Monday, December 9, 2013

Speakin' in Church

So, yesterday, I was asked to speak in church about my mission and such. I know that many of you (cough, Grammy, cough) wanted to know what I said! :) So, below is the blog-ified version of my talk. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to speak! :)
                                                                     *    *     *
            Last year ago this time, I was living in Logan, Utah going to Utah State and beginning my mission papers. I remember the day that I met with my bishop and decided to start the process. I remember literally skipping home to my apartment that night in the dark, absolutely elated that I had been so blessed to have been able to begin the first steps toward my mission.
            A couple of weeks later, I had an experience that very suddenly and strongly impressed me that I needed to transfer to BYU-Idaho. I had been accepted into both schools and had gone to Utah State because I couldn't start at BYU-I until January. I hadn't thought much of it. I really liked Utah State and had no intentions of leaving. However, I soon learned that the Lord had different plans in store for me. So with that began the insane whirlwind of packing my things, desperately trying to find housing at the then-crowded BYU-Idaho, and calling teachers begging them to let me into their already-full-with-a-zillion-students-on-the-waitlist-classes. And on top of that, this was all happening during the week before finals at Utah State.
            So in January, I started at BYU-Idaho. Everything miraculously fell into place. I was incredibly blessed and had a wonderful semester filled with new adventures and new friends. I took an incredible mission-prep class, with an even more incredible teacher. I learned so many things that semester and became much closer to my Heavenly Father. In February I was able to fly home to open my mission call and I found out that I would be going to Cleveland, Ohio. I was beyond excited and the next months went by quickly.
            In April I came home and I spent the next few weeks preparing for my mission. I also was able to go through the Denver temple, which was an incredible experience. I gave my farewell talk at the end of April the day before I turned nineteen. I can honestly say that was one of the very happiest days of my life.
            In May I left for the MTC in Provo! It was a whirlwind twelve day experience. I couldn't believe that it had been less than two weeks, it felt like much longer and never in my life had I grown so much in such a short period of time. We flew to Ohio near the end of May and the real fun began. I met my companion, Sister O'Driscoll, and found out that I would be going to an area called Massillon. The whole time I was there I was keenly aware that my friends and family were at home calling it Mass-ih-lawn.
            As soon as I arrived in Ohio, I felt like I was home. I could feel the spirit in the air and the energy in the ground. Northeastern Ohio is a very sacred place, filled with so much Church History and spiritual revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. When I began to meet people there, especially those in my area, everything just clicked. I loved being a missionary and I had a great companion. There were many days when I felt like we could conquer the world, and share the gospel  with everyone, everywhere with no trouble at all. It was wonderful. One of the greatest things that I was able to experience was seeing the Light of Christ, given to all men, in the eyes of everyone that we came in contact with. Doctrine and Covenants section 84, verse 46 says, "And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit." Everyone has goodness in them, and everyone needs the Savior, Jesus Christ. Some people are quick to accept His gospel, others take more time. But every single person on this planet at one point chose to follow Him, to follow His gospel, and chose to be here. The most incredible feeling in the world is reminding others that they are a child of God and that He loves them infinitely. Helping them remember and getting to see the joy that it brings to them when they do, brought so much joy to me and I am so grateful that I had that opportunity.
