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

Reflections of Christ