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