Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Año nuevo vida nueva



So basically I'm getting super excited to come home. I know I did my best in this area and I know that the Lord is proud of me and now I'm excited for this great airport reunion that's coming and all that's going to follow it. 

So here's the deal.
Anyone and everyone that wants to be at the airport when I arrive is welcome to be there. Our plane is scheduled to touch down at 1:07pm in Salt Lake international airport. You can all be there with signs and balloons and happy smiling faces if you so desire. But we have to set a couple of ground rules:

1. Mom gets the first hug, so everyone else needs to stay out of the way. After the first hug has been distributed, other hugs will be available to everyone else. I expect you all to honor the first rule. 
2. This isn't going to be a long shindig at the airport. I'll leave time for hugs all around and then obviously we have to snap some photos. But I have to run some errands, so we've got to keep this thing short.
3. Please keep in mind that just because I'm in a hurry and won't be able to give each of you the full love and attention that you deserve, doesn't mean that I love you any less. I promise that if you want time in the following days/weeks to catch up and spend time with me that I am more than excited to make it a priority to make you all feel loved and feel how much I appreciate you.

I can't think of any other rules, but those seem sufficient to me to cover all the bases. Please read and understand the airport rules before arriving at the airport on Wednesday afternoon. If you have any questions, please contact my mother if at all possible. Or Michelle. Or anyone you think would know anything about anything cause honestly I don't really have any idea what's going on either. This all feels pretty surreal right now.

Back to business.

This week has been such a blessing, really. I have felt the Savior's love for me over and over and over again. As a missionary, something that I've been really good at is always remembering that I'm in my area for a reason, and I need to trust the Lord that if I follow him, I'll get done what I need to. I think that was something that I kind of forgot when I got here to Butler, I'm not really sure why. I think it's because my whole mission I was just happy go-lucky Sister Bills. I struggled, but I was never really a "struggling missionary" persay. At least in my mind. I always felt like I had stuff under control. But when I got here to Butler, I don't know. It was just really hard. I had a lot of struggles, and I didn't really understand why. I felt super bad about it, too!! So lately I've been feeling like, "Oh, I must have let the Lord down" and stuff. Like I didn't do what he wanted me to do in this area. I honestly felt like I hadn't made a difference at all. Even though I was still working hard, still praying hard, still studying hard, still staying close to the Lord. I felt like I was doing everything I'd always done, and nothing was coming of it. I felt really worthless.

But you know who tells us stuff like that? Satan. And he is literally the worst person I know. He will make you SO sad and SO depressed. And that is super lame of him. 

But you know who is stronger than Satan? 
And He rocks. He is literally my best friend, and this week has been a blessing because I've felt like he's taken me by the hand, and led me to those people that I've impacted most while I've been in this area, and they have opened up and told me the difference that I made in their lives, and Christ has shown me how he has used me and my talents to make a difference in the lives of these people that I just adore. That's the kind of person He is. He lifts us when we are down and He pushes us to be better and to always remember him. He is the best. 

Some of these goodbyes have been super hard on me, but as I've gone around and expressed my love for the people I've met and taught, my heart has just filled with this incredible gratitude and sometimes I feel like I'm just going to explode with how blessed and grateful I am for this mission experience. 

This week has been wonderful because we were able to do tons of service as well. We volunteered at the Salvation army and we went caroling to this place with all of these severely handicapped people and we visited tons of lonely less actives and shared the Christmas video with them and brought the spirit into their home. It was such a wonderful last week. I have always said that being a missionary at Christmas is the best, and I stick to that. 

The Lord is so good to us. We are so lucky to be members of his church. 

Sorry the emails have been short. I have been having amazing experiences. I love these people. Absolutely adore them, and my heart is torn in two because I feel so sad about leaving. But I am so excited to see all of you guys again, I have missed you so much. 

So weird that as the new year comes, I'm gonna be starting a brand new chapter in my wonderful life. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings. 

Onward and upward we go. 


Hermana Bills

Monday, December 21, 2015

Feliz Navidad

This week was crazy fun!! Service, service, service. I couldn't be happier! 
It started off super good. We met up with the elders in Freeport and then drove to Pittsburgh for pday. We did some Christmas shopping in the strip district and it was super fun. Then we got to walk all over downtown Pittsburgh and take the T to meet up with some other missionaries at the point where we played ultimate frisbee in the pouring rain - which seemed like a super fun idea at the time, and then when Wads and I spent the whole week being really sick it stopped sounding like such a good idea. But in the moment it was super great. 
I'm gonna be honest... I'm like super trunky right now and have about zero motivation to write this email. 

