Monday, December 28, 2015

DO NOT GIVE UP

 December 28, 2015
The amount of cars I almost get run over by everyday is amazing. My angels are probably like "Hermana Israelsen is walking in the middle of the road again nose goes!"
On the bright side I managed to lose both my water bottle filters this week but then I found one of them again, then I lost that one again, but then I found it again!
My companion things I look like Miley Cyrus and the other day we were walking back from lunch but we have to climb this huge hill and everytime I just stare at the top like... dang it... So I started belting "The Climb," by Miley Cyrus. My companion was just laughing because I was getting so into it but then I had weirdly had a spiritual experience singing this song. Hahaha so the lyrics go "You may not know it but these are the moments that I'm going to remember most yeah just gotta keep going!" Seriously though how many days do you spend looking forward to the weekend or tomorrow or the next break from school. How many days do we spend looking forward to the next. In the mission it's easy to think "Ok, I just have to make it through this transfer or the first 6 months and then I will be happy." If we focus our time waiting for the "big" things to happen we miss out on all the little things. It's those little moments that make life so enjoyable. The note from your 5 year old kid that you need spell check or google translate to help you understand what on earth they wrote you?! It's that you came home and mom made your favorite dinner! Or the lady who bagged your groceries told you she liked your shoes. It's the little moments of every day that make you smile. THOSE are the moments that you are going to remember. Those little moments will one day become the BIG moments.
Have you ever had someone jump on your back and want a piggy back ride but you don't want to give them one so they are just awkwardly hanging on your neck because you will not grab their legs? This is how I feel everyday with Satan. He's like that annoying little kid who keeps jumping on your back and won't get off. Somedays I am so tempted to just give into his voice. Somedays I feel like I am just barely holding on. But the point is that YOU DO NOT GIVE UP! That little tiny voice that says "but what if it gets better?" LISTEN TO IT! HOLD ON TO THAT VOICE WITH ALL THAT YOU HAVE! Sometimes we just have to hold on tight and out last the Devil. At one point that annoying kid always gets bored and jumps off your back. Satan doesn't want us to pray because he knows it limits him. It's not about smiling 24/7 and pretending "everything is GREAT!" It's about having faith, hope, and finding the good in everyday. Writing down in your journal at night those little moments throughout the day that made you smile. I promise if you think really hard you laughed at least ONCE today!
"There's always going to be another mountain. You are always going to want to make it move. There is always going to be an uphill battle. Sometimes you're going to have to lose. Ain't about how fast you get there, it's about what is waiting on the other side. It's the CLIMB!" (I have this entire Hannah Montana song memorized but I can't remember to put my sweater on right side out?) It really is true hahaha I still can't believe I made something spiritual come out of this. Anyway it's not about winning the race it's about completing the race. It's about getting up every time you fall. It's about finding the tender mercy's in everyday and ALWAYS thanking Heavenly Father for the beautiful life you have been given even though it doesn't always seem so beautiful it is, you just have to look for it.
When times get tough BELT IT'S THE CLIMB by Miley Cyrus and imagine me sweating and climbing hills in Ecuador while my companion talks to me in Spanish and I pretend to understand "si si si" :)
Don't forget that you are NEVER ALONE!

Con amor, 

Hermana Israelsen

DO NOT EAT THE FRUIT!

 December 21, 2015
My first full day with my companion went something like this.. We were walking by this store when my companion saw this fruit! She told me we absolutely had to buy it because it was so DELICIOUS! I was like "okay yeah you can buy it?" Then she told me I had to eat it! I am using exclamation marks to show how enthusiastic she was about me eating this fruit. It was the weirdest looking fruit but I ate it anyway. She started laughing after I ate it and I was confused? Until about 8 minutes later when I found out why she was laughing..... I have never had to go to the bathroom so bad in my entire life... we were contacting and no where near a bathroom. I turned to her and just gave her the WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME FACE?! She was busting up laughing while I could barely walk. We luckily got to this members house but she is super old and takes like 3 minutes to unlock the door. I was DYING!!!! 3 minutes might seem short but in that moment it was a freaking long 3 minutes! I made it to the bathroom. Don't worry all was well. Moral of the story if someone seems way excited to give you fruit like weirdly excited DO NOT EAT THE FRUIT!
So basically I have gotten even better at staring at peoples house decorations and noticing what wall colors brighten a room or darken a room. And if Jose shrugs his shoulders more than 3 times he feels uncomfortable. If Anna picks her finger nail polish it means she is nervous about something. If Isabella stares at the ground it means she's bored. All the pros being in a foreign country where everyone speaks a language that you still can´t speak or understand. I have become super observant of peoples body language, facial expressions, and staring at their house decor like it is the first time I have seen it even though it's like the 16th time I have been in their house.
So if my pictionary skills don't work out for me I can be a detective or an interior house decorator.
This week I hit an absolute low. We were in the middle of a lesson and I couldn't understand anyone and I was so discouraged! I was sad but that made me even more angry because I didn't want to cry because it was the first time in weeks that I put on make up and I just didn't want to cry so I kept doing that yawn thing where when they looked at me like are you crying? Oh no see I am just yawning and its making my eyes water. Oh look I yawned again see that’s why ha no I am not crying! So after I had my little temper tantrum I realized I can either remain in self pity and discouragement or trust in God and his decision to send me here. 
In the midst of our trials we have a choice. To remain in the darkness (where I PROMISE you, you will never find an answer), or take a leap of faith and trust that something good can come out of all this pain. When we feel like life is overwhelming or our trials are just too hard! Stop, and think "Am I making this way more complicated than it has to be?" The scriptures say over and over again that we need to "become like a child." That use to confuse me so much! Like I have worked so hard to become who I am why would I go back to being 4 years old. When you are 4 blue is blue and purple is purple. There is no baby blue, navy blue, aqua marine, lavander, magenta, plum, flower petal shaded lemon yellow orange. Idk that last one 100% isn't a color but you get my point? Do you know God loves you? And do you love God? If you know those 2 things then smile because everything else will fall into place. Don't make it more complicated than it has to be! If it's Satan than pray will all our heart to cast Satan out of your heart and your mind. Sometimes we have to pray to even have a desire to pray. Sometimes we just have to believe in something or someone that we HOPE is there. And that's okay. The point is that you DO NOT REMAIN IN DARKNESS!!! It will become comfortable and the longer you are there the harder it is to come out. Trust me I get it. I was in the dark for several years and I PROMISE YOU THE LIGHT IS SO MUCH BETTER! It's way more fun too :)
Be patient. Trust that God's plan is WAY better than yours. "To believe in God is to have wonderful surprises." I promise you it's never as bad as you think. I live with someone who doesn't speak my language who gives me magical fruit that makes me have to use the bathroom for way longer than the actual lesson we gave them.
Remember you are NEVER alone!
Con amor,
Hermana Israelsen

It´s How We Handle the Challenge that Provokes Growth


December 14, 2015
my comp found bird poop in my hair no idea how long it had been there for haha, "you look like you are getting fatter!!", finding spiders in my laundry basket "oh how sweet of you to decide to lay your eggs in my bed sheets."
I have my first Latin companion! We spent the morning talking, well she talked and I just nodded and said si si si and awkward laughed here and there when she made long pauses. After a solid 2 hours I broke down in tears in front of her but because she only speaks Spanish I couldn´t even explain to her why I was crying. And it wasn’t that pretty cry some people are capable of doing with one or two tears and a little sniffle. It was that snot coming out of your nose, weird noises coming out of your throat, red puffy face cry. So if I didn't win for best first impression of your new comp I want to meet the missionary who did better than that!

In life we get into a routine where we feel comfortable. It might not be easy but it´s familiar? It´s normal for us. In the mission that doesn't exist. The moment you think "hmm, yeah I think I can do this?" WA-BAM something changes. You seriously can't be a successful missionary or a disciple of Christ if you aren't completely relying on the Lord.
It's not the trial we experience that makes us strong. It´s not depression that makes us deep. It isn´t sin that makes us appreciate the atonement. It´s how we overcome sin, depression, and our trials that makes us strong. The thing itself does nothing for us. It´s how we handle the challenge that provokes growth. It´s how we overcome adversity and how we help others overcome their own battles that makes the darkest moments the most precious. That is why the Atonement is the MOST precious gift! Because it wasn´t the actual afflictions, temptations, and pains of the world that he suffered that make the Atonement so wonderful. It was that he CHOSE to endure it. He chose to overcome the sins of the world. Not just feel the sins of the world, but he OVERCAME them.
So what does "being strong" mean to you? Buff, fearless, doesn´t cry easily (haha not me), can bench 200 lbs, can carry 2 hermanas suitcases down the stairs at ONE TIME?! How many more descriptions of strong would you have named before you said the word love?
Jesus was the strongest person to ever walk the earth. But he cried openly. He mourned with those that mourned. He wouldn´t carry suitcases for the hermanas so he could casually sneak it "yeah, I benched more than this at home." He gave his literal life for us. He who could have been born in a cradle made of gold was born in a manger with barn animals and probably wouldn't complain if he had bird poop in his hair or if spiders laid eggs in his sheets. "The greatest among you will be your servant."
So yeah am I nervous do I kind of feel nauseas about this next change. Yes. I am terrified! But He is with me. I know that I am not alone and neither are you.
Con amor,
Hermana Israelsen
PS there is this kid who is like 2 and he always sits by me in Sacrament. We are like super tight and he shares his toy cars with me and we basically understand the same amount of Spanish :)

How Do We Handle Disappointment and Discouragement?


 December 7, 2015
This last Wednesday we called our Zone leaders to report our day when they asked my comp, "Are you guys going to find a new family tomorrow?" My comp said "yeah!" He asked for specifics, so I yelled "a family of 4! A mom, a dad, a son, and a daughter!" He asked, "who is older the son or daughter." I just yelled again, "uhh the DAUGHTER!" (I really was yelling). He said, "I can't wait to find out their name tomorrow."
My comp hung up the phone and we just looked at each other like uhh ok well let's start praying :) In the prayer I apologized for the randomness and should have counseled with him first but I believe in miracles!
The next day when we were contacting we found this guy. My comp asked how many people were in his family and he said 4! He said he has a son and daughter and then my comp asked which is older he said his daughter. We got his information and has an appointment scheduled 2 days later. We even fasted the day before the appointment to make sure all would go well!
I kept telling myself that miracles really do happen after a trial of our faith! The day arrived when we decided to call and verify the address a man answered the phone. I asked "is this Jose?" the guy who answered was like "no." Then he hung up. So I called again and asked "is this Jose?" and the guy said "no." Then he hung up again. I refused to believe this is how our MIRACLE would end so I called again. I said "Hi, this is the missionaries from the Church.." The dude hung up again.
You know that feeling when the waiter comes out with your food and it's just like PURE JOY!! And they are coming closer and closer and your mouth starts watering and all is right in the world. And they set it down at the table next to you and you're just like nooooo wait please stop that's mine!! But it's actually not yours... and you’re just like super sad. Or when you bring home leftovers from Texas Roadhouse because you ate 10 rolls waiting for your food to come and now that your food has come you're full so you bring it home and put it in the fridge to eat later. But then later you go to get your chicken tenders that you saved and wrote "DO NOT EAT!" all over the box and when you go to open the box there is like half a fry and the crumbs of the chicken and your just like "WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE!" Well the moment that we realized that guy, OUR GOLDEN family, gave us the wrong number it kind of felt like that.
So how do we handle disappointment and discouragement? How do we overcome frustrations within ourselves and within others? Why are we so quick to judge or to find fault in others? Why is it that when bad things happen to us we so quickly want to play the victim? We all want the same thing in this world. I mean isn't happiness a universal desire? Today we bought pizza because it's our last pday before changes. We were SO PUMPED to eat this pizza, and I obviously got a little too excited because I dropped it.. It landed face down on the road. And there were like 6 seconds where my eyes legit started to water. We spent 6 DOLLARS on this pizza and I was NOT going to let it go to waste. So I just started picking all of it up and putting it back in the box. My companion just looked at me like "what are you doing?" Then this lady who saw the entire thing happen starts telling us it was the evil spirits that made me drop the pizza but I was too focused on saving the rest of the pizza to listen to her talk about the evil spirits that forced me to drop our pizza.
We got back to the house and I started eating the pizza. My comp said "you're going to get sick!" and I said "no it's fine you just have to pick out the road it's still good." I have NO IDEA how but this little scenario made me think of our last week. Our individual lives are like the pizza. Sometimes we fall flat on our face or in this case dropped flat on our face. But instead of crying about it or complaining about it or giving up and seeing all the negative you can LAUGH pick out the chunks of tar and keep fighting! God doesn't give us trials and obstacles so we can sit and cry about them. He gives them to us because he knows and understands the JOY we will feel when we overcome them. So yeah missionary work is hard. Life is hard!!! Finding investigators is hard!! Staying active in the church, forgiving, repenting of our sins, being kind to others that hurt you it's ALL hard! But that's what makes life so precious. That's what makes all these moments leading up to the day when we are standing face to face with God and he asks us "how did you love me?" And we answer "I didn't give up. I never stopped fighting!"
Be a little kinder, a little more caring, and little more understanding. This life is easy for none of us. Not you, not me, and especially not for the beautiful pizza I dropped today on the street. But the bits of tar and rocks in the pizza I think gave it an extra kick. You are who you are because of what you have been through. You are someone great. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and smiled :)?
You my wonderful friends who are still reading this extremely long email are NOT ALONE!
Con amor,
Hermana Israelsen




What Would Jesus Do?

November 30, 2015
Sometimes other people can be harsh. They can be judgmental and say things that make me say, "Dude, why?" Do we truly understand that none of us are perfect? Like haha we are all just trying our little hearts out. Trying to be the best versions of ourselves. I have been here for 4 months and I still don`t know a lot. Ha I am not the best teacher, the best with Spanish, or knowing what to do or say. But the more we focus on what we can`t do the more IMPOSSIBLE life is going to feel. I like to focus on the little things. I can give up my seat on the bus to a woman and her tiny baby. I can carry my companions bag when we are going up a steep hill. We can buy roses and hand them out to people on the street. We make really really buttery cookies and give them to the Bishop and Relief Society president and their families (actually that might not have been service because they tasted so bad). But the point is that it`s the little things we do that make the big differences. I find myself during the day thinking "Oh no, what would the other missionaries do in this situation? Or what would President do?" When in reality the only person I should be thinking about is "What would Jesus do.. What would he really do?"
I wrote in the front of my planner, "What kind of missionary does my mom think I am?" I know that if I am the missionary my mom thinks I am and can be then I am doing just as Jesus would do. He stops for the one. This week my companion and I pushed an old lady in a wheel chair up a giant hill. At first I was like my CALVES ARE ON FIRE I CAN`T DO THIS ANYMORE! I was thinking about me. This hurts me. I am tired. I am hungry. I miss my family. I want to be home for Christmas. I want turkey on Thanksgiving. WA WA WA WA!! It was all about me. But then I looked at the face of this cute little old lady who I tried so hard to understand but she had about 3 teeth, but with those 3 teeth she had the biggest smile on her face. In that moment all the mean comments people make, all the homesick feelings, and Ugh I just want DORITOS or PIZZA feelings went away.
So what would Jesus do? What would he really really do? Now get off your toosh and do it! Stop for the ONE! Make cookies for your neighbor just because. Write your bishop a letter and say thank you!! Tell the lady bagging your groceries to have a freaking awesome day!!! It`s the little tiny things we do that make the biggest difference to God.
I promise with all my freaking heart that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! But there are people out there who might feel alone. So STOP thinking about yourself and start thinking about what Jesus, the person who has endured ALL and still loves, the person who`s love for us is on the palms of his hands. What would he do?
Con amor,
Hermana Israelsen