Sunday, November 4, 2012


November is the month of gratitude.  I've noticed since the month started, many people have put different grateful posts on their facebooks... I'm not much for putting a whole lot on facebook, but I've had a lot on my mind, and I figured maybe it was time to actually get on here and publish something.

Three years ago this month I first decided to serve a mission.  I've thought a lot about that decision over the past few weeks, and I have been amazed at how grateful I am that the Lord placed me somewhere I originally didn't want to go.  A mission wasn't in my plans, and actually, when I first got my answer to go on a mission I argued about it with God for a while.  I told Him all the reasons I didn't want to go, all the reasons I shouldn't go, and exactly why a mission didn't fit into my plans.

I'm so glad He let me get all that out, and then gently told me again that I needed to go on a mission.  At that moment I felt the most overwhelming sense of love, particularly directed towards those I would serve.  Three years later I can still feel that, and it was that love that carried me through some of the hardest points in my mission.

My first answer to serve a mission wasn't the last time I needed to know that I really was called to serve.  There was a second time, and once again my answer to serve came in a "no" to something else I wanted.  Looking back, I guess I often don't know what I really want or what is really best for me.  But that, I think, is what I am most grateful for this year.   I grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows me well enough to say "no" because He has things for me that I couldn't have imagined.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I've been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting recently.  Mostly about my mission and my post mission life.  Neither one turned out or has turned out exactly as I planned.  And it is so much better this way.  I remember how scared I was to leave on my mission.  I felt like I was giving up everything to go (yes, I can be melodramatic sometimes but that really is how I felt).  I had a lot of doors that were open to me when I left on my mission and I wasn't sure that they would still be open when I got home.  Everyone told me I would be soooo incredibly blessed for serving a mission, and sometimes I believed them and sometimes I rolled my eyes.

I didn't really begin to get an idea of what blessings I would be given until I was set apart as a missionary.  I was promised some wonderful things upon the completion of a mission.  I remember hearing those blessings and finally saying, "Okay, you can do this, just let go and trust in God."  So, I marched into the Provo Missionary Training Center, and thought all would be well.  It was hard.  Especially when I watched a heard things in letters from friends at home and wondered if those blessings I had been promised really would be there for me when I returned.

Since coming home I have felt so blessed.  Not everything has worked out exactly as I imagined, but thus far it has been so much better.  I've been faced, and am being faced with choices I never expected making and while things are intimidating, I know it will all work out.  If I learned anything on my mission, it was that God often puts us in hard situations to make us grow in ways we would have never imagined.  And that, often, is the biggest blessing of all.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Confession: In the last two months I've started a bazillion blog posts, only to not finish them, or publish them, or forget about them, or who knows what else.

So, I've now survived a term of classes back at school, gone home for a super fun family vacation, and now I'm back in Provo in the midst of recital prep work.  Besides flute, I'm just job hunting and trying to get everything in order for school in the fall.  Life has been pretty good.

I've been thinking a lot about a conversation I had with my Mission President's wife (there has to be a better way to say that one) I had Friday.  I was texting back and forth with her, and she was asking me what I'm up to these days and such, and then she asked me a question that really caught my attention.  She asked, "are you happy?"

Sister Taylor talked to the missionaries all the time about happiness.  She would remind us often that missionaries are as obedient as they are happy, and then say that that equation doesn't just apply to missionaries.  I spent a good deal of time towards the end of my mission talking with Sister Taylor about happiness and finding joy in the journey as I was going through what were easily the hardest months of my mission.

After Sister Taylor asked me if I was happy, it left me to do a lot of thinking.  It's funny how you remember things one way when you're looking back, when at the time your interpretation may have been a little different.  I really miss being a missionary, even though looking back, I'm not sure I was super super happy all of the time.  In fact, I was cranky at times, grumpy during morning exercise, and in the last few months of my mission, completely exhausted all of the time. But I was filled with so much joy because of the work I was doing.  I think that's what I've missed over the last few months.  But, I am happy here, it's just taking some time to adjust all of the way.  And, as I learned on my mission, it's not necessarily about being giddy happy all of the time, it's about finding the small miracles and joys each day.  That's what I'm working on.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bruce the Buck

 I'm beginning to remember this equation... it's a little ridiculous to see how true it is.  Oh well.  If you are still wondering which two took precedence this weekend you should know I am exhausted and going to bed asap today.

Also, I thought you would like to see my accomplishment of the weekend.
Meet Bruce the Buck:
In my apartment we have an... interesting mural on the wall of a forest.  Tia, when she first saw it, said it made her want to go buy a deer head and mount it on the wall.  When Brianna came over and saw our beautiful wall I told her about the deer head idea, and she promptly told me she knew how to make one out of cardboard.  The final result, Bruce the Buck.  He's our new apartment mascot. :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tender Mercies

Well, I've now survived my first week of school.  It's interesting.  I think it hits returned missionaries at different times that they are really home and they won't just wake-up back in the mission.  For me that reality hit this past week.  It was really hard.  I think the combination of new classes, living alone (literally) for the week, and just trying to get my life going here was a bit more than I was ready for.  The really incredible thing was that I saw so many little blessings in my life that really showed me that God was aware of me and really watching out.  I thought I'd share a few.

First, I got an e-mail from a family I taught.  Pictures and all.  It made my day.  Actually, it made my week.  It was such a beautiful e-mail, and it was from a family I really love and spent a lot of time with.  It was so good to hear from them.  I also got to skype with some people I taught.  Thursday night was so much fun! It was so fun just seeing them and hearing their voices.  It was a little bizarre seeing their house in the background and realizing it will be a while before I actually see them again, but it was still fun.

