Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas!! (Week 42)

Hello, Everyone!

This email will be short this time, I think! (Ha, I always say that!) I'm so loving this Christmas season. And I'm so looking forward to the time when I get to call my family on Christmas!!!! Aahhh. (; 

As you can see, I became festive and made my favorite thing of all time today: pretzel jello salad!!!! #tearsofjoy. 

SHOUTOUT to Katie Woods and all my other amazing family members for sending me Christmas gifts and CDs!!!! :DD You are amazing and I appreciate it SO much!!! 

There are just a few experiences I want to highlight this week. First of all, I had really wanted to visit with this less-active family, the Scanlons because their name sounds like my favorite word! So, we did! And it was scanlanous. :D 

Also, we had an amazing district meeting this week. We actually did a white elephant gift exchange and there were some, um, interesting gifts exchanged! I got off easy with a stocking full of andes mints but there were definitely some sketchy dinosaurs, santa in a bathtub figurines, and gaudy cat statues passed around. 

On a more serious note, we had a great district meeting about the Atonement. We each bore testimony of the Savior and His Atonement and the spirit was so strong!!! My love for, knowledge of, and appreciation of these things has grown so much!! How grateful I am for the Savior and His great atoning sacrifice and the love that permeates this holiday season. I can't really describe it or how I feel. It's just awesome. Christmas is truly the best on a mission! :)

Haha. Now on a more silly note, we were totally stuffed like a turkey because Sister Rice had us over for a fancy Christmas dinner. This lady is hilarious!! "Now Sisters, I don't think you Sisters are full enough. GO GET SOME MORE!!!" As Kimi would say: "don't tell me what to do!" Haha that's what I thought in my head at least. :) It really was good, though. People are seriously having a conspiracy theory to try and fatten us up for winter I think. Everyone and their Mom has decided that Christmastime is the best time to feed the missionaries and they obviously think we can never have too many Christmas cookies!! Oh DEAR! Good thing they will get back to their senses and stop feeding us once January rollls around. That's how I prefer it. :) 

Oh, and we got invited to seminary this week. :D That was exciting. 

I also learned the joy and ease of praying with people on the phone (wait... that actually works??!) Turns out it does. ;) That, along with many other experiences, (namely when some people are totally ready for you to leave and you can totally tell but have to pretend like you don't notice! :P) make me convinced that my awkward filter must be broken. These things don't bother me! I think missionaries learn to be immune to awkwardness. It's kind of funny sometimes. :) 

I have been SUPER abnormally tired this week, even more than normal, and am falling asleep everywhere. So that's a good indication we have been working hard and having a good week!

We also got to attend a baptism in Neenah. This was someone that Sister Peel taught. Baptisms are always great! :) 

Ahh, we also had a few great lessons this week. And we had a great and hilarious time folding laundry for the Irazzary's who can't hear a THING, but I need to leave enough to talk about with my family on Thursday!!! Ahh, I'm so excited! :) 

Here's just a brief spiritual thought. Ah, this Christmas Book of Mormon reading will be over this week and I have learned to much! Turn with me to Ether 6. In this chapter the Jaredites are traveling across the sea in barges that the Lord helped them to construct and it is describing the brother of Jared's experiences as he is traveling. However, I also think this is relevant to us today. In verses 9 and 10 we see that the brother of Jared is "singing praises unto the Lord." He did "thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord." Clearly this is a great display of gratitude that he is demonstrating toward God. How often are we grateful for about 5 or 10 minutes then get on with the rest of our day? I know that happens with me. Well, THis is a great example of having a continuous attitude of gratitude.  Well, in the next verse, consequently, we see that "they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually..." I really like that because we can each have light continually in our lives as we remember Christ with gratitude and turn to Him often not just at Christmas time, or occasionally, but all the time. Truly as we remember Christ with gratitude by our very thoughts and actions, we can have that light and protection with us always as we navigate through the storms of life. I know that to be true! 

On another side note, in verse 17 in that same chapter,  I admire how they were taught to "walk humbly before the Lord" and were "taught from on high." What a marvelous opportunity we have, that as we humble ourselves and seek direction in our lives from God through prayer, we, too, can be taught from on high. It's exciting stuff. :) 

I love you!!!! Merry Christmas!!!


