Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Fun

Dear Family-

I hope you all had a good Christmas!!! My Christmas was great, the best part being that I got to talk to my wonderful and amazing family! It blew my mind to see how tall Justin is and Allison is looking more like an adult everyday. You're so pretty! Of course it was great to talk to you, Mom and Dad. You guys are amazing. Thank you to everyone who sent me a card or package or email for Christmas!!! It meant a lot.

So this week was kind of slow. It's hard to see anyone during the holidays but we were able to see Dusty and Brianna on Tuesday and had a really good lesson with them. It breaks my heart to see how poor and heartbroken they are from the experiences they have been through in life. But we shared "He is the Gift" and man...seeing Dusty's face light up was just wonderful. She understands that He is always there for her. They have been reading the BOM and have been praying, which is amazing, even when they were super sick this week. Miracles are happening in that family, that is for sure.

Christmas eve we spent the whole first part of the day handing out the rest of our He is the Gift cards. We had like 50 cards left to hand out and we HANDED OUT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM! It was such a good feeling even though it was freezing and raining and we were wet and I couldn't feel my toes and everything else. It felt good just having the Christmas spirit around.

We spent Christmas eve with our branch president and that was awesome. They are an amazing family and we had a lot of fun! Christmas day we had Christmas dinner with our branch mission leader and his family and it was so good! We had duck and ham and a ton of stuff! Definitely spoiled this Christmas. Then we went to Nichole's house. She is the only member in her family and she is about 23 and we watched "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "Despicable Me 2" and they were soooo funny. It was really nice. But then we watched "God's Not Dead" and, oh my goodness, I was an emotional wreck through that whole movie. You guys should watch it if you haven't seen it. It was so good. There is a boy in the movie though that looks a lot like Justin with long hair and that's what did me in. After that I was an emotional wreck. But it's really good.

The rest of the week was alright. Everyone has been sick because the weather goes from 50 and sunny to 20 and raining the next day. It has been a little hard. We also got transfer calls. Sister Willmore will be leaving to St. Peters and I am staying here (yay!) and will be getting Sister Rouse. She was my MTC companion. So that will be interesting. Hope this transfer goes well!

What I learned:
Family is and will be the most important thing in your whole life. It's as simple as that.

I love you guys! Thank you for making my Christmas so special. I love you to the galaxy and back.

Sister Lundskog

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Investigators

Dear Family-

Well, this week has come and gone. We worked hard and tried to do our best with the little area we have here to tend in Paris.

It was hard to visit with investigators this week. One, because it's almost Christmas and two, everyone is getting super sick. So that was a bummer. It was freezing this week and if the forecast is accurate we should have a white Christmas. Anyway just real quick I'll tell you who all my investigators are:

Dusty and Brianna: Dusty is the mom and Brianna is 13. They live in a small town called Kansas that we cover. They are very poor and have no car and there is only one other member that lives in Kansas. So the hardest thing has been getting them to church; one for rides and two because Dusty doesn't feel ready. But they are doing great.

Rosa: She is the one that had a baptismal date but has been hit with a ton of medical problems and has had to go in for a lot of surgery. She also has a lot of drama with her family and no support from them either. So we have postponed her date just to help her get her life settled so she can make an honest and ready commitment to the Lord. She is about 23, I think, and awesome. She is sassy and has a lot of personality.

Karen: She lives in a town called Marshall that we go to once a week. She is extremely smart which makes teaching her a little difficult sometimes. She knows her bible backwards and forwards and she has investigated so many religions that sometimes it is hard to teach her because she doesn't have a solid foundation for where her truth comes from. Does that make sense? She mixes up a lot of religions. Last time we met I got in a huge debate with her about the trinity. She believes they are all one. Haha, it's okay, we are just both very red personalities and I respect her a lot. She is investigating cause her daughter in India just got baptized so I don't really know what her motives are behind everything...if this is just fun and informational, you know?

Tena: So I love Tena. She is in her late 40s. She is a little bit out there with some of her beliefs sometimes but she wants to be baptized sooo bad. Right now her family life is just crazy. She is super poor and her kids are making a lot of poor choices. She has had a lot of heartache in her life. We just need to teach her the lessons again and make sure she understands everything and help her get to church and then she can get baptized. I don't what it is but I just love her. She has such an amazing spirit about her.

Brittany: She is a new investigator and we haven't really sat down with her yet. She is way cool though. She is really interested in God. She is in her 20's and she has a little girl who is super cute! She lives in super poor circumstances right now as well and has a lot of family issues so she is just trying to sort that out.

Paris is a super poor area and so that is really hard to overcome lately with all the difficulties that come with a low income lifestyle and just a lot of problems with families. Almost everyone we teach is having some issue with a member of their family so that has been really difficult. Anyway, this week I got asked to give a talk this Sunday. That made church a little different for Christmas and I was really nervous and was up till midnight Saturday night trying to get it all figured out. I think it went alright. I felt like it was more for me than for anyone else but I guess that is how it works sometimes. This was a rough but good week... gained a lot of patience with my companion. Just worked my absolute hardest and I am praying we start to see some miracles in this area.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Remember what it's really all about. Can't wait to skype! Love you with all my heart.

