Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December 23, 2014 ~ Week 44

Hello family & friends
and a Merry Christmas to all!!

This week was such a fantastic week.  We have been trying every home that has Christmas lights up and sharing the gospel with them.  People over here really respond well to the 'He Is the Gift' initiative.  We are so blessed to be able to use it to introduce the Restoration to people.

This week started off with a tradeoff that I went on with my Sister Training Leader who is serving over in Jullington Creek. I went over there for a day and had a wonderful dinner with the Bishop's family as well as we found three families to teach the gospel to. It really was a miracle night down in Jullington Creek, there are more non-receptive people there but there are also many people who are very ready to listen to the gospel.  We had so much fun that day.
In addition, we had our annual mission Christmas devotional up in Jacksonville so we had a very nice long drive up and back. Each Zone did a skit.  Our Zone did a 'Mock Zone Meeting'.  We hold zone meetings every month where we give trainings to one another and set goals.  My 'training' was with a Sister and we did ballet.  It was so very fun!   We had such a wonderful feast and then following, had a devotional.  During the Christmas devotional, there were 
readings from Luke 2, 1 Nephi 11, etc. along with special musical numbers.  The Spirit was very powerful there.  I was caught in a tender moment as I was sitting there pondering on the words that were spoken.  I had been feeling a little sad because I would be missing my family's Christmas tradition for the first time ever that has been held for years. I realized that this was my family's tradition. Exactly like it.  

We have so much fun but we also have a time to reflect and build our testimonies of Jesus Christ together.  This year it was with my mission family.

(I had also received the most special letters of my mission from my parents.  I cried.  I wanted to comment about them on our phone call, but here is fine too :) I loved them.  Every word that was said meant so much to me.  Dad your Christmas journal entries made me cry, that was so special)
The St. Augustine Ward also had such a beautiful Christmas devotional during Sacrament meeting.  I love the gospel and I love my Savior.  He is the greatest gift that I could have---It will never be stolen or taken away from me, It will never brake, It will never wear away...and the same is for you.  I hope that all of you recognize how special you are to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Think and ponder on the
Savior's birth these next few days and you will truly feel a special Spirit. 

I wrote down many references to prophesies of the Jesus' birth:

Genesis 3:15, Numbers 24:17, Psalm 24:10, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, 2 Nephi 17:14, Isaiah 9:6, 2 Nephi 19:6, 
Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6, Matthew 1:21, Luke 1-2, John 1:45, John 6:14, John 7:42, Acts 3:24, 1 Nephi 11:18, 
2 Nephi 25:19, Mosiah 3:8, Mosiah 13:33, Alma 7:10-15, Helaman 5:9, Helaman 8:22, Helaman 14:2, 3 Nephi 9:16

"Give' said the little stream"Love, Sister McCook

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 15, 2014 ~ Pictures

As you can tell, there is a snake around Sister Dixon's neck. That is
Brice's snake, 'rope'. He loves that pet, he got it for Christmas. It
goes with him everywhere.

I will find this when I go home so I can have it! Angel Moroni is my favorite :)

It was a member baptism, but the family asked Sister Dixon and I to
teach little Roselina the missionary lessons :) she is a very bright
young lady and she even played the piano at her own baptism!

December 15, 2014 ~ Week 43

Hello family & friends!

I wanted to share with you what I shared with the St. Augustine Ward during sacrament meeting yesterday, as Sister Dixon and I were assigned to give talks. This is just my outline but I thought you would all enjoy it!

Share- a part or portion of a larger amount that is divided among a number of people, or to which a number of people contribute; an instance of posting or reposting something on a social media website or application
Sharing involves two or more subjects, it isn't an individual ordeal, but rather one giving to another. As we are focusing on giving this Christmas season, there is a gift that we can give that doesn't require money, high standing, prosperity, wealth. It's a gift that's free: sharing our love and testimonies of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the greatest, most rich gift that surpasses any other gift with a dollar sign.

"As we share the gift, we follow in the Master's footsteps, who invited all to hear His message. May we find greater holiness in our own lives and share the gift with others this Christmas season." -Elder Russell M. Nelson

Alma 13:24 "For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory."

