What a week it has been! I don't even know where to start.
Monday night we had dinner with the branch president and his wife. It was so great. The people here are just the best. They just love you to death and make you feel like a million bucks. They haven't had missionaries much in this area and they truly are so kind and show so much gratitude for everything that Sister Simmons and I do. President and Sister Taylor have a giant great dane named Samson. I was scared of him but we became fast friends. I'll attach a picture. The pictures don't do him justice though. he's huge. also, on the way back from their house they stopped at this place called lover's leap. once again, the camera doesn't do it justice, but just know it was beautiful! This place is beautiful!
Tuesday andand were normal days. We walked, and talked, and taught, and had a good time. We volunteer every week at this place called the Jesus House. It's like a thrift shop but it's free. and the funniest southern ladies named rhonda and belinda work there and i just die. I'll have to record them so you can just get a feel for the kind of people i've been surrounded by the last eighteen months. I LOVE THEM ALL.
During the meeting they talked about the mission president's seminar they had in Atlanta a few months ago and talked about the intensity of Elder Holland's remarks in regards to returned missionaries. Sister Craven said he was weeping to the point that it was difficult for them to understand at times throughout his talk. talking about returning missionaries, He said, "we know that they go home. But we cannot let them go back. They can't ever go back." This simple statement taught an entire sermon on its own. It shows the concern and worry the brethren have for the returned missionaries in the church.
Yesterday, Sister Simmons and I had the opportunity to speak in church! I didn't realize how long it had been since I spoke in church and was pleased with the comfort I felt being behind the pulpit. I prayed so hard that the spirit would be present and teach them something they needed to know. I shared so many personal experiences from my mission, prior to my mission, and stories of my wonderful family. It went really well. Dad, you'd be so proud of how much my speaking skills/willingness to speak have improved. I have a vivid memory from before my mission of you telling me you'd be able to see the growth I'd experience by how willing and able I was to get up and speak in sacrament meeting. :) I'm embarrassed of the internal fit I threw about speaking at my farewell. Ohh the irony. Also, someone in the branch found out I played the piano so you can bet all those piano lesson have been paying off since I've been on a mission. I still freak out a little when they ask me to play at church and at meetings, but I have received divine help when I have to play a song I've never seen before. It's a miracle.
Have I told y'all lately how much I love being a missionary? I wish I could be a full-time missionary forever. I had a dream this week that I was in my interview with President Noble and I was being released. He told me in order to receive my 'honorable release certificate', I had to give him my nametag. It didn't go over well. :) I wanted to keep it on. I kept trying to convince him that I could be home and still be a full-time missionary. I am in awe of the countless miracles I've been blessed to witness as a missionary. After I gave my talk yesterday, I sat and thought about all the miracle stories I shared and thought, MAN. What a blessing. President Craven once in a meeting said, missions aren't a sacrifice, they're a blessing. at first I was slightly defensive about it and thought that my 18 months sure had been a sacrifice, but I've realized, that this sacred time truly is a blessing. a miracle that saved me spiritually.
I am eternally indebted to a loving Heavenly Father who cared for me enough to allow me to serve a mission. I'm changed forever. I'm going home soon, but I can assure you, I won't be going back. :)
I love you so very much! to the moon and back!