            Though most of the time things were wonderful, there were also many challenges. My companion, Sister O'Driscoll, had a lot of trouble breathing that came back a few weeks after I had arrived. It was scary watching her frequently gasp for air and not knowing what I could do to help her. Eventually, after many doctors visits, she got better. It was only a few days after she had started feeling well that I got sick. It started out mild and then got much worse until I was completely debilitated and in constant pain. After many Priesthood blessings, a couple of trips to the E.R. and many doctors appointments, I still was not getting better. I had been sick for a few weeks when those around me stopped nudging and started practically pushing me to go home. I wasn't having it. I absolutely loved my mission, even through the struggles and trials, and there was absolutely no way that I was leaving. They even let me call my mom one day, something that a couple of months earlier I would have begged to do. The conversation was short and it consisted mainly of me tearfully insisting that I would not come home. My heart was in Ohio. Many pieces of my heart are still there.
            Through all of this protesting, I was quietly noticing the nudge from Heavenly Father, telling me that it was okay to go. That it was the right thing to do. That I needed to go home. Finally, one day after another conversation with my mission president and her wife , I went in my bedroom alone and got down on my knees and prayed to know if I should go.  The answer came as a peaceful, powerful, and resounding YES. I knew the answer before I was hardly into my prayer at all. I accepted it and then felt so much peace. That decision did not come easy, it was a decision one hundred times harder than choosing to leave all that I knew for a year and a half to come to Ohio. Leaving was hard. But it was the right thing.
            Though I know that I have not lived long on this Earth, I have learned in ways that have solidified it to be completely absolute in my soul that I will trust God and his will always. Even if that means going to a school in a state that I have rarely been in, knowing not a soul. To packing up and leaving to spend a few short months at a different school, knowing very few people. If it means traveling across the country knowing no one and serving a people whom I know nothing about. And even if it means picking up my heart that had become attached to those very people and going back across the country to battle an illness that has still gone undiagnosed, I will do it. No matter what it is, I will always do it.
            From a talk given in November 1995, Elder Richard G. Scott said, "When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.
            This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Prov. 3:5–7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience.
            To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we knew it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love."
            When we face our trials with the attitude of Isaiah who says, "Also, I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here Am I, Send Me," trusting in and following God's will becomes easy and nearly second nature. By doing so, we bring blessings upon us and  those around us. I have never once regretted an unexpected or uncomfortable decision that I made because I knew it was what God wanted me to do. Everything has always turned out much better than I could have possibly imagined.
            Each of us has different paths in life that we must take. Through trusting in the Lord and praying for guidance, then frequently taking a leap of faith, often into something that seems like a cloudy pool of frigid water, we become closer to God. We learn to rely on Him and we come to learn and remember our purpose here on this earth. He knows of paths for us that will bring us many blessings that we could not obtain on our own. He is always on our side.
            In 3 Nephi, right before Christ appears in the Americas, chapter 11 verse 3 says, "And it came to pass while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn." What comes to mind most often when reading or talking about this scripture is that the voice was a small voice. However, I think that this scripture is also a perfect example of how you can hear promptings from the Holy Ghost, but nothing will happen until you take that leap of faith, trust God, and allow the prompting into your heart.
            I have a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the Savior of the world; He is the Savior of each one of us. Each day that I come closer to Him, my joy and love for life and others increases. I am so grateful for Him and I am grateful for our loving Heavenly Father who allowed Him to come.  I know that His gospel has been restored in its completeness and perfect truthfulness on this earth today and Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God. I am grateful for the living prophet Thomas S. Monson who leads and guides Christ's church through His guidance today. I am grateful the many blessings that I have in my life, and I am grateful to have been blessed with so many wonderful friends and family. Most importantly, I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus the Christ. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Greatest Day of All Ever.

