Monday, March 30, 2015

Hey Family!
   I'm excited to email you today. (Well...I'm ALWAYS excited to email you.) But I love all of you and I enjoyed reading all of your emails today and feeling close to you. Holy cow, that email was hilarious, Emma! Thanks for being the family's representative for the week. You did well. You're right, a snail on a hot summer's day moves very slowly. I would know because I pass about 30 giant snails on the sidewalk a day. :) I hope you can tell from my cheery attitude that things are going well. This week went really well, I was given a lot of awesome opportunities, blessings, experiences, and fun moments. So things are great down here, and I will continue to make them so.
   Here are a few things that went on this week:
   It was so wonderful to see President and Sister Felix a few times this week. They're awesome. Besides Sister Felix's visit to our apartment last Sunday, we also got to see and talk with them for a while at interviews this week on Thursday. Then yesterday on Sunday I made Sister Felix Temple cookies for her birthday and since we are the luckiest missionaries in the whole mission and the Felix's live in OUR area, we were able to actually go and deliver them and sing to her. They were so excited to see us and invited us into the Mission Home for a few minutes to show it to us and to visit. President Felix was wearing an apron and working in the kitchen, it was funny. Then we also got to see them at the big concert last night. I love serving in Ventura!
   The work is going well. This week we taught a young man named M. who doesn't have a religious background, but loves the member family next door. He spends a ton of time with them and comes to church with them occasionally. He loves the way it feels at church and in their home. He's now interested in taking the lessons and learning. We taught the restoration in the members home and it went so well. We talked about prayer, since he's never prayed before, and we were able to witness his very first prayer. He was excited and brave and wanted to try it. It was special to witness the first time that he's really tried to talk with Heavenly Father. I am so grateful that I grew up knowing that I could pray to him at any time. What a blessing. Thanks Mom and Dad. You changed my life. :) 
   Can I just say that I think Sister Wilson is great. We get along so well, love the work, do our best, and have a lot of fun together too. I really love being her companion and she is teaching me so much by her example of service and courage. She's very bold and diligent and she also looks for opportunities all around her to serve in simple ways. I'm learning a lot from that. I want to be better about seeing little acts of service that I can do for those around me. A little service miracle we saw this week came as we went and mopped the floor of a less-active, injured member. Her young son is an active member in the young mens and as he asked us questions about serving missions and about the gospel you could see how hungry he was for that spirit and for that truth. It was nice to make a difference in that home.
   Last night I was really touched by the concert. The Southern California Mormon Choir came and performed last night at the Ventura Stake Center for a musical fireside. I think it's amazing the power that music has to lift us, strengthen our testimony of the Savior, and as the hymn book says, to "...move us towards righteous action." I have always loved and will always love music! My testimony was strengthened a lot and I enjoyed the Spirit there very much. Plus their wonderful choir brought back a lot of music memories to me. Here were a few of my favorites: Mack Wilberg's arrangments of Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; I Believe In Christ (They included the audience in the last verse and it was SO powerful and strong. We had a wonderful organist too.); and Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. They also did two unique ones that I really liked and that were the ones that brought me back to memories: Jesus Loves Me to an arrangment that was based on Clair de Lune, and Lamb of God, What Wonderous Love to Pavanne! I love Pavanne. :) It was a special concert and I felt blessed that we were able to attend it. We got to be the ushers too.
   I've also been preparing for General Conference in my usual way and I have been praying about a few specific questions that I have. I love the leaders of our church and listening to their words. I'm so excited for this conference weekend and for Easter. I know my testimony will continue to grow and become stronger. I hope you all enjoy it too. I'll be watching it at the same time as you, just here in the Ventura Stake Center with a small group of missionaries. I'll be thinking about you. Here's a scripture from the New Testament in the Bible, in honor of asking questions and seeking revelation and guidance in General Conference this week: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Matthew 7:7 Notice the action words. "" And notice the promises. "...It shall be given shall shall be opened unto you." I know, for myself that the Lord loves all of us so much and wants to give us answers, guidance, and direction. I know that when we ask for it, we receive it. I trust that answers will come to me this weekend. I hope that all of you will experience the same. I'm so excited to hear all of General Conference. Here we go!
   Everyone, I love you so much. I think about each of you individually and pray for you every day. You have helped me to become who I am and I am so grateful to be a member of this family. I love you all! Happy Easter! :)
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

made Temple cookies for Sister Felix's birthday and we went and sung to her at the mission home and visited with her and President Felix for a bit.

