Tuesday, December 10, 2013


For 9 December 2013

Dear everybody,

Christmas in Florida

First off to answer the question, which I've gotten from several of you, of what Christmas is like in Florida: hot! There have only been a few days when the high was lower than 80, and the low is usually around 70. Lots of people have lights and inflatable santas and lit-up reindeer in their yards, but other than that it doesn't really feel like Christmas time! That's ok - I'm happy with 70+ degree weather :)

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Christmas at home

It sounds like the Christmas activities certainly haven't decreased in the Houghton household, regardless of how many children have left home! I hope the concerts all go swimmingly! Also, I hope some of those caramels that were not destroyed in the search-and-devour mission by Tess and Levi will be in a box to Florida?

As for having the missionaries over for Christmas - you're the best! I agree with Elder Houghton, that it's super-awkward when you're not sure where you're going or what you're doing. I think the best gift you could give them would be to come out teaching or finding with them after you're done at home. Otherwise, hmm... studytime snack foods are fun and generic, but I don't really know the Elders there so I would say that unless you think of something specific a gift card to Walmart (so they're not in the awkward situation of accepting money) would make them happy, and they can take it from there!

I suspect that if I'm still here in Hialeah it will be over to the Villetas to skype, but we shall see! We should get transfer news by next Monday, and I will let you know if I go or stay on Tuesday.

This week I've been thinking a lot about gratitude - the attribute and the actions and the attitude. As I've worked to "live with gratitude ever in [my] heart," I've seen changes in myself, and I've really felt that I've been able to "touch heaven" in a significant way. (See "The Divine Gift of Gratitude" by President Monson.)

We had arranged to leave a member blessing with a recent convert of about 9 months. M is an older lady who is tremendously converted to the gospel - she even studies Preach my Gospel! We went to leave the blessing and asked what she would like us to include. She answered that we should pray for her health, because she'd recently been diagnosed with pervasive cancer. She told us everything very calmly, but started crying after we had been talking for a few minutes. I started to say something comforting but she cut me off to tell us that she wasn't crying because she was sick or sad. She was crying because she was so grateful that we loved her enough to come over and pray for her. She hadn't cried since she was diagnosed. Afterwards she expressed to us her gratitude that Heavenly Father had opened doors for her to get treatment that should not have been possible. 

I learned from her that more important than being thankful that we've been given something is being grateful for the one who is giving it to us. There is never a day that goes by when our Heavenly Father does not love us, and everything in our lives, whether it be an obvious blessing, a future blessing, or a blessing in disguise (trial), was given to us because He loves us. All things, if we accept them with hearts full of gratitude, will work together for our good, as we turn to the Savior and accept God's will in our lives. (Also please remember that I am ever grateful for each one of you!)

Another realization about creating success as a missionary. All of my mission I have worked hard to be my best, but during some of the hard times I haven't been entirely accountable for my lack of results. I've thought of success in missionary work as simply coming from God as a result of our efforts and His will - which it does, but God will never withhold results without a purpose. And as I am willing to learn and improve during the hard times, rather than simply enduring, I will be a better instrument in God's hands. In the only words of the "Creating Success" talk that I remember, "only dull missionaries have dull months," and I'm done being a dull missionary!

We met a guy yesterday who used to be super-involved in his church but had stopped going. He was really interested in talking with us, the first Mormons he had ever met. As we talked I realized just how crucial the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. There is so much confusion in the world! He kept on asking us why we needed another Testament of Jesus Christ when we already had the Bible. But in all his study of the Old and New Testaments, the 'original' Torah, and different translations, he somehow didn't learn the main, key point: that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and without him all men are hardened and fallen and lost. He didn't understand that grace, faith, and works are all necessary in achieving salvation. He didn't know that Jesus Christ wasn't just a great example but our Redeemer. He didn't know that man cannot reach heaven by himself, and MUST have the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and have help to access it through revelation and God's power and authority. As Elder Holland said in the April General Conference, "In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith."  I am so grateful that I know and am able to exercise my faith to grow in light and truth.

Out of time, but I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

Merry Christmas!!

Hermana Houghton

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