Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Minor Concussions, Baptismal Commitments, and Apostle Devotionals: MTC Week 6

"Here is my companion and I outside of the two rooms we decorated for
our kohai coming in today!  #artists"

It is a remarkable thing being a mother.  Nothing has brought me greater joy and heartache for a lifetime.  For 19 years I have "worried" about my daughter every day in some way.  When she was little it was things like "Is she eating enough?  How do I get her to nap?  Will she be safe when she crosses the road?   And how can I get her not to touch the hot stove even though she is stubborn and wants to anyway".  As she grew older those concerns grew into much more serious things.  Such as " How can I send her to school everyday knowing how hard it is out there?  Will she date?  Will she not date?  Will she find out who she is and what she wants to do with her life?  Will she have success?  Will she fail and fall at times?  Will her testimony waiver and she'll doubt?  Will she find good friends that love her and support her in the good and bad times?  Will she honor her parents?  Will she know who she truly is as a daughter of God and what that means for her in her life?"  All of those concerns dealt with physical safety and emotional well being.  At times it was quite exhausting.

Those questions represent a miniscule amount of thoughts that go through a mother's brain on a daily basis.  Our children are our life, their joy our joy, their pain our pain.  Saying goodbye to Alyssa when she reported to the MTC was one of the most bittersweet and heart wrenching things I have ever done.  I felt like my heart was broken in two. One side achingly missing her and the other so full of confidence that she was exactly where she needed to be at this time in her life.  It was hard to reconcile the two at times.

Now, 6 weeks in I have come to realize a great and profound truth.  The day to day worry I always felt as a mother is gone.  That is strange to say and probably doesn't make much sense.  But it is true.  Granted there are moments when I hope that she is safe, healthy and happy.  And I am sure there will be more when she gets to Japan.  However,  the moment to moment worry is out of my head and hands.  I know that she is in the Lord's hands and it is out of my control.  I still pray for her like crazy and then I turn it over to God.  It is amazing the amount of peace that brings me every day.

So, when I read about my daughter getting a concussion or having a particularly hard week, my heart skips a beat for just a moment and then I know it will all be okay.  I am relying on that, knowing that 18 months will be a long time.  I know that when she returns I am sure those feelings and questions will all rise to the surface again.  But for now,  I am doing my best to enjoy this sweet reprieve of constant work and worry on her behalf.  Now to focus on my other two children . . .

Here is her group letter for the week:

