I have officially been in Ohio for a month. On the one hand it seems like I just arrived, and on the other I wonder how on earth I will make it through seventeen more…but I think maybe the total feelings average out to thinking that a month feels about right. Progress has been made, lots still to figure out, missions are hard but I’m as certain as I’ve ever been that I’ll be sticking it out for the long haul. (That degree of certitude is not at 100%, but getting closer.)
Not much of note happened this last week, though I did have a good breakthrough moment as it relates to ‘the rules’. I was standing in the middle of the Visitors’ Center, sort of in a random awkward place, and one of the senior missionaries asked me why I was standing there. I explained that my companion was in the bathroom and I had to be where I could see the bathroom door. I didn’t want to stand right next to the door in the hallway, but if I stood in that exact spot I could see down the hallway to the door while still being out where I could talk to people. He kind of laughed and I replied, "Life really isn’t about the spirit of the law for the next 18 months." He laughed some more and I did too, and I didn’t even feel a tiny bit resentful or annoyed about the ridiculousness of that rule, or any other.
We also got to go to dinner with the Wynders (the site directors here – they’re in charge of all the church sites in and around Kirtland). They took us and two other sisters to Red Robin (I’ve had a reality check about the fact that I will not be eating at good restaurants for 18 months, even if I have my own credit card – such places are not easily accessible) and we had a great conversation. After I told my story, and my age specifically, Elder Wynder said, "Well I’m impressed. And all of that makes me think that you’re here to meet someone." We all sort of paused, thinking that he meant I was here to ‘meet someone’ in the romantic sense (and I panicked a little bit in my head…spouse prospects here are…well I guess it’s unlikely I’d be asked out to Nickelcade, better than the norm pre-mission, but I’m afraid the alternatives here might be worse). Anyway, he clarified that he meant ‘meet someone’ in the ‘meet to help and teach them’ sense. Much better. It was just nice to spend time with some older people in a non-teaching situation.
As far as teaching goes though…We talk to a lot of people about how God loves them, and we often ask if people have felt that love in their lives, or if they believe that God loves them. That seems to be seen as an invitation to share survival stories….lost while hiking, car accidents of varying degrees of severity, pinned by the door of a semi-truck, etc. Or even just stories about the avoidance of pain, as one woman told us that she experienced no pain whatsoever during the birth of her first child, and went into great detail about just what was happening while she was not feeling any pain. Despite the fact that these stories don’t reference praying to be spared or any element relating to God at all, apparently the fact that people are alive or pain-free is evidence that God loves them. I haven’t yet asked how they think God feels about people who do experience pain or don’t survive harrowing experiences, but am trying to learn how to redirect these conversations into a discussion of other ways to feel God’s love.
Also, I’ve decided there may be something in the water here, other than whatever seems to be causing half the population to be on disability. Ohioans seem to have an abnormal number of visions. Actually, even in the history of the church, the number of visions and revelations that happened in Kirtland and the surrounding area is higher than any other location in the migration from New York to Utah. I haven’t yet had one myself, but have heard about deceased relatives floating through ceilings of hospitals, strange ghosts using bathrooms, grandmothers sitting on the ends of beds…and those are only the ones from this week.
Speaking of church history…I’ve gotten a few questions about that portion of my mission. I think I mentioned that we are in Kirtland two days a week, and during that time we do online teaching and take people on tours of the sites. So far I’ve been on about six tours, but I’ve actually spoken in maybe two. We don’t get much time to study and learn the history, but it’s coming slowly and what I have learned is really interesting. However, I won’t be sharing much of that here because I feel like that would be giving away the tour – if you’re dying to hear about it all, you’ll just have to come to Ohio. I hear the spring here is quite nice, as is the Fall.
I’ve also gotten some questions about my companion, Sister Morrison. She is from Canada, is very nice, smart, and a very committed missionary. We are very different and our relationship has been a struggle, but that is probably to be expected. The whole idea of companions is pretty strange, you meet for the first time and from that moment on you are together 24/7. Your job is to go to peoples’ homes and meet with them, help them with whatever they’re dealing with, plan ahead but also be flexible in the moment, and do this in a way that feels unified. In lessons it sometimes feels like playing cards with a partner that you can’t really look at (sitting next to each other rather than across), having a slightly different end goal each time, and with a complete and total wildcard sitting across from you who has no idea what the end goal even is, or has a very different idea of it than you do. And all three (or more) of you are trying to get to the same place or reach the same objective or even just share a common feeling. That’s difficult and I’m bad at it.
Sister Morrison and I will continue to figure each other out though – we both want to help people so we’ll continue to focus on that common goal. I haven’t made it all that easy for her to get to know me (partly because I didn’t really think that mattered all that much – yeah….it does), but I only realized just how difficult I’d made it and how little I have opened up when we were in a lesson the other day. I had asked the person we were talking with to describe themselves in one word, and Sis. Morrison volunteered that both of us would do that as well. I didn’t have one on the tip of my tongue but she jumped in and said the word she would use to describe me would be….organized. Oh dear. Beyond the fact that I’m not sure I’ve ever been described that way in my life, and rightly not, who wants to be summed up in one word as ‘organized’? It was a wake up call of sorts…the person I have apparently become after one month is so dry that my one-word descriptor could just as easily describe a filing cabinet.
No quotes this week, but here are some things I’d never seen/experienced before coming to Ohio:
-A lice office – There is an entire business/office dedicated to dealing with lice, and I’m told the one near us isn’t the only one. So that’s a little concerning…going to try to take a picture of it next time we’re near it during the day.
-Kerosene pump – Next to the regular gas pumps at the gas station, there is a kerosene pump. I am not exactly sure what kerosene is for but it seems as though it’s somewhat old-fashioned…didn’t people in the olden days used to use that for lamps and such? Anyway, I’d never seen that before.
-Knee calluses – We pray a LOT, and we kneel when we pray a LOT. I looked down at my knees a few days ago and noticed that I am developing calluses on both…not sure if that’s something to be proud of, or if it’s concerning that I feel the need to spend that much time praying.
No pictures this week (I have taken almost none since arriving here) but I’ll try to take one of something interesting before next Monday.
For this week’s spiritual thought….not sure I have one that is worth writing about at the moment. If you’re looking for something to read, I recommend Sister Marriott’s talk from last conference ‘Yielding Our Hearts to God’ – I’ve read that one a couple times in the last two weeks and I really like it for a variety of reasons.
Life in Ohio goes on….still believe in the joy that can come from this gospel, just trying to figure out how to help other people access that joy for themselves.
Thanks for all the prayers and the mail – I’m really behind on responding but I’ll get to it I promise!