Monday, February 6, 2017

Snowman, The Eighty Dollar Champion

Well.... I have returned to the blog.
I just couldn't stay away.
Every member a missionary, right?
Still a member.... Still a missionary.
So the blog lives on. Haha.

Here's to the upcoming lifetime of experiences with learning and sharing gospel!

Folks, I've been back for coming up on two and a half years now. And I can't believe how fast time passes. I thought it went by quick as missionary... But DANG. It seems we're just flooring it with no brake function at this point. Haha.

In the last several months I've learned... well, lots of things.... But two big things:

1.) Missions are easy. [Haha.]
2.) Potential is a permanent gift.

Now. An explanation for the first:
Missions really aren't "easy". My mission was indeed hard. But it was a different kind of hard.
A mission is hard because every ounce of your faith will be tested and you will be stretched to your limits at times. (Just like you are in any stage of your life.)
However, unlike any other time in your life almost every decision is made FOR you as a missionary.(Don't take me too literally here... just understand the point I'm trying to make...)
Where you live, who you live with, what you're allowed to do and when... really, everything you do day in and day out for 2 years/18 months is decided for you. You choose between doing it, and not doing it. That's about it. Haha. And yes, when you're in the midst of it, that seems difficult, challenging and frustrating at times. It definitely requires a lot of faith and patience to adjust to this way of living.
But, it's funny how the tables turn and you beg for this life back when you no longer have it.

When I got home I suddenly found myself with a lot of decisions to make and a world full of options where no one thing seemed like a better idea than the other. All I knew was that, EVERYONE else seemed to have it figured out.
(First mistake: comparing my life to other people's... ALWAYS my first mistake.)

I suppose I came home with the idea that I was supposed to save the world and succeed at it immediately.
As you can imagine, it didn't take long before I was overwhelmed and a bit discouraged by my new life and the fact that I was not just absolutely "hauling right out of the gate".

What did I do wrong? I wondered. Did I not serve faithfully enough to have a sense of direction now that I'm home?
(Second mistake: Thinking that trials are a result of not measuring up.)

A few months after I came home, I had had enough. I was sick of taking wrong turns, sick of disappointment, sick of not being able to visualize a future for myself, sick of feeling like I would never "figure this out", sick of feeling like I should just give up.
I found myself on my knees ONCE AGAIN praying desperately for help. 
(I must sound like a broken record to The Lord sometimes.)

The fact is. We all go through hard times. All of us. Doesn't matter if you are/were a missionary or not. Then, I felt lost and feared I would never forward in my life or be able to readjust to "normal" life. Now I'm married to my best friend, making great progress in my education, working a wonderful job that utilizes my talents. And regardless of all that, I feel useless sometimes and STILL wonder if I'll ever "figure it out".

I want to tell you about a horse named Snowman. Yes, Snowman.

Snowman was originally used on a farm as a plow horse. But he was headed for the slaughterhouse at just eight years of age. On the day, Harry de Leyer, a Long Island, New York, riding instructor, attended the horse auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania, looking for school horses. He arrived late, and the only remaining horses were those waiting to be loaded into trucks bound for slaughter plants. De Leyer made eye contact with a large gray/white horse that he purchased for only $80. He first used Snowman as a lesson horse for small children. De Leyer recognized talent in the horse after he gave him to a neighbor and the horse jumped very high fences to return "home". De Leyer then began training Snowman as a show jumper.

The horse began winning prestigious awards only two years after he was bought off the slaughter truck, his career lasted five long years. He willingly jumped over other horses, and his calm disposition made him a favorite. He once won a Leadline Class and the Open Jumper Championship on the same day.

Snowman later appeared on television shows (Johnny Carson's for one, where Carson climbed on his back). He was the subject of two books, had his own fan club, and was flown abroad for "guest appearances".

A documentary movie was made in 2015, titled The Snowman & Harry, which features a lot of original footage of his years as a family "pet" as well as a fierce competitor. Best Selling author Elizabeth Letts wrote a book about Snowman's journey entitled "The 80 Dollar Champion".

De Leyer, kept Snowman through his retirement until he past away from kidney failure at the old age of 26.

