Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Week #36 - Untouched Light

Hello Family!

I'm doing so very well. Sis Bradley and I will be parting ways quite shortly, as she is transferring, and I am taking over the area. Yikes! I'm a little bit scared...But it's going to be okay. I've got all resources I need in life! Prayer.  Scriptures.  Holy Ghost. What more do I need?
Right now, we are working with a beautiful family from Ecuador. The father + 2 kids were baptized not too long ago. There is a LOT of hurt in this family. The mother had abandoned them about 4 years ago....and has just returned. The father immigrated first with the children and she was supposed to follow thereafter. They waited and waited and she wouldn't come, always insisting that they needed more money. Finally, she came to America and had been there for 4 years. Her sons, which were 5 and 9, are now 9 and 13. They refuse to let her leave the house for fear she will abandon them again. It rips at my heart. They love her so dearly and trust her so completely. Her husband, however, wants a divorce. This amazing man that has changed a complete 180 is truly starting to understand the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. He is becoming converted...in the most painful way possible. And his wife wants to take the lessons! We had one lesson with her, very shaky because we knew of the sensitive relationship she had with her husband. There is a lot of anger and hurt in that family. But we had one lesson with her and felt the Spirit so strong - the strongest I have felt in a long time. She committed to a date to be baptized!
Now, yes I'm extremely excited that we finally are having a little bit of success with the area....but most of all...I'm so grateful for the lesson I learned from this family. I have been able to see Robert during the time of abandonment, the return of his wife, the interest she has started showing in his haven and the hurt that cries from within his eyes. We have been able to see his mistrust, his anger, and his complete alienation of her. It is so.....real.
There is also another family that we are working with. This family is completely different. The 14 yr old twin sister got baptized not too long ago. She recounted years of abuse she received from her father, her attempts to commit suicide twice, the tales of depression and bipolarity...and how after she got baptized she felt so good. So new. So light. Now, she refuses to come to church because it is too "boring" and won't read the scriptures because she would rather sleep. Her pain is just as real and intense as this father's. The 14 yr old twin brother claims to be atheist and avoids all contact with us. He has been to an FHE with the ward and BAWLED because of the good feelings he said he felt. But now refuses to enjoy the blessings that come. 
The difference that I noticed between these three real life, no kidding examples is the way in which they have reacted to their pain and suffering. We are going to be given trials in this life. Hard trials that twist us till we almost break and push us until we almost fall. It's inevitable. We were warned and we knew it would happen when we came to earth.
The father in this family is fighting hard. He is using the atonement. He goes to church, prays every night with his kiddos, reads the scriptures, and is working towards going to the temple. He is actively using his Savior's sacrifice for HIM in order to overcome something so potent. The change we have seen is AMAZING. This family is HEALING. Every day, we get to see them and watch as they become a family again. The truthfulness of the gospel is healing them! It is changing their hearts, helping them to forgive and allowing them to try again. During the times when there is no one to trust, trust in the Unfailing One - our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, will never let us fall. They won't take away our mountains but They will always help us climb. Hard is not bad, it's just hard.
The twin sister fought hard in the beginning....enjoyed the blessings she felt but then returned to her old ways. Everyday we see how her pure innocent heart is getting more and more tainted by people and things we cannot control. She continually chooses to give up the Atonement in order to seek after other things - the things that don't bring peace. We asked her just the other day if she still felt those good feelings...and she said, "No." IT BREAKS MY HEART!
Lastly,  the twin brother. He is fighting hard as well...but against God. He pushes Him away, purposely putting things in his life to chase away the Spirit because of the anger and hurt within his sweet heart. His anger at God for the trials he has been given blinds him from seeing the Conductor's purposed behind each crescendo and decrescendo. This family is so special. But they won't FIGHT! 
This is not just a passive life we have been given. THIS IS NOT A BALLAD! This is a WAR. We are not meant to sit by and watch as the world falls around us, crying "Save Me!". We are supposed to fight!! Satan is geared and ready; his soldiers come with murderous intentions and they will not stop until we die spiritually - until we spiritually turn ourselves off. God has given us the armor, but we are the only ones who can dress for battle. 
If you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask...Can you feel so now? Our Savior Jesus Christ loves each of us so completely and totally. I have felt those times when I gave up, fought against Him, or sought for peace in other venues. Only in and through the Prince of Peace will we find peace. 
I love this work. I love each of you and these amazing people of Florida. I couldn't be happier to let the Lord give me hard things; it shows that He trusts me :)
Hermana Lake

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week #35 - The Nature of Trials

Hello Family!  

