Blessings on Blessings on Blessings!

Monday, November 25, 2013

This week is Thanksgiving.

Exactly a year ago this week I opened my mission call letter. And in that short 365 days, so much has come into my life that I have to be grateful for.

My mission. Like obviously, right? But, sometimes I have to remind myself how great it is because I’m not going to lie. It’s hard. It gets really super difficult sometimes. But then I think, “Hold on. I get to devote literally all my time and efforts and worries into the work of the Lord. I don’t have to worry about money or clothes or school or marriage or what crazy thing happened in the world this week. Just me, the Lord, and his precious children. I am pretty blessed.” And it’s true. The thing about a mission is it continues to bless. Blessings on blessings on blessings. I’ve met people that have taught me things and changed my life in a way that never could have happened had I not been out here in Tampa, Florida right at this exact moment.

My family. Okay they’ve always been around. But, especially lately, I am seeing just how great my family is. I can’t explain how much of a blessing it is that I can devote all my thoughts to the work. Because I don’t have to worry about things at home. My family is all extremely supportive and loving and I sometimes feel like such a princess because I have nothing worthy of a single complaint!

This gospel. As a missionary, my first convert is myself. My testimony and gratitude for the Gospel of Christ has grown in leaps and bounds in these last 9 months. I am so blessed to know the truth. And to be able to share it with everyone I meet. Sometimes my heart is so full I just want to cry. I used to laugh whenever people said their heart was full. But like, now I know how it feels. I get it. I am one of you people now. But seriously. To have not just a belief, but a knowledge of the things that most people go their whole lives wondering about….is such a blessing.

My bike. I complain about my trusty steed every single week. But in all reality. It’s been such a blessing. I could be walking. [shoutout to Aubz, Wilsynn, and all you other 3rd world walkers….counting my stateside blessings]. I see the most humble people in the most difficult circumstances every single day. I could never understand some of the problems they face. But seeing that makes me so grateful for the little things. And plus I get way more than 30 minutes of exercise every day. I am so lucky! hahaha……

I am grateful for a lot more than those things….

Like all the emails I got today.

Or like the fact that I get to see my family face-to-face (via Skype) in 30 days. But who’s counting?

And I’m grateful for every single one of you.

Love you loads. All of you.

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

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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!

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!

 

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring!

September 24, 2013

It’s been raining for 3 days straight here. Luckily we have the car. But we’re giving it up tomorrow so…..pray for us.

So… stories this week. The missionaries hold a free English class at the church every week. There’s like 2 people who come. But it’s a good service. Anyways. Last week, one of the regular students [Ana] came with her stepson, Jairo. He talked to the other Hermanas and gave them his address and requested to meet with the missionaries because….here’s the kicker….he’s a member. He’s been inactive for like 30 years, but he was baptized when he was 16 in Colombia and ACTUALLYSERVEDAMISSION. He was a missionary. Yep. Better believe we called him right up. We got to meet him on Tuesday night this week, as well as his mom Dianeth, who is not a member herself but most of her children were baptized LDS. Jairo kept telling us, “ustedes son angelitas.” And Dianeth was so sweet and just loves us already. We went over the very next day to talk with her and Jairo happened to be there as well! We explained the LdM and she firmly said, “si, voy a leerlo.” It was so good to see Jairo remembering his testimony and missionary teaching skills as he helped us teach his mother and testify of the truth in that Book. She was absolutely entranced by the book and I can’t wait to see what happens!

On Thursday night we got a call from an investigator. I’ve learned to dread those, as they tend to mean a cancelled appointment or worse…a breakup. We picked up the phone and I answered. Our sweet investigator Sonya [a single mom whose husband died 8 years ago but has so much faith and is trying so hard to follow Christ so she can raise her sons well] told us she was in church on Sunday and felt guilty about what her pastor was saying. She told us that she no longer wanted to meet with us or study from the Book of Mormon. Oh man. Worst. But I was not going to let her go that easily. “Well is it okay if we still come visit you tonight?” I tried. “Well…..I’m leaving on a walk right now I don’t know if I’ll be home.” “It won’t be til a little later. We’ll just try to stop by.” [Hey. Sometimes being a missionary means being a little pushy.] “Well okay…but I’m not going to read the booooook.” She said, almost tauntingly. “Okayyyyy, We’ll seeeee….” I said back. Two can play that game.

As we drove to her house, a massive rainstorm hit. Like literally buckets falling from the sky. Well perfect, she won’t be on her walk. So we booked it up to her house, splashing in puddles and going from completely dry to completely soaked in about 7 seconds. Welcome to Florida.

Luckily, she let us right in. It didn’t take long for us to start talking about what she had told us earlier. “I just feel like I need to be more active in my church.” she told us. “Just like what you two are doing.” I was praying so hard. I had no clue what to say to her, how to convince her to give the Book of Mormon a second chance. “You know Sonya, our purpose is to help people strengthen their faith in Christ. And nothing has done that more for me than the Book of Mormon. I was thinking about you and a story that’s in this Book came to mind.” And I, for some reason, turned to the story of Alma the Younger. What. Why…

I had no clue what I was doing. But I started to read. And then it hit me. I needed to focus on Alma the Elder….and his efforts as a father. I explained that Alma the Younger was making bad decisions, but because of the prayers, example, teachings, and faith of his father, he knew how to change his ways and turn to Christ. “You are setting that example for both of your sons. Even if they are not making good decisions right now, they see your example and they will remember that when they have trials in their lives.