Snowman was inducted into the United States Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992. (Bet ya didn't even know that existed.)
Cool story huh? Well. This is also our story.
Yes, yours. And mine too.

We too were headed for the slaughter house.
But someone stepped in and paid for us. He brought us into his own family and cared for us. He taught us how to do things we never believed we could do. Taught us how to make something of our potential. He saw something great, something beautiful, and something sacred in us when NO ONE else did.

Don't throw yourself out. Don't put yourself back on the truck to the slaughterhouse. You have been bought. You are a champion. You may not always feel like a champion, but you are just the same. You will accomplish things you can't even begin to imagine now. Believe that you can do it, and then DO IT.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Letter To Me

Dear Tara,

Hey, remember me?

It's me, Sister Franklin.

So this is it. Today is your last day here in New York as a missionary.

I wrote you this letter to offer a few words of advice and remind you of a few very important things.
First of all.
You completed an honorable full time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints!
And what a wonderful Journey it has been.
Now remember, that's exactly what your mission was. A JOURNEY.

In your own words:
"Missions are kind of like microcosms of life. 
You're "born" into a new area. You're thrown into a new culture that you don't really understand. You've got a "mom" (trainer) who, in the beginning, does pretty much everything for you. Communicates for you, sets up all your appointments, helps you figure out how to get around, etc. Slowly but surely, you begin to figure it out... You baby step your way to saying a few words, making a few unsuccessful phone calls once in a while. You finally memorize the route from your apartment to the church building. Things are starting to be doable.
You're just beginning to make progress and become less dependent on others when you're yanked away from the arms of your trainer and you find end up with a trainee of your own.
And well, like any parent would say. You have NO idea what the heck you're doing. You just kind of make it all up as you go.
Your kid arrives with a fiery desire to teach 12 lessons a day and talk to EVERYONE they see. You kind of laugh to yourself at first... and you wonder if you looked as ridiculous as they do. But somehow there ridiculousness is inspiring. Their desire to work really hard and do all they possibly can is a good reminder of your purpose. And yes, they think they know everything. You watch them make their way in the world. They master word after word, and eventually begin speaking full sentences of the mission language. They begin to rely on you less and less.
Then, they go. They go on to train their own brand new missionary.
You continue you on your journey, meeting more and more people, going from place to place. Growing and changing as you go.
 You learn how to care about others more than yourself. You learn to work with people you wouldn't necessarily choose to be around. You learn how to plan ahead. You learn to think fast and be flexible. You learn to rely on your faith.
You learn to be a Disciple of Christ.
Then one day, in what seemed to be the blink of an eye, it's all over. You've served your time, and you've completed your mission. Your shoes have worn through soles. Your feet ache from all the walking. You look a little older, and you've aged a bit from caring and worrying so much about others.
Then you wonder:
 "Am I ready? Did I really do all I could? "
You look back on the places you've been, people you've served, the people who have served you, the days of pure joy, the nights you cried yourself to sleep, the weaknesses you've overcome, the prayers you've said, the revelation you've recieved and the immense love you've felt.
And you smile. And you think, "Yes. Yes I am ready now."
You know you weren't perfect. You know you messed up on countless occasions.
But you sure TRIED. And you sure put your heart and soul into it.
Because of the things you've experienced in the past 18 months you have become a disciple of Christ, ready to experience what comes next. Ready for new scenes. Ready for new people to fall in love with and serve with all your heart, might, mind and strength.
You will take these experiences with you to the next stage of your life, and you'll never forget them. These experiences and memories are part of who you are. Each moment helped you become what you are now. Isn't that why you came in the first place?... 
You came so that you could return....Return home as a Disciple of Christ.

We kind of do the same thing in our lives, don't we?"

I sit here with a heart full of so much gratitude. I am so grateful for the last 18 months... So grateful for the areas I've served in. So grateful for the people I've met, the lessons I've taught, the Spirit I've felt, for the times I've been humbled, for the people who have been patient with me, for my leaders who have taught me and for each of the companions I've served with. 
And I'm especially grateful that I have had my Savior Jesus Christ there by my side every difficult step of the way."

