Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wonders of His Love -- An Answer to a Prayer

This post is for everyone and anyone... But especially for those who may be struggling emotionally or spiritually right now.

I've decided and felt strongly that I need to be very honest and open about what I've been going through lately and I hope someone will benefit from my sharing these very personal experiences.

During the past transfer I've really been struggling with depression.

I can't exactly say when it all started... but it became apparent that I just wasn't myself anymore.
I was struggling to feel happy when I had no obvious reason to be sad or discouraged. I was confused by my own emotions, "Get a grip! There's nothing wrong, you've dealt with much more difficult things before... and with a whole lot more grace than this. You shouldn't feel this way. What's wrong with you, Tara?" I would ask myself. I could NOT figure out what was causing this discouragement... Homesickness? Sadness? Anxiety? Loneliness? I still to this day can't really pick an existing word to describe what I was feeling.
It was the day after Thanksgiving and I had just about anything but missionary work on my mind. All I wanted was to go home. And I felt pretty darn guilty about it, "Why are you homesick? You have no reason to feel homesick. Some people don't even have families on thanksgiving AT ALL. Ever. And look at you, ONE big holiday away from home and you're a wreck. One tough transfer and you have thoughts of going home. Pathetic."
Where were these thoughts coming from? Were they really my own thoughts? Why couldn't I seem to remove thoughts like this from my head?
I knew I needed help, and I needed it fast. But I was struggling to know where to find it. I didn't want to tell anyone about it because frankly I had too much pride (super woman complex). All the "basics" seemed too obvious and I was wandering in circles searching for a solution to my problem.

Quick explanation: The church came out with an "Adjusting to Missionary Life" booklet written by psychologists and doctors for the purpose of, well... just that, helping missionaries adjust to this lifestyle. It contains information about feelings you might experience when adjusting to the lifestyle of a missionary and ideas about dealing issues you commonly run into as a new missionary.

As I have been out for (coming up on) 10 months now, I'll admit that book just takes up space in my crate of books and study materials. I always thought that I was passed the "struggle stages"... That I was "over that". So, I rarely looked at this book. But on that Black, gloomy Friday I felt like I should read it.
So I did.
I dusted it off and read it cover to cover looking for a good explanation for why I was feeling so down.
I was disappointed in my lack of a "light bulb" moment. Nothing really stuck out to me.
Well... except one thing.
Just one, and that was a suggestion for dealing with depression.
The suggestion was Prayer.
"Yep, one of those 'basics'. How dumb is that?" I thought. "DUH. What missionary doesn't pray? I pray about 47,000 times a day if not more! And I still feel depressed. I'm praying and no answers are coming."
I just wasn't satisfied with that.
I read it again and again to make sure that I wasn't missing something.
..... Oh.

There it was. 

"...pray out loud...".

Hmm... out loud? Wow, how long had it been...? Since I have a companion with me at ALL times ALL of my personal prayers are said in my heart/mind. I couldn't even think of the last time I had said a PERSONAL prayer out loud. I've always been in tiny studio apartments where even the quietest whisper in the bathroom with the door shut can be heard from any corner of the one-room living space. So, therefore, I kept all my prayers in my head.
This idea stayed on my mind for the whole day.
Oddly though, in the following hours where all I wanted to do have a moment alone there wasn't a single opportunity to even ask my companion for a moment. We had SO much to do and so little time to get it done. I continued saying silent prayers throughout the day asking for the help and strength necessary to keep the fake smile on my face, "just one more day. Help me make it through just one more day."
Finally... the day was over. We came home exhausted, planned for the next day and retired to bed.

At about 2am, I was still awake. Couldn't sleep... as usual.

But I knew what I needed to do. I got up and climbed out the window onto our fire escape. It was cold, but still. There was no wind and it was oddly quiet for a New York City night.
I knelt down, took a deep breath and said the most desperate prayer I've ever said in my life.
I spoke out loud as if I was talking to a friend... to a parent.
It was the most REAL prayer I'd ever said.
I plead for relief from these thoughts of hopelessness, distraction and darkness.

When I felt I had said all I wanted to say, I felt better. Still lost. But at least I had told somebody about it. I felt like I had gotten all the words out of my head that had been eating me alive for weeks.
I received no immediate solution... no answer. But I knew someone had heard me.
And that was enough.
Finally I went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up feeling, well, alright. I was tired, obviously, I'd only slept about 12 hours in 3 days. Regardless, I got up and went about my normal Wednesday schedule.
6:30, wake up. 8:00, studies till 10:30, then leave to Prospect Park for weekly service.

While raking leaves, our phone alerted me that we had a text message. I pulled it out of my pocket. The text I saw was from an unidentified number, but a number that I knew very well.
It read, "I received a prompting from a prayer and wrote you an email that you need to read as soon as possible."

