Saturday, January 8, 2011

News you never want to hear!

News you never want to hear, especially when you're not at home: there's been a death in the family.

I got all three days worth of your letters on Monday. That was a "fun" night. I had such and complicated mess of thoughts swirling around my head, but I learned to love my journal that night. It was so nice to just get (almost) everything out on paper, so that I didn't have to try and sort through everything mentally. Joe's passing have definitely made for an interesting journey - even though I've been physically removed from the rest of the family as a whole.

Part I: I love getting mail. It's such a nice change in the day. And it's more wonderful than you can know, to know that there is life outside of the MTC walls. However, I don't worry nor am I all that bothered if I don't get mail, but last Thursday, for reasons I couldn't understand at the time, I was almost antsy for mail. Which was rather strange to me. I just couldn't justify my feeling that way. I didn't have anything I was waiting to hear about. I wasn't excited to hear anyone's response to something I had said. Or...anything. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't figure out why I felt the way I did. But at the same time, I absolutely could not stop feeling that way. And because of the holiday, I knew I wouldn't be getting any mail for several days. Which made my feelings even more peculiar to me.

And the last time Soeur Woodruff and I went to the temple, I put Julie and Joe on the prayer roll. That was well before Joe was even in the hospital. Again, I had no idea why I did that, until this past Monday.

Moral of the story: it's not fair for my spirit to understand so much, well before my head ever catches on.

Part II: I love hugging. Hugging is easily one of the most comforting and natural things to me. Everything else in the world can be going wrong, but for even a brief moment, something as simple as a hug can make all the difference for me. (I know that sounds super cheesy, but it's totally true.) Thus...I hated being a missionary on Monday. After finding an empty classroom to read the letters in, I cried. I cried to the point that I was looking all kinds of "awesome." When it was time for us to head back to our dorms, I went back to the classroom to gather my things. Soeur Woodruff was with the tutor though. So I still had to stick around for a few more minutes. In that time, Elder Wolfart (who, as of Sunday, is our new district leader by the way) asked me if I wanted a blessing. Definitely not a time I was going to refuse that offer. Knowing I had to find a way to deal with this loss without the help of my family around me, I was happy to take whatever help I could get. But as much as I wanted to hug them before, it only got worse after the blessing. There are times when handshakes just don't cut it. ha ha ha Despite that though, they are just neat guys!

We had gym after class on Monday night. So grateful for that. Playing four square is officially the world's best distraction.

After a very sleepless, prayer filled night, I woke up with worse bags under my eyes than I think I could get if I lived to be 1,000 years old. ;) But, because God loves me, we have gym in the morning on Tuesdays. So yet again, awesome distraction (and always better than sitting in class. ha ha)

Now side note: I fully adore the elders in my district. I think I told you on the tape I sent, but in case you haven't listened to it yet, I love them for reasons far beyond how funny they are. After a very short amount of time here, it became blatantly apparent to Soeur Woodruff and myself that we all knew each other before coming here. And we were all meant to go through this MTC experience together. As I was purging my thoughts into my journal Monday night, one of the bullet points that I wrote was "I miss my parents. I really don't like going through this without my family." As soon as I wrote that, I audibly heard, "Your district is your family." How cool is that? Since day one in the MTC, I've been repeatedly told (much like I was on Monday night) that we as a district were meant to be here to experience this together. But on Monday I couldn't help selfishly feeling that part of that "planned existence" is that I needed them to be here.
Part III: How much of a "coincidence" is it that literally all week we've been practicing teaching The Plan of Salvation? Especially on Monday. We honestly were teaching it all day long, over and over and over. One of the coolest parts was when I got paired up with Elder Wolfart. Taking turns as to who was the investigator and who was the member, we taught the same lesson over and over. The teachers really wanted the lesson drilled into our heads. So they let us teach in English. Since English isn't Elder Wolfart's native language, I told him to teach me in German. I absolutely love feeling the spirit testify of the truthfulness of something when it's in another language (that I don't understand.) Elder Liao got to teach in Mandarin. Same thing. It didn't matter what language it was being taught in, just listening to the words of who ever was speaking, you could feel of the truthfulness of what was being taught. I'm so glad I got to have that experience just hours prior to getting your letters. As I said...coincidence?
 On Tuesday, I fasted for a couple reasons. One, obviously was for the comfort of the family - specifically Julie's. But I had a personal question at the same time. While one of my strongest testimonies is of the Plan of Salvation, I needed to know of Joe's current state. (If that makes sense. I just needed a personal witness that what I know to be true, is true of Joe's life right now as well.) After praying and fasting all day, I turned to the scriptures. Not even knowing where I wanted to start looking, I prayed and resolved myself to read whatever I encountered upon letting my scriptures just fall open. The scripture my book opened to was Alma chapter 40. Get this, verse one reads, "Now my son (or daughter), here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead." Now I realize that experience could be labeled as another coincidence, but for me it was a very personal answer that God was aware of me and how I was feeling personally.
Another part of my prayer was to understand how to deal with this whole situation alone. All day long the thought kept playing over and over in my mind, "Loose yourself in the work." In our fireside Tuesday evening, David S Baxter of the seventy came with his wife. He's Scottish and she's English. Having just said goodbye to their children that morning (they were visiting them for Christmas) Sister Baxter said, "I've been a bit melancholy today, but all  day I've been thinking, 'At least I get to go to Provo tonight.' Because bearing one's testimony and being involved in mission work will bring joy and lift your spirits. My dear missionaries remember that. Especially on the days when you are melancholy - and believe me you will have those sad days." Again confirming what I'd been feeling.
Overall, with all the stuff with Joe, even without experiencing any miraculous visions or anything of the sort (not that I was expecting, or wanting that, in the first place) I've definitely felt God leading my thoughts. Even in small things, still, it's enough to know that he's absolutely aware of my feelings and my family.

