Reflections on a White Christmas

Hello, lovely people!

I had a most wonderful Christmas and my heart is so full of joy and gratitude. First of all, thank you to the Ball/Call family and to EVERYONE in the Lawrence Station Ward for the magnificent Christmas banners and cards. It’s quite astonishing to be loved and cared for by people I barely know or don’t know at all. Thank you so much for your love and kindness, and God bless you!

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Christmas morning with all of our holiday decorations. Shout-outs to the Ball/Call family
and to the Lawrence Station Ward!

Elder Russell M Nelson spoke to us on Christmas morning! What a treat! He bore testimony to us of the wonderful gift that, as missionaries, we have to share with the world. It was so powerful. He also chastened us a little bit for the rumors that always seem to breed at the MTC. Stuff like which countries will be opening soon and who will be the last prophet and speculation as to the cause of the missionary age change. Ridiculous things. But he told us to be rumor stoppers instead of rumor spreaders, and I think that goes for everyone. I know he is an Apostle of the Lord and I’m so grateful he took the time to speak with us to Christmas. I got to sing in the choir for that devotional, and we did some wonderful songs I’ve never heard before.

We had a missionary talent show, which was fun to watch. The LDS painter Greg Olsen gave us a fireside, which was AWESOME. I have a renewed respect for the symbolism within paintings. And we got to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” last night! Mom, I apologize for thinking that I hated that movie and for never wanting to watch it; it’s awesome! Jimmy Stewart is an awesome actor and the movie sucked me in so much that I forgot where I was. Love it, love, it, love it.

My favorite part of Christmas, though, was seeing the love and charity of so many missionaries when we found out that one of my friends did not receive any Christmas presents. He doesn’t have his family’s support as a missionary. Anyways, my heart was so filled with joy and gladness in seeing so many missionaries pitch in and collect presents to give to him. Some even gave their favorite presents. It was such an absolute delight to wrap these gifts for him–I was overwhelmed with the goodness of so many people who had never even met him. I will always be grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to participate in a small act of service and for everybody who did the same. That experience made yesterday hands-down the best Christmas I’ve ever had (no offense, Mom and Dad!)

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Christmas afternoon: Hermana Hansen and I preparing to open our presents.

I also had the opportunity to study the Christmas Story in a new way, with the question of “why is it important to know this? Why is this story in the gospels of Matthew and Luke? Why do we care about the shepherds and what are we supposed to understand about the gifts that the wise men brought? What is the significance of the star?” I learned SO much, particularly about my role as a missionary as a witness to the world of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I received specific, personal instruction from the Spirit by studying this story with the question of “why?”. If any of you would like to continue on with the Christmas Spirit and increase your testimony of our Savior, I’d invite you to do the same. I know that, if you do, you can be blessed with personal instruction through the Holy Spirit.

Well, I’m grateful for our Savior and for His wonderful example to us. I know I quote song lyrics all the time, but one song has been on my mind and has really spoken to me in recent days. It’s in last song from the play (not a musical: a play) “War Horse”:

Only the truth that in life we have spoken,
only the seeds that in life we have sown.
These will pass onward as we are forgotten:
Only remembered for what we have done.

Our Savior was the perfect example of goods words and charity. EVERYTHING He did was for the benefit of others. He was kind and spoke truth and blessed everybody He met. And most importantly, He suffered the Atonement for us. And this is what we remember Him by. Similarly, we will be remembered for what we do in this life. It is our time of probation. So what will we do with our time? Will we follow the example of our Savior by speaking truth and sowing seeds? Will we bless others’ lives? I think we need to consider why we do everything we do and the purposes by which we life our life. Let’s seek to serve others more and bless the lives of everyone we meet. Let’s be more like our Savior, whose birth we got to celebrate yesterday. I love Him and am so grateful to testify of Him on my mission.

Thank you all for everything you are and for everything you strive to be. May God bless you with love and light!

Yours in Christ,
Hermana Ball
hermanaball.com

Merry Christmas!

Hola, mis amigos amados!

Espero que cada uno de ustedes tengan una Feliz Navidad. Estoy muy agradecida para ser una misionera. Qué grande bendición que tengo de poder celebrarla como representate de él que nació esta día–nuestro Salvador!

On Christmas we celebrate the most precious gift of all–the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for all of our sins. I am so so grateful for this gift; if it weren’t for Him, there would be no hope for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father and therefore no reason for us to be here on earth. Everything that I am learning here and everything I will be teaching goes back to the Atonement. Because of our fallen state as individuals, which we can’t overcome on our own to meet the demands of justice, there had to be an infinite and atoning sacrifice for our souls. Christ was the only one who could have done this for us. He was a god by nature. He was perfect. But He had His own agency: the ability to choose whether He would follow the will of His Heavenly Father. I’m so grateful that He did. I’m so grateful that He suffered all temptations and sorrows and afflictions in His own life in addition to praying for all of my trials and sicknesses and sorrows as well as my sins. Without Him, there would be no hope for me.