You might be wondering why I'm saying that today is "the greatest day of all ever"....

So, I just heard from Sister O'Driscoll updating me on what's going on in Massillon. Lazaro and Laticia are still progressing well towards their baptism and they are excited. And Lazaro's brother Erick decided that he wants to be baptized, too!!!! So the three of them are getting baptized September 14th and I am so happy!!!!!! Sister O'Driscoll said, "lazaro's brother erick who has been listening to pieces of our lessons, brought in a chair, sat down and asked if he would have to give up his martial arts if he were to be baptized. :) i was glad we could tell him no he did not!" Really, though. This news brightened my day like a thousand shining suns. :) Also, Leilani (in the Massillon South area) is getting baptized Saturday and I could not be more happy for her. The gospel can bring so much more happiness into people's lives and it is so amazing being able to watch it happen. :)

Also, both Sister O'Driscoll and Sister Chapman are training again. No surprise there (though they both said that they were shocked haha). I love them so much and I'm very excited for them!

I really wish that I could be back in Massillon right now, but I am so happy that things are going well for so many people that I love. Yay!!!!!

An update on my health...

I've been to a few different specialists in the last week and I've had lots of tests done. So far, the results from the tests have been fine. So, that's good! (meaning that nothing "big" is wrong.) I'm going to a doctor again later today so that they can draw my blood for the 5,023rd time (okay, the 5th time..). Thank you all for your prayers and support! :)

Crazy face with my three best friends: the Schnood, Ben, & Jerry. :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Brief Intermission (Pun Intended)

Friends and familia.... 

So the story goes like this. I'm back in good ol' Colorado for a brief Intermission (ha. ha.). My plans include laying on a couch with my dog while eating Chocolate Therapy Ben & Jerry's ice cream and going to visit lots of doctors and such! All fun things like that.

On the bright side......

We fed some ducks at a cute little pond last week!

And when we tried to leave, they started chasing us towards the car!

Sister O'Driscoll is the best ever and packed my suitcase for me.
(Notice the color coordinated piles? hahahaha.)

"Mary did you know?"

My pink cosmos plant, "Ariel" is growing so tall! It broke my heart to leave her. haha. But really.

The petunia plant that our next door neighbor gave us.

Aaaaand the cactus that Sister O'Driscoll managed to kill. (How do you kill a cactus?? hahaha)

Me and Sister Astle before we left the apartment for Cleveland...

At the mission home dropping me off. I love them so much.

Landing in CO.

It took me a while to finally agree with everyone that the right thing to do was to come home and get better (I'm pretty stubborn.. haha). I'm very at peace that this is what I should be doing and where I should be. Even though I know that where I'm supposed to be is right here with my family getting better, half of my heart is still on the other side of the country in Massillon, Ohio! I miss the people there already and I hope that I will be able to go back soon. I don't know what God's plan for me is, but I know that He sees the big picture, where often we cannot. 

“The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes.” -Neil A. Maxwell

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August 5, 2013 Massillon, OH

Subject: blog 05 aug 2013

Hey friends and familia!!
This has been quite the week. My health has not exactly been optimal...
The greatest highlight of my week was when I was able to go to dinner with a new family in the ward. The husband is Lazaro's age and he speaks spanish! Yay! Also they made amazing barbecue chicken pizza. Divine.
My favorite talk right now (it changes a lot...) is "It Is Better to Look Up" by Carl B. Cook. It was given in the October 2011 General Conference! It's a good one if you get the chance....
If you would keep the Massillon area in your prayers, I would appreciate it so much. I love you all so much! Thanks for your support and letters and pictures.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 29, 2013 Massillon, Ohio