Now jumping back a bit, I told you that I adore my district. Honestly, I can't even begin to tell you how much I have come to love these amazing young men. They have been absolutely adorable. On Tuesday, after gym, they were a bit late getting back to class. Little did we know, the reason for that lateness: they had gone to the bookstore to buy a card that they all signed and gave to me. Yup, I cried again. ;) Where else in the world could you find seven 18-21 year old guys that, without the prompting of anyone else, would even think to do that?! Seriously I can't even find the words to explain how grateful I am for them. They've been absolutely incredible. I've been more blessed to even associate with them than I have ever deserved.
Yet another expression of how amazing people are here: on Wednesday, Soeur Robicek pulled me into a classroom and asked me how I was feeling. I didn't even know she knew about Joe. The night I found out, another teacher heading out the door, saw me crying and stayed and talked to me for a few minutes. Well apparently she texted Soeur Robicek immediately after she left. People here are kind of awesome. Favorite part of my conversation with Soeur Robicek - she told me that she tends to have a hard time dealing with trauma. Her dad is a psychologist. So he always tells her, "Go sit on the toilet. Let it all out. And when you're done, flush and leave the room. No matter how gross and messy the bathroom got, life is still going on outside those walls. So go join that life again and don't look back. But you have to visit the bathroom. It can't get better until you do. So be human." (Doesn't that sound exactly like something Grandma Bjork would say?! ha ha Must come with the profession.)
Last quick couple thoughts on this whole situation (because what would a letter from me be without a quote or two in it? ha ha) "The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life." ~True to the Faith. And "Some of life's hardest lessons are the most important...Don't give up. Don't ever, ever give up." ~ Elder Holland.

p.s. when news occurs like Joe's passing, do you realize that families are allowed to call the MTC and talk to their missionary? Not that it would have been easier to take, but you're not expected to deliver that kind of news in letters. Soeur Robicek was actually shocked that I hadn't spoken with you yet.

On a happier note: the rolls were awesome! Just to smell real bread was practically like looking in the celestial kingdom. ;)

This week Soeur Woodruff and I got to become progressing investigators for Elder Wolfart, Elder McLean, and Elder Andrus. Wow. Flipping cool experience. I'm so excited to be able to do that the rest of the time we're here. It's just crazy interesting being able to sit on the other side of the missionary discussions. The "best" part was when Elder McLean asked if we were married. Soeur Woodruff said she was, but that her husband had died. Elder Wolfart and Elder Andrus immediately said, "Désolé." When Elder McLean asked me the same question, I said I was married. His response: "Désolé." (Désolé means "sorry") He didn't realize at the time what he had said. ha ha ha
In class, all of our teachers have been stressing how important it is for us to speak French all of the time in order to learn it.Fr. Rees was really pushing it the other day. The most motivational part of his lecture: he counted up our remaining MTC days. 24! We're going to be flying to Paris in 24 days. And somehow we've all got to find a way to speak French. This is absolute madness. ha ha

Well, it's been an interesting week, for sure. But it's part of life I suppose. I hope everything goes as well as possible tomorrow for the family. I love you all.