Dear Friends and Family,
Thank you for all your support and love. I know it has meant a lot to Abby and I am certainly grateful for you as well. Abby is coming home tomorrow! Her plane lands in the Boise Airport at 6:15 p.m., please join us in welcoming her home, if you can!
Please read Abby's last email. She has grown up and learned so much. You can tell in her last few emails. I'm grateful for her and the example she has been to our family these last 18 months. I'm excited to see her go from here and grow into the person Heavenly Father intends her to be. She will be attending BYU-I in January and she is pretty excited about it.
Again, we are so grateful for each and everyone of you and for your support and love and friendship as we made this 18 month journey with Abby. Thank you!
The Reese Family
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Dear Family and Friends,
Wow...I'll see most of you in two days. I don't even know what to say. It has been...a really incredible eighteen months. I don't even know how to express to you how much I have loved every last second of the last eighteen months. I can't even express to you how much I have struggled and persevered and learned to love the people of the California Fresno Mission--mostly Fresno, but some in Hanford too :)
This week was a really emotionally exhausting week. I broke down over a silly pumpkin project we were doing with Sister O and then I cried a lot on Thanksgiving. I got to spend the day with people that I love which was good. We went to see H and C in the morning, and then we had dinner with the W’s. After that we spent some time with the O’s. I love them so much. They are like family and I feel like family with them. I promised them I would come visit so...I'll have to make that happen. We played Mafia and then Telephone and then we just hung out and talked. It was great. Today we went to help them pick out a Christmas tree. It was a lot of fun--something I have never done before. They want us to help decorate too. I don't really know what else to say about my week.
I think for my parting words, I will leave y'all with some words of what I've learned.
1. I've learned the Atonement. I think that the biggest thing I've learned is the Atonement. I have learned how to use it and how to rely on the redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement. It is so much more than I can even express. I have had many times in the last eighteen months where I have just needed to kneel down and pray and pour my heart out to my Heavenly Father because I know He and my Savior are the only Ones who really know me and know what I need. They know what I am going through and what I've gone through. I struggled with homesickness and anxiety and frustration and heartbreak and...so many other things while I have been in Fresno, but I have been able to overcome so many of those things on my mission. Because of my mission, I have been able to see my strengths. I have learned that grace works for everyone, not just the nonmembers or investigators or less actives or every other member in the church. It works for everyone. I read this morning that grace doesn't mean Christ will be there AFTER all we can do. He's going to be there every step of the way as we do all we can do. He isnt' waiting at the finish line. He is walking alongside us. I have seen that on my mission. I have seen His hand and His help. I know He is there, and as I've learned that, He expects me to use it. The Atonement is the center of the gospel. Everything else is an appendage to it. I know that. I know the only way to fully access this power is to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for that.
2. I learned to love. I have come to love so many people on my mission. I could list so many people whom I love to you but I won't. I just know that I love this mission and I love these people. I don't think I would have ever learned to love people if I hadn't served a mission. I am filled with so much love for them. I am filled with so much love for those I have seen baptized and those I have seen progress and the members who have taken me in and made me feel like family. I have been able to see the way that the Lord helps us to have charity for those we serve. I never realized how much I could love someone who wasn't my family so much. I know I was terrible at loving people before my mission, but I hope this is something I will take with me as I return home.
3. I have learned to give my will to God. I know with all my heart that if we give our will to the Lord, our lives will go so much more according to His plan for us. Three years ago, when I was first thinking of serving a mission, when the age change was announced, I didn't want to go. I didn't want to step out of my comfort zone and come on a mission. But I did it because I knew He wanted me to, and by the time I got there, I wanted to go too, because I knew it would help me with so much more than I could ever imagine. And as I have served a mission that I knew God wanted me to, I have learned to give it all to Him. We have to lay it all on the altar of sacrifice (figuratively). The only thing the Lord doesn't have from us is our will. The only thing He doesn't take away is our agency. That is the only thing we can give Him. I hope I can always hold on to that.
4. I have learned to be humble. Humility is so key. If we aren't humble, we won't be able to get along with the person we are with. If we aren't humble, we won't be able to give it all to God. Humility is the act of aligning your will to God's. So I guess it kind of goes with the above. Choose humility as Alma says in Alma 32. Don't make the Lord "compel" you to be humble. I have learned we need to choose it.
5. I have learned who I am as a daughter of God. I don't think I was ever able to be myself until I came on a mission. I have learned that I have worth too and no one is better than anyone. We are all different and God loves us differently but all the same. I know that I matter in the plan. Even as small as I am in comparison to the rest of the 7 billion people on earth. I matter in the plan. I have changed the lives of so many people here and I know that matters. I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father. And I know He loves me.
I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior. I have come to know them personally. I have grown in my relationship with them. I know them and I know they are always there, every step of the way.
I love you all!!
Sister Abigail Reese
PS I had my exit interview! President Clark is awesome and told me that I will be okay. He asked me to teach him what I have learned from the scriptures. I shared Alma 36. Read it. It's great. And then he asked me what I was worried about coming home and I know that I will be okay because he is so reassuring. I had to promise to keep in contact in order to leave the room. I also had to promise to call if I needed anything. I am so grateful for the mission president I had. He is the best. I love him so much and I know I needed him.
I am not really sure what to say today. I don't really know how to put into words the thoughts that have been running through my head all week. I only have two email days left--one more after this one. I don't really know how I can express to you all the gratitude I have for this mission and for all of you for all you have done for me. I don't really know how I can talk about my mission to you or this last week.
This last week has been a whirlwind of emotions. I have thought a lot about the fact that I only have about a week left until I return home. I only have that. I don't have a lot of time to say good bye or to prepare or to do anything really. And it's Thanksgiving so that makes it even weirder. There are so many people that I wish I could stay and be with, so many faces that come to mind when I think of my mission. I think of the K’s from my first area--they took us to lunch today so they are on my mind a lot. I think of the B’s, who were also in my first area. They were so incredibly loving and embracing. I think of the O’s in Cedarwood and their way of making us feel so at home. I think of T from Hanford, and the O’s from Hanford. I think of the way they all made me feel so loved and so wanted. I think of the way they have all helped me through my mission, how they have shaped my mission. I think of the way they are still helping me push through to the very end. I think of the motivation they give me to finish and to finish strong and to keep faithful to the end. And then I think of Kings Canyon. These last five months have been some of my favorite months of my mission. These people have become family to me. They have become who I need them to be. I think especially of the O family and everything they have helped me with. They made my farewell invitations and printed them for me. They embraced me as family from the very first moment that I met them. They love me and care for me and take care of me. All these people are everywhere. These people are here in the world. I have learned that there are good people everywhere and I am so grateful for that. I know I wouldn't be who I am without them.
My mission has been an incredible experience. I have been out for eighteen months, officially. Isn't it weird?? I have been out for eighteen months already. This week marked that. Saturday. We celebrated a lot of things this week. The first of that was P's birthday on Monday. He's part of the O clan. We did this really cool family home evening lesson with them about our gifts. We each drew a name and had to write their talents and gifts down and then we gave them back. At the end of the lesson we all drew names and have to do an act of service for them. I drew C's name, who I absolutely adore...but I am not sure what to do for him. Maybe we can do this activity when I come home? We saw H and C who I also love. They are great. (Alma 37:18)
The F’s took us to dinner this week. They are taking us again the day after Thanksgiving because they actually like me. I love them too! They are super funny. They are another family that has just embraced me. I really love them. They are seriously the best. We saw the U’s too and that was fun. She is slowly making a little progression. It's hard. She doesn't want to make the commitment but we know it would help her so much. The weird thing is she does everything we ask her to do. She reads when we ask her to read and prays when we ask her to pray--not for us yet, but I hope I'll get her to do it before I leave. (Luke 22:32)
We did a lot of service for the O’s again. It was fun. Sister H took us to Panda for dinner. It was good. I like Panda. We saw Brother H a few times this week too. That was good. I have pictures with him as Elvis! (Alma 41:14)
The M’s fed us this week and we haven' had dinner with them in a while. Sister M reminds me of Mom. Isn't that weird?? I can't believe how much she reminds me of Mom. But she's awesome. We made a memory game that we played with H and C and Brother M. That was good. We got to see the Rfamily for a few minutes. They wanted to see me before I go home. (Alma 42:15)
We had a busy Friday. We finished my invitations. And we taught P. P thanked me for teaching him. For helping him. It was very touching. We taught M and then the U’s. That was really good. Sister H came to the U’s. We think she'll be a good fellowship for F. We ate dinner at Subway with the R. That was fun. It brought back so many memories. We taught I who is super sweet. He has so many questions and so many worries. He's eight. We stopped by the L family. That was fun. (Alma 42:45)
We got my invitations sent out on Saturday. We saw the F after forever and then Sister O helped us put my invitations together. The H’ fed us and we played our memory game with them! It was cool. (Alma 45:20-21)
Sunday was a weird day. I was having an awful morning. I don't really know why. We had MCM with no priesthood holder so that was weird. Brother H and Brother B were both out of town. Church itself was good. I loved it. Then we took pictures with Brother H. We ate with the D’s. Then we taught the P’s and then saw J. She's a sweetheart. She has a cute little three year old and I don't know how to spell her name. (Alma 48:11-13)
M and K K took us to lunch today! It was really good. We went to Hanford for a little bit for the Turkey Bowl. Then it took us forever to email because the stake center was locked and our building wouldn't let us in. That's why it is so late. It's been a long day.
I'm sorry this is so short. We don't have a lot of time left and I want to get to everyone who emailed me. I love my mission. Anyone reading this who is thinking about going on a mission, do it. Just go. It's worth everything. It's worth it. It has changed my life. I have learned so much on my mission.
I love you all!
Sister Abigail Reese