Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals..and a Happy New Year!

This week was filled with little miracles and the pleasant joys of Christmas cheer and gladness.  I started this week coming back to Sherwood, which was great! It was seriously so good to be back "home". Sherwood is straight up the very best place in the world to serve. 

On Tuesday, we went with Sister Amy Miller to go see some young women and some members. It was great! Sister Miller is the cutest member ever. I just love her whole family! We visited Brother McKinney who had just come home from the hospital. After that, we went and visited Alosha. It was so great to have Sister Miller join us because she works with the young women and she invited Alosha to YW the next day and she actually came! Woot woot! 

On Wednesday, we visited Sister Martinez, who lives in our ward. She was as sweet as could be and even asked us to give the missionary lessons to her daughter who turns nine the day after Christmas.  Her daughter, Abby, is so cute, and I am so glad that Sister Martinez asked us to teach Abby! We look forward to working with her in the coming days. After we visited Sister Martinez and Abby, Sister Oakley from the ward treated us to Cracker Barrel for dinner.  Since Sister Farr encouraged me to not get chicken tenders, I decided to order a real southern meal of chicken fried chicken with dumplings and fried apples. Mmmmmmm!! After dinner at Cracker Barrel, we went to see Tara and it was a do or die moment. Before meeting with Tara, we prayed to Heavenly Father and pled to understand His will for her. We had hit a point where really needed to know if He wanted us to keep seeing her and if it was in His plans for her to learn about the gospel right now.  After offering up a prayer, we knocked on her door and she came outside. She said that she was busy but that she really wants to learn about the church. Then she told us that if she were to become a member she wouldn't be able to come every week to church because she works. Whoa! We had never even asked her to be baptized and she brought up being a member. We took that as an answer from Heavenly Father, so we will keep trying to see her and teach her. 

Thursday. WE HAD A BOMB LESSON WITH LAVETTA!!!!!!!! She told us a little while ago that it would be better to meet after the new year so we were kind of bummed out about that, but last week we took some chocolate stirring sticks for hot chocolate and while I was in Bryant she texted us and asked us to come over on Thursday at 11, so we did! Sister Wright, a fantastic member in our ward, joined us and she shared so many great insights and was a wonderful member support. We talked about the Plan of Salvation and it was just so cool because I recently have been studying a lot about our Heavenly Father’s plan for us and it was so wonderful to discuss these beautiful principles of the gospel and feel the spirit testify of these profound truths. Afterwards, we went to Maumelle and had Maddie Windsor come with us to go out teaching. Maddie is so cute! She just turned sixteen and was so excited to come with us. In fact, she actually texted us and asked us if she could come. After picking up Maddie, we had lunch with the Crandalls and then got down to business! First, we visited some less active families and they welcomed us in, which was just so great!  We eventually got to a point where we didn't know who to see, so Sister Farr turned to Maddie and said, “pick a door and knock on it.” Maddie picked a door, we knocked on it, and WE HAD A GREAT FIRST LESSON! It was with this college-aged guy named Garrett and he was super cool and accepted a Book of Mormon and said we could come back for another lesson! YES! GO MEMBER MADDIE!

On Friday, we went to Maumelle and helped Sister Bowen make tamales for the members that helped Sister Bowen with the “Light the World” parade last week.  It was so much fun. Fortunately, Sister Jensen is awesome and wrote down the recipe and the instructions, so we can try making them back home some day! Sister Bowen has a daughter serving a mission in Provo. Honestly, she is just the greatest person ever.  While we were making the tamales, some of Sister Bowen’s daughter’s friends, James and Collin, came over to have some of her awesome food. While they were there, we chatted with them about the church, answered questions about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and then gave them Book of Mormons.  It was a great missionary moment!

