Monday, March 27, 2017

Three Chairs, a Table, and a Pizza

Week # 54

You know you have an awesome companion when you wake up to streamers and "Happy Birthday" written on the mirror.

Emailing is so hard. We go through the week working and teaching. We feel so many emotions. Happy when we have a good lesson, sad when we find out that someone decides to stop meeting with us, frustrated when we try to help someone and they refuse it, tired when . . . well, always, stressed when . . . well again, always, etc. It's interesting to get to the end of another week and email about it. It's so hard, but at the same time, such a blessing. It's really becoming more clear to me how our Heavenly Father feels. Happy when He sees us progressing, sad when he is there wanting to help and we don't accept it. The feeling that I have felt the most in my time as a missionary though is love (getting all cheesy on y'all). Really though. Through all the stress, happy, frustrated, tired and sad feelings, I am overwhelmed each week as I look back and realize how much love I felt this week.

It's weird being a missionary. We do things that normal people don't. We walk around after dark, we are always wearing skirts, we give out our number to every person we can (that's a habit that I should probably break when I return home), we get excited to walk into someone's house with complete trust when we really just met them and they could be an axe murderer, and we jam out to MoTab. If I wasn't wearing a name tag, then I would probably make people feel pretty uncomfortable (and I'm sure we do even with the name tag).

But why do we do all these weird things? Because we love. Because we are loved. I feel that I have said this multiple times in past emails, but it always impresses me that the first principle of the Gospel that we teach is that God is our loving Heavenly Father.

So this is how I felt love this week.

We had Zone Conference this week. It is always so inspired. We talked a lot about finding new people to teach and being successful as missionaries. Something that I really liked is that Sister Tateoka really stressed that we don't have to ask President Tateoka at the end of our missions if we have been successful. We can know that every night through prayer.

This week I hit a few check points. On Thursday I completed one year of being a missionary and on Saturday I completed 21 years of living. Thank you everyone who emailed me and sent me gifts and letters. It means so much to me and I feel so much love and support. At zone conference all of the missionaries sang Happy Birthday, but the thing is that it was 4 Elders' birthday and then me. We took a picture and it's just super awkward. All of the Elders grouped together and I stood by myself while everyone laughed.

My birthday was the best though! We got to go to the temple with an investigator and she even invited a friend to come with her. I love the temple so much and love the Spirit that you can feel. We are planning on doing another temple trip this next Saturday with J. He is doing awesome. He hit some bumps in the road this week, but he is still progressing. We gave him a Book of Mormon on Saturday and when we came by on Monday he had read multiple chapters and could tell us the whole story of Lehi's family. That was one of those moments when we felt excited and happy this week. On my birthday we showed up for a lesson and there were the 3 chairs and table as normal, with a little pizza. He is so sweet. He is so excited to go to the temple this weekend and to watch General Conference.

We experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed this week in a lesson with some young investigators. They are all high energy and there are 4 of them, sometimes 5. They all started asking questions really quickly. We were finally able to calm them down by reassuring them "yes, you will probably be able to eat burritos in Heaven, yes, we will have clothes and they may or may not be sparkly, no you don't get all of the money and chips in the world if you are the last person alive, and yes you can live in South American and still be saved at the last day".

We experienced the norm of Oregon's crazy weather this. We left the apartment on Friday and it was sunny and not a rain cloud in sight. I didn't bring a rain jacket or wear boots. We went to dinner and then walked outside. It was a downpour. Worse than normal. We still went to our appointment and when I looked in a mirror later I realized why they probably didn't let us come inside. I was soaked to the bone and I looked like a mop. I think my shoes are still drying out.

I think that's about it for today, but gold star to anyone who counts how many commas I used in this email. I didn't realize how many until I was proof reading my email. Also the world as I knew it came crashing down this week when I learned that burritos aren't from Mexico. They apparently are an American "Mexican" food. Burrito means little donkey in Spanish.

Les quiero,
Hermana Dickson

Pictures include: Temple trip, a birthday photo with my Mission President and his wife, a birthday picture with the blossoms, and the last one we are laughing because the very drunk man taking the picture said "Woah! Look who's at the end of a rainbow!!"

Birthday Blossoms!

Hermanas Dickson and Jensen

Birthday Temple Trip with friends

President and Sister Tateoka

Zone birthdays - missionary gap between the elders and the Hermana

Family "Feliz Cumpleanos" Birthday Banner

Happy Birthday package.