What better way to Share the Gift, than to share experiences with sharing the gift!
Experiences---people that we have found, using 'He is the gift'
-Officer Ken Carver-
One of my favorite experiences with inviting others to view He Is the Gift was when Sister Dixon and I were walking down Richie St. in the southern most part of the St. Augustine Ward area, on Friday late afternoon. We saw a police car up ahead at the end of the street and it looked like the cop was on duty doing some serious work. As we got up closer, I turned to Sister Dixon and said, 'Are we allowed to share the gospel with cops on duty?' We really didn't know, so what did we do? We walked right up to that cop and talked to him about what 'He Is the Gift' is all about and invited him to watch it. He asked for the pass along card since he couldn't watch it right then and there and wrote our names down. Later that evening when we were driving home, to our surprise Officer Ken texted us and told us how much he enjoyed the video and that he is going to share it with others. He said that every person needed to view this video. Although he did not accept to listen to the message of the Restoration, the Spirit touched His heart in a way that he will not forget in this Christmas season.
-Jennifer & Sean family-
Another favorite experience of mine comes from Saturday. We were driving down SR-16 on our way to a member's home, and while we got in the turning lane, we saw a cute little mom walking with her three kids on the sidewalk. I was debating on whether to keep driving on to the destination, but then thought, No! This is a family. We need to talk to the them. After turning, we pulled off the side of the road into the grass, got out and ran/walked really fast until we caught up with this family to share the video with the children. They accepted to hear more about Restoration this upcoming week.

The best part about all of this is that you can have fun with Sharing the Gift, whether people accept hearing more or not. People love the Savior and it's the Spirit of Christmas that's most important that they feel more than anything. You don't have to talk to complete strangers if you don't feel inspired, but come up with ways to share the gift in a fun way with your friends.

-have a family home evening-pictures.
-if you're sending out Christmas cards, put a 'He Is the Gift' pass along card in with the envelope. If you need pass along cards, 'Ask the Missionaries, they can help you!'
-go Christmas caroling with your family and share the 'He Is the Gift' video.
Prayerfully ponder ways to #ShareTheGift leading up to Christmas.

"I invite each of us to flood the earth with the messages of righteousness and truth found in the He Is The Gift using the hashtag #ShareTheGift, we can sweep the earth with timeless--and timely--messages of the Savior Jesus Christ." -Elder David A. Bednar

#ShareTheGift is the most beautiful transition to inviting others to hear the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I have never seen so many people more open to hearing this message than before  He Is the Gift was released. Like Alma said, Angels are preparing the hearts of children to listen to the restored gospel. People are more turned to their Savior during this time, than any other time in the year besides the Easter season. Let us share the light that we have with others, that they may more fully enjoy the Spirit of Christ in Christmas this season and forever.

I love the Savior so much and His gospel brings me the most exquisite joy. 

Love, Sister McCook

December 9, 2014 ~ Pictures

Jason, one of my recent converts received the Aaronic
priesthood this past Sunday :)

I picked up playing the piano again, I had the chance to play the piano in our district meeting.
Praise to the Man and Come Follow Me :)

There were over 100+ nativities from different Christmas cultures and even a live nativity with donkeys!

St. Augustine lighthouse-luminaries

 It was so foggy that night so the light coming from the lighthouse
made it look as if there was a roof above us. It was neat.

December 9, 2014 ~ Week 42

Hello Family & Friends!!

So I am officially staying in the St. Augustine ward for the next six weeks with Sister Dixon and I am so very excited for that!  We are in such a blessed area and plus I get to still serve with my best friend!

We had some wonderful opportunities this week to serve, serve, and serve more.  It was the best thing ever.  With many teaching opportunities from it as well.  We were doing service for April, who recently just got baptized, and we began teaching her the first lesson again with a member and she ended up teaching us and the member the lesson and her experiences.  Anyone and everyone can be a missionary.

I just finished reading the Book of Mormon again on my mission for the second time.  As I took Moroni's challenge (Moroni 10:3-5) and prayed about the Book of Mormon and what I have been reading for the past 51/2 months.  I again received a powerful witness of the truth and
divinity of this Book.  I mentioned a long time ago that I was studying the Book of Mormon for the purpose of understanding God's love for me.  Words cannot describe how changed I am and the perspective that I have for God's love for me. I know that He loves me so much.  And because I know that, I know that He loves ALL of His children unconditionally.  As I was pondering on the last few verses of the Book of Mormon.  I thought last and for all, 'what does Heavenly Father want me to know
most about His love for me?'  Then it came to me....God loves me because He gave me His Son, Jesus Christ.  My love for Heavenly Father can be expressed most prominently by obeying His Son.  Using Christ's Atonement to be perfected in Him.  To help others know of His power from the Atonement and give them the opportunity to be perfected in Him.  This is my joy.

