Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sometimes A Different Outlook Can Change Your Point of View

Two very wonderful things happened today: I went to the temple and I got In-N-Out*. But mostly, I went to the temple. Which is why I'm emailing y'all on Tuuuuesday and not Moooonday. Cuz we had to switch our pdays to accommodate temple tripness.

It was probably one of the best (if not THE best) temple experience so far. We went with an elder companionship and a member couple from our ward. I think this was the first time that I went to the temple with a question (well, several questions) and was able to talk them out. When it was time to head back into the Promised Land**doing regular pday stuff seemed so mediocre (that includes emailing).  I wasn't anxious to get back to do things, I wasn't antsy to talk to y'all (no offense).  And that's because the temple does this thing where it unhooks you from everything unimportant (things that seem important to us and the world) and lets you focus in on everything necessary for Salvation.

This kind of perspective-paradigm shift happens a lot with the gospel of Jesus Christ.*** Briana, our newest convert (and by the way, the first convert baptism for Lantana), has had the rough time we told her she would. She's been kicked out of her room to make way for her sister who's moving back... and who hasn't been the greatest of moral supports. And while we were talking, Sister Heap and I got a little nervous because we were worried she wasn't shake-proof in the gospel. Well shame on us, cuz she is. Every time she'd express a concern, she'd say "But my testimony is fine!! I still know it's true! I'm not going anywhere!" and then proceed to bear testimony of what she knew was true. Her head is screwed on so straight.

And it's because gospel of Jesus Christ, what a surprise. Whoulda thunkit?!****

On the good ship companion*****, we've been experiencing a couple of paradigm shifts too that, strangely enough, require some gospel of Jesus Christ. We got a call from President last night. He said Sister Heap is off to white wash Hudson Oaks and be the newest Sister Training leader for the Weatherford/Fort Worth zones. I'm staying behind in Lantana to be President's "eyes and ears" (his words, not mine) and will be teaming up with a sister who's going home really soon. Odds are I might kill****** her. President was aware of that and said he's placed her with me because he needed "someone who was so committed to their mission" to keep her from getting trunkie. Again, his words, not mine.

At the end of his phone call, he said "Thank you sisters for being who you are so that I can trust you with this." This left me to reflect... what exactly does the Lord trust me to do? Maybe He trusts me to be a Sister Training Leader, but He clearly has other things in mind.

Now, I've been trying to change lives since May. But I didn't realize that some of them might already be baptized by the time I get there. On this temple trip, I found that my purpose (be it mission, Lantana area specifically, or what have you) is with the members, specifically the youth.

We******* FINALLY got Dakota Starnes at church and he was better behaved than I ever have been in church.... We got Briana baptized and set on track for the temple. And we have inspired the youth to get excited for their missions. I didn't realize the full impact of this until we were talking with the member (her name is Sister McIntyre) during the car ride. She's the Young Women's president... and has a very keen sense of what has happened to the youth.

It must feel good to write down over 9000 on your key indicators for baptized and confirmed... I'm sure Mosiah's sons really enjoyed reporting those numbers. And it must've really been hard for Abinidi's mission to be so statistically unrewarding. But without Abinidi, there would have been no Alma. And Alma takes up 62 chapters of the Book of Mormon, so that means something. I'm sure Abinidi NOW can see the effect of his contributions and service, but at the time, there's something about fiery death that's a little thankless. But if tech theatre has taught me anything, it's that it's the people you don't see that run the show. So I'm wayyy okay with helping every single one of the Lantana young men (and a vast majority of the Young Women, if I have anything to say about it) go on missions. Best job ever.

Thanks mom and dad. Y'all had the most thankless job EVER of being MY parents. But those lectures finally sunk in!!

