Well it is pretty crazy that this day has actually come. I currently feel so weird and anxious and tired and excited and nervous and hungry and happy and stressed and just pretty much all the emotions that you could possibly imagine which results in shaky hands and many thoughts in the brain. We will see where this email goes...
Today and this whole week has probably been the most stressful of my entire life. Saturday is the day that our lives got completely crazier then we were imagining. We got the phone call telling us about the transfer news and we were just thinking that things would be normal and happy and Sorella Taylor would simply be told her who new companion was going to be and we could just continue on with our normal lives. But instead...the Lord likes to teach us some lessons and throw curve balls our way. When Sorella Taylor received the phone call from President Dibb, we knew something crazy was coming our way. We found out that our area was going to be what we call, "white-washed"... where both current sisters leave and two new ones come in. Sorella Taylor is being transferred to Florence! This is definitely not something we expected and preparing for the both of us to leave the city has been quite an ordeal. I was quite sad when we found out that our city was getting white-washed. Our work is going really well right now and normally this only happens when cities are struggling! We just have a LOT of people that we are working with and a huge city to cover which is going to make things really difficult on the new sisters. We had to do our best to make it as easy on them as possible by writing down ALL the information about the house, the area, and EVERY person we see. I know how it feels to whitewash a city because I did it my very first transfer as a missionary and it is definitely not an easy thing. The more information left behind the better. Our lives have just been really busy...between visiting people, packing, cleaning, preparing for a baptism, updating the area books and writing down every important piece of information that we can think of. Our pday today consisted of straight packing and cleaning and now we are doing email in the church while the font fills up! Both of the new sisters are actually arriving tonight and will hopefully make it in time for the baptism. Man...so many things going on!
But...yes! One of the happiest things that could ever happen is going down in about two hours and that is called the baptism of our wonderful T.!! It is all just perfect time and I could not be more grateful to the Lord for the perfect ending to a wonderful mission. It is literally a miracle that everything has worked out so perfect and that I can witness this beautiful moment right before I head home. My words can not even express the amount of gratitude that I have for this moment. T. is so ready and she is so very excited for this moment. We met with her on Monday and she was already just really anxious and said that she can hardly sleep because she is so excited! She understands that she is making a very important step in her life and I could not be more proud of her. It has been a really beautiful experience working with T.. When Sorella Taylor and I became companions they had very recently started teaching T. and she wasn't really progressing. A few years back, T. was in a coma for about two weeks but she made it through and is alive to tell the tale. She to this day, however, suffers from some minor brain problems so she has a hard time remembering things. From the beginning, we have focused on making our lessons simple, bold, and very clear...repeating things many times and doing a lot of review, and we have seen a drastic change in her. She is probably one of the most driven people I know and she studies like no one I have ever known. As a result of her huge desire and never failing will power, she has learned and grown and gained a testimony. It has been absolutely amazing for us to be a part of this changing experience and I am more then stoked to witness her fulfill her dreams in just a few short hours. Man, the Lord literally works miracles in the lives of His children.
Trying to summarize or describe the current state of my heart is nearly impossible. It still does not feel completely real to me that this chapter of my life is coming to a fast end. I remember very clearly in my mind the day I stepped foot on Italian soil for the first time and took in a big breath of that smoggy Milano air. I had no clue what was ahead of me, but I was ready to give it my all. That is one of the greatest goals that I had heading into my mission. I wanted to give the Lord my very best so that when it was all said and done I would have no regrets. As a new missionary, you feel like your best just doesn't cut it and that you will simply never arrive at the point where you actually feel like you are doing something for the Lord. I remember at the beginning of my mission...maybe first or second transfer...the moment that I really realized why I am out here. I was struggling with all of the normal things that new missionaries struggle with...new country, strange language, being far from home, not having any clue how to be a missionary, etc...I remember clearly one day during my studies I was feeling very down, thinking about all of the things that were weighing me down. Then the thought came to my mind..."this is not about you". In that moment I realized that this mission had nothing to do with me and that if I wanted to be happy and successful I needed to forget about myself and serve the people around me in the best way I could. That was the moment that everything changed. From that moment on I did my very best to put my own problems and struggles aside and put all of my strength and effort into helping other people with their own.
During the course of my mission, I have seen the promise found in Matthew 16:25, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." When we put our own problems and worries and struggles and weaknesses aside for the sake of the Lord, we find ourselves. We find who we really are and who the Lord wants and needs us to become. This is one of the greatest things that I am taking away from my mission; a knowledge of who I REALLY am. When we thrust in our sickle with ALL our might, the Lord provides us with an abundance of fruit in many differences shapes and sizes. The Lord has molded and shaped me into the person that I am today, but only because I gave myself to Him. I know that the Lord knows me, with my entire being and soul, I know that! He has carefully prepared and crafted this year and a half to be the exact thing that I needed. This is a huge testament to me of the fact that He knows us perfectly because we were with Him before this life and He wants SO badly for us to return back to Him. I am in awe every time I think or teach about the beautiful and flawless Plan of Salvation. It is so perfect and we each have our own specific role that we are meant to play. I know that the Lord's biggest desire is for His children to be happy and during my mission I have learned about the recipe that we each need to follow if we want this true happiness. It starts and ends with exact obedience to the Lord's commandments. When we are exactly obedient to all of the things that the Lord asks of us, He POURS out His blessings of happiness upon us. Obedience is an act of love. It is an act of humility. It is an act of us giving up our will to follow His.
I could literally write for weeks about the things I have learned and the ways I have grown during this year and a half. It is something that I will never forget and forever hold very dear to my heart. I realize that time is marching on, a new time is ahead, and that the Lord has prepared many more wonderful things for my future. I feel content with where I am at and what I have done. I know that things must end and change must occur so that we might continue to progress on our path to become more like our Savior. I am more then grateful to my Savior and that He makes change possible. He changes our hearts as we come unto Him, little by little each and every day. I will strive to forever have His name written on my heart and His name on my lips so that I am forever ready to testify to the world that HE LIVES.
I am more then excited to see you all! I want to thank you all so very much for the incredible support and love that you have shown me throughout the course of my mission. The prayers were felt and were most definitely needed. May the Lord bless you for all that you do and continue to do to follow Him!
Vi voglio TANTO bene!