Not everyday you receive a text from your mom as a missionary telling you to check your email. As soon as I could get internet connection, I opened my email and found this...

"My Dear Tara,
As I prayed for you this morning, I had an overwhelming feeling that you are struggling.  Your email yesterday didn't seem quite on -- not like all of your others. And no blog posts for 2 weeks.  At first I just thought you were probably just really busy, like you said.  But I am quite sure this morning that it is more than that.  

I don't know why you are struggling or with what, but I want to send you a message from your mother.  Hear me -- YOU ARE ENOUGH!!  You are loved by many and most of all by a Heavenly Father that knows you -- everything about you.  Your greatest champion -- though I would like to believe is me-- is Jesus Christ.  Take courage and carry on.  Do what you are supposed to do.  You tell Satan -- "Get thee hence! There are more that be with me than with you, even Angels from heaven by my side." Say it out loud -- loud and proud -- Maybe in the shower everyday and then in your head any time you feel him working on you.   

Don't let your struggle become your identity!  You are of divine origin and though you have mortal challenges you are no less divine -- a holy daughter of the most high God.  So I want you lift your chin a little higher today, walk a little straighter and REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!!

I know that missions are HARD!!  Don't discount how hard it is and think that you are somehow not measuring up.  Just do your best and know that most missionaries if not all go through moments of doubt, homesickness and trouble.  You are not unique in this.  Read 2 Nephi 4:15-35. Even Nephi, one of the Greatest Book of Mormon Prophets, struggled with self-doubt, but he knew on whom to rely.

I love you Tara -- wish I could just wrap my arms around you this morning, but we both know that if that was possible, you would probably come home and I would probably bring you home --  and neither of us really want that. So you and I need to just buck up and get to work today.  --Love, Mom"

I felt all the loneliness, all the anger, all the discouragement drain from my soul as I read these words. AGAIN, the Lord had answered.
Though these were the words of my dear mom, I knew they were His words.

Directly after reading this email, I could hear the song Joy to the World playing in the distance. I just listened. I didn't move. I closed my eyes, and allowed the music to be the only thing in the room with me.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

My urgent, desperate prayer had been answered.

Its a funny thing. There really isn't a way to describe how it works. In fact, we really don't know. How is it that God can have billions upon billions of children and HEAR and ANSWER every single one of their prayers. Day and night, rain or shine... He answers. 

How can that be? 
How can it be that we have a Heavenly Father who loves and knows us all perfectly, so much that he knows exactly how to answer each of our prayers?
It truly is a WONDER.

It is one of the many wonders of God's love for us.

It's a wonder that a baby was born to a virgin in Bethlehem so long ago. It's a wonder that the baby who once lay in a manger grew into a sinless man. It's a wonder that He bled from every pore so that we could be free from suffering. It's a wonder that He endured the cross on Calvary and gave Himself a sacrifice for all mankind. It's a wonder that in three days He came forth, triumphant over death, as a resurrected, perfected being.

It's a wonder that one day, if I can but rely on the ultimate gift of His atonement, I can be like Him.

During this Christmas season, I'm focusing my thoughts on the many wonders of His love. The world would have us believe that Christmas is about gifts, glittery lights, mystery and magic... But I testify that there is no greater gift, no brighter light, no greater mystery, no greater magic than His love... and the way he reveals that love to us.

Tonight when you pray, speak out loud and remember that He, YOUR father and creator of all, IS LISTENING.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Half Full

As of last Wednesday I'm half way through.


It sure came up on me fast.

I feel like my mission has had an underlying theme that has followed me through all the good and bad experiences and been so obvious in the people that I've met and the places I've visited. And well, the theme is my "journey toward discipleship".

I decided to take a little trip down memory lane and I dug out and read my farewell talk again. The theme I was assigned to speak on was ironically "Becoming a Disciple of Christ".

 This is a little piece of the talk that struck me in a way it didn't before:

"Niel A. Andersen said, 'Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life. Together we can lift and strengthen one another in the great and important days ahead. Whatever the difficulties confronting us, the weaknesses confining us, or the impossibilities surrounding us, let us have faith in the Son of God, who declared, ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.’  I know for certain I will have a sister missionary companion for the next 18 months, but I truly hope I will choose to have a missionary companion for the remainder of my life… my lord Jesus Christ."

When I wrote that, I didn't really know what a mission was. I don't think anyone really does until you actually serve as a full-time missionary. However, it would appear that Heavenly Father wanted me to have a head-start in figuring out my purpose in serving a mission.

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 firey 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?

