Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exit to Nowhere and Anywhere

Agency. What an interesting little concept. We have complete control in only three things in our life. And they all stem from agency. We can choose what we think, how we feel, and what we do. When my counselor told me this today I was a little amazed that I hadn't come to that conclusion already myself. I had always thought I understood agency and these three concepts but then she took to another level to say that no one has the right to take away any of those three rights. Especially my right to feel.

I have all my life given over my right to how I feel to others. In one way or another when I expressed my feelings someone told me I was wrong to feel that way. I was initially hurt, but then accepted their judgement. And slowly I gave away every last little bit of my agency. Either allowing or forcing other people to dictate everything, down to how I should feel about something. As a cute little boy in Florida says "What the heck?!"

 This reminded me of an exit I passed a few times in Georgia. I would always tease it was the exit to nowhere, or anywhere you wanted, because of the giant gap in the middle. And really, that's a lot like our lives. We are moving along and have the ability to choose where that exit is going to take us. It is our literal God given priviledge to choose where our life takes us, be it good or bad. And when we are starting to let others fill in our exit signs for us, we are giving away the only thing that was truly ours to begin with, our agency.
And I had taken the route of letting others around me make the decisions for me. And the few times I chose for myself I would let them make me feel horrible for it, like I had betrayed them. Because I had chosen to let others dictate how I felt about my actions.
And that's not our Heavenly Father's plan for us at all. Each of us is given our agency and has the right to own up to our choices and know that they are ours.
So my project for the week is to make my decisions FOR MYSELF. And express how I feel about things FOR MYSELF and not let anyone guilt me into feeling any other way. I realize that if I don't change that I am heading the path of many women who sometimes find themselves in abusive relationships.
Will you be the change with me and either start taking back your gift of agency from those you gave it to, or help someone in your life that may feel like they no longer hold that gift for themself?
love y'all!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not a letter from Florida

Well, I think most of you know by now, but I'm not in Kansas anymore, Toto...I mean Florida. I'm in Idaho. And I'm here to tell you all why.

First off I have to say something that I haven't gotten to say in a few days. I LOVE MY MISSION!!! I love it so much. It was/is the best thing I could have ever done for my own growth. I have met so many interesting people and made so many dear friends that I can't imagine what my life would be if I had not gone. I have grown so much and learned so much about myself that I think I would have never had the time or opportunity to do. So if any of you find what follows to be a "deterrent" from serving a mission, please do not misunderstand me, I would not have it any other way.

I got sent home on a Medical Release. The feared words that I thought I would never have to hear since I was essentially healthy as a horse other than a few colds. But I have learned over the past two weeks that the Lord knows what He is doing. I have heard that there is a rumor that I have a knee injury. That is true. If you remember my post from July, I did sustain a knee injury. I was silly and tried to pull off a cool stunt that ended painful for me and the people watching. But my knee wasn't hurt enough to have me sent home. I just wear a brace a lot now to strengthen it.

And that leads me to why I am home. I deal with depression. I have had a rough go on my mission. I delt with it for a couple years in high school but assumed it was just teen angst and that I was feeling the same thing that every girl my age felt, so I did not put much stock in it when the counselors at the MTC asked me if I thought I would be ok in the mission field. I had no doubt that I was going to be performing at high capacity. But as the first few months ticked by my mood lowered and lowered until my companion had no idea how to help me and I made one of the scariest phone calls of my life. To my mission president's wife, dear Sister Barry. I had no idea what the protocol for this would be. But to my relief she said that many missionaries had problems like I did and they had me see a counselor and a doctor and after a couple months I was back to my old perky self. But again, as time wore on and the unavoidable disappointments in missionary work started stacking up I started digging back into my dark hole again. This time though dear Sister Barry came to my rescue, she knew this time it was worse and that it was time to call in the bigger guns. So she talked to a counselor and President Barry. He then talked to my counselor and the doctors that supervise us missionaries health. At that point he called me and said that "information leads to inspiration" and that he felt the need to have me come home and spend more than just snippets of time here and there on my healing and it to focus on it. So the way I see it, I have a brace on my knee and a brace on my soul. I'm just working to restrengthen both for a while.

Also, I plan to go back. I hope to be back in Florida for Christmas. I want to continue the work I was priviledged to participate in. I have decided to keep writing on here though. I won't be preaching to Florida for a while, but this gives me an opportunity to tell more about what I learned while preaching in Florida and also what I learn here as I more fully understand my Father in Heaven and accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ more in my life.

 Because in Alma 7: 11-12 it says "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

This is Change too, right?

love y'all!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Precision and Accuracy—email from 08-20-12


Oh gracious, all I hear about is how hot it is out west. And I can promise...I know how you feel! It is quite hot here too. But still as fun as usual. :)

We went to the zoo again Monday. It was fantastic! I got to see gators wrestle! And boy are those beasties vicious. They were both so bloodied by the end of it I couldn't believe they were still going at it. They tore each other apart on land, and when that got old they took it into the water. The kids around thought they were trying to drown each other. Which it did look a bit that way. On the way out Elder Draper went to the gate people and said "You have some pretty beat up gators in case that's a concern." It made me giggle. Gators are as frequent here as deer are there, I doubt they worry too much about beat up gators.


We had some interesting occurrences this week. We had this man that we had been talking to a little bit and had left a copy of the Book of Mormon with him. We went back to see what he thought. He came out and immediately started to tell us how it was horrible, evil, that the stuff we believe is terrible and that we are following the plans of Satan. He was coming at it from every direction. I was getting more and more anxious by the second. I tried to talk reason with him about some of the things he was saying but he wouldn't have it. So Sister Heckel too the better approach and bore simple testimony that she knew it was true, she knew for herself by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. And he paused for a moment and finally said "Well, I'll do this for ya, I'll read the whole thing, you can't believe it as passionately as you do and have it be a complete lie. So let's figure this out." It was amazing! I was so proud of my companion and so amazed that he decided to still read the book.

So Dad, you asked about precision and accuracy, we have actually talked about this a lot as a mission. President Barry uses two examples. Pole vaulting and landing a jet on a carrier. Now since I know you like planes better, we'll discuss it from this aspect. Think about how these jets have 85 feet to make a perfect trap. Drop too low too soon and they will fly right into the carrier. Don't drop low enough soon enough and they will got right off the other side of the ship to a watery grave. Now, landing an f-14 on an 85 foot runway is scary! One of the last things they do is fire their engines up to full throttle so that just in case they don't catch the wire they will have enough momentum and thrust to take back off again. We watched video after video of near misses and perfect "traps". Also this whole thing happens in a matter of seconds from when they make their last pass and start their final descent. A commercial pilot is accurate, he can land his planes on huge runways every time with slightly different results, but still success. A navy fighter pilot is precise or it means death. Interesting right?! So the questions posed is, are we living our lives with accuracy or precision? Accuracy allows for slight deviations and will still result in success. Precision on the other hand has no other options than to be exact every time. Mathematically accuracy is defined as a range of results that are not exactly the same (or are) but can be recreated enough times to show an "accurate" result. Also accuracy is used in "rounding" numbers. Precision on the other hand is a perfect result the first time. Not even the slightest deviation can be allowed. And also goes to the farthest decimal possible in mathematics. So as missionaries we have to ask ourselves, are we being exact and precise in following rules and such, or are we accurate. In living the gospel of Jesus Christ we should strive for precision over accuracy.

Which leads me to my final thought. If a lack of precision results in death for a fighter pilot, what possibly does a lack of precision mean for us? GO AND BE THE CHANGE!!!

love y'all!
Sister McCracken


Friday, August 17, 2012

I can’t believe the things I learn!—email from 08-13-12

I can't believe that July is the hottest month on record. It has been really uncomfortable but I have managed pretty well with lots of drinking water. People crack me up when they have only their swimsuit on and they are walking around complaining about how hot it is. I just want to say...try wearing all the layers I do ya sissy! :) But instead I tell them about Jesus. haha

We had a pretty slow week in the work. Our investigators just were all unavailable for one reason or another. So hopefully this week they are at home!!!