Not only that, but April and 
I decided to do a Book of Mormon challenge.  To read it all the way through by a certain date.  I had her pick the date.  It would be her first time reading it through cover to cover.  She picked January 31.  I am thrilled to do this 7 week read!  We began on Sunday.  April is actually helping me to achieve my mission goal of reading the Book of Mormon four times.

Sister Dixon and I had a unique opportunity to go to the St. Augustine lighthouse this past Wednesday with the youth of our ward.  We ended up meeting many members from other wards and challenging them to hand out 'He is the gift' cards to someone at the lighthouse by the end of the night.  They were all go-getters for doing it! It was such a neat experience.  Who doesn't love the Spirit of Christmas?  There are so many ways to share the gospel.  Christmas is one of the perfect times to share because almost everyone's thoughts are centered on the Savior.

He is the Gift.

Love, Sister McCook

Sent from my iPad

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 1, 2014 ~ Thanksgiving activity pictures

The city of St. Augustine gives thanks! This was off of the corner of St. George st. and Cathedral. In the end, over 150 people came and wrote on a leaf-one thing that they were grateful for.

December 1, 2014 ~ Week 41

Hello family & friends.

I sure do hope that you had a wonderful thanksgiving. A time to reflect upon the many blessings that Heavenly Father has showered upon us, and still continues to shower upon us.

Thanksgiving was truly the best.  
Wow.  What more can I say? 

was pondering on how we can use the popular downtown St. Augustine to find people during the holidays.  People from all over the world come here to visit, hence the amazing history of this place being the first to hold thanksgiving.  Sister Dixon and I put together probably the most effective finding activity that the Spirit put into our minds.  With permission from the city of St. Augustine, we were able to display a tree drawn out on a poster display board and invite the public to come up and write on a leaf one thing they were grateful for to invite the Spirit of Thanksgiving, and tape it on the tree.  In turn, they would receive a special card with the link directing them to the 'He is the Gift' video (which is the best video EVER!!:)) and a trend to look up on facebook to see the ending picture. #StAugustineGivesThanks It had a wonderful turn out, in less than two hours; over 150 people came up and participated in this activity.  There is no better way that I could have spent my Thanksgiving, than by helping others to remember the things they are grateful for and treasure them.  Besides the fantastic food, that is what it's all about.

About the 'He is the gift' video.  
On there is a beautiful video about the true meaning of Christmas.  The ultimate gift that God has given us is His Son, Jesus Christ.  This video helps us to remember that and to also share this wonderful gift with others who can also feel of the Christmas Spirit.  One of the best ways to discover the gift is by sharing it.  I would invite you to share this video with others and remind them how much God loves them this Christmas season.  Share your testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how you have been changed.

One scripture that I read goes along with this beautiful message
 'He is the Gift'.  "And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness." (Ether 6:3) it is because of the Savior that we are able to have light to help us get through the darkness of this world.  He is the everlasting light and the Prince of Peace.  If we only choose to come unto Him.

Come unto Christ.  Invite others to come unto Christ. 
Increase your light through prayer, scripture study, family home evening, temple attendance. Share your light with others. 

Love, Sister McCook

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 24, 2014 ~ Week 40

How blessed and privileged I am be able to share the restored gospel with this powerful, compassionate Sister missionary right here. She has such a beautiful testimony and light about her. We love sharing the gospel in St. Augustine!

 The mini 'Waters of Mormon' experience :) (Mosiah 18:8-16, 30).
Such a special day for these individuals who followed the example of Jesus Christ.

November 24, 2014 ~ Week 40

Hello, Hello family & friends!
Happy Thanks giving to you all.

We were invited to a home for dinner this past week and there were 7 of us. Two of the seven were deaf and four (including Sister Dixon) knew sign language so we had the neatest experience. Their names were Donald and Diane. Diane has been learning about the gospel. I sat beside Diane and she taught me sign language because I was one of the one's who didn't know any. She told me to watch and that I would be able to pick it up. She was right, and she was very patient with me. I wanted to share a scripture with them, but I wanted to sign it to them. It is one of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon. Jacob 3:2 "Oh all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm forever." I signed it to them, with their help and eventually did it on my own. Sign language is a very beautiful language.

I had the most beautiful experience yesterday as five people entered into the waters of baptism and are now members of the St. Augustine Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This experience reminded me of the 'waters of Mormon'. That record found in the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon is about a prophet named Alma who gained a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and taught it to as many as would learn and hearken to his words. And as many that wanted to follow the commandment from Jesus Christ to be baptized and enter into a covenant with God, were baptized in water by the prophet who held the authority. There were about 204 people who were baptized. What happened in St. Augustine Ward yesterday was like a mini 'waters of Mormon' experience.


