Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 20: It's Christmas Again!

After another crazy Sunday, it's P-day again! Which is a little bit like Christmas according to one returned missionary we were talking to last night. 
Merry Christmas y'all :)

Guess what everyone? 
I'm sticking around in Mueller Park another six weeks :)
Heavenly Father is so good to me.
Now to get some more people ready to be baptized in April!

So I wrote down a bunch of things to share with you this week. But I wrote them down in my planner. And I don't have my planner with me... Oops. Definitely picking that up on our way to Walmart and life today.

Also: six weeks until General Conference!!! Start studying up the last one. I'm banking on a few talks about missionaries working with members :)
I am so excited!!

Jacob 4:1 I think beautifully describes missionary life. I can only write but little of my words because of the time constraints of a P-day.
The rest of that chapter is absolutely amazing, too.

District Meeting on Friday was absolutely amazing. I'm a slightly weird person and love these meetings. I love learning from each missionary. 
So the training for this particular district meeting was based on this video that you all should watch:
It is all about the application of the First Vision in our own lives. Our entire meeting was about the pattern of planning and revelation that we can find in Joseph Smith's example of seeking out an answer to his question.
Here's the pattern: desire, study and ponder, vision of what to do, goal of how to accomplish, action, and finally mission accomplished. We focused on what our desires as missionaries are, and how we can go through this pattern to accomplish those desires. 

At the center of everything within this pattern are 3 vital things: faith, love, and the Atonement. Everything we do requires faith. Every action we take as missionaries is an act of faith. We pray constantly that miracles will happen because of the things we do. Our other motivation for acting is love. When a missionary says they love their area and the people, they really mean it. Mueller Park has become my home, and I want to help these people as much as I possibly can in these next six weeks simply because I know my Heavenly Father loves them, and therefore I love them. And then there's the Atonement. Without the Atonement, there would be no purpose in going out in faith and love to serve and teach. With the Atonement, we can recognize our faults and strive to overcome them. With the Atonement, we can improve each day and see Christ truly change our hearts.

"When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to be changed... The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature... and changed men [and women] can change the world." - Ezra Taft Benson

I love my Savior. I know He lives! I know He is at the head of this Church. I know He is the only way that we can truly come closer to our Heavenly Father and ultimately become like Him. I am so grateful for His atoning sacrifice, for His love for each one of us. I know He never leaves us alone. We can always turn to the Savior, and He will always be there waiting for us.

Sunday is the craziest day in the history of each week. But I love it. I love going to sacrament meeting and hearing those inspired messages. One of our sweet Bishops spoke about the love of God for each of us. I know Heavenly Father loves us. I know He is aware of our needs. I know He is in control of every little thing, and for that I am incredibly grateful. 

"...your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful.God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there. " President Thomas S. Monson

Being a missionary is an amazing blessing but even moreso is being a missionary here in the Mueller Park Stake. I am so lucky to have the privilege of interacting with these incredible people. I get to write down lots of ideas for establishing a Christ-centered home and family. (Mom most of the ideas come from you, don't worry.) Lots of thoughts on how to be an awesome member missionary. And just helping people feel loved by Heavenly Father both as a missionary and as a member. I love serving here and I cannot wait to see what miracles the Lord has in store for us next transfer :)

Update on investigators: Tia is just wonderful. She is so ready. I keep saying that because it's true! We talked about the doctrine behind baptism and confirmation with her last night, and then we set out her baptismal program!! I cannot believe it is finally here! Angela had to work late, so we have another lesson with her later this week. Autumn is preparing to be baptized on March 22nd, and we are slowly working with her family to get them to Church on a more regular basis. We are hoping to have a Temple Square tour with them later this week! 

I love you all so very much! Heavenly Father loves you even more! The gospel is true. It really truly is. I love the Holy Ghost and the inspiration and guidance he provides in my life. I am so grateful for my Savior. I love Him, and I hope to always keep Him at the center of my life. 

Expect miracles, always smile, and look for opportunities to share the gospel!

Sister Holbrook


I only took like 2 pictures this week, so here's one from the temple last week, too.
I love to see the temple :)

Our wonderful district. This is the best one where people (Elders...) aren't making crazy faces. Elder Raveneau, Elder Harvey, Elder Boyles, Elder Chang, Elder Crow in the back, then me, Sister Pratt, Sister Howell, Sister Juarez, Sister Alcantar, and Sister Mason. And finally... Elder Bickley up front...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 19: If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough.

This week's title comes from the family motto for the McKinlay's. I thought it was pretty fantastic.

