Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Decade of Decision

    Wow! What's up guys? How are you all doing? I hope you had the best week ever cause you all deserve it because you're wonderful and I love you! :) I have been thinking a lot about my little sister Joce's first experience in a singles ward....hahahahaha man, I hope it was so great and I want to hear all about it! Anne, I hope soccer went well...have  you played Davis yet? Try and get the cup back for us...we haven't had it for awhile! :) Lauren I hope tennis and 8th grade is just the best thing ever and Luke and the heck are you two? I miss you all so much! Mom and Dad, you are both wonderful! I am so grateful for you and for all you both have taught me...I printed off the picture you sent me of your side of the family, mom, at the temple last week and I put it up on my are all just so wonderful! I have the best family in the world! Speaking of family...I think it is my Birthday Buddy's birthday this Friday so Will, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I am so sorry I can't be there to share it with you this year, but have the best 9th birthday ever and know how much I LOVE YOU!!! Also shout out to by BFF Abby-G during 20 this week! Dang girl, you are so old! :) The title of my email is the decade of decision....cause that's what we are about to enter woman!! How scary is that? I am super excited to not be a teenager though! I know this probably sounds way stupid, but I love my birthday so much. I really don't even care if anyone gives me anything or says happy birthday, although that is great, but just think, a whole day dedicated to the fact that you were born. Literally, we have done absolutely nothing to merit any sort of recognition or celebration, and yet, it it like the BEST DAY EVER! I think we really should celebrate our mothers...that makes more sense! But anyways, I just love birthdays and am super excited to be in Finland for my 20th!! YIPPEE!! But Mom, I have been CRAVING sweet and sour chicken and oriental rice...real bad! Could you send me that next week? Also, I really don't remember what my favorite foods are anymore...probably cause I love all food, but if you see any recipes that remind you of me that I could make...remember, I am a beginner....send them on over! I am kind of getting sick of the food I make! Time to shake it up! But anyways, I love you all so much! Thanks for all your prayers on my behalf. I feel them ALL THE TIME!!! You are the best!!

    Well Fall is on it's way in good old Finland. I FLIPPING LOVE FALL!! I love when the weather is just a little bit cold, to the point where you can't decide whether to wear a jacket or not...I love that boots are once again practical...YAY...and that scarfs and coats and jackets and sweaters are all coming, I guess I just like that all I think about? Absolutely....not! But anyways, Fall in Finland is just as beautiful as winter, spring, and summer have been! This seriously is the most beautiful place. I know I talked about the clouds already, but MY GOODNESS!! The clouds here would blow your mind! They are gorgeous! If you all want to just move here, that would be fine with me and then I could stay forever! I was thinking about it the other day and the only thing I will be happy about when I leave Finland is seeing you guys. Everything else is going to rip my heart out, but we can worry about that later...right now I am just going to enjoy all the good things and hopefully share it with my wonderful family! Finland is beautiful and I love it here! That is my "Something Finnish" for the week...Finns love Finland SOOOO much and I really love that about them. They build their cities and homes AROUND nature...ok, calm down...I am not going tree hugger on anyone, but it's super funny cause we will be walking down the street and all the sudden this GINORMOUS boulder is just sitting right in someone's front yard. We always just stop and laugh and shake our heads and say "Oh, the Finns!" They would rather leave things the way they are than disrupt nature. It's really a way good thing and is one of the reasons their country is so beautiful! Yay for Finland!

    I realized last night that I haven't really written anything about our BOMB AWESOME new mission president and his wonderful wife! So the Watsons are great! Seriously, I love them so much! It was so good to be down at Interim with them. I actually talked to them for a way long time during lunch one day! They are from Heber City, UT and Dad, we talked all about Bitner Ranch and President said that he is absolutely sure that his dad or grandpa or someone knew the Bitners...small world! Pays to have a sheep ranch! :) Anyways, it is just so easy to talk to them. Each time I have talked to President and Sister Watson, I know that they love me for who I am and want the best for me! They really are so great. Sister Watson misses her family and was telling me about all of her grandkids. She is seriously the sweetest person I know and you can just tell she is and always has been a really good person. President is super funny and is SOOOO nice and He is really good at simplifying the gospel and focusing on the basics. He just really makes you feel so good about yourself. They are wonderful people and I am so grateful for them! 

