Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 31st, 2014

I decided to finish of the best year of my life by spending my day with the Sister Missionaries in my home ward. 

I was able to go to my first district meeting, which was definitely a blast. One of the sisters discussed the baptismal invitation and then we did a role-play in which we practiced teaching the Restoration. I pretended to be someone who was not a member of the church. It was an incredible feeling. I was finally able to understand why people are drawn to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I channeled my "inner-investigator," I was amazed at the spirit I was able to feel, despite the situation being only a role-play. 

One of the best parts of the role-play was the list of blessings one of the Elders brought to my attention. He began to explain to me all of the wonderful blessings I could receive by following Jesus Christ, especially having a relationship with God. I wish I could adequitely describe the overwhelming feelings of joy I had as I listened to his words. 

I was also very moved by the invitation that the missionaries "extended" to me. Extending an invitation to baptism is a very scary and a very intimidating thing. Yet when the missionaries were speaking to me, I was sure that the decision to be baptized was my choice. No one was pressuring me into making this decision. I wholeheartedly felt in control of the choice when I was extended the invitation. 

After the district meeting, we went "spirit tracting." Spirit tracting basically means we drive/walk around the area and we follow the spirit as He guides us to homes where people may be ready and wanting to hear about Jesus Christ. We did this for about two hours before we finally began visiting church members' homes instead. Unfortunately, none of the members were home, and everyone whose door we knocked on politely declined our offer. 

This was incredibly disheartening for me to experience. Each time before we knocked on a door, we would pray that the person behind that door would be home, and that they would be excited to hear about God's Plan for them. At some point, I began to really ask myself whether or not God was even listening. To be quite blunt, it felt like He did not care. Each time I prayed, I felt as though I was speaking to a brick wall with no response. Our prayers were honest and sincere, yet we had no luck. 

I kept silently praying that I would be comforted and that I would see some type of progress. 

I heard a phrase once that explained that some missionaries are "sowers", while others are "reapers." While I'm sure it is disheartening to never feel like you have made any progress, it was even more disheartening to not even be able to hold a conversation with anyone. More than anything, I just wanted to show these individuals my love for them, and God's love for them. I wouldn't even mind being a sower. Yet I felt completely useless in the hands of God because we were not able to get past a "hello we are missionaries" and a "no thanks, we aren't interested, goodbye." 

How am I supposed to fulfill my purpose as a missionary if I can't even say more than a simple sentence to them? 

I've also come to realize that this is such a "wo is me" attitude. 

And I'm not actually even a missionary yet!

During the district meeting today, though, we watched a video (click here to watch) about the life of Christ, with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's message to missionaries (click here to read) as a narration. Elder Holland explained that "missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience." He continued to explain the immense sacrifice Christ made, and he pointed out that despite all our challenging experiences, Christ has already suffered for it. 

We then read Doctrine & Covenants 122: 5-9, all of which list the most awful things that could happen to an individual. The passage explains that "even if the very jaws of Hell shall gape open after thee, know thou my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." But the verse that really struck me stated: "The Son of Man hath descended below all things. Art thou greater than He?" 

Despite the challenges now and the challenges ahead I know I will face in missionary work, I am comforted in knowing that this is not my work. My purpose as a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ. My responsibility is to put my trust in God, and open my mouth. 

And though I struggle to understand why our genuine prayers were not answered, I am comforted knowing that Heavenly Father has a plan. He loves us. He loves you. And He loves these people in Colorado. He loves the people in Georgia. And He is eager for the day when He can wrap His arms around each child of his and say: "Welcome home."

Happy new year to you all!

(This picture has no relevance, I just thought it would be a good one to share)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mission Music

Last updated: February 9th, 2015

Because each mission can be so different in regards to approved music, I have compiled a list of music that follows the church approved guidelines: 

"Listen only to music that is consistent with the sacred
spirit of your calling. Music should invite the Spirit,
help you focus on the work, and direct your thoughts
and feelings to the Savior. Do not listen to music that
pulls your thoughts away from your work, merely
entertains, has romantic lyrics or overtones, or dulls
your spiritual sensitivity by its tempo, beat, loudness,
lyrics, or intensity."

