Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A beautiful Christmas.🎄 Freezing rain🌧 makes for some unplanned ice skating!⛸ Goals & priorities.

Hey guys! :)

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I sure did. :)

We had some fun. We got the chance to eat with several different families during the Christmas weekend, which was an awesome experience. I just love these people so much. And then I got to call my family and talk with them face to face (by Skype... same thing! :P) for the first time since May! That was my favorite gift. :)

Elder Colunga and I also made some very good food this past week. Pork burgers, sweet and sour stir fry... maybe all is not lost in my chances of surviving college! :P

We had a crazy day yesterday (Monday). No idea if any of you have experienced freezing rain in the past.... I had not until I came here to Canada. Well, yesterday the temperature rose just enough for the snow to turn to rain; then it froze as soon as it hit the ground. Elder Colunga and I live on a street that goes downhill; therefore, when we walked out in the evening to go to a dinner, we ended up ice skating down to the metro station... and then to all of our appointments that evening. I am pleased to report that neither of us fell once (albeit we had more than a few close calls, one of which may have involved a very large truck almost running my companion over as he jumped onto the curb). But we had a great time laughing and sliding our way around the city. Somehow we actually made it on time to pretty much all of our appointments! :) (this is proof that I am no longer the same person as when I left!)

Well, New Year's approaches. I love New Year's because it gives me another excuse to have a fresh start, make some resolutions to be better, and then keep them (which is always the hardest part). I know all of you will be thinking of some resolutions this week (if not, you probably should). :) I think my own will have to do with priorities. I find that I become the most stressed when my priorities are not clearly defined. If you know me well at all, you'll know that I am probably one of the most organized people on the planet (behind my mother :P). I have some moments when I can get pretty stressed out and that's when I go into anti-stress-organizing mode. Thus, my room stayed pretty clean most of the time. :P But I think a great way to set some New Year's resolutions is to make a list of priorities. What is most important to you? How will you show that?

I encourage each of you to make the gospel of Jesus Christ your top priority. This comes down to two questions, or rather, commandments that I will phrase as questions, which I will have as my top priorities this next year.

1. How can I love the Lord with more of my heart, might, mind, and strength?

2. How can I gain and show greater love for each of those who surround me?

I encourage each of you to try to find how to apply these two commandments specifically in your life in two or three ways this next week. Set goals and strive to meet them; that's how growth happens! :)

I love and miss all of you!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, December 19, 2016

🎄He is real. He lived. He died for us...and He lives again! I love my Savior.❤️

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Christmas is next Sunday. How fitting and how wonderful. I`m very excited. But I wanted to do something a little different than usual this week.

This week`s email won`t have any pictures. And I`m not going to talk about the weather, or funny things that happened, or anything else.

I want to dedicate my letter this week to the Savior.

I try to imagine sometimes what it was really like. I try to really see His story as it was. Sometimes I imagine myself standing nearby as the shepherds had the living daylights scared out of them by a choir of heavenly angels, and then realized that this was the day that their Messiah would be born. Sometimes I imagine myself sitting in the crowd as a 12 year old boy taught the scriptures better and clearer than the greatest scribes and teachers in JĂ©rusalem. Sometimes I imagine myself walking through the fields in Galilee with the Twelve, following in His footsteps and listening as He taught about the purpose of our lives here and His love for us.

Sometimes I imagine what it would feel like as I walk with Him up the hill to Gethsemane, confused at His sadness and grief. Sometimes I try to see Him kneeling there in that garden, and wonder how He felt as He saw and thought of me. Sometimes I stand in the courtyard and listen as He is condemned to death by the very people who claim to represent Him. Sometimes I watch as He hangs between sinners on a crudely made wooden cross, and listen with tearful awe as words of forgiveness and selflessness flow from His lips.

I try to feel what Mary felt when she recognized it was really Him in the garden tomb, and at times I can almost hear her whisper of disbelief, "Rabboni?" My eyes lift with those of the Twelve to watch Him ascend again into heaven, and I can hear the angels calling out, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." I can almost feel the courage and comprehension as Peter recognizes his calling when his Savior says, "Feed my sheep."

He is real. He lives. These stories, aren`t stories. They happened! He lived, He died for us, and He lives again! If you don`t know it for yourself, know that I know it! That I have felt it and that I know it! If you`re wondering if He cares, He does! If you`re wondering if He`s there, He is! 

Jesus is the Christ! He is the Messiah. He is our Savior. He is my Redeemer, and yours. That is an eternal truth and it will never change.

I love Him!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, December 12, 2016

The gift that never fades...the greatest gift EVER. Rejoice! Pics!

Hi guys! :)

Not a bad week. :) A little cold, but hey, it`s Québec. I continue to fear the negative 30 températures that approach in the distance. :P People keep looking at me funny when I walk up all bundled up in my giant coat and scarf and gloves and hat and still look freezing cold. It`s a great contacting method though.... "I`m from Arizona, OK?!?"

This week did feel somewhat long. Not sure why, it just did. :P But it was fun. Elder Colunga and I have some pretty funny stuff we say and do sometimes. Like yesterday, we were talking about trying to make sure we were being urgent as we went about doing this work. So as we were going down the escalator into the metro, he turned away and I started running down the escalator two steps at a time. I was pretty close to dying a couple times and my arms were flailing everywhere trying to keep my balance (my coat changes my center of gravity... yeah sure, that`s it) and at about this point Elder Colunga turned around and saw me. I made it to the bottom in one piece and turned around and he was just dying laughing as he came down the escalator. This caused me to laugh pretty hard as well (because hey, I am a pretty funny guy (cue my dad saying, "funny looking")). It was one of those moments where every time you stop laughing you think of what happened again and one of you starts laughing again and then you both just laugh again. We were barely keeping it together for a good five minutes until the metro came, at which point we managed to get ourselves under control. It was pretty great; I`m just really glad we didn`t get it on video. XD

I think the biggest thing on my mind this week has been that of remembering the real meaning of Christmas. I know this is repeated all the time, but I just want to give my thoughts.

Why does everybody love Christmas so much? The lights, the music, the parties, the gifts... it`s just a holiday full of gladness and things to look forward to. There`s also the joy of giving, which I think I underrate far too often.

There is an innate joy that comes from the season. Many of us come together with family and friends to talk and laugh and enjoy each others` company. Many of us have wonderful traditions (for example, my family takes our gingerbread house out to the desert and shoots it up with firearms. To each their own).

We are surrounded by so much rejoicing and happiness. And I think back to the birth of Christ so long ago, and I think all too often we start to look at all the différences between Christmas now and Christmas then. But there is one thing that I`ve thought of that is the same: there was rejoicing. In fact, the heavens opened to the shepherds in the fields and they saw "a multitude" of angels singing and praising God. So I want to ask this question:

Why were the angels singing? Why were they rejoicing?

Why are you rejoicing? What are your reasons?

The greatest part of Christmas, the greatest thing about Christ, is that His gift never goes away. His gift never wears out or gets old. His gift was Himself. He gave Himself as our Savior, from sin and pain and anguish and imperfection. And that is an eternal truth, an incredible and neverending fact.

Let it be known that I love Jesus Christ. This Christmas, I have so many things to rejoice about. But the greatest gift I have ever received is that of a Savior. And I am so grateful that He takes me where I am and helps me to step even farther and even higher.

So wherever we might be in this world, and whoever we might be with, my commitment for this Christmas season is this:

Rejoice! There`s so much to be grateful for. :)

I love you all! En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Poutine from La Banquise. Elder Colunga convinced me to get the grand size... neither of us finished. My favorite (the one I got) is called La Festival. It`s got fries, gravy, cheese curds, onion rings, hamburger, banana peppers, and a whole lot of calories. We didn`t feel like eating anything for the rest of the day. He got the poutine that was loaded with every kind of meat available... it was insane. XD

We were walking under the bridge to get to church yesterday morning and I just really liked the view.

This is what we woke up to this morning. Beautiful... from indoors. :)

This is the sugar cookie goblin I made last week. I made it into actual cookies later. :P

Monday, December 5, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD! Sugar cookies...they LOOK easy to make. Parents everywhere...you are AMAZING!

Hello all ya`ll in warmer climates :)

It snowed again today. Big snowflakes, too! I`m still in that stage of the winter where the wonder of crystal snowflake formations is entertaining rather than infuriating. :) We`re so Lucky that we get to stay in a warm apartment every night... there are so many people who are out on the streets all day and night. Counting my blessings. :)

It`s been a week of learning. First off, I loved beginning the 25 days of Christmas for #LIGHTtheWORLD! While there are certain things I couldn`t do as a missionary, I found those things that I could do and I learned and felt a lot of great things as I did. For example, day 3 talked about how Jesus helped others to see, and so can we. So I studied the gospel accounts in the New Testament of when Christ healed the blind. And something I learned is that He didn`t heal everybody in the same way. Based on their situation and their faith, He used different methods to help them see. I loved this, because I as a missionary am pretty focused on trying to help people see, spiritually speaking. And I recognized that I can`t just try the same method with everyone, because everybody is different, and I have to adjust how I help them to what best works for them.

We had a lot of funny expériences with food this week... for example, one night I had a taste for some sugar cookies. Thanks to my family, I had a convenient mix for sugar cookies that could be put together and baked in basically 30 minutes... or so I thought. The problem is that things are more difficult if you don`t really have anything to mix the dough with. So... after slightly longer than 30 minutes, I was getting a bit frustrated and I just turned it into a Play-Dough face with a creepy witch nose. Elder Colunga took a picture, which was our phone`s screensaver for a few days. Pretty sure I`m gonna have nightmares. The next day, I proceeded to burn all the garlic bread we were trying to make, as well as accidentally spill out half the package of stir-fry veggies on the floor. Elder Colunga found all of these hilarious and proceeded to take pictures of my pitiful efforts at cleaning up all of the messes. By the end of the week, I found myself eating frosting out of the can with a spoon. I just had a clumsy week. :P

December 2nd in #LIGHTtheWORLD was the subject "Jesus Honored His Parents, And So Can You." I wanted to take some time today to honor my parents - and parents everywhere. I think there are too many parents out there who think that they are failing because of what their child says or how their child acts in the moment. It`s like the sugar cookies I made... I put together the mix, and maybe I didn`t do everything right, and at first, my beautiful sugar cookies looked like a creepy goblin creation (this is a spiritual analogy; I`m not calling anybody`s baby a goblin.... :P). But I kept working and I didn`t give up and I did what I could, and after a while in the oven, they came out warm and sweet in little round cookie shapes (and were even better when covered in frosting... but I think I got lost in the metaphor). Anyways, what I`ve come to realize is that there are lessons that my parents taught me throughout my life that continue to come back to mind, even here, many years and many thousands of miles later. Particularly in trials, in the furnace of affliction, I have come to remember very specific phrases and lessons I was taught both vocally and by example by my wonderful parents. And how silly it is to me that parents get upset and self-critical because they aren`t perfect. How on earth would I have learned to truly repent if I hadn`t watched my parents do it? How better for me to learn humility than to watch my dad or my mom apologize for having done or said something wrong?

I`m saying this to all parents reading this. Look. You`re not perfect. Embrace it; you`re perfectly imperfect! Our loving Heavenly Father decided to give you some of His precious spirit children to raise here in mortality. God doesn`t make mistakes, and He made you a parent. You are doing so wonderfully. Keep working. Keep trying. I promise your children will thank you eternally simply for waking up and giving it your best every day. I would NOT be here, I would NOT be who I am today, if it weren`t for the incredible examples of my parents. Callings in the Church or social position never took a part in how I viewed them; just the effort they gave. I love you, Mom and Dad. You`re amazing and I am so grateful for every moment you gave and are giving. You`re doing so well.

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Your average Montréal metro platform.... :P

Welcome to the Hochelaga district. :) Left to right: Sister Johnson, Sister Poulton, Sister Davis, Sister Hoffman, Sister Christensen, Elder Christensen, Elder Sykes, Elder Landetta, Elder Saunders, Elder Roubicek, Elder Colunga, et moi. :)

Driving the mission van through downtown Montréal.... (We were helping with a move :) ) Don`t worry Mom... Elder Colunga took the picture. I had both hands on the wheel, I promise. ;)

More downtown Montréal....

Last picture of downtown :) (btdubs, the buses are actually surprisingly comfortable here. Who knew?)