Sister Woods

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Week 41

Hello, everyone!!

Well, we tried to revive the phone by soaking it in rice but it was to no avail. #babycomeback! It has been quite difficult, actually, to survive as a missionary without a phone! Lots of driving around and cancelled appointments. Eight in a row this week, actually! I really feel bad for the old-timers that served missions before phones were available. It's humbling to realize just how much we depend on technology!! But, on the other hand, it was kind of nice not to have to worry about checking it all of the time. They are going to send us a new one any day now! :) 

Anna got confirmed on Sunday, so that was fabulous. Next up, Albert!!! The Bishop challenged him to be ready for baptism by the end of the year and make it a "white Christmas." So, we are going to do all we can to help that happen! :)  The Vasquez family as a whole is not doing well. There is lots of stress involved but the great news is that we are going to start meeting with just the parents for lessons. I think that will greatly help to strengthen their testimonies, and their family as a whole. So far our mission is on the right track, and we are pretty sure we can get 299 baptisms before the end of the year (our goal is 300). Well, Albert may just be that unaccounted one that can help us reach it! So, we are hoping for him. Our other investigators, Lynette and Vere are at a crossroads right now. They could use a few prayers if you felt so inclined! :) 

I'm not really sure what to mention. It was still a great week. I don't think I've ever been so exhausted in my life! We have worked really, really hard. But, it's been great. Lots of tracting in the cold. It' s actually been warmer this week (in the 30s and 40s). I love getting to work hard as a missionary because that's when the miracles happen. We had a small one the other day. We only had a half hour before our appointment and SIster Peel didn't feel like we should use the surveys. Our mission has had a big focus on this recently and it is meant to help us get to teach the first lesson inside people's homes, but it takes awhile (plus it's a very bold approach that involves you basically inviting yourself in! Haha. Not for the faint of heart. :)). So, I felt like we should still try it for some reason. So we did and we ended up finding a really cool lady who is excited about what we shared . And we were still on-time to the appointment. #win. :) 

We went to go see Sister Moffitt in the hospital this morning. She had pneumonia. Poor lady. I sure do love her, she's like a third Grandma to me. :) I sure do love these people in Oshkosh! So grateful I get to serve here. I am not looking forward to the day I get transferred. 

I also finally watched Mr. Kreuger's Christmas this week. My comp made me. :P I'd never seen it before! And I finally made dinner in a  pumpkin!! :)

Well, that's all for now!

Love you all!

SIster Woods 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Week 40

Hello everyone!!

My oh my. Where to start?! So, who is ready for a long email? :)

 We had 2 Thanksgiving appointments. One was at the Bishop's house (We played football in the snow beforehand). This Thanksgiving was quite delicious! Sister Rhodes made the greatest purple mashed potatoes ever and it absolutely rocked. And homemade pies. I don't usually like pies that much but these were rockin!  (She told me that missionaries who help in the kitchen get invited back. ;) Hooray!). 

We also went out to the Gordon's house. They live out in Princeton which is pretty far away. I took a deep breath outside afterward and my nose hair froze!! Such a strange sensation. I seriously can't get over all this snow. I know it's not even bad yet. Not at all! But I've never seen so much! I also shoveled snow for the first time this week. :)  Let's just say that my electric blanket is my new best friend!!! 

Also, shoutout to Kyle, whose birthday is this week!!!! Here's to an amazing, spiritual, lovable, fun, genius, and fantabulous brother!! :) 

Sister Peel and I celebrated my halfway mark at Olive Garden!!! Hooray!! I feel like I've experienced quite a bit in 9 months and am excited to see what the remaining 9 months hold in store. :) I love that place. There's something extra magical about going to Olive Garden on a mission when my day-to-day diet consists largely of green beans, eggs, and salad. So good!!!! :D

 Oh man, I wish I had taken a picture of the ginormous plate of lasagna we were fed this week (that same day that we went to Olive Garden!!! Dx) It was ridiculous! What's more, Sister Peel had just told me that morning how much she dislikes lasagna. Ha! Well, we couldn't even use our "snowflake" password (the key word I use when we don't want to eat something. It means "please eat this so I don't have to!") because I could barely handle my own! It was ridiculously cheesy, too. But this sweet old Chilean lady made it for us and stared at us the whole time asking how we liked it. Oh dear. So, we took one for the team. Dx #toomuchfood.

