Starting My Year Off Right

It seems that the holiday season came and went within a few hours. It was definitely a memorable Christmas as a missionary, but where did it go? Hello 2013!
First of all, the greatest thing about Christmas was not the actual day itself–surprising as that may seem. It was the day after, when we gave most of our gifts to other people who needed them a whole lot more than we did. It not only gave us an excuse to visit members and non-members in their homes, but it gave us another opportunity to be like Jesus Christ. I didn’t need any of that stuff. The only thing that I needed was to forget about myself and give.
Giving of yourself to other people is what makes one happy. I have been really pondering this subject lately in response to people who ask me why I’m happy all the time. Is the whole purpose of life to be happy? Maybe to some people. Is it to me? Absolutely. Why in the world would Heavenly Father send us down here to earth, cause us to forget everything that we learned and new in the pre-mortal life, and not provide every possible opportunity to have joy? I want you to think of the times when you’ve been the most happy. When you look back, did it cause you to forget yourself? Did it help someone get closer to Christ? That’s a huge possibility. The whole law of sacrifice is real, not because our Father is bored and needs more people, but it’s for you. It actually causes your brain to forget about all of your problems, everything you’re dealing with, and see true happiness–the way God sees it. 
A few moments of true happiness I realized this week was in Gospel Principles last Sunday. (Side note: Gospel Principles is the fundamental class that is targeted towards less-actives, recent converts, and investigators. Basically the missionary’s pride and joy…that is, if it’s filled.) Anyway, after sacrament meeting we walked in to class and it was totally packed, even with a few comments being made about how full the class was. During the class, I looked around the room to think about each person who we visited the past week, and thought of their individual circumstances. I thought of how much they sacrificed to be at church that day–with most of it being pride. It was another one of those “how in the world did I get to be a missionary” moments. Not only that, but the whole class was involved in the lesson. They were making comments, reading, smiling…oh it was GREAT. I felt like a proud momma. Except it was the Lord’s work. Obviously I still have a pride issue to work on here.
Another moment was our lesson yesterday with Anne. We took Casey with us to teach the Word of Wisdom. (Another side note: this is the first time I’ve really taught the Word of Wisdom…the farthest I’ve ever gotten with an investigator!) So it was very exciting even just walking in there. However, it was pretty nerve-wracking because Anne loves her coffee. We decided to introduce the topic gently and explain the blessings of it first, so she’d be on her seat when we told her what she had to do. Hehe. We explained that this “thing” would keep you closer to God more often, and keep the spirit in your heart and in your home more consistently. Besides that, it was a commandment. Hermana Torres then told her that we simply don’t drink coffee or tea because of the addiction effects, and Casey slided right in by giving a great testimony of when she had to quit coffee to join the Church, and how much it has helped her come closer to our Heavenly Father. I may or may not have been looking straight at Anne with one eye closed expecting a bomb to go off after we were done. To my surprise, Anne said, “Really? I was hoping someone would tell me that! Did the Lord send you to tell me that? I knew you were servants of God.” She went on to tell us that for the past week she had been super sick–even so sick that she got laid off from her brand new job. She had been buying Coke after Coke, and drinking more coffee than she ever had in her life, trying to stay awake and hopefully get better. The day before we taught her the Word of Wisdom, she said she had a thought cross her mind that caffeine was an addictive substance and could harm you mentally and physically. She even found herself later in the week in the tea isle only looking for herbal tea, and she said that was way out of her thought process to ever do that. My jaw just dropped. Anne had been prepared. Before we could even congratulate her, she told us again that she knew everything we were saying was true, and that we have come to her give her those answers that “filled in the holes” that the other church didn’t give her answers to. She said she was embarrassed to even ask questions in her other church. Of course she didn’t hesitate to say yes when we committed her to live the Word of Wisdom, knowing how hard it will be. We are still preparing her for baptism and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later!
There’s an important lesson my father taught me when I was younger that has come in very handy in missionary work. Some people are motivated by fear of consequence, by reward, or simply by love–that comes with age and maturity. I think I may have reached the point that I am now motivated by my love for God and His work. This work is not easy. It is extremely hard. There are people who yell at us, who tell us we aren’t worth anything, and who completely disregard our message. I’ve even found that Satan attacks from the inside out, and wants you to feel absolutely horrible about yourself before you even start playing the game. But staying close to our Heavenly Father, and being an eye-witness of all of these experiences I write home is what makes me want to do more for Him. By obedience to His commandments, I get true happiness. I promise each of you can do the same. Being exactly obedient will always follow with the motivation out of love.
Now to worldly things with my exercise update: I finally got to play basketball with the elders on Monday. I’m a little rusty, but not as bad as I thought! I mostly realized how much I am in love the game…oh my goodness. I also decided that I needed to immediately join another basketball team when I get home. Ideas of where to go for next winter would be much appreciated. Anyway, I have a pretty good routine I do in the morning that is inspired by Rachel Jones and past volleyball coaches. Unfortunately it’s too cold and slippery to run outside that early in the morning, so we do what we can. Moral of the story is that I realized before my mission how important exercising was, but I never experienced how important exercising was until it’s basically gone. I would die without it. Literally. Oh, and I wouldn’t be this happy without it. (See 2nd paragraph of this email.)
Anyway, it was great talking to my family on Christmas, they are all so beautiful! Thank you all for your letters, cards, packages..I appreciate it so much. It made for a wonderful Christmas. Now we have these New Year’s Resolutions for missionary work that we need to get done. How in the world am I halfway done already? (Well…in 3 weeks.) Time flies. Make sure you’re having fun. And make sure you’re happy, or else it’s really boring and pointless.
Hermana Hawkes


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