Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flashback #24: I Believe in Family

From a long time ago when I was in Nashville:

I've been having a bit of trouble composing my posts lately. My plan is to have one post about each of my family members and talk about a Christlike attribute that I see in them. To me, there are few things in this world that can teach better than example, and they all come from Divine guidance.
   It's not that I've been homesick (sorry, Mom and Dad), but when it comes to family and home, it's hard for me not to share the most exciting experiences and the times when I have learned the most from this family member, and I want those experiences to stay special.

In my own life, there are similar times when I have learned specific lessons from my Heavenly Father. What I have learned is so great that I want to share what I know with the whole world! I am so grateful that I am able to do that to a small degree by serving a mission. I want to tell everyone that their life, their family, and any weakness they may have can be healed through obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It really is that simple.  

 And then I think of my heavenly home, and my Heavenly Father. I want to stand spotless before Him one day and tell Him that I did ALL that I could to fulfill what He has in store for me.

I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this one either. I do know that I really wanted to make my parents proud. Two weeks left. Yikes. I actually said it. I don't have long. However, with the short amount of time that I do have, I know that the Lord is not wasting any time in trying to teach me the value of family and what it really means for a family to be made eternal through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This week has been a tough one for sure as I have had many thoughts and concerns that have been pressing on my mind.

I believe that I have talked about President and Sister McKee before. Last week we received some very sad news that Sister McKee is in the hospital as they are treating her for a heart attack and a stroke and a number of other things including at least two surgeries that have all taken place within the last seven days. I truly do believe that the only thing that is sustaining her other than the carefully trained physicians are the many prayers and fasts that are being offered for her sake.

My companion and I were also sad to hear on Thanksgiving, the same day that we were informed of Sister McKee's condition, that one of our very dear and remarkable sisters from our ward (congregation) passed away suddenly, leaving behind a 13 year old son, 18 year old daughter who was at college, and her husband and extended family. She was young, just 47, and a very healthy, active, energetic, and enthusiastic woman. We need more wonderful people like her in the world.

It was just a few days later, that Sunday, when we also found out that there is another dear family who welcomed a new son into the world who is fighting for his life in the NICU. It was just a month or so ago when she bore her testimony about how much she values family and that it has been a trial for her and her husband to have their own family. My heart and prayers truly go out to them as well.

I really must admit that this past week with all of this going on has really been hard for me, and there have been many nights and church meetings and a memorial service filled with tears. Selfishly I have thought to myself, "I can't leave these people now. I would feel like I am walking away from them and not supporting them at all." I have suffered loss before, and I have faced hard trials, but not like this. I do know that missionary work goes on, and God's Plan of Salvation goes on. I know that these challenges aren't intended for me. Call me crazy, but I do feel so blessed to be part of them and to witness the miracles that have come and are continuing to be poured out upon the family and friends that are involved with these three situations. I have seen great courage and character and leadership happen on levels that astound me.

There was a night, I think it was Monday night, when I really was having a hard time. I feel helpless. I did talk a little bit to a dear friend of mine. That usually helps. Right before bedtime, there were some words that came to my mind. My favorite motto that I have said over again,

Everything will be okay in the end, and if it's not okay, it's not the end.

I also recalled some overheard words of wisdom from a few weeks ago, that sometimes we don't let present trials shift and change us to be the person that God intends us to be.

My dear friends, I want you to know that I KNOW that through the gospel of Jesus Christ, families can be together forever.

No matter what happens to Sister McKee, no matter how painful it may be for the family to lose their young wife and mother, no matter how challenging it may be for the family with their child's life hanging in the balance, I KNOW that it will all be made right because of Christ.

This is what is bringing me comfort. I know that God will provide a miracle and through these trials many of us are presented with the opportunity to know Him more, and to know His plan.

My prayer is that each of you, if you have not met with the missionaries before, if it has been a long time since you have had a strong relationship with God, or if you are looking to improve your faith that you already have, or for any reason at all, I hope that you will find the missionaries to find out how it is possible to receive comfort and learn more about God's plan for families in the gospel.

I promise that you will never forget or regret your experience.

Please, go out, and have a miracle-filled day.
With much love, Sister Franson

Also please feel welcome to visit this blog (click on the picture) to learn more about Sister McKee's condition. All are invited to pray tomorrow, November 29, 2012 for her at 12 Noon Central time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Flashback #23: Learning to Face Reality

This was from way way back towards the beginning....
A few days ago I asked what it means to be blessed. When it get's right down to it, a blessing is 'something good.'

Well friends, now I have come to see how a blessing is so much more than simply a good thing. It truly is a gift from God. I know that my mission has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever been given in this life.

I have a dear friend of mine- actually my very first mission companion from the days of the Missionary Training Center- who asked if all of us sisters who came to Tennessee together at the same time could write a post about our experiences and what we've learned.

Well... she just HAD to remind me.

I've kind of been in denial in some ways. I have so many mixed feelings about going home. Regarding what I could post, I have thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it. I think that even if I wrote the most elaborate, tear-jerking, emotional post, it really wouldn't do justice to my whole experience as a missionary.

