Friday, August 26, 2016

3201 + Me

Matthew. Cory. Travis. Dennis. 
Three-ish years ago we got really tight. This year they surprised me at my mission homecoming!

2014. Building a HUGE snowman! :) 

I literally could not have asked for ANYTHING greater! It was an incredible surprise and I loved being reunited with these guys! :) 

We spent the night reminiscing of 2014 and laughing our butts off at all of the funny pictures I took. 

 Saturday the boys went to the beach while I visited my grandma Hannah. We ate lunch at Gina's in Laguna. So delicious! We decided to go to the fair that evening! IT WAS A BLAST! It took forever to get in, but once we were in we went wild on some crazy rides. The guys realized they are getting a little old for these types of rides!

To call it a night we finished up at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles! It was SO GOOD! Totally hit the spot after a good long day! :)
after at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles!

Sunday concluded the awesome weekend when I spoke in church about my mission. The main event they came for, haha!
Sunday at my homecoming talk. 

I love these guys so much! :) I am so grateful for their friendship and the ability they have to help me adjust back to civilian life! 


Welcome Home!

I cannot believe how fast the time has FLOWN. Literally it feels like I blinked and I am back. did Kentucky even happen? Was a I really a full time missionary?

Coming home was a unique experience for me. I felt so ready, but not ready at all. I was scared. Terrified. I didn't know if I was ready to come back to the rest of the world.  I didn't know if I knew how to function as a regular human again. I was worried my family would still view me as Maddy from 18 months ago. I CHANGED and I changed a lot. Would they recognize that? Would they accept that? 

Amidst all of this, Sister Brough kept reminding me "you are going home to your family who LOVES YOU!" I didn't understand how much those words would mean until the day I got off the airplane and walked down the stairs to my family who DID LOVE ME and was SO EXCITED to have me home! Not only did they love me and accept me for who I had become, but they too had changed and progressed in the 18 months I had been out serving. 

Coming home was not nearly as scary as I had worked it up to be in my head. I'm home. I am a returned missionary. Now what? APPLY WHAT I HAVE LEARNED.

That is the hard part. No routine. No set schedule. I hate summer. 
I need a routine. I need a schedule. 

The group returning home. I never thought this day would come! Bittersweet!

The night before we boarded the plane and headed our separate ways we stayed in the mission home. We spent the afternoon at the temple, which was so needed. It had been 18 months for me. We all ate dinner together. WE HAD A BLAST. We stayed up literally all night. I think I got maybe 45 minutes of sleep. We hung out with the elders and talked as if we were finishing our senior year of high school and graduating. It was surreal. I hadn't stayed up that late in a LONG time. It was so fun. We goofed off and laughed at iPad videos for hours. I am going to miss this so much. I am coming home with a good group of elders and sisters.

The FIVE missionaries who served in Richmond going home with me.
Me, Elder Viehweg, Elder Waite, Elder Jacobson, Elder Money
Bryner Family: the most amazing family ever! 

Sister Katelyn Rickords and Me (she was my MTC companion)

IT was so humid at the temple. President Brough said "wow this camera is so foggy!! No one knew what he meant until I looked at the picture. This is what we call our celestial glow. Thank you humidity. 

Somewhat better

I boarded the plane the next day. It still didn't feel real. I felt like I was getting a little vacation time from missionary work to see my family and then I would be back in a week. I was able to sit next to Elder Blake and Hermana Little on the first flight. Then when we all had to depart for our second flight, it finally hit me. I was done. This part of my life is over. It has been absolutely incredible and taught me a lot, but now it is time to see if what I taught I internalized. I facetimed my parents and dennis in between my flights and that was so incredible. I needed it. The second flight was so long. SO SO LONG. I thought it would never end. It was an emotional roller coaster. I thought I had all of my tears out before I got to my family, but that didn't happen. haha! One minute I was so happy and excited and looking forward to the future and then next I was super sad and sobbing because I would no longer be Sister Hannah. It was a hard flight. I landed 15 minutes early too. I had 15 minutes to compose myself. I went to the bathroom and pulled up my big girl panties, emailed my dad to make sure they were THERE and then slapped a smile on my face and tried to hide my fear.

Then came the moment I was reunited with my family. IT WAS GLORIOUS. The tears came flooding back. Mom ran up the stairs to come and grab me. She got the first hug. Jeffrey and Daniel dog piled in after that and then Dad got his hug! My family DOES LOVE ME! As if I ever doubted that. But sister Brough's words were true and still are true. I came home to a family that loves me!

I love my momma! 

I love my daddy! 

Jeffrey Facetiming Dennis into the welcome home at the airport!

I love them with all my heart!