"Woah! Look who's at the end of the rainbow" 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Triumphs in Woodburn

Week #53

You know your* Hermana Dickson when you accidentally get pepper spray in your eye. 

Don't worry, I didn't have to actually use it on anyone. My pepper spray decided to leak ever so little in my bag and I grabbed something out, then touched my face. I also found out that you can use pepper spray in place of tapatío if you are running low. I ate a chip after touching my pepper spray as well and it made that sunchip taste like an extreme taki chip. Adventures of being Hermana Dickson.

This week has been spirituall full. I have loved my studies recently. Recently I've read more in the Old Testament than usual. I love it. So many promises and I love learning more about how our Heavenly Father is truly the same yesterday, today and forever. I have felt the Spirit confirm that countless times during my time on a mission. 

Speaking of the Spirit, He gave me a little call to repentance this week. We were running up to our apartmet to grab a list of less actives that the stake asked us to visit and there was a man walking a little ways off in the parking lot. We weren't going to talk to him but then I thought "Hermana Dickson, someday your (sic) going to meet this man in the spirit world and he's going to either thank you for bringing the Gospel to him, or ask you why you thought you were too busy to talk to him". So I did a 360. He turned out to be really cool. Definitely a highlight of the week. Pretty sure he was drunk, but I heard more truth come out of his mouth than most. He started off telling us that he knew who we are because he has amigos who ride bikes (aka Elders). We started talking about Christ and then how we are each a child of God. He started quoting scriptures and testifying to us of God's plan, going into some really deep doctrine and none of it false. We asked him if he had ever been taught by other missionaries and he said no. At one point I had to make a conscious effort to keep my jaw from floating in the air. It was so cool. We walked away from that contact in bewilderment. It is just another testament to me that there is so much truth in the world and that the Restored Gospel is here to confirm what truth we already have, and add on to it.

So for some reason people think that Sister Missionaries are the perfect candidates to give all their marriage advice to. It's funny. We do service at a cemetary and the man who works there gave us enough advice to write a book. We have to laugh about it because marriage is a long way off for both of us, but it was a special opportunity to testify of eternal families in the temples. 

Speaking of temples, we have a new investigator who loves the temples (we'll call him J). Yesterday we showed him a picture and he could not get over how beautiful they are. I love being able to testify of the sealing power in temples, theat our families can be forever. This is the investigator I talked about last week who came to church even though we havent' had a complete lesson with him yet. He is so prepared! We went over after Pday and had a lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is so humble and has already born his testimony to us about how God has worked in his life. He read the pamphlet twice before we came over and when we asked him if he had any questions from church the day before he only asked us how he can help others and what his responsibilities are. He works all week so we can only see him ont he weekends but we have had awesome lessons. He is a cute little old man who is lonely and so he easily connects with the members as well and some have really taken him under their wing. He is also a Spanlish master. I always struggle with that because that means you have to be thinking in Spanish and English and most times it's harder to understand the English because of his accent, but it stretches our minds and makes the lessons interesting. He wants to get baptized, it's really just a matter of when. He works all week so the only contact we have with him is through teting during the week. He doesn't know how to work his phone very well though. He told us that he can read texts when they come in, but can never find them later and can't respond. This last week we received texts with no spaces or punctuation but they were the best texts we have received. It shows that he was really trying! We were able to help him set up an email and that was an adventure as well. We walked up to his house yesterday and he was painting it a bright yellow. He asked us how we liked it and we said that it looked good . . .And very bright. It was brighter than the fire hydrants. He came back onto the road and realized how bright it is and started worrying that the home owner association will get mad. I told him that we will help him change it if need be. This man is a miracle. I'm so excited to continue helping him. He told us yesterday that this week was the first week in a long time that he hasn't gone to the bar or the casino. We haven't even taught him about the Word of Wisdom yet. It's so amazing to see the Atonement already working in his life. If you were to drive by where he lives you would see 3 chairs and a table on his porch. He set them up so that we always have a place to sit if we come by. He is so sweet. He also refers to us as "las Hermanas de Oaxaca" because Hermana Jensen likes to tell people she is from Mexico. Yesterday my testimony grew of how much God guides His work. J does not have confidence in his prayers. He feels like that he has to learn more before he can have good prayers, but we have explained to him that every prayer is perfect to our Heavenly Father. yesterday at church we felt that evey lesson and talk was truly meant for him. It was all abouat prayer and baptism and confirmation. They addressed so many of his concerns. I just felt an immense love from Heavenly Father. That even though we can't understand how, he knows each one of his children deeply and personally. He knows exactly what we need to hear. I've thought abou that a lot recently as I try to think of questions that I have for General Conference. I have such a testimony that we can recieve personal answers through the words of the prophet and apostles. I'm so excited for Conference!

