Of All the Things I like to do, I LOVE to Climb a Mountain!

October 21, 2013

I’m 20. Officially. w.h.o.a.

I prefer not to think about it.

This week was so great though. Everyone was so sweet. My birthday party last week was top notch. The Greek place didn’t exist but Chili’s never fails us. And, I may or may not have cried reading “20 Things We Love About Hermana Lewis.”…and I may or may not have it on video. [Thanks to Sister Kenagy]. With dramatic music in the background. Hermana Newbill made me PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE. Which went perfectly with our pumpkin spice steamer. And pumpkin bagels we just bought. We were in pumpkin heaven.

On my actual birthday we had Zone Meeting. Hermana Newbill made me birthday breakfast of french toast. The other missionaries sang to me. I still don’t love being the center of attention. eeeeeek. But it was fun for a sec. I love to feel loved. ❤ I got showered with packages and presents from friends and family. You all rock. Couldn’t ask for better. Birthday Party #3 today includes a nice trip to Target. We haven’t been in a couple weeks and well. I do love Target.

Needless to say. Birthday week was everything a missionary could ask for and more.

At zone meeting on Wednesday we all had to give a training. Ours was on Talking with everyone. It went well, but we had nothing on the Elders that went before us. Elder Langi and Nielson came up with a song [and they both rocked at singing, so okay] and played it on the guitar. Their training was on having a good attitude. Elder Nielson shared a story about when he was around 8 or 9 he and his dad went on a hike. The hike got really hard and, like any 8-year-old, he started to complain and want to stop or take a break. His dad responded by taking him by the collar of his shirt and pushing him up the mountain repeating, “of all the things I like to do, I love to climb a mountain” over and over. He wouldn’t let them take a break until little Elder Nielson started repeating it with him. When they got to the top, they were both so happy, and as Elder Nielson was resting and eating his applesauce, he thought “The whole thing could have been this fun if I had just smiled and enjoyed it.”

Wellp. That changed my life. I now have a paper that says “of all the things I like to do, I love to climb a mountain” hanging right above my desk. Cause guess what. There’s things about missionary work that aren’t exactly my favorite. But I know that if I change my attitude, they can become my favorite. Because I have to do it anyways so I might as well love it.

Of all the things I like to do I love to ride my bike. Of all the things I like to do, I love to wake up at 6:15 am. Of all the things I like to do, I love to weekly plan. The cool thing is, as soon as I start to say it, I start to think of all the reasons why I really DO love to do whatever that thing is.

Of all the things I like to do, I love to climb a mountain.

I’m gonna be so happy when I am done with this 18 months and get to see my family again. Of course. But, I want to look back and have loved every second of this journey.

Of all the things I like to do, I love to be a missionary.

Saturday was the Noche de Hispanidad. I can’t explain this event to you. It’s a stake event put on by our ward to celebrate all the Hispanic countries. Everyone comes and represents their own home country with food and music and a dance. It was the most fun I have had yet as a missionary I think. The dances were amazingggg. I’m disowning my American heritage. I’m now Puerto Rican. Or Honduran. Or Dominican. I can’t decide. But the gringa is gone.

I officially cannot look at Obispo Ramirez the same. He and his cute little family performed a dance and it was adorable. But he stole the show with his hip-shaking madness. I want to be part of that family. And have family dance parties every night. Cause it was awesome.

The whole night was so joyful. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. Everyone was so happy and it truly was a celebration of all their different heritages. We missionaries set up a little table and got to talk with some of the nonmembers that came as well. In between the eating and the dancing of course. The dancing was the best part. One 80-something-year-old took each of the elders and tried to teach them to dance. I’ve never seen a more awkward situation in my life. It was hilarious. There’s just something about that Latin beat though….we could not keep still! It was so fun! Of all the things I like to do, I love to Latin dance.

Sara and Luigi have been telling us all week that they’re planning on church Sunday. But when I called them Saturday night–multiple times. and left a few messages. and texted them–we didn’t get an answer. From either phone. I went to bed stressed out of my mind after praying my heart out that Heavenly Father would help them get to church! I woke up in the morning feeling that same anxiety. They want to go to the English ward, which starts at 9. I prayed so hard that they would not sleep in and that they could still come. We called another couple times, still nothing. I sat at my desk at personal study that morning having an internal battle. Should we go over there? Is this worth it? Is this too far? Are they gonna miss church?! I lasted 15 minutes when I hastily gathered my stuff and said to Hermana Newbill, “Let’s go.” We hurried out the door and sped as fast as Tiwi would allow over to the Alvarez house.

