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