Tuesday, March 23, 2010

week six? Lost count

Hey everyone, I'm afraid this e-mail is going to be pretty boring because I don't have anything super exciting or funny to say this week. Well, one funny thing. I've told you about the golden retriever theme a lot I believe, as in we're never not talking about golden retrievers and how Hermano Ammons wants to be one in my district. The other day we left some "important" questions for him on the board while we went to dinner, the first asking about his trip to the zoo with his wife for her birthday and second asking how we can become golden retrievers. His answer was that we have to convert to Buddhism and then be reincarnated. Later, we were talking to the other Hermanas about this at dinner and Hermana Nielson was like, "So we're going to convert to Bootyism..." and she meant to say Buddhism but was unfortunately off-base and instead talked about THE RELIGION OF THE BOOTY. Chase, Tagg and McKay, I really hope you remember what I'm talking about or else this will just be a ridiculous side note. But anyway, I laughed.

Okay, now onto spiritual stuff. I've been working at being a more perfect servant of the Lord, as always, but I don't have much to report on that except that I'm still working. I've learned a few interesting things this week though. First of all, we have a weekly lesson by a companionship on a Christ-like attribute in our class and this past week's was on hope. The Elders gave it and the lesson, plus my own personal study after, really helped me learn a lot about it. I've kind of never known the difference between faith and hope, and I'm not saying I have a perfect understanding now, but we talked a lot about how hope is the belief that there are better days ahead of us, better things to come. There is some quote by Elder Holland that went along with that but I don't have it exactly. I really liked that though, and in PMG it says that hope is manifest in enthusiasm and optimism, which are two things that I could always use a bigger measure of. I've been thinking about this is conjuction with a discussion in Sunday School before I left about how when it says "Fear not" in the scriptures, it's actually a commandment, not just encouragement or comfort. So, I've been working on obtaining hope and keeping it. I like Elder Holland's quote because some people (not a lot) say that the MTC is the best time of your mission, but I have hope that there are better days ahead. Same thing about high school or college being the best years of our lives. There will always be better things ahead if we have hope in Jesus Christ.

I've also been studying prayer and I've learned some interesting things about that too, the most significant being (I'm sure I'm the last one to come to this conclusion, but when it clicked it was cool) that praying with real intent means we are willing to submit our will to God's. So when it says that if we pray without real intent it profits us nothing, it means that if we aren't willing to submit our will to God's when we ask for things in prayers, then the prayer is not beneficial. I've been thinking about that a lot and trying to implement it in my prayers. I still have a long way to go, I'm sure, but working on praying in faith while submitting my will to God's has been really interesting.

Okay last Tuesday night Elder Cook of the Twelve came to speak to us for devotional. It was really cool and the testimony he gave us was really strong. He also happened to mention offhand that many times when he's assigning missionaries to their missions he receives revelation on what mission president the missionaries should be with rather than the area. I thought that was interesting, and I'm a little curious about the missionaries who change mission presidents during their mission. Looks like I'm getting a new one in July, I've heard. I guess that might be why so many people just absolutely LOVE their mission presidents.

So Elder Cook gave the devotional on Tuesday and then Brother Mark Jarman, who is the director of training at the MTC, and his wife, gave our fireside on Sunday. I loved it. First of all, Sister Jarman told us the same quote by Elder Maxwell that you used at the end of your talk, Dad. I thought that was interesting and that quote is very powerful. Brother Jarman talked to us about likening the scriptures and it was EXCELLENT. Just since Sunday I've started to do it more in my study, especially of the Book of Mormon, and I've learned a ton more than just by reading it. The devotionals and firesides here at the MTC are so excellent, that's probably one of the only things I'm really going to miss about being here. Also probably the camaraderie (not convinced I spelled that right but I'm hoping, there's no spellcheck here) between missionaries. It's the most natural thing in the world to start talking to someone you don't know, find out where they are going and where they are from, and end the conversation two minutes later with twelve connections to each other. So cool.

Okay, now for just normal stuff. I printed pictures out here so I'm sending some home today. Also, I sent Tagg a postcard last week that him, mom, Talia and Schuyler all need to see. I hope it made it. I asked mom to send me my call packet, I really really hope you can find it because otherwise I don't have the address for my mission until I get there. I also want the pictures of our family that Mom/Dad said they'd send me a few weeks ago! Included in the pictures I'm sending home is one of our Saint Patrick's Day party. It was excellent and everyone really appreciated the package.