Remember the way you felt RIGHT NOW. Never forget about the "bigger picture". With all you've been through out here... Remember the purpose of it all. 
When life becomes difficult, when trials become seemingly unbearable, when you fear the weight of the world might crush you... REMEMBER what you learned. 
Remember THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST. It is the clear path and the sure way Jesus Christ has provided. Through it, you will overcome all! 
Stand up for what you believe, even in.... No, ESPECIALLY in situations when it is difficult. You will always regret it when you don't. You know this. Do NOT be afraid.
DON'T BE A HOARDER. Keep what you need, and throw out what you don't. This includes habits, emotional baggage, fears, harsh judgements, useless relationships and STUFF. You never need clutter. 
Your soul is made of music. And it's your way of speaking to the hearts of others. Never set this gift you've been given on the shelf to get dusty. USE IT OFTEN.  Share your light!
Seek for the guidance of the spirit through prayer. Discover the mysteries of God through the scriptures. GO TO THE TEMPLE as often as you can. Be diligent in your church callings. 
Find a husband. He's out there somewhere. And when you have found him... stick with him and have his back. PATIENCE, Tara. Patience. Teach your children the principles of the gospel and lead by the example. Yeah, I know they don't want to listen, and I know they'd rather do their own thing. But keep going. Don't give up. They will thank you one day.

Never forget through all challenges of mortality and regardless of all your imperfections there is MUCH joy to be had. Look for the little miracles. They are all around you, just open your eyes. 
YES. You CAN do this. Life is tough, but you are tougher. And you've already proven it once. 

Get out there. There's still plenty of good to do in the world... So get to work. 

Love your ol' friend,

Sister Franklin

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Finally Home Again"

Well... I'm officially the worst blogger ever.
In light of coming home in just 3 short weeks, I need to "get the show on the road" here.

There's a lot of things I will really miss about missionary work. MANY THINGS. More than I can count. But I think perhaps most of all is meeting so many people from so many walks of life. Now, I know I can still meet/get to know people without being a missionary, but it's different out here in the mission field. Trust me.

My companion and I have been able to meet so many people and hear each story. We wanted to record these stores in the hopes that they might inspire others as much as they have inspired us.

Everyone has a unique experience with God. Here is just one of the many sacred experiences someone has shared with me:

(Para leer esta historia en español ve a )

The missionaries knocked on ____'s door when she was ten years old. Her family quickly accepted the gospel and she was baptized not too long after. In the years that followed she continued to faithfully attend church and youth activities.
Shortly after she graduated from high school she married her sweetheart in the Manhattan temple for time and all eternity. It was then that her life's journey would take an unexpected turn. Not too long after her marriage she began questioning the testimony she had gained in her childhood. "Who am I? What am I doing here? Do I only live this way because my parents forced this on me?" She decided she needed to explore her desires and make a change. Leaving the church seemed to be the only way she could find her "true" identity.
Weeks turned into months, and months turned into years.
The occasional family event would bring her to the church building, but because of her decision to resist the gospel she felt only anxiety and discomfort any time she was there. It was no longer her "home" as it had once been.
Over the next five years she lived day to day. Wake up, go to work, pay the bills, rinse, repeat. She had good days and bad days like everyone does. But, was this really it? She couldn't help but feel that her life lacked meaning and purpose.

On one occasion the missionaries serving in the Brentwood ward were visiting her family. One of them looked her in the eye and asked a very simple, direct question.
"Why don't you come to church?"
She had no answer.

This question wouldn't leave her mind.
"Why don't I go? What have I gained by leaving?" She discovered then that in leaving the church to search for control and independence she found only loneliness and emptiness. She had become a spectator in her own life... going through the motions and never actually getting anywhere.
She had enough. There was again need for change.
"But how? After all these years? How can I possibly go back now?"
She related the following experience:
"I'll never forget the day I went back to church for the first time. My husband drove us to church. As we neared the building I felt a panic attack coming on. I could hardly breathe and all I wanted to do was turn around and go back.
By the time I got myself under control and walked into the chapel the meeting had already begun. The congregation was singing the opening hymn. I still to this day, can't remember what the hymn was but in that moment the words spoke so strongly to my heart. I knew I was finally home again."

Going back to church after five years of inactivity was anything but easy and it required complete humility. Although she had made the decision to go back, doubt still crept in. There were moments of frustration for her. "Do I know for sure if the church is true? Why don't I feel as sure as others?" She so badly wanted an unwavering conviction that what she was doing was right, but still felt unsure of this step in her life.

