Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year! December 29, 2014

Dearest Family,
I'm so glad that everything went smoothly with Skype and that I was able to see all of your smiling faces and to be reminded of how fortunate I am to have such a loving, talented, good looking family. I definitely underestimated how emotional it would be, and the last few days have been pretty difficult as well. Most of my frustration comes from feeling like I have good goals but not seeing any way to accomplish them or being told that I'm not doing something right when I'm trying my hardest. Learning to deal with frustration and failure has been a big part of my mission so far, and even though I wish I didn't have to learn this lesson when salvation is on the line (no pressure right), I know deep down that this is what I need. There have been a ton of moments where I've been tempted to give in, not to go home or break any major rules, but to slacken my efforts, be a little less patient, and simply let life happen to me. I wish I could say that I've never given in, but that wouldn't be the truth. However, if there is one thing that I know, it's that I will eventually get back out there. This week we had some incredible miracles happen, whether I was on exchanges with the Assistants, giving a man from the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) a Book of Mormon, or meeting an incredible young kid on the street  and giving him a church tour. For all the little failures and mistakes that we make, we would do well to remember all of the times we succeed as well. I don't know if you've watched Meet the Mormons, but the final story really touched me and inspired me to learn to learn from the past but not live in it. For those of you who don't know, that story was about a missionary mom who as a young teenager had a young child, was homeless, family less, and without much hope in the world. Through a series of heaven sent events, she found the church, married, and has now sent her son to share the wonderful message that saved their lives. I plan to watch that movie many more times after my mission!
Nature has been one of the main things that I've missed on my mission so far, but as long as you get to  enjoy it for me, pictures will be enough.
Christmas here was another hard day of working, and caroling was both successful and awkward at the same time. Some of the people we caroled to weren't too enthused about us visiting, so thankfully we brought gifts as peace offerings! Still a wonderful experience, but I'm definitely grateful for the culture of caroling that exists in America.
One thing I study on Sunday was specifically the purpose of fasting, but also the purpose of all the many little rules and responsibilities we have in the church. As we discussed fasting, I remembered that even though I was hungry, fasting had a sort of cleansing effect and helped build my self control, at least with regards to food. We are commanded to be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect (see 3 Nephi), but that's a pretty impossible goal and impossible to know where to begin. Through commandments like fasting, tithing, the word of wisdom, sabbath day observance, service, education, we are gradually overcoming the various elements of the natural man and becoming more like God by setting smaller, more attainable goals. We are fighting laziness, ignorance, gluttony, greed, anger, impatience, and every other bad attribute and replacing them with Christ-like ones. So if anyone ever wants to overcome a bad habit or improve themselves, simply let them know about these simple, time-tested methods and let them try it out for themselves. 
With love,
Elder Christensen
Odawara District

mission Christmas Conference

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