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!

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