I've been called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo on Sept. 4, 2013 and will serve for 18 months. This blog will follow my journey as I prepare to serve the Lord and throughout my mission.
I love the title of your email this week!! Yeah its hokey, but I love it! ;) And in advance, I would like to apologize for how all over the place this email is!
Anyway! I haven't really been able to talk with Pres. Anderson about being related to Jens Christian Andersen... Its hard because generally when I do see him, its not for very long and there are other things that need to be discussed, but I'm hoping to find the time to ask him about it! :)
Okay, and as for Christmas Carol, you're right, you did hear me laughing! That is SOO funny!! And that really is so cool how many generations there are involved!! And who knows? Maybe Mac or I will have munchkins of our own to continue our own family legacy... ;)
And thank you SO much for telling me about Bryn!!!! I wondered how she liked the letter and it makes me a little misty to think about her. I'm hoping to actually write up a letter for her today, so Scott and Traci don't have to be worried at all about Bryn getting letters! ;) I love her so much, so please whenever you get the chance, give her hugs for me, since if I were there, I would be hugging that sweet girl every chance I had!! And I'm so glad to hear that Traci may be seeing her full potential!! :D
And not to worry about Mac not emailing me, it gives me another excuse to call him a punk! ;) And I'm so glad to hear that he finally gave a talk in Sacrament!! :D And that it went so well! I can just see him writing out the bullet points and then going a little blank, but making the very most of it! :) And that is super scary to think of him at your eye level!!! If he keeps growing this steadily, he's not going to be quite so much of my "little" man when I get back... CRAZY!! O_o
And I'm so excited that you were able to have the missionaries over!! :D And that's crazy that they shared a message about the stripling warriors because we shared a message yesterday about the warriors and when we talked about how they doubted not that their mothers' knew it, I couldn't help but think of you... :)
And Dad's right, I totally just squealed for Denice being the Stake YW Camp Director! Although funny thought, at first all I saw was Stake YW Camp Director so I thought that YOU had been called to that! Yeah, it was a funny picture that popped into my head... ;)
As for Yvette and Schuyler, I do have their address actually! But I don't have it on me, so I 'll send it in the actual letter that I'm sending off to you today... (Yup, you get an email AND a letter!) And for Carol Griffin, I'm friends with her on FB and you could just ask her through my FB account. And actually... I don't have Daniel's proper email and I've tried every combination I can think of so if you could please ask her on FB for me, that would fantastic!!
Thank you for the package! My coat fits perfectly and should be plenty warm. And BIG thank you for sending so many of my hats! :D I'm so excited for when it gets cold enough for me to wear them now!! Also, thanks for the gloves, those will come in super handy! (Haha, handy, see what I did there) And wool socks (no matter the length) would be greatly appreciated. But don't worry too much about your little chick, its going to get cold, but I'll handle it! I lived in Logan where they've already gotten snow (so I'm told)! ;)
The zone activity last week was SO much fun! I wish we would have been able to get down there sooner but we had so much to do that we only made it for one out of the three hours that it was going on... And it was super rainy so we were playing in the gym and we played "volleyball" (their version of volleyball was basically just hit the ball but it was fun) and Can Jam which is pretty much indoor ultimate frisbee. It was so much fun!! And one of the sisters in my zone is actually from my old YSA ward up in Logan!! Crazy right?! But I guess we must be related because I don't think anyone expected me to be as athletic/into the game of Can Jam, I actually even shocked Sis Oveson! ;)
And thank you for the prayers! They are much needed right now... Over the last week, we've had every single one of our investigators drop, including Jake, the young man who had a baptismal date. So we're pretty much starting from scratch. With that being said, this week was very difficult. In all honesty, it was probably one of the hardest weeks of my life. But thankfully, the Lord has provided me with the best companion who had a nice long talk with me about continuing to push on. It also was very interesting to me to look back through my notes from Conference and see all the revelation I'd received about enduring to the end. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but He knows me and knows exactly what I need and when I need it. So for now, as Debby said, I may just be planting seeds in this area, but I'm doing the Lord's work and am being blessed for it.
And this week hasn't been all bad! On Wed. we had exchanges with the other set of sisters from our district and originally Sister Adams (the senior companion from Wilkes-Barre) was supposed to come up to Montrose with me and Sister Oveson was going down to Wilkes-Barre to pair up with Sister Suckow. And I was really excited about it but was wishing a little that Sister Suckow could come up to Montrose because Sis O keeps calling us "spirit twins" and she and I have just hit it off SO well! Well, on Tues night, we got a phone call from the Wilkes-Barre sisters asking if it would be okay with us if Sis Suckow came up here instead because of some of the appointments that they had down in Wilkes-Barre. :D So Wed, my companion was Sis Suckow who is super into music and theater and actually LOVES Hale! And over and over again, we just kept realizing that we truly are spirit twins! So needless to say, Wed was probably the funnest days ever! :D
Also this week, there are some members in our Branch that have an annual Cider Party where they make apple cider for a few hours and invite all their friends and about 75% of their friends are nonmembers. So they invited us to meet some of their friends and it was so much fun! I sent a couple pictures from it just because it really was so much fun and the apple cider that we now have in our fridge is SUPER yummy! :D
Also this week, on Tues, we had Golden Retraining down south that lasted all day. Seriously, we left our apartment at 7:30 am and didn't get back until about 6-6:30 pm. And it wasn't even all the way down in Philly!! O_o But it was so much fun to see a few of my friends from the MTC, although most of the people that were there were actually from the other MTC zone or from the Mexico MTC, but there were a few people... It also was just so nice to be able to get so much advice from President and from the Assistants and to hear that we really are doing a good job even though it may not always feel that way...
