¡Buenas tardes mis queridos!
Summer in Poughkeepsie is beautiful. The town recently had a giant (I guess annual…?) hot air balloon festival and the sky stood spotted with balloons all weekend long. It was magical. I want to ride in one! I would very much like that.
I have learned so much in just these three weeks of being upstate. It is so interesting to me to serve with a car and be so “hip” (for missionary standards: the missionary-hip-standard being very low) and modern and fancy. I find it harder to stay concentrated and focused because we don’t stick out very much at all. We are just another car on the rode. Just some other gringos (well, just me–Hermana Vicino is South American). Anyway, it continues to be fun and different and new to fit in up here. My perspective continues to change and expand. And more and more I just want to change the world. I’m working on it…..a big part of it, too, will come after my mission when I cure Alzheimer’s and cancer with my medicinal plants.
Sunday was quite the blur–we taught Relief Society in one ward, and spoke in the other ward. 4 investigators came and the Lord is so good. The wards are really reaching out to Christina and Yesica and Joanne and Oscar. It is beautiful and exciting. We play soccer at the church on Tuesday nights–and a bunch of investigators come. Including Oscar and Christina and Yesica and their kids, Keiry (pronounced Katie) and Juanito. They take turns subbing in and out so that one of them is always with the kids on the stage with the team sitting and those just watching. Last night (and every Tuesday) Keiry and Juanito (Keiry is 5 and Juanito is just 2) were having a BLAST hiding in the stage curtains and finding each other and screaming and giggling and loving and living. No one could hold back smiles and laughter of their own. It was just so simple and so beautiful to see these kids playing and loving each other so fervently–just the perfect sense of brotherly love and childlike play. It was adorable. And as I watched and played with them and thought afterwards, my heart was pricked. These kids are making memories on the church stage. This family is making memories on the church stage. In the church. In this hallowed ground. We’re working with them on baptism. It will come. I don’t know when, but with these memories and beautiful time spent together in this place, it will come. An overwhelming sense of peace and hope and quiet anticipation and excitement for the future struck me and set up camp in my heart.
And there it will stay, along with so much more that’s come and dwelled in the fabric of my soul. What a blessing that is–to learn and realize and see and have your perspective grow line upon line, precept upon precept. Here a little and there a little. It makes us strong. It makes us whole. It makes me happy, too.
On Saturday I met an investigator named Sharon. That is my grandmother’s name. And…..I didn’t really know her very well. She had Alzheimer’s disease and I was so young and I only have a few scattered memories built around various photos of our visits. For example–the photo of her in a dark Crimson moo moo sitting down and me in a lime green shirt with a little surfer girl logo on front with my arm around her and my Dutch-boy haircut in action, both of us smiling at the camera. The memory I associate with that picture is being hungry and looking into the pantry and finding some raisin bran. It was a rare occasion in the Boud home to have any cereal besides Cheerios. I was STOKED and I poured a bowl and began eating and it was HORRIBLE. The cereal expired some 7 years earlier.
ANYWAY, with our investigator and my talk (on temple ordinances), I’ve been thinking about my grandma Sharon. I went on family search and read up on some stories of her and my dad and uncles and aunts. I love my Grandma Sharon. She is charity. As I read that history and just a couple of stories, I was filled with a new love for her. A new appreciation and anticipation for the future in all its glory and trials and opportunities and work to be done. She served a mission in the northern states–I wonder if she made it to New York. To the Bronx or Poughkeepsie. It’s a northern state, right? It’s been fun to imagine her here with me trekking the “north” and serving however we can–in whatever capacity that we know how to do. “Families are forever” has seemed to take on a different meaning to me now that I know her a little better.
If that was a taste of the Spirit of Elijah–BRING IT ON. I want some more. I laughed harder and was more intent on reading those stories that I have during anything else for probably the last 6 months. I want some more of that Spirit.
ANYWAY, back to the other Sharon. I guess I don’t have much to say now….the thought left me. But I’ll say this–God is a LOVING Heavenly Father. That is, really, what it boils down to. That God loves us and sent His Son to die for and redeem us. John 3:16. Sharon was never taught that. She was raised in a very religious family, but it was all fire and brimstone and hell and you’re going there pretty much no matter what. The scriptures were twisted and preached to show a tyrant. A wrathful and vengeful and unforgiving and unloving god.
That broke my heart.
My testimony, really, is built on that fact. If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t have sent His Son. Who would sacrifice anything or anyone so dear to you for something you hate!? Why would there be ANY beauty in the world, any happiness, any peace–HOPE–if God wasn’t love? It makes no sense to me. But I don’t even care about it making sense or not–Sharon. Sharon. The world is a dark and scary place when you are convinced you will meet Him with a flaming whip in hand at judgment day with your tail between your legs running into any corner or behind any tree to protect yourself from Him. The world is beyond dark and scary. My heart really broke as I realized that is how she truly felt. The fear she has is so real. It is fear of God–not Godly fear. Godly fear is the opposite. Really, it should be called “godly love,” “respect for God,” or “love for God.” That’s why we obey. Because we love Him. It got me thinking of Elder Bednar’s words:
“Please note that godly fear is linked inextricably to an understanding of the Final Judgment and our individual accountability for our desires, thoughts, words, and acts (see Mosiah 4:30). The fear of the Lord is not a reluctant apprehension about coming into His presence to be judged. I do not believe we will be afraid of Him at all. Rather, it is the prospect in His presence of facing things as they really are…” (Elder Bednar “Therefore They Hushed Their Fears”).
I do not believe we will be afraid of Him at all, either. I look forward to His loving embrace. Just look at the prodigal son! He had repenting and work to do, but the Father ran out to meet Him. Hugged him. Kissed him. Welcomed him home.
I want to return with honor because I love Him.
I am excited to work with Sharon. I just want her to feel an ounce of love. An ounce of hope. I’ll fight for that ounce.
God is love. And let it be known: that is what I aim for.
A lot happened this week. My eyes were opened wider and the sun shined a little brighter as I did so. Truly, when we believe in Jesus Christ, we not only have eternal life, but we can SEE this life. And see it for what it is. Without that belief, we can’t even see life. (John 3:36).
I love you!
Hermana llama Boud