Tuesday, July 26, 2011

an unwavering testimony of the plan of salvation

To my beloved family and friends,

This week has been a week of miracles.  Of tender mercies.  Of prayers answered.  Of confirmations from the Spirit.  Of healing.  Of prayer.  One specific miracle that has blessed my life this past week has been the discovery that I, in fact, have an unwavering testimony of the Plan of Salvation with Christ's Atonement being at the center of that plan.  On Saturday morning I woke up and prepared myself to attend a funeral that was being held at our church building for a less active boy that drowned in the local lake.  Although we didn't know the family it seemed like an opportunity for us to offer service and support as the missionaries in the area.  When we decided midweek that we were going to attend the funeral we had to cancel our highly anticipated plans to go with our entire zone to Bainbridge Island to watch a free showing of the church movie, "Legacy."  A member on the island owns the theater and offered it as a fun activity for Pioneer Day weekend.  But we thought that the funeral would be a more effective use of the Lord's time and that we should go to that instead. 

However I was surprised to wake up feeling that we shouldn't go.  We had already cancelled our ride with our district leaders that were going to take us and we had already commited to attend the funeral.  But I felt really uneasy and told Sister Mills I don't think we should go.  Luckily, our 10am appointment with a recent convert cancelled on us, freeing our schedule.  We got in the car and made the 40 min drive to the island.  The sky was cloudless, perfectly blue.  The sun was shining and for the first time in a long while I felt warmth.  The drive was picturesque.  Just absolutely beautiful driving on winding forest roads overlooking the beautiful sparkling Puget Sound.  Mount Rainier was visible in the distance.  We ended up having a wonderful time.  I never thought that while on my mission I would be sitting in a movie theater with popcorn on my lap, happy as a clam.  There was a high level of excitment as myself and all the other 15 missonaries squealed with delight to be there.  There was a Pioneer Day BBQ that followed.  Life was so good.  I was so happy and content and just feeling that there was nothing that could bring me down.

So when we received an unexpected call from Sister Weaver and the mission President, I assumed that the day was just getting better and better.  I absolutely adore the Weavers and any time I can see them I am beside myself with happiness.  They exude Christlike attributes.  They were coming up to Bremerton for a baptism and wanted to see us while they were up here.  We rushed to meet them at our church building, gladly leaving the BBQ early.  The last few relief society sisters that had helped with the food at the funeral were cleaning up as we arrived.  They said it went well but understood that we couldn't come.  President and Sister Weaver arrived minutes later and greeted us warmly with hugs.  We proceeded to sit in the RS room and I began to wonder what we would be talking about.  Maybe we were going to be briefing them on our area.  Or an emergency interview.  I was not expecting what was said next.

President Weaver turned to me and wasted no time letting me know that Grandma Margaret had passed away.  I can remember my response was, "Ok, I understand."  The moments that followed were a teary blur.  I was not overly emotional or hysterical but I sat there a bit frozen, looking around at the tear filled eyes that greeted me.  Sister Weaver immediately hugged me and held me there for a while as we cried together.  She told me in my ear that Mom had spoken with her earlier the previous evening and that there was no way that should could tell me the news in any other form than in person with a hug ready for me.  In that moment I realized that this was a devastating blow and I had a few moments to decide how this was going to effect me.  We had a teaching appoinment in 20 minutes and the Weavers were going to be leaving to attend that baptism.  I had to choose to let this tragedy devastate me.  To allow myself to be crippled and lose all energy.  Or I could draw from my faith and testimony that she is alright and that I will be alright too. That my knowledge of death and the Father's Plan of Happiness can sustain me at this time.  President Weaver asked if I would like a blessing and I graciously accepted.  What a once in a lifetime opportunity to receive a blessing from my mission president, but also an opportunity for healing and strength that comes from the Spirit through the hands of a worth Melchezidek priesthood holder.  He blessed me with comfort and peace.  For the strength to be able to carry on.  For the energy restored that will surely be drained from me.  He blessed me that I will have an even stronger witness of the Atonement and that this will be an even powerful witness that will have converting power with the people I will find and teach.  He carried on and said some very beautiful, simple, yet powerful promises and words that I know helped get me through the rest of that day and evening.

It really wasn't until yesterday, Sunday, that I was able to even stop for a moment and acklowedge Grandma's passing and allow myself to feel sorrow and to cry about it.  I decided that morning as I was on my knees in prayer that I needed to fast that day.  To fast for comfor and peace, but also for a confirmation of my testimony of all that I knew and believed about this mortal life and death.  About the life hereafter and the power of the Atonement and knowledge of the resurrection.  I strongly reccomend keeping a fasting journal.  I have  notebook designated specifically for fasting.  I write about why I am fasting and all the questions I have or whatever I am in need of or seeking.  And throughout the time that I am fasting I record all things that I felt were revelations, inspirations and things that were answeres to whatever I was fasting for.  So by the end of yesterday I had scriptures, hymns, thoughts and mentionings in other's prayers that were all things that helped me find what I was looking for.  That lended me the peace I was seeking. 