Well it feels like it's been an eternity since I talked to y'all! And it's only been one extra day. Time flies. And drags. And time is just weird. 

Also transfers are already next week. I know, crazy right? So just be aware of that. 
I'm not leaving. It's not happening.
I won't know for sure until next week though.
Oh, and happy Olympics everyone!! Too bad I can't watch the only sporting event I care about. 
Mission life is better anyway.

Other great quotes from the week:
"Tell people I love you because life is short. But shout it at them in German because life is also scary and confusing." Ich liebedich. (I don't know how to spell it, but I can say it!)
"Life is great... if you don't blow it." Brother Smith, our ward mission leader.

A quick request for my aunts and others who are fantastic bakers (you know who you are): if you could send me a bread recipe, I have a Sister in the mission who is gluten and soy and everything allergic. So homemade bread is basically what she can eat. And gluten free bread is disgusting. Thanks a million :)

This week has been interesting. Poor Sister Juarez was sick. A lot. And then I was just exhausted. But I'm fine now :) So we've spent some time with various doctors and a bit of time out teaching and visiting!!

Thank you to everyone for your packages and letters!! I love you all :)

MIRACLE OF THE WEEK: We now have 3 people committed to a day to be baptized in the month of March!!! It's going to be a wonderful month :)

And you know how we found those people? Members told us about them.
Be a good member like everyone here in Mueller Park and tell the missionaries to go teach your friends. Be a good missionary and go meet all the members. And make them cookies :)
This really is not a separate work. The work of salvation is all of us coming together to help bring the gospel to others and invite everyone to come unto Christ. Reach out to the missionaries in your area and see what you can do to be more united with them. You will see miracles happen as you do so.

So this week was Valentine's day. And we had zone meeting about talking to more people. That was about it. And the activity day girls brought us the cutest poster full of hearts and origami. We are so spoiled here. I love it. Other than that, Valentine's day was uneventful. 

My appreciation for my family has grown exponentially over the past four months. Yes, it's been four months. Crazy. I still don't miss you all too bad :) BUT I am so grateful for your examples, for everything you have taught me, for always having a smile and keeping laughter in the house, and for just being awesome. I love you all! I pray for each one of you every day. Hope life is going well :)

We had an incredible district study on Thursday about the attributes of Christ. It is amazing to see how everything is so completely connected together - faith, charity, obedience, diligence, patience, etc. Challenge: do the exercise at the end of chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel. What an amazing tool to see how we can continually become more like the Savior. After sharing our thoughts, we had a mini-testimony meeting. The Spirit was so strong. I love being a missionary, and I love being able to share and learn from other missionaries. 

I also started reading "The Infinite Atonement" (which is approved for our mission) thanks to mom sending me her copy (THANK YOU MOM!!). The Atonement is at the center of everything. In the opening, Robert L. Millet (this awesome scriptorian who teaches at BYU) said, "Everything we do and everything we teach should somehow be anchored in the Atonement." I have found the easiest way to invite the Spirit into a home is to testify of Christ and His atoning sacrifice for each of us. I love Alma 7:11-13. Read it. I love my Savior, and I am so grateful for His willingness to provide the Atonement for each of us so that every single act and event in life has a purpose and direction.

Yesterday was my 2nd heart transplant anniversary!! woo hoo!! I cannot believe it has already been/only been 9 years since that crazy time of life... way back when I was an awkward teenager. (Note from the family: If it feels like we just celebrated a heart transplant anniversary, you're right - her first was August 25, 1994, second February 17, 2005, and third was November 26, 2007 - it is worth celebrating when you've experienced that many and are still alive today, don't you think?) I am so blessed to be able to serve a mission. I've come so far since that day, and I am forever grateful to the sweet family who allowed me to receive their daughter's heart. I know I would not be here today without their sacrifice. My heart was just full of so much gratitude yesterday as I was pondering, and this morning as we were at the temple, for just how much my Heavenly Father loves me and just how big His plans are for each one of us. We are eternal sons and daughters of God with a divine destiny. It truly is amazing. 

Also you all should read the story, "You Are Special" by Max Lucado. Rachel can find it for you if you cannot locate a copy. That really touched my heart this week, too.

I love the temple. Everyone needs to go there. That is our goal as missionaries - not just to get to baptism, but to the temple and ultimately to the celestial kingdom. 

"Because all of us have made covenants... our greatest need is to remember." -Spencer W. Kimball. 

Pay attention to how much everyone (the people, the prophets, Heavenly Father, etc.) remember in the Book of Mormon. I absolutely LOVE that Book and invite each one of you who reads this to go and read the Book of Mormon every single day. I promise you that you will see greater spiritual strength in your life because of that simple act. 