Oh! And question for you! Could you look to see if we have a piano arrangement of Come Thou Fount? The music coordinator for our branch has asked me if I can play next month and she's specifically requested that song, but I didn't bring any music for that song... If we don't have it, that's fine, just let me know please! And also, could you possibly send me the 10 Virgins stuff? If you can't, that's fine, but I just figured I'd ask since we're just trying to come up with something, anything, to do to invite people to our church building... But we do have a lot of ideas, so if you can't send it, seriously, do not worry about it!
Thank you so much for all your love, prayers, and support. I truly feel it everyday! As I said, this week has been very discouraging, but the thing that has helped me most to keep going is knowing that you're 100% behind me and that you have faith in me. I also know that the Lord does provide blessings as long as we're obedient, just as Elder Bednar's talk in conference said. Although he specifically was talking about tithing, it completely applies to every commandment of the Gospel. The Lord does know and bless each of us with what we need most. It may not be what we want or exactly how we want it, but the Lord knows best and as long as we remain obedient, in the end, everything will be made right.
Again, sorry for how much I bounced around in this email... And keep looking in the mailbox for my letter! ;)
SO MUCH LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
You're awesome! I know I didn't say this enough when I was at home, but I really don't know how you juggle it all. You are just the great mommy ever! :D
Anyway, I'm so excited for you that you're show is now over! :) You seemed so busy with it, I'm excited that you'll be able to take a little bit of time off... Kind of... Oh and question! I never actually heard about Christmas Carol! So are you and dad the Fezziwigs (I don't know if I spelled that right...) again? I have that picture of you and dad in Christmas Carol on my wall and so I've been meaning to ask, but kept forgetting... As for the package, I haven't received it yet, but it could be waiting for me at the apartment or it could get here tomorrow, so thank you! :D And as for some wool socks, I'm not too worried about it, but if you want to send some, I'm not going to say no... ;) And as for money, I'm actually just fine. Because its the first of the month, I have quite a bit on my mission debit card and I still have quite a bit of cash with me. And then there's Grandma's sock money just in case something happens... But thank you for worrying about me! :)
And I agree, as Saturday morning conference started, I had flashbacks back to last year and its crazy to think it was last year! At the moment it feels a lifetime away! Granted, it feels like I've been in the mission field much longer than 3 weeks too. :P But not in a bad way, I've just acclimatized to the mission very quickly. :) But there are moments when it feels like I've been gone no time at all... I actually hit my one month mark since I reported to the MTC last week and its crazy! It does not feel like its been that long! And I know that the next 17 months are just going to fly, so I'm trying to make the most of every single moment I have here! :)
And thanks for including Samm's email! I can't wait to read what is happening in her mission! She is so wonderful! And please pass along congratulations to Marilynne for me! That's SO exciting!! And thank you for keeping me updated on Grandma and Grandpa. :) I think I told you this last week, but I have a picture of them up on the wall by my desk along a picture of us as a family and a picture of Mac and I and my mission goals because they help me to stay focused on the work and serve as reminders of why I'm here and what I want to accomplish.
And thank you for updating me on Bryn! I think about her a LOT! And I miss her like crazy!!! I knew that she wanted to take the bus, but before I left, she was still refusing to give a talk in Primary. So reading that I actually got very misty thinking about my sweet girl and how much she's growing! :) Give her a hug for me next time you see her, please? :)
I'm sorry this email is so all over the place! I'm rushing a little because we're going down to Scranton today for zone unity activities (YAY) but because of that, we're running a little low on time this week... Anyway! This week for me was very interesting....
We met with President Anderson this week. We had interviews with him and with Sister Anderson and it was so wonderful to meet and greet with them for a little bit. They are so wonderful! Then on Friday (my one month mark) I ended up sick... :P So it was a very slow day... I ended up waking up very sick to my stomach, and I tried to get moving, but I just couldn't. So Sis O had me sleep until lunch, then I had some noodles with butter and salt and pepper. I still wasn't feeling great though, so thankfully our zone leaders were in our area that day so I got a priesthood blessing from them and then we went and got some Gatorade. By that evening I was feeling much better and we actually got quite a bit accomplished surprisingly enough...