Eyda answered the door, and directed us back to Sara and Luigi’s room. She wants this as bad as we do. We knocked on their door and waited. Praying. Of all the things I like to do, I love to invade people’s privacy to get them to church. Sara opened the door a few seconds later and groggily said, “We had to go get Xavier late last night, but we’re trying to get up now. We’ll do our best to make it to church.” Well, we did our part. After telling Eyda the situation [she did the best happy dance I’ve ever seen] and putting her in charge of making sure they got out the door, we rushed to church to save them a seat.

The anxiety didn’t stop there. Of all the things I like to do, I love to kill myself with anxiety on Sunday mornings. At 8:57 we hadn’t heard anything from them so I went out in the hall and called. Sara answered and assured me they’re on their way but might be a little late. Okay, I can breathe. I sat back down with a huge grin on and we waited. And waited. The grin turned to another look of despair as I thought, “What if they don’t make it?” I stood up to stand by the door and remained there during all of sacrament. I left the phone in my bag. Still no sign of them. As I went to sit back down, I looked at the phone, “We’re in the lobby.” was the text we got at the beginning of sacrament. Oh man. I looked up to see them come in through the other door with huge smiles.

My face mirrored theirs.

THEY MADE IT.

Not only that but they enjoyed every second. Luigi showed me the Gospel Library app he got on his phone. Which is super sweet now. They met the bishop after sacrament and promised they’d come back next week.

Butterflies.

I am so happy for the two of them. The gospel is truly making a difference in their lives. They are going to get so many blessings for coming to church yesterday.

I’m stoked to see it.

Eyda’s daughter, Dailys, also came to church today [Spanish ward] and lovvvvved it. She was tearing up during the opening song, “Tengo Gozo en mi Alma Hoy” or “Sunshine in my Soul.” Eyda told us she’s starting to read the Book of Mormon and wants to keep coming to church and learning more. Eyda is the cutest little missionary and she was on top of the world, showing off her daughter to the ward. “Este es mi hija!” to everyone she saw with the biggest smile on her face.

Of all the things I like to do, I love to get investigators to church.

Of all the things I like to do, I love to see miracles.

Of all the things I like to do, I love to serve the Lord.

This work is amazing and I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend this year and a half. I thank Heavenly Father multiple times a day for this opportunity. I am so blessed.

Time for our Hermana Halloween party.

We’re dressing up and carving pumpkins and eating cake.

Don’t you wish you were a missionary?

Love y’all.

Hermana Lewis

xoxoxo

Enjoying 20 reasons why my family loves me on my 20th birthday!

Enjoying 20 reasons why my family loves me on my 20th birthday!

Birthday celebration... Cuban-style!

Birthday celebration… Cuban-style!

Birthday lunch!

Birthday lunch!

Noche de hispanidad

Noche de hispanidad

Setting up for Noche de Hispanidad

Setting up for Noche de Hispanidad

Love this sisters!!

Love this sisters!!

Zone Meeting

Zone Meeting

My desk in our apartment... birthday balloons, inspiration thoughts, and photos!

My desk in our apartment… birthday balloons, inspiration thoughts, and photos!

Pre-Birthday and a Fecha!

October 14, 2013

PRE-BIRTHDAY AND A FECHA!

Today is my pre-birthday. We’re celebrating with a Greek food district lunch and a sister party at our apartment. Like I mentioned, this transfer is gonna be crazy. Lots of changes. We all feel it. So we’re trying to make the most of the 3 Pdays we have left! I love these sisters and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by such powerhouse missionaries out here! I know they’ll be part of my life forever. Like college roommate status. Only better.

I’m also celebrating on Wednesday (my actual birthday) at Zone Meeting.

And maybe a little next P day when we have the car.

Who says you can’t have 3 birthday parties?

This week was so great. Despite the exhaustion of bike week, we were on a cloud. Why? Because we started it all with a

FECHA.

or in other words, a date set. for baptism.

finally.