Lots of great studies this week. Especially on obedience without even meaning to. Doctrine & Covenants 58 is an incredible section about all of that. And about missionary work :) 
Obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles. Why? Because exact obedience is an especially big act of faith, and as we know from the Book of Mormon, miracles happen because of faith (see Mormon 9:19-21, 2 Nephi 27:23). Also prayer and fasting combined is powerful. 

The Priesthood power is literally the power of God given to worthy men today who can then act in His name to bless His children. I love seeing the Priesthood work in my life, and I am so blessed to be around so many incredible examples of worthy Priesthood holders. A new Bishop was called in one of our wards, and it truly is amazing to see that mantle move from one man to another as the Lord qualifies whom He has called. 

I love the gospel and I know it to be true. This life is so very short, and I pray I can make the most of every single second. Jesus Christ lives. He loves us. The Atonement is a very real and literal power that can change our very selves if we are willing to let it. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I love that book. Please please please read it. Even if it's just a verse a day, do it. There's a reason the prophets have asked us to do so.

I love you all so very much! Look for miracles, and remember to smile!

Sister Holbrook

The craziness of being a missionary :) With Momma Pratt. Love her.

With Sister Howell and Sister Pratt - they've been with me since I came out on my mission! Love the two of them so much.

Our wonderful district :)

Valentine's day gift from the 4th ward Activity Day girls! So adorable. 

Me and Lauren Tingey! Love that family. Also it's Law-ren, not Low-ren. #sayittherightway

Temple day!! Oh how I love the temple.

At the temple with my sweet companion :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week 18: The Season of Love... the Pure Love of Christ

I am convinced that the week of Valentine's Day is the most awkward time to be a missionary.
Oh well. The gospel is still true.

Last week I COMPLETELY neglected to tell you all about one of the highlights of my mission:
We had dinner and Family Home Evening with the Eyring's.
Yes, the Eyring family. As in President Henry B. Eyring and his wife and his son (who is our Bishop and got the whole thing set up) and their whole family.

It was a really amazing experience to just interact with their family. Mom you will be happy to know that they do a family scheduling meeting before their family night just like we do :) President Eyring writes a family journal throughout the day on his iPad and then emails it out to all his family members at the end of the day. We had normal family dinner conversation - I probably could have been a little more excited about the work in this area, but oh well - and then had a normal family night. One of the kids played a hymn on the harmonica. President Eyring shared a sweet message about the song "God be With You 'Til We Meet Again." In the song there's a line that says "'til we meet at Jesus' feet." He told us how literal that statement is, and how we will one day all meet there together. And he bore his testimony (which is always amazing to hear). 

I am truly blessed to be in this area. To interact with these incredible men and women, and to simply observe how their homes function. Mom I think you've done a pretty good job of having a Christ-centered home :)

This past week was a little rough. I was sick on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sister Juarez was sick on Thursday, I was sick again on Saturday, and then Sister Juarez was sick on Sunday. Crazy stuff. Don't worry - it's that general cold/flu and total exhaustion that's finally catching up to all of us. But we're fine now :)

BUT we still had miracles this week. Obviously.

Two of the days we were sick and couldn't even leave, we somehow added 3 new investigators. And members were just so willing to help us out (even last minute) to go out to lessons with one or both of us. We had an amazing dinner and lesson with Marilyn. Our weekly planning was crazy effective and efficient! We have amazing ward leaderships. Life is basically perfect up here in Mueller Park.

Sunday was a day full of miracles. I was going from 6:30 am until 9:30 pm. Sister Juarez woke up super sick, so we got some splits organized with Sister Johnson (who's in the trio with Sister Taylor, the sister training leader) and she came and spent the morning with me. The day went like this: Wake up, get ready, drive to pick up Sister Johnson, head to a ward's mission prep class, Gospel Essentials class in another ward, sacrament meeting, ward council, another sacrament meeting, take Sister Johnson back, practice teaching with the Fowler family, lesson with the Madrid's at the Church, dinner appointment... who forgot about us but that's ok because Sister Holmgren was happy to have us, then two lessons at the same time with Tia and Benny, then off to the Smith family, then to the Trowbridge's for a lesson with another new investigator.
You exhausted? We still had to plan when we got home that night.

One of our new investigators is completely prepared. She's read the Book of Mormon and knows it's true! AND she wants to be baptized!! She won't commit to a day yet, but you know what, I'm a patient person. It was an amazing lesson, and it was a sweet experience to be with Sister Juarez as she had her first experience having someone say yes to the baptismal invitation :)

A cool thought that came to mind this week:
When we take EPIC acts of faith (Eternal Potential In Consequence), incredible miracles happen!

Mom asked about some logistical things so I'll just explain for all to know. We do exchanges once a transfer with our sister training leader. One of us stays in our own area with the sister training leader and the other one goes with the sister training leader's companion in their area. Or vice versa. It's all done by revelation, and you can learn so much from different missionaries just by spending a day with them.

All right, there's so much more I wish I could share, but time is short, my head is throbbing from the computer (crazy how a mission changes you), and there are letters to write. I love you all so much and I cannot thank all of you enough for your love, letters, prayers, and packages! This gospel is true!! It really truly is. The Atonement is at the heart of everything we do as missionaries, and I am so blessed and honored to see these people let the Atonement into their hearts and change them for the better. 

I love you all! Even if I don't write letters all the time... Stay awesome, keep smiling, and remember Heavenly Father loves you!

Sister Holbrook

ps - Another day at the hospital - I'm fine! Everything checks out perfectly!

Just another successful planning session :)

Potential Church News photographer took this

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week 17: Look At Your Life Through Heaven's Eyes

It's appropriate that this is week 17, because guess who's birthday it is this week?!
MEGAN is turning 17!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY little sis :) 
We're all getting waay too old. 
Isn't life wonderful?

Title of this week's email comes from a song we listened to extensively this week. 
Last week's email title came from a wonderful quote by Sister LeSueur. No context to it whatsoever. I just needed a creative title :)

SO MUCH happened this week. I am completely exhausted. As in I can barely keep my eyes open and move my fingers to type. I love it :) Sister Juarez is just amazing. She knows and loves the basics of the gospel, and that is truly what makes you an amazing missionary.

I'm trying a new tactic with emailing where I take bits and pieces from everything I send to everyone and put it all together in one amazing email. Prepare to have your mind blown with awesomeness!!

Time for the instant replay of this week [my only reference I will ever make to anything sport related]:

I love seeing people let the Atonement change their hearts. The Atonement is completely real, and it changes people for the better. Missionaries, members, investigators, inactive members, small children, adorable old people. Everyone. We can all be touched and changed by our Savior's Atonement if we truly have the desire to turn to Him and become like Him.

Yesterday we were in our third sacrament meeting yesterday, and I was flipping around in my scriptures and came across 1 John 5:3-4: 
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
Obedience is hard at first, but when we continue to be obedient, particularly EXACTLY obedient, it all becomes a whole lot easier. The things Heavenly Father asks us to do are not a burden, they are a blessing meant to make this life a whole lot easier!! It is an incredible gift that we have to be able to have these commandments so we know how to achieve the greatest level of happiness in this life! 
And then the kicker - OUR FAITH is what will overcome the world. Acting in faith by being obedient gives us power over Satan. Look at D&C 10:5. Faith is a principle of power, and I didn't understand how literal that statement was until these past few weeks.

COOL STORY: We visited a less-active sister in one of the wards per the request of the ward mission leader. Turns out this sister is the grandmother of the less-active woman Tia lives with in a different ward!!! And she told us to keep coming to visit with her!!! We're totally reactivating this dear sweet sister and getting her into lessons with Tia. It's happening. 

Tia is completely prepared and is totally ready for her baptism on March 15th. As in she could be baptized tomorrow if she wanted to, but she's set on March. She came up to us after Sunday School yesterday and was like ok when are we doing all these lessons? LOVE HER. She gave up coffee two weeks ago and now drinks Ovaltine instead!! :) She loves the Book of Mormon, she knows the prophet is called of God, she is so ready. We just have to finish teaching her everything....

Autumn however, is a different story... her mom isn't giving up smoking and they just came to church the first time yesterday. So yeah. She probably won't be baptized until March. We had a whole Word of Wisdom lesson planned for yesterday, but felt like we should talk about prayer when we got there. Poor Sister Juarez hasn't taught about prayer before and so she was just kind of going with the flow. AMAZING LESSON. And Autumn gave the first prayer all by herself!! We text them every day to remind them about scriptures and family prayer. We'll see what all happens. Keep them in your prayers!