Second, I am meeting tons of awesome people! My ward is full of Sister Rm's and I've met a few in each of my classes.  Many of them have just gotten home like me so it is fun to talk with them and to feel like their are people feeling the same way I do.  The funniest was in my religion class.  At the end of class I heard a girl call out, "Sister", and well, I still answer to that one.  I turned around and she proceeded to tell me that she recognized me from the MTC! So cool.
Third, Hermana Brianna Wells is my next door neighbor!  This girl was one of my favorite companions, and now we live just a few doors apart! She sat behind me in sacrament meeting and then when it was over she said hi and I about jumped over the chairs to give her a hug.
Finally, I had just a fun experience Friday evening as I was practicing.  I'm still a little sensitive about how I sound on the flute right now.  I don't really like playing in front of people because I can tell I'm out of shape.  Anyhow, I was practicing at home Friday night, and in the middle of my practicing as I stopped between pieces I heard applause and cheering.  I didn't think much of it, until it happened multiple times and I realized the applause was for me.  Then I looked up and saw my landlord's grand kids. Not only were they cheering but they had thrown some picked flowers by my window.  It made my evening.  Big time. I really needed that.

As a side note of interest... I just got out of my first flute lesson since coming home.  It went fairly well... I at least now feel like my life has some direction, which is nice.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Things That Bring Me Joy

So I thought I should get on here and prove that I'm not AWOL and haven't just dropped off the face of the earth. I'm now in Provo and more or less moved in. All that I own is in the apartment, but I'm not in my room yet; the girl who is in my room doesn't move out until Thursday... so I'm in a temporary room.

It's a lot of fun and also a little weird being back in Provo. I am getting to see lots of people again. I had lunch with Tae and Chase before they left up to Idaho for Chase's new job, and Tia and I have been running around Provo trying to get everything ready for school and such. I've got lots more to catch up on, and lots of people to see, but things are off to a good start.

Also, un-packing after a year and a half is pretty fun. I've been finding lots of things that I'd forgotten about and it's brought various exclamations of joy as I've discovered things. The most exciting of which being these:

because I LOVE books... a lot. Opening boxes and finding them was wonderful. I'm so excited to read them all again. I might have hugged various books as I put them on the shelf. *grin*

Finding my lovely popcorn maker also made me super happy. I've missed it my whole mission, especially because my trainer and I always ate popcorn when we did weekly planning and so for the rest of my mission I needed popcorn each time we did weekly planning. My companions can attest to that one. So, I'm pretty excited to be able to make air popped popcorn, because nothing else can equal that.

Life in Provo is going well. Next week I'll start classes and also do a huge cleaning of the apartment. It's pretty dirty, and while I'm hoping that those who are moving out will clean, I'm also preparing to dedicate a good chunk of time to some serious cleaning. Because it's pretty nasty. Tia and I went to Walmart and stocked up on cleaning supplies, and so we are ready to attack the grime, because it needs to go. I'll try to post again soon, but no promises.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I'm Home...

Hello All,

Okay everyone. I'm here. It's Nicole again, and no longer Hermana Okeson. And let me tell you what, it's weird. So weird. I think I'm one of those squirrely RM's I used to make fun of. I keep making my sisters bed, and then after I finish my studies I wonder what to do with my life. I've practiced flute and come to the decision that you sound a little (okay maybe a lot) rusty after 1.5 years and that patience that apparently I failed to develop as a missionary is going to have another chance to develop itself in my life.

Coming home was good. The time felt right, and in some ways spending my last transfer in a new area made going home easier, I was less attached and then no one knew I was leaving so there was no huge fuss. I was able to go out working, which is what I wanted. The last night in the mission home was fun, and I enjoyed spending time with the Taylors and the other departing missionaries. It was a little weird because the group I went home with was almost all English missionaries, and as a Spanish missionary I really didn't have much contact with a lot of them. But it was fun none the less. We had a great time talking about lessons learned as missionaries and setting goals for the future. I also had the great opportunity to be taken to the mission home by my Grandma, which was just F.U.N. It was great to get to see her even if it was just for a short time.

The actual flight was long and un-eventful for the most part. I did get to talk with a young mother on the longer flight and help her through security in Japan and then hook her up with the website... so my missionary work isn't done. It was pretty fun, I enjoyed chatting with her and getting to invite her to learn more. I've got to do some follow up on that one. Besides that it was just a long experience, being a missionary for a year and a half has made me incredibly not good at just sitting around, so one day of flying and traveling just about killed me. I was pretty excited to get off of that last airplane. The reunion with my family was good, although a little delayed, as my suitcase got lost and so I spent a good hour trying to communicate with the baggage people in Shanghai... I realized pretty quick that my Spanish wasn't going to help me here. Super frustrating to speak more than one language and for neither one to be any good. Oh well. One hour after everyone else had gone through the gates I finally made it through to see my family, video camera and signs in hand waiting for me. I always joked that they sent me out a white girl and I was coming home a Mexican, but when I saw my family I realized it was true. One and a half years later I am now the short brown one of the family. My siblings all really shot up in height and all I did was get brown. haha.

So now I'm home, trying to finish adjusting... Mostly I'm just working at getting myself into some type of shape to start school in two weeks. I think that will be good for me. I'm not so good at just sitting around anymore, and I keep wanting to daily and weekly plan. I also keep wanting to start everything with a prayer, which for my flute playing is probably a good idea. But it's all good. I'm really enjoying the time with my family. I have a year and a half of harassing saved up for my brothers and I am enjoying spending time with them.

I'm enjoying sharing my experiences with them and taking some time to look back over all that I have learned and experienced as a missionary. It sure goes fast, I didn't realize before I left how fast it would go, but man, it has gone by really fast. I miss it, but I know that this is the next phase in my life and I am excited to see what lies in store. I have more to do, and like I said before I was released, just because the name tag is off, doesn't mean that I am done being a missionary, I have had a year and a half of great training and I am excited to continue to look for chances to serve and help others.

Thank you once again to all of you for your prayers and support. I appreciate it so much.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Final Thoughts

Hello Everyone,

Wow. I'm not exactly sure what to write about this week. We had a good week. Actually, this past week was my best in this area, this isn't the easiest area I've served in and it really takes a lot more work to get numbers that at other times in my mission have been easy to achieve. Every area has its advantages and disadvantages and it's just learning how to work best with what you have. I'm sad that now that I am finally getting into the swing of things I'm leaving.

