Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear family,
   First of all, I LOVED talking to you all on Christmas. I had been kind of scared that it would make me sad and more homesickness, since I'm kind of unstable about that right now, but it had the opposite effect. Hearing your voices, sharing more with you, just talking with all of you and knowing that you're still there and you're still well was such a great relief to me. I know that those special relationships with all of you are still there and will still be there when I get home. That was really something that meant a lot to me. Because I do really miss you all a ton. I can hardly wait to be back with you all in the airport the day I get home...but...that is in the future. :) Right now I'm here. I'm a missionary. I'm learning to work hard because I want to work hard. I want to do the Lord's work. And I know that all we have to do is have a desire and to be willing to change, then he will use us and shape us into what we need to be. I know that he will make me capable of my calling. Don't you love the gospel? I love it more and more every day. I love study time. I LOVE the Book of Mormon. Everyone should read it more, okay? So yeah, anyway, thank you so much for your words of encouragement, support, and for just being you on the phone. I love you all so much and really, I pray for you all specifically by name every day. I hope everything is going well and that you all have comfort and support in all you have to do. You have a missionary who thinks about you and prays for you always. You can do anything. :)
   I feel very good about this week. We did a lot of caroling and visiting on Christmas Eve and Christmas and because of that we met a lot of people that we were able to have lessons with or declare to. We were able to make a couple of return appointments and we are excited for those this week. The members of this ward are wonderful. So many of them want to help with missionary work. They are so willing to help us out, they want to introduce us to their friends and share the gospel with them. We went caroling a lot this week! With just the two of us, with ward members, and with some of the other missionaries. It was so fun. And very effective. The caroling definitely softens hearts towards us as missionaries. 
   Sister Cusick is wonderful. She supports me so much, and she is helping me so much. I really, really struggle to say much to people when we talk with them. I'm afraid of saying something wrong. But she is helping me by pushing me to talk more. I know she has to be very patient. She carries so much of the weight of every conversation, but I'm working really hard to be able to talk more, and I know I'm improving bit by bit.
   I thought of you all on Christmas Eve especially. Because I know our routine, I could guess where you all were and what you were doing. But I had a special thing happen. That night the family that we had dinner with lived up on the hill. And their gorgeous house has huge windows that looked out over the whole valley. It was beautiful and it felt like Grandma's house. I could see all the lights and imagine that I was back home in Utah. It was a special moment. I wanted to tell you all that.  That night when we got back to our apartment (because we had to come in an hour early) we opened presents since we had so much time. I was SO happy to receive all of my packages. And I just want to say to you all THANK YOU SO MUCH. I wish that I could go through and list all of the gifts specifically and how much I love them, but time doesn't really allow for that. But just know that every single gift meant so much to me. I've loved using them, eating them, looking at them, holding them, and just having them all of this week. Wonderful stuff. :) Thank you.
   I'm so happy for those of you who went to Disneyland this week. I enjoyed those days because as I walked around the streets of my area doing the work, I would imagine walking through the streets and lands of Disneyland. I know that place so well and I have such a large amount of memories and associations with it that it was  a very encouraging and fun thing to think about. I was imagining different rides and music all day. (Don't worry, it wasn't a distraction from the work, it was motivation.) I actually had enough time today to read the email, Mom. :) And I loved hearing about it. I can only imagine how wonderful a Christmas/winter World of Color was. I really can't wait to see Frozen. It sounds exactly like my kind of movie. And I love our family Disneyland pride that you all showed. Way to represent us. And yes, I'm always alright with you telling me all about what you do. Really, it makes me very happy and motivated.
   Aw...I love the name for the puppy. I'm excited for pictures, and I'm so glad to hear that Christmas was so great for all of you. And congrats on the violin Susan. I miss playing so much. When I get back we will all play lots of music, okay?
   Thank you all again, for your love, support, prayers, and everything else. You are all wonderful and I am so proud to be a member of this family. I wear our name with pride, seriously. ;) And I look forward to hearing more from you all. I'm getting faster with emails and letters, so I'll be trying to send more things to all of you. I love you and will be with you all of this week.
   Melanie (Sister Hardman)
P.S.-Dad, thank you so much for what you said in the letter last week. You quoting me was so special to me, reminding me of these things that I do know. You are completely right, I do want to share this with others. And the quote from the Hobbit had a big influence too. Yeah, maybe I do like who I am right now, but Heavenly Father knows how to shape me into the best Melanie I can be. I trust him and his will completely. (Remember my Celtic knot that represents that for me? Yeah, it's a good reminder.) Thank you for the support and advice that helps me to have perspective and to know I can do this.
   -Mom, I love the diffuser. My apartment smells very nice. :) And by the way, I love using the oils. The familiar scents have been such a comfort to me all this time. I'm almost out of Lemon. And I'm wearing the new cardigan. Thank you so much for that. I love you!

