Monday, April 30, 2012

Week 52

Hello Family!

I hope everything is going well with everyone. I love and miss you all!

Well this week has been a really cool one. We have been teaching this really cool lady named Agnes. She is middle-aged lady. Our first teach with her was AMAZING!!! The member we brought with her is actually the Branch Missionary leader and he basically taught the whole lesson. It was great! Cool thing about her- she has been to SLC and seen the temple and ever since then she has wanted go in. So as we talked, Arne, the member, shared Mosiah 18:8-10 about baptism and it says "What have ye against being baptized?" and before he was finished reading, she said "ok, ok, I will do it!" She wants to be baptized like nothing else! It is the most amazing thing ever. She feels the Spirit and loves the peace it brings. She will be baptized on the 5th of June. she sent me a text and told me that she will be going to the temple in about a year! :) We are so happy for her!

Julianne is back! She was sick, but we were finally able to meet with her again and get another date. She will be baptized on the 12th of May. Satan had hit her a little bit while she was sick, but she came to church yesterday and had a wonderful time. She is coming to family home evening with the YSA tonight and we are going to a members house together on Thursday to eat dinner. It will be so great! :) Heavenly Father is blessing us so much!

So I found out today that this guy named James (I taught him in Oslo) is getting baptized at the end of this month! Yahoo!

Our magazine comes out tomorrow! We'll find out real quick if I'm on the cover! Ha ha! :)

Yesterday in Sacrament meeting, I had to speak. It went really well, actually. It was weird because as I thought about it, I was speaking in Sacrament meeting at home about a year ago... giving my farewell... It was the weirdest thing! I never would have thought of myself standing at a pulpit half-way around the world, giving a talk about following the Holy Ghost in another language. It blows my mind that it has been a year. I am so grateful for my mission! It kills me that I only have 6 months left... I never want it to end! I could do this work forever! It is the best thing anyone could ever do! I am so happy! I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be here in Norway! I am so grateful for the things I am learning and for the people I am meeting. My heart is so full! :) I only wish I could serve like an elder- for 2 years... Sorry, but I don't want to come home... Too late! I said it!

Anyways, I love you all so much! Have a great week! See you on Mother's day! :)

♥- Søster Jessica Taylor

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week 51

Hi Fam!

How are you all doing? It is so good to hear from you all every week. It always makes me happy!

This was a very exciting week here in the land of Norway! We officially have two stakes here! I tell you guys more about that a little later. :)

Sister Butterfield and I had a really good week finding and teaching people this week. We left for Oslo on Friday, and by Wednesday night our goals for the week were met! That's a miracle! :) I saw that cool girl again (the one that yelled at me, then prayed to find me again) but this time I had prayed to find her. It had been a while since I had seen her or heard from her, so I prayed that I would be able to see her again. And vet du hva (you know what- it took me a while to figure out how to say that in English so I typed it på Norsk first... Ha ha!), 2 hours later I saw her on the street and talked to her for a little bit. She is going to call me to meet up soon. :) That was the fastest answer to a prayer I have ever experienced!

On Thursday, we spent most of our day weekly planning, giving the elders haircuts, and preparing to travel to Oslo. We had to catch a plane at 6:30 am, so Sister Johansen told us to go to bed early
because we would have to wake up at 4 to leave to the airport. At 2 am the fire alarm went off. I sleep on the top bunk and the alarm is right above my head. I flew out of bed and looked at Sister Butter-
she thought it was the alarm clock and had knelt down to pray! Ha ha! I had to tell her that that was not the wake-up alarm and we ran downstairs to see what was going on. There was no smoke or anything and all of these people started filing out their apartments to figure out what was up. No one was rushing or anything... it was hilarious! So Sister B and I went back into our apartment to grab our suitcases in case we had to leave. Then the fire truck pulled up... We thought they were going to evacuate us so we started throwing stuff into our bags so we could run out. Well, after a few minutes, they were able to turn off the alarm and found out that some weirdo was making food at 2
am and had burnt it horribly... at 2 am... I was so bugged! ha ha! Sister Butterfield just hopped right back into bed and fell asleep, but I couldn't sleep after that... I just stared at the ceiling until the alarm went off. Ha ha!