Actually, it doesn't feel like I'm going home. Hna Garcia and I were talking about how I feel like this is just another transfer coming up and I'll just go to another area and keep working. Then we started joking about how my proselyting area is being changed and how now I get to go undercover. Haha. Actually that makes a good tie in to what mom had asked about member missionary work. I think I came on a mission to learn how to be a missionary for the rest of my life. That is probably one of the most important lessons I have learned. I think the key to being a good member missionary is just not being afraid to open your mouth. People recognize members of the church at a much faster than we as members think they do. I have had baptisms because of the example and service of members, and I have lost baptisms because of the examples set by other members of the church. The second one breaks my heart.

Two of my four areas were some of the highest baptizing areas in the mission, and two have been some of the lowest baptizing areas. Honestly, a lot of the difference can be attributed to how well the members and the missionaries work together. The Becks used to talk about the M&M candies, and say that it's just like what we are doing, members & missionaries. You can't successfully have one without the other. The other thing I have learned is to always invite others to learn more, regardless of what happens. Just to invite friends to activities where they can see what happens and feel the spirit is a huge help. There is a talk called "The Missionary Next Door" that I absolutely love. I listened to it at the beginning of my mission, and I have plans to listen to it again when I get home. It gives a lot of easy ideas of how to share the gospel, all focusing on the fact that from knocking doors missionaries will baptize less than 1 in 1,000. But from working with the members and teaching in their homes the ratio jumps to 1 in 3. That's pretty impressive.

I had plans to share some great parting wisdom in my last e-mail. I'm not sure it's going to work out that way. But maybe you'll all enjoy some thoughts I've had over the last few days.

One of the key moments in my mission happened just a few weeks after I entered the MTC. I was feeling really overwhelmed and as I looked out at my whole mission I didn't know how I was going to do this. I got to Sunday and I was really struggling. I remember feeling the weight of being a missionary and feeling like I couldn't do it. That Sunday my companion and I went and listened to Music and the Spoken Word, a Sunday broadcast put on by the Tabernacle Choir. In the "spoken word" part it talked a little about how all journeys are begun with a single step, and that no great journey is done all at once, it is done in single steps day by day and it's only at the end as you look back that you can see how far you have come. I remember listening and realizing that I couldn't do the entire mission all at once, but I could live one day at a time and try to do my best. In some of the hard points that came after that on my mission I often would reflect on that and remember that I only was responsible for the moment I was living in and that I could do one more day. Now that I am looking back, I feel satisfied with this time. I feel like my work has been accepted, and I feel like I have done what I came here to do.

I was reading recently in the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and I came upon a verse that really meant a lot to me. It's Alma 26:31, "Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us." I would add that I can see the sincerity of my time by the love I feel for these people. In the last week or so I have gotten a few letters from different people I have worked with. Those letters mean everything to me, and the people who wrote them mean even more. I would go through all of the hard days and weeks again for any one of those people. It's really hard to know I am leaving, because I feel like I am leaving my heart here in Phoenix. I love the people I have been called to serve so much. I thought I was sacrificing to come on a mission, but I'm the one who has been blessed.

I have one more week, and if you hear of a fire burning in southern Glendale, just know its Hna Garcia and I tearing up the streets. We have work to do, and I'm excited to do it.

I love you all,

Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Meetings and Hailstorms

Hello Everyone!

This time I am writing you all from not so sunny Phoenix. We had a cold front move in and after a good week in the upper 80's it's back in the 50's. I know, I've turned into a wimp, but its cold on a bike! We got pretty soaked yesterday after church... it hailed on us! I thought it was rain, but then it was making a lot of noise on my helmet and I realized we were being pelted by little hail stones. No worries, it wasn't big, and we got to shelter pretty quick, but not until after we were thoroughly drenched. Ha Ha. My lovely companion took to singing songs like "count your many blessings" and "there is sunshine in my soul today" while we waited the storm out at a bus stop. She's a great example of having a good attitude. I did NOT feel like singing as I was dripping wet and cold waiting for a bus. Her good attitude is contagious and she has been such a great companion to serve with.

I have such mixed feelings right now. It's hard to believe that after today I will only send out one more e-mail as Hermana Okeson. I love this work, and I love the people I've been blessed to serve. Wednesday we went to a sisters’ conference. As part of the conference we hiked a small hill at the northern point of Phoenix.

As I looked out at the valley I could pick out all four areas I have served in, Aguila in the south right by South Mountain, Agua Fria farther north and to the west, La Joya by the big stadium, and Solano just North West of down town. I looked out and was filled with such joy and satisfaction as I realized once again just how blessed I have been to serve here. Phoenix certainly wasn't where I dreamed of coming to serve my mission, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. As we hiked I talked with many of my former companions. I have had 9 companions in my time here in Phoenix! About half of them are home now, but I still have a good number of companions who are here. I so enjoyed talking and spending time with each of them. I learned so much from each of them, and I really love them. Not many sister missionaries get to serve with that many companions, but I guess God knew I needed to learn from a lot of different people. Each of my companions have been a blessing in my life and mission.
As we hiked the mountain we talked about how we each must progress in our journey back to God. The hike ended at the grounds of the Phoenix Temple. It is just barely peeking out above the ground right now, but in about 2 years it will be finished and will be a huge blessing in the lives of the people I have been privileged to serve. My hope for each person I have worked with is that they can make it to the temple and form eternal families. There is nothing more that I would want for them.

