Serving in the Mexico Mérida Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sublime feeling of peace

Time is irrelevant to the Lord
Hola Familia,

After we ended our call last week, I just had this sublime feeling of peace descend and stay in my heart for a good two days or so afterwards. I love you a lot. Thank you for the display of musical talent.

Hna. Torales and I don't know whether we’ll stay together after this transfer—it’s like we get closer and closer every day at the same time we’re getting closer and closer to the possibility of separating. It’s hard not to love someone when you are both learning essential things from God together and through each other. We have, as of this week, NO progressing investigators so we’ve prayed specifically what we need to do to get better. I love how Heavenly Father answers prayers specifically. We’re changing a lot and using more and more of Preach My Gospel, which is good.

I feel good about what we’re doing-- I feel like even in the five weeks I’ve been here, we've really helped to change the ward sentiment about missionary work. The bishopric thinks we’re great, which feels good. And we are trying, one by one to really LOVE and BE FRIENDS with the members. Most of all we’re trying to instill in them a love of Christ because when we really know Christ, we realize how much we love Him and want to be like Him. And as we work with Him to be more like Him, we are filled with his love which really is the definition of joy. And when we're filled with love and joy at the same time, we want EVERYONE to feel this joy. We want to share the tools to have this kind of relationship with Christ with everyone. It’s like that quote you sent me months ago in the MTC, Mom, about how the measure of the depth of our conversion is our desire to share it with others.

The sad thing is that so many people don’t realize the hole in their lives without this love. I’ve realized how AWFUL and PREVELANT Satan’s sentiment of 'all is well' really does trap people in a very real sense. It is so hard to help people realize their need for the gospel-- how they could live so much more abundantly, how they could work toward their divine potential and be infinitely happy-- when they feel just fine right now. When people haven't been humbled by trials to see their needs, sometimes they just have to choose humble themselves to have faith that there is something better in life. I’m trying to figure out how to get people to do that. :) I think just hit them really hard with the Spirit or something.
Dad, thank you for sending all of those music files-- that was so much work! I had told Mom that I could only use CD's because I didn't have a speaker, but it must have been a response to an email she sent that didn’t copy you. Thank you for your labor of love! And it didn’t go to waste because I’ll use them when I get home. Or if I find an mp3-connectable speaker here.
Mmm, Merida facts...
People really do sleep in hammocks here. I heard some couples actually share hamacas, which they call 'sleeping in loche' (loche is the Mayan word for hug) because you can’t help but be next to each other in the middle of the hammock. At first I thought it was really sweet but then I remembered how hot and sweaty it is at night. Bleh...

Here in Madero it’s pretty modern, but it kind of changes street-by-street. All of them are one or two rooms, but the nice ones have sheet-rocked walls and air conditioning and some even have nice TVs. All of them are completely tile floors because you just sweep up the dirt, throw water everywhere and mop everything out.  A lot of houses are stucco outside with cement walls inside, painted in really bright colors (they paint a lot and in really bright colors because the sun fades everything so quickly). Like ours! I love our new house!
Hna. Torales, the model, exiting our new house

There is an almost-American supermarket a few blocks from us (I’m going to miss that if I get transfered), which is wonderfully convenient because we can get produce and bread and household stuff all in one spot. It’s still weird to me how they don’t refrigerate eggs, milk (which comes in boxes on the shelves), or cream. I think I might try to take home some 'media crema' with me when I come home, because the boxes last until you open them. We put media crema on everything—I’m not exactly sure what it is but it makes everything taste good. It’s kind of like sour cream but not sour.

And… everyone here refers to a week as 8 days instead of seven. If they tell you they want to meet a week from now, they tell you 'I'll see you in eight days.'

And... I eat a LOT of meat, at every meal, enormous portions dripping with grease. Lots of beans and tortillas too.

I'll try to think of more things to write next week.
I love you all!
Lia

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Feliz Navidad from Merida!



Merry Christmas from Hermana Lia and Hermana Torales!
Lia's apartment (until Friday)


Hola Familia,

I can’t tell you how excited I am to talk to you. Can you send me your Skype name (or multiple) so I can look for you on the member’s computer? If nothing else, we can Skype chat with instructions on how to call because I have no idea. 5:00 my time is better because we leave the house at 4:00.

Oh, family! I love you so much. I think about you multiple times a day, but only in a way of love, not distraction. This week we had a fast because we had 4 planned baptisms for Saturday and none were looking likely (more on that later), plus a bunch of other needs (our prayer roll). I also fasted for each one of you individually and I was the one to say the prayer for the two of us to start the fast and as I started praying for you all I just started bawling uncontrollably. It wasn't sad, I just love you more than I ever realized (missions and the atonement do that to you) and I want so badly for you all to feel the things I’m feeling and learn the things I’m learning. I want us to be a family centered 100% on Christ because that’s how we’ll be the loving, united family we want to be. I can’t wait to talk to you.

Hermana Torales has always wanted a scripture case,
so she and Lia traded a purse for the case.  Two happy chicas!
There are so many beautiful families here. I was walking down the calle yesterday and this man walks up to his house and this little kid screams 'Papa!' and runs out and hugs him and it's beautiful. And we picked up this family that we met next to a panaderia selling cookies, and they are so FUN. We still haven’t taught them because delays keep coming up, but every time we come back to teach them we meet a new family member who is also fantastically and uniquely awesome. They are all siblings with kids of their own.  And they tell us “we are a united family. It’s like every time we get together it’s a party, we don’t even need holidays.”   And they actually invited the missionaries to dinner. They don’t even know us! That never happens! I love families. Families are how to be happier than anything else, ya’ll. 

I love finding families that I think “Wow, this feels just like a Mormon home in the United States except they speak Spanish and drink horchata. Other than that, it feels exactly the same.”  I don’t know why it surprises me that other people are normal.  Can you guys send me The Living Christ?
   
OH!!!! I GOT YOUR LETTERS! I got two from Ava from the end of November, then two from mom last week also from the week after Thanksgiving, then one about Agee's temple trip (I was walking around the grocery store while I was reading it and smiling super huge. I must have looked like a dork). I also got a Christmas card from the Mechams (thank you for thinking of me!) that delivered in less than a month! Wow! And one from Kayla (thank you!).

The night I got the first round of letters from Ava and Mom, my happiness was so effervescent, I wanted to just run out in the street and throw confetti in the air. Hna Torales must think I’m so weird because I was just laughing the whole time I was reading them I was so happy. Thank you... :) No letter from Harlan. No packages (they're coming...!)

Mom asked me questions in her letter about Merida and mission life that I will answer next time! 

Love you,
Hna Ludlam

Monday, December 16, 2013

Most important question ever


Hi Fambly,

Eee! I get to call you in a little over a week! You'll have to tell me in a quick email before my next p-day whether you want to call or try skype (I'm a little worried about the iffy-ness of skype) and when you want to call. I have 40 minutes and it can be anytime after 4 pm my time. 

The driving force of this week is that Hna. Torales and I have taken on the challenge of teaching 14 lessons a day, which is the new expectation from Presidente Johnson of the Seventy for our mission. Presidente Johnson has a lot of mandates-- I've heard that our mission is one of the strictest missions in Mexico.

