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.