Grandma wrote me a card last week and said that Thayne is here and is wondering if I've seen him. I NEED TO KNOW IF THIS IS TRUE. I haven't seen him anywhere, and I pretty much see everyone in the MTC so I'm way confused. Someone (mom) tell me when he got here, when he's leaving, where he's going, etc. I obviously need to track him down.

Chase said in a letter that he's working on his papers and is hoping to turn them in a few weeks, but Dad said in a letter that he would have to restart them in a few weeks. Not sure about that. But I'm excited. Tell me the details asap, obviously. I guess for sure he won't get his call until after I'm in Chile, so make sure to e-mail me!

Still haven't heard from Tagg. Come on, buddy. Dear Elder is soooo easy. Just write me.

McKay, I can't remember if I responded to your last letter but thanks for writing. Have I told you how Sister Beeston is our RC teacher and she asks about you all the time? Apparently you got hired at the same time. I like her. Also, she's pregnant.

Annie, remember how you said your old seminary teacher (or something) was the new president of the Nebraska Omaha mission? Somehow I just made the connection that his daughter was in my room with me at the MTC until she left about two weeks ago. Sarah Kunz? Do you know her? I wish I had talked to her about you earlier!

About your letter, Dad, your talk was excellent, I really enjoyed it. I was just telling that story to my district and now tey can read allllll about it if they want. And, SUPER sad story about Milo! I was so sad when I was reading it: sad for Mom, sad for Milo, and sad for the rabbit.

Kevin told me he's getting to Utah on April 1st, which is next week I guess (Hallelujah!) and he said he's staying at our house for a few days?! Amazing. I'm insanely jealous. Make sure you all send me something excellent while he's there. :)

Last thing, the weather has been PHENOMENAL this past week, not that I would really know because I'm basically never outside. But I always want to be. Sometimes our teachers are very nice and allow us to play vocabulary games or make contacts outside. Love it. Temple walk on Sunday was the best thing of the week. The weather today is not so good, but I have HOPE that it will get better.

I love you all. Sorry this e-mail is boring. I hope you're doing well, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you all in this next week. Chase, I'm writing you a for-real letter because I'm out of e-mail time.

One last request: I want pictures from everyone. I've gotten no pictures since I've been in the MTC except from Kevin (and THANK YOU for those) but I want to see what everyone looks like! I'm starting to forget. Ha.

Love love love you all,
Hermana Coppins.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MTC Week 5: wisdom = knowledge put in practice

So, first important lesson I learned this last week = TRUST IN THE LORD and not in the arm of flesh, aka, other people to solve my problems. I realized after I sent that whiny email last week and then didn't get any mail for two days (except for that package from Mom, thank you) that obviously relying on pep talks throughout my whole mission is not going to work. I realized that I am in a season of service in my life, service to other people, and should not expect to be served by other people. From now on, Heavenly Father is going to hear about my problems and that's it. And I am here to serve everyone I know.

Funny stories of the week: Hermana Nielson forgot her blue card Thursday morning for breakfast, which is a really common occurrence for everyone in the MTC, and normally they just let you walk in and don't care. But for some reason, there was a cash register Nazi that day who was like you need to find your blue card and she was like ...I lost it? And she was like well you need to buy a new one before lunch (they're $1) because you can't just cheat like that. First of all, what?? Is she suggesting that Hermana Nielson is putting on heinous missionary clothes, wearing a fake nametag and finding some innocent MTC Hermana to pretend to be her companion so she can eat the DELICIOUS MTC breakfast food for free? Hahaha I basically started laughing so hard but it was serious so I walked away quickly. Anyway, since then, she hasn't cheated like that and always has her blue card. She's not going to get in trouble again.

Other thing Thursday morning. We had service, as usual, and before they started passing out assignments the woman in charge was talking about how we have to make sure to clean off the brooms before we hang them up or otherwise it will look like the brooms have "bouffant hairdos." I'm not sure if I spelled that right but we thought it was hilarious. Next thing we knew, we were sweeping the stairs. With bouffant hairdo brooms. Somehow there is an incredible amount of hair on the stairs, and also an incredible amount of lint. So, bouffant hairdos abounded in our brooms. Like good little missionaries, we cleaned them off before we hung them up and it was disgusting. But so funny to make a million jokes about bouffant hairdos.

Also on Thursday (it was a notable day) we had the "enhancement" class where they put makeup on us and told us to look in a mirror with lips that said "You are so beautiful!" and answer it "Yes, I am!" Not okay.