 Thank you for the call! I loved it so much (Notice all the pictures of you all by my desk)

 All of my wonderful presents. Thank you all so much!

Here is my wonderful District.  We are all becoming very good friends.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,
   First of all, thank you for the abundance of emails I got today! It makes me so happy! Sadly I don't have time to read them right now before I write my letter, but I've printed them all out and will thoroughly enjoy them today. Thank you all so much for the support. It helps so much. And again thank you for all of you last week that responded to my plea for help and advice. It has helped so much. I'm doing much better. It is still very hard sometimes to not get down, and the homesickness is so powerful sometimes, but I'm trying to push through it. I know things are slowly getting easier, or I'm getting stronger. I'm so glad that I'm a missionary, and I'm so grateful for what I'm learning and how I'm growing. I love you all so much!
   We had exchanges this week and I was companions with Sister Stoker. It was a wonderful experience. I feel that I learned so much from her, and that she helped me with my specific needs. And she didn't push we way past the level I'm at right now, which I was afraid of. We made smaller more attainable goals for me that day, and because I knew I was able to reach those, it motivated me to do more and to work harder. I also loved being with her for the day because I had fun in the work we were doing. I know that we aren't here to have fun, but I also know that if I don't feel like I'm having any fun at all I feel trapped and forced to work. On our exchange we worked hard and I had fun. I'm not quite sure what made the difference, but it was really encouraging. I think that exchanges are a great thing to do. It helps so much. I really love the idea of having the sister training leaders. Not only do they do missionary work, but they focus on helping other missionaries with their needs. I would love to someday be a sister training leader for that reason. I love helping individuals adjust and learn to feel confident in themselves.
   I don't want to sound cliche like other missionaries that use this, but we've had a "White Christmas." We had two baptisms in our district this weekend! It's so happy and exciting. One woman shouted, "Halleluja!" When she came up out of the water. Haha. So funny. And then yesterday was Charlene's baptism. She is the wonderful woman that I mentioned. She's been going to church for a year I believe. (Her son was baptized a year ago.) And she made the decision that she wanted to be baptized. She already knew all about the gospel, but she still had to take all of the lessons before getting baptized. That's where we came in. Sister Cusick and I taught her all of the lessons and helped her prepare. She was baptized yesterday afternoon. It was a wonderful service. The talks were so simple but they touched me so much, reminding me of why baptism and the Holy Ghost are so important, and causing me to think of my own testimony on those two very important things. The musical numbers also brought the spirit so strongly (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) and it was wonderful to see her son Kevin baptize her.
   This week we have also been meeting with a lot of new people. A member family in our ward took us caroling to their nonmember friends and neighbors, and it has been a great opportunity to introduce ourselves and spread the light of Christ this Christmas season. We have planned to visit several less-active families, nonmembers, and others on Christmas Eve and Christmas. We are caroling a lot. I love it. I love this Christmas season in how it helps others be more open to learning of and thinking about Jesus Christ.

