Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas package and the Nativity

Hi guys!!! I am so happy my package made it safely home :) I just threw a bunch of stuff I couldn't pack in there last second - did you like the Christmas video? Please send me pictures of the hounds on those blankets, I guess they can be for Lily and Vito. Wow, I am impressed Henry wore the T-shirt, that is rare that makes me happy. Before we left to email today I got your treat package and was jumping around like a sister missionary. Thank you! You spoil me mom ;) Who did the Aggies play in the Bowl game?

I will probably call you guys and then you call back real quick or something, just like Mothers' day. Training is really fun, my son is from Draper, Utah. He is 22 years old and not very green because he's lived on his own  He is a techy and really smart with technology, he built his own computer back home. So far so good. Sometimes I catch myself like "wow, I'm getting near 1/2 way of my mission." It is bitter-sweet. My absolute greatest fear is to return home the same as I left. So everyday of these two years is absolutely crucial to me.

I absolutely love the Nativity and would like to touch on that a little bit again, after studying it some more I never really took much thought as to the character of Joseph and Mary (I think sometimes we just read the Nativity story and think "Oh that was cute, time to forget it until next year") but my goodness, after Joseph found out Mary was pregnant she would have faced stoning if he accused her of adultery, or if he chose to accept the child as his own he would be looked at as a commandment breaker (because once you were betrothed you were supposed to wait a year to start a family so he would have broken that if he claimed the child) For him to claim the child as his own was very courageous and both him and Mary were very obedient to the angels visitations. They were also very strong. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem is not easy, it is about a 100 mile journey, and remember Mary was "Great with child..." Those Hebrew women were tough I tell ya. And then she had the child in a stable! And then to flee to Egypt from Bethlehem? I looked on my Bible map and it looks to be like a 200+ journey! Incredible!
Now after a year or so the wise men showed up after following the star in the East and gave the child three gifts that are of great importance. Gold: because gold is for kings and Christ is the King of Kings, Frankincense: Incense used during sacrificial purposes by the priests fitting because Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and the Priest of priests, and Mrryh: used for embalming and anointing the dead, fit for the small child that would meet his fate upon the cross and be put in a tomb. Let us ponder the Nativity and really think about all the small things that occur at it. Examples:
Why were shepherds told?
Who was Herod? His background?
What would Mary's parents have thought to find out she was pregnant and Joseph wasn't the father? or the people of Nazareth?
What was the journey like from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
How did they have kids back then? What were the complications with birth?
What is the significance of swaddling clothes? or a manger?
Anyways I love to study the scriptures and understand why events happened the way they did.
have a wonderful week!
Elder Blackburn


Monday, December 10, 2012

Staying and Training

Hello Family,
"So transfer calls came and I am.....STAYING! Can you believe it by the end of these transfers I will have been in this ward 9 months which is just going to make it even harder to say goodbye at the end of it. I will also be training a greenie! Woohoo! I am excited because Elders that come out of the MTC are always pumped up. I'm glad you like the picture that was sent to you - I love that family, we have taught his nephew and brother. They are super fun. My Christmas package should arrive tomorrow!---At least that's what the post office lady said last week. I wish I had more time to type but I don't so this is going to be really quick. I have been emailing my friends. I am just so proud of all my friends that are serving. I wish we could all get together after and have a big reunion party and sit and chat, so I could tell them how much I admire each of them. Gosh....*sniff* I .... just my friends... ha ha"
Love, Elder Blackburn
501 E. Centerton Blvd. Unit 533
Centerton, AR 72719

Hayden and his buds

On Wednesday of last week, we received the following email that was sent to the parents of Elder Blackburn and his companion from a great family in their area -

We just wanted to send you this photo of your awesome boys. I can't tell you what a blessing they have been in our lives. They come over almost every day after school to spend time with our kids. Although they like to play a friendly game of football (or soccer) the games are jam packed with life lessons and spiritual lessons. We LOVE these boys. They could not be better examples of service, compassion and charity. We will miss them dearly when they have to go. But we know they will be absolute blessings to every family the come into contact with. So, be proud of your boys and know they are making a huge impact on the lives they serve.

