2017?! Heck yes! Who’s pumped? I’m pumped! But we will get to that later. Time for a bit about the last week of 2016.
Well it was an average week, but then again I’m living in London so never mind, I don’t think I can ever have an average week living in London and being a servant of the Lord! So it was a fantastic week! I just have to say this part because it was so stinkin’ fantastic- MINLIEF DU PLESSIS (I mean Gilbert) came to visit me! Yup, it was fantastic. It was if time hasn’t passed. So great to see her, and her husband Simon of course too 🙂
But back to missionary work- Laure is getting baptized this week! I’m so excited for her. Only sad thing is she is actually being baptized in Manchester now so we won’t be able to be there for her baptism. But all is well and her faith absolutely blows me away. She already wants to go back to Rwanda and share the gospel with absolutely everyone there. But don’t worry, I get to have her for another year. Yes, I’m a bit selfish but I really love her so much.
Boya continues to do great. I love getting to visit her dorm for our lessons. We have a lot of fun and I think her ultimate response to every question we ask is, “Because it will strengthen my faith!” Ok, Boya, ok haha. Jacque is progressing too and our man Gerald is well, Gerald. We have no way to contact him, but he still remembers our appointments and he’s watched basically every church video ever made.
This week we also got to go on exchange with the sister training leaders (basically we get to go to another area and be companions with a different sister for 24 hours). I was blessed to serve with Sister Smiddy who is from Idaho and is the only member of the church in her family. She was baptized when she was 14, pretty much grew up living only with her younger sister, and has the craziest life story I’ve heard. She is a beast missionary and has a solid faith and desire to work. It meant so much to me to have the opportunity to spend just a short 24 hours with her. It was also really fun when we started teaching this Albanian guy and got permission from our mission president to have Elder Kashari (who is now home in Albania) join a Facebook chat with us. My Albanian skills have been slacking a bit so it was nice to touch up on them ha!
Super cool story- After exchange Sister Gregson and I were teaching a lesson over Facebook in Starbucks. After the lesson we noticed this guy who had been listening to our conversation so we started talking to him. He basically said, “I want to find Jesus Christ and do you think this Mormon thing can change my life and I’d be a good Mormon?” He lives in Sister Smiddy’s area so I gave her a call and she talked to this man for a bit and set up a time to see him the next day. We said goodbye to him and walked upstairs and lo and behold, there is Sister Smiddy sitting upstairs in Starbucks! We told her to go downstairs and talk to the man. It’s just amazing how things work out that way. God’s hand for sure.
Which reminds me of another cool story- so as we are Visitors’ Centre sisters, we have the opportunity to pretty much run Mormon.org. A man came online requesting the missionaries to visit him. Turns out he lives in the England London Mission and I know one of the elders who was going to visit this man. I’m now friends with him on Facebook and he’s so excited for his baptism at the end of the month! He has already made a 180 degree change in his life.
Also Yuxin is amazing. She’s from China (sure you could have guessed that) and she was baptized eight months ago or so. She is preparing to serve a mission in the future and she honestly is already a missionary. Sunday night she also had us over to make dumplings! For the new year in Chinese culture, they make dumplings and it was so much fun. We left a short spiritual message with her about how she is a light, and told her how people will wonder what does Yuxin have that they don’t have and Yuxin said, “Sisters!” It was so cute.
I’m sure all of you could assume I would write a little (or grand) something about it being a new year. I wasn’t really planning on it, but then as I turned on some music one night, the first song playing was “Let it Begin.” Needless to say it has been on repeat ever since.
But then Lot’s wife was a story that miraculously continued to appear in my week. I first came across a talk given by Elder Holland titled, “Remember Lot’s Wife.” I quickly became obsessed with that talk as well, and so my writing today has quite naturally fell into being about the new year with that song and talk, including Lot’s wife, being the center of my studies.
Elder Holland begins his talk perfectly and this line has echoed through my mind as I’ve thought about my so called new year resolutions for 2017. He said, “The start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock of our lives and see where we are going, measured against the backdrop of where we have been. I don’t want to talk to you about New Year’s resolutions, because you only made five of them and you have already broken four. I give that remaining one just another week.”
(Ain’t that true! I mean how many of y’all will still be at the gym come Friday?? Just kidding, we can do it. I bought a scale and went running so we are in this together my friends.)
The scriptural foundation of his talk then led into the story of Lot’s wife. Elder Holland explained how Lot and his family were commanded to leave Sodom and Gomorrah and told to “not look back.” While leaving their home however, we read in the scriptures that Lot’s wife “looked back,” and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
Reflecting on this event, Elder Holland thought about what was so wrong with “looking back.” His answer was, “What was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her. It is possible that Lot’s wife looked back with resentment toward the Lord for what He was asking her to leave behind. So it isn’t just that she looked back; she looked back longingly. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. That, apparently, was at least part of her sin.”
On Sunday in church, Sheila who has recently been learning about the church, turned to me and said, “I’m Lot’s wife.” I was shocked to hear her say that so randomly, especially since Lot’s wife has been on my mind so much. That’s when I noticed myself that I am Lot’s wife. I’ve spent way too much time looking back. Then I remembered the lyrics of the song I mentioned earlier when I needed them most:
“Just have the courage to take the one step.
Someone’s going to be there to help with the rest.
To start is the hardest but it’s something only you can do.”
Moving into a new year means taking new steps which are sometimes scary. Lot’s wife was quite afraid to leave the comfort of her home and the world she knew. The initial start and realization of the need to move forward is often the most treacherous of the journey. For myself, this is something I have struggled with and letting go does not come easy. But I hope my future doesn’t have to do with any salt so instead of looking back, it’s time to begin moving forward with faith.
Elder Holland continues on: “As a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. When we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.”
Continuing on the topic of faith, Elder Holland explains that “a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought—fatally, as it turned out—that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind.”
And that is when the lyrics of the song “Let it Begin” continue to align with Elder Holland’s talk. The following lines are:
“Don’t carry the burden as the years go by.
You don’t need that crushing weight in your life.
Have faith to pray for the strength to finally see this through.”
I have thought a lot about how the Lord has so much more prepared for us than what we leave behind. Are we like Lot’s wife and focus too much on looking back? Do we carry the past too heavily, allowing it to be a crushing weight? Or are we moving forward, praying with faith for strength to see it through and also see the greater moments the Lord has planned ahead of us?
Side note: Of course Heavenly Father then placed another, “Sister Fuhriman, stop being Lot’s wife” reminder in my life when this New Year’s video was just posted. Watch it. Love it. I’ve watched it a million times since. https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/series/mormon-messages/new-years-look-not-behind-thee
But back to the talk: Elder Holland in his ever so loving rebuking way then says, “At this point, let me pause and add a lesson that applies both in your own life and also in the lives of others. There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.”
“When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal. Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried.”
So are we forgiving and forgetting? Are we allowing the Atonement of Jesus Christ to release us from past mistakes? Are we repenting and moving forward? Are we growing, changing, improving, and leaving he past behind? Are we allowing others to do the same? Are we following Paul’s example as he says, “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). I hope in 2017 to better take his advice and reach forth.
It’s cheesy, I know, but 2017 is the year I move forward. I have a lot to do to improve, but this year I’m determined to not be Lot’s wife and look back. I’ve noticed how my past mistakes don’t define me but rather they refine me. I need to let what is over and done with be over and done with. I’m ready to grow, change and improve. I’m ready to let it begin! And I’m ready to do it with Christ.
“There’s one who knows you perfectly.
He can take the hurt away.
Healing starts within,
Just let Him in.
Let it begin.”
HERE’S TO 2017! Hope y’all drank some Mormon bubbly aka Martinelli’s for me. And stick to those five New Years resolutions. Prove Elder Holland wrong in that you can keep those four and make that fifth resolution last longer than next week 😉
LOOK NOT BEHIND THEE AND LET IT BEGIN!