I am seriously so grateful every single day that I get to stay here in Mueller Park. So many miracles are happening. An inactive woman accepted a call and was sustained as an activity day leader in church yesterday. We have an appointment with a young man on Tuesday who wants to come back to Church and give up a ton of addictions. The youth here are incredible. We've been to several activities and lessons, and as they have been catching the vision, so has the rest of the Stake. Whitney is so excited about coming back to Church! We'be been battling with the YSA Elders over who teaches her... we finally went in and lovingly told her it was her choice and she basically said the Elders had been pushing her into YSA and she wanted the family ward. Score one for the sisters. Ann has been at church the last two weeks - she's feeling a whole lot better finally!

Marilyn loves the Book of Mormon and she knows it :) And she was talking about spiritual things and then all of a sudden stopped and was like I hate talking about all of this! Love her :) We're trying to get a dinner set up with her! We read Alma 5 and she talked about how she thinks her heart is super crusty, and we talked about being spiritually born again and how she has a desire to experience that. Good things are happening with her!

Everyone in Mueller Park is on their own time table. And it is so stinking frustrating. But I still love it :)

I got to spend Saturday with Sister Taylor!! Ok we literally are the exact same person. Love Disney, grew up in Salt Lake area, love the same foods, siblings the same ages, etc. Scary. And amazing. We went to the Stake Baptisms on Saturday - Tia was supposed to be there but wasn't - and this adorable little boy came out with this future missionary badge on. I LOVE THE YOUTH HERE. And we had a fun dinner at Cafe Rio where everyone wanted to help out the sister missionaries. I love Utah.

Ok ready for the COOLEST STORY EVER?! One of the Bishops told us to go visit this man who just had knee replacement surgery and his wife had surgery and is inactive. Guess what their last name is? HOLBROOK. Yeah, no Holbrook's are going inactive while I'm here. So we go over (me and Sister Taylor) and we were talking with Brother Holbrook (his wife wasn't home sadly) and comparing family history and I pulled out my little family tree (seriously, bring it on your mission) and he says, "Oh, I know Fred! He's on the newsletter!" And he starts pulling out all these old newsletters for the Holbrook family with Grandpa's picture on them.
 And then he says, who's your dad?
In Chicago? 
Yeah... how do you know my dad?
Well I sent him a bunch of copies of Joseph Holbrook's journal a few months ago because I own a print shop. 
Oh my gosh he gave one to me just before I left!!!

Crazy stuff. So then he put Joseph Holbrook's journal, my fifth-great grandpa, both the full transcription and the edited version, on to a disc for me. And I'm totally helping out with family history with him after my mission. It was the coolest thing in the world.

I have had amazing studies this week about meekness. There's this incredible talk by Elder Maxwell about meekness that just blew my mind. In my studies, I think that in it's simplest form, meekness is gentleness and humility in practice. It encompasses all that Christ is, accepting His will, and continually acting in faith to accomplish that will. The truly meek find great joy in the things of God and in His creations and plan. There is so much more to it, but if I share it all, meekness suddenly becomes a little overwhelming :) But there are also great promises given to those who are truly meek!

I figured out how time works on the mission, thanks to Sister Taylor. Every day on the mission is actually three days - study time before lunch, lunch to dinner, and then the evening. The days really do just drag on for forever. And then it's Monday again and you're like where on earth did the week go. Time flies on the mission. Enjoy every single second! In both a mission and in life!

Well, time's up. I love you all, the gospel is true, Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father love each one of you so so much! Look for miracles this week and always act in faith! Keep smiling!

ALWAYS INVITE. Always always invite people to do something. Anything. Help bring them closer to Christ!

The hymn 293 "Each Life That Touches Ours For Good" is one of my new favorites.

There is someone always watching, and the Lord is very much aware of our needs. Our dinner appointment on Friday cancelled, so we were heading to go somewhere for dinner and Sister Juarez was super hungry and there was traffic so we scratched the plan for Cafe Rio and headed to Pizza Pie Cafe. We paid, got our food, said a prayer, and dug in. And then this girl comes up to us and says, "I just need you to know that I have had a really hard day and I saw you two praying and it just made everything okay." She burst into tears, we hugged her hard, and told her how much Heavenly Father loves her. She headed back to work, we went back to our food, and I will never forget that experience. Our Heavenly Father will make sure that we are taken care of and that we can feel of His love for us.

That's all.
Til next week!!

Sister Holbrook

Beautiful, beautiful Bountiful. I cannot express how much I love this place.

The bedroom wall of hilarious companionship quotes, quotes and verses from study time, and my calendar. Let me know if you want any of these quotes :) They're pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

At the stake baptism. Me and Sister Taylor with basically the cutest boy ever, Caleb. His family invited Tia to his baptism (she didn't come. sad day.) but we were there, and when he came out to be confirmed, he had this adorable little missionary tag on. Made my day!