   On Thursday we had our multi-Zone Christmas Devotional. It was so fun and so wonderful. There were many musical numbers, Christmas videos, fun games, visiting with the other missionaries, messages from President Castro and his wife, and a lot of great stuff. I really enjoyed it. Sister Castro and I had a long talk about my ear. Yeah, it's been pretty bad, probably due to all the stress, but it was very comforting to talk with her. She's trying to find out more information for me, and she's been giving me great advice of things that might help it not be so loud.
   Okay...sad story. :( The packages didn't come in time for me to receive them on that day. In fact, I haven't received any letters or packages since last Monday night. (Dad, I got your letter then, that was wonderful! Thank you so much. It just the advice and counsel I needed from my Dad.) But yeah, I still haven't received anything, but I'm really, really, REALLY hoping they get here today or tomorrow. I'm worried that they got lost. I shouldn't be so paranoid. I don't know. Mom, if you think they should have arrived by now you could give Sister Truman a call - I know you love doing that. :) I talked to her at the devotional. She gave me a hug and we talked about your conversation with her. We did get a huge bag from the young women in this ward that was full of a dozen or so wrapped presents! So I do have something. But I really hope the other things get here. Thank you so much for whatever it is you sent me. I'm excited. :)
   The ward members here are great. The longer I'm here the more at home I feel with them. I miss home and family so much, so it really helps. Many of the families and members have really taken us in. The ward mission leader's family gave us See's truffles! Yum. And I really enjoy dinner with a different family each night. I've eaten some odd things like...steak and clam chowder. Haha you'd all be proud of me I hope. I eat what's put in front of me. Speaking of ward members, there's this family that is really motivated and helpful with missionary work. They want to help us so much. They've taken us caroling with them twice this week to meet their nonmember friends. What a fun and great way of meeting people! And it makes me feel part of a family here too. I've really enjoyed that. We're going to carol a lot this week like I said.
   Sister Cusick's mom sent her the Piano Guys Christmas CD. I love it so much. :) It reminds me of mission shopping with you Mom.
  Oh! Concerning calls on Christmas. So I will be calling home at 11 my time if that's alright with all of you. Actually, I don't know how I would find out if it's alright from you by then, so just plan on that please. (Is that 12 your time?) I can hardly wait to talk to you all! I love you all so much and miss you. I'll talk to you all soon! Please keep up the emails and letters. Love you all so much! Thanks for the pictures!
Love you!
Sister Melanie

Happy 1 Month Mission Birthday!

Charlene's Baptism 

All of the sisters at the Christmas Devotional with Sister Castro

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Dear Family,
   First of all: Happy Birthday Dad!!! I love you so much and I've been singing Happy Birthday is my head all morning. I hope you have a wonderful day. Love you. Every word of the card I sent you is so true. Thank you for everything.
   Also, since time is so short I want to make sure I get this letter out before I run our of time, so I haven't read the emails from all of you yet. I printed them out and can't wait to read them. Thank you all so much for responding to my need of encouragement. I want you all to know that I'm doing much better. I had a few breakthroughs this week with reminding myself why I'm here, to share what I know. I know how happy the gospel makes me. I am SO grateful for the knowledge that my family is eternal. I love you all so much and miss you so much that yes, it does hurt sometimes, but I know that 18 months is a short time. I can give up 18 months of my life so that others can know what I know, feel what I feel, and be as happy as I am. Thank you all for the support. I can't wait to read your letters in half an hour.
   Here's the real one. The real, full letter of how I'm doing and what things are like here on my mission. Sorry about the short and pretty detail-less messages you've received so far. It really surprised me how fast your email time goes by. Plus it's hard to remember what things you want to say when you're rushed. So this week I've written down a list of things to tell you all. 
   First of all, I can't express this enough. I love you all and miss you all so much. I think about you and pray for you every single day. The letters, packages, emails, and pictures from all of you bring me so much happiness and give me the motivation and encouragement to keep going and to work hard. Please keep telling me how you all are. I really love it. There is no such thing as too many letters. :)
   So here are the things I want to share with you all:
   Sister Cusick my companion is wonderful. She is a great trainer. She works really hard, and is helping me to push myself to become a braver and better missionary. I enjoy our lunch breaks when we discuss random things and get to know each other more.
   Concerning what I do every day, it's pretty typical missionary work. :) She drives (I'm becoming a great map reader I think) and we go to visit Investigators, less-active families, and we do a lot of knocking, street-contacting, and declaring to random people. I don't talk a ton when it's random people on the street, but I'm getting better at talking and teaching in our actual lessons.
   Speaking of lessons we are teaching a wonderful woman who is being baptized on Sunday!!! She has been attending church for more than a year and has such a strong testimony, but as a formality, she has to have all of the missionary discussions before baptism, so she was basically given to us to teach ALL of the lessons and discussions. We meet with her a lot and I am so excited for her bapitism. Her son was baptized a year ago. He's at BYU, but he's coming down this week to baptize her. :) I'm excited.
   The members of this ward are wonderful. They feed us dinner each night, and so many of them are very excited about missionary work and willing to help us with anything they can do.
   Mom, I love my wardrobe. Thank you again, so much! It makes me very happy to think of you every time I put on something I know you liked or got for me. I'm wearing the green and blue sailboat sweater today. :)
   California weather right now is colder than I expected. Actually today it's really pleasant outside, just cool. But often in this area it's pretty cold and breezy. A member said that we are super close to the ocean, that it's right over the mountain. I'm not sure if I believe them. Haha, the truth is I have no idea where I am in relation to anything. I love the stars at night because I can see familiar constellations that I know from home, and I then know where I am in relation to home. I laughed when Bethany told me that you've stalked me on google maps. That's awesome. Isn't my apartment lovely? I like it. It reminds me of Bonnie's.
   I miss music quite a lot. I haven't touched a piano since I played at the transfer meeting on the 3rd. I miss listening to music and singing. We listen to some in the car, but I miss a lot of other songs. Especially Christmas ones I love. At night, I love the fact that I can't fall asleep for a while because I lay there thinking through my favorites. I have Princess and the Frog and Tangled memorized and I often fall asleep "watching" those. :) Weird huh? But, hey! It makes me happy and helps me get to sleep.
   I'm going to end this letter so that I can send some pictures to you all. By the way, I'll let you know next week about when I can call home on Christmas. I look forward to talking with you all. Thank you for everything. I'll try to write a few replies to individual letters today. I love you all! Thank you again for all the letters and packages. My favorite time of day is 9 when we get home and we go to the mailbox to check. And the packages have made me smile so much. I love opening packages! Thanks for everything! I love you all! Know that I am doing well. I'm with you all the time. I feel your love and support. I love hearing about home. Tell me more about what's going on. How is/was the party house full of people? What Christmas things are you doing? How is Jim? Send me snow. ;)
Love you all so much!
Sister Melanie

