Monday, May 29, 2017

I thought this was a haircut?😳 When giving reproof, are we motivated by love & do we show an increase of love?❤️

Hey everybody! :)

It's funny how the longer I've been on my mission, the less I seem to remember about each consecutive day/week. :P So if I seem to have somewhat little to say... I promise it's not my fault. I do have a funny story though.

So last P-day, we were planning on getting haircuts. We were finishing emails when the other elders walked into the computer room. They needed to get across town to sign some papers from a doctor's visit, and we had plenty of time, so we decided to be nice and drive them there.


Montreal has two seasons: winter, and construction. Combine that with what are possibly the worst roads in the northern hemisphere, and a trip that would normally take 15 minutes takes you about an hour. So, thirty kilometers and four hours later, we found ourselves back in our apartment without haircuts and with about an hour and a half left of our P-day. Not trusting each other to give a good haircut in such a small amount of time, we instead decided to get professional haircuts. There is a barber shop right near our apartment, so we walked over and found ourselves sitting down in a comfy chair in no time. There was only one couple working there, and the husband was busy doing something else, so we took turns getting our haircuts from his wife. I was a bit distracted by a call that we got while Elder Valencia was getting his haircut, but I vaguely noticed that they moved to the other side of the room to get his hair shampooed (not sure if that's a verb, but I speak French, so whatever) and washed out (nice place, huh?). I did notice that when he walked back over to where I was sitting, he was looking at me funny, with sort of a "deer in the headlights" expression. As I was thinking about something else, I pretty much assumed that if he was going to tell me why, he would, but he just let me go and start my haircut without a warning.

The haircut itself went pretty normally, and if I do say so myself, I looked good. Then she said, "Alright, let's go wash out your hair." So we got up and walked over to these weird reclining seats (for the record, my mom always cut my hair back home. Barber shops are very new to me.) where I found myself leaning way back and putting my head into some sort of bowl that made me feel like I was at the dentist's office. I soon found out that what I didn't realize about this situation was that included in the cost of your average haircut was a free head massage.

What you have to understand about missionaries is that we are very "no touch." We don't even hug people of the opposite gender (except for our mom right before we leave). So massages are kind of out of the picture. So when this lady started massaging my head, I kind of freaked out. I tensed up super bad and started to think about all the other places I wished I could be, and yelling at myself mentally for wanting a haircut. I wasn't gonna just jump out of the chair (I still had shampoo in my hair... also a first for a haircut) so I just sat there and endured, my nails digging into my hands, while I waited for it to end. Elder Valencia and I just laughed about it afterwards, especially because massages are usually designed to relax you, and it had the opposite effect on both of us. So yeah, that's my funny story from this week. We're probably not going back there. :P

I was listening to a talk on Sunday, and the sister who was speaking quoted Brigham Young on the subject of reproof. The quote struck me, so I found out what it was in English and wanted to share my thoughts on it this week.

"If you are ever called to chasten a person, never chasten beyond the balm you have within you to bind up. … When you have the chastening rod in your hands, ask God to give you wisdom to use it, that you may not use it to the destruction of an individual, but to his salvation." -Journal of Discourses, 9:124–25

This made me think. I am pretty.... firm... in how I treat people sometimes. I am a person who usually sees things as very black and white. You are either obedient, or I will beat you up. (Not really. But... a little bit.) I tend to be very clear with people when I think they're making excuses to be disobedient, and this also applies to myself; I will beat myself up pretty solidly when I know I made excuses to disobey a particular rule or commandment. I am just as incapable of purchasing my own salvation as the next guy, trust me.

But we are, at times, called upon to help each other to change and to repent. This is usually when we are in a position of leadership, be it as a mission leader, or a quorum or auxiliary president, or a parent, or any other position in which we are responsible for another's physical and/or spiritual well-being. In those moments where we need to give a reproof, the Lord has commanded us, "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile — reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death." (D&C 121:41-44)

I received a training once on this scripture, in which the person giving the training explained that we should think of "sharpness" less in the context of a cutting tool and more in the context of picture clarity, as in a sharp photo or sharp contrast. Our goal in giving reproof should never be to cause pain or grief to the individual, but to teach, to help understand, and to love.

Just a thought for each of us to ponder this week: are we being sure to think about the bigger picture when we give reproof? Are we thinking about our motives? Are we thinking about how we will show forth that increase of love? If not, what can we do to improve?

I love you all! En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Am I doing enough? Why focus on tempests & storms when so many days are filled with blue skies & sunshine? Men are that they might have joy!

Hi guys!

It has been an awesome week. We had lots and lots of meetings, so I was getting a little bit antsy by the end of the week, but the meetings were all wonderful, so it's alright. My favorite was our zone conference on Wednesday, in which I gave my last testimony in a zone conference (a tradition in our mission, not sure if it's worldwide). I never thought that moment would come; it terrified me. :P But we learned so much in that zone conference, especially about how important the Book of Mormon is in answering questions of the soul that we all have.