Oh, there is this one investigator we have that just breaks my heart. His name is Salvador and he's a baker of about 40-50, and for some reason wants us to visit but absolutely rejects the idea of faith of any kind. He likes to argue with us. It's almost sad because he HAS prayed to God to know if God exists and loves him and actually RECIEVED an answer of love and affirmation, but tells us “it went away afterward. It’s just a contortion of the mind.” and we say “But, Hno. Salvador, we see here in Alma 32 that we have to nourish the seeds of faith” and he says “I told you, I am not a man of faith.” We say “Hno Salvador, there is more for you in life than you already have” but he likes to tell us frequently how perfectly content with his life he is. I’ve been thinking that only those who have tasted real happiness know that our ability to feel happiness is infinitely limitless. Anyway, we aren’t going to visit him anymore because he refuses to pray and leaves when we ask to pray, and is not at all open, but it really breaks my heart to see someone who I know could taste real happiness but refuses to. I kind of want to write him a letter even if we aren’t going to teach him.

We do have one investigator that makes my heart sing with joy, though. His name is Raul, and he teaches science classes. He is a SEEKER of truth. He probably has 2000 books in his house. He says he’s pretty much investigated Christian sect there is in Mexico, except ours. He is so kind and genial and I love to hear him say how the scriptures to him are better than food and you should have SEEN his face when we told him about the priesthood. And when we told him about the first vision he couldn't believe what he was hearing. It’s the best thing ever because he’ll stop us during the lesson to repeat things, like he's clinging onto every word. He doesn’t like commitment, though. He says it’s like chains and so he doesn’t accept commitments but we will be having a lesson on the purpose of covenants very soon. We’re also going to have to explain more the nature of God and Christ because he’s still pretty superstitious. But it is so refreshing to teach someone who WANTS to learn. 

I’m also thinking that we are going to have focus our lessons more on who Christ is and why we LOVE Him and how we have a RELATIONSHIP with Him. Probably 90% of the people we contact say “No, gracias, soy ______” (a religion) and we say “How wonderful! The message we share will help you come even closer to Christ!” and they say “No thanks, I like what I already have.”

What I don't understand is how someone who truly loves Christ-- good people with real faith-- would not jump at the opportunity to receive more of what He has to say and to draw closer to Him. I don’t think it’s because the people here are hypocrites. I think it’s because they don’t have a real understanding of who Christ is and WHY we love Him-- not just appreciate or admire Him but LOVE Him for the INCREDIBLE thing he has done for us and for the way that we work with Him everyday to better ourselves. And because we FEEL His love for us.

I’ve been focusing my studies on this topic and the weight of what the atonement MEANS and what Christ has done for us has been hitting me like a bunch of bricks. I think people don’t know Christ in this way. I get the sense that most believe “I love Christ because He saved me” and now it's kind of a done deal. Maybe I'm thinking about this a lot because I realize my need to develop true love for Christ.  I can tell you that in the past 2 months it’s multiplied by 20. :) 

It's a pretty good question: Do you LOVE Christ? And why? Actually it's probably the most important question ever.

Last night, a lady we contacted in the street gave us the bananas she just freshly picked from her trees and WOW. Actually it wasn’t a banana, it was a manzano which is the same thickness of a banana but half the length and tastes like an apple. It’s the coolest thing. In Merida, the Spanish (or missionary, still can’t tell) word for 'cool' is 'potente.' All the missionaries say to each other “Pooooootente, misionero.”

I love all you potente people. 
Love,
Lia
This is my illustration for the gospel of Christ. The red dotted line is Christ's path, the light blue dotted line is the Holy Ghost, and the 'Faith' path is ours. The two railings are the word or God and covenants, and the two people at the end are Christ and Heavenly Father. Notice how the first 4 principles and ordinances of the gospel are in order! 
No copyright. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lia left in charge!


Lia and her cousin, Brooke (headed to Korea), at the MTC
Flowers bloom all year long.  Most houses don't look like this.
Hna Torales, yo, Hna Carr, Hna Nuñez at Capacitacion
Hola Mi Familia Amada,

I spent my first whole day in charge while Hna Torales was on intercambios (last week's intercambio was a half day and all of our appointments were no-shows). Hna Williams from the MTC was my companion! Given neither of us speak Spanish or know the area or the people or how to ask directions, we had a pretty incredible day. We got lost at the very end (WAY lost, I have no idea how we got that far away from where we  were headed), but I think it was meant to happen because we met a lot of people in the streets and actually set citas (appointments) with them! New investigators! And then to get home and a really nice man, waiting outside a store, helped us by hailing a taxi and telling him where to get us home. He was super nice and I wish I hadn't run out of book of Mormons.

I also had my best lesson yet teaching the Restoration to a woman who I just LOVE. Her name is Cristina and she has 3 daughters (two old enough to listen) and another girl at 8 months pregnant. We had our first cita last week and then this week, I asked her what she thought about the LdM (Book or Mormon). I almost laughed because she just had taken it for granted that it was scripture as legitimate as the Bible, she didn't even think about it. She also was like “I'm assuming when we've been doing this for 6 or so months and you, you know... (she made a dunking motion), will that be by the priesthood?” She already understands the role of the Holy Ghost in her life, despite what her church taught about it and totally grasped the idea of the apostasy. When Hna Williams and I taught about the first vision she said “Wow, I didn't know about this! I've never heard about this in my whole life!” like it was accepted fact that it was true. I love how humble she is, she’s just a beautiful spirit. And when we were teaching that lesson, H Williams and I, I just felt the Spirit coursing through my veins. I didn't feel like I was the one teaching, and I knew that what I was saying was being conveyed by the Spirit to her heart as well.

She said she’d come to church with her family, but didn’t. I think commitments are going to be a problem. It's a problem with a lot of people here. :) They can sense that our message is a true and good thing, but they don’t want to change. Hna Torales and I are working to make sure we explain how the gospel is a message of CHANGE and to change you need commitment and to DO stuff different.

Did you guys watch the Christmas devotional last night? I was so excited to get a brain break and hear something in English, but it turns out when they do the Spanish translation, they completely mute the English. Oh well. In church settings, I can pretty much understand every word people say but I can’t think about what it means fast enough to learn anything from it. But it was okay because during Elder Russell M. Nelsons talk about Christ, even though the only words I really grasped were 'love' 'peace' and 'light burdens', those were the only words I needed to hear. When they showed the paintings of Christ, even without understanding anything I felt this wave of love just wash over my whole body. I cried.
I have been really struggling this week with exhaustion because it takes so much energy to communicate even the smallest thing, and the pressure of NEEDING to hear what the investigators and church members are saying, plus walking 10, 12 miles everyday in the heat-- I was really starting to doubt if I could keep it up. I was trying to force myself to be engaged and to be bright and happy and to continue trying to affect people and love people and love God, but I felt like I couldn't do it for another 18 months. But when I was sitting in the devotional last night, I realized that even though I was preaching about Christ ALL day, I hadn't been thinking about him much and I realized I hadn't been trusting in Him and relying on Him. We could share the burden and it would be light. He could make me feel loved and also help me love other people. While I was sitting in the chapel looking at all the Mexican people around me, I felt this love for ALL of them. They weren't Mexican people, they were people just as much as I am a person. I want to feel that for them all the time. I want to remember to draw on Christ's support all the time.
My ward is so good here. I want you to meet them. They take such good care of the missionaries and they really devote an incredible amount of time to the missionary effort. They’re just good people.