When we got to Oslo, we had a wonderful mission conference with Elder Jose Teixeira of the 1st quorum of the 70. It was so good! I love out mission so much! On Saturday, we did missionary work in the areas where we were staying. We stayed at my old apartment with the sisters there and it was so fun to be back in Oslo! I forgot how much I missed it there! It is a beautiful city. That evening, we had part one of the conference. They had all of the missionaries sit up on the stand. As we sang "How Firm a Foundation,"  looked out over all of the people who had come from near and far to be there- many were crying tears of joy- it was so powerful! The church is true here in Norway! :) On Sunday, we went into town - They rented out the Folkets Hus for the conference and we had 1300 members there from all over the country. It was so special! The Spirit was so strong and I couldn't help but feel
so much love for these people! So there, the new stake was officially established! We now have the Oslo stake (which Trondheim is a part of) and the Drammen stake (which is Drammen and the western cities). It was so exciting! I felt so blessed to be there among all of those people! I got to talk to many old friends and it was just dandy! It was then that I saw Chelsea Osborne. I think I talked to her more than I ever had before my mission. She is a really sweet girl. Being with her was like a little taste of home. :) After the conference, we hoped in a van to the airport and flew back to Trondheim. It was so great!

We should be having a baptism this weekend for our miracle, Julianne! We will be cramming to teach her the commandments and get her prepared, but it is going to be good! Agnes (the woman who loves
coming to church) came to the broadcast of the conference yesterday even though we weren't there. She told me later that she feels peace at church and enjoys being there. She is so getting baptized... if is not the question, it's when! :)

Well family, I hope you have a great week! Thanks for all you do! I love you all so much! :) Sorry, I don't have a lot of time, so I can't send individual emails again... Don't hate me! :) Thank you for sending me out those shoes, mamma! You are the bestest in the westest! See you in 20 days!!! (on skype of course) Ha ha!

Love and miss you tons!
♥- Søster Jessica Taylor

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 50

Hello, hello!

How are you all doing? Did you have a good week? Anything new and exciting going on? How is the weather there? Still warm? :) How is the ward and the neighborhood? I miss you guys... every night before I go to sleep, I blow a kiss to the family picture. I can't sleep without that little ritual! Ha ha! I love you tons and tons!

This week has been one of many miracles! I am overwhelmed with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the way things have worked out this week. I will list a few:

1. Julianne - She is a girl I found a few days before Easter, when the city was absolutely dead. It was a very quick contact because she had to get to her bus, but I got her number and we set up an appointment for Monday. And what an appointment it was!  It was absolutely, positively, 100% AMAZING!!! Not only did she cry because she felt the Spirit so strong, but she set a baptismal date for 3 weeks later, and said a kneeling prayer with us. Now, I know, that probably doesn't sound all that amazing, but THAT NEVER HAPPENS! I had someone cry in a lesson in regards to the Spirit, and I have only said a kneeling prayer with someone once. The Spirit was there and, boy, was he
testifying to this sweet girl! She came to church yesterday and wanted me to take a picture of her at her first day! Who is this girl??? And where did she come from??? She will be getting baptized on the 28 of this month and she is so stinking excited! :) We are too. He he!
2. Agnes - Remember the woman I told you about last week who came to church after we had met her on the street? Well she came again yesterday. She told me that she wasn't so sure about our church last
week, but she had been searching on for the past few days and gained a totally different outlook on the church! She loves it! She told me yesterday that she felt as though God is guiding her here... I
think so too! She said that she will come back around the first of May. (Next week is a very special occasion- Norway will be getting it's second stake and all of the members and missionaries will be
gathering in Oslo for a country-wide conference with the area 70. Intense!) She is going to get baptized one day. There is this sweet older sister in the branch that has taken special "ownership" of
fellowshipping Agnes when she comes. Her name is Helene and I love watching her show Agnes around- she will drag this woman into the waters of baptism if it is that last thing she does! :) THAT is member missionary work at it's best!
3. Carla - This is an incredible story! A few weeks ago, I was out contacting while my companion was on the other side of the street. I saw this girl in a white coat and felt like I should talk to her, but when I did, she started yelling at me because "mormons don't believe in the Holy Ghost." It was so fast and I didn't even have time to set her strait, so I just forgot about it and moved on. Well, on Thursday,
Sister Butterfield and I had an appointment across town, but when we got there, the people weren't home. So we went to a bench, sat down and prayed for inspiration as to which way we should take to contact back into town. After we prayed, we felt really calm just sitting there... We waited for about a minute when I saw this girl that looked really familiar. I had talked to her before, but I couldn't remember where. I smiled as she crossed the street towards where we were sitting. Then she came up to me and began apologizing for being so hard on me. I was so caught of guard, and then I remembered that it was the girl that had yelled at me on the street! I graciously accepted her apology and she walked away. Wow, she must have felt really bad for all of those weeks between our first meeting. I thought it was so cool and I just felt a lot of peace knowing that I had already forgiven her. :) Well to make this story even cooler, I saw her again on Saturday night. She came up to me again and began telling me exactly what had happened- after she yelled at me on the street, she got onto a bus and when she sat down, she had this overwhelming feeling that I was working for God- that He means everything to me. She prayed to Him that she could find me again. She did. He answered her prayer. As she told me that, I knew that God meant a lot to her too. This girl and I shared a very special moment as we realized that God had lead her to me- a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints- believers in the Holy Ghost. :) It was one of the coolest feelings... I can't even begin to describe it- we are kindred spirits! She took our card with my number on it and we will meet sometime in the future. AMAZING!

