February 2011-August 2012

26 December 2011

December 26, 2011

Oh my dear sweet familia! How I LOVE you ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!! For those who I got to talk to yesterday, it was DELIGHTFUL!!!!!!! And I went to bed counting my blessings (instead of sheep. haha $5 to the person who can came that movie and song...) for this incredible eternal family of mine. I was saddened by the news that Aunt Joyce passed away, but so VERY happy imagining the entire Goodman family reunited on the other side. Their legacy of love, hope, faith, devotion, and hard work has been passed on down to our generation and they now all get to reap their reward while we continue to follow in their footsteps of faith. Sorry to get all sentimental, but I'm just really so grateful for those who have gone on before me.
On Tuesday we had our Zone Temple Trip to the LA Temple. SO WONDERFUL to be back in the temple!!! I hope all of you get to experience one day the peace and love of God that surrounds us in the temple! We ended up being stranded there for hours afterwards though, because our ride never got off work like he thought, and then we had to find someone else and wait for them to make it through traffic... haha So we were on temple grounds all day long and got to see the Christmas lights come on. So beautiful!
It is a really interesting experience to absolutely know 100% that what you are saying is TRUE, but being told by the Spirit to just let someone else tear you to shreds with words because they want to be RIGHT. It is something that I've experience a few times as a missionary, but it had been awhile. But this last week Hna. Erickson and I both experienced what was to this point, and hopefully is never topped, the worst lesson of our mission. We've both learned that there is no point in defending truth on your own (without the Spirit) when 1)someone doesn't want to hear it, 2) is actively trying to prove themselves right, and 3) they won't feel the Spirit. So, we did all we knew how... we read 2 Ne. 25:26, bore our testimonies, said a prayer and left. There was no room for recovery, no room for the Spirit to do His job in such an environment. But we both learned a really big lesson about charity... the UNCONDITIONAL love of the Savior for ALL of God's children. Not just the ones who will receive His gospel. Definitely a growing experience. And we came home and scrubbed our apartment from top to bottom in order to relieve the tension. So I guess the blessings were twofold. Haha
We have transfers toay. Hermana Erickson and I are staying together here in Sylmar for another 6 weeks. And we are both SO HAPPY!!!! This will be my 5th transfer here, and my 4th with Hna. E. We LOVE being companions and are grateful for a few more weeks of it! :)
Well, as far as Christmas goes, it was a LONG day. It was the Sabbath, so we had church. We also had the baptism of Rodrigo, who was taught by my District Leader and his companion. I sang the words of "Come Follow Me" to the tune of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" with a couple elders in my zone. It turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. ;) haha And then we had dinner with the Velasquez family... pasoli and tomales. A very traditional Latino Christmas dinner. On Christmas Eve we had lunch with the Alpizar family and then dinner with the Vargas family. Needless to say, I've eaten A LOT in the last few days. And every Latino I've asked has told me that is how they spend teir Christmas... EATING. They all say that they just eat all day long. So I feel pretty successful at having my first traditional Latino Christmas, and spending it just like they do... EATING. haha But really, my FAVORITE part of Christmas yesterday was getting to partake of the Sacrament and be cleansed from sin anew as I celebrated the birth of my Savior Jesus Christ who made it all possible by His atoning sacrifice. I am so grateful for the knowledge and testimony I have of my Savior, of His life that He led to show us the way, and of His death and Resurrection that then made that way possible for each of us.
I love you all so very much! I love this gospel! And I LOVE being a missionary! A heartfelt thanks to all those who sent me packages and cards so unexpectedly. It meant so much to me to feel such an outpouring of love from all of you as you took the time to remember me here in California. THANK YOU!!!! And I hope you all have a delightful New Year's holiday.
Hermana Blackburn

19 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

It is incredible to be a missionary at any time of year, but I particularly love it during this Christmas season. Every miracle seems to mean twice as much. Every heart touched seems to be twice as important. And everyone we teach... seems to be twice as distracted. haha I have never had a lesson interrupted because they discovered that the Pixar Short films were playing on TV and they just COULDN'T miss them. But I guess there's a first time for everything. And on the plus side, we made it through the story of the First Vision in that lesson without the fire alarms, dogs, birds, or anyone else spontaneously going off! haha So like I said, every MIRACLE seems to mean twice as much!

We taught a new family this week. We sat there and listened to them talk for more than an hour, and the whole time I was just so impressed with how prepared they've been to hear our message. We both felt impressed to just stay quiet and let them talk for the most part... Well the effect was twofold. 1) They were drained of everything they had to say at that moment. And so they were basically obligated to listen to us now. 2) They were so touched by how "calm and peaceful, respectful, confident, and loving" we were that they WANTED to listen to us. CHA-CHIIING. Now I'm not saying that strategy works with everyone... but I'm really grateful that it did with them. And that we followed the Spirit in just staying quiet for so long. We're excited to go back and teach them again this week. :)

Cesar was confirmed yesterday, and he was just SO HAPPY!! Which, of course, just makes US SO HAPPY!! And lots of people in the ward know him because he comes to EVERYTHING with us, which is both rare and awesome. So we hope that they will take good care of him! And put him to work! ;)

Yesterday we went caroling with our ward to a few inactive and home-bound members. It took forever, but it was well worth it to 1) musically help out the ward members, 2) build relationships with different members so that we can all help each other better, and 3) spread Christmas cheer to the families who need us most right now. It was also great to show our Bishopric that as missionaries we have personal relationships with these families because we DO visit them and we try our best to take care of them and love them and bring them back. So we're glad we took the time to participate in this ward activity, even though on the surface it may have seemed frivolous.

Today we're having a "traditional" Mexican Posada with the other missionaries in our zone. It's a Christmas activity where neighbors all go from house to house and eat way too much food and do a few other activities. My district was in charge of bringing the pinatas. We tried our hand at making them... hahaha. NEVER. AGAIN. But I am going to make my famous hot chocolate for the zone. We'll see how it goes. I don't think I've mentioned this yet. But I have discovered the secret to making the BEST hot chocolate EVER. I was going to keep this a secret, but I guess that's not a very missionary-like thing to do to keep great news to yourself! haha Use Vanilla Almond Milk. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of mix you use after that, but obviously the better the mix, the better the hot chocolate. And if you want to make it extra delicious, put a scoop of your favorite ice cream or gelato in it. Yeah... you might die and go to heaven--It's THAT GOOD. Seriously. :)

My district leader, Elder Ruiz was a street performer in spray painting before his mission in Oakland, CA. On Friday after our district meeting he made us all paintings as our Christmas present. He did each one in about 5-7 min. Incredible! He actually ended up making an extra one... so I got two! What great fortune! haha I've attached a couple pictures to give you an idea, but I haven't taken pictures of the two that I got yet... and some day I'll post the videos I took of him making them.

As for calling on Sunday... I have no idea yet what time you should expect. But we have church at 11 PST, and our District Christmas probably after that. So it'll probably be between 2-9pm my time since I have to call you all individually. I think this is the first year where NO ONE in our family is spending Christmas together. WEIRD. Anyway, we'll figure it all out. This is the first of two times we have to figure out 3 missionary phone calls on the same day. So fun!! :)

Well I love you all and I hope you have an incredible Christmas. I hope that each of you have come up with something you are going to give to the Savior this year... as it's HIS birthday we're supposed to be celebrating, right? ;) And don't forget that the Spirit of Christmas can be kept all year long! Have a great week!!

Hermana Blackburn

12 December 2011

December 12, 2011 I Believe in Miracles

Well, I don't know how we did it, but last week was the best week we've had so far this transfer. God is so good to us. I don't know why He is being so very merciful to us, but He is just POURING out the blessings. And I've been so humbled by that this week. We found 4 new investigators--the sister and nieces of Cesar, received 6 referrals, and had Cesar's baptism!! So many miracles. Compared to many other weeks I've had in the mission, maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal... but this transfer has been a slow one due to many other circumstances--with ZERO new investigators and ZERO referrals until now. And as the cherry on top of it all, we got our gas turned back on!!! YAY FOR HOT WATER!!!! And oven. And stove. And heat. We're SO grateful!! Aside from heating up tortillas like the real Latina I'm becoming, the first thing I made was Kathy's famous pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. SO GOOD. EVERY TIME. Anyway, so many miracles all in one week.

