Monday, February 20, 2017

Focusing on the Love of the Lord this Valentine's Season

February 20, 2017

Hello my dear loved ones and friends!!

I hope that y'all had a wonderful week and that you were able to see God's hand in your life. I am so so so grateful to be able to serve a mission right now and see all of the miracles that happen every single day. I don't always see them right away, but I am so grateful to be a part of this beautiful and marvelous work. God truly is the one in charge of this work, not me. Oh man. If I was in charge we would all be in so much trouble. Luckily, I'm not! 

Anywhooooo, on with the week. This was the week of looooooove. But not for the missionaries in the ALRM! Our hearts are locked and we are all focused on the work. It is super awesome to be on a mission. Seriously, you forget about so many things. Like holidays. And weekends. And life, in general. Someone recently compared missions to the movie "Groundhog Day". So when other people look at you like you are crazy to be working on a holiday, (but seriously? Valentine's Day? Who is honestly a die hard celebrator of that anyway?) it feels super weird,  because it is just another normal day for a missionary. You don't take a day off. It is business, as usual. Except if you are sick....which brings me to this week. SICKNESSSSSSSSSSSSS. What is wrong with ME!?!? Well, this week has been a bit rough. I have been pretty sick. But it's all good.This hasn't dampened our spirits. We are the Lakeland sisters and we preach the gospel!! 

Here are some tender mercies and stories of the week: 🎬

On Tuesday we had dinner with the Holts and it was so sweet. We made personal heart pizzas and heart cookies. It was so much fun and it made me feel so happy and loved that they would include us on that day. 

On Wednesday we had lunch with Rachel, an investigator who had been taught everything and even got interviewed for baptism but then stopped. She took us to lunch and we talked to her and she said she would like to take the lessons again! Yay! She seemed super awesome, we said we were going to do some personal progress with her, as well. Yuuuuuuussss. I love personal progress!! 

Also, when we were having lunch the restaurant manager came up to us and asked us what church we went to. We gave him our card and explained a little bit about ourselves and our faith. He said that he and his wife had just moved into the area and had been looking for a church. He went on to say that since we seemed so nice and happy, he felt like we must belong to a good church. Even though he was not ready for a visit, he said he would come to church sometime. 

On Thursday, we spent an exhausting four hours at the doctor's office getting blood work drawn. Or at least as much as they could find. For those of you who don't know this, most nurses and phlebotomists STRUGGLE to find my veins. Over the years, it usually takes several sticks and even several medical employees to successfully find a vein.  Needless to say, blood work is always a long drawn out, very painful experience. When we went to the doctor this week I tried to explain this, but no one really believed me. Guess what?? I ended up having FIVE different people try to find my veins and I seriously thought I was going to pass out while they were wiggling and digging their needles around deep into my arms and hands. 

For some reason, I have been dealing with some medical issues so they wanted to do some blood work to find out what was going on.  They drew three vials and then they gave me two shots. I felt like a human pin cushion by the end of the visit. I find out the results on Thursday. Yay! I am sure  that it will all be good. Sweet is the work!!

On Saturday we went out with a sister in the ward and we finally were able to visit someone that we have been trying to get a hold of for months! She accepted the restoration pamphlet and we set up a return appointment which was awesome. She has a sweet family and she said we should come when they are all there. Yay! The gospel truly does bless families and I get so excited when we can help others to come closer to God as a family. 

Eddie came to church on Sunday which was wonderful. His baptism got pushed back to March 11th, but he is so excited for his baptism. :)

I am so so so so so so so grateful to serve a mission and to be a part of this great work. I love it so much. I love all of you and I love my Savior, Jesus Christ so much. He truly does everything. 
I have been reading Jacob chapter 5 recently (if you read really deep into it, it will take you forever)  and what I have been so impressed with is how much the Lord of the vineyard goes out and works with the laborers. In Jacob 5:51 I was really touched by how much the Lord of the vineyard cares and doesn't want to lose His tree. The Lord wants us to come back, to repent, and change. He isn't waiting for us to mess up so that He can destroy us. He wants to work with us because He loves us and believes in us. 

At the end of the chapter it talks about how there are few laborers (I am a laborer! Anyone who helps in sharing the gospel is a laborer with Christ) but that they labored diligently, keeping all of the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard. 

For me, it was really cool because it made me think. We really cannot afford to be even just a little bit disobedient in this work. We need to be keeping all of the commandments and giving our ALL, so that the vineyard may flourish and so we may be able to help those around us to come unto Christ. There was a quote from the April 1990 conference by Hans B. Ringger called "Choose you this day". He said, "I believe that the foundation and guiding light for all our decisions is the gospel of Jesus Christ and His message to the world. The teachings of Christ must be embedded in our desire to choose the right and in our wish to find happiness. His righteous life must be reflected in our own actions. The Lord not only teaches love, He is love. He not only preached the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, He lived accordingly. His life reflected the gospel that He preached. There was and is total harmony between His thoughts and His actions."  
Like the quote says, we need to not only teach obedience and other principles. We need to LIVE IT! 