Then Sat and Sun were Conference and I LOVE GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!!! Missionaries kept telling me that Conference as a missionary is like Christmas (or even better than Christmas) and I thought that they were just exaggerating. False! Conference is like Christmas!! I seriously feel so rejuvenated and refreshed! Before Conference, I was starting to get a little discouraged because since I've arrived in the field we've lost 4 investigators and Jake has just been so wishy-washy. And we really are doing our best, but we're just not having any luck in finding anyone to teach... But Conference has lifted my spirits SOOOOO much!! I was truly amazed by how many messages seemed just for me. And what amazed me even more, was how different quotes, one-liners, stories, etc. that came to mind that kind of fit with the talk but not really... So I would DEFINITELY encourage you to go back and read through/watch conference. I understand that you were busy, but seriously, go back and read them! They were so good!!!! :D :D :D
Besides conference, Sis O and I are starting up a new finding tool - church meetinghouse tours. So what we do is invite people from the community to come to our church building and we give them a tour of the building while explaining our "basic beliefs and history." So while we go through the building, we teach them the Restoration lesson! ;) We had scheduled our first tours this weekend around conference, but no one actually showed up... So we gave run-through tours to members! :) They really are fantastic! Once we get the word out about the tours and if we can get the members to bring people, our teaching pool is going to explode! :D
So yeah, that's my life over the last week... Crazy! And kinda slow. But I find myself learning more and more about myself and I'm coming to understand exactly what it means to rely upon the Savior completely. Its good. Its hard. But is wonderful! I love how much I'm learning and growing and I love the person I'm becoming. :) Missionary work is a miracle.
So last week I tried to send you an additional email besides the major update but apparently there was an error message about sending it so I've attached it this week... :P
And I did get your letter a couple days ago, but that explains the larger envelope holding your letter... Sis O and I laughed a little about that. :) And you totally can email me your letter! I said in the letter to you last week (that you didn't get) that I actually have a lot of time to email. There isn't really a time limit in this mission because there isn't an actual time limit in the white Bible so as long as we don't spend too much time and as long as it doesn't distract me from the work, I'm allowed up to three hours of email time. (And that three hours is because we use the library computers and that's their cut-off.) And although I do like snail-mail, I don't really have a preference, so seriously, don't stress about making it a letter. You can email me all you want! ;)
And thank you for having that package ready to send!! Its warming up since week before last, so it isn't as bad, but I'm still very appreciative! :) Something you can throw in there are some gloves and a hat or two that grandma made me (if you can find them that is...). I found out that I am allowed to wear winter hats, so it might be nice to have. :) Although I don't know if I actually packed those up or not... So if you can find one or two, send them please. But if you can't easily find them, don't worry about it! And as for my room, I tried to clean it really well, so I don't think you'll find any major issues in there... But I was the one who packed and cleaned, so who knows! ;) And you're right about Target and Walmart. We don't have them! So if there's anything you feel like sending, that you think I might need, please feel free! ;) Oh! One other thing I'd really like to request is a small Children's Songbook! That may have to wait till Christmas or something, but it would be really nice to have the primary songs with me. :)
As for Monty, I don't know if that's really true or not... From everything I've heard, it completely depends on the missionary. So we'll see! :) And that is crazy that David's farewell was on Sunday!! So does that mean he left this last week or when does he actually report? And I hope you wished him luck for me! :)
As for my district, we actually have another set of sisters and two sets of elders as well as the Crumps... We're spread out a bit so for district meeting we go down to Tunkhannock because that's about half way for everyone... And then the zone that we're a part of is the Scranton zone...
As for my music, I'm still trying to find ways to use it... Its difficult when I don't have a piano to practice on, so I'm getting a little rusty, and my voice isn't in the greatest shape right now. I don't really know why, but its just kinda bleh right now... Anyway, I did talk with one of the ladies in the branch and I may be doing something sometime in Nov. for the branch... However! Sis O and I are starting church tours and we've been using music as a part of that! :) And the church tour is just where we show them around the building, explain the general purpose of each room, and teach a lesson along the way. Its so awesome!! We did one last week where we taught the Plan of Salvation to Jake (our only investigator) and it was incredible! The spirit was so strong by the end of the tour that Sis O was crying and it was taking everything inside of me not to cry! So yeah... Still trying to figure out how to use the music but its a work in progress. :)
And don't feel bad that you couldn't feed the missionaries! There are a few families in the branch that don't feed us because their schedules are such that they really can't and its just fine! I still love them just as much as the other members and I know that they're doing missionary work in their own way. :) Just like you!
As for Jake, we're hoping to meet with him tonight and we're going to have to push back his baptismal date because he hasn't come to church yet... :P So, its disappointing, but he still seems very interested, so we just have to figure out what it is that's running through his head...
With that being said, our major focus right now is finding. So we're out potential finding and door-knocking almost every day. Which made me laugh when you asked how tracting works, because that's pretty much all we're doing right now! :)P But generally what we do, because of how rural the area is(which by the way, we're getting our SECOND stoplight here in Montrose! Crazy right?! :P), we look back through former and potential investigators in a specifically part of our area. We write down their names and addresses and then try contacting them. Most of the time, we don't have the right address because the address system changed a few years back, so we knock on their neighbor's doors asking if they know So-and-so. That's generally how we get started just because people are so willing to help us generally. And we also ask a lot of people for referrals... We don't get a lot, but we got one last night that might actually pan out! :D So tracting isn't all that different here than anywhere else... It just requires some driving along with walking. :)
And our area is from the New York border down to the Susquehanna county line. So its good sized but it only takes about an hour to get across the county from end to end... So its not that bad! :) We just have to make sure we plan in travel time.