Saturday was a “white” Christmas Eve!!  Several months ago, when I first got out in the field, I met this guy named King. Since it was not appropriate for the sisters to teach him, we referred King to the elders. Well, King and his mom, Veronica, were baptized on Christmas Eve….Yay!!!  Even though I wasn't his missionary, it was so exciting to see that someone that I personally had found got baptized. Funny thing though. Right after he got baptized, King asked me if I wanted to go on a date and see a movie. I didn't know what to say, so I just said, “No, thank you.” Wow, that was crazy!!  After the baptism, Emma and Taylor, some cute members from Conway that Sister Farr is friends with, came out teaching with us. Emma came with me in the mommy van and it was awesome. She is so cute! She is a senior in high school so it was almost like having my sister, Meg, with me. Almost. For a moment, it really made me miss driving around with Megan, doing nothing important, just burning miles on our cars. Ahhh. Sisterhood. Later that day, we stopped by the Turner home and then we went to the Blake family home to celebrate Christmas Eve. The Blakes even got us presents so that we would feel included! It was so sweet!

Christmas was awesome! I loved having Christmas fall on a Sunday.  It was wonderful sharing the day with so many members who went out of their way to show us love and kindness. After church, we had Christmas dinner at our stake president’s home. President Wing is such a great man. He is an Arkansas state representative.  Honestly, the whole family is simply awesome!   The best part of my day was the FaceTime visit I shared with my family.   I was surprised how, even though we have been apart for six months now, it didn't feel like we had been apart. It was just like being home. 

This week, I read a talk by James E. Faust called “The virtues of righteous daughters of God”. It was such a great talk that can really be applied to everyone. He taught that virtue, in its fuller sense, encompasses all traits of righteousness that help us form our character.  In his talk, he shared: “May I suggest 10 virtues that each of you can pursue in your quest for excellence and happiness: faith, honesty, chastity, humility, self-discipline, fairness, moderation, cleanliness, courage, and grace. "  Best of all, he testified that if we practice these virtues in our lives, we will have the strength to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” (2 Nephi 31:20) May we each look within ourselves and seek for ways to personally cultivate these virtues in our lives, as we strive to be disciples of Christ. 

Merry Christmas! I love y’all. Have a great week!


Sis Esplin

Christmas photo of our district with Sister Hugentobler. We will miss her!

 🎵 Oh Christmas, Oh Christmas Tree…I loved all your sweet and thoughtful notes!! 

Working with Maddie

 Making tamales with Sister Bowen 

Selfie with Sister Bowen and her daughter's friends, James and Collin. 

Out with the Routts on Christmas Eve

Visiting the Turners on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve at the Blake home

Christmas at the Behunins

Christmas day with the President Wing and his lovely family

Ihop today with Taylor Routt

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas!

This  week has been very busy and eventful, so let’s get started!!

We started off the day doing a favor for our mission mission president’s wife, Sister Wakolo. She wanted us to set up a Christmas tree and decorate the tree with ornaments that were pictures of all the missionaries in the mission glued on a plethora of colored paper. Once the ornaments were hung on the Christmas tree with care, we left to go to a lesson with Sister Wing, the mother of our stake president. Sister wing came to a lesson at the Buffett’s house. Mel and Tam are so great. They are originally from Utah but they moved here in the eighties. It was so cool because sister Wing knew some of the same people that they knew! Oh!  We also had a lesson with June, which was really good, but we had to drop her because we finally just realized that she wasn't going to leave her church or even visit our church. We were so sad!

We had our Christmas zone conference!!! 🎄 It was so great. The Beheshtis spoke to us. Elder Beheshti is an area seventy.  It was so cool. He told us that to change the world we needed to (1)Make our bed every morning, (2) Teach repentance, (3) Increase our faith, (4) Baptize converts, and (5) Get over being a sugar cookie or, in other words, realize that life isn't fair.  I absolutely LOVED the zone conference. It was so amazing and I wish I hadn't forgotten my notebook at home so I could tell y'all my notes. Oh well, next week I will!!!!  We also had an awesome lesson with Debbie. Debbie lives in Maumelle and she really liked everything we talked about. She even had her eight year old grandson sit in on the lesson and he sat there and exclaimed, “I know this is true!”. But funny story, when we were teaching Debbie, Caden came home but he slammed open the front door and scared us all so bad. I definitely screamed. I thought I was going to be shot! 😆 That evening, we went to the Crandalls for dinner. Brother Crandall is also a Viking. He went to Viewmont years ago. 

