Monday, January 30, 2017

We are His focus...not the agenda. Making time for those we love. Pics!😎

Hey guys! :)

I am feeling MUCH better this week. Last week was quite the experience, and I spent a lot of time in bed. I have grown to love my little Neti Pot... kind of. :P I actually went on exchanges this week with Elder Sykes and he used it himself (don't worry, we sanitized it before and after). XD It was a pretty funny experience.

So this week we learned that the missionary daily schedule has been adjusted, giving us more freedom to decide how we want to organize our day and get the things done that we need to. I love the changes, especially because it allows me to create a schedule that I can still apply when I no longer wear a name tag. We also have an extra couple hours added to our P-day, which I'm pretty sure caused a cheer from every missionary the world over. :P But I'm excited!

I really loved church yesterday. Not really sure why, but I just was sitting there through the meetings and I just had this wonderful feeling of love for everybody around and it was the best thing ever. I think what I loved most was that I was watching how so many different things weren't necessarily going perfect; the organist missed a few notes, not everybody knew how to sing, there were some awkward moments where things didn't go perfectly, and I was just sitting there watching things happen and I had this incredible feeling of love for these people and the missionaries around me. I think I got just a glimpse of how the Lord feels about us. Things were so imperfect and yet everybody was happy and everybody was trying. I think the Lord looks down on our imperfect efforts and just loves us to death. He is so proud of our efforts; because His goal is not that everything happens perfectly, but that we learn and progress. We are His focus, not the agenda. I love that.

I was thinking a little bit about love during sacrament meeting this week. A man gave a talk in which he related a story (which many of you may have heard before or seen in a video) that goes something like this:

One day, a man had a really tough day at work. He was cut off, flipped off, and ticked off the whole drive home. When he finally walked in the door, the house was a mess and his wife looked as exhausted as he felt as their kids ran around making the disaster worse. Wanting simply to relax for a little while, he sent the kids to get ready for bed and walked into the living room to lie down. After a few minutes, his young son walked in and asked, "Dad, how much do you make an hour?" 

The father responded exasperated, "I don't know, about 40 dollars. Go finish getting ready for bed." 

His son started to walk back, then turned around and asked, "Dad, can I have 20 dollars?"

The father's temper flared. "No! I've had a really bad day, please let me rest."

His son quickly ran back into his room. After a few minutes, the father began to think he'd been a little harsh on his son; perhaps he really needed 20 dollars for something. He walked back to his son's room and handed him 20 dollars. His son took the money and pulled out a little box full of bills and change from under his bed. The father's temper flared again, "Why did you ask for 20 dollars if you already have money?!"

The son didn't respond, but continued to pull bills and change out of his little box. After a few seconds, he turned to his father and handed him all the money he'd pulled out. "Dad, this is 40 dollars. Can I buy an hour of your time?"

This story brought tears to my eyes.

One way to measure love is with time. What time do we make for our loved ones? As a parent, do you really make time that you consecrate to your children? As a child, do you really make time that you consecrate to your parents? As a brother or sister? As a spouse?

My invitation this week is to make time for each of those you love. I know my dad loves me, not because he gave me money or a car or an iPad or anything like that, but because he gave me time, showing up after his work to so many of my school soccer games, knowing I probably wouldn't play very much. I know my mom loves me because she gave me time, staying up very late after I'd get home from dates to listen to me talk about how things had gone and what I was feeling like.

Remember most of all that the Lord gives us all of His time.

I love you all!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

We were doing weekly planning when Elder Colunga turned and saw that I had my sunglasses on. Can I help it that my future is this bright?

Have you ever heard of Kinder Eggs? I hadn't until I got here. We have begun a tradition of getting one every P-day when we shop. These are my favorite toys that I've gotten since I arrived.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

First-time Neti Pot user!🤧 Weaknesses challenge us to decide where we stand.❤️

Hey guys!

Sorry this letter is a little late. I've had a little too much NyQuil and not quite enough energy these last few days. After a great week last week, I started to not feel so good going into the weekend, and found myself falling apart on Sunday and Monday. My companion has amassed a list of the funny things I say when I'm frustrated with being sick and my head hurts. I'll share a few of them with you.

(when some strangers were talking super loud a few flights down in the stairwell of our apartment complex and I couldn't sleep) *knocks quietly on wall and mumbles* "Yes, hello, um, I hate you."

(when I was completely congested and Elder Colunga got to witness me using a Neti Pot, which is an invention designed to let you drown yourself while also looking very foolish) "I hate that you laugh at me through your nose."

(when I was reading about the Pharisees) "Stupid Pharisees, arguing about divorcing their wives. Surprised you even have wives."

(when the suggestion was made that we get McDonald's for lunch) "Stupid McDonald's, making me pay money to eat food that's gonna make me more sick."

I promise, I am normally a very nice and kind person. But my filter and half of my IQ goes away when my brain is loaded with like 3 different medications at once.

