In this photo you will see me with some of my very best friends in the park of Puerto Cabezas after a Christmas activity in which we contacted families and invited them to understand and share (it's a beautiful three-minute video you can find here:http://www.mormon.org/christmas). We finished with singing Christmas hymns, and then took some pictures with our goofy hats. That's my companion next to me. She's become my very best friend, after these months together, in a way that surprised me. She went home to Guatemala today, and it's breaking my heart. The elder hiding in back is another dear friend, and he too just finished the mission and got on the plane for Guatemala as well. And next to them is an elder who just headed back to the Pacific coast, to Managua, to continue his mission there. It's hard, really hard, to say goodbye to these kinds of friends. I have cried so much. But it's okay, because of what I've learned here about how life and sacrifices work.
Sacrifice is about giving up one thing to have place, to make room for another, better gift. That is the economy of the eternities. And unlike earthly stocks and risks, the payout is always grand. We start this life as the natural man, somethign of very low trade value in the eternal realm, and we are shown the possible end result of this eternal journey: a life full of joy, similar to our Father in Heaven's. Hte way to get from natural man to a God is by changing int he small currency of carnal nature one day at a time through sacrifice, thorugh weighing in the balance and casting off our sins, our complacency and mediocrity, our lusts and selfishness to receive, in return, peace, liberty, joy, remission of sins, and eventually immortality and eternal progression, eternal life. That's where valiance in the testimony of Jesus Christ becomes a key in inheriting the Celestial Kingdom: because we have to believe it's possible, and worth it, and then live it, even though it's often very hard.
Sometimes we try to have it all, to juggle it all at once, all our interests, desires, hobbies, occupations, worries and pet sins. But we don't get the eternal gifts until we choose to sacrifice the good for the best.
That's why my mantra has become "do hard things." Because the payout is always greater. Even when it looks like maybe it can't get any better than where I am, even when I believe there's nothing better than now, that eternal principle always pays out. That's how I got the blessing of going to Jerusalem - by doing something out of the ordinary and more difficult. That's how I chose to go to work at Philmont and became who I am, an unbreakable, indomitable mountain woman western girl. And that's why I followed the Lord's plan and came on a mission, even though I didn't fully understand why at the time, and now look at me. I am converted, my heart has been changed and sealed, I understand and live this gospel plan much more fully. I am a 5' 11" latina, and my heart is so, so much bigger than before, as the Lord has stretched it and grown it by filling it to bursting almost daily.
That's why even though I'm sad about these changes, these transfers, about my best friend, sister and companion finishing her mission and going home, and bidding farewell to other now bosom, eternal friends, I'm going to be okay. Because I'm learning how this eternal economy works. The Lord doesn't take away somethign good to give us somethign inferior. He keeps giving us better and greater joys and opportunities, if we live obediently so that this is possible. The only time we get those inferior things is when we purchase them through our own foolish disobedience. But if we have faith and we obey, we can have hope that life will continue growing exponentially more beautiful. I know it because that principle has never failed in my own life. I dare you to trust it enough to try it, to sacrifice something of the natural man, or even something good, for something that is best. Give up one of your sins or bad habits to better know God. Make that your Christmas present to him. And I promise it will change your heart to make room for more joy.