We had the ward relief society Christmas party. Chelsea came! And so did Haven. I just love the sisters in the ward. The relief society is on fire here. They are fantastic and I just love them. I am so grateful for such a wonderful ward that truly loves the gospel and wraps the missionaries in their love. I do have to say that Christmas needs to get a different meat other than ham. I have had ham just about every day this month. :) 

Saturday night I went to Bryant with Sister VanOrman and Sister Waters (Sister VanOrman was my MTC companion).  They were awesome. It was fun to be somewhere different but I definitely missed Sherwood. Funny thing, apparently a Sister Erica Esplin served in the Benton ward a little while ago -the ward I went to this weekend- so everyone was freaking out that Sister Esplin had come back!!! It was very apparent that they loved her. 😁 

Here is my spiritual thought. Whoohoooo!!!!
It has been kind of a rough week, but I truly end up loving rough weeks (not at the time) because that means that good times are coming and that Christ can heal you through His infinite love, sacrifice, and atonement. This morning, I was reading Richard G. Scott’s April 1996 talk, “Finding Joy in Life”. His message completely blew my mind. It just gave me such comfort and healing that I needed. 

He taught, "You are one of the noblest of God’s creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be. Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do." 

"His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth. Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy."

"You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. The tempering effect of patience is required. Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil."

"When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you. Your agency, the right to make choices, is not given so that you can get what you want. This divine gift is provided so that you will choose what your Father in Heaven wants for you. That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be. That path leads to glorious joy and happiness."

"Challenges are growth experiences, temporary scenes to be played out on the background of a pleasant life. Don’t become so absorbed in a single event that you can’t think of anything else or care for yourself or for those who depend upon you. Remember, much like the mending of the body, the healing of some spiritual and emotional challenges takes time."

I can't even pick a favorite part of this talk. Heavenly Father wants us to have joy and wants us to be happy. Once we can accept that and have faith in his timing and love, we can find the joy in the journey and that divine connection to our Savior. I have learned through trials that they are vary rarely easy, but looking back, they were experiences I needed to grow to be the daughter of God that my Heavenly Father wants me to be. This December, as I have been trying to do light the world and striving to be more like Christ, I have learned that serving others truly does help us draw closer to Christ and to love those around us. Men are that they might have joy. I love the eternal joy that comes from the atonement and the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadness and happiness are temporary, and I think they are the salt and pepper of life. But Christ is the bread of life and through Him we may all find eternal joy, despite our circumstances. 

I love yall!!! MERRY Christmas! Thank you for all of the sweet cards! Y'all are the best!
Hugs and kisses from Arkansas 

Sister Esplin
 The tree we decorated for the zone conference
After zone conference

Monday, December 12, 2016

Parade!!! We lit that world!!

This week was carazaaay with a capital C! Even today is insane! In fact, today’s letter is going to be brief since we are in Conway practicing for the Christmas zone conference talent show on Wednesday. We are creating new lyrics and choreographing a missionary version of “Last Christmas”, which is going to be the BOMB!   This Christmas season has truly been awesome and I am grateful for the many opportunities to “light the world” through love, service, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Even though many may not be prepared to hear our message, it fills my heart with joy to see hearts turning to Christ this Christmas season. 

Anyhooooooooooooooo, ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS!!!!! Here is the highlight reel 🎬

Tuesday we went to a referral’s house and guess what! He lived in Salt Lake for a long, long time! His name is Melvin and he's pretty funny. He talked to us for several minutes and said that we could come back and talk to him (and his wife)!  Hooray!  Later that evening, the Brown family invited us over to their home for family home evening and dinner. It was great! Their little boy, Jasik,  isn't baptized yet, so we taught the plan of salvation and dang, that fella was amazing! He had some awesome points and made great connections. That little fella is going to be one incredible missionary one day!  

On Wednesday we went to young women's which was FANTASTIC!!! Do I love young women’s? Do Mormons read the Bible?! YESSSS! It was so great to be around those beautiful daughters of God. 

