Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Climbing and Caring

Hey everybody! 

My first exchange this week was with Sister Reaman in Fulton!! A member took us to this cute 50's diner :) [she meant to include a picture, but I didn't get it]

It was really a good experience for me because as we worked, I was able to see how much I have grown as a teacher and missionary these past few transfers. Things I had been working on before, Sister Reaman pointed out as being my strengths. I also learned some new things from her that I'm excited to apply in my own area. The greatest miracle was when the member that took me from Fulton back to Paducah gave me a refferal to go teach her daughter! Woohoo!

So I had the training in district meeting  this week. I chose to train on the importance of seeking to understand our investigators. No one wants to take advice or lessons if they don't feel understood! We also did an ugly sweater competition... I won ;) 

Because I've spent this transfer doing this purifying fast, I've been trying to pay special attention to any progress that I make or weaknesses I overcome. I found myself getting frustrated because the progress I was hoping to achieve hadn't come! But then, I came to the conclusion that I was worrying to much about my will and where I think I should be, instead of God's will. If I focus on what He wants me to do or say or be instead of what I think I should...I'll be a lot happier.  For example, the next day was going to be Christmas. It wasn't going to be about me having a good Christmas, it's about making sure that others do. That concept just made me feel a lot more peaceful because it was God's will. I can feel peaceful about everything I do if I'm doing                                                                                 His will! 

Christmas morning opening presents was amazing. We started with a prayer and then just felt super loved as we looked at all the sweet things people had blessed us with. I can't even remember anymore what all I got, it was just lots of cute small things that meant a lot. A recent convert named Ella came and spent the whole day with us! We began with breakfast with the Koonce's. We played aggravation (the equivalent of sorry) until it was time to go.

Skyping home of course was great :). It was nice seeing the whole family again. We didn't have too much to talk about, but there's something pretty miraculous about staring at faces live that you haven't seen in forever! [She got to see her uncle, her aunt and family, her maternal grandparents , and her own family. We talked alot but didn't have enough questions to keep the conversation going non stop for 40 min :)]
So the big event of the night happened as we were leaving the Nordstrom's house. As we drove by all the different windows, one house in particular caught my attention. I felt a pressure in my chest and I knew we had to turn around and go knock on the door. Everyone was supportive of my prompting, so we went up together. I could see a man starring at us from the kitchen window, I waved cheerfully as we approached the door. "Hello?" He answered. I explained who we were, and the message of Christmas we were hoping to share. "We're in the middle of our Christmas!" He snapped. And shut the door. I could hear him complaining from inside: "Christmas fricken day!"  Tears filled my eyes. Driving away, I could see all that was going on in the house. The little boy was in the living room on video games, the mom was sitting in the dining room on her laptop, and the dad was in the kitchen starring at the microwave and a sports game. My heart just broke. I didn't understand why Heavenly Father would want me to be unsuccessful like that. I later realized just how valuable this lesson was. Every Christmas from now on, I will remember the family who was in the "middle of Christmas", distracted by everything in the world but each other, who were too busy for a 3 minute message about the Savior. 