Love, Sister Gunson

* In-N-Out tastes just as good in Texas as it does in California.
** Fort Worth and Dallas missions are in a heated rivalry. And they have the temple on their turf.....
*** It's designed for that, by the way.
**** us, mostly. Couple apostles, over 15 million members.... whatevs.
***** companion-ship. Get it? It's funny because it's not actually funny, Sister Gunson just thinks she's funny.
****** killing= When a missionary goes home, they die. Their ending companion is the killer.
******* We, being the holy ghost and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Janet's note to those friends who haven't read the Book of Mormon and don't know what Hannah's talking about when she refers to Alma and Mosiah and Abinadi....Well, I was going to give a quick recap of their stories but on second (and better) thought--just go read the books of Mosiah and Alma in the copy of the Book of Mormon that I gave you.  You'll love it, I promise!!!!!!!!  Then get back with me and tell me what you think!  Seriously.  You know I love this book.  Find out why!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Supplies! (also, Briana got Baptized)

This morning Sister Leonard (the sister Hannah and her companion live with) sent me a photo and a note that the missionaries wouldn't be writing today.  So it was such a great surprise to get this letter from Hannah!  (To those of you who speak English as a second language, Hannah's subject heading "supplies" is her way of saying "surprise"; glad to see she still has her quirky sense of humour!)  I attached the picture Sister Leonard sent me as well as a picture of Briana (in blue) from her baptism.
So, remember when Sis Leonard said that we wouldn't be emailing till later?.... Well. The libraries ARE open on Presidents Day. Awkward. After a violent game of volleyball, I'm now sitting at this computer. Aren't you happy?

Well, this week, Briana was baptized!! That's really the only important thing about ever. Before the baptism, I was breathless. I was pacing back and forth, going out of my mind with excitement!! I've never been this excited for a baptism!!

When the baptism started, we had the whole RS room filled! 85 people came... estimated. That's not including the kids that came! It was packed! Even Briana's mom and sister came! They've been pretty against this from the start... and yet they both were smiling the whole time!

So, the night before, I had told my Zone Leaders that I wouldn't cry. I'd be overjoyed, of course! But I'd make it through without crying. Yeah, well, 5 minutes into the service, all you can hear are sniffles and most of them are mine. I was just hit with powerful waves of emotion as each new thought came to me. Briana is more than an investigator-- she's probably one of my best friends. We've spent so much time with her and talked and chatted about more than just the gospel and now she's looking into BYU and is aiming for a temple marriage.. SIster Heap and Briana and I are probably going to be apartment-mates or something. We just... we're friends sharing the gospel. So, as Sister Elmer was giving her talk about baptism, I realized that, because she's chosen to be baptized... she's going to be with me forever. She won't be sealed to me (obviously...) but her choices are leading her to the places where I'm going. The phrase "Sisters in Zion" comes to mind with elevated and intensified meaning. I get to be with her forever.

The service was rife with spiritually-emotional thoughts and revelations... One of the things I've always wanted was for my family to be at my investigators' baptisms. Before, I've felt like Mom would walk around the corner, and sit by me. So once again, I was just talking to Heavenly Father and I told Him "I wish my mom was here." Immediately, I heard the words "I am here." They sunk right into my heart as I realized that I do have a parent with me. Heavenly Father has seen every step of the way! And of course He would be there at His daughter's baptism.

One of the LA's we've been working with shared her testimony while Briana was changing. She talked about her conversion story... and then she said that she knows God loves her because He sent her to the most persistent ward in the world. The missionaries are over, the visiting and home-teachers are over, the bishopric stops by, her door is always knocking! And she knows it's because we love her! Haha I felt like high-fiving a million angels. It feels good to know you're doing the right thing. And to know that THEY know you're doing it because you love them to your toes.

And then they asked me to bear my testimony.

I talked about how, when I first came into the area, the first person I heard about was Briana, and she made such epic progress weekly, and she was just the best investigator ever. I talked about how she's an example to me that Heavenly Father loves us all so much because I got to watch it all happen. This whole process, I felt like I wasn't the one doing ANYTHING. It's true. In the ideal situation, you step out of the way so that the Spirit can do It's thing. Her desire to move forward with both brain and heart working in on this has told me a lot of the things I need to be doing. I don't fear her going inactive because she's so thoroughly converted.

This baptism means a couple of things to me. It means that, first of all, I'm going to be with my best friend forever,. I know the sealing powers only work in familial relationships... but knowing that she has entered through the gate, if we both do our parts, I'll be there with her in Heaven.

