Terve minun mahtava perhe!! I can't believe another week has gone by at the MTC! It really goes by so fast. I hope everyone is doing well and is getting excited for Christmas. It's going to be so weird and hard not to be home, but I can't wait to hopefully get to skype! It will be the best thing in the world! I hope school and work and tennis and callings and soccer and friends and everything are just going great! I love hearing from all of you. I wish more than anything that I had more time to write you individual letters, but just know that I appreciate everything you guys do for me. I appreciate all the prayers and faith on my behalf. I honestly can feel your faith and prayers so much. You all mean the world to me and I am so grateful I have been blessed with a family as wonderful as you. We may not be together now, but just think, we get to be with each other forever. Maintaining an eternal perspective is a great way to avoid homesickness...I have come to find! Plus I know that we are all doing what we are supposed to be doing! I couldn't do this if I didn't know for sure that Heavenly Father has a work for me to do. He has a work for all of us to do. We just need to figure out what His will is and then get to work and do our best. I know that He will help us when we do this!
This week I have really started to feel comfortable at the MTC...too bad I'm leaving in 10 days! Isn't that so great, just when we get comfortable we have to pick up and move again! Only this time, I am really excited for my transfer cause it will be in FINLANDIA!!! All of the feelings I have right now are the same ones I had before I came on my mission. I feel a little better equipped this time and I think this change will be harder, but easier at the same time. I am so excited to get to Finland. I can't believe I have been in a 1/2 mile radius for 9 weeks, but now we can start counting down the days to Finland because it's so close! It's going to be great! :)
So we are starting to wind down here at the MTC. Sisar Thayne and I got released as Sister Training Leaders. It was kind of sad. I have grown to love all of the sisters in our zone so much, but I am glad that someone else will have the opportunity to serve. I really have been thinking a lot this week about forgetting ourselves and serving others. The MTC has its ups and downs, just like life, but I know that when we really forget ourselves completely and serve others and try to make their days better, that's when we are truly happy. There was one day this week when I decided that I wasn't going to think about myself at all that day. I had kind of been frustrated with Finnish and everything else so I decided I needed to do everything I could to be happy.
I was reading on lds.org and I found a quote by President Hinckley that said something to the effect of if you want to be happy, forget yourself and get lost in this great work. Lift up the heads that hang down and serve other people. I tried this out on Wednesday and it was honestly the best day I have had at the MTC. The days before, I had been so nervous about Finnish and about leaving 'Merica for 16 months and about everything, but yesterday when I forgot about my problems and tried to help others, I was so happy. It's a hard thing to do to forget about yourself and to focus on the positive things in life, but I know without a doubt that selfless service is the recipe for happiness. I know because I've tried it. I have always thought that I was pretty good at serving and I tried to do it with good intentions, but completely serving selflessly is a whole different story. Try and make other people happy. Try and make their lives better. Build them up. Inevitably you will be blessed when you do this. It's funny how that works. The more we give, the more we get back! Heavenly Father wants to bless us so badly and He will as we faithfully strive to follow Him. He asks so little of us and promises so much in return. We will never catch up with him! :)
So this past Tuesday we were told that we were going to have one of the 12 apostles come speak to us. We were all so excited. It's better to see a member of the 12 than to see a celebrity...like for real though. They are rockstars! Anyways so we get to devotional on Tuesday night and as we are all staring at the screen waiting to see who is going to speak, the name Bruce C. Hafen pops up and you could literally feel everyone's faces drop. Elder Hafen got up and said that Elder Ballard was supposed to speak to us, but the snow kept him in Salt Lake. We were all a little disappointed. Then Elder Hafen started talking and honestly I believe that Heavenly Father sent the snow so that He would have to talk to us. His message was EXACTLY what everyone needed to hear. We have devotional reviews as Finnish districts after all of our devotionals and we were all bawling and saying how amazing his talk was. I wanted to share some of my "notes" with you from his talk. Honestly it changed my whole mindset:
"The temple endowment is an endowment of power. Because of the gifts that the Savior has given me, He will help me step up and turn my days of trouble to days of joy. All of the sufferings, sorrows, and afflictions we go through will be compensated for by incomprehensible joy. You can never know the good if you never know the bad. Stay positive. Be patient with people. Be patient with the language. Be patient with ourselves. We never know what will come of our efforts. Allow ourselves to stay open to the Spirit. We can come to know God on our missions (in our lives). We have no concept of the growth we will experience when we do what the Lord asks of us. We are all God's sons and daughters. He has a work for us to do. Heavenly Father doesn't just need workers to get His work done. He has called each of us and blessed us with unique and individual talents that will bless others lives. He loves us and He needs us. My mission does not end in 16 months. I have my family world, my mission world, and my world between me and God. This mission is life-altering. We come to know God in our extremities. It's an honor to pay that price."
Sorry that those are all over the place but I HAD to share that with you. It was honestly one of the greatest talks I have ever heard and if we can all take one thing from that and work on it or apply it to our lives, I know that it will make a huge difference. After he talked, we sang Away in a Manger. The last verse says, "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the Dear Children in Thy tender care, and fit us for Heaven to live with thee there." That is my prayer for each of us this Christmas season. I want each of us to develop a stronger relationship with our Savior this Christmas than we ever have before. We do that by learning about Him and trying to become like Him. We do that by living His commandments and loving His commandments. We do that by forgetting ourselves. Like really, just don't think about yourself for one day and see what happens. I promise you will be happy :)
I guess one more thing I would say is that we all need to remember, especially me, that every hard thing we go through is for our good. I love that analogy about the stones and how the smoothest stones are the ones who have gone through the most. Every trial we go through is refining us. It is "fitting us for Heaven". I want so badly to be fit for heaven so that when the day comes and I get to see my Savior, that He will look at me and say, "Well done." Nothing could be better than that! :)
Anyways I love you all so much! I am so sorry this letter is like up and down and in and out, but that is how my brain is working right now! :) It's probably going to be a quiet week...BTW consecration week means that we can only speak Finnish. It's already been extremely hard and frustrating, but I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will help me. They have already helped me so much. I love them so much and want to do whatever they require of me with a happy heart. He will help us reach our righteous goals. I know that without a doubt!!
I love you all so much and am so beyond grateful that you are my family. Honestly, I have been so blessed. Everyday I say my prayers and thank Heavenly Father for allowing each of you to be in my life. I miss you with all my heart, but I am so grateful I get to serve this mission. It's going to be extremely hard. It is extremely hard, but He never said it would be easy. He only said it would be worth it! Yep, I totally made that quote up! :) Just kidding! Vitsi Vitsi! Anyways I hope you all have the best week ever and remember that Sisar Bitner loves you so much! You are the greatest and I can't wait to talk to you all! I love you!!
Love, Sisar Bitner