ALSO on Thursday, Hermano Nielson's recommend was found at the temple (yay!) so we were at the front desk talking to them about it when someone got a phone call about whether a family could drop off eyeglasses and medication at the MTC for a missionary. The front desk guy said yes but nothing else. He then listened with a perplexed look on his face for a long time and said, "No, nothing else, just the eyeglasses and medication." I had told Hermana Nielson about how dad said Milo is large and in charge these days (hilarious letter about Milo again, dad, by the way) and she kept quietly saying "My dog wants to come visit with the eyeglasses and medication, and since he's large and in charge I don't know how to say no, so is that okay, if he comes too?" Hilarious.

Regular stories of the week: Hermano Ammons is now my best friend, which is good news at last. We passed the barrier of him being awkward/Hermano Nielson thinking I'm in love with him (sooooo awkward) and now he's bringing us information from the outside world, like that Saturday night was Daylight Savings Time. Important fact. His next order of business is to find out for us what a second cousin is.

Also, we're getting a new Hermana in our room tomorrow, which we're way excited about. Luckily there are plenty of treats for her to join in our St. Patrick's Day party. We've been gearing up all week for it, it's going to be really excellent.

Mom, thank you so much for the treats and thank you for the other stuff too! That journal is super cute and it's perfect. You are so good at sending packages, thank you.

One more notable thing this week was that we were studying how to help investigators overcome addictions and our teacher decided that we had to spend 24 hours overcoming our addiction to English, entonces, we only spoke Spanish-- no English AT ALL. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but we didn't tell many jokes because some things were soooo hard to explain. Anyway, we're going to do that once a week from now on and hopefully I'll enjoy it more and more everytime.

Spiritual things of the week: we have this one really doctrinally intelligent counselor in our branch presidency who also is always soooooo smiley. He interviewed me on Sunday for our mid-way interviews (past the midway point, it's so exciting!) and we talked a lot about being led by the Spirit/seeing the hand of the Lord in our lives. I'd still been struggling a little bit to that point, but that Sunday was a super good day and so many really great, really important, really spiritual things happened. It was great.

And yesterday was a great day! Hermana Nielson and I are teaching this teacher who is pretending to be a progressing investigator from Chile (the teacher actually served in my mission) and we had such a good lesson yesterday. Teaching other missionaries is good practice but they mostly just always agree to do whatever you ask because they think that's what they're supposed to do. But this teacher had realistic doubts, about believing in the First Vision and stuff, and I just wanted her to pray about it sooo badly. I had the most intense desire to share my testimony and change her life! It got me so geared up for helping real people when I'm out in the field. I can't wait for that.

Anyway, I'm about out of time for the day, but I hope everyone is doing well. Oh, and the subject of this email is an insight from Hermano Ammons that I thought was really important and applicable to my life this week. I hope it helps you. Love you all!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MTC Week 4

Happy birthday Tagg! So, to be completely honest, I'm not quite as "walking on air" as I was last week. This week was kinda tough. There were still some funny things, but some tough things too. I'll start with the funny stuff.

So, on the first day of class when we met Hermano Ammons, he asked us what animal we would like to be. He said he would be a golden retriever. More people said cats than dogs (gross) but I said I would be MY dog, Milo. He was obsessed with being a golden retriever because they are always well taken care of. We like to tease him a lot about being a golden retriever, so when I got that package with pictures of Milo, we hung one up on the board and wrote next to it "Seria un..." which means, "I would be a..." Hilarious. I don't think he thought it was that funny. But we all do.

Also, remember that story about me falling in class? It was like two or three weeks ago by now, but apparently everyone is still thinking about it, because we were talking about the Spanish phrase "me cae bien," which basically means that you like someone or something, but the literal translation is "he/she falls well with me." So while we were talking about that, someone said "cae bien means falls well" and Elder DeVictoria was like, "like Hermana Coppins?" and everyone started laughing hysterically all over again. But they were so adamant about how "graciosa" and "como un ballerina" it was. Ridiculous. Still talking about. So embarrassing.

One time this week for language study we decided to play two truths and a lie, but in Spanish. We were thinking about ways to make it even more applicable to missionary work, such as two truths and a lie about the gospel. For example, Joseph Smith was a prophet, God loves all of his children, and if you are good in this life you will be reincarnated as a golden retriever. Which one is the lie? Probably not as funny to you all (y'all (vosotros)) as to us, but all I do is think about the gospel, okay?