I figured out about my phone call. I get 40 minutes Christmas day on Skype if we want, otherwise I'll just use a phone.  Also, I learned dearelders are delivered once a month. :) So I'm hoping I’ll get to hear from you in 1 or 2 weeks, depending on when they deliver.

AHHH! Agee went to the temple!!! I LOVED the pictures! Can you still send me Elder Tafoya's address?

And Ava, your hair is awesome. You look like Janet Jackson.

Family, I love you!
Hna Ludlam

Monday, December 2, 2013

I LOVE what the gospel does for people




My hammock!  The colors are way cooler in real life. Can I hang it above my bed when I get home?   

Hola familia,

I am actually living in Mexico and I feel like I am actually doing actual good for actual people. I LOVE what the gospel does for people. AH--I wish I had time to tell you about everything! I only have a half hour to write!

Just got your letter. Right now I'm in Centro which is the fancy touristy city with cool streets and tall buildings and lights and shopping. I live in a suburby place called Madero which is in a smaller colonia called fracciamiento Mulsay. It's not inner city, but it has a grocery store and a bank. It's nice. There are lots of cats, colorful houses, and always flowers.

Hna Torales, if we have time before our district meeting tonight (its in centro-- the missionary office and the templo are in centro) we are going to teach a lesson on the grounds of the temple for a man named Fransisco whose wife is a member and who hadn't been that receptive. But my first lesson with him was SUPER potente and he's going to ask God whether his previous baptism was valid and now we want to teach him about eternal marriage because he really does love his family. We're going to sit in the temple garden tonight with another sealed couple and I'm going to play Nearer My God to Thee on the violin. I use it all the time). Anyway, if we have time before the meeting we're going to go walking in the fancy, super antiguo (old) parts of Centro and hopefully take pictures that I will send next week.
  
Hna. Torales is a better companion than I could have dreamed of. She is incredibly patient with my Spanish and so good with people even though she's naturally shy. She is a force of nature. Unfortunately, Presidente Garcia knows this and so every Tuesday he sends her to go with other companions in other cities and I stay here. So I'm a little worried because I still don't speak Spanish and I don't know where anything is, or the people we're teaching. But a sister from the ward who is going to serve a mission is going to be my temporary companion. Anyway, she's a dream come true because she really wants to work AND because she listens when I try to implement ways to do things that I learned at the MTC.

Jenna, thanks for your suggestion about 2 Nephi 9. I needed to find a scripture and it was the same one you suggested and now I am using it a lot.

I eat pork all the time. Lots of rice and this delicious substance called mole that I don't know what it is. But I'm not fat yet. Neither is Hna Torales. Even though she's smaller than me she can eat more than me.

Promptings of the Spirit are so real. I'm finally learning how to tell what the Spirit feels like. It really is an idea, but it feels better than when I have an idea and somehow I know it is a push from someone else outside of me. And it always makes me feel good about doing something, whether it's what hymn to play for someone or to take something extra with me when I leave the house or to talk to someone or what to say. I think it helps that we spend all day trying to figure out what Heavenly Father wants us to do and then you know when he's telling you.

When you are a missionary, is it okay to make your fast kind of like the prayer roll at the temple for a huge list of all your investigators, or are you still supposed to fast for specific things?

Ava, I found our receipt from our date to the West Side diner and it made me miss you like none other. I love you.

They distribute mail at the district meeting tonight so I am crossing my fingers! :)

Mucho amor y felicidad,
Hna Ludlam

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

...but I am just doing it



Hola familia!
Lia's first native companion, Hermana Torales


Soy en Mexico.  I am doing okay!  I've learned that I can talk to people and people can talk to me and I can be friends with people even when we don't speak the same language. I'm pretty sleep deprived because we didn't sleep the night we left the CCM and then we got to the mission pretty late and woke up extra early.  I love my hamaca (hammock) and I'll try to send pictures soon. They let us pick out our own hamacas the first night so I will just take it with me everywhere I live. Mine is stripes of different colors with gold specs that remind me of the wheat dream from Joseph, King of Dreams.

The city is beautiful. The first thing I thought when we got here was that I already feel like it's my new home. Even though it's a big city, the people here aren't very wealthy so it has a very different feel from a city like New York or Seattle. People say hi to us when we say hi to them. It's a lot older than I imagined it but it's really endearing-- I'll send pictures on Monday.

I love my trainer, her name is Hermana  Torales and she is the boss of the whole mission. She really has her act together (We both use lots of different colored pens) and I LOVE her. We work all day. :) She is 28 and pretty much my mom.  I spend an hour a day teaching her English and she really wants to learn. It is a mission mandamiento para las chicanas (a mission rule for the sisters). We're thinking about starting up an English class to find some new investigators. We really are the FIRST group of gringas in 20 years!

Last night on our way to una cita a la casa del Obispo (appointment at the bishop’s house), we passed an older woman mopping an empty house and after we passed her Hna Torales said, "Do you think she needs help?" and when we asked her she said no, but Hna Torales picked up a mop and started helping her anyway. So we al mopped and squeegeed for a few minutes. I'm not really sure what they talked about until Hna Torales invited her to learn more about Christ and then I was able to bear my testimony. The woman was named Mary and said she couldn't hear the discussions for some reason I didn't understand, but I could see in her eyes that she really was searching for it and Hna Torales could too.

We sang 'Venid a Mi' for her and it was such a serene moment because Hna Torales teaches with such a powerful spirit and you could tell everyone could feel the Spirit and when we talked and sang it echoed in the empty house (all the houses kind of feel like bathrooms because they are all bathroom tile and none of them have much furniture except for a sink) and the night was so peaceful and quiet. We gave her a number and a pamphlet and we're hoping she'll call us. I was so touched by Hna Torales example. She really gets why she is here and is not dissuaded by anything and so inclined to love others.  I want to be like her!

My mission president is fantastic and I've realized my violin is going to get a lot of use (including at my first baptism on Sunday!). He and his wife are just beautiful loving real people, plus his wife speaks English. They live in a really nice part of town and have a fancy white stucco house and a fountain and all that. We ate breakfast at their house.

I haven't lost all my English already, it's just tricky to type on these keyboards and I can't tell whether something is misspelled because the computer says everything is misspelled, so I'll have to ask Mom to employ her editing skills. Gracias.

It's pretty exhausting to have to work so hard to understand anything, and even then not catch most of it, but I am just doing it. Whoa, I am a real missionary. Que cosa!

I loved our call and I love you all!
Con carinos,
Hna Ludlam

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Speaking of happy...



Hola Familia!
Hermanas en pajamas

Herman Rivera and our district

Over the river and through the woods, to MTC West we go... 
Muchas sorpresas para ustedes...

UNO: I performed in devotional and it went SO well and... Brooke illicitly recorded the whole thing on her camera! She said she'll send it to Tiffany to send to you. I'm so glad that memory was preserved AND that you'll get to see it!