Cesar's baptism was great!! And members actually came!!! (Which was especially great because our speakers didn't show up so we asked some others on the fly and they did great!) And so did some of our other investigators! Cesar is just AWESOME. I am SO happy every time I see how happy HE IS. God's plan for us is really one of happiness. Men are that they might have JOY. And there is enough to go around for everyone when we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The entire purpose of this gospel is so that we all might experience a fullness of joy now and for eternity. Now who WOULDN'T want that?! Yesterday was full of LOTS OF JOY. 

And LOTS of singing. We sang a special musical number in Sacrament mtg. Then another one at Cesar's baptism. And then it was the Stake Christmas Music Devotional, where we sang with two other choirs--a missionary one and a ward one. It's a new experience learning Christmas songs in Spanish, but I'm liking it. It's going to be weird eventually going home and going to church again in English. haha 

Anyway, I love you all and I hope you have a great week spreading Christmas cheer, which in one word: the GOSPEL. Loves loves loves!!!

Hermana Blackburn, the one and only ;)

05 December 2011

December 5, 2011 The Prayer of Faith

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but one of my absolute FAVORITE parts about being a missionary is helping people come to understand what it means to PRAY IN FAITH. Before I share my experience with you, here are what some prophets have to say about this.

The prophet Jacob says: (Jacob 3:1-2)
 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and apray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will bconsole you in your cafflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down djustice upon those who seek your destruction.
 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his alove; for ye may, if yourbminds are cfirm, forever.

And Elder David A. Bednar, Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ has said,
"Asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence. Let me provide an illustration of what I mean and extend to you an invitation.

"We properly pray for the safety and success of the full-time missionaries throughout the world. And a common element in many of our prayers is a request that the missionaries will be led to individuals and families who are prepared to receive the message of the Restoration. But ultimately it is my responsibility and your responsibility to find people for the missionaries to teach. Missionaries are full-time teachers; you and I are full-time finders. And you and I as lifelong missionaries should not be praying for the full-time missionaries to do our work!
"If you and I would truly pray and ask in faith, as did Joseph Smith—if we would pray with the expectation to act and not just to express—then the work of proclaiming the gospel would move forward in a remarkable way. "
(To finish reading what Elder Bednar has to say about member missionary work, here's the link to the talk: http://lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/ask-in-faith?lang=eng&query=pray+faith. It's so great! I highly recommend it. But this really has nothing to do with the original point I was trying to make, so I digress. haha)

Anyway, the point is that praying in FAITH is often taken for granted in both the amount of effort and real intent to act it takes on our part, and in the true power of God to bring about miracles in response to our prayers of faith. 

Ok, so that was a LOT of build up for the experience I'm going to share with you. Yesterday Cesar had his baptismal interview, which he clearly passed. But I guess he mentioned to Elder Ruiz that he's concerned he doesn't REALLY have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith or Pres. Thomas S. Monson. That sounded absurd to us considering he has been watching all of my movies on both of them like CRAZY. He's finished the D&C dvds, and the biography on Pres. Monson. Well, I realized that having the testimony isn't the problem, but RECOGNIZING that you have a testimony sometimes takes more convincing for some people. So last night during the First Presidency Devotional, (which he obviously came to because he's obsessed with Pres. Monson...haha), I wrote him a note and passed it to him just before Pres. Monson started speaking. I basically told him to ponder and pray in his heart while Pres. Monson spoke to know for himself if he is a true prophet called of God, living to guide us on the earth today. Well, sadly many people--even members--would blow off an invitation like this. But Cesar didn't. Instead, as soon as Pres. Monson started talking, he bowed his head, and closed his eyes, and prayed. Through almost his whole talk. About 2 or 3 minutes before he closed, Cesar let out a big sigh and looked up and then asked me for a pencil. He wrote me back on the same post-it note "Yes! I believe. Amen." Wow. That might be the simplest purest testimony I've ever heard. But it pierced me to the core. And I'm SO HAPPY for Cesar. Because now that he recognizes his personal testimony in a living prophet, he will recognize when he has a testimony of other things too. And really, recognizing and acknowledging that we BELIEVE and will therefore ACT on something is normally the hardest part of the battle. So he's getting baptized on Sunday, 11 Dec. and we're SO excited for him!

So that is my invitation to all of you: pray in faith. It's definitely something I need to get better at, too. But pray in faith, recognize your answers, and act! :)

Everything else I have to say is really very worldly.

Food for missionaries this holiday season... A word of advice for all of you wonderfully generous members who will feed any missionaries anywhere anytime during the month of December: We love dessert. But We like eating real food, too. haha Maybe missionaries in English wards don't have this problem. But in this particular Latino ward I'm serving in, our meal calendar can be sparse sometimes. But EVERYONE LOVES to give us desserts. Last week we had no food and all dessert in our fridge: cherry pie, lemon meringue pie, caramel apple, flan, corn cake, banana pudding, raspberry walnut pastries, shortbread cookies, pepperidge farm cookies, etc. But we only had 2 dinners. hahaha  Anyway... we are grateful for all your generous gestures. But we, at least as sisters, would be even more grateful for a delicious salad right about now! That being said, maybe missionaries in your area feel the exact opposite. So don't take my word for it. Ask them. I only say that because one time 10 years ago some Elder told a sister in our ward that he missed eating pasta, so now she makes us pasta. haha Anyway, just some thoughts... (and don't worry mom. We've successfully gotten rid of most of those desserts without eating them... by pawning them off on the Elders and other investigators! hahahaha... oh the tricks of the trade! ;)

Another insight into the funny life of a missionary. In the laundry mat, realizing you don't actually have as many quarters as you thought you did, and no cash to make change. So what do you do? Put all your wet clothes into the bag and take them home to dry them all over your apartment. Yep. That was me this morning. haha

Oh and we are just counting down the last three days until our gas gets turned back on!! I haven't showered in 3 days. I forgot what that felt like to feel so disgusting. hahaha oh man. NEVER a dull moment!!

I also got to decorate a little Christmas tree on Saturday. Thanks mom! I didn't think I would really care too much about not having Christmas decorations. But now that we have one, I realize how much HAPPIER I am WITH it! Hmmm... it's like a metaphor for people and the gospel... haha. But I won't go there. 

And as for Zone Conference that we had on Wednesday... it was good. LONG. But good. I think I would've liked it better if I hadn't been feeling so terrible, but I still learned a lot of things to improve one. I'm just grateful that I have my whole life to perfect my missionary skills instead of just 18 months. Cuz really... that's just NOT enough time! 

Anyway, I love you all. I hope you have a fantastic week! 

Hermana Blackburn

P.S. The pictures: 1) Hermana Erickson and I with Hno. Velasquez and David at David's baptism, 20 Nov 2011. 2) Hna. Erickson doing the faith/teabag demo with Sebastian just moments before he freaked out and blew it in her face. hahaha 3) My district last transfer. I made Hna. E. take off her heels so she wouldn't be towering above me. We thought they wouldn'tget her feet in the picture... haha. Oops

28 November 2011

November 28, 2011 Let the Holidays Begin

The last week has been a pretty bizarre one in the way of our routine. Hna. Erickson had a leadership training on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Thanksgiving, but we still had some great experiences. Tuesday I spent with Hna. Williams (my former companion) and her greenie, Hna. Quick. Turns out I MET Hna. Quick several years ago. I'm good friends with her older brother and his wife, and I know her older sister, too. ANYWAY, small world. Wednesday I spent with the Hermanas in my first area--Canyon Country. But we studied the whole time I was with them because of this new greenie training program that came out. So I was bummed I didn't get to see anyone, but I got LOTS of hours of studying in, so I guess that was needed! But I was relieved to be back with Hna. Erickson. I am just SO GLAD that SHE is my companion. I'm going to definitely enjoy the time we have left together!

Well, I started getting some weird phone calls from Vladmir. And last night he called and thought he was talking to me and started saying some weird things again, and so Hna. E. called him out on it. I didn't know what was going on because I was in our bedroom, when I just heard through the wall, "Are you in love with Hermana Blackburn?" in a very loud, serious voice...hahaha... I about died when I heard her say that! Well, her bold missionary self made it perfectly clear to him after his confession in the affirmative that I could not nor would not be interested in him romantically now or ever, and that we can't teach him anymore. Well... I have mixed feelings about that whole situation... I have been teaching him for 4 months, so OF COURSE I care about him! And it is sad that I basically have to cut ties with him for now. But I'm also irritated that he would act like that. I mean he's 63... so I'm not sure where he got the idea that he could get away with that... haha And I also think it's really funny and awkward how Hna. Erickson called him out about it. Oh man... never a dull moment as a missionary!

In other news, we have no gas in our apartment. I guess it was never signed up for, so somehow we've been having it for free the last two months we've lived there? Well, it was turned off on Tuesday, and we thought it must've just been a fluke thing. Well, by Thursday, still nothing. So we made some phone calls and found out we never were supposed to have it to begin with. And the gas company won't turn it on until Dec. 8! haha So no heat, no stove, no oven, and... NO HOT WATER! Yeah... it had been a LONG time since I'd taken such a freezing cold shower... but we worked it out with the English Elders to use their showers when they're out every couple days... haha

Thanksgiving was pretty uneventful. The highlight was setting a baptismal date with Cesar for Dec. 18th! We ate with Jose and Marta... tomales. And then of course we had Thanksgiving Dinner with the Vargas family an hour later. I felt bad that I barely had any room, but I couldn't have said no to Marta without hurting her feelings! So, we zipped up our extra-large man suits and ate two dinners that night and wanted to die afterward. haha But Hna. Vargas had a delicious meal prepared for us! And to my pleasant surprise, I didn't have to eat Turkey this year!! SO HAPPY!! (That has always been my least favorite part of Thanksgiving, and I never eat it if I can avoid it. haha) Like I good Latina, she made us CHICKEN! haha I know I eat chicken at almost every dinner here on the mission, but I still prefer it over turkey any day... And the rest of the food was all great, too. I definitely was counting my blessings to have any food at all!

On Friday I gave the training at our District Meeting... I talked about the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion, and how we as missionaries can rely on and facilitate that better. I learned a lot from preparing it! I hope someone got something out of it... haha.

David was confirmed on Sunday without any glitches... PHEW! I'm just so very happy for him! And I'm SO excited for Cesar, too. I hope they become friends with people in the ward to make their transition easier once we leave. That's why members are SO CRUCIAL in missionary work!

We have zone conference on Wednesday, which is always nice. So hopefully next week I'll have something a little more... spiritually enlightening to share with you all. We'll see. ;) Have a great week! I love you all!

Hermana Blackburn

21 November 2011

November 21, 2011 Happy Thanksgivi​ng!!

Well, I definitely have A LOT to be grateful for, so in no particular order, here a just a few that came to my mind:
1) THE BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD sending me a pre-Christmas package!
3) I have an incredible family who has taught me the gospel and the way to REALLY be happy in this life.
4) I am a MISSIONARY. I get to share the BEST NEWS IN THE WORLD with people. Everyday!  (See #2)
5)  I have the BEST best friend a girl could ask for! Fer rills.
6) I have a great companion who is an awesome missionary. We have so much fun teaching together!
7) I have the privilege of teaching some incredible people here in Sylmar. And I was no less blessed in Canyon Country!
8) I have made some eternal friends here, with missionaries, members, and investigators alike.
9) I'm learning Spanish! That's cool, right?! haha Well, I might speak like a chola, but people can understand me nonetheless.
10) David got baptized!!! SO SO SO happy about that!!! :)
11) I bought all the ingredients and pan to make pumpkin chocolate chip muffins this week. REALLY looking forward to that.
12) The new sister missionary dress code allows colored tights. I'm grateful for that.
13) I am here on earth. With a body. Even if it doesn't work very well, I'm really grateful I have it.
14) Christmas music that keeps my spirits high.
15) Dr. Richardson. Is. An. ANGEL. Wow, I don't know where I would be without him right now.
16) I have health insurance! Phew!
17) People that feed us.
18) People that talk to us.
19) Playing the piano... my one stress reliever that I can still do as a missionary!
20) The temple. And my eternal family. I don't know where I would be without this comforting knowledge.
Ok, Well I really could go on FOREVER, but you all get the idea. We all have SO much to be grateful for! So I hope you each take a few minutes and write a journal entry about what you're grateful for this week.
Speaking of journals... I've written in my journal every night for over a month! Seriously, that is SO good for me! haha Anyway, I let the first third of mission go by without a very good, consistent personal record, and that's a shame. So I'm pleased to report that I'm doing my best to correct that!
Also, David got baptized yesterday. SO HAPPY!!! He is just SO wonderful and I'm so proud of him! It can be a scary step for people, but he didn't balk at his anxiety. He knew what he felt, he knew it was true, and he just moved forward with faith. He is a great example for me, that's for sure! I definitely need a lot of faith these days! Anyway, for some reason this computer won't let me send pictures. But you'll see them all eventually. haha But it was a great baptism. Too bad no one came. I hope you ALL go to baptisms in your wards. If not, shame on you for not supporting the missionaries and new members. I hope I sound serious about that. Our work is almost pointless without the support of the members. Just sayin...
Well, that's all for now. I hope you all have a very HAPPY Thanksgiving!!! Don't forget to actually GIVE THANKS. I love you all!!
Hermana Blackburn

14 November 2011

November 14, 2011 Holidays in Sylmar!

Well Hermana Erickson and I get to spend another transfer together here in Sylmar!! And we are both SO excited! Three transfers with one companion is a record for both of us! And we're just so grateful that we work SO well together and have a great time. After our exchanges a couple weeks ago we had both decided that we just wanted to stay together... haha So we're excited for 6 more weeks. And to be together for Christmas!! :) So mom, you can just send that Christmas music I asked for to me here in Sylmar. Thanks!

Well, we certainly ended the transfer with a bang last week! We had 9 lessons where members accompanied us--I think that's a record in this ward, because no one ever wants to come with us! And we had 7 of our investigators at church. It probably had something to do with me playing piano for the primary program and telling them it might be my last Sunday here... haha Funny how a little motivation goes a long way sometimes. ;) But then most of them ended up staying for the whole 3 hours and LOVED it! See?! We've been telling them all along they were going to love it, and we were right!

Well do you remember Cesar who I told you about last week? The man who just showed up at church after a 5 min conversation with us? Well, We taught him 4 times this last week. He came to church again, and then a baptism, and then a special devotional from the Conference Center for Spanish speaking members of the Church. He bought a whole car load of Vitamin Water so that he can stop drinking coffee. He watched the Restoration movie TWICE on Saturday night. Yeah... don't worry. He has a baptismal date for December right now. But it is SO fun to teach people who just WANT to be taught, and who understand what you're teaching them! Seriously, how am I SO blessed to teach all of these amazing people? I'm not really sure, but I'm SO grateful.

We are teaching this boy who's family has been inactive for several years, named Sebastian. Well, there is this demonstration you do with an empty tea bag and you light it on fire while someone holds it in their hand, but just before you think it burns you, it floats up into the air. We use is to teach Faith. Well, I've done it LOTS of times. I've never had a problem, with anyone. I've never heard of anyone having a problem either. But we tried to do it with Sebastian, and half-way down, he FREAKED OUT and blew it into Hna. Erickson's face--flames and all! haha I thought her hair was going to catch on fire! But gratefully it didn't. But now we know that when you ask "Do you trust me?" and the person says "NO" that you should have someone else do it! hahaha... Oh man. Never a dull moment as a missionary! :)
Anyway, life is good. The work is moving forward here in Sylmar, and we're looking forward to another great transfer of helping God's children come unto Him and make sacred promises with Him and receive all the blessings that God has in store for them! Have a great week!

I love you all!

Hermana Blackburn

07 November 2011

November 7, 2011 Transfer 5 Week 5

Hello Family!!
I hope things are going well! Tanner--9 days until the MTC! How are you feeling? Haha Yeah I know... I hated that question, too! And Logan-HAPPY 23rd BIRTHDAY TODAY!!!!!! For some reason MY birthdays don't make me feel nearly as old as YOUR birthdays do! haha But I hope you have a great one!

Highlights from the last week: exchanges, training, and church.

I went on exchanges with Hermana Beauchamp up in Palmdale. It was great to be out of the city and have clean air and blue skies. But it was a pretty normal missionary day with lots of canceled appointments and knocking. So nothing too out of the ordinary. I had a great time with Hna. Beauchamp, and I learned a lot from her. But by the end of the day I very much looked forward to getting back to work with Hna. Erickson. In a very grateful kind of way, that I have such a wonderful companion who is an all-star missionary. She never lets a moment go by with someone without bringing up the gospel in some way. She is persistent, but not pushy, which is a rare skill as a missionary. Anyway, I just LOVE working with her so I'm grateful that I have one more week to soak it in. We have transfers next week, so I'll find out on Saturday if I'm staying or leaving. I've been here for 3 transfers (4.5 months) so I kinda think I'll leave. But who knows.