Over this process and pondering, I have come up with a small handful of gems:

There are some things in life that cannot be gained in any other way but by experience. I can testify that a mission is one of those things! Gaining a testimony and spiritual knowledge of the Jesus Christ and His gospel is another. I am told that motherhood is another one, and I know there are many other examples. If you have the opportunity to go on a mission, I can promise you that serving a mission will bless and positively influence every other major life event you will encounter. Ask the Lord, and you will have your personal witness testify to you of the importance of your call to serve.

People are real. This might come as a shocker to some. I have been able to see real people, living real lives, overcoming real challenges. Having a companion 24/7 has also taught me a lot about myself and how I build relationships with others, and I am so grateful that I have learned how I can build and strengthen relationships with friends, family, and others for the rest of my life. This principle has also taught me much about Jesus Christ and how real He is, and how He thinks about us. Think about what you are doing right now, or what you will be doing ten minutes from now. How would Jesus Christ do it? How would the home of the Savior look? How would He feel if he saw what you have done so far with your day and with your dealings with others? The Savior is more than just a man who died for our sins. He knows each of us, and He knows us well. So does our Heavenly Father.

The Gospel is TRUE. I have also come to know what it means to be true. I have heard many philosophical comments and I have read many talks and listened to sermons that say truth is subjective and relative. I am here to testify that truth is NOT subjective, nor is it relative. There is indeed perspective in this world, but actual events and reality cannot be altered. I don't know if many Christians realize what they are saying when they casually say that the church is true. I can't even do it justice to describe what it means. I suppose that the adjective that I go to most is real. God is real, He is tangible, Joseph Smith really did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in 1820. The Book of Mormon is an actual account about a real ancient American civilization. Faith is an actual principle given to us by God. Repentance works, baptism is essential and powerful for the remission of our sins, the Holy Ghost does in reality communicate and protect us, and once a man or woman knows this, the gospel cannot be forsaken, neither should spiritual progression be stopped. That is not the plan of God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints truly is God's church and has the authority therin.

There is always a choice. I love to change. I can also testify that change can be difficult. It can require the difficult challenge to humble one's self before God and sometimes our fellow brothers and sisters. Try to change though! If you are upset, just smile. Try to sincerely smile. President McKee has often said that we can change our attitude as easily as we can change what we wear. I KNOW that we cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens to us, and when we do that in a manner pleasing to God, then we are on the path to mastering and overcoming the natural man.

Only the Savior knows how we feel. This kind of ties back in with the first point. I have come to... strongly dislike the phrase, "I know exactly how you feel." No one does. Our lives and personalities are so unique that no one can possibly know but God. There are some that may be able to empathize or relate, but it is not possible to know exactly how someone else feels. Instead, I have learned that the best way to handle a delicate personal situation is to just say to the person, "I can understand why you feel that way" or "I have felt similar (not to be confused with exact) feelings like that before" and then you can bridge that situation to the gospel. This default in life is part of God's plan. We need to turn to the Savior and no one else to feel completely consoled and light from our burdens. Time is also an essential part of God's plan. If we could go back in time or remember things perfectly, we would learn much less and rely on the Savior very little.

I have learned so many other things. My understanding and knowledge of Christ's church and His gospel has expanded in a way I couldn't have predicted or understood a year and a half ago. I understand better the why of the gospel and how I want to exercise and use each principle in my life and with my family. I have also learned how I can have greater faith, and I have learned the importance of waiting... a lot.

So, dear friends, this post isn't goodbye. Yet. I still have a small handful of weeks. As a dear friend of mine reminded me, although my service as a full-time missionary is coming to an end, I am not going back to my old life, but I am looking forward to a new life with many wonderful opportunities, and many more blessings to look forward to and be grateful for.

Dear friends, the church is true. I can promise you that. I hope that you will take the time to find out for yourselves.

I pray that each of you will have an action-packed, blessed day!
Love, Sister Franson

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Flashback #22: Share Your Light!

From November 15, 2011. It's a good thing I read this today. I think I have some repenting to do...

 I had an experience on Saturday that was a small defining point in my mission, and I'm afraid it may continue to be. Yes, I said afraid, and I am, because it is something I am very self-conscious about.

 Saturday we had a baptism!! YAY! We love those! Earlier that morning when Sister de Montigny and I were working out our schedule and calling our AWESOME elders that we share an area with, they asked if either one of us could play piano. For a long time I have dreaded that question. I am the classic example of the kid whose mom kept telling her to practice and she never really did so her piano skills are next to useless except in a desperate situation.

Apparently it was a desperate situation.

We had no one to play the hymns that the lady being baptized had requested. So, I agreed, as long as I could get some practice time in. Luckily I was able to, but I knew that they wouldn't be perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

 I was so nervous to play. I felt awful and embarrassed. For someone who has played the piano for as long as I have, I SHOULD be better at this. I again asked the elders later that day if we had any more options. They tried, but with no success. I. was. stuck.

