Monday, December 30, 2013

"As the Good Book Says"--Tevye :)

To Friends, Family, and Anyone Else Involved ;)
This past week has certainly been a memorable one :) My first Christmas as a missionary shall not be one easily forgotten! On December 24, as I was on splits with another elder looking for a former investigator's house we were attacked by the winds and rains of what felt like a miniature hurricane. In all actuality we're just in the heart of rainy season here in Malaysia, but sometimes it feels a little like...well, a hurricane. :) ;) We were soaked from head to foot and I got some really nice foot fungus because of it. Yummy ;)
December 25th--what a day! Woke up and got to give my family a call! It was so wonderful to hear their voices again :) Of all the emails and letters that were sent, whether to me personally or to a collective group of missionaries, the best present of all was being able to talk to home again :) Following that we were going to go out and bike....but my back tire decided to be flat. Super kool ;)
This past week has flown by and another one is coming up. Here we go 2014!!! I'll be a missionary for this ENTIRE upcoming year! Totes cray-cray ;) As we all look forward to a new year full of new beginnings and new hopes and dreams, I'd like to share a quick thought or two. In 1 Nephi 10:18, we read that the Lord "is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever". He doesn't change. He's always going to help us. He's always going to help correct and chasten us till we are refined enough for His presence (Sidenote: One of my favorite Chinese idioms (I dunno the characters, so I'll just do the pinyin...sorry about that): zhen jin bu pa huo lian--"True gold doesn't fear the fire's refining). He will never stop being there for us. He will never stop living for us. He will never stop atoning for us till we are as He is.
In conjunction with that, here's something that I found really cool in my Personal Study today. I was in 1 Nephi 11, where Nephi, a young boy who will soon become a prophet and leader for his people, is having an experience, a revelatory vision per se, with the Holy Spirit of God. In it the Spirit shows Nephi an image of the tree of life and of Mary, the mother of Christ, and then asks, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?"
Nephi answers honestly: "I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." In nowadays English: I know that God loves us, but I don't understand everything you've just shown me.
The Spirit then proceeds to show Nephi images of the tree of life, the fountains of living waters, the Savior's birth and ministry, angelic visitations, the Crucifixion, and the apostolic ministry following the Savior's Death and Resurrection. He shows Nephi all of these various images of 'the condescension of God'. What does that even mean? Well, 'condescension' essentially means going from some place high and, of one's own free will, traveling to a lower plane of existence or thought. The condescension of God is the act of the Savior, even Jesus Christ, leaving the celestial courts of our Heavenly Father to come to this earth and atone for us. All of the images that the Spirit showed to Nephi in some way, shape, or form, acknowledged and testified of the condescension of God.
I decided, as I was reading this today, to try and do what Nephi would do in this situation: that is, liken the scriptures unto myself (2 Nephi 6:5). 
How have I seen the condescension of God in my life? Well, He has come down and died for me; He's atoned for my sins. He has healed me from spiritual and emotional weaknesses and trials and afflictions.
In the scriptures it says: "I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men" (1 Nephi 11:24). Christ has healed me, He has atoned for me, and He has 'gone forth' with me--He has been my Friend and my Ally in all of my troubles and afflictions. He has become the Best Friend I've needed in the darkest days of my life. He has become the Redeemer who not only commands winds and waves, who not only forgives sins, but who also sits beside me and listens as I pour out the sorrows of my heart. He's the Savior who not only died on a cross, but who sat beside me as I wept over the death of loved ones and consoled me. He it is who, along with those past loved ones, has lifted me up and given me strength to face it all--life, the universe, and everything. I have felt His love, I have sought His grace, I have been comforted by His Spirit, I have experienced the peace He is Prince of.
This New Year, let Him do that for you :) The upcoming weeks bring with them memories of life's hardest trials for me, but I know that "that soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, [He] will not, [He] cannot desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, [He]'ll never, no never, no never forsake" :) How has the condescension of God strengthened you this past year? How will it strengthen you this upcoming year? Either way, I wish you all the Happiest of New Years possible!
I love you all! Till next we chat,
Mai Zhanglao :)

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