Hna. Erickson and I gave a training to our Zone on Friday morning about our Missionary Covenant and our Quest for Obedience. I will try and attach our handout that we made for it. It went really well. I've pretty much shared with you in my emails over the last 12 weeks the ideas of STRIVING to be obedient and our missionary covenant based on our studies and our Zone Conference with Elder Golden several weeks ago. We had a really great time preparing and giving our training, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. So we consider it a success. :)

I may have mentioned this before, but as missionaries church is always a bit nerve-wrecking hoping and praying that those you are teaching actually come and that once they are there they can feel the Spirit, feel welcomed, and not be taught any false doctrine from anyone! But this last Sunday was one of the BEST Sacrament meetings this ward has had since I've been here! It was SO GOOD. The Spirit was SO strong. And our investigators there felt it and recognized it. Another miracle? have I mentioned Jose and Marta who we're teaching? Well they are great, but this story is about a man, Cesar, who rents a room in the back of their house. We met him briefly as we were leaving a lesson at their house. We invited him to church, but just like most contacts you make like that on the street, we didn't have any expectations that he would come. But lo and behold, he CAME! i could hardly believe my eyes when he walked into the Church on Sunday! haha I was so happy! And he LOVED IT. We haven't even taught this man yet, and in the middle of Sacrament meeting, he leaned over to Hna. Erickson and said he felt something "funny" and pointed to his heart. He said "I don't know what this is. I've never felt it before. But I like it." So she taught him about the Holy Ghost and what it means when we feel it. :) So we have a lesson with him and Jose and Marta tonight! But seriously, it was great and we're excited to teach him more!

Well that is all I have for now. But I love you all and hope you have an incredible week! God is so good to us, so he blesses us with families and prophets. And I'm SO grateful that I know Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet on the earth today. I've prayed and asked. And God has answered me through the Holy Ghost. I love that! And I love sharing the love of our Savior and Heavenly Father with everyone here in Sylmar!

Love you!
Hermana Blackburn

31 October 2011

October 31, 2011 Increased Obedience=​Increased Miracles

It has been a great week here in Sylmar, and Hermana Erickson and I have been working diligently to increase our obedience. As a result, we've seen several miracles. Lesson learned? The Lord CARES about our efforts to better ourselves, no matter how small they may be. Let me give an example.

Remember that Exact Obedience test that I made a couple weeks ago? And How I realized that studying the Missionary Health Guide was a rule, and I didn't even have a copy of it? haha Well, this week I received my copy from the Mission Office. There was a slight mixup and I received it in Spanish... Good thing I know Spanish now! But also, it has pictures to show we what the exercises are when I don't understand the Spanish. PHEW. haha Anyway, So I started doing the exercises and stretches in there every morning at 6:30. One day I got up, and my companion was already up and making her bed. This is rare. I'm almost ALWAYS the first one out of bed. haha Anyway, after I get up from saying my prayers, I go out into the living room and she is doing sit-ups! I almost fell over I was so surprised! I thought something had happened and she was angry and just trying to get out her emotions. I couldn't think of what else it could be... So I asked her if she was ok and she replied that she had just decided she wanted to be obedient that day. I was pleasantly surprised, and grateful for the faith that she was demonstrating with her desire to be more obedient. So the result of our efforts?

We went all day long with people canceling appointments and not being home. We were a bit discouraged. We show up for our last appointment of the night with a new couple we'd taught once before. We had invited a member to come with us, but he was 30 min late (though at least he came!). We show up, and they had invited a friend, who started drilling us with questions. As missionaries, we LOVE questions. But we don't like people asking questions in a "Prove it to me" kind of attitude. So we braced ourselves. A few minutes later, two more women showed up. From the Word of Wisdom to Polygamy, they were asking it all. And thanks to the help of Hermano Garcia, we answered their questions as best as we could. And conveniently, all the answers go back to the Restoration. So we started teaching them the first lesson, about the Restoration. When we got to the part about Joseph Smith, we watched the movie. Afterwards, Hermano Garcia talked to them about the Book of Mormon, read with them 3 Nephi 11:3-15, and bore his testimony of its truthfulness. Then we taught them about how to know for themselves if these things are true. The Spirit was palpable in that little room with the 8 of us. He was testifying to each one of them. I wish I could say that I experience this in every single lesson I teach. That is a worthy goal I'm working towards. But in all honesty, that is not the case. Since I was set apart as a missionary, I've studied and pondered the idea of how to teach with the power and authority of my calling as a representative of Jesus Christ. I've learned many things, but I still felt like there was something I was missing. This last week, however, I got it. It clicked in my head and my heart. I understand what it takes. And this lesson was the culminating event of this lesson. I taught with power and authority, not because of anything I did or said, but because the Spirit was there. I taught true doctrine as simply and sincerely as I could, and He testified to their hearts it was true.

So what's the lesson? That from the simple act of faith in striving to be more obedient, God worked a marvelous miracle for the Hermanas in Sylmar. A powerful lesson. 3 new investigators. A member present in that lesson. See! God really DOES reward us for even our smallest efforts. When He says "by small and simple things great things are brought to pass," He really MEANS IT!! :)

On another note, Antonio came to church again this week--wearing the white shirt and tie we got him from Elders who went home. I was pretty bold with him this week and told him that if he still wanted to get baptized on Nov. 27th that he would have to stop drinking for at least 2 weeks if not more. I told him that he had two weeks to practice not drinking before he really couldn't drink anymore. Ever. He has a goal, and he is working hard for it. I'm grateful for my life experience that helps me have the love and patience to help this man get over a debilitating addiction.  He was sober yesterday when he came to church. That's a step in the right direction! One day at a time.

And I took my Obedience Test again this morning: I've increased by 15%. I'm not at a 100% yet, but I at least am in the A range, so I feel pretty good about that! :) More miracles, here we come!

Hermana Erickson and I were asked to give a training to our zone this Friday at our combined District meeting, and I think that's what we're going to talk about: The QUEST for obedience, not a destination of being obedient. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

So will you all accept an invitation to DO something this week? Will you talk to the missionaries in your ward and set up a time for you to accompany them to a teaching appointment? We need your help to do the work of the Lord. And you will be so greatly blessed for your sacrifice and efforts, that I can promise you! For those of you who will commit to this, despite your VERY busy lives, I know that you won't ever regret it. None of our efforts are lost. Ever.

So I hope you all have an awesome Halloween! We were asked to not go out tonight here in our area... haha. But be safe and be good. I love you all!

Hermana Blackburn

24 October 2011

October 24, 2011 Small and Simple Things

Hello family! Sounds like things are crazy getting unpacked in Utah, getting Logan settled in Denver, and getting Tanner ready for the mission in just a couple weeks! But I'm glad that you are taking time for the little things and studying your scriptures. Though a seemingly small act every day, we know that God always works His miracles by small and simple things. So keep it up!

The week in Sylmar has been one of the least bizarre we've had over the last 3 months... so I don't have too much to really share. We invited Antonio to not drink Alcohol for one whole day last Wednesday. And you know what? HE DID IT!!! He only drank water for one whole day. We invited him to do it again yesterday, so we'll see when we follow up with him if he was able to do it. He was supposed to come to church again yesterday, but when we got there with his ride, he was no where to be found. But I did find out more about him this week. He's only 50 years old, turning 51 this Sunday. He's been living in the streets for 15 years. Oh how my heart broke! I've wept a lot of tears in the last few days. My Book of Mormon reading has corresponded well this week... I'm in Mosiah and was reading King Benjamin's sermon on Serving others, especially those who are so impoverished. "Are we not all beggars before God?" he asks. And oh how I've felt that way! I beg for His Spirit, His mercy, His patience, and His love every day. It has been a very humbling week as I've truly recognized my own nothingness. And yet, I am confident that my Savior loves me; that I am a daughter of God; that I can't help everyone, but I can maybe help someone. And my testimony of the restored gospel is growing stronger everyday.