On Thursday we had an incredible lesson with Chelsea! We brought along Sister Murphy who joined the church a year ago and just got married in the temple last month! Sister Murphy is adorable and she was such a great friend to Chelsea. We have been looking for fellowshippers for Chelsea for a little while now, so it was so great to see that they really connected. In fact, Chelsea really opened up with Sister Murphy and Sister Murphy even offered to read the Book of Mormon with Chelsea!  I just loved being there in that little spiritual bubble. 

Now that Sister Farr is working with us, we have combined the areas of Sherwood and Maumelle. On Friday, we went to Maumelle and we visited a sweet sister named Sister Southal. She was so excited to see us and she shared that she currently has many trials in her life, but her Father in Heaven loves her and helps her through everything. She also talked about how she loves rainbows which was so so sweet. She thanked us profusely for coming over.  Later that evening, we went to Sister Bowen's house and helped set up for the Maumelle Christmas parade.  Sister Bowen has worked with Maumelle City for the past 16 years and has been looking for an opportunity to spotlight the church and include the missionaries in one of the Maumelle City celebrations. Well, this year the city decided to host their first Christmas parade and she decided to spearhead a “Light the World” float that the members and missionaries could take part in. We had so much fun working together to help decorate the float and it turned out so amazing!  

On Saturday morning we drove to Maumelle and helped with the finishing touches on the float. All the primary children were dressed in white to look like angels and they sat on the float with the nativity, while we missionaries walked close to the float and passed out “Light the World” Christmas pass-along cards with candy canes attached to them. After the parade, we got a million pictures and all had hot chocolate together at Sister Bowen's home and then took apart the float!   This experience so much fun, but most of all, I am so grateful for the opportunity that this parade gave us to spread the word with so many people in Maumelle.  Hopefully, when we knock on some Maumelle doors, they will remember the smiling missionaries in their Santa Hats at the Christmas parade.  

This week I finished the Book of Mormon again!!!!!  Holy cow, I just love the Book of Mormon!!! Here is a quick spiritual thought.  Moroni 10:32 teaches to “love God with all your might, mind and strength, and then His grace is sufficient for you”.  His grace is sufficient for YOU!!  Just love our Father in Heaven with everything that you are and how can you go wrong? Why would you go wrong if you love him so much!!!

I love y’all. MERRY CHRISTMAS!! 🎄 🎁 

Dinner with the Murphys…Aren’t they adorable?!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The first days of Christmas

HELLO HELLO!!!!!! It's officially Christmas time! YUSSSSSS. In my opinion, this is the very best time of the year. I just love Christmas time!!

This week was pretty crazy, but it was awesome. First of all, we started the week with a whole lot of service. Have y'all seen the Light the World video that the church has put out? OH MY GOSH. I just love it!!   I love the music, the images, the cute little kids, the message, and, of course, I love that all of these things focus on our Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have not seen the video or started doing a Christ-like service every day, START TODAY!!! It is just phenomenal. I really love how the beginning of the “Light the World” video has a lot of different short clips of literal lights, but then it stops showing lights because, at that point, the light IS Christ, as reflected through the life of the Savior as well as the Christ-like actions of so many people that strive to follow Him in their lives. I really love that each of us can be lights to the world as we strive to be Christ-like in our lives, for He is the ultimate example of sharing light. It is just wonderful. I can’t think of a better way to share light and help others to feel love and remember Christ than to be more like Him through service. I think that my mission has given me a much deeper appreciation for the power of Christ-like service. 

Alright, here are some highlights of the week:

“On the first day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me…. A new companion that made us us three!!!”  We have a new companion with us now. Her name is Sister Farr and she is great.  Here is the story. On Thursday, we had exchanges with our sister training leaders. I remained in Sherwood with Sister Kerby and Sister Jensen went to Conway with Sister Decker. While Sister Kerby and I were preparing to visit a Bible referral,  we got a phone call from President Wakolo. Well, you don't ignore a call from him, so we immediately answered the phone. He said, "Sisters, Sister Smith (who serves in Maumelle) will be going home tonight (due to health issues), so as of tomorrow, you will be in a trio with her companion, Sister Farr. Please prepare accordingly". What?!!   After the phone call, we promptly ended our exchanges and the sister training leaders took Sister Smith to the Mission home while the office elders got a bed set up at our apartment in Sherwood.   It has been a bittersweet experience.  I have had a heavy heart for poor Sister Smith who just arrived in October, but I am thrilled to be working with Sister Farr and serving as a trio. Oh, how I have missed trios…they are the absolute best!!  For the remaining weeks of this transfer, we will be the Maumelle-Sherwood Sisters and we will cover both Sherwood and Maumelle!  The Maumwood sisters. Shermelle life.  This is a unexpected and crazy development, but we are so excited to have Sister Farr with us and she is just fantastic all around. Of course, Sister Jensen still rocks, as well:) 

