Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ladybugs, Lots and Lots of Ladybugs!

Last week we met with Maria Rita and talked about President Thomas Monson and the importance of
prophets.  She talked about how much she was enjoying reading the Book of Mormon (including the Testimonies at the beginning), and she had all kinds of questions about baptism and what to expect.
  We were pleased that she was
  onboard to discuss baptism, since
  she had a date set, so we talked over
  the ordinance and read through the
  baptismal interview questions in
  order that she would know what it
  meant to be ready, as defined by the
  Lord through the scriptures and First
  Presidency.  She seemed to be
  comfortable with all of it, she just
  had some questions about the Word
  of Wisdom, which we promised we
  would talk about the next lesson.
  She was just so happy.  Sorella O
  and I talked about the difference we were seeing in her - how good she was looking lately, and how happy she seemed, etc.  She ended up canceling our appointment Saturday, but then she came to Church!  She was making friends, she was participating in the lessons, she even said the prayer in Gospel Principles!  Everything was going well.

Who Brought Out the Repellant?
And then she called Monday morning and said she didn't know if this was the right path for her or if she wanted anything to do with religion.  She said she wasn't going to meet with us this week, but that she might call us in a few days.  Sorella O was the one who took the call, and she bore testimony about God's love for her, and how we knew this Church was true, and that we still wanted to meet with her even if she wasn't ready for baptism.  She said she knew.  And that was it.

Sorella O and I had to fight away tears on our way to District Meeting after that.  And yet, at the same time, we feel at peace about it.  We know that she is in the Lord's hands (much more capable than ours), and that He hasn't given up on her.  This isn't the end for Maria Rita or Giuseppina.  We just don't know how much more we will/should/can be involved after this.  We are going to give them a few days space and see if they call.

We are back to zero investigators again.  Welcome to transfer 3 of Cagliari (oddly enough, we've hit zero investigators after every transfer).

Seeing My Spots
Let me tell you about what else has been happening at the same time.  Up to this point in my mission, I have been trying to figure out how to be a better missionary.  Every day there is something that I do wrong, and it becomes more and more painfully obvious with every passing day of the mission that I am superbly, incredibly, sometimes unbelievably flawed.  It's pretty rough any day of life, but it's especially tough when you are a missionary to see these GLARING ERRORS with each passing minute of the day because you want so very very bad to do the right thing and serve the Lord well.  And no matter what you do some days, you see that you are the worst at serving the Lord.  Either your heart's not in the work, you screw up explaining the Apostasy to someone, or you fail to talk to someone the Spirit pointed out, or you are late in getting out of the house after lunch, or you forgot to extend a commitment invitation, or any one of a million things.  And so you come home at the end of the day feeling like a failure.  At least, this was how I have felt my first two transfers in the field.

"You're Boring!"
And then I remembered some very good advice a woman gives a depressed friend in one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun. 

Katherine is talking to her friend, Frances, who is looking for romance and having no luck after a rather traumatic divorce.  Frances had moved to Italy in hopes of finding new life, renewed hope, and true love, yet hadn't found it at all.  And now she was depressed again.
Katherine and Frances, Under the Tuscan Sun
"You are so boring!" Katherine says to her.

"Excuse me?" says Frances.

"I said you're boring. Look at you - you are sad. Again!"

Frances splutters a little bit, and then Katherine gives the best advice in the form of a parable.

"Listen, when I was a little girl, I used to spend hours upon hours trying to look for ladybugs in my mother's garden, and I wouldn't find a single one.
Finally, I dropped down in the grass and just took a nap.  When I woke up, they were crawling all over me."

"So?" asks Frances.

"So I want you to go home...and forget about it.  I said GO!"

Spoiler:  This advice works.  In the movie and in life.  If you try too hard looking for something, you wont really find it.  However, if you stop torturing yourself about it and just go about your day, then it all comes.

It's Not About You
So, how does this apply to missionary work?  Truth is, I have spent all this time focussing on how to become a better missionary, and I wasn't getting anywhere, and that is precisely what was making me so unhappy.  Fact: While on the mission, you are NOT supposed to make your first priority becoming a better missionary.  Because its not about you!  The mission never was and never will be about you.
     Sorella O's grandma recently sent her this piece of advice (paraphrased): People always tell you to 
     serve so that you will have no regrets.  This is stupid.  You will have regrets, no matter what you do.   
     So just serve.

The combination of these two things somehow turned a light on in my head.  I was focusing all on myself.  Everything was about me and my performance.  And the truth is, my performance doesn't matter so much (meaning, I'm not the Lord's MVP).  Fun Fact:  The Lord's work goes forward, no matter what we do.  The works and purposes of God are never frustrated.  The only thing we can do is decide if we will be involved in the process or not.  So just serve.  Just do what you can each day, and then move on.
     Obviously recognize things you do wrong so you can fix them.
     Obviously try to do better than you did before.
     Obviously give the Lord your all.
But don't make self improvement the reason you are on a mission.  Missions are about doing work for the Lord.
     Not because you are capable (because you aren't as much as you think you are).
     Not because you are smart (because you have a lot to learn).
     Not because you have a testimony (because it will always need to grow).
You do work for the Lord because He asks it of you, and all you can give is your heart.

"Ladybugs, Katherine, Lots and Lots of Ladybugs!"
Somehow this flipped a switch in my head, and the past few days, I feel like I am walking on sunshine.
Frances, in Under the Tuscan Sun, figured it out.
      Frances:  "Buongiorno!"

       Katherine:  "Buongiorno!"

     Frances:  "Do I still look sad to
     Katherine:  "No."

     Frances:  "Ladybugs, Katherine,
     lots and lots of ladybugs."

     Katherine:  "Lovely!"
I feel happy - just very happy.  Despite the inexpressible heat (110 degrees F this week, with unbelievable humidity), despite Maria Rita dropping us, despite having to start over with finding all day - every day...again.  For some reason, I have a new spring in my step, and I realize the mission is the best thing in the world.  I mean, I knew that before, but I know it really well now, and I feel it.  I love being a missionary!  I get to go around talking about Jesus all day every day!  I get to see the blessings of the Lord in my life and the lives of others in super-hyper focus ALL THE TIME.  I get to help people feel the love and light of the Lord and His gospel by allowing the Lord's spirit to speak through me.  How can it get better than that?

Important Fact: You Are in Italy!
I can now see clearly what my very wise teacher, Fratello Jeter, told me in the MTC (Missionary Training Center).  "There will be days," he said, "when everything is terrible.  Doors slammed in your face, cancelled appointments, terrible weather.  When those times come, just remember this very important fact: You are in Italy!  Add that to the end of every sentence, and everything becomes instantly a million times better.  You just lost all your Italy.  You have been doing casa and casa for Italy.  People don't even want to look you in the face on the streets...of Italy.  Just remember how blessed you are to be serving in the most beautiful country on earth, and go about your day a happier person."
Great advice, brother Jeter!
Tuscan Landscape
So, let's see what week 1 of transfer 3 in the field brings Sorella O'Connor and I in Cagliari, Sardegna in Italy.

As two very cool missionaries once said, "Hurrah for Israel!"
Sorella Ashley Nef

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