Now, I've still got half my mission ahead of me. (Good thing... I've got such a very long way to go.)
But I sit here with a heart full of so much gratitude. I am so grateful for the last 9 months... So grateful for the two 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.
 "I am a part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power. My pace is set, my gait is fast, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few... but my Guide is reliable, my goal is Heaven, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, back up, or let up, until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He will recognize me. My colors will be clear for "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believeth..." (Romans 1:16)"

Remember, wherever you are on your road to discipleship, you're on the right road!

Halfway, and SO grateful and excited for the next half!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Where the Grass is Greener

"Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they might have joy."
We ARE that we might have joy. I suppose it doesn't say that we WILL have joy... the word MIGHT implies that there is a possibility or permission to obtain joy. So we have to give ourselves permission to have joy? Yes. So it all comes down to agency? Yes.
That in mind. Story time.
The Parable of the Three Axes, By Elder McDonald.
(Re-written by me... because I can't remember word for word. ZTM (Zone Training Meeting). Haha.)
There once were three axes. They all belonged to the greatest lumberjack in the land he owned the entire forest... from the east to the west, north to south as far as your eye could see and beyond.

Now, the first or the three axes despised the fact that he was an ax. He spent ALL his time daydreaming and wishing he were something else... something grander and far more majestic than a little ol' ax. It seemed to him that life would be far more fulfilling and far more meaningful if he were a rocket-ship, or a tank, or at least a chainsaw. He decided that he could more fully and more effectively live his dream of being something more flashy and fashionable by refusing to do ax-like work. "No sir-ee I will not chop wood. That's for axes. And I'm no ax."
The second ax was a very unhappy ax. He griped and complained all day long. "This is way too hard!" "This job is so monotonous!" "Why do I have to do this tedious awful job!?" He felt more validated when he complained and vocally made is pain known as he chopped wood.
Then there was the third ax. Ax number three loved working in the woods. Chopping wood all day was tiresome work but he really enjoyed it. "Nothing like going home after a long days work and feeling exhausted and ready for bed. Means you worked hard, and made a difference." He would say. He always had a smile on his face, because he could rarely think of a reason not to. He knew he was just a little ax. But he was an ax. And that was something to be happy about. He looked forward to each new day and took delight in the thought of a new task to be completed.
Okay, let's take a step back for a moment. Remember the lumberjack? This story has just about NO meaning without him. Why? Because an ax can't do much of anything without a lumberjack. An ax can't chop wood on it's own. Something has to pick it up and swing it.
Looking at our three axes... which one do you think the Lumberjack used? We have one ax who by his own choice refused to be used. He resisted the lumberjack and he stayed in the shed, fantasizing about a life he couldn't have. The second didn't completely refuse to work, but he whined all day long and resented the tasks he was asked to do.
Let's be real... we all know the third ax is the one who was used. Not because the other two axes couldn't be just as capable and just as effective if they wanted to be... but that's just the thing. They didn't WANT to be used. The third ax desired it. It was the deepest desire of his heart (if axes had hearts) to be an ax. To chop the wood the lumber-jack asked him to chop. And you know what? The third ax became strong! His blade was cleaned and sharpened often and his handle was sanded and maintained. The other two axes became rusty, and gathered dust in the corner... because they didn't want to chop wood.
If I were an ax, which ax would I be?
I'd like to say I was the third ax. But I know for a fact that's not always the case.
Sometimes I complain, sometimes I'm really stubborn and I refuse to do budge at all.Which is dumb. Because I'm an "ax" either way. Lamen, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi all had to go and get the plates... the ALL had to leave Jerusalem and travel to the Americas on a boat. The only difference is that two of them did it willingly to and the other two didn't. two complained and the other two didn't. So why not do it with a smile? Why not use our agency to find JOY in all this wood chopping?! What's the use in wishing you were somewhere else or complaining about the work before you?
The grass is not "greener on the other side"... No. The grass is greener where you water it!
So the message today is that we've all been given agency. And we all have to chop wood. So, if we make our desire the desire of the lumberjack we become strong. We will be sharpened. We will see the majestic views of the whole forest! And eventually when our blade finally breaks because of all the we've chopped... We will be hung on a peg in the lumberjacks house where he will say, "well done my faithful little ax. Thanks for your help out there."
And imagine the JOY we will feel then.
Thanks for listening to the story.
Love you all,
Sister Tara Franklin

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Hastening-- Start Spreading the NEWS!

Hey everyone. Sister Tara Franklin, here.

Sorry about the lack of an update this week. It's been crazy.
We had a holiday on Monday, the normal emailing day... And then we had to go to mission head quarters to get our iPads.
Yeah. I have an iPad. Weird, right? Kind of hilarious that I use more technology now that I'm missionary than I did before my mission. I'm kind of... how do you say... Old fashioned? Haha.
(Janeal and Joachim, if you're reading this... you can motivate Jake to go on a mission one day by telling him he'll have his very own iPad to use for 2 years! Haha. Just don't tell him he can't play Angry Birds or Temple Run. Haha.)

