1) I think one of the biggest things I have learned/gained a testimony of is that Heavenly Father is completely in charge of this work. He is involved in every single tiny detail of our lives. That has helped me to know that I am put exactly where I am supposed to be, even if I don't understand why at the time. There are a few instances that have really helped me to see this that I want to share with y'all.
a) Meeting Lindsay. Last week, the elders gave us a referral for this single mom that they had tracted into. We went to go see her and share the Christmas video with her and her family. She told us that she had lived in DC a few years ago and that the missionaries had visited them a lot. She had loved the missionaries there and only had good things to say about them. She had been really sick at the time and the missionaries had done a lot of service. She mentioned a few of the missionaries that they had grown especially close to. There was one in particular who she said was a favorite in their family. The name sounded familiar, so I asked a little more and it turns out that it was one of my best friends! I don't really believe in coincidence most of the time, but this has Heavenly Father's hand all over it! Of all of the places for Lindsay and her family to move, it was Durham, just a few blocks from where we live. (Also, we discovered later that the past sisters had also tracted into her months ago.) I am really hoping that this time is the time when Lindsay and her family are ready for the gospel.
b) Being here for Corinthia and her family. Long story short, Lisa (one of our recent converts) and her daughter Corinthia have been struggling with some family things recently. Corinthia had been in D1 when I was there so I met her a couple times. She lost contact with the church when she moved to Florida and miraculously got back in touch with the missionaries (another long story) when she moved back up here. She remembered me when I came here to D2 and it has been so sweet to see the influence she has had on bringing her family to the gospel. I have no doubt that she was part of the reason why I needed to come back to Durham. Heavenly Father is intimately aware of the tiny details of everyone's life and He is always putting people in the right place, at the right time, to bless His other children.
c) Not exactly a specific instance, but I know that I have been put with each of my companions for a reason. Sometimes I think that I need to be in a specific area because I need to be with a specific companion. I have learned so much from each of the wonderful women I have been blessed to serve with and I know that I needed each of them at the time we served together. I just hope that I made a difference in their lives like they did in mine.
2) I have learned so much about my Savior and who He is to me personally. He is the Savior of the world, but He is also my Brother and my friend. I have loved being able to testify of Him and His restored gospel every single day. A while ago, I posted about my studies on Facebook and how I am reading the Book of Mormon and studying Christ's attributes. Every day I learn something new about my Savior. I have about 13 attributes that I am specifically looking for, but I constantly see more examples of people who exemplified the Savior. He lived a perfect life, in all aspects and He set the example for us. I know that I cannot become like Him in this life, but I am able to become a little closer every day. We do not need to only remember Him on December 25 or on Easter. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ and we can keep it with us all year long as we continually learn about him. Long after the trees and lights come down, long after the snow melts (for those of you who get snow), and long after the boxes are empty, Christ will still be the reason for our joy. There is a song that we have been listening to a lot recently that I love. I don't know what it's called but one of the first lines is "Why should men on earth be so sad since our Redeemer made us glad?". I testify that Christ truly is our source of joy and hope. He is the Light of the World and the reason we are able to have happiness.
3) I have gained a stronger testimony of the priesthood. I have always known that the priesthood was real, but I have gained a deeper appreciation for the blessings I receive because of it. I know that it is the authority to act in Christ's name to bless God's children. I have been able to see people that I love dearly make covenants with their Heavenly Father through that authority. I have felt the Spirit touch my heart at every single baptism I have attended and I know that that is because it was performed by the proper authority. Baptism is not the only blessing that we have access to because of the restoration of the priesthood. I have received a couple blessings when I was sick and immediately began feeling better. The priesthood is given to comfort, heal, lift, guide and bless each of us. I am so grateful that the Restoration of the gospel brought back this incredible gift.
One of the sweetest moments of my mission happened this week. It was just a couple seconds, but it has made me think. I went on exchanges with one of the Hermanas (Spanish missionaries) this past week and we were in her area. I spent most of the day having no clue what she was saying, but I felt the Spirit anyway. I think we watched the Christmas video about 5 times that day as we talked to people. There was one family that will always stand out. There were two little girls and they were so sweet. They had been bickering a little when we walked in, but they sat down silently to watch the video. They were right next to each other (the younger one was practically on her sister's lap) and they were absolutely enthralled in the video. Even though I didn't speak their language, I could see the Spirit touching their hearts and I felt how much they loved the Savior. Seeing Him, even just in a video, was more of a priority than anything else. They forget about their argument, their candy, and everything except for the Savior. These two girls, whose names I don't know and who I will probably never see again, taught me what it means to truly love and worship the Savior.
Sister Ruske's family has this tradition where they all get matching pajama pants every Christmas Eve. This year, I got included in their family <3
New favorite mural
We got lunch with the Hermanas before exchanges this week and this was the artwork. It's kind of hard to see, but it's a firefighter with a blue devil hat (Duke's mascot) putting out the fire on a ram (UNC's mascot).