Yesterday was a pretty crazy experience though. We went to a member's home to have dinner with them and their children that were in town visiting. Their daughter-in-law sat down to eat with us and talk to us. She has a beautiful olive complexion and dark hair which meant Asian culture, Philipino, or Native American. So I asked where she was from and she said Cambodia. WHAT?!?! Then she told us her story. She was born in Cambodia when the country was being occupied by communists. She was the 6th of seven children. When she was two the military people came to her city and dragged her father into the streets and shot him. They were killing anyone with an education. They threatened to kill anyone in her family who cried for her father. She said how her mother could hear them patrolling around their house at night listening for crying. One day her mother had the feeling she needed to get out of there and right then. So she packed up her seven kids ranging between 13 and 1 and her elderly mother and disappeared into the jungle. They got word that an hour after they left the people had come to kill her family. They spent the next two years hiding in the jungles of Cambodia running from the Vietnamese and Cambodians trying to get to Thailand where they would be safe. She talked about eating dirt because there was nothing else and drinking out of puddles right next to dead bodies. She said one time her family was hiding in the bushes and a patrol when right in front of them and should have been able to see them but missed them. She lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for about 7 years. Her grandmother died from all that stress. At 11 they came to America and lived in the scariest of the ghettos in Philadelphia. One day when she was 20 two guys walked down the street as she sat on the porch, as she listened to them she said she didn't need what they had but her sister did. A few months later though she was baptized. And a year after that she served a mission. And she told us all of this without crying or trying to scare us, just to help us understand the life she had and how the Lord had protected her and brought her to the gospel. Amazing!!!!

Then one of the member's sons came in and said he had to get home to take care of the tiger. Yes, he said tiger. We both had our jaws hit the floor and said "what?!?!" He proceeded to explain that he works at a private preserve for wild animals like tigers, jaguars, deer, lions, gators, wolves, and basically everything but bears. They are these exotic animals that are bought by rich people and they get away or the people don't want them anymore, but since they aren't pure pedigree they can't go to zoos. So euthanization is the next option. So this reserve was created for these animals to live out the rest of their lives in peace. And he told us story after story of playing with the tigers and showed us pictures. They have a Siberian that is 10 feet tall when he goes up on his back legs. They are getting a 1600 pound liger soon that is like 12 feet tall. It's amazing.

So yeah, those are my stories for the week. Crazy right?!?! You only meet these kind of people on your mission. He said if we are ever in Saint Augustine he'll take us and introduce us to the animals. :) Hope I get transferred there sometime. hahaha

Change is something inevitable and we see that with the seasons. So the question I always wonder is why do we resist it so much? I don't know quite sure why as of yet. But I do know that we can overcome those hesitations and be the change if we try. So how 'bout we all go out and do it?

love y'all,

Sister McCracken

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I love my mission!–email from 08-06-12



What a week! It has been a fun-filled week! Lots has happened!

Monday was the best though! Elder and Sister Draper took us to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens!!!! It was so much fun! It was a little rainy so not many people were there and some of the animals were hiding, but not too bad. We got to see so many beautiful animals! And we only got halfway through it after 2 hours! We are going to go back again soon. I'm going to attach and send a bunch of pictures from that fun day!







As the week went on it was pretty uneventful from there other than the usual missionary stuff. Until Friday night! We have a record of people that missionaries have talked to that have said they are open to learning more. Well we went to one of those people Friday night. And I about passed out as we walked up the driveway and I saw in garage a giant plaque that insinuated that she is a Blue Angel. We knocked and she opened up and after talking for a few minutes I finally asked her. And yes! She never piloted herself, but she was part of the support crew that flew in Fat Albert! AAAAAHHHHH!!!! She is so amazing! I about passed out. She also showed us her office full of pictures and awards with her and the pilots and such. I couldn't believe! I love the people we get to meet as missionaries! :D

Then Sister Heckel got really sick and we spent Saturday evening and all day Sunday at home while she tried to sleep away/fight the flu. The poor thing was not doing well at all. So I got to do a lot of reading and studying that was very helpful! The only problem was that by the end of Sunday my mind was tired but my body wasn't because I had sat in one spot all day. I did not sleep well at all because of it! Being a missionary has trained me to pushing my body to the point of exhaustion every day. And I didn't get that yesterday! But luckily she is back and healthy today and we can go wear ourselves out for real.

Remember, we all like it when our towels, our sheets, and our clothes are why not ourselves?!?!

love y'all!

Sister McCracken

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oh what a week. . .–email from 07-30-12

Oh what a week.

It started out with a sinus infection that has lasted since the middle of March getting the best of me and taking me out. I ended up sleeping most of the day Tuesday because I just couldn't fight to stay awake anymore. As much as I tried I failed. So I gave in and slept.