It also means that now, the members of the ward have seen what can happen when we invite a friend to do something simple... or get the missionaries involved in a sly way. I think a lot of people confuse missionary work with being a "name-tagged" missionary. They think that when we ask them to invite their friends, they have to give them a Book of Mormon. While that's AWESOME... it also means being a really good friend and telling the missionaries to come over and use the bathroom and get a drink of water when the friend's over ;)

That's really all it takes. Just be a good friend, everything follows naturally if you love them.

I love you guys so much. I love that I'm with Briana for forever... but I'm sealed to my mom, my dad, and my brothers. I am theirs and they are mine, legitimately. I think that's my favorite thing about the gospel. I'm not worried about the future, because somewhere in it, there will my family be.

Love y'all-- FOREVER!!!
Sister Gunson

PS: This week was also kind of a rough week... We've been waking up a half hour earlier so that we can work out harder/better/faster/longer plus an intense week regardless of lack of sleep... so....I tried some energy drinks out... I still hate Monsters, but Rockstars get the job done nicely. I didn't have one on Sunday though and man, that day was weird. Haven't had one today, I'm doing a cleanse.. But... I won't be telling you how much Diet Coke Adult Gunson has had without parental supervision. Suffice to say, there is a Sonic right across the street from where we live and we're friends with one of the roller derbies. I love being an adult. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA bad choices! ;)

Friday, February 14, 2014

What's the Point?

This is for mah brothas and sistas:

A lot can happen in a mission. Heck, a lot happens in a WEEK. But I've noticed that each week sort of has a reoccurring theme. It's funny too because yesterday, we heard the Plan of Salvation explained 3 times. Somebody wanted to get a point across.....

I've been thinking a lot about "what's the point in all of this?" It's a question Joseph Smith asked once (he didn't use that terminology though.) and I think it's something a lot of us tend to say when we've collapsed on the floor at 2:30 am after throwing up all night (more on that later.) But in this case and instance, "what's the point" isn't in a negative light. Let's dispel those clouds around such a wonderful question.

I spent the latter end of my pday at my most thinkiest thinking investigator's, mulling over the minutae of church pamphlet phraseology and getting involved in the microscopic aspects of how to pray. As we left, all I could think of was "What's the point of religion?" Again, not in a negative connotation! And then the rest of the week spent its time proving my conclusion (which was Ether 12:4):
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
We've been teaching a TON of children lately. A lot of them are the offspring of some LA's (less-active members). It's really fun when these kids-- who are already close to the spirit-- grab hold of these lessons. They bring such joy and innocence... I love teaching the gospel so simply. Because these kids understand it! We're taught at a very early age the blueprints by which we need to align our lives. A lot of people call it brainwashing.... I call it "being trained to deal with the people who call it brainwashing". From the time I was toddling, I knew I was a child of God, I knew my family was going to be together forever, and I knew that I was loved. I've spent my life laying that foundation down. Now I get to share it with others who don't have that same knowledge.

That knowledge is a bulwark, folks. It keeps you safe.

Because sometimes in life, there are bad things that happen to good people. Sometimes, you see scars that shouldn't be there. I've talked before about Dakota and the saddest thing I saw this week was trying to explain the concept of eternal families to a boy who barely has a temporal family. I told him he could be with his wife forever. He said "unless we get in a big fight and get a divorce." What 7 year old says that?! Someone without a solid understanding of the Plan of Salvation. This pain cuts me so deep!! SO deep, I didn't know I could feel that far...

Heap and I got an intense little beastie in our tummies. Friday night was spent alternating from bathroom floor to bed in a carousel of nausea. Got to know a lot of GC talks (General Conference--happens twice a year when the leaders of the church talk to the world) really well as my only friends were the May Ensigns for 2012 and 2013 (magazine that the church puts out and includes these talks). And they always talked about, in some way or another, this "balm of Gilead" that comes only in and through our Savior. The Atonement does much more than we realize. Much more than I realized. How dare I limit His perfect, infinite Atonement to Alma 7:11-13?!
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
How dare I ever believe that it doesn't work for me?!?!