I wanted to share a scripture that my sister actually shared with me this week-and what she said along with it.
Alma 37:36. It's just saying to always turn to the Lord, because he will be with us every step of the way to comfort us.
This was definitely something that I experienced this week. In all circumstances whether we are struggling, getting along just fine, or prospering--we are invited to turn to the Lord and He will give us an abundance of comfort. I learned something. If we choose not to pray, Heavenly Father can get along just fine without hearing us pray because He knows exactly how to help us without us asking Him. Will He be sad to not hear from His children? Of course, He will be devastated. Prayer is something that WE need. When our prayers are specific, we receive specific blessings. Our faith in Heavenly Father and what He can do for us will increase as we pray.

Take the time this week to express gratitude toward our Heavenly Father for all of the many things you are grateful for in your life. You will find that more and more things will be revealed to you in your mind that you are grateful for, that you didn't even think of, while you are praying.

Love, Sister McCook

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pictures from November 17, 2014

Congratulations to
Elizabeth who just got married and will be getting baptized in
December :)

We are grateful for talents! Sister Tice touches the lives of many around her with her many abilities. She created that beautiful turkey right there. When we use our talents to bless others, God magnifies them. (Matthew 25:23)

November 17, 2014 ~ Week 39

Good afternoon family and friends :)

I wanted to share with you a wonderful miracle that happened this week.

April, who is getting baptized this Sunday, November 23, was down to two swallows of coffee on Thursday when we went to visit her with a member. (Part of entering the covenant of baptism is living the health commandment given by the Lord called 'The Word of Wisdom'-which includes not drinking coffee) The member is a convert to the church. She was a huge coffee drinker before she was baptized, so much that her body had a constant tremor. When she was baptized, she quit-cold turkey. She gave her a few ideas on what helped her stop and even gave us something that she uses as a substitute, called Herbal tea dandelion to give to April. Well, it was Thursday night, we didn't know how we could help April any further besides calling upon the powers of heaven to fast on Friday that she would be given the strength to stop drinking coffee to be baptized and that she would be able to come to church because something that's non-excusable always prevents her from coming. We fasted. It was her birthday the next day and we wanted to give her something. We made cookies, had her favorite herbal tea, made a card, and gave her the coffee substitutes from the member. We quickly dropped the gift off to her unplanned as we had other obligations to get to, and sang her birthday songs from the primary songbook. 

She absolutely LOVED the coffee substitution and said she never wants to drink coffee ever again. She will be showered with blessings that are given to all who live the Word of Wisdom because she has chosen to give up drinking coffee in order to follow the Savior and be baptized in His name. All those who live the Word of Wisdom:
"shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones."
"shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures."
"shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."

April and her two kids came to church yesterday. Her son Brice was going to be baptized with her but he wasn't committed as the weeks went on so he no longer had a baptism date. The youth just scooped Brice up and I could tell that he felt the Spirit at church. Later on in the evening way after church ended, April texts us "Brice asked me why he wasn't getting baptized and if he is when would his be?" 
Sister Dixon and I were of course thrilled to hear that he wants to be baptized! We told her the things he would need to do in order to be ready to enter in this covenant. She texted back "He said he would do what is required of him. He said his conscience is telling him it's the right thing to do." Oh how wonderful it will be that he is getting baptized on the same day as his mother. I know that's what God wanted and I'm glad that he followed the Spirit prompting him to be baptized.

I studied about covenants earlier this morning. A covenant is a powerful, binding, sacred promise between God and each of His children individually who commit to obey Him. It means that we love the Lord so much that we are willing to change aspects of our lives in order to be inline with Heavenly Father's will, follow the Savior, and keep our part of the promise to stand as a witness, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. Baptism is our first covenant we make with Heavenly Father. It literally represents the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior. We are cleansed and everything, if repented of, will be washed away-the old life is done away, erased. It is pure and complete bliss because each person who enters into this covenant of baptism is walking in the Savior's footsteps.

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 10, 2014 pictures

 A turtle that we found in our apartment complex :)

Me with my second companion, Sister Ashcraft, at
her last zone conference.

November 10, 2014 ~ Week 38

Hello family & friends!

I am not quite sure of how I feel about my last day being a teenager, but it is definitely great.  I was just sharing with my dad this, 'How often do you get to be a full-time, set apart ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the message of the restored gospel on your birthday?  Best knowledge ever.' I only get one birthday as a full-time missionary!