DOS: I hope you guys don't have anything big planned for family night BECAUSE... I get to call from the airport Monday night!! For as long as I want! (which is really as long as I have during a layover in Houston). I will call around what I THINK is 7 pm your time (they didn't put time zones on my flight schedule), so just hang out around the phone an hour or so before and after that. AND-- I have 500 minutes on my calling card, but each time I make a call it uses up 130 minutes, including if no one picks up the phone. So please be there! And please all compose brief autobiographies of your life for the past 6 weeks because I'll probably have time to talk to you each individually. I am SO excited to talk to you all.

Yesterday was In-Field Orientation. Man, I am really not sure how I am feeling right now. The orientation really said to me: Wow, missionary work is REAL. This work changes EVERYTHING. But at the same time, I realized: The fact that I am a missionary is real-- I am ACTUALLY going to be in the field in 2 days and even though I have all of these dreams of what a hard-working and unconquerably faithful and love-driven and converted and miracle-working and consecrated missionary I want to be, I worry that I will have all these expectations and then the field will be nothing like I think it will be and it's scary. What if I fizzle? There are so many missionaries that fizzle. I know that what God wants is definitely what I want right now, but that's while I'm here in a cozy, temperature-regulated, spiritually-saturated, safe, friendly MTC. In the field it's going to be hard and I guess I just don't know how I will respond. I've never really had to do hard before. 

Luckily, I have also been thinking all the time about faith for the past week and how much of a decision it is. So I'm deciding right now that even when it gets hard and I'm not really sure that I actually want what God wants, I'll choose to want what God wants. And then do it. I'm fasting today (both of our companionships are) that I'll be able to start out my mission with that kind of faith and then keep it. I really don't want to make or accept any greenie excuses for myself at the beginning, like "It's okay because I'm new..." (Hno Ralphs has been warning us about how the other missionaries tend to put us into the 'greenie mould' and excuse us from not being the best missionaries ever that have the power to change our entire mission). Mom, can you find a Jeffrey R. Holland quote for me and post it on the blog? It starts with "The spirit of this work is urgency" and then ends with something about "Having to live in such a way that we can't do it alone anymore." it sums up very much the kind of faith I want to have.

Also this week, I've been thinking a lot about positivity. More than one person has told me that they don't see me get excited very much, and I keep thinking: "What?! I feel excited and happy ALL the TIME! I love everything!" I'm starting to think maybe I have a facial disconnect with my emotions or something, that I just don't convey very visually or audibly how I'm feeling. It reminded me of when you used to ask me if I was upset about something, Mom, and I would have no idea what you were talking about. So I've started trying to consciously put a more positive look on my face all the time-- not like a cheesy smile or anything, just a few degrees on the corners of my mouth to brighten my face and smile a little when I'm talking to people.  The gospel is serious business, but it isn't somber and sometimes I think I'm a little too somber. I want the people I teach to understand the depth of the joy that the gospel brings to my life. I want people who aren't even talking to me but just see me to think 'Why is she so happy? I want whatever she has in her life that makes everything so great.'  Plus, I think people just like to be around you more when you have a happy spirit (so they'll think you're normal and likable enough to refer their friends to you). 

Did you know babies instinctively smile? It's not just a learned trait from watching other's reactions because even babies born blind grow up smiling when they're happy.

Speaking of happy, I realized what a big deal it is to keep letters home positive. Hermano Ralphs showed us a letter he got from one of his friends on a mission that was just awful and really actually depressed me. Of course a mission will be hard but if it's for the Lord and for the purpose of HELPING people then it's always a positive thing. Plus, we've been told several times how we're supposed to use letters to do missionary work at home, too, and give 'the mission experience' to the people we left behind. So if my letters ever get negative, call me on it. And THANK you to all the wonderful people who write me such uplifting letters! It makes a world of difference.

I've been looking at our Christmas card and the pictures you sent and thinking 'all of my sisters are so BEAUTIFUL. I think if saw any of them right now I'd probably start crying.' My parents are beautiful too. :) And Grant. You're a stud. Can Grant get skyped in? Or maybe a conference call? Also, can Mom or Dad email back as soon as you read this so I know if I need to call after a specific time and so I know you know?

Thanks for sending the album and the picture of Agee, Mum. Agee you be rockin dat doorag. And thank you for writing a beautiful letter to me. Really, a picture in an email makes my whole week. I didn't realize I'd want them so much.

I heard Merida hit 112 degrees in the past week.

Oh, Ava-- you will be so proud of me. I have finally joined the legion of sophisticatedly-tied scarf-wearers. Sister Gurney was the nicest person ever and sent me a beautiful red scarf as an early Christmas gift (please tell her how much I liked it) and so I asked my pinterest-conscious roommates to show me some ways to tie it. And now I feel like I've moved up a social class. I think I'll wear it as a belt in Mexico. It also has a little tag on it that says 'Do everything in love. Also, Ava, your last DearElder got cut off a few paragraphs in.  :(

Thanks for sending the Burrito music mom-- Grant was awesome to send me the lyrics to all the verses and then I was thinking 'Oh, I wish I knew exactly how the song went' and then two days later Mom sends me the music! Now my companions and I sing it whenever we're walking places ('Si me ven, si me ven, yo camino a la cena').  And thanks to my svesters for the lovely notes and Squid-relics. Much appreciated. The only thing better than getting DearElders from you all is getting real letters--with your real handwriting.

Oh, I wish I could see the tulips! It is like a little bit of Bellevue we brought with us... where are you planting them? Just by the street or around the house? Yay I'll be coming home in tulip season!

This letter was a little lengthy, sorry-- I have twice the writing time because it's our last p-day before we leave and I'm just a little excited leaving for my real actual mission in TWO DAYS! My next letter will be as a real missionary in Mexico...

The field is white ALREADY, y'all! It's harvest time!
Love,
Hermana Ludlam

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Travel Plans Received! One week to go...


Hola familia querida!

Oooh… I got my travel plans yesterday! I am ACTUALLY going to serve a mission. It's weird how even in the MTC that still seems like something way far off-- but actually it's in a week. My plane leaves at midnight and I get to Merida 9 hours later. That's really not too bad.

Will you tell Agee how deeply, deeply I was touched that she sent me her journal? As I was reading it, I just had all this irrepressible joy surge up in me because I could tell how happy she was. I loved it. I am trying to write tons of letters today so I will write back to her ASAP.

Mum, I feel this special connection with you every time I go to watch the broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word on Sundays. I think "I bet Mom is listening to this same thing right now." Did you hear the Veteran's day program last week?  I wish you could have SEEN it because that last number with the bells was a visual phenomenon. They brought in this whole troupe of bell ringers that took up three or four tables the length of the stage-- probably 40-50 people, all in sparkly red tops and three or four different types of bells each. It was so cool to watch-- it was so intricate and they were really getting into it. Do they post those broadcasts?

I am so glad I have music. Music and the Spoken Word is one of the highlights of my week because I don't get to listen to much other real music besides hymns we sing as a class. I've also realized how much playing the violin is a part of my SOUL-- I get this incredible feeling of comfort and peacefulness every time I get a chance to practice. I think "Oh, I missed this."

