Thursday, September 3, 2015

8/20/15 ~ Pics

Lunch at Applebee's

My screen saver is a picture of the Tucson, AZ temple. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

August 18, 2015 ~ Week 78

Dear family and friends.

God knows the hearts of His children.  I know this because at about
8:50 at night on Tuesday, I was a little frustrated.  We went to our
golden hour street and it was super dark with fenced in homes.  Sister Clay suggested that I turn to a random verse in the Book of Mormon to read.  I read in 3 Nephi 1 about the star showing in the sky being the sign of Christ's birth.  I felt immediate peace within me and said, let's go share this glorious message in the Book of Mormon.  We turned down Colville Street and saw a bright house.  This was the one because
it looked receiving.  A man came out and said he was not interested.  Right as we turned around, we saw this young man (his name is Ryan) about 50 feet away on his front porch about to go inside.  We called out to him and he said he's been wanting to learn about the Book of
Mormon.  It turns out this was a member's home that we hadn't even met yet.  His name is John and he said, "We’ve been wanting to call the Elder missionaries for weeks now but something kept telling me to just wait. We were actually just talking tonight about how we needed to get
them over here and then all of a sudden you just show up.”  We have taught him 3 lessons so far and he came to Church this past Sunday.

There is not enough time or profound words in the world to describe how amazing my mission has been.  Heavenly Father has been so good to me in every way possible.  The work of Jesus Christ is true; I finally have a sure testimony of missionary work.  The mission was SO MUCH FUN, hard, stressful, the best, phenomenal, everything I ever could have imagined.  But with all of those emotions, I would do the entire 18 months over again because I love serving my Savior full time.  And I will when I am elderly.  My life is changed, all who accepted to hear this message-their lives are changed, eternal friendships were made, unbreakable bonds.  All of my strongest friendships I made on my mission are because we connected through the restoration of Jesus Christ's gospel and loved sharing our testimonies.  These are the ones I will never lose contact with.  And that is what the gospel is all about.  To bring families together and live the gospel, joyfully.

Jacksonville, Florida has a special place in my heart forever.
Thank you for your prayers and fasting.

Signing off,
Sister McCook

Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10, 2015 ~ Week 77 ~ Pictures

     These two wonderful members from Fleming Island 2nd Ward             came and surprised me at Church on Sunday!

The donkey was found in Whitehouse when we were doing golden hour on Oglesby St.

 It was Sister Sandberg's birthday the day before zone conference 
so I made her a pie!!

 I got to see every single one of my companions this week!!  Yay I'm so happy.

August 10, 2015 ~ Week 77

 Dear family & friends,

I'll just start at day one Monday.  P-Day ended at 6:00pm and we were driving out of our house.  We put our golden hour street in the GPS and
it couldn't find it!  We then received a phone call from members that said, let's go out to dinner.   We hadn't even had dinner yet (that is usually a normal thing for P-Day). So we went to Gator's BBQ and were able to teach her husband, who is still learning about the gospel!  So that was a miracle.  We then went knocking on a street we were suppose to knock on Saturday and we found a man named Jerry working outside.  Gave him a Book of Mormon and planned on seeing him Tuesday night.

On Tuesday we taught many people and one of the members we read the Book of Mormon with every Tuesday brought a friend over so we could teach him!  That is always the greatest blessing when members bring their friends over to learn about the gospel.  We then brought a member with us to teach (Jerry) and he accepted to be baptized on September 27.

On Wednesday we had a zone conference.  The Jax West and Jax South zones got together and we had fabulous trainings from President and Sister Craig and the Assistants.  They were about member missionary work, teaching quality lessons, following each prompting of the Spirit to reach our fullest potential, and using agency righteously.  I appreciated the member missionary training because I am working on setting goals to be a member missionary.  We role played lots and I even role played with Sister Kloepfer.  Yes, I saw 3/4 companions still out in the field at my zone conference.  I was a happy Sister Missionary!