But that was a good thing because Wednesday we had a meeting with all of the missionaries that live in and around Jacksonville! Yay for Zone Conferences. President Barry taught us a lot! Just being around him is amazing. We rode with Elder and Sister Draper along with the Jax Beach ward Elders. I brought a cd Sister Surtees had sent me that has an acapella version of the eensy weensy spider. It's a hilarious version and Elder Wilcox did and interpretive dance in the back seat along with it. Oh how I love Elders. They know how to have fun.

Then we had a trade off and I got to work with Sister Knickerbocker again. It was crazy! We haven't been companions for 7 months and we had a lot of fun together. She and I just really enjoyed working together and seeing the changes in each other. I love her!

We spent Saturday mostly walking around door to door with not much success. Guess what, when it's really hot and humid and a Saturday, people in Florida go to the beach! Guess where missionaries aren't allowed?! The beach! So we didn't get as much done as we had hoped that day. Oh Florida. I love it though! We got to meet a really funny Scottish lady who is really good at hiding her accent. I was picking up traces of it and she admitted she was Scottish and hid her accent in public, and at that point just let free and let it come through. Oh how I love that accent! Her name was even Adele. I asked her what it was with UK women and that name and she just laughed. It was a good old time!

I can't believe people are mad at Chik-fil-A! That's a staple here! I read that part of Dad's email out loud to Sister Heckel and the guy at the computer next to us said "Yeah, are you coming Wednesday?!" And I having no idea what he was talking about said "In support or boycott of the place?" He said "In support!!! There are people that have never eaten there that plan to be there this Wednesday to support the chain." So the people that are mad aren't succeeding well. But that's what you get. People here are always thrown off that Chik-fil-A's are closed on Sunday, we just giggle and say yeah, well that's what you get when a Mormon owns the company...

Anyway, hope you had a great week too.

At zone conference one of the Elders said "How can we expect people to make all these changes in their lives if we aren't willing to make some too?" I just giggled to myself and thought..." the change!!!"


Sister McCracken

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A missionary’s superbowl—email from 07-23-12



This last week was my own personal superbowl!!! Clay was baptized! After almost 4 long months of teaching him and 7 months of working with his family, he was baptized. And it was ALLLLLL worth the wait. And let me tell you why. Part of my decision to go on my mission had to deal with my patriarchal blessing and what it says about my mission in that. Because of it I knew there were specific people here I was meant to find. Part way into teaching Clay I realized that he was one of them. Ever since the beginning I've felt like I've known him a lot longer. He felt like a brother to me. And then one night after he had lost a lot of ground on his progression, we were having a "are we done here?" conversation. Poor Sister Heckel didn't know what to do or say since she was a new missionary, so it was mostly a back and forth with Clay and I. At one point my heart was just breaking because I have seen the potential he has and I KNEW he was going to eventually accept this gospel if Satan wouldn't just let go of him. I got really emotional at one point and said "I am not giving up on you! I will fight for you for every day of the rest of my life if I have to! I knew you once before and I promised you I would bring you the gospel and help you change." He got quiet for a minute and then said "I believe that too." And that's when the fight for his soul really got hot. He realized what changes he really needed to make and how very crucial it was to not waste another minute. Thank you Holy Ghost!!!! There is no way he would have grown the way he has over the last several months without it. And Thursday night he was baptized!!!! He was baptized by our old bishop/his Navy chaplain. Bishop Harding is the one who met him and Mariah year ago and after discovering she was LDS helped her get active again and then has helped us every step of the way in helping Clay along his path. Watching his be baptized and then confirmed in Church on Sunday was like getting my own Superbowl ring. I fought the good fight and didn't let Satan win and brought one more soul into the Kingdom of God. What is better than that? I submit, nothing.

The rest of our week was amazing as well. The sister we found last week came to church with her daughter yesterday and her daughter just loved primary and I think our sister enjoyed being in church again. I just love seeing the light of the gospel bring hope and joy to people who didn't have it before!


I am so excited to hear that so many young men from my homeward are going on missions! It is the best choice they can make to help their lives and the lives of so many other precious souls. These people are our family and I really feel it's our duty to do whatever we have to to help them.

I love you all!

After spending all these months working with Clay and his family I can tell you that change is a slow process. But when our heart is truly affected and we become a new person it is so worth it! I love change! I hope y'all do too!


Sister McCracken

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paradise—email from 07-16-12


It is a beautiful day in the FJM!!! Actually, every day is a beautiful day here. People say your mission feels like paradise and I strongly believe that. I love it here!

We have had a busy busy week! We are just sprinting our faces off! And I love it! We are so exhausted all the time. But so much is being achieved! Our biggest miracle is that Clay is getting baptized on Thursday night!!!! :D You have no idea how much joy this brings me. The kids have taken to praying for it lately. We ask them to pray and the first thing they say after "dear Heavenly Father" is "Please bless that dad will get baptized"! WOW!!! The strength of faith of these children is amazing! It just melts my heart to see the blessings that are coming into these three boys lives alone! They have a new dad and they love him! This is what the gospel does. This is the Superbowl in my world! And I am so excited! We have success awaiting us!

We have just had an amazing week finding new people. I can bear a strong testimony of the power of the Spirit to guide a person. We were out tracting last night and the area we were in was pretty dead, so I was ready to head to the car. Then Sister Heckel said she wanted to go the the neighborhood ahead of us, so I agreed (while disheartened haha) and she said we needed to turn down the first street we crossed with. Well, nobody was outside which meant more tracting...yay!...As we walked down the street trying to decide which door to knock a children's bike caught my eye in a driveway and I though "hey, a kid lives there, that will work for a eternal family approach" And as we walked up I could tell it was a single mom and a child because of the way the truck was decorated and there was only one bike. We knocked the door, talked with her, offered a copy of the book of Mormon and that's when she told us she was already a member! She just hasn't gone to church since her teen years. She let us in and I saw the Second Coming painting of Christ on the wall and smiled ("that's mormon artwork!" is what crossed my mind) We talked with her for a while and we prayed with her and for all the struggles she has in life and she's letting us come back thursday! I'm so excited! The Spirt got us on the street through Sister Heckel and it got me to pick the house. I LOVE THE SPIRIT!!!!

All in all, it's been a great week. Transfers are tomorrow, but luckily we are unaffected. Yay us!


love y'all.

Remember...I love change!!!! :D


Sister McCracken

p.s. Wow will never cease to amaze me how we have to overkill everything when it comes to waste. Glad it's not in the pond though! Also glad I didn't have to do the work to figure that out this summer. :)DSCN1492

oh and I was not on sand when I took those pictures! So I'm safe! ;)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Oops…—email from 07-09-12


I hope y'all had a happy fourth! We had a wonderful day! The ward had a pancake breakfast and a flag raising. It was really fun. And Elder Draper came in his dress uniform covered in his "fruit salad" as Sister Draper likes to refer to his ribbons. It was really inspiring.

The rest of the week was just really good and we really achieved a lot with people. So when I first got here there was a young couple we were teaching that were living together and not married and she was not a member. They were doing great and then just got really hard to catch and weren't keeping commitments. So we dropped teaching them. Out of the blue last Monday afternoon she called us and asked if we were having our Wednesday night class that we teach at the church. I was shocked and didn't think they would really come! And they did! She is about 5 months pregnant and they have decided they need to raise their child in the church. So we committed them to get married!!! (I know, we usually work on baptism, but hey, you roll with the punches!) So we will be having a wedding in the next month and she wants to be baptized! So we will be doing that soon after as well! It is so exciting! It is crazy how the Lord truly blesses us when we just keep working and looking for those who are ready to hear the gospel.

So, the other fun part of Monday was bowling...We had a grand time! We went as a district so there were 6 Elders and us two Sisters. but oh boy it was fun! We all weren't doing well so we all just decided to start doing crazy things...And that's when I got stupid. I always tell people the reason I don't participate in sports is because I'd hurt myself. Well that day proved it! I decided that I would put my ball on the line, and then run and dive and push it off. I knew that diving on my stomach was more than I could muster my courage for, but I could slide on my knees like on all those fabulous 80s movies full of dancing...Well, all I really did was hit hard and skid since I was in jeans...Patrick Swayze cheated by wearing slick pants. And in the following days my knee started to really hurt. It doesn't seem like any serious damage is done. But if I sit for a while and then get up my knee gives out. So I am in a brace for now while it recovers. I feel silly. But now I have evidence that sports are not for me!

I don't know how the order of the pictures came out is of Elder and Sister Draper and us on the fourth of July. Another is of the bowling alley, and the others are all cool pictures of my brace. yay me!






So my advice is for you to get silly and have fun...just try not to hurt yourself like I did. Too many people are becoming stuffed shirts and need to have fun with life. "Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured" Gordon B. Hinckley. Be the change by laughing a little more.

love y'all!

Sister McCracken

Oh the weather outside is. . .–email from 07-02-12

....Well, SOMETHING ELSE!!! First it's pouring for days and it takes everything we've got to stay at just the damp level...and then it swings to scorcher days where we were all feeling signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion regardless of our efforts to stay cool and hyrdated. Something that I have learned is that nothing stops the work of the Lord! We were out driving and walking in all of that insane weather! The missionaries on the west side of the mission ended up in a Red Cross Shelter for a few days since they were under water out there. It is crazy. We got loads of water here and the storm was on the other side of the state! It's hard since the ground is so saturated from the last storm though, the water has no real place to go! So yes, lots of flooding! We are hearing hilarious stories from all over the mission. Our stories just include not being dry for 4 days. :D

The week has been crazy for teaching because of that. Nobody is outside when it's pouring or in the 100s. So we weren't able to contact much and then it was just hard to get appointments too. But that's ok.

We had a fun meeting this week where we got together with some of the missionaries that came out with Sister Heckel and got trained by President and Sister Barry. That's when Sister Heckel realized I was the cool trainer. :) I laugh...the others apparently don't... :\ Haha that's just them though. We just laugh all the time together. Sister Draper (one of the senior missionaries in our ward) said we redefine the term "sisters" because we just act like sisters. But it's true. We just have so much fun together! Who said working for the Lord had to be boring?! Not us! It's hard to tell people this gospel has brought us the most joy in our lives if we are saying it with a somber voice. Instead we say it we a smile and a twinkle in our eye. :)

I'm glad to hear that mom had such a fun birthday party!!! What's the big plans for next year?! That's hard to top! Good to hear that all my letters there made it safe! I love y'all so much and those better still be on your fridges when I can see them next year! :)

We are going bowling today as a district! It should be exciting. Sister Heckel and I are still trying to decide what to wear. There's no reason the Elders shouldn't wear their dress clothes...but we feel awkward bowling in we are still deciding. I guess you'll find out from the pictures next week!

The things you learn as a missionary—email from 06-25-12

Oh the joys of Florida. Another tropical storm is slamming into Florida right now. But luckily it's on the gulf coast side, so we are protected! It's just bunches and bunches of rain...and bunches more...It poured all night last night. But cleared up just in time for today! YAY!

This past week is hard for me to remember. We had a trade off so we got to have extra sisters here which is always a good time. We found some new people to teach, so that was a thrill! Oh, and Sister Barry (the mission president's wife) decided out of the blue to come and work with us on Thursday night. So I just felt like a science experiment all week between our Sister Leader working with/observing us and then Sister Barry doing the same thing the next day! But it was really fun. She picked us up where we were at at 5 pm and then just worked until 9 with us. We had no scheduled appointments..bummer. We asked every single person we were working with and all of them couldn't meet for some reason or another. So we had to just fly by the seat of our pants (and the guidance of the Spirit) and see what we could do. And it was so much fun! Sister Barry just loves walking around and street contacting people and it was a cool evening so lots of people were outside, so I got lots of practice doing it with her. Poor Sister Heckel was in shock by the end of the night. It was a lot for her to watch someone as powerful as Sister Barry teaching (I was just basically trying to keep up ;) ) But we both learned a lot. And it made me feel good, because I was keeping up better than I thought. I think it's a little unfair though because she's had almost 2 years in the field now so she's a lot farther ahead! haha

I learned that I am easily at risk for dehydration. I finally put two and two together yesterday as I sat in Church with my migraine that never seems to end, it's usually just in the background but hits full force during Church and when I wake up in the morning. And I finally realized that's because those are the two times a day I'm not taking drinks ALL the time! And my first sign of dehydration is apparently migraines. Luckily I had a ward member notice it and come to my rescue with fishy crackers so I could get some salt in my system and then dragged me to the water fountain and made me drink like crazy. She teased that she is going to start keeping gatorade at her house and bringing it to church so I don't let it happen again. I LOVE these people. They are so good to me.

The first two pics are of me and my hump day camel...I can't believe I am already over half way done. It makes me cry a little. You can see how angry I am to see the little camel. He's cute, but he shouldn't come for another...year or my opinion.



This is Pontiac. A kitten at a house we teach. It was playing with Sister Heckel on her lap, and then suddenly fell asleep in that pose... and stayed dead asleep. We all were messing with it and it never moved.