Thanks for update on Grandma! Send her my love as well! I have a picture of Grandma and Grandpa right next to my desk that I look at every morning. So please pass along my gratitude for their continuous support and my love for them!!
I'm glad to hear that all is well at home. And glad to hear that everyone's busy. I keep finding over and over again that the hardest points of the week are when I'm not busy. That's when I get caught up thinking about home or thinking about all the ways we have to improve here in our area... But as soon as we're out and working and keeping busy, my focus is always in the right place and everything is better. :)
Something that happened this week that we super wonderful was that we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders. They're both in the home stretch of their missions and so it was great to be able to go out and teach with Sister Gottfredson. She had so many wonderful insights and she was just so supportive! While they were here, we had interviews with them, and mine was with Sister Gottfredson and it was exactly what I needed. :) It helped me to recognize where I can and need to improve and she also gave me some wonderful advice, mainly about how to focus better. :)
So overall, life right now in the field is quite the adventure. I'm learning a TON and I'm loving it! There are times where it isn't easy, but the Lord never said it would be easy, He just said it would be worth it. And I know that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be right now. I know that I promised many, many years ago that I would go and do as He's commanded. To go and invite others to come closer to Christ. So I know that He will continue to strengthen me and even carry me on those days when I just don't what to do anything. Because He already has. The Lord works miracles as long as we have faith and act on that faith.
I love you so much! Thank you for your prayers and support! I truly feel them lifting me up. I miss you a lot and I know you miss me too, but I know that I will blink and I'll be coming home, so I've got to make the most of this wonderful opportune moment. Know my prayers are with you always!
Hello from Montrose! I seriously just laughed so hard at your email! You're such a creep!!! But I love it! And you're right, I am in the country. We actually are the only sisters in the mission with a truck because we have to have one! :) So yeah, I'm getting a kick out of how I guessed I'd end up rural and here I am, rural PA! ;)P But I absolutely love it here! The Branch is absolutely fantastic! They actually have a calendar for the missionaries where the members have a night each month to feed us and then they come out with us for a lesson or two. So when most missions are having problems with having too many investigators and not enough members, we have the exact opposite problem, we have plenty of members that are eager to come out and help us, but we don't have enough investigators to teach with them... :/ And because of that, we're our focus in the branch, in our area, and even in our entire mission right now is member missionary work. But I'll come back to that later...
I wrote you a short letter on our way back from Philadelphia on Wed, but we didn't get it sent until later, so I don't think you would have gotten it yet... And I thought about not sending it and just having you read the email, but I think you'll get a kick out of it... Anyway, I see that you already have my address (and that is the same address for packages too. We have a porch so we can get packages plus we're never in Broomall unless there's a transfer, which I shouldn't be getting transferred until around Christmas), and our apartment is really big! There's only myself and my companion, Sister Oveson, living there but I have an entire room for my closet! :) We also have a decent kitchen, but I haven't really used it since we get fed so much! ;) Anyway, Sister Oveson is from Nephi, UT and also loves music (YAY) but is also really into sports. So its interesting... We listen to a lot of music and we get a long really well. She just finished being a Golden (that's what they call Greenies in the mission-I'm not a greenie, I'm a golden) so she gets a little nervous and self conscious sometimes... She also doubts herself occasionally, but I love how well we work together! She's an extremely hard worker and knows her stuff. :) So I'm learning a lot! But she likes to tease me and ask how I can be learning so much when I came to the field so prepared. ;)
Also in our area, there's a senior couple, the Crumps, who are from Bluffdale, UT and they are the nicest sweetest people! We've seen them a lot this last week with the goings-ons of the Branch, and I just love spending time with them! They also like to poke fun and tease me, so they feel like family! ;)
As I said earlier, we don't have a lot of investigators... We actually only have five right now, and we're thinking that one of them is dropping off... :( But! We taught the first lesson to a new-ish investigator this week (they had met with him before and left him a Book of Mormon) and before we even started teaching him about the Restoration, he committed to being baptized on Oct. 27!! Sis Oveson says that Goldens bring miracles, and that is one of them. But he is so excited about learning as much as he can; its wonderful!!!!! He actually went down to the stake center with us(and the Crumps) for a special fireside last night and so on our way back, we asked him about what he thought about the meeting and what questions he had. I expected him to be confused since the fireside ended up being directed more at the members (and I'll get to that later...) but Jake said that he loved the meeting, that he didn't have any questions, and that it just 'seems right to him.' Elder Crump then asked him about his baptismal date and Jake said that he was SO excited to be baptized! O_o And wait, there's more! We ended up talking about his Book of Mormon reading and he told us that he's reading about 12-25 pages a day!! Now you have to understand, Jake dropped out of high school and is not the reading type, but he's reading every day and he's generally reading 12-25 pages!! When he said that, I was so excited I felt like I was going to jump right out of my skin!!!
