Good morning everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend and had a chance to celebrate Pioneer Day and maybe even Christmas in July! My companion and I unfortunately didn’t do much for Pioneer Day or Christmas in July, however, we did do a Singing With The Sisters where we took requests for both Pioneer and Christmas songs. It went by so fast! It was so fun. If any of you haven’t had the chance to watch one of our Singing With The Sisters lives on Facebook, check it out! My companion and I basically take requests for hymns, songs in the Children’s Song Book (thank you Mommy and Daddy), and occasionally we do other songs! We also study the Bible, the Book of Mormon and other gospel materials such as conference talks, every Thursday during our Study Togethursday live. They are so fun and we thoroughly enjoy having people there to request songs and just learn with them and feel the spirit. We had an opportunity to have Branch Conference this week and our Stake leaders came up from Grand Rapids to speak.

One of my favorite parts of conference was probably when our Stake President spoke. He gave us two scenarios/analogies that I’d love to share.

The first was a merry-go-round. He talked about how you’d sit in between the handles and other children would spin you around and sometimes you’d want to “lose your cookies” or you’d even fly off. Merry-go-rounds are a lot more common outside of the desert where they’d give you burns, so I haven’t ridden one for a while, but I totally remember both of these aspects. 😆 But our speaker said that he found the closer he got to the middle, the safer he was. The easier it was for him to hold on.

The second scenario was a boating/fishing trip he went on with his brother-in-laws. It was a tad foggy that day, but they wanted to go to a very specific area where they could catch jumbo fish. His brother-in-law steered the boat through the fog, determined he knew where he was going. They kept stopping to fish and came up with nothing. Eventually, it was very foggy and they couldn’t see the shoreline. They decided to go back to shore. His brother-in-law, confident in the direction he needed to go to reach shore, gunned the engines for a while but after a moment they were getting concerned about the speed they were going (due to low to little visibility) and slowed to a stop. Our speaker asked his brother-in-law if he had a compass so they could find their way home. He said,”he looked at me like,’that would’ve been a good idea to bring a compass.'” Saying a prayer in his heart, our speaker started hearing voices. As soon as it became clear that he was not the only one, he suggested they slowly move the boat toward the sounds. They ended up finding other fishers and asked for directions to shore. Once they had a direction, his brother took off with the boat at full speed until they were skidding across the water. They still couldn’t see very well and soon they saw shadows…of people walking! Our speaker yelled,”BEACH!” and his brother halted the boat and turned to the side. Our speaker and another brother in the boat were thrown out. Luckily no one was injured, and they all started laughing hysterically.

Our speaker continued, and connected the dots as he promised when he began. He said the center is Christ. In the merry-go-round, we learn that the closer we come to Christ, the easier life gets. We can hold on easier. And with the boating trip, we learn that Christ gives us direction, and the further we get from him (the center), and the direction we have from him, the harder it is to see the path where we should follow.
I love these two analogies and the simple truths they teach us of staying centered in Christ. Often times I feel like I’m in that boat. I get some direction and speed off, confident I know what lies ahead. That is, until I realize I have no more direction and cannot see. I have to re-tune my spiritual radio and come closer to Christ. He gives me direction, and without him, I am lost in a fog.

I asked my district leader this week for advice in finding balance. I told him (paraphrasing heavily here),”There’s two sides of this coin I’ve discovered on my mission. One side is putting effort into the work and losing myself in the work. Becoming committed and continually converted to the Lord and what he would have me do. [I referenced “The Fourth Missionary” and “The Riccardi Letter”] The other side of the coin is being patient with myself, not putting myself down for not doing everything and setting higher expectations for myself than I should.” (and understanding the phrase,’be ye therefore perfect, eventually.’) [I referenced “Adjusting to Missionary Life” and “Preach My Gospel]

I asked him how to find balance between those two good sides of the same coin that seem to contradict each other, even though they don’t. He told me that the Lord accepts and loves every effort we put forth and growing closer to him with help us put forth more of that effort. Later, my district leader sent me and my companion a long message with some other things he thought about after we had closed our discussion. Instead of attempting to paraphrase the entire thing, I’ll just paste it in here.

“Crazy enough I feel like finding a balance comes back to one thing and that is our relationship with God. I’ve seen that as I try to develop my relationship with Him it tends to become more “What can I personally do to deepen my relationship with God, in order to help others deepen their relationship with Him?” Than it does just “How can I deepen my relationship with God?”