Also, last hilarious thing. So Kriste gave me this MTC supplements, and this past week I found a sticky hand in one of them. You know, it's like stretchy/sticky/gummy and you throw it and try to hit people and walls and stick it on things, etc. Well, obviously the Elders have been pretty immature with it, but it's also brought us a lot of fun. AND, yesterday it saved my life! I was sitting in class studying and a paper fell off my desk and was like two desks away and I was SO tired I was pretty sure there was no way I'd be able to get out of my desk and pick it up and walk back over to my desk. If I was getting on the floor, I was staying there, and we're not allowed to sit on the floor in our classroom. But, what luck! I had my sticky hand nearby, so I flung it at the ground, it hit the piece of paper and instantly brought it back over to me, and I rejoiced. And cried out in thanksgiving to Kriste for being so thoughtful. Miracle.

Okay, now for the hardships of the week. Friday is our TRC day, where we go and practice teaching lessons on a fake investigator officially. It was our first official time teaching the second lesson, the Plan of Salvation, but we had practiced a few times before, so I felt good about it. Our investigator was a girl who had served a mission in Argentina and was more interested in being an RM than an investigator. She asked us where we were going on our missions during the role play, and when we were teaching just kept acting like she knew everything we were talking about, such as "Yes, I've used the Atonement in my life. I've repented of my sins" and "I like to think of the spirit world more as a state of mind than an actual place." It was really off-putting to not really know how to teach her because she wouldn't act like a nonmember of the church. But, we pressed on, and because she didn't ask any questions, we had more time than usual. When I got to the section about the Atonement I talked about it a lot, and bore a pretty powerful witness. I definitely felt the Spirit when I was talking about, and so did my companion, but she didn't seem touched at all. When we finally ended the lesson she said she'd walk us to the door, and pointed at my companion and said "YOU have something really special about you." And then left. My heart is sinking thinking about this all over again, it was just so frustrating to try so hard to teach with the Spirit and having it not be received at all! But I guess that's why there are missionaries with different personalities, because everyone connects with people differently.

Another frustrating experience I've been having this week is trying to reconcile the missionary me with my normal personality. We had a meeting with the branch president on Sunday and he talked about how maintaining your personality is really important because sometimes your personality is what causes people to open up. But we are being constantly barraged with the seriousness of our calling, how we need to be exactly obedient and magnify as much as we can and be perfect servants of the Lord. I feel like anytime that I'm not seriously pondering and studying the deep aspects of the gospel I'm wasting the Lord's time. So I feel like I'm failing at being perfect and at being myself. I know no one's perfect, but they honestly expect exact obedience out of us and any time we use that could be used better in another way takes away from how perfect we're being and therefore the measure of the Spirit that is with us and the blessings that we are entitled to if we are perfect. It's so perplexing and this week it's all added up to me being pretty unhappy, inadequate, and potentially unnecessarily serious. Having the Spirit all the time is supposed to make me happy all the time, so maybe I don't have it at all, because I have been kinda discouraged and feeling guilty that I'm not doing more. I still love studying the gospel and I still know I'm doing the right thing, but I need to be doing better. Maybe not necessarily more, but definitely more effective work.

Anyway, I'll keep praying for faith and help to be obedient and I trust the Lord with help me to be better.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

MTC Week 3

Okay, life just gets better and better here. Seriously, I love it. Let's get down to business.

Funny things: ever since we got here, the Hermanas in our room have been talking about this "enhancement" class where they give you free makeup. So, we went to sign up for it in this office with a candy bowl that's famous for containing extremely delicious candy. This sweet old woman who was directing new missionaries around (it was Wednesday) pointed us into the office, and when we got in, we found that there was no one at the desk. So, while Hermana Nielson signed us up, I scoped out the candy and really liked what I found. I didn't have pockets or my bag with me, so I just slipped a few pieces into the most convenient place I could find, which may or may not have been down my shirt. It was a little sheer, but I was wearing an undershirt and thought it would be okay, since we were just planning on booking it out of there. Unfortunately, that same sweet old woman caught us on the way out and started talking to us about where we were going on our missions. We couldn't just run away, but the closer she got to me and the more she started looking around, the more nervous I was that she was going to notice that I had a few strange bulges coming from my chest area. Luckily she was probably partially blind so we escaped home free.