I’ve talked about Luigi and Sara before. He hasn’t gone to church since he was 14. Fell away right after he went to EFY. She has little-to-no religious background. The sisters before had started meeting with her to teach her about the Bible. “I just want to learn about the Bible,” she told them, “none of the Mormon side of it.” So that’s where we started. The basics. Christ, his teachings, and the atonement. But then we testified of the Book of Mormon and explained how it worked with the Bible so we have all the teachings of Christ. “Oh…well yeah that makes sense.” she said. And so we began to use the Book of Mormon. Shortly after that, we met Luigi and he told us of all his research he had been doing and how it had led him right back to the church. And so we began to work with them both. It’s like we don’t have to work at all though. They’re ready.

On Monday night we sat right down in their kitchen while Eyda and Luis took care of Xavier, their 1-year-old son, outside. Miracle in and of itself because when Xavier is there, it’s hard for everyone to concentrate. He is darn cute and loves to be the center of attention. Anyways. We taught them about the Gospel of Christ and they were both on the edge of their seat with interest. We all knew what was coming. “So how do you feel about all of this?” we asked. “I’m at peace with it.”-Luigi. “Yeah completely. It makes sense.”-Sara.

You know what happens next.

“Well, Sara, Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone who holds the priesthood authority of God?”

Her response. She leans over to Luigi and says, “Hey you know who I just thought of that could baptize me? Jamie.” [Jamie is their active brother-in-law.]

We’ll take that as a yes?!

We set up a calendar for November 2nd and everyone was grinning their faces off. We encouraged them to pray about it and make sure that it was the right choice and right date for them. Right before we were about to leave, Luigi said, “You know, the more I’m looking back into the church, the more reasons I’m finding to continue on this path. It’s interesting. Ever since we started meeting with y’all. It’s like I’m drawn to this.

We got into the car. And screamed.

We met with Sara on her own the next afternoon. She told us that she and Luigi had 1) read the Book of Mormon together the night before. 2) Watched a session of General Conference together [and she loved President Uchtdorf’s talk. Who didn’t? Doubt your doubts before you doubt your fears. Like wow.] and 3) prayed together.

AND THEN.

She told us she and Luigi had been talking about baptism and the thought came to her head, “maybe this really will help us to be closer as a couple and as a family.” and then she felt a “cold, good feeling” come over her whole body. “It was cool, but it was peaceful and it just felt right.” she said. You better believe we did some testifying. She felt the Holy Ghost so strongly!

The rest of the week we were on top of the world. We were invincible. We worked hard and prayed harder. We were guided and we were making goals left and right, even when we didn’t have those goals in our plans.

Even Saturday. We were outside on bikes from 1-6, and didn’t get in one single home.

But we were okay. Cause we knew we were on the Lord’s errand and sometimes that means planting a lot of seeds.

Plus my watch tanline was looking prettttty awesome after that day. We saw miracles. Our timing was spot on way too many times to be accidental.

And the skies were gorgeous. I always feel like Heavenly Father is just smiling down on me when He sends me a pretty sky. I think I say “Look at the skyyyyyyyy. The clouds are amazinggggggg.” every. single. day. But seriously. Florida skies rock.

Yesterday we had to sing at a farewell of one of the boys in the ward. We sang Armies of Helaman…in Spanish.

It was weird being at a farewell. It brought back so many memories of the feelings I had right before the mission. I looked at Bryan and thought, “poor kid. I know exactly how you feel right now. but it gets better.” It really does. All things come to pass, whether for good or for bad. The best thing we can do is just enjoy the moment. And I’m thoroughly enjoying every moment here. I am so blessed to be able to consecrate all my heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord for this short time. The church is so true.

Don’t forget it.

Love you all!

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

Anthony's rainforest backyard!

Anthony’s rainforest backyard!

Florida skies!

Florida skies!

Celebrate Little Victories!

Okay so let’s start off by saying…

HOW INCREDIBLE WAS GENERAL CONFERENCE?!

President Monson thought it was pretty incredible. He even wrote in his journal that it was the best he’d ever attended. And he’s the prophet so…..I’d say it was pretty great.