I think that the only thing I want to share this week is about weaknesses. Sometimes we have things that occur in our lives that lead us to ask in prayer, "Why? Why me and why now? I'm trying!" But I was reminded this week that the Lord gives us weakness to help us to be humble, to recognize how much we need His help and how much we can become with His help. Sometimes, it takes lying in bed and sneezing your lungs out for a few hours to help you recognize that you just don't have the strength to do His work by yourself. But let it be very clearly understood, the Lord does not give us weakness to criticize or demean us. He gives us weakness to help us come to Him, so that He can make us strong. We must choose, in those moments where our greatest weaknesses are brought to light, to come to Him and let Him change us. There is a quote that I love from Martin Luther King Jr. which goes something like, "The greatest measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy." When those moments of challenge and controversy appear, where do we stand? When our weaknesses bring us to our knees, we must remember Him who kneels beside us with His arms around us, lifting us higher. Let Him lift you beyond your weaknesses!

I love and miss all of you!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ice megging. It doesn't matter WHY the sheep wandered...all that matters is the RESCUE.❤️

Hey guys!

It's been a bit of a crazy week! Super cold some days, and super nice others! Like right now it's a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit (I didn't just misspell that word like eight times) outside and the sky is finally blue again! :) I love how I seem to always report the weather during the winter.... "By the way guys, it's cold here!" I guess writing you all just reminds me that it's not this cold down in Arizona!

A fun culture that Elder Colunga and I have that I'm not sure if I've shared with ya'll is ice megging. For those of you who know soccer, "megging" someone means kicking the ball through their legs. It's somewhat humiliating in soccer and makes you feel a bit foolish. Well, Elder Colunga has taken a liking to kicking chunks of ice through my legs as I walk next to him. He does it consistently, pretty much anywhere we walk. I've grown used to watching chunks of ice skid across the sidewalk past me all the time. And I know when he's succeeded because I'll hear from behind me, "Yes!!" All the time. This is my life. Jealous?

A thought that crossed my mind this week was the importance of the one. Something that I love about the Savior is His emphasis on the one. In Luke 15:3-7, Christ addresses some gossiping Pharisees on the subject of repentance. 

"And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."

I had this question come to my mind as I thought of this parable: do I do my best to serve individuals? How well do I follow the Savior's example in finding the one?

I've been thinking about this concept for a while. I've heard some great talks and had some great conversations on the subject. Here are some of my thoughts.

Why did the sheep wander? How long did it take to find it? How far away had it wandered? Did the sheep do anything to merit the shepherd's rescue?

We have no idea why the sheep wandered off; it could have been curiosity, stubborn rebellion, or the cruelty of the other sheep. It could have been any number of reasons, but we're not told because I don't think it mattered at all to the shepherd.

Neither are we told how long it took for the shepherd to find his lost sheep, nor how far he had to go. Once again, I don't think it mattered.

For the shepherd, every one of his sheep was worth rescue. Distance, effort, time, or reasons for wandering were not factors. The thing is, the lost sheep didn't do anything to merit rescue. But the shepherd rescued it anyway. Why? Because he loves his sheep.

I love this parable. It reminds me of how much the good Shepherd loves each one of us. It reminds me of the fact that we are never to far from Him for His succoring hand to save us. It reminds me that it is never too much effort for Him. It reminds me that no matter my reasons for falling away - sin, pain, discouragement - He will always come to my rescue.

Here's my point, though; do we do the same?

To be a Christian is not a club. It's not a nametag and it's not a catchphrase. Taking the name of Christ on us means doing what He would do and being who He would be - to every ONE.

My invitation this week is to ask the Lord who the one is that you need to help Him rescue this week. Disregard the distance, disregard the effort, disregard the time it might take, and perhaps most difficult, disregard their reasons for wandering, because the Lord never asks us to do something we are incapable of accomplishing. Find, and love, your one!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, January 9, 2017

Here, let my concentration give you a gorilla.🦍 Negativity accomplishes nothing.

Hey everybody! :)

So... it's been a cold week! I have legitimately contemplated putting my hands on a hot stove top when we got home a couple times (I promise I won't, Mom). Life in Canada. :) So many people we talk to are like, "It's cold, I can't talk to you." And I just think, "Man, I've been out here for like 3 hours. I bet you can still feel your ears. Come on, sacrifice!" Then I don't say that because it probably isn't very charitable to say to them. :) I have also thought of saying, "Well, my companion can just give you a hug while we talk." Also probably not the best idea. But it's fine because my lips are usually somewhat frozen by that point so if I tried to say that (especially in French) it would probably come out more like, "Here, let my concentration give you a gorilla." Speaking in the cold is an art, and I have no talent. XD

Funny moment this week: my companion has begun setting alarms on the phone with strange noises or phrases. So on Tuesday I woke up in the morning to the same scream Darth Sidious makes when Darth Vader throws him off the edge of the Death Star. Over. And over. And over again. Have you ever just woken up ready to hit somebody? I now have. We also developed some great quotes. One of my favorites comes from Elder Saunders, who was just transferred out of Hochelaga (le pire!!). One of the sisters apologized to him for something or another and he responded, "If sorry meant anything, there wouldn't be a need for police!" We died. It was hilarious. :)
We had a great moment of repentance earlier this week. Elder Colunga and I were working on some stuff on the computers at the mission office. We were talking together and, without entering into details, we checked something that was supposed to be done by somebody a month ago and found out it hadn't been done. We began complaining and murmuring and became very, very frustrated with this situation. At this point the sister missionaries in our ward walked in and, when we had explained the situation, they recognized the real problem and called us to repentance. To quote what they said, "Elders, we know you're frustrated, and we understand why, but negativity is going to accomplish nothing. You'd do a lot better to use your energy on helping and supporting and building rather than wasting it on criticism."