Yes. Those were just of few of the miracles we saw this week! Here is a cool little blurp of info- I am going to be on the cover of a magazine!!! Well, we don't know for sure. But we are going to be in the May edition of the city magazine and I could possibly be on the cover! I will send you a copy either way! :)

Well Fam, that's all I've got. I love you tons and tons and can't wait for skype in a few weeks! Have a wonderful week and stand strong! Peace! :)

♥- Søster Jessica Taylor

P.S. Sorry, no time for personal emails this week... I love you all individually though! :) Please tell Jan and John and Fam I say hi! I will reply to them next week. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week 49

Hi Family!!!

How are you all doing? Everything is going really well here in Trondheim. Things died a little this week because of Easter-Norwegians are given a week to travel, so everyone leaves. It was
interesting. But luckily, we still had some success. :)

We found this guy named Joao. He is a student from Portugal and he is super cool. He came to general conference last week and have taught him a few times. He is very interested in learning more about the
gospel. :) He came and played volleyball with some of the YSA on Saturday and he fit right in! We have a feeling that he is going to be baptized soon! :) Pray for him!

We had a little miracle yesterday in church! Our magazine journalists came to church with us to see what it was like- research for the article. It was so good to see them! I love those girls!  :) Anyways,
as I was talking to them for a little while, when I was summoned out by a member because a woman was there to see me. I didn't recognize her, but then I realized that she was a woman we talked to on the street a few days ago. We gave her a card with a map to the church and invited her to come on Sunday... but we of little faith didn't think that she would actually come. Too late! She did! :) After church, she asked to talk to me. She told me that she thought it was a miracle that we talked to her that day! She had met the missionaries before, but this time it was special. :) She is supposed to be coming next week as well!

I love your idea to read from Preach my Gospel as a family. That book is wonderful! It makes the gospel so simple and helps us understand how we can be better members and better missionaries! Let me know how it goes! If you want, you guys can tell me where you are reading and I will make sure to read the same part every week and make comments about it in my emails to you all. :)

So here is part 2 to Marianne's story:

I had studied so hard for this girl and we were so prepared going into our meeting- we felt like everything we were doing was guided by the Spirit. So I told you a little bit about the situation last week- she was wondering about how to be more comfortable with herself and others. Right before our appointment, we felt like we should bring up a passage of scripture that Sister Butterfield had studied that morning in Mosiah 18:8-10. There, it talks about Alma (the elder who heard the preachings of Abinadi and fled from King Noah) and the people he was teaching. He talks to them about how when they are willing to help others and stand as a witness of God, then they are ready to enter into the covenant of baptism. We felt like it would help her see that once she has used the Atonement in her own life, she would be able to love people more freely and then be prepared to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. When she came, we started with a prayer and then we asked her to express a little bit about what she has been feeling and what led her to the point of wanting to meet with missionaries again. She talked about how she was holding onto things that had happened in her past that were insignificant, but painful. From there, we barely followed our plan. Ha ha! I shared with her my
experience and the Spirit was so strong. We read the passage in Alma 7:11-15 and talked about what Christ suffered for, why He did it, and then how we can access it. I told her that this was probably my
favorite passage in the Book of Mormon. That was interesting that I said that- right after I did, she told us that she had wanted to ask us for our favorite passages before she came. (We answered her
question before she could ask it! whoa...) Sister Butterfield shared verses from 2 Nephi 4 about how God carries us. It all fit so nicely! Then we asked her if she had been reading in the Book of Mormon. She had and she said that she had stopped at Alma 5 a long time ago, so when she started back up, she back-tracked a little to understand the context of what she was reading. This morning, she was reading in Mosiah 18... WHOA!!! She said it was a nice chapter and she really liked the things that it said. It was perfect! We talked about those verses that I mentioned before and how when she comes to know who she is, she will be able to love others and be who He wants her to be. This girl is amazing! She is so prepared. I am so grateful for the guidance of the Spirit! It was amazing to see how God's hand was over all three of us in bringing Marianne closer to Him. I love this work! :) So we will actually be meeting with her again this week. Poor thing- she has had a hard life. You can just tell! She puts up this "tough girl" thing when you first meet her, but when we were talking, you could just see how broken she is! I love her to pieces and all I want is for her to be happy!