I have been saved by the Lord’s grace. Of this there is no question. But I have also been changed by His grace. Through the Atonement I have become a much better person than I could possibly become on my own. I have been helped to overcome temptations which have so easily beset me; I have been given the spiritual gift of charity; I have been given the gift of tongues; and I have been given the ability to change other peoples’ lives as a missionary. I know that this is one of the purposes of the Atonement is to help us better ourselves. It’s not enough to get by in this life; that’s not our purpose here. We’re required to learn and progress and become more like our Heavenly Father, and I’m so grateful that Jesus Christ made this possible. I am so grateful for the gift which I have to share: that of the restored gospel. The only thing better than receiving it is giving it. It has truly brought so much joy into my life and I want to spend the rest of my existence on this earth sharing it with others. I know without a shadow of a doubt that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is TRUE and that Jesus Christ’s gospel has been restored to the earth in its fullness. What I blessing it is to live in such a time as this!

One of my favorite Christmas carols, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” there’s a verse that goes like this:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would give a lamb.
If I were a wiseman I would do my part,
But what I have I’ll give Him: give my heart.

This is exactly what I want to do this Christmas: tell the Savior “This is my heart. It’s yours; I’m not protecting it anymore.” I’ve decided to turn over to Him the things that I’ve been holding back or keeping for myself, the things that are preventing me from being a missionary every second of the day. I am not here for myself. I am here for the Savior because He gave His life to me. I am on my mission for the same reason we celebrate Christmas. And I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t true or if I hadn’t seen it work miracles in my life. Thank you all for your wonderful examples. Take time to serve somebody in a significant way today. I love you all and Jesus does, too!

Espero que sea una Navidad muy especial e inolvidable para Ustedes!

Hermana Ball

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

Hola, todos! Merry Christmas! Provo is completely blanketed with snow and it’s gorgeous! I’m grateful to be a missionary during this special season and to be the Lord’s hands in a world that needs His love. I have no idea what our schedule is like for Christmas, besides the fact that an Apostle of the Lord will be speaking to us in the morning, which will be AWESOME. I’m so stoked! I love being a missionary and I love the MTC. Life is so amazing!

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It’s Christmas-time at the MTC!

Let’s see… what happened this week that would be interesting to you? Hermano Heap, one of our beloved teachers, is no longer with us. Meaning that he took a job in LA. We miss him and his soft-spoken hilariousness but we’re in good hands being taught by Hermano Bailey (who played our first investigator, Christian). Also, we took our first Language Speaking Assessment… my scores came back… and according to the grading scale, I’m fully fluent in Spanish. Ha! Just wait until I have to use non-gospel-related vocabulary. I got nothin’.

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Our district with Hermano Heap! I love all of these people so much!

This Sunday was a really really REALLY great day! The Spirit spoke to me in really strong, personal ways the whole day and it was AWESOME. First off, we got to watch part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. For anybody who went to it or saw it on Music and the Spoken Word: was that not the BEST concert ever? Oh my goodness, I was so touched during the story of “Hal” Halverson, the “Chocolate Bomber” in post-WWII Germany. The Spirit was so strong and really testified to me that the Lord works mighty miracles through small and simple means. Hal changed the world, and it all started with two sticks of gum. I felt so humbled by this. I’m not big and powerful and talented; I’m just plain old Hermana Ball. And yet God has called me to do a huge work (my mission) that is wayyyy bigger than me. But I know that as I follow the promptings of the Spirit to do small and simple things, the Lord will guide me and help me to change the world.

Also on Sunday Sister Elaine Dalton, the Young Women’s General President, spoke to the Sisters during Relief Society, and the Spirit taught me so many sacred, personal things. My eyes are slowly being opened with regards to the work that the Lord has for me to do in my life, and I want to always qualify myself for that inspiration and direction. I know with all my heart that one virtuous woman, led by the Spirit, can change the world, and that is exactly what I want to do.

Life is so good right now. Our teaching is improving, our investigators are progressing, and every day I’m coming closer to Christ. I’m trying to make a significant difference in the lives of the people around me in the MTC because my purpose is to “invite others to come unto Christ” and that includes other missionaries. As I do this, I can feel the love of the Savior in me, and it is AWESOME.

Gracias to Patti Evans for all of your stories and letters! Our zone is praying for your mother! And thanks to everybody who has sent me Christmas cards! You are the coolest! Go Niners, go Warriors, and go to BYU Jabari. Merry Christmas, everyone! Go serve someone in a significant way today!

