Thursday, October 31, 2013

The longest letter I'll ever write home.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's the only way that seemed appropriate to start this letter. (If I'm not mistaken, 23 exclamation points were used to make that emotion conveyed possible) Saturday and Sunday combined I wrote about 5 pages in my journal combined, enough to get me to finish my journal, and I'm still not even done detailing everything. This Thursday we had President Interviews. President Crawford asked how I was, I told him I was doing just great! He said, "That's wonderful! Well, that's it then!" :] Funny man. In my interview President asked if there was anything he could do for me, I didn't really have anything. He then said, "Hna Flores, I need you to do something for me." He explained that E. Callister and other general authorities were in town, they were having a conference and he needed Sister Haynie and I to go and represent the mission. He didn't have too many details to offer, so I was left to just contemplate till Saturday. I thought it might be a conference and we'd be seeing missionaries from the other missions, NOT SO.
First off, the meeting took place in a Marriott Hotel, located in the airport--like literally a part of the airport. Sis. Haynie and I were so shell-shocked. It was all so glamorous and luxurious. We definitely must have looked like tourists. Also, I feel like President keeps giving Sis Haynie and I these special assignments and trips to make up for the fact that we were ALMOST companions. (Did I ever write home about that? Up until a week before transfers, Sis. Haynie and I were all set up on President's transfer board to be companion. & then he told us. #theWORST) Anyways, back to the airport-hotel; we tried some of their complimentary lime with green apple water and what seemed to be a citrusy grapefruit and orange blend. Then we went to search for where the guest realtions hostess told us the meeting would be. I walked pass the glass door and saw brethren and then a man called us over.
Sis Haynie & I sat on a couch across a Stake President, a Bishop, and a Ward Mission Leader from the Houston South mission I believe. We talked about how the work was going in our respective areas. It was a nice chat, and then they were called into the council. By that time E. Jones and E. Erickson had arrived. They were the two Elders President had chosen to represent the mission. We still had no idea what to expect up to this point. We started talking about what we thought might go on...
Finally we were summonsed for. We walked in. The setting was small and intimate. Up front at a table sat E. Ronald A. Rasband, E. Tad R. Callister, and E. Michael John U. Teh and seated in a "U" formation sat the 11 Area Seventy of the North American Southwest area. We were told to put our things down on four chairs and then told to stand up front. I was under the impression that we were just supposed to represent the Houston East Mission, but in reality we represented every missionary in the NASW area (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, parts of Louisiana)!
E. Bradley D. Foster of the Second Quorum of the 70 introduced us to the group and then the three elders presiding (I guess you could say) came up to us and shook our hands. E. Foster explained that we were to be a focal group for something called an Area Council. These 11 Area authorities were being trained by the brethren over things that had been taught at general conference. To start off, E. Foster asked a question to the area authorities about how the people who were spoken of in 4 Nephi were described. It says, "Surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God." (4 Nephi 1:16) He explained that now we'd be asked a series of questions, that there was no need to be nervous (!!!!!!!!!!!), but they wanted us to answer openly.
The questions we were asked had to do with the challenges of the increase in number of missionaries, how well we felt we were working with the wards, if the members were helping, etc. E. Rasband then was asked to instruct all present about unity in hastening the work of salvation. He asked, "How many of the Area 70 are returned mission presidents?" Almost all the hands went up. He then turned to us and said, "Do you think we love you? We love you!" He had such a piercing gaze and I was just filled with love. I could feel the love Heavenly Father had for me personally. E. Rasband taught us that 1+1 does not equal two, he explained that the potential 1 member + 1 missionary is limitless, he also told us this push on hastening the work of salvation is here to stay.
E. Rasband also asked us a series of questions about what we could do better as missionaries, and asked the three brethren from the South Mission to describe what the members could do to help us better. E. Rasband explained that this same thing had been done during general conference in front of the general authorities He extended a commitment to the four of us and told us to share what we had learned in MLC, he said, "You four go to the Missionary Leadership Council, correct?" We nodded our heads, 'yes.' He then went on, "I want you to share with them what you have learned here. I want you to roleplay what you have seen here today. Will you do that?" some more head nods. He then finished, "We'll probably be seeing you within the next couple of years. We will follow-up with you then." When he said that I felt like he was peering into my future. Afterwards, Sis. Haynie and I contemplated on that, "What does that even mean!?" We were dismissed with handshakes by all the general authorities, given validation for parking, and sent on our ways.
I definitely had NOT been anticipating my weekend to end that way when I emailed last Monday. It was such a rich experience. After the meeting, Sis. Haynie and I found the following text on our phone from Pres. "Sisters, seek out Elder Foster...He is moderating your group. I believe the discussion will center on councils and how they are working in the Hastening of the work. Area 70's will be in the meeting. You are in my prayers." It just kind of made us chuckle. Typical President. We were so hungry, we went to Chick-fil-A afterwards and just debriefed EVERYTHING that had just taken place. It was incredible, such a testimony building experience. It was a kindle to the fire that I have for missionary work.
Also, can you say longest letter ever!?
- I spoke in Sacrament mtg for the first time on my mission. Topic: Enduring to the End. Spent some quality time typing it up. In espanish. classic.
- Finished a journal started writing in one Krista (Hna Dedrick) gave me before she left.
- Went to discount tire, our tire had a nail in it. We met an inactive member, he actually came up to us and struck a conversation. Stories were shared (on his part) about provo dance parties, and mormon dating. It was comical. Also, met members from the Beaumont branch. Random. Discount Tire: the place to be.
Thank you for enduring to the end of this letter,
Hna Flores

