I am thankful for: my FAMILY. 100 percent. It was indeed a different experience having Thanksgiving in Oklahoma with a bunch of random families instead of the Best/Wootton/Ostlund Brunch and the Hennessey Dinner, but we had FOUR Thanksgiving dinners... so I can't complain.
We played football for four hours in the morning with a few members of the various local wards. Well, the Elders did. They decided to play two-hand touch so we ended up getting the other sister missionaries together and playing Football Lite with all the kids. It was awesome. We still got sore. And I walked away bleeding... Success.
Then we were invited to the Institute for Thanksgiving dinner for all the students who didn't go home for the holidays. It turned into a ping-pong tournament that I definitely lost. It was delicious. The food, not the defeat.
Then a less-active member of our ward invited us to dinner that she had fixed and was hosting in an elementary school cafeteria. Nothing says Thanksgiving like strangers, tile floors and fluorescent lighting. I'm sorry, that was cynical. It really was delicious. And we were able to find somebody we had been looking for for months!
THEN we went to the Weiermans for pie. And oh how we love the Weiermans. I would love to describe the events that ensued, but I'll just attach this video instead. [Watch video now]
I definitely got Elder Wilcox back. I wiped the whipped cream off my glasses and cheeks and threw it in his face, then he got Sister Chandler. We smelled really good. But the night wasn't yet over...
To close the night, we played some type of Nascar board game for two hours with some members of the ward. I think we crashed their date night. But it was fun nonetheless. I committed Sister Chandler and the Elders that if anyone offered us food all day, or even suggested that there was more, we had to say yes. So we were pretty darn full.
The rest of the week carried on like a normal week.
Well, as normal as missionary work can be.
We spent a portion of this week in trainings figuring out how we can effectively, #sharethegift. The He is the Gift initiative is huge. The church has put a lot of money into helping people recognize the reason for the season. And that it really is Christ. The video they have released is beautiful. If you haven't had a chance to watch it, do so! Right... HERE! They bought the front page of Youtube for December 7th and it will be up in Times Square starting today until January 1st.
This "campaign" has really helped me reflect on what Christmas has always meant to me. And how this is the perfect time to see what Jesus Christ did. That he was, indeed, born. A real person. To come to earth as a gift from our Heavenly Father. I don't mean to get all political, but I have such a strong desire to infinitely have family + Christ-centered Christmases for the rest of my life, being sure to really focus on the meaning of things. My family raised me to always respect Christmas as a time for family interaction. I hope that I always remember that.
I think everyone we tried to talk to this week was drunk beyond coherence. I don't know why. One guy told us he had been bit by a Rottweiler, which explained the blood dripping down his face, but then he hugged me and told me I was his favorite person he'd ever met... what? Another guy told us that he met God and he offered him a cigarette and said, "light 'em up, Brother". He also told us his mother was the statue of liberty and told my companion she had "Merry Christmas eyes". Whatever that means...
I'll try to solidify this email with some spiritual insights, because it really was a week of spiritual enlightenment.
Hermana Anderson, one of our roommates, and quite possibly one of my best friends, is going home in January, and she inspired me to start making a book of 101 Life Lessons I learned on my Mission. It hasn't taken me much time at all to get to 20. I write the title and then a two page description of how I learned it and why it matters. So I'll start relating some of the things I've learned little by little.
Life Lesson #16: Find joy in the here and now...right now.
This lesson could relate to life lesson #1, "Remember Lot's Wife", but I'm referring more specifically to being able to live in the present without constantly yearning for the future. There's no specific experiences I can think of to relate to this principle, as I usually do, because it is an everlasting lesson. On your mission, or at least on mine, I get distracted when I think about the future, even if it's just an upcoming conference or temple trip... Or P-day... hahah. We learn pretty quickly that there is so much joy found when we simply buckle (or tie or pull or... Velcro...) up our shoes and get to work. And having planned and studied and prayed for those we interact with, we find joy when we are where we're supposed to be in the exact moments we're supposed to be there.
We have joy in our present circumstances because we can trust what the Lord has in store or us and that he's constantly giving us little miracles and blessings, if we'll only recognize them as such. This life is meant to be enjoyable. We're not meant to try to get through this day so we can enjoy tomorrow. We're supposed to be happy each and every day doing the things that are required of us. So much of that joy comes from hope. So much more of that joy comes from friends and family. But our relationship with God, or rather, our intimate friendship with Him and sheer acceptance of his will, will compel us to keep his commandments, and in turn, be happy. Because we'll understand why things happen to us when they do. And what we need to learn from them.
I love you all.
Happy Thanksgiving. And Happy December! Woah!