Monday, July 24, 2017

Pioneers every day!

HELLO FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!!! Happy Pioneer Day! I hope that y'all have had a wonderful week this last week! This week was a little bit hard.  My companion was having a rough time, so we have been working on that, but she is doing so much better and I am so so proud of her!! :) Long story very very short, we didn’t get to do as much as I would have normally liked to do. But you know what? This week really gave me an opportunity to try and fulfill my baptismal covenants. We also had the chance to walk in the lovely humidity several times this week and truly appreciate summer in the South. Seriously, I walk outside and immediately I am COVERED in sweat. I know, it is a super lovely visual. 😊  In spite of the  heat, I have really been trying to lose myself in the service of others and as I have been doing that, I have felt the presence on the spirit more strongly in my life and I have also felt more of My Heavenly Father's love for me AND for those people that we serve. I don't know if I have mentioned this before (every day is seriously blending together and I am most likely losing my mind), but we get to volunteer at a food pantry on Monday nights at a Baptist church in Carlisle and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we volunteer at a food pantry at a Methodist church in Lonoke. Yay!!! It is so cool to get to help in the community and to e able to work with people of other faiths. It has really helped me to stop having the mentality of ‘Ugh, Baptists. They are so rude! ‘ Because really they are so sweet!!! They take such good care of us and they even give us extra food. YAY!!!

We were able to have another lesson with the Rowes and we were able to clarify what the priesthood is and then invite them to pray about a baptismal date. They really want to be baptized and I am so excited for them.

Anyhoo, as it is Pioneer Day today I have really been reflecting on pioneers, both past and present, and their impact on my life.  This week as I have been walking, there have been moments when I have thought to myself, “I don't think I can tolerate  ONE MORE MINUTE in this humidity and heat!” But then I would ponder about the pioneers that crossed the trails. They didn’t have a choice and they had such faith that God would direct them and eventually bring them to safety and bless them. They couldn't see an end in sight. They were so strong. I am so grateful for the great examples of our pioneer ancestors. Likewise,  I am so grateful for the pioneers in my life right NOW. For those modern-day pioneers who courageously joined the church and accepted the gospel, in spite of so much opposition. I am so grateful to be serving here in Lonoke right now, where I am able to see beautiful members who are truly pioneers in our time. Their strength and courage is so amazing and so inspiring. I love being able to serve with them and to try to emulate them! They are such a tiny little group and there is so much being fired against them, but they serve with all that they have and they have so much joy. I am so proud to be serving here. I truly hope that I can serve here for a very long time:) 

My spiritual thought this week is from an article that I read this week from Neal a. Maxwell:
“True believers are settled in their views of Christ. Despite their weaknesses, their spirituality is centered on the Savior, so their views of everything else are put in that precious perspective.
“ True believers gladly perform their duties in the kingdom. These duties are usually measurable and straightforward. They include partaking worthily of the sacrament, rendering Christian service, studying the scriptures, praying, fasting, receiving ordinances, attending to family duties, paying tithes and offerings. …
“ True believers are humble. They are ‘meek and lowly of heart’ [ Moroni 7:43 ]. … They are not easily offended. They do not resist counsel. …
“ True believers are willing to do what Christ wants. … Are we willing to let the Lord lead us into further developmental experiences? Or do we shrink back? The things which enlarge the soul inevitably involve stretching.
“ True believers have a balanced contentment. They strike a balance between being too content and wishing for a more important role. …
“ True believers truly pray. Their prayers are sincere. … The true believer’s prayers, at least some of the time, are inspired.
“ True believers have both right conduct and right reasons for that conduct. They are so secure in their relationship with the Lord that their goodness would continue even if nobody were watching. …
“ True believers rejoice in the success of others. … They don’t regard colleagues as competitors.
“ True believers remember that forgetting is part of forgiving. They follow the Lord’s example: ‘I [will] remember [their sins] no more’ ( D&C 58:42 ). …
“ True believers are innocent as to sin, but not naive. They are kind, but candid. They love their fellowmen. …
“ True believers are happy. Instead of a ‘woeful countenance,’ true believers in Christ have a disciplined enthusiasm to work righteousness. They are serious about how they live life, but are also of good cheer” ( “True Believers,” New Era, Apr., 1994, 20–24 ).

I hope that we can truly strive to be true believers every day. I love y'all so so much and I hope that you have a great week!!!! Thanks for all that you do to love and support me!!! Also, this week is walk week and we are doing a 4 day exchange! Whoah!

Sister Esplin
Privileged to see modern day pioneers
Boss at bagging food

Lover of Lonoke and the state of Arkansas

 The primary class we got to teach yesterday!!! They are such cuties!

 We are currently teaching a family that already had a Book of Mormon…that was printed in 1923!!!

 Sweet is the work with Sister Peterson :)

 That moment when bedbugs appear in your life again. NOOOOO!!! 

 I burned my arm. Ouch!

 I made fried chicken!!

This week I had the chance to do family history and while I was doing research on Ancestry, I discovered this gem.  I just realized that my paternal grandma, Jeanette Tew, and my maternal grandma’s sister, Nancy Sycamore, graduated from Utah State at the same time. What a small world!!!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some like it hot. πŸ”₯ I am not included in that statement.

I hope that y'all have had a wonderful week this week and that you have been able to see the hand of the Lord in your lives. I know that sometimes it is hard to see, but when you look closer you realize how much He really is involved in the details of our lives. :) 

Well everyone, It is getting HOT here in Arkansas!! My face melts off my face, but everyone says that southerners look so young because of the humidity, so I expect to look fantastic when I am 60 because of my service here. ;) This week was great, but it sure involved being out of the area a lot. I had an appointment in West Memphis, Arkansas which took 6 hours for a 15 minute appointment. Ahhh. And then we were stuck in Little Rock all day on Saturday for an appointment for Sister Peterson. Fortunately, a member was so sweet and drove us to the appointment and back to our area and, to top things off, she took us to lunch at a cute little restaurant in Little Rock and before driving us home. :) I love branches!!! I often think that I want to end my mission here. The people here are AMAZING!! They are so sweet and giving and kind and generous and service-oriented and Christlike and ALL the other wonderful things that you can say about people. :) 

This week we went on exchanges  and I went to Conway with Sister Dayley! We came out together and she is so sweet! It is so funny, when I was in Sherwood I always wanted to go on an exchange to Conway but I never had the opportunity to. It is funny that I had to be transferred to a completely different zone/stake to go on an exchange with them.  πŸ˜‚  The exchange was so good!  I learned so much and we were able to see miracles. We went to one street, called Utah Trail (oh me sweet homeland, where the mountains call me name and the heat be dry). I thought, there's got to be someone here who is ready to hear the gospel. This is Utah trail. UTAH. Yessssss. Well, we went and talked to everyone and some people were more receptive than others but it was so great to still be sharing the gospel! We got to one house though, and the man opened the door and said, “You are with the Mormons?” We answered YES and he said, “Oh yeah, I totally believe what y'all believe…when can I come to church? Is there one around here?” We totally freaked out on the inside. WHAT!!! So cool! The missionaries are going to see him this week:) We also were able to have a lesson with the Rowes ( a part member family) and talk to them about the restoration. We taught them about how much Heavenly Father loves them and that He will answer their prayers as they study the scriptures and earnestly seek for answers in prayer. Then they came to church the next day! And what was our Sunday school lesson on? Oh you know, just the Holy Ghost and how Heavenly Father answers our prayers. INSPIRED!!!! 

Here is my spiritual thought this week! As y'all know, I have been working like crazy to understand and better know my Savior, Jesus Christ. I have been reading everything that I can get my hands on. The Book of Mormon, The New Testament, Jesus the Christ, and General Conference Talks. As I read in Preach My gospel about the Atonement, something really stood out to me. It says, “Though He suffered beyond comprehension-so much so that he bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him-He submitted to the Father's will in a supreme expression of love for His father and for us. I LOVE THAT!! I love that He loves us so so so much that He suffered for us ALL. I think that is where all great service comes from, it stems from love. As I am trying to be like Jesus (cue the primary song 😊), I realized that I needed to cultivate more love for those around me and for my Savior and Heavenly Father. Not that I don't love people around me, but I recently remembered that mom my taught us that it wasn’t enough just to tell people that you love them. You need to work at SHOWING them your love through your actions.  So I have a new commitment this week to SHOW LOVE. To serve more and give my heart to these people. Sometimes it can be easy to love people but not give my everything to them. I will give them all that I have. 