On Thursday I was on a trade off with a new missionary and she is amazing.  I am so impressed because she did some pretty tough things on the trade off.  But she was able to teach a woman that Sister Clay and I found.  Her name was Patsy and it was her first lesson being taught by us.  She set a baptism date for September 27 as well.  That was a beautiful experience we were so happy!  I also had my final Ward
council as well.

On Friday I went on my final trade off with Sister Dixon in Lake Butler. We taught EVERYONE.  There was so much teaching.  There was a tender mercy though, we went to a dinner with a member and they made homemade chicken pot pie. Everyone knows that is my FAVORITE meal ever.

Sunday was the best.  There are so many people coming back to Church.  Patsy came for the first time, Amelia was there with her sweet family.  As I was sitting down while the sacrament was being passed, I was thinking of everyone that came today many of whom were taking it for the first time and thought, Heavenly Father loves His children so much.  I love serving and teaching them so so so much. We had a lesson with Amelia's family and brought some members with us and had a great lesson about the word of wisdom!

I love love love this transfer.  I just want to live in it for a few more months. This week will be the best week ever.

Love, Sister McCook

August 3, 2015 ~ Pictures

Tiffany and Rachel! 
Rachel just got baptized in April and 
 Tiffany just got back from Young Women's camp!

The member who is moving out!  There are a lot of things that she does that remind me of my mom.  So funny!  Gotta love her.

August 3, 2015 ~ Week 76

Dear family & friends,

Can I just share how much I love Amelia's family?!  They are remarkable!  They brought a friend to Church yesterday and they enjoyed
it!  They read their scriptures everyday and are currently starting from the beginning and reading until the end.  I really appreciate the Whitehouse Ward for always being so willing to come to lessons with this family.  The members are lining up until the end of the month to come to a lesson with them.  It has made such a difference being able
to bring different members every time because everyone surrounds them at Church to say hello. So Amelia will be getting baptized on September 5th and her mom promised to send me pictures!!

Our training at MLC was a success as we talked about the how, why, and what of doing companion exchanges!  Sister Clay had the most incredible Book of Mormon insight in 3 Nephi 17 because we can apply everything the Savior teaches for how to conduct a trade off.  The Savior invited the people to ponder, ask, and prepare.  We apply that as we prayerfully ponder and study what the Sister missionary needs and how to implement their goal for the exchange. Jesus also asked inspired questions, promised blessings showered on them.  We enjoyed presenting this.

Sister Clay and I did much service this week and it was exactly what I needed.  It was very healing.  I've learned that some of the things I didn't prefer to do before I was a missionary, I LOVE to do now as a missionary.  One of those… was cleaning.  We spent two hours cleaning a
home that hadn't been cleaned in years.  I think we picked up 100 Pringles cans.  I love serving because as we do, it gives us an opportunity to really get to know a person at a personal level, as
every time we enter in a home to teach, we fulfill our purposes straight away.  Even the Savior got to know a lot about a person just from serving them.  We also helped move out a family into another Ward.  We were sad to lose them, but they will do great things in their new Ward.

I'm excited to be a member missionary forever!

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, August 3, 2015

July 27, 2015 ~ Week 75 ~ Pictures

July 27, 2015 ~ Week 75

Dear family and friends...

Amelia and her family came to Church yesterday!  It was their third time coming and oh how we were all so impressed with their children.
  They were the most reverent children in sacrament meeting yesterday.  Fiona is Amelia's seven year old sister and she sat next to me yesterday.  She was very, very reverent, sitting with her legs crossed and watching the speakers so well.  I think it helped that we were in the third row and nobody was in front of us besides her own family so
there wasn't too much to look at but the speaker's themselves.  We had a great lesson with them yesterday night where we were able to read 7 verses out of Alma 24.  We made paper swords and talked about covenants we make.

I was really touched in the third hour of Church.  All of the adults and youth were combined in the Relief Society room (which made it ten degrees grateful!) and we received counsel about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy and honoring it as the Lord's Day.  Much of this
teaching came from a video broadcast where many of the 12 Apostles taught the why and what of this commandment as well as what needs to change.  I really liked the emphasis on preparation and reverence.

1. Preparation for partaking of the sacrament meaning no more meetings before Church begins. One of the father's in our Ward set an example
 for preparing his children to take the sacrament by asking him "James, what are you going to learn at sacrament meeting today?"
2. Reverence. Elder Ballard, I believe it was him, said "Can we go for 1 hour and 10 minutes without eating food and playing/texting on our smart phones/iPads?"

He is very right.  I too in my past have fallen short of these things but in my mission as I have been disciplined with no candy hiding in my bag, and no desire to take out my iPad.  I have found that when I am giving my whole attention to the speakers, they say something that
undoubtedly was an answer to my prayer or something I didn't realize I needed to hear that day. So I have set goals for the future for how to abide by what the prophets have counseled us to do because I know what they teach comes directly for Heavenly Father.

We just found out this morning that we are preparing to give training in Mission Leadership Council on Wednesday.  It will be on how to do tradeoffs and I am super excited about that because when you have been on about 43 trade offs in your mission life time, you learn
a lot from so many other missionaries and how to do the work in those different ways!  So I will share insight from our training next week!

Sister Clay and I have been having a lot of miracles with finding through people that have already been found.  This past week actually one of my favorites comes from a tradeoff I was on with Sister McGregor.  We were knocking doors in the pouring rain and we came across this door and a young mom named Tiffany says come on in without any hesitation.  She had just moved there with her husband who is a member. We taught her the Restoration and she said that she wanted to be baptized so we will keep working with her and see how it goes.
Heavenly Father blesses us when we are out working hard in the rain!

Love, Sister McCook

July 20, 2015 ~ PIctures

Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015 ~ Week 74 ~ (Week 8 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear Family and Friends,

Since day one of this transfer I have been asking myself and verbally expressing, "I just don't understand why all of this is happening!"  That would be because the miracles are abounding here.  Every day is something new and miraculous that I just can't explain adequately.

We had the most powerful lesson with our investigator James.  We had a member come with us because they are so valuable when they come to lessons.  At the end we had him give the closing prayer and invited him to pray about Joseph Smith being a prophet.  We invited him as well to sit quietly for 30 seconds at the end so that he can receive his answer by the Holy Ghost.  It was the most sincere, heartfelt prayer.  My confirmation of the prophet came, but not only that, he sat there for 5 minutes.  He was soaking up the Spirit.  We quietly waited for him to receive his answer.  When he looked up he had tears in his eyes.  We asked him what his experience was like and he said it was very touching, and he felt joy. So powerful.

We were also at a member's home teaching her a lesson and we asked her if she knew anyone that we could go and teach.  She gets right up and goes to talk with her friend in the kitchen and asks if he wants to learn about the gospel.  He comes right out and says, "I know who you are! When my car was broken down some Elders came and helped me and invited me to come to Church!  They gave me this card!"  Then he shows us the card and sure enough it had the Elders hand writing on it.  Then the member asks us for a Book of Mormon and she took it and gave it right to him.  I had never experienced something like this before!  So now he will be joining us when we come teach her the lessons.  Not only that but there is this 95 year old elderly lady who is being taken care of there and she can make anyone laugh just by talking and telling her stories.

Amelia's family is doing well!  It's amazing to see when a family embraces the gospel, the amount of changes for the better they experience.  We rejoiced as we discussed this last night. Amelia's parents talked about each other and all the amazing changes that have taken place within them.  It's a beautiful sight.

I find myself consistently studying for the Sisters in the Jax West Zone because I'm on trade offs for half the week every week and so I have about four days of studying for them.  I came across this verse as I was reading.  "And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things."  It is a simple yet marvelous scripture that when I read it, I thought, wow.  As often as I pray in my designated place is as often I will receive direction from God.  How reassuring that we do having a Heavenly Father that listens to every prayer.  And answers it according to His own time.

Love, Sister McCook

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 13, 2015 ~ Week 73 (Week 7 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear Family & Friends,

I learned a lot about what it means to create vision and establish vision for the area we are working in right now.  As inspired by Sister Anderson, who is one of the Sister Training Leaders that I go on tradeoffs with, she wanted to focus on establishing a vision for her area and so I had the opportunity to make that my goal as well in order to help her.  I studied on this focus for two days and found some beautiful insight that really clicked for both her and me.  A vision is the ability to think and plan for the future with wisdom.  In this case, wisdom coming from God.  I studied two Visions that prophets had and are recorded in the scriptures.  The first is Lehi's Vision recorded in the Book of Mormon and the second is Joseph Smith's First Vision. 

Joseph Smith had established vision from the time he set a goal to receive an answer to his question of which Church to join.  His plans were to study out each Church and then ask God through prayer.  He was only expecting an answer to his prayer when indeed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him not only giving him his answer, but later on called him to be the Prophet to bring back the fullness of Jesus Christ's gospel and Church that had been lost for hundreds of years.  Not only that but he received the responsibility to translate the Book of Mormon.  A young boy asking a simple question, looking for a simple answer, had his vision expanded much more than he expected after he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Remarkable.

If you study 1 Nephi 8 you will see that the principles of establishing vision are similar to what Joseph Smith experienced.

Sister Anderson and I talked about trusting in the goals and plans that we have set and act in faith.  When we do that, our vision will be expanded because it is the implementation of those plans that make it an exercise of faith.

A neat miracle that we had yesterday during golden hour was that we were knocking doors and there was a hidden corner that we went down where there were 5 more houses.  We knocked on the first one and this man named John opened the door.  He wasn't open at first, but we shared a scripture with him and the Spirit testified to him because he completely changed.  He asked what the Book of Mormon was about and we told him and shared what it meant to us.  We then invited him to be baptized and after asking, he just stood there with his eyes glued on the Book of Mormon.  Scanning it for about 30 seconds of the longest silence, he looked up and said if he came to know if was true he would.  I know that he felt the power and worth of the Book of Mormon in those 30 seconds.  I had never seen that before.  We will be meeting with him on Friday.

As far as my new companion, Sister Clay is from Washington State and she has done a little bit of schooling at BYU Idaho.  She has been out on her mission for just under a year.  I have seen her grow in the mission since she has been 4 1/2 months out.  She works hard, and is determined to share her testimony of Jesus Christ wherever she goes.  It will be a great last transfer ending with her!

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 6, 2015 ~ Week 72 Pictures

Sister Linton and I before fireworks

My district 

July 6, 2015 ~ Week 72 Pictures



July 6, 2015 ~ Week 72 (Week 6 Whitehouse Ward)


Dear Family & Friends,

I began my week on Monday night after the work was finished for the day with a phone call from President Craig saying that we will be going on an open-ended trade off with a companionship in Orange Park.  So there we went, packing my bags like the speed of lightening and off we were.  It was a nice 30 minute drive into the Orange Park area.

I was able to serve with Sister Linton who was just finishing up her training.  I enjoyed that opportunity to serve with her and train her the final week.  I was with her all the way up until Saturday morning.  One of my favorite miracles that we had was on Friday.  We walked out of a member's home and noticed a woman watering her plants.  We found her name was Ida and we asked her if she has ever had an opportunity to learn about the Book of Mormon.  She said that she had but the interesting part is that she just moved from New York where she was given a Book of Mormon.  When she made the move, she couldn't find her Book of Mormon and has been searching for one ever since.  We had the member, Alice, standing there across the way share her testimony of the Book of Mormon with her neighbor friend Ida and Ida was very excited to ask questions to Alice as well as learn the restored gospel from us.  After this beautiful teaching moment, we talked with Alice and she mentioned that she couldn't believe that someone right across from her has been looking for a Book of Mormon for that long and she hadn't talked with her. That was an eye opener for me as well.  I wonder how many people that I lived by in Arizona were searching for the Book of Mormon and I just didn't talk with them.  I am looking forward to meeting them :)

I have gained a greater appreciation for technology this week as Sister Sandberg and I had to prepare a Mission Leadership Council training over the phone because we were on this long trade off.