By the time Sunday rolled around, I wished everyone could hear what Sister Heap and I were hearing. All week, I heard case after case of anguish and pain that could easily be solved in 5 seconds with some scriptures and some prayers. The only things that hurts now is that God's arms are forever extended and we neglect to take those hands.

What's the point of all of this? Alma 34:32 says we better prepare to meet God because soon cometh a night wherein no labor can be performed... but why would we work, why would we want to be with God?

  1.  You're His child and
  2.  Ether 12:4. (see above)

So often, we complain of the trying world in which we're placed. Too often do we curse God and wish to die. Too often, we do little to alleviate the situation. I like better worlds. I like better days. I BELIEVE in the power to make that happen and I live for it every day. My corner of the vineyard is flippin' Disneyland because I MAKE it the happiest place on earth by using my Savior's already paid for sacrifice. Please don't ever ask God if He knows you, because He does. It's you who doesn't know Him.

Standing still with the utmost assurance,
 Sister Gunson

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Briana is Amazing and Gives us Mints and Notes (and a BONUS story from Mama Gunson)

Sometimes, I get to the computer and I forget everything that happened this week. Awkward.

Well, this week was literally a blur. An exhausting blur. Thank goodness for the sweet letters from friends and family that help me remember what's going on. (Thanks family for the awesome pictures. I love how Enzo drew me throwing Books of Mormon at a mob with torches and pitchforks. That's real love. And I'm glad that Dad figured out my scarves are a part of my daily armor. Paul must've skipped that in Ephesians, but it's okay because I was guided through personal revelation.)

The thing that makes the angels sing, the grass grow green and the sky so blue, however, is Briana. And this is why she's amazing.

On Tuesday, we watched the hour long Restoration movie, the super intense one (by missionary standards... I don't know if I can handle Disney movies anymore) and afterwards, we sat there in silence until someone said "So.... how do you feel?"

Briana feels the spirit in chills. She calls them the "good goosebumps." And when we were done with the movie, she said "well... I got the biggest chills of this whole experience!!" She turned to look at us and said "I will be baptized February 16th." WHAT INVESTIGATOR DOES THAT?! She basically committed US to come to her baptism. Holy cow. She's been like this every step of the way. I don't want to give the mission office our picture because I feel like I can't take any credit or part in this process. She has been taught from on high through scriptures and prayer. I thank Heavenly Father that He let me watch the process.

We saw her again on Thursday to talk about some technical aspects of the baptism (programs, times, etc) and she gave us presents! (Sister Heap and I LOVE mints. I devour the strawberry icebreaker duos like a madwoman.) So she gave us each another thing of mints and a sweet note just thanking us. I glued it into my journal. Be shocked I didn't hang it.

She just..... she beams light now! She didn't used to! The light of Christ is present and shooting out of her eyes! IT WASN'T THERE BEFORE. Oh my gosh, you guys, progress is amazing!! YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE! I don't know how many times I can say that.
And don't you forget it. Because wow. When you let yourself be that molded by Christ... you turn into the most amazing investigator ever. Now she's talking about BYU and she's shooting for a temple marriage. I told her to go on a mission (of course I did) but whatever she chooses to do... she's amazing. And she's gonna do it well.

Anyways, love y'all! Have a great week!
Sister Gunson
BONUS STORY from Mama Gunson!
I just HAD to share this experience with those of you who care enough about Hannah to read her letters. Tonight, as our family was eating dinner at a favorite local Mexican restaurant, accompanied by my sweet niece, Bryn (who is a world-class ballerina, I might add--in town to perform with the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company at the Granada tomorrow night) I got a phone call originating from Texas.  Startled, I answered it, praying that Hannah hadn't been hurt.  On the other end was Brianna.  The same Brianna about whom Hannah has written.  She and her member friend had felt the need to call the mothers of the missionaries who had helped Brianna join the church.  Of course I started crying which led everyone at the table to stare at me agape until I finally had the presence of mind to give a thumbs up so they knew no one had died.  Brianna went on to tell me what a great influence Hannah has had on her and how great of a missionary she is.  I finally choked out "what an amazing gift you have just given me" to which she replied "you are the one who gave me the gift of your daughter".  Yeah, I'm crying right now...