I hope that y'all have a wonderful week!! Thank you so so much for all of your love and support. I love y'all so much!! I know the church is
true, I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that he restored Christ's church. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and that He knows me perfectly and that He will answer my prayers, because He answered a young boy's prayer in 1820. 

I love y'all!!!
Love, ❤️
Sister Esplin
Someone who says on the daily, “I may be red in the face, but its not out of anger.”
Someone who  is trying to be like Jesus

Mission traveler. (I went to 4 different zones this week! Four different stakes).

 THE Lakeland, Arkansas district (+our Zone Leaders)

EXCHANGES!!!! In Conway with Sister Dayley:)

 Left to Right: Me, Sister Peterson, Sister Dayley, and Sister Gray

 Sweet Sister Shelton took us to get gelatos when we were in Little Rock for an appointment. 

 We went to England!!!…Arkansas ;)

 Chalk Plan of Salvation…So proud of my work!!

 Ash Street

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lost in a cornfield, but never lost to God

Hey y'all!!! I hope y'all had a great Fourth of July and a fantastic week, as well! I hope enjoyed watching the fireworks and going to parades because I definitely did not. It was interesting to see that neither the town of Carlisle (where I live) nor the town of Lonoke (where I serve) have parades and, because it was pouring buckets of rain on the 4th of July, they cancelled the fireworks.  I will be honest, when the fireworks did go off several days later, I was so caught off guard, it just about scared me to death. For a moment, I thought we were being bombed. It didn't even occur to me that it was fireworks. Ahhh the mission veil. Honestly, in spite of the unusual 4th of July, this week was so fantastic!!!

So to start off, we got to meet our new mission president and his wife, President and Sister Hansen!! It was so great! They are so funny and just so amazing. I know that they are going to take this mission to even greater heights. I know they are called of God. President Hansen helped teach us about what we do to have the spirit guide the work more. He said three things that invite the spirit are:
  1. Doctrine- we need to immerse ourselves in the doctrine(the scriptures)
  2. Testimony
  3. Sacred music

He said that four things that will help us feel the spirit are:
  1. Prayer- make sure that our prayers make it to the feet of deity. We need to prepare for prayer. Have pen and paper with us so we can catch the revelation. Sing a hymn in our mind. When we pray we are approaching the throne of god. 
  2. Scripture study- make a goal to never miss a day of scripture study. Scriptures teach the doctrine and doctrine invites the spirit. 
  3. Service- service changes hearts, but it mostly changes ours. 
  4. Be obedient. Completely obedient- we need to live our lives (this is just for missionaries not for y'all) by the white handbook. We need to know it, live it, and love it. The reason that we have the rules in to purify us. 

President Hansen shared that the twelve apostles have been commissioned to spread the gospel and they cannot do it alone. So we as missionaries are helping the apostles to fulfill their commission. Their purpose. Yay!!! He also shared that our mission is a tithe. When we are a half tithe payer, do we get half the blessings? No. We need to be a full tithe payer. He asked, "are you going to pay a full tithe?"  Yes. I will!! He said that if we want the blessings that come from missionary work, we need to be ALL IN. 
I also got to have my first interview with him and he was so nice. I told him that I had a VGPA (vision, goal, plan, accountability) for the rest of my mission. My vision is to be a converted disciple of Jesus Christ. We talked about it and what things I can do. Since one of my goals is to learn and study Christ's life, he suggested that I read “Jesus the Christ”. I happy agreed. Afterward, I went home and realized that I had underestimated the size of that book!!!  But I have been reading it and I am loving it! It is definitely opening my mind and helping me to learn more about Jesus.  But of course I am still reading the Book of Mormon and the Bible! I actually have been reading about when Jesus came to the Americas and I just love it!! I have felt so much love from my Savior as I read it. 

