Wow, this week has really been all over the place. I hope this email can do it justice :)
First of all, thank you so much for all the birthday wishes/packages/letters/
strange songs *cough* RACHEL! *cough*! My birthday was AMAZING and I loved every minute of it! I really wasn't expecting a whole lot other than getting 2 LMPs (Lessons with a member present) which was pretty exciting in and of itself, but everything thinking about me on my birthday was way too fun and my ego was out of control, so that was great! :)
I had letters coming out of my ears I had so many! I don't think you ever feel quite so loved than you do when you go to Kirtland and find your mailbox overflowing with notes of recognition that people remembered your birthday. Even some of the senior couples I don't know well yet loaded me up with cards, candy, homemade chocolates, and snacks to last me through my mission!
Also for my birthday it was the most gorgeous day I could have asked for! The weather has been amazing the entire time I have been here, but yesterday was like the perfect spring day! AND we got to take a little detour in returning to our area. We had an appointment that was supposed to be in Hiram, but then it moved out to Windham (which is about half an hour away from where we live in Aurora- the other side of our area) and we got to go through Amish country! (it was a city called Parkman, which is also in our area, but we never get to that part because our miles are really limited, it is the farthest away from us and there are no members who live out there) The Amish are amazing and it was so fun to see their little horse and buggies as well as them going on picnics with their family. I want to learn more about their culture. It would be so neat to live away from the distractions of technology. They are so hardworking!
The rest of my birthday was spent teaching investigators about the gospel, helping some overcome smoking and others about the wonderful foundation the gospel brings. I love how whenever we bear testimony of something, our testimony grows stronger. I was really feeling it yesterday as I promised my investigator as she reads the Book of Mormon to overcome smoking, the spirit will come into her life and the Book of Mormon will apply directly to her life and can help her find ways to solve her specific personal problems. It is so true! The Book of Mormon is so powerful! It amazes me the more I study from it and hear the insights of those around me.
Sister Hatch has been such a fun companion! I love having her around, learning from her and watching others learn from her. She has such a cute little smile and goofy little courtesy laugh (she would die if she knew I told you about her courtesy laugh :) ) She has learned so much from her mission, and I love how natural it is to get along with her. She has definitely been a blessing recently, because I have felt so scattered and I have forgotten so many things at home or in random places (hard to believe, I know!). Her organization and knowledge have DEFINITELY been a blessing!
Oh oh, I almost forgot to tell you one of our awesome missionary experiences this week! So, we are meeting with an investigator (her name is Audrie, and she is the cousin to the investigator we have who is going to be baptized on Sunday). She has a 7 month old girl (cutest, best little baby! She never cries!) and her boyfriend is a less active member of the chruch who was baptized 7 years ago. She drinks coffee and smokes, but she is SO excited to have her own Book of Mormon, and her excitement is so addicting! As soon as we come in, she grabs her Book of Mormon and wants to read with us and learn more about the gospel. On our second lesson, we asked her if she wanted to be baptized, and she said, "Of course!" and then proceeded to say all of her problems that she wanted to give up (smoking, coffee, marry her boyfriend, etc) She said she is tired of feeling the way she does, she has felt a spiritual void, and reading the Book of Mormon, going to church and having us around has helped so much. We told her a little about the Word of Wisdom and why we have it, and she said, "Well, then I need to throw away my cigarettes, don't I?" Sister Hatch and looked at each other and said, "...yeah, that would be good" So she runs in the kitchen, grabs her new carton of cigarettes, and slam dunks them in the garbage! She sits there looking at them in the garbage for a minute, and then looks up at us and says, "Should I break them so I can't get them back out of the garbage?" Sister Hatch and I sit in this awed silence until I shout out, "Yeah!" So she grabs them out of the garbage and starts massacreing those suckers by the handfull! She disgustedly throws them back in the trash, slaps on a nicotine patch and said, "Ok, what's next?" It was the coolest thing EVER! She has such a desire to be better! She wants to do it for her daughter, and we are trying to help her see that this is something that will really help her feel less lonely, sad and confused. It is amazing how the gospel can change anyone's life for the better, and I love having the blessing of agency and the light of Christ/the Holy Ghost to direct us to Him. You can tell some people recognize right from the start that this is Christ's church because of how they feel. They recognize the message as something familiar to them. We really did live with Heavenly Father before we came here, we really did!
OK, now for Grandpa. It was really a shock to hear that he is now gone. It completely shocked me. I didn't realize how downhill he has been going. During our night drives back home after a busy day when my mind would slow down I would remember that he had died and he was no longer around. And at night. I have been very thankful for the busy schedule I have so there really hasn't been time to dwell on it too long. But the neat thing is that I think I am finally understanding something I heard from Grandma's funeral. Remember when the bishop said that we would be sad that Grandma was gone, but in time these things would become sweet to us? Did I talk to you about how much that really resonated with me? I don't remember if I did or not. But that is something that I was kind of confused about. I can see how over time a death can be something you can cope with, or it is something you can deal with logically because it is part of God's Plan and you know they are OK, but to have it become sweet? Are you serious? How can it ever be sweet?
I have been thinking about this SO much for the last few months. I thought it had been the bishop's own words, but then I found out somehow that he had been quoting scripture. It is something I have prayed about A LOT to have understanding. And I feel like I was beginning to understand it by the time I got my call and left on my mission. But having Grandpa die on Tuesday has brought it all fresh to my mind, and I think I understand it even better now. I had the blessing of teaching the Plan of Salvation for the first time on Tuesday night TWICE before I heard on P-day that Grandpa had died. As I taught I felt an overwhelming peace, and the feeling that Heavenly Father is aware of us and loves us all very much. As I have been thinking about Grandpa this week, I started off being sad, but it has turned into an overwhelming feeling of joy and excitement! Normally when someone dies I try to remember that I am just being selfishly sad, and that I need to remember that they are happy. But this has been something beyond logically making sense of death. It has been something that I have come to see as the sweetness the bishop was talking about. I don't know how I have been so blessed to feel this way, but it has been a miraculous feeling, and I am so grateful to have had this experience. I just hope they believe in video cameras in the spirit world, because I want to see Grandma and Grandpa's reunion once he got there! I am sure they were estatic! I am so priviliged to be serving a mission at the same time as my wonderful grandparents! They were an incredible example of love to me. I have felt at times that grandma has been with me on my mission, and I hope I have the blessing of feeling grandpa as well. Selfish, I know :) Also, I can't help but feel that I have been blessed so much at this time in my life to be serving a mission, particularly here in Kirtland. How many other missions would I have the blessing of being surrounded by grandparent lovin'? One of the senior missionaries, Elder Tex Gifford, reminds me so much of Grandpa! I have had the opportunity to get closer to him because the Giffords serve in the Johnson Farm. Also, I can't tell you how much I LOVE Sister Symmons, Sister Kloepfer, Sister and Sister Steele! I don't know how I feel so close to them so quickly, but I feel Heavenly Father's hand has been a significant part of my life lately. He is watching me so closely and loving me so much it is almost tangible. What a blessing it is to know how much He loves us!!!
I hope everyone is doing well! I wish I could be there to hug you all and to talk about Grandpa together. You are all so precious to me. I hope you know that.
Sister Kimber Mahrt
P.S. None of you better start smoking, doing drugs, or breaking the law of chasitity because it is a PAIN to overcome! Don't even think about it!