Anyway so the service for the week started on Tuesday. Every month we do this thing called "Produce to people" where this organization donates all these fruits and vegetables to homeless and low income people. This month they donated enough for over 450 families to get produce!! It was amazing. So we help package the produce and this month they had us out handing out tickets. So what we do is we walk around with these clip boards and then the people get a ticket with a little number on it and then they show the ticket so they can get the produce. So we got to be out in the freezing cold, talking to people, laughing and handing out "A Savior is Born" pass along cards. It was so much fun. Everyone was super nice and talking and laughing with us. It warmed my little heart. Then, while we were passing out the produce, I started singing Christmas carols and making everyone laugh, and Santa even came (but he was wearing a leather vest, so I think he was feeling a little bit daring) and I think Rudolph even showed up so that was awesome! We didn't snag any pictures though, dangit! 
But it was fun. 

Wednesday was awesome because after district meeting we went caroling to three different nursing homes for HOURS and it was the best. I love when we go caroling, people are always so sweet and will sing along and get the biggest smiles on their faces. My favorite was at the second nursing home, the guy was super awesome and took us around and we went into the "memory unit" where nobody really can remember anything, but hey! When we started singing Christmas songs their eyes lit right up and they started laughing and clapping along. They were so sweet. 
Then it was really fun, we went out to the pizza hut buffet after caroling with our district and we ate our lives away. We seriously ate so much food it was sad - I don't think those pizza hut people knew what was coming. It was great. 
Then our last service project was at Katie's - it was my last Katie's ever, so I was super sad saying goodbye to people and stuff. Loretta got me a "Somebody loves you in Butler, PA" teddy bear and a Butler tshirt to say goodbye and said, "don't you forget about us!" I had to say goodbye to all of the cool people that I've grown to love to much. It was awful, goodbyes are the worst. 

But the service was awesome. TONS of people showed up to volunteer, since it was the Christmas dinner and giveaway. They did this awesome thing where a bunch of people donated like simple toiletries and food stuffs and put them in these big bags, and we were able to give them to all of the people that came in which was amazing. So that was the Christmas present that Katie's gave to everyone. 
Oh, Santa came to Katie's too!! It was awesome. 
We got to run food, which is my favorite. You wait for the people to come in that can't even walk through the line to serve themselves, whether because they're handicapped or have little kids or whatever, and then you serve them their food and you get to sit and talk to them. I love it. 

There were tons of amazing things that happened this week, we saw so many miracles, we were able to work well with the members. We are being truly blessed. 

Along with the blessings there has been some major opposition this week. I have been struggling quite a bit, Satan is really hitting me hard - trying to make me feel like I'm a failure as a missionary, trying to make me believe that I will never succeed at anything, that I should give up, that I'm going to keep failing when I get home. Those are lies. The truth is, there will always be times in our lives where we "fall short". We will all perform below our personal average some of the time. But this is no cause for alarm. "When men come unto me, I will show them their weakness." When we are working to become like the Savior, our weaknesses and faults can sometimes be blinding and really disheartening! But we are going to be okay. The Lord is going to help us and our strengths are going to overcome our weaknesses. I know that when things get too heavy for us to carry, the Lord is right there willing to take the load, all we have to do is ask him. He will take it for us, and he will strengthen us. He will never ask us to go through something we cannot handle. I know that, even when things seem hard. 

I am so grateful for the Savior, and as we celebrate his birth this week, I encourage each of you to think of the things that would be different in your life if Christ had never been born, and then spend some time on your knees thanking the Lord for all of the blessings that come because He sent his son to the earth for us. 

We have been given so much. Don't forget to give back. 
Merry Christmas, everyone. 

I love you. 
Hermana Bills

Read this talk if you're looking for some Christmas cheer :)  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat!

