It was wonderful to talk with you last night and see all the new grandkids for the first time! I cannot believe how big they are. I was so confused when Emma was talking to me because I was so convinced that it was Allison. Time passes very quickly. Great news, Elder Ballard is coming in two weeks! I am super excited. It is so amazing that as a missionary I just receive these emails saying that an apostle will be here to speak to us. What a blessing.
Thank you all for your presents and letters. I loved hearing from you all and catching a quick insight into your lives. It always inspires me to do better when I remember or am reminded just how many people are praying for me. Especially all of the grandkids. With their faith and prayers great blessing have and will continue to be brought about. As I finished writing my email last week I felt like I had just finished writing a talk. I apologize if I get preachy sometimes, I will try not too. I just can't help it.
On Christmas Eve, after President Ashton told us that the Lord expects us to more than double the number of baptisms in 2013 and baptize 1,000 people, he gave a powerful talk on consecration. He said that the Lord could do this work if we only gave 95% effort, he said the Lord could do this work if we gave 50% effort, but he then went on to say that the Lord doesn't require 95% or 50%, He requires all. He requires our will. A broken heart and a contrite spirit. I have some repenting and consacrating to do. After his talk, he said we could watch one of two movies: It's a Wonderful Life or Saturday's Warrior. Naturally we chose Saturday's Warrior and now all Elder Evertsen and I do is walk around singing, "We are not the ordinary, fearlessly extraordinary, doing righteous hairy-cary, in our humble way!" That movie was hilarious. Brought back some fun memories too.
As this was my first Christmas away from home I didn't know what to expect. But I learned, yet again, that the Lord loves me and is aware of me. Or as President Monson says, "He is in the details of our lives." I say this because one of my favorite Christmas traditions is caroling as a family. Not because we sound good or I really love Christmas songs, but because we can see the smiles light up the faces of those to whom we bring glad tidings and great joy. I went caroling last week and as we sang with the senior couple in our ward (they are in the picture from the other email) and their daughter and son-in-law and visited those who are downtrodden, I felt the true joy of Christmas. The smiles and joy from unexpected visitors helped me to remember the Savior and the joy He brought into the world at His birth.
Another tradition is reading the Nephite Christmas story. Yesterday we had a district white elephant gift exchange and then read that story. The same feeling that I have always felt was present and all the missionaries just sat there after as the Holy Ghost filled our hearts with gratitude for the Babe born in Bethlehem.
I had the opportunity to go to the temple today for the first time since I got out here in the field. Our Bishop took us but we missed the session. We went and did sealings instead. I was grateful for that because it reminded me of doing sealing the weekend of my farewell when the whole family was in the temple at the same time. I remember the incredible peace I felt in that room as the assurance of a family family was instilled upon my heart. As I listened to the words today, the Spirit began to teach me. Some of what I learned is that today as I was in the temple I had the chance to participate in the same exact work I normally am doing, just for those on the other side of the veil. The next thought was that the sealing is the final saving ordinance required in this life. I then realized that that has to be my goal. I realized that it is not enough to baptize people, they have to make it to the temple to be sealed as a family. As I sat pondering on this I wished so badly that my investigators could just understand for one minute. If they could just see the end from the beginning and realize that no sacrifice is ever too great to receive all the the Father hath. I then wondered how often my Heavenly Father says that about me. I just wish Elder Case could see the end from the beginning. If he could just understand his divine potential and allow me to make into what I want him to be. I was humbled by this thought and gained an even deeper desire to allow the touch of the Master's hand shape and mold me into who He wants and needs me to be.
I love this work. I know it is true. The Spirit testifies of that each day. Thank you for your prayers. I love you all.