visiting teachers...you name it, she wants it! It's awesome. She came to church yesterday and just cried through the whole thing as she felt the power of the spirit touching her heart once again. She heard the testimonies of truth that were familiar to her that she has missed so much. I want you all to know that lost sheep do return! It takes time, maybe even 30 years, like it did for this sister. But if we watch and wait with love and patience, as said by Elder Nelson, they will come back. And it is one of the most beautiful and happy experiences to ever witness. Living the gospel makes people happy. It's a type of happiness that you can really only define by witnessing what the other side brings--which is not true happiness. Alright, to continue on. There is a wonderful sister in the ward named Constance, who is extremely perceptive to the needs of others, and isn't afraid to open her mouth and share how God can heal troubled lives. She referred us to her neighbor named Julie, who is going through a very difficult time. So we go to her house, and she just cries as she expresses some pretty awful crises she's going through. She was pleading with us for answers and for guidance. I felt very inadequate for a moment. Here I am, just a 20 year old kid, first time meeting this lady, and she is desperately begging for some type of clarity and guidance from me. I said a prayer in my head to please just speak through the spirit, and to say what her Father in Heaven would say to her if He were there. Because I know that He knows her perfectly, and knows what she needs to hear. I just opened my mouth and what came out was just a testimony of God's unending love for her. This love is manifested by His Son's sacrifice, who felt all of our pains and sorrows, so that we could bear up our burdens with ease. Living the principles taught by Jesus Christ is what brings true peace and joy in this life. It is these 3 simple truths that came out that brought tears of relief to her eyes and calmed her heart. It is also thanks to Constance's acts of selfless and charitable love that have softened Julie's heart and helped her to become open to letting God in her life. She said she notices a real tangible difference now that she's let Him in. Another thing that we have done a lot this week is teaching our recent converts. Two of them are young African fellas. And let me tell you, they are the coolest people I've ever met. I don't think I'd be a true France Lyon missionary if I didn't describe to you my love for the Africans here. There are a lot, and they are hands-down some of the greatest human beings alive. (Constance being one of them) They are a people who are so close to God, and that mentality transcends into every facet of their lives. They open everything so much more easily than most do--their hearts, their doors, their arms, their eyes, their spirit, their mouths, and their kitchen tables. ;) They literally want to share all that they have, in every aspect. They make everyone around them family, and since they love and treat everyone like family, they understand that everyone is a part of God's family. So they do all they can to bringing others unto Him.
The last thing, and possibly the most important and touching experiences I have had this week, are those of which I've had with my new companion. She and I have really hit it off and I have been in awe all week as I have witnessed the strength that this sister has. I don't know how I would be able to serve under some of the difficulties she has faced, but she does it beautifully. I am learning so much from her in what it means to truly have a testimony, to live off of it, and to let it be your source of strength and hope in life. It feels like we've already known each other our whole lives, because I'm pretty sure we were buddies before this life. :) We have had some very sacred moments this week where it has been made very clear to us why we're supposed to be together. Companionships are one of the most inspired and important aspects of the mission. You are with that person literally 24/7. So obviously, God has you two together to learn a lot from each other, because you will learn almost everything about each other in that amount of time. As I'm teaching her mission-life things like French, teaching skills, or how to plan, she's teaching me real-life things like how to put trust in God, how to sacrifice, and how to serve out of pure love. It is a true blessing to work with her and I'm very excited for what the rest of this transfer will bring. I hope you all have a wonderful week! Love, Soeur Shields P.S. #gocougs