We had lots of parties this week. The Relief Society had one for the anniversary and they all wore bonnets. I'll include pictures. We also had a quinceañera for one of our investigators. It was crazy. There were so many people and so much dancing. The music was so loud. We guarded the cake that had a fountain in it . . .I also went to my first Hispanic baby shower. Learned lots of new vocabulary and had lots of fun. It was supposed to start at 4. Half of the people showed up after 8. Nothing ever happens on time here and I feel like I will have a hard time adjusting back to events actually happening on time. Other than that I think the only other highlight was that we ate pie for Pi day. This week felt so long, but good. I hope that you are all happy and getting excited for conference!

Les quiero, 
Hermana Lauren Dickson

You know Hermana Dickson is becoming more fluent in Spanish when her English grammar and spelling starts to slip. She types fast on her iPad and typos and auto-corrects happen so mom usually adjusts them for the blog. This time I had to smile and just leave the "your" that is used twice in place of "you're" because it happens when you speak two languages.

Pi Day

Quinceanera cake with a fountain in the middle!

Relief Society Birthday Celebration

Silver Falls State Park

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Perfect Plan of Happiness

Week # 52

You know you're a missionary when you get asked to sing for the 5th time in church in 6 weeks. And the 6th week was Fast Sunday.

That was an adventure though. We only practiced twice and never with our pianist so it consisted of a voice crack from my companion and then me all of a sudden shaking - who knows why - and so neither of us were singing and the Elders just stared at us so no one was singing. They may not ask the Hermanas to sing for a while. . . I'm going to try to keep this email organized, but no promises. I feel like I have so much I want to share with everyone.

This week was long, and good. I was going through my journal and I was so surprised that some of the things that happened this week actually happened this week. They seem so long ago.

There aren't really a lot of events this week. Just a lot of experiences of learning and growing. 

Last Monday I think I mentioned that I was able to go to an Abby just outside of town. It was so peaceful and I wouldn't mind going back again when the weather warms up. The chapel was beautiful and we heard the monks sing. The music nerd came out and I had flashbacks to my music history classes. It was a special experience. There was a part of the Abby where you could see four mountain (I don't remember all of them) including Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens . . . on a clear day . . . so that means we didn't see them #oregonweather. I'll include some pictures of that experience.

We had an awesome lesson this week on the Plan of Salvation with a semi-new investigator. She is the sister in law of a member in our branch. We were able to testify that her family is learning about the same things in the spirit world. I am grateful that we have the knowledge that God has a perfect plan for us to be happy and that we have that knowledge because of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the restored Priesthood power. 

Speaking of Priesthood power, we have had a couple of experiences recently that have really helped me better appreciate it. I could never believe that God would be a god of confusion and so just like Him, His house needs to be a house of order. We have the blessing to be directed by Christ in everything that we do and when we follow those directions we receive . . . blessings!

In district meeting this week we had a training on ministering to everyone including and especially your companion and other missionaries. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. The "others" doesn't just mean investigators. It includes members, other missionaries and your companion. 

I also gave a training in our district meeting on the book "Adjusting to Missionary Life". That book is golden and it is so inspired. It teaches ways to handle the changes and stresses of missionary work. I went through it the other day and highlighted every time that it mentioned prayer as a way to manage stressful situations. 41 times. I think the book is about 30 pages long. It was just such a confirmation to me that prayer is one of the most precious gifts that we are given as children of God. He wants to hear from us so much. 

Speaking of words that are said often, Sister Barnes and I decided that the words "I don't know" came out of our mouths more than any other on our exchange this week. I went into her area in Salem and we talked a lot. And learned a lot. Exchanges are so inspired. The conclusion to not knowing? We aren't always supposed to. That's where faith and trust come into the conversation. When we continue even though we don't know everything, we are showing our trust and I think Heavenly Father sometimes doesn't give us answers because He puts His trust in us. If that makes sense. He trusts us to use what we do know to continue in faith. I feel like that was jumbled, but it makes sense to me. 

