Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This week was a big dose of "what-can-I-be-doing-better?" The answer came in sprinkled thoughts through out the week.
Sprinkle #1 Word of Wisdom.
Have you ever noticed that Word of Wisdom lessons are a big pat on the back sometimes? You know, it's like "we don't drink alcoholic beverages, we don't smoke, we don't do drugs, we don't drink coffee. Yay for us!" Ever feel like we kind of just skim over/ignore those other verses. I'm talking about D&C 89:10-13. We taught Victoria on the word of wisdom and while studying over D&C 89 I kind of realized that I'm not exactly living up the these verses. I'm a big salty food afficionado and I also have developed a recent love of fruit snacks. Number of real fruits I've consumed this week: 2 ( a peach and a banana). And to top things off, we had sister's training with President and Sister Crawford where we talked ALL about how we should be eating real food, not processed sugary crap. I have a really embarrassing picture of our shopping cart last pday. Don't worry, repenting of it this week. This is not to say that I'm turning vegetarian, but better believe I'm going to lay off the processed food for a bit. Give healthy a try, especially since we bike ride a good amount of miles during the week. The way I see things, God created and gave us these bodies, so I'm pretty sure he knows what's best for them. :]
Sprinkle #2 Charity mixed with Spanish.
Remember how I'm in a trio. My training is somehow training TWO newbies. Well, It's hard to balance in a trio, especially when lessons are concerned. Especially when two of us know Spanish really good. I did a little reflecting this past week, and realized how selfish I was being. For a majority of the lesson we taught, Hrm Maughan and I were teaching and while my Spanish has GREATLY improved, this hasn't been the case all around in our companionship. I was really only focusing on myself up to this point. I was very much in a , "how can I be a better teacher." Two weeks ago we had exchanges with an English sister. Hermana Maughan left us and Sister Cochran joined us, this made spanish contacts and lessons super interesting. I taught, I contacted, I small talked, and all the while I thought, "okay, now I see what I can improve on, what teaching skills I need to learn." Do you notice how many "I's" there were in there? Cause I sure did and it kind of made me sick. I took a huge step back and realized that our companionship isn't made of individuals, we're a unit. We're in this whole teaching thing together. Sure, we're all at different levels, but we've also been put together to help each other out. It was a big "ah-hah" moment for me.
Sprinkle #3 An attitude check.
Ask me if I like riding bikes in a skirt. Negative. Especially since my biggest fear in life is falling and I've already scraped up my knee in the pouring rain, while I was sick real good. So, let's just say I'm not always super pumped when we get on bikes. It takes me a while to actually get into the groove. It's not that I don't love bike riding, it's the whole wearing stiff clothes and sweating part of it I could do without. I read a talk this Sunday morning though all about being a consecrated missionary. & I realized ( more like re-realized) that a mission puts us out of our comfort zone, bike riding in skirts included. So, I accepted this as a challenge. Will I ever love bike riding in skirts, negs. BUT, I can realize that it's just a means to the end. A means to talking to people about something that has blessed my life greatly, and can bless the life of others.
I love you all. I promise I LOVE the mission.
oh & p.s. I'm not allowed to email amigos. Sorry, I can receive emails, but I can't write anyone else back but my family. Mission rules. BUT, you can email me, and include an address where I can write you. & I promise I will.
te amos all around,
La Hermanita Flores

