Sunday, March 2, 2014

keeping the Temple close

It was one of the most sacred and beautiful days of my life. I imagine it's that way for most people when they go through the Temple the first time. 

I was fortunate enough to have two friends fly in and a few members of my Utah family attend with me.

I felt very emotional during the Initiatory part of my experience. I just felt a very strong confirmation that I'm okay, I no longer need to let the past weigh me down. It felt cleansing and peaceful. 

As with everyone, it wasn't super easy getting to the temple. Well, it wasn't easy at all getting my mission call. Things always seem to go wrong- papers missing in the mail, miss-communication, etc. 

I thought it was going to be forever until I knew what was next. Luckily, my call came on February 5, 2013. Exactly 4 months from my MTC report date.   

I sobbed the whole way through, naturally. But I remember a very distinct feeling after reading my call- 'the Temple, finally'

I think more than knowing where I was going to serve my heart longed for this greater peace we learned about obtaining in the House of the Lord.

And boy did I need that.

I was Endowed on March 2, 2013. It was my day, I was reminded about the nature of God and my purpose in His plan. That day prepared me for the trials I have faced since and for understanding what joy really means and how I can experience it in my life.

I definitely did not anticipate this past year to go as it did.

The three months prior to my mission were not the easiest. Everyone experiences trials and especially right before committing themselves to something more spiritual. 

I found myself eager to return back to Washington, only to be broken by what I experienced. 

Three weeks before my mission I made a choice that I thought was going to be the hardest thing of that year, perhaps I shouldn't have thought that.

It's necessary sometimes to make decisions for yourself that will protect your spirit. 

Though when I make those choices I am often confused because they don't align with another gospel principle: the Family. 

Onward to the MTC and the moment I got there my worries, fears, feelings of inadequacy diminished. I was now a missionary. 

During the years of my youth I felt, honestly, like I wasn't loved fully for who I longed to be. A daughter of God, a Disciple of Jesus Christ, a Latter-Day Saint.

The hope of a mission got me through those years. I hung to that when I felt so lost and unsure. 

My time in the MTC was profound. I felt different, I felt like I finally understood what love was. 
My MTC companion always mentioned how I walked with purpose. I thought that was funny, but looking back and comparing that Hunter to now- I see what she meant. 

I got out to the field, scared as heck, and loved it. 

Each missionary has their own trials, concerns, worries, etc. We all adjust to mission life differently, and that's okay. 

For one thing, I loved the heat....and every person I met. 

I still get emotional just thinking about brief, yet spiritual experiences for me when talking to strangers on the street. 

I think everyone knew I was not the best at making eye contact or really bringing up the gospel but I know that I can look at someone and love them, no matter who they are. 

One thing, interestingly enough, is that I could always make eye contact with our investigators. When I think about them now I remember faces, expressions, and their eyes. 

There is something beautiful that happens in a persons countenance when they receive greater truth that God loves them. 

I am a big time observer. I can be quiet for a long time. In the world that's viewed and being an introvert, or shy, or mean. Whatever it be, those are all negative in societies sight. I've learned though, that I love that part of me! 

Like yesterday, 7 hours in W. Seattle all by myself I managed to come home so happy. I don't know I just love to look at the world and at people- I love seeing how individuals, couples, and families interact.

 It's a beautiful world when you just take a moment to be still. 

But on the mission I would generally get lost in my investigators expressions and the depth of emotion in their eyes. I think I may have let a few companions down when I didn't respond quickly, but I just wanted to soak up the Spirit. I didn't want to forget how I felt.

I also had pretty amazing companions, they had beautiful testimonies and often when they would be bearing theirs all I could do was focus on what they were saying and our investigator.

My 2nd to last Monday in the field we went to one of our investigator families and sat around their table. As my companion began to bear her testimony and our investigator, in his own way, bore his I just was struck by the Spirit. I know that the Gospel is true, it's real, I experience it every day. 

So back to the reason of this post- The Temple. 

After I was endowed I went to the Temple one or two times a week while I lived in SLC and then once a week when I lived in Washington. 

I had the privilege of attending many different temples int the SL area and then the Seattle and Portland Temples. 

For me, attending the Temple so regularly was vital. Some days it felt as if the next time I could walk into the Temple would be my next opportunity to breathe. 

I know that had I not committed myself to become worthy of the Temple and understand it's divine role in my life I would not have made through this year. 

I've never been the kind of person that receives spiritual promptings in a 'whoa, I know what I need to do now' sort of way. :)

But I know that the peace I feel in the Temple provides me with more clarity when I return to the 'real' world.

The first time that I attended a session after returning from my mission was December 28, 2013 in the Saint George Temple.

It was the most spiritual experience I have had the Temple. 

It was the first time that I sobbed during the Endowment. 

And it wasn't miraculous because I suddenly knew what to do, it helped me in other ways. 

Simply just the reminder that trials are absolutely necessary

These past 3 months have been rough yet I have many things to be grateful for. Somehow, there is a slew of people who love me :) I've been greatly blessed by those in my life who aren't my blood though they treat me like I am genuinely part of their family. 

The month of February was quite frankly one of the crumbier months of my life. I'll laugh it off one day. 