The last two were my free frosty...Wendy's sells key tags for a dollar and with that key tag you get a free jr frosty all year long with each purchase...I discovered how very small a junior frosty is...It's not much bigger than the key tag!!!



I hope y'all are having a great summer back there. It can get miserable at times and people keep reminding me it doesn't get "hot" until august. So if I stop emailing in's because I'm dead....hahaha kidding!

Go change it up today and do something silly that you normally wouldn't do!


Sister McCracken

It’s not officially Summer yet?!?!- email from 06-18-12

So the other day someone pointed out to me the fact that it's not actually summer yet...And I cried inside a little....Cool days to me are now days that are in the 70s with high humidity. Normal days are in the 80s or 90s with high humidity. And the fearful days (that I have not yet experienced) are the 100s days with 100% humidity. Apparently that comes in August or September?!?! I'm scared! I am just very happy to be near the beach for June through August at least because the sea breeze has become my saving grace.

This week has been a week to remember. So many hilarious, sad, exciting, mindblowing, and freaky moments. And then I realized... that's just the way missionary work is! AAAH!!! hahaha I love it. We really sprinted hard, to the point where Sister Heckel is dozing off everywhere if I give her a minute to sit. So I think I have successfully broken her into the mission. :) We have so much fun together and just laugh all the time. Early in the week I forgot she was new to the climate and had planned that we would be walking to all the places we had planned from noon to three that day. It was a ridiculously hot day with high humidity. At one point I looked over and saw her very red face covered in sweat and thought "Oh poo! She's just come from Utah! I'm going to kill her!" So we hurried ahead on our schedule to someone I knew would be home so I could get her indoors and cooling off. I'm trying to be more aware of that now and trying not to kill her.

We are having just a grand ole time here in Atlantic Beach though. We are still working with a lot of the same people, but have some goals and plans to try to start working with some other people we know to help them come back to church.

On another thought. I would like to share something the Spirit taught me a few months ago and that I shared with my companion yesterday that has already just revolutionized her. It deals with the example Christ sets for us. He is perfect in every way, so he's a pretty good bench mark right? Well one experience that I have studied from a new perspective is this...When Christ was in Gethsemanet the mob came for Him. And when he saw them He simply said "Whom seekest ye?" He obviously knew who they were there for, but He was proving a point. They replied sheepishly "Jesus of Nazareth" At which He promptly replied "I am he." Ok, a mob armed to the teeth comes for Him and He coolly and immediately replies "I am he." It scared them! The account says they fell backward! He again asked "Whom seekest ye?" And they slowly again responded "Jesus of Nazareth." And He immediately once again "I am he." This account came into a whole new light for me along with His entire life when I was studying humility one day. If He is the perfect example, He should be humble right? HE IS!!!! He was completely humble! Yet He never backed down from His claim of divinity and He never wavered when asked to perform miracles. He had complete and utter confidence that He could do anything! And He had complete confidence in who He was. How can He do that and be humble though? And this is where my brain exploded! He always always always gave the glory to God for everything He was and did! He never took the credit for Himself, he always said "Glory be to my Father". And that my friends and family is true humility. Being completely confident in the fact that we can do ANYTHING. We are of a divine heritage and because of that we have infinite potential. We should never waver in our confidence! We should always be able to say "I am He!" (or she) when the time comes! And we truly still are humble as long as we realize that every gift, talent, ability, and experience we have is given to us by our Father. When we truly know that, we will never waver!

Sorry for the ramble. But that realization has strengthened me so much over the past few months and I have felt more strong and empowered and capable than ever in my life. So I wanted to share that with y'all!

Remember, life is about progression, not just just hitting our "prime" or "peak", so continually look inward and see what else you desire to be or achieve, and go be the change!

love y'all!

Sister McCracken

Monday, June 11, 2012

It’s a wet day in Florida—email from 06-11-12

It's a little wet around these here parts...It has rained every day since Tuesday so far...and pouring rain. My poor new companion thinks that is all Florida does! :) But she is happy to not have had to deal with the ridiculous Florida heat though yet. And believe me, your wind there is just as legit as the wind here. The only difference is that we get rain with it, which makes it a tropical storm I guess.