One thing that I found to be extrememly revelatory to me was a collection of scriptures that I found during sacrament meeting.  In the Doctine and Covenants 76: 50-70 lists the Glory and Rewards for exalted beings in the Celestial Kingdom.  These brought great peace and comfort to me knowing that she was far too great for this life and the condition that she was in. 

v. 55 They are given into whose hands the Father has given all things--

v. 59 Wherefore all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's

v. 60 And they shall overcome all things

v 62 They shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever

v. 63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign..

v. 65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.

v. 66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.

v. 67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels...

v. 68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.

v. 70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all...

I know without a doubt that all of these promises and blessings pertain to her.  I know that she is deserving of the highest place in God's Celestial Kingdom and she is reunited with her loved ones.  Before President Weaver gave me the blessing he asked me to briefly tell him about my relationship with Grandma.  I told him that from a very young age I felt that she was an example of someone that lived her religion and her testimony.  That she could stand before the judgment bar and say that she had done her very best and endured to the end.  That she was truly an example of the believers. With tears in his eyes, President Weaver said that was the highest honor that I could pay anyone and that I will be strengthed from her as my own angel in Heaven.  Sister Weaver said that everything I stated about Grandma right then is her biggest hope and wish that her grandchildren could someday say about her..

With yesterday being Pioneer day, I couldn't think of a more honory Sunday to think about a pioneer in my own life.  While she didn't cross the plains to the Salf Lake valley she fearlessly forged a path of righteousness and faith for all those that followed her.  She taught me how to be obedient and how to love the Lord.  She taught me how to pray sincerely and how to rely on the Savior for help and for guidance.  She taught me how to be a better person, a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter, a better student, a better member of the Church and made me want to be a missionary.  I owe so much of who I am today to the living legacy that she left me with.  I felt that each time I do something good, each time I serve, each time I bear my testimony, each time I reach out to someone in love, in the name of Christ, I am honoring her.

I know that it was a tender mercy from God that I had fun that Saturday morning.  That I didn't have to attend a funeral only to be told soon after that there would be a funeral in my own family.  I know that He is mindful of me and that as one of His missionaries I am able to be extremely close to the Spirit.  On Friday morning, the morning that she passed,  I was at a Filipino woman's house that we had miraculously found tracting helping her sort through her two deceased daughter's personal possessions.  They were 21 and 22 years old and both unexpectedly died of cardiac arithmia.   She had not touched their things for seven years, since the day that they died.  I felt extremely close to the Spirit that morning as I bore powerful testimony of the Plan of Salvation with her in her garage.  I told her about Grandma Margaret and the knowledge that I have of His plan allows me to be ok.  I told her that we pray to find people like her. That it was no coincidence that two girls the same ages as her daughters happen to show up on her doorstep the morning they received the coroner's autopsy they had been awaiting for over a year.  We cried together and offered her support and told her of the comfort and peace that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I think that I must have had Grandma's spirit with me helping me find the words to say as I spoke with this woman.  She allowed herself to grieve and wants us to come back and begin teaching her the gospel.  Everyone we had met that week while tracting had all had experiences with losing a loved one.  I truly feel that we had so much success with them because I was able to be so close to the Spirit as Grandma Margaret's life was slowly drawing to a close.  I feel her around me very strongly.  I know that I do not need to worry about her anymore.  Tell  Grandpa that I love him so much and that everything will be ok.  That he can still have joy in this life and that we will see her again on the other side of the veil.

I want to bear my solemn witness that this life is a probationary state.  A time for us to prepare to meet God. I know that this seperation is only for this life and that I will see her again.  I know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ.  That He lives.  That God is our loving Heavenly Father and that he loves me.  I know that all grief, heartache, injustice, sin, sorrow, and pain can me made right and lifted through the Savior's Atonement.  I know that there are still things to hope for and things to be joyous about.  I know that there is a life free of pain and suffering or wrongs and evil and it is the life eternal.  I know that I am working toward the same place that Grandma so faithfully has made her final resting stop.  I believe in prayer.  In honest and sincere pleading with the Father, we can receive the peace that we all so desperately need.  I know there is a work here for me to do and that I can and will face the future with faith.  That I will be a pioneer here on my mission for people that are preparing to meet me and for me to find them.  Keep pressing foward.  Keep believing.  Keep the faith.  Keep trusting in the Lord.  Keep Positive.  I love you all so much.  This gospel means everything to me and I know it can for you, too.  Cleave unto Him and he will carry you through this time.  I love you all so much.

Sister Baylon

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