Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Newmans do hard things": An Open Letter to my Father

Dear Dad,

This week has been one of my top 10 hardest weeks of my mission so far. You have come to my mind a lot this week, and since this Sunday is Fathers Day, I decided I wanted to write specifically to you.

Transfers were this week. I got transferred after more than half my mission in Black Mountain to a family ward in El Cajon. The difference between the two is night and day. I now have my own bottle of pepper spray. Enough said. I think you probably have an idea of what its like there.

Sister Tanner is my new companion. She is 25, from Canada. She teaches 8th grade English and is a sweetheart. We are the training sisters at the Mormon Battalion.

Dad, I thought I knew what hard was. I had no idea. Sister Kennington and I have been together for five transfers. She is my best friend. I calculated it out, and if what they say about a mission as being a "mini life", Sister Kennington and I have been companions for 50 years. Imagine you and mom not being together anymore and I bet you can get a taste of how much that hurt.  It is so hard to love my new area, but Heavenly Father has a way of expanding my capacity to love far more that what I ever imagined. I have to say I was in complete shock when I heard Heavenly Father still needed me to be training sister.

I'm so tired Dad. So, so tired.

Do you remember when we went on Trek and we had the women's march? My family’s cart got taken and we had to spread out and help pull the other families' carts. I got assigned to one of the end ones that did not have the six to eight people pulling a cart, but we had four, if I recall. I remember looking at Corinne Christensen, who was in the family I was assigned to. Both of us were thinking the same thing, I am sure.

"How on earth will we ever be able to do this?"

We started pulling. I can remember the sweat dripping down my face, the blisters on my palms throbbing, my feet hurt so bad. I remember the poor sister next to me wanting to rest but we just couldn't. She let go, and the wagon started rolling down hill. Tears filled my eyes as the weight of the cart started pulling me down. I wanted to fall to my knees and give up, but I knew if we lost the momentum we would roll to the bottom and there would be no way we could get to the top of the hill. I said a prayer, begging Heavenly Father to help us, I looked up through my watery eyes and there was Brother Richardson, with tears in his, smiling at me and telling me I could do it.

I feel like I re-lived that experience in a way this week. The natural human part of me overtook my faith. All I could think about is how tired I am. Not just tired at the end of a long missionary work day. Thinking about what Heavenly Father was asking me to do, I felt like dropping to my knees and giving up. But he has sent angels to lift me up. It is amazing experiencing the power of Heaven.

I had this image pop in my head of how I have been feeling this week: Imagine one of the laborers in the vineyard. The master of the vineyard gives him a plot of land to cultivate. He digs and digs, sweats, worries and cries over these precious plants. At the end of the day, he straightens out his aching back, leans on his earth-filled shovel, wipes the sweat from his brow, and looks at the beautiful, lush vines growing on his plot. You can imagine his excitement to keep this precious earth that he has come to know and appreciate alive, but alas, the master of the vineyard has something else in store for him: a new plot of land, a new earth to learn, to cultivate, to revive.

Only to the laborers' dismay, this plot of land is scorched by wildfire, only few evidences of growth. This laborer — though tired, aching, and a little dismayed — starts the next day digging and cultivating, and though he's not sure what the master has in mind, knows that with the master's help, even the blackest of earth can be reclaimed and revived into a more lush and green garden that it was before.

To be honest, before I was able to fight the thoughts of doubt and inadequacy that Satan had put in my mind, and replace those with thoughts of hope and faith, I broke down. I cried through all my tours. It took all I had to pray to Heavenly Father to help me stop crying long enough to say my part of the tour. I hate that I am human.

Do you remember those times when I would be so upset because I hated how I Heavenly Father always "made me" do the hard things when it seemed everyone else got to have fun? I remember a handful of times when I would sit on your lap and cry. You would rock with me and remind me that "Newmans do hard things and Newmans do what Heavenly Father asks".

I hated when you said that.

I just wanted to yell, "Well then, I don't want to be a Newman!" But now I am grateful for it. I Know I am a Newman. I know I am a daughter of a King. And we do hard things.

I have the first letter that you wrote me when I got to the mission home. I keep it close when times are hard. I read this part the other night.
"Brittany, I know that oftentimes you have to dig down deep for the strength you need to do the things that you want to do, but just like a mine which has priceless treasures buried deep down, I am confident that you will be able to find those treasures within yourself and share them with other people"...
 I'm digging deep, Dad. Deeper than I ever have. I know you would be proud of me.

I didn't have you here when I was practically on the verge of despair. The Holy Ghost was yelling in my ear, "you need a blessing."

I called Elder Seegmiller, and just like I used to when I would call you up in college when things were hard, immediately I started crying when I heard his voice. He came over to the Battalion and gave me a blessing. I have a testimony of the power of the priesthood.  I could not do this without extra power from heaven. I would have given in. I would have given up.

I want to share one part of the blessing that stuck out to me. I was told that you pray for me every night. And that though you can’t be with me, your prayers reach the heavens and have acted as a fathers blessing to me. Dad, thank you. Thank you with all my heart. I am very aware that there is a power that is going against me. It is real. It is tangible at times. I know that yours and mom's prayers have saved my life.

I love you with all my heart. Happy Fathers Day.

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