 

President Uchtdorf’s talk gave me butterflies. Elder Bednar’s talk changed my entire perspective on blessings. [Well, really everything that comes out of his mouth changes my life so that’s no surprise.] Elder Ballard spoke right to my soul. President Monson touched my heart. The choir made me cry. More than once. And can I just add that a family choir was the best idea they’ve ever had? Watching those poor children try to not fidget was the entertainment of a lifetime. But seriously. One of the best conferences I have ever seen. They just get better and better don’t they?

Hard to believe what happened exactly 1 year ago. Look at me now.

Look at everyone now. Mom sends me printed-out emails a couple times a week of all my friends that are serving missions right now and the stories they tell, and oh my goodness, I just could not be more proud of all of us! Elder Holland once said that our missions are first for us. We are our first converts. And we can’t convert anyone past our own conversion. I see the changes we’re all making. The sacrifices and the trials we endure. The valiant advocates of truth that we are becoming. And I get butterflies. If nothing else, we’re gonna have some powerhouse parents within the next 10 years. #armyofhelaman

Conference was the welcome relief I was needing after this week. It seemed that all our plans fell through every. single. day. even the super solid ones. It was a tad brutal.

Not to mention I fell off my bike and skinned my knee like a 3-year-old. I cannot remember the last time I skinned my knee. I’d tell you the story but. Let’s just say it’s a little embarrassing, and I didn’t fall into the ditch right beside me so I’m counting my blessings. We’ll just add it to the list of injuries: burn on the arm, scab on the knee.

Tampa-2      Hermana Lewis-0

I’ll find some way to even the score.

Anyways. Our week. I was wondering if there was something I was doing wrong. Something we could change. Something we can do better. Because as Elder Dube’s mother so bluntly put it. “Never look back. Look at all we still have to do.” There’s always something we can improve. But as a missionary we wonder if anything we do is actually making a difference. If anyone takes seriously all these invitations we extend. If people really do appreciate what we do.

Well let me tell you about Eyda. She’s been a member for only 7 or so years. She comes to church on-and-off but usually works on Sundays and has had a lot of health problems. Her husband Luis has been a member for a longer time, but he, too, is less-active. When we got here, Eyda hadn’t been to church in almost 3 months. She had been feeling pain in her back and was sick for a period of time. We felt prompted a couple weeks ago to tell her that if she went to church on Sundays and read the Book of Mormon, she would feel better. They both then came to church the next 2 weeks in a row. Earlier this week, we went to visit Eyda and Luis and invite them to watch conference. I saw on the table a package. It was full of Top Ramen, Tylenol, and on the top… a Libro de Mormon. “I’m going to send it to my sister,” Eyda explained, “She’s been having some problems and I told her this book helps me.”

WOW!

Then, last night we stopped by their house on our way home. We were able to talk with Luigi, their son who has been inactive in the church since he was 14, and he told us he would watch conference as well. [We are working with Luigi and Sara to help Sara learn about the church and be baptized and help Luigi come back to church. They’re amazing.] As Eyda was saying goodbye to us, she mentioned that she is sending another Book of Mormon to her daughter because after her sister got the Book, her daughter wanted one too! We’re going to help them find the church in Cuba as well, the next time we go over. Eyda invited her other daughter to church next Sunday and their whole family is planning on coming.

I had complete butterflies in my stomach and felt so excited I could have screamed right then and there. I pulled Eyda into a big hug and told her. “Hermana. Usted es misionera.” She got a little grin on her face and said “Dios esta haciendo su trabajo.” God is doing His work.

He sure is.

As Jeffrey R. Holland so beautifully put, we need to celebrate little victories.

Cause by small and simple things. [and small and simple people] are great things brought to pass.

Love you all so much!

Love,

Hermana Lewis.

xoxo

Panera lunch between Saturday sessions of General Conference!

Panera lunch between Saturday sessions of General Conference!

French toast on General Conference Sunday!

French toast on General Conference Sunday!

French toast on General Conference Sunday!

French toast on General Conference Sunday!

 

Come with a Question!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hey Fam!

Guess what! GENERAL CONFERENCE IS NEXT WEEK. General Conference is right up there with Christmas here in the missionary world. There’s seriously nothing better.

Except my birthday.

Which just happens to be the following week!

It’s so weird to think of where I was at this time last year. Innocently minding my own business, stressed about school, struggling to get up at 9 every day, in my comfy dorm room being as antisocial as I pleased……look at how my life has changed.