Airport Reunion; CHECK

Of course, my first meal home was IN N OUT! I only waited 18 months for this! :) It was just as delicious as I remember! 

On my way home from In N Out I was released as a full time missionary. It was so bittersweet. I felt a literal mantle be lifted off of my shoulders. It was sad. It was hard. I want that mantle back, but I know that it was necessary and that it had to happen. I am excited to be home and see who I am now after all of the amazing lessons I learned in Kentucky! 

We (Paige Sanford, Katelyn Jones and I) hopped in the car and were off to run some errands and cruise! I guess I adjusted well! I jumped right back into stella as if I had never been gone. I do not miss you TIWI! 

Later that night, Dennis came home from work! He was at the house when the girls and I rolled up. This was a sweet part of my night! :) He greeted me with roses and the best Dennis hug I could have asked for. I love this man a lot! 

Comp study lives on with sis jones! :) 
One of the best parts about being home was that 1. I got to see Katelyn Jones because she flew down to surprise me at my homecoming and 2. LESLIE GOYZUETA! We are all RM's now and it honestly felt like I had two companions. We were together all the time and just called each other sister or hermana. hahaha. God is so good! :)

San Diego temple! 

I am so eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission and be Sister Hannah! I know every second was worth it! I am grateful for the experience of serving and look forward to see what the future holds! :)


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fwd: The Atonement

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: jen blackwell
Date: Sun, Aug 7, 2016 at 6:45 AM
Subject: The Atonement

My dear friends,
A little over a year ago I was sustained as the Stake Primary President. It was, as is often the case, a calling I never anticipated and it stretches me in ways that I feel not so comfortable. ( a few of you may understand that feeling, eh!) while I am lacking in many areas of my calling- at least that's how I feel most of the time- when I asked the Lord "why me?" I received a very clear impression. My calling had to do with two areas of focus- inclusion for our special needs children and preparing for future service opportunities with an emphasis on missions. This coming Saturday is an activity that I had an immediate vision of at that time...we are having a morning with the missionaries, a mini MTC for all the senior primary children in the stake. The children will learn about dress and grooming, modesty, recognizing the spirit, health and nutrition and relationships. The missionaries in our zone will be the teachers and we even have our wonderful mission president and his awesome companion speaking and attending! Your prayers for the success of this activity would be appreciated.
As I visited with our zone leaders, I felt so strongly that the two areas of focus for this morning with the missionaries should be personal worthiness/preparation and a desire to serve...and that desire should be across a lifetime, at all time, in all things, in all places.
As I've been pondering this more, I had another thought and it's one I felt to share. These children come from all sorts of backgrounds, situations, abilities...just like all of you. And all of the people you meet each day. Some will come from not so supportive homes. But they all can make progress and serve. 
I thought of the people you meet and teach, how big of changes some must make. I marvel at the firesides at the testimonies. Such incredible life changes. Part of the reason they are able to make those changes is because they feel your belief in them and through that they are able to feel our Savior's love and access His Atonement in their lives. You teach them to 'own' the good part. That they are not chained to previous mistakes or challenges. You teach them to be true to themselves, and that they can be their best self. I am praying for those of you serving in my stake to help the young ones you meet this Saturday to find confidence in their best self and how to access the Atonement for all the mistakes we ALL make along the way.
I have confidence in each of you reading this that you strive to help others access and utilize the Atonement. That you believe they can be their best self and progress towards exaltation. That they are not chained to their pasts.
But what about you? 
Do you teach others to have confidence and that the Lord loves them, while not fully accessing that in your own lives? The most powerful missionaries I know are ones who humbly know in their hearts they are loved...and forgiven. Their personalities vary from shy, quiet souls to the ringleaders with boisterous laughs. That part doesn't matter. What matters is the heart. What matters is owning the Touch of the Master's Hand in your life. Not just teaching others to recognize and accept it, but living it in a way that others feel it by your actions, along with hearing your words. WE are the ones who limit ourselves when we label ourselves. You work hard to help investigators change their personal perspective, I invite you to look at your own self talk and raise your game. At dinner last night, we ended up in a conversation about how we all have different interests, abilities, talents and one elder quickly shared about how impressed he was by his new companions talent...which led to an impromptu musical number on our very less than in tune piano. I was impressed with both these young men during that interaction. One for sharing his talent, the other for showing Christlike love - the look on his face while his companion played was inspiring. 
We also talked about some Mormon Messages when they shared a spiritual message before they left, and "the refiner's Fire" came up. My closing thought to you is to look inside yourself. Own the beauty of how the refiner is working in your life and as you do, I promise other's will see it...and through you, will see Him.
Have faith, have hope, live like His Son. Help others on their way.
Much love and prayers,