When the frustration overwhelmed her and she felt her new found faith crumbling, she decided to go to the only place in her house where she could be alone: the bathroom. As she closed the door she dropped onto her knees and poured her heart out to God. She asked Him for a confirmation of the decision she had taken to return to church. She wanted to feel that what she was doing was right for her. As her prayer ended, she waited for a wave of peace and comfort. But there was nothing. As tears came to her eyes she noticed something; her thoughts were telling her exactly what she wanted to know. The answers she had so earnestly sought after had been in her mind all along. God had answered her in a way she could understand.

A week ago, my companion and I were in a lesson. One of the members teaching with us shared her testimony with such power that the Spirit bore witness to all who were there that what spoke was truth. That member was THIS dear friend, who made the challenging but eternally rewarding journey back into the fold of God.

All of us have had moments of doubt and struggle that we can overcome. Know that you are NOT alone in questioning or doubting the faith you have come to love. We all experience trials but when we trust in the Lord He will guide us safely home.

Friday, May 30, 2014

LAUGH! -- It's Good For Ya!

Hola Todos!

It's me! Sister Franklin... Just stoppin' in to say a quick hello and share a few thoughts. My comp and I had to make a quick visit to the library to take care of some computer business... so it looks like I have a minute to spend on the ol' blog. 

Random interlude: 

For those who don't know or haven't pieced it together... I'm currently serving way out on the eastern end of Long Island. I got blinded into a ward that hasn't had Sisters here in YEARS. It's been an ADVENTURE to say the least. It's as though I've been transfered to a different mission completely... The City is NOTHING like the Island. People (when found) are not in constant motion and people actually say hi back to me out here. Haha.
A few things I've rediscovered that I (quite literally) forgot existed: 
Lawns. Backyards. Houses. Space. Silence. Trees. Nice people. Parking lots. And.....
My Drivers License.
Haha... Driving around instead of walking around has been an interesting adjustment. None of my clothes fit anymore. It's great. Haha.

The ward I'm serving in is THE BOMB. I LOVE it. Everything about it. The people are so kind, loving and willing to help us with just about anything. AND they fit us REAL good food. (Hence the tight clothes...) I've been so lucky to serve in the best wards in the world during my time as a missionary. Truly, the best.


The other day my companion and I on the 495 were making the long drive home from a doctors visit in Manhattan. We ended up on the road just when rush-hour traffic was hitting its peak of slowness. The freeway was practically a parking lot. We waited and waited. I occasionally tapped the gas pedal only to put my foot right back on the brake. Though the situation was kind of crummy and rather inconvenient my comp and I were lost in a conversation about embarrassing moments we had as missionaries and otherwise. We passed the time by singing along to the ultra cheesy/corny 90's EFY music in our car and laughed till our stomachs hurt. I hardly noticed the bad traffic! When suddenly, I found myself staring at the drivers/passengers in the neighboring stationary cars...... And what I saw taught me a lesson.

No one else was laughing, no one was even smiling. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Everyone had looks of impatience, annoyance and even outright anger as they honked their horns and yelled at other drivers trying to merge onto the crowded freeway. 
"Are we the only one's out the millions of people here having fun? " I asked my companion. 
She looked around and saw what I was seeing, and answered, "Yeah, I guess we are."

How sad. Being angry, upset and depressed about the slow traffic was certainly NOT going to magically change the situation... And yes, I know... Smiling didn't change it either. 

We had to sit through the inconvenient traffic either way. 
So what's my point? The point is... which would you rather remember? That day where you spent 2 hours groaning and griping and moved only 4 miles? Or that day that you spent having memorable hilarious conversation with your best friend? 
We are all going to find ourselves in situations we have not anticipated and are not sure how to handle. If we laugh, we may find that at least some of the handling takes care of itself. We can’t always choose what we look at, but we can choose what we see. 
Life is WAAAAYYY too short to be spent being mad about it. You're spending 2 hours stuck in traffic either way, you're going to be late either way! SO... you might as well spend those 2 hours making a good memory. 

