Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to School Satan

"30 pounds of cookie dough!"

Our investigator placed a massive pan piled high with cookie dough in my arms and sent me off to the kitchen table with half a dozen cookie cutters and enough wax paper to wrap a mummy, before flipping on Beyonce Christmas and dancing out of the room.


We'd asked our investigator to "help" us make cookies to give out to ward members, people in need, and some friends for Christmas, in hopes that we could spend some "quality time" together and warm her heart with some service. 5 hours, 30 pounds of dough, WAY too much "sampling" of the goodies, and a whole sink full of dirty dishes later.....we sat down in front of almost 150 cookies, ready to then be decorated. 

Our investigator picked up the first cookie, started drizzling on the icing, and then announced, "And, girls, the fun doesn't end here! We still have the cheesecakes, the cake pops, and the brownies to make after this!" 

My stomach just about FLOPPED

Luckily, we'd arranged to go caroling as a district that evening, so we were "forced" to cut out early, but not before we'd loaded our entire trunk full of cookie bags.....AND our investigator proved that night that she'd make a GREAT RS Compassionate Service Coordinator. All we have to do is get her baptized now.... ;)

Speaking of caroling, we all went out that night, chose a member to visit, and then decided to carol to a few of their neighbors as well. We grabbed cookie bags and then hit up their neighbors across the street. We began singing, and after a LONG wait, an older woman came to the door. She waited till we'd finished a rather rough verse of "Hark the Herald Angel Sing," before opening the screen door and snapping, "Who are you?!" Sis Green extended the bag of cookies and said we were just wanting to bring some Christmas cheer and asked if she'd like some cookies. The woman retorted, "Nope! Can't have them!! I'm not interested! I suppose you guys think you're pretty....pretty....  what's the word you all use now days?? 'Awesome'....yea, awesome. All that means is that you think you know everything.....and you don't. So no, I'm not interested! And that goes for your singing too!" and slammed the door (which....I should mention, had a bright red banner reading "JOY" hanging across the front.....I'm confused;). 

.....Well....Merry Christmas anyways....

We all walked away kinda stunned, not sure if we should laugh or cry. Instead we just visited house after house until an adorable African American couple opened their door, came outside, and started singing along, swaying, and praising God (Baptist style:), till we'd finished our performance and then gave us an enthusiastic applause. AND....they actually took the cookies:)


Christmas was another adventure:) On Sunday, the widow in our ward who was going to host us Christmas day, came up and introduced herself to me, and then added, "Oh...and did Sis Green tell you?? We're going to have a jammy party on Christmas Day!"

.....I'm sorry, what??.....

She continued, "I'm 76 years old....and I've never had a jammy party....so on Christmas Day, be sure to wear your best jammies, because we're going to make a day of it, ok??"

Yep. On Christmas Day, I had a "jammy" party with a 76 year old:)! hahaha! It was unforgettable to say the least! She was so grateful, though, to have us over since this is her first Christmas as a widow and it was so rewarding to see the impact it made on her holiday. I really did feel like we were serving the Lord that day, as we sat there and she shared pictures and stories with us about her life, her late husband, and her family. 

We also got to SKYPE HOME!!! AH!!!! It's still SO weird to think that the next time I see them, I'll be walking off the plane (as an oh, so awkward RM:)!! I was already awkward enough over Skype.....especially when meeting the new in-laws:) Yea, sorry Zach and Rachel....I'll try and make up for it in person;) hahahah! It really was SO good to see everyone's faces and to reconnect, though. I miss family a lot out here, so Christmas Day and Mother's Day mean the world to me:) love you fam!! 3 months....3 months!!

The Lord's also been blessing us with people to teach this week as well. On Monday, as we were sitting in Panera writing friends and family, one of the waiters came up to clear our table, and as he turned to go, he read my name tag. "Sister?? Are you from a church or something??"

That's our cue.

We told him who we were, and started giving him a brief explanation of what we believed and why we were out serving as missionaries. He'd listen for a little bit, then excuse himself to go back to work, then he'd come back ten minutes later and ask more questions, and back and forth until finally, we asked him if we could meet sometime to talk about religion. He agreed, gave us his phone number, and accepted a Book of Mormon. I'm now a firm believer in Panera. That's the second investigator I've found on my mission by eating at Panera:) We're meeting with him this week, and praying that he accepts the invitation to be baptized!!

Our other....unique.....lesson of the week was with our investigator, Norine. She's a hoot:) She's around 50 yrs old, has fiery hot pink hair, and when I first met her, she went off for over 15 minutes about her recent appearance on Judge Judy where she sued her granddaughter......and won:)


We finally got to the lesson portion of our visit, where we'd planned on showing her the Restoration DVD. We started by introducing her to various scriptures in the Bible (her father was a Baptist minister so she knows her Bible well) that prophecy about the restoration of the gospel. We hadn't gone far, when we heard moans and rustling noises coming from the nearby bedroom. The door was open and we could see the foot of the bed, where a man was lying. Then, almost out of nowhere, we heard him turn over and start violently puking off the side of the bed into a trash can. 

Sis Green and I just looked at each other, tried to focus again, and continued, until Norine yelled into the other room,"Willie!!! You wanna go to the hospital?!?!" We just sat there awkwardly while he brushed her off, and she turned back to us with, "That's my brother-in-law. He's REALLY sick, girls. Sorry.....continue..."


We managed to get past the scriptures and introduced the video. She popped it in and pretty soon the First Vision scene was starting. I swear.....Satan does E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. he can to ruin that moment....and therefore, disrupt the spirit. Kids getting hurt, pets making noise, the phone ringing, gunshots firing outside, spouses barging in, the fire alarm going off.....yep, seen it all. It's actually an unusual experience to have the First Vision read, recited, or watched without something--anything--in someway or another becoming a distraction. THIS time around, though....it was a whole new ballpark. The closer the "humble kneeling, sweet appealing" moment got, the harder I started praying for 3 minutes.....just 3 minutes....of break time before the hurling began again. 

BUT.....that didn't happen.

RIGHT before the heavens opened, Willie's stomach decided to do so first. Just as the Mo Tab started swelling, so did his dinner from the night before,  and it was by NO means quiet. Sis Green and I just sat there praying for divine intervention and trying our best to focus on Norine and the movie. Norine, without breaking focus on the screen, but clearly aware of the background bedroom noises, picked up the remote and FLOORED the + volume button. 

That brought back the spirit soon enough....the whole complex probably heard it:) hahaha! 

Whatever works, right?? Sis Green and I are still getting lots of laughs over that one:) By the end of the film, Willie had rolled over, and we enjoyed the last 10 minutes of our visit without distractions, as we asked her, "Do you think a boy--Joseph Smith--could have been visited by God and Jesus Christ?"

She thought about it for a moment, and then smiling, responded, "Absolutely! God can do anything!!"


Sis Green and I definitely walked away from that visit, with a firm testimony of the Spirit's ability to testify......despite all odds:)! Norine was touched by our message and agreed to come to church, read from the Book of Mormon, and pray about it's truthfulness!! 

The work is working:) Our area is difficult, but Sis Green and I are setting goals and making plans to find and teach more. We're enjoying the companionship of the Spirit on a daily basis, and it is carrying us through. This week of Christmas prompted me to reflect on the gift of my Savior, as the feelings of loneliness and homesickness became harder to ward off. As I thought about Him, His birth, and the lonely circumstances in which He was born and lived, I was reminded again that He knows my situation and my struggles perfectly. The scripture in Moses 6:34, where the Lord beckons, "Walk with me" came to my mind as I laid in bed Christmas Eve, missing home and family. 

I've felt Him extending that invitation to me many times this week, as I've allowed my thoughts and feelings to drift inward. He's reminded me to walk with Him....and in doing so, I find myself turning outward. And it is such a sweeter experience! I truly do have the opportunity and blessing every day of my mission life, and beyond, to walk with Him as I choose to walk the path He wants me to walk. It requires effort and sacrifice, but I see evidence of His appreciation and love all around me as I do so. It is rewarding! And the relationship I'm developing with Him because of it.....I wouldn't trade for the world!

Onward and upward,

Sis Anna Parker 

(pics to come soon........these library computers won't let me upload:/)