“On the second day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me… two crazy twins that we role-played with!”  On Friday, we visited the Millers in Maumelle and had dinner with them. They are such an amazing family and I really adore their darling twins, Brynne & Anne!  We watched the new “Light the World” video with their family and, afterward, we role played with their kids so that they would feel comfortable sharing the church’s new “Light the World” pass along cards.  The kids even had a friend in mind and ran off to share some cookies and a pass along card to him.  I love the missionary spirit these cute kiddos have!! 

“On the third day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me…three thousand calories!”  On Saturday, we ate so much! We had shakes, apple cider, hot cocoa, and the list goes on and on…I feel sick just thinking about it…Ugh!! We went to Conway to meet with Brother Routte, then afterwards we had lunch with our sister training leaders at this awesome restaurant called “The Purple Cow” that even has purple milkshakes. It was mmmmm, mmmmmm delicious, but seriously, I am sure that it was also a million calories.  Later, we went to the church and helped the members finish setting up for the awesome Community Christmas event which was entitled, “A Night in Bethlehem”. I really don’t have words to adequately express how amazing this event turned out. The members worked so hard and truly transformed the gym into a living town of Bethlehem. Everyone was walking around in ancient clothing, and there was a marketplace, which allowed people to wander from booth to booth and use their Roman coins to buy items such as dreidels, cookies, naan bread, frankincencse, myrrh, etc.. There also were musical numbers throughout the night and, best of all, there was a live nativity, which I loved so much. It truly was such a special night. 

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me….opportunities to light the world!!!”  On Tuesday, we did a ton of service. It was crazy sauce. First, we visited a ward member, Sister Nance,  and we helped her spruce up a house that she had been renting out, but that the renters had pretty much trashed. We raked up a ton of leaves and we swept the inside of the house.   After, we had a delicious dinner with the Gustafsons which was super fun, as always. They are seriously one of my very favorite families here. After we had dinner with them, we went back to the NLR/Sherwood area and Sister Jensen went with Sister Blake to help Cyrstal clean her house (because I have realized that I am allergic to her house…Bummer!) while I went with Sister Flake to visit some investigators. We had a fantastic lesson with June and we discussed the Plan of Salvation. June shared that she had read through the Plan of Salvation pamphlet beforehand (she even highlighted passages) and that she really found a lot of comfort in it.   It made my little heart sing!!   I was then faced with a predicament. She had told us that she wouldn't be able come to church because she already had commitments at her current church (she is pretty involved in her church but she totally believes that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true and that the Book of Mormon is true). So I thought, what commitment are we going to leave her today? In that moment, I was inspired to invite June to pass out the “Light the World” cards with our information on them.  She had been telling us a bunch of stories about how she makes a lot of friends in random places really easily. June happily agreed to share the cards and we said a prayer with her, praying that she would be guided to those needing the “Light of Christ”  in their world.  I can’t wait to follow up with her this week and see how things went for her. 

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me….An amazing, GOLDEN fast Sunday.” I just love church and I l have grown to love the opportunity to fast. Most of all, I love that we get to go each week and show our Father in Heaven our love for Him by renewing our covenants WITH Him. Later that day, we felt inspired to visit the Sorenson family. We stopped by, showed them the beautiful “Light the World” video, then asked them if we could all pray together and see if they felt inspired to share a name of someone that we should visit.  After praying, the kids came up with the idea to sing Christmas carols, and then give out pass along cards afterwards. We loved that idea and headed out with most of the Sorensen kids and sang beautiful Christ-centered Christmas carols and then passed out cards to people afterwards. We had such a delightful night testifying through music and doing missionary work with the Sorensen family.  

