Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Closing the Umbrella

I read in the Liahona this week a short quote from President Uchtdorf about how we often get ourselves confused about why we have commandments. He talked about how we sometimes think of commandments as "If we do this, THEN God will bless us." Whereas in reality, God is always showering blessings down upon us and commandments are the way that we "remove the umbrella that blocks the shower of blessings." Meaning that when we keep the commandments we are putting ourselves in the right places and circumstances that we can receive the blessings that Heavenly Father so wants to give us. I learned a lot about that this week.

Heavenly Father is really showering blessings upon us in Niihama right now. It is making my heart really, really full of gratitude. There are a lot of very good things happening in Niihama right now, and a lot of them are just barely beginning, the seeds are just barely being planted, and the fruits will come in the months after I leave Japan. I thought about that a little bit this week, and it was making me feel a little bit sad to think about not being here in late April, May and June. But then I received some very necessary revelation that I think is probably really important for all of life. Last night Ichikawa Shimai and I were biking down out of the mountains in Niihama after an amazing lesson, the sun had just set and we were going by rivers and run down Japanese buildings that are classic to Inaka Shikoku, and my heart just sort of overfilled with gratitude for the amazing week that we had had and for the thousands of blessings that I have received on my mission and for just how AMAZING my mission has been. In my prayer of gratitude, my thoughts turned a little bit to: "But, why is it going to end? Especially at this point in Niihama, where everything is just turning into beautiful potential?" And a very clear and distinct thought came to me: "Be grateful for all that you have been given, and use what you have with the most efficiency that you can - and miracles will happen." It was an amazing revelatory bike ride and I learned a lot, but I think perhaps what I pulled from that was 1) how much the Lord has His hand in all things, how He knows what is good for us and how His plan is better for us than ours ever could be - so just trust Him. and 2) To just use all my time as wisely as possible and then, although I may still want to be here to see some of the wonderful events occurring in the next few months, it doesn't really matter all that much whether or not I am in the area- because the joy will be the same. For me, closing the umbrella meant to just put everything into the now and not so much think about the future, because the Lord's plan is a whole lot bigger than mine.

On another note, this week was probably one of the most amazing weeks of my entire mission. I owe that largely to Ichikawa Shimai. We sat down at the beginning of the week and set some really, really, really high good goals. Or at least I thought they were high until Ichikawa Shimai shared some of her vision with me and then the goals got even higher. Some of the details of "helping these big visions to occur" meant that we had to change some of our little every day actions. We started with our prayers. And when our prayers changed, everything...EVERYTHING changed. Ichikawa Shimai changed her prayers first to make them deeper and more heartfelt, and then we talked about that and changed our companionship prayers and I changed mine too. I don't really know how to explain how everything has changed, but I think it is mostly that we just feel the Lord guiding us a whole lot.

To illustrate why, I will share what happened on Saturday:
We had planned out a very effective day full of visiting lots of investigators and less actives and we had all of these brilliant plans, largely hanging on how long the morning "You worked hard!" party went. (An Elder who served in Niihama came back because he had finished his mission this week - he was also born in Niihama so there was just a lot of really amazing ties in there) but, he came back to visit the ward and it took longer than we planned and the whole day turned into a crazy fast biking adventure to get to the appointments we had. And, we missed a lot of them. (The morning party thing though was amazing and worth every bit of time that it took because it was so unbelievably powerful). BUT, despite the craziness of the day we were really, really led by the spirit. The last appointment we ended up having of the day we had originally planned for 3 pm. We were running very behind and we made it to the appointment at about 5. But, at the time that we made it to the appointment the mom was outside with her baby and her husband just happened to pull up at the exact same time that we did. He was excited to meet us as he had not yet (they are actually our neighbors and we had been working to set up an appointment with the mom for a while), apparently she had been telling her husband about us (we brought her cake one time and she loved it), and the timing just worked out so perfectly that they invited us in and we taught a lesson and the whole family became investigators. And I love them SO MUCH. Seriously, this young family is adorable. Afterwards we said gratitude filled prayer and I had such a strong confirmation that the Lord is really the one guiding our plans everyday, and just guiding everything and that I am a really tiny piece of this whole work.

In other news, I literally closed the umbrella on Sunday and I forgot my raincoat. It poured rain a lot and I got very wet, and there is nothing quite like biking through mountains in a skirt on rainy days. I think those might be some of the most treasured memories of my mission.
Also some of the cherry blossoms have started popping out early in Niihama, because, it is Ehime Ken.

The church is true.
I love being a missionary :)
Grundvig Shimai

Ichikawa Shimai and Grundvig Shimai in Niihama

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