Well family, I love you so very much!! I miss you and can't wait to skype in a few weeks! :)

Have a great week!

♥- Søster Taylor

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week 48

Hello Family!!!

I hope you all have had a great week!

The weather has been super crazy this week. It had been rainy for a few days, then it was sunny for a few days, then as an April fools joke, we got a blizzard! Ha ha!

On Tuesday, we got followed around and interviewed by magazine journalists! It was so much fun! We actually became really good friends with them and I loved talking with them. :) I'll keep you
posted on the article. :)

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR THE PACKAGE!!! I loved it all! I am wearing the sweater right now! :)

I wanted to share a very special experience with you all. It means a lot to me and shows me how much God knows and loves each and every person. There is this girl named Marianne, and she had met with the missionaries before. She has the most amazing story. Before she met with the missionaries, she was an atheist and believed that all religious people were completely crazy. Well, after being invited to take a 3 week experiment to find God by Sister Johnston, she really did find him. She stopped meeting with the missionaries in October of 2011 because there were parts of the church that she didn't believe or like. I met Marianne once - with Sister Grass - and she told me her story. (Incredible, this girl is so in-tuned with the Spirit). However, she wasn't ready to start meeting again. We have kept in touch though. Sometimes, she would ask me questions that she needed help with and so I would give her answers. The other day, I was making some calls and saw her name and decided to send her a quick text to see how she was doing. I didn't ever get a reply, but I just figured she was busy - No big! Well yesterday, I received a startling text from her that said, "The weirdest things keep happening. I prayed and asked for advice, and the only thing I can think of is meeting with the missionaries. Then the next morning you send me a message. I keep on ignoring it, but then I pick up the Book of Mormon and start reading for the first time in months." I asked her what she was seeking advice for and she replied, "As you might know, I'm disabled due to severe anxiety. So in my prayer I asked if I have a too high
expectation to how "normal" people are, and how I can find peace with being who I am. And the answer was to talk to you guys. I have no idea what to expect" WOW. This girl is incredible! All last night and all this morning I have been thinking about what a miracle this is - we are meeting with her this afternoon - so I have been studying and thinking about what to say to help her. My mind always goes back to October 20, 2011 and my experience with the Atonement. As I read through my journal entry of that day, I can't help but feel like she felt prompted to talk to us because Heavenly Father knows she needs to hear it from me. (My heart is burning just thinking about it). So we'll recap here for a minute..."For the past few weeks, I have really been trying to make some improvements in myself. My companion, Sister Johnston, has been trying to assist me in this process. Here is a little bit about what has been going on...There is this EFY song that we sometimes listen to in the mornings and the first line is 'Do you ever wonder who you are?' Before I came on my mission, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on who I was. I never had a need to ask myself that question, because I thought I knew, but as I look back, I had no idea...I just thought I did. Well, once I got to Norway, things changed drastically for me. I felt completely lost - not only physically, but emotionally as well. The only thing I felt was holding me together was the Spirit. I had absolutely no idea. It was like living with someone you don't know and don't really like either. Well, Sister Johnston noticed that there was something wrong really fast. She was determined to change me. Several times a day, she would ask me the same question: 'What do you like about yourself?' over and over again, every time expecting things to get better, but it never did. I could never say anything - I mean NOTHING. I would try to think of
something good, but it would always be counteracted by a memory of something someone had said to me, done towards me, or something I had done. This became really bad. The more I tried to think of things I liked, the more I found I didn't like. Let's just say I cried a lot. I felt like I was walking around wrapped in construction tape because I truly was under construction. I was like the beginnings of a building - just a big hole in the ground. So much was missing, and just like at a construction site, no one was let in, I was alone. As I looked back at my past, I could only think about those things that had torn me down as a person. On the other hand, Sister Johnston was telling me to be more grateful, not to compare myself to others, and to have confidence. However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get out of this hole of insecurity and sadness. Well, we have been studying the Atonement a lot and how we use it in our lives through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been reading a passage in the Book of Mormon - Alma 7:9-16, but verse 15 stuck out to me when it says: "Come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which doth easily beset you..."Basically, this is an invitation to us to have faith in the fact that Christ suffered for all those things he said he did and that he is capable to "succor" us, then be willing to give all of our sins up. But it's not just sins, because he suffered for our pains, sorrows,
