Monday, September 29, 2014

Captain Moroni

Sometimes Sister Taylor and I hang out with cool people. Like, for instance, Captain Moroni.

Scrapes and Bruises

This funny thing happened to me yesterday. Actually, a LOT of funny things happened to me yesterday... just one story in particular though is relevant. :) So there we were, talking to this guy on the street who was super nice and had an American Dingo named Drifter. We say goodbye to said super nice guy. We start to bike away... except that I actually fall over into the rocks. 

I didn't fall off my bike I fell with my bike. Just tipped over. I think I forgot to pedal after I pushed off. That's an important step, apparently. :) Sister Taylor just stood there and laughed at me really hard, until the nice guy came to help me up. Then she was like "Oh I think I should go help my companion!" so she came and picked up my bike.

It was SUPER funny because it was SUPER embarrassing! You know how you say goodbye to someone at the grocery store and then run into them two aisles later and it's super awkward because you don't know what to say now? That what this was kind of like. Except... not really. It was more like That Awkward Moment When You OYM Someone And then Fall Over. Yeah... that's more accurate. ;)

Anyway. My point is that my leg is covered in scrapes and bruises. From falling. It is pretty epic.

So... in other news, we had a lesson with this less-active named Tyler on Saturday. My entire world now revolves around him... Well, sort of. Mostly it was just the most heart-wrenching experience I've had on my mission. We shared the mormon message "Hope of God's Light" (which, by the way is amazing. I highly recommend that everyone watch it at least once in their lives.) and he just started crying.

We spent a long time over there talking to him. We cried too. He said "If this life is a test, then I am failing." I've never seen a soul so racked with the pains that sin brings. He wants to be free so bad, but he sees no way out. It hurts my heart. So much. Sister Taylor and I came home and cried that night. In fact, since then I have thought about him every single day and cried for him.

This is what I pictured mission life would be like: Where my heart became so wrapped up around other people that their pains and joys became my own. This is it. I never imagined it could be so hard.

Sister Taylor pointed out to me though that we are getting a small glimpse of how the Savior feels for us. He loves us so much.. He feels our pain, our sorrow, our joys and our triumphs. He weeps with us. He feels happy when we are happy. He wants us to have joy and peace because He loves us so much.

And when we give up, thinking we are a lost cause, it devastates Him.

It's caused me to reflect a lot on personal worth. There's that saying,  "To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you are the world." Truly though, when you love someone they become your world. You can't imagine life without them. We are the world to the Savior - That incredible, perfect love is what made it possible for Him to suffer through the pain and give us the power of the Atonement. Because He loves us too much to let us go.

It has also caused me to reflect a lot on repentance. Tyler says, "I've tried changing. It never sticks. I always go back to the way I've been conditioned to be. I don't want to try anymore - I just keep failing."

...those words just kind of stick in my mind.

Repentance is hard. I've learned that repentance is not sorrow for sin. Repentance means to change - to bring ourselves in line with God's will. Repentance prepares us to live in God's presence, because we have to change to become perfected.
But that change doesn't happen overnight. We fall short. We sin. We mess up. It's part of our condition as imperfect beings. 

We told him to read the scriptures every day, to pray every day and to go to church every week. I think it annoyed him. He was like "It's notworking. I'm stilling sinning." Ha ha. I told him, "Yeah. Me too." 

But I tried to explain this to him - you cannot keep the commandments and sin at the exact same time. The Savior put it, "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon(or the world)" and that is exactly true. In order to walk towards God, you have to be walking away from something else. Any time you are reading the scriptures, you are walking away from sin. Same with praying.

No, sin doesn't stop. But that will keep you anchored to God. You can't walk away from Him forever if that is part of your daily routine. You'll keep coming closer to Him - and eventually you'll become strong enough to leave some of your sins behind. Just a little at a time.