We can learn lessons like these in the Book of Mormon. Different stories that apply to us different ways than what we find in the Bible. But the doctrine is the same. I hope you will continue to let us come over and teach you more because this Book has brought so much happiness and peace in our lives.” She paused. And thought for a minute. “…..Yes. I will.” We gave her Alma 32 to read on her cruise that she’s leaving on this week and she said about the Book of Mormon, “I have the seed, but now I just need to water it!” I’m so grateful that we have the Spirit to teach for us!

I am so grateful to be in this area with these amazing people. I honestly couldn’t ask for better. The work is beginning to pick up and we’re really seeing so many blessings and miracles. Missionary work is the best work in the world. In no other job do you get to see so many miracles or work so closely with Heavenly Father. It’s absolutely amazing.

Love you all so much!

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxoxo

Amazing Tampa sunset!

Amazing Tampa sunset!

There’s Something About the Missionaries

August 12, 2013

 

I have grown up all my life as a member of a strong family who has always been active in the church. I knew who the missionaries were and what they did, but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to them because a mission was never realistically in my plans. But this week it’s really hit me the difference that missionaries make in people’s lives. Investigators, members, random people on the street…they look at us and see something different. They feel something different. And it’s become one of my favorite things about being a missionary.

 

We don’t receive comments about the spirit we bring way often [normally we can just see it in their faces] but this week it just seemed that everyone had something to say about it. We had a lesson with this suuuuuuper old lady, Felicita. She’s Sandy’s grandma who lives with them and can’t read well because of her eyes. We didn’t ever think she had a ton of interest til she approached us after a lesson we had with Sandy. We were just about to walk out the door when she shuffled over and asked us if we could explain more about the Libro de Mormon that we had left with her. We read through the Introduction with her, clarifying and testifying throughout the whole thing. She then told us about an experience she had while she was praying one night. She felt something so strong in her heart and then she looked up and saw the face of Christ. “I see that same face of Christ in your faces right now,” she told us, ” I never knew about this book. I want to know more and I want to come to church with you but I have no way to get there.”

 

We went over to see Brianna to prepare her for her confirmation on Sunday. We walked in to find her mom, Erika, about to cry because of how stressed she was for the activity she was planning for that night. We offered to help her in any way she needed and let her know that we’re always looking for ways to serve! She calmed down immediately and told us, “I love the missionaries. Ya’ll just bring so much peace into my home. Ya’ll bless my family so much.”

Liz told us that when we were having that giant scary FHE lesson with their family, that our faces actually visibly changed when we started talking about the “heavy stuff” [aka when the Spirit started speaking through us].

We did a couple “Peace and Blessings” this week. This is when we go into a home and leave the Savior’s Peace and Blessing on that home. It’s a really spiritual experience and usually softens people’s hearts enough for us to get a return appointment. With one family, it seemed they were totally ‘over it’ and weren’t really interested. It was a mom and her aunt, Rosa and Camelia. We did a Peace and Blessing, and right after Camelia leans over to Rosa and says, “When can they come back?” Last night we went back to go see Camelia at her own house. We knocked on the door and she came out grinning the biggest grin you’ve ever seen in your life. “HOOOOOLLLLAAAAAA!!!!!” She says and hugs us all, ushering us into the house. She loves us already. And she has no clue why. We left that night with 3 empenadas. #1 sign to tell if Mexicans love you: they give you food…not mad. [PS Those empenadas burned our mouths to the depths of oblivion. And I loved it. I have a newfound obsession for spicy Mexican food. I can’t wait to shock you all with my new cooking skills…that I have yet to gain…]

After another Peace and Blessing, the woman told us, “It’s so rare to see young women who believe in Christ enough to leave everything behind and teach people about him. It’s really amazing what you are doing. You’re blessing a lot of lives and God is proud of you because you’re spreading his word.”

On Sunday, Marisela and Hermana Rojas were talking to Hermana Larsen. Marisela told her, “The spirit that the missionaries bring…it’s like a magnet. I just want them around all the time!” Hermana Rojas [our little missionary mamma] readily agreed. Hermana Rojas is always asking us when we can come and visit her, and the Sebring missionaries spend their entire P Day cooking with Marisela.

It just really hit me how much of an impact we have on those that we come in contact with. We bring the Spirit with us everywhere we go and people feel it so strongly. Even though they look at us like we’re crazy, they get curious. Why would 3 cute, young, normal girls be out here sweating their faces off in the heat, riding bikes in skirts, knocking on stranger’s doors, working 16-hour days for 18 months?? They feel the peace we bring. They wonder what could be motivating us. And they want to learn more. We really are set-apart for this calling. It’s never been more clear to me. And I am so grateful for this opportunity. To be on the front lines, fighting in the Lord’s Army. It’s hard, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Les quiero todo.
amor,
Hermana Lewis.
xoxoxo
Hermanas Foster, Ashby, and Lewis... companionship exchanges!

Hermanas Foster, Ashby, and Lewis… companionship exchanges!

Hermana Lewis with Sandy and her daughter Stephanie at a Mexican baby shower. So. Much. Food.

Hermana Lewis with Sandy and her daughter Stephanie at a Mexican baby shower.                     So. Much. Food.

Dyan Hale and Hermana Lewis

Dyan Hale and Hermana Lewis

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