I must share with you an experience that a mother of a family that we are working with, had when she prayed and asked Heavenly Father if Joseph Smith was chosen to be the prophet that Christ would restore the fullness and entirety of His church through.  Her name is Wendy. 

She said:

"Well, I prayed and asked God if it was true. (she waited a minute for her answer) The Spirit then said, 'what do you think?'. She said, well I think that it's true. The Spirit told her, 'you're right'."  What a
beautiful, yet simple experience that this young mother had because she sincerely prayed and asked Heavenly Father about this.  She really wanted to know in her heart that this is true and because of that, she was ready to receive her answer.  I encourage each of you to ask for a confirmation and a reconfirmation of this truth, because I know that every time that I do that, my testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel is strengthened and grounded as well as that Joseph Smith was able to be an instrument in God's hands to bring about the most prominent, profound blessing that I and millions could ever have to enjoy here and in eternity.  This can be applied to know in your mind and heart any truth.

I have been truly pondering and have been so amazed by the example of these faithful members in the St. Augustine ward who make a 50 mile round trip to church each Sunday.  The amount of blessings they are receiving because they are making that trip.  Their example and the blessings that they are receiving correlated with a few verses in the Book of Mormon that I read.  Jesus Christ is speaking in terms of
putting the gospel first in our lives no matter what the circumstances may be.

"Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?  or, What shall we drink?  or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all
these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof."  3 Nephi 13:30-34 Faith brings about mighty miracles. Heavenly Father will ALWAYS provide us with what we need if we put Him first. One blessing I know that these members are being blessed with is extra gas money.  What are we willing to do to consecrate ourselves to the building up of the kingdom of God?  I often ponder on that question.

Another thing that I am learning is working with some lovely daylight savings time ending.  It is completely dark at about 6:15.  I never have been involved with daylight savings time due to Arizona being the only
normal state that doesn't change time with the seasons.  I will say that God is blessing us because we can knock on any door at any time between those dark hours and they are incredibly sweet to us.

Pray for an opportunity to share with someone what you most treasure about the gospel.  If you have real intent, God will place someone in your path because He trusts that you will talk to them.

Love, Sister McCook

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Trunk or Treat 2014

November 3, 2014 ~ Week 37

Hello Family & Friends and Happy November!

This week was so amazing as usual!  There is no week that goes by where there aren't the best adventures of my entire life.  Sometimes I feel like I want to relive every adventure I have, but then there would be no room for even better adventures to happen. Looking forward is the best thing!

Some pretty neat experiences:

The Dance Story :)

On Wednesday afternoon, Sister Dixon and I were praying about where we should go, we had many names come to mind but we wanted to be exactly where God needed us.  Sister Dixon received revelation to visit a woman named Ginny after we visited the family I thought of and I had received revelation to visit a family we have not met before.  We typed in the address to the GPS and found out this family lived four miles away.  I almost hesitated about going for a second because of how far it was and miles limitations, but then I remembered that we biked for a straight nine days and had EXTRA EXTRA miles because of that.  Also, Heavenly Father definitely knew that we had extra miles and so I could not turn away from the revelation I had received.  So we drove to this home and the parents of the family opened the door.  They were actually attending a Spanish speaking Ward in Jacksonville, but they lived in that home and were watching their grandchildren while the parents were out.  They want us to teach their daughter and grandchildren as well as their friends who live close by.  That was a miracle.  Not only that, I was asking Tammy about her family.  Two of her granddaughters are dancers and attended Center Stage dance studio in Utah before they moved here. She showed me pictures of her granddaughters doing amazing things.  My sister had emailed me a picture last week of her doing a jump on the beach and it was exactly like Tammy's granddaughter so she was very excited to see that when I showed her!  Not only that, they are New York City Dance Alliance dancers!  Which means at some point in my dance career in my teenage years, I must have met them without knowing it in New York City! Whoa!  I can't wait to meet them.  That was a neat connection I was able to have.  Haven't met many dancers down here!