My testimony of consecration also grew on my exchange. Sister Barnes is so consecrated to the work. I sometimes get sad/stressed when I leave my area for exchanges. I want to be involved int he lessons and know what is going on. Sister Training Leaders (STLs) leave their areas multiple times each transfer and she was talking about doubling the number so that she can see us more. I pointed out to her that that would take her companionship away from her area for 2 weeks. And she said "So? We need to see the sisters!" She is an example of ministering to missionaries and has so much trust in the Lord to know that if she is fulfilling her calling as an STL then her area will be fine. The Spirit definitely testified to me that I have so much to work on.

I want to end my email talking about testimonies. I've been blessed to hear so many this week. Words carry so much power. We had an investigator come to church yesterday that we haven't even taught an actual lesson to yet. It was so cool. We went by an hour before church and caught him just as he was leaving. He told us that he would see us there and then he came! He also bore his testimony on the Holy Ghost and how he wants to change! I'm so excited to visit him. We have a lesson tonight. I'm so excited to see his understanding and testimony grow as he comes closer to Christ.

I hope my words weren't too jumbled this week.

Les quiero, 

Hermana Lauren Dickson

Sorry for the overload of pictures. They include the Abby visit from last week, a picture from our exchange with the STLs some of the Relief Society in our branch, and the road closed thanks to the rain. It's a pretty regular sight. We had to back track. That's what happens when you try to be cool and take the back roads. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Spirit Will Testify and Teach

Week #51

You know you're a missionary when your companion points out to you that you do an unintentional "tag check" every lesson, testimony, OYM, etc. Basically that means I  am constantly touching my name badge to make sure it is still there without even thinking about it.

Every Monday I feel as though it's been the fastest week of my mission. The time seems to be rushing by.

I had my first dinner where I have had to pray multiple times to stop myself from throwing up. That was a highlight. I literally was eating egg shells with blended up bread and shrimp. I don't know any other way to explain it. 

We have really been trying to clean out our areabook app and we have made some real progress. This last week we contacted a family who lives in our apartment complex. The husband opened the door and knew who we were (he didn't seem too excited about it either). He let us in and directed us to his wife who also seemed indifferent to our presence. He then re took his place on the couch and turned the TV volume up. We began talking to the wife and she told us of their experiences with missionaries. We were able to make some connections because I served with one of the Elders when I was in Forest Grove. During all this, J (esposo) rarely glanced over though I spefically faced my chair towards him and talked to both of them. I don't remember our exact conversation, but we started talking about the temple and eternal families. The Spirit entered the home and J turned off the TV and slowly scooted over on the couch until he was as close as he could get to the conversation. 

I testify of the truth that our Heavenly Father wants us to be sealed as families eternally. I testify that if we invite him, the Spirit can testify and teach. It has been so amazing to watch the Spirit touch the lives of the people I meet. It has been such a blessing to feel a portion of our Heavenly Father's love for each individual.

One of our investigators received a blessing this week and so did I. It's so hard to explain my feelings over email. The authority and power of God is on the earth today and we are so blessed to have the knowledge and ability to ask for special instruction and help through worthy holders of the priesthood. When I think my testimony can't possibly grow any stronger of the power of the priesthood, I feel an even stronger confirmation of our Heavenly Father's love for each one of us.

I've realized that I talk a lot about the love of our Heavenly Father in lessons, my emails, and almost every day in my journal. It's because it is fundamental! It is the first principle that we must understand before we can understand why we have living modern day prophets and why we have the Plan of Salvation. It's because He loves us. It's because He is our Father eternal. 

Les quiero, 

Hermana Dickson

Pictures include my new Mexican apron and me cooking my favorite type of Mexican food haha (do y'all like my "cook book"?). Also an investigator of the Elders took us out to dinner and took a selfie with us. It's my favorite picture of my entire mission. He's just so awkward (self proclaimed) and he just randomly raised his phone and took a picture. We made plans to go to Mexico in October when I am home. Other pictures include a family that we teach and a teenage investigator. Everyone keeps telling us we look like sisters. The last picture is what you do when you wake up feeling like a cowboy, but you live in Oregon where it rains all the time. I didn't even know that they made ponchos for cowboy hats. We hit a record of most rain in the month of February that ever before. Usually we get 3-4 inches, but we got over 10 this last month.