Thursday we had another training meeting. In this one we got a lot of good training on the mission and where things are going. As I watched I realized that things here just keep getting better and better. The newer missionaries are so excited and have so many great things going for them. It made me a little sad that my time has come to leave. I feel like I could stay here forever. In some ways I feel a little more like Hermana Okeson than Nicole. I am so at peace here and in this work. I think that has been the blessing of this last transfer. I have felt so much peace. I didn't really expect that. I really wasn't happy to get moved for my last 6 weeks, and felt like I was just put here because they had to do something with me for my last 6 weeks. I'm glad to say, I know that's not true. I don't know that I'm ending quite how I would have chosen, but I am learning so much here and have been stretched in new ways I never imagined. I guess that's one of the most important things I have learned here on a mission, God has so much more planned for us than we could ever imagine; we just have to choose to accept His will and do all we can to make the most of every opportunity. I've certainly been far from perfect at that, but I feel like I've tried.

Mom asked about my favorite and least favorite parts of missionary work. Honestly, for different parts of my mission I would pick different things. I think my favorite overall has just been being out and working with people. I love being in their homes and spending time with them. I love getting to know them and looking for ways I can help them out in their lives. I enjoy the time I get to spend with the people we work with and teach. It never feels like enough, but I love the moments we do get to spend with them. I love hearing their life stories and listening to the things that made them the people they are today. I especially love seeing the way that the Lord has moved them and helped them reach a point where they are ready to listen and learn. That's always really cool to see. I think my least favorite thing as a missionary are meetings. I like training meetings but some meetings we have with the members tend to run on Hispanic standard time... which means late and long. I would love to just go in there, get things done and get out. But, in part I think I came on a mission to learn patience, and God has given me plenty of opportunities to develop that one.

Have a wonderful week everyone. I love you all!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunshine and Dog Bites

Hello All,

It has been quite the week. The weather here in Phoenix is beautiful right now, and I am really enjoying it. I keep having to warn Hna Garcia that she shouldn't be fooled, it's going to get really hot really quick, Luckily I will miss all of that. We've had some really cool success moments over the last week. Effectively we have dropped all of the investigators that were being taught when I came and we've been starting from scratch. It's one of the bigger challenges in working with Hispanics. They love to hear you talk about God, but they are not so keen on commitment or making changes. So often missionaries will get attached to an investigator (or an investigator to the missionary) and then when the missionary leaves the area and a new one comes in there are usually some pretty big changes. I guess that's just part of how all of this works. It's been cool though, because we have been really blessed to find some really cool families. I don't think I will see them get baptized in my time here, but I feel like they are well on their way.

It's been pretty interesting coming into an area knowing I would only be here for 6 weeks. 6 weeks go by really quickly. So far no one in the ward knows that I am going home in 3 weeks, and I like it better that way. It's been really nice to just focus on working and not to be bogged down by the "trunky" questions that often get asked to missionaries just before they go home. This is by far the most... interesting ward I have served in. I'm learning a lot here, and so while it's been difficult having to be somewhere new for my last 6 weeks, I'm glad that I've had this chance to serve.

I had an interesting experience this week... somewhat of a first for my mission. We see a lot of dogs as missionaries. I've worked in some rougher areas, and either you see a bajillion chihuahuas or some pretty vicious looking guard dogs. Well, on Saturday we were out knocking doors and we came up to this house and the main door was open, but the metal screen door was closed. So, like normal, we knocked. The next thing we knew four good sized dogs jumped at the door and it was open! Long story short, I got bitten by a dog. Right on my ankle. I had to kick him off of me and I'm pretty glad the owner called them off because he was winding up to really bite me a second time. Don't worry, I don't have rabies, and he didn't draw blood. He just scratched up my ankle pretty good and I'm a little bruised. It was quite the experience. The poor lady who felt there just about had a heart attack and she felt really, really bad. So I can officially say that as a missionary, I've not only been chased by dogs, I've been bitten by one! (The strays will chase you and they look pretty vicious, but you just have to grab rocks and start throwing and they'll take off pretty fast. haha.)

This week we have the Sisters Conference. I am super excited. We got the invites for it on Saturday. We will be "hiking" to the new temple site up in North Phoenix, and then after we'll have lunch and a conference in the mission home. I'm pretty excited. The temple (originally) was supposed to finish during my mission, but from various hold ups it is now just barely peeking out from above the ground. It looks like it won't finish for another 2 years. Hopefully I'll make it back some day to see it when it is finished. I'm excited to get to see old companions and such at the Sisters conference. It will be really good.

We had a really cute experience on Saturday. We are working on and off with a little girl named Jossy. She's getting ready to get baptized this summer. We had dinner with her and her Grandma and as we were getting ready to leave she bounced over with her backpack and told us she was ready to come with us. We walked out the door and she had parked her bike right next to ours. She was ready to go! I attached pictures with her. It was too cute. She's a fun little girl in some rough circumstances so it's nice to get to at least spend a little time helping her family out.

I think that is about all of the excitement for this week. We have a pretty packed week in this coming week, which will be good. I'm pretty excited. Everything just keeps moving forward, and the work is really moving. Missionary work is the best!

Have a great week!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, February 27, 2012

Solano Este

Hi Everyone,
Well, I'm now serving in Solano Este. I think this has been a good change. There is a lot of work to do, and we are keeping very busy. We have our work cut out for us here, and I'm excited to see how things go over the next transfer. Getting moved for your last transfer has its advantages and disadvantages. It's nice because no one really knows how long you have been out, and so I don't really get asked much, and then when I do get asked I respond with "a little over a year" which is more or less true. There are a few people who recognized me from a baptism that I came to with Hna Ayala, so they know I've been out longer, but as for the rest, I'm just some new missionary who is here to work.
Speaking of work, working in a bike only area is interesting! You meet a lot more crazies on the streets when you are on bike constantly. We work in some interesting neighborhoods, and we are meeting a lot of people. I'm still trying to get all of the names down and keep everyone straight, so I'm not sure I could give much of an update on that. It's just a lot of work, and we are keeping really really busy. I'm exhausted every night by the time we get home, and I'm also glad that it's not the middle of summer. It's been plenty hot, and it's just going to keep getting warmer, so I'm glad I only have to do this bike area thing for one transfer.
I'm not really sure what else to talk about... I think you all need to start sending me questions again... becuase I'm out of ideas.
Other things... Well, maybe I'll tell you a little more about my companion. Her name is Hna Garcia... she's from Fresno California, although her family currently lives in Farmington Utah. She is the oldest of 3 and the first missionary in her family. Her mothers parents are the first members in her family, and her Dad joined the church about 3 or 4 years ago. She's been out for 5 months, and she is a ball of fire. It's pretty easy to tell that she loves being a missionary, and I am enjoying serving with her. The fun fact with her is that she is my very shortest companion which says a lot, Hna Ayala was 5'1''. Hna Garcia is 4'11''. We get a lot of laughs. It's pretty funny. Sometimes we'll see our reflection in the mirror when we're brushing our teeth or something a just crack up becuase we look so funny next to each other.
It's really weird being at this point. You spend your whole mission watching other missionaries go home, and then suddenly you are the old missionary. It's cool to look back on my time of service and to see the things I've learned. I feel like I have learned so much from each of my areas and companions, and I am really greatful for this time. I just wake up and feel like it can't really be ending. I think I feel like that especially because I'm only going to be here for one transfer, and that is just such a short amount of time. A transfer goes by really quickly, so I'm trying to make the most of it.
I think that's pretty much all of the excitement. Please send me questions for next week... they really help.
Love you all lots!
Hna Okeson

