Yesterday I had an amazing experience!
We have sister missionaries serving in our ward. They called us yesterday morning. We missed the call at first, and when my husband said it was them that called, I started thinking oh man, what if I signed up for dinner tonight and forgot? I was kind of having a panic attack because I didn't want to have to go to the store to get something to cook, and that would also mess up our date plans. I didn't want to call them back. I figured if it was important they would leave a message. But my husband really felt like we should call them back. So he did, and when they wanted to talk to me about going to do some visits with them, I was like oh. great.
When I was in high school, I went out with the sisters in my ward a lot because they were frequently low on miles and needed some help. So I became their chauffeur, and it was really fun (joyful). I learned a lot from them, and I developed a love for serving and sharing the gospel. I LOVED going out with the sisters my senior year of high school.
Yesterday, was supposed to be my free day. I told myself no work over this weekend. Spend day with husband. Have fun. Relax. And then I get this phone call from the sisters asking me to spend three hours (which turned into four) driving around town with them to their appointments and drop-bys. They wanted me to pick them up in half an hour, which gave me ten minutes to shower, get dressed, and get out the door. Of course, I couldn't turn the missionaries down. I really did want to go--it just stressed me out a little. But saying yes turned out to be the best decision I have made in a long time.
We visited four sisters, each one with something special about them that taught me great things.
One sister suffers from many health problems that have left her physically scarred and worn down. She is a member of the church but doesn't come because she can't get out the door very often with her illnesses. In the past few years, her husband died, a beloved dog mysteriously passed away on Thanksgiving day last year, and her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she has watched his health rapidly decline. When I was with her, my heart ached for how much she was going through. It wouldn't have surprised me one bit if the reason we were visiting her was to help her see how much God loves her and encourage her to stay strong in the faith. However, that wasn't the reason. I mean, she probably did need some encouragement, but we were visiting her out of love. To check up on her. And to see her example of strength and faith. And we were there to serve: to clean her house and do anything that needed to be done that she didn't have the strength herself to do. I visited with her for an hour, and I grew to love her. I could feel the Spirit testifying to us while we were there. I could feel God's love for her. And I could feel my heart growing. This woman is strong. She doesn't think she is, but she is. I was reminded that through God, we can do all things, and through God, we can have the strength to get through every trial (even when we don't feel strong at all).
At every woman's house, I was reminded of God's love for each of us. Each woman we visited yesterday is going through really hard trials. Some of them are learning of the gospel right now and are just now discovering the power of the Atonement to help them, and it was amazing to meet them and hear them talk about their growth. One woman called us while we were driving between stops and asked if we could come over because she was going to give up smoking. So we went to the store and got a few items to get her started on the road to recovery (the missionaries have some program that help people stop smoking), and we visited her after our other appointments. She was smoking her last cigarette when we got there, but she threw it away and said starting now I am a non-smoker. We helped her get rid of her cigarettes and ash-trays. We also talked to her about the power of prayer and asking the Lord for help overcoming temptation.
This woman said something that really struck me when we were talking about prayer: "I pray all the time since I found out I can actually talk to God." It made me think--how often as members of the church do we forget or take advantage of what we have? I actually had been thinking of that all day because with the missionaries, we prayed every time we started doing something. We prayed every time we got in the car, every time we arrived at someone's house, every time we talked to someone, and every time we left that person's house. I said a lot of prayers in the four hours I was with the missionaries. So thinking about that, and this woman's comment, made me think about how I pray so much less than I should. Also, during the day as I was reflecting on prayer, I realized that I had the Spirit so much more because I was constantly praying. It helped me to care more about the people around me, and it helped me be more humble and submissive to God.
This woman was a great example of faith. She was really addicted to smoking. She was really scared to give it up. But she was relying on the Lord to help her, and she was taking a great leap of faith. I can't even describe how scared she was to take these steps to give up smoking. It was intense. But she did it, and I hope that she can make it through this week without smoking. I know the first week will be the hardest.
I had a really great experience spending time with the missionaries yesterday. I got to be there for a first discussion and share a little bit about the church, I got to serve, and I got to love. I learned so much. I'm so grateful that I took the opportunity to serve, even though at first I kind of didn't want to. When I got home, I felt much more light and humbled than I had before I left. Words can't even describe how lifted by the Spirit I felt. Because of my new, demanding job, I don't get the opportunity to serve or study the scriptures like I used to. I actually have been praying for ways to help build the kingdom and serve in my ward because I have felt so useless lately. This was definitely and answer to a prayer, and I also felt like it was a test from God to see how dedicated I actually was to serving. Would I serve if give the opportunity? I had already sworn the day off work, so I couldn't use that as an excuse not to serve. I'm glad I said yes. I'm also glad that when the woman called who wanted us to come after our other appointments, I said I could also drive them to her house and then take them back to their house after. She was my favorite appointment anyway :)
I love how when we serve, we are always served. I have never given service and actually felt like it was a burden somehow or that I was serving. I'm always given so much more when I take the opportunity to serve. Yesterday was another testimony of that for me. I hope that any of you who are struggling can find opportunities to serve and grow in love. It was cleansing and uplifting, and for me, it was very much needed.