Good humor and the ability to laugh at myself has carried me through SO MUCH on my mission. Besides the love of the Savior, Laughter has been the single most important medicine and cure all for difficult times. I'll probably come home with a permanent smile on my face and laugh lines on my eyes because I've had to learn to laugh at my millions of mistakes in order to survive. And you know what, that's okay. Because laughing has helped me find joy in those refining moments that would otherwise be quite painful.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when he said: “We’ve got to have a little humor in our lives. You had better take seriously that which should be taken seriously but, at the same time, we can bring in a touch of humor now and again. If the time ever comes when we can’t smile at ourselves, it will be a sad time.” 
Good clean humor improves our attitude, builds relationship with others, and helps us successfully cope with all our challenges. Whether we are experiencing an anxious moment in the office, having to go back and correct a mistake, or just trying to handle the trials of everyday living like traffic jams, humor can make nearly anything a happy, memorable part of our lives. If we can appropriately laugh at it, we can live with it. 
So, c'mon! Just LAUGH! —it’s good for ya!
And please, read/listen to this talk. I love Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. This talk has always helped me keep the perspective I've needed to get through!

LOVE you all!

Sister Franklins

Monday, May 19, 2014

A List of Good Things that I will Remember About this Week...

Tara asked me, Mom, to start posting her weekly email on her blog again.  They won’t always be the same as before – lessons or thoughtful reflections, but I am sure that you will enjoy hearing from her.  (I made a list of the things that I would remember from my trip to New Orleans for an IRA Conference.  I mentioned that I didn’t “love it” meaning I didn’t love New Orleans.  This was her reply…)

So, "List Form" today, huh?...My week was interesting. I mean, I didn't "love it"... but it was still good. Here's a list of good things I will remember about this week...

1.) We had an awesome lesson with a new investigator. M____. 

Story time:  M____ is the husband of one of the sisters in the ward. She is the first councilor in the Relief Society Presidency. (This is a second marriage for her.) Now, M____ grew up in New Jersey and lived there for most of his life. He went to Ruckers University and became a successful businessman. He grew up in a conservative Jewish home but didn't really practice a Jewish lifestyle when he became an adult. He lived with women on and off and had a lot of money. However, he wasn't really satisfied with his life, he knew something was missing. When it became frustrating and he began to feel hopeless he turned to alcohol. Years passed and he fell into the life of an addict. He couldn't go a day without liquor... And he nearly drank himself to death. 

M____ decided that there had to be something more out there, a better life than what he had made for himself. He quit his job and got help to recover from his addiction to alcohol. He began attending different religious services with friends to gain a better relationship with God.

In the process of making this lifestyle change he met a beautiful Mexican woman who happened to be a Mormon. He hardly knew what a Mormon was... other than that she didn't drink. And that was FINE with him.

After some time dating he learned more about her faith and he admired her for how dedicated she was to her religion. He didn't really have interest in joining the church at the time, but he knew there was something very special about this woman. They were married here in the Brentwood chapel by the bishop of the Brentwood ward. 

And here... several years later.... He's ready to learn "just what it is that makes his beautiful wife so special".

SO.... this was the second lesson we've had with M____ and it was truly amazing. He had a spiritual confirmation about Jesus Christ and his divine role as the Savior of the world. Since he grew up Jewish he never really considered the role that Jesus plays in each of our lives. He was able to better understand the power of the atonement and what that means for him SPECIFICALLY. It was one of the most powerful lessons I've ever taught on my mission. 

He's praying about getting baptized in June. We'll see how things play out, but man, I feel so blessed to know him!

2.) I ate this.....

Fried beetles?

Just kidding. Black rice. I'd never seen it before! you?

3.) We re-did the bulletin board for our ward and everyone said, "Looks like Brentwood got Sisters..." Haha... Wish I had a before and after picture but let's just say it was looking SAD when we got here. Poor Elders. They have their strengths. Haha.

4.) We painted about 40 planter Boxes in West Islip.... I don't think they realized there would only be 6 of us. Haha. It took FOREVER... but they bought us pizza afterward, so it was all worth it.  This lady named "B___" was in charge of it... a TRUE New Yorker, Feminist, Liberal, Business Owner, Animal Rights Activist, Vegetarian... The works. Haha. We had some great conversations, Ohhhh B___. We love ya.

