Monday, July 28, 2014

"Oh Sister Briggs...I've been eight years old for two years already."

I knew I loved dinosaurs for a reason. 
They pull handcarts too! (at the Pioneer day parade in downtown Salt Lake City)
Hi everyone! I am so excited to share with you each the story behind this week's blog title. I sit here laughing and smiling as I write and hope that it is able to do the same for each of you too. I think it's the neatest thing that Christ suffered, life was given, and the gospel is restored for our joy. The automatic fruits of following Christ is deep joy, and He blesses us with tender moments along the way to make us smile, make us laugh, and cause us to look up heavenward and say, "thank you for this life, it really is so beautiful."
This past week I got to call one of my second families in life--Monica, Scott, DJ, Emmi, Sydney, Cayden and Payton from my outbound experience in Reno, Nevada.  This family is so precious to me, and I would serve my entire mission just for them to know how entirely loved they are by their Father in Heaven.  I get so excited every time I get to talk with them. They call me Sister Smiles, and it always made me laugh because the times I spent with them were some of the most spiritual and inspiring moments of my mission--they are a big reason my big smile was always there.

When I was able to get in touch with them this past week, little Cayden reminded me of just how easy it is to smile and feel our Savior's love around them.  I haven't been able to talk with Cayden much on the phone since I've been back at Temple Square.  He has always been at school or out playing, so when he answered the phone on Thursday, I was so happy to hear his adorable voice.
He talked to me about primary, the songs he loves to sing, the happiness he feels with the people there, and then shared about his fun times going to the park and playing football.  I realized I wasn't quite sure how old he was, and so I asked.
"Hey Cayden, how old are you now?" I asked.
"I'm eight years old," he responded.
I was so excited! I didn't realize he was eight and wanted to talk to him about the gift of baptism, and the songs he sings about it in primary.
Love my companion and former roommate Sister Lunddahl from Denmark :)

"Wow Cayden!" I said enthusiastically, "You're eight years old?"
"Oh, Sister Briggs," he responded, "I've been eight years old for two years already!"
haha the smile that came across my face must have taken up all of the teaching center. How I love this boy- his innocence made my day.  His words have continued to bring a smile to my face whenever I reflect back on that moment.  We were able to talk more about the gift of baptism, of the powerful gift God wants to give him of the Holy Ghost.  We both left our phone call feeling the love of our Father in Heaven and feeling happy.
Bear with me now as I try to explain what this simple conversation with this 8 year old boy taught me and how it relates to another experience I had as a missionary this week.

Last night, Josh Wright, a renowned pianist who has played all around the world and starred on America's Got Talent, came and played for our mission and the guests on temple square in the Assembly Hall.  He spoke to us about his mission, about the value of persistence, and the importance of love in doing the work of the Lord.  Him and his amazing wife played one piece together, with two grand pianos lined up side by side.

As I listened to Brother & Sister Wright play this piece side by side, I thought about how well they knew the the other's part on the piano.  Because of the love they have for the music, the love they have for each other, you could see in the way they played that they weren't counting out beats or rhythms, they knew how their pieces flowed together and that is what made it beautiful.  They equally waited on one another to play their individual chords and notes.
As a representative of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I can't help but think of my relationship with Him and mankind's relationship with Him.  So often I feel we are counting out the rhythms, counting out the beats, and waiting to play our part.  We fail to recognize that as children of God, this life has never been a "me" thing, it has always been an "us" thing.  God never sent us into this world alone, yet so often we wait, and think that we are to begin our part when He is finished with His.  We are so much better as a partnership.  We must know the Lord and our Father in Heaven well enough to recognize their pieces of music all around us--the notes and chords they play in our lives each day, and we are to respond and as one with them.
To come back to Cayden, my dear little brother who has been eight years old for two years already, I think about how often we wait and wait and fail to recognize the time, filled with blessings and tender mercies, passing right by.  What if Brother Wright were to wait until the end of the piece to start playing his part?  What if he had the idea that he were to sit and let time pass without being anxiously engaged in the passing of it. I think too often we can come to the Lord and say, "I've been waiting for two years now for this, I've been waiting and wondering about this for 2 weeks already," without doing our part to be involved in the beauty of being on our Savior's side with every stroke of a miracle.