I try to picture myself listening to a specific song or artist while studying the scriptures with my companion, or driving in the car on the way to meet with an investigator. 

By following this church's guidelines, I also found that there is a ton of non-denominational Christian music that makes me feel incredibly excited to start my mission. 

Here is a visually friendly guide:
Red: other Christian
Blue: well-known LDS 
Purple: instrumental/other

Most color-coding will be based on artists. Most songs will be black, but some will be color-coded if it doesn't match the color given to the artist. 

So, without further adieu, enjoy: 

  •  Addison Kirk
    • Called To Serve
    • Onward Christian Soldiers
    • Farewell Medley 
    • I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go
  • All Sons & Daughters
    • Your Glory/Nothing But The Blood (Live)
    • Christ Be All Around Me
  • Anne Britt
    • Does The Journey Seem Long?
  • Audrey Assad (This was a dynamite discovery)
    • Lead, Kindly Light**
      • (One of the best versions of this song)
    • Lead Me On
    • I Shall Not Want
    • Good to Me
    • You Speak
    • Restless
    • Love Is Moving
    • Humble
  • Autumn Jones Wagner
    • Come Unto Christ
  • Bellarive
    • I Know You **
  • Bethany Dillon
    • How Great Is Our God
    • Let Your Light Shine
    • Hallelujah 
  • Beyond 5
    • I Need Thee Every Hour
  • Britt Nicole
    • Set The World On Fire (Acoustic)**
    • Walk On Water (Acoustic)
      • **This is probably going to be the theme song of my mission**
    • The Lost Get Found (Acoustic)
    • Found By You (Acoustic)
    • The Sun Is Rising
  • BYU Vocal Point
    • I Stand All Amazed
    • Lead, Kindly Light
    • I Need Thee Every Hour
    • Be Still, My Soul
    • Nearer, My God, To Thee
    • Praise To The Man (A Capella)
  • Chad Woolner
    • Does The Journey Seem Long?
    • How Great Thou Art
  • Chris Rice
    • Rock Of Ages
    • Come Thou Fount
  • City Hymns
    • How Long, Oh Lord
  • Colton Avery
    • Listen
  • Daniel Beck
    • Abide With Me 'Tis Eventide
  • David Potter
    • Be Thou My Vision**
  • David Tolk
    • In Perfect Silence**
    • Redeemer of Israel
    • For the Beauty of the Earth/Beautiful Savior
  • Elizabeth Ganier & Linze Struiksma
    • Savior, Redeemer Missionary Medley
  • Hillsong United
    • Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)**
  • Jenessa Buttars
    • The Girl I Am
  • Jenny & Tyler
    • When Darkness Falls
  • Jessica French
    • When I Go
  • Jill Phillips
    • Sacred
  • JJ Heller
    • All I Need
    • Your Hands
    • Have Mercy On Me
    • Kingdom Come
  • Julie Yardley
    • Even When You're Broken
  • Kari Jobe
    • Be Still
    • Here (acoustic)
  • Laura Hackett
    • You Satisfy My Soul
    • How He Loves 
  • Laura Story
    • Blessings
  • Lindsey Kane
    • It Is Well (feat. Bethany Dillon)
  • Lisa Gungor
    • When You Come
  • The Lower Lights
    • For the Beauty of the Earth
    • There Is A Green Hill Far Away**
    • Lead, Kindly Light
    • Be Thou My Vision
    • I Stand All Amazed
    • Nearer My God To Thee
    • Where Can I Turn For Peace?
    • God Be With You Till We Meet Again
  • Lyndsi Houskeeper
    • Come Unto Christ
  • Nela Otuafi
    • How Can I Be?
  • Noteworthy
    • Come, Come Ye Saints
  • Pablo Perez
    • My God is King (feat. Laura Hackett)
  • Patch Crow
    • All I Need To Know
  • Paul Cardell
    • (Basically Anything)
    • I Know That My Redeemer Lives
    • Redeemer ** 
    • Life and Death **
    • I Love To See The Temple
    • Israel, Israel God Is Calling
    • The Spirit of God
    • I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go
    • Letting Go
    • Coming Home
    • Sweet is the Work
    • Come Thou Fount
  • Prince of Egypt Soundtrack (I was very careful with these songs to make sure they were not just for entertainment purposes)
    • The Burning Bush 
    • When You Believe (by Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky)
  • Rob Gardner
    • He Is Jesus Christ
    • A Poor Wayfaring Man Of Grief
    • Praise To The Man
    • I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go
    • More Holiness Give Me
    • Beautiful Savior
    • Come Thou Fount 
    • I Know That My Redeemer Lives
    • Come, Come Ye Saints
    • You Have Nothing To Fear
    • Gethsemane
    • Jesus, My Savior
    • Finale (Here Is Hope)
  • Shane & Shane
    • Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
  • Sleeping At Last
    • Saturn
  • Steven Sharp Nelson
    • Beautiful Savior
    • Be Still My Soul
    • Come, Come Ye Saints
    • God Be With You Till We Meet Again
    • Redeemer (feat. Paul Cardall)
    • Come Thou Fount (feat. Paul Cardall)
    • God Be With You (feat. Paul Cardall)
    • Still, Still, Still (feat. Marshall McDonald)
  • Sufjan Stevens
    • Come Thou Fount
  • Tenth Avenue North
    • I Need You, I Love You, I Want You
    • Times
    • Worn**
  • United Guitar Players
    • How Great Thou Art
  • Will Morrison (Another totally dynamite find)
    • 10,000 Reasons (Acoustic)
    • Forever Reign (Acoustic)
    • How Deep the Father's Love (Acoustic)
    • How He Loves (Acoustic)
    • I Need Thee Every Hour (Acoustic)
    • Mighty to Save (Acoustic)
    • Oceans (Acoustic)
    • One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails) (Acoustic)
  • Will Reagan
    • How He Loves (feat. Laura Hackett)
And for my Spanish-speaking friends! 

  • Kari Jobe
    • Espera
  • Samaritan Revival
    • Oceanos
  • Su Presencia 
    • 10,000 Razones
    • Cuan Grade Es El
  • Marcela Gandara
    • El Mismo Cielo
    • Guía Nuestro Camino
    • Lugar De Intimidad
  • Nela Otuafi
    • Como Puedo Ser
  • Yvonne Muñoz 
    • Dios Te Guardará

** These are the songs I pretty much can't live without. Seriously, these are dynamite. 

I will be continually updating this playlist as I begin to find more great songs. Please comment with any suggestions! 

Waiting Patiently On The Lord

My availability date to begin serving a mission was January 5th, 2015. This made it possible for me to turn in my papers (or my mission application-- so to speak) as early as September 5th, 2014.

So, being the eager, impatient "go-getter" that I am, I began trying to fill out my paperwork as soon as possible.

I was very discouraged as the process began. So many problems began to arise.

The first-- and probably the worst-- problem I encountered was my lack of a desire to serve.
For as long as I could remember, I have been looking forward to the day I would be able to serve my Heavenly Father as a missionary. Yet when it finally came time, I lost all desire. I began to find reasons not to serve. I felt like being a missionary wasn't for me. I felt like I could do a wonderful work for God while staying in school.
To be clear, I believe the choice I made to serve a full-time mission was entirely my choice and I would have been just as successful if I had chosen to stay in Utah and continue my life. I have many cherished friends who have chosen not to serve missions, and their examples showed me that if I did choose to stay, I would still be wonderfully blessed.
However, in the back of my mind, I knew I needed to leave behind my life for a new one and serve God for these next eighteen months.
But my desire to do so was completely gone.

The second problem I encountered was the fact that I never had felt like God had told me "this is exactly what you need to do."
Going on a mission was something that always made sense to me, and it always felt right for me to go.
But during this process, I realized that I had never actually asked God if that is what He wanted from me. I always assumed it was. And I was very discouraged when I prayed and prayed (and prayed) and continued to feel like He hadn't given me an answer.

My third problem was that so many new and wonderful opportunities began to come up.
For example, I was offered an ideal job working as a psychiatric technician at the Utah State Hospital. I was also already working as a nanny with some of the most wonderful children I had ever met. The social work program at Utah Valley University (the school I am attending) is starting a new program in August 2015, and I have so many recommendations now that I can use. By taking this path, I would graduate a year and a half earlier than expected. I was meeting so many people, forming countless wonderful friendships. To sum up, life had never been so fruitful and promising.