As Facebook has been something we've spent a lot of time on in the last couple transfers. I've discovered something. I've discovered that I'm not really a "facebooker"... I always thought I was, but I'm not. I don't even use it for half the things it can do... Heck, I don't even know how to "share" things from other websites to facebook. Haha. Yeah, I know... I need to get with it.
I have a confession to make: Before my mission I sadly used Facebook to be jealous of other people's lives; And to wish I was off doing things everyone else was doing. And well... As a missionary, a lot of those same feelings are brought back. It's hard for me (because of my own weakness, of course) to not get caught up in what friends and family are doing back home. (I know, it's selfishness... And I'm working on it.) In this the beginning of the implementation of Facebook/iPads/smartphones for missionaries, I have really tried to find productive things to do via online proselyting. But I have haven't had a huge amount of success. People don't really view my page much so, I'm not really sure what post or what would be helpful to people. (And I don't mean that in a "Oh poor me... why don't people stalk my facebook all day" kind of a way, it's simply true.)
I've been praying about it, and asking for some direction on how to use all these technological/virtual ways of communicating and sharing the gospel with others.
Now, I've come to the conclusion that I needed to focus more on this blog and less on Facebook. Don't really know why... But I figure, I should try it out.

A HUGE round of applause for my dear, wonderful mother who has been the caretaker of the blog for the last nine months! Don't know how she managed to find the time. What a supergirl. I'll be the one updating the blog from now on. Thanks for reading. And feel free to share anything I post with someone you feel could benefit from it. In fact, PLEASE do.

I hope you all know how much my calling as a missionary means to me. I'm so grateful that I have this (as I've put it before) "opportunity of a lifetime" to serve a missionary. I'm grateful to be able to focus all my efforts on this hastening of the work. The daughter of my mission president asked if one day, years and years from now when Preach My Gospel has been modified and updated, it might refer to our day as "The Hastening". I think that's a pretty cool thought. And hey, she just might be right.
And what a privilege to be a part of it!!
If by some miracle something I post on this blog helps even one person, well... then that's success. Remember, no effort is wasted. So I'll put forth my best effort.

More posts to come in the near future! Thanks for your love and support and remember to "START SPREADIN' THE NEWS!" Everyone get on board. I can promise you that these are the Latter-days and it's now going to get CRAZY.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Holy Ground

So... This week has been AWESOME!

Starting with transfers.
Got myself a new companion.... and she's THE BEST.
The Lord has truly blessed me with so many amazing people as my companions, districts, zones... you name it! So many amazing missionaries that I work with!
Sister Kelsey Lewis is my Companion. We were actually in the MTC together. We weren't in the same district or even the same zone, but we entered on the same day and chatted in the cafeteria on occasion. She's a GORGEOUS girl from Mapleton UT ... yep, that's right. Our parents houses are about 5 minutes away from each other. ANOTHER reminder that the Mormon world is so small. We have a lot of mutual friends thanks to our hometowns and Maple Mountain High School... (Shout out to BRYN GOMEZ!)
Anyway, Sister Lewis rocks. I love her. We've got a lot of great plans that have already been put into play with our ward and I've never had more to do in Midwood. She sure came with ideas and a great attitude. What a blessing she will be to this area. :)
Sister Jorgensen headed out to Brooklyn YSA! So she's not that far away. Our areas overlap a bit, so I'll see her all the time. The Lord is so good to me. :)
So today, I wanted to share a little something I learned this week.
And that is... that I am LIVING THE DREAM. As Thomas S. Monson said... "This is the opportunity of a lifetime."

Before I left people used to say, "Remember, missions are unlike any other time in your life so enjoy every minute of it!"  And I thought I understood why they said that.
But I definitely didn't. It really hit me this week that it is truly an extremely unique, special, and absolutely sacred time of my life. Truly, what other opportunity is there where you can devote all of your time, energy, strength, thoughts and desires to the Lord? Missions are difficult and they require sacrifices. They require us to give up a lot of things that we've come to love and live. We make social, financial, and educational sacrifices... the list could go on. But the Lord gives us so much more in return. I was promised in my patriarchal blessing that if I would enter into the service of the Lord with the proper attitude, then I would receive far more than I gave. And well, that promise definitely rings true.