I was talking with Elder Valencia the other day during dinner about something random from before our missions, and somehow this little bit of the conversation happened and it made me laugh super hard so I just had to share.

Elder Valencia: "I gave a girl a Ring Pop and told her to marry me for the day."

Me: "How'd she take that?"

Elder Valencia: "She ate it."

Priceless. It was just one of those moments where you have to laugh. It also describes pretty well Elder Valencia's personality. :) Love that guy.

I learned something that was profound for me this past week. I have been studying about repentance and what it means to do one's best for a while now, and the question of "am I doing enough?" has been running through my mind for the past several weeks and months. I was on exchanges with another elder this week and we were talking about these questions, because I wanted his perspective on some of these topics. He talked about positivity and how he simply tries to always remain positive, focusing on what he is doing well rather than what he might have missed. This gave me another thought to chew on, and as I did so the next day in my personal study, I found myself in 2 Nephi 4, reading the words of Nephi as he thinks back on his own life and mission. I always was perplexed by this chapter, because there is a very large change in tone halfway through, and I have wondered for a long time what exactly changed, what this prophet came to understand that I need to understand myself. In verses 16-19, Nephi states: 

"Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins..."

This is a prophet of God! He is amazing! And yet he, like many of us, also spent time feeling guilty and inadequate because of his imperfections and mistakes. I know this to be a weakness of mine, and as I read, I identified very much with him. But then, halfway through verse 19, something changes. Verses 19-26 say (continuing from where I left off):

"...nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me. And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?"

So, what changed? What did Nephi understand? I think it was this.

I think he understood that happiness does not lie in achieving a perfect score in this life. Our hope, our trust, our joy, is in and through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, accomplished by His infinite Atonement. If Jesus Christ gave so much for me to be happy, why should I let myself be weighed down by my mistakes and imperfections? Why should I look for and focus on past tempests and storms when so many days are filled with blue skies and sunshine? "... men are that they might have joy!" (2 Nephi 2:25)

My invitation for all of us is that, when those moments come that we begin to look back on what has been recognized and repented of, that we focus our gaze on the Savior, and trust His promises of forgiveness and succor which He has so readily given. Let us avoid the temptation to reject, whether by rebellious disobedience or by hopeless discouragement, the gift which He paid so very much to purchase for us. He lives! He loves us! And through Him, we can overcome all our past sins and mistakes, and throughout that process, He will help us to be happy if we let Him!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, May 15, 2017

Got to talk to my family!🎉 One month to go! Stepping aside to allow others to learn.❤️

Hey everybody! :)

So, I got to talk with my wonderful family yesterday. Which was just the best. It was funny as well because I realized that if I forgot anything, I guess I can just talk to them about it in like... a month. XD Super weird to think about it. Anyways, we had a great time. I have the best family in the world.

I honestly am not sure what to write in this letter. I pretty much told my family everything they wanted to know, and I didn't get the chance to think too much about it this past week because we were flying all over the place for lessons, exchanges, and meetings, so I'm just gonna wing it and see where it goes.

I guess I can just share something I learned about myself this week. It goes along with a quote from President Henry B. Eyring in this past priesthood session of General Conference: 

"...the Lord’s work is not just to solve problems; it is to build people. So as you walk with Him in priesthood service, you may find that sometimes what seems like the most efficient solution is not the Lord’s preferred solution because it does not allow people to grow. If you listen, He will teach you His ways. Remember that God’s work and glory is not simply to run an effective organization; it is 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39). This is, after all, why He gives His priesthood authority to flawed mortals like you and me and invites us to participate in His work. Our progress is His work!"

A good friend, a younger missionary with whom I was on exchanges this week, talked to me at the end of the exchange about this subject. He explained, "Elder McOmber, you are very effective. You know how to teach and you know how to find. It is very difficult to find something about the work that you don't do well. But you need to understand that others have to grow to be where you are. And that means that you need to avoid taking over, and you need to let me and others try so that we can grow."

This hit me so hard. I kind of knew this already about myself; when I get stressed or have a lot of things that need to get done, or when I feel like someone isn't understanding something, I tend to take over, pushing others out of the way and trying to make sure things are taught and done "my way." This is an aspect of my personal pride that I haven't really put a lot of effort into tackling; but this wonderful missionary was a tool in the Lord's hands in helping me recognize just how important it is for me to build people, not just solve problems. This is very, very difficult for me. And here's the greatest part; I don't have a magic formula. I really don't know what my action plan is to improve in this right now. But I can tell you that I'm going to study the subject and make some specific goals to become a better coach.