I have learned so much this week -  about myself and about much that I need to change. There is a lot....but that's okay :) I'm taking it one thing at a time.  

Funny Story: 

I have been named Ward Pianist! For those who know me well...know that I hate playing in front of people. So much! My first Sunday in the ward, the chorister comes up to ask if either of us Sisters played the piano. My companion said no and as I hesitated, she says, "Aha! I know you can! Will you please help me?" I melted. I couldn't say no. So, now I'm ward pianist. This last Sunday, we were getting ready to sing the Sacrament hymn. Looking at the hymnbook, in Spanish,  I started playing the intro of a song I did not know and was so confused as to why it sounded TERRIBLE. I finished the intro and looked to the chorister only to see her mildly panic-filled eyes.  She kindly put her hands up for me to just stop, so I stopped playing, ashamed, and she continued to lead acapela. I looked back to the music and realized that I was playing an in a key that had an F Sharp.... but the music was in a key with B and E flat.  Problem solved; I played the rest of the hymn in the correct key. The ward members haven't let me live it down yet ;)

This actually leads to what I've learned.  I had a very tender experience this past week. This area has really been struggling and I assumed that it was because of something we were doing/or were not doing individually or as a companionship. Were we being obedient enough or faithful enough? etc. We asked the Elders to give us a priesthood blessing and I truly received amazing counsel from the Lord. One thing that the Elder mentioned was that I needed to learn the nature of trials. I needed to understand that Heavenly Father was so proud of my work and so happy with my diligence, hard work, and desires. It helped me to looked at everything much differently.  

I've been trying really hard to keep my thoughts focused on the work and to make sure that I only care what the Lord thinks of me, no importa si the other investigators, members, or missionaries get offended or admire me because I stand up for the rules, serve with all my heart, or try to help others, etc. If the Lord is happy with me, then I know that I'm happy. If I am doing well and succeeding, I'm happy because I am becoming better and not because I am better than someone else. I then realized the lesson learned because I was called to be a ward pianist. I was achieving this!  

When I play the piano, I tend to play repeatedly the same songs that I have memorized. I don't think about the music or even the piano; rather, my mind goes elsewhere and I think of something totally different. I look like I'm playing so beautifully and focused...but really, my mind is not on my purpose. It was the same way with the Work. However, as I was forced to play the piano every single Sunday, and to sight-read hymns as the ACCOMPANIAST.....I needed to focus. I am relearning how to play the piano just as I am relearning how to BE a daughter of God. I have to focus and tune out distracting thoughts of "How do I look? What do they think?" I instead have to focus upon and listen to the conductor. As I listen to the conductor and keep my eyes on the music, it flows and becomes beautiful.

It is the same way with our lives. If we focus on the Master and tune out the world, everything will flow. We will learn the music of life and we will start to dance! We succeed! We FLY!  Yes, we will slip up. Yes, we will be ashamed. The true test for us is whether or not we get back up to the piano and try again. I tried again this week and I screwed up a song so badly that I only played the right hand. BUT, I didn't stop playing. I didn't give up! Instead I prayed the entire time for the Master's help through the Atonement. At the conclusion of the song, I realized I had played a song which I didn't know and had played it so beautifully during the parts where I had focused.

I have such a strong testimony of this. I know it is life-changing and everlasting. Don't give up. Don't lose focus. Keep fighting! The Conductor always has your back :) 

Hna Lake

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week #34 - Lighthearted and Lightminded

I've learned a lot this week about the importance of being lighthearted and not being light-minded.
Our minds are used for logical thinking, remembering, processing and decision making. Here we use all of our functions to move through life in the course that most aligns with our desires. Our hearts are used for feeling the Holy Ghost, recognizing the tender mercies of God and guiding us to places where our minds cannot logically see. In the Book of Mormon, we read of the example of Nephi retrieving the plates from Laban in Jerusalem. He goes forward in complete faith to what his father and his Heavenly Father have asked for him to do. Laman makes the first attempt by offering the riches of his father.  No success. Then Nephi goes being led by the Spirit and not knowing beforehand what he should do. He walks into the city and finds himself in front of Laban, completely drunk and the Spirit tells him to kill Laban. Nephi shrinks" and says that he will not kill him. The Spirit once again tells him that it is necessary to kill Laban to bring these plates to the people all around the world... "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." 

This is the part I LOVE:

 14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

 15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

 16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

 17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

 18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

Nephi stops. Nephi thinks. Nephi then obeys.