Something we have been sharing with people lately is found in Alma 48: 11-13, 17.  We don't have very much information about Captain Moroni. We know he was "a strong and mighty man," a man of "perfect understanding," and a man whose "soul did delight not delight in bloodshed... but in the liberty and the freedom of his country and his brethren." He was "firm in the faith of Christ," and did "labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people." This is essentially it. But, perhaps something extra neat about Moroni is the fact that his "heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many blessings and privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people." Then when we look at verse 17 we see that "if all men had been and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever" and "the devil never would have had power over the hearts of the children of men." Clearly Moroni was an amazing, and powerful man! Ha! (Sheri Dew says she already has dibs on him if he's still single in heaven. sorry, ladies. :P) It's interesting to me that among the few characteristics we know about Moroni, his exceeding gratitude is highlighted. In fact, it gets its own verse. It seems like his gratitude is likely one of the foundations ( if not THE foundation) of his amazing character. Clearly he understood the true source of his great power and strength was the Lord. He was close to the Lord because of that understanding.  I believe that gratitude is a source of strength, just as it was for Moroni, and that the more we increase our gratitude and appreciation for all the amazing blessings each of us receives every single day, the more we can feel of God's power in our lives. It's good to be grateful throughout the year but the holidays are a time we can especially reflect on all that there is to be grateful for, especially for our Savior! 

Another couple of quick things I'll share. I have thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas study of the Book of Mormon. It has opened my eyes in many ways. It is looking more like a Christmas ornament every day (from all the red and green things I'm highlighting) :D. It is truly a great study and one that I would recommend to anyone. Anyway.  One thing I love is how in Alma 61 verse 15 it talks about how the spirit of god is the spirit of freedom. I was pondering about that and realized how true it is. When we have spiritual experiences, when we feel the spirit's influence in our lives, it is like being free. If we live worthy enough to feel the spirit in our lives it is like pure freedom from the cares of the world, from worldly appetites, selfishness and sorrow. I also love verse 17. It says "In the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us." I love how much "in the strength of the Lord" is mentioned in these chapters, as well as the idea that our faith can act as an energy source, that there is a direct relationship between the amount of faith we exercise and the amount of strength we receive from the Lord.  It is also interesting to see many examples in the Book of Mormon of how it is up to us to determine how we will allow the trials in our lives affect us. For instance, in Alma 62: 41 we see that some were softened and humbled, (they grew and were strengthened because of their afflictions) and some were hardened. It is interesting how it is up to us to determine how we will let these challenges affect us. We can use them to turn us closer to God and have them become strengths to us, or we can choose to turn away from God and not have this occur. This interests me. But it's okay if it wasn't very interesting to you, now the rant is over. :) 

We also had Anna's baptism on Saturday!!!!!!! Wow, that took a whole lot of planning but it really happened! :) I decided on Friday that since we needed a musical number I would go ahead and do that. So I played "I am a Child of God." Sister Kakuschke tried to play the piano part with me but it didn't quite happen in time so I went solo. The baptism was great.It was a small turnout, but still great. It is amazing how quick baptisms are! Weeks and weeks (usually months and months) of preparation for only a few short seconds. :) So, funny story. I get finished playing and I put the cello away. I close the lid without doing all of the buckles because Sister Hoffman started giving her talk right after and I didn't want to be super distracting snapping buckles during it. SO. I go to sit back down. Everything is fine. Then here comes Alvin, the 1 year old baby, who comes up to the cello and gives it a push. Everything happened so quickly. One minute I'm sitting (like almost halfway across the room) and the next thing I know I'm catching the cello before it hits the ground! Oh, man!!! Everyone told me "Nice catch!!" I moved quite quickly apparently. The elders thought it was really funny, that it had awakened the inner athlete in me. My cello senses were tingling!! :P It was especially embarrassing for me because Sister Kakuschke (it's her daughter's really nice cello) was sitting right there!!! It was truly a miracle I was able to get there in time.  I definitely would not have moved that quickly for anything else but a cello. :P So, this was definitely a baptism to remember! 