I've been thinking a lot about the small and simple things in life, and I've come to the understanding that this is hos God works. His way is small and simple. His plan for us is simple and beautiful. The steps required of us to return to Him--Baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Temple ordinances--are as Elder Nelson says, "beautifully simple, and simply beautiful." We teach to people all the time the commandments of CPR--Church, Pray, Read--and the more I teach it the more I KNOW that this truly is how we will be happy. Just as when someone is physically dying and someone administers CPR they can be brought back to a fulness of life, the same goes for Spiritual CPR. Going to church every Sunday, Praying every day, and Reading the scriptures every day can bring someone back from Spiritual death into the fulness of life and even eternal life with God one day. Why is it that these 3 simple things have such a powerful effect on us? They are SO SMALL. AND SO SIMPLE. But that's how God works. Isn't that so wonderful!?! Sometimes I think I'm too much like Naaman in the Old Testament, wanting to do some grand act to show my faith or obedience or love for the Lord, but resistant to just do these 3 simple things. Dipping yourself in a filthy river 7 times is NOT a grand gesture of faith. But following whatever counsel the Prophet gives you... THAT is the grand gesture of faith, even when they are asking you to do something simple. So I'm committing myself to be more diligent about the small and simple things. Happily. :)

Well, one example of small and simple things... Our investigator David who is getting baptized soon, brought his wife and 9 yr old daughter to church yesterday. He and his wife are in the process of a divorce, and the last time he talked to her about the church and asked if we could pass by to talk with her [side note: what an awesome missionary and he's not even a member yet!!] and she was adamantly against having anything to do with us or his "new church." Well, when we met them on Sunday she was nothing but pleasant, and afterward she was happy and talking about the next time she'll see us... So that was exciting and unexpected, small and simple in every way. But yet it has the potential to change 3 lives... to maybe even save a marriage if they so choose. I love this gospel, and I love witnessing these small and simple things every day.

Anyway, the last thing I have to say... I'm happy to report that in one week I've increased my "exact obedience" percentage by 3%! YEAH!!!! haha... Remember, small and simple things. ;) I love you all and I hope you have a great week!

Hermana Blackburn

P.S. If you want to see pictures of Antonio, you can go to my companion's blog: lindsayannerickson.blogspot.com. haha... You're going to love it! Though I'll warn you... He was a little tipsy when we took the picture... hahaha
Oh MY LIFE!!!! Love you all!!!!

17 October 2011

October 17, 2011 Being a missionary is FUN!

Well, we had quite the week if we were normal people, but as a missionary, it was a pretty average week. I lost my voice and was super sick. But that didn't stop us from setting a baptismal date with Antonio, the homeless alcoholic man we have taught a couple times. So what was I doing yesterday morning before church? Waiting outside a Miss K Donuts shop for the member to show up to give a slightly tipsy Antonio a ride to church. hahaha... I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!! When else in my life am I going to arrange rides for homeless people to church? Well, now that I know how FUN it is, maybe I'll try and make an effort for the rest of my life... but it won't ever be the same. I've been RACKING my brain on how to help Antonio. When we taught him on Saturday he was really upset because someone had stolen from him. WHO STEALS FROM A HOMELESS MAN???? I mean seriously. RUDE. So anyway, we haven't really gotten any specific answers, but for now we're just following the steps in Preach My Gospel and are going to try and receive more inspiration as to how he can successfully overcome his addiction. But I love this man, so I'm not going to give up!

Well, I know that my area here is one of the more... colorful areas of our mission, but I have never really noticed too much. Because I just work with PEOPLE everywhere I go, and there are colorful people EVERYWHERE I've ever lived... haha. Anyway, this last week though it seems like Hna. Erickson and I are finding more and more of these eccentric individuals here in our area. The Elders always look forward to our stories every time we see them... Maybe it is because we are women, and the Elders are oftentimes mistaken for the FBI around here... haha. Or maybe it is because Hna. Erickson and I are also a little bit crazy so we attract people like us? haha I don't know, but we sure do have fun here! And seriously, being a missionary IS FUN! Though the canceled appointments, slammed doors, and phone hang-ups aren't always enjoyable, it is FUN to work with Heavenly Father to help His children and build his kingdom, even in Sylmar, California. I just can't wait to see Halloween here... hahahaha!

I have realized over the last couple weeks though what a very LONG way I have to go on a personal level. I decided to make an obedience test for myself. So I went through the Missionary Handbook and wrote down EVERY SINGLE rule I could find. I found 260 (though I combined some of them together, and there are repeats). Well, I went through and checked off all the ones I was obeying EXACTLY. But if I wasn't obeying it exactly, I couldn't mark it off. Well some rules like "Don't call Church Headquarters" are easy to keep exactly. But then there are rules like "Frequently study the Missionary Health Guide" which, to be perfectly honest, I don't even have! haha... Well,so I realized that I have a LONG way to go before I am 100% exactly obedient, but I'm working on it, a few things at a time. It was definitely a good wake-up call for me though, and it's bound to be a good growing experience!

Well, I love you all and I hope you have a great week! Keep smiling and praying!

Hermana Blackburn

10 October 2011

October 10, 2011 "Trust in Moroni's Promise."

Well my dear family, I am glad to hear that after a marathon weekend that everyone had a wonderful experience in the Temple with Tanner, that the house was packed up, and that everything went through on the close of the house. As sad as I am to be homeless, I'm grateful that the Lord has provided the miracles for each of you needed. And I hope that you took a family picture for me while Erika and John were there because I don't have ANY with me!

The Lord is continuing to work His miracles here in Sylmar, too... Let me share one from the last week with you.

Hermana Erickson and I have had a great week working hard. A few referrals we've received are panning out. One man, named David actually referred himself and showed up at the church building last Tuesday for a tour. We had a mini-lesson with him about the Book of Mormon and how we can know it is true, and what it means if it IS TRUE. We gave him a copy, marked a couple things for him to read, and taught him how to pray, leaving with him of course the invitation that he start reading and praying about it for himself. Well, when he showed up on Thursday for our next appointment, he had already started reading and had prayed and knows it's true! HIJOLE!!! Seriously, as a missionary, this almost. NEVER. happens. We are so excited and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach him. He has a baptismal date for 30 October, and he is so humble and eager to learn. What a miracle! I have to confess that I actually thought I would never be so privileged to teach someone like this again, since I taught the incredible Monrroy family in Canyon Country with Hna. Garcia. They were like this as well, met and baptized in 5 weeks and being a strong, active addition to their ward in the months since all because of their great faith. I doubt that missionaries get a cap on how many truly prepared investigators they get to teach, but for some reason I thought that I would never experience that again as a missionary. And God keeps teaching me and showing me that HIS plans for my life, and my mission, are far more than I could ever imagine if I just let HIM be in control. So I've been humbled and taught by the Lord this week as I watch Him work all kinds of miracles that I never imagined. I LOVE being a missionary!

And when I compare those experiences with the myriad of others I've had just trying to help people have the desire to read and pray and KNOW for themselves... what is the difference between someone that will read, pray, and act on their answer and someone who won't? Well, I'm not really sure I've come up with a good answer to that one, but I think a lot of it has to do with faith and humility. Well Last week we taught Vladmir, who told us he believes the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that he was an instrument to restore the TRUE church of Christ to the earth. And yesterday when we met with him again, he had apparently forgotten all of that because he now refuses to accept the idea of more scripture or that there is any church with a fullness of truth on the earth. So WHAT HAPPENED??? Well, we still don't really know... haha. But because I have tested Moroni's promise to read and sincerely pray if the Book of Mormon is true, I KNOW it is true. And if David can receive a personal witness of the veracity of the Book of Mormon in just two days, then certainly someone like Vladmir can receive the same convincing witness from the Holy Ghost as he has been reading over the last couple months. But Vladmir refuses to pray about it, or act on the answer when he does pray. So he will never know for himself as long as he continues with that attitude. Isn't that so interesting? And sad, too. That a fullness of truth and happiness is literally in his hands, but he won't know it. I wonder if I ever act like that to the things the Lord is trying to teach me or give me... and what's the difference? Humility to ask, and faith to act. Well, I hope and pray that each of us will be more humble and faithful as we pray for answers and receive them step by step. I have 100% confidence in the promise of Moroni. If you don't know yet that the Book of Mormon is true, you REALLY CAN KNOW. You don't have to read the whole thing to pray and ask if it is true. But the key is that you have to ask in faith, having real intent... meaning that you will ACT on the answer you receive. Like eating a piece of cake... you don't have to eat the WHOLE cake to know if it's good or not. It really is one of the most miraculous tender mercies that God has given us in these latter-days. We don't have to try and convince ANYONE. God will do the convincing. All we have to do is INVITE! :)

Well, that sums up the most important happenings of the week, minus of course when a couple of parrots when BESERK during our lesson as we began the First Vision account (which isn't too surprising because something ALWAYS happens at this part of the lesson, which just means that Satan knows how powerful it can be for people!). hahaha... I now know that parrots can tell each other knock-knock jokes, laugh, bark like dogs, and scream "HERMANA" simultaneously if they know something important is going on... hahaha Maybe I can get a recording of them for you. But really, those birds have never said a WORD anytime we've been at that house over the last few months. haha I again repeat, I LOVE being a missionary! :)

And I love all of you! Have a great week. Know that God lives and loves you. Trust in His promises. Read the Book of Mormon, and renew your personal testimony in it by again testing Moroni's promise.