One of my main focuses and the mission's focus is finding families.  Because I know for myself how much the restored gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families eternally.  I know this, because it has and will bless my family eternally.  Through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, 'families can be together forever' and that is why I am out here serving my mission.  To reveal to families, the blessings that Heavenly Father has waiting for them that will bring them true and everlasting joy.  In order to find families, Sister Dixon and I have committed to talking to everyone.  I will admit that sometimes fear or doubt comes across my mind when I am out, so in order to conquer that, I came up with a simple phrase that brings me peace every time before I talk to someone, 'No Fear'.  I can't even explain enough what a difference that makes. And this can be applied to everyone, not just the full-time missionaries.  For example, we were driving to a lesson we had.  We drove into the apartment complex and noticed there was a deaf family outside.  I literally stopped the car in the middle of the road because the Spirit was urging me and Sister Dixon strongly to talk to them.  Sister Dixon is the one who can sign, I wish I knew some.  She was a little nervous because she only knows some.  I told her that she would be blessed with the gift of tongues and she was so confident! I love it.  We said together, 'NO FEAR' this is how we are going to find families!  We didn't want to miss them, so we went and parked in front of our investigator's building, prayed mightily, and ran about five hundred feet just to go talk to them.  They are completely interested and Sister Dixon was blessed with the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues.  It was so neat to watch!  We found a family!  Remember 'No Fear'.

My studies in the Book of Mormon on Saturday were some of my favorites. I was in 3 Nephi 8.  Where Jesus Christ is about to appear to the people living in the ancient Americas.  Before He appears, there are signs and prophecies from the prophets coming to pass.  (During the time of Christ's death).  One of which many cities were being destroyed because they refused to repent and rejected the prophets.  One city was burned, another was overcome by the sea, and another became a mountain.  It was very dark in the land, so dark that they couldn't even see a torch that was lit.  There were earthquakes, thundering, lightening, etc. you can imagine what some of these people were feeling.  I wanted to point out something specific--This is what was recorded about all of these things that happened: '...for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours..' (3 Nephi 8:19).  I really pondered about that verse for a few minutes.  This can be likened to all trials.  Sometimes, to us, trials last forever, almost as if they will never end.  But Heavenly Father knows what we can endure.  In the moment, it feels like they will never end but when we surpass them and look back on how we grew, and what Heavenly Father was trying to teach us, it's as if the adversity was just the snap of a fingers.  It's a beautiful thing although the pain and hardship can seem too much to bear.  If only we constantly come unto Christ and accept His help, we can overcome ALL things through Him.  I love the Lord and I know He loves you and I.

I love all of you.
Love, Sister McCook

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pictures sent October 28, 2014

At Dairy Queen

October 28, 2014 ~ Week 36

Hello my family and friends! I had started to get worried in the beginning of the week, just wondering if what I was doing was enough. For some reason, it troubled me, although I knew that my service was acceptable before the Lord.  I decided to kneel in humble prayer and ask Heavenly Father for a confirmation of my service.  How could I know that what I was doing was enough?  As I closed my prayer and pondered for a minute, the scripture Doctrine & Covenants 58:3 kept repeating in my mind.  I did not know why, nor did I even know what that scripture was because I am not too familiar with all of the scriptures in the Doctrine & Covenants (the Doctrine & Covenants is revelation given to Joseph Smith from Jesus Christ and it is recorded for the members of the church and all who desire to read it).  I ran to my scriptures and turned to it, wondering why the Spirit would put that reference into my mind.  "Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation." (Doctrine & Covenants 58:3).  This was an answer to my prayer. Sometimes we may feel like what we are doing is not enough, whatever circumstance it might be in your life.  I have an analogy; I hope that you can understand it because it made sense to me.  At a service project this weekend, serving with 9 other missionaries, there was a lake behind the woman's home where we could just look at it and the beauty around.  It had been a long time that I have seen a lake.  I stared out into the water; Elders were throwing sticks in the water.  Then this one Elder through in a pinecone, I watched as it sunk right offhand and its' effect made a circular ripple wave that began at the clash and then spread far out.  I imagined myself doing a cannonball into a pool.  All I know is the effect that I made when I jumped in, but cannot see the ripple effect that the waves had on the rest of the water because I'm still down under.  I may not be able to see the effect with my 'natural eyes', but God can. After having that experience with prayer, God blessed me with so many opportunities to serve this weekend.  All of which were different events and circumstances, but it was the absolute best.  I thought of the Savior as I participated in these service activities: 'First observe, then serve' Helping a grandmother put a trunk full of groceries into her home while she was taking care of her grand child. Cleaning a backyard. Cleaning three homes to help a home be a heaven on earth. Painting a home with my fellow missionaries whom I serve with as well as loading a moving truck for 'Make a Difference Day'. The most rewarding part was that we were able to develop friendships with each of these families and individuals as the Savior would do with us if He were serving alongside us.  He would get to know us and our interests and dislikes.  Most of all, we were still able to accomplish all that we needed to the rest of the day even though some of these opportunities to serve were spontaneous.  When we give of our time to serve others, God will bless us with even more time to accomplish all that we need to. Why?  Because 'when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God' (Mosiah 2:17). Serving is a Christ like attribute.  I learned that it stems off of the Christ like attribute of 'charity'-which is the pure love of Christ.  It's more than just the big projects (even though those are extremely helpful) when helping our fellow brothers and sisters, but it's the small and simple things that brighten somebody else's day or lightens a load whether it is spiritually or physically.  For example, serving through kind words and gestures.  There is a member who lives in a nursing home, cannot walk. When she serves someone, she expresses loving words and smiles to those around her. Others can see the light of Christ within her and will feel loved through her efforts.  The invitation is to; find another way to serve a little more than the day before. The counsel from the prophet Thomas S. Monson always plays back in my mind.  To commit each day to do and be a little better, blessings will be showered upon you as you do this simple, but sweet commandment. We are looking forward to November 23, which is the day that April and her son Brice will be baptized! Please keep this family in your prayers as they are preparing to enter into the waters of baptism and make those covenants with a God, which will bless them for eternity. I love all of you and I would love to hear from you as well!Write me and I will write back to you. 1845 Old Moultrie #43 St. Augustine, FL 32084 Love, Sister McCook

