Happy New Year! I don’t have too much time to write this week, but for all of you that are trying to make New Year’s resolutions happen here’s one of my favorite quotes about committing oneself to something:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” -W.H. Murray
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas y una Navidad bien feliz! I was well taken care of this year by many different families here in our ward. I got to spend the holiday surrounded by friends and stuffed with good food! I hope the same was true for all of you 🙂
I know it’s officially the 26th, but if it’s alright, I wanted to share one last Christmas message before the season comes to a close. This past week I reflected a lot on the Nativity story. It’s one that most of us have heard for all of our lives. Mary was visited by an angel and she was told that she would be the mother of the Son of God. Christ was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. A star in the heavens led the shepherds and the wise men to the babe. This little infant would grow and go onto perform many miracles, preach peace, be put to death at the hands of an angry mob and ultimately, provide the way home for all of us. It’s a familiar tale.
This year the part of the story where the Savior of the world was born in a stable, struck me in a way that it never had before. His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, had willingly submitted to the great responsibility of bringing this important soul into the world. They surely felt the pressure of such a task and would’ve wanted to do all they could to provide the best for Him. Yet there they were, weary travelers in Bethlehem just hours away from the arrival of their newborn baby, unable to find any form of refuge anywhere in that city. There was no room in the inn. That’s a pretty valid cause for a little frustration and heartache, maybe even a little questioning why.
Elder Anderson of the quorum of the twelve Apostles teaches, "Remembering Mary reminds us that many of the sorrows, difficulties, uncertainties, and challenges that confront us should not be seen as heaven’s disfavor but rather as defining moments in our lives- opportunities to go forward in faith, realizing that the full purposes of the Lord will be understood, if not at that very moment, then later."
Think of all that was gained because of the humble circumstances of His birth. No one need ever feel alone in rejection or time of hardship. When all may seem hopeless, when tough times come- tough times that we may feel undeserving of or confused about why it had to be us, why it had to be then and in that way, that’s when we ought to remember Christ.
He is our Savior and our friend. He knows our thoughts and our hearts. He understands because He’s personally felt it. He’s been there.
It’s all part of the plan. There is a divine hand at work in our lives. Our Heavenly Father loves us. That’s why He sent His son and that’s why He allows trials. It’s to help us grow and progress. Recognizing and trusting in that makes all the difference.
In one of the conferences I got to attend while Elder Renlund was here, he talked about the play "the Passion of Christ." It’s this 6 hour long production that’s put on every 10 years in a little town in Germany. It’s a historical event that’s been happening since like the 1600’s and it’s a pretty big deal. This play is all about the end of Christ’s ministry, His final moments here on earth. Elder Renlund, who saw it with his wife, described it saying that the whole 6 hours crescendo into the crucifixion and that it’s just an overwhelmingly powerful scene. But then in the final 5 minutes, the man who plays Jesus just stands there on the stage. He stands there while an actor representing an angel reads the part of the New Testament that talks about resurrection. At that point Elder Renlund’s wife, Ruth, leaned over to him and said, "They’re not sure. They’re not sure what resurrection means." If, as commonly believed, God is a Spirit that is everywhere and nowhere all at once, then what does it mean to be resurrected into a body of flesh and bone?
We believe in a literal resurrection, and to me that makes all the difference. We have a Father in Heaven who loves us very much. He is the all powerful Creator, but He is not a free floating, abstract mass of spirit. The scriptures teach that we are created in His image. Our bodies are not an accidental design. They are a mirror image of His perfect form. Because He loves us, He sent His Son to earth. Christ lived, He set the example and laid out the path that would make it possible for us to get back to our heavenly home. He died for us, and then He lived again. He lives today. Our Father in heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ want us to be happy. They want us to make it home safely.
In a different conference with Elder Renlund last weekend, he again touched on the topic of resurrection. He talked about the tsunami that hit Indonesia on Christmas day in 2004. It was devastating. The leaders of the church gathered together to discuss what they could say to people who had endured great challenges and difficulties in their lives. One leader offered a lengthy, eloqent answer that Elder Renlund said was so nicely put that it could probably have gone into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Then another leader, namely Elder Holland, popped up and said, "I have a simpler answer. Tell them He is not here. He is risen."
