This week I have been thinking a lot about cleaning for some reason. I think a big part of it was that this was our TEMPLE WEEK!!!!!!!! which every missionary loves and yearns for and we were invited to study the 109th section of Doctrine & Covenants (which, for a little background, is revelations received by Joseph Smith and others for guidance in how to re-establish the Lord’s church) which records the dedicatory prayer that set aside the Kirtland temple as sacred. It’s a great chapter. Highly recommended. Because we were reading it so much, we began sharing the 8th verse, which is well-loved (for good reason!) “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” The word “house” probably doesn’t look like a real word to you anymore, but this verse is a wonderful one because it applies so well to establishing both the Lord’s literal house, that is, the temple, and also a building with similar sanctity, which is our homes. In studying and sharing this verse I have discovered that we have control over the holiness of our personal space. The above quotation describes well what we do in order to up the sanctity of the place where we live and we have been challenging people to study this verse during Family Home Evening and find ways to make their home holier. The wonderful thing about missionary work and gospel service in general is that you always get the blessings you give, usually in greater abundance than you gave. Leaving this challenge with several families inspired me to have a more orderly personal space myself where there are less objects occupying my visual economy and taking my mind away from the spirit. Now, historically I have not always been one to dwell in a house of order but the improvements I’ve been making on my mission have brought me greater clarity. Try it out!
For another example, we have a member in the branch who is wonderful to us, who feeds us often and well and who is a fantastic example of a saint who serves those around her. She has a good friend who hasn’t been to church in quite a long time, and this friend has a boyfriend who didn’t know much about the gospel but who often asks questions. this less-active member’s home teachers came to visit one day (great job, brethren!) and responded to his questions by inviting him to learn more from the missionaries. Gold star for them. Anyway these efforts culminated at dinner at this member’s house with her friend, her friend’s boyfriend, her friend’s home teachers, and the elders. Also Tinkerbell the pomeranian, obviously. About at hour before dinner she called us in a panic and asked us if we could do some service. Of course we could! We’ve been called to serve! As we cleaned up her house and prepared it to receive a gospel-themed dinner party, I got an opportunity to ponder on the simultaneously humbling and exalting practice of cleaning other people’s homes. It was a great privilege to prepare a space for miracles to be seen and for the spirit to be felt. I thought of Christ washing the feet of His apostles and, of course, the cleansing effect the Atonement has on our souls. This kind of service often gets undervalued because ~the world~ has a pretty negative history with women and the work we’ve often been assigned to do, but scrubbing a toilet and doing dishes have potential to manifest real spiritual power.
Okay, now it’s time to tell you all about the temple. Wow. Visiting the temple is a great privilege and only being able to visit semi-annually (as opposed to living in Provo and being able to go several times a week) has reminded me never to take it for granted. In the temple we get to see a sweeping panorama of the Plan of Salvation (which you can read more about here! https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/plan-of-salvation). It really puts everything into perspective. I had a few questions that I needed answered and they all were answered with a single insight. When I was sitting in the Celestial Room (which is kind of the climactic point in the temple and symbolizes basking in God’s presence) these words came to my mind: “My efforts aren’t perfect, but I’m doing my best and God loves me for trying.” That was validation that I very much needed. I am learning to rely on the Lord’s validation and approval and to not worry about anybody else’s opinion of me. The ideal would be to have the same opinion of myself that God has of me. I’m working on it. It was a much needed impression especially because Sister Walker and I have been having challenges with the work lately. We’ve been working hard and trying new things and doing our best and following the program pretty good, but sometimes nobody seems to want to meet with you and it’s easy to feel like a failure. This is a part of every mission, of course, and it’s a needed part of mortality so that we can understand the sweetness of God’s approval. Of course God loves me for doing my best despite any imperfections, and the glory of the gospel is that I’m slowly growing, improving, and becoming our best. A paradox of the gospel is that God loves us in our sins but He has promised to save us from our sins. We can receive His promised blessings and feel His love right this second no matter what we’ve done, but we don’t need to be imperfect forever. We just keep going onward and upward and eventually we will become the people we were born to be. Maybe not in this life… but someday we can be free of everything that holds us back from being fully and completely happy. That’s the promise. That’s the dream.
Another great insight I received is that creativity is the greatest source of joy. And just think of it: each of us has been blessed with the opportunity to worship the happiest and most creative person in the universe!
I mentioned earlier that the work has been a little slow lately only because it has finally started to change a little. We have truly had a week of miracles. For example:
– On Friday we finally got in with a member whose house we knock at several times a week but whom we have only met once or twice. We finally got to visit with her and it was wonderful. As we were walking out, the Spirit directed me that there was a specific person we should visit, who is so hard to get in with because her apartment is one you have to buzz into and there never seems to be anyone home. We arrived, buzzed, buzzed some more and then the very person we were trying to seek drove up and invited us in! And we got a return appointment for dinner with both of these wonderful sisters.
– We have been trying to work with a recent convert who has faced great opposition from a disapproving family ever since she got baptized. She hasn’t felt able to come to church or meet with us in months but as I was turning the phone off preparatory to heading into the temple we saw a text from her: “can i meet with you guys sometime this week?” Obviously we wrote YES!!!!!!!!!!!! and then went into the temple happy and at peace. We got to visit her and read “The Living Christ” on the floor of her dorm room. There was a wonderful spirit dwelling with us in the shadow of her bunk bed and she came to church the next day. I could just feel the warmth and happiness of the Spirit coming back into her life. She also has a close friend who has been supportive of her spiritually and who she wants to invite to learn more from us.
– A member who hasn’t been to church in a few months requested a change in her work schedule and came to church again at last, with a cousin who has been off the radar along with her. She also came up to us after Relief Society and said, “I have a friend who used to meet with the missionaries and she wants to start coming back to church and take the lessons again.” I was floored and frankly speechless for a minute or two. We came to realize that this was the same former investigator whose mysterious teaching record mysteriously appeared in our glove compartment a few months ago (seriously) which ends on an entry that said they had an amazing lesson and established a baptismal date for her.
– We had a random phone number from someone we didn’t know, and we called it a few weeks ago. To our surprise, she answered the phone and wanted to meet up! Then… she stood us up. But then! We called her yesterday and she told us how she had lost her phone and been frantically searching and hoping we would stop by. We were extremely surprised. Usually people are pretty casual about standing us up
– Sweet Sister Walker found out that a beloved family from a past area will be getting baptized this week!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!! She was laugh/crying so hard after we got the text from her former companion that she accidentally typed “Celestial Kingdom” into the GPS. We were laughing so hard we almost died. No results were found, but no worries– that road map can be found in the Book of Mormon.
Okay team… I love you. Go serve someone today. Give someone a long hug and then clean their bathroom and then write me a letter about it at 5455 Columbia Rd. Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044
I love you!!!!!
Hugs and handshakes,