Friday, October 26, 2012

I received a letter this week from a sweet friend of mine; through her letter she bore her testimony of God's personal plan for her. At the start of the school year, this friend of mine was disappointed that she was semi denied a wonderful opportunity she had had the year before. She was a bit disappointed, and I tried comforting her by explaining how I had gone through the same thing, but in years to follow, I saw that it was for a wiser purpose. She wrote, "I'm going to leave on my mission in the next few months!!! You probably know that President Monson announced that the mission age for girls has changed from 21 to 19, this will be a great blessing for me. Now, I think I know the reason I [was denied the opportunity]. I remember when I told you that I didn't make it you told me that God knew what he was doing. I understand now that you were right! I could have never imagined that me going on a mission was the reason!" Her testimony strengthened mine greatly, and helped me to see just how mindful of each of us our Heavenly Father truly is.
  A big part of what we do as missionaries is knock on people's doors and get to know them, especially asking them questions like, "What do you think the purpose of life is? really." There are only a few who can even produce an answer, most are confused about the question, and haven't actually given much thought to the question. If I can cause someone to really ponder the answers to these questions, I consider it a successful contact. :]
   We taught Victoria the Plan of Salvation this week. The plan of happiness that God has for each of us. Maritza ( a member of the ward) came to one of our lessons and taught something really powerful to Victoria. She explained, "every time your face a trial or tough challenge in your life, no preguntas, 'por que a mi?" pero pregunta, 'para que?'" Don't ask "why me?" ask, "for what purpose?"
   Victoria absorbed every thing we taught her about the plan and after we had finished explaining it all to her she said, "I think this is the most important thing you've taught me." We helped her to gain an eternal perspective, helped her to understand WHY what we teach is so important, and she was able to see just how perfect God's plan really is, how much he loves us, and why we are here on earth. It's a simple, plain, and precious truth.
   The plan has been on my mind this week, and as I was preparing a discussion for district meeting this week I came across a really great article in the Ensign from the January 2012 issue. It's an article written by Elder Stanley G. Ellis titled, "The Book of Mormon and God's Plan for Us." He opened by writing, "One of the common themes of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God has a plan. It is described with various names reflecting its various parts--the plan of happiness, the plan of mercy, the plan of redemption, the plan of salvation (see Alma 42:5-31).
 Nowhere is the plan more clearly defined and taught than in the Book of Mormon. In fact, a good way to study the Book of Mormon this year is to look for what it says about that plan and about what that plan means for us."
   I made a pact to start studying the Book of Mormon for the rest of this year in the way that Elder Stanley advised. The plan is SO wonderful. It's amazing to see and gain a testimony of just how involved our Heavenly Father is in the details of the fabric of our lives. I know he loves us on an individual basis, and I know that there are no coincidences. I love you all!
Con todo mi amor,la hermanita Flores
burst of happiness for the week. The postman is my BFF. No but really.
This week we were visiting a ward member and I told my companion hey, look it's the postman, honk at him. We honked waved hi and drove down the street. five minutes later, he drove all the way down clear out of his route to hand deliver my Halloween package (p.s. thanks mom!). He's a funny guy. I love our postman, and he always laughs when I invite him to church because he says, "you are the 1,000 person to invite me." I always tell him, "yeah, but I'll be the only one who actually gets you there!"  We'll see how things go....

    I was super proud of myself for cooking up a breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns, and toast. nom.nom.

Just some goodies we got from Maritza! Hermana Canova goes through a jar of peanut butter a week!             It's pretty much all she eats.
We have cleaning checks once each transfer. If you get a 10 on your cleaning check, you're given a case of water and fruit. Guess who got a ten this week? THESE hermanitas.
We had a cereal party today for Pday. Elder Ho Ching and Elder Weeks brought the milk, we provided the honey bunches.
Our living room turns into a makeshift clothesline when the dryer decides to stop working. -__-
Our ward had a "Festival de Otoño" this weekend! Here's a picture of us and Maritza with her hija! As missionaries we were asked to put together a little game for the niños to play. Our solution: a missionary obstacle course involving putting on a dress shirt, running to one side, putting on a tie, running back, and then handing out a restoration pamphlet. creative no? :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

You never realize how much the gospel has blessed your life till you go on a mission. Seriously. They are blessings which you can't describe, but I will simply describe it as a lasting happiness, a better quality of life. The best news of the week is that we have a baptismal date! With Victoria and she's come to church two weeks in a row. She loves it, and we love her. She really is the miracle find of my mission. Just as a refresher, we found Victoria my second day out in the field, and her home was the very first home where someone answered the door (the second overall knock). Victoria's testimony has grown, she has seen the power of prayer bless her life, she has literally felt the presence of the Holy Ghost guide her, and she is so sure that baptism is the next step she needs to take. One day when we went to visit Victoria, her eyes watered with tears as we expressed our love for her and the love Heavenly Father felt for her. She bore a simple testimony to us of how her life had changed since we had started teaching her. During this visit she moved a toy off of the couch and later explained that she felt something wonderful wash over her and felt as if someone else wanted to join our conversation so she moved the toy so that the Holy Ghost would have a place to sit. Another miracle that we've seen while teaching Victoria is that we have seen a difference in the behavior of her twin boys. They are calmer now, and they recognize us, and sit in on our lessons. At church, one of the twins had no problem leaving his mother to go to nursery, the other didn't want to leave, but, he was quiet during our entire gospel principles class. In Sunday school, Veronica was attentive and would whisper to us phrases like, "I remember when you taught me that?" or "That was my question! Remember when I asked you that?" The question posed by Elder Mallard as he was teaching was, "Can a person repent before baptism?" Victoria raised her hand and shared that she had started the repentance process, but she knew that there was one thing missing, the feeling of being forgiven and that was something she was going to receive when she was baptized. Her testimony and sharing that caused another investigator to bear his testimony about the same subject. It was so great. Victoria didn't stay for all of church because her husband picked her up right after Sunday School. We're hoping that when her husband sees the changes in her life, he'll want to start being taught the lessons. We're all praying hard for him. We also invited him to the ward's Halloween party this Friday, so we're hoping they will make an appearance. I love this work and I love you all! Love your hermanita, Hermana Flores :)