And I would have to leave all this behind into the complete unknown.

It is important to realize that while missionary work is beautiful and wonderful, it does not come without a cost. My largest fear of serving a mission is the rejection and ridicule. What many people don't fully realize is how scary it is to serve a mission. As I explained above, my life up to this point has been quite wonderful and secure. Almost everything was going my way. And to serve a mission meant that I would need to give all that up to serve God sun up to sun down, and from time to time, facing ridicule and rejection. I would have to pour out my whole precious testimony to some people who may completely reject it.

Yet with all this fear, I am completely comforted knowing that I am trusting in a God who loves me, who cares for me, and likewise cares for all His children. And by putting myself out there and by giving up my "perfect" life for something terrifying, I know I will come to find that it is the best choice I will make up to this point in my life.

Both the first and the second issues explained above were very much resolved, but not in my timing. I truly believe one of the most crucial things I needed to learn during this experience of doubt and frustration was that Heavenly Father is in control. This is His work. Not mine. Not my companion's.

I had to learnt that waiting patiently on the Lord does not mean sitting around twiddling your thumbs. Waiting patiently means actively doing important things in your life. I had to actively prepare to serve a mission, despite not feeling guided in any particular direction.

One of my most cherished moments in life is the moment I opened my mission call. After months of doubting myself and doubting God, I instantly received an overwhelming feeling of comfort and confirmation from the Lord that Georgia is exactly where I need to be.

God bless,

(future) Sister Abram

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Language Update

Two weeks ago, I took a language evaluation over the phone with the Missionary Training Center. There are three levels of language learning in the MTC: Beginner, Immediate, and Advanced. Beginner and Immediate are both six-week programs, while Advanced is on a two-week track. Basically, you show up to the MTC and you aren't given much language instruction. They just teach you how to be a missionary in your designated language.

I called them this morning to find out my results, and I am overjoyed to find out that I will be in the Advanced class! While this usually changes your report date, mine will remain the same. I will still report to the Provo MTC on February 18th, 2015, but I will be there for two weeks. This means more time out in the field!

I cannot express how appreciative I am of my Heavenly Father and for His hand in my life. I know that the time I have spent learning Spanish was not a coincidence, but was, in reality, a direct guide from Him so that I would be more equipped to serve His sons and daughters in Georgia.

God bless,

(Future) Sister Abram

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Trying on mission clothes with my wonderful roommates mission tag! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mission Acceptance Letter

I have kind of been avoiding writing my acceptance letter for the past few days. This is almost completely due to the fact that I haven't really known what to say. Saying "yes, I accept" seems to plain and simple, but saying "yes" and listing all the things on your mind seems like overkill. But I also can't get my information from my mission president until I accept the call, so that's what I worked on tonight.

It was a bit challenging for me because I wasn't sure what kind of testimony to include. I could talk about my testimony of temples, family history, the Word of Wisdom, church attendance, prayer, etc. But none of those seemed to fit.

When I finally just started writing, the words began to flow. It honestly seemed like Heavenly Father was giving me the words to say. The words were my testimony based on personal experience, but He helped me understand what made this call to Georgia so perfect.

Before writing, though, I read in my journal from the night I received my call. One of my favorite thoughts I wrote down was, "Despite all the conflicting avenues, I still feel complete peace and love throughout it all. Finally, my prayers were answered. And in an exponentially better way than I ever imagined."

Although I did not exactly include it in my acceptance letter, I realized that one of the biggest things I learned from my mission call experience is that God knows what He is doing. And while you think you have it all figured out, waiting patiently (another post to come about that subject) on Him will bring you unthinkable blessings that will far outweigh your dinky little plan for your life.

Trust in Him. Remember, "Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:27)."

Here is my acceptance letter:

Dear Brethren,
From the bottom of my heart, I thank both you and Heavenly Father for this wonderful call I have received to serve in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission. I knew as soon as I read the call that there was not a more perfect place for me to serve. After weeks of confusion and doubt, I now have an overwhelming confirmation that this call was directly from Heavenly Father and this is a place where I can best exercise my talents and abilities on His behalf.