So, after we'd made a quick stop at the nearest store that sold sack cloth and ashes, we set some goals to avoid frustration and criticism. The sisters, bless their hearts, had reminded us very clearly that our attitude is our decision and nobody can make us frustrated or angry without our consent. This is something that I have struggled with for pretty much my whole life; learning to support and help others, and expect the best of them, and not getting frustrated when they don't meet those expectations. This also applies to myself; expecting the best of myself and not getting frustrated when I don't make it sometimes.

I had a thought this week though. True conversion, true progress, comes in those little moments of decision we have every day. The best way I have found to avoid getting frustrated with myself is to focus on those moments when I DID do my best, and then try to make those happen more often. I think this applies to others as well. We have to learn to praise the little moments where those around us do the right thing, and help them (not destroy them) to do it more often. 

So that's my invitation this week! Do that! :)

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

This was our New Year's Eve meal: sweet and sour chicken on top of french fries on top of fried rice. We felt accomplished. :)
Did we wanna build a snow man? Yes, yes we did.

Trees are super pretty when they're covered in snow. Then it falls on you and you wonder why the idea of snow ever occurred.

District photo! :) Left to right: Sister Davis, Sister Hoffman, Sister Poulton, Sister Johnson, Elder Sykes, Elder Baldabinos, Elder Landetta, Elder Higbee, Elder Colunga, moi. :)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Snow!❄️Snow!⛄️Snow!🌨 Yoda French. God is an optimist!

Hey guys! :)

Well, it's been a great week! We got a TON of snow. I discovered that if you make snowballs for long enough, it stops hurting your hands because you just can't feel them anymore! :) However, then your hands get snow hangover and it feels like a thousand little gremlins are stabbing your fingers with those little swords they put in sandwiches for the next hour or two. Question: are my fingers supposed to still be purple? (just kidding, Mom. :) )

We had a pretty funny development this week. One night before bed, Elder Colunga and I were talking and we discovered a very key fact: French is absolutely hilarious if you try to speak like Yoda. Nothing makes much sense, but we were laughing for about thirty minutes straight and kept repeating phrases we use all the time with a Yoda voice. That's one thing about being a missionary: once you've been out on your mission for a certain amount of time, almost anything can be funny. If you don't learn to laugh at everything, life can become very discouraging. :P One of Elder Colunga's favorite catch phrases to start talking to people (which he dreams of using but has not yet actually used... but give it time) is, "My mom likes your hat." Yeah, it doesn't make sense. But translate it into French and say, "Your hat, my mom likes!" with a Yoda voice and I guarantee people are going to be curious about who you are and how you managed to get out of the mental institution from which you came. Anything to talk to people, right? :)

I had a thought that came to my mind this week while someone was giving a talk in church about optimism and positivity. As he was speaking, I had a very clear thought come into my head:

God is an optimist!

I think that personally, I can get into this thought process where I start to put my personality on the Lord and think that He looks at me like I look at myself. As if when I wake up in the morning, He thinks, "Oh man. He's barely gonna make it through the day." Or something along those lines. As if after I struggle through an awkward conversation with some guy on the metro, He's thinking, "Yup. That was pretty bad. You should probably practice more because that was awful." And I kind of realized, that is absolutely not His personality!

The best coaches and leaders and role models I've had in my life were those who smiled and praised and lifted me through my less-than-perfect efforts at things that they understood far better than I did. If it worked so well with them, as imperfect but wonderful men and women, why do we sometimes think that Heavenly Father or the Savior would be any different? They love us infinitely more than we can comprehend, They understand exactly what we need, and They see in us the potential that we can't see in ourselves. When we try, but don't quite make it to perfection (sometimes nowhere near), They are not hanging their heads on the sidelines, trying to avoid being associated with us. I see Them much more like the soccer mom, who no matter what you do on the field is up in the stands telling everyone she can, "That's MY son! That's MY son! Did you see how far he just ran? Did you see how he passed the ball?" Meanwhile we can be down here on the field destroying ourselves for every error, and yet at the end of the game she comes down to meet us and is praising us for everything in the whole world! Because in her eyes, and in the eyes of the Savior and of our Heavenly Father, as long as we tried, we played wonderfully. We could lose the game 10 to 0; she puts us up there with Ronaldo and Messi! It is the same with so many other moments in our lives. As we try, and as we repent when we didn't try our best, They are always proud of us!

So always remember, when things get grim and discouragement looms overhead: God is an optimist!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber