Monday, February 24, 2014

His Image

 Hi again everyone! I'm pretty sure I always start off my e-mails in the same way, but I can't remember.  Either way, I want each of you to know that I sincerely hope it's been a wonderful week.  Each day is truly such a gift and I hope you've been able to see it as such. Know too that YOU are a gift to so many around you each and every day. 

Good luck on your mission in New Zealand Sister Elina!!! She came out on splits with us a
couple of times and was amazing! :)
One of the greatest gifts our Father in Heaven gives to us is the people around us, our family.  We are surrounded by family each and every day.  Each person you see is your brother or sister, a son or daughter of that same God who gave you life.  Family members often resemble each other. By seeing my Dad, you will have a pretty strong idea of what I look like as I truly resemble him.  We too can resemble our Father in Heaven.  Not only are we created in His image having a physical body of flesh and bone as He does, but we can literally resemble His very countenance. Such a resemblance is a gift as we follow Christ.

"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (Alma 5:14).
I LOVE Sister Pickerell and feel so blessed to be with her again this transfer!

We are blessed to receive the image of God in our countenances as we enter into His fold through following the example of His Only Begotten Son, even Jesus Christ.  The greatest step we take in receiving the image of God in our countenances is through baptism by the proper Priesthood authority of God. 

Carl Upson took this step over 50 years ago as a 20-year-old boy working as a musician on the streets.  He came from an abusive family who made him feel that he was never worth much of anything to anybody. As he learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, about The Bible and The Book of Mormon and their supportive roles to one another in inviting all people every where to come unto Christ, he started to feel something different.  He started to feel not his earthly circumstances with his family change, but he felt something much more powerful.  He felt that he was coming closer to his Father in Heaven, and that he was important to Him.  Carl listened to the missionaries, took everything to prayer and was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
Saying good bye to Sister Michaud :( we miss her already and were just her companion for 2 days!
When Carl recounts this day he says he truly felt profound joy. He says that although the heavens didn't open and he didn't hear the voice of God, he felt a spirit that was more tangible than anything.  He felt that God was speaking to him the very same words that were uttered at the time of our Savior's baptism by this same Priesthood authority.

"...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17).

Can you imagine how much this meant to him? I was not there at Carl's baptism but as he recounted this experience I knew that that day, he had truly received the image of God in his countenance.  He had been spiritually reborn and had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For all who were there, I knew they could see a resemblance of our Heavenly Father in his face.  What a precious gift it is to receive our Father's image in our countenance as we are born of Him.

We knocked on Carl's door my first week here in Reno.  His eyes lit up as he saw our name tags and immediately welcomed us into his home.  Carl is now in his late 70's and has been less active for quite some time but has been eager to come back to church.  I may not have been there at his baptism, but just yesterday I was able to witness him as he was ordained a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood of God.
With our brother, Carl Upson.  I am so proud of him :)
I watched as Bishop Rader, Brother Watts and Brother Turner laid their hands on Carl's head and bestowed upon him the Priesthood authority of God.  Carl was overwhelmed by the spirit that was there...really, we all were. I may not have been there to see Carl enter into the waters of baptism, to see him receive the image of God in his countenance, but I have been able to see him make decisions to have the image of God engraven in his countenance.

"I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?  I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?" (Alma 5:19).

The gospel is about so much more than doing, it is about becoming.  It is about so much more that receiving, it is about engraving.  The gospel of Jesus Christ does not settle with leaving us the way we are, it's purpose is to elevate our divine nature to the surface that we may become like Him. At baptism, we may receive the image of God in our countenances, but what a glorious day it will be, to look up to Him at that last day, and see our eyes in his, to see that we recognize His light because we have tasted of it in our own lives.
Was on splits with Sister Jump (from Temple Square) and Sister Boots for an hour and a half...through much prayer and diligent seeking we found 5 new investigators in that short time! Thank you Heavenly Father!
Jess is an investigator we have been teaching over the phone since I have been here in Reno.  He is recently out of prison and looking for a whole fresh start in his life.  Just this last week we were able to meet with him in person.  There he stood, covered in tattoos crawling up his neck and even across the bottoms of his eyes.  There he stood, a son of God.  We spoke with him, the spirit touched his heart, and he has now accepted baptism.  He is now looking forward to receiving the image of God in His countenance and willing to take the steps to have His countenances engraven that it may forever stay with him.  You should have seen the joy in his eyes, you should have felt the thick spirit, as he thought of what grand joy it would be for people to see him for his countenance, for the light and not for his tattoos. For the son of God he is.

I invite each of you to write down something each day that you have done to have the image of God engraven in your countenance.  I promise you that as you make resembling your Father a priority in your life, you will truly become like Him and be filled with a hope that you will one day stand beside Him, proud of the life you lived and all you are. I testify to each and every one of you that this is the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  You will never have to search further than your Heavenly Father to know that what I am saying is true, take it to Him and I promise He will show you who He is and who you can become through His son, Jesus Christ.

Sister Briggs :)

PS. Forgot to mention we have a new companion...Sister Clegg from Spanish Fork, fresh from the MTC! We love her and are humbled to be serving with her! :)

SHOUTOUTS: Mom & Dad, The Achievement Day Girls of the Cascade Crest ward, Mary, Becca, Sara, Barry, Brother & Sister Donakey, Grandma Hill, Robert Donakey, Grandfather and Grandma Jeanie, Sister Hoyt, Kelsey Christensen and her lovely Mother! :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Leave Your Mark On Eternity

With sweet Connor! This was his valentine from Heavenly Father :

Happy Valentine's Day and President's Day everyone! I hope you have truly been filled with love and gratitude for those around you...and even for those who you don't see immediately around you. I hope you have smiled, laughed, and embraced someone every day.  I hope you have prayed, studied the scriptures and served every day.

The most true and pure love comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ, and we come to know Him and feel of this love as we serve Him and do as He once did.  His love is not only infinite, but it is eternal.  It overcame the bands of sin and physical death because the love of Christ will never give up.  It will work through when things are the hardest.  It will raise up when all feels at its lowest.  It will push you toward your Father in Heaven when you feel like laying low in the things of this world.  Nothing can ever replace the love our Savior has for each and everyone of us.  I may not know you whoever is reading this, but I know that our Savior died for you, and for me that is more than enough to know and testify boldly and honestly that you are loved.
 I was so happy I got to go swinging on Valentine's was SO windy! Thank you for the scarf from last Valentine's Day Robert :)
I've really learned this week as I witnessed so many investigators keep their commitments, the pure love and motives of our Father in Heaven.  It is against the very nature of God to do that which is bad for us. Know that your pleadings in the night are heard.  Know that your prayers of simplicity are held in high reverence and that your Father in Heaven and Savior Jesus Christ not only hear, they hearken.

This last week we read the talk, "We Never Walk Alone," by our beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson, to many of our less active members.  The spirit filled the room on too many occasions for me to not share this important message with each and every one of you. I love the poem he shared and feel impressed to share it with each of you now, especially those dear friends and family of mine whom I know are pleading with the Lord in search of relief.

"I know not by what methods rare,
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His Word,
Which tells me prayer is always heard,
And will be answered, soon or late.
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blest."

The last two lines of this poem are my absolute favorite.  I assure you with absolute confidence that God not only hears your prayers, but He knows them just as surely as He knows you.  He knows that what you yearn for most,  He knows the deepest and most sincere desires of your heart.  It is only in His nature to answer your prayer, to grant your quest, or else He will give you an answer that will leave you far more blest.  It is all about our perspective.  Often times, our definition of "things working out" are far more different from our Heavenly Father's definition. How grateful I am for this difference.
Thank you for the teddy bears Brother & Sister Pickerell!
When we pray for success, our Heavenly Father gives us the experiences we need to learn to endure.  When we pray for joy, our Father in Heaven may give us sorrow to better appreciate and recognize the joys we already have.  When we pray for hope, faith, peace, comfort, He gives us opportunities to use and apply the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  When we pray for change, our Father in Heaven gives us a change of heart, and opportunity to become more like Him. For Him, things "working out" is being defined as what it will be that will move us closer to eternal life with Him and our Savior above. 
My grandma Mary in Reno.  She amazes me and I love her so much :)
Time is certainly one of our most precious gifts on this earth and in the eternities.  Because of the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, each of us will have infinite time, but the gift of eternal life is protected for those who seek it.  How grateful I am for the Savior Jesus Christ and for His restored gospel.  Every thing that we are asked to do, is Him truly asking for an opportunity to pour out His blessings upon us.  We can preserve and protect our infinite time, that gift from our Savior, by doing that which is of eternal value here.  God wants more than immortality for His children, He wants eternal life. With each step we take, we press forward with a renewed trust in God that the magnification of our mortal lives is His deepest and most sincere eternal wish.

Think of the joy you feel when you receive a good grade, or when you perform better in a game or with a musical instrument...these are temporary and yet how great is your happiness.  Our Father in Heaven wants us to leave our mark on eternity.  Look at the good you do each day.  Ponder the ways you have felt the spirit.  Think about the blessings you have received from prayer and scripture study. The time you give to Him, is indeed treasures in heaven you store up for yourself and your family.  It is the greatest way to give thanks to our Savior and Redeemer.

I was overcome this week as I witnessed so many families and individuals in Reno not give up their time, but give of their time to something greater, to something more eternal.  I have seen the blessings and witnessed the change of heart that comes as allowing ourselves to grow closer to God...

Morgan has felt the spirit testify to him that The Book of Mormon is truly the word of God.  Axel began to ponder that he is important to the creator of this very world.  The Krochus have put aside their past and are working towards a temple marriage.  Holly allowed the Preisthood power to bless her life and to give her strength from her hospital room. James, a 12-year old boy, who's mother is fighting cancer, found strength in the story of Nephi who was an example to his entire family.

 Thank you SO much Chay!!! I love and miss you!

I invite you all to leave your mark on eternity, rather than simply on the world.  YOU are a child of God, never let yourself forget that fundamental fact. I testify to each of you that Jesus Christ lives, He is our Savior and Redeemer and the Son of God.  He is our older brother, our example and our friend.  Your life, including your joys, your struggles, your triumphs and your falls are all so important to Him, that He was willing to give up His very life for you, all of you.  Take the time you have, dedicate it to Him, and you will be dedicating your life to become that which it was meant to become.  Let yourself grow, let yourself be changed, and you will grow higher, taller and come nearer to God.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Sister Briggs :)

SHOUTOUTS: Mom and Dad, Bryan and Casey, Sister Hoyt, CHAY MILES ( I love you and miss you so very much, thank you for your sweet letter!), Robert Donakey, The Donakey family, Grandfather and Grandma Jeanie, Sister Green :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

You can Choose the Consequences

Called to Serve: Reno :)

 Reno may be different from Temple Square, but the Lord is here, God's children are here, and I am grateful and excited beyond belief to be here

How is it that it's already half-way through February?  Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I thought that Valentine's Day might be a little weird as a missionary, but I am more excited about it this year than I have ever been before.  I am so grateful to be a full-time representative of Him who has the purest love of all, and who is it all for?  Each and every one of us.  You and me.  Your neighbor, your friends, you acquantances, even those you will never have the chance to meet during this life...His love is for them.
I am definitely wearing out these boots every day...I've never been so happy to see such broken shoes!
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
I testify to the reality of this verse and the impact it has had on my life.  I know that the greatest manifestations of love can and will be found as we follow the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I am amazed that He beared all manner of afflictions in my behalf.  I know that He overcame all forms of death that we could each live again.  Why?  How?  The answers are found in His great plan of happiness in the first and basic principle that we each lived with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father before coming here.  He died for us, His friends, because He knows us, because we lived with Him before.  Imagine what kind of relationship we must of each had with Him for His willingness to suffer so much on our behalf.  I invite you to each ponder this, the greatest act of love this world has ever known, and why it matters to you.  I testify to each and every one of you that Jesus Christ is our elder brother, our friend, our advocate and He is our Savior and Redeemer.  I know He lives and I know this with everything that I am.  I choose to represent Him because He first chose to represent us, to represent me, and those whom I love and hold dear to my heart.  He has given me everything and continues to do so every day.  I love Him and give my heart to Him today, this Valetine's Day, and every single day to come for eternity.  What a happy and joyous image it is to think of being reunited with Him again one day.  Coming to know Him better has changed my life and I testify to the reality that He truly teaches, loves, gives, heals, one by one...and that means YOU are important to Him.

 Up close with the biggest horse painting ever! :)
I've thought about how it is because of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father that all consequences are brought about.  We feel sad, we feel happy, we feel guilty, we feel relief all based on if it coincides or contradicts with the laws of heaven whether we fully recognize it or not.  This past Sunday our lesson was on agency and how we are free to choose right from wrong, but not free to choose our consequences.  I have heard this throughout my life but really gave it some thought during class and since then during my studies.

Cool painting in downtown Reno "GO WEST"--Born in California, raised in Washington and Oregon, I am certainly a West coast girl
We may not be able to choose which consequences come from which actions, but we certainly can choose the consequences we want in our lives. Everything ties back to our Heavenly Father and His laws of justice of mercy.  If we want to find happiness, if we want to find success, if we want to feel peace and joy in this life and in the life to come, we make the choices that will bring about such consequences.  You can choose your consequences.
"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."
(D&C 82:10)
I testify to each and every one of you that God keeps His promises.  Each day I have seen that as I do as He asks, I receive the consequences I want most in life.  I want to see people feel the spirit, so I choose to each day give everything I can to exactly obedient.  I want to help others know that The Book of Mormon is true, so each day I strengthen my own conviction and sure knowledge that it is the word of God.
What do you want to see happen in your life?  What matters most to you?  What do you cherish?  What do you hold dear?  What are your fears?  What do you yearn for?  What do you feel missing in your lives?  Remember WHO'S you are.  You are a child of God, you are a brother or sister of the Savior of this World.  They have created consequences for each of us to receive as we come to them.
The Shipp family in the ward got a new puppy! Ahh how I miss my dogs.
Devin experienced this first hand this last week.  Devin is one of the new investigators that we have met since our jump roping with our friends in the streets.  Devin is only about 24, but his home, his heart, his family, all have been broken and he feels lost looking for a way to repair it.  In our first lesson with Devin, he came to the realization that God lived because of how he felt.  He could feel the spirit of God.  He could feel closer to his Heavenly home. Tears of joy filled his eyes as he realized that he had known it all along.  As he looked through his life he could see that God was there, he just hadn't allowed himself to believe it.  With this new realiziation he then received the consequence...a desire to pray.
When we came to Devin's the next time there were drug deals happening outside, people yelling and screaming, music blaring but Devin prayed...for the first time in his entire life.  The spirit filled the room.
"I never want to lose touch with Him again,"  Devin whispered after his humble prayer.
I saw Devin's whole outlook on life change as He came closer to God.  His whole life he had been living in a way that brought consequences he didn't want.  Now, he was seeing that choosing and obtaining the consequences he wanted was as simple as deciding and acting.
It is windy beyond belief here in Reno! (Mom & Dad--doesn't my face look EXACTLY like it did when I was little?)
"Yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness." (Alma 34:4) 
I testify to you that the greatest joy, the most sincere love, the most profound potential comes from the faith that you have, and allowing God to use it to give you that which you desire most in life as it is in line with His will.  His whole purpose is you bring about your eternal life, and what a glorious consequence that is for us to choose and work towards.
We somehow survived the wind! Really, I thought we would be blown over.
Will you each think of the consequences you want in your life and then pray to know how you can achieve these things?  I promise you God will provide a way.  He did not send us here to fail, He sent us here to return to Him.  Listen to Him, for in Him every good consequence lives.
Three Sisters in our Valentine's Socks!  Thanks Mom.
I love each and every one of you.  Have an amazing and wonderful week! Happy Valentines Day :)
Love Always,
Sister Briggs
SHOUTOUS: Mom & Dad, all the Briggs family (I missed you this weekend in Washington! You are all in my most sincere prayers!), The Donakey family, Robert too :), Nicky Lin, Grandfather and Grandma Jeanie

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jumping Rope & Building Ships

Happy February everyone! I hope your February is off to a pleasant start.  We experienced some snow these last few days that made us all very excited.  The sunsets here in Reno are beautiful and the dusting of snow on the mountains gives me just the small reminder of home and Temple Square to make me know that this is my home now :) I am been blessed beyond measure to have been welcomed into the homes of so many children of God this past week.  It is the greatest gift as a missionary to be able to have a genuine and sincere love for people just upon entering their homes for the first time.  Sometimes our love can grow for others through a simple game of jump rope as well.

So hard to say good bye to Sister Green! We love and miss you!
Last Sunday, January 26, we had a set up appointment with our investigators Chris and Juiny.  We had been looking forward to the lesson all week and were so grateful for this opportunity as it has been incredibly difficult to get in touch with them lately. We walk up to their home, knock on the door, and no one answers.  We all look at each other.  Knock again.  Nothing comes, except for a small voice from behind us.

"I don't think those people are home, ladies."

We turned around to see an adorable young girl surrounded by about 6 of her friends from the neighborhood.

"Yeah, they're not home," echoed one of the other girls, "so you can just play jump rope with us!"

We smiled and waited for a moment to listen to the promptings of the spirit as to what it was we should do. We felt that we were needed where we were.  We didn't know if that prompting meant we were to stay and wait because Chris & Juiny would soon return, or if someone else would come and approach us, but there we stayed with those little kids for the next hour.

One of them especially became attached to us.  Her name is Jessiah and she is about 7 years old.  We handed her a photo of Christ surrounded with children.  With a huge smile on her face she said, "Hey, I know him! That's Jesus!"  We loved the amazing things she went on to tell us about how she goes to church every Sunday with her family and it makes her love them even more.  She even ran up to the apartment she lives in to grab the pictures of David and Goliath she had drawn at church that day.

There with the kids, we stood, teaching them all the story of David and Goliath.  I felt such immense joy as the kids would say, "See, we little guys are important too.  God cares about us!"  It took me just about everything I had to not cry.  The neighborhood where we were is actually one of the most highly rated streets for crime in all of Nevada.  We were in the midst of drugs, alcohol, blasting rap music, everything that made me want to just let these kids though whose child they really are. 

Sister Pickerell, being the amazing missionary she is, said that we should sing, "I am a Child of God."  We had no idea how they would hear us with the chaos all around, but we knew with a surety that if anything they would feel Him. We began to sing and miraculously enough, the stereo blasting the music broke down.  All you could hear was three sister missionaries singing, "I am a Child of God."  We could feel the stares of people all around, but most importantly, we could each feel of the truthfulness of this message.

We gave Jessiah our phone number and a pass-along card.  She said she would be calling us because she would miss us too much.  We smiled, gave them all high fives and slowly walked back to the car.  We had no idea what would come from that hour spent with those 6 kids. We hoped we had done the right thing, that we were where our Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ needed us to be.

My awareness of my calling as a representative of Jesus Christ has been extremely heightened.  My faith in Him who I represent has turned into a solidified knowledge.  With this experience in the run down neighborhoods of Reno, I hoped it was the miracle God wanted us to be a part of that day.  Where my faith is, I have the faith to walk on water.  I didn't see however that God doesn't always call us to walk on water, He calls us to do the small and simple, and those small and simple things allow others to walk towards their Savior.

Just a few days ago, we returned to Chris & Juiny's for another appointment with them, only to experience the same silence that returned our repeated knocks on their door.  They weren't home.  We then remembered sweet Jessiah and her friends and through the stairs and smoke we walked straight to her apartment door. 

When we knocked on the door, we were greeted by her Dad Quinzale.  When we told him we were missionaries, we didn't hear the silence we so often heard at so many other doors, but we heard the pounding footsteps of children followed by an excited clap.  There was Jessiah and her little brother Zimar, beaming at the door. 

"Dad, Dad! We told you they would come!"  Jessiah said. 

Zimar ran to put his shoes on thinking we had come for a play date with him.

"Zimar, I don't think these ladies have time for a play date now," Quinzale said, "but maybe they can another time."  Looking up at us Quinzale said, "Could you come back?  We would be happy to have you back."

There was the miracle that came from our jump roping with the 6 little kids in the middle of Reno, Nevada.  That hour was not spent walking on water, it was spent smiling and singing to God's children.
Big deal for Oregonians to fill up the gas tank :)
As a representative of the Savior of the world, of Jesus Christ, I do have the faith to walk on water, but my calling is to construct the ship.

"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying:  Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters."
1 Nephi 17:8.

Brothers and Sisters, let us gladly do that which is asked of us. He is the one who will carry each and every one of us across the stormy seas that we so often see lying ahead of us.  As His representatives, let us help Him and invite others to build His ship.  Sometimes building His ship may come in the form of an hour spent with His children. Let your faith allow you to help Him in His greatest work.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Sister Briggs

SHOUTOUTS: Casey & Bryan, Mom & Dad, Robert Donakey, Brother & Sister Donakey, Mary, Becca, Tori Thomas, Sara Donakey, Barry, Nicky Lin, Ariel Ibarra, Caroline Slater, Barbara Keil (thank you so much Barbara for your letter, you were an answer to my prayers.  YOU helped build His ship.  A letter for you is on its way!)
It was a crazy week, so Sister Pickerell and I both felt it was fitting to by our own big things of ice cream!