I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to teach in the Spanish language. I have been studying Spanish my whole life, and I have truly fallen in love with both the language and the many Hispanic cultures. I believe my education and the love I already have for these people will provide me with a way to more efficiently invite others to come unto Christ and provide a way for Heavenly Father's children to feel His love for them. Through the Spirit, I pray to be able to be a light to those among whom I serve.

Again, I thank you so much for this opportunity, and I gratefully and enthusiastically accept this call to serve my Father in Heaven.


Sister Madeline Abram

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 20th, 2014

Oh man, this day was filled with more excitement than I can begin to describe. This process of receiving my mission call was one of the most testing, trying, and teachable experiences of my life.

First, you have to know that I have always wanted to serve a mission. "Mission" was probably one of my first words, and I was always positive it was something I wanted to do. Yet when it came time for me to finally make it happen, I had so many doubts.

In September (the time when I would be able to submit my mission application), I realized that I had never had a true confirmation or feeling from God that serving a mission was the right thing to do. I had always just assumed it was, but I had never asked. The weeks went on and I never got that "fuzzy warm" feeling that made it clear that this was something I should do. However, I decided to continue with my mission papers and wait for Heavenly Father to answer me on His own time.

The weeks went on and life got more confusing. I was presented with several different paths, all of which were very great paths to take. Some of my options included a great job, continuing my education, being able to apply to my program for August 2015, and continuing to be a full part of the lives of my friends and family. Weeks went by and as I prayed, I still didn't receive an answer. I finally made the decision to stay. I registered for classes, I maintained, and was offered, two very great jobs. I even was able to find a way to keep my contract so I could live with my close friends.

On Thursday, November 20th, 2014, I went to the Provo, Utah temple with one of roommates. There, I prayed that I would have direction. I pointed out to Heavenly Father that I had done everything I could do with the knowledge that I had. But I left without an answer. Again.

That morning, the mail lady (bless her soul), called me on my cell phone to let me know she would be delivering my mission call that day. When I got home, it was there, much to my surprise. I was so nervous that when I opened it, the answer would be no.

When I was finally able to open my mission call, I could not believe the amount of peace and joy I felt as I read the words, "You are assigned to labor in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission." But what really got me was the line, "You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language."

I have fallen in love with the Spanish language throughout my life, and I have put years and years of dedication and study into learning as much as I could about how to speak, read, write the words and years of dedication into learning cultures and customs.

Sometimes in the LDS church, we tend to have this grand expectation that a mission call to Switzerland, South Africa, or Russia and such are the only worthwhile calls. Most, if not all, RM's will tell you that no matter where you go, it is 100% worthwhile. Yet until you are reading that call and until you receive that wonderful confirmation from Heavenly Father, it's hard to fully understand.

Yet as I read that call over and over again later that night, I began to see how perfectly my Heavenly Father knows and loves me. Just this semester I decided to take a Spanish class that was only offered at night. I wanted to brush up on my knowledge since I had lost a lot of it since being out of high school. I had to give up clubs that I was passionate about, a social life, "free time", and so on. Yet once I realized that I would be preaching the gospel that I treasure so dearly in a language that I treasure so dearly, I realized there was no way this was a coincidence. Let's not forget that I have always dreamed of moving to Georgia. I love the humidity (call me crazy), I love the south, I love the people, and I love the food.

This experience taught me patience, it taught me faith, it taught me trust, it taught me that God knows and loves me. He provided me with countless tender mercies along the way, just so I would know that He was listening.

Giving up 18 months of my life is the scariest thing I have ever done. I will leave behind my family, my friends, my education, my job, my freedom (I will be with another person literally 24/7 for a year and a half), and my comfort. Yet with the fear comes incredible excitement and love. I already love these people because I can already feel the love that God has for them.

I am so thrilled to have the blessed opportunity to preach the gospel to those who have room in their hearts to receive the message of God's love and eternal plan of happiness for them.

In the meantime, I will constantly have Georgia on my mind.

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