May we not let the time pass, waiting for miracles to come, but be actively engaged in bringing about miracles in the lives of others.  When we do, we truly feel the power of God and the uplifting and enabling power of Jesus Christ's infinite sacrifice. Imagine what would have happened if Joseph Smith had read James 1:5, felt the Spirit and then thought in his heart, "Well, God should know I am asking," and then waited without action, without playing his next notes and chords. He went forth and asked, even though he trusted God knew his heart.  We are to be a team.  I testify that we are each children of God, that there are blessings around us each day, and that we do not need to wait until the end of a piece to find joy. I testify that the Restoration really did happen, don't wait to pray and ask for yourself, His answer will be yes no matter when you come to Him, when you come with a desire to be closer to Him.  Be ready to play your part, and be ready to feel the greatest joy you could ever imagine.
"Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life.  Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me." (3 Nephi 9:14, The Book of Mormon, another Testament of Jesus Christ).

I've become extremely awkward at taking pictures by myself.  I need someone by my side in them! My wonderful companion insisted though :)

Love always,
Sister Kelsey Jean Briggs
SHOUTOUTS: Jessica Helm, Caroline Slater, Momma Ordoñez, Momma Pickerell, Alyssa Lamprecht, Sister Ibarra, Sister Nelson, Sister Freitas, Sister Spencer, Sister Molodogalli/Mclellan (it was so good to see you all again last night!), Mom & Dad, Bry & Case, Brother & Sister Donakey, Becca, Mary, Liz, Sara, Barry and Robert Donakey :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Alma 31:38

Alma 31:38
I love serving with sisters from all around the world!
Hi everyone! Happy Early Pioneer Day! I had never really known about Pioneer Day, celebrated every 24th of July, until I came up to Utah for school back in 2009.  Pioneer day was always exciting with all the fireworks, parades and BBQs, and now I really feel that there may be no greater place to celebrate Pioneer Day than here at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The most photographed monument here on Temple Square is a monument of a pioneer family crossing the country to come here to the Salt Lake Valley. 

It amazes me and humbles me to think they had no knowledge of where they would go, no knowledge of how they would survive, no knowledge of where they would rest their head each night, how they would provide for their little ones, but the knowledge they did have was enough to face any adversity that was headed their way.  They walked into this with the knowledge that difficulties would come, but this knowledge was accompanied by the greatest knowledge anyone could ever have--that their Savior was aware of them, that they were sent a living prophet of God to follow, that they were taking steps of faith not only for themselves, but for all of us to come after them.

My mission has meant absolutely everything to me, and I know that the pioneers would say the same.  I'm sure there were moments where their hearts hurt so badly they felt they couldn't press forward, but none has ever regretted their journey for the relationship it molded and formed, the bond is strengthened between these people and their Maker, between them and their Redeemer. One of the members of the Martin Handcart Company bore a powerful witness of this one night while gathered with many others in the Valley.  I feel such a love for these Pioneers each time I recite and share these words with those who come onto Temple Square, and it brings me nothing but joy to share them with you all now.

With my beautiful companion from Honduras, holding her flag in front of the Bountiful temple
He said...
“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’
Brothers and Sisters, I testify with all my heart that these were real people, with real faith, real determination, and with real angels to pull them through what their Father in Heaven had asked of them.  A successful journey in our eyes and in the eyes of the world may mean health, safety, comfort, reaching the destination, but with our Father in Heaven and the eyes of Heaven, He sees  the health of our spirits, the safety the comes from the promises we make with Him as a team, the comfort of the Holy Ghost and reaching the destination of His presence once again. 

With Sister Ordoñez and I outside of the Salt Lake temple :)

In The Book of Mormon, we can read a promise from our Father in Heaven that nothing He ever gives us can separate us from feeling joy as we remember our Savior.

"And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of aafflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in bfaith." (Alma 31:38).
No matter who we are, may we each celebrate Pioneer day this week with a focus on the knowledge that God will always fulfill His promises to us.  His promises do not change by the circumstances we may find ourselves in--whether they be joyous or sorrowful.  Have hope and confidence that it will all work out, and it will in a way that refines you and brings you greater knowledge than that which you started with.

