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!