Love always,
Hermana Blackburn

27 September 2011

September 27, 2011 The Big Move

Well this week was relatively uneventful. We spent most of the week moving. And my companion is still recovering from a bout with walking pneumonia... so she is still building back up her energy. But thank goodness for antibiotics! :)

So, for the record, we LOVE our new apartment. Seriously, it is SO NICE to have our own space. I almost forgot what it was like, but it is delightful!
And my Golden birthday... it was a normal missionary day for the most part, but there were definitely some highlights.

1) With Latinos it's often a tradition to shove the birthday person's face in the cake... well Elder Castro attempted, but he missed. And I shoved it in his face instead! hahaha... Definitely a HIGHLIGHT! ;) He is from Ecuador, and finishes his mission next week. He's awesome and we've become good friends, lest any of you think that he was being mean... it was all in fun. And it was priceless to see the look on his face covered in chocolate mouse... HAHAHAHA. Definitely a great birthday moment!

2) The Elder Castro and Elder Thacker also gave me a cheesecake! SO GOOD!
3) I got really sweet cards from Tim & Jan, my companion, and Elder Skylar Blackburn.
4) Elder Riggs gave me a Mark Mabry photograph--Christ healing the Blind Man. It is BEAUTIFUL! You will all be jealous when you see it. ;) haha

5) I had a delivery man knock on our door with two boxes full of DARK chocolate covered strawberries and apples... THANKS Erika & John!!!! YUUUUUMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
6) We had another delightful & ridiculous lesson with our favorite Vladmir. He may or may not have kissed me... hahahahaha... Don't worry. If he did, it was probably on the cheek...
7) The RS General Broadcast was AWESOME. Beautiful. Inspiring. Encouraging. Empowering. Everything I needed it to be. I LOVED ALL of the talks, but of course, President Uchtdorf's words were especially memorable. But more than his words, I loved that I could feel his love and the love of the Savior for His daughter's as he spoke. If you haven't read or listened to the talk yet, DO IT. You're going to LOVE IT!!!

Thank you again to all of the love and support I receive from you all. Especially, thank you for your prayers. The last few weeks have been hard on the work with my companion being so sick. Thankfully, we still laugh all the time. It is amazing what a HUGE difference it makes when you really do have companionship UNITY and you are actually FRIENDS. Oh my goodness... I'm learning SO MUCH about life and marriage in particular while on my mission... And I'm REALLY grateful that I live in a culture where I get to CHOOSE my eternal companion for myself. PHEW! haha ;)

Well, I love you all and I hope you are all handling the big changes and the small daily decisions well! It's hard for me to believe just HOW MUCH I'm missing at home. Tanner's Mission Call. Lilly!!! The move across the country. Seriously, that is a LOT of change coming to our family in a really short amount of time. But, we are champs at handling change, aren't we? ;) Keep up the great work everyone!!!

Hermana Blackburn

19 September 2011

September 19, 2011 Miracles DO happen. EVERY. DAY.

Well, CONGRATULATIONS on selling the house!!! I can't believe that I am officially going to be homeless... :/ haha But seriously, I'm so very grateful that our prayers have been answered and that Heavenly Father is pouring out His blessings upon you all!! Good luck on the move to St. George! I hope that Tanner, Logan, Liz, and Lilly all figure out what they are doing and can make their life changes with confidence! :)

Well, my dear companion is really sick, and was sick all last week. The problem with living in a tiny apartment with 7 people... if one person gets sick, you're all bound to get sick! Needless to say, we weren't able to leave very much... but we are making progress with Vladmir. He is reading the Book of Mormon like crazy, which is AWESOME! He still won't come to church... he wants some time... But we're hopeful that as he continues to prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, that his desires will begin to change. That is normally what happens as we read the Book of Mormon. It brings the Spirit into our lives faster and stronger than anything else can. And The Spirit helps us soften our hearts and change our desires. It is one of my favorite things to witness as a missionary. :) Speaking of the Book of Mormon, I hope you ALL are thoroughly studying the AWESOME issue of the Ensign this month, entirely on the Book of Mormon! What a FANTASTIC resource for all of us!

On another VERY exciting front, WE ARE MOVING!!!!!! Remember that tiny apartment I mentioned above??? The one we are sharing with the Nunez family... well we are FINALLY getting our own place. We are SO excited. I love the Nunez family, and they definitely helped me A TON last transfer. But it is time. There are 3 more people in the process of moving into the apartment, and no where for them to go. So they are just always sleeping on the couches. Pobrecitos. And we are constantly left to entertain their 4yr old granddaughter. So we're hoping that our new place will be a much more conducive place to feeling the Spirit and receiving the much needed revelation to guide and direct the work in this area. So we start moving in on Wednesday. Here is my new address:

14078 Astoria St. #204
Sylmar, CA 91342

We are also hoping that our new apartment will be COCKROACH-FREE. And up to earthquake code... haha. ;)

Well, because we spent so much time IN this week, I spent A LOT of time studying and receiving revelation. Some of the things we learned about from Zone Conference just kept playing over and over in my mind. And as Hna. Erickson and I discussed them, and studied more specific things, we received A LOT of revelation. Awesome!! Basically in a nut shell it led me to think what my missionary "covenant" is, and what the "ordinances" are that I am supposed to do to validate my covenant. (Elder Golden told us that ordinances validate covenants...) So I have lots of study notes from several days, but I won't bore you with those. But it just really led me to understand that just like any other ordinance we do in the church, that there are correct and approved manners to do things like studies, prayers, planning, and obeying missionary rules. And by doing these things, like ordinances, in the correct manner established by Heavenly Father, I validate the "covenant" for the rest of the day... Basically that meaning that I will do everything I can to teach by the Spirit every day, and in return God will lead me to His children who are ready to accept and receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ RIGHT NOW. Isn't that cool? Tanner LEARN THIS. To double our success as missionaries, we don't have to double our efforts. We just have to "sharpen our sickles" so to speak by doing the small and simple things every day. Pray. Study. Plan. Be obedient. And GOD WILL HELP EVERYTHING ELSE TURN OUT. I don't know why all this time I've been trying to complicate things. It really is THAT SIMPLE! And we can do the same thing as MEMBER MISSIONARIES, too! WHAT GREAT FORTUNE!!! :)

I got a phone call a couple days ago that made me SO happy!! You'll never believe it, because I almost didn't! But do any of you remember the Tovar family from Canyon COuntry? The ones that Hna. Kiewra and I found my FIRST day in the mission, and started visiting almost every day for 3 months? Well Leonor, and her two oldest daughters Carla and Maria got BAPTIZED YESTERDAY!!!!!!!! That is 3 out of the 8 people in their family! And the only other one older than 8 right now is Carlos, the father. I hope that he will start progressing now that Leonor has proved she is committed! :) I seriously am SO HAPPY for them!!! I wasn't able to go to the baptism, but the ordinance is still valid, even without me there! ;)

Well, I just want you all to know that I LOVE you and am so grateful for all of your love and support!! Happy Birthday to Aunt Jan, Angela, and Jack Tingey all on Saturday! I have the best birthday buddies EVER!! :) Well, keep expecting those miracles!! God IS SOOO good to us! :)

Hermana Blackburn

13 September 2011

September 13, 2011 What's in a Name? Like AUNT!!!!!!

Well, I had A LOT of things on my mind that I wanted to write about today... but when I opened up my email and there was an announcement that I'm now an AUNT... everything else seems SO UNIMPORTANT!!! haha Seriously, I can't even compare anything I had to say with that beautiful baby girl. So congratulations, Logan and Liz!! And welcome to the world Lilly Adzo Blackburn!! And will someone PLEEEEAAAAAASSSEEEEEEE get this new aunt some PICTURES!!!