This week was so amazing!! We have been able to teach so many people. This week on Thursday we had a great lesson with a former investigator that wanted to be taught again! Her name is Hazel :) A member in the branch reached out to her and asked if she wanted to be taught and she said yes!! The member, Sister Shelton (there are five Sister Sheltons in the branch😁) invited us over for breakfast with Hazel and we taught her the first lesson, which then kind of turned into a lesson about the plan of salvation. Just a bit. Our time with Hazel was so amazing.  We had been talking about the impact of our personal studies in zone conference the day before and how when we make a real effort in our personal study, we are able to help those around us so much more! Well, I was prompted to share with Hazel some of the things I had recently studied . And what is really cool is, at one point, there was something in ‘Jesus The Christ’ that had stood out to me and I just as I was about to share it, SISTER SHELTON said the exact same thing!!! How cool is that! Plus Sister Shelton’s daughters were able to participate in the lesson and they shared  their sweet testimonies with Hazel. The best part of all was when Hazel came to church on Sunday!! We are so excited!!!!!   I just feel so much love for Hazel. She is so tender hearted. I cannot wait to teach her again tonight! 

On Thursday night we were able to start teaching a part member family, as well!! And they all came to church. Yay!!! The field is white!! 

Oh funny story of the week…we were trying to find a less active family that lives about six miles out of town (out of Carlisle) and we totally got lost in a corn field!!!! Well, on a road in the middle of a corn field. We had no idea where we were. But then sister Peterson told me about the movie “Signs” and I got us out of that corn field REALLY FAST. I am NEVER watching that movie!!!

This Sunday I spoke in sacrament meeting. And Sunday school. And Relief Society. I taught all three hours… Whew!!!  In Sacrament Meeting, I was asked to speak on the Law of Consecration. As a missionary, I am called to teach the basic doctrines and principles of the church, so I am out of the habit of speaking on deeper things! But I learned so much when preparing for this talk. It was interesting because the first thing that came to my head when the Branch President asked me to speak on this topic was, “oh that's easy, I live that now!”  Well, I learned that consecration is so so so much more than I thought it was. Here is a little snippet of my talk:

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught,  “To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives--that is, our time and choices--to God’s purposes (see John 17:1, 4; D&C 19:19). In so doing, we permit Him to raise us to our highest destiny."

Neal A. Maxwell said, "only by aligning our wills with God’s is full happiness to be found. Anything less results in a lesser portion (see Alma 12:10–11). The Lord will work with us even if, at first, we “can no more than desire” but are willing to “give place for a portion of [His] words” (Alma 32:27). A small foothold is all He needs! But we must desire and provide it.

So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things--like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity!"

Oh amazing is that?! As missionaries we are constantly evaluating ourselves and trying to see what we can do better to better Love those around us. It is crazy, because there are so so so many times that I find that there are things that I can change there are always things that I am falling short of or things that I can give up. 

In January, we had the opportunity to travel to North Little Rock and meet Elder Anderson! It was so cool! But the night before we were going to travel there we all got a text to read Acts 5:1-12, which teaches about the law of consecration and about Ananias and Sapphira who sold what they had it kept a certain part to themselves. Well, they both died because they kept a certain part for themselves, then verse 12 says, and by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people. As I studied this passage of scripture,  a part of me wondered, what is Elder Anderson going to do to US? Truly, I did not understand the scripture that well. When we got to the church the next day, Elder Jorg Klebingat , who sent the text out to everyone, spoke to us about how we all sometimes hold things back. He asked us, “what are you not sacrificing?” What came to my mind was, well, I sometimes feel like I am sure sacrificing a lot! I am away from my family, I am out everyday in either cold or hot humidity and it is not that comfortable to be a missionary. But I realized, as I really looked at myself ,that there were things that I was holding back that were making it so I wasn't giving my absolute ALL. Elder Klebingat taught us that it is a privilege to serve and it is a privilege we must earn. When we are willing to give up all of our “little sins”,  that is when a member of the church becomes a saint. 

