Monday, December 26, 2016

The Happiest War Hospital EVER

Kia Ora!

I know this post is a day (almost two days) late, but I'm not giving up the dream just yet.  At least for now, I am going to keep writing!  So this week has been very, very close to bliss.  I SO love my family!  I also SO love Christmas!  The only thing that put a damper on our life was all of our health. My dad is still in kidney donation recovery mode, Desi got her wisdom teeth out on Tuesday, and the rest of us are passing around sore throats and colds.  Desi said our house has been a "war hospital".  Well, it's been a pretty wonderful war hospital considering how great a week we've had.

Last Monday Deseret, Liberty, Hyrum, and I stayed up talking around the Christmas tree for ages!  (It's kind of our thing.  After we read the scriptures as a family and all say goodnight and get ready for bed and such, the four oldest kids congregate by the Christmas tree to write in our journals and do our individual scripture study.  Well, that night we got talking and it was the best thing.  Sister Fina'i called them "Deep and Meaningfuls".  This was definitely a deep and meaningful.  We talked about the future, the past, our family, the gospel, our failures and insecurities, and our hopes and dreams.  All four of us cried.  It's been kind of weird because since I've been home I've visited lots of wonderful people and seen lots of friends, but my best friends in the world are my siblings (including the two youngest who were asleep).  I will always have them and they made this week a party.

Tuesday I went to the dentist and prayed and prayed that I wouldn't have any cavities after not going my whole mission.  Well I guess Heavenly Father loves me, because I didn't have any!  I also went to the eye doctor and got a stronger prescription of contacts that I know I've been needing.  I LOVE them!  I've decided that getting contacts or glasses is like accepting the gospel.  You don't know how much you've been missing until you do it.  It's been great.  Then that night we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" (of course, for Christmas).  More than ever before, I just cried and cried.  I love that movie!

Wednesday my sore throat was the very worst!  We had a Christmas present wrapping extravaganza and then it was the Wells Ward Party that night.  Our ward though!  It's a good one.  I was involved in the presentation deal they had at it.  It went well.  I got to hold Raven (my temporary cousin that is living at my aunt Olivia's).  I just carried her around and had the best time.  I've missed holding babies!

Thursday I was sick again and I worked for my dad again.  I also took Hyrum to Elko to a Spring Creek get together with the Dyers who used to live in our stake.  They are a great family.

Then the rest of the week all blends together all being Christmas!  On Christmas Eve, my very organized mother had us all draw a sibling partner to help do some Christmas cooking.  Morgan and I made the breakfast casserole for Christmas morning and we did a gosh darn fantastic job!  The Christmas Eve program at Grandma and Grandpa's was just wonderful as usual.  We all got dressed up, ate soup and bread bowls and cookies and drank egg nog and wassail.  I attempted to play a piano solo (my voice was still to messed up to sing very well).  I played "Away in a Manger" but it wasn't nearly as good as Liberty's.  That girl is AMAZING!  At the end of the program all the cousins got on their white flowing angel costumes or towels and bathrobe to be shepherds.  We do it every year and we turn out all the lights except the Christmas tree.  We play Manheim Steamroller's "Silent Night" and someone (this year it was me) reads the Christmas story in Luke 2 while all the cousins stand and form the nativity.  The spirit was so strong.  Then my dear, dear Great Grandma Jaynes gave the closing prayer.  She is like Sister Toaripi or Chasidy . . . her prayers are powerful!  I could just feel the presence of deity in that room.

Christmas morning was wonderful of course.  Lots of excitement and joy and wonderful gift giving.  Everyone in my family has a new BYU "Reppin the Y" shirt (from Desi) and a New Zealand momento of some kind (from me).  We are all spoiled rotten I'm pretty sure. Then, I loved going to church on Christmas day!  It felt like the perfect thing to do to.  Deseret spoke beautifully and so did my aunt Jennifer.  She shared that her favorite Christmas memory was investigating the church through December when she was in college and staying up late to feast on the Book of Mormon for the first time ever.  How wonderful is that?

Our family got a great new board game (Ticket to Ride) for Christmas and if the Johnsons are anything, we are competitive!  We've been going hard at that.

