Cigarettes and Sacrament Meeting

January 5, 2015
This week was tough, honestly. All but one of our appointments fell through, our area had very few people home, and both Sister Cox and I were just exhausted. But hey, that’s missionary life. It was overall a slow news week, with lots of changing plans and helping out other missionaries and members.
We had fun with the elders in our district last Monday afternoon. We played basketball and a killer round of four square before going over to a swap meet in North Hollywood. I have wanted to check one out my entire mission, so I was super excited. And it was hysterical to see the elders bargain for things, and see Sister Cox freak out over a pokemon ride we found.
I realized how iconic the elders are. Everyone gave us weird looks, being in skirts and being girls, but they treated the elders like they saw them everyday. I love that missionaries are becoming more and more common everywhere you go, so much so that you don’t get the weird looks or questions. It’s cool. The Gospel marches onward, in the form of proselyting clothes. :)
On New Years day, we helped a member pack up her apartment into a U-Haul for her move to Northern California, which was an adventure. She lives on the second floor, but there are about five flights of stairs that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book to get up there. We ended up doing a long assembly line, which must have looked hysterical to the passing traffic. You live and you live.
We spent a lot of time this week tracking down less active members and verifying their addresses. We had this one who we buzzed into his apartment, and he told us that yes, that was his last name, but he didn’t know anyone by the first name. I was super tired and not exactly thrilled to be playing clean-up, so I was just super blunt (which had Sister Cox in a fit of laughter), and asked, “have you ever been a Mormon, then?” It was too much of a coincidence that we found a man by the same name who claimed not to be a member, who we had on our lists as one. He said no, so we went on our merry way to the next person.
We go to give the information to the ward clerk on Sunday, and he looked up the name and the nickname… and yep, that old guy who was hard of hearing and a little confused as to why two sister missionaries had spent half the day tracking him down is totally a member.
I feel like that experience summed up our week pretty well. Also finding a huge rat’s nest in a widow’s house as we helped her clean out a spare bedroom. That summed it up well too.
Church was the saving grace of the week. Sometimes Church can be stressful as a missionary, because you’re trying to track down investigators, talk to members, participate, and avoid being tackled by Primary children. But this week was quiet. I got to really focus on what the sacrament is all about – remember Christ and renewing our covenants. It was especially poignant with this past Sunday being the first Sunday of the New Year. We had a lesson in Relief Society that really drove the point of a new year home. Sister Dees talked about Lot’s wife, and how her true mistake wasn’t turning around to look behind her as they left Sodom and Gomorrah, but it was that she wanted to go back. She wanted to live in the past. We talked a lot about being able to move forward and become better, which I really liked. It wasn’t about New Years resolutions or anything like the cliché first of the year lessons, it was just about being a little better than you were last year, last week, or yesterday. I really needed that encouragement this week, and I think Sister Cox did too.
One thing that I also loved was just sitting in the back of the chapel and smelling cigarette smoke. It sounds bizarre, I know, but that will always remind me of people and their desire to change. Yes, Mormons abstain from smoking any type of tobacco, so it’s not a familiar smell at the church. But when you do smell it, it makes you smile because it means that someone is changing their life for the better, leaving the roughest parts of themselves behind, and charging ahead to be more like Christ.
After Church on Sunday, I read a talk by Elder Holland entitled, “Remember Lot’s Wife,” given at BYU in January of 2009. One particular part stood out to me that I wanted to share:
“…So, as a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from, but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences, but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet to be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought – fatally, as it turned out – that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind…
“One of my favorite books of the New Testament it Paul’s too-seldom-read letter to the Philippians. After reviewing the very privileged and rewarding life of his early years – his birthright, his education, his standing in the Jewish community – Paul says that all that was nothing… compared to his conversion to Christianity. He says, and I paraphrase: ‘I have stopped rhapsodizing about the ‘good old days’ and now eagerly look toward the future ‘that I may apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me.’ Then comes this verse:
This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the Prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:13-14]
No Lot’s wife here. No looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah here. Paul knows it is out there in the future, up ahead wherever heaven is taking us where we will win “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.””
That’s how I want my 2015 to be. Remembering the past year, but not living in it. Building off of it to draw closer to the Savior and help others do so as well. I’m excited about it all, as daunting as it seems sometimes. I have just over two months left on the mission, and I plan to make the best of those two months here in California.
Happy New Year!

Love,

Sister Redner

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