Monday, October 13, 2014

Converted unto the Lord‏

Dear Weasley Family and Friends,

       Woah. This is it. This is really my last email home, as a missionary. I found out today that I would be released over the phone. I about had a heart attack, actually I'm still in the process of wrapping my head around it. I think the fact that I have to take my name tag off and never put it on again is what really gets me. It reminds me of when I was told that I had cancer and the thing that finally made me cry was when I realized I would lose my hair. In my head, that made it all real. Now in my head, once my name tag comes off it will mean its over. My mission will really be over. 
      They say that looking back everything is clearer, and I would agree. There is something about the future that blinds us. I guess its the midst of the unknown that makes us so afraid. An RM that is already home would read this and smile and say "I remember when I felt that way.", almost like I do when I meet the new Greenies. But the fact is that taking a step into the dark, whatever that step is, is scary. We all ask ourselves, "Is this really right? Will I really be happy? Am I going to be okay?" And I guess with my mission coming to an end, and real life starting, I find myself thinking some of those things. But no matter how "scary" or "unnerving" this next step is, I will never regret my mission. 
         I look back in awe as I think about the Lord's hand in my life. I was 20, living in Russia, teaching English when it was announced that girls could now go on missions at 19. I had never considered a mission before, and honestly the thought of it made me cringe. I liked makeup and heels way too much for that life. I didn't actually hear President Monson make the age change, I only received a text informing me, but as I read that text my heart burned. I think I knew then what my decision was going to be, but I was afraid of the midst of the unknown. How could a mission ever give me more than what I had right now? I had plans of marriage and schooling and a cute decorated apartment in my head, and 630 am wake up calls, and district leaders didn't really fit into that picture, but I prayed anyways.
         I had never had quite a strong experience with prayer like I did when I asked God if I should serve a mission. I had never quite experienced an answer so sure, so unchanging, and so complete when I was told I needed to go. But yet, it was still difficult. I didn't want to go. I didn't think I was good enough, and when I got out of the MTC and into the field, I realized something, I was right. I wasn't good enough. I wasn't brave enough. And I wasn't prepared enough, and I wanted to go home. I sat on my knees so many times in my first 6 months and asked God why I had to be here, but to no avail because no real answer came. But I decided to stay anyways. 
          As time went on I started realizing that there was something special about the people that I was meeting on the mission. As I served with them, taught them, and learned from them, I realized that they were people I would remember for the rest of my life, and people that I would have never met in any other circumstance. For awhile, that became my fuel for being here. I was here for them and they were definitely, and probably even more so, here for me. 
          Now after 18 months, I don't have the "midst" of a mission in front of me, as I did when I prayed that first prayer. I look back on all the experiences I have had, all the friendships I have made, and I am overcome with emotion at how blessed I have been. I stopped asking why I was here a long time ago because I realized it was for a lot of different reasons, but now I really understand. I came on a mission for me. The one I was supposed to save was myself. 
           I can't express in words or at least not in one email, what my mission has done for me, or how much I have loved it. There were so many moments where I wanted to quit, where I wanted to throw in the towel or at least raise my fists towards Heaven and scream, but now looking back I can see even those moments that I absolutely loathed have helped paint the picture of my mission. 
             As I have thought back I have tried to put a finger on the things that I have learned. Talk about difficult, and even more difficult is choosing one as my favorite, but above all that I have learned it as been my testimony of Christ that has been the foundation. The enabling power of the Atonement is real. When I was young and focused on everything I couldn't do, I felt so inadequate, and I was, but through the Atonement, those inadequacies faded away. I realized that I did have talents, I was valued, and I could contribute. I learned I could do things that terrified me, made me cry, or even that I hated, because I was strengthened beyond my own. There have been so many days where I woke up and thought "How am I going to make it through this day?"  The answer was through the Atonement. 
            Although my world came crashing down when I was sick, I didn't have to face it much. I could lay in my bed and I could almost just wait for it to pass. Out here, that wasn't an option. Well, I guess it was, but not for me. I had to face my fears, my weaknesses, and other people. I was put in a situation where I couldn't run away or say that I was done, and at times I hated it, but wow has it molded me into all that I am now. 
          It reminds me of a story that my adorable Trainer, Hilty, told me when we were together. She told the story of a house. The house was a good house. It had some problems, but who had a perfect house these days? The house owners were satisfied enough with it. But one day a builder came and started tearing down the house brick by brick. As they watched the house being destroyed they were terrified and saddened. They thought the house was so great and so useful. As they began to look away in grief they noticed something, this house builder wasn't just tearing the house down, he was building something. As they watched they were amazed. All the weaknesses of the house weren't just been fixed, but replaced with the top of the line products and materials. When the house was finished they could hardly believe their eyes. It was not the house they had owned, now it was a mansion, and that house builder that they had thought was so mean at the beginning was really the Lord Jesus Christ. 
         1 Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Each experience we have, each success, trial, mistake, heartbreak, and triumph is to turn our house, ourselves, into a mansion. I realize now how much there is to learn from that story. I realize now that the Lord could never just add on to the house I was ever so "satisfied" with, but that first he had to break the house down. Yes, on my mission I experienced a lot of breaking. I experience all that was needed to keep me on my knees and keep my gaze heavenward. Do I regret it? No. Because I got to experience firsthand the Atonement in my life. 
          I couldn't have done these 18 months without my Savior. I can't say that I know that Christ lives more than I did before I left, that is something I have had a strong testimony of since I was sick, but my ability to access those powers have grown. I have learned to pray, receive, and act on inspiration. I have learned to plan all that I could and then be willing to leave all my plans behind so that I could fulfill what the Lord needed me to do. I have tried my hardest to abandon my will and align my will with God's. Many times I had to be "broken" into that, as the Lord quietly reminded me that His ways and plans are higher than mine. I have been comforted, strengthened, and changed. In short, I have been converted. 
             In the words of Francis Webster, “‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’”  
     Was I sorry that I came on a mission? Was I sorry that I got that answer on a dark Fall day in Russia as I knelt down and prayed? Was I sorry I stayed? No. It was the price I paid to become acquainted with God. What is the price of sanctification? The will power to keep going. Because it is when our testimony know longer becomes our knowledge, but becomes our actions, that changes a doubting heart into an converted heart. 
        So with this burning in my heart, I will take this step into the dark. I will trust God and I will wait for the light to illuminate the midst. I know that there is much more to be learned, and  my heart has much more room to be converted, but I now know and understand that it is all a process, one brick at a time. I have loved my mission, and I will love the next stage too. I know that it will be a little bit difficult, and I know that I am probably going to be really weird for awhile, but hey we've all been through this before! #Right? #guys? #areyouthere?
        Thank you all for your love and support. I have been so blessed because of your emails, letters, and prayers. I want to say so much more, but I think now is the time where only hugs and tears can correctly express my feelings. I love you guys. Each of you. And I am so glad that you guys will be by my side as I strive to find my footing again. I hope that you all have a great next 3 weeks. I'll be seeing you at the airport.

Keep it real. Keep it classy. And may the odds be ever in your favor! 

Love,
Kat 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

FUNNY QUOTES!

Me: I wish there was an app that would give me all the numbers around me.
Hall: That would be GREAT for rapists! 

Trydal: Elder Drage why is your bag so heavy? 
Elder Drage: Because I'm trying to work on my feminine side. I just put a lot of stuff in there. And its really heavy it doesn't even make sense and I can't even carry it. If you guys knew how to pack you wouldn't need men! 

Me: And he gets in there and is like grand auto theft.
All the Elders at once: Its GRAND THEFT AUTO!! 
Elder Drage: You're going to be like the worst mom ever! 

Gusty: Where are Ashton and Hall?
Drage: I don't know! I'm not my brothers keeper! 

Ashton: And they said he got a text on the plane which isn't even true!
Me: Nu-huh! My phone gets text messages on the plane.
Hall: But that was 1985. Did they even have text messages back then?
Ashton: And we look to you because...  
    #oldpeoplejokes

Ashton: That rhymes! That means its true! 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

President Evans farewell to the 17 Miracles

Dear Sisters
 
One of the highlights of my mission (and I know I speak for Sister Evans), was receiving the Seventeen Miracles.  What a blessing you have been to this Mission and to Norway.  I remember your arrival like yesterday, and now most of you are preparing to leave.  Where did the time go?
 
Even though all of your bags arrived with you, we did not start out auspiciously.   One of you locked yourself in our bathroom at home, and then a day later we lost Sister Hodgkiss at the train station in Larvik.  There have been ups and downs since, but from my vantage point they have mostly been “ups.”  You have consistently found, taught, baptized, and strengthened the members where you have served.  How blessed we have been to have you.
 
I honestly wish that you were staying until June so that we could go home together.  Your departure will put a real gap in the Mission.  But we will look forward to being together in a year at our first reunion.
 
In Norwegian, we say, “Jeg er glad I dere.” and I am.  In America, we say I love you.  And I do!
 
Sincerely
 
President Evans

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Elder Gusty's words of good-bye!

this is an email that my bff Gusty sent out to all of the 17. I love thim!!


SISTERS!!!

So I hope I don't make any of you feel disobedient by my emailing you before you are home.  I just want to make sure I have some final words to you people that you receive before you go!  (and yes, it's wednesday... we took pday today...)

I just wanted to say, with all the energy of my heart, TUSEN HJERTLIG TAKK for at dere reiste på misjon :D:D:D:D  I cannot explain the emotion behind those words, as I suck at explaining myself.  Just know I am grateful, and will forever remember each and every one of you!  

I assume your missions have blessed your lives, as well as those you have been around in these last 18 months, but you have seriously and honestly each left a 'handprint on my heart'.  Serving with you, getting to know all of  you, crying with a few of you, lol, and just saying 'I came with them!!!!' has been an absolute honor.  Yes, I have already cried about you people travelling home, haha, but it's because I think the absolute highest of you sisters :)  

I hope none of you see your weaknesses as what defines you. Honestly, I don't really see them, and I don't really think God focuses on them. We just focus on how freaking amazing you all are. Loving, fun, diligent, hard-working daughters of God who know their divine worth and what they have to offer to the world.  

I think you all are absolutely amazing, and as said earlier, I am honored to have served/come with you to serve the people of Norway :D :D :D :D  

Gud vær med dere til vi sees igjen :')

MVH
Eldste Gustafson

3 Nephi 5:13, Alma 26:16

Conference and All that is Good

Dear Weasley Family and Friends,
    Did you guys love conference? I thought it was just wonderful and I was so exhausted afterwards because I was intently listening to find answers to the questions I have. I was uplifted and inspired. I felt that as the prophets and apostles spoke I realized how long a way I have to go, but also how loved and cherished I am by the Lord. I particularly loved the Women's meeting. I loved how world wide it is all going with the many cultures showing through. Our wide spread diversity in the church is what makes u strong. As Brother Myhers told me in my first interview at the MTC, "Your uniquness makes us stronger." Indeed, it is the same in the church.
      The General Women's meeting answered one of my first questions. How can I prepare to make and keep more temple covenants? I loved the focus on temples! It testified to me that this needs to be more of a  focus in my life. When I come home I plan to make a goal that will help me to serve, learn, and receive daily, all the blessings that the temple brings. Sister Marriott who compared the light of the temple to our light opened my eyes to a whole new way of understanding the scripture "Know you not that your body is a temple". I love her accent! It is quite a contrast from the English I hear it, but it made me feel at home. I have decided to take up her challenge and memorize The Living Christ by Christmas. Who's with me?! I almost had it all down back in THeim, but time has wiped it from my memory. But it is starting to come back! As I listened to the meeting, I was overcome again and again with the power of unity. I love that we can have GC. I love to meet as members of the church and discuss the things of our hearts. There really is so much support and strength in numbers. 
          As the meetings progressed, I was touched by many other speakers. As I watched I realized how my relationship with GC has changed over the years. As a kid I would listen and try to learn, but most of the time I felt like it was just a bunch of old men talking. I believe what they said, but I didn't really understand their words. Now as I listen to conference, I hang onto every word. I've spent the last 18 months studying the leaders talks and sermons. I have had the opportunity and privilege to be in the some of their prescience's, and I spend more time than I can count quoting them to members, investigators, people on the street, and other missionaries. I feel now I have a personal relationship with them. Not in the way of let's hang out and get some hot coco, but on a spiritual level.
           As I was thinking about this I couldn't help relating it to Christ. In the scriptures we learn that those that know Christ will hear his voice and He will recognize them. To those that did not choose to follow him, Christ says that He "knew them not". But how do we come to know His voice? How do we comet to not just think this is some man that is old and has a lot of wisdom? It is through studying his word and learning to listen to his voice. As we do our relationships changes much like my relationship has changed with GC. We delightfully hear and read his word and actively seek to be more like him. 
              Of course you guys know that I loved the Preisthood Session! Wow has my testimony of the Preisthood grown on my mission. You want to know if the Priesthood is real? Come watch theses 18-20 year old elders preform the miracles they do, and you will know its real. I am obsessed with President Uchtdorf's talk "Lord is it I?" Ding! Ding! Sister Hodgkiss, you should probs stop being so judgey and worry about your own salvation! It was a good smack in the face! I had always read the story of the last supper and the disciples asking "Lord, is it I? Will I be the one to betray you?" and thought, "You idiots! Hod do you not know?!" But as he spoke I realized that that question showed their Heavenly virtue of love. towards others and understanding of the teachings of Christ. I was inspired to be more like them, to not look at another and ask "Is it him?", but to look at myself and ask "Is it I?". Repentance has been an ever needed task for me as I listened to the words of the Prophets, but oh how grateful I am that we can repent and that we have people to guide us in the right direction!
            I think my favorite talks (is it possible to pick?) were by Elder Klebringert and Elder Godoy. Elder K's talk was amazing! What a speaker! He threw it down and didn't even look nervous about it! His story about the sister missionary that was always so hard on herself really hit me. I loved the rawness of her answer when he asked why she was so hard on herself and she said "So no one else can beat me to it." How many times have I been unforgiving towards myself? How many times have I demanded immediate perfection from myself? His 6 steps to help us listen to the "right voices" were bold yet humble and directional. I loved his quote "force a smile and gaze upward". 
             Elder Godoy spoke about the power of "a matter of a few degrees." That is actually a wonderful talk given by President Uchtdorf, and I loved Elder G's spin off of it, with a mix of "Good, better, best" by Elder Oaks. Did his questions "Am how I living going to fulfill my patricahrtical blessing?" change anyone else's life? Heck, I need to read that thing again! Many different people talked about how our actions need to be fulfilling the goals we have. How often I have been like the boy who had a goal of a temple marriage but only dated girls not temple worthy or not members. It definitely made me think about my goals and my actions. Is my life so far bringing to pass who I want to become? 
      "Just because things are going well doesn't mean from time to time we shouldn't question if there is something greater." 
        I could talk about these things all day, but we don't really have all day But good news! By the time I get home the Ensign with the talks will be out and we can read them and have this conversation all over again! #6dastillIseemomanddad #31/2weekstilliseetherestofyou #ding
         So I can't really remember too much of the last week and a half, but I do have some highlights to tell. After reading Kyle's email on prayers, I started thinking about the power that prayers has played in my life. Btw, I love when you guys share your experiences with me! It strengthens me and teaches me so much! But anyways, I love prayer. I once read a talk called Improving Your Personal Prayers. The author asked "If someone listened to your personal prayers what would it say about you and your relationship with Heavenly Father?" Well, when I read that I thought Uh-Oh... Prayers is something I ma still striving to improve, but wow have I seen the miracles it has brought. I love seeing it in my own life, but I love it more in the life's of those I teach and serve with. 
          Benedikte was baptized in Northern Norway in May and we work with her as a new convert because she moved down here shortly after her baptism. The other day we taught her about fasting. As it commonly happens with new converts, they are baptized and then forget about a lot of the commandments, so we re-teach them and help them to continue to follow them. We explained fasting and we asked if she would fast this week for fast Sunday. She told us that it sounded really hard and she wasn't sure if she could do it, so I asked her if she was willing to pray about it. She gladly agreed. After the lesson we asked her if she wanted to read from the Book of Mormon. She said yes and we started reading from where she left off. We read Alma 5 first. In Alma 5 it talked about fasting. I smiled as we read it and mentioned it after we finished the chapter. She laughed and said that is was kind of funny that it just happened to come up. Before we left, she asked if we could read 1 more chapter and so we read Alma 6 where it talked about fasting again. When we got done I again brought it up and she looked at me and said "How do I fast again?" She was determined to pray and ask God and then act on that answer and so her answer came and it came fast. It was so cool to be there and to see her experiencing this. The Spirit testified to me as the first thing about fasting came up that Benedikte would get an answer. Prayer works! 
               Last week Zlatko, the 12 year old Talic kid prayed and said this, "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that the misisonaries could come today. That was very nice of you. Sister Louci is going to go home soon and we are all going to really miss her, especially me. We have come to be close to her and it is going to make our hearts heavy when she leaves. Please bless her to enjoy her time and her time with her parents." I translated that, so the English might sound a little weird. But it was the cutest thing! My favorite thing about the Talic children has been teaching them to pray and then hearing their experiences with it. Prayer is so important!!  
               Sunday in between sessions of GC we had a ward dinner. I walked into the gym to eat and everyone yelled "We love you Sister Hodgkiss!" They threw me a surprise going away party!! It was so sweet! They all brought tons of yummy food and even some gifts! I just love them!! Bishop gave a speech about how grateful he was for everything I have done for the ward. I teared up. 
               This week I have been finishing up the last few things to get ready to go. I still can't believe that my mission is coming to an end. Next week I will write a little more about that and my thoughts, but I think right now my brain is still in jumbles. It is an exciting but scary time!! I am thrilled to be seeing all of you soon! I hope you all enjoyed conference and are enjoying your last few weeks of silence before loud Sister Hodgkiss comes back! I love you guys!! 

Keep it real. Keep it simple. And may the odds be ever in your favor. 

Love,
Kat 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

LETTER FROM PRESIDENT EVANS

IESU KRISTI
KIRKE
AV SISTE DAGERS HELLIGE
DEN NORSKE MISJON

Berumsveien 373
Postboks 894
1306 Sandvika
Norway
Telefon 67 521270

1 September 2015
Wiltiam and Leslie Hodgkiss
1118 Owenwood
Irving, TX 75061
USA


Dear Brother and Sister Hodgkiss,

Congratulations on the faithful missionary service of your daughter, Sister Hailey Hodgkiss. She has been faithful and obedient and has completed her term of missionary service in the Norway Oslo Mission successfully and honorably. She is scheduled to leave
the mission field for her return home on 16 October 2014.

Because of her excellent service, she has enjoyed many blessings. Her testimony and knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ have grown immensely. Al1who have labored with her are appreciative of her devotion to the work of the Lord. She has brought much
joy and happiness into the lives of the people that she has taught and loved.

Sister Evans and I express our gratitude to you for the support and encouragement you have given to Sister Hodgkiss. We have loved serving with her. We trust that your daughter's adjustment to life at home will come quickly, and that she may always be found on the Lord's side, building and strengthening His kingdom. She has brought honor to the Hodgkiss name and kept the tradition alive of being a strong missionary. We will miss her!

May the Lord continue to bless you and your family.
Sincerely,

Norway Oslo Mission