Elder Maxwell said, Each of us might well ask, “In what ways am I shrinking or holding back?” Meek introspection may yield some bold insights!" I invite y'all to think to ponder that in your lives. (End of snippet of talk)

I think that there is so much that we can give the lord each day to better consecrate ourselves.  I love y'all so much!!! I know the church is true, I know that Jesus Christ stands at the head of the church. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I am so grateful to be serving here at this time. I am so grateful for my family and for their love and support each day and for all that they do so that I can be here serving the lord and the people in Arkansas. I love them so much and I am so glad that I get to be with them forever. 

I love y'all so much!!!!
Have a wonderful week and stay safe!!!!

Sister esplin
Exhausted speaker (I'm sure it wasn't fun for the Lonoke branch to hear me speak so much either 😬
Someone who got lost in a cornfield 

A sister who is striving to better give herself to the Lord  

President and Sister Hansen

Happy fourth of July!!!! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ✌️
Serving with Sister Peterson

 Our drive from Searcy. So pretty!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

“Behold, I am a disciple of Christ…”


I hope that y'all have had a wonderful week. I know I have. Well, it has been an interesting week, but it has been a really good one, as well. This week really had some awesome experiences. ALSO… I have been out for a year. WHAT?!!!!! So so so crazy. I seriously cannot believe it. It feels like just yesterday I was getting dropped off at the MTC. So much has happened though. I feel like there have been so many highs and lows, but the highs always have outweighed the lows. I would not trade or change ANY of my experiences on my mission. I have met so many amazing people and had so many amazing experiences that have helped me to grow closer to my Savior and to my Heavenly Father. I have loved my mission so much. I just love that I have the BEAUTIFUl opportunity to serve here. I definitely think my mission has a refiner’s fire, but I would not change ANYTHING about it. I am stronger and I am closer to my Savior. I have realized how little I know and how little I can do on my own. I know that it is only through Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father that I have been able to do anything. Sometimes I forget and that is rough, because I am given opportunities to humble myself, but I am grateful for all that my mission has given me.  I wouldn't change it for the world. I am so grateful for my family and the sacrifices that they have made so that I can be here. They are such a blessing to me and I am so so so glad that I get to be with them for eternity. 

As for this week... HERE WE GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Tuesday was definitely one of the amazing highlights of this week. We started off with district meeting, where we discussed how we can better work with the members in our areas. We also made two dozen cookies, but because we had an appointment right after district meeting, we left the cookies and said that we would come back later to have some. Well, later came and 2 sets of elders ate ALL 24 cookies. WHAT! I was floored that they could inhale all those cookies!  After our appointment, our sister training leaders came and blitzed the area with us. Sister Dayley went with me and Sister Gray went with Sister Peterson. Sister Dayley is just awesome!!! It was so great to tract with her for the day. I felt like I learned so much from her. I also realized that I have a long way to go. BUT, we totally kicked trash and found SO MANY people to teach :) YAY!!!! WE seriously talked to everyone. And when I say everyone I mean EVERYONE. There was also this little neighborhood and a bunch of kids were asking us for cards and giving us a ton of referrals. Yay for kids! We gave out so many cards on Tuesday I was seriously writing cards as we were walking up to people. So much work!!! The field is truly white y'all. I just felt so blessed. Seriously, the more people that we talked to, the more people Heavenly Father placed in our path that wanted to listen to us. God is GOOD!!! But, seriously, there were people asking US if we could come back… that they WANTED to hear our message! YAY!!!! I felt hot, sweaty, sticky, and itchy, but I have never felt happier. You could not wipe the smile off of my face. SWEET IS THE WORK!!! I just love being a missionary. I love sharing the message that has brought me so much joy and peace! 