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Hi Everyone!

President gave us permission to send a brief e-mail home with our new addresses. Today was the first chance we've had to do so. I am now serving in the Solano ward with Hna Maria Garcia. It's in the Glendale stake. It is an ALL BIKE AREA.... So I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. I'm exhausted constantly, but it's a lot of fun. We meet a lot of crazies being out on the streets on bikes at all hours, but we also meet some really cool people. There is a pretty good teaching pool here, which is nice. I've not often had that luxury when coming into a new area.

Okay, I've got to run... but I thought I would send a picture to describe my companionship...
I love you all lots, and I'll write more on p-day.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Transferred to ???

Hello All,
I'm being transferred. We just got the news. Even though I was pretty sure this was coming, it's hard realizing it's a reality. This is the best area that I have served in, and I love these people so much. It's really going to be hard to leave them. On Sunday I got to play in church. It was the best I have played my whole mission. Somewhere out of no where my sound came back, just for those 5 minutes. It was really good to be able to play, I guess that was God's little gift to me to let me say goodbye to my favorite area. He helped me play how I used to so I could share my testimony with the members of La Joya.
Man, this is really hard. Really, really, really hard. And I haven't even started to say goodbyes. I just keep working to remember that God has more for me to learn, and needs me somewhere else for my last 6 weeks. This work isn't about me, it's about doing what my Heavenly Father needs of me. I've seen a lot of progress here in La Joya. Both in myself and in those we work with. This hasn't been easy. I guess I could say that of any time I've served as a missionary. Each part of the mission is a refining process, and sometimes it puts us in positions we would not choose on our own. I don't think I would have chosen to be moved for my last 6 weeks as a missionary, but I know this is what I need.
I read a really good talk this morning during my studies. It talks about different types of missionaries, and how the best missionary is the one who not only serves with his might and strength, but also all of his heart and soul. It talked about how the mission (and by extension life) is a molding process, and that we can choose to allow the Lord to mold us, or we can cave and just go with the flow of time and trends of the world. In the talk it said that it may not always be easy at first to turn ourselves over to the Lord and to give him all of ourselves, but that in the long run it is worth everything. It talked about how the best missionary is the one who may not have been perfect, who may have not loved every moment, or may have even struggled at times with areas and companions, but that this missionary chose to serve and to willingly subject himself to the will of the Lord. This missionary can reach the end of his mission and honestly say that they did their best and have no regrets. I really liked that. I can't say that I've loved every moment. There were days where it seemed like this would never end, and even a few where it seemed like I should just give up. There were some really stressful moments, but as I look back, I can see that I have tried my best, and I am happy with this time and my efforts. I feel like I'm not the same person who started on this journey. I've got a lot more to learn, and a long way to go, but I have been blessed beyond measure for my work and service. We had a missionary come home this week, and in his talk he mentioned that if he had the chance to go back and serve again, knowing all of the hard times and difficulties of a mission, he'd take it at the drop of the hat. I feel the same.
This week I got a letter from a family that I spent a lot of time working with in Agua Fria. It made my week. It's so cool to see these people hold on to their new found faith, and to see them grow. That's what I hope for each of the people I've been able to work with on my mission. It's a little frustrating being transferred, because all of our baptisms just got pushed back to March. But it's okay. I did my part, and they are ready. Now they need the help and support of someone else.
This past week we went on exchanges. I got to go down to Montana del Sur with Hna Graves. It was, I think, my favorite exchange of my mission. I served for 3 weeks in Montana, so it was fun to go back and be somewhere where I recognized things and people. It was also really fun to spend a day teaching with Hna Graves. She is a really really good missionary. It was fun, because teaching with her was like riding a bike. We just got going and it was like we were back serving together in Agua Fria. I had a great time working with her, and learning from her for the day. We also had a cool experience visiting some "eternal" investigators. I remember this family from over a year ago when I served in South Phoenix. I remember the sisters who were serving there coming home and crying after appointments because they were so hard. Then, I remember actually teaching them, and wondering if they were ever going to progress. Well, after a year of a lot of work and prayers I can say they most certainly have. They may not have made it to baptism yet, but the home I walked into on Wednesday was a completely different home than the one I remember from last January. The changes were shocking. I could see it on the faces of each member of that family, I could see it in the children and how they behaved, and I could feel it as I walked through their door. The feeling in their home has changed completely. It was so cool to see. It reminded me that although we may not get to see all of the conversion process, we do get to be a part of it, and that not all changes happen over night. Some take time. A lot a lot of time.
Sorry I don't have any more news on transfers. I guess you'll just have to wait until next week to see where I am and who I am with. The transfer meeting happens tomorrow morning. Today all that happens is that we get a call to pack and then to show up at the meeting tomorrow. It makes for an interesting experience, but a good one.
I love you all lots. Thanks for your prayers and support!
Hermana Okeson

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life Lessons

Hi All,

Well, it's been an interesting week. I was thinking a week or so ago as I read Trent's letters that there are some interesting similarities and differences between the areas and people we work with. The biggest similarity is that like Trent, it is very easy to get in for a first lesson, or to have people agree to have us come back and teach us. What is tricky is getting things to stick. We've seen a lot of this over the past few weeks. Actually, I've seen it a lot in this area. I've found more new investigators here than any other place on my mission, but we've had a far harder time getting investigators to progress much. It's been an interesting new set of challenges, but that's okay. I'm learning new things, which is good.