One idea though that came to my mind is praying and asking Heavenly Father what He needs your focus to be at the moment. Is it your companion? Is it finding and helping friends? Is it yourself? But the real question that arises, that has already been asked is, how do we cover all 3? Well, we focus on one…it kind of reminds me of Christlike attributes. When we work on one, other attributes start to develop alongside it, e.g., When you work on faith you can also build hope, patience, diligence, etc.. So basically what I’m saying is that when you focus on one the others can come with it.

I also think a lot of it depends on the situation as well. We typically try our best to focus on our friends but if our companion needs our time and attention then we should take some time to focus on helping them. Because we are also called to invite our companions to come unto Christ. Same goes for ourselves, if we need to take a minute to refocus and recharge then that’s what we do. But with all that said our we should do all that with God in our hearts and mind.” -Elder Dallin Zacher

I could not be more grateful for the words my district leader shared with me. He reminded me of a principle my seminary teacher taught me while I was in high-school. He had a few words written on the board on top of a line. Not sure if I can remember everything, but a few of them were spiritual, physical, and emotional. He asked us if he lifted one end of the stick what we thought would happen. We of course responded that the rest of the stick would also be lifted up. He taught us an important principle in my mind. He said that when we want to increase our spiritual growth, we must also increase our emotional and physical growth. Our spiritual growth cannot occur without also growing physically and emotionally. All of us has to be growing. I think another one of the words he wrote on the board was light. If we want to increase the light in our lives or the Light, we must grow spiritually, stay physically fit, and work to stay emotionally healthy. To me, this doesn’t mean if you struggle with one of these aspects, then you won’t be able to increase anything in your life, but that by working on the others, it will help you increase the one(s) you are struggling with.

Many of us are plagued by emotional and mental challenges throughout our lives. I have struggled with my emotional health maybe not every day on my mission, but several days out of each of my weeks. Some weeks are better than others, and some days are better than others. Sometimes even moment to moment. Before leaving for my mission, this very thing was keeping me from completing my papers to get my call. I thought that because I wasn’t doing GREAT in regards to my emotional heath (the first year of covid was TOUGH), that I wasn’t going to be able to help others because I had nothing to give.

Though in many cases “we cannot give what we do not have ourselves”(money, testimony, wisdom, etc.), I think there is an exception to that statement that I had not previously understood/ thought of. I believe that exception is Christ. He gave when no one was giving. He loved when that love was not returned. He served when he was not served. These are things he gave. My Dad helped me understand during the most difficult part of last year that I didn’t need to be perfect or know how to teach all of the lessons, or know this and that and be ready. He told me the thing he learned most on his mission was to love and serve the people he was surrounded by. The rest comes in time.

I in no way consider myself a scriptorian and unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of what I learned in my years in seminary. I remember many principles and the confirmation of the Spirit telling me that what I was learning was true. I gained a testimony by acting on the things I learned and that was the important thing I took away from seminary. When we teach, we are asked to teach simply. You don’t need to know everything to be baptized. You only need to know enough. To have a testimony of what you have felt and what you have acted upon. That’s what we are asked to share as baptized member’s of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I want to work on focusing on the things I can build and grow in. I trust that as long as I am putting in effort, the Lord with help me with the rest. I don’t want to wonder what I need to be doing, but act on it. I know. I have forgotten. I’ve been reminded. I’m moving forward and I don’t want to move back. I know I’ll still have bad days, slow days, frustrating days, but if I can just hold on to Christ and put him at the center of my life, the center of my focus, then he can help me move forward, step by step.

Thank you to anyone still reading at this point. I hope something I shared touched you. Maybe you felt the need to share that with a family member, friend, coworker. Maybe you remembered something you needed to hear. Either way, I hope that what I’ve started to learn this week can edify you or a friend in some way. I write these posts not only for me to have a record of my mission, but also in hopes that I can continue my missionary work other places outside of Michigan as well as in Michigan. We can all learn from each other, and I’m so grateful to those of you who have shared your thoughts and experiences with me so that I have a chance to learn from you and share that with others. Whether you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ or another faith, I hope Christ and love for each other is something that can bring us together, and build us up.

I love you all and I’ll keep in touch with those of you I can! I’m always down for an email or letter in the mail, or even a text on FB Messenger! I love hearing from you guys. ❤

Sister (Katie) Malan

Published by Katie Malan

Sister Malan is currently a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in the Michigan Lansing Mission (United States).

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