Elder W. Christopher Waddell said it perfectly when he said, "As a result of sacrifice, we return from our missions with our own gifts: The gift of faith. The gift of testimony. The gift of understanding the role of the Spirit. The gift of daily gospel study. The gift of having served our Savior. Gifts carefully packaged in worn scriptures, tattered copies of Preach My Gospel, missionary journals, and grateful hearts."
What a blessing it has been to realize that I always dreamed of this. I thought about serving a mission as a kid. I imagined as a young woman, and as a college student. And now, I'M HERE. I don't know why it took nearly 9 months for me to look at myself in the mirror wearing my tag and say, "Wow, that's me. I'm that missionary in mirror! This is IT."

It's also recently hit me that my mission was truly designed for me. Again to quote Elder Waddell, "...The Lord knows you and has a mission experience prepared for you. He knows your mission president and his wonderful wife, who will love you as their own children and who will seek inspiration and direction on your behalf. He knows each of your companions and what you will learn from them. He knows each area in which you will labor, the members you will meet, the people you will teach, and the lives you will impact for eternity. Through your devoted service and willing sacrifice, your mission will become holy ground to you. You will witness the miracle of conversion as the Spirit works through you to touch the hearts of those you teach."
He was right. This place, crazy at it may be sometimes, has become a holy place to me. I will remember it forever and I've committed that I will never forget the times when I struggled here, the times where I cried tears of joy and the times that I felt heaven so near. I will always remember the lifelong friends I have made here and the relationships that have changed me.

In short. I feel grateful. I feel a new sense of determination to treat this opportunity I've been given with more respect and reverence.
Thanks for your love and support!
Love Always,

Hermana Tara Franklin

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Refiners Fire

Okay, this is a quick one. I'll send more updates on "events" another week...
Onto the important stuff...

Well transfer calls came on Saturday.
I'm in. Jorgensen's out.
SAD day for me.
I know it's for the best. And I'm SO grateful for the transfers we've had together. We've helped each other through a lot of hard times. And spent a lot of fantastic, miraculous and unforgettable times together. I can't ask for much more than that.
It's definitely time for Sister Jorgensen to experience something new. She's been in Midwood for the past 4 transfers... this is where she started her mission, and now she's ready to go spread her wings.  Midwood- Spanish is hard. It just is. Simple as that. And I am so grateful she will be able to see that it's different other places.
Now. Don't misunderstand me. There is joy to be had here. And I love Brooklyn so much. I've loved the time I've spent here. But sometimes it's really easy to feel like you're not making a bit of difference. There have been many occasions where I've wondered why. Why? Why did you bring me here? Who is benefiting from this? Why did you cut me down so early?
And then I remember. I remember something I watched in that moment when I wondered if 18 months of full time missionary service was really something I could do. I was waiting for my mission call and feeling quite hopeless....
"I am the gardener here. And I know what I want you to be."
Please click the link for a Mormon Message
Thank you for loving me enough to hurt me.
Sometimes in life, we are that current bush. We feel like we've grown up and we've got it made... or at least like we're "good enough". But He doesn't want you to be "good enough". He has something better in mind. He's the gardener.  He knows what he wants us to be. He understands what we are capable of.
So whether you're a missionary in Midwood about to get a new companion and scared out of your mind... or you're a mom struggling with your wayward child, or a father who's out of work and have no idea how you're going to take care of your family... whoever you may be... just remember. You're gonna make it. He knows how strong you are. And you needed to be cut down in order to become what you have the potential to become. Growing pains suck sometimes. But when you look back one day and see where you came from it will all be worth it.
Just keep going. There is hope, and you're here for a reason!
Love Always and Forever,
Hermana Franklin

This is a picture of the Sunset in Far Rockaway that we got to see yesterday at the Hurricane Sandy commemoration!

Monday, October 21, 2013

From People Who Love You!

Alright, this week had some serious ups and some serious downs.
Found a couple of new investigators who are SUPER awesome. Finding investigators in Midwood is a rarity in and of itself so super, awesome investigators is extra special.

We had President's Interviews this week. WOW. My mission president is easily the best there is. I'm sure every missionary says that. But mine really is. Haha. He is such a good teacher and he is SO inspired. He is a master of following the spirit. There were things he said to me that I know were not his own words. It's always an amazing experience to be with him.

Temple trip!! I love the temple so much. I forgot how much I love it. It's been roughly 7 months since I've been inside a temple so that was just great. It was also my first time seeing the new temple presentation. SO BEAUTIFUL. The old presentation will always hold a very sacred place in my heart, but man, that was just incredible. And it was such a special blessing that I got to go with my Companion! That doesn't usually happen.
I finally let go of my pride and asked for a Priesthood blessing to get some inspiration about a few things I've really been struggling with. Best thing I could have done. Don't know why I waited 8 months to ask.

