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Monday, December 26, 2016

These last 18 months have felt like a dream, its hasn’t hit me that I have to leave behind the best experience that the Lord has blessed me with yet. He has made this last week absolutely incredible for Sister Holmstead and me!!

Every time we get out of the car, we see a miracle. On Monday we felt inspired to go work in the Wilson ward. We get out, talk to a man (who ended up being very rude) but turned around to see a young woman walking by with her niece and nephew. We walked and talked with her and taught her the restoration. By the end of the conversation, she asks "where can I get one of those Book of Mormons?" When we told her we would give her one for free she got SO excited and went to read it immediately! 

Bakersfield, CA
We worked in the Silver Creek ward and found and over-sized umbrella that had blown onto someone’s lawn. When we asked the owner of the house whose it was, they said they didn’t know, so we began our quest to return it to its owner! Sadly, we did not find them, but it was a great way to strike up conversation! "Hi, do you know who this belongs to? Oh, you don’t? Well, we're missionaries, yadda yadda yadda." People thought it was hilarious. we end up going to talk to this one man who told us to see his neighbor. we went over and she had a no soliciting sign on her door, but since we were referred to her we were allowed to knock and talk to her! She said she just moved in and didn’t know how to take that sign off ha-ha. She ended up being the nicest person EVER and she was super interested in learning more about the gospel! She said that she wants her family to come closer together and closer to God. That same day a member interpreted my handwriting using Jedi mind tricks (and actual psychological practices) and she said my handwriting says I’m angry, disobedient, hyper, stubborn, loud and rebellious. So, it looks like I gotta work on that ha-ha!

LA Temple
LA Temple
We went to the temple on Tuesday. What an AMAZING experience!! That was the last time I’d be able to go down to the LA temple for a while and it was such an incredibly peaceful experience. I am grateful to be able to go to the House of the Lord, it's another testimony to me of the truthfulness of this gospel and the love God has for all of us! I feel incomprehensible peace and direction when I am there, and I felt the power of God with me the rest of the week! that evening we went caroling with the zone, we hit up a different ward each day of the week leading up to Christmas! It's so awesome to see people’s faces light up when they find us on their door! we were able to find some people to teach through that and a lot of less actives and recent converts cried and whatnot. So it was a success!

Tehachapi, CA
Tehachapi, CA
On Wednesday, we went up to Tehachapi in the mountains. It was cold and rainy and BEAUTIFUL!! We did some service and went out to lunch. I was with Sister Gallacher, whom I love with all my heart and got to serve with earlier in our missions! A petty thing that I’ve been sad about is the fact that no one will want to buy me food anymore after my mission! like, everyone LOVES paying for us and pretty soon I’ll be a poor starving college student again. WELL, the waitress at the restaurant we went to give us a HUGE discount on our meals and was super nice! When we asked why, it wasn’t because we were missionaries but because we were "someone’s daughters," and she would want people to take care of her son. Just a cute, tender mercy from the Lord letting me know He will ALWAYS be taking care of me, whether or not I have a tag on. 

Later that day we were searching for a house but could not find it. It was a former investigator we felt prompted to see. After traveling all over this GIANT street, we finally find it and go in to meet him! It turns out there’s a less active who lives there as well and this man’s mother was a member. He gets me a glass of one of my FAVORITE sodas and right when I pick it up it shatters and spills all over me!! So I have to change into pants, dry my socks, dump all the soda out of my shoes, clean up the mess, is was completely hilarious! But right after that happened he brought me a plastic cup (so it wouldn’t break) and we taught him about trials and why we go through hard times to learn to rely on God and His strength. He was really touched and said he wanted to come back to church and be baptized, he just needs to get over smoking!! After we got back into town we caroled in the Rosedale Ward. We had met some people there when we worked in that area last week and we sang to them and it was AWESOME! They were soo receptive and the spirit was super strong! One of them said it gave him confidence that there are still good people, especially young people, in the world.

We went to College Heights, my old area, the next day and it was AWESOME!! We went to see a former investigator who wasn’t home, but we waved down this guy on a bike to talk to him. He said he’s been meaning to go to church and we told him about the restoration and how Christ can heal his family. HE invited US to come back and teach his family more so they can all come to church! Then we went to see this person I just felt inspired to see and I thought he wouldn’t remember talking to us before. But when we saw us he got super excited and said he’s been trying to find the missionaries again for a while!! THEN we went to another former investigator I only taught once and they weren’t home. But we went and talked to some girls standing outside. One asked if our church had a toy drive since she couldn’t afford anything for her kids. I wasn’t sure about that since I haven’t been in the area for a while but we gave her a Book of Mormon as a Christmas present. She had such a look of awe, I had never seen anything like it before. We taught them more about Christ and how the Book of Mormon can help her and she and her sister invited us back! I taught an old investigator I was really close with as well and it was the sweetest reunion!

The west half of the mission got together to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" so I got to see all of the missionaries I had served with and gotten close with one last time before I leave! It was a super tender mercy from God, I have loved everyone I have met out here.

We went to work in Olive Knolls and we just met the MEANEST people! It was like 5 houses in a row where we left with such sadness! BUT, we kept going and we ended up finding 3 families to teach who were prepared! God just makes us push through some disappointments. Then we went caroling in Stockdale, where I just served, and it was AWESOME!! Legit, can’t say how many prayers we answered of people who needed a pick me up and some joy this season.

Maryland Plates!
Skyping on Christmas!
Christmas day was so fun! We got to help make this huuge brunch for an awesome family and recent convert in Berkshire! We skyped home and it was so fun to say "oh I’ll see you in a couple days!" We went caroling, just the 2 of us, and it was SUPER awkward! People don’t know what to do when it’s just 2. But we ended up meeting this family who has connections with some members in the snow ward here! AND we saw a MARYLAND LICENSE PLATE! It was the first time I’d seen one my whole mission, and I’ve seen just about every other state! Same miracles happened during caroling again that evening. God just touched our lives every time we went out and did something for Him.

I want to leave the words to one of my favorite Hymns, it's a simple testimony about our savior Jesus Christ:
I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.
He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives, my kind, wise heav'nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I'll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

I have felt a change of heart. I have seen others give their lives to Christ and have let him heal them. I have been guided and strengthened by the power of God. I have felt so close to Him and His son Jesus Christ. I wish I had the words to say how I feel, but I cannot even begin to express the love and gratitude I have for my Father in Heaven. I know that He loves me and each one of us and that He wants to be actively engaged in each one of our lives. I understand how hope comes from faith and how we can feel peace in a world that offers none. I know that God can take us and make us something beautiful, even when we have nothing to give Him but our desire to follow Him. He allows us to walk with Him because we want to, not because we deserve it. He lets us come to Him and He will never turn us away, no matter what we've done. He lets us learn and grow and progress, no matter what we've done. He lets us repent, Christ paid that price, He takes away fear, He takes away pain. He is sweet and caring and will lift us up. I leave you all with my witness that God is real, that Christ can change us, that the Holy Ghost can guide us.

He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:

Christmas in Bakersfield

Christmas in Bakersfield

Christmas in Bakersfield

Christmas in Bakersfield

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