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 20, 2014 ~ Week 35

(Week 5 St. Augustine Ward)

This week was probably my favorite week from my mission so far.  It was the funniest week of my life.  The mission wide theme for this transfer is 'Grateful in any circumstance' and oh could this not be the most perfect theme for this week? I definitely learned this lesson is a greater degree
this week.  Hope you enjoy this haha.

It all began with our car having to be sent in to a repair shop last P-Day to get completely new parts due to past missionaries not taking it in for their car accidents.  Elder Rhoads said it would be done by Thursday, but it's Monday...haha.  So bikes became our best friend:) but we had so many lessons that we had to cancel some of them because of travel time.  This area is huge!  And our baptismal date family lives about 6 miles away haha so you can imagine traveling out there numerous times on our bikes.  So with each circumstance, we found something to be grateful for about it. It was the ONLY way that would carry me through this week.  For example, traveling to our investigator's home, while choosing to talk to everyone, we met some of the nicest people, more than usual plus we were biking off all of the candy and junk we would be eating
due to Halloween ha.  So GRATEFUL.

On Thursday, we were about to do Facebook because we haven't been able to do it in literally a busy!..but I felt like we needed to go to visit another family, instead of Facebook.  We met a really nice man, gave him a Book of Mormon, then one of his friends came up to me and asked if I was planning on riding with a flat tire. Confused, I looked down and sure enough, it was unridable.  At the moment of hardship, we were three miles from home and no members answering their phones.  We decided to walk on with our bikes and continued to talk to everyone. Met a nice man who was willing to pump up the bike tire, and we still made it to the investigator's home and it was an answer to her prayer that we came.  Whoa!  After meeting with them, we went to another investigator's home who fed us dinner and afterwards, my tire was flat again.  We were far from home.  The tire tube was punctured that is why it kept going flat.  I thought, is this a joke?  No car, now no bike, no members answering, and its Thursday.  Not even close to P-Day to get a new tire tube.  Then I thought, Sister Jeromchek's bike was still at the apartment.  She was my previous companion. So GRATEFUL! I have been able to ride her bike. God loves me.  This is not the end of the story haha.

On Friday we were suppose to have the tradeoff where both of the Sister Training Leaders come to St. Augustine.  So we planned a double day.  Literally both companionships had set teaching appointments from 3-9.  We just finished weekly planning about to do companionship inventory. An hour before we were suppose to have this tradeoff, the Sisters call us to cancel the tradeoff due to illness.  And so this transfer we wouldn't get a tradeoff because it's over.  For a moment, I thought are you serious?!  Especially since we are on bikes.  But, it all worked out, everything was taken care of.  It was still going to be the best day ever.  We were able to visit all of the people we needed to visit.

Then Saturday happens, it wasn't too bad until we received notice at 7:00 at night that we were going to have a meeting at 1:30 which meant that we needed to find a ride because our building is 45 minutes away and we have no car.  The nearest sister auxiliary leader that could take us lived quite far.  Not only that, we had a lunch appointment at 10:30.  I knew it would all work out.  The members feeding us said that the food was running a little late, we ended up eating at 11:30, GRATEFUL we were able to share a lesson with them before hand.  We got out of there at 12:05 and we needed to be at the Relief Society President's house by 1:00 to get to Ward council on time.  Her house was nine miles away.  So what did we do?  We hauled tail over there.  That's right. 9 MILES IN 55 MINUTES.  With the wind blowing against us the entire time. I thought I was going to die.  We made it there just in time to hop in the car and get to Ward council.  So GRATEFUL we even had a ride to get us there.  Plus the wind felt nice even though it was blowing against us.  Best day ever.  The members gave us a ride home.  So GRATEFUL for that because it was 7:00 by the time we even returned to St. Augustine and I was not going to be riding 9 miles in an hour again that's for sure. I  will go slower and talk to everyone. Funniest day of my life.  I think Heavenly Father was laughing with us this entire week.  I'm GRATEFUL that I have new muscles that I have never even seen before, just from biking so much.

On Wednesday, we received Priesthood blessings from our Bishop. I love Priesthood blessings. Bishop finishes with our Priesthood blessings and shares with us something. I believe this is the
cherry on top for this week of adventures. He had just found out that night
that our building will not be opened until September 2015. That is a super long time. 
It will be the greatest thing ever because God has a plan for this area and the members and investigators. Yes, it will be a challenge ten fold, but I know God will provide so many blessings to these faithful members who make the 45 minute long trip to attend church at 3:00. So GRATEFUL we even have a building to attend to and such wonderful members who are ready and willing to do anything.

I guess the point to all of this is that with each of these things, there was always a tender mercy granted and a blessing recognized because we made an effort to stay positive when circumstances seemed quite unbearable.  It turned out to be probably my favorite week of my mission because of how much fun we had and learning to be grateful in a different degree when
literally every plan we had went down the garbage.  It was the best!  God has a different way of doing things and 110% of the time, His plan is always better.  I was able to learn important lessons than I could not have otherwise learned if all of these things didn't happen.  Most of all, to be grateful in ANY circumstance, not just some.  There is always something to be grateful for in everything, even if it's a twig of positivity.  In every moment, choose to find something to be grateful for, your happiness and joy will be increased.  End.

I love you so much! I think about you and pray for you.
Talk to you Tuesday, next week is transfers!

Love, Sister McCook

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 13, 2014 ~ Week 34

Hello family and friends!

Walmart today was a miracle when we went shopping. We met a woman who had attended the church before previously and met Sister Missionaries, but had no way to contact them. She had been praying to see them again some day and then she found us. I know that Heavenly Father listens and answers each and every one of our prayers.

We have been asked by President Craig to have a Golden Hour everyday.  Devoted to inspired goals and plans that will help us to achieve that goal. Our goal was to see if we can have two return appointments with the fabulous people we meet and our plans were to talk to everyone.  Heavenly Father completely blessed us and I know that it was because we talked with everyone. We received three return appointments and an opportunity to serve at a huge event that has been going on for 12 years on thanksgiving weekend. It was quite the miracle! 

Sister Dixon and I, for the first time on our missions received our first persecution for what we teach as missionaries. It was definitely
different and not expected, but it happened.

Also, did you know that you can teach the 10 commandments by using math? One of the girls we are working with learns best by using math.  So we came up with a way for her to learn the 10 commandments in that way! (Photo is below).  It was neat. It wasn't our idea alone, it was definitely by the Spirit.

The members of this Ward are such great example to me, for the kind of member missionary I want to be when I return. I don't know if I mentioned this in a previous letter, but we travel about 40 minutes to our church building each Sunday due to a problem with mold in the building we are suppose to attend. These members are always so ready and willing to give rides to those who are interested in learning more about the restored gospel and are happy to have them in their homes to share their testimonies of this gospel with them. Being a member missionary is going to be the best calling ever!

A thought I would like to leave with you all this week is about the
Preach My Gospel handbook. I have never used Preach My Gospel so much as I have the past 4 weeks. In this handbook is 'extremely valuable information'. From studying certain principles in this book in preparation for a lesson, Sister Dixon and I were able to find that
our lessons were so much more prepared and lead by the Spirit. An
example to me was on Sunday before Sacrament meeting began, we  went around speaking to the members and there was one woman who is the first counselor in the Young Women's, who was studying and reviewing Preach My Gospel in the chapter for developing Christlike attributes in preparation for her lesson that she was going to teach to the Young Women. I'll paraphrase what she said, there was no better way for her to prepare than by studying from Preach My Gospel. This handbook is not only for missionaries, it is for members too! "Every member a missionary!" Use this handbook in your lives! The blessings, blissful.

I love all of you and keep you in my prayers.

-Sister McCook