Love to you all!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thoughts of Christmas and other things...

Well, transfers are the 13th of December so we find out this Saturday if I will be leaving. Pretty exciting a week from this Thursday I will have been in this area 6 months and my, how the time has flown by! This has definitely been the area of most growth thus far and I have seen such a change in myself and others. It has been so wonderful to serve in this ward and I'm probably going to cry like a baby when I have to leave because these guys are my home ward now! My ward mission leader is the nicest guy and has been so awesome to work with, and the bishop and counselors and just everybody and everyone has little kids so I have loved teasing them and saying hi to them etc. 

The Lord really knows where we need to be as missionaries, I think we as Elders learn a lot knowledge-wise, but we grow to love people and learn to love others as Christ does. The hard part won't be returning home at the end of two years but leaving all of the friends you have made and the people you have grown to love that you might never see again, that is what's hard. 

Lately, my studying has been on my Patriarchal Blessing, I think we ought to all study that blessing more regularly and pray about it more. It is pretty amazing that we each get a blessing directly from Heavenly Father through a Patriarch that directly states certain blessings we have, certain abilities, warnings, etc. It is like a church talk absolutely 100% for you. 

This last week we had a Christmas zone conference and it was so good :) We learned a lot about the Atonement and The Shumways are so amazing, he is such a great mission president. He shared with us his family's Christmas traditions and read to us a book about a woodcarver, Mr. Toomey that put all of us to tears. He read it to us like we were his kids, it was really something. (my 2 cents: You should look up that book and read it, it's a tear jerker) He shared to us how in 3 Nephi 1:13 it says "for on the morrow come I into the World..." and Isaiah 9:6 says "For unto us a child is born..." and then in Luke 2:11 it says "For unto you is born this day..." showing us how the Atonement is both universal and individual, it covers the world it covers us and it covers you and me. What a great time of year is Christmas time! We can reflect on the Savior's birth, life, and mission. What humble beginnings,
Below is from Elder Holland's 1977 Ensign article entitled, "Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come from the Store." I encourage you to look it up on

"One impression which has persisted with me recently is that this is a story—in profound paradox with our own times—that this is a story of intense poverty. I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not “there was no room in the inn” but specifically that “there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7; italics added.) We cannot be certain, but it is my guess that money could talk in those days as well as in our own. I think if Joseph and Mary had been people of influence or means, they would have found lodging even at that busy time of year.

I have wondered if the Inspired Version also was suggesting they did not know the “right people” in saying, “There was none to give room for them in the inns.” (JST, Luke 2:7.)
We cannot be certain what the historian intended, but we do know these two were desperately poor. At the purification offering which the parents made after the child’s birth, a turtledove was substituted for the required lamb, a substitution the Lord had allowed in the Law of Moses to ease the burden of the truly impoverished. (See Lev. 12:8.) "I wonder what emotions Joseph might have had as he cleared away the dung and debris. I wonder if he felt the sting of tears as he hurriedly tried to find the cleanest straw and hold the animals back. I wonder if he wondered: “Could there be a more unhealthy, a more disease-ridden, a more despicable circumstance in which a child could be born? Is this a place fit for a king? Should the mother of the Son of God be asked to enter the valley of the shadow of death in such a foul and unfamiliar place as this? Is it wrong to wish her some comfort? Is it right He should be born here?”

Pretty deep...I love to sing the words of Away in a Manger, it about makes me cry everytime. I also like to ponder what gift I would have given baby Jesus, what gift can I possibly give to the Son of God? The answer is always my love and my will, the best gift we can all give to the Saviour is submitting to their will and giving them our agency which is the only thing we really have that is our own. I hope we can all bring the Spirit of Christmas (which is really just the Spirit of Christ) into our homes this Holiday Season and always remember him.

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the heavens looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

Oh, what it would have been like to hold Heavenly Father's little boy...his perfect gift to the world. Just like how Elder Uchtdorf talked about being good receivers toChristmas gifts this season let us be good receivers to Heavenly Father's gifts to us and good receivers to of his most important gift, his perfect little boy who came down from heaven to save us and redeem us.

Elder Blackburn