5.) EVERYTHING IS GREEN! It took a while for it all to grow in, but the trees are looking happy and leafy. It's nice to be in on the island for this season. There's GRASS! REAL grass! The city doesn't have grass. Like, literally none. The parks don't even have grass more than half the time. Just asphalt and concrete.

6.) Finally, ate dinner at the F______ house... A HILARIOUS family in our ward that we've been wanting to meet with for FOREVER. We played Ping-Pong and croquette and had steak. Boo-yeah. And guess what... I rocked croquette and... I'll  have to work on Ping-Pong. I'm pretty much crap at that. Haha.

7.) I had a bit of a break down about going home. It FINALLY hit me that I'm going home in about 13 weeks. That's just not right! It flew by too fast! I honestly don't know where the time went. 

And Satan sure works on you HARD when you're getting ready to finish up. He works double time on missionaries already... but he really wants you to feel cruddy when you're on the home stretch. Every time something awful happened he said, "wow... good thing you're still a rotten missionary and don't have time to improve." And every time something great happened he said, "Well, enjoy it now because you're DONE. Won't be seein' this anymore sucka!" 

What a jerk!

But I feel better now. :) I've got less time than I've ever had, yet I have more time then I'll ever have again. It's all about perspective.

8.) Had one of these!!!! First time in more than a year! I LOVE you Jamba. There ARE perks to your companion visiting a doctor in Manhattan!

Well, that's a wrap. Hopefully there will be more good news next week! 

Lately I've been learning about perseverance and what it TRULY means to endure. I'll let you know what I've discovered as I study it up this week!

I love you and I get excited everyday when I get to open a new count down quote from you!  (The Count Down Quote is something that I did for Tara.  I collected memes, quotes, thoughts, etc.  It started April 20th, Easter and will go until August 20th, her 18 month mark and possible release date.  She has an envelope to open everyday with one of the memes, thoughts, quotes… that I collected for her.  It is our “thoughtful” countdown to the end of her mission.  She and her companion, Sister Porter, call it there daily dose of Jill.)

Life is great, so enjoy it!

Love, Tara

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mine Angels Round About You

For a myriad of reasons I haven't been able to get anything posted on this here blog... And I apologize for that! I'm really going to try to post weekly for the rest of my mission. I don't have all the time in the world left, so I need to share my experiences while I have the chance!

I've been thinking a lot lately about The Spirit World.

I'll begin by letting y'all in on a little experience I had just a few days ago.

There was a woman in my ward, Hermana Cuesta, who had been on death's doorstep for about 2 weeks, she was basically in a coma for about 12 days after they found her unconscious in her apartment. She was 87 and had been fighting all kind of illnesses for years and years. We received word on Tuesday morning that she had passed on. She was a sweet little old lady who LOVED it when I sang for her. And she would never let us leave when we visited. Haha. Because she was so ill and frail she didn't get to come to church very often, they had been taking the sacrament to her for years. But she was one of the most faithful members of our congregation, that's for sure.

On Thursday afternoon, after zone conference went over I went to un-silence our phone and saw that we had a million missed phone calls. They were pretty much all from our Bishop and Relief Society president... Several call backs later I found myself a little in shock and no time to really even stop and think about it. Turns out there was a big mix up with the mortuary/funeral home and they needed someone to go dress the dead body immediately. Yeah. Missions. They present ALL kinds of service opportunities.

