Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Week of Realizations

GUYS I love my life.
But instead of giving you the mundane details of my life for the past week, I'm going to send you that "spiritual stuff" I've been promising to send for a while in the form of a letter to my president, copied and pasted just for you. :) You're so special.

"Hey president!
It was a really great week this week. Nothing all that incredibly exciting happened, but it was a week where I had some major realizations, and i was able to reflect back on a lot of the experiences I've had in the last 15 months. The dots started to finally connect this week! At church yesterday, 6 moms of the 9 missionaries serving from the Carrollton Ward got up to share an update on the boys' missions and to share something each of them had written about their feelings on the Savior at Christmastime. At the end, the Bishop's wife got up and read the thoughts her son on a mission in Brazil sent her. One line of what he said in particular hit me so hard that I spent the rest of the day reflecting on it:

'The Lord doesn't need you for the work, you need Him.'

When she read that, I had a flashback to last transfer when we were at a District Leader training meeting run by the zone leaders. At one point, Elder Barton asked us what it means to be a 'good missionary'. People gave their responses--most of them revolving around physical things a missionary does--work hard all day, be exactly obedient, follow the spirit, etc. But then Elder Barton shared an experience he had with a particularly difficult companion who was disobedient, hated working and really didn't have the desire to be there in the first place for one reason or another. He spent that entire transfer working, studying and praying to help that struggling missionary have a good experience loving the work, loving the gospel and loving the Savior. They didn't get much 'missionary work' done that transfer, he said, but to this day, he still considers it to be the most successful 6 weeks he'd ever had in his life because at the end of it, Elder Barton had seen that missionary grow into someone who loved the work and loved the Lord. More importantly though, Elder Barton himself had grown into a more charitable and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. He had found himself in more ways than he ever would have had he just 'done missionary things' and dragged his companion along with him whether he liked it or not. After telling us this story, Elder Barton said something that has stuck with me to this day and that i reflect on almost daily:

'It is more important for you to love those around you--whether it be your companion, your leaders, other missionaries or the stranger on the street--than it is to baptize. The Lord really doesn't need you for the work because He is powerful enough to get it done without you. But you will change and others will change when you love the way the Savior did.'

Earlier this week, I went on exchanges with Sister Heaton and she asked me what was the biggest lesson I've learned so far and what do I want to accomplish in the 3 months I have left. After thinking about it a while, I told her what Elder Barton said and that that was the most important thing to me now. I've stopped caring about the numbers, I've stopped caring about how many Book of Mormons I give out, I've stopped caring what the leaders think of me and I've stopped worrying about if I'm 'good enough' in the eyes of others around me. The Lord has made it very clear to me in the last few months that i'm doing what He wants me to do if i'm bringing others unto Him through Christlike love and coming unto Him myself. 

I've felt more peace and more joy in the last 3 months on a mission than I have my entire life because I feel like I'm just now starting to scratch the surface of what it REALLY means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It means living the way that He lived, loving the way that He loved, and being the way that He is.

Our teaching pool has been low for 6 weeks straight, it's cold and wet, it's Christmas and I miss my family, the doors aren't opening, and Sister Smith has way more Christmas presents than I do (haha), and yet I'm STILL so happy! its' kind of funny how it works out like that sometimes. This Christmas compared to the last has been the most fulfilling and happiest of my entire life and it's not even over yet! The circumstances I'm in now would have really gotten me down in the past but now I really couldn't care less. You've been telling me over and over again, President, that our circumstances have nothing to do with our joy and i'm just now starting to really see that. It all has everything to do with where our priorities and focus are. 

The story of Martha and Mary became my new favorite this week because of this idea:

 38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I feel like for most of my mission, I've pondered and prayed and fought and battled with myself to know what "the good part" was for me to focus on and the Lord has revealed it to me at last! 

I had a friend this past week tell me that they've seen a huge change in me in the last 15 months. They said, very lovingly haha, that I used to be "vicious" and too-ready to recognize the weaknesses in others rather than in myself. I had to agree with them. But they also said that I've changed in the fact that my capacity to love others for who they are has increased tremendously. I am by no means a perfectly charitable person yet, but I am getting better and I think that's the miracle of the Atonement. It can change a weak, silly, naive, "vicious" girl into someone a little bit more selfless, a little bit more kind and a little bit more understanding who wants to make her Heavenly Father proud, despite all the weaknesses and imperfections she has.

I know it's cliche to say, but I really am so grateful to be a disciple of Jesus Christ this Christmas season and to represent Him and the life that He lived. In the process of losing myself for His sake, I have found myself in more ways than I ever thought possible. 

It's both a privilege and a burden to tell you how I feel about Him and what He has given me. A privilege because I know He lives, that He loves us all and I want everyone to know that! But a burden because words literally fail me when trying to express the thoughts and feelings of my heart. Let my teardrops on the keyboard be a testimony to you of what I feel and what I know. 

He lives, He loves us, and I know that He would have still come down and suffered all that He suffered even if it was only for you."


Sorry for the novel, but I feel really happy today. :)

I love you all, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!

--Sister Lawson

1. The cutest, most Southern and Christmas-y church I've ever seen! 
2-3. A scary ghetto antique store we went to on exchanges that I actually loved more than I can describe.
4. Once upon a time, I forgot my name tag at service....#Crafty #Art

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