I encountered my first thieves. Yes, that monumental moment in a missionary's life.
Here's the story. It's a good one.
Zones 1,2,3 (I'm in Zone 2) gathered in Midwood for what we call a Mega-Blitz... All the missionaries of these zones divide and conquer to put a dent in the Midwood 1st Ward's list of over 750 lostless active members. As the companionships began arriving from the different zones it was like a big family reunion of missionaries in the foyer. I set my bag down on one of the classic LDS chapel, floral couches and started socializing with all the missionaries I had formerly served with. Yay! When they asked us all to migrate to the chapel to get started with companion assignments and an opening prayer, I went... Leaving my stuff behind in the foyer. Found out that I would be Blitzing with my trainer! Sister van Langen! What a lucky day! After the "opening exercises we grabbed our list of names, map, and my bag and headed off on our adventure.
We had a grand ol' time and a lot of success! We decided to celebrate by going to Dunkin' Donuts and get ourselves a pumpkin doughnut on our way back to the church. "My area, my treat!" I said, pulled out my wallet to pay for our victory feast and EMPTY. GONE. EVERYTHING GONE. (Well not everything... they left my library card and my driver's license because I secretly hide my driver's license behind my library card! Ha! Take that thief! .... oh. oops looks like I just revealed my secret hiding place. Haha.) I was so confused. HOW did someone get into my bag, unzip the zipper, take the wallet out and empty it and put the wallet back without me noticing?? Is anyone really that good??
We headed back to the church to start making all the necessary phone calls... you know, all that really annoying junk you have to deal with to cancel credit cards.
Greatest part of the whole experience got to call and hear my mom's voice for 4 minutes. So, that's why this experience is in the "ups" column. :) Thanks Thieves!
So to wrap this story up we got back to the church and discovered the truth about what actually happened. When I left my stuff in the foyer and all of us were in the chapel two men came in and took whatever they could find. My unattended bag with a wallet in it was just fresh meat. Two Elders left the "opening exercises" for a drink of water, spotted them leaving the building and approached them. When they asked if they could help them find something, they said, "No, we're just wondering what time church is." They left very quickly and awkwardly and insisted that was the only reason they came into the church. Hmm... Well. Now it all makes sense.
People. Don't leave your stuff out for people to come steal from you. Even when you're ironically in the house of the Lord. Haha. Lesson learned.
Now the major "down" about all this was that I was going to be the one supplying the money for groceries, laundry and other temporal needs for the remainder of the month. Since the office is closed on weekends and the senior missionary couple in charge of finances are getting ready to depart it wasn't looking like I'd get reimbursed for the money I had lost. At least, not for a few days. What were going to do about buying food for the next couple days when we had 2.62 cents to our name? Haha.
Well. The Lord always provides a way. As we were discussing our dilemma late last night there was a knock on our apartment door. When I opened it there was no one there... only an envelope hanging from the door frame on dental floss... inside was a note with 5 words on it. "From people who love you" along more than enough  money to buy us groceries, send a box and do laundry.
The message I would like to share today is that The Lord knows. He always knows. He will always put people in your path and send you angels of kindness to help you out when you're down. So, trust in Him. The "downs" will always be followed by an "up"!
Love you all!

Be safe out there, and don't leave your wallet lying around... I'm sure you all know that.
Sorry about that short bus moment, Dad.

Hermana "Grateful" Franklin
Graciela's Baptism -- Happiest Day!

Current Midwood District                                             
At the Manhattan Temple with Sister Jorgensen    

 Old Midwood District

Happiness with Sister Jorgensen

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Best of Times!

Well... I can honestly say I'm the happiest I've ever been.

The Lord is so good to me.

I'm not really sure where to begin... There's no way I'll be able to describe EVERYTHING that has happened in the last few days. But I'll start with this:
A while ago I was feeling particularly selfish and a little down in the dumps. It was my first day back on Facebook after an eight month absence and I can't say I had a super great attitude about it. Having my whole home life right there in front of my eyes was kind of a huge slap to the face... just a bit of a shock. The world had indeed gone right on without me. My RM friends had warned me of this... and I knew that this realization would be had at some point. (However, I thought it would be around the time I stepped off the plane to come home. Haha. Wrong again.) But nonetheless I started to worry... And asked myself some "dumb" questions (something I highly discourage anyone from doing)... Such as, " Am I where I need to be?" "Has everyone forgotten me?" "Am I even making a difference here?" "Will I ever learn how to use Facebook effectively?" "Does anyone love me?".... Well, that night I went home and actually asked God these very questions.
In the last three days I got very much a "NOW do you see?? Oh ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" kind of answer.

It started with Aurelia...a sweet little lady from Mexico. She came to English Classes and has interest in learning more about coming to our church services and learning about our beliefs! Plus, she already has friends who are in our ward, how perfect is that! Cool thing to note about her is that if you saw the Instagram photo of me and my comrades street contacting with lemonade, she is the woman that I'm talking to in the picture. Lesson learned! Talk to everyone! You never know who might listen to you!