Well if this week didn't put me in the Christmas spirit, I can't tell you what else would. I feel like I'm bleeding red and green glitter out of both of my ears and passing out from, sugar cookie and egg nog intake. It has been an insanely festive week. 
I'll go ahead and lead off with all of the Chriatmas festivities, in order.
1 - first was the Relief Society Christmas celebration on Tuesday. We had a great dinner with the Relief Society president and talked about the needs of the sisters and got to know her better as well, and then we headed over together to the activity. It was a wonderful program. We got to spend time with all of the sisters learning about Christmas. One sister gave a talk on the wise men, another gave a talk about the wise men, and then the last sister spoke on the holy family. It was so great, I really felt like I learned a lot of new amazing things that I hadn't really thought about or realized concerning that first Christmas. The spirit was strong. We sang lots of hymns and ate good food... We were stuffed. 😷 haha. Then, at the end, we did this super cute craft. I'm not very crafty, but the sisters stepped up to help out and we were all laughing and having a good time. It was great. 
2 - the next activity was the following day and probably my favorite day of this week - Zone Conference!!! Guys, I absolutely love Zone Conferences. I love spending time with the wonderful other missionaries in this mission. They lift my spirit so much. And, especially now since every single one of them is younger than I am (except for the few elect elders that are left) it brings me back to the beginning of my mission and helps me feel young again, haha. 
But really the whole day was just absolutely perfect and fun!! I curled both mine and Sister Wadsworth's hair, and we put on our ugly Christmas sweaters and our little Christmas hats. We got to spend time with President and Sister Johnson. I love being around the Johnson's. They are probably my favorite people on this planet. The food at lunch was amazing, seriously the members out here take the best care of their missionaries, we are so spoiled. I gave my departing testimony - which was absolutely insane. I went right after Elder Glick and I remember sitting on that stand, listening to his testimony and then all the sudden it hit me... Like, "Wait, what in the world am I doing? Is this really happening?" I felt like I was stepping out of a dream. I don't really remember what was said, I just know that I made fun of President at the beginning and everyone was laughing, and then my nerves went away and I think the Spirit hopefully took over. I just kept praying that what I said helped at least one person there. 
I also sang "Mary's Lullaby", since it was Christmas zone conference (which is my favorite one!) and since it was my last zone conference, I really wanted to sing a song, even though I was SUPER nervous. Sister Wadsworth learned how to play it on the piano for me, and we practiced SO much to get it down perfect. There was just one high note that i was super scared of because I thought I wasn't gonna be able to hit it, but Elder Perry helped me do some warm ups so I would see that I could definitely hit the note. Before I got up to sing I gave Sister Johnson a huge hug and she told me to take a deep breath and not be nervous, and all my nerves just went away! I took a huge deep breath right before I got up to sing, and everything went really well, I even hit the high note without cracking!! I was so happy!! And everyone came up to me after the conference was over and was like, "Wow Sister Bills, I didn't know you could sing!" And, "Wow Hermana, you've got some serious pipes." And, "You have the prettiest voice, sister!" It made me all giddy and happy inside! People are so nice! 
We also got to watch the new mission video that Elder Haskins made. He did a super good job, I was crying and laughing and clapping. It was a wonderous film. 
When everything was over, we all went out to dinner and then went caroling as a zone!! It was super fun, we just walked around Cranberry in the rain and sang to people. We even found one family that was interested in learning more about the church and wanted the missionaries to come back! I love it when people want to learn about the gospel! It's the best. 
Anyway. But it was just seriously the best day of the entire week. I love spending time with missionaries, and I love learning about the gospel and getting pumped to share it. I love being a missionary, it is the best time of year to spread the news about the Savior and his church. 
But yeah, moving on.
3 - Christmas festivity number three was our ward Christmas party. It was great, there was an ugly sweater contest that Sister Wadsworth and I participated in, and we got honorable mention so we felt pretty legit. The food was great, we colored Christmas pictures and sang songs as a ward, we read scriptures, we frosted cookies. It was a great night walking around and saying hello to people and meeting new faces of people who haven't come out for a while. Christmas is a miracle.
4 - The last Christmas festivity of the week was our stake Christmas devotional. Sister Gibson roped us into singing a song for the devotional as a district, so we did a little mashup of "Away in a Manger" and "More Holiness Give Me" that Elder Whitmire put together. I think it went well, nobody boo'd us off the stage, at least. But the program in and of itself was spectacular. There were so many incredibly beautiful pieces of music performed, and our stake president gave an incredible testimony of the power of the Savior's love. He's a great guy. (who? The Savior, or the stake president?) Both. 
We also had the priviledge of seeing both President and Sister Johnson again, which was wonderful. He decided he would come to the program because I, along with three or four of the elders who go home with me, were going to be there, and he wanted to give us our departing temple recommend interviews. So I got to have my little interview with President Johnson and it was so amazing. There was nothing different or special about the interview, but the questions on the interview hit me in such a powerful way, because I have seen my testimony grown and change over the course of my mission. The two that especially got me was when he asked if I had faith in my Savior, and if I had a testimony of the restoration of the gospel, because my testimony of those two things has just exploded in the past 17 months. I am so blessed. I love this gospel. I love being a missionary.
But anyway. 
We were also able to do tons of service this week. As always, we volunteered at Katies kitchen which is always a highlight. I met some great new friends and I'm gonna follow them on instagram when I get home in a few weeks ;) We also got to go to do therapeutic riding and that was amazing. They just moved locations to a new indoor arena so they don't have to cancel when it gets cold, but it's been like 70 flippin degrees so I don't know what everyone is worried about!! Haha
So I'd say we've gotten ourselves into the right frame of mind for this, the last full week before Christmas. We have tons of service lined up for the week ahead, and many amazing people that we are going to see. I am so stoked. Time is definitely just flying right by!! 
If you guys haven't checked out christmas.mormon.org yet, do it! it's amazing!! 

I can't wait to just get out and share the message of Christmas this week, I will talk to you all next Monday. Love you tons!! 

Hermana Bills 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Always a Missionary

What a week!! 

So many amazing things happened this week. The first of the good news would be that we are moved out of our old apartment and into the new one!! So now all that's left is to go back and deep clean the old moldy smelly old apartment and just to thoroughly enjoy the new one for the 21 days that I get to live there. 