Friends and Familia!!
Hey! So this week was crazy. Crazy as in I've been really sick still..... I was stuck in the apartment almost the whole week. I went to a doctor on Friday. The long story short is that they did some bloodwork, but they haven't sent the results to my doctor yet. If they don't call within a couple of hours I'm going to call and yell at them in a very Christlike way. ;) Basically the story of this week goes like this....
#1) Monday was GREAT! I was feeling pretty good all afternoon! The nicest woman ever in my ward took all four of us to get pedicures. My toes are hot pink! The even greater part is that I talked to the woman who was doing my pedicure for a long time... I never thought that you could have a conversation about the gospel with someone who is awkwardly working on your feet... but it turns out that you can! The lady was so nice and wants us to come over and talk to her more later this week! Hoorah!!
#2) We had Family Home Evening with Lazaro and Laticia. It was so great! And they gave us coke to drink. A giant glass of it. And we all know how much I love coke... (hahahahaha.)
#3) At district meeting we sang "Come Unto Jesus" (#117). It's my favorite song of all ever now! Also, the first five notes of the song are now my 'missionary knock.' It's delightful. We also had lemon bars. Yummmm.
#4) We had another tornado warning! Yay!
#5) At a Pioneer Day activity (which I will pretend that I was actually at), we had a really nice talk with Carol. She loved how friendly everyone was and wants to keep coming back. I love Carol!
#6) Hmm. We went singing in a nursing home. There was a man who very enthusiastically clapped after each song. He was so. sweet.
#7) People brought us dinner almost every night this week. I love the people in this ward! And one couple who lives on a farm (okay, not really... just kind of) brought us a dozen green and brown eggs! (shout out to all of my crazy family who has chickens!)
#8) I was making some phone calls on our mini-deck and I ended up talking to our sweet next door neighbor, Pat for a while! We talked a lot about plants (which reminds me that I keep forgetting to send another picture of my pink cosmos plant "Ariel." She is getting so tall!) because she has a gorgeous mini-garden. It was so awesome! And then later that night, she brought us over a pot of blooming pink petunias. And then I hugged her! Yay, Pat! Yay, flowers!
#9) Another fantastic member of our ward gave us an electric piano!! We checked out a couple of hymn books from the church library. I've been playing the piano at the beginning of studies when we sing a hymn. Also. The Children's Song book: best thing ever. Have you ever read the introduction to it? I hadn't until yesterday. It's delightful!
So.... there have been better weeks, but we keep trying to be optimistic! I have definitely learned that your attitude can change everything about a situation. This week is going to be great. We're going to talk to precisely 73,082 people this week. And we're going to make Pat peanut butter cookies. :) I hope that you all are having a good week. And to my little bro and cousins who go to EFY today... have fun!!
-Sista Heather Benson!


Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013 - Massillon, Ohio

Heyyy Friends and Familia!
So right now I am so, so happy! I am in the Historic Massillon library. . . which means that I'm out of the apartment! I've had some kind of flu for about four days now.... and I was cooped up in the apartment going CRAZY for 2 days! I'm sure that you can tell from my crazy pictures that this week was pretty much so strange. I'm not really sure what to say about this last week except for that it was weird. I can't wait for this next week! It's going to be awesome.
#1) When Sister O'Driscoll and I went up to North Canton to have dinner with a member. She brought her friend who met with missionaries about a year ago. She was really nice and it was great to be able to have dinner with her! Major side note: Their house is literally the most massive house I have ever been in.... she even had taffeta swooping off of her kitchen chairs....... who does that???
#2) Meeting with our crazy Cuban investigators.... who set their own baptism date for August 31. We think that it will be good because we want them to be self-motivated in doing it. We're very excited for them. Sister O'Driscoll and Sister Chapman went on exchanges while I was dying and they watched the Restoration DVD with them. They loved it! And their grandkids even watched too! Yay!
#3) When one of the members in our ward went to the store for us to get us a rotiserie chicken, french fries, and cheese. We were dying and it was pretty much the nicest thing ever. She is heaven sent.
#4) Having dinner with Sister Chapman at a member's house in Canal Fulton.
#5) Watching "Forever Families" in hopes of giving it to a woman we've been visiting. It's the cheesiest movie ever and was made in the early '90s. Sister Astle and I died laughing.
#6) Our water baloon fight that we had in our backyard after planning one night.... And the fireflies were out! :) :) :)
#7) Getting out of the apartment this morning! Yayyyy!
I love being a missionary. But being sick on a mission is the worst thing ever because all you want to do is go out and work! Really, I've gone crazy this week. I am so, so excited to get out and go help people this week! Yay!
Thank you so much for all of your prayers and letters!
-Sista Benson!!!!
(overly enthusiastic right now? definitely possible.)

Our classy car; His name is Shmitty.  He's a 2013 Chevy Cruze.



And pretty much the funniest picture ever.  Don't judge!

North Canton!

It was 101 degress F.  It was 108 earlier but I didn't have my camera!
 (Also:  I'm listening to the CD you sent me, Dad!)
 She's Classy!!!