Sister Lundskog

Monday, December 15, 2014

"The Three Trees"

Dear Family,

Well, I am so glad this week is finally over to be honest. This was a rough week to say the least but it's always for our benefit, right?

If I am being completely honest, my companion is driving me up a wall. I have lost not only patience but even the desire to have patience with her. I don't understand why she is on a mission. Everything is always drawn in, always ends up focusing on herself. It is extremely, emotionally draining to be with her everyday 24/7. But I haven't stopped praying for a desire to love her and I actually just finished her Christmas present this morning. It's nothing fancy but it gave me something to do when I didn't want to talk to her. I had President interviews and I don't know if the last 4 weeks just finally caught up to me but I burst into tears as soon as I walked in because I finally had the opportunity to talk to him about my companion. I gained a lot of respect for him in my interview this week, I don't think I will always agree with the things he does but I know that he is trying his very best and yes, unfortunately, he is human. But aren't we all? I read President Uchtdorf's talk from priesthood session "Is It I" and it hit home for me. It is so easy for us to look at others and know how to fix all their problems and to say "I could do it so much better than they are." But then when it comes to ourselves, we can be so quick to pass over all of our faults. So I guess I had a change of heart and I am trying to give my leaders the credit they deserve. I know that they will make mistakes and are wrong and human but I don't have to worry about it if I just do my thing. God's got it all under control.
The Christmas gift I made for Sister Willmore.

I feel like that is what I have been saying to myself over and over this whole week: God's got it all under control. And I've been reminding myself what Kelly said, "Now does not mean forever." We went tracting on Sunday. There was a stake Christmas devotional but we weren't allowed to go unless we had an investigator. Well, none of our investigators have a car and we are extremely far way from the stake center and no one in our branch was going so we weren't able to go. I know I shouldn't have been upset but I was. All our plans fell through so we spent 2 hours in the freezing rain tracting. Do you want to know what aggravates me? All the time we have people open the door and say "Oh, not interested" and slam the door but it really gets me when they open the door, see you and say "Oh, not interested. Have a Merry Christmas" and slam the door. What is sad is all we are asking them to do is watch a video about Christ being the center of Christmas. I got super depressed this week. It's sad to feel so stranded during the holiday season and the frustration of people rejecting our message.

We have been sharing this story "The Three Trees" with people these past two weeks. This is what I learned. Sometimes God puts us through hard times. Sometimes we have to go through weeks where we feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders; when we feel like we are just being kicked when we are already down. We watch our plans fall apart and we are frustrated as we deal with the aftermath of others' stupid actions. This life is full of heartache, pain, and lost hope. But there is beauty in the challenging times because they shape us into who we are. We are standing where we are today because of God's hands shaping us into masterpieces. We never know what we can become with the help of God.

The Three Trees:
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it's way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world! The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.
Years, passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. "Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said.
The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It's perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. " I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and awed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. " All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."
Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. "I wish I could make a cradle for him." Her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. " This manger is beautiful." She said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and a thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She new she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
The next time you feel down because you didn't get what you wanted, sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.

I love you with all my heart. I am so glad I have such a big family of people who have my back.

Love-Sister Lundskog
This is my investigator, Kelly's, cat. Every time we go over she sits on my lap
and I walk out with swollen eyes and I can't breathe.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Service is the Best Way to Heal Yourself

Hey Family!!!

This week has been crazy and I might actually run out of time to write this email because all the sudden a ton of people have come in so I might get kicked off!

When we met our ward mission leader for correlation yesterday, he was so proud of all the work we were able to do this week. It made me feel good cause I worked my butt off! I want to see this area change; I want to see it grow. I don't know what it is about Paris but it feels the most like home than any area I have served in and I feel like it has become the saving grace for my mission. I love the people here and I can see so much potential.

Our biggest challenge right now is getting everyone to church. Paris is a very poor community and because it is a branch we have limited resources and we cover a pretty big area. A lot of our investigators don't have cars. We are also dealing with a lot of family problems. A lot of our investigators have family who are very against the church and we aren't here to destroy families. Finding the balance of giving them the gospel and sometimes having to step back to let the Lord take care of a few things first in order to prepare them for the opportunity to have the gospel later is hard.

With our ward mission leader and ward missionaries we have come up with some awesome ideas to help bring people back and into the church. I love my group that I get to work with. They care so much for their branch and want to bring people back. Sister D is awesome, she has a very similar story to my life and she came to our meeting with the idea of starting an institute here to help save the people who are younger and single. We both could testify of how institute helped save our lives. We also came up with some fun Christmas ideas with our investigators and the ward to help them meet more people. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY.