And that, my friends, is the process of repentance as I see it at this point in my life. :) Sorry, I wasn't trying to preach. It's so hard to explain this experience, and there is so much more that we talked about that I haven't even written. (Is this how the writers of the BOM felt?) That lesson is burned in my mind forever. I want to help him. So much. But the thing is that I cannot just impart my knowledge - There are some things that cannot be taught. The Holy Ghost has to touch his heart.

So my dilemma is - how do I help the Holy Ghost touch his heart?

He's leaving on a business trip for a few weeks. >.< So it will be a while before we can meet again. In the meantime... I'll just keep crying. Ha ha ha. But really though.

So... that was my week in a nutshell. Oh, plus, Gus got married. Yeah. That's a big deal. I witnessed a perfect moment at that wedding, when Gus and Sister Taylor hugged each other. TECHNICALLY we're not supposed to hug men. But it was kind of a three-way hug between Gus, Sister Taylor and his new wife Marcia. So it was okay. And Sister Taylor cried tears of happiness. Well she actually kind of sobbed with happiness. And he cried too. It was a perfect moment. :) She was the one who brought him to the gospel, and consequently, to Marcia. He told her he owes her all of his happiness.

That was a good day. :) Weddings make me happy. Even more than baptisms. I think because baptism is the gateway to salvation and marriage is the gateway to exaltation. That would make sense...

Anyway. Good week, folks. I love you all. Hopefully you made it to the end of this letter. It was a long one, I know. :) 

<3 Sister Ball

Monday, September 22, 2014

You Know You're A Missionary When...

Hello my friends. :) This has been an interesting week.

First, let me tell you that this is the first time since I left 5 months ago that I have not actually missed home. I had kind of become accustomed to the constant ache for my family and the mountains - this week, I felt off because that homesickness was gone. It felt weird ha ha. :) I expect I will still probably experience that homesickness from time to time. I haven't stopped missing you, but it's like I've finally reached the acceptance stage. Took me long enough ha ha.

But that wasn't the weirdest thing! So we went to this seminary barbecue on friday night, where we served roundabout 500 hamburgers and hot dogs to people - member and non-member alike - before the high school's big football game. There was real life music playing, with songs that I knew from pre-mission life and President Nattress even gave us permission to watch fifteen minutes of the game! (Side note: Somehow, I have come to love watching sports on my mission. I do not know how this came to be, because we never DO watch sports, but I just love it now.) There was talking and laughing and hanging out and mingling. And music. Did I mention the music part? Ha ha. It felt like a normal kind of night, the kind that I had before the mission. Where I would just hang out. For fun. And listen to music. And dance. 

Anyway, this whole barbecue thing was awesome. I told Sister Taylor, "It's not every day that hordes of people come lining up to talk to us!" They were coming for the hot dogs, but we ignore that part... they had to have at least 30 seconds of interaction with us when they got their food. ;)

And then, the next night, we went to a fair. :] More real world experiences. It was Constitution Week here in Gilbert, and the fair was patriotic and history-themed. We set up a booth about Captain Moroni, and told the story of how he fought for his freedom. Most of the people who came and talked to us were members. That's the funny thing about serving in Gilbert. You get treated like celebrities, and half the people you meet are members. xD But, we did get to talk to a grand total of 4 non-members. And we told them the story, and they were intrigued. I figure it was a night well spent just for that.

So I had this weekend where I spent a lot of time in the real world, with music and stuff. And the crazy part is that it felt WEIRD to me. Normal life is weird! I AM A REAL MISSIONARY NOW. I saw people holding hands and I was like "...why do people do that?" Oh, I am going to be so awkward when I get home. :) 

Then there was Sunday, full of good missionary things so now I feel okay again ha ha. :) Actually, Sabrina, our chinese investigator came to church! Yay! :) And we met afterward with her and her son, Kevin, and Kevin accepted the invitation to be baptized. On October 18th. Double yay! :D

I am more excited to see him get baptized than I have been for anyone else thus far. Mostly just because it will be the most life-changing for him. And I sincerely hope that Sabrina will one day be baptized as well.

Cool story: She told us that she was about to submit her homework assignment this week, when her computer suddenly crashed. An hour before the deadline. She panicked and called the technicians and her husband and anyone who could help, but they told her it needed to be brought in and looked at, but she didn't have the time. So she said "I did what you guys told me to do - I prayed! And then I read that book you gave to me, because you said that it could help me in everyday life. So I flipped it open and started reading. And it was all about killing people! So I tried again, and found more stuff about killing people! And I didn't see how that could apply to fixing a computer, so I tried praying again. And then my computer just turned back on!"
So there you have it folks: The war chapters in the Book of Mormon can help you fix your computer. :] Actually, I was amazed by the miracle she saw. It was amazing! Especially because of her simple faith - not many people think to read the scriptures when a crisis like that hits. Amazing. I love Sabrina and Kevin. :)

Oh, funny story:

Every week, Sister Taylor and I make a "fun goal" for the week. This week, our goal was to play one little prank on each other. So far the score is 
Sister Taylor: 3
Sister Ball: 0
First, she laid under my bed and when I walked by, she grabbed my leg. Then one night she made it feel like something was crawling up my leg when I was praying. And this morning, she yelled  "spider!" and threw something at me. 


I love life and living. And plus, I love being a missionary. :) 

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Thank you for your prayers! They lift me up! :)

Love, Sister Ball

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tantrum Faces

Sometimes Sister Taylor and I put our tantrum faces on. xD

Someone gave us Frog Togs - those cloths that you get wet and then they stay cool for hours. So at the end of the night we put them on our heads and secure them in place with a headband. :)

Also, this is what an Arizona rainy day looks like. The soil here in Arizona can only absorb so much water, so it floods like nothing else out here. That lake you're seeing? That's actually a park. :) This was actually the most water Arizona has seen at once in the history of ever. It broke the record by like two inches. Figures. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God's Laughter

I heard someone say last week "If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans." I thought about how I told him I couldn't serve somewhere hot, and I agreed wholeheartedly. xD

But there's this thing where I've felt like God has been very close to me this week. It's like He's been right by my side, answering prayers, showing miracles, telling me I am loved and valuable and yes, poking fun at me from time to time. :) Tuesday we prayed that we wouldn't be hot while we were out working. We got caught in a rainstorm. Wednesday, we prayed that our butts wouldn't get sore while we rode our bikes around all day. Sister Taylor's bike broke. >.< Thursday we prayed that whoever fed us dinner would give us leftovers, and they gave us so much food! :D I'm catching on now, that God is listening to everything I pray for. I'm praying more and more fervently for our investigators and for you people back home. ;) I know they are being answered.

But then here's another thing: Our mission president likes to emphasize using our individual talents to help us in our missionary work. For the past few weeks I've watched missionaries find success through random things - Slacklining, basketball, horse care, computers, public speaking, ect ect ect... And here I've been thinking "What the heck am I even good at? I love to read, write, listen... none of that applies here." It's been a bit discouraging. For all my intelligence and skills, I felt useless. 
Well do your remember me telling you about our Chinese investigator, Sabrina? Well here's the story: Yesterday, she was asking me and Sister Taylor about our college experience. When she was satisfied that we were intelligent beings, she asked if we could help her with her with her English grammar while she wrote a paper. And I was like... um yes. :]
This resulted in me and Sister Taylor listening and helping her put her English sentences together while she explained what points she was trying to get across. It was seriously SO MUCH FUN. It reminded me of being in college again. And you know what I realized? I am useful. My talents are good. God can use me. :) It was a little tender mercy from Him.

Really though, there have been times out here when I've felt like God was so far away. This week, He let me know He's right here. :) You go through ups and downs on your mission. This has been an up week. I am supremely happy and content to be here. I feel like I'm doing good, and I'm loving everything about missionary work. It's a good time in my life. But I do miss you all. 

Oh hey, side note... Last year, September 9th is when I received the revelation from God that I needed to serve a mission. I started my papers two days later. It's been a year since this adventure really started, can you believe it? I still remember it like yesterday. :) Time goes by super fast. I've been out for nearly five months. I've learned a lot, and I'm starting to forget what normal life is like ha ha.

I'll be back before you know it. I'm learning to enjoy every moment while it's here. :) Have a great week!

Love, Sister Ball

Monday, September 8, 2014

Transfer #4

It's raining here. The thunder and lightning woke me up last night around 2AM. I got out of bed and opened the windows to watch the show for a while. :) There's nothing like an Arizona lightning storm at odd hours of the night. We got up this morning and our whole yard is flooded! And it's still raining! 

Sister Taylor and I have been trying to contact a lot of less-actives lately, and we're teaching a recent convert who just moved into our ward. Her name is Arianna. Actually, I may have mentioned her before. But she's worth mentioning again, because she's awesome and I love her. :) She's recovering from a lot of abuse, and it's causing me to reflect on how much I know about the Atonement.

It's funny, because when you take psychology classes and learn how the brain works, you learn that we're not wired to change. Our brain is a funny thing. It likes to take shortcuts, it likes to take the most familiar route and do familiar things. Once a habit becomes ingrained, it's hard to forge new pathways. 

The Atonement is what makes change possible. I can't scientifically explain it, but the Atonement heals wounds that nobody else can see, and eases the pain that no one else can touch. The Atonement saves people who seem beyond saving. It makes it possible for people to change, when they seem too far gone.

I'm very grateful for my Savior today. Without Him, we would be unable to change. We would be lost forever. Thankfully, we have the Atonement. We have a loving Heavenly Father, who takes care of us and our families when circumstances are outside of our control. :) It's a good things. The gospel is a happy message.

I hope you all have a good week.

Love, Sister Ball

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lego Temples and Other Things

SO, these members we had dinner with the other night custom-designed this lego temple. It floored me with its amazing-ness.

Also attached are some pictures of my companion and I. A beauty shot when I actually had my hair done... and then a shot when we had our helmets on. Plus, a picture of the evidence that sometimes I am a packhorse. :) You carry a lot of stuff around with you on your mission. xD

These are the sisters in our zone. And our zone poster, with our zone crest, and our zone team name... because we have a lot of zone unity like that. :)

More zone pictures! I love these people to death! :D

Are you sick of pictures yet? Well... too bad. Here's more. :)

Exchange Week!

First off, let me tell you that transfer calls were supposed to come last night, telling us whether we stay or go. They have not actually come yet. They are expected any minute, so you may get a play-by-play of my reaction. :)

So, this week was pretty crazy. Sister Taylor is a Sister Training Leader (I'm not sure if I mentioned that before) and as part of her leadership responsibilities, she goes on exchanges with the sisters under her stewardship. Which means a lot of exchanges for me. :) Thing is, this transfer all the exchanges kept getting cancelled, until suddenly it was the last week of the transfer! And we HAD to fit them in!

As a result, we went on a grand total of 4 exchanges this week ha ha ha. One with Sister Russell, one with Sister Hassard (she speaks Russian. That makes my heart happy.) one with Sister Bleak and one with Sister Bennet. Sister Bennet is in charge of all the music in the mission, so I've somehow been roped into singing at this upcoming transfer meeting. Yikes! But all will be well. No, it's not a solo. :) But anyway, the only full day Sister Taylor and I had together was yesterday. It's been wild, but I've come out relatively unscathed. :) We were SO HAPPY to have companionship study together this morning. The thing about separation is that it makes a reunion so much sweeter. :) But in the midst of all these exchanges there comes some good stories, which I will now relate to you:

