Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Only in the Philippines...:)

Hello po! 

First off, thank you so, so, so much for the fasting and prayers and love and support.  The letters over the past few weeks from Carol, Brother Langer, Mattie, Makayla, Sister Dangerfield, Aunt Michelle, my MTC sisters, and especially of course every single one of my family members have truly been a blessing and gotten me through these challenging times.  If things were difficult last week, they were even more so this week, but I was able to conquer them a lot better and honestly, if it weren't for the fasting and prayers I could very easily be home right now just because of how incredibly tough it's been. 

So, here were go...
On Monday I was feeling a lot better after being able to email with each of my family members as well as Sister Koloi and receiving a letter from Sister Alailima while I was online.  I was able to visit more with the other two sisters in our apartment and we've become really good friends.  That night we went over to a family in our ward and enjoyed a fun FHE with them which included playing "Big Booty."  So funny!

Tuesday I woke up to find that someone had broken into our apartment during the night and had stolen all of my money despite the fact that it had been hidden in three different places as well as my camera.  Thank goodness I emailed most of my pictures home!  I'm not too frustrated about loosing the stuff, it's just stuff and I'm just so grateful we're all alive and okay.  Our Mission President and his wife have been on top of everything and habr been taking care of us, making sure we will be safe.

Over the next few days we didn't get to do a whole lot of teaching or normal missionary work because we were charged with the task of finding a new apartment.  We found one that hopefully will be approved and we will hopefully get to move sometime in the next few weeks or maybe next transfer. 

I've enjoyed getting to know the people here better, especially the members of our ward.  The people here amaze me!  Everyone was always telling me that the Filipino people literally have like nothing, yet they are happy and always smiling.  It's one thing to hear it, and another thing to see it.  Wow.  They are incredible.  So many crazy things happen here, things that would put most Americans in a coma for the rest of their lives from the stress, but the people here just brush it off and continue smiling and joking.  What an example they've been to me, of making the most of what you have and focusing on what matters most! 

The Martinez children will hopefully be baptized this Saturday and I'm so, so happy for them!  Their family needs the gospel so much right now.  Sis. Martinez's mom is currently in the hospital and may not live.  Sis. Martinez obviously wants to visit her but they don't have enough money for her to make the journey.  It's so sad!!  With every person we teach here, they have equally difficult challenges going on in their lives.  I wish I could better communicate to them the sympathy I feel for them and their situations.  Right now although I may not be able to teach them very much about our lessons, I'm just hoping I can show them how much I care.

Well... at times this last week it's felt like, "Ok, two months down and only 16 more to go..." but I've realized that really, that means only 16 more months until I'll have to return to the "real world" and end this incredible journey of developing in ways that I didn't even know existed.  With as crazy as everything has been for me on the external side of things - stuff that's been out of my control such as the floods and the being sick and the break-in and yeah... a lot of other stuff too - I've found that it's been what's been happening inside of my head and my heart that has brought the most growth and been the most challenging.  I want to briefly (or not so briefly) share a few things I've learned during the last three weeks. 

"How to move forward with faith and not fear."  Sounds so simple, but really that concept can feel impossible, right?  There are two talks that I've really enjoyed as I've tried to learn this.  One is the one my Dad sent me, and I think I mentioned in my last letter.  I feel so blessed to have had the wisdom of someone so close to me to rely on, having been through it all before himself.  Thanks Dad.  Anyways... I don't remember the author's name, but it's entitled "A Time for Faith, Not Fear."  Everything in that article has helped me so much and I've caught the other sisters in my apartment picking it up off of my desk and reading it too.  :)

The other article is in the August issue of "The Liahona" by Elder Brent H. Nielson, a member of the area presidency for the Philippines.  It's entitled, "Move Forward with Faith."  I know I read it in the Ensign some time ago a home, and I was surprised to find it again in the Liahona for last month.  Anyways, in this article Elder Nielsen discusses finding ourselves stuck on diff. "roundabouts" in life and having a hard time moving forward in faith.  This concept struck home both the first time I read it and again during this last week.  I feel like it perfectly describes my life in a nutshell, from finding myself stuck on the roundabout of forgetfulness as a teenager and then during the last two years stuck on a combination of the roundabouts of dating, choosing a career, and deciding to serve a mission.  I've always envied how much more clear the path seems to be for guys - mission, marriage, education, and then career.  I've spent the last two years overwhelmed with all four of these huge decisions when I really shouldn't have been.  I knew what I wanted - I wanted to date and get married ASAP, get my degree, and then spend the rest of my life getting to do what I want most - to be a stay-at-home-mom.  I was reading some of the entries from my journal the other night from about a year ago.  Wow.  I was so lost.  I felt so stuck on a roundabout of going to school and dating not going the way I wanted it to and really not doing anything else besides going to class, work, and then watching Netflix.  As most of you know, I finally asked God what His plan for me was, received my answer, I found myself here, in the Philippines, feeling like over the last two months I've finally exited that roundabout and now I'm driving down some crazy road with bumps, twists, and sometimes even u-turns in it at 100 mph.

During this last week as I was having some really pathetic pity-parties for myself, I forced myself to reflect on the last two months.  I realized that while, at times, I've honestly felt like I've been living in heck, I would not change anything.  If I had not made this decision I would still be at home waiting for my life to begin.  This journey has felt very unsafe, not so much because of the flood and break-in, but more because of the changes I'm going through mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually.  My wise sister, Mikaela, advised me to not be afraid of change the evening before I left.  She, knowing me better than anyone else, knew that this would be and I'm sure will continue to be the most difficult challenge for me.

I don't understand this concept of faith perfectly yet.  In fact, I'm pretty sure this is just the beginning of a life-long lesson, but I know that having faith is the ultimate thing to get us through life.  That's why it's the first principle of the gospel.  Without faith, nothing else can work.  Only when we learn to trust that God's plan for us is better than our own are we able to get out of our roundabouts and really progress. 

So while I'm here struggling to learn basic things such as how to love my companion, open my mouth and speak, have faith instead of fear, be patient, be humble, rely on God's strength instead of my own, and that it's okay to not always be a "fast-learner", at least I'm not at home watching three seasons of Glee in less than two weeks (yes, I'm ashamed to say that really did happen.):)

So if any of you are struggling to get out of roundabouts and feeling like all of your plans are falling apart, I would encourage you to turn to our Father in Heaven for answers and the faith and courage to follow His plan for you.  It Will Not Be Easy, but it will be worth it.  And when you feel like you're drowning, pray.  And if you still feel like you're drowning, pray longer and harder.  And keep telling yourself "I can do hard things."  Eventually you will start to believe it.  :)  Also remember what President Hinckley's dad told him, about forgetting yourself and getting to work.  It's a true concept.

Yeah... Phew sorry.... that ended up being really long.  I hope everyone has an awesome week!  Hopefully mine will be less eventful :) 
Til next week!
Love, Sister Dickison

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