Up by 6:15 every day, in bed by 10:30 every night, working tirelessly right next to my Heavenly Father as He leads me and my companion [who I am with 24 hours a day 7 days a week] to those people who He has been preparing for years to hear the gospel specifically from us. Chemistry is the farthest thing from my mind when I get up in the morning. Instead is the question, “How can I help someone today?” as I drop to my knees and plead with my Father literally every single day to give me the energy, strength, and bravery I need to do His will. And then, it’s running shoes on and out to our apartment gym, which consists of 3 machines, where we try our best to work up a sweat for precisely 30 minutes.

Then, back to the apartment to shower, throw on some makeup, and eat breakfast. All the while we still haven’t quite woken up.

Exactly at 8 am we sit down to start studies in the only room in our tiny apartment that gets sunlight. We sit in this room for 3 hours straight. Personal Study. Companionship Study. 12 Week.

A quick 60 minute breather for lunch as we try to scribble out a letter or catch up on our journal from the previous night. [or in my case, one of the 7 journals….]

Back to our study room at exactly noon for one more hour of Language Study.

And then out the door.

Our plans differ from day to day. But the time from 1-5 tends to move slowly. Turns out, very few people are home at this time. You probably don’t think about that. Missionaries do. Missionaries are the best people-watchers.

At 5 pm we come back and take another quick 60 minute breather. It flies by. We get to check the mail this time. Full mailboxes = good days.

And then it’s back out at 6 pm.

Working for another 3 hours…pedaling, driving, teaching, finding. Whatever the Lord has in store for us that day. Like I said, no 2 days are alike. Missionary work is no Groundhog Day.

And then at 9 pm we come back home. 30 minutes of planning as fast as we can. Praying for inspiration for the following day. Write down the names we think of. The things we think they need. The goals we met and the goals we make for the following day.

At 9:30 we have one precious hour to wind down. Get ready for bed, write in our journal, and pray. This hour goes by the fastest of the 24.

10:30 is lights out.

3 seconds later, we wake up and do it all again.

This is the life of a missionary. It may seem repetitive, but it’s the farthest thing from that. Every morning there’s something new to learn during studies. Every day we see different people. We say different things. Plans fall through and opportunities arise. Missionaries have to learn to go with the flow. The best stories come at the most unexpected times. And in Florida, the sudden rainstorms are just the icing on the cake of it all.

Every day we feel the love of the Lord. Sister Russell told me a quote [it’s not exact and I don’t know who it’s from.] that goes something like.

We [as missionaries] are Heavenly Father’s #1 priority. We are at the top of His to-do list. There is nothing He is more concerned about than the spread of His Gospel and bringing His children to the knowledge of His love.”

I think that’s pretty special.

And I feel His hand guiding us each and every day.

We had a general authority, Elder Teh, come for zone conferences this week. I believe he came to assess the obedience of the mission. For any “next steps” that could be coming. You know what that means.

I went into that meeting prepared because he had us come with a question. And a promise that our question would be answered.

I heard this all the time with General Conference, but I never actually have done it. I always forgot….or something.

Anyways.

I did it this time. I had a question in mind. Actually 2 questions. And both were answered. Not just once, but like 3 times each! Whether by something someone said, or by a prompting I had. It works! And I know it works for everyone cause we spent the last 30 minutes of the conference going through some of the missionaries who had their question answered, and I’m not exaggerating when I say everyone received an answer.

It’s amazing.

So this weekend, at conference, come with a question. There’s nobody more inspired than our incredible Prophet and loving apostles. They care about us so much and they will be told exactly what to say to touch your heart. And answer your question.

Try it….it works.

Love you all so much!

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

Service opportunity in a neighborhood on Saturday. We were the cotton candy workers. Then it rained.  Cotton candy doesn't work in the rain. and we were on bikes. It was a fun day.

Service opportunity in a neighborhood on Saturday.
We were the cotton candy workers.
Then it rained.
Cotton candy doesn’t work in the rain.
and we were on bikes.
It was a fun day.

Cotton Candy service day!

Service day!

Zone Conference!

Zone Conference!

At zone conference.

At zone conference.

President and Sister Cusick

President and Sister Cusick