One time, Sister Taylor and I were about to go knock on a less-active's door, when Sister Taylor spied a gecko. Please note: Sister Taylor loves geckos, and is obsessed with catching them. The result was a ten-minute chase around this guys yard by the light of the streetlamp, because it was dark. Sister Taylor finally caught the gecko! And then said in a very satisfied voice "Okay, now let's go." And then she proceeded to go to knock on the door. WITH THE GECKO STILL IN HER HAND. I could barely contain my slightly freaking-out laughter. Guess what? He answered the door! And for a moment, it looked like he was actually going to let us in! But then he didn't. Phew. We would have had to throw the gecko over her shoulder or something. 
(Side note: we aren't very often relieved that someone doesn't let us in. But there are exceptions. Like when you're holding a gecko.)
Anyway, we left the doorstep to go take a picture with the gecko. And as soon as Sister Taylor opened her hand, he jumped away to freedom. :( All in all, the adventure was very amusing.

Also, another amusing adventure. But first, I have to explain about dust devils: Dust devils are a common occurrence in Arizona, and they look like mini tornadoes. 
That being said, a couple of weeks ago Sister Taylor and I were biking and I saw this itty bitty dust devil, and I got really excited and hopped off my bike and went and stood in the middle of it. Yes. I stood in the middle of a dust devil. And I was ridiculously excited about it. :)
So the other day, while I was with Sister Bennet we were happily biking down the main road and I saw another dust devil. This one was significantly larger, but I got really excited again and I was like "Let's bike through that! Yeeah!"
This was not my wisest moment. The dust devil hit me like a ton of bricks and my skirt flew over my head. Yes, this was on the main road. Slightly embarrassing. I was a bit disoriented afterward. My conclusion is that you should not ride through mini tornadoes. :) But it was fun!

In other news, we met these people named Sherri and Leo. And I am praying that they become our new investigators. They are downright pleasant, and I am most intrigued because Leo seems so familiar with missionary rules - maybe he's talked with missionaries in the past? Or they're one of those sneaky less-actives who never show up on the records? I'm not really sure. But we have an appointment with them tomorrow, and I am excited. :)

Also, we're teaching Gus's son Mikey. He is a good kid, and wants to be baptized. The only thing holding him back is his mom won't give him permission. So the other day, we were over there and he was like "So... if my mom were to give me permission on Monday, how soon could I be baptized?" And we just kind of stared at him dumbfoundedly. And we asked what made him think she was going to say yes and he just shrugged and explained that he'd been praying that she would. And so that kid has a lot of faith is what I'm saying here. And we're also praying with a lot of energy that she will say yes. Mikey is an amazing kid. We love him. :)

Oh, another random story: Last night, I somehow misplaced my planners. This is slightly distressing, because a missionary doesn't know where to go when she doesn't have her planners. (She also doesn't know where to do when she doesn't have the Spirit... just had to throw that one in there. ;) But we had no idea where they'd gone. Later that night, we got a text from Sister Carroll and Bleak: "We found your planners in the road. They are run over by cars." I got them back this morning and sure enough... they are very, very flat. :) Also, I have tire marks on some of the pages. I am keeping these planners forever. They make a great story. :) But really... what are the chances that the other sisters would happen to bike by the very spot where I'd lost my planners? Those things contain sensitive information, you know. The Lord's hand was clearly in that one!

Plus, Sister Taylor and I biked around in a park full of running sprinklers last night. That was a good moment. :)

Alas, transfer calls have still not yet come! I still do not know my fate? Do I stay here in Temple View, with the companion I love so much? Or does she leave me to run the area with a new friend? Or, do I head off to new adventures in a new place? I have no idea. Only time will tell. The future remains one big question mark. Thankfully, I know the Lord is in charge of all these potential changes - you can only get so worried when He has a hand in things. ;)

I love you people! Have a great week! :D

Love, Sister Ball

About ten minutes later...

Transfer News!

It came before I had to get off the computer! The verdict is in! Sister Taylor and I are staying together in the fabulous Temple View zone! :D