As I think back on the rest of my mission and my life, there are so many people who have been such wonderful coaches for me, letting me teach and lead, even though I know I was not the most effective or concise. There were so many moments where I know that my parents, leaders, or companions must have just sat back and smiled, biting their tongues and remembering that I am imperfect but getting better. The process of stepping back and observing and letting others make decisions that may not always be the most efficient is so contrary to my character that it is almost laughable; yet I know that this is exactly what so many people, especially my Heavenly Father, does with me. It requires a high level of trust and a high level of patience, and we have to put more of that trust in the Lord, remembering that His grace will support and strengthen them far more than we ever could.

So that's what I'm going to work on this week.

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hi Mom! Last transfer day. Tribute to mothers.❤️ Pics!

Happy 90th birthday to my dad everyone! ;)

Just kidding. He's not quite 90 yet. But I always thought it was funny how his birthday falls around the same time as Mother's day every year. It reminds me of a comment he would mention to me that he had heard from some comedian sometime, that a father teaches his son how to throw and catch a football. He spends hours outside practicing with him. He buys him cleats and pads and a helmet. He pays to put him on the club teams and the school teams. He goes to his games and helps him to see how he can do better. He puts his son through college, and as his son gets better and better, eventually he finds himself in a college championship game, and he wins. And what's the first thing he says when he's on camera after the game? "Hi Mom!" :P

I have wonderful parents. :)

This week has been cold. It's like winter just can't quite let go of Montreal. It's funny to see the difference in people's attitudes on sunny days and cloudy days. Everybody's happy on sunny days; they're outside, talking, smiling, and laughing. On cloudy days, I'm fairly sure there are several people I've talked to who almost bit my head off. :P The weather is powerful, I guess.

Transfers are in! I was a bit nervous because this is my last transfer, and as we were walking down the street on Saturday, we got a call from the assistants saying that we would be staying together in Hochelaga for this transfer!!! My wish came true; I will be finishing my mission here. I'm so excited. It's interesting how as you come to know an area better, the work itself doesn't necessarily get easier; you just find new things you could improve in. The amount of effort required is the same (sometimes greater), but it's spent in fine-tuning your work and striving to get better and better. I am so glad I get six more weeks to keep fine-tuning here!

I was thinking a lot about Mother's Day this past weekend, as I will be calling my family next Sunday for that occasion. And I started to think one night about all of the things my mom has done for me. I remember so many occasions where she planned a brilliant activity such as going to a water park or the zoo or a thousand other places with us kids while my dad was at work. And my heart hurts as I think about how ungrateful I was, and my lack of desire to go do these things in favor of a video game or a movie or some other associated activity. My mother works so hard. She would plan these things for us (because there's not very mothers in the world that I know of who dream about paying to go to a water park themselves), in hopes that her children would be happy. And so many times we would respond with an ungrateful "nah" or "I don't really wanna go." I wish I could go back! I wish I would have seen how much she was giving! And it's funny because every time that I did end up going with her to do whatever she'd planned, I always had fun, and felt much better than I would have had I stayed home and watched TV or played a video game all day.

I would like to pay my own tribute, my own "Hi, Mom!" to my angelic mother and to all other mothers who might read this letter this week. You have given so much for me. And I know there are so many moments when you have had the occasion to wonder, and perhaps you wonder still, if it's worth it, if we kids notice, if we care. Well, I have noticed, albeit sometimes far later than I could have. And I do care. And I am so incredibly grateful for your loving sacrifice. I wasn't always the easiest child to raise (especially when I ruined Christmas on occasion with a very premature gift opening celebration.... sorry again), but I am who I am now because of you and Dad. Thank you for listening to me after dances or dates and helping reduce my confusion at the behavior of the opposite gender. Thank you for taking me shopping for clothes when I was hopelessly lacking in style. Thank you for supporting me and cheering me on in everything I loved, be it my mission, school, sports, or anything else. Thank you for always being on my team. Thank you for giving so much even when I deserved so little. I don't know how I could thank you enough, but the best I can possibly do is to say that I remember these instances and I treasure them. I will always remember the things you do for me, even if I don't notice them at first. I love you, Mom!

En avant!
Elder Bryan McOmber

District photo! Left to right: Elder Landetta, Elder Blinn, me, Elder Valencia, Elder Vanaquer, Elder Carr, Soeur Terou, Soeur Bryant, Soeur Martin, and Soeur Roush. No idea what Soeur Bryant is doing... I didn't really want to ask. :)

It's around prom time back home, so I decided to take my prom photo. I'm going solo with one of my friends, but we'll be easy to recognize because, you know, we're wearing tags with our names on them. ;)

Right before we walked into the church I saw this scene and I had to take a picture. The flag on top is the Montreal flag and the flag on the bottom is the flag for the province of Quebec.