I'm just so blessed to have the wonderful family that I do.  The heart of it is in this house right now, keeping warm from the freezing -8 degrees cold outside.  Some of it is peppered around Starr Valley and Elko County.  Some is across the state line over in Utah.  And some is across the ocean, across the world, in Aoteroa (New Zealand).  The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ.  The spirit of Christ is the spirit of love.  Well, I can definitely feel that spirit.  I will sing "Hosanna" to my Heavenly Father for sending his only begotten son to the earth to save us all of sin and shortcoming and sadness.

"Peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

Merry Christmas!!!

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Families Can Be Together Forever

Kia Ora!

So I have great news!  I'm going to survive.  Last week I really didn't know if I would be happy at home for a long time, but I actually am.  I still miss New Zealand and my mission a LOT, but I am realizing that I have a wonderful, wonderful family and great friends, even in this part of the world.  Also, I love Christmas in the northern hemisphere.  It has just felt so festive and great.  I've done so many fun things this week.

It's hard to remember what happened every day though.  But I do know that I've spent a lot of time talking with my family.  Twice I went running to Grandma and Grandpa's (even in the mud and snow and ice) and then stayed and talked to them for an hour or so.  Monday, I got my very own phone, which is a big step for me!  I've done a lot of Christmas shopping, which is really exciting!  I just love Christmas.

Tuesday I went visiting at the beloved Wells High School to see all my former teachers.  It was so weird to be there but it was fun to catch up with them all, especially Mr. Noorda.  I just keep feeling like I've jumped forward in time.  Everyone is older and taller and so many of my BYU friends are getting married and everyone is just growing up.  It's cool to see that though.  Time always moves on and it's a good thing, because progress requires change.  I also got to work with Dad on Tuesday.  He has behavior clients in Elko and we visited one and took him on a walk to the park.  He slid down the icy hill a million times while Dad and I just talked.  If there's anyone in the world that I admire, it's my dad.  He donated his kidney to my mom's uncle, Rick, a few weeks ago and it's a really big thing. He seems so little and frail all the time and he can't do a lot, which is very out of character for him, but he is so humble and hardworking and good.  Then that night was a really fun Relief Society activity that my mom, Carolina, and I sang at.  Also, Desi finally came home from college in time for the activity!  It's been so, so good to have her home.

Wednesday and Thursday I worked for the Ruby Mountain Relay, my Dad's race business.  I've been entering data into excel and we've been working on how we can advertise more for the relay.  Desi and I have been doing it together.  We also went through our BYU classes and I'm trying to switch into Family History with Desi.  I hope I get in.  Wednesday night was the FFA Christmas party and Thursday night we went to see the Great Basin Theater presenting "White Christmas".  Friday night was the Starr Valley Christmas program and it was so fun to be there.  That's when the whole valley (and some even farther than that) get together and all the kids put on the nativity and another funny Christmas play.  My mom and aunt (being the saints that they are) direct it and then at the end Santa always comes and it's just great.  Hyrum and I sang "Mary Did You Know?".  I sure love singing and harmonizing.  I need to get better at it!

Saturday night I saw my first post-mission movie theater movie.  It was Rogue One, the new Star Wars.  I've learned something about myself though.  I'm terrible at watching movies.  I always talk during the movie and I'm just really bad at knowing what's going on.  Luckily I was sitting by dear Liberty and she helped me right out!  Then we went to this new place, "Fiiz Drinks", which is apparently now the cool place to go.  I got a root beer kind which was great because I haven't had root beer for 18 months.

Then today was such a great day.  I got to substitute direct the ward choir and then it was my homecoming talk.  I was really hoping it would be good and I'm so glad I was happy with it.  The Holy Ghost helped me so much!  Even last night preparing for it, I was just crying.  I cried a LOT during it but that's ok.  Also, Sister Welker (my dear, dear last companion)'s family came.  I was already on the stand when they walked in.  It was so good to see them and of course that made me cry more.  After I spoke, I sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and Liberty played for me so well!  Then after church everyone came to our house to eat.  My mom did such a good job being in charge of all of that.  She is supermom, of course! But it was so fun to flit around and talk to everyone.  Even two wonderful sister missionaries that served her about two years ago came back to hear me speak and see everyone.

It is so true that family is the BEST and most important thing in the world.  Just like anything worth it, it takes a lot of work to have a successful family, but it is worth every bit of energy put into it!  I just can see so clearly that all happiness comes from the gospel to families.  The whole point of our life her is to qualify to live with our families forever.  That's what I want.  After everyone had gone today, my family sat around playing board games, reading Christmas stories, and making each other laugh.  I'm so blessed to be with my very own family!  Merry Christmas!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Home Again, Home Again (and Lots of Crying)

Kia Ora Whanua,

It feels so weird to be writing this, not at an internet cafe in New Zealand, but on my own laptop at our kitchen table here in my own house in Starr Valley, Nevada!  Holy cow.  So much has happened.  I still can't really describe how I feel, mostly because it keeps changing.  In the last week I have been miserable, scared, excited, joyful, peaceful, stressed, SO happy and every other emotion it seems.  Anyway, I've decided to keep up with these emails (I guess they're just posts now) since I have a following.  Haha  Sometimes I pretend that I'm popular.

Anyway, Monday (I can't believe that was this same week) I rushed around everywhere and said goodbye to heaps of people.  I just love them all so much!  I got a private showing from part of the Welcome Bay Ward Choir (actually most of it was there) and Sister Ngakuru said that she would love to make my wedding dress.  Not that I'll be needing it anytime soon, but still.  I just cried saying goodbye to our dear family that got baptized.  They all wrote me a card and gave me this great big candy lei.  Lieshane also wrote a card of her own and told me that it was the saddest day of her life and that she was going to serve a mission someday and that she was so grateful that she was able to learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I also said goodbye to Chasidy and she said all these so, so nice things and we just cried together.  I just have all these sisters in New Zealand.  I just feel like they are sisters.  She has changed and grown so much.  The last one I said goodbye to was Sister Solomon.  I got to her house very late and all the lights were off.  We even tapped on her bedroom window to say goodbye and no one came.  I was SO sad and we were about to give up, when the van pulled up and out hopped Sister Solomon, Tarne, and Nephi.  They had been grocery shopping.  Who even goes grocery shopping that late?  I don't know, but it was such a tender mercy to be able to hug her one more time.  That night I frantically finished packing and actually slept really well . . .for the last time all week I think.

The next morning we (Sister Lewis, Sister Reynolds, Sister Welker and I) got up early so I could go to the beach one last time.  It was like 6:00 by the time we got there and the sun was already coming up.   The Mount in the distance and the sand and the waves and just the feel of it all reduced me to tears.  I ran around for joy and just soaked it in.  Then we had to go to the dreaded bus stop.  When we got out of the car in the parking lot, Elder Fellingham and Elder Tahiata were there and they didn't even say anything and just starting doing the haka.  That was the beginning of the end for me, I tell you.  I cried and cried!  Then all the missionaries came and before I knew it they were all singing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" to the guitar and the bus driver was telling me to get on the bus.  At the last minute, the whole Paama whanau showed up and handed me my flash mission sweatshirt (Brother Paama is a saint and makes them for every missionary he has) with my name and all my areas and the mission logo and also a huge loaf of their famous Maori bread.

As the bus pulled away I was just sobbing.  When I finally got to be alright I started reading all the letters everyone had given me.  I am so blessed to have such amazing friends who are now family!  Before I knew it, I was to the mission office getting picked up by my old friend, Elder Bowman and others.  I felt like a lost puppy without a companion.  I spent the next few days with four Elders.  I was the only sister going home because it's mid transfer.  But the highlight of that day was definitely the temple!  It was so beautiful and peaceful and reassuring to be inside.  After eight months it is all the more sweet.  And it was such a blessing because the Sterzers (senior couple in New Plymouth) were on our session and I got to talk with them.  It was a very joyous reunion.  After that we ate, got interviewed, and had a testimony meeting at President's house.  I decided that even though I was sad there were no other sisters, the Elders there were pretty good ones.  I never served with any of them, but we were all playing the piano and singing together while we weren't getting interviewed.