I don't remember if I sent this picture last time, but I definitely kept the tradition alive and had a Post Priesthood session Pizza Party with my companions!

It was Elder Mallard's birthday last Pday and so we gave him a robe we found in our apartment, a smiley face yo-yo we found at the carwash, and a pb&j sandwich, his fave.

                                                                 Where the planning session magic happens. :)
Elder Ho Ching and Elder Weeks (they're the English speaking areas for our area and live in the same complex) made us cookies and brought us cupcakes one night.
The next day we found this note ding-dong-ditched on our door.
Found this the other day as we were knocking, kind of put a smile on my face.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We had our first day of crisp scarf and cardigan weather yesterday. It was glorious to feel as if we were blanketed with cool breezes. I love being able to see the seasons change. The only thing certain about life is change.
   Change is a miracle and it's a blessing to witness change, especially the change that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I may have only been out in Texas for two weeks, in this short period of time, i've seen change come into the lives of the people our trio is teaching. Sometimes the change is rapid within one lesson that we teach other times it's over a period of time. Change through Jesus Christ is a miracle, and it's been a blessing to see it firsthand.
  Victoria is reading the Book of Mormon! She's been having challenges with it though. Her Husband has been telling her that there is no evidence that the Book of Mormon is true and her Father has been telling her that there is no need to be baptized again. Victoria has seen change though through the power of prayer. She has felt peace, security, and she is just glowing when we come and visit her now. Victoria came to a session of conference as well with one of the members in the ward, Maritza. Maritza's been the BIGGEST help, we are SO thankful for her. She and Victoria are new bffs: they chat on facebook and call each other all the time. We would be seeing a lot more success if every member of the church fellowshipped this way.
   Change came over rapidly as we taught Carolina too, a member referral, about the restoration. It was so great to watch as the magnitude and importance of our bold declarations set in. We testified that this was the true Church, the same Church that Christ established on the earth. Carolina was really pensive and quiet as she meditated over what we said. She said she knew she had to find out if what we are teaching her is true. "There has to be something for you to leave your families and give everything up for 18 months of your life." 
   The last investigator I have to report on is Juan. He seems like he's STRAIGHT from Long Beach he keeps it real and is so ready for a change in his life. It's funny, the confusion people have about our faith: that we "pray" to Joseph Smith, that he became rich from what he did, and that he wrote the Book of Mormon all about himself. It was so fun for us to clarify things for Juan. To teach him that our church is centered on Jesus Christ, that we are grateful for the sacrifices of the prophet Joseph Smith, but that we don't worship or idolize him.
   Juan wanted to jump right into the story of "Mr. Smith, John Smith, or Juan Smith" (Juan confused his name a couple of times. But we knew that for him to truly understand our message, we had to go back to the times of Jesus Christ and help him understand the role of the Savior on earth, help him understand the authority of God and explain how there was an apostasy, truths were lost and Joseph Smith restored them. It was amazing to just in the course of an hour see Juan understand, to see him change and become reverent as he understood what exactly our message was. He kept saying, "I need to read this Book." We clarified that the Book of Mormon didn't contain the stories of Joseph Smith's experiences, but told the story of prophets in the ancient Americas who rejoiced, prophesied, and believed in Christ.
  Juan got really quiet and said, "that makes sense." WE changed his understanding of the Church completely and invited him to conference to hear the words of a living Prophet. We showed him pictures of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and he said, "They just look like normal businessmen." I explained that they are normal, that they had real lives, that they worked, but now were retired and their main purpose was to testify of Christ. 
   When we started our lesson, I asked him why he had wanted/decided to meet with us? (We were visiting his mother who is less active when he said, "Can I ask you guys something? How old are y'all?" and what we were doing as missionaries and whether we could meet with him). Juan said that we seemed sincere, that we seemed perfect, happy, and glowing, and that there was an aura about us. He noticed the difference and noticed the difference in his Mom as well. He said that he recently had made a pact with God to change for the better and that maybe our coming over to visit his Mom was God's answer for change...
 I don't know if the word change describes the transformation we see accurately, but it's marvelous.
 Family, I thought about all of you during General Conference. Especially during President Monson's historical announcement of changing the ages of missionaries. We were all shocked in Texas. I calculated and we can see new, younger missionaries as early as March! It was also bittersweet as I realized that because of this change, I probably won't see my brother Devin for the next three years. I know this change was inspired, I know it. Friday night my companions and I were talking about what a blessing a mission is, how it fortifies you, and blesses you, how you learn at an accelerated rate. We had just been talking about how much we wished more girls would come on missions and partake of the blessings. Be careful what you wish for I guess. My heart was doing summersaults as I realized how many people and generations will be blessed by this single change. I most likely will be training a handful of these new younger hermanas and I am SO excited to meet them! I love my mission and I love you.

p.s. My two favorite talks were
"I'm a Mormon. I know it, I live it , I love it."
& Elder Russell M. Nelson's 
"Ask the Missionaries"
pretty sure we're making P-day shirts with those phrases. :)
Family, did you REALLY have lunch with the general authorities in between sessions?
If so, I am one jealous Hermanita.

I ran into my amiga from Living Legends Katie Bair at the MTC. Maybe I ran into her more than once... :)
This is really late, BUT this is a picture of my and my MTC Branch President, President Tyler. I love that man!
Sister Wenzel and I were assigned to sit on the very last row in our very small plane on the way to Texas.
Houston, I have arrived!

All the sisters that arrived to the mission on the same day! :)

Sister Wenzel and I were roommates for the first night, and just happened to have matching pajamas. YES!

                   Our first day as a trio! Hermana Maughan in the middle and Hermana Canova on the right. 

                               Nachos from Las Fuentes, the place that I said reminds me of Mom's cooking.

             Hermana Canova and I at the Barbeque place I told you about last week. :) They loved us there.

Our picture at the corner of Crawford street. :) taken by devout Mitt Romney supporters, my dad would love them.

                                            The inside of a Freebirds bathroom, they go all out in Texas. 

                                           We all wore blue and white one day, didn't even plan it that way.

                                         Post our first zone meeting, I've been converted to chipotle.

                                                      General Conference day!

Remember how I said Victoria came to conference? Well, she brought one of her twin sons to conference and he was a little bit rowdy. Hermana Maughan and I super wanted her to feel the spirit so we took him right outside the door for a session and gave him my colored pencils to draw with and the cookies my mom sent in my greenie package. It was like nursery. Don't worry we didn't break mission rules, we weren't along with kids, the door was open! Victoria's son isn't pictured here, but we had others join our little party.

                                       Thanks for the jungle cookies mom! They were put to good use! :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

10 Things that make me INCREDIBLY happy: Pasadena North edition
1. Humidity. 
I love not having to put lotion on my face every second of every day.
2. Mitt Romney supporters. 
My companions and I were prayed for on the corner of Crawford street by a sweet Christian Couple and they told us how we need to tell EVERYONE to vote for Mitt Romney.
3. Las Fuentes taqueria & refresqueria. 
They make food almost exactly the way Mom cooks food. It feels like I'm still at home.
4. Hispanic children. 
They love me. I love them. I received two stickers this week from our friend "Jasmine" one that says, "You're #1" the other says, "Great idea!"
5. My name is the easiest out of my companions to remember. 
YESSSS! However, this may mean that I'll be asked to do a lot more things in church.
6. Red-White-and-Blue Texas sunrises.
 It looks like a giant American Flag is waving across the skies in the morning.
7. Biking in the rain. 
Except when you fall and scrape your leg and arm. (see below)
8. How fast chisme travels. 
I fell. off my bike. The same day that I came down with a cold. I thought no one had seen. Wrong! Turns out an investigator (someone the missionaries are teaching) 
saw and word traveled to the Elders in a city over 30 min away. As Daniela would say, that's cray-cray.
9. Barbecue and Peach cobbler. 
After district meeting last Friday we stopped at a little place voted to have the best barbecue in Pasadena. 
It was such a small little place but it was delicious. I'm craving one of their pulled pork sandwiches right now.
10. Los Miembros. 
So many of them have experienced struggles most of us only hear about on the news. That is real life here in Texas. everyday. Most of the members in our ward our low low income high poverty and it breaks my heart to hear about the struggles they go through. Immigration is a huge issue out here with families torn apart my deportation and people traumatized from crossing the border. 