 So, that night, the baptism was great. The Spirit was there, there was a great turn out of people from the ward and even two people who the missionaries are teaching. It was so nice, and Lisa, the woman being baptized, did something that she will remember and cherish for the rest of her life, and that is to make that ever so important promise to follow her Savior and do the will of Heavenly Father and be baptized. And we somehow managed to make it alive through the hymns. I do admit though, that I was so frustrated with myself that I didn't ever want to own up to the fact that I can kind of play piano or call myself a musician ever again. I was serious!
 Until the next day.

Third hour of church, Relief Society, or women's meeting. The congregation's Relief Society president stands up and says, "Any pianists in the room? Sister missionaries! Thank you!" No, I did not volunteer myself, but apparently piano players are few and far between in this area that I am currently serving in. So, I fumbled through the hymns in Relief Society. Thankfully I did know how to play at least one of them!

What I would come to find later, in my next area, is that there were even fewer piano players than before. I ended up for a little over a month I think playing the piano for the primary children in church. It was a blessing and a challenge. Playing the piano is something that I like to do, but I am being honest when I say that my skills are not where they need to be for me to play well and feel confident and comfortable about it. Primary was great because the songs are much more simple. It was at the same time challenging because I didn't get to attend my regular classes with my new friends that I brought to church, some for the first time.

Then I get transferred to where I am now. For the first three weeks there were two other excellent piano players in the area and the ward has enough people to play. Well... now it's between me and one other elder. Our district leader called me a few weeks ago and asked me if I would play. I am so ashamed of my skills that I told him no. Later, I did regret that decision (actually prompted by reading this old blog post) and decided that I need to repent. Later, yes, I did play the piano for our missionary meetings when asked to. I can't play as well as I'd like, but I still do find joy in the things I can play. I think it's because it's something that God would be happy with- sharing talents no matter how grand or small they might be.

So, my invitation dear friends:
Choose a talent that you have, and share it with someone today. 

Love you much! Have an action-packed day!
Love, Sister Franson

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Flashback #21: Expectations and Rule Box

Ok friends. This is turning out to be quite a longer adventure than I thought. I really need to buckle down and "DO IT!" as President Kimball would say. So I WILL finish this.

I just read over this post and it was from last year, almost exactly a year ago. This one was a real challenge for me. I have found that one of my greatest weaknesses comes through my expectations.

I expect to wake up in the morning in my bed and not somewhere else. I expect that the phone will work every time that I use it. I expect that many people are reasonable and kind.

Well, sometimes my expectations don't exactly go as planned... I'd be surprised if I'm the only one this happened to. So I have since learned how to adjust my expectations when they don't happen. Let me tell you, it's great. And it's hard. One time that it wasn't so great, is right here:

Here's a little note about Sister Franson:

 As a missionary, I feel super analytical about gospel principles. The gospel of Jesus Christ is very logical and reasonable to me, even when it comes to understanding the more emotional aspects of it, like recognizing and understanding the Spirit. I can at times be very left-brained as they say. It's all a matter of following instructions and staying within the "Rule Box." And there are different levels of the Rule Box as dictated by the Spirit. The Spirit is the key to opening and selecting from the Rule Box.

One thing I love about my Rule Box is the area labeled "Absolutes." My Absolutes contains eternal doctrines and principles that will never change, such as Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. The true and standard words of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and complete gospel on the earth. And, stemming from the latter statement, all handbooks stamped with the Church logo and statements approved by the General Authorities and especially the First Presidency are added to the Absolute portion of the Rule Box.

So, this last weekend Something messed seriously with my Rule Box.

DDDAAAA!!!!!! "My brain is crazy," as one of my newest friends would say. And I want my rule box placed back in order. In fact, I want to share my knowledge and comprehension of certain principles from my Rule Box to fix the Something that shook the Rule Box. But as I am filing through the Box and placing ideas and items in their place, I find no rule, solution, or best option that can resolve the mayhem in my mind.
So, what's a Sister Missionary to do?

With the help of others who aided in the project of recompiling my Rule Box, I found the answer:

"Let it go."

NO!! I can NOT let it go! The something violated the Absolute section of the Rule Box! Life must be placed in order.

A petty life lesson, isn't it? I mean, the answer is simple and placed right in front of my face, but I don't want to do it. In fact, I feel as if I can't do it at all. I refuse. Yes, I recognize that my pride is in the way, but I am not doing anything wrong besides that. I'll just repent when I feel that I can. I have done nothing wrong. In fact, it was the Something that broke the rules from my Rule Box. Shouldn't I figure out a way to tactfully and nicely fix the Something? It's practically my responsibility! I know what's wrong with it!


That is not how the Savior loves.

Sometimes... the natural man in me feels very small when the Spirit speaks.

So, I'm going to let it go.

Am I entirely happy about it? Not yet. But I will be! Soon I hope, too. What am I learning about this experience? Patience.

And patience I... am still learning!

Have an action-packed day!
Love, Sister Franson