Love and light,
Hermana Ball
HermanaBall.com

Teaching and Being Taught to Understand

“If I tell you, you’ll forget; if I show you, you’ll remember; if I let you do it; you’ll understand” — Confucius

Hello, wonderful people! Happy bodacious bonza bottler day! (Look it up. If one of the Elders isn’t pulling my leg, it’s a real holiday.)

I can’t believe I’ve been a missionary for a whole month! It’s exciting to see how much I’ve grown in just 4 weeks but also a teensy bit depressing to know that I only have 17 months left. I never want my mission to end! And I haven’t even started the REAL work yet!

TO clear up some confusion about our “investigators,” they ARE played but MTC teachers, but are real people they taught on their missions who progressed but were never baptized. During “Demonstrate Teaching” (when a teacher demonstrates a full-length lesson) or “Practice Teaching” (when we give a lesson to another missionary) I’ve played people I know from back home. Hope that makes sense.

So. The above quote by Confucius sums up my week in multiple ways. I was starting to get distressed early in the week because I wasn’t feeling the Spirit lifting me to a higher plane of being like I have the first 3 weeks here. Having tons of love and empathy for others wasn’t a natural, easy thing anymore. I wasn’t hit over the head with the principles of our activities here in the MTC; rather I was focusing on the applications. I didn’t have the bird’s-eye perspective that I did before. Add overall the Spirit just felt dimmed. And I was stressed out because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I was giving every ounce of effort 100% of the time, using my time wisely, and really striving to come closer to the Lord. So what happened? Why don’t I feel the Spirit guiding my every step? After a lot of studying, pleading with the Lord, and a few tears, a principle of God’s manner of teaching was brought to my remembrance:

Before we came to this earth we lived with God. He taught us everything. We knew His gospel and we loved it. But then He sent us down to earth (and we accepted this plan), saying “Okay, show me how it’s done. I want you to learn and grow and become as I am, but you have to do it for yourself.” So we were born with a veil of forgetfulness of our past life with Him, and we’re here to walk by faith. He will help us, but we have to experience it ourselves.

God operates by the same principle with us as we learn and grow here. As we decide we want to become more like Him, He sends us His Spirit to bring us a few steps closer to God. It shows us what we need to do. And then when we “get it” God removes that extra measure of the Spirit and says “Okay, show me how it’s done. I want you to learn and grow and become as I am, but you have to do it for yourself.” That doesn’t mean that He won’t help us, but He doesn’t use us as puppets. That’s the opposite of agency. When we do take that step and bring ourselves to the level the Spirit showed to us, the whole process starts again, and we keep climbing the stairway to Heaven, one step at a time.

So now I have to learn the principles of charity, perspective, etc. for myself. That requires a ton of effort. I have to work for it and work for the Spirit. But I know that it is so worth it and that through the Atonement I can do it.

On a completely different note, I’ve been pondering a lot of what I can do to help investigators cross the bridge from knowledge to understanding, from “getting it” in their head to “getting it” in their heart, from testimony to conversion. And I think that quote from Confucius really applies here, too. I don’t want them to remember; I want them to understand. Our teacher, Hermana Thomas, really gets teaching for understanding. She truly is the best teacher I’ve ever had in school, church, or anywhere. When we have a question, she guides us to figure it out for ourselves and then teach it back to her. She’s amazing at helping us liken scriptures, principles, or the missionary fundamentals to ourselves and our situations, and this manner of teaching is 10x more effective. She’s a wonderful example of how I need to teach investigators, and I’m striving to apply teaching for understanding in our lessons.

So yup. Life is good here. It snowed Saturday and Sunday so it’s really pretty. I’m getting to the point with the language where I can have a conversation with someone and then a minute later not remember if it was in Spanish or English. The BYU Men’s Chorus performed for us on Sunday, which was tons of fun. And yup, I’m still drinking barley grass juice, still singing Scripture Mastery songs (holler, Sister Carter!) and still ragging on Casey in my sleep. So maybe nothing has changed after all.

Thanks for all your Christmas cards! I love seeing your families and am so immensely grateful for your thoughts! I love every single one of you so much and pray for you all! Go serve somebody today!

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All of the Hermanas in Zone 44. I’m a little worried that I don’t have enough personality.

XO Hermana Ball
hermanball.com

“Real” playing on the mission

Hello, beautiful people!