Okay, here is my spiritual thought for the week. I was reading in Matthew 26 where Christ is at the last supper. When Christ tells his apostles that one of them is going to betray Him, all of the apostles ask Christ, "Lord, is it I?”.  President Boyd K. Packer taught that all of the apostles didn't turn to each other and say, “I  bet it is Judas, he's been acting really weird lately.” No, they asked the Lord. President Packer went on to say, "Would you, I plead, overrule the tendency to disregard counsel and assume for just a moment something apostolic in attitude at least and ask yourself these questions: Do I need to improve myself? Should I take this counsel to heart and act upon it? If there is one weak or failing, unwilling to follow the brethren, Lord, is it I?" (That All May Be Edified [1982]). I invite y’all to ask Heavenly Father, “What can I change to draw closer to Thee?”. I have been doing that, and while it is crazy hard to do, it ultimately is so worth it. 

I love y’all. I love the Savior. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love my Father in Heaven. I love this season. I love my family. I love the scriptures. Have a safe and happy week!!

Love, Sister Esplin :)

 Enjoying “A night in Bethlehem” 
(Standing with the Johnson family)

 Our new TRIO!!! Sister Farr, Sister Esplin, and Sister Jensen

 Eating at The Purple Cow in Conway

 Visiting the darling Routte family in Conway

 Raking leaves for Sister Nance

 We love our mini Christmas tree sent from home…Thank you!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Turkey week! Gobble Gobble!!

Well, well, well. Another week in Sherwood has come and gone! BOOM! That went fast! It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is over and now it is Christmas time. I want you to know how much I love hearing from you all every week. I just hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving holiday! As always, there are good days and not so good days. Moments of exceedingly great joy (like my scriptural reference there? ;)) and times of great sadness and disappointment. Fortunately, the times that are sad, hard, difficult, or frustrating are all outweighed by the joys that each day brings. Heavenly Father truly does love each and every one of us completely and perfectly. It is truly remarkable to feel of His love and acceptance each day. Some days are so frustrating and I just look at my ankle and think, "why does such a temporal thing stand in my way?", but then I remember that I can learn from every trial I have and grow and be more like my Father in Heaven. To be honest, the boot has become a pretty good talking point. For example, i have heard a few people shout out..."girl! Why you be walkin' outside with a boot and no coat on!" Or when someone shares, "I don't know how you do it", I can share how much I love being a disciple of Christ. I am committed. I may not be able to do everything that I want to, but I am still here and that is a blessing in and of itself. I am so glad I get to be here still! As far as I can tell, my ankle is doing pretty well. I should be going to the doctor soon to have it looked  at. Honestly, I'm kind of scared for the boot to come off. I'm SO clumsy. I worry I'll break something without it! For example, on Sunday night we went and visited someone in the ward and when we went to leave I ran into their plexiglass door. Oops!! It totally freaked me out! 

Anyhoooooo, here is a rundown of my life this past week!

TEMPLE!!!! I talked a bit about that last week. It was such a spectacular experience and the Memphis, Tennessee temple was so so so beautiful!! Sometimes you just need to be recharged and, goodness, the temple is the best spiritual charger in the whole world! Just feeling of God's love and feeling such a wonderful abundance of peace was just great! 

Tuesday I got sick! Seriously, I sure love this place but my body seems to be physically rejecting Arkansas. I would like to tell some awesome story about how I was waiting at the urgent care forever and no one helped me so we found some golden investigator in the waiting room to teach. I would like to say that, but that didn't happen. We actually were the only ones there that time of day, so we were able to get in and out of the instacare in less than 30 minutes altogether. What! Crazy sauce!!!  Seriously, I was freaking out about what a short amount of time it took.  That was the best urgent care visit EVER!!  Apparently, I not only have tendinitis. I also have sinusitis. So cool. I am "itis" woman. Everything in me is inflamed. Woot woot! Go Sister Esplin! Even though we didn't get to make a contact at the Instacare, we were fortunate enough to meet someone at the pharmacy. We went to Walgreens to get my prescriptions filled and the pharmacy tech at the register asked me what a missionary was doing breaking her foot. (I don't have a broken foot, by he way--don't want y'all to worry). During the course of our conversation we noticed that she used the words "missionary" and "investigate", so we asked her if she had met the missionaries before. She said that she was a member and her name was Kaitlin. Oh my goodness! We had been trying to get in contact with her since my first transfer here! It was so cool to finally meet her. She said she wasn't interested in meeting, but she was sweet as pie...pumpkin pie!! It truly was awesome to finally visit with her and invite her to the ward Christmas party!