If Nephi had been light-minded, he would not have been able to seriously think about the effects such an action of violence would bring to pass. If he had been lighthearted, he could not have heard the voice of the Spirit and allowed himself to be instructed.

God asks us to have faith and to believe on His words. Nephi quotes these words to his brothers, in the midst of their doubting when they desired to return to the tent of their father. Nephi shared the stories of when Moses brought the Lord's children through the Red Sea and how God protected them. Nephi quoted GOD'S WORDS.

We don't need to walk blindly without any idea of what is ahead of us. We have the scriptures. We have the words of the prophets. We have EXAMPLES of the power of God already made manifest in to His children front of our eyes, every single day. These words are waiting to be read and their message to help us grow in our faith.

Nephi had obviously taken the time to read and to study. He was smart enough to take the time to understand the Lord's will in His children's lives and then he implemented them into his own life. Without these KEY tools, Nephi could not have made the decision that he did with faith and courage. He was not light-minded, caring only for the useless things of the world, looking for this and that AND WASTING HIS PRECIOUS TIME ON EARTH. 

Nephi also had a light-filled heart. He was obviously in tune to the spirit and able to feel the will of the Lord directing him to kill Laban. If he had a hard heart, an unyielding heart, he could not have had this opportunity to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. 

Each of us are instruments. We are Lord's hands here on the earth to bring the joy of the gospel into our own lives and into the lives of others. God asks us to be faithful...but He doesn't ask us to do it blindly and without foundation. He asks us to read, to study and to pray. He asks us to grow our faith on true principles and doctrine, and to trust in the EXAMPLES of His previous work amongst the children of men. He asks us to try. That is all. TRY. Faith is a gift that He is willing to give to all who TRY. That's it. That is why faith is a required action - not because it is action - but because faith comes FROM choosing to act. In and through our work here on earth, we grow to have the faith to let the Lord take the reins and lead us.  We just have to remember to NOT be light-minded and to have a light-filled heart.  

I love you all! See here same time, same place, next week ;)  

Hna Lake

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week #33 - The Why's of Missionary Work

Dearest Family, God is Near you, Watching o'er you day and night.
And delights to lift and bless you, If you strive to do what's right

Write those letters, WRITE those letters and He will bless you more and more ;)
Just kidding, you are all wonderful at sending me letters and love!
This week has been mildly hilarious, to the point of giddiness, and a little frustrating, to the point of humility. I've never been so grateful for trials. I'm learning so much and I feel like I'm finally getting over that hump called "ME". I don't believe there is any other experience in the whole world like serving a mission. Nothing really can ever compare! 

First some really nice funnies:

*We were out knocking doors and some blacks we walked past yelled out, "Hey Look! Two snow bunnies!" God sometimes gets funny with the pick me ups He delivers :)  

*We were at a dinner appointment earlier this week and had some rather hilarious mishaps. At one point we were all sitting down to eat when the father called on me to say the prayer. As I prepared to fold my arms, I noticed that this family held hands whilst praying. Mildly panicking, I realized....I WAS SITTING NEXT TO AN ELDER! I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to offend them but...I REAAAALLY didn't want to hold this Elder's hand. My companion grabbed one hand and he placed his hand on the table, waiting for me. Gingerly, I placed the very tips of my fingers on the uppermost part of his fingers and said the prayer as quickly as I could. Afterwards, we pulled apart both wiping our hands empathically on our clothing to get rid of the sensation. *shivers* But Wait, THERE IS MORE! As we were talking around the table we hear a strange noise coming from over by the couches. Their 4 year old daughter had climbed onto the couch and was balancing in between the two couches...and peeing. All over the tile floor. We all busted up laughing as it dispelled the awkwardness of before. Finally, things calmed down and the father began asking us about what we wanted to study following the mission. One Elder was talking about how he didn't know what he wanted to study and that he enjoyed learning about all topics in school. In my brain, I computed that the only job that really taught all subjects was an elementary school teacher. So, I asked, "Do you like kids?" The father roared with laughter and exclaimed, "Sister Lake, is that a proposal??" I DIED!! The Elder gracefully said that he had debated being a college professor as I turned beet red and protested against the accusation. This was literally the worst dinner appointment of my LIFE. 

Then, the next day....A ward member came up and was talking to us about her son that was currently serving a mission. We talked about missionary stuff and then she exclaimed, "He is really handsome!" I said, "Oh really?" just to be polite.  She then whips out her ipad and says,
"You don't believe me? I'll show you!" I was trapped. I couldn't say her son was ugly --  but I couldn't say he was handsome either. My heart is LOCKED. So I resorted to, "You are right, he is very nice." In HER brain, that means "Wow, sign me up for that one!" She then proceeds to create a plan that when her son gets home, she will introduce us and then following my mission we will get married. I protested saying, "He isn't tall enough! Only 6 ft! I like really tall guys." She completely ignored my protests and went into a long dialogue explaining all his virtues....Eagle Scout, already a law assistant, graduated high school, etc. She now calls me "daughter-in-law" whenever she sees me. Heaven help this poor sister who digs herself into hole after hole after STINKING HOLE! But the laughter summoned by my idiocy created many a laugh in our apartment...therefore, worth it :)  

This week I've been learning a lot about faith and the Lord's will in our lives. So often, I hear of people saying that faith is a principle of power and that if we have enough of it..God HAS to do as we ask. But they miss out on a key principle that had me also confused for a long time. Faith is defined, by Alma, as hope in true principles. I knew I had faith but for some reason, it just wasn't strong enough to make God do as I pleased. I prayed and worried and fretted and studied about why my faith was so lacking that God wouldn't grant me the desires of my heart. Little did I realized that faith also requires us to have hope in these principle SO completely that our will becomes one with the Father. In those moments when our faith is "strong enough" to have the Lord do as we please...God is actually doing as He pleases and we are just aligning our will with His. We develop a faith that God CAN do all things we ask but we learn to TRUST that God, if it is what is best for us, will allow it to come forth. When we have faith that God is involved in every aspect of our lives and that He loves us, faith becomes a "knowing" because we trust Him. We know He won't let us fall. We know He is aware of our needs and NOT just our wants. We know that those things we pray for are being listened to and taken into account. We. Know. He. Is. There. Faith cannot be applied to any other principle of the gospel until we have a strong and undoubting belief of our divine nature and ability. I can try to teach the Restoration to any investigator but until they understand the WHY of the Restoration...the WHY of  missionary work...they will not understand or become converted to the gospel of our Savior. They will not have faith.  

Why do we serve missions? Why do we give up 18 months to 2 years of our youthful lives to a gathering of people that we do not  yet remember? The reason is simple. Because GOD LOVES US.   

Faith is not believing that God will give us what we want if we believe enough. Neither is faith gaining a testimony that God has done it in the past...so He can do it again. Faith is having the brightness of HOPE that God will take care of us. The hope that we aren't alone. The hope that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us more infinitely than we can truly imagine in our mortal bodies. God didn't send His son, Jesus Christ, only because Christ volunteered and had the faith that He could withstand all our temptations. No. God sent Jesus Christ because HE LOVES US.
Until we understand this simple, pure principle of the gospel....we will never have a true conversion. We may have a testimony....but are we converted? Are we changed? Do our sunsets become sunrises as our hope brightens the horizons of our hearts and minds? I have lived through the dark world where hope didn't exist and all that remained was the bitterness of a solitary heart. I've walked through that dark field Lehi describes in 1 Nephi 8, where you can't see before you and you wander lost. I was a member of the church and I knew it was true, but I didn't have the HOPE in the true principle that my Heavenly Father loves me. I was not converted. I was not changed. I merely lived an "autopilot" of a testimony that was growing on stony ground. It would've fallen. I already had more times than I can count....but the Lord of the Vineyard, my SAVIOR....My REDEEMER, Jesus Christ brought the sunrise to my darkened soul and made my heart sing with the song of REDEEMING LOVE. Now, I have that  hope...I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. My shield of faith is strong. I have put on the armor of righteousness....and I WILL NOT DENY THE CHRIST.

My invitation to you is simple: Pray. Ask your Heavenly Father FERVENTLY.....if He loves you. Then build off of the beautiful answer you will receive. I have extended that invitation to countless souls who are lost in the field of Lehi's vision. I don't know if all have accepted, but those of you who read this email know me. You know my heart. You read it here with each passing week of my mission. You know it is out of sincerity and out of a fortified testimony! Don't give up another day without the hope that comes with knowing your Heavenly Father loves you. I don't care if you think you already know. Ask again. Fortify your testimony. Remember that Mormon fortified all those many cities in the Book of Mormon EVEN though they were already strong. Don't take the chance that Satan COULD find a notch in your armor. 

I love you. Each of you. So completely. Don't ever forget that :)  

Hna Lake 

P.S. When you read this month's Ensign, pay attention to "The Principle of Faith". It's a beautiful talk on faith.