weaknesses, and illnesses as well. So it is trusting Christ enough to lay our burdens down and move on. I let this scripture wiggle its way around the hole in myself all day. So when we got home that night, in my evening prayer, I told Heavenly Father, "Ok, I am trying to become a better person. I am trying to be grateful for the things you have blessed me with." Then I said, "I have been studying the Atonement and how it can take away anything that holds us back. Heavenly Father, I am willing to lay aside everything that anyone has ever said or done that has made me feel bad about myself." As I said this, I thought about all of those experiences. They just rolled around and around in my mind. But then I just took all of those painful memories and figuratively, laid them down and pushed them aside, like dirty laundry and prayed, "Heavenly Father, I have faith in Jesus Christ. Please take these things away." Before I could even finish my sentence, they were all gone. Completely. I remembered each experience, but they didn't sting like they did before. Instantly, that hole inside of me was filled with an outpouring of love from Heavenly Father an my mind was filled with imaginary bubbles that each represented a talent and quality that I possess. In that moment, I knew EXACTLY who I was. "I am a daughter of God. He knows and loves me, and He created me exactly the way I am for a reason. I may not know that that reason is right now, but all that matters is that he loves me." I was overwhelmed with gratitude. With tears coming down my cheeks, I thanked God for the power of the Atonement. When I knew Sister Johnston was done praying, I asked her to ask me the question, "What do you like about yourself?" "Sister, I like everything about myself." She asked me what I had done with her companion. I told her what had happened as more tears flowed. I know the atonement of Jesus Christ is real. Even though it happened 2000 years ago, I can become cleaned, changed, and healed every single day. It is through the Holy Ghost that I can feel the power of the Atonement now. It truly is the greatest expression of God's love for His children. The Atonement stands central in EVERYTHING. Through it, we can find peace in this life and joy in eternity." Sister Stevens said this to me once: "To understand who you are, you have to understand whose you are." In D&C 18:10 it says, "The worth of souls in great in the sight of  God." Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk in the last General Conference called "You matter to Him" This talk is one of my all-time favorites. He says, "Compared to God, man is nothing yet we are everything to God." He goes on to say, "The Lord uses a scale very different from the world's to weigh the worth of a soul...May we ever believe, trust, and align our lives so that we will
understand our true eternal worth and potential." Until we accept ourselves for who we are and the potential God sees in us, we will ever be able to accept others and love them the way we should. Before we can begin looking outward, we must accept who we are. In the talk "Forget me Not", again by Dieter F Uchtdorf, it says, "God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect...God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not. And yet we spend so much time and energy comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves [and others] that are impossible to meet...As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It is wonderful that you have strengths. And it is a part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses. God wants to help us eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal." That is why the Atonement of Jesus Christ is so important. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son..." The Gospel Principles book says, "The Lord does not ask us to heal ourselves of our imperfections before we approach Him, but to come to Him with those imperfections and He will assist us in overcoming them. The Lord loves us and wants us to overcome our sins and He will help us as we exercise our free agency. We must initiate the process of repentance
and strive with all of our might to overcome our weaknesses." It is so amazing to know that we can overcome our weaknesses through the grace of Jesus Christ and more fully feel the love of God for ourselves and for His other children. I hope all of this helps Marianne. It has helped me :)

Well... That was a lot. and now, I am done! Enjoy it family. I love you tons!!! Happy Easter!!!

♥- Søster Jessica Taylor