Sister Moffitt, Jared and I also performed our "Come Thou Fount" piece at sacrament meeting yesterday. That was fun. :) The members sure seem to enjoy when I play and I'm happy to do so. I'm so grateful I have all these opportunities  on my mission! :) I should have some more in December! 

We are in for another great week! Except, a certain sister missionary (whose name will NOT be mentioned. Sister Woods, cough, cough!  Haha, it must have been Abby. ;)) may or may not have dropped the phone in an icy puddle. So, now our phone is broken even after a few days of soaking it in rice. We are getting a new one later this week but this will make for an interesting time contacting members to come to our appointments with us! Ha. But we are having a lesson with Marcy at the church this week! So excited about her. This is the one who we met tracting that was like "I still want to join the church but we can't meet with my husband around." I didn't even think he was rude or anything. It doesn't phase me anymore. I don't notice. I figure it's much better when they let you know outright they aren't interested! :) So that's exciting.

Well, that's all for now, folks!


Sister Lacey Woods

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 39

Hello Everyone!!!

Ready for a super short email? Well, Sister Peel and I have had a very busy week! I am absolutely exhausted. I can't remember a time when I've worked harder! Since I've been in the area longer I've had to lead out the planning and phone calls.  Transfers are always crazy. :) 

Sister Peel is already famous around Oshkosh because it was in her last area. Everyone comes up to us and says "wait, I thought you got transferred!" 

By the way, it's FREEZING!!! I asked Sister Peel if it was blizzarding yet. She said "No way! We can still see!" So apparently I still have lots to learn about Wisconsin winter. :) Sister Peel has been out 13 months so she knows a real blizzard when she sees one. Ahh I can't believe my halfway mark is on Wednesday!! I feel old. 

There is so  much going on I don't really know where to start. We are excited about Anna's baptism on Saturday. We have lots of people to teach and I especially love teaching Paige!!! She is so, so excited about learning about the gospel it's not even funny. Ha! A miracle occured... Vere came to church!!!! The sisters have been teaching him since January 2014 and this was the first time!!! Hooray! :) I had never desired so much and prayed so hard for anyone to come to church and he actually did! Miracle. :) 

I just wanted to take a moment to express a few things I'm grateful for. Let me preface by saying that if you had asked me what I am most grateful for a year ago, the first thing that would have popped into my mind would be my cello. (I know it would be because I remember what I was thinking at institute last year at Thanksgiving time). I am of course extremely grateful for Ari and the ability the Lord has given me to be able to play him somewhat mediocre. :) (with mediocrity? Ah, I've been away from school too long. :P) I love to hear the sound of a cello because it allows me to feel close to my Heavenly Father and Jesus. But that is a side note. Anyway, well, considering that no one is forcing you to read this email right now I'm going to spend a few moments talking about what I'm truly most thankful for: my testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His church. I'm grateful that I have my own conviction, my own witness of these truths, and that they have progressed to become what I consider to be unshakable. My mission has sealed this strengthened my knowledge and love of these things more than I can say. "How sweet the joy this sentence brings: I know that my Redeemer lives!" :) I'm so grateful I'm on a mission, for the lessons I've learned, the trials I've overcome, the growth I've experienced, the incredible people I've met, the amazing friends I've made. I'm grateful for the love and support from friends and family at home while I'm out here in the barren tundra of Wisconsin! I'm grateful for the habits, skills, and knowledge, including my love of studying the scriptures,that my mission has ingrained into me that I know will benefit me and my future family forever. I'm grateful for the service I've been able to give, the people I've been able to help. I'd like to embarrass my brother Kyle a bit. Well,I know it's impossible to do that. He's very hard to embarrass. But I would like to say that I am especially grateful for him, for helping me discover my testimony and to have the courage to act on it by going on a mission. I simply would not be out here if it weren't for him. He is an amazing, amazing man!!! Read his blog!!! He is a true modern-day Jeremiah. :) I love my family so much!!! 

Well, the night is cold and full of prospects! :) 

I love you all, and happy thanksgiving!!!!!!!


Sister Lacey Woods