This Christmas has been nothing short of miraculous. I think the older I get the more I realize that the grandest of miracles are just a compilation of lots of smaller miracles. So really, the smaller miracles, though seemingly insignificant, are just as important as the grand ones.
For example, I was thinking a lot about prayer this week-- partly because I was thinking about the importance of communication in relationships, and partly because I had someone ask me why prayer was so important. As we go about living our lives, we have people constantly walking through and leaving little trails of footprints on our hearts. Some people come and go, others come again and again, and others just stomp around long enough to leave lasting imprints on your heart's surface. And as time moves on, seasons change-- winter comes and washes away old footprints with a fresh blanket of snow. And just like that, people who once were a very big part of your life fade into mere memories. That's why communication is important, I think. Because it keeps people from fading.
And I think that's why prayer is important too. When we aren't putting forth the effort to continuously and diligently communicate with our Father in Heaven, we allow ourselves to forget. He is there for us always, reaching towards us with both hands, pleading for us to trust Him and to allow Him to help us; but we all know that one-way relationships just never really work. In this sense, our relationship with Heavenly Father is no different from our relationships with other people: we've got to talk with Him. We've got to include Him in the details of our lives. We've got to make the effort to communicate with Him. If we don't, we slowly lose the ability to recognize Him and His hand in our lives. Prayer is crucial.
On Christmas day we were incredibly busy but we had to go pick up a bag from a member's house. When we spoke with them originally, they informed us that they weren't going to be home at that time, so they just hung the bag on the outside knob of their front door. When we arrived at the apartment complex, however, we couldn't seem to find a way to get in. Usually the bigger apartment complexes will have someone in charge of letting people into the building, but every time we tried to ring their office, it merely said, "Sorry, nobody is there." Because we were in a time crunch, Sister Tovar just started to call up to random apartments in an attempt to get someone else to open the door... but nobody would answer. And so there we were, stuck in a situation in which we didn't know what to do. It really wasn't THAT big of a deal, but in that moment, it felt like it was. We stood there for a good amount of time as we tried to come up with an alternative plan of action. And then it hit me, "Say a prayer, silly."
And so I did.
Literally, as soon as I said "amen," one of the random apartments answered and let us into the building. I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards our Heavenly Father. He hears our prayers and He knows our needs-- no matter how big, how small, how important, or how silly they may be. I learned, in that seemingly insignificant moment, that God hears our prayers and that God answers our prayers. But you know what else I learned? Our loving Heavenly Father can't always answer prayers that aren't offered; He can't bless us FULLY if we don't first ask for that help.
We had one experience this week that I will never, ever forget. One of the Sisters who finished her mission and returned back to America this past weekend spent her last day with us in the Bundang (pronounced "Boondong") area trying to get us in contact with old investigators/less-actives that she had been working with over a year ago. There was one woman, in particular, that she wanted to see.
This woman was this sweet little old grandma who got baptized and confirmed but then became less-active because of her family situation. Missionaries have been trying to contact her all along but have had no success because her daughter would answer the phone and scream at them. So, when we called this woman again to see if we could go visit her one last time before the Sister that found her went home, the daughter of the woman miraculously said yes.
And there we were, Christmas day, all closely packed into a tiny apartment living room/sleeping room as this sweet old woman held our hands and told us we were beautiful; her daughter yelled at us and told us to never ever contact them again. The grandma just started to hum the tune to Nearer My God to Thee and we began to sing along, unable to hold back the tears that were streaming freely down our cheeks. The daughter looked so sad-- burdened, and she didn't want our help. She was so angry and so hurt and there was nothing we could do. Before long she began to hit our hands away from the hands of her mother and harshly tell us that we had to go immediately. So we gathered up our gloves and our purses and slowly backed our way out of the apartment, still crying, and whispering, "We love you."
We didn't stop crying for a long time after that. I'm sure we looked silly walking around the streets of Korea with tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes on Christmas day. But we couldn't help it.
I think Heavenly Father gave me a TINY glimpse that day of what He feels every single day when his precious, beloved children reject the plan that He has created for them. That may likely be the first and last time I will ever meet those two women-- I will never ever forget the way I felt about them in that split-second of existence. I loved them so much and the fact that they wanted nothing to do with the gospel made my heart ache so badly. There are no words adequate enough to express what I felt in that moment. But I will always remember it.
There was a man this week who told me that he didn't need or want the gospel because he is already happy. I guess hearing him say that made me think about why it's important to have the gospel in my own life. The gospel provides the sweetest and most pure form of happiness. It's not the kind of happiness that anyone or anything can take away from you-- it's a lasting happiness. It's a foundation that you can rely upon to hold you firm both within the storms of life and without. Over the course of the past couple of months, I'd find myself constantly wondering why I had to endure what I was going through. I felt like everything I wanted had been removed from my reach and that there was nothing I could do about it. But I learned at that time that true happiness is the kind of happiness that remains (and sometimes even shines brighter) during the darkest moments of life.
Mosiah"...consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heave, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
As we are obedient to the commandments that God has given us and as we strive to live our lives in compliance with the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can be happy. Ain't nothin' gonna bring us down. ;)
This Christmas was special because I felt closer to our Savior than I have ever felt before. I know that He lives and that He loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. I know that this gospel offers us the necessary tools to not only become happier, but to remain happier. I know that the work we do as missionaries and member missionaries is far more significant than we will ever understand in this life. I testify that we have a living prophet on the earth today. I know that families can be together forever. Because my life has been so enriched by all of these things, I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with others as well.
I've said it a million times and I'll say it a million times more: I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY! Oh, and I am happier than ever.
I love you humans and I keep you in my prayers always. Remember how blessed you are and take a moment to recognize all the things in your life that contribute to your happiness. We only get one chance to make every new "today" the best day ever. So make it count!
Catch ya next week!
Sister CaLea Bagley
p.s. I got to see EVERYONE in the mission this week at the Christmas Conference our mission had. It was the best day ever. :)
p.s.s. Our MTC district, district 28B was finally reunited at the Christmas Conference and NOTHING has changed. We're all sill ugly. :)