~We were doing yard work for a sister in our ward and Sister Wilson found my Prince Charming. ;)  And I thought I would never kiss a frog. ;)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Here's a happy hello from a beautiful day in Ventura!
   Yes, I'm feeling very happy today and things are bright and cheerful. It's a perfect 70 degree day and guess what? It feels like Spring. :) General Conference and Easter are in the air and I'm super excited. I think I have my 3 General Conference questions narrowed down. Okay...actually I'm asking a lot more than 3 this General Conference. There's a lot coming up in the next 6 months of my life. I'm so excited to hear from the wonderful leaders of our church. There is such a powerful and joyful spirit that comes with General Conference. This Saturday we will be watching the General Women's Meeting here at the stake center in Ventura with all the women in our stake. It will be wonderful. I'll be thinking about you family. :)
   Sounds like it's been a fun and eventful week. I hope that the birthday party went really well, and I hope that the actual day is super fun! Happy Birthday Sam! Happy Birthday Henry! I love you both and I'm so proud of you. I'm sending you a hug from me right now. <3
   Thank you for the great letters this week Mom, Emma, and Bethany and James. I loved each one and they made this week better. :) They helped me out a lot and they came just on the days and the exact time that I needed them. You're inspired. I love you!
   Okay, here's the report on this week: St. Patrick's Day was a lot of fun. We went over to J.'s house again to do service and yard work for her on her back slope. Super fun way to spend the morning as we again basically repelled down the slope with ropes and pruned bushes and bagged it all. She's very sweet and we've had some good gospel conversations with her. We'll be going back again tomorrow and we're hoping to be able to help her desire to learn more. After service she always likes taking us out to lunch, which is special. On St. Patrick's Day she took us to a Chinese restaurant. I think she's trying to find a way to get us Thai food, since she heard that I love it. So tomorrow morning and early afternoon will be a lot of great fun with her, doing service and then lunch. On Friday we had a fun event. We had a big Meet The Mormons movie night at the church. A lot of people came, both members and nonmembers. President and Sister Felix were there and a ton of missionaries from our stake. It was fun to see it again. We are teaching a sweet woman named L. She's the one with the orange trees. She loves hearing about God's plan for us and our families. Our time at memory care was special this week. The head nurse F. really likes having us there and is putting us to great use, lifting and helping the residents. This Thursday he involved us in this big discussion with them, asking them questions and trying to help them remember their lives more. They were doing so much better by the end.
   This week I turned 16 months old! ;) Crazy, crazy, crazy. Exciting stuff though. :) Time is flying.
   Yesterday, Sunday was a wonderful day. My talk went really well, I loved being at church and taking the Sacrament, Sister Felix came to see our new apartment and we sat around our cute little table and talked for a good long while, she's wonderful and very loving and supportive, and to finish off the night I received a Priesthood blessing. It was a special day and I went to bed feeling great again. I woke up happy and energetic and I'm excited for this week. I'm so grateful for all that Heavenly Father helps me with and does for me. 
   My talk was on Being A Light. I absolutely loved the topic for some reason. I love talking about light, "glowing", having an influence, and working to be Christlike. From my love of the symbol of stars to the experiences that I have had on my mission where I literally saw a "glow". I have come to love this topic. I used a lot from Sister Neill F. Marriott's talk "Sharing Your Light." I shared personal experiences from my mission and from back home and I felt that it went really well. I felt at peace as I gave it. After the meeting a lot of members of the ward were excited to come up and talk with me about the subject and their experiences. The 1st Counselor in the bishopric said that I took the topic he gave me and did exactly what he was hoping for. He shared a story of seeing someone's light with me. And then that night, after a lesson, we got into the car and there was a missed call and a voicemail from Sister Colvin in our ward. She said she wanted to speak to me specifically. I was nervous. ;) Just kidding. We called her back and she told me that she and her husband had been talking after my talk and that they felt like they needed to call me and tell me that while I was standing up there giving my talk that, in her words, my "little spirit was glowing!" It was so sweet of her and it made me feel good. She thanked me for bringing the spirit into her Sunday and for strengthening her and being an example to her. It was just what I needed to hear. This week was hard. The situation that I talked about last week got worse and then got better and then got worse and then better several times and the stress of the whole thing made this week a stressful and emotional roller-coaster. But I've been taken care of the whole way and I'm feeling great today. Heavenly Father loves me and has provided for me and strengthened me all week. He's sent a ton of little blessings to me every day. He's pretty cool that way. :) funny as this sounds: You know you've had a stressful week when giving a talk in Sacrament Meeting sounds relaxing! :) Haha. Yeah, I loved it honestly. So yeah, the situation has calmed down a lot, hopefully it won't go back up again, but President and Sister Felix and my companion and district and all of you have been very helpful. I love you. Thanks for being so great. I'm grateful for how this week has shown me how much I've grown. I am SO much stronger now than I used to be. That in itself, to see that and know it's true makes it all worth it.
   Today Sister Wilson and I are going to go have fun exploring a bit of downtown Ventura. We want to go drive by the beach and look for some Ventura shirts. Should be a lot of fun. She is hilarious by the way. We are laughing all the time and she's such a great support and friend and companion. It will be a fantastic week.
   I hope you all have a wonderful, wonderful week. You're my favorites! :) I love you.
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~16 Month Mark!