We had exchanges this week and Sister Barrett came here to be with me and I am pretty sure the Lord is trying to teach me humility more than ever this transfer. Sister Barrett served here only a few months ago and having an old missionary come back to their area especially when you have only been here three weeks is very threatening. And yes it was super hard. I felt very, very unwanted and she kind of came in and walked all over my plans and adjusted it to suit her but... I learned that it is not about me. I am not here to get recognition or love or "fame" so to speak. I am here to serve others. That's why I came on a mission. If I had wanted love and attention and recognition I should have stayed home. I realized that humility and the ability to back down is not a sign of weakness but a sign of immense strength. The ability to lay down our selfish desires and to control the natural man takes a crazy amount of self-control and diligence and patience. So I am thankful that the Lord has made opportunities to help me learn humility. It's not easy and I would much rather not go through it haha but how else am I supposed to become who He would have me be?

What I learned:

Service is the quickest and best way to heal yourself. I have realized as I have given more and more of myself everyday, the more and more I feel an inner happiness. It doesn't matter what position I hold or what area I am in or if people know who I am but the more I love and serve others, the more truly happy I feel.

I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH! Don't forget it and I will talk to you guys next week. Have fun but not too much fun without me!!!

Love - Sister Lundskog
Helping Kelly, a recent convert, decorate her tree

A selfie

Monday, December 1, 2014

He Is The Gift!

Dear Family!

Well, I am slowly getting adjusted to Paris! This area has so much potential and I can't wait to see what we can do this wonderful holiday season!

We have a good teaching pool but we have faced some difficulty this week. With the holiday it was hard to see a lot of our investigators and one of our investigators and her two daughters (I never met her) was with family this week and were pressured into not meeting with us anymore. Their family gave them no choice. It makes me so angry to see others destroying the opportunity for a loved one to bless and enhance their life. But they will reap what they sow and just as Aunt Kelly taught me today, now DOES NOT mean forever. The gospel is always within reach. Are we going to make the step is the question.

Our two baptismal dates will have to be pushed back. One has to be interviewed by president and the other is just struggling to make a consistent, committed effort. I just want to take a second to say how much I HATE cigarettes. They destroy people and is one of the hardest things to get our investigators to overcome.

This week we had ZLT on Wednesday so we were up in Campaign. The zone leaders gave a really good training that really hit home for me. But, also half of our day was wasted not in our area because it takes eternity to get there and back. We did have an awesome lesson with Dusty and Brianna. Dusty is the mom and Brianna is 14. We were at a members home (they are less active but they are the only members in this tiny town called Kansas). It was awesome. She was upset talking about why God would let her suffer and worry about making ends meet from week to week while He let others drive big black Cadillacs. We talked about the refiners fire and the beauty that comes from the hardship. Those who suffer the most know the deepest sorrow but they also know the greatest joy.

We had Thanksgiving at our ward mission leader's home, the "R's". They are awesome. They have two sons who are married in our ward and one son on a mission as well as their nephew that lived with them who is on a mission. Then they have 3 more sons. I think one is my age and then a junior and a freshman. They all played football and grew up here in Paris and have stayed in Paris and they hunt. They're just this awesome family and I have a lot of respect for them. Brother "R" has the coolest conversion story ever. Guess what...I GOT TO WATCH FOOTBALL! The food was wonderful and it was nice to have a little break.

Thank you for your package and all the letters! It made my day. You are all so wonderful! So Saturday Sister Willmore had a recent convert go through the temple to get his endowments out because he is going on a mission. So I got to go to the temple and let me tell you how much of a blessing that was. Now I know that I am still learning to love the temple and still getting over always being nervous when I am there. But it felt like going home. No matter where you are, what country or city you are in, the temple is always that home for you. I put all of your names on the prayer roll; all my loved ones so hopefully that helps.
At the temple with my companion, Sister Willmore
Really fast I just want to talk about the Christmas Initiative. If you have not watched "He is the Gift" you need to go watch it right now. It's on christmas.mormon.org. It is so good. What a blessing to be a missionary right now during the holiday season. We have been given these special "He is the Gift" pass along cards and we have to give 10 away a day and I have never felt so dedicated in my life.

I just want to bear my testimony on what this gospel means to me. I am here today because of my Savior and everything he has done for me. Can you imagine going through this life never knowing that someone sacrificed their life for you so you didn't have to go through this alone? How blessed am I to know this and to have the power to share this. How blessed are you? To know that He lives, why we celebrate Christmas, and why we will always have hope. So now is the time to share it. There are so many people around the world who are spiritually dying and they are right within your grasp. Let's get up and let's open our mouths. We have the opportunity to change lives. Can't you feel it? The adrenaline is just in the air; you can literally feel the Savior's love all around and all we have to do is open our eyes and our hearts.

I love all of you so much. I AM SO GRATEFUL for the beautiful family the Lord has provided for me. I would never trade it in a million years and as it has been said by lots of others - I AM SO GRATEFUL I GET TO LEAVE MY FAMILY FOR A YEAR AND HALF SO THAT OTHERS CAN LIVE WITH THEIRS FOR ETERNITY.

Love-Sister Lundskog

I walked where Joseph Smith walked!
The massive tree they have in the town square

In front of the world's largest wind chimes in my new skirt
Note from Jeri: Here is the link to the "He is the Gift" short video that Corinne was talking about: