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

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