~Sister Felix paid us a visit to come see our nice, new apartment Sunday afternoon and she stayed to visit for a while. I love her.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Good morning,
   It's been a wonderful week full of lots of great, hard, happy, sad, fun, scary, and unique events. Sounds all over the place right? Yep that about sums it up. But guess what, I am absolutely loving every day. I think being in the last 2 transfers of your mission is pretty fun. You're excited to go home, and determined to do your best with the time you have left. You're close enough that you know you can make it. ;) And you're having fun and working hard. It's great. Still a roller coaster. But it's great.
   So first big event was Transfer Meeting. Wow. It was wonderful. The Spirit was strong and I loved sitting there with all of these missionaries that I've come to know and love. Sister Moure bore her farewell testimony, it was sweet. She's now back home in Texas. Guess what was really cool about this transfer meeting? All of my companions that are still in the mission were there and I was able to see, embrace, and talk with all of them. :) Sister Moure, Sister Evans, Sister Hiapo, Sister Cox, Sister Rasmussen, and now Sister Wilson. After the meeting when everyone is going around the parking lot finding rides, taking pictures, moving all their luggage, and just visiting with each other and having fun I was filled with so much happiness! I have so many friends! It made me feel so good to see SO many missionaries, leaders, and members from places I've served throughout the mission. I even saw my ward mission leader's wife from Los Robles. I haven't seen her since a year ago. She was so happy to see me and it made me feel super good. Yeah, it was pretty fun.
   Sister Wilson, my new companion is great. She's from Shelley, Idaho, loves to make things fun, has a ton of out-of-the-box ideas for missionary work, and she has a great hearty laugh. She laughs after almost every sentence which is really fun and sad right now because she has this bad cough, so everytime she laughs she goes into a huge fit of coughing. Haha. She's really funny and I've already been touched by her love, service, and diligence. She's a very kind person and has already helped me out a ton this week. This will be a good transfer.
   Other things we did this week: Picking oranges in the sprinkling rain, hanging out with a few Alpacas (spelling?), going to mutual and helping the young women with memorizing the Living Christ, lots of service with at memory care, finding a few new people that we're teaching, and having an awesome district meeting and district lunch. This is the smallest district I've ever been in. Just 3 companionships. And I know them all super well! It's so fun. Elder Fagan, Elder Stout, Sister Kemp, Sister Nicholas, and me and Sister Wilson. Fun stuff. I had a hard night last night. One of those rough patches. We have an investigator that we've been teaching that got upset and impatient with a couple of things that our leaders have instructed us to do. She was upset and took it out on the messengers, directing it mainly at me. She yelled at me and said a lot of harsh things that really hurt. I wasn't going to fight back, that wouldn't be right. So I sat there and took it silently. It put me in tears and I couldn't say anything. My wonderful companion did awesome. She wanted to fight back (just her personality) but we both knew the importance of helping our investigator calm down and to keep working towards baptism. Sister Wilson told me later that it was hard to keep her cool while