So I have to brag about all the wonderful people in the ward and my wonderful companion for how well they took care of me on my birthday. I woke up that morning and went to open the door () to see how cold it was outside only to be drowned in balloons! Brooke headed the effort but the night before at FHE they got a bunch of people to sign balloons and then they put plastic around the door frame and filled it with 80 balloons!! So when I opened it, it was quite a surprise. Then my wonderful companion made me breakfast and we went to go talk to people on campus!
We have a huge fold-out board that we've used for various initiatives in the past, so this time we had it all decked out with "He is the Gift" stuff. Several of our members came out with us and one brought her Ipad so we could play the video and Tiffany and Melane who were just recently baptized were super gung-ho about handing out cards and inviting people to come write something to put on the board. I was so impressed and proud of them. They are doing amazing things and growing so quickly. Also, as we were talking to people a huge tour group walked through and Elder Visser convinced them all to sing me happy birthday! What a surprise! And then I got a surprise lunch from Laci and Haylee, and flowers from dad, cards and gifts from people. And I have legit cowboy boots now!!! It was a really wonderful day. I don't think I've ever been so well taken care of on my birthday.
That evening we had dinner with Taylor, one of our recent converts and we got to sit and talk with her and her roommate, Tia and read the Christmas story from the Book of Mormon and gain additional perspective to see what was going on there. Isn't it wonderful to have additional light and knowledge and Truth from the Book of Mormon. We were talking with Kelly the other day and she told us how she tried to explain the BoM to her brother. She said, if you tried to tell the history of WW2 without the American side, it would still be correct, but you'd miss a lot of important details and depth. It's very similar to why we have the Book of Mormon. It provides so much depth and additional insight to what we already have. I love the Christmas story because the Nephites were about to die if Christ had not come, but He came that night, as he said he would and his first act in just coming to Earth was to save people from imminent death, and isn't that His entire mission?
Our Christmas Conference this week was wonderful. The entire mission got together and it was a lot of missionaries. They really put a lot of effort into it--we each got handmade TX stockings with notes from home and a little gift, what a wonderful time. We had a sing-along with Christmas carols and seasonal songs, but I really liked just listening to President Mortensen teach us more about the symbolism of shepherds, especially as portrayed in the Christmas story.
The shepherds were abiding in the field, keeping watch over the flock (sound a little like missionaries?) The angels came to them to tell them the good tidings and then they went with haste to spread the news of a Savior, of Jesus Christ. There's a lot of symbolism there, but that might get you started. There is great depth to the scriptures that sometimes we miss when we think we know the story well.
I've also been thinking about consecration a lot recently, really turning our will over to God because our will is really the only gift we can give him. I'm reading through the Book of Mormon right now looking for how consecration (aligning our will with God's) leads to transformation, and how much God can really shape us and perfect us when we let Him.
Have a very Merry Christmas!!! I love y'all!! Enjoy the season, share the gift!