That night they drove us up to Auckland to spend the night/day before the airport.  I knew that Sister Green (served with me in Taranaki) was the Sister Training Leader in Manurewa and I just prayed that I would be with her, and I was!  It was my first and last time serving in Auckland.  It was really cool but really different.  I was so tired all day but it was good to be there serving my heart out one last time.  Then at five we took the big drive to the airport.  They left me a plastic flower lei and off we went.

The next 24 hours were quite the thing!  Another amazing thing happened though.  Guess who was on my flight?  This great recent convert who I'd know in Taranaki was going to the Elder Wark/Sister Pagofie wedding and we were right next to each other on the plane!  So it was good to talk to her, but I had a middle seat and felt just so squished in.  It was the longest 12 hours of my life.  Then we waited 5 in San Francisco airport and then less than two on the last airplane.  At very, very, very long last . . . I raced down that hallway into my mom's arms.  I can't even tell you how good that felt!  There were 14 million people there and they were all happy and holding cute signs and much taller than they had been 18 months ago.  It was just so surreal to be with my siblings again.  And President and Sister Rudd were there.  In the words of Sister Tusega, "Oh my life!"  I love those folks.  Then we all went to the Village Inn (restaurant, not hotel) and ate.  It was even free pie night.  I flitted around and tried to talk with everyone.  Then we found our rented little flat for the night in Provo.  It was SO cold in the dark in the snow.  That was a shock.

The next few days we ran errands in Utah, drove back on the right side of the road (I keep thinking we are going to die and then remembering.  I haven't driven at all here yet), and came home to the blessed Starr Valley.  Seeing our house all decorated for Christmas just made me feel so at home!  Eventually my dad had to release me as a missionary.  He gave a really good blessing and then said "I officially release you as a missionary and call you as a daughter of God."  And . . . think really hard . . .  You're right, I cried.  I locked myself in my room and wrote in my journal and read the Book of Mormon.  Sister Ngakuru said that she wanted the real truth, not just all the good stuff, so here it is:  I am bad at change so I'm trying to remember it's going to be ok, but I really, really miss my mission.  It's just so weird to be here.

I still had a wonderful time at church, seeing my adorable little ward, reporting to the High Council with Emily Jones, and speaking to the mission prep class with her as well.  Emily and I opened our mission calls on the exact same day at BYU and we have had kind of matching lives.  Now we got home on the same day.  She is so wonderful and it was so fun to talk to her!  I've been able to email a bunch of my missionary friends and I even face timed Sister Solomon which was so fun.  All of you New Zealand-ites better keep in contact!

I can't believe my mission is over.  It was so hard and so wonderful . . . which is exactly how it feels to be home.  There is so opposition in all things.  Heavenly Father totally knows what I need, even as a civilian/member/YSA/regular person instead of his set-apart representative.  There are even greater things ahead.

I know I'm such a competitive person and I shouldn't be, but if there was a competition to see who had the best mission experience ever, I feel like I would win!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson :D
Chasidy!  How I love her!
Sisters! My favorite polynesians

A bunch of blond Americans

The glorious Welcome Bay Ward mission team
Saying goodbye to my dear Sister Welker

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Heart Is Full!



 Kia Ora Whanua (for the last time),

My title says it all.  My heart is so full.  I keep trying to find the words to say how I feel and I can't.  This was the best week of my life.  It was also a really bittersweet week.  I cried buckets and buckets and I can't stop smiling.  I rushed around everywhere like a madwoman, but I'm so full of peace and joy.  The word that keeps coming to mind is love.  That's what it's all about, isn't it?  It's amazing how 18 months ago, when I left on my mission, my heart was full.  I loved so many people so much, I'd had so many amazing experiences, and I had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Now, 18 months later, I've discovered a whole other world that has filled my heart even fuller.  I love so many more people so much and I've had even more amazing experiences, and my testimony is even stronger.  Like I didn't know that my heart was capable of loving and learning and growing and knowing and serving that much, but it is.  And it can even do more.  It will just keep getting better and better.

This week SO many things happened.  I went on exchanges with two of my dearest, most favorite sisters (Sister Toaripi and Sister Lewis).  I did a million things to organize our baptism.  We had the baptismal interviews.  I went to Rotorua.  I had Zone Conference (which was amazing and I saw so many missionaries I love and I learned so much).  Then this weekend was the baptism.  It was absolutely perfect!  We had to move to the chapel because so many people came!  Even their neighbor friends from next door that always sit in on our lessons came.  Dyles, Rhyley, Rhyme, Lieshane, and Shyniah looked amazing in their whites.  Elder Fellingham ended up baptizing them and he did such a good job.  Elder Tahiata and I sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and Natalie (Lieshane's and Shyniah's mom) gave a talk.  She was so nervous and her talk was so heartfelt and beautiful.  Also, their aunt Kereama also gave a talk. Then it was the barbeque afterwards.  The beach was beautiful and we ate pipis (these little shellfish that are so good), sang, and talked. 

Then Sunday was the most perfect day.  The confirmations were so good.  I wrote down what they all said to give to them.  The Spirit was just so strong!  Each of them was just glowing with goodness and faith!  Also, it was just so fun to see all these people I love that have returned to church: Mel, John, Rangi, Maddysen, the Skudders, the Phillips, Natalie and Sama, and the Emersons!  They are all just so wonderful and have come so far.  Standing at the door hugging everyone that came in like we always do just felt like a grand reunion.  I am so loved.  I don't deserve it. So many people in both wards talked about me in their testimonies.  And darn Brother Anderson, at the baptism and in sacrament meeting, talked about how we all must have known each other in the preexistence and I was sent here on purpose to find my friends.  Lots of people were in tears when we said good-bye, but I was the very worst though.  I got up to bear my testimony, wearing my BEAUTIFUL new greenstone from Sister Rudo, and my orange puletasi this time, and I look out at everyone that I love so much . . .like every single one, and I just cried!  Heavenly Father really helped me know what to say though.  When I wasn't looking, Leah had seriously the entire ward sign this massive card for me.  I got all these presents from everyone.  I was just always hugging someone.  Sister Lewis and Elder Fellingham kept joking with me and asking for my autograph.  Elder Tahiata and I sang "The First Noel" for prelude in both wards and "Mary Did You Know?" for the special Relief Society meeting.  It was so fun.

Then we had Stake MCM with the Zone Leader and President Fitzpatrick, then we went to Marie and Neil's.  I so love them!  Then the Te Puke Sisters (Sister Lewis and Reynolds) fed us dinner.  We get there and they'd drawn on their glass door "Welcome to the Last Supper".  Their table was all set out fancy with fry bread and all this good food they'd made.  Then the Elders dropped us dessert!  I cried again.

This morning, Sister Tusega fed us a big, amazing Samoan breakfast complete with Coca Rice and cut and straightened my hair.  I haven't curled or straightened my hair my whole mission, but now it is.  It looks so good.

I just love being a missionary!  Tonight we will rush around and see as many people as we can.  Then I get on a bus tomorrow morning!  I'm just so thankful for the amazing mission I've had.  It's been the hardest, hardest thing ever but also, the very, very, very, very best!  I would never trade what I've learned and gained.  It's so true that if you lose your life for Christ's sake, you will find it!  I've found my life.  It's found in serving and giving and loving and including and teaching and changing and repenting and forgiving and trying and becoming and studying and praying and fasting and trusting and believing.  How did I deserve all that I have?  What did I do to be so loved and so happy?  Heavenly Father really, really, really loves His children.  I am so grateful to be His daughter, His representative, His disciple, His friend.  I'm so grateful for this beautiful, crazy life we get to come to earth to live.  The only thing that makes it worth anything at all is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When the gospel is written in a list, it doesn't seem very spectacular, but when it is lived in a life, it is the most glorious thing in the world. 

Thank you for being Christlike and loving me.  I love you all so much!  The scriptures say that charity is a gift from God.  When you feel the spirit you want to love others.  That's how I feel.  I can't believe it's over.  Luckily I'm "just getting transferred" to a new area.  I will continue to press forward and share my experiences.  New Zealand is still in my heart, or rather, I think I will leave my heart in New Zealand.  I am forever a kiwi! But more importantly, I am forever a missionary! 

Sorry for rambling.  I wish I could write better and explain how I feel.  This is a glimpse of how we will feel in heaven.

Enoho ra, New Zealand (is that right)!  I will be back! 

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson