Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Happy Christmas!
I don't have much time this week, but I hope you all had a bright Christmas filled with the love of our Savior! 

It was a special week here in Caerphilly. We had a zone meeting on Christmas Eve which was a total blast. It is so fun to be with so many young people, all striving for the same goal. It has been such a blessing to see Christmas through a new pair of eyes; missionary eyes. Christ's life is everywhere! He is indeed the light and life of the world. "If it is good, it is of God" and there is SO much good in the world! We might have to look for it a little harder these days, but it is there. 

I am so grateful to have had time to Skype my family this week. I was missing them terribly, so my void was filled! It was grand to see that they were moving, healthy, and still as fun as ever! :) It was also nice to see that I'm not missing out on a whole lot, it was a reminder to me that I am out here, on this adventure for a reason. That my purpose is being fulfilled HERE. I am no longer missing my sweet family, because I know that they are being watched over and protected. I am excited to hear that my sister is doing well in Lexington, KY. She is such a wonderful example to me.

On Christmas Day, we were absolutely SPOILED by ward members. The bishop fed us a traditional English Christmas dinner which was immaculate! We had 3 courses (3 spoons, 3 forks, and 2 knives) with nearly everything you can imagine. Even brussel sprouts. Which are definitely from Satan. Man. Rough, rough, rough. Other than those, we definitely did not go without! We each received a pair of socks from over 10 members. My feet are EXTRA warm this holiday season! :) And we also received over 36,000 calories in English chocolate! Mercy. We have since then, re-gifted over 3/4 of it which is great! All in all, it was a glorious Christmas Day here in Caerphilly!
On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) we went to Cardiff to do some shopping at the 'mall' here. It was almost as crazy as black Friday in America. It was quite the experience to be in the midst of the world after being in a missionary mind set for the past few weeks. Bad music, immodesty, nasty language everywhere. It totally scared me at first, but we mad it out alive.

On Sunday, we got to church early and were bummed to see that none of our recent converts or less-active members were there. BUT as soon as the sacrament was over, all three of our less-actives and our recent convert WALKED IN! The joy that overcame us was incredible! It was amazing to see the fruits of our labors! I couldn't stop smiling all day long!

I know through dilligence and strict obedience that great things will come to pass! I am so thankful to be here in Wales, serving the Lord. I am being broken down more and more each day, which is hard, but I know that I am being made into the woman/missionary that God wants me to be. His plan is far greater than mine could ever be. I am so grateful that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I can be strengthened when I feel that I can no longer hold on. He is my guide, my older brother, and my strength. It is such a blessing to be led and guided by the spirit in all we do. I am amazed at the opportunity I have to witness such miracles and have such spiritual experiences. We, as missionaries, are truly spoiled!  

I am so grateful to be here and to be growing more and more each day. This adventure is teaching me so much about myself, this gospel, and the missionary I want to become.
I hope you all continue to follow the example of Jesus Christ and allow Him to guide you on your journey. I challenge you to come closer to your Savior this next year. In your words and your deeds.
Happy New Year!
Peace and Love.
Sister Sydney Jones
  -Have courage and be kind.

*Note to reader*
This was the letter I received from Sydney on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas and before the above email.  I got called up to talk in Sacrament this Sunday, and impromptu I pulled this letter out and read it to the audience.  They loved it as much as I did, I think.  Enjoy!

Hello beautiful mother of mine! 
It was so wonderful to see and talk to
you yesterday! I was so grateful for that opportunity. It was exactly
what I needed. I'm so happy that grandma and grandpa were there as
well. Thank you for inviting them. I sure miss my gram. Make sure to
keep her busy ma! Go to lunch and invite her to do fun things. Keep
her youthful while I'm away! :) I hope grandpa is doing well too..
Jaden looked so much older already! Mercy. Funny that Jordan got him
slippers for Christmas.. Did he get her anything? Keep me updated on
his relationship status! ;)
I'm kinda bummed that I couldn't talk to Katelyn yesterday. I feel
like it's been years since I've actually talked to her. It's hard to
find time to email her cause we're both so busy, which is fine. But I
need my big sister strength! Hopefully after the holidays, we'll be
able to talk a little more. I sure miss her. Glad to know that she's
doing well though!
What did you Jaden and daddy get for Christmas? I must know! We got
hooked up again from the members last night and today. Socks socks
socks. I'll be sending a few of my presents home hopefully on Mondaycause there's just so much.
Hopefully we'll have my bike situation figured out soon.. I'll be sure
to let you know. I wrote a list of the things that I need/want. And
the deodorant, just get me whatever kind. And don't worry about too
much ramen. I thought about it last night and it was a spur of the
moment thing, I don't really like it that much anyway. Please don't
send my any sweets.. We have FAR MORE than we need. But Ritz crackers
would be cool. The ones here are a little funky. And just send it to
our flat address.
Thank you so much mom!!!!!  I love you forever! Thank you for blessing
my life with all you do. I a, forever thankful! I'll send a big family
email on Monday.  Love you!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lovely, Just Lovely!

Hello beautiful people!

I hope you all are well! I have had a wonderful two weeks. We went to the Preston Temple for the second time on Tuesday night, which was wonderful. Sitting in a celestial room filled with missionaries is POWERFUL. I was overwhelmed with how blessed I felt to be there in that moment, how extraordinary this opportunity is, and how much we are loved by out Father in Heaven to be trusted with such an important task! There was nothing like it. 

Standing on the famous Cornerstone
Check out

We left the MTC on Wednesday morning to come to the mission home in Birmingham. I was absolutely terrified on the way there. It is scary to be uprooted after two weeks of being with people that you love so much! 
The picture of us 4 on the bus is the 'Day 1 Crew'. We're all day 1 homies. Elder Ofasi is from South Africa/England and Elder Turnbow is from Preston Idaho. We all sang on the coach whilst heading to the mission home and it was just lovely. They are all in my mission and we hope to see each other often! 
There were 22 of us missionaries who came to the England Birmingham Mission, the biggest group in quite a while, which was cool. It will be nice to see familiar faces once in a while.

It was great to have so many familiar faces around, all feeling the same rumblie-tumblies. 
We met President and Sister Leppard (pronounced Leppawd) and they are just so wonderful. So kind and loving! We got everything settled in and headed to the chapel for the transfer meeting. This moment.. It's like a scary Christmas morning feeling. Like, you're so excited but scared to find out what will happen. We had a devotional and then the 'calls' came. *I sat there with Sister Belnap and was just so grateful for the friendship we built in just two short weeks. I have never laughed harder, nor had so many spiritual moments with someone. We have the perfect balance and just get each other.. which is cool. (: I am so thankful for her and the sweet example that she is to me. I hope and pray that we will see each other oft and be companions if it be His will. Best friends for eternity!!*

Anyway, the AP started calling out names and mine was soon called. "Sister Jones, your trainer is Sister Scherf
. And you will be serving in Caerphilly, WALES! What?!?!?! I was SO excited and relieved. Let me start off by saying that Sister Scherf is incredible! She has been out for a year. Her name is pronounced scarf, but you have to say it like you have something caught in your throat to get it just right. She is from Holland and speaks Dutch! And totally looks like Liona Lewis.. It's crazy! She is glorious! Gosh, I don't know how I got so blessed! She is so obedient, mellow, fun, and filled with the spirit. She is so easy to get along with and is genuinely concerned about me and my feelings, which helped me to feel comfortable with her quickly. 

We then took a coach to Wales, then got on a train into Caerphilly. It is a small village, with small streets, small cars, and a HUGE castle out our front window! 

Oh my gosh, are you dying or what?! I don't quite know how old it is, but it is made of dark stone, has an actual draw bridge and mote surrounding it, and is covered in moss. SO cool! The tours are only £2, so we will definitely be participating in that! 
The first day jitters were hard to get over, but it was nice to get started on everything. On my first day, we had our very first lesson with a man called Richard, who is a less-active. I had the opportunity to bare my testimony on the Atonement and how it has worked in mine and my families lives. The spirit filled the room. It was a wonderful experience! I am still in awe that I get to do this for a year and a half! How blessed am I to have this opportunity to have the spirit with me constantly and to be bringing this gospel to my brothers and sisters! It is absolutely incredible it is! 

We had a Zone Conference/ Christmas party on Friday which was a great time! I got to see Sister Belnap (Gangsta' B) and a few others from my MTC group which was fun! We have since then taught a lesson to a less-active named Lisa and it went SO well! The spirit, again, filled the room as we watched a Christmas video and afterwards tears were falling from her eyes. She felt it. We were guided by the Holy Ghost to take the lesson to a certain point and then to just bare testimony. I was marvelous. And guess what?? She accepted our invitation to come to church on Sunday and she came! Man, that was a cool feeling! We were so happy to have here there.
The members here are angels. More than half of their adult congregation are return missionaries! And many of them are converts as well. So, they are more than willing to feed and help us at any time of the day. They are so kind and loving. They make this place feel like home. 

As we were walking in the front door of the church building yesterday, the bishop asked me if I would take a couple minutes because a speaker just dropped out....Gosh. I have never been hit so hard in the stomach! Haha, man. I was nervous up until I began walking to the pulpit and everything melted away. God works wonders doesn't he? :) It went wonderfully and it was a great opportunity to introduce myself to the ward. Many of the members have told me that I look and act like I've been out for quite a while. And when I say I've only been out for 4-5 days, they are floored. So, I'm glad that I'm not an awkward greenie! #1 goal achieved! :)

Fun Facts:
-This town is FILLED with Christmas lights and SO much spirit! Everyone is wearing their Christmas jumpers (sweaters) around town. It's so fun!
-Everyone here sounds like Adele to me! Their accents are absolutely fascinating! 
-The people are also fascinated with my 'accent' as well! Which is so funny to me. The children in primary yesterday just wanted to hear me talk and they would be all-attentive just listening; it was pretty funny.
-The Welsh accent is BEYOND ME! The very first morning, we got a call from Richard who has no teeth and has a very thick Welsh accent. Sister Scherf handed me the phone and I literally understood NOTHING. I couldn't help but laugh afterwards because I felt so dumb, but it was rough! I'm not sure I'll be able to understand it any time soon.
-The castle is the coolest.
-The Welsh people put mint flavoring in their peas....Mercy. 
-I have had more mince meat pie in one week than any normal person should! 
-The humidity is out of this world. 100% humidity every single day. Which means, if you use a towel on Sunday morning, the odds of it being dry by Tuesday evening are extremely thin! It is just one of those things..
-I have to help Sister Scherf with her English once in a while. I had to explain the word "turkey" to her and she didn't understand for about 5 minutes. And when she did, she couldn't stop laughing.. haha she's a good time.
-There are always rainbows here. It is just beautiful! 

Long story short, this week has been great! I am already falling in love with this work and these people. I feel so blessed to be here and to be diving into this work. I know it won't be easy, but I'm going to let this 'greenie fire' take me as far as I possibly can! I love this gospel and the opportunity I have to study the doctrine each day. It might sound silly to day that I can already feel myself growing, but I can already feel myself growing! :) It is a cool feeling. 
This gospel is true. Jesus Christ was born. He died for us. And he lives again! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with love and remembrance of the life that Christ lived and does now live. Pray to him! He wants to hear from you!

Happy Christmas to you all! It's a beautiful time of year it is!

I'll see you on Christmas fam!

Friday, December 11, 2015

*Best daughter sister missionary ever! :)

My sweet family and friends, 

     At this moment I am indulging in Cadbury dark chocolate while watching the sun go down here in England! It is only 3:00p.m. here, but it is nearly dark! And the sun barely rises at 10:30a.m. It is the weirdest thing! 

I am so excited to finally be emailing home and to tell you about the beginning of my adventures here in the motherland! It is going beautifully here in the Preston England MTC. 
Leaving Idaho Falls, ID

This place is lovely. It is SO green here. Driving on the left side of the road is just freaky. It just feels super uncomfortable to be honest! I hope to not be driving for a bit! 

The first day was hard and it didn't help that I was literally awake for 47 hours! I was sick to my stomach and dizzy and all sorts of struggle. I was filled with worry and thoughts of "Man, I just want to go home and snuggle with my mom and puppy!" 

But, we soon got into the work and I was remembered of why I left all that to begin with. The spirit here is constant. It is REAL. 

The Elders and Sisters here are all here for the same purpose. It is wonderful to be able to turn to anyone in the MTC and share a spiritual experience with them; it builds a bond so quickly and we automatically become friends. I am so blessed to be here. 

My companions are Sister Belnap from Gilbert Arizona (coming to Birmingham with me) and Sister Atkins (waiting for a visa to go to the Omaha, Nebraska mission.) from here in Chorley, England. Elder Garrett Broulim is actually in Sister B's home ward and her dad is the ward mission leader! Small world! Sister Belnap ran D1 track for NAU and she is SO MUCH FUN! We have a blast together and our words just flow so easily. I pray that we will be companions in the field, because we are already becoming best friends which is sweeettt! 

Sister Atkins is absolutely hilarious and we often find ourselves speaking with an English accent because of her! She is a convert (baptized at 13) and her mother lives in Sydney, Australia and went to BYUI until July of this year. Small world yet again! We all have such a strong bond growing and our teaching has reflected that. 

      It has been so cool to find a new love in the Book of Mormon, through missionary eyes. Every scripture holds new meaning and my focus is different as well. The teachers here are so genuine and conscience of how we are learning, which is just brilliant. I am so thankful to be in this smaller MTC where I can have that intimate learning experience, I feel like I would've gotten lost in the Provo MTC because of all the missionaries there. They teach Greek, German, and English here. Greek is a beautiful language by the way! All of our teachers have different accents (LOVE IT) and it seriously makes me pay attention more than usual. Foreign people are just so fascinating to me! 

The food here is GLORIOUS. The bacon here is real, thick, and scrumptious. So different than American bacon. I tried fish and chips for the first time here and actually like it! I was super proud of myself! I also tried sweet potato fries! Why didn't anyone tell me they were so delicious?! I didn't know what I was missing out on! The cookies here are thick and so yummy! They feed us well here. Too well! :)

       My district is great! We are in the Jacob district and have so much personality here. Elder Decker is from the Netherlands and Elder Mkhoulise is from South Africa. All the others are from America. 
We are learning, everyday how to become better missionaries. It is hard process to learn and to grow. But to learn and grow, we must be okay with being uncomfortable. And that has taken some time to get used to. I'm not quite sure I'll ever be quite used to it but it is so worth it. I am learning so much about myself and about Christ. I am learning to adjust to the investigators and to adapt in various situations. This Gospel is work and it is hard, but so wonderful. If it was easy, I don't know if I would so invested! 

So I am grateful for the difficult moments, because it means that I am growing. I am so blessed to be here and to be studying and teaching for 12 hours a day. It isn't easy and it is SO exhausting at times. But this is my life now, this is the adventure of a life time and I am learning to love every single second of it!

       We had the opportunity to attend the temple this morning and it was just incredible to sit in the celestial room as a missionary. I felt the spirit more strongly than I ever have before. It was wonderful! And to see so many missionaries there beside me was such a sight to see! I was so grateful that we were able to attend. 
The trees here are flat!

Fast Sunday was also great! Hearing so many testimonies from other Sisters and Elders was powerful! A lot of the testimonies were in German and Greek, but you couldn't question the spirit that was there. It was incredible. These experiences are building up my testimony more and more!!

      Some other fun facts for you:
-They play Christmas music to wake us up in the morning which is so peaceful and lovely! It reminds me of home.
-The wind gusts here and insane! Almost worse than Idaho.
-I have fallen asleep 5 nights out of 6, on my journal! We work hard here. As soon as my head hits the pillow, nothing else matters!
-Sister Atkins puts 1000 island dressing and cucumbers on everything. It is WEIRD. I almost gag every time I see her eating it.
-They do have Ketchup here, holla! (Dad, there is hope.) They have an alternative called 'brown sauce' which tastes like horseradish and brown sugar. DISGUSTING. 
-Hell is not a swear word here. Not even a little bit. Our teacher said "What the hell?" to an elder the other day and I about died! So that is interesting.
-This Sunday, it was bright and sunny nearly all day! It didn't rain a lick. It was beautiful.
-They call the bathroom 'toilet' here.
-Sister Atkins literally has a bladder the size of a pea and both of us have to go with her  literally every single hour. And when she needs to go, she politely says"I need to wee". Gosh, hahahah she's a good time.
-There are two swans who flew in from the east on the day that we arrived. They just chill in the front pond and just look so pure and beautiful, but apparently they are super mean! They are actually protected by the queen!
-I accidentally put my hand on an elders leg while laughing last night (without realizing it) and while I was pulling away I got quietly reprimanded by a teacher. Not my proudest moment.. Totally forgot that it wasn't appropriate to do such things! :) We laughed even more after that. 

I love this work and am so grateful to be here. I hope you are all well and you are continuing to strive in goodness and to be closer to the Lord. He loves you. He wants to hear from you. Give him that time and you will reap the blessings. 

Have a splendid week. 

Cheerio mates!

Sister Jones

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I Made It (to Harry Potter land)

Hello mom and dad!

I made it safely to the England MTC! The plane ride was very long and we are all extremely exhausted, but the spirit here is SO strong. Most of us are running on 2-3 hours of sleep, so it's kind of hard answering questions form the MTC president, but the Lord will provide. 
It is so beautiful here! It's very rainy and it looks like Harry Potter everywhere! The cars are so cool and the driving on the opposite side of the road is trippy. I am so excited to finally be here and am ready to get started! We find out who our companions are tonight at 6, which will be great. My P days are Wednesday here in the MTC, so I won't be able to talk to you until next Wednesday. I just found out that I get to attend the temple twice while in the MTC, which is great because we are told that the Birmingham missionaries will not have the opportunity to go while in the field. 
The other missionaries here are wonderful! Most have been here for many weeks; learning German. But the ones that arrived with me are all from America, other than one sister who is from the Philippines going to my mission! She's so tiny and fun! One of my roommates is from London, waiting for her visa to go through so she can continue serving in Nebraska. The other one is Sister Belnap from Arizona, who hasn't arrived yet but I know she will be so much fun!

I cannot wait to get started on this work! It is such a weird feeling being away from home, not with my family, but all good things! 

Sorry this email isn't longer, but I can barely keep my eyes open! Time to get a move on!

Love love love <3

Sister Sydney Jones

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Farewell Talk - November 22, 2015

Sister Sydney Jones
Good morning you lovely people! I cannot fully express how full my heart is at this very moment! Thank you for being here to support me in this huge milestone and for helping me to achieve one of my biggest dreams! Nearly 4 months ago (104 days to be exact), I stood in the doorway of my home with many of you surrounding me, as I read my sweet mission call. As my clammy hands trembled, I began to read: “Dear Sister Jones, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” I cannot even tell you how nerve-wracking that moment is. Where you will spend the next 18 months or 2 years of your life lies on the next line. As I removed the call booklet to reveal my place of service, I inhaled… calmly said “Woah!”… then I began to scream and jump up and down in complete and utter joy!!  Mind you, at this time, all those in the room were screaming at me to tell them where I had been called! After my very own mini celebration, I preceded to read: “You are assigned to labor in the England Birmingham Mission and should report to the England Missionary Training Center on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015.” *MORE FREAKING OUT* and tears. Holy moly. I am still filled with that very same excitement to this day. It was just the coolest, most spiritual experience ever! Since that day, I have gone shopping more than I would like to admit, made lasting memories with those I love, studied harder than I ever have before, attended the temple nearly every week since receiving my endowments, and have endured “the longest wait of my life”. And may I remind you that I only broke down once, which I am pretty proud of. J
It has been a long time coming, but I am elated to finally be standing here today, addressing you before I depart to England.
            Contrary to popular belief in our world today; there are still many marriages that make it, countless friends who care, plenty people willing to give, more chips than air in the Doritos bag, insane amounts of love, enough WIFI to go around, and so much to be GRATEFUL for! My talk today is on having an attitude of gratitude, in all things. I was so delighted to get this topic, because I truly believe that being grateful for the small things in life, will encourage us to find good everywhere we look!
Now, if I may remind you of a little story I like to call Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At first, we meet a young boy named Charlie Bucket. A sweet boy, who lives with his parents and four grandparents in a holy home. Holes in the roof and in the walls. His family is poor, hungry, and cold. They eat cabbage leaf soup every night of the week, but still find reason to smile about life; which would be really, really hard. When Charlie receives a Wonka Candy Bar for his birthday, he selflessly shares every ounce of it with his sweet family and is so grateful that he could she his joy with them! When Charlie finds the golden ticket, he first celebrates then tells his parents that he is going to sell it so the family could live a little better. Of course, the family knows that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and they insist he take the tour of the Willie Wonka Factory. So he does keep the ticket and takes Grandpa Joe with him.
Now, the Bucket family was poorer than any of us can even imagine, but they were rich in spirit and blessing. How many children get the opportunity to say that they grew up with both grandparents living under the same roof, in the same bed (I still don’t know how they all fit); but can you imagine the wealth of stories he heard from them? Charlie was so grateful for his family and the blessings that filled his home; regardless of circumstance. And this doesn’t mean Charlie didn’t want a better life for his family, I’m sure he did, but he chose to be thankful for the little things; such as family, laughter and LOVE. What more did he need than that?
As you may know, one of the best days of the whole year is this week; Thanksgiving Day. Its purpose is for families to gather around the table to watch great aunt Thelma gnaw on a piece of turkey with her dentures and to indulge in potatoes smothered in gravy. AND to also remember the many blessings that fill our lives, rather than our bellies. My first challenge to you all this Thanksgiving through your attitude of gratitude, is to ponder more about the blessings that fill your homes, rather than the food that fills your table. Think of others on this day. And most importantly, keep this going the WHOLE YEAR LONG! Look outside of yourself and find joy in the small, seemingly invisible everyday things. Ponder on the words in this poem titled:
Finding Gratitude in all Things
Lord, thank you for this sink of dirty dishes;
We have plenty of food to eat.
Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry;
We have plenty of nice clothes to wear.
And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those unmade beds;
They were so warm and comfortable last night.
I know that many have no bed.
My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom,
Complete with all the splattered mirrors, soggy, grimy towels and dirty lavatory;
They are so convenient.
Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator that needs defrosting so badly;
It has served us faithfully for many years.
It is full of cold drinks and enough leftovers for two or three meals.
Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely must be cleaned today.
It has baked so many things over the years.
The whole family is grateful for that tall grass that needs mowing,
We all enjoy the beautiful green yard.
Thank you, Lord, even for that slamming screen door.
My kids are healthy and able to run and play.
Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting me says
You have richly blessed my family.
I shall do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.

Brothers and sisters, whether poverty or prosperity, feast or famine, rain or shine, there is and always will be something to be grateful for! In England, there will be lots and LOTS of rain. But, I can already tell you that I will be dancing in puddles with my yellow rain boots on, I will be ‘singing in the rain’ under a cute umbrella, and searching often for the golden investigator at the end of the rainbow! J
Now, I know I make it sound like a mission and this life in general is full of beautiful green pastures and happiness. But honestly, we were sent here to be tested. I am not going on a mission because I want a vacation, I am going to work; just as we all should be doing every day. I am going to grow spiritually and help others find God, as I find myself; just as we all should be doing.
The perfect example of gratitude through adversity and hard work through trials is Cinderella. Cinderella was a beautiful girl who had courage and was always kind. But when her father passed away and she was left with her nasty step-mother and two step-sisters Drizella and Anastasia. She is tested in every way. She is told to clean the floors, sometimes twice a day! To answer to a bell chimed at her whenever the girls needed something, like a cup of tea or to even help them get dressed! Cinderella is kicked out of her room and forced to move to the creepy attic, far from the world she once knew. BUT, Cinderella never lost her courage or appreciation for the many things she had that money could not buy. For she had Gus and Jaq, the best mice friends a girl could have! And eventually, she met her prince charming and they fell in love and lived happily ever after!
Now, I’m not saying that if you have courage and count your blessings through your trials, that you’ll meet your prince or princess charming and live happily ever after. But, Cinderella is the perfect example of having gratitude through your trials. May we all be like this beautiful princess and have courage and be kind.
My second challenge to you all is to “Count your many blessings” and have and attitude of gratitude amidst your trials. D&C 59:7 says: “thank the Lord thy God in all things” and I would add, in all situations and where ‘ere you may be. Whether it be the death of a loved one, a lack of money, or simply changing a flat tire after a hard day’s work; find yourself on your knees in gratitude for the time that you had with your loved one and that he or she is in the care of the almighty God awaiting your sweet reunion. Find yourself in Thanksgiving for the many things you have that money can’t buy. And when you’re exhausted from changing a tire after work; just be thankful you didn’t have to change all four tires!
I would offer that you turn your focus to when God came to your aide today, tomorrow and yesterday. What opportunities arose and how our Father in Heaven planted fruitful seeds for a better tomorrow. I promise this will help you to see how well you are being taken care of each day, through God’s marvelous works.
My third challenge to you is to have an attitude of gratitude to those who serve you, in big and small ways. For you never know to what extent someone went to serve you, nor what they missed out on to spend their precious time on you. Ponder this thought as I read this story given to me by my great Uncle Kevin:
Hospital Windows
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

            And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and invigorated by all the activity and color of the world outside.

            The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

            As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

            One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days and weeks passed.

            One morning, the nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself.
He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the first gentleman was blind and could not even see the blank wall.
You never know to what extent someone goes to serve you, nor what they missed out on to spend their precious time on you. The first gentleman by the window did not have to serve the second man in this way, he could’ve told him that he was blind and that would’ve been the end of it. But he cared enough to serve and encourage him; all through his selflessness. How great a gift that must’ve been to him! I pray that we may all be as both men in this story. Like the first man, in serving others selflessly and like the second man in receiving service with a thankful heart.
An even more perfect story for this challenge of showing gratitude to those who serve you is the story of the ten lepers. In Luke 17:12-19 we read about ten men who ask Jesus to have mercy on them. After they are instructed by Christ to meet the priests, they are healed from the Leprosy that consumed their bodies. And one, only one “turned back and with a loud voice glorified God.” Behold he “fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks.” And when Jesus asked where the rest of the men were, the Samaritan answered “they are not found”. Brothers and sisters, may we be as the one leper who returned to thank the Lord. Be the first to show gratitude in all circumstances! Serve! Give a smile! And be kind to all you meet! How different the world appears when we deliberately focus, for one moment, on the things we’ve simply overlooked once before!
            Brothers and sisters, please remember to find gratitude in ALL things! Amidst your trials just as Cinderella did, in the small things like Charlie Bucket, and to those around you who make your life rich. Be grateful. Be cheerful. Remember, light will always overcome darkness, no matter how dark it may be, His light is sufficient! I promise you will be so much happier when you are thankful and thoughtful.
In closing, I’d like to read to you a story that is very close to my heart.
Testimony of a Missionary
The following event took place in a ward in Salt Lake City in 1974. It occurred during a sacrament meeting and was told to me by a Regional Representative of the Twelve who was in the meeting. A young man, just before leaving on his mission stood in sacrament meeting and bore in essence the following testimony:
Brothers and Sisters, as you know, the past two weeks I’ve been waiting for my mission call. During the time I was waiting I had a dream. I knew it was not an ordinary dream. I dreamed I was in the pre-existence and awaiting my call to come to earth. I was filled with the same anticipation and excitement that I had before I received my mission call. In my dream I was talking to a friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I’ve never met him in this life. As we talked, a messenger came and gave me a letter. I knew it was my call to go to earth. In great excitement, my friend and I opened the letter. I gave it to him to read it aloud. It said: “You’ve been called to earth in a special time and to special land. You will be born to the true church and you will have the priesthood of God in your home. You will be born into a land of plenty, in a land of freedom. You will be born in the United States of America.”
            My friend and I rejoice as we read my call, and while we were rejoicing the messenger returned. This time he had a letter for my friend. We knew it was his call to earth. My friend gave me the letter to read aloud. His letter said: “You’ve been called to go to earth in circumstances of poverty and strife. You will not be raised in the true church. Many hardships will attend your life. Your land will be fraught with political and social difficulties – which will hinder the work of the Lord. You will be born in Costa Rica.”
We wept, my friend and I, as we read his call. And my friend looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, “When we are down on earth, you in your choice land and me in Costa Rica, my friend, please come and find me.”
            Then this young missionary, with tears in his eyes, said, “Brothers and Sisters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica.”
            There is a sequel to the story. About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it and on that sheet written in capital letters, were four words:
                                                            I FOUND MY FRIEND
            Brothers and sisters, this wasn’t my story, nor did I have the dream that this young man did, but I know that there is someone in England who needs to hear the words that I have to share. I know that God’s hand is in all things and that he will lead me to those who need this message of great joy! How blessed am I to have been placed with such trust from my Father in Heaven to guide His children home to Him. I know that England is where I am supposed to serve and that this mission will bless my life immensely and help me to grow.
            Brothers and sisters, I know this Gospel to be true. I feel it every time I pray. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I am so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and for the sacrifice He made so that I can be free of sin. I know Thomas Monson is led and guided by the Lord in all things. I know that the work that I am about to embark in is crucial in today’s world. And I know it will be an adventure that will teach me much. I‘m ever so grateful for my sweet family and the light they bring to my life. I will miss them dearly, but I am so excited to join my wonderful big sister in the mission field! I am grateful for my ward family and incredible friends who have touched my heart, you know who you are. Thank you for blessing my life. Thank you all so much for being here to support me and for helping me to prepare for this adventure. I am ever so grateful.
I love the Lord, therefore I must leave my family for a season to preach this word that is so dear to my heart.

I say these things in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.