However, its not all been so fantastic... As I said, we have an investigator who we think is going to drop, we also gained a new investigator this week, but she didn't come to church and doesn't seem super interested in the Gospel. We also went tracting for a while this week, and that was quite the experience... So as I said, I really am learning an awful lot about myself and I'm learning a lot about teaching. And although it isn't always easy, I really am loving every single minute of it!
One last thing... Over the last two weeks, there has been a major focus on member missionary work. In the MTC, we had a Elder Martino of the Seventy come and speak to us and his entire talk was about finding members to be our Amulek. He talked about how much time Alma spent with Amulek to teach him and his family, and then they went out together sharing the Gospel. And since coming out to the field, I found out that there is a new number goal that missionaries are to report daily and weekly for the church to keep track of... Its called IBM, Individuals Brought by Members. So up here in Montrose, we're challenging our members to invite friends to our dinner appointments or to invite them to come get a tour of the meeting house from the missionaries and various other activities we have. And then last night, we had a special fireside by Pres. and Sis Andersen down at the Scranton stake center. One of my favorite one-liners from them was that "You may be active in church, but you're less active in the Gospel if you're not doing what has been asked of us - to share the Gospel!" And it is so true! I'm finding over and over that there's only so much we can do as missionaries if the members don't do their part. So as a full time missionary, I invite all of you to read Jacob 4:12-13 and do as it says. Open your mouths. Share you're testimonies! I know its awkward and I know that its hard, but as you do it more and more, it gets easier. Remember, every single person is a child of God and if you're not sharing the Gospel with everyone around you because of this or that, you're depriving them of the opportunity to know of Christ's Atonement, to use that in their lives, and essentially, you're not allowing them to come back to their Heavenly Father. So seriously, I challenge you this week to read Jacob 4:12-13, think about someone who you know at least fairly well who is not a member or who is inactive, and find some way of sharing something with them and then invite them to act upon whatever it is you 'teach.' You don't have to sit down and have a full on missionary discussion with them, but invite them to check out mormon.org. Invite them to learn more about family history. Invite them to come closer to Christ.
I love you all so much! Thank you for all your wonderful support, I truly feel your prayers and know you're thoughts are with me!!
Alanna's first area is in Montrose, PA. She is in a branch in the Scranton Stake. We got an email from her mission office to let us know her address and a photo of her with President and Sister Anderson.
Her new address is: Sister Alanna Cottam(always use the missionary's first name) 42 South Main Street Montrose, PA 18801 When she was in the MTC she informed me that missionaries only anticipate having 30 minutes on their P-Day to be on the computer. With that being the case, she asked that, if at all possible, please send her "SNAIL MAIL" letters. Although she would love emails, with such a short time available she wants to spend the time writing and not reading and then digesting the information from all of her friends and family. Made sense to me, even though in today's electronic age, it will definitely be more difficult. Please take the time to send our wonderful missionary your love and supporting words through the snail mail. We haven't yet heard from Alanna (we hope to get an email on Monday which I will post), on the map Montrose is in the farthest most part of her mission. It looks like only the Susquehana branch is further away from the mission home. Montrose is considered a borough and located in Susquehana County, PA. It will be interesting to hear what, if any, church history is nearby. The population is not quite 2,000. Which means - Alanna is in the COUNTRY! Below are some pictures so you can see some Google pictures of her area. From what I can tell, some of these may be 4+ years old, but it at least gives us an idea before I can actually post pictures from her. Although not a picture of her mission, per se, it gives a sense of where she is in relation to Philly.
This is Alanna's home in Montrose.
This is downtown Montrose.
On the way from Montrose to the Church building on Route 706. OK, so it feels kind of creeper-ish to be checking out all the photos, but it's good to have some idea of the area. She is seriously out in the country - fields of corn, barns, farm houses, lots of lakes, lots of trees... And it should be absolutely BEAUTIFUL within the next few weeks. She will be so excited to spend fall in New England!
Alanna is obviously loving life at the MTC. A couple of things to pass on... Mom sent a box with a couple of coats for her to try on (there is a place that delivers any size letter/package to the MTC for $2 and the missionary can "send" anything out for free as long as it's picked up at the place within 48 hours). As mom knew that she could easily try on said coats and return them based on fit and whether she liked them, the one she deemed best will be sent to her in Philly when the weather cools. Also, Sister Jenkins who is going to Eugene Oregon that she mentions is the daughter of one of Mom's best friends from college. Wicked weird just what a sense of humor, irony, and love our Heavenly Father has when he puts two sisters who have been raised in the theatre together in a zone and their parents are great friends. And now....Sister Cottam:
Its so crazy to think that I've been at the MTC for a whole week now!!! O_o But I'm having the time of my life! I'm learning so much about missionary work, about myself, and just about life in general! I'm also have a BLAST and a half!
So first off, THANK YOU for the package! I am to send many, MANY thanks from the sisters in my zone for the doughnuts and I'm sure once the elders find out about them, they'll send many thanks too. ;) And I LOVE the bows! Super cute! So thanks a ton for those! And I tried both the coats, the Jessica London was too big and I just didn't really like it... So back it goes! As for the other coat, SUPER cute! Its a little small right now, but I'm pretty positive that it'll fit just right by the time winter roles around. :) So hold on to it for me please! :)
And you're so right, the first few days of the MTC were super busy! To the point where it was seriously INSANE! I learned a lot but it was super rough. But! I made it to Sunday and Sunday at the MTC is the greatest thing ever!! I was so uplifted and it just helped to calm me down so much! Also on Sunday, I got the calling of Branch Music Coordinator. (I know shock of all shocks right?) And I'm the only one in our entire branch that plays the piano, so my calling includes picking the music, playing the music, going to choir, and encouraging the rest of my zone to come to choir. Its so hard... :P Esp. since choir is SO wonderful!! This week, we sang Where Can I Turn for Peace? and it was so incredible. The director had us look at the song as a conversation between an investigator and a missionary, so I looked at it in an entirely different way! And the Spirit was so strong as we sang, with all of us singing our testimonies! :D It was like being back with LDV again... :)
As for teaching, when I say "investigators" it is a role-play but it doesn't feel like that to me. These investigators are so real. And my love and care for them is real too. For instance, our Progressing Investigator, Selam, is my very favorite person! I hate that we can't teach her today! I mean, I'm excited for P-Day, but she's a sponge and just wants to grow closer to Christ, so I wish we could see her every single day! I esp. hate that we can't meet with her today because yesterday we had the greatest lesson with her! Sis. Hood and I were really unified yesterday and we had decided to teach Selam about the Plan of Salvation. As we began our lesson it felt like the lessons we taught previously, where the Spirit was present and she was understanding what we were teaching, but as we began to talk about her purpose and the Atonement, and as we applied it directly to her and what she's currently going through, the Spirit seriously was SO strong! And when I say that, I mean I don't think I've ever felt the Spirit so strongly before, EVER! Including in the temple! It was crazy! And she felt it too! And acknowledged it!! :D And because of that Spirit she committed to be baptized!! So yeah, I can't wait to see her again tomorrow so we continue to guide her closer to Christ... We also gained a new investigator yesterday which was... Fun... There was some mix ups in that our investigator was double booked with some other sister missionaries so I was kinda frustrated before we met with her, but we said another companion prayer before we entered like normal and specifically asked that I would be calm and that the Spirit would be with us. Well as we began talking she said that she wasn't interested in our church and was being very negative... We then asked if we could share a message of Jesus Christ with her, and she agreed to that. As we began to talk, we found out that she had heard some rumors about the Mormons. Specifically that she thought we didn't believe in Christ and that we worshiped Joseph Smith. And since our plan was to teach the Restoration, we cleared that up right away! We talked with her about Christ, but she seemed very disinterested and very put-off... She actually painted her nails as we talked with her. (yeah, that was frustrating. :P) But as I began to testify of Joseph Smith and share the experience of the First Vision, she stopped what she was doing and really paid attention! Like, she was making and holding eye contact with me, and she was just very engaged. And I don't boast of my own abilities. Because in that moment, the Spirit was again SO strong! Not as strong as it was with Selam, but it was very powerful! And she did agree to meet with us again tomorrow, so it wasn't too bad! :) I just love being able to share my testimony all the time! :D I LOVE THE MTC!!!!!
Speaking of loving the MTC, I truly love my district and my zone SO much!!!! Our entire district is going to Philly and there are only three missionaries in our entire zone that aren't going to Philly! :D However, today we get a new district added to our zone which is going to the Oregon, Eugene mission (and yes, Sister Jenkins is going to be in my zone as of later today!). In our district there are 4 companionships, two elders and two sisters. Out of our district we have the district leader and his companion, our new zone leaders, our new sister training leaders, and then I'm the branch music coordinator, so yeah, we're a busy district... But we seriously have SO much fun together! And as for living quarters, there actually are only four of us in a room, so we fit really well! :) And when we first got here, we were really good at getting to bed on time and getting up on time. However, we're getting worse as time goes on just because we stay up talking with each other, like last night we stayed up past 11 just talking about random things. :) But the nights we stay up, although I'm tired the next morning, I feel like its so worth it because we are so close as sisters! I truly feel like we're a family and I felt that way last week! So yeah, our district is kind of the best! :D And honestly, our zone is just an extension of our district! Its SO much fun! Also! Small world moment! Sister Partridge is in my zone, and I know that doesn't mean anything to you, but her two older siblings were in LDV with me so its super fun to talk about Logan with her! :) Oh! So I have a funny story from yesterday! Its kind of a, you know you're a full time missionary when, kind of stories... So, Elder Readhead, Elder Issertell, Sis. Hood, and I were going into the next classroom over to start a role-play and just to preface this, Sis Hood has lost her voice and Elder Issertell is one of the worst missionaries about making sure he can see his companion, anyway, on with the story! So Elder Issertell and I are talking and going into the next classroom, and last I saw, Sis Hood was RIGHT behind me, but apparently she said she was going to grab some tissues. Well I didn't hear her and Elder Readhead was stuck talking to the teacher for a minute but Elder Issertell and I didn't realize that... so we just kept walking and talking and as soon as we got into the classroom, Elder Issertell turned around and I looked around and we both realized at the same time that we were alone in the room. Yeah, BIG no-no, so we both freak out and start running out of the classroom looking for our companions and both our companions just laughed at us because we were so upset over being alone in the room together for half a second... so yeah, you know you're a full time missionary when you're in a room for literally .5 seconds with someone of the opposite sex alone and you freak out about it. Yeah, that happened. :)
Thanks for your continued love and support! I truly do feel your prayers, and I hope you know that you're in my prayers too!
I've already sent a letter that talks about my first day of the MTC but you probably haven't received it yet... :P Anyway... So far I am absolutely LOVING everything!! My companion is the absolute best and I have absolutely fallen in love with my district and zone! I seriously have some of the very best elders ever! Our district leader, Elder Readhead is from England and has a super awesome accent! And today he even told me that my accent is one of the best he's heard from an American thus far! Haha! :D His companion, Elder Issertell (who is from Baker's Field, CA) is also super hilarious! And yet, they both are both some of the spiritually strongest people I've ever met! In my zone, I actually have Sister Partridge from Logan (I know her older siblings from LDV so its super fun!), and I absolutely LOVE our zone leaders! The elders are a hoot and a half and the sister leaders and super sweet and fun while also being super obedient and intense about the work. :D I've also run into a bunch of friends (including Elder Bybee) and one of the sisters I keep running with is Sister Glancy (the other angel from the LDV Christmas Show) so its super fun! I also am learning SOO much! And I'm not just learning about the Gospel, but I'm learning a lot about myself and about life in general! And I've only been here two and a half days!! Its so insane!!!!!!!!!!!!
As for the schedule of the MTC, its super busy! And the saying that a day feels like a week and a week feels like a day is absolutely true! I've spent more time studying in the last two days than almost ever before! However, its really helping me to prepare for getting out into the field since which is so great because I am leaving Sept. 17, so yeah, only 11 more days until I will be Philadelphia... Kinda crazy... Anyway, I do get one P-day while I'm here! ;) My P-Day is next Wed, so you may get another letter by then, but I can't email again until then... Which means you should definitely send me something before then so I can read something before I head off, please!
So now its time for specific experiences that have happened since my letter (which you probably/hopefully should be getting tomorrow):
1. I wrote about my companion, who I have decided really is a combination between Jessica and Brittany, which is so wonderful! We get along quite well, but because she's really quiet, its hard to teach with her because I tend to be a little overpowering... She's also very unsure of her own abilities and so sometimes its hard to study and prepare and its been kind of a concern. However, today we taught our very first one-on-one lesson with an investigator and to be perfectly honest, it was a mess! Looking back on it, its funny to think about and there's so much that I'm already learning from it. But the greatest thing that came out of it was that after we finished teaching, we had a very serious companionship inventory. Now to preface this, we've had a ton of "companionship inventories" already because we're both very open about what we want to change and how we want to grow and also just in getting to know one another, but this inventory was different. I feel like we finally made a real breakthrough! I felt that way right after we finished talking, but it was solidified after we role-played with another companionship in our district and we taught an absolutely FANTASTIC lesson! And to top it all off, we then sat down and tried to determine what it was that changed so that we can try to replicate that tomorrow for our second lesson with our investigator... I just love how much the Spirit can change us and how quickly it can change us too as long as we're open and willing to change. :)
2. Another thing that happened today was during a district study... We were reading 3 Ne. 11 (go read it!), and were discussing the Doctrine of Christ, which we do all the time, but specifically how it applies to our purpose as missionaries and how we can apply the Doctrine of Christ to our teaching. As we were reading, I kept finding more and more insight that I'd never thought of before and then while we were reading Christ's invitation to come unto Him, to feel His hands and feet and to thrust our hands into His side the Spirit was incredible. Just thinking about it makes me feel overcome with the Spirit! But for whatever reason, I applied it so literally into my own life. I pictured Christ inviting me to truly come unto Him and to know Him. Earlier on in the chapter it talks about how when the people remembered the teachings of the prophets and recognized Christ they fell to the ground and I had already thought about my experience with Oct. conference and my experience to know that I was going to serve a mission. And so the scriptures just became so real! And not only that, I recognized truly why I am here serving! Since arriving, I think I've been asked a million and one times why I decided to serve. And generally we all give a similar answer that's great but very superficial. But I recognized today that I am personally here to serve because I promised long ago that I would go out and serve Him. I promised that this was how I could best repay the debt that I owe my Savior. I promised that I would be an extension of His arm. That is why I am here.
Thank you for the support, thoughts, and prayers. I can feel them and I truly love you SO much!
Sister Cottam <3
P.S. You may want to look into DearElder.com to send me emails/letters... We were told about it in branch meeting and were told that its super cool because they convert your text into an actual letter so I can spend more of my time on P-Day actual writing rather than reading, and I also will get it faster through them than through USPS alone... I know for some missions, once we're out of the MTC it costs money, but if its free, it might be a nice alternative... So just something to look into/think about... <3
To mark this momentous, wonderful, exciting occasion, I decided to get mission photos taken. However, I could not have asked for any better pictures; I mean, really, look at them! They're perfect! I was so thrilled with how they turned out that I wanted to share just some of the wonderful work that was done by the beautiful Megan Lynn Heaps Photography that I had to share with all of you!
For those that are unfamiliar with the lyrics above, its one of my very favorite primary songs. It is my favorite because I've always loved to gaze upon the temple because of its beauty, but because of its beauty, I've longed to enter the temple from the time I was young. It was an exciting and beautiful moment when I turned 12 and was able to receive my very own temple recommend to do baptisms for the dead. Since then, I've tried my very hardest to go to the temple at least once a month because I knew that it was truly the house of the Lord and I love the peace and comfort that can be found within the temple. However, as I've grown, my desire to truly enter the temple and to make covenants with my Heavenly Father have grown and grown.
From the time I started my papers, I became anxious to enter the temple. However, as time kept creeping by, I became more and more nervous and unsure of whether or not I was truly ready. Despite wonderful leaders and great temple preparation classes, I continued to grow more and more unsure... However, throughout the nerves, my excitement continued to grow, so on the Sunday after I received my mission call, I got my temple recommend. I went through the temple a week and a half later.
Going through the temple was truly the most wonderful experience and was such a testimony builder to me! As the date to go through approached, my nerves became overwhelming. My mind was so unfocused and confused. I fasted and prayed to be clear and calm on the day I went through, and it helped a lot, but there was still just the smallest seed of doubt and fear in the back of my mind. However, as I began to walk into the temple, one of my very best friends, Erica, came out from the baptistery. Now for those of you who don't know me, Erica was my roommate the year before and she means an awful lot to me. She does not live in the Salt Lake valley so it was a complete coincidence that she even was at that very temple. And to top it all off, she didn't know that I was going through the temple that day, let alone that time or that temple. And she is one of my very biggest supporters. (And she gives amazing hugs!) So seeing her for just a moment, and being able to receive a hug from her calmed everything inside of me. I know that this was the Lord's way of answering my prayers.
And that was just the very beginning!! Because of the sacredness of the covenants I made within the temple, I can't fully explain how wonderful it was. But, I can tell you that it was truly the most wonderful spiritual experience I've ever had. I know that the temple is truly the house of the Lord and I am so very grateful that I have prepared myself and kept myself worthy to enter the temple. I know that it is already blessing my life, and that it will continue to bless me throughout my lifetime and for all of eternity.
My adventure of preparing for my mission started long ago although I've only had my actual call for 8 days now... My experience was different than a lot of sisters. But my journey that's led me to where I am now basically started 7 months ago, just like many other sisters, during the Saturday morning session of General Conference in Oct. 2012. Leading up to that time, I had felt the desire to serve the Lord but had never been quite sure how to go about doing that because I just couldn't see how I was going to go when I was 21, but I had decided to put it on the back burner until I was old enough to go and then I would address it. The Lord had other plans for me though. On the morning of Oct. 6th, I was in my apartment with my roommates and a few other friends finishing up breakfast as General Conference began. Then, President Thomas S. Monson made this historic declaration --
As Pres. Monson announced the age change for young women, I screamed and fell to the floor. I then began to cry because I knew that this was exactly what the Lord wanted me to do; I knew that this was the answer to my questions of how I could serve a mission. I called my mother after the announcement was made and we talked for a brief moment and she told me to calm down and to think about it for a while before doing anything drastic. As the day went on however, I couldn't lose the feeling that this was my Heavenly Father's plan for me at this time. Every concern that came to my mind was answered and accounted for; I was ready to go. After talking to my family again later in the day, I made my appointment with the bishop. I finished my papers, except the medical physical, within the week. Due to financial strains, I had to wait to submit my papers until late Nov/early Dec. When that time came, I found that due to some previous health problems, my papers may be flagged and may take further review.
After further review and after jumping through extra hoops, I was told I had to wait until Mar/Apr to re-submit my papers. And even then, there was no guarantee that I would be approved to serve then. Those first few weeks were by far the hardest weeks of my life because I had given up everything so I could go and serve the Lord. However, after receiving wonderful advice from friends and family I was able to pick myself up and take advantage of the time I had preparing even more for my mission. By the time came to turn my papers in again, I was very nervous, excited, and anxious. This was 4 weeks ago, then last week, I had the opportunity of opening that giant, white envelope that was addressed to Sister Cottam.
I can't say that the road up until now has been easy or sure, but I can say that I have grown and learned so much through the experiences that I've had that I wouldn't change anything. The Lord has a plan for each one of us. He knows us individually and knows how best to teach us the lessons we need to learn. He also knows how to support, console, and love each and every individual. I know that He lives. And I know He loves me and each and every one of you.