Sister Sandberg and I were jumping for joy when we finally were able to be together again on the 4th of July.  What a happy day!  We spent the day teaching, doing service, finding people, and knocking doors. There really are a lot of wonderful people out here in the world that have their own story, and great beliefs and values of the gospel.

We had a ward activity that was suppose to be at the lake, but we were rained out so we enjoyed a BBQ inside the Church and afterwards when the rain calmed, we were able to enjoy fireworks.

I had a great insight in the Book of Mormon on Sunday reading in 1 Nephi 10 with the focus on helping others to repent.  As I read a verse towards the end, it talks about how "no unclean thing can dwell with God" who is our Father in Heaven.  I pondered and I thought about my relationship with my dad.  Both my parents are my inspirations and I love them.  I thought about what it would be like to not live with my dad again; it was a very sad feeling.  Now in context with the scripture, if we aren't repenting daily-choosing to change and become, then we cannot live with our Heavenly Father who created us.  That thought, too made me sad, but how grateful I am for a Savior who understands and will help us to change when we fall short.  It's one of Heavenly Father's expressions of love towards us His children.

Well, as you know tomorrow is transfers and I am sad to say that Sister Sandberg is leaving me to go be a trainer in the St. Johns Rivers area in Southern Jax.  We had so much fun together these past six weeks.  I learned a lot from her.  She relies on the Spirit for creativity, she establishes her purpose and invites EVERYONE to be baptized, she knows how to love others like the Savior, and she always, always puts others in front of herself.

I do know who my new companion is because I've been on two tradeoffs with her!  It is Sister Clay!! :) She will be my 10th and final companion in the mission field.
What a great 6 weeks to look forward to!

Love, Sister McCook

June 29, 2015 ~ Week 71 (Week 5 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear family & friends,

I wasn't in my area for the majority of the week, as I spent 2 days in the Timuquana area and 2 days in the Orange Park 2nd area.

But for the time that I did spend in my area, yesterday was a fantastic day as usual.  Amelia's family came to Church yesterday.  Amelia and her sister Fiona wanted me to sit in between them.  They were so reverent during sacrament meeting I was very impressed.  I was
simplifying the talks for Amelia so that she could understand them and Fiona, who is 7, was reading 1 Nephi 18 in the Book of Mormon.  All of the primary children got up to sing their two songs about their Daddy's for Father's Day.  Amelia and Fiona went up there as well and
sang the songs and did the expressions perfectly--the primary music leader told their mom what they were and they practiced and practiced at home.  It looked like they have known them for months.  They were adorable.

We also had a lesson in one of our member's home with Francesca who recently got baptized in May.  She just graduated and the lesson that we had coming from the Book of Mormon was so fun because it was a normal discussion with just us three young women talking about the gospel and insights we have while reading the Book of Mormon together.  Francesca also shared with us an analogy that she came up with while she was at youth conference, that I would like to share with you:
At youth conference, there were these lights that had a bowl shaped covering on them.  She noticed that there were a lot of bugs inside the bowl because they were attracted to the light. Very soon they figured out that the light was too hot. When they tried to crawl out, they
would slide back down only to try harder to climb up again in hopes to get out.  Sometimes a few would get to the top and then fly out.  She likened that to all of us as God's children and the influence of temptation that Satan has on us.  It's so true.  Sister Sandberg pointed out that the light bulb is false light (meaning it's not natural).  Once he tempts us and we give in, it's hard to get out.  But the happy part is that we all have the light of Christ, which allows us to know
good and evil.  We can choose our destiny.  What a blessing it is that we have that influence of knowing good and evil instead of blindly walking through life.  I thought this was neat.

I began reading the Book of Mormon again from the very beginning.  I was studying for a family we are teaching with the question in mind, 'What does the restored gospel do for my family?' to help them obtain a perspective.  I read the very first verse of 1 Nephi chapter 1.  I am going to put my parents in the spotlight for this one, as I did for the lesson that evening, but as I read what Nephi wrote, I began reflecting that my father and mother are my greatest teachers (physically present) in my life.  Because of the love and concern they felt for me, I have respected them and knew the high standards of living in the way of the gospel came from God. I had a desire to be
exactly obedient and honor them even if I fell short a few times.  They never forced me to do anything, or live a certain way, but rather showed me by their example that the greatest happiness that I can find in my life is by living the restore gospel.  And that is why I honor
them because now I see from living 2000 miles away on my own that the things they taught me from the beginning of my life have been written in my own heart.  Thank you mom and dad.

Love, Sister McCook

The quality of the picture is not too great, but that's Amelia's family!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 15, 2015 ~ Pictures

June 15, 2015 ~ Week 69 (Week 3 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear family and friends....Happy Father's Day to all of the Dad's out there.  We sure do appreciate all of the efforts you do!

More miracles and connections between my past area in Mandarin 1st and now Whitehouse. I was on a trade off in St. John's with Sister Clay and Sister Sandberg was in a tradeoff in Whitehouse with Sister Anderson.  So, afterwards we decided to meet up at the Mandarin Church building half way and then go out for ice cream to discuss the miracles that we had in our exchanges.  We went to Bruster's and I was hoping we would see Antoine there who holds the yellow sign for his job (he lives in Whitehouse but is someone that Sister Murray, Sister Malm and I met in Mandarin).  We found him just by walking over from Bruster's awhile back.  We get there, but Antoine wasn't there.  And I was so sad because that was the only chance we were going to catch him!  Well we got ice cream and Sister Sandberg shared that she met a woman named Marie F. at the gas station and she was someone that I met in Mandarin and gave a Book of Mormon to just two months previous!  Divine intervention.  She wants the missionaries to come teach her. She lives in the area below us!  Miracle.

Then, we were pulling out of the parking lot of Bruster's and to our greatest astonishment, there was Antoine walking on the side walk with his yellow sign!  I pulled back in the parking spot and we got out to talk with him.  What a miracle!  We are having a lesson with him and his family next Sunday!  These are all tender mercies that we are seeing here and great rewards to teach Heavenly Father's children all because we decided to do our best in talking with everyone in Mandarin.

Yesterday night we taught a family that we just began working with and committed their daughter to be baptized on August 16. Her name is Amelia.  She will be nine years old by the time she is baptized and the family is setting a goal to go inside the temple and be sealed for time and all eternity.  This makes my heart just so SO happy!  We reviewed the Plan of Salvation yesterday and Amelia enjoyed searching the scriptures to learn more about it with the help of her parents.  She is a very bright young girl and she sounded out all of those big words from the scriptures.  We were really impressed and anyone could tell that the Spirit was there in that room tonight.  Continually testifying to their hearts of the truths of this gospel.  Amelia's father said, "I can tell our home feels a little more warmer now."  The Spirit was very tender in there.

I'll begin sharing my testimony which grew deeper this past week as I share an experience with you.  It begins with a lesson that we had with Francesca who just got baptized last month.  We are reteaching her all of the lessons since she just got baptized.  It happened to be a Skype lesson and we reviewed the Restoration with her.  We committed her to pray again to confirm that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true.  Not only that, but I committed to her that I would do the same thing.  So I kneeled by my bedside at night and began to pray to ask Heavenly Father to confirm these truths to me.  After I asked the questions to Heavenly Father and paused for a minute.  The feelings that I felt, from the power of the Holy Ghost are described in this scripture,  "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me." (Alma 32:28) It was the greatest feeling I had ever felt as I prayed to know these things are true.  I will never forget that feeling.  I know the Book of Mormon is true and I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet, because of the power of the Holy Ghost.

If you read the Book of Mormon and kneel by your bedside tonight and pray to know if these things are true, I promise, as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ that you will receive an answer.

Love, Sister McCook

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Week 68 ~ Pictures

Pressure washing a home for service.

Vending machine at the baptist church in Baldwin!
First prickly pear cactus I've seen since Tucson!