OH!! GUESS WHAT!! Not ONLY do I get to play at the Sunday MTC Devotional this week, I get to play TWICE! They wanted to use our 'Savior, Redeemer of My Soul' number for the Incoming Missionary Meeting too. I am SO excited because this number is stunningly gorgeous and I love the people I am playing with. We just gel.  One of the elders in our district recorded our practice on his camera, so I'll see if it's possible I can send it to you. Don't tell anyone, but I had a secret jam session with Elder Gonzales last night after our rehearsal and it was the best, where we were just both making it up and going with whatever and I realized how much I miss music people. I love music people.

The Savior, Redeemer number is the same one they play wrote for '17 miracles' and 'Joseph Smith the Prophet'. The words and the melody and the accompaniment are all so inspired. Also, I get to sing a duet of 'In Humility, Our Savior' with Hermana Jones in sacrament meeting this Sunday. Man, Heavenly Father is so nice to me letting me do all these wonderful things. 

Can someone please send me pictures of Ava's hair?! You tell me how cool it looks and then I can't see it! Also, do you have the lyrics to Mi Burrito Sabañero? I keep wanting to sing it, but I don't know how...

So, I read Grant's suggestion about the scripture cases after I bought them.... but I do really like the ones I bought. They're the woven kind so they're fun but they're also really nice and conservative. And I'm not beating up my scriptures anymore. I bought cover-covers for each book, but then I also got a bag to fit them because I can't carry my backpack to meetings or sacrament meetings, so I'll be able to take a smaller bag with scriptures and it will fit a few other things too. Jenna, thank you for offering to make them though! I wish I had known before I bought them! 

Aw, I had a beautiful conversation with Morgan (Lia’s cousin going to Mexico, too) yesterday during gym while we watched other people play volleyball. We talked about our lives and our families and I just love her like none other. 

Good news, though, I really am starting to love a certain person more. I like that 'cleave unto charity' verse in Moroni-- because when I really look and am in tune with the Spirit, Heavenly Father shows me the good parts in him. I really see how great he has the potential to be. And then I just ignore the other parts. It's AMAZING how Heavenly Father can make that happen! He actually helps me be more like Christ!

I've been thinking a lot about the process of how Heavenly Father teaches us and guides us. I watched a David A. Bednar talk about 'Following the Promptings of the Spirit'. A few years ago, Elder Bednar was at a GA conference with Elder Packer, in which Elder Packer reminded him about the time when he had visited Elder Bednar as a missionary in Germany (Elder Bednar was the missionary assigned to help Elder Packer (still a general authority back then) and his wife get lodging in the mission and then continue his way to Eastern Germany by train.) Years later at this conference, Elder Packer told him about how the 20 marcs Elder Bednar had given them last-minute (a lot of money) that had saved their lives (you'll have to read the whole story).

The thing was, Elder Bednar didn't ever remember giving them the money-- he assumed that if that was really what had happened, he must have just thought "Oh, they'll need this money for food or something." He said he had no indication at all that he was receiving a very important spiritual prompting-- he was just doing what seemed like the sensible, good thing to do. He said that's how most spiritual promptings come. The Holy Ghost really is a guide to direct the way we think, we don't have to know we're receiving a spiritual prompting or seek one.

I was very struck by this because I thought: "Isn't that like Heavenly Father manipulating our minds-- giving us thoughts of what he wants us to do and we don't even know it? Isn't that taking away our agency?" And then I realized: "No! That's the amazing thing! Heavenly Father will guide our every action and effort if THAT'S WHAT WE WANT. If what we WANT is to do His will, that's exactly what He will enable us to do. If we don't want what He wants (which is to make us better), then he won't. He won't give us anything if it isn't what we want to be happy." I've been thinking a lot about our decision to want what God wants. It's a lot better idea than what we want. It takes faith to believe that sometimes.

Jeje, Elder Randall in our district loves superheroes and has been assigning everyone in the zone to be a certain superhero-- then he draws murals of us on the whiteboards. His girlfriend also sent him these Batman socks with little capes on the heels and he wears them for our four square tournaments. (I never knew how big four square was in the MTC-there our days when no one in our entire ZONE is doing anything during gym besides playing four sqaure. It's like our zone bonding activity.)

Hey how is Harlan? Do you know if he's going to write?

Mucho amor,
Hermana Lia Ludlam

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On the way home from the visa trip...

Back row, L t R: Wilson, Skinner, Graf, Karchner, McBride, Hintze
2nd row:  Beard, Garner, me, Carr, Winn
Front: Randall, Evelynn
Hola Queridos!

THANK you for the package! I used everything in it within the first 24 hours. And thanks for thinking of last year's Christmas card. I got the card on the day it started snowing. Was that your guy's Halloween candy that you sent?  :)

And THANK you for your letters. You guys are very good writers, I love every word you send. The wedding sounded like such a happy celebratory event and I'm glad it turned out so wonderfully. Weddings are good. And thanks for the pictures!

I got my visa this week in Salt Lake. It was a slightly traumatic experience--- not any problems getting the visa, but on the way home we had 40 minutes to wait for the train and I had to use the restroom, so we went to the closest building which was a dialysis institution way down the street. Standing in the doorway was this security guard yelling at a patient in a wheelchair and his caretaker, so Sister Carr and I skirted around them and found the bathroom. But as soon as I started walking back out, this same security guard has grabbed an old guy that just walked in, and he starts screaming and swearing at him and slams him up against the sliding doors, and then puts him in a headlock and throws him to the floor. People are calling the police and yelling and swearing and the doctors are all getting involved. I hide behind the corner til Sister Carr is done in the bathroom. We ask a nurse in the back if she can help us get out of the building a different way so she leads us through all the dialysis patients.

Of all the things that happened, I think the most troubling thing was seeing those patients. There were probably 30 of these sunken, expressionless people sitting in doctors beds. They looked so miserable and part of me was kind of scared of them because they seemed almost not human and the other part of me wanted to go and talk to them and be their friend and do something to help them not be so miserable. The whole trip was definitely a jolt back into the real world, between listening to people's conversations on the train and visiting the slums of SLC and then the incident at the institution-- the whole time I'm thinking "The world is ugly, but the gospel is so happy! It would make these people happy." That's the great thing about the gospel is there's no catch, it's just happy.

Anyway, besides that episode it's been a great week. 

Someone told Sister Winn that drinking apple juice before bed causes vivid dreams, and then her grandma happened to send her apple juice in a package so we decided to run an experiment. Arm 1 will be the control, with just apple juice, and Arm 2 will be apple juice+prayer. We're currently collecting baseline data and beginning preliminary data analyses. We'll let you know.

Sister Garner switched to being Senior companion this Wednesday and that's been a change... I definitely like to be in charge, I've noticed, and she definitely likes to follow. But it's been good. I'm glad we're able to communicate so openly with each other. I'm also glad she learned how to pronounce our last name because for the first few weeks it was just avoided and any time it had to be said it came out as Lud...luum. I can't wait for Mexican people to try to figure it out.

How is Agee doing? Has she been able to make it to church? I've been thinking about how grateful I am that I got to have the experience of knowing her. I remember things from our Sunday nights all the time-- I learned so much from watching the missionaries work with her and seeing the changes in her and from her decision to be baptized. I'm also grateful that my parents made the choice to be good member missionaries and have that happen in our house. That was a really good thing to do.
Oh! Speaking of members! Can you send me a talk called 'Sister Fulcher'? It's a true story about an amazing Sister missionary and we started it in class but didn't finish, and I'm pretty sure I'll want to reread it 20 times while I'm out in the field.

Can you do me a favor and thank Todd Garner in person for the care package he sent? It brought a lot of joy to a lot people, specifically the elders in my district and certain hermanas who have an affinity for pumpkin desserts. It meant a lot.

Any ideas of what to do for a scripture case? They have cool native-looking woven ones in the bookstore, but they come separately for Bible and Book of Mormon and the bigger ones they have only fit English scriptures. I'm trying to think long term of how to keep my scriptures looking nice when they don't stay in a classroom all day. I might just do the separates if I can't think of anything else.

Also, did you ever get in touch with the Petersons in Merida? I'm still trying to figure out if I should pack my coats with me since I am using every inch of my suitcase space with all of the new stuff I got at the MTC. 

This week, I think I learned most about faith than anything else. I realized having faith in the atonement does not just mean we'll be forgiven and cleansed of our sins if we repent. It also means Christ will improve our WEAKNESSES- which are not sins. So when I tell myself, "Oh, I won't be good at talking to people, or connecting with people, or being an instrument of the spirit" that's really denying the gift of the Atonement. Christ is there to make us not only clean people, but cooler people (or people who are coming closer to what He intended them to be). And when I trust completely that he is able to do that and then work on what he tells me to work on, WOW! I actually get better at stuff! Way better than I would have been able to with just my Lia-self-improving abilities. Christ knows how to make us cooler a lot better than we know how to make ourselves cooler. Qué cosa maravillosa. 

Oh! I bought a camera card reader that actually works on these computers.

I love you all! Go read scriptures.
Love,
Hermana Ludlam
The picture is most of my district on our p-day trip to Brigham's Landing. We went to Great Harvest Bread and then Jamba Juice with Elder Wilson's gift card (guess who got pumpkin. :))

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hola from the West MTC! New Address!



Sisters in the Zone, Lia and Hermana G on left
They told us we'd be living in Raintree, but we're actually in Wyview. I'm living one stairwell over from my old apartment. It is SO nice here-- it's more like a little missionary Utopia than a campus. It's amazing how they converted bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms into a missionary training center.

There are all these cute little pathways and streams and bridges in the Raintree apartments and they look super homey from the outside (although they're falling apart on the inside. :)) The first night in Wyview though, we didn't sleep at all because we practically froze to death, and then we realized that even though we thought the heat was turned on the lever to 'heat' wasn't pushed over all the way.

I live next to Morgan! (her beautiful cousin, going to a different mission in Mexico) I see her all the time! It's fantastic! I also saw two of Grant's friends in the cafeteria. Kevin and the other guy we talked to on Skype. The food here is real food because the chefs are actually culinary students. I like the cafeteria-- it's actually an enormous portable but it feels kind of like a diner. The West campus really is better. "We've found the place which God for us prepared, far away, in the the west."

My address is: 
Hermana Lia Ludlam
NOV 25 MEX-MER
2023 N 900 E Unit 892
Provo UT 84602

Thank you for writing to me, fambly (Jenna, where art thou?). I'm putting the last of your letters in the mail today.  And thank you also to the other beautiful people who have written me! Every day becomes the best day ever when I realize "Gasp! We get to check the mail!" I wish I could write back faster but we are only allowed to work on letters of p-day so I do appreciate everything you write, even if I can't respond right away.

Guess where I'm going on Monday... to the Mexican consulate to get my VISA!! It's only the one in Salt Lake but I'm so excited to be on the outside. Actually, west campus missionaries are allowed to go to Brigham's Landing on p-day and today it was GORGEOUS and we walked to go to Burgers Supreme and Jamba Juice. It's weird to realize that the public sees me as a missionary. They give us discounts and the normal people call us 'elder' and 'sister'.

Being in the MTC is a lot more independent than I thought it would be. You have three or four hours a day to sit in your classroom with your district and NOT your teacher and direct your own study. It's definitely not enough time-- I've realized Preach my Gospel should probably be canon. It has the answers to everything. If anyone is planning to serve a mission, just memorize it. I'm so surprised that I haven't burned out yet-- I can definitely tell I was blessed with spiritual and studying stamina. Thanks for your blessing Dad. :)

I LOVED hearing about the baptism. I was walking to class yesterday and I realized "Oh my goodness, Agee is BAPTIZED!!!" It sounds like quite the party weekend. 

There is a sister in my district, Hermana Jones, who was a violin major until she accidentally cut the tendons in her hand a few months ago using a razor blade. But she can still play with all her other fingers except her pinky, so we arranged 'How Great Thou Art' for two violins and played it for sacrament meeting and it was wonderful. Also, she sings, so we're going to audition 'Savior Redeemer of my Soul' for devotional with her soloing voice and me on violin and we're using an accompanist from the MTC. I've also been recruited by one of the elders in my district who wrote his own song he sings and wants music to go with it.  He asked, “Can you play the violin with it?” and so I said yes.

Hno. Ralphs gave me a fabulous quote in our interview and said "if you want to have a marvelous and miraculous experience [in the MTC, on your mission, in your ward, in life], give that experience to someone else. 

Oh, man, the elders in my district are so great, Elder E and Elder H. There are only two of them and they look like they would never be friends in real life, but they do it and they are my heroes. They pretty much show up us sisters. I love how hard and unashamedly they try and how they actually want to be good missionaries so they make it happen. They leave the room to study better, they diligently use the language programs even when all the other elders don't, and they practiced role-playing long before the rest of us figured out how good of an idea that was. They're so bright and beautiful. I just love them.

Another one of Hno. Ralphs quotes is "One missionary can change himself...can change his companionship...his district...his zone...his mission... the world." That has definitely proven true up to the district level. They make us sisters try harder in our district of 6 people. Our zone has some obedience problems (in the districts that arrived before us) and I can see how our district's example has affected them. I don't want to forget how one or two people's examples, even if they look like goody-two-shoes, can make such a difference in other people's lives. 
Happy Halloween from the Zone Elders

Zone at the Temple
How was Halloween?! I am craving pictures of you guys because the album Grant gave to me only has pictures from four or five years ago. For Halloween, I suggested that the four of us dress up as the Elders from our district since two of us are blonde and two are brunette and we all brought glasses. We pulled our hair back in buns and wore white shirts with black skirts and jackets and used scarves for ties. So we still looked like Sister missionaries but still thought we were pretty hilarious. The elders didn't even get it. We had to explain it to them. I wish I could send pictures but these laptops don't allow you to attach things to emails. GAH! 

Something that I've been hit over the head with all week is something I didn't realize I had a problem with until I realized how much better it could be when I fixed it. Summed up it's 'Hakuna Matata'-- There were a whole bunch of different experiences that I don't have time to write, but it was first Brother M, the hipster counselor, who was telling us "If you feel bad about something, you're doing it wrong. Stop worrying about stuff. Stop caring. Just be happy." At first I was thought it was Brother M being slightly off because it's amazing how he just starts talking and works out these super complex thoughts as he's saying them and sometimes I wonder how right he is. Luckily he has a lot of faith and even though he does it all the time, it somehow always works and you can tell it's influenced by the Spirit. Anyways, I realized he was right.

I was sitting in MTC choir and I heard something he had said to me in my interview finally sink in. I heard him saying "Lia, you're okay," except I felt Heavenly Father saying "Lia, you're okay." It was the best feeling in the world. I realized I'm actually living my life right, and even though I'm weak in a lot of areas, that doesn't make me a bad person. I'm not supposed to feel awful about the things I'm not perfect in. It's not a sin to be human.  It's supposed to be a process. Of course, there's that quote (also from Hno. Ralphs...) "The only person's affirmation I trust that I'm doing okay is God's." I can't explain how that feeling is different from an "all is well in Zion feeling", but it is-- and I realized we are here to be joyful, now. And feeling that feeling doesn't make me content with where I am, it makes me want to try harder. The gospel just has so much more light when you let it make you happy and realize you’re progressing instead of stressing out how you're not.  I always thought that was a lesson for old Relief Society sisters, but now I get it.

I LOVE you family!
Moocheesymo amor,
Hermana Lia

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It doesn't really feel like my life anymore, but it's a good thing!

Mama!

I can't actually see my blog because it's not a mission-approved site, but I trust your taste better than mine. I do like that one picture of the Merida temple with the purple flowers if you are looking for theme ideas. Thank you for doing it mum!

Mérida Mexico Temple
Also THANK you for writing to me. I get the deal with missionaries and mail now, it's a big deal. I love every word I hear from you. And extra extra thank you's to Luci for writing to me! It made my whole day! I'm going to send handwritten letters because that's all I have time for and I'm writing to you first. I'm also writing to you ASAP, Grant, thank you for sending such great letters. A las otras hermanas (to the other sisters): I thought you were going to write me all the time! I miss you. I'll try to get real letters out to everyone as soon as I can. 

I finally realized why so many missionary letters are boring, it's because you have hardly any time to write and then no time to edit it and make it sound interesting or convey how important it is, and on top of that you are learning SO much that you just can't explain it in depth. I'll just have to show you my journals when I get back.

I feel like my whole life I've been treading gospel water and now I'm way under, with scuba gear and stuff. The gospel sure feels different when it becomes your life, when you experience it and not just know it. Knowing the gospel is true is great but that's not really the point, it's changing yourself through the gospel. I had always thought I was applying gospel principles but I'm realizing what that really means. And thus seeing what a HUGE job I have ahead of me. Wish I could just change in 5 weeks before I get out in the field.

Also, if you have time, you MUST go watch the talk that Elder Bednar gave to the MTC last Christmas, called the 'Character of Christ'. It changed me. It was one of those talks where after you listen to it you just sit there in your chair for a few minutes shell-shocked and rocked to the core. I was just electrified. Everyone should read it!!! If you find it, could you possibly send it to me? I can't go online to get it and I would love to read it again and talk with you about it. Also if you have time, look up Laurence Lyons’ choir arrangement of 'Consider the Lillies', and then the MTC men's choir singing 'Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd.' Oh! And I would love to hear more about the King James translation talk! So much good stuff!

Also, I'm trying to understand the concept of the Light of Christ. I don't really get it so if you could find any talks or lessons about it that would be great.

HOW WAS THE BAPTISM?! That's TOMORROW! Tell Agee I am so happy for her and I hope it is her best day ever. I love her. Did the elders get here okay and the food made and the people invited and the music ready and all of the other stuff that had to happen (for the second party this month?) :) I want to hear all about it. Also, can you ask the ex-elders to write to me if they get bored? I also want to hear all about your “adbentures” with them and what they are like post-elder-dom. Aw, baptism is like my favorite thing right now...

I loved hearing about the glorious family reunion. Ah, I can't believe Uncle Rich is a veil worker and both Blaine AND Debbie are teaching seminary! I just love my family a lot. 

Well, as of yesterday we decided to go cien por ciento en espanol (100% Spanish) as a district (ALL the time, not just in class). Which is making it really difficult to write in English right now. At first, I thought 'No! We need our English breaks to unwind and just talk like girls and let everything out." But psshhh, who needs breaks? Believe it or not, we can communicate everything we want to in Spanish, even things that are sensitive and personal. Or talk about boys (even though I'm trying to forget about it). It's a lot more exhausting, but I think that's the point. 

Hna. Garner and I had been teaching an 'investigator' named Marcos and taught him about every other day, and we've figured out a lot as a companionship. During our planning one night, we realized 'We need to love Marcos.' So we worked on that and it completely changed everything. El compromiso a ser bautizado! (The commitment to be baptized!) Then, Hna Rivera (our teacher) tells us we're getting a second new teacher and in walks... Marcos! His name is actually Hno. Ralphs, and he's a BYU student from Idaho. It's weird because Marcos the investigator was really quiet and pensive and Hno. Ralphs is really... suave I guess? He's probably not that far from my age, he got off his mission a year ago. I keep wanting to call him Marcos.

I can't believe how lucky I've been in my companionship and my district and now two incredible teachers. I didn't realize that your Spanish teachers are the ones that teach you everything including your teaching skills and the principles of the gospel. Being an MTC teacher is a huge deal and I want Grant to do it so bad! Hna. Rivera is just the most beautiful person you can imagine. She is lovely like... a river. J  She got off her mission a year ago and  is still incredibly in tune. She's got her life in order so she can really just be an instrument of the Spirit and it's like everything she teaches is exactly what I needed to hear. I love my interviews with her because I'll have these questions that are really bothering me and she'll just open up a scripture I've read a thousand times and explains it in a way that completely solves my problem. And every principle she teaches is based on what she thinks we need to learn.

And I love Hno. Ralphs because he pushes us. He tells us he simply expects us to be the best missionaries the world has ever seen and I think "Yeah, that's a pretty good goal." There's always a point when you'd rather not work hard and not keep trying to stuff in more information and not speak in Spanish anymore because your brain has turned to mush, but you can always keep going. There's not really a limit to how good of a missionary you can be.

We're moving to the west campus on Thursday and everyone who has been in both says it is the WAY better campus and that they would go there 10 times over if they could. There's a different spirit there, and everyone speaks Spanish, and the facilities are nicer (all the classrooms are just converted apartment bedrooms.) Also, the food is supposed to be less processed. I'm starting to realize why people complained about the food. Cafeteria food is cafeteria food. But it IS better than I ate in college so I am not complaining! I will get you the new address as soon as I know it, but they are good about forwarding stuff so it's not a huge deal.

Although I will have to start making the 15-20 minute trek to campus multiple times a week for devotionals and the spoken word and stuff. I DID find a pink peacoat in the give-away bin from sisters who leave stuff behind when they leave for the field. It's more of a long blazer, but it's WARM and it has pockets and that's all I care about really. So don't worry about sending sweaters. But if you are inclined to send something (and I'm sorry, this is tacky), I could really use...

- my missing hairbrush if you found it
- another pair or two of nylons
- my green spiral notebook I did my scripture study in (it has my Mission prep notes in it and there's a lot of things I learned I wish I could remember.)
- Erika gave me a pair of earrings in the bag she gave me that are for pierced ears, but Hna Carr didn't bring jewelry and would really like to use them. Plus we are going to the same mission   so we could match. :)
- I would really like to write some cards to my teachers and the people in my district. Could you send at least 10-ish cards that I could give away? Or any stickers you don't want.
- Were you ever able to find the missing picture book? I miss seeing you guys.
- And my Mérida address. I can't believe I didn't send it to myself but now I can't give it to anyone and no one in my district knows it!
- an extra t-shirt (it was silly of me to bring only one), maybe my gray one with the purple Girl's camp writing on it. I'm looking for extras in the give-away bin, but no luck.

Of course, I am getting along without any of that but it would make things easier. Thank you!

Oh, one other thing I wish I didn't have to ask... they billed my influenza shot to home, and they need you to call, Mon-Fri 9-4. It's $21.00. They didn't want us to use any of our travel or emergency money and I didn't have anything else. Sorry...

How was the dance class? Did you get any boys?

I love you and I am loving my life! It doesn't really feel like my life anymore, but it's a good thing. Hope to hear from you soon and I hope everything runs smooth at the baptism. I will forward pictures! Also, I'll have to tell you about my violin adbentures because I'm out of time.

Muchiiiiiiiiiissimo amor,

Hermana Ludlam

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I Am So Happy

Hola Mama,

I am so happy. I was expecting to learn a lot in the MTC but I wasn't expecting the way it feels here. I've never felt the Spirit so richly before.

It's also weird how easy it is to love everybody. It's like my capacity to love has just BANG exploded for the other missionaries and my leaders and for the role-play investigators and even just the investigators I read about. I never realized how much I appreciate good people and there are so many of them. OH-- if you've got time, you should go online and look up the New York Times Project called '1 in 8 million' which is a whole collection of these 5-minute character portrait/ interviews of people from New York. We watched a few in our 'People and Your Purpose' workshop. It is so cool how people are NOT THE SAME and they all have different good things about them and different needs. As a class we found things about them that pleased Heavenly Father and then also the things that he would want to help them with. I was like 'Wow, I LOVE these people.'  And also, there's a Mormon message we watched called 'Lifting Burdens' and it just summed up all the reasons I want people to have the gospel, all the incredible things it does for people.

I've kind of realized that being prepared to go on a mission is not so much about knowing the gospel well or knowing good principles of teaching. It's a lot more being in the spiritual mindset to realize what you don't know and then learn it and do it. It's like every day I am learning three or four huge lessons that for some reason I missed the rest of my life... or thought I knew, but didn't really GET... it's pretty great. I'm glad Heavenly Father makes my problems so obvious to me. :)   Even though half the time I'm overwhelmed with all the stuff I need to work on, the other half I feel like the mission thing is actually doable because Christ has promised missionaries that they are CAPABLE of doing what He wants. Thank goodness. I do wish I knew more scriptures.

Okay, Ava will get mad at me for talking about church stuff. Life-y life is great too-- I have a little foursome groupie of girls that I hang out with all the time from my district (we room together) and I LOVE them. They're all so GOOD. My companion se llama Hermana G. I'm sure glad I don't have to teach lessons by myself because sometimes I think ideas are great and they're not. :) She is a lovely lovely girl and super cute, right out of high school (hopefully her camera will work and I can show you pictures). Le quiero.
Y the two other girls I love so much, too, Hermana C y Hermana W. For some reason, we are all so comfortable with each other and we're definitely friends-friends on top of being missionary friends. It's not that often that I can point to someone and say 'Wow! That person is an example to me!' but Hermana C is just a gorgeous person-- she can make people feel good without making it seem like she's trying, and she can be an example of being obedient without being affected and everyone just kind of jumps on the bandwagon, and when people are complaining she just subtly says something positive and the whole nature of the conversation changes. I want to be like her. :)

You girls will be jealous because I can drink chocolate milk every day. (Although I refrain jeje). And everyone told me the food was bad but it's really nice food, I don't know what they were talking about. Also, the MTC is a lot cozier than I thought. I was expecting it to be super sterile like a convent or something but it's a nice mix or a church building and an elementary school classroom. Here is some news... in two weeks, I'm moving to the MTC West because they are trying to move all foreign language missionaries out of the main campus so they can free up the buildings to renovate. It's one of those things they haven't officially announced to anyone, even to the Branch Presidencies, so we are all rather scarce on the details of what in the world is going on. I'll let you know when my address changes...

Man, I love my Branch Presidency. So much coolness in three people. The one I interviewed with last night was President M. and I've definitely never met a church leader like Him. I don't know how to describe him and still convey how much I like him, but he's ADHD and kind of a hipster and SO good at talking to people and making them feel like they are cool people too. You just feel like he likes you, so you act more likable. We talked for a LONG time in our interview. He lived in Morristown for a while and he has a a daughter who is a wonder-woman and a brilliant statistician and who he loves like none other and he really touched me by saying that talking to me reminded Him of talking to her. He wanted to meet Dad.

I haven't talked to the second counselor, but the President is something else. He had each of us go up to the front of the room and introduce ourselves and whether we were musical and about why we were serving a mission. And while people are up there, he just tells people all the stuff that is wrong about them. It's great. He's like 'Take your hands out of your pockets.' 'Unbutton your second button unless you want to look like a nerd.' 'Stop chewing gum.' 'Take that smiley face button off your suit.' Also, any time the elders stand up in his presence they have to button their coats as they stand up. And he'll just interrupt his other counselors all the time. I can't tell you much I love him. I always feel so much better when people in charge of you just tell you like it is. It's scarier when they are just nice all the time and you don't know what they're thinking.

Please tell Dad that my sneakers are holding up really good so THANK YOU! There are no mp3s in the bookstore, but I think someone around here has a speaker with a USB so I'll try that and let you know if it works. Thank you for giving me so many of your goodies!And tell Ava that I am using her pens like crazy. My notes are getting very intricate plus I just like writing letters and journals in colors.

Aw, M sent me a really nice card and a pillowslip with all those things that you're supposed to do on your mission and a little bookmark with good scripture references for all of the big gospel concepts. I was really touched. And THANKS mum for your letter. Getting mail is sure a big deal and it was so great to get something from you. Oh-- they don't put dates on the letters so you might want to type those into the body of your letter. (I forgot!)

Such Sweet Sorrow...
You know how I was asking you whether I should bring my little Novartis pulley keychain? Guess what everyone ends up buying here. You need your card to get into every building plus your key to get into your room and not everything has pockets... Also wishing I brought more sweaters because I think I will be wearing my black one every day until I leave. It's cold, man.  Of course none of those things really bother me, but in case anyone else wants to learn from my mistakes...

By the way, I think I decided we should do a blog. My presidency keeps telling us that one of the biggest reasons we're on a mission is to share our mission through writing home. So I'll leave to your discretion how much/whether/what you want to post. Maybe at the end of the letter you can paraphrase some stuff. Thanks mum. :)

Sorry this letter is so long, I won't do that all the time. I have a whole hour to write and nobody else wrote me. Plus, I just had a lot to tell you. Hna G and I tried to upload pictures, but it's not reading the camera. Lo siento, we'll keep trying.

Mucho Amor,
Lia