I love you all and really want the best for you all! I hope that what I have shared makes you smile, invites the Spirit and gives you a motivation to go out and to serve those around you who find themselves in difficult situations at this time.  God accomplishes His miracles through people like you. 

Sister Ordnal (from Norway & England) and I!

Sister Briggs

SHOUTOUTS: Jessica Helm, Mom & Dad, Lauren Moran, Caroline Slater, Nicky Lin, Grandma Jeanie, Sister Pickerell, Robert Donakey, Mary, Becca, Sara, Liz, Barry, Brother & Sister Donakey.

Made some brownies for my companion--can you all see the dinosaur
that so neatly appeared in the brownie cup! So cool!

"You're right where you're supposed to be"

To Kelsey's Blog followers - So sorry for the delay in posting this July 14 blog update.  Kelsey's blogmom has been traveling and just returned.  This story below is one of my favorites - I hope you enjoy it.  - Kelsey's Mom

I am grateful for each opportunity I have to write home and to reach out to all of you where ever you may be. I am grateful that my perspective on the world around me has changed so very much since I've been a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I am grateful to know that each of you are family, and that you are God's greatest and most favorite miracles. Parting the red sea was a miracle in our eyes, but in His eyes the true miracle was the faith of those who passed through.  

This past week I was so inspired and motivated by the miracles I am surrounded by.  Just think--each day I am blessed to see sisters from 50 different countries and hear them speak 46 different languages. Just in May and June of this year alone our sisters have taken over 30,000 people around Temple Square and shared with them, in their native language, the blessings of the temple, the sacrifices of the pioneers, and the power of faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. (It's crazy to believe these 30,000 people that have been counted do not include those who came onto temple square without a scheduled tour...with those people added in it would easily be close to about 70,000 guests!).
With all this hard work, our mission President, wonderful President Poulsen who has truly become family to me, wanted to celebrate all of this hard work with an activity up in the mountains.  Yes, President Poulsen took us all up to Brighton's Girls Camp this past Saturday.  What may have appeared as just ropes, tests of balancing and cool tricks in the air on the zip line was really a significant glance into all the ways that life does denote that our Father in Heaven lives and cares.  He'll do anything He can to make sure each of us have these experiences, and it's through the Holy Ghost we can really take note of them. The world we live in was created for such a special purpose, and everything we do will teach us and help us to fulfill that growing purpose.

One of our favorite activities was when we were able to repel down the side of a mountain! Yes! That really did happen.  Not to worry Mom, it was a small mountain and there was lots of protection in place to ensure a safe and fun journey down the side. Sister Ordoñez and I both anxiously awaited our turn to climb down and to experience this activity.  While we waited we were asked to walk around the camp and to take pictures of all the sisters doing the various activities. There was one moment at the camp that was especially meaningful for me to see and be a part of.

Sister Xu from mainland China was next to do the repelling. All strapped up in her harness with her helmet on her head, she slowly started to inch her way back to the edge of the cliff.  Hope and excitement then turned into absolute fear.  We watched as she stepped away from the ledge, talked with the camp counselor who was giving her the best advice she could, and were inspired as her companion held her close and told her she could do it.

Once more, with a new confidence, Sister Xu took steps towards the edge of the cliff again.  She was ready for the experience, but not ready for the steps that would lead her to such an experience.  What happened next was something I will never, ever forget.  Sister Ye, also from mainland China, came over to the edge, sat down on the rock and began to speak in Mandarin with this frightened sister. Sister Xu kept her eyes locked on Sister Ye, continually nodded her head, and started to repeat what Sister Ye had been saying to her. 
With each step over and down the side of the cliff, Sister Xu repeated these few Mandarin words with Sister Ye.  With each small step, and each hand held on the rope, she continued to say these words.  Soon, surrounded by sisters from Oregon, Honduras, Brazil, Fiji, American Samoa, Japan, France and Denmark, these few Mandarin words were being repeated by each of the sisters and were ringing throughout the forest and ears of this afraid sister.

I felt the Spirit so so strongly as I saw the eyes of sweet Sister Xu become more hopeful, and a smile come across her face.  When she reached the bottom of the cliff she jumped for joy and thanked us all for what we had done for her.
As she made her way back up to us, we all turned to Sister Ye and asked what it was we had all been saying to help our sister make it down the mountain. 
"Left foot, right foot, left hand, right hand," she said," that's all we were saying."

I was struck by the simplicity of the words we were saying, yet the power that came when we all said them together.  So often I think we believe that there must be something big and eloquent to help those around us in need, but really it is taking the Savior's simple and beautiful words, and saying them with Him. It is the steps we take day by day that bring us down the sides of the mountains we each face in life.
"Each day is a day of decisions, and our decisions determine our destiny." -Russell M. Nelson.

 With the people you seek to help this week, help them in the little things.  Pray for the little steps they can take and know that the gospel of Jesus Christ will always show us the way.  Be prepared to know that the steps our Savior asks us to take are small and simple and that they lead us to become and to achieve more than we could alone with the overwhelming steps we often expect ourselves to take and make.

The gospel is true, you are all important and you all are right where you are supposed to be. Know that the people beside you are right where they are supposed to be too.  Work together :)
Sister Briggs

SHOUTOUTS: Welcome home Liz!!! Happy Birthday Lauren!!! Kate Thornock---your letter was SO inspiring and I have been able to share it with so many sisters! I love you and thank you for writing!!!Jessica Helms, Dad Layton, Sister Pickerell, Sister Opeda, Mom & Dad, Casey Briggs, The Donakey Family, Robert Donakey, I love you all! :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The 4th

Me and my companion with President and Sister Poulsen!

So special to be with Sister Taylor again so much!

What a busy and oh so wonderful week! We were busy with trainings, meetings, more trainings and meetings, and so many opportunities to learn and to grow.  I've really come to have such a great love for the sisters we serve with here.  I think the assignment as an assistant to the president as a missionary, is really an assignment to gather and cultivate love. Every meeting we've planned, every training we've prepared has been hand picked by the Lord, and in most honesty, most of what we shared, I cannot remember.  With the business of missionary life, our tongues have been loosed and our mouth's filled.  How grateful I am for the Spirit for that very reason.

Can you imagine how different this world would be if we all spoke the words put into our hearts by a loving Father who understands the needs of the people we speak with?  I think of how often my parents, family members and friends have done that throughout my life. Could you imagine how different work, school and social events would be?  To not just hear words, but to feel the strongest love that has ever been expressed in all the history of mankind. Not only is this something we desire to be able to influence those for good around us, but it's something that Christ Himself asked our Father for when He came and prayed for the people in Ancient America.
love Sister Ellis from Singapore!

"And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one." (The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 19:23).

Love Sister Dimatera from the Philippines!

Thank you to each and everyone of you, for expecting the best from me and for helping me to grow. Being a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is all about love, and each of you have had a huge influence in teaching me just what love is.

I'm grateful to know that there is never a ceiling we can hit when we grow in character...we can always grow.  That's something that gives me hope.  I think it's so easy to be afraid of faith, to be afraid of taking a step out into something that looks like it requires so much of us, but that means there is more to give.

Think about another 4th, the 4th of July. Here is a day that is celebrated in the United States of America because of the courage and character of those before us. They weren't just fighting for a free land, they were fighting for the will of heaven to shine through in a land caught in turmoil.  They raised a title of liberty, as people had done anciently before as well.
 yay for past companions and eternal friends :)

"And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it-- In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children-- and he fasted it upon the end of a pole." (Alma 46:12).

With our Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, we can celebrate being the 4th.  We can be one with them as they are with each other.  We can be one in purpose, we can be the 4th to share divine love with all the world.

I hope this is how we see the 4th and each time we look at the flag. Our whole mission was able to see it in such a different light this year.  We needed this land of freedom to be able to ask questions, to wonder about our Father in Heaven and to find this great plan that He has for each of us.

I love you all! Be the 4th each day, and just watch the smiles come from everyone around you.  What a blessing to be able to let people feel a little closer to heaven :)

Sister Briggs
SHOUTOUTS: Jessica Helm, Mom & Dad, Bryan & Casey, Robert Edgie Donakey, The Donakey family, Sister Pickerell :)