Happy December! It doesn’t quite feel like December yet here in Provo, for which I’m grateful. I’ll be seeing plenty of snow during my mission and am in no rush for it to get here 🙂 Although the Christmas spirit is definitely here. I love how Christmas is the time when we can change a complete stranger’s life and not get too much attention for it because everybody knows it’s a gift to our God. For all of you Utah people, I’d recommend you listen to 98.7 (on the radio) when they do their “12 Days of Christmas” specials in the mornings. They pretty much find people with ridiculously sad sob stories and CHANGE. THEIR. LIVES. I would listen to it every day driving up to work and bawl my eyes out. It really made me want to get outside of myself and bless somebody I don’t even know.

The MTC is still the happiest place on earth, the Spanish is still improving (I’m speaking it a lot faster now) and the church is still true. Big surprise there. Another district in our zone left Mondy to the Arizona Tucson Mission (my second-favorite mission!), and it was both a happy and sad day. I love those Elders so much and there’s less laughter without them. But I’m so excited for them to start teaching the gospel. I know they’re going to be awesome. Oh, and we get 3 new Hermanas in our zone today. It’s going to be great! And I loved the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday. Ruth had a good camera moment 🙂

Only my favorite Elders get sent to the Arizona Tucson Mission (ATM). Elder Reich, Elder Hughes,
Elder Taylor, and Elder Dayley (and me in the middle).

Now that our district has a firm basis of Spanish comprehension, we’re really focusing on the fundamentals of missionary work and Preach my Gospel, like applying the doctrine of Christ to our missionary purpose, the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion, and revelation through prayer, the Book of Mormon, and Church attendance. One really effective tool we use in learning how to teach, testify, and invite is role playing, or as I call it, “real playing”. We think of people in our lives whom we love and whom we want to see join the church and be them as investigators.

If you know me, you know that I LOVE this stuff. Finding that investigator inside me is quite an experience. Even though I, Hermana Ball, know the gospel and know what my companion is teaching, I’ve been blessed to feel the same legitimate confusion and experience the internal struggles and thought processes that this investigator I’m playing would have. It’s a true method acting experience, and it’s so so so fun to do. I’ve used two friends from back home as the investigator I’m playing and sometimes it’s hard to switch back to Hermana Ball. So, if I’m doing nothing else here in the MTC, you can rest assured that I’m strengthening my acting chops.

Joking. Here’s what I’ve learned as a MISSIONARY from these experiences:

  • There’s a lot going on inside the mind and heart of an investigator and they’ll only reveal to the missionaries a fraction of this (so I shouldn’t be disheartened when it APPEARS an investigator isn’t internalizing what we teach)
  • Better insight into the confusion, questions, and concerns an investigator might have and how to thus adapt my teaching
  • Investigators are real people with real lives and real feelings. Everybody tries to do what they think is right. This knowledge has helped me feel more love as I teach.
  • The Holy Ghost is the REAL teacher, 1000%.

Another cool thing worth sharing is how many stories I hear about how these “investigators” we play come closer to the gospel IN REAL LIFE as missionaries teach “them” in the MTC. I hope that makes sense. But it’s kind of like teaching by proxy. But you hear story after story after story about how the “person” somebody taught actually started coming to church or was baptized or quit smoking (if that was what was taught in the lesson). There are enough stories from teachers here that I choose to believe them and hope that the work I’m doing here will bless my family and friends back home.

I want you all to know that I’m being changed here in the MTC. Yesterday as I was reading in Helaman 10 it occurred to me that I do truly want to seek the will of the Lord in EVERYTHING I do and put my own desires aside. And I can feel this happening slowly but surely. I’ve got a long way to go in losing my life in God but the Spirit testifies to me that through Christ’s atonement I can have a complete change of heart. I want you all to know that I KNOW that God is real and His power can heal us. I know that His church has been restored in its FULNESS today and this knowledge brings me so much joy. I’m just so happy all the time as I truly commit 100% of my efforts to the Lord. God is good. So, so good.

Switching gears. I’m so glad that Ziggy Ansah is getting attention from Sports Illustrated. I really like him. Not only is he great at football, but he is so NICE! He always seemed to be so grateful to have the opportunity to play football. And he was always very courteous to the media and made it seem like it was HIS pleasure to talk to me. So he’s on top of my list. I’m not happy to hear about the 49ers. But I’m still a Kaepernick fan. I’m glad the Giants resigned Pagan, although I’m not sure about 4 years. And I really really hope Scutaro is good this year, but in my mind he feels like a Cody Ross. I think we’ll trade him within the next two years. Just my opinion. Also, thanks for letting me know that Melissa and Tony won Dancing with the Stars. Oh wait, that was intended for the email I’m sending to Hermana Hansen’s family 😉

Shout out to Dan and Diana for their letter. It was totally unexpected and a delight to receive. Tell the gang I say “hi” and send Mr. Speilberg my regards.

I truly love you all and know that God loves you even more!

Love and light,
Hermana Ball
hermanball.com