Dear Weasley Family and Friends,
This week has flown by!!! The weeks seem to just come and go like a race horse these days. In 4 days TJ and I will reach our half way mark. Man! Is that crazy! I don't know how I got from saying goodbye to you all to being half way done. I am glad though because I am excited for another 9 months of work. I am not sure when I will be coming home, and I won't really talk to President about it until April or May, but until then, I am just making the most of everything. Tønsberg is a crazy area. There are so many problems here! But I love it. TJ and I both asked to stay here together until April. Honestly, I could end my mission here and I would be happy. There is such a need here for missionaries, especially sister missionaries. I guess, we all want to be needed. It gives us a purpose to change, to be better.
I've been thinking about change a lot. Guys, its hard. Any change is hard. Whether we are trying to eat better or trying to start reading our scriptures again, becoming who we want to be is hard work. I think that its easy to look at the miles and miles we have ahead and to feel discouraged. I think its easy to fall into a pit and not have the desire to get back up. I even think its easy to decide to not even start because we don't want to fail somewhere up ahead. Life is a journey, and sometimes a really hard journey at that. We get discouraged. We fall down. Sometimes we bump our knees, or in my case my face, but those scars, they only show the fight we have given. When I think about myself and all of you, I think that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. That isn't to say that we can't be better, but it is to say that we have made progress and are in the perfect position to have more progress.
I guess, that's the thing about life, it never stops. It won't stop if you're sad, or if you messed up, or if feel you can't go on. It demands the best from you. It demands you get up and try again. It demands you change. But we each have to make that choice for ourselves. Are we ready to change? I've learned that we can only do so much to help others. We are given friends and family and loved ones (are those the same thing?) for a reason. They mirror our hearts. They help us to see the best in ourselves, and they help us to grow. We learn the most about ourselves while loving others. As a missionary, I want everyone to change. Gosh dang it, I have the medicine to fix your life, and I want to give them to you!!! When I first started my mission I tried everything. I tried the nice card, the yelling card. I tried being blunt, being rude, and even crying. Nothing seemed to work. Then I stopped focusing on the outcome I wanted and I started focusing on the person. This was a person with needs, common needs, the need to feel accepted, the need to know what they have done is good, the need to be loved. When I saw them for who they were, I no longer cared for the "desired outcome" I wanted, I only cared to make them happy.
Now the gospel is amazing. It can heal everything. The Savior can heal everyone, but we learn from His example that we each have to come to Him. The Savior loved everyone perfectly, and in doing so he allowed them to figure out how He could heal them. I think that when we see that as missionaries that's when things begin to change. When we love the people we teach, really love them, then they can see where the gospel, where the Savior can heal them. And when they are ready to change, when they are ready to progress again, they have all the tools to do it.
Dallin H. Oaks said, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” Somewhere down the line we all forgot what repenting really means. We think of it as doing something wrong that we feel awful about and begging God to forgive us. In the Bible Dictionary, it explains repentance as a change of view about ourselves, God, and the world, meaning any time that we change our view for a better view, we are repenting. We don't just stop doing things that are wrong, we start doing things that are good. We don't just sit there idly, we start making our way down the road again. Changing and becoming better, repenting, is hard. Its hard for all of us. But we don't suffer because the Lord is mad and demands we pay for our short comings, we suffer so that we can reach our true potential. Everyone knows that anything worth having is worth fighting for. When Linsey got all hot did she just decide one day she was just going to be a size 4 (or 2 or 0 or whatever you are these days...)? No she worked for it. Did Jordan just decide that he was going to go to the NFL one day? Did I just decide that I was going to be this beautiful? Absolutely not. I had surgery people! We all have to pay the price, but we don't have to pay the price that the Savior did. His grace is sufficient. It covers everything. Every short falling, every start we never began, ever desire that never became an action. All of it is covered under the Atonement. That doesn't excuse our weaknesses, but it shows us that patience is required, and change is possible. We owe it to ourselves and to the Savior to take part in that change, to use the Atonement. And when we do, we allow the Savior to turn our shacks into mansions.
Okay, okay, I will get off my soap box. Is that what it is called? I don't even know. My phrases are getting all mixed up in my head. But, really we had a cool things this last week. So we had our Juletre fest was on Friday. We were for some reason put in charge of planning it and throwing it. I have no idea why because in America we don't have Juletre Feasts, but I guess they thought it was a good idea. So TJ and I asked everyone about what we needed to do at this party. They just told us that we needed to have a Christmas tree and some music to sing. Well you guys know me, I am a Hodgkiss, so if I am going to throw a party, I'm going to throw a party. So we did some stuff. We made treat bags for the children, and some goodies to eat. We figured that not too many people would come since only 6 children came the last year, so we were feeling pretty good. Well we get there and set up and its about 3 minutes until we start and we get called into this room and two of the members start telling us all these things we need to do for this "program". At this point I'm angry. I mean we had asked and asked and no one told us anything! So I opened my mouth and said "This is what happens when you put Americans in charge of your traditions." Not my proudest moment, but I got my point across. Don't complain if you're not going to do it yourself.
Well we are freaking out. We don't have anything planned and there are WAY more than 6 children, there are 21 kids and about 30 adults. I look at TJ and we both take a deep breath and we just went out there and we worked the crowd. TJ made everyone laugh by telling them that we were all American and we have no idea what we are doing, and I came up with good games for kids. We played Duck, Duck, Goose, which by the way, other countries don't play. They loved it. Everyone was laughing and having such a good time. Our Branch President was like we are going a little over on time, and we were just like who cares! We are having too much fun! It was a blast. Everyone loved the party. The kids were all trying to hold my hand and sit on my lap. It was adorable. And the best part was that two of the families that we have been working with that are inactive were there. It was really great. And then, even better, they came to church on Sunday!!! It was so cool! TJ really did rock it as a host! Hosting in Norsk is not easy!
Its been cool to see how things have changed. We aren't baptizing a million or even finding tons of investigators, but we are seeing successes and changes in this ward. We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of forgiving that needs to be done, but we are all getting better. That's the thing about change, we all try to resist it at first. Things are going well though. I feel like there is so much to do, but I feel that my talents are best suited for this branch. I love these people.
I hope everyone is doing well and staying warm. We had snow this weekend and its like -9 outside. Its been making working out a pain! Running on snow is an art!! I would also just like to state for the record that I have only gained 10 pounds on my mission. Obvie that weight is catching up to me, but I will forever be able to say that it was only 10 pounds. Bragging points? Maybe! I love you all and think about you often!!
Keep it real. Keep it classy. And may the odds be ever in your favor.
Angel Man!! Happy birthday!! What what!!! I hope that your big day was a blast and full of lots of cake and fatty foods that I have not eaten in like 3 weeks (or 3 hours, who's counting)!!! I love you!! And expect to see some birthday pictures next week!!