"This changes everything for everybody forever." -Elder Renlund
There’s an awesome short clip on youtube called "Because of Him" that further illustrates this point. I think it’s a video that everyone should see, so if you haven’t yet, here’s a link:
Generally Christmas time is when we place the focus on the Savior’s birth and Easter is the time for celebrating
His resurrection. But really, they are one in the same. He was born! He lived and then He lived again! He has conquered death and because He lives we will too. Separation from loved ones is only temporary. Families can be together forever. This is the message of hope that underlies all the happiness of the Christmas season. This is what it’s all about.
This weekend Elder Renlund of the 12 Apostles, Elder Pearson of the General Seventy, Elder Torres of the Area Seventy and their wives all came to Albuquerque and spoke at several different area conferences. It was incredible. I’m still processing all of the things that were taught! What a whirlwind of wisdom! I haven’t had the chance to really organize my thoughts and figure out what to share here (there was just SO much!). Next week I’ll post more about it, but for now enjoy the picture proof attached below. (Where’s waldo? See if you can spot my companion and me).
We also received transfer news this Saturday and Hermana Garcia and I will be sticking together for the holidays! We’re so excited!!
In other news, there is officially 14 days until Christmas! Which means we have 14 more days to light the world! If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry, today is the perfect day to jump in. Check out today’s video in the link below:
The main way that Hermana Garcia and I have been participating in the Light the World initiative is by delivering "living Christmas cards." People are sending us around to their friends’ homes to sing a Christmas carol and then read the Christmas story in Luke 2. We deliver to members of the church and non-members alike, and it’s been awesome. It’s a really great way for us to meet people in a non-pressure situation and show them what missionaries are all about. We’re here to share a message of Jesus Christ and help people to feel His love. It’s our year round goal to "light the world."
Every missionary companionship in our mission is participating in these living Christmas cards, so if you have friends anywhere from Santa Fe, New Mexico to El Paso, Texas and would like to send one their way, shoot me an email with their name and address before next Monday (sydney.metcalf) and I’ll pass the info along to the missionaries in their area. #lighttheworld
This past Saturday my companion and I got to be a part of 7 people’s baptisms! It was such an awesome day. In the afternoon we spoke at a baptism here in Rio Grande for two kids from a family that have recently come back to church and for their sister’s boyfriend who the elders have been teaching. In the morning we went to the Ramos family’s baptism and that was very cool. They live in the first area I served in out here. It was good to see old friends from the Valle del Norte branch and I got to sit with my little recent convert, Yahaira, and her family. The Ramos family were the next door neighbors to the Trejo family who I taught for many months before they moved to Utah and got married and baptized there. The missionaries in Utah tell me that they have callings now and are preparing to be sealed this summer. It was crazy to think about the chain of events that caused everything to happen. The Trejos went to visit family in Utah and on their way back to New Mexico they stopped at a church visitors center. A sister missionary there opened her mouth and testified and it really touched them. She sent the referral info to Albuquerque and Hermana Cifuentes and I started teaching them exactly a year ago. Little does that one visitors center sister know that they have since been married, baptized and are preparing to go to the temple! And that now the next door neighbors who the Trejo family would invite to all of the church activities, have also been baptized and have their sights set on the temple! There is a power in just opening our mouths and talking to everyone and most of the time I don’t think we have a real grasp on what can be set in motion because of it.
Also Hermana Sinibaldi, mija, came down from Santa Fe with her greenie, mi nieta, and they got to be a part of the Ramos baptism because of her involvement in teaching them. I love that girl so much. It was really, really good to see her.
I hope you all had the best Thanksgiving! Mine consisted of a fancy breakfast, 3 different dinners and a major food coma afterwards 🙂 It was great.
I’m still in shock that Thanksgiving actually already happened and that Christmas is just around the corner! Some of you may remember the Christmas Initiative that the church put out last year. It was called "Light the World." If you missed it last year, don’t worry because it’s happening again this year! Below is a link to the intro video and it’s awesome:
Starting December 1st, there will be a new video released daily with an associated challenge of service. You can share via social media how you #LightTheWorld the whole Christmas season. What better way is there to come to know Christ than by following in His footsteps and doing as He did? Taking the light the world challenge will help you and your family to have an even greater sense of the Christmas spirit in your homes, and you’ll be able to do so much good for so many people in need.
I’ll be posting updates of how my companion and I light the world this December and I’d love to get any updates from all of you on what you’re doing too! For more info go to mormon.org