Happy Easter to All, and to All A Merry Christmas

December 15, 2014

Transfer news! Both Sister Cox and I are staying another six weeks in Studio City, and the elders area will once again be an elders area! It’s kind of bittersweet to see Elder Miller leave, but we are excited to have two new elders to work with in our ward, just in time for Christmas and the New Years. Christmas transfers are always a bit hard, because everyone hopes to stay where they are, with members they know, for Christmas, but it’s exciting at the same time because the ward just tends to spoil new missionaries. :)  Sister Cox and I both staying in Studio City was up in the air for a while, which was nervewracking for the both of us. We have a new ASL sister flying in today from the MTC, and there was a lot of chaos trying to find her a trainer, and figure out where she needed to be. Luckily, President makes the decisions, and not us! We are so excited to have a new ASL sister here in the mission, even if we can’t figure out her name. We just call her “Sister H” because neither Sister Cox or I could figure out what President was trying to spell over the phone when he called us. Either way, we’re excited to have her. And when we got transfer calls, Sister Cox turned to me and just grinned, saying, “You’re never getting out of language study!” It’s true. Out of the fifteen months I’ve been out, I’ve had language study for over 7 months of it. Crazy Korean and ASL companions! ;)
And no, I still can’t wrap my mind around being out for fifteen months. It’s bizarre. Bishop Mayne’s daughter gave her homecoming talk yesterday in Sacrament meeting, and the whole time, Sister Cox kept looking up at me like, “that’s going to be you in 12 weeks!” I cried a little, not going to lie. It’s given me a lot to think about, especially how I want to finish my mission. I am starting a little study project that will help me stay focused, called Project 85. It starts on Wednesday, and will end when I’m flying home to Connecticut. Long explanation short, it took Joseph Smith 85 days to translate the Book of Mormon (and do a million other things like travel, work, lose 116 pages, etc), which averages to about 8 pages a day. Starting this Wednesday, I’ll be studying 8 pages a day of the Book of Mormon as  I continue to work hard and also prepare to return home. I’m really excited, because I love studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon and the New Testament side by side. I’ve read through the Book of Mormon a few times on my mission, as well the Doctrine and Covenants once, but I’m really excited because I know this will be really special.
 We taught several of our investigators this week, but the highlight was in the prep work for us this week. We were over at a family’s house, and their three year old was helping us set up a little game for Hunter. Walter, the three year old, was running around trying to help us, and when his mom asked if he wanted to watch a movie during the lesson, he responded with a resounding, “no! I need to help my sisters!” Cutest thing ever.
 The weird moment of the week was on Monday, when I had just finished my big email. I was sitting at the computer, minding my own business, when all of a sudden the lady next to me just slugged me in the shoulder with all her might. Pre-mission Meg probably would have turned around and just slugged her back, but Sister Redner me just looked at her and asked, “what’s up?” I realized then that she was completely drunk, so I just turned back to the screen and did my best to ignore her. But dang, my shoulder hurt for a couple days after that. A couple people saw what happened, but none of us knew what to do, so we all just awkwardly looked at each other. As Sister Cox and I were walking out, this other lady just looked at me, and said, “does she realize she’s probably going to be struck by lightning? She just punched one of God’s people!” I love how people view missionaries in California. They either see us for what we are, or apparently just want to punch us. You live and you live, right?
 This week, we celebrated Christmas a bit early with our little district on Tuesday during District Meeting. We had breakfast (German pancakes, juice, scones and eggnog ice cream), and exchanged gifts for a Secret Santa. The elders spoiled Sister Cox and I – I got a few pairs of earrings, and Sister Cox got a scarf and some fuzzy socks. Mostly, the elders got candy and nerf guns, although Elder Lee and Elder Tobchan both got slippers, since they’re always freezing. I think they were both a little too excited, because they promptly took off their shoes and wore their slippers the rest of the meeting. :)
On Wednesday, we had our Christmas temple trip with the English/Korean/ASL half of the mission. I look forward to the temple trips with the mission, it feels a lot like a family reunion, and it’s just a really special experience to see all of your missionary family dressed in white in the temple. It helps me to refocus on what we’re doing as missionaries out here – we’re not just here to baptize people. We are here to help them have strong, Gospel-centered homes and eternal families.
 One real treat was getting a decent picture of my MTC district for the first time in a FOREVER. Of course, Elder McCauley is looking like an absolute dork, but I still love it. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I somehow collected three brothers and two sisters. It’s crazy to think of where we all are in the mission right now – Elder McCauley is a district leader over in Granada Hills zone, Elder Barnett is tearing it up down in Encino, and Elder Nielson is training up in Santa Clarita. Sister Lewis, my companion, is a Sister Training Leader, and Sister Olsen is training a new missionary. It’s insane to see how much we’ve grown.
 I’m not sure if I’ve shared our ‘district miracle’ before, but now seems like the perfect time. When we were in the MTC, Elder Barnett had a serious speech problem. There were times when you could hardly understand what he was trying to say, and he just really struggled with reading the scriptures (he has severe dyslexia), and didn’t like to study. The rest of our district, as we were preparing to head into the field, just prayed and prayed and prayed that he would be assigned a fantastic [patient] trainer. It didn’t matter how hard our trainers were on us, or how tough the area, as long as Barnett got a good trainer. It ended up that all of us struggled with our first areas for the first twelve weeks. The miracle, however, made it worth it. During our one week training, barely 5 days after we got into the field, Elder Barnett walks up to us, and his speech was SO much clearer. Noticeably so. We thought that was the miracle in and of itself. At our six week training, he volunteers to read a scripture in front of a hundred people without a moment of hesitation, and does so perfectly. You can’t even tell that he ever struggled. And it just kept getting better and better, to the point that he’s as confident as ever (maybe too confident?? ;) ) and is one of the best missionaries we’ve got. We call it our district miracle because it’s one of the most tender mercies all of us have been witnesses to here in California. Also, each of us is incredibly protective of Elder Barnett. Anyone messes with him, and they have five missionaries to answer to! :) Anyway, it was a Christmas present to be able to see my district, and get documented proof! Usually at least one of us is missing when we get photos.
That was our Christmas miracle, for sure. :)
 I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas, obviously. It’s a huge blessing to spend a second Christmas as a missionary, because it means I don’t have to worry about anything but the spiritual side of it. It’s the best Christmas gift I’ve been given. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we tend to separate Christmas and Easter as “Christmas is when Christ was born and Easter is when He died.” I’ve been tempted to wish people “happy Easter” just to get them thinking about the connection. The connection is Christ himself. We can’t separate Christmas and Easter any more than we can separate Gethsemane and Calvary. Christ came and was born in the stable filled with lambs because He was the Lamb of God, come to save us from sin and sorrow. He was born to perform the atonement, to show us the way, and to teach us how to love one another. He did what no one else could do, and that started in Bethlehem, and did not end on Calvary. It continued, and continues to work miracles for us today. So happy Easter, and Merry Christmas, all in one beautiful gift that our Heavenly Father has given each of us.

Sister Redner Picture 1 – District Christmas… too many of the elders got toy guns. ;)

District Christmas
Picture 2 – your typical missionary-temple-companion photo. :)
Temple w Sis Cox

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