I think of how Christ must feel when the whole world promises to celebrate "Christ-more" and instead treats Him as even less. Our Christmas dinner was wonderful. It was with the same family we had Thanksgiving with. These people are anything but well off, but they have the biggest hearts in the world. I was just so grateful that they loved the Lord enough to save up their food stamp money and invite the sister missionaries over for what was in their eyes, quite an extravagant feast. We all sat together and talked and laughed. Because that's really what Christmas is about. It was a really great day.
Friday was a once in a life time weekly planning! The elders asked us for help, because apparently theirs isn't too effective,  so we invited the Hermanas and all went to the church for a step by step training on how to weekly plan. The elders made 6 boxes of macaroni and cheese.... We didn't even finish half of it! And Hermana Lapine drew an awesome picture of them on their white board. Obviously their was too much fun to be had, so it probably won't be happening again, but it was a good experience to learn :). 
Okay so we had plans with Alivia (that's the girl who came to church for the first time and was ready to be baptized) , and we knew it would be  really important that a member came. We asked everyone under the sun. For some reason, I felt good about Sister Stewart, the Relief Society President. We texted half the ward, and even Sister Stewart said no. A little while later, she texted back saying she would go after all. Hallelujah! It was actually the coolest thing. She was perfect for all of the investigators we brought her to. When we saw Alivia, we set her on a date right off the bat! January 10th!! Alivia is already completely worthy and ready for baptism, I couldn't have planned a more perfect miracle if I tried!
At the end of the night, Sister Stewart shared with us how she originally told us no to go out, because she had to prepare her talk for Relief Society. As she sat there praying for inspiration, she realized that us texting her was the answer to her prayers! She said she almost missed out on the blessings of receiving the revelation she was needing! She compared it to a man who slipped off a roof and in the middle of falling cried out "God, save me!" and then got his shirt caught on a nail and was safe. "Nevermind, I got it!" He said.   
I think sometimes we also miss opportunities to receiving answered prayers by service. So if you have something you are struggling with, as I often do, go out and get lost helping someone else. If you're anything like me or Sister Stewart, you'll find your problem fading away or fixed sooner than not :)

So Saturday.... President called. AND IM NOT LEAVING! GOING ON 6 MONTHS IN PADUCAH BABY! I'm like the only sister to ever stay here this long! I feel so lucky! Annnnd I'm going to be getting a new sister named Sister Curtis. Sister Cotton said she's a lot like Sister Kohler. That's kind of exciting because Sister Curtis is a brand new Sister Training leader, so I will get to train her, just like I trained Sister Kohler! I'm not too sure why the Lord is trusting me with all this, I've only ever been in one other area... but I'm excited because it will  force me to rely on the Lord more rather than my companion's wisdom. I'm also really terrified, because I don't know anything about her. haha. 
Sunday was wonderful. We had 4 investigators surprise us by coming to church and LOVING it. I also found out that my friend Elder Nez from the MTC will be coming up here to Paducah, which will be a lot of fun :). 
This pday has been sad. Sad because I love Sister Cotton so much! We went to lunch with Ella at Panera (thanks giftcard! ;)) And then ran home because my companion got suuuuper sick. I won't be sending out much mail this week because I've spent most the day making ginger root herbal tea and tending to Sister Cotton. Everyone keep her in your prayers! Tomorrow she will be going to Caitez [you'll have to fix the spelling] Kentucky. She is being released as a Sister Training Leader and will get to spend her next 6 weeks loving the people there and having a great time :) 

As I've reflected on this time I've had in Paducah, I was thinking a lot about the struggles I've had. I realized that my mission is basically like climbing a mountain. In Sparta where I started, I covered a LOT of ground. But now in Paducah, it's become much steeper. I haven't necessarily progressed as much, maybe there haven't been as many baptisms, but I have worked really hard to just move forward. Which has made me a lot stronger.  It's like those fat burning settings on those cardio machines, lol. During my time as a missionary I've learned a lot about grace, gratitude, hope, humility, and correction. During my studies this morning I felt strongly that the next thing for me to focus on is love. In Preach My Gospel, it says that God's love is eternal. Thinking about that, I realize that this means He loves us no matter what. We don't have to earn God's love. We don't have to do anything to deserve it, it will simply always exist for each of us on a personal level. As a mortal, having love for someone no matter what is often uncomfortable and sounds irrational. I realize that if I am to truly represent my Savior, then I need to work on having that sort of unconditional, ETERNAL, love for others. Jesus Christ loved us so much that he let those he loved most crucify him, BECAUSE of the fact that he loved them. Similarily, why should I let the hurtful things others do, cause my love for them to waiver? Shouldn't that just make me work harder to help them because of Christ's love for them? 

I can't believe the next time I write, I'll be introducing you to my THIRD companion in Paducah... craziness! 

Love, Sister Hochstrasser 

Write to me! My address will be the same for at least 6 more weeks!!

Sister Jennifer Hochstrasser
447 Hutchinson Ave 
Paducah, Kentucky 42003

or write to me at dearelder.com and have it sent to the Tennessee Nashville Mission, and I'll still get it.

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