First we had to run (literally) to her apartment and find her temple clothes. I don't know if you've ever been in the apartment of an 87 year old woman who has lived there, alone for 17 years. But it's SCARY. The woman was quite the "collector". Hoarder. To put it nicely. Haha. So my comp and I with the help of her poor non-member niece looked through her junk jungle of an apartment frantically. Her niece had no idea what it was she was looking for so I just told her to look for a bag with a lot of white clothes in it. We tore everything apart. I found about 40 purses/bags but none of them contained temple clothes. I called the relief society president 2nd councilor because I had no idea what to do. We needed to be at the funeral home in 20 minutes and we still had come up with nothing. She decided that she would just donate all of her own temple clothes to Hermana Cuesta.
Right after I hung up the phone the niece taps me on the shoulder and says, "This?"... By SOME MIRACLE she found the temple bag with everything folded perfectly ready to go! We gave her a big hug and thanked her for her help, we jumped in the car with the Relief Society president 2nd councilor and headed on our way. I walked in and let the funeral home director know what we were there for, and he was already expecting us. His name was Joe Jr. And he had a big thick New York accent. Anyone who has seen "While you were sleeping" should find that funny. Haha. Anyway.... So the funeral home looked like any regular funeral home... dimly lit, flowers everywhere, dark red carpets, cheap chandeliers, dark cherry wood furniture. However, as we went down several flights of stairs... things got a little more "ghetto" and dingy.  We were lead down this dark hallway and through a casket storage room (CREEPY) into what I would compare to a frankenstein lab room. All cement walls, and slanted floors leading to a drain, "lab" tables everywhere... the embalming instruments, tubes, knives and tools laid out on the stained counter tops... my heart was kind of racing at this point. The body lay under a white sheet on a porcelain table. I took a deep breath (but not too
deep for fear that the smell of formaldehyde and who knows what else would make me pass out. Haha) I held her temple dress close to my heart and closed my eyes and said a short silent prayer asking for a little extra adrenaline. The mortician uncovered the body and I felt an indescribable calm come over me. I wasn't scared anymore. Which is super strange because I saw before me one of the more horrifying sights I've seen in a while. (She wasn't embalmed, or done up/ waxed up at all, because it was a closed casket funeral. She looked pretty
darn dead. If you know what I mean.) But seeing her body there without her spirit brought a new light to my
testimony of the Spirit World. I had never realized quite like I did in this moment how special our spirit's are. THE SPIRIT that inhabits the body is really what gives it LIFE. Our spirit is what communicates with our father in heaven. After she was all dressed up I could picture her sitting in the celestial room with a big smile. Finally at rest. And I felt honored to be able to do that last act of service for her. I was actually the last person to see her mortal body (besides the funeral directer who placed her in her casket, obviously). It will be a good little reunion when we're resurrected I imagine.

All of us missionaries went to the funeral services held in our church building on Saturday. None of her family members are members of the church. They all expressed a lot of gratitude to our church for never letting their mother/ grandmother/aunt go without care and friends. The stake patriarch who used to be the bishop of my ward (until the transfer I got to this ward, actually) gave a beautiful talk on the plan of salvation. Apparently he had gone over to visit her just weeks before she ended up on the hospital, unresponsive. Durning this visit she told him that she knew her time was coming to leave this earth. She made him promise that when her family had gathered for her funeral he would tell them about the plan that had brought her so much happiness. It made me even more grateful for my family and for the knowledge I have that I'll be with all those who have passed on into
the next life again. Me and my companion were asked to go to the graveside service at the cemetery. And I sang "Each Life that Touches Ours For Good" before the dedicatory prayer. It was such a very special moment. I felt so close to heaven. Not only did I feel close to her, but I felt close to all my loved ones who now live beyond the veil. I knew she was watching the whole thing with a big smile. Even after her Spirit had gone from this earth she was able to share the plan of happiness with her loved ones.

That night after having experienced all this I had a dream (for the second time on my mission) about my Grandma Jean R. Poulsen. She passed away when I was about 2 years old. I never actually got to know her before she died. But I've always felt extremely close to her. In this dream we were sitting in a room, I didn't recognize the room and I hardly remember anything about what it looked like... just that it was filled with sunlight. We were just talking, and laughing like good friends. I really don't remember what it was we were talking about or anything like that. I just remember her smile. And her face so full of light and life. I do, however, remember one detail that I will always remember and cherish. And that is that she was wearing a missionary tag just like me!

On several occasions during my mission I have often felt the presence of both my Grandpa and Grandma Poulsen. I take comfort in knowing that we have been serving together. Maybe in two different mission fields, but together, united in the same cause. During hard times I have remembered D&C 84: 88 

"And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

"And mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
I believe in angels. I believe in life after death. I believe there are missionaries preaching on the other side, so that ALL will have the opportunity to accept the gospel. And I know that families can be together forever through the plan of our loving Heavenly Father. Because of the Atonement of our Lord, Jesus Christ we can be free of guilt and sorrow in this life and have no fear in death. Christ came forth resurrected, His spirit reunited with his body once more... and so will we!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Jericho Road

"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying,
Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

"He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

"And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy

heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all

thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

"And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

"But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

"And Jesus answering said, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to

Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment,

and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

"And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he

saw him, he passed by on the other side.