I think I have officially reached the "super old" missionary stage. Over the last week, every single dinner appointment has asked me (and only me) how much time I have left. I asked Sister Harding if I have a sign taped to my back that says, "She's going home soon and doesn't want to talk about it, so be sure to ask!" Yeah. I remember before my mission how people would tell me that this would pass by so quickly, and I think I finally understand. It really does. There are really long and hard moments, but now as I look back, it's incredible to see how much I have done in this time. I've taken to reading my journal from the start of my mission, and it is so interesting to see how I've changed and grown in this work. I know I still have a lot more I want to try and learn in the next 2 months, but I also feel really good about my service and this time.

I think I've learned a lot about diligence and just sticking things out. Missions are not easy, but it's been cool to see how I can just hold to this and get up at 6:30 every morning and go exercise and do studies and then go out and ride a bike all over Phoenix (and sometimes all of it in 120 degrees). I've learned that sometimes you get placed in situations that maybe aren't the first choice, or with people who maybe wouldn't ordinarily be your friends, but that it doesn't matter, I can choose how I want to deal and what I want to do. I've learned that prayer really works. Sometimes it takes a really, really, really long time to get an answer, and sometimes it seems like the answer may never come, but especially as I was looking back at some events over the last year, I realized that the answers did come, but maybe I just needed a little more time to be able to see them from a different perspective.

In Preach My Gospel (the book missionaries study from like crazy) it has a chapter on Christlike Attributes. I certainly have a long way to go on all of them, but it has been interesting to look back and see how different events and circumstances of my mission have really been hand tailored by the Lord to give me the opportunity to develop and become more like the Savior. It's also been interesting to reflect back and see how different lessons I've learned from different companions and investigators have applied as I work with my current companion and investigators. I've learned a lot about patience. I think I came on a mission to learn to be patient. I don't know that I'd call it a stunning success, but I think I'm a good deal more patient with myself and with others than I was when I started.

I remember last October for General Conference, someone made the comment that not only should your mission be the best 2 years of your life, but it should be the best 2 years for your life. I really liked that. I think I can say that I have learned many lessons that I will treasure and take with me for the rest of my life. I've been blessed to work with so many great people and families, and to learn from them. I think in many cases these people have taught me a lot more than I was able to teach them. You learn a lot from people as you spend time serving them and getting to know them. I've been really blessed over my mission to work with some really incredible women. I was looking back, and I've taught mostly single moms, and let me tell you, they are amazing. I've learned a lot from them, and really look up to them.

Sorry this week wasn't much of one for a lot of exciting news, it's just that way sometimes. Thanks for the prayers and support. I love you all lots!


Hermana Okeson

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ostriches and Emus

Hello All,

It's amazing to me that a whole week has gone by again. This week
makes for one of the most stressful of my mission. We've seen some pretty incredible miracles each day, but we've also seen more opposition than I've ever seen. Long story short, we have an incredible investigator who is so ready to be baptized, but due to family opposition we have to wait. Yeah... it's been rough. But it's okay, she's handling it really, really well, and we know that it will all work out in God's time... it's just teaching us all a lesson in patience. I've learned a lot about prayer, and also about working hard to turn things over to God, which is really hard. As a missionary you love these people so much, and it is so hard to watch them go through trials.

On a happier note, we had some really fun lessons and experiences over the last week. Actually, the first one happened two weeks ago and I forgot to write about it. We were out tracting and met this really nice lady, we had a good conversation and set up an appointment with her for the following Saturday. At the end of our conversation she asked us if we liked cabbage. Mexican's like cabbage in everything, but it still seemed like a bit of a strange question. But we told her we did, she then proceeded to walk out to her car and open the trunk where she had a huge box filled with cabbages. Turns out she works on a farm, and gets to keep some of the surplus. I ended up with two huge cabbages in my backpack... it was a little weird.

Next, I got to pet an ostrich! Yeah. A real live ostrich! We taught a lesson to some new investigators this past week, and after the lesson they asked us if we wanted to go out back and see their greenhouses (they do a lot of farming). We said yes, and on the way out there saw a bunch of goats, chickens, ducks, geese, 2 emus and finally 2 ostriches! It was quite the farm. It made me think of a children’s Richard Scary (is that even how you spell his name?) story Dad used to read about some farmers who had all sorts of birds and got the eggs from them... I just remember the picture with the story, and now I'm pretty sure I know where the inspiration came from. Anyhow, long story short, one of the ostriches was sitting on the ground and they told us you could pet them... They're actually a lot softer than I expected, and really quite tame... I'm not sure if that applies to all ostriches, or just the ones we ran into.

We had Zone Conference this week. It was fun, but a little different. This year, President has decided to move to smaller Zone Conferences for 2 of the conferences of the 4 that we do. This was a small one, it was a little weird to have so few missionaries, and I was a little bummed because I didn't get to see any of the other Spanish Sisters. Oh well. We learned a lot, and had some really good discussions. It also got me out of metro-Phoenix again, because the conference was way out in Buckeye, which is pretty much (as far as I could tell) the middle of nowhere. There were just cotton fields and cactus, and then in the middle of 2 huge cotton fields there was a church. That's where we had our conference. It was fun.

I also got exciting news this week. For exchanges in 2 weeks I get to go with Hermana Graves! We are both super excited to get to spend a day together again. She was one of my very favorite companions, and I am so excited to get to work with her. She's now serving down in Montana del Sur, and I spend a few weeks there at the beginning of my mission, so it'll be fun to be back with a former companion in an area I'm at least a little familiar with.

I think that's all of the excitement for this week. I could go for a calmer week after this last one, I'm a little exhausted, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Maybe today I'll get a p-day nap in. That would be nice.

Oh, and to end quickly, last week Mom asked for favorite scriptures from my mission. I really like 2 Nephi 4:34-35, because it teaches us to trust in God... something that I've really had to learn on a mission. Also, (because I can't just pick one), I like 3 Nephi 5:13, because it talks to all of us as disciples of Jesus Christ. Finally, of late I've really loved 2 Timothy 4:6-8, because I want to be like Paul at the end of my mission and say that I have fought the good fight. It's my goal to work as hard as I can over the next 2 months and give my all so like Paul I can look back with no regrets.

All right, now I really am done. I love you all lots! Thanks for the prayers and the support!

Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Hi All!

It has been a busy week in La Joya. Like Trent, we had interviews this week too. I thought interviews with President Taylor were long, but Trent’s mission has ours beat. President Beck (the last mission president) did 2-3 minute interviews. Those were speedy interviews. So when President Taylor came and did 8-10 minute interviews it seemed quite long. Actually, I really enjoyed interviews. I usually do, but this makes my favorite interview experience. I really enjoyed it because President asked some really good questions. I thought I would share the three questions he asked all of us, because they were really good questions.

First he asked, what are you trying to improve in your life? Then, what would your companion like you to improve? Finally he told us to imagine that the Savior came into the room, put his arm around us, and told us He is proud of our work, and accepts our service. Then he tells us one thing we could do better. What is that one thing?

Wow. Those questions left me with a lot to think about. They are pretty good questions for throughout your life, but especially as a missionary where we are working so hard to improve and to do the Lord's work. It was a really good experience. It was interesting because I am now on the tail end of my time as a missionary. The next interview I have with President is my exit interview. Yikes! It was cool with the third question to be able to look back on my time here
and to realize that my work has been accepted. I have not been a perfect missionary, but I have done my best and tried to serve as the Lord wants. I felt the spirit so strong as I thought over my time, and then as I thought about what I would like to improve over these last 9 weeks. I've got plenty left to do, and I am trying to throw all I have into what I have left and make it count.

We taught a really fun Plan of Salvation lesson this week with Nathan. He's 9, and so our lessons are a little more interactive, which is fun and also challenging. We decided that for teaching the Plan of Salvation we were going to draw it all out on the floor with jump ropes and broom handles and who knows what else, and then spend the lesson walking through. We used coats to represent our bodies (ie come to earth and get a body= put on the coat, die= leave the coat in the "earth" circle, resurrect= get your coat back but imagine it's a way cooler coat). It was pretty fun. We had the lesson stretched
from one end of the house to the other, and we had some good laughs as Nathan and Manuel came up with their different death stories (figures that 9 and 10 year old boys would want to have super drawn out deaths... it was pretty comical). It was a really fun lesson, and also really good. Kids can be a handful to teach, but it sure can be fun sometimes.

Besides that things have been moving forward as normal. We're keeping pretty busy, and the weather has gotten really nice, so we're constantly out on bikes. I really like that. People are actually outside right now, so we are talking to lots of people. I keep telling Hna Harding to enjoy it while it lasts, because eventually when summer hits only the crazies and the missionaries are out on the streets during the day. This next week is already looking rather crowded, so it should be another fast week. I wake up in the morning on P-day and wonder how it came so quickly. Time sure manages to fly by really, really fast as a missionary. Thanks for all of your prayers and support.

Love you lots!

Hermana Okeson

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cookies and Tortillas

Hello All,

It has been a good week. Not necessarily an easy week, but looking back it has been good. We are making good progress in the area, and helping the work move forward. I'm not sure what all to write about. It feels like it all is passing by me so quickly. I find myself watching things happen and realizing just how short this time is. It makes me wish somehow I could put this on pause, but I guess that's not possible.

I think my favorite event of the week was teaching a family we work with how to make cut out sugar cookies. We've been working with the Jimenez family pretty much since I got here, and we're working on their 9 year old son, Nathan, to help him be ready to get baptized. He's a good kid, but is pretty quiet, which makes teaching him a little hard. We decided we needed to do something with him to get him to talk a little more, and decided that the best method was teaching him to make cookies. (We'd taken him cookies for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and they loved them!). It was a fun experience, and certainly got him talking a lot more. It's interesting, I never thought that as a missionary I would spend so much time working with children, but I realized that almost half of my baptisms have been children! I've learned a lot about working with them, and while I really didn't like teaching kids at the start of my mission, I enjoy it now. I don't know that I can say it's my favorite, but I do really enjoy working with them.

Speaking of children, we are still working with the Chavez family. Jessica got baptized last week, and now we are working on Mom. It was pretty funny, Jessica is all bent out of shape that she doesn't get her own lesson time with us like her mom does, so we are headed over this week for a lesson just with Jessica. She's rather set on the idea, and has told everyone that on Wednesday we are hers. Should be good. She's a lot of fun. We actually had a really cool miracle with her. When we started teaching her in December she could barely read. We knew though that she needed to start reading the Book of Mormon. In the lesson we felt really prompted to promise her that if she faithfully read her Book of Mormon that her reading problems would go away. Well, two weeks ago she took a reading test, and in less than a month had improved from a 17 to a 40. (I'm not sure what the scale is on, but I gathered that it was a huge improvement). Her teacher was amazed and asked her what she had been doing, she told her teacher she is reading the Book of Mormon. That's pretty cool.

We're also going to have an interesting experience with the Chavez family on Tuesday. Well mostly with Isabel... we're going to go help her give the dog a haircut. I'm less than excited, but Hna Harding loves dogs, so she's pretty thrilled. We've been doing random chores and yard work with Isabel for the last few weeks whenever we can, and it's provided a good time to just get to talk with her and get to know her better.

