MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! Wow, it's amazing we are approaching another Christmas. This past year has *flown* by.
All is well here in Washington, I am feeling TONS better. Sister Kelley has been a trooper throughout it all and I am so grateful. Speaking of Sister Kelley, I forgot to tell you more about her last time. She is from Idaho Falls, Idaho, and she grew up on a farm! She's super hardworking and diligent and she is awesome! I really need her right now. God is so mindful of us and He is in every single detail.
We did experience some pretty cold weather this week. Our car said the temperature got down to 11 degrees at one point....and then the humidity and the wind chill on top of that...it felt like zero degrees or below...so so cold. Another morning, we experienced freezing rain...we went outside and our car was covered in a sheet of ice. It was also raining this misty-like rain. It was the weirdest thing ever. On the bright side, it looks like Christmas now...except a lot of the snow is melting away because temperatures are rising...PA weather is the weirdest. But I still love PA. So much.
So I forgot to mention that last Sunday we ate with the Potts' family. Their young son was diagnosed with a tumor in his leg, which ended up being some sort of growth mass. He has to have surgery every 8 weeks, the poor guy. I ended up telling them my story and it was amazing to connect with them in that way.
Earlier this week, we met with a media referral they had gotten before I got there. Their names are Donald and Nancy and we had a great discussion with them. Donald said that before we came, the devil was in his house (his words, not mine ha ha), but ever since we came, he's felt a lot calmer and he can feel a difference in his life. He's been reading bits of the Book of Mormon which is amazing!! After the lesson, Sister Kelley told me that it was a 180 from when she was there last time. How amazing is that?? The church is true, people!!!
Friday, Bishop texted us and asked me to speak on Sunday (yesterday). I didn't have tons of time, but I was able to put some thought together about reflections on the true meaning of Christmas. (I was also asked to sing next Sunday for the Christmas program! They sure are throwing me right in, ha ha! But I'm excited ️)
It was wonderful to do some reflecting on the true reason for the season, so I thought I would share a few thoughts that I gathered:
"Our celebration of Christmas should be a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by the Savior. Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. We feel more kindly one to another. We reach out in love to help those less fortunate. Our hearts are softened. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The Spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, an we look out upon the world's busy life and and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the spirit of Christ." (President Thomas S. Monson)
"Christmas invites feelings of tenderness, joy, and love. And as any parent will attest, similar feelings typically attend the birth of each newborn child. Of course, Christ’s birth was unlike any other. The precious details--the journey to Bethlehem, an overcrowded inn, a lowly manger, a newfound star, and ministering angels--make His a birth story for the ages. Yet the story of the Savior’s birth represents only a part of why we feel the Spirit during the Christmas season. Christmas is not only a celebration of how Jesus came into the world but also of knowing who He is--our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ--and of why He came. President Thomas S. Monson has taught: 'Because He came to earth, … we [can] have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. … Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence. This meaning becomes clearer when we consider the fulness of the Christmas story. As President Gordon B. Hinckley explained: 'There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.'" Elder Craig C. Christensen)
"May we give as the Savior gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given. May we also give gifts that have eternal value, along with our gifts that eventually break or are forgotten. How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness. As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of the Savior's birth. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem on Spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior." (President Thomas S. Monson)
This season is about the Savior. It's not about anything else, besides Him and His birth. It's always been about the Savior and it always will be.
I know that "Christ the babe was born for you" and He was born for me. He was born in the humblest of circumstances, lived a sinless life, and died for us. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Easter. I am infinitely grateful for my dear Savior and His Atonement in my behalf. I am grateful that He took on Himself all my sins, mistakes, weaknesses, sorrows, heartaches--everything--and felt it before I ever did. He has been with me every moment of every day and has carried me when I haven't had the strength to walk on my own. He is my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my King. I adore Him.
Last night, we had one of the most amazing lessons I've had on my mission. I'll try to explain it over email, but I wish you could have experienced it. We went to see a less-active in our ward, Brother Southern. Right before we went in, we were recapping real quick what we wanted to teach him. We were planning on talking about the Book of Mormon, and I had the thought to read 3 Nephi 11 with him. We went in and as we were reading it I was blown away by how much it talked about baptism (I had forgotten...but the Spirit hadn't...). I had the thought to ask him about what his baptism day was like, and he described the relief from guilt and sin he felt. That transitioned into talking about the Sacrament. I told him that God doesn't want us to just feel those feeling one time when we're baptized. And that's why He has given us the Sacrament. So we can feel that same relief and renewal every single week. I don't remember exactly what I said, but something in the words pricked Brother Southern's heart, and he told us every since his wife passed away, he hasn't known where to go or what to do. But he said he knows he needs the Sacrament in his life, so he will be there on Sunday. I promised him he would be able to feel that same relief from his burdens he felt when he was baptized when he takes the Sacrament. At the end, I asked him if we could leave him with a hymn and he said that would be delightful, so we did. We sang "I Stand All Amazed" and the Spirit was so strong. It was incredible, there really aren't words. I feel like he is one of the people I came to Washington for. God is so good.
But my goodness, I LOVE being a missionary. It is literally the best thing ever. The best thing in the world, and I feel SO blessed. Also, Christmastime is the best time to be a missionary. Which makes me feel even more blessed. God's goodness is endless.
I know this gospel is true. I know it from the bottom of my heart. I will forever be grateful for this sacred time I have spent in Pennsylvania serving Him. This is hallowed ground, and this is where I have come to truly know Him. I love Him with my whole heart.
Have the merriest of Christmases!!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!!
SOOO excited to talk to yinz on Sunday!!!!!!!! (Also, something I am stoked for: President gave us permission to sleep in. YES!!!!!)
"Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever." (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)
Lots of love,
Sister Bartlett xoxo
PS: Judy got baptized!!!!! (Sister Morgan and I found her and started teaching her in Beaver and she just got baptized this weekend!!! So so happy!!!)
Sister, it's cold out there - 11 Degrees!!
Mission cars flooded - yikes!
O Christmas Tree--it's a humble one! An Elder'smom made the PPM Ornament for all the Missionaries!