The next day we taught a lesson to Jeremiah and Rosie and Rosie's husband Eddie. Sister Jorgensen gave an INCREDIBLE, inspired lesson. Everyone was in tears! Eddie informed us that he would be coming to church for the first time in more than 6 months. The whole family would be there together, finally!! However, it broke my heart when I saw the look on Sister Jorgensen's face when she realized we wouldn't be there on Sunday to see it. We had planned to attend the baptismal service of Graciela in Woodside. Sister Jorgensen had been working with this family for her entire mission, and had never seen them ALL at church together. And now I was going to make her miss it. She reassured me many times that she was more than happy to go to the baptism with me and she was not about to let me stay home for her sake. But I still felt bad. I lost quite a bit of sleep over it that night.

Came to find out the next day that my district leader, Elder Erickson (the saint that he is) (apparently, it was Elder Goates' idea to begin with.. He's a saint too) went ahead and arranged an exchange with the English ward sisters so that I could go to the baptism in Woodside with Sister Freeze, and Sister Jorgensen could stay here in Midwood with Sister Blosil to be with the Castro Family and our THREE investigators who planned to come to church. WHAT A BLESSING. We both would got to go to our respective Events!
Sunday morning is one I will never forget. All four of us Sisters went to the Midwood English ward's sacrament meeting.. as that was the only one Sister Freeze and I would be able to make it to. We sat down and as it neared 9:00am people/families just kept coming and coming and COMING. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The ENTIRE chapel was filled by the time services started... and MORE people continued to walk through the doors. There were people who stood in the back due to lack of seating. I just wept at the sight of it all. I hadn't experienced anything like this in the 8 months I've been out. A chapel full of families AND investigators?? Don't misunderstand me, I love the wards I've served in and I'm not saying "they're not good enough" it's just different serving the Spanish speaking population. Very different. I realized then that our missions are just assigned and MEANT for US. Everything about where/who we serve is catered to help us learn as we need to. It was the first time I had been to a sacrament meeting in English in 8 months... first time hearing the sacrament prayers in English. I just couldn't stop crying because I could understand EVERYTHING. I forgot how that felt.
It was their fast and testimony meeting due to conference, and let me tell ya, that was NO coincidence. A few sisters got up and shared experiences and testimonies that I absolutely needed to hear and needed to understand in my own native tongue. Such a blessing. This meeting was an answer to my prayer in and of itself.

After sacrament meeting Sister Freeze and I went to Woodside for the baptism. On the train ride there I started to feel a little uneasy... "Will they even remember my name?" I started to ask myself more dumb questions.... DUMB. Haha.
As I walked down the stairs into the baptismal room I heard a, "Sister Franklin's back!!". What a tearful reunion it was. Haha. So many hugs! I saw Graciela all dressed in her white jumpsuit and we just hugged and cried some more. Haha.
Hermano Hidalgo approached me before the baptism and he said, "I hope you know that all of this that you see here has been possible because of the foundation you laid while you served here." It was amazing to see how much the ward has changed. SO many people I used to teach are now attending church and even have baptismal dates. It really was an incredible moment. I felt complete peace. I KNEW that the last 8 month have NOT been wasted... In fact they had truly been the best 8 months of my life. Definitely not the easiest, but the best.

The baptism was beautiful!

I just want you all to know that God truly answers prayers. He hears you. Even when you ask him dumb questions. Haha. He will always let you know he's there. Whether it's in an obvious way, like it was for me this week or in a quiet way. He'll tell you!


Hermana Franklin

Monday, October 7, 2013

Conference Weekend

Dear Family and Friends,
Hello everyone! This week was SO good. So many good things happening in Midwood!
I don't know what happened to our ward but a lot of people are jumpin' on board with the missionary work thing. A few people brought their friends for Conference... it was fantastic!

I ABSOLUTELY loved conference. I hope everyone else did too.
It's crazy that one year ago I was given the opportunity of a life time. I found out I could serve a mission without waiting to turn 21! And here I am today. I can remember that moment as if it was yesterday. I think that Saturday morning conference session was the mutual answer to thousands of prayers. Seeing as the numbers in the missionary force have grown SO MUCH.

Incredible. I can't really remember what I pictured life would be like as a missionary on that day... I know I must've had something in mind.... Regardless of what it was, I know I didn't picture THIS. Haha. It's so much better than I could've imagined! Life is just great. It's hard. But it's great.

What was everyone's favorite talk? I can't say I really had a favorite. I just loved them all. I must say... Elder Christofferson really nailed it. WOW! What an inspired talk. I know I needed to hear it. I'd submit that EVERYONE needed to hear that.

The confusion surrounding the topic of gender roles and the value of womanhood is simply raging right now. We see it everywhere. And well, quite frankly I've never really been good at discussing this particular topic without getting angry. As a young teenager I always had views on womanhood and motherhood that were slightly different from the majority of latter-day saint women. Quite honestly, I never wanted to be married or have children and the constant reminder that being a wife and a mother was the greatest thing I could do this life in Young Women class just made it less and less appealing to me for some reason. That sounds ironic, but those of you who know me know exactly what I'm talking about.

But I'd say that since those days I have learned a lot about the specific divinity of women and I've grown to love and really respect my calling and my duty as a woman. It is my duty and privilege to defend virtue, to defend purity, and to defend all sacred things of God. As women we are given unique attributes... that of compassion, tenderness and softness of heart that enable us to stand for righteousness by nurturing others. Is that not the job of a mother? Are we not all mothers? As Sheri L. Dew once said, Motherhood is not bearing children...though that is a grand part of it. Eve was named by Adam and by God the Father as Eve, "the mother of all living" long before she bore children. We were foreordained to mother the children of God. I'm so grateful that we as women have the abilities and strengths that we do. We have so very much to offer the world!-- as wives, as mothers, as missionaries, and as church members. The Lord has given us a sacred trust, he has shown how much potential we have BY giving us that sacred trust. He trusts us to teach, nurture, and care for the children that are HIS. SO I would declare God would not give such a great responsibility to some creature whose only purpose in life is to be "sexy". NO. We were born to help our Father to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL CALLING.

THANK YOU Elder Christofferson.
I hope you all learned great a deal! I sure did!
I wish everyone a happy October and I hope everyone is well!
LOVE, Sister Franklin

Beehive from Midwood teaching me how to make rubber band bracelets.  They are all the rage.

A picture of me rockin' the work at a Lemonade Stand.  Someone found it on Instagram and sent the link.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Keeping Covenants

Hello friends and family,

I would like to start my email by saying that my heart goes out to my Oakview ward. I heard about some of the tragedies that took place this last week, and I wish to express my sincerest sympathies to my dear friends back home. I know the sadness will pass with time and I know that our Savior can heal your hearts. To the Jensen family I send all my love and I am offering prayers in your behalf each day.

In light of all that has happened this week, I must say I've had a wake up call. Heavenly Father has put a number of experiences in my path to remind me what this life is REALLY about.

I am so grateful that the Relief Society Broadcast focused on Covenants. I hope everyone that was able to go to the broadcast found it as enlightening as I did.

So, what is life about? It's about making sacred covenants and doing all that is necessary to keep those covenants. Through the saving ordinances we receive we can one day receive the greatest gift of all, exaltation. As has been made very clear to me, life is so very short. The time is now to do what I can to keep the sacred covenants I have made. Not tomorrow, not some time in the near future... The time is NOW.

What does it mean when we keep covenants? When we keep our covenants we are bound to the Savior. I love that! "BIND" is such a powerful word. 

I love how Sister Stephens reminded us that we demonstrate our commitment to the covenants we make every time we act as the Savior would act. I'll admit, I never really thought of it that way. We, as members of the church, have committed to act in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ... So it would only make sense that Christ-like acts demonstrate covenant keeping! Seems so obvious... but it really flipped a switch on in my brain... don't know about anyone else. Haha.

I've been thinking a lot about what I can do to help the relief society sisters in my ward keep the covenants they made at baptism and eventually make more sacred covenants in the temple. I realized on Saturday that it all starts with me. "Mourn with those that mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort." I have been issued a call... and that call is to put away all other distractions so that I can focus solely on the needs of those in the ward in which I'm serving and well in essence, EVERYONE I come in contact with. I would say this is a prime time to think about the covenants I've made with my Heavenly Father and look at what I can do to better demonstrate my dedication to those promises.

So again, after receiving word about Sister Tamra Jensen, I understand a little more than I did before the importance of expressing love to those who are far from me. I love every one of you... family, friends, anyone who may be reading this. You are not alone. Ever! As was mentioned by our Prophet Thomas S. Monson this week, the tribulation we face may bring us to our knees and cause us to seek consolation from the atonement. And this is what helps us grow. No challenge each of us faces is too great, and no trial too difficult for us to overcome. As we keep the covenants we have made at baptism and in the Holy House of the Lord He is bound. He will always keep his end of the deal. Thus, our families are forever. I know, with all that is in me, that families last beyond the veil. The relationships we have with our dear loved ones have been there since before this life began and will go on after this life.

I love you all and may God bless you with the strength you need to endure!

Love Always, Sister Franklin