Part of our zone. :]
Hna St. John and I on the deck of Battleship TX. We took a trip across on a ferry for zone Pday
Had dinner with the Mann's (a cute non-member senior couple who's grandson was serving in my homeward). They took us to El Toro, and I had a stuffed avocado.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pride is the worst.

This transfer I've been learning lessons for life everyday. Trials and Weaknesses have been refining us this transfer. "For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (1 Nephi 20:10). Hna St. John has been having her share of trials to deal with and I've been coming face to face with my weaknesses. We are determined to come out conquerer, with the Lord as our guide. The scripture that was the driving force this week for Hna St. John and I was 2 Nephi 31: 19-20
" 19. And now, my beloved brethern, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."
Appropriate in so many ways, but especially so because I just found out last night I'm speaking in sacrament meeting on "Enduring to the End." It's my first time giving a talk in Spanish since the MTC, but at least I have more time to prepare now right?
Companions are the best.
Every transfer I feel like I just keep getting better and better at having open communication and trusting my companions 100%. I have complete trust in Hna St. John so much so that I've  I thought about what a peculiar sight Hna St. John and I were during one day this week. We sat at the table in our living room eating Tamales a member in our branch had given us, listening to vintage Mormon Tabernacle Choir music and reading, Ezra Taft Benson's famous talk, "Beware of Pride." I was reminded of the scripture in 1 Peter 2:9, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:"
Pride has been on my mind lately. I want nothing to do with it. As I read President Benson's talk I was able to recognize so much of it in myself. I'm working on cleansing the inner vessel and doing ALL I possibly can to rid myself of this great vice. Also, in watching this talk on President Benson didn't even give the talk, he had President Hinckley read it. I thought that was such an interesting twist. I also came to the conclusion that I need to read more C.S. Lewis post-mission. This quote resonated with me, "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. ...It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone."
I've come to the conclusion that Pride is illogical. We are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and he loves us equally. You can name any two people, the worst of villians and the most humble person you know, and God loves them both just the same. We are all trying to get to the same end-goal. For no one truly wants to be alone in the presence of God. If we shoot to be, "the best" we will be severely disappointed for their is no "best." Only a personal best.
I was studying the patriarchal blessing of my Grandfather Quesada this week and I just loved this piece of wisdom. I'm paraphrasing, but it was something to the extent of, "may we all recognize our dependence on God, and our dependence on one another. For that is the way the God intended, we cannot enter into his presence without the help of our brothers and sisters or without serving and helping them." I'm obviously not as eloquent as a patriarchal blessing. But it was just a powerful reminder to me of the gospel truths I proclaim everyday.
Pride is just like any other addiction. It is the praise of a moment that drives us, it is the satisfaction of being on top even if only for a bit. I thought about how similar, but subtle it is compared to other addictions. I'm working on it. I'm living by this motto, Proverbs 27:2, "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."
In quick news, this week was stake conference. All about Hastening the Work of Salvation. I've served my entire mission (...thus far) in the Houston East Stake. It was so wonderful to see friends and families that I have grown to love. We also sang in a special choir with the youth, a medley of, "Armies of Helaman" and "Called to Serve." It was wonderful. President Crawford sat on the stand, and as we walked down he said with tears streaming down his face, "bad sister missionaries. Bad sister missionaries." :) It was tender.
I love my mission.
Hna Flores

Hna St. John and I after stake Conference. :) Thank you Tia Maria for the dress! Favorite kind of dresses ever!
& A story with a picture. My District Leader Elder Owens forwarded me this email:

Subject: Hermana Cole...Hermana Flores
"Cute story about Hermana Cole. After dinner she was looking at the pictures you sent us that I had on the fridge. She saw the one of you with your district and wished I had a more close up shot. Lucky for her I just so happened to have one. When I showed her she got really excited and said..."hey, that's Lauren Flores!! She's my friend! We were in Living Legends together at Byu!" So we took a picture of her holding the picture. She was really excited. I will send you a hard copy that you can give to Hermana Flores...if you don't mind. Funny how small the world is in the church!. I emailed a copy to both their parents. I know how much it has meant to me when people have done that for me.
Love you!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Give me Mountains to Climb.

The gospel is true right? Then what else even matters!? That has been Hna St. John and I's motto this week. We have just been feeling like we can conquer any challenge this week. Last night I was searching for a scripture in D&C to share with Hna St. John that I felt just described everything we had experienced this week.
D&C 58:2-4
 "For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand."
I was sick this week.
I slept ALL day Wednesday and literally ate nothing for a day and then some. It's been interesting trying to get my apettite back. I felt so bad for Hna St. John, it's the worst being the only one awake in an apartment.
It seemed like everything fell through this week, everyone canceled. Everyone except for this couple, we'll call them the Valdez. We found them through our Area Book, they were a potential. We had a lesson Saturday evening and unfortuantely didn't have a member with us. The WORST. We were finishing up the Plan of Salvation when the husband asked us, "Could you teach us but without using the Book of Mormon?" It didn't exactly get hostile, but he can't believe in the Book of Mormon because there is no concrete evidence to show that it is true. He told us the reason he can believe in the Bible is because even someone who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ can't deny that the places mentioned in the bibles exist, that the events mentioned in the Bible can be proven. I asked him, "so you believe in the bible because it mentions places that can be found on a map?" He affirmed. It was tough because he was attacking the validity of the Book of Mormon, and while there were two missionaries sitting on the couch, only one was Mexican and fluent in Spanish, so every comment felt like a personal attack.
In the beginning of my mission I would feel so angry, alone, and cheated. But, in reality it was a humbling experience. I cried afterwards. Hna St. John cried because she felt so bad that she couldn't speak Spanish, that she couldn't back me up. I explained to her though, "Hna. Heavenly Father knows us! Heavenly Father doesn't make mistakes. That was a trial we both had to go through. The test is how we face it."
We could have faced this trial by being mad. We could have complained. Why don't I know Spanish? Why do I keep having companions that are brand spanking new? Why? Why? Why? But where's the good in that? Every trial is for our good. We have something to learn from every experience. I know this to be true. I know that we have been charged with a task that is seemingly impossible, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven in perfect." Perfection doesn't mean you don't have weaknesses, perfection means you don't give in to the weaknesses.
I love my companion. I've been reflecting and I feel like I've reached a point in my mission where I could be assigned to ANY area with ANY companion and I'd be happy. We were all called by a prophet of God, right? Then missionary work is possible anywhere with anyone. :] Back to loving my companion, we've started a new bonding activity. Nightly bedtime stories. The book? My journal. I have a journal from right before my mission. It's literally Hna St.John's favorite novels. She gives it five stars, 2 thumbs up. Take your pick. It's the best thing ever. We're kind of getting towards the end, she suggests that I ask you Mom to send some more of my journals. Ha! We'll see. & Mom, I told her how you've been nagging me to write a novel for some time. :] Maybe I'll just publish my journals.
I love life.
I love Tejas.
Te amos all around!
Hna Flores

MLC was this week. Hna Van Leeuwen, Me, and Hna Canova at the mission home!
On Friday We both got Tons of goodies! It was like Christmas for Halloween! Mother thank you for all the Trader Joe's pumpkin goodness.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Last #ldsconf as a missionary.

I don't know how to convey in words the feelings that stirred in my heart as I watched conference this weekend. There were emotions of joy knowing that somewhere in the conference center my family was sitting and watching the exact same things I was. There were emotions of sadness as the realization sunk in that it would be my last general conference viewed as a full time missionary. There was emotions of faith and hope fortified as I heard the testimonies speak of our eternal purposes.
Throughout my mission I've been penning a list. A list for the future. A list of things I want to make sure are absolutes when I go home. It was such a rich experience to add to the list to receive revelation through general conference of things to do with my current and future family. I loved the emphasis placed on teaching children and youth the need to observe covenants. Scripture reading and family prayer are musts in my future home, and I thought of how when I have a child that turns 8 I want to present him.her with a beautiful genuine leather quad and teach the principles of revelation through scripture study and the art of marking scriptures. I thought of how when a child turns 12 I want as part of the celebration to go to the temple with family to do baptisms for deceased ancestors. To put it simply, I want to make sure that spiritual experiences are abundant in my home.
This week I read a talk entitled, "Spirituality" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks he speaks of viewing life through a spiritual lense and not letting insignificant, temporal things deviate us from our eternal course. He defines spirituality by saying, "As we draw farther from worldiness, we feel closer to our Father in Heaven and more able to be guided by his Spirit. We call this quality of life spirituality." Later he says, "We seek spirituality through faith, repentance, and baptism; through forgiveness of one another; through fasting and prayer; through righteous desires and pure thougts and actions. We seek spirituality through service to our fellowmen; through worship; through feasting on the word of God, in the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets. We attain spirituality through making and keeping covenants, through conscientiously trying to keep all the commandments of God. Spirituality is not acquired suddenly. It is the consequence of a succession of right choices. It is the harvest of a righteous life."
I love that.
My goal is that after the mission I continue in the achievement of spirituality. How awful would it be if the best, most spiritual years of my life were 22-23. I refuse!
In other news, my new companion is Hna St. John, or San Juan. :) She is from Bountiful, UT and just got done being trained by Hna Arcila. Hna St. John have similar interests, likes, and dislikes. Hna St. John just turned 20, and she is a stalwart. I admire her so much. Her mother passed away from cancer just 7 months ago, being her companion has definitely helped me to have a newfound appreciation for the term gratitude. Our first week wasn't the most successful teaching-wise, but we have already had so many spiritual experiences together, I am so excited for this companionship! I have so much to learn from Hna St. John. I know that if we continue to do all we can, Heavenly Father will bless us. Whether that means on the mission or after the mission I don't have the slightest idea, but I have trust in him.
p.s. So, this week was definitely "connections" week.
1. Well, I have loved the newfound penpalship (I'm coining that term right now) with the mother of an Elder I used to be in the same district as. She sent me the greatest talk this week about the enabling power of the atonement. It was such a blessing.
2. Got a random letter from a sister serving in my home stake who is a recent convert from Kingwood. So fun!
3. Received a request from my mother to visit the grandparents of an Elder currently serving in my ward. They were the sweetest.
4. Not sure if I mentioned this, but there's a family in the branch who used to attend both LB16th ward and LB7th ward. :) Hno Aguirre asked mee jokingly if I knew a "Pay Flores." He had found an old stake directory and saw my dad's name mentioned there.
All these things just help me to feel the love of my Father in Heaven and marvel at how intricate his plan truly is!
p.p.s. Just thought I'd hop on the #ldsconf twitter bandwagon. :]
With Love,
Hna Flores

Hna San Juan and I! :)
Just a cute little mickey mouse scripture countdown my mom sent me.
Meeting E. Mann's grandparents.
Family, though I couldn't be in the conference center with y'all I definitely had Subway in between sessions. My cheeks are stuffed with spicy-italian goodness.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Complete joy.

Hna Morales & Hna Flores 4 The Lord 4 The Work 4 The Memories 4 BAYBERTY!
1. 1st HOP together. Tanglewood, Dayton, LA, Bunny with Angel wings praying next to the Nutcracker. & We have minecraft!
2. Hna Flores: "Okay, so we're looking for Giovanni & Olivia." man walks up, Hna Morales:" GIOVANNI!" Hna Flores: "Are you Giovanni M_____? Do you know an Olivia P_____?" Hna Morales confused face... Hna Flores: "Hna! That's who we're looking for!"
3. F: "So Zoyla"  M: "Soilah"
    F: "Mahgahlee" M:"Mahgahli"
    M: "yeah"         F: "It's pronounced 'yay'"
4. Dropping the scissors in office depot
5. Hna Morales taking flight
6. DP squared
7. Learning Chinese with Ming-Ling our GPS
8. "RIGHHHT." Said in a Kronk-like voice
9. Teaching Zoila. Hna M: "So, how do you think the teachings of Jesus Christ can bless your life?" Hna F: *out of corner of mouth "Hna just tell her!" Hna M: "I mean, let me tell you..."
10. Hna M: "It's in the bag."
Hna F: (super animatedly) IT'S IN THE BAG???!!!
12. 4-4-4- FOR BAYBERTY!
13. Hna Morales' "best contact"
14. Our Promise with God to get the 4-4-4
15. Failed texas inspired cookies.
16. Hna F: " What's so & so's last name?" Hna M: "I don't know." Hna F: "What's so & so's last name?" Hna M: "I don't know." Hna F: "What's so & so's last name?" Hna M: "HNA I DON'T KNOW!"
17.Making an Hna Morales sized copy of our area map.
18. Hna F: "Do you have something to contribute?"
19. Shuffling to our umbrella's in the rain on our walking day.
20. Eddie's birthday party.
21. Hna Morales almost turning into the median.
22. Rowdy child in church, Hna F: "Shhh, here's some crayons. Draw Jesus."
23. MMMm mo tik tay hi yohbi!
24. Ordering at Paneras. Hna Flores gets an actual lunch. Hna Morales gets a bagel?
25. The times we broke the Hernandez's door knob.
26. Cleaning the restaurant. Hna Flores. NOT a happy camper. Hna F: "HOW IS THIS PURPOSE DRIVEN!?"
27. Champow!
28. Partying with Meeko & friends
This is such a bittersweet day! I have grown to love my companion so much. Hna Morales is not the same missionary I met at the beginning of our time together. She has grown and matured so much in our 6 week period together. Our prayers all this week were prayers of gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the revelation received to have us be companions. I have never felt so equally yoked with a companion before. The reason for this is that Hna Morales was so willing to work, so willing to contribute. I have never had better companionship studies or weekly planning sessions. Both of us contributed, Hna Morales didn't pay attention to time on the mission, she made sure to contribute her share and then some. I was so happy all throughout this transfer and I know that a great portion of this can be attributed to Hna Morales' desire to change.

There definitely was a breakdown, but it was the prelude to our breakthrough! We focused on not being selfish, and letting our Heavenly Father mold us into the daughters of God and members of the church we are both destined to be. We focused a lot on the eternal perspective, as well as open communication.  It is amazing the change that has taken place. I feel so grateful to have witnessed it.

Is Hna Morales' teaching perfect? No. Does she have PMG or the Missionary Handbook memorized? No. But she has what a missionary needs to succeed. I have told her this a countless number of times, she will change as a result of her mission, because she is allowing her Father in Heaven to refine her and mold her. Throughout this I have been changed as well! Oh I feel so complete. I feel ready to conquer whatever challenge life (or the mission, or future companions) throw at me! I feel upliftted and full of faith. I have loved these past 6 weeks! I love the satisfaction that comes from training, retraining, or rerouting someone on their missionary/life course. I have felt grateful to see a glimpse firsthand of what Heavenly Father feels when someone applies the atonement in their lives.
This week we also finished reading the Book of Mormon as a mission! We also started a LDM reading with all the less-actives we are working with, complete with a cute reading chart. It has been such a success. Our less-actives, have been progressing. They are reading the Book of Mormon. We read the Book of Mormon just a page at a time, and finished reading on my one year in tejas mark! I have loved just all the knowledge I have gained as we read slower, and paid more attention to details. As we finished the LDM, I felt so impmressed by the "thesis statement" of Moroni.
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then  is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God through the sheding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."
(Moroni 10: 32-33)
Beautiful. That is what this life is all about. That's what the Book of Mormon is all about! Abounding in Holy places. This week I also finished my read-through of all of last conferences' talks. I was so especially moved by the messages from the general YW presidency. Just some quotes I really loved mentioned in the talks:
"You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life ..., while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced." -E. Holland
"Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty." -Pres. Thomas S. Monson
I am so grateful for my mission. It is such a privilege to be here, and there's no where I'd rather be!
I love y'all. :)
Hna Flores
Carpooling with Bro. Pomeroy to the temple!
Las Latinas de BAYTOWN!
E. Owens' and I's one year in Tejas Birthday party. Thanks for the supplies Mom! 
With Hna Socorro Hernandez. :) We lovingly gave her Kenny, the Avocado plant we had growing in our apartment. 
Just my companion playing with some racoon family that we made our friends last night. Racoons apparently love sweet empanadas. Pocahontas dreams fulfilled. 
Most of the zone at our last district meal! :)