I was getting bashed, but she did an awesome job of saying the right things to calm our investigator down. She calmed and we were able to talk things out. She'll be alright. She was just upset. Sorry to give you a kind of damper story. I guess my reason for telling you is because I needed to ask for some extra prayers. I'm doing okay. But some of the things she said about me as a missionary and about me as a person hurt a ton, and I've had a hard time not feeling like a punctured and deflated balloon since then. We were being obedient to our leaders and following the Spirit as well. Our investigator needed to know these things. So I don't regret it. But it just really hurt and took a blow to my confidence in myself as a missionary right now. Silly stuff I know. But why do some people have to be so mean sometimes? And why can't we always just let go of things faster? The adversary's just trying to discourage me. I'm stronger than him though, and I know that I'm doing well as a missionary. I'm exercising my patience and long-suffering. A few extra prayers of comfort and peace would be very appreciated right now though. I love you and trust you all. Your prayers mean so much to me. Don't worry, I'm okay, my friends in my district are all taking good care of me. Sister Wilson is going out of her way all over the place to serve me and help me feel better. I'm sure I'll be fine in a couple days. It was just hard.
   Okay, other exciting event of this week: Surprise trip to Lompoc! It was awesome! So lately President Felix has been giving us permission to go to the baptisms of those that we were teaching. Sister Wilson came from Lompoc last week and her investigator K. was getting baptized on Saturday. We were given permission to go up there. It was SO fun! You know how I love road trips. That was the longest distance that I've been able to drive on my mission as the driver and I loved it. It's my favorite stretch from Ventura all the way up to Lompoc. The ocean views were beautiful as always and Sister Wilson and I had a lot of fun getting to know each other more. The baptism was powerful and special. I love the feeling I get every time I go to a baptism. My testimony of my own baptismal covenant and of having the Gift of the Holy Ghost is strengthened every time. I also saw Sister Evans and a few other missionaries I know up there. I talked to the Elders now serving in Solvang and they gave me an update on everyone. A.'s still struggling to quit smoking. I pulled out my pack of gum and wrote an encouraging note to him on it and sent it with the Elders. That helped him last time. He's got this. So yeah, the baptism ended around 6:30 and then after visiting we made our way down the 2 hour drive to Ventura. It was dark and the oil rigs were glowing out in the ocean. It was peaceful.
   I'm giving a talk in Sacrament Meeting this upcoming Sunday. The topic I have been given and love is Being A Light, and using Sister Marriott's talk that she gave last General Conference. I loved that talk. Speaking in church always makes me nervous, but hey, I'm sure it'll go well. And I'm grateful to have a topic that I love so much. I'll let you know how it goes.
   I love you all SO SO SO much!!! Thanks for the update on everyone today, Dad. Keep doing your best everyone. Oh! And is everyone so excited for General Conference? I am! Get ready! :) Someone please pat Jim for me today. Tell him I miss him too. I miss you all and am excited to see you soon!
   Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~Does this look kind of familiar? ;) Me with a very sweet Alpaca. (Spelling?)

~Surprise drive and trip all the way up to Lompoc for a baptism.

~Picking oranges in the sprinkling rain. Love California.

~Frozen yogurt in Lompoc!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hey Everyone,
   Good morning/afternoon. I hope you're all having a wonderful day so far and that it will continue to be wonderful. It was wonderful to read your email this morning Mom, and to see all of the pictures that you sent Dad. Thanks!
   Sadly time is short today but I wanted to tell you about a couple of things from this week. Sorry if it feels a bit short.
   First of all: Transfer News~ I will be staying here in the Ventura 2nd ward. Sister Rasmussen is headed up to Santa Barbara. I will be serving with Sister Wilson. She was trained by my MTC companion Sister Nicholas and she was later companions with both Sister Hiapo and Sister Moure. So I'm excited to be with her. I'll let you know how it all goes. I'm excited and happy about this upcoming transfer. I think I'm going to cry tomorrow during Transfer Meeting while the departing missionaries are giving their testimonies. Um...this has been weird. Lately as I've been coming a bit closer to me finishing my mission I've gotten a bit more emotional about such things. Strange right? I'm super excited about the time I have left and all that I'll be able to do and learn. And I'm SUPER excited to come home and see all of you and be with you! But I've also come to realize that it is going to be a bit of an adjustment. Haha I never thought I would be an awkward adjusting returned missionary. But I just might be. ;) We'll see. It will probably be really entertaining for you all to watch. In answer to your question Mom, I don't think it will be hard to adjust to being in our family again. I think that'll click. I just might need help with adjusting to everything else. Mom, your story that you shared made me tear up. :) It will be an amazing moment! I'm excited for that. I have 12 weeks left. There's a "12 Week training program" that they use to help us adjust to being missionaries. I think we all agree that there should be an "RM 12 week program." Haha. Just kidding, I'm fine and I'm super excited. It's just weird that it's already so close. Let's make this a great 12 weeks! Here I go! :)
   Exciting events from this week:
-We did this awesome service for a woman that we met last week. She lives on this huge hill overlooking Ventura. The steep slope behind her house is so overgrown. We and a couple of companionships of Elders in our District went and basically were repelling down the slope while we were pruning the hill and pulling out bushes. We had ropes around our waists and everything! It was so fun and it was a beautiful clear view of the ocean while we pruned. Fun stuff.
-K., D., and their family are doing really well. We've been teaching them for a while and they are grasping onto the gospel so much. They love this and want this for their family. Last night they fed us dinner and we were able to talk with them about their love for the church and excitement for baptism and for the Temple eventually. They're great. There's something so special about teaching a family. There always has been. Ke. will probably be baptized in the next couple of weeks and then D. and one of their daughters M. will follow shortly afterwards.
-We had an amazing lesson in Relief Society this week on Repentance. It was one of those days where you just feel the Spirit so strong and you feel so in tune. Isn't it wonderful that we have the opportunity to change and become better every day. The better we understand Repentance and the Atonement the more hope and confidence and happiness and peace we can have. It brings so much happiness.
   Well this will be an exciting week. It feels very nice and moist outside today. The humidity and cool temps came back after being gone for a couple of hot days. I love the feeling of Ventura moisture. Ah... :)  Although I'm staying here, my companionship and the other Ventura 2nd sisters Sister Nicholas and Sister Kemp are being moved into a different district. We're now with the 1st ward Elders Elder Fagan and Elder Stout! I've been with them in a district 3 times now! :) I'm excited it will be a wonderful transfer. I'll do a little better with my email next week. Promise. Sorry time is short. I hope you all have a great week full of miracles and happy, fun moments.
   Here's a quick quote for your day: "God knows of your successes; though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them. He loves you for extending yourself to others. He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens - even when you are struggling with your own. He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly - He knows you as you really are. And He loves you - today and always!" ~President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Love you more than anything! <3
   Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)
P.S.-Good luck on the Book of Mormon read-a-thon Emma! You're awesome. Send me that letter that's sitting on your bed. ;)

~It was really special to memorize the Living Christ together this transfer. We had to record it over 10 times, but we finally were able to record ourselves reciting it together perfectly. :) Worth it.

~K., D., and their wonderful family that we are teaching.