Ok, that being said, yesterday we had Zone Conference with Elder and Sister Golden of the Seventy and President and Sister Martin. It was a WONDERFUL day, but exhausting! Sometimes learning SO much from the Spirit is overwhelming... Zone Conferences are normally a two-edged sword. I both feel completely uplifted and encouraged, while at the same time disappointed with myself that I am not doing MORE. Because let's be honest... we can ALWAYS do MORE. Or at least that's how I feel. So something I've struggled with as a missionary is knowing if I really have pushed myself to my ABSOLUTE limit, and well, the answer has usually been no. I can always talk to one more person, knock one more door, seek the Spirit just one more time... But I've also come to realize that this is part of the glorious gift of the Atonement. I can continue to push myself more and more, but what I lack, the Savior helps make up the difference. And together, we ARE a perfect team, because HE is perfect! What great fortune!!! I love this gospel so very much!!

And a couple other fun facts: Elder and Sister Golden are from South Africa, so I got a little taste of what Skylar hears from his greenie, Elder Gordon, every day. :) AND Elder Golden told me that he was just in Indy for our Stake Conference and that he STAYED with the Sinclairs! Crazy, huh?! I loved it! It made me so happy to find such a random connection with a man from SOUTH AFRICA and a family from INDIANA... while we're in CALIFORNIA. I love our small world! :)

Last week was actually a pretty slow week, because I sprained my ankle while hiking last week. haha Well, in Spanish, the best way to describe me: "Estoy un disastre!" haha But seriously. Aye well. Hopefully it will heal quickly and we'll be able to start tracting again. But despite it being a slow week, we had some awesome lessons with Vladimir, and he LOVES the Book of Mormon. He really is quite the character... we can't talk for more than 5 minutes at a time without him breaking into song... haha. But something that is especially wonderful about him: he invites EVERYONE to listen to us. His house is a bit like a Mexican fraternity house sometimes, with all these random men fixing cars, etc. in the yard. Last week we showed up for a lesson and there were seriously about 15 people there... only about 5 of them ended up joining us for any amount of time, but hey, that's 4 more people! He is an AWESOME missionary, even if he doesn't know it yet. :)

Have I ever written about all the various names people call me because they can't say Blackburn (Both Latinos AND White people)? Here's just a few of the most popular:
La Otra Hermana-aka "the other sister"
Hermana B. (pronounced 'bay')
Hermana Black
Hermana Blackbum
Hermana Blackbird
Hermana Blackberry
Hermana Quemada-literally Sister Burn
Hermana Negro Quemada-literally Sister Black Burn
Hermana So-and-so's Companera-aka they will only refer to me in 3rd person and only address my companion haha

But I have to be honest, as HAPPY as I am to be an Hermana, nothing can compare to my happiness of now being a Tia!!!! (P.S. Logan and Liz, I like Tia Dana SO much better than Aunt Dana... So I think the Spanish is going to win out for this one and I would like you to start implementing it immediately. No, Seriously...).

Well I love you all and I hope things are going well! Have a great week!!

Loves loves loves!
Hermana Blackburn

06 September 2011

September 6, 2011 I felt the Earth move under my feet... and other exciting acontecimientos!

Well Just another week here in the 'hood as Eryn would say... Oh where do I even begin?!

Well First of all, I know you all want to know about the earthquake... Did I feel it? Yes! Was I scared? Well no... but it also helped that my non-Californian brain did not process it as an earthquake. haha I'll tell you all about it. We came home to eat some lunch and to help Hna. Nunez with some posters for her RS lesson on Sunday. Well I was sitting on my bed (the bottom bunk) doing some extra studying and all of a sudden the top bunk started to shake like Hna. Erickson was jumping on it. I thought somehow I'd missed her coming in and getting on her bed because I was so involved in my study. But then she came in a few minutes later, so I was a little confused, but didn't really think anything after that. Good thing the earthquake wasn't any stronger though because our beds are just stacked upon each other... and the likelihood of me being crushed by the top bunk is actually much higher than 0. Anyway, my companion also had no idea what was going on. She didn't feel anything, but the ceiling fan started to shake. Hna. Nunez jumped up in a panic and opened the door. My companion thought that for some reason they just open the door to help the fan stop shaking. Oh dear... everyone here in California thinks it's SO funny that we don't process earthquakes in the same way. But at least we don't panic, right? ;) Well the epicenter was in Newhall, which is basically where I was before up in Santa Clarita. No real damage was done, but I DID find out that the apartment building we're currently living in never had all the major structural damage from the 1994 earthquake fixed... they just patched the walls and so you can see a line all the way around our apartment. Needless to say, for that and MANY other reasons, we are probably going to move into our own apartment within the next month. :)

Ok what else can I tell you? There have been so many experiences this last week of receiving promptings, acting on them, and seeing the results magnified beyond what we could've hoped. It's been REALLY cool. And it makes me just want to act on ALL of the spiritual promptings I receive! Well, that being said let me share one with you. We were at a late dinner appointment and by the time we finished sharing a message, it was already 9pm, and we still had to take the elders home all the way across town. Well, the Spirit told me throughout our whole lesson that we needed to stop by and see Antonio, our homeless investigator, who actually doesn't live too far from where we were. I kept trying to dismiss it, but it kept coming back. Well, the good thing about being the driver is that you ultimately have control over where you go... ;) So I told the Elders we had to make a quick pit-stop to check on an investigator. Well, the alley where Antonio lives has a gate, and that night it was closed. So we pull open the gate as far as we can and we squeeze through. I wasn't scared at all because the Spirit had told me to go. Hna. Erickson was a little sketched out, but she trusts me. I think the Elders were a little concerned though, they like good elders, they followed us crazy sisters "just in case." Did I mention that one of the Elders is a greenie? ... he only had 10 days here when this happened... haha. Well we found Antonio, and he looked much better than the last time we saw him. He asked us to pray with him, but instead I invited him to receive a Priesthood blessing. WHERE IN THE WORLD DID THAT COME FROM???? Well, it had to have been the Spirit because that thought had never crossed my mind... So right then and there, I ask Elder Riggs if he would mind giving a blessing. And like the incredibly awesome missionary that he is, he readily agreed. We briefly explained what a priesthood blessing is, etc. and then Elder Riggs and his greenie Elder Ellsworth proceeded to give Antonio a priesthood blessing in the back of a dark alley at 9:15 at night. hahaha Sometimes the Spirit is SO unpredictable, but I LOVE seeing all the good that can come from following His promptings! Seriously, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is the most precious gift I have as a missionary, and as a member of God's true church. His constant companionship is the best feeling in the world!

Well, aside from that, Lucia was confirmed which was super exciting! Alonso was ordained a teacher and passed the Sacrament for the first time! Silvia said after Sacrament mtg. that she is going to be baptized "muy pronto" so we're hoping to see her today and set a date! Mauricio said he's finally ready to DO something and is going to start meeting with us again tonight! Jessica is starting to recognize that she IS a beautiful daughter of God and that her divine nature and individual worth are things that NO one can take away from her! Oh, and miracle of all miracles, Vladimir now CORRECTLY understands the First Vision (he had been misunderstanding us before that God was pointing to Joseph instead of Jesus Christ and telling us to listen to Joseph Smith... Wow... GOOD THING we figured out his hang up and got that all cleared up!!! haha), accepts Joseph Smith as a servant of God, and that the Book of Mormon is another true testament of Jesus Christ! We're hoping that he will accept a baptismal invitation this week! :) So, the work is moving right along. Hna. Erickson is delightful and she wants to work just as hard as I do, which is a HUGE blessing! We are lighting this area on fire and hopefully the ward will have a few sparks started, too. ;)

Well, thanks again for your continued love and support! There are only 3 more weeks for Liz to take a pregnant picture and send it to me! Will someone PLEASE jump on that for me??? Well, I love you all!! Have a great week! GOD is in control, and everything He does is for OUR good, and OUR eternal life. Just remember that!

Hermana Blackburn

29 August 2011

August 29, 2011 The Infernal Pit and Catching Fire

Wow. I don't know any other way to describe how HOTTTTTT it is here right now. But other than that, it has been an awesome week!

Hermana Erickson is delightful. SUCH a relief to be myself with her. We are working HARD, and we both have some pretty lofty visions of what we think we can do here in an area that most people in the mission have considered a "dead zone" for awhile. Well, this week we did our best to literally talk to EVERYONE. And we knocked. A. LOT. of. Doors. For hours. haha After hours of knocking in 105+ degrees everyday, we actually have 4 new investigators, and we are stoked. Our brains are fried and our bones feel like jelly, but we are STOKED to keep working hard! haha Don't worry mom, we're drinking as much water as we can. Everyone in the mission who knows me calls me the water police... a habit I have retained from being on an archaeology team. haha So we're going to go pick up some packets today to put in our water to help us out with the electrolytes because we both feel it. But it's all good. :)

So we met this one man who passed us on the street and he is an alcoholic and homeless but wants to change so badly. We prayed with him right there and the Spirit was so strong he started sobbing. We have taught him once since then and we gave him a Book of Mormon to read and he was SO excited. He says he loves to read (but obviously living on the street he doesn't own any books). He's hard to track down sometimes because well, he can just wander away from his usually stoop he calls home. But on the way to emailing we passed his stoop and he was there so I looked in my mirror and HE WAS READING THE BOOK OF MORMON!!!!! So cool. Yeah I am so happy about that right now. :) So we're going to probably stop by on the way home if he's still there.

Lucia is still amazing, bearing her testimony left and right to her family and friends when they start picking on her. We also knocked into this 80yr old woman named Licha (leeecha). We witnessed her receive her own testimony of the Restoration of Christ's gospel through Joseph Smith, and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon right there during our lesson which was AWESOME. But she has some memory problems and some fear of water, so we'll have to see if she remembers anything we taught her or how she felt last time when we see her tonight... Oh the mission. :) I just love people. Really, I LOVE these people.

So last night we had a baptism in our ward, and then I was asked to go up and help out with the baptism for Hector Alanis, the father of the kids that were baptized a couple weeks ago. I really hadn't thought that I was going to be able to go up there for his baptism, so I was SUPER happy that I was able to make it. It was wonderful! I played the piano and botched all the songs, but afterwards everyone was so impressed... probably b/c none of them can carry a tune let alone play the piano. haha So I guess it doesn't really matter. For things like that, serving in Spanish units is REALLY good for the soul. ;) haha Oh, and the Monrroys were there, too and I was SOOOO happy to see them it just made my day!!!

Oh, Saturday night we were going to see a sister in our ward who just went through the temple, and I was pulling up alongside a curb to park and there was this LOUD noise and the car stopped suddenly... like I had hit something. But I was still FEET away from the curb. I was super confused and a little stressed about what I had just done to God's car! haha So I get out, and look at the damage and there's nothing... then I look closer and I realize that we got a FLAT TIRE. Apparently this crazy old man hates when people park in front of his house, so he puts these sharpened little bricks in the middle of the road to give people flat tires. :( HOW RUDE! Anyway, we called the elders and then went and got a neighbor of the member to help us out. So the elders came and with the help of the jack and flashlight from Yuri, were able to put the spare tire on. But seriously, never in my life have I experienced an EXPLOSIVE flat tire. hahaha Anyway, now I know exactly what to do. But I'm just so grateful for elders! And a companion who is willing to laugh at things like that!

So all in all it has been a really great week of working HARD, sweating LOTS, and laughing and smiling A LOT with my new companion! Thank you all for your love and prayers! You are continually in mine!

Loves loves loves!!!
Hermana Blackburn

22 August 2011

August 22, 2011 Grandes pelotes de fuego! (Great balls of fire!!)

Well, We have definitely been feeling those fiery darts of the adversary this week. But God is so mindful of me that still nothing yet could harm me, no matter what Satan did to prevent our baptism yesterday. What a miracle!

1) My companion runs a lot of yellow/orange/red lights. And well, my life has flashed before my eyes a couple times this week as other cars try to go at the same time she is still going. Thank goodness Dad is doing his job up there as my guardian angel!! I couldn't ask for a better one, that's for sure! I know Skylar probably thinks that he has dibs on dad as his guardian angel, but I'm pretty sure that daughters always win out, right? haha ;)

2) While in a lesson this week, one of those huge 4ft box speakers "fell"/jumped off the wall BARELY missing me. There was also a bunch of glass on top and all the glass shattered at my feet but I wasn't hurt at all. We had all just been sitting there. NOTHING happened to provoke it from falling. WEIRD. But I guess one time when this same family was learning about the word of wisdom, the coffee pot in the kitchen just randomly shattered into hundreds of pieces without anyone around. So... I'm not sure how talking about the Iron Rod and the Tree of Life has anything to do with a speaker, but I'm really grateful I wasn't seriously hurt!

3) Satan was doing EVERYTHING he could this week to prevent Lucia from being baptized. But she is amazing and way stronger than Satan. :) She was baptized yesterday in one of the most beautiful services I've been to. The Spirit was so strong and everyone there felt it, but especially Lucia. Hna. Williams and I played "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" on the piano and flute as a special musical number and it went pretty well. Just after that, Lucia went to be baptized and she just hugged us for several minutes because she was sobbing. The Spirit was incredible. And I'm SOOOOOO happy for her!! She is a part of my family now and I'm so grateful that I get to be here and teach her!

4) So from the beginning of this transfer, I knew that there was one person I was supposed to teach, one person I was supposed to find, but that my primary responsibility was to help my companion through her hard time. Well that being said, every time we were going tracting I kept feeling impressed to go to Chatsworth Ave. but nothing really has ever come from it. Until last week when the Elders gave us this address on Chatsworth and all they would tell us is that they "received further revelation about our impressions to look on Chatsworth." So we went and knocked on this house that was just beyond the last place we'd stopped knocking last time. Well, as we knocked on the door, this girl gets out of a truck and comes up to us and invites us in, without even asking who we are. So once we're inside we introduce ourselves and who we are and what we're doing there and she starts telling us how she's been feeling impressed the last few days like she was going to meet someone new that would really help her but she didn't know with what. (Coincidence? I THINK NOT.) So we share a little bit of "How to Begin Teaching" and How to recognize the Holy Ghost and His role in testifying of Truth with her and she is so excited because she's realizing that what she is feeling is the Holy Ghost. Her name is Arianna, and turns out that she used to date this boy in our ward who is preparing to go on his mission (which is why they stopped dating), but she has come to church a few times to the English ward and she really liked it. He had given her a Gospel Principles manual and she found it a couple days before we found her and she said she felt like she should read it but didn't know why... hmmmm. I KNOW!!! PICK ME!!! PICK ME!!!!! haha Anyway, we sing "Our Savior's Love" for her and she was crying because the Spirit was SO strong. It was great. When I left her house I knew that I had found that person this transfer that I was supposed to. Don't worry, she ended up giving us a ride to the chiropractor the next morning for my appointment (30min away)... not even 24hrs after meeting us. haha She's awesome. The tragic part of it all? She doesn't speak Spanish. So we can't teach her. But the English elders here are great so it will be ok... just sad for me... pero asi es en la mision...

5) We have transfers today. Hna. Williams is going to North Hollywood and I'm staying here. My new companion will be Hna. Erickson who came out at the same time as Hna. Williams... 6 weeks before I did. She has been serving up in the desert since she came out, so Sylmar is going to be VERY different for her. But she's from Boston, so I think she can handle it. :) haha I'm excited to have a companion from the East Coast! Anywhere east of the Mississippi river is RARE... haha. So on to my 4th tansfer, my 4th companion, and my 3rd area. Finally ONE thing stays the same for me! haha

6) TANNER!!!!! You're GOING TO SOUTH DAKOTA!!!!!!!! I'm SO excited for you!!!! I'm bummed you have to wait so long to leave, though at least November isn't 5 months away like Skylar had to wait! It's going to be crazy to have all three of us out for 7 months, but just think of all the blessings that mom and our family will receive because of us! I'm so proud of you! Congratulations!!

Ok, well that is all the time I really have. I love you all!! Have a great week! Know that I love you all so very much and pray for you continually!

Hermana Blackburn

Picture 1: The Martinez family that I taught up in Canyon Country, baptized 24 July!
Picture 2: Jenny and Daniel Alanis that I taught up in Canyon Country and their step-sister Marlena Carillo. They were baptized 14 August! Their father is getting baptized the 28th of August because their parents are getting married on the the 27th! :)
Picture 3: Lucia with Beverly (8) and Bridjette (3) along with Elder Verive who baptized her. He learned some Spanish just so he could baptize her!

I tried to send more but it was taking way too long!

Reflections of Christ