We didn’t get to do a TON of work this week, because I got dehydrated on Wednesday (apparently I should have been drinking more water considering that I was sweating so much. We were just talking so much and there was no time to drink water). On Friday, my companion got SUPER sick with what we thought was strep, so we have been inside for almost 72 hours, except for when we went to church and dinner last night.  On the bright side, I have been able to study so so much, which is great! I love building up that gospel knowledge.  WE also got a new mission president this week. President and Sister Hansen are now here! YAY! I am so so so so excited to meet them this week. I just hope and pray that they can feel the love that we all have for them. I hope that everyone welcomes them with open arms and open hearts. I know that they will bring this mission to even greater heights. 

I have some more thoughts, (sorry it is so long, it has been a spiritually high week 😊).
With it being the 4th of JULY this week, I was thinking about how grateful I am for the opportunity to have religious freedom. I wouldn't be able to be here and do this divine work if it weren’t for the sacrifices that our founding fathers made for us. I am so grateful that we live in a country where I can be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

This week I have done a lot of study on how to become a converted disciple of Jesus Christ. It was really interesting. It wasn't a topic that I had planned to study, but the Lord definitely led me there. I was reading the Book of Mormon and one of my very favorite scriptures came up in my studies. 3rd Nephi 5:13. “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare him word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” As I read that passage, I referenced the institute commentary and I absolutely LOVED what it said: “‘The word disciple comes from the Latin [meaning] a learner. A disciple of Christ is one who is learning to be like Christ--learning to think, to feel, and to act as He does. To be a true disciple, to fulfill that learning task, is the most demanding regimen known to man. No other discipline compares … in either requirements or rewards. It involves the total transformation of a person from the state of the natural man to that of [a] saint, one who loves the Lord and serves with all of his heart, might, mind, and strength’ (Chauncey C. Riddle, ‘Becoming a Disciple,’ Ensign, Sept. 1974, 81)”.  When I went into Preach My Gospel to study, I was drawn to chapter 6, which is the Christlike Attribute chapter. Another little paragraph just stuck out to me and, literally, the words pierced my heart. "Some chapters of preach my gospel focus on what you need to do as a missionary-how to study, how to teach, how to manage time wisely. Just as vital as what you do, however is who you are" (Preach my Gospel, pg. 115). The thought came to me, if I were to do all the right things, but not become changed-not become like my Savior, Jesus Christ- I would entirely miss the mark. I am not only here to declare the gospel to all who I see and meet, but I am here to BECOME a changed person. That is what we are ALL here for, whether it be on a mission or at home. We are here to become more like Him.  I love the next paragraph in PMG, it says: " The restored gospel enables you to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Savior has shown the way. He has set the perfect example, and He commands us to become as He is (see 3 Nephi 27:27). Learn of Him and seek to incorporate His attributes into your life. Through the power of His Atonement, you can achieve this goal and lead others to achieve it also". (PMG, pg. 115) I have been thinking more and more and more about that. 

Since my companion was sick this week, I was able to do a lot of studying. I was reading a story in a really old New Era magazine and it was talking about a missionary that came on his mission and he had a ton of goals. He aspired to be a district leader, to baptize for six consecutive months, and to be a zone leader. What was interesting was that those achievements really didn't do anything if he wasn't becoming more like the Savior. It wasn’t until he studied about the Savior and really tried to think about what the Savior would do that he found the most success and joy on his mission. I made a commitment to myself that I would better learn of the Savior, and to become more like the Savior in all facets of my life. I say to people all the time that we are representatives of Jesus Christ. Well, If I'm going to be his representative, I will (always strive to) do what he would do. I will say what he would say. And I will be where he would be. Those thoughts just opened my mind a little more to what being a missionary is all about. It is about helping others come unto Christ. If I am not being like Christ and trying to live so I can see his image in my countenance how can I help others to the greatest extent that I can?

I love y'all so so so much and I hope that you have a wonderful week filled with miracles and blessings and learning experiences. Most of all, may each of you grow closer to our Savior this week, as well. HAVE A HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸŽ†πŸŽ‡
Love y'all!!!
Sister Esplin
A disciple of Jesus Christ
Sweaty monster 

 One year out on my mission!!! Happy Birthday to Me!!! 

 I didn’t want to burn any clothes, so I burned a little sign that I made instead.