    I think I have told you about soccer. We play every Saturday and it's really turned into this HUGE thing. We have these 5 turkish men that come and are pretty crazy! They are really good and go a little too hard...some people just take things so seriously! :) But anyways it's so much fun to play and it makes me feel so good! I love soccer so much and Sister Pace is a champ to play with me. She doesn't really like it...but she still plays. I really appreciate that! Anyways, I scored a sick header goal and won the friendship of the turks! My life is complete! :) Transfer calls are on my birthday! I am not going to lie, I am pretty nervous, but I am trying not to borrow problems from tomorrow. No point in doing that #parkinsonworrybunch #iworryallthetime but I might be staying or leaving Vaasa! We will see what happens!! 

    So this week, I didn't feel very well on Thursday. I woke up had the worst headache I have had in a long time. I was super dizzy and exhausted and knew it wouldn't be a good idea to hop on a bike and try to talk to least not with my nametag on...#drunkmissionary. Anyways, I went back to bed and slept for 5 hours straight. I didn't even move. But I woke up and felt better, so we just took it easy that day...didn't bike at all, and just walked around and talked to all the people. Talking to people in Finland is super interesting. Finns are reserved...yes all the stereotypes are true, but that's not the real issue. The real issue is they care A LOT about what other people think of them so when we talk to them on the street, they are always looking around kind of nervous like, making sure that no one they know is passing by. It's kind of frustrating/funny/awkward/awesome, but just one of those things. Usually when we say hi, people say hi back and keep walking. We talked about that in district meeting how we need to stop our feet and expect that the people are going to stop and talk to us. Not going to's SUPER awkward, especially when they keep walking by. Sitting here writing this, I can't help but's going to be so funny to watch this part of my life again up in heaven, but we really just do our best to shake it off and laugh. Usually I say something like "Ok, well have a wonderful day" and other times I just say "Merbaderp". That is my favorite thing to say. I think it's finnish...just kidding its not, but It kind of sums up how I feel when people don't stop :) The thing is, we have the greatest thing in the world to give these people, they just don't know it. Sometimes I just want to run up to them and say, "I know this is really weird, but just hear me out for like 5 minutes and I promise you won't regret it." That would be even weirder though. I don't know if I will ever master the art of contacting, but I am trying and it's always more fun when we just laugh and have a good time while doing it. I know I wouldn't want to talk to some sour faced I really try hard to smile and be friendly! Heck, it's what Jesus would do, I guess I better do it too! :) 

    We had a lesson with Milla this week...she is flipping awesome! I love her so much! She and Sisar Pace really have a special connection...I think they were friends in the pre-existence. It's actually really fun to watch them talk. It's like Sister Pace is talking to herself. But she really has such a desire to learn. We knew we wanted to teach her about the Restoration, but we both felt super strongly that we should focus on Christ and his earthly ministry and atonement. Sister Pace laminated this awesome picture of Christ and wrote some scriptures on the back for Milla. When we gave Milla the picture, her whole face lit up and she just kept saying "Oh thank you, oh thank you". It's amazing how having a picture of Christ changes the entire spirit of a room or home. That is one thing I want everyone to have...if you don't have a picture of Christ somewhere where you can see it all the time, get one! It's what changes a regular home to the home of a member or better yet, the home of a disciple of Christ! We need to remember Him always!

    So we have been trying super hard to not be frustrated with Caius and Tuulia lately. Their kids are wonderful and need and want the gospel SO BAD it's insane. It's just super hard to work with the parents. Sister Pace and I have talked about it a lot, and we really don't want to just baptize these kids and throw them back to the sharks. That wouldn't do them any good. But when we try to work with the parents, they don't want to cooperate. Anyways, This week during weekly planning, Sister Pace and I both felt that we just needed to give them to the Lord for a few weeks and see what happened. We felt good about it especially since we are trying to do missionary work by the "Lean Machine" method. The Lean Machine means we focus on 3-4 solid investigators, 3-4 less actives/recent converts, and 2 member families. That way, we can focus on daily contact with investigators and really really helping them progress as opposed to having like 238734 investigators that we see once a month and never go anywhere. Boy has it been working well...

    So Saturday night comes around and Sister Pace and I had worked so hard to get Milla to church. We had a member invite her and offer to give her a ride and Milla totally said she would come! We were so excited! And then, as we were sitting at dinner, I looked at Sister Pace and said, "You know, I think we should try one more time to get those kids to church." She agreed and we called a member in our ward, asked if he would be willing to pick them up, then called Tuulia and she was SO NICE and totally said we could come get the kids for church. What the heck? I have been trying for months to get these kids to church and the second I turn it over the the Lord...BOOM....miracle! Literally it's a miracle! I don't think anyone really understands the magnitude of what just happened! :)

    Anyways, long story short, BEST SUNDAY IN CHURCH EVER!!! We had 4 investigators there, Milla and the kids, 1 less active, and my boy CHAU PASSED THE SACRAMENT IN A WHITE SHIRT AND TIE! Seriously, I was so happy sitting there looking around at all the people I have been praying for and working with and was just the best! Granted, our happiness shouldn't depend on numbers or "success" in life, but I learned a valuable lesson this week. This transfer has been super hard, for a number of reasons, but every single trial, tear, hardship, frustration, pain, and everything else was nothing compared to the joy I felt yesterday in church. As a matter of fact, they all went away. I literally couldn't remember any of the hard things that have happened these past 10 weeks! Heavenly Father gives us trials because He loves us. How does that make sense? I don't know. But I know every time we are frustrated or wonder, "Why me, Heavenly Father?" he is just sitting up there looking at us just pleading for us to keep going and to trust him. Plus, we wouldn't be half as grateful for our blessings if we didn't have to go through some trials as well. Like it says in my favorite song, "You can never know the good if you never know the bad, you can never be happy if you've never been's called opposition my friends, opposition" (Yes, i did just forget the rest of the words to that song) but man, My Turn on Earth knows what's up! :) Thanks mom for introducing us to that!

     But seriously, trials bring us closer to our Father in Heaven. I think that is the case for two reason, A, we are humbled by them which in turn gives us the opportunity to ask our loving Heavenly Father for help and B, we literally are strengthened and refined EVERY SINGLE DAY we go through something hard which makes us more like our Savior. Wading through the muck is awful. It's not fun. No one wants it, but I think we are all grateful for it in the end. I have that picture you sent me, mom, of you and dad and I the day you dropped me off at the MTC #wasthatreallife but I was looking at that picture the other day and I realized, I don't even know that person anymore...myself I mean! :) I just looked at myself and thought, "Man, I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has done more with my life than I could myself." I thought I was doing pretty well before my mission and I was doing alright. It's not like I was evil... Not like I lived perfectly...obviously, but man, it scares me to think that my pride almost kept me from trusting in my Father in Heaven. He knew what I needed before I even came here. He knew I needed Finland. He knew I needed to leave my family. He knew I needed my trainer and all my companions and all the hard things that have come on my mission, but he also knew that the joy and everything else I would experience in Finland would give me experience and would be for my good. We just have to believe that is true. There is no other option, but I can promise each of you, because I have experienced it, that as we turn it over to the Lord, we will be amazed at what he can do with each of our lives. We will look at what we have and what we have accomplished and think, "Wow, there is NO WAY I could have done all of that on my own." It really is such a happy, peaceful way to live. Not to be all "Miss America/meditation man, but that really is how we find inner peace. WE LET GO. Give it all up. It's so much better. 

    One of my FAVORITE talks is "Swallowed up in the will of the Father" by Neal A. Maxwell. I think I have talked about this before, but it's brilliant...seriously...go read it! But a couple of things he says really highlight CRUCIAL truths about "Consecration" and trusting in the Lord. He says:

    So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things.

    I love that..."finding our TRUE identity"...ok keep reading...

    Thus, brothers and sisters, consecration is not resignation or a mindless caving in. Rather, it is a deliberate expanding outward, making us more honest when we sing, “More used would I be” (“More Holiness Give Me,”1985, Hymns, no. 131). Consecration, likewise, is not shoulder-shrugging acceptance, but, instead, shoulder-squaring to better bear the yoke.

    Mom, this is your favorite song and I love it too...but think about that...turning outward when it's easy to turn inward is what it means to be consecrated...interesting thought...

    Along this pathway leading to consecration, stern and unsought challenges sometimes hasten this jettisoning, which is needed to achieve increased consecration (see Hel. 12:3). If we have grown soft, hard times may be necessary. If we are too contented, a dose of divine discontent may come. A relevant insight may be contained in reproof. A new calling beckons us away from comfortable routines wherein the needed competencies have already been developed. One may be stripped of accustomed luxury so that the malignant mole of materialism may be removed. One may be scorched by humiliation so pride can be melted away. Whatever we lack will get attention, one way or another.

    How many of us have felt that way? I think everyone...

    Consecration is thus both a principle and a process, and it is not tied to a single moment. Instead, it is freely given, drop by drop, until the cup of consecration brims and finally runs over.

    Thus, acknowledging God’s hand includes, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, trusting that God has made “ample provision” beforehand to achieve all His purposes, including His purposes in our lives (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 220). Sometimes He clearly directs; other times it seems He merely permits some things to happen. Therefore, we will not always understand the role of God’s hand, but we know enough of his heart and mind to be submissive. Thus when we are perplexed and stressed, explanatory help is not always immediately forthcoming, but compensatory help will be. Thus our process of cognition gives way to our personal submission, as we experience those moments when we learn to “be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

    Then, the more one’s will is thus “swallowed up,” the more his afflictions, rather than necessarily being removed, will be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38).

    The Joy of Christ...I think that is what it means when we can't remember our pains anymore...they are literally washed away through Christ....

    In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!

    Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!

    Isn't that the most brilliant thing? Granted, this whole consecration thing is probably the greatest process we could ever find ourselves in, but man...I just feel like sometimes when we get a little taste of that "joy of Christ" nothing else really matters! As we really let our will be swallowed up in the will of the father, we will experience greater joy than we can ever imagine! Helaman 3:35 and Mosiah 2:41 are two of my favorite scriptures for that reason! I am just so grateful for Heavenly Father and his plan and what he has in store for each of us. It's so exciting to think about all the changes and big things that are coming in our lives. I got a blessing a few weeks ago, and in it is said, "More great and wonderful things are ahead." I was like YAAAAAAHHHH!!! I can't wait to see what is coming next and the greatest thing is that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will always be with us. Nothing will ever take that away! It's awesome! We can have TOTAL VICTORY as we give our will to the Father! It's so cool! 

    Anyways, I love you all so much and am so grateful for you! I hope you always remember that I am in Finland, praying my heart out for you! You are all so wonderful and I know Heavenly Father loves each and every one of you so much! Thank you so much for all you have done for me! I really don't feel worthy enough to call you my family, but for some reason, I am the luckiest person in the world! Have the best week ever! :) I love you so much!!


    Sisar Olivia Bitner 

My boy Chau passed the sacrament on Sunday!! YIPPPPPPPPEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

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