   Surprise! I've been assigned to Pasadena, TX. It is nothing like it's namesake in California. It's a mix between West Valley City-Compton-and-Huntington Park. So basically, I'm serving at home! Even before I had left on the mission, I knew I wanted to serve in Pasadena. Not because of the name, actually mostly because I read a story in Vogue about Marlen Esparza. The first female boxer from the US to compete in the Olympics. I'm in her hometown! Reading about her story just got me super excited about my mission, and I'm hoping maybe someday we'll come across some of her family members here and teach them about the gospel? Maybe?
   I love my Mission President. President Crawford and his wife are so excellent. I wanted to cry as soon as we saw them waiting for us by baggage claim at the airport. I got to spend my first night at the mission home and had orientation, a lovely Barbecue lunch with Tex-Mex dinner, and had interviews so President could get to know us a little better. There were 16 of us traveling to the mission home, 7 hermanas, and 9 elders. Apparently, it's the biggest group the mission has seen. & President Crawford told us that the Church is working really hard to build up the number of missionaries in our mission. I'm in a trio! President let me in on a little fun fact that they've never had a trio where one trainer is training two fresh new missionaries, but because I already knew Spanish, I came a little bit earlier than the mission was expecting. But, luckily since I knew Spanish President said he felt great about putting me in this said trio. 
   My trainer is Hermana Maughan from Provo, UT. Love her. She's a seasoned missionary and gets home in December! Some of my favorite Hermana Maughan manerisms is that she's sassy and talks with her hands. She makes this little grabbing motion every time she is making an important but sarcastic point. It's great. She also loves to add the suffix "ter" to a lot of adjectives like, "chillster" or just adds, "ster" to the end of everyone's last name. Including herself, which ends up being, "Maughnster" pronounced "Mon-ster." It's great. My other companion is Hermana Canova from Salt Lake City. She totally sounds like Hannah Montana. no joke. I finally had the guts to confess that to her yesterday. She's tall 5'10 tall and is so funny. She gets delirious once it hits 10 o'clock at night to where she laughs at EVERYTHING. It's funny to watch. I've been helping Hermana Canova with her pronunciation. She has this tendency to read Spanish and pause every three words and make it sound as if she's asking a question. But, we're working on it. I told her to just pretend in Spanish that everything is one big long word. It's worked!
   Missionary work is kind of nothing like they taught us in the MTC. We spend a lot more time finding than actually teaching. So far I'm the winner for picking "Golden" streets. I've chosen two so far, Mattye Mae and Harrhop (my spelling could be off on that one). We've found three people on these two streets that we're really excited to teach. Victoria, and then Emma & Jaime (names of these people have been changed). Victoria was so excited to meet with us and told us that she had been waiting for people to knock on her door and thought that maybe people had avoided her door because it wasn't well lit at night. She's a sweet woman from Mexico with twins and she asked us to come teach her the very next day. She poured out her heart to us and told us some of the many challenges she's had in her life. We taught her about the power of prayer and at the end she offered up one of the sweetest, most sincere prayers I have ever heard. Just thinking about it makes my heart swell.
  My time is up for this week. But, I love you all. & I am SO excited to be here in the Lone Star State serving with my gente!
With Love, 
Hermana Flores

p.s. Um, did Tia Maria really give the opening prayer for the General Relief Society Broadcast or was that just a trick of my eyes? K. Just checking.
p.p.s Here's my new address!

Hermana Lauren Marie Flores
1000 E Curtis Dr. #119
Pasadena, TX 77502