It is such a nice apartment. It's still pretty messy right now since we're still organizing everything, and we're also decorating for Christmas! So I'm gonna have to send you guys some pictures once it's all decorated! One of the elders from the move crew - Elder Haskins - was there a couple of transfers ago when we moved into the new Lancaster apartment in the branch, and then he was there again this week to help us with the move and he was just laughing and making fun of me. I told him "I didn't ask for this" but when we walked into the new apartment and they saw how nice it was they were like, "Yeah, you definitely had a hand in this, didn't you." 
I guess I have a bad rep in the office for being high maintenance? Oh well. 

THERE IS NO MOLD IN THE NEW APARTMENT. And the shower head feels like little angel fingers are tickling your scalp and it is wonderful and so I'm happy. 

This week we also had to go to the MedXpress for Sister Wadsworth, because she had some weird growth on her hand and we didn't know what it was and people were saying it could be a staff infection so we got told to go to the emergency room. Anyway it ended up being really bad eczema and she got some steroid cream and everything went fine. 

Then we went on exchanges with the STLs and I got to serve with Sister Sibley for the day, she is amazing and I learned so much from her. She is so sweet and always jumping in to help and give advice and just super happy all of the time. 

I also got to go to my very first ARP meeting this week and it was so spiritual and amazing. I'm not sure what you're allowed to say about them though. We went to help one of our investigators who we committed to go, and then said that they felt lonely and didn't want to go, so we went with them. It ended up being this super big miracle, because there was another lady there who didn't speak English very well and so I was able to talk with her in Spanish and help her out. It was cool to see how the Lord placed me somewhere where I needed to be. It was also a tender mercy for me to be able to use my Spanish. I have missed it. 

We also got to see the Beers this week!! It made me so happy! They taught Sister Wadsworth about geocaching and then we sat down with them and I just opened up and I told them how much they meant to me and how they had helped me, and I told them how I couldn't leave this area without trying to help them the best I could. Lisa told us that she is agnostic and wants to believe that something is out there, and Brother Beers told us that he believes in God and Christ but feels he has to do things on his own... But when we testified to them about the love that God has for each of us and how He has a plan for us individually, he got all teary eyed. I asked them if we could go through the lessons with them, and he didn't even hesitate, he said "I think that would be a great idea." and we left and I felt so happy because hopefully some day those two people that I care about SO much are going to come to the Lord and what a great day that will be. 

We also have been working with the Hoys and their older brother AJ just moved back home and he seems super legit and has come to some activities and he sat in on our lesson on Saturday so I guess we will see if anything comes of that :) 

Anyway, sorry to keep it short this week. I am feeling really excited to come home so I'm super not motivated to write anything right now. It's a good feeling. The other day I was really struggling and just felt this heavy sadness... I ended up locking myself in the dumb bathroom and just crying for like 15 minutes, and praying asking the Lord where this sadness was coming from and what I could do to overcome it. I got the prompting to go talk to my companion and she really helped me through it. I realized that I was just super sad that my mission is ending, and wondering what it will be like on the other side.

Yesterday, I decided it would be a good idea to fast for some comfort, and I really got a lot of my prayers answered during the Christmas devotional. I love living prophets. 

But I feel like the bulk of my peace came only this morning as I was studying for a less active member we are going to see tonight - I was reading about the plan of salvation, and the spirit world just stuck out to me. I couldn't stop reading D&C138 - I was just so taken by the idea that when I die I will get to be a missionary all over again! As I was reading, a line in one of the verses reminded me of a line from my patriarchal blessing, so I pulled that out and all the sudden this sweet warm peace just came over me and the spirit whispered, "You will never stop being my missionary."

Maybe I will have to take my tag off when I go home. Maybe I won't schedule lessons or sit down and teach discussions anymore. Maybe I won't have the full time calling. But I think I'm finally starting to get it - the best is yet to come, and I will always be a representative of Jesus Christ. When I was baptized, I took His name upon myself, and I've got to live like it every day. I've got to live like Him every day. 

Something that Sister Johnson always tells us has helped me as well. She says, "Your mission is like the MTC for your life." 

When I think about that, I just feel so hopeful. I think about when I was in the MTC, and how good I thought I had it then. And then I came out into the mission field and realized that there was so much more! It's the same right now as I prepare to go home, things are just going to keep getting better and better, there is no reason for me to feel sorrow. 

I will always be a missionary!! 
How lucky am I? :) 

Hermana Bills 

Monday, November 30, 2015


Many warm welcomes (FINALLY) to the Christmas season of 2015!! We have long awaited your arrival, and everything that you bring - the lights, the sights, sounds, smells and just the general feeling of Christmas. We are happy you are here!! 

So many wonderful things are happening here in Butler, PA! The first and foremeost being, the church has started a new initiative called "A Savior is Born"! When you guys get a chance, swing by christmas.mormon.org and check it out. There is a whole website and it's going to be amazing and the video will give you chills! It's only two minutes, so that's all it takes! We are busy passing out cards and inviting people to remember the real reason behind Christmas, and letting people know that Christ's gospel has been restored to the earth. What a great time to be a member of His church! 

There are also lots of other wonderful good news things to talk about today! 

1 - WE GOT A NEW APARTMENT! The apartment shopping is over! It's right on main street in the smack center of our area, it's beautiful and wonderful and we love it and can't wait to move in. There is also no mold in the bathroom and I can't tell you how thrilled I am about that. A true Christmas miracle, my friends. 

2 - I learned how to crochet this week!! So basically I'm going to be the afghan queen as soon as I can get some yarn and my own little hook! I will be crocheting afghans and baby blankets up the wazoo! I'l probably start a business! 

3 - it was Thanksgiving this week and for all you lucky chumps who got to spend it with your family, so did I! (In my own little way...) I had the grandest time skyping home and getting things all prepared for my arrival in 30 days and talking to my family and laughing with them and letting them know how much I love them. I have the absolute greatest family in the world. I can't wait to see them and hug their little necks off. 

More about Thanksgiving - it was just an all around wonderful day. We woke up in the morning and drove out to the Turkey bowl in Evans city. When we pulled up in our car, we realized that we were literally the only girls on the field, but we weren't about to let that stop us! We had a super good time playing, and I even made a touchdown! It was so fun. I love it when you step out onto the field and people are all like rolling their eyes, "who invited the girls?" and then by the end they're all like, "Who is covering the sister!?" because you're a force to be reckoned with and by golly you showed them!! Must be a pride thing ;) 

Besides the turkey bowl, we had our lunch/dinner appointment at the Jones' house. It was amazingly delicious, we stuffed our faces until we couldn't eat anymore, and then we went out for a Thanksgiving walk to enjoy the brisk autumn air and to hopefully do something productive to help ourselves feel better about the number of calories we'd just consumed. It was quite lovely. When we got back from our walk, the Jones children played their saxophones for us, and then we all told jokes and laughed so hard our stomachs were hurting. I don't know if any of you have had the experience where you've just eaten so much food that you feel like you're going to die, and then you start laughing so hard that you think you're going to throw up... it's equal parts terrifying and enjoyable. I want to recommend it, but I feel like I shouldn't. Try at your own risk, I guess. 
We also had pie after all the festivities were over because, obviously, what kind of Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without pie? 
I'd like to take a moment and personally thank the pilgrims for creating such a wonderful holiday filled with so many delightful foods. I want to shake hands with the person who first pitched that idea. What a glorious human being. 

So, yeah. Thanksgiving was great. 

We also had a super productive week as far as lessons go. Some highlights from my week were:

1- Bill, obviously. He's doing so well. He got a priesthood blessing yesterday to help him stay strong with living the word of wisdom. He's over a week with no smoking now and we are getting everything set up for his baptism on the 12th. We are praying so hard for him, he's gonna start going to the ARP meetings and we are so excited for him! We had two awesome lessons with him this week, one at the Bonetti's house. We talked about Joseph Smith, and how we all face persecution and times of darkness, but that we just have to stay strong! Then we invited one of the sisters in the ward who quit smoking several years ago to come out with us and they shared experiences and things that he has been doing. I guess he got into an accident at work with a hose and it bruised his ribs and he said it hurts him to breathe and so he hasn't been smoking and he said, "I prayed for help and I guess the Lord has a funny way of helping out." 
He works in mysterious ways, my friends.

2- AMY AND IAN. Okay we had this super amazing lesson... Amy is a less active member, she has been struggling with the word of wisdom for a long time but she has such a powerful testimony of the church. She recently met Ian and they started dating. He said he was an atheist and wasn't open to learning about the church. But the more she talked about it, the more it made sense to him. So she told him about the missionaries, and he said that he wanted to meet with us. SO WE MET WITH HIM, and it was like one of the best lessons of my mission, I mean they were both lighting up the whole time we were teaching and I came out with my head reeling from all the second hand smoke, but he said he wanted to read the Book of Mormon and that he'd come to church next week, and they wanted to meet with us again. He told us, "I'm not converted, but I'm ready to learn." His heart is going through this tremendous change and it's amazing to see the atonement at work in his life! 

3- Nora! Nora is this adorable little Chinese girl that I love teaching because she literally knows nothing about God or faith or anything. I've never taught the gospel so simply before and it's such a neat experience. We saw her yesterday and we were talking about what faith is and her eyes were just lighting up. At the end, we invited her to pray, and she did! She said it in Chinese. I told her she had to say "Amen" in English though, so we'd know when she was done haha. She's been reading the Book of Mormon and loves Nephi. She is adorable. 

4- Cynda! Cynda is this awesome lady that literally lives right next door to the church. She found out about the church because of a quilting groub and she loves quilting, so now she's pretty good friends with a lot of the ladies. Anyway, we felt a prompting to stop by yesterday, so we took one of her friends and dropped in and she said she's interested in learning, but she brought up the handbook change about homosexual couples and their children. Anyway, she's the first person that's brought it up to us, but we were able to have a really open conversation and it was really good. She said she would like to learn more, and it was really cool! 

5- things seem to be going really well with Perry as well. Last time we saw him, he said he was going to decide on a baptism date and let us know the next time we meet! SO hopefully it's good news tomorrow when we have our lesson! 

There are so many other wonderful things that happened this week, and so many things to be grateful for. I absolutely adore these people that I'm working with. The Hook family has been an incredible blessing in my life - Anthony and Sister Hook are some of my role models. I love the Hoys. Tira and Shana and Shakira and Lamont are the funniest kids in the whole world, they make me laugh all the time. Sister Cook and Sister Critchlow and Sister Demartini and Jeanette and Tiny and all of these people I just love. I finally feel like Butler is my home, and I am terrified of saying goodbye. God has blessed me so much, I am the luckiest girl alive. 

I love Him more than anything!! 
Give thanks for the blessings in your life, and remember the greatest blessing of all as Christmas gets closer and closer - Christ was born, and He lives today!! He is your Savior! HE LOVES YOU! What a joyful message. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to everyone. 

We'll talk more next week. 

Hermana Bills 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Just so Thankful and Stuff

This week has been absolutely amazing!! 

First off, transfer meeting was great. I got to see so many people that I love. It was a really different atmosphere because none of us were stressing or worried about where we were going, we all already knew... so that was really weird but also nice. No stress. I got to spend time with Sister Duncan which is always a blessing. And, of course, got to see President and Sister Johnson. Love them. 

But anyway, I picked up Sister Wadsworth and we headed back to Butler with the Slippy elders - Elder Perry and little Elder Smith who just came from the branch. We made jokes all the way back. I was so happy. I haven't felt that happy in a long time. 

And the happy just hasn't gone away. Serving with Wads is like a dream come true. We were already super good friends and everything, so there were really no awkward "get to know you" questions. And on top of that, she just fits right in here in Butler. The people already love her, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out how she's only been here for one week? It feels so natural to have her around. It has been so wonderful. 
Unfortunately, the majority of our week has been spent apartment shopping, which is frustrating. I'm super excited to work hard, but our priority has to be finding a new apartment, because our landlord now hates us and we have to be out byDecember 15 - that's like, moved out, deep cleaned, everything. So we're a little bit stressed. But we saw some really good apartments this week (and some really not so good ones) but I think we're really close to making a decision. We have two apartments to look at tomorrow, maybe three. After that, I think we will need to just make a decision. It's weird to be apartment shopping as a missionary and calling all these landlords and explaining to all of them why we're wearing nametage and why we aren't using our first names, etc, etc. haha. It's been good exposure though, I guess? People like us... so... :) 
As usual, we went to Katies this week. The people loved Wads, and I took her up to see the sanctuary. I love it up there, it's so cool. I feel like I'm sitting in the Hunchback of Notre Dame or something. Super legit. 

We also went to do therapeutic riding on Saturday. It was freezing, but we groomed Ally and side walked with William and he sang old McDonald, as usual. I absolutely love that kid. He has the best memory in the world, and cares so much about people. If someone isn't there, he asks about them and makes sure they're okay. It is the sweetest thing. He makes me smile all the time. Those kids are angels. 

Bill isn't doing so well... we're super worried about him. We had a lesson with him on Saturday, he was feeling really sick. We help him finish painting his house and then we talked about revelation through church attendance, and he noted a couple of times where he'd come to church and felt the spirit really powerfully and knew what they were teaching was true. I think it was really good for him, just to realize he does know how the spirit feels/speaks to him. We were over at his place with Sister Allison and then our dinner appointment called and cancelled, so we decided to go out to eat all together, it was super fun, and we actually ended up meeting this guy who is actually a super less active member of our ward and we gave him our number so that hopefully he can start coming to church again! That would be awesome. 
But anyway, Bills came to church on Sunday and had to leave halfway through. He wasn't feeling very well, but we didn't hear from him all day and we were really worried. I thought he was dead somewhere on the side of the road. But I guess he just slept most of the day. We told him to go to a doctor but he said he didn't want to... *sigh. Men.

We also saw Lamont this week - he's doing awesome and he still wants to go on a mission! So that was good news. He always keeps me updated on the walking dead!!  But yeah he sprained his ankle playing volleyball so he's on crutches. Lame. But his mom sat down with us and said that their whole family might start coming to church and that would be amazing! So I'm crossing my fingers. 

We also saw Jeanette and Tiny this week. They are some of my favorite people in this world. Jeanette is so crafty and selfless. She is making me this big afghan - she makes them for all the sisters. They seem to be doing well. I love spending time with them. Hopefully some of their charity and faith will rub off on me!! :) 

I was talking with Sister Wadsworth last night and I was just like talking about how hard it's going to be to leave my mission because there are so many people I love out here. They mean everything to me. Like... okay. Sometimes I think my heart is this big patchwork quilt with all these little pieces, and each one of the little pieces is a person or a place or a memory. And I think that the patches of the investigators or less active people I've worked with are gold because I think the Lord took the patches off of His heart and put them on mine. Because I love these people like I've never loved anyone or anything else. I didn't even know love could be this strong!! I would do anything, give anything for them. I know it's not my own love, I know it's His love. It's a crazy feeling and I think about saying goodbye to those faces and saying goodbye to this place and my heart just hurts at the idea of it. I know the Lord will help me and I'll be okay, but sometimes it's just a painful thought. This is my home, I love PA with all my heart. This mission has meant absolutely everything to me.

I got this email from my mom the other day that said, "thank you for your service and sacrifice." and I laughed out loud and thought, "what sacrifice?" Seriously, can someone tell me where the sacrifice is? I come out here, my family supports me, I get to see these amazing places and meet these amazing people. God has taught me to love so powerfully, he's helped me grow to become more like Him... there are so many blessings he's just poured into my heart, my cup literally is running over. Where is the sacrifice? This is the most worthwhile thing I've ever done with my life. I love being a missionary. 

I'm seriously just so grateful. And I'm grateful for my wonderful support group. I have so many people (including each of you) who do so many things for me, and I don't know where I would be without you!! Thank you!! 

And thank the Lord! 

Happy Thanksgiving. 
If you aren't the turkey, give thanks!! 

Hermana Bills 

Monday, November 16, 2015

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN dodododo dododododo dodododo dodododododo do dododo dodododododododooooodooooooooo dddooooo

Well kids, today officially marks the beginning of my last transfer as a full time missionary for the Lord. I can't believe it. Milestones, people. I don't really feel trunky... I mean part of me is definitely excited to hop on the plane and come home and see each of you. But really I just feel super motivated to work so hard and to do what the Lord wants me to do. A lot is going to happen in these next 6 weeks, and I still have a lot of growing to do. So I'm excited for that. 
First things first. Transfer calls came Saturday night and Sister Welch is headed to Monongahela and you will never believe who is coming to be my new companion.
For those of you who are like, "Should I be excited by that name?" the answer is a resounding YES! Sister Wadsworth is flippin amazing! She was in the megafamily with me last transfer! We literally had sleepovers and just played and had fun every single pday and now we get to be companions so it's gonna be every single DAY. 
So that is amazing. 
Also, if you're wondering, "where, how do you already know where Grapejuice is going and who is coming to Butler?" the answer is: someone finally decided to listen to my ideas and change the way transfers are done! 😉 haha no, just kidding. But for reals, way back in the day when I was on the MLC I brought up the fact that transfers are stressful and we talked about ideas of how to improve it and now, finally,months later, it's finally for realz. They decided that to help transfers go more smoothly, that they'd tell us on Saturday night 1- who is getting transferred, 2- where they're going and who their new companion is, 3- who their replacement will be in their current area. Then, once they give you all that information, they send you your transfer logistics and expect you to look at them and make sure that when you show up to the transfer meeting on Tuesday that you know what the game plan is. 
Long story short, I am super pleased with the new way they're doing transfers... Especially since it's the last time I'm really gonna be affected by a transfer since I'm pretty positive about where my new area is going to be next transfer ;) haha. 
But anyway, I have a TON of stuff to tell you guys so I've got to move on. 
As far as weeks go, this one was pretty fantabulous. Monday we had a huge pday with a ton of missionaries up in Slippery Rock and we emailed and went bowling together and then played frisbee and then indoor soccer and we all had dinner together and it was awesome. Then I got to go on an exchange with Hermana Busath who is my granddaughter (cause I trainer Hermana Landa and she trained Hermana Busath so... #missionlingo) but anyway it was just the greatest blessing. It felt like catching up with an old friend, it was amazing. 
I don't know if I'm mentioned it too much... I know I like to stay positive when I can... But this transfer has just been so hard for me. For lots of different reasons. In a lot of ways, I'm grateful it's over. But I'm also so grateful it happened because I learned so much about myself in the process. But anyway, it was just kind of a nice escape - to be able to head out to Franklin and to see some new faces. It was such a fun exchange. 
Our goal going into the exchange was to pass out 2 copies of the Book of Mormon and to be more courageous in street contacting people. So that was our mindset. We taught a bunch of lessons and it was awesome. 
One good experience - we went to see one of their investigators. They had a set lesson with him and everything, but he wasn't answering the door. So we were headed back to the truck when we saw this guy walking his dog, and we decided to go give him a Book of Mormon. He said he was pagan but that he would read the book. His dog was psycho. Then we headed back to the truck, and their investigator was standing outside the house looking for us! So we went inside and sat down with him, and he had a bunch of friends over and so we just started preaching the word to all of them. And he had a pretty wicked sweet testimony of his own, so he was jumping in just saying how what we were teaching was true and stuff. Super rad. And all the while, more and more people just kept coming through the door and they all had questions and were super interested to know more and we ended up giving out a bunch of pamphlets and three Book of Mormons! So then we had four for the day! It was a super legit lesson. 
Oh, but funny story from that... So when we walked in and sat down, the guy was like, "oh, let me turn on the light" and he flips the switch and this red and black light turn on and he's like, "dangit, we forgot to change the party light." hahaha he told us how the night before they'd had a super big party and I was dying it was so funny cause here we are, sitting in this living room with a bunch of legitimate gangsters and one of them just lights up right in front of us and we've got this party light on... Super funny. 
Anyway! The other really cool story is Danielle. It was getting just about time to head back to Butler, and we were trying a couple of less actives and things just weren't working out. When we were knocking on this one door, we noticed a lady right across the street smoking a cigarette and talking to a little girl. So we went to talk to her. Anyway, long story short... We ended up having this super amazing gospel conversation and she actually had a substance abuse counselor who was a Mormon and she had always wanted to learn more, plus she had just moved to town to be a live-in nanny and she was looking for a church to attend and we were like, "We can help with that!" and it ended up being really amazing. I need to call Hermana Busath and see how things went with the return appointment. She was super cool! 
When we got back from exchanges, we had dinner with the Beers, they wanted to take us out to eat. It was super amazing, they're the nicest people ever. I love them with my whole heart. My biggest desire in this area is to start teaching Lisa because I absolutely just adore her. So hopefully something happens. 
We met another cool family this week, they're Messianic Jews and they told us that they're pretty happy with their religion right now, but just based off of what Mike was saying about how they found their religion and why they decided to go there, he's looking for the restored gospel. We were respectful and had a good conversation and Sister Adduru (our team up) threw down about the Book of Mormon and encouraged them to read it and find out what's inside and they both agreed. They're the cutest little family. Mike and Karie and Elijah and Asau and Isabella and their little dog Cookie. So I think we might invite them to the Christmas party or to come play volleyball with us on Tuesdays or something. We will see. 
Some more exciting things that happened this week:
1- I got to teach a lesson in Spanish this week to our investigator Neftali and it made me super happy. I love teaching in Spanish, I wish Neftali would just move to Lancaster and get baptized in the branch because the members would love the heck out of him! 
2- We got to have dinner with the Adduru family and they made us delicious curry and they have the absolute cutest kids in the world, especially their little girl, she was so funny. She was trying to convince her dad that she was sick so she could get some medicine and he said that she didn't sound very sick so she needed to show him that she was sick and she said, "Well the cough isn't here right now so how am I supposed to show you?" And she was just the sassiest little girl. It was so funny. 
The Adduru kids burying their cat!
3- We had a great lesson with Bill. He's struggling again because his dogs both died and he's been having some family problems and so he's been smoking a little bit again. It's kind of sad but we know he's gonna be okay and some day he's gonna make it to baptism. He still comes to church and Book of Mormon class every single week. This week he was like, "I just want to get baptized so I can get up on fast Sunday and bear my testimony about the church and the Book of Mormon." And we were like, "oh Bill! You don't have to be a member to get up!" And his face just lit up and he looked so happy like all of his dreams were coming true. Super precious. 
But anyway, that about sums things up for this week. 
Honestly, I am just looking forward to these next six weeks so much, and honestly to these next couple of years of my life. The other day I was sitting, kind of kicking myself for how I've fallen short in a couple of things these past couple of weeks and I was just letting myself get really down. Honestly, this transfer has been one of the hardest transfers of my entire mission. But at the same time, I have learned so much about myself and about Jesus Christ through it all. I have been so blessed. But I couldn't help but feel disappointed in myself as I looked back on all of my shortcomings and the times where I felt that I could have done better. And then one of the wonderful members of our ward got up the other day in Relief Society and gave this wonderful lesson, and there was a quote in there that I needed to hear so much. It said, "God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than who we once were."
That hit me like a ton of bricks, and that is why I am choosing now to look forward and not back. I can't change what happened in the past, but I can allow it to make me become stronger and better. He knows who I have the potential to become, and He's going to help me get there, but we have to be looking forward if we want to get there. Like my coach always taught me, you have to be looking at the rim before you take the shot, or you're not gonna make it in. We have to look forward to our goals to be successful. That's what God asks of us. He doesn't care about when we fall short as long as we get back up and keep moving. Christ has paid for our mistakes, He loves us. He wouldn't want us to get down on ourselves. 
So to those of you who are struggling, just remember that you matter so much to God!! He adores you and He has a perfect plan for you. He knows you can make it, and I know you can too!! 
I love you guys. 
Hermana Bills