June 2, 2014

June 2, 2014 - Last letter Home.

Dear Family,

What a bitter sweet day this is.  My last email home as a full time missionary, and my last day here in Hanford.  At 7:30am tomorrow I leave for Fresno to spend the day there with President and Sister Gelwix and all other departing missionaries.  And the next, I will spend the morning at the airport waiting for the new missionaries to arrive and welcome them as we wait for our flights out.  At 3:09 my plane will land and I will come down the stairs and be welcomed by my loved ones.  The next chapter to my story will begin.

I have come to realize that my mission really has been a life changing thing.  I have been doing a lot of reflecting and pondering about the things that I have learned these past 18 months.  I have taken it all for granted and have over looked my potential.  However, I have been so touched as I've said my goodbyes and seen these people tell me the impact I have made in their lives.  It always feels good to hear and see your worth in life.  I didn't think I made much of a difference here on my mission in being shy and a little more reserved then most here, but I was really touched with the members I said farewell to yesterday.  One family is the Oberst's.  They love having the missionaries over and missionaries love them.  So I figured I was just another one of them to come through their house.  She wrote in my journal saying: "Now there are a few sisters who have served in our ward that I have particularly enjoyed - and I wanted to let you know that you are one of them.  Why?  Because you are not shy, yet your not in people's faces either.  You laugh when you think something is truly funny and not just because others are laughing.  You are quiet and ponder - but not shy..."  Another special family to me, the Valdez's, said: "Seeing you go is like having to say goodbye to a daughter or a granddaughter.  You will be sorely missed."  Brother Valdez shook my hand as tears ran down his face as he bore his testimony of this Gospel to me and told me never to let it out of my sight.  Hold to it and never forget God's love for us.  During Sacrament, Andrea Faldon and Thomas Clelland (both recent converts) went up and bore their testimonies of this Gospel.  I just smiled as I looked at them knowing less than a year ago they were lost and yet now they are here, in the safe arms of our Savior Jesus Christ.  I'm amazed at the power they have and love for this gospel.  We saw Jessica this week and I wanted to cry in hearing how her family and friends have turned against her and are harassing her for joining this church.  To hear her share her beliefs to me and Sister Bee and how she is hurt by what they all are doing to her and yet in knowing she made the right choice only makes me appreciate what I have.  I am not being persecuted and rejected because of the choices I made or make.  Thank you mom and dad for loving me and respecting my choices regardless if you know if they are good choices or bad for me.  I have learned SO much from Jessica about endurance and staying strong in what you know to be true.  She is that light on a hill that will never be put out.  She is a great example.  

I wish I could explain all in detail the things that have happened these past 18 months.  I'm not good at story telling. (I've been figuring that out as people ask me what has been the greatest moment on my mission, spiritual, etc.)  I never know what to say.  Yet I know in my heart the great impact it has had on me and will continue to have on me as I reflect more and more on these things.  It's an awful feeling to know you are leaving this wonderful atmosphere to go back to the "natural world".  I never recognized the spirit we as missionaries have or the lifestyle we live by.  It just becomes natural after awhile.  But now, I know it's not going to be like that.  And with that, I am sad.  We met a previous Elder that served here about 10 years ago the other Sunday. He told us the biggest challenge in going home is trying to make sure you don't go back to who you were before the mission.  God sent you on a mission to make you into the person he wants you to be.  So now you have to go back to the world you were in previously with the skills and knowledge you now have and try to make things work in moving forward, not backwards.  That is the biggest challenge.

I have a strong love for this gospel now more then ever.  I'm still learning each and everyday and am not perfect.  I haven't had much experiences of powerful miracles, yet I've seen the Lord's hands in the work here in Fresno by small and simple things.  My biggest growth has been in myself.  I know God needed me to experience these things in order for me to be a good daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, etc.  There are many things I wish didn't happen while I was out, losing Grandma Carter, birth of nephews, illnesses, weddings, moving, etc.  It's hard being away for all of those things and not being there with your loved ones at that time to help out.  I am grateful I stuck it out though and I can now say "I did it!"  I really did it!  All these years of imagining what a mission would be like for me is at an end.  It was not what I thought it would be like.  I would not trade or change it for anything though.  I've come to love a quote that Amanda sent me a few months ago that I have lived by to help me through my weaknesses.

"I may not be who I ought to be.  I know I'm not all that I want to be.  But I've come a long way from who I use to be.  And I won't give up on becoming what I know I can be." 

I know I'm not who I ought to be.  We all have such greater potential then we give ourselves.  We doubt ourselves and tear us apart.  We've gone a long ways though in our lives and as long as we learn from the past in making our future better, then God is happy.  I had my final interview on Saturday.  I asked President how I can know if I did do a good job and believe it when I'm always hard on myself.  He told me "I always tell my players at the end of the game to look at the final score, not the halftime."  Yes I will look back and critic my journey.  That's natural.  But to know that I never gave up and stayed strong, I won right there!  Take that win and be proud of what you accomplished.  To make the next game an even greater win, take those mistakes from halftime you want to improve on and improve.

Well, I don't have much time left.  I want you all to truly know the appreciation I have for each and every one of you in all the help you've given me and support.  Thank you for your testimonies to me and the spirit I've felt from you.  I'm excited to see you all on Wednesday at 3:09!  So until then, God be with you till we meet again! :)

- Hermana Arianne Renee Sorensen

May 26, 2014

My goodness I can't believe I can now say I will be seeing you all NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!!  Hope you're ready for me.  Ha ha.. I don't think there is really anything to get ready.  And to invite.....Kimberly can just post it on facebook to tell my friends.   Thanks!

Well this week has been good but kind of stressful.  Just one of those weeks you want to push hard yet everything else is pushing against you.  A lot of our appointments fell through.  One that bugged me was with one of our members.  We keep planning a time to come over and everytime we are on our way, she cancels on us.  She set up a time this past week saying that day is the best.  Well.... she called and said we can't come over any more because it's the Dancing with the Stars finale.  Sister Bee and I were so annoyed.  What an excuse.  Someone needs to write a book of all the dumb excuses you hear as missionaries or just members in general.  My goodness.  I hope she enjoyed the show more than she would have enjoyed her time with us.  Anyway..

Had my last Zone Conference this week too.  It was what I needed to hear.  I've been beating myself up lately (I guess not lately, I always do, but more so this week then others) on what kind of missionary I've been.  I feel very ashamed I didn't give it my all.  President Gelwix's nephew came and spoke to us.  He was just released from his mission 2 weeks ago.  He was one of the missionaries serving in Ukraine that was released early.  We all had a long talk about how you can't expect to give it your all later on in your mission, but that everyday needs to be your all because you never know when it really will be your last day.  He says he has no regrets and is glad he feels that.  I know I've done a good job even though I know I could have done better.  It's hard not to have regrets in certain aspects.  I hope when I get back and look through journals and pictures, that I will feel more of the effect that I truly made here.  I know you hear about them all the time, but I am grateful for the Horan family in helping me see what impact I have had in their family.  Jim is the sweetest guy ever and has really been a blessing in my life to see just how dumb I am to beat myself up all the time.  I can't wait for you all to meet them along with all the other wonderful families I have met throughout my mission.  At the conference though, as I gave my farewell testimony, I got up there and had to go first.  I had tried thinking of what to say for the past couple days but had nothing.  As I went up, words were literally coming out of my mouth. I know you hear that all the time, but my brain and mouth were not connected at all and it was crazy that I could actually tell.  In my head I was thinking "what am I saying?", as I just am rambling on.  I sat down and had no idea what I just said.  Everyone said they liked it, so I guess that's a good sign.  Ha ha..  Never had that before until then.  

I know I still have one more emailing day, but I just want all of you to know just how truly grateful I am to each and every one of you in all that you have physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and socially done for me.  I honestly can say I would not have been able to stay out here had it not been for all the support, love, and encouragement I received from ALL of you.  I am so glad I made this choice to serve a mission.  I wish more people could experience the things you experience on a mission.  I guess that's why we all just need to go on one!  :)  I don't even know how to explain the things I've witnessed or felt.  But I know what I know to be true.  I love this gospel so very much.  It really can bring us such happiness if we do what we are asked to do.  I have seen how it's not "cool" to do the things that are required and asked of us, yet have seen an even greater witness to the blessings and power that comes from doing those things that are required and asked of us.  I have a greater understanding of Gods love for each of us.  He literally is our father in heaven, and just like our fathers here on earth, He wants what is best for us and knows exactly what we need in life to help us be successful.  I hope you all take a moment and ponder about the things that you know to be true.  I know there will come a stronger knowledge to you that those things are true.  Thank you for sharing this year and a half with me and learning and growing with me.  I hope we all can continue to have missionary opportunities and experience the joy of this Gospel.

This week will be weird as I start saying goodbye to those families and friends here in Hanford.  I'm ready to come home and see you all!  It's been a long year and a half but also very fast.  I was telling Sister Bee the other day about my 1st day in arriving at the MTC.  I had to stop myself from crying all over again.  What emotions and feelings that day brought.  Now I'm at the end and have made it through.  What a journey! :)  

I love you all and hope this week is a good one for you and that you enjoy this last week using my bedroom, clothes, furniture, movies, etc. without me caring.  Ha ha jk.  Until next Monday!  Take care!!!!!
- Hermana Sorensen