Mom asked what the most interesting thing that I have learned on my mission was... I'm not sure if it's the most interesting, but I've finally learned how to eat a taco like a Mexican. Growing up I thought that to eat a taco you got the tortilla, loaded it up with goodies, folded it and ate it. I learned pretty early that that was how the gringos ate their tacos. To properly eat a taco you rip the tortilla with your hands and use your hands, another piece of tortilla (or on rare occasion a spoon) and push some stuff into a small part of the shell and eat that. Depending on the food there are different ways of folding your little chunk of shell and eating with it. My personal favorite is making a little cone out of it, but that only works well for beans and rice and carefully cut meat. If it's a big chunk of meat you rip the meat with your hands and then put some in the tortilla. It was a little weird to get used to. Sometimes if it's a really nice meal the tortillas will come with the meat and salsas already in it, then you can just fold it and eat it, but the majority that I have eaten, have been a do-it-yourself sort of taco experience.

Does that count as interesting enough? The only thing I can't do with a tortilla is roll it like the Mexicans do when they eat soup. They place the corn tortilla flat on their hand and then run the other across it super fast and it comes out rolled up super tight and they use that to push the stuff onto their spoon for the soup and then to soak up the broth. I've also learned that a tortilla is the replacement for anything... they get used everywhere.

I think that is all for this week. I'm sure I probably forgot something or other, but at least this time the computer didn't eat my e-mail. I love you all lots! Thanks for your prayers and your support.

Love ya!

Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Computer ATE my e-mail!

Hello All!

I had a lovely e-mail written for you, and then the computer ate it. grrrr. So now you get a very short e-mail update on my life.

1. Jessica's baptism was lovely. I played flute which was nice. We had a good chat with her mom about baptism after. We'll see when she decides to be baptized too. We also had a miracle with her 17 year old brother. He's now going to let us teach him. Yay!

2. The skirts for Michelle worked great. Some of them were a little big, so she's having them taken in, but she was really excited about them.

3. We are keeping super busy! Over the last week we got more referrals than I think any other week of my mission. So, we're teaching a lot right now. Hopefully it sticks. We'll just have to wait and see on that one.

4. Today we're headed to the temple with one of our investigators. That should be nice. I'm excited for the visit, and it'll be nice to be able to show Hna Harding around the visitors’ center.

5. Mom asked about what has helped the most, and I had a really good response to that one, but now you get the Readers Digest version. The thing that has helped me the most is knowing exactly why I am here. Missions aren't easy, and so it's good to know I am here because I know this is where God wants me to be right now and also to know that the message we are sharing really can and does change lives. It's pretty cool to get to be a small part of that.

Okay, I think that's all. Sorry this is really short. Love ya!
Hermana Okeson

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Hello Everyone!

Happy New Year! We celebrated in typical missionary fashion... we went to bed. It looked like most of the people at church didn't do the same, as the congregation looked pretty wiped out Sunday. This round of the holidays has been a little more rough on the teaching and working. I have to keep reminding myself that last year I was covering two areas for the holidays, so that made it seem like there was lots of work. This year with just one area it's been a little harder. In our case it meant we were grounded when our appointments fell through new years eve, and also on new years day. Actually, the down time was nice. Not something I think I could get very used to as a missionary, because I would much rather be out working, but it was nice to have some down time for a day.

Honestly, the weeks are really starting to blur together again. It took me a lot longer to reach this point in my last area, but here the days just seem to run together into one big day. It's amazing how fast the time is going. I wish I could figure out how to put the breaks on, but each week seems to go by just a little bit faster.

I think the even of the last week that sticks out the most was meeting a woman named Erlinda. We met her on Friday. We were out on bikes with the goal of talking to lots of people and trying to set return appointments. I saw Erlinda from a distance and honestly dreaded approaching her. She was a little old lady, and usually if they are little old Hispanics they aren't much for talking about anything except the Virgin Guadalupe (the patron saint of Mexico). I'm a little ashamed to say I almost talked myself out of talking to her, but then as I passed her on my bike I felt like we needed to talk to her, so I turned the bike around and stopped. Talking with her will forever be one of my favorite memories from my mission. We didn't get a return appointment, we didn't get to give her any literature (she can't read), and we didn't even get her address. But, what we were able to do was to offer her a little comfort. Turns out her adult son was missing and she had taken the bus to come to his house and hopefully wait for his return. She was so sad and so alone. She just really needed someone to be there with her. We talked with her and waited with her for a while. She told us about her life and how she had come from Mexico. She told us a little about her family, and shared some of the trials she has experienced over the years. It was a really special experience to talk with her. I think that is really what we are here to do as missionaries. We say we're representatives of Jesus Christ, but I think we let ourselves fall short of that. She needed someone who cared enough to listen and to spend that time with her, and I'm grateful that we were in the position to help and serve.

I think I have a little writers block today... I can't think of much. We're keeping busy and working hard. Mom asked about our living situation... We live in some pretty ghetto apartments, but for being in Phoenix as missionaries it's not too bad. I know of other apartments where the smells that stick out usually are smells of illegal drugs and who knows what else, so ours is actually pretty good. We have plenty of room, it's a two bedroom apartment, and we have 2 bathrooms also. We have our beds in the smaller bedroom and them some desks and miscellaneous items in the larger room. We have an okay sized table in the kitchen and then in the "living room" we have one more desk, a chair that I refuse to sit in because it smells funny, and a couch. It's not too bad. This apartment has had missionaries in it for years, so it has tons of stuff. We have a closet that is just full of random things that Hna Wells and I found when we moved in. Every so often I think about going in there to clean it out, and then I think better of it and decide not to. Mom asked also about "smells of the mission" and the one that sticks out to me the most is the smell of the laundry detergent that I'm pretty sure all Mexicans use. I can pick out a Mexican home by the smell of that detergent. It tends to stick out no matter where we go, especially in some of the poorer neighborhoods.

I think that's all for this week!
Love you lots!
Hermana Okeson