The lord is laboring with us. We are never alone. He knows what He is doing.Therefore, demonstrate your love for Him by 
trusting Him and obeying Him.

I love y'all. I love this work. I love everything that happens in life, the good and the bad. I have such a testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ and all that He has done for me. I am nothing without Him. I am everything to Him. 

Love, ❤️ 
Sister Esplin 
Sick sister
Celebrator of Galentine’s Day
Human pin cushion 

Laborer in the vineyard

Back together again!!  Sister VanOrman and Sister Esplin

Because I am sick, Sister Van Orman made me breakfast in bed
What a sweetie!!

This is after I was poked a ton by five different people
and had 3 vials of blood drawn

All of my pokes. There are more on my other shoulder.

Valentine’s Day with the Seamans 
(we live in their basement)

 Valentine’s Day dinner & dessert with the Holt Family 

Freezing cold outside, super warm inside

 Smurf faces

 Hot cocoa party at the end of a long but good day

 As you can see, I DON’T like snakes!!

Tennessee blossoms

Monday, February 13, 2017

My week in Millington


This week has literally been CRAZY! Seriously. I wasn't even in my area this week except for about fifteen minutes on Sunday to go to Ward Council. It was nuts.

Sister Fogg was in Bartlett with the Sister Training Leaders (STL’s)  and I was in Millington with Sister Ellis and Sister Ostler and then on Tuesday Sister Quick joined us. It was an emotional week. It was hard to be out of my area and be away from my companion,  but I have to tell you, I have found so much comfort this week in my studies and through the love of others. It was hard but it was also so amazing!! I just love the atonement and the love that Christ has for me and for everyone.

Alrighty, First off, I am staying in Lakeland for another transfer! And my new companion is.................SISTER VAN ORMAN!!!!!!  In case you don't remember who she is, she was my MTC companion! What?!!  It's like living with Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). She is a deep sleeper by night, but she is a sunbeam of happiness when she is awake.  Needless to say, this transfer is going to be amazing! We have a lot of work cut out for us, but I know that it will be great!

One highlight of the week occurred during a seemingly ordinary moment. I was in the car with Sister Ellis and she had a bunch of random church songs on her USB. I was looking through the songs to listen to when all of a sudden I saw a name that was familiar and I clicked on it. Well, I freaked out. My awesome next door neighbor, BOB MURRI,  was singing the song!!! It truly made my day and, for a moment, I felt like I was back home. And really, I felt tremendous love from Heavenly Father, which might sound weird, because It was just "Daddy Bob" singing a song, but I almost cried. God is in the details and small miracles of our lives, right?

This week, our baptism was cancelled because my companion and I were gone for so long and because of other extenuating circumstances beyond our control. It was really hard for me to understand why this would happen and why satan was working so hard on us. But we all prayed and felt so good that we should push Eddie's baptism date to a later time.

On the bright side, we got to teach some lessons in Millington. It was amazing because we met some awesome people who were so interested in learning more. I could feel the tremendous love that   Heavenly Father had for those people. One thing that is so amazing is that Heavenly Father loves EVERYONE and, as
a missionary, you can feel that Christlike love for others that you
meet briefly or just barely know. It is the most amazing thing!! We met a lady named Lori and she just started saying that she really admired us and that we helped her to be a better Christian. She said that she was a Southern Baptist, but to not hold that against her (they usually hate Mormons) and we said not to hold who we are against us. We all laughed and we were able to give her a Book of Mormon and talk to her while bonding over refinishing furniture (thank you Mom and Dad for having me /helping me refinish the nightstand for Young Women's). Before we left, she told us to come over any time and that she would love to learn more. I love my sacred calling as a representative of Jesus Christ. WE were able to testify to her and help her to feel of God's love for her.

The majority of this week has honestly been a blur, so I would like to share with you my study highlights for this week.

I read the talk "hanging on" by Loren C. Dunn given in April 1974. I really love what he said: " I don't know all the reasons the Lord tries us in this life, but there are two or three that come to mind. First, I think He wants to know whom He can trust. Secondly, the Lord tells us in the Doctrine and Covenants section 122 that adversity came to Joseph Smith to give him experience. There is something about the eternal purpose of life that requires us to meet and experience trial and sorrow as we seek to overcome, for the Lord has told us also, "...for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet..." (D&C 29:39) Thirdly, I believe that only through such experience can a person develop true charity and I mean by charity, the pure love of Christ.".

I just loved that. You know, it was hard this week, but it truly gave me experience. It helped me to be closer to my Father in Heaven and to grow to be who He wants me to be...or at least closer to that.

I also really loved a talk that I read entitled "Keep walking and give time a chance" by Virginia H. Pearce from April 1997. She said, " Those who understand their own personal growth patiently continue to pray, do their daily work, and give time a chance".