"And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on

him, and passed by on the other side.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when

he saw him, he had compassion on him,

"And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine,

and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care

of him.

"And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave

them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever

thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that

fell among the thieves?

"And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him,

Go, and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:25-37.)

The Samaritan, traveling the road to Jericho, found himself in quite a situation. He was not his friend, in fact he was his enemy. It was not convenient to help him, in fact it was inconvenient. His care he required would not be cheap, in fact it would be costly and require sacrifice. Despite all this, he did not hesitate, he didn't question and he didn't wait. He immediately bound up his wounds and showed him compassion.

I've been thinking about all the "Good Samaritans" in my life. There have been so many I couldn't even begin to count. My incredible parents, family members, church leaders, bishops, stake presidents, close friends, MISSION PRESIDENT (holy cow, that man is a saint), companions....

There is one companion in particular I'd like to talk about today.

Now. Sister May traveled a long, long way to get here and be my Good Samaritan. She did not grow up in the church. In fact, she grew up having zero good feelings towards the LDS church and it's members. She was raised by her father and her step mom who were good people but had nothing much to do with religion. It wasn't until her biological mother joined the church after getting married to a very active member, that she was willing to hear anything about it. She still didn't like it much, but she could at least tolerate it. A short time later, her best friend (who is a member of the church) expressed to her his desire to serve a full time mission. Leaving for two years, to do what? Go around and knock on people's doors and teach about religion? The idea of him taking off was frightening, strange and somehow fascinating to her. She just couldn't shake the feeling she had when he spoke about this deep desire to serve The Lord. After discussing the church more and more with him and her mom she decided to have the missionaries over. They taught her and a few short weeks later she was baptized.

She had been a member for only a year when the announcement was made saying that sister missionaries could leave at age 19. She responded to the call, and found her self entering the mission field only a year and half after joining the church. It was tough to be a missionary and still feel so "new". She didn't recognize most of the doctrinal terms being used and she questioned whether she would actually be able to keep up in the mission field.... when everyone seemed to already "know it all". But she squared her shoulders and put a smile on and got to work anyway.

Fast forward a year, and that's when she found me.
Several months later... I was "beaten and bruised" pretty bad. I had allowed Satan to get a hold of my heart and I truly believed I was a failure. She saw me "laying there in the middle of the road" and she "cleaned my cuts", "dusted me off" and encouraged me to get back on track. She never let me say "I can't". During my time with her as my companion I laughed everyday. I remembered what it was like to just be myself. She reminded me that it was not my job to worry about things I couldn't control. After she got me all stitched up, she went on her way... like all Good Samaritans do. I was so sad to see her go. But I got exactly what I wished for. I always said "I wish EVERYONE got to be companions with Sister May!"... And she became a Sister Training Leader. SO, she goes on exchanges with about half the sisters in the mission. I know I am just one of the down trodden souls she has lifted along her Jericho Road. Sister May taught me a very important lesson. And that is simply that by taking even just one step in the dark you just might end up changing the world. I am so grateful she decided to join the church regardless of how unsupportive many family members and friends were of the decision. I am so grateful she decided to serve a mission even though she felt like she lacked experience. By looking passed her fear, she found me... she stopped to help me out. And I gained a best friend! 
I have been cared for and picked up by so many Good Samaritans along the my Jericho Road. The Lord always places people in my path when I need them. And I often wonder if they realize the importance and the significance of their actions. I think in a way we're born aware of our need to help each other. I think we're born desiring to SAVE and PROTECT. Deep inside the human soul is a longing to be identified with and involved in something really important. There comes a time in our lives when we are spiritually prepared and ready to be lifted from comfortable and sometimes mundane activities and to make a major decision to respond to a call... a call that is sometimes difficult, a call that is inconvenient, a call that may require sacrifice. The call to arms, to reach out. A call that if we will but accept, we will illuminate our own souls. And we INSPIRE others to do the same.