Um...We may or may not have had a water balloon fight.:)

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013 - Massillon, Ohio

Friends & Famillllia!
This week has been a crazy one! Sister O'Driscoll has been having a lot of breathing problems. We've been to several doctors, but no one can figure out what's wrong. It gets pretty scary sometimes! Despite the fact that we spent much of the week in the apartment, so many amazing things happened this week. We witnessed a miracle every day! .......
#1) Our media referral Monday, which I talked about last time! :)
#2) A woman in our ward made us the most cheesy, delicious, broccoli, chickeny thing ever!
#3) We had a lesson with our investigator, John, in the pouring rain on his porch. An awesome recent convert in our ward came with us. They're pretty good friends now- which is great. Even though the rain was literally dumping down on us, the spirit and peace that was there was so amazing. He said that he wanted to be baptized. It was wonderful! I truly cannot explain what a beautiful moment it was.
#4) On Wednesday there was a crazy tornado pretty close to us! When we first got the watch, it looked like it was going to be a nice day! We were at a member's house in gorgeous Canal Fulton (so green!) doing service. Our district leader told us to stay there. We ended up being stuck in the member's home for 7 hours! Pretty soon it started POURING. I have never seen it rain so hard in my entire life!! I filmed Sister Astle running out into the rain. It's a pretty great video and I wish that I could send it over email! We also made some pretty fun videos about funny experiences that we have had. I'll have to send the chip home! The strangest thing about all of this is when we got a text message saying "Take shelter: there is a live tornado heading toward Canal Fulton." All of us from the west started hurrying to put on our shoes and get in the basement. Meanwhile all those actually from Ohio and Missouri chilled on the couch and acted like it was no big deal.... so strange.
#5) Sister O'Driscoll says that I have started singing in my sleep. The other night I was aparently singing, "Come Unto Jesus." Hahaha! :)
#6) There was an old referral who we have been trying to set up an appointment with for weeks. We stopped by again and she let us right in! We had a great lesson with her and her friend! We're going back again tonight! :) :) :)
#7) We sat in the sunshine talking with a woman in our ward who recently had to go to live in a nursing home. She is so sweet!
#8) Sister Chapman and I taught John about the Restoration of the gospel and the word of wisdom. He said that he thinks it's true. He said that he would come up with a plan to start living the word of wisdom! (that darn tobacco...)
#9) We met a woman that a member in our ward referred to us. We have stopped by probably fifteen times over the last month. She finally was home! She is so nice. She got really emotional when we offered to weed her yard for her (literally: imagine the thorns in front of the castle in "Sleeping Beauty" that Prince Phillip has to cut through with his sword. Then imagine it in front of a suburban house.). We're going back Wednesday! :)
#10) We had dinner with a woman in our ward and two of her kids. The mom reminds me of my mom. Her daughter is my age and her son is David's age. But I must say that my mom's lasagna is much better. :)
#11) We visited with a less-active couple in our ward who really want to start coming back to church. Kathy has a solid testimony, but it sounds like her husband never really had a testimony and only joined the church because she wanted him to. He asked us if we would come back every Friday and teach them, though, so that's good! :)
#12) We had dinner with the members who feed us Buckeye ice cream for dessert. It's delightful.
One thing that I have definitely learned is to look for the miracles and blessings in our lives. Whether they are big or small, they really are everywhere. All that we have to do is open up our eyes and our hearts and look. :) I love you all! Thanks for writing me! Don't get into too much trouble this summer! :)
Sistaaa Benson

This is my plant, grown from the seeds that my mom sent me! It's only been about five days and look how big she is! I named her Ariel (hence, the Ariel stickers). It's fine.:)
Horse and buggy in the middle of Canton!

 The Massillon Tigers Stadium (Apparently High School football is a
BIG DEAL out here. 
 Crazy Ohioans!)
 Sister Astle