Here is me and my companion with our goal of making Saturday night "Hot chocolate and popcorn night".

Happy Birthday Dad! I Love you! (This is from this morning by the way, on my apartment's balcony.)

In-N-Out :) We only have an In-N-Out and a Subway in our areas, but those make me happy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Family!!!
   I am so happy to be here today reading your emails and telling you what I've been up to. Before I tell you about my week, I just want to make sure you all know how much I love you. I miss you all so much it hurts. (Not an exaggeration)  I did not think it would be this hard. I thought the MTC was bad for homesickness, well being shipped off to a new, unfamiliar place with absolutely no one you know is quite a different feeling. I love you all so much and this experience has made me appreciate you all the more. At the moment I'm planning on living at home for the rest of my life when I get back from my mission. :)  Please know that I think about you all a lot. (Don't worry, it's not a distraction, it's motivation.) The mission is hard. So hard. And I won't lie, sometimes it's easy to wonder why I came and to sometimes want to come home. But I would never do that. I came out here for a reason and although it's hard to focus on that and remember that when I'm struggling, I know that it will get better and that I will be able to help bless the lives of so many people out here. I'm going to help teach people that they can be with their families forever. That knowledge that our family is eternal is what keeps me going every minute of every day.
   Okay I don't have much time (I'm growing accustomed to that) so I'll quickly tell you about some things this week. It sounds like you all know this already, (Mom I love what you said about Sister Truman, it made me smile, and to imagine you talking with her was happy), I'm in Thousand Oaks, specifically Newbury Park, in the Los Robles ward. I believe what you said about it being a rich place. It is SO nice her. And although I can't see it, I hear the ocean is just over this "mountain" (yeah, nothing on Timpanogos. Can someone send me a picture of Timp? I miss it.) The ward here is wonderful, and members feed us almost every night. One family, the Greens have a daughter who works at Zupas in AF! They have every missionary who eats at their house sign the bottom of their table. There are a lot. My apartment is good. It's SO cold sometimes! What?! In California? I bundle up a lot to go out and exercise in the morning and we cannot figure out how to have our shower is quite cold sometimes. And I'm a little cold at night, but I'm excited for another blanket. Sister Cusick is wonderful. She is training so well, and although I'm afraid of teaching and don't say much yet, I'm getting there. The Christmas Devotional was wonderful last night. It encouraged me so much.
Okay, I'm really out of time, but I love you all so much and I will tell you more next week when I have a bit more time. Please spread the word to everyone to send me letters! I need the really. It helps me so much. Really, every single letter or word or evidence of support is much appreciated. Mom I'm so excited for the package!!! And I was happy to hear about your week. I'll send some real letters today.
I love you all so much!

Love, Sister Melanie Hardman

P.s.- For all of you who have served missions, can you please send me some words of advice or support for someone who is really struggling with homesickness? I really need the help. :) I love you all.
And I'll send pictures to you next week too. Sorry I forgot my chord today.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We're excited to have your missionary stay with us on her first night in the field. Thanks for sharing her with us!
Paul & Becky Laws

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
   Today is going to be a wonderful day. We woke up very early to come and start our laundry at 6:30, and I am just sitting here in the laundry room enjoying the opportunity to read and write letters. Since today is our first P-day and Thanksgiving our schedule is kind of crazy, so I'm happy that they have computers in the laundry room.
   You all sound like you're having fun. :) I love imagining what you are all doing and what your holiday is going to be like. I miss you all SOOO much, but I am very happy to be here on a mission. I won't lie, the first three days were very, very hard for me. I was very stressed and scared a lot of the time during our first few days of classes and teaching experiences and at night when everyone else was finally asleep and I was just by myself I was very emotional. (Yes, mom, I like Mike have cried at the MTC.) It is hard. But as I mentioned in my letter home this week, it is teaching me to depend on the Lord. And I am proud to say that I am doing much, much better! Everyone said just make it to your first Sunday and things will start feeling better. They were right. I now know that I CAN do this. (With a lot of help from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.) But I do now know that I will be able to do this. I am still so afraid of teaching people, but every time I do I feel a little bit better. And we do a LOT of teaching practice here. I had a few wonderful experiences this week with our "Progressing Investigator" Ken. On Monday, our lesson with him went so well, simply because we were so focused on him. As missionaries we need to focus on others and their needs. We aren't there just to teach them the lessons. We're there to teach them the lessons while helping them to know and feel what they need to know and feel. We were so focused on him and what he needed to feel and know from his Heavenly Father and because of that, the Spirit was able to guide us to what we needed to say and touch his heart. Even though it was our 3rd or 4th time teaching him, he finally opened up to us and told us about his hard past. He trusts us now and knows we want to help him. We didn't get a chance to commit him to anything that day because we ran out of time, but guess what we found when we returned to teach him yesterday... an extremely happy and excited Ken that had been so touched by our caring and the Spirit that he felt that he picked up the Book of Mormon and read nearly a dozen chapters! It was wonderful! We have so much to teach him, but it's different now that he is feeling the Spirit and that he is willing to listen and learn and talk with us. The MTC is so hard, and since we only have 12 days here they push so much on us, but it is necessary and it is so important to help us become more effective and better missionaries.
   Thank you all so much for your letters, packages, emails, support, love, and prayers. It means so much to me, and it helps me so much every time I feel your support. I love hearing about home, so please keep telling me. Don't worry, it doesn't distract me or make me more homesick. It's comforting and it keeps me going.
   Mom and Dad, for your information, I fly out on Monday morning. We have to report to the travel center here at 4:35 in the morning so I don't know at what time we will be at the airport. But will someone be home if I call sometime in the morning. My guess is that it will be around 7 or 8ish maybe? Me, my district, and another district of missionaries going to our mission will be flying to Denver, CO, then over to Santa Barbara. (Mom please make sure that I have money in my account for baggage. Thanks!)
   Bethany and James, thank you so much for both of your packages. They mean so much to me and they make me so happy! The Thanksgiving one I got last night and when I opened it it made me so happy! Happy Thanksgiving! I'm excited for the pie you sent me. Today will be a crazy day but I'm excited. We don't have any classes or teaching or anything! There's a lot of great Thanksgiving day stuff! A general authority is coming this morning for a devotional. I wonder who it will be. :) And we have service projects. West Campus is coming and I'm going to have to find Katy. The other day my district and I were walking across the cafeteria for dinner when I heard someone say, "Sister Hardman! Sister Hardman!" I turned around, confused and it was Katy!!! I was so happy and excited to see her! We hugged and I could barely talk, I was just so relieved to see someone so close to me. She looks like she's doing great. She loves being a missionary. It is so fun that we have gone through so much of the missionary process together. I was so happy to see her. So yeah, we have a lot of great things on the program for today. I have no idea what they're feeding us. Apparently they're catering a nice lunch for us. I hope it's wonderful. (Yeah, I'm kind of sick of cafeteria food. I've turned to the cereal.) For dinner we have to eat sack lunches in our room, but I usually really like that type of thing. (And we'll eat that pie you sent me, Beth. Thanks!) Oh! And we are all SOOO excited for tonight, because guess what?! We get to watch Ephraim's Rescue! We are all so excited to watch a movie! I miss watching movies so much. And I miss hearing music. I can't wait to be in the field where we will at least be able to listen to music sometimes.
   I'll be thinking about you all today! Send everyone my love! I'm doing well. I love being a missionary. I'm about to fly to California. And I couldn't be more happy about being on a mission.
Love you! (I'll do my best to answer letters today from those of you that have sent them. Thank you so much, again!)
   Sister Melanie Hardman