Friday, March 11, 2016

Starting Off the New Year Right… Creepy Dudes and Olive Oil!

January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

This week has been pretty good. Things are still a little different and hard here in Ripon, but I have been here for about 3 weeks now so I am getting in the new groove of things. It has been pretty cold here, way more cold than I expected. In the day like 50s and at night like 40s. Biking at night is so brutal! Thermal tights have become one of my most prize possessions! And mittens! And yes, I know I know that it is probably way colder in PA and in Utah but I have adapted to CA weather so this is cold for me! There are a lot of different churches here in Ripon, and some do not have the best idea of the latter day saint church, but everyday we talk to more and more people and get to help them see who we really are and what we really are about. Some people are nicer than others about it haha... but I just keep a positive attitude and let the bad conversations roll off my shoulder and I am grateful for the good ones we get to have. In this way, Ripon is much more different than Mountain House. Mountain House had a lot of Eastern religion presence and Ripon has much more of a christian reformed community. Reguardless though the work and the message are the exact same, just a little bit more information of what my new area is like. It is really fun having the mission home in our area. Sister Palmer, the president's wife, calls us over occasionally to help her out with things. She is just so sweet, I love going to help her. I am getting to know the Ripon better one family at a time. 

Being in a new area has been such a fun new adventure, but also hard not having the ward friendships I had in Mountain House. I am gaining trust and friendship though from the ward here one family at a time, and I keep reminding myself that it won't happen over night but little by little. I have to remind myself of that in many different aspects of the work here in Ripon. It is a new area that we opened, and I feel as though I may have come at it from the wrong perspective. I tried to cannonball into the area, and focused all I had on finding people and families that need help and are open to finding that help through Christ and his restored gospel. It has been exhausting emotionally and physically putting all my effort into this. I was praying and asking what I could be doing better and I just felt the strongest impression that I had to get to know and love the ward here first. So this past week we have been balancing finding those families who are in need and also gaining love and trust of the ward. It is amazing the miracles we have seen, and the comfort we have felt by switching our focus a little bit to be more balanced. 

My scripture of the week put everything into perspective for me. It is found in the doctrine and covenants, section 64:33-34 and it says,
 "33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doingfor ye are laying the foundation of great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
 34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and willing mind... ".
I feel as though I am just a small thing here in Ripon, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by a lot of different things, but I know that if I keep being true to the things I know and being diligent in all of the small things, it will have great results. I have found a lot of peace from this scripture. I have been probably too tense and too anxious these past three weeks in the new area, but after taking this scripture to heart I feel at ease. I can relax and be myself more fully and trust that it will all work out. I am the best missionary I can be whenever I am being my true, authentic self, and letting others see it as well. I am not perfect and I fall short in almost everything, but that doesn't matter because Heavenly Father only asks for my heart and a willing mind. I can give that to Him, and the rest will come. He will make up for what I lack.

I went on exchanges this week again and I worked here in Ripon with Sister Hogan who is so much fun! She is from Alpine, Utah and went to BYU before her mission as well so we had a lot in common. We had such a crazy day working together. So I am still new and have not been all over my area just yet. We decided to work in a part of Ripon that I have never been to. As we were biking there the side walk got smaller...and smaller...then dirt...then non existent, and we soon found ourselves biking on this country road in the middle of an olive tree orchard. We started talking to the man who owned all of the olive trees and it was, well weird. We both felt creeped out (maybe it was the trees or the wind or something I don't know...) and wanted to get out of there as fast as we could. Before we could bike out, he gave each of us a HUGE bottle of his really fancy olive oil. So that was nice. But he was kind of a different dude. The whole situation kept us laughing our heads off as we biked back to the city. We met some other interesting people all along the way too, it was quite the adventure. Exchanges always bring miracles..and interesting stories. 

Okay sorry this email is so long this week (if you haven't noticed brevity is not my forte) but one last thing, don't turn off your brain yet! I had an amazing experience. I was able to finish the Book of Mormon last week. Now, I have read parts of it all my life and I think even all the way through once before but this time I had new eyes, and definitely a new heart as I read. I have never felt so close to my Savior as when I was reading daily from the Book Of  Mormon. If you haven't experienced this feeling I really invite you to do so, because it will change your heart. As I finished I was able to take a day and fast and pray for a confirmation of its truthfulness, just as Moroni chapter 10 verses 3-5 from the Book Of Mormon invites us all to do. As I knelt in prayer I was just overwhelmed with peace, and joy, and a feeling of love from my Heavenly Father. It wasn't this big scene or huge vision or anything like that- the spirit spoke quietly but powerfully to my heart and I felt it confirm that the Book Of Mormon really is another testament of Jesus Christ, given to us by a loving Father in heaven. I have since started the Book of Mormon over (along with my study of the new testament and a book titled, Jesus the Christ) and hope to start it over many more times in my life. I have more purpose, more faith, more hope, and more love when I am reading from the Book of Mormon. 

I am excited for his new year, to dedicate 100% of it to serving my Savior, Jesus Christ and helping everyone around me feel of His love. You are in my prayers.

All my love, 
Sister Neeley

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