Konnichiwa Minasan!
I hope that everyone has had an amazing week! The time is still going by really fast here and I leave for Japan in 19 days...holy cow I am so crazy excited but at the same time I am really nervous but that is all okay because I know I am in the Lord's hands, and so what more could I ask for as far as trying to be prepared?
As far as actual events go this week, we had Valentines day of course which was super fun! My companion and I got up super early to decorate the classrooms and make valentines for all the elders in our zone and it was a really good experience for us. They were so grateful and appreciative and dang I just love service so much. Service is such a fun and easy way to feel the spirit, because you know it is exactly what the Lord would have you be doing! We are also very excited to be getting in Kohai today! Hurray for not being the babies of the zone anymore! We already had one sister come in last night that we got to take care of, and so that was very exciting for us.  Also Tupuola Shimai and I got released as Sister Training Leaders (I know, sad day) and now we are the sacrament meeting music coordinators (I know, if you know me at all, you are majorly having an LOL moment right now) which will be an adventure, I am sure. We also said goodbye to our Nihongin district and it nearly broke my heart because I loved them so much, but it is okay because it was time for them to head out to where they need to be! Tonight we also have TRC which is where we teach volunteer members of the church in Japanese! In all the past weeks it has been a face to face meeting but tonight we actually get to Skype with some members in Japan and we are SO excited. This whole thing is starting to feel real!
(Okay pause I realize that last paragraph made no sense sequentially and I apologize because my thoughts are so scattered as I try and hit everything I want to talk about! Unpause!)
Okay so now to explain the title of the email...okay here we go! First of all Mommy, don't panic because I am okay now, I promise. Once upon a time, everyone that knows me how incredibly graceful I am. Well that has obviously been extended to the mission field, and so last Wednesday as I was minding my own business and tidying my bed like a diligent soul should, I ended up hitting my head SUPER hard on the bar above me. It wasn't good. It gave me a massive headache and I ended up getting pretty nauseous and my balance was off and apparently I was acting pretty weird (although I resent that comment, because I have been told I am always weird). Needless to say, I got a minor concussion...hurray! Anyways at class that night I was really struggling to focus and remember things and I was really nervous because Tupuola Shimai and I had TRC and we had to teach two lessons and I was worried because I knew I wasn't going to be much help AT ALL. Well I just started praying FERVENTLY to my Heavenly Father that it would go well and I would be able to teach to the best of my ability according to God's will. Well, folks, surprise surprise, He delivered. First of all shout out to my amazing companion who totally stepped up and did amazing, but I didn't completely fail either. My brain was super muddled but both times it came time for me to testify, I had a sudden clarity of thought. I was able to bear my testimony powerfully and the spirit was strong and my Japanese was actually decent and made sense and it was incredible. I was so profoundly amazed and grateful, and then I was pondering why that happened and I came to a few conclusions. First of all is the fact that God knew this was important to me and so He heard and answered my prayer. Second, the power of the spirit can transcend any physical, emotional, mental, or language barrier that has been placed upon us. And third, my testimony came straight from my heart and not from my head. If you know me at all, you know I like using a plethora of groovy vocab and like to try and make things sound nice. But, I realized that that is not what my testimony is supposed to be about. My testimony needs to be things I believe and love and know, and that comes from my heart and not the logic of my brain. (Life update: I am fine now. I had a headache for a few days but I am back alive and kicking and ready to take over the world)
Second item of business, NAKAO KYODAI IS GETTING BAPTIZED!  MARCH 3RD!  WOOHOO!  I am so excited I honestly can't even stand it.  After I extended the invitation and he accepted I just couldn't stop smiling like an idiot because I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude and love. He is honestly so golden and the gospel is just what he needed at this time in his life. He shared with us that he has struggled with depression but through this gospel he has been able to find some peace and he is willing to do whatever it takes to be able to have that feeling always. I was able to testify to him that through this gospel, He can, and I got so emotional and felt God's love for him SO strong. I am just so excited. Teaching and missionary work are the best things EVER. 
Okay so last night (sorry this email is like as long as the entirety of my MTC stay so far, I just have so much to say and have to get it all out in English now because the rest of my life is in Japanese now) we had the incredible chance to hear from an apostle of God, Elder Ronald A. Rasband. I. Absolutely. Love. Him. He was so amazing. The second that he walked into the room, I was HIT with the spirit so strongly and I just started crying like a weirdo but I felt the spirit testify to me SO strongly that this man was a true messenger for our Lord. Anyways, he had us read his talk from April 2010 "The Divine Call of a Missionary" and I would encourage you all to read or reread it if you get the chance, because it is awesome. Anyways he had us read it before the devotional and then basically we just had a large discussion about it and he explained the assignment process of a missionary and what an incredibly personal experience it is. He told us that the spirit while doing that is more strong than during almost any other assignment because you have to rely solely on the Lord to know where to send these missionaries. He said that the best way he can describe knowing where to put us is he essentially like "feels" like there is a neon light that pops up over the mission they need to go to. He also told us he has made some mistakes before, and the Lord has ALWAYS prompted him to go back and correct it. He said they always pray to know where to send us PERFECTLY, and that our call is divine and truly from the Lord. He said, quote "The answer is sure and it is precise. When we ask the Lord to tell us perfectly, He does. That is my testimony."
I wish I could describe to you how powerful this was and special it was for me. I felt the witness once again that the Lord knows me and that HE KNOWS that I am supposed to be serving in Kobe Japan for whatever reason. Elder Rasband encouraged ALL of us to never again doubt our call, because it is perfect. So past, current, and future missionaries, you are where you need to be. I promise. The Lord knows you perfectly and He revealed that to His servants. 
All of that was amazing, but it honestly wasn't even my favorite part of the devotional however. At one point, Elder Rasband got a microphone and started walking through the crowd of missionaries to ask us questions. So once upon a time I was somewhat sly and ended up getting all of us Japanese sisters front row seats of the MTC Choir and we ended up getting broadcasted and whatever and it was good fun. But the best part was that for about five minutes, Elder Rasband came and stood RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.  You guys, he was literally two feet away. I could have reached out and touched him. And as he talked, he looked directly into my eyes multiple times and it was SO POWERFUL. I felt the love of God for me and for every missionary so strongly, and it was amazing. 
At the very end of his devotional, he bore his testimony in a way more tender and powerful than I have ever heard from anyone in my entire life. It was so emotional and I got chills and the spirit testified to me so strongly. I had the amazing opportunity to hear an apostle stand right before me and bear special witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He said that He lives and He loves us, and then he said one final line that filled me with a spirit like I can't even describe. Very simply he said "The leaders of this church are no strangers to the voice of the Lord." I know that is true. I have felt it for myself. 
My testimony has never been more sure of the reality and divinity of prophets of God. We do have prophets, seers, and revelators on this earth today to give us love and direction from our Savior. I know with every fiber of my being that this gospel is true. It is true and amazing and changing my life more than I can even describe. I know that God lives and that He loves us. I know that Christ is our Savior. This gospel is true and this work is so important. I feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of it.
I love you all so much and hope that everyone has an amazing week! Until Next Wednesday!
Sister Pickering 

I absolutely loved hearing her special witness of the Lord's Apostles.  I am sure she will treasure that experience and draw on it for years to come.   And finally here is an excerpt from the email she sent me.   I especially love hearing about her companion.

So now to answer your questions from the letter you sent me!  My
district and I are still getting along really well, we have become
very close friends and it is going to be sad to have to split up.
Most of us are going to Kobe which is good though.  There is one elder
going to Kobe that I actually kind of struggle with sometimes because
he isn't the most humble individual and can be kind of patronizing,
but it is okay because the rest of them are so great.  I have become
really good buddies with Perez and Jonhson Choro, they are both
amazing individuals and hard workers and very kind and chivalrous to
my companion and I and we love them.  We do things with them the most,
and I am kind of bummed because they are both going to Tokyo South.
Tear. I also actually 100% adore my companion.  I honestly couldn't
have asked for a better first companion, she is so wonderful.  We get
along great and work super hard and yet also know how to have a lot of
fun.  We haven't had any issues whatsoever and we teach really well
together.  We have had multiple comments given to us about how there
is a very special spirit when the two of us teach together because we
love each other so much and we clearly love the Lord. It is always
nice to hear comments like that because it makes us feel like we might
be doing something right. Also, apparently we are so close that we
have started having sleep talking conversations with each
Japanese. The other sisters have reported it multiple times and we
find it pretty funny. One time I guess I started saying some stuff in
Spanish though because it sounded like I got frustrated with Tupuola
Shimai haha.  I am very very sad she will not be coming to Kobe with
me.  However, I am also getting way tight with the sisters in the
other zone that are going to Kobe.  They are so cool and we have all
started hanging out more and we have a blast. I get along REALLY well
with Sister Spenser Miller (surprise surprise) and I hope we have the
chance to be companions because we would get it done together. I could
see us potentially being roommates at BYU after the mission.
We don't get to ever host new missionaries because Wednesday is our P
day sadly. However the elders have gotten to help host the senior
couple missionaries on Mondays before but the sisters don't get to
come which I find sexist and demeaning but whatevs. I love being here
with all the senior couples, they are so cute and Tupuola Shimai and I
try and make friends with them.
"I found friends!  On the left we have this amigo named Maori that I
met at a cross country trip last year and he also played on Spencer's
club soccer team and he is a cool kid. He is going to Lithuania!  Then
in the middle we obviously have Elder Colby Webb going to Armenia who
is standing on his toes to look taller than he actually is."

Alyssa can't say enough positive things about her companion.  I know that Lord knew exactly who Alyssa needed and Tupuloa Shimai was it.
"My companion and I with Sister Collinsworth!  She is basically my mom
here and she is so cool. She is also super tall.  Because her son is a
boss at BYU Basketball.  The end."
"My district and I on Cardigan Mokuhyobi!  Everyone wears cardigans
because it is fun and we have lost our sanity the end.  Thursdays are


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