I think, and I don't even know how, from the first day of the month just 
I just felt alone, pressured, queasy, uncomfortable, unsure, lost, sad, angry, etc....those normal human feelings. 

I was so sick of it by this last week. I just needed an escape from this life I did not want. 

Going back to how the MTC felt so peaceful. A feeling I had longed for in my youth. Once I got on my mission it was this almost exhilarating feeling of having this peace for 18 whole months. 

When that ended only 1/3 way through I was confused. 

I came home for medical but it seemed thousands of things were going on around me. Somehow my mind felt it needed to quickly fix them all. I felt confused to say the least. I think that was the biggest emotion when I came home. It's hard to think "Why? Do you not need me as a missionary anymore Heavenly Father?" And just that thought destroyed me for weeks. 

In January I came to a good point and thought things were going well and when February came I think I had just imagined and dreamed that the circumstances in my life would have changed by then.

 But that's why there's March. :)

I've committed myself to not let pressure, stigmas, or definitions by others reflect on how I feel about myself. 
My life is my was planned how He wanted it to be. I can't wait to ask why one day, but in the meantime- I've just got to roll with it. 

I haven't been able to attend the temple these past few months as regularly, which is fine. But something I learned while roaming Seattle yesterday was that-
we need to slow down with Spiritual things

How often do we complain about the time consumption of church? Meetings going long, extra activities, visiting and home teaching obligations (if members actually did their home and visiting teaching, I doubt there'd be as many Less Actives), prayers that run longer than 30 seconds. I am guilty of all.

I thought about how we say and feel these things but what else could we be doing with our time? I've decided for March that in particular I want to work on really listening to the prayers that are offered in behalf of congregations, classes, etc. When I say 'Amen', I really want to mean I support and agree with what has been prayed for and hope that it might come to pass. 

One of the most beautiful things about the Temple is how eternal the work there is. 

This past Monday I felt the need to get on Facebook (I had been off for quite a while). 

Little did I know, getting on FB was some sort of Heavenly inspiration.

I got on and the second post was one from a previous companion posting about one of our beloved investigators, Ricky. 

I was reading it and noticed it was in 'past tense'. I was a bit confused until I got to the line where she mentioned his death. 

It struck me hard. My initial thoughts were:

1) Is this real?
2) No, please no.
3) But, I miss him and wanted to see him again.
4) Why hasn't anyone told me?

I sat on my bed super confused because I didn't know how to react. I didn't have any missionaries around that might know how to cope with this sort of thing. I just cried. 

He was an amazing man. One who fought a life more cruel and hard than I can ever imagine. The first day we met Ricky he hated us, and he hated God. We talked and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and asked if he could read the introduction. 

We came back to a different Ricky. As soon as he started reading the Book of Mormon, he changed. Which is a promise for all as well, the Book of Mormon will change you. His heart softened and changed more beautifully than anything I had yet seen. I loved being with him. And like I said earlier, I am an observer. When Ricky would talk about his struggles remaining spiritual in his horrible environment or when he would talk about his life growing up or his relationship with his dad I could see in his eyes the emotion that he felt. I understood parts of it, definitely not all. But I knew, no matter what Ricky told us he did or others had done to him, he was a Child of God. And each day I knew Ricky I grew in love for him and for my Heavenly Father and Savior. 

I thought- how could this be, he has so much more to learn and more so he would have been such an influence to others. 

Monday night I was reading in Helaman. I read and a very calm confirmation came to me that Ricky needed to go. He needed to experience greater peace that he probably would never get to feel in his own home on this earth. 

That night for FHE we also talked about the Plan of Salvation- which we know is made possible through Christ and the ordinances in the Temple. 

I know that God is aware of me. I know that Jesus Christ is my only real true friend. He gets me :) 

No, in all seriousness, I know that He is my Savior. I know that through Him whatever more happens in this life it's another opportunity to understand His pain and joy a bit more. I love Him and I wish for everyone to understand what beauty there is in having a relationship with God and Jesus Christ. 

When I enter the Temple, The House of the Lord, I am reminded that communication between Heaven and Earth is very real, and it's for me, just as it is for you

I know I can continue in faith by keeping the promises I made to Heavenly Father in the Temple. 
When I honor His love, i'll be more aware of it in my own life. 

So here is to another 12 months. I have no idea what's in store. I just hope I can feel comfortable in the decisions I make, that I can proceed forward with faith, and that I can continue to live in a way where I can see Ricky again.

Family is defined by a lot of things (but that's another post:)

All I know is that when I imagined going back to Arizona the only thing I could visually see was Ricky, I imagined walking up to his house and giving him that hug I always wanted to give him. 

I think his death also hit me because I taught him on my last day as missionary in Phoenix. We talked about prayer and forgiveness. He said how he thought that maybe his pride was getting in the way of him having a greater relationship with God. 
Ricky was humbled in ways that I feel members of our church have yet to be. 

From him I learned the importance of Sacrament. I'll never forget sitting next to him when he didn't take it and I watched and realized it wasn't because he was uncomfortable, it was because he knew what it meant. He treated it with more respect than I've ever seen. I love him for that. 

So here's to Ricky! 

I hope the videos work out. They are split because that's the only way I could manage getting them from the iPad back home. 

Ricky's Testimony. Short but real. 

Part One:

Part Two:

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