Finding galore! We made the rounds to find/see people in our area book and wooooooweeeeee was that an adventure. Not super exciting, but oh so interesting. I am not going to lie. I have met a lot of hoarders while serving my mission. It makes me really want to go to the container store and just organize my entire life. There was one guy that had cars on his lawn just filled with stuff, but he really was the nicest guy and was so excited about attending the Christmas party. We also were going around and asking what people were grateful for, which was really nice. They were a lot more happy to see us and it was so interesting to hear what everyone was grateful for. YAY for Thanksgiving! We had dinner with the Joyce's and with Sister Bush. We went to Corky's and I had ribs! I was eating my ribs with a fork and everyone was looking at me strangely. Finally, I confessed, "I don't really know how to eat ribs since I haven't really had them before". Brother Joyce just looked at me and said, "Well, the first step is to throw away that fork", so I did. I must say that I didn't like eating with my hands as much as I thought I would. After that we went to "Pie Night" at the Crandall’s. They had tons of pie and lots of people over so we thought we would go to meet some people. Well, when we got there we were talking to brother Crandall and he said the only nonmembers had left 15 minutes earlier and that all the other people were from different wards. Ohhhh. That was kind of a bummer, but it was super fun to meet other people and take part in such a fun pre-Thanksgiving bash.

THANKSGIVING!!!!! WOOT WOOT!!!! Well, the day started off a bit rough, but it ended just wonderfully. President Wakolo texted us after studies and told us that he would like to do interviews with us in about 15 minutes. So we skedadled out of the apartment and over to the church to have our interviews. It was heaven sent that he called us for interviews at that time because I just needed some help. Although our interview didn't fix everything, it did leave me feeling more peace in my life. We then went to President and Sister Wing's house for Thanksgiving Dinner (lunch). It was so much fun! They had their two sons there, Davis and Clark, and the Lowerys were there, as well! The food was delicious! I just love turkey..absolutely love it!!  They also had some really really good sweet potato casserole that was insanely good. It had coconut in it! We all played telestrations after dinner, which of course, brought back awesome family memories of days gone by, such as our rain poncho telestration. It was so much fun and it was great to laugh at everything that everyone came up with. After sharing dinner and fun with the Wings we went to Maumelle and went to see the Miller family. Their family is simply adorable!  They have 5 kids between 6-11 and they are just the cutest things! Plus, the kiddos give me hugs every time they see me, which always makes me feel good. Since the Miller family was sensitive about us feeling homesick, they gave us some DELICIOUS mint chocolate pie and then they let us help them put up their Christmas tree and decorate it. We also took turns sharing Christmas memories and just basked in the happiness and joy of the holidays. It was so great. In case you don't know, I am a very nostalgic person. The holidays tend to get me sighing over the memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases of yesteryear  (aaaahhhh), so it was such a treat to be around all of those kiddos and to feel (almost) like I was around family. Plus one of their sons reminds me of Parker ***tear***. Honestly, it was just an all around wonderful Thanksgiving. Don't worry, nobody's cherry pie beat your cherry chicken pie, Uncle Nathan ;). 

Black Friday. We did not do what hoards of others did on black friday. We did not go shopping. Instead, we had an awesome lesson with Chelsea! She has finished the 2nd Book of Nephi and she just loves the Book of Mormon and how 2nd Nephi ended. She was freaking out about it and reading me a bunch of verses. She was so excited! She also had a friend over named Anthony and he was really interested in the church and learning more about it. No biggie that he was vaping the whole time. He wanted to learn more so we talked a bit about the first discussion lesson.  We eventually discovered that Anthony lives in Marigold which is actually in the Mississippi Jackson Mission (Bummer), but it is still awesome that he showed genuine interest in learning more about our church. After our visit with Chelsea and Anthony, we had an awesome lesson in a member's home! We had dinner with the Johnson family and their next door neighbor Kathy, and her two sons. We talked about the restoration and the first vision and then we shared the new Christmas video. It was an awesome lesson. Kathy seemed a bit reserved about learning more, but  she was super nice and said that she would like to come to church some time. Yuuuuuuuuusssssss. 

We visited Sister Haynie and Sister Sandlin, which was awesome. Sister Haynie is such a sweetheart. It was great to talk to her and tell her that her Father in Heaven loves her. We also went and “turkey attacked” the doors of some ward members which is the same concept as “heart attacking” doors but with turkey feathers. It was a lot of fun.  

I LOVE SUNDAYS!! It is one of my very favorite days ever. Just the spiritual upliftment and the fellowship that you feel around everyone is so wonderful. I love that we get to go to church each week and partake of the sacrament. The fact that we get to start new each week and look towards Christ for hope is such a beautiful blessing to me. After church we were going to see a less active sister, but she cancelled on us :( , so we went out finding and inviting people to the upcoming Community Christmas event at church! It was so fun! Some people were really nice and we met some people that really want to come to church next Sunday! What? That never happens, but it was awesome. Also the Christmas video is just the best thing ever and I love showing it to people-or rather inviting them to go watch the video and remember CHRIST in CHRISTMAS. :) We then had dinner at the Brown’s house. They let us decorate a Christmas tree and, man, it reminded me of all the years my family has decorated our family tree. It turned out so cute! I wish that I had taken a picture. Everyone has been so gracious to make sure that we still get to do some fun Christmas stuff. I just love it here. The members are the best and everyone is truly so kind (for the most part). Yesterday, as I was outside in my summer cardigan (it's a thing, look it up. 3/4 sleeves yo), walking around the neighborhood freezing my arms off, a lady at her door said she wished she had chocolate so she could give us some. What a sweetheart!😉 

This week my spiritual thought is on prayer. Something we do everyday-or should be doing everyday- and something that I have realized is completely essential in every aspect of life. I don't think I go an hour without praying to my Father in Heaven for guidance, help or thanksgiving. Today I was reading an April 2007 conference talk by Richard G. Scott, "Using The Supernal Gift of Prayer". READ IT. It is a marvelous talk. He taught, "Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. Actually, because He knows how desperately we need His guidance, He commands, “Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private.”  It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. We need no appointment. Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed. It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help. He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer.”…”It is so hard when sincere prayer about something you desire very much is not answered the way you want. It is difficult to understand why your exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not grant the desired result. The Savior taught, “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.” At times it is difficult to recognize what is best or expedient for you over time. Your life will be easier when you accept that what God does in your life is for your eternal good."

This week has really been a week of prayer, as I have sought to understand things, sought to grow closer to God and sought to understand His will for me and for this area. I am so grateful that we can pray to our Father in Heaven and know that He is listening and that He cares. I know there have been times in my life when I have felt like He isn't listening or that He doesn't care, but I know now that He DOES know and that He greatly cares. He LOVES ME! ME! A missionary in Arkansas who is hobbling around in a boot and trying to figure out how to help others. ME! Of course he loves you! OF COURSE! It is such a divine blessing. I think I feel His love for me even more when I feel His love for others. That is the most beautiful feeling in the world. It just makes you want to love and serve everyone around you. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love my Savior and my Father in Heaven. I love you all. I love the season of thanks and the season to remember Christ. Remember Him in all that you do and remember how much God must love you to send His son for US.

I love y’all!!!
Sister Esplin
A sister who misses her ugly Christmas sweaters...and white Christmases. 

Thanksgiving dinner with the Wing family

Twin Turkeys!!! Sister Jensen and I BOTH received similar Thanksgiving packages 
from our cute moms…Haha!

The fall leaves in Arkansas are simply AMAZING! 
Sister Jensen and I had to capture their beauty with a few pics!!

 Trimming the tree with the Millers

Eating ribs with the Joyce’s and Sister Bush