Truly I have grown so close to the scriptures.  Having patience has been so hard to have, especially when you do not understand everything, but you WANT to understand everything. Still, patience has been required and I have been learning patience everyday. Be careful what you pray for, especially if it is patience. ;) I  really love this gospel with all my
heart. It truly saves my life each day and makes me who I need to

I love y'all so much. I am so grateful for you all. I know the church is true. I know that my Father in Heaven loves me so much and I am so grateful for the chance I have to serve Him each day.

Love y'all!
Sister Esplin
Temporary Millington missionary
Absentee Lakeland missionary
Back in my area

Reunited and it feels so GOOOOOOOOD!!

 Enjoying a great lunch at Chik-Fil-A

 The panda that Sister Fogg gave me before heading home
So sweet!

 The Millington gang:
Sister Ellis, Sister Ostler, & Sister Quick

 Our last district meeting photo with everyone.
Since I was in Millington, they photoshopped
me in with this embarrassing pic!!

Sisters at the Bartlett Building awaiting transfers

 With Sister Ellis

With Sister Lange and Sister Duffin

Monday, February 6, 2017

Patience is a (hard-earned) virtue

Hello Family and friends!  

This week has that has been sufficiently confusing, hard, and full of blessings. This might be a bit short today partly because I am stressed out of my eye balls and cannot think straight. But ces't la vie. LIfe goes on. 

This week I was sick. Again.  Because I hurt all over my body and had a lot of sharp pains by my heart and stomach, I didn’t get out very much, which was so frustrating.  As a result, a lot of this email will take about how I saw God’s hand in my life this week, because I really truly have.

This week we had a situation, so our Sister Training Leaders (STLs) came over and helped us. They are seriously the best! They came over and they left us a really cool challenge to work on in Preach My Gospel. They told us to do the Christlike Attribute Activity where you take a quiz and rate yourself on how well you are doing with certain things. Well, the attributes I found out I needed to work on were not what I thought they would be. But one thing I did pray for was patience- mostly with myself. I feel like it is so hard to be patient with yourself and to just understand that you are doing your best. So Sister King and Sister Decker told Sister Fogg and me to pray together after we did this activity. Well, we both found that we needed work on patience. OH. NO. That is a scary thing to pray for, since the Lord will truly give you opportunities to be patient. And, holy cow, He provided. 

Have you ever played Mario Cart? Well, in Mario Cart there is a little blue tortoise shell that has wings that comes from behind you and hits you so that you blow up and lose all control. That happened this week. YAY PATIENCE!

Since I was sick this week, I was told by our mission nurse to get a blessing so I got one from our ward mission leader. The coolest thing happened. I just felt Heavenly Father's love for me. It was amazing because all of the christlike attributes that I had prayed about with Sister Fogg were mentioned in the blessing. ALL OF THEM. And a couple of weeks ago, President Wakolo had challenged me to study for my investigators and that was mentioned in the blessing, as well. There were things in the blessing that I know our ward mission leader did not know about…but Heavenly Father knew. 

On Saturday came the real test of my patience. We were told that Sister Fogg was going to go spent some time with our STLs and that I would go to Millington with Sister Ellis and Sister Ostler. That was the blue tortoise shell. We both have been out of our area since Saturday night. We will come back this upcoming Friday night. STRESS! We had a baptism scheduled this upcoming Saturday and, of course, everything goes wrong. Since neither of us are in our area, we are not in a position to have daily contact with our investigator, Eddie, and we will have to postpone the baptism, which makes me so sad.  Before I left for Millington, Sister Decker told me to close my eyes and to imagine that I have a box in my hand. Then she asked me to put all of my stress and fears and inadequacies and frustrations into the box. Then, in my mind, I was to walk through a gate where Christ stood. She told me to imagine that He is asking for the box, but that I won’t give it to Him. Finally, she told me to visualize giving Him the box. As I imagined all of this, I was overcome with emotion.  Jesus Christ wants to take all the pain, frustrations, inadequacies, fears, and hurt from me, but sometimes I won’t give it to Him. I realized the only thing I could do was hand everything over to the Lord, but that is such a hard and difficult thing to do. 

On Sunday,  in testimony meeting in Millington, almost every single testimony talked about turning your trials over to the Lord and letting Him bear your burdens with you. Heavenly Father definitely hears and knows me. I just love my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Sorry y’all for the rough email. Here is the spiritual thought: 

I was reading in 2 Nephi 26:24 and I tweaked it a little bit for me:
It says: “He doeth not anything save it be fore the benefit of Sister Esplin; for He loveth Sister Esplin, even that He layeth down His own life that He may draw Sister Esplin unto Him. Wherefore, He commands none that they shall not partake of high salvation." I love that so much.

Know that I love y’all so much. Thank you for the letters, the emails, and the pictures. I am so grateful for this chance to serve. I love my Savior, I love the gospel. I know this is the true church on the earth today. I know that families can be together and that the priesthood of God has been restored.

Sister Esplin

 Working with Sister Ellis and Sister Ostler

 Valentine’s package from home