Next, Thursday mornings we have a service assignment, and this week H. Nielson and I were supposed to vacuum out the toilet paper and paper towel dispensers of dust. My vacuum was kind of broken, one of the wheels was missing so I was just dragging it along anyway, but all of a sudden it started making this screeching noise and smelling awful. I recruited H. Nielson to help and we determined there was something stuck in there but we couldn't get it out. I went out into the hall and asked this sister if we could borrow a pen. She accepted, but seemed kind of suspicious because I was obviously doing my service assignment in the bathroom... Anyway, the pen was too big so we took it apart and stuck just the ink part down. Unfortunately, it escaped into the LONG hose. H. Nielson reacted quickly and turned the entire vacuum upside down, including making sure the whole huge, long hose was upside down and tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver to get it out. Luckily, it worked. But the thing was still stuck. So we saw some other sisters in the hall, made them give us a wire hanger, and got the plastic battery case with Chinese writing on it out. Ridiculous.

Next, H. Nielson and I have come up with a plan. Mostly, we're never not working out. Unfortunately, in reality that only means that while we're standing up to sign hymns, we do calf raises. 100 or so. Everyone thinks it's really ridiculous but hey, my calves are looking great. Also, mom, thank you SO MUCH for the luau. I just shared it with the Hermanas in my room but we had a GREAT time and it was perfect on Thursday night because we have half an hour extra to get ready for bed since it's after gym. I took some funny pictures that I'll send home soon.

Spiritual things: So, I did join the choir and tonight we're singing Come Thou Fount for the GA devotional. It sounds SO good and I'm way excited. Also, this past Sunday we had a fireside about the dignity of our calling as missionaries and it was so great. Brother Allen of the Missionary Department talked a lot about the stupid things missionaries do, but he also talked about how much fun missions can be when you have the Spirit with you and you're following it. Perfect. Also, twice a week we go to the RC and call people to talk to them about the gospel. I've been soooo nervous to do it because I'm just afraid I won't know what to say. Also, for the first few times I just got answering machines everytime and I was so grateful because I was so scared. Anyway, I finally realized that I needed to have more faith, that the Spirit would guide me and I would know what to say. So on Saturday I prayed to have faith and to be able to talk to someone. And practically the first person I called answered the phone and her name was Tammy Bolen and she was GOLDEN. She had watched the DVD we sent her, I think it was Finding Faith in Christ, and she said she had the most wonderful feeling and wanted to read the Book of Mormon and have the missionaries come over and she was so happy and I was so happy to talk to her! And it was such an obvious, clear, direct answer to the prayer I had uttered about two minutes before. It was amazing that Heavenly Father gave me faith and then blessed me for that faith. I'm still really nervous to talk to people but it's so great to know that I can have the Spirit and that her life has been blessed because of that too. And I'm going to call her again on Saturday :)

Also, last night we had a testimony meeting in my class because one of the Elders left today for the Madrid MTC and it was EXCELLENT. I realized that since I've come to the MTC, the tiny little flame that my testimony was before has grown ROARING. I'm so glad that that little flame was enough to get me on my mission, because fueling it everyday here has done wonders for it and I never want to be without this feeling again.

The MTC is hard, and I'm sure the mission will be hard, but it is the best feeling I have ever experienced. I love it here. Like I said at the beginning, it gets better every day. Well, specifically every week. Some days are still hard. But by the end of every week, I can tell that I am just getting happier and happier about serving a mission. Highly recommend it.

Other stuff: in my first e-mail I mentioned that one of our teachers, Hermano Ammons, is kind of weird/nerdy. Well, good news is that we now all love him soooooo much. Saturday night we had a sub and it was AWFUL and we had no idea how much we appreciated Hermano Ammons and how awful other teachers could be. Plus, he shares the coolest things with us and he's making us good at Spanish. So, he's the bomb.

We also still love our other teacher, Hermana Decena. Ps, she served her mission in Boston, I forget if I said that ever. And she's from Dallas (born in Mexico though) and she's getting married in the Dallas temple this summer! She's the opposite of McKay, sweet.

And lastly, about my district: we are besties now, so don't worry about the Elder-Hermana relationship. Sunday for district meeting we had a "ring of fire" where each person took a turn in the middle and everyone went around and said two nice things about them. It was a little awkward to sit in the middle, and took forever because there were eight of us, but it was definitely a necessary experience. We love each other now and everyone's self-esteem was just through the roof that day. Which was nice, because obviously we don't get mail on Sundays, so we all needed a little "someone cares about you" boost.

Really lastly, with Fast Sunday coming up, we talked about some scriptures about fasting in class that I want all of you to read so you can have a good attitude about fasting this week! D&C 59:13-14, Helaman 3:35, and Isaiah 58, the whole chapter.

I love you guys, I miss you guys, and thanks so so so much for your letters (except Chase and Tagg, you should write me). Have a good week!