The week has been a crazy one. I keep forgetting that dear Sister Heckel is a brand new missionary, so I keep just waiting for her to take the lead in situations and then would suddenly remember it was her first time ever doing that and I had given her no warning. So she is having a good ol' time. Hopefully I don't scar her too bad. But luckily she is dishing it back pretty well when we exercise in the morning. Her MTC district got selected to be part of a pilot program for a new morning workout thing for missionaries. It is essentially p90x for missionaries. I am sore and tired...and sore...

We have been having a great time working with all of our investigators. Everybody here is loving Sister Heckel and she is just jumping in head first. And yes, I've already made a few jokes with her name.

It sounds like Alan's kids are totally becoming city kids! Oh no!!! Time to country up those kids.

Sorry it's a shorty today! Got a lot to do! Being the change is busy work! :D


Sister McCracken

Sorry there's no pics or voice recordings. I let the batteries die on the recorder and forgot to change them before leaving. Then my comp wanted to use my sd card reader to send home pics and she has a lot from the last three weeks...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I am over the hump and on the downhill slide?!?!?!--- email from 06-04-12


Dear fans,

Kidding, I think my only fans are in the 4 and under category and that's because they don't know enough words yet to tell me that is not true. haha

Anyway, we have had a great week. It's been a pretty wet one until the weekend and then it dried out. Yesterday was super hot and super dry. It made me realize that I think I actually do like this humid heat a little more. The dry heat feels just weird. Who knows, it was probably something like 70% humidity. haha

The new senior couple got here on Friday and boy are we happy to have them here. They are so wonderful! They are serving a two year mission here. He is a 42 year retired Army Colonel in the Special Forces. The stories he tells are CRAZY!!!! I feel like I know government secrets sometimes. She is the only female Mormon Cave Diver you will ever meet. They are the most unique combination. And so much fun! And they have such strong testimonies and deep knowledge of the gospel. But they tease me that I will be training 3 missionaries this transfer....ugh. I am barely up to par to train one, let alone three! But woohoo! It's gonna be a fun summer in the beach! I am so happy to know that I am staying here at least another 3 months. That puts my stay here at 9 months, which is a little unheard of. But I love this place like home. So I don't mind staying a minute longer.

Transfers are tomorrow and I am excited and nervous! It is going to be wonderful! I can't believe that I am getting a baby missionary at my 9 month mark. It's almost a little funny! :D I am so excited for her to come and show me how it's done. I am sure that she is going to just show me up and light this place on fire. (not literally)

I was talking to President Barry on Sunday and we were both freaked out by the idea that I hit my halfway mark this week. Where has the time gone? I can honestly say that I have kept to my motto of being the change. But there is still more work to be done and more change to effect! So I better get out and go do it!

love y'all,

Sister McCracken

Pictures....I have some silly moments....My favorite is the one of me and the long shot down the beach though. Love Florida!!!!





Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It’s a blustery day.–email from 05-28-12

Well....Where do I start with this week. It has been crazy and exciting. We started the week out sprinting. WE decided to do a few things different and it has been amazing the results we had this week. I love teaching so much and we were able to get a lot more of it in! We haven't been affected by the holiday weekend other than there weren't as many people in church. I think it's mostly because we're getting slammed by a tropical storm this weekend so not as many people traveled this year. The storm has been pretty exciting. Just think of those super windy days in Idaho and mix it with heavy rain! For three days straight! hahaha WE had our patio open all morning so we could listen to the wind and rain. And right as we were leaving to go send emails we got a text from the mission presidents wife saying a tornado had touched down in our county and we had to get in our closet and under a mattress. So that was fun. We apparently will be having warnings all day and have to try to stay under safe cover.

We have had a wild week in the teaching world. We were really pushing forward the first half of the week and then one of our recent convert families had a little bit of an emergency and we were helping them on Friday and Saturday to help them take care of some stuff. So we didn't get in as much teaching. And then on Sunday we got to teach my favorite family! Mariah and Clay. I love them so much. There was one point in our lesson that Mariah got this weird smile and Clay asked her what was going on and she said "You know if you get baptized and it's still while Sister McCracken is around this will probably be the most momentous baptism of her mission." And that is a true story. They are so sweet and are doing so well! I think I'm going to bring them back to Idaho with me when I'm done. :)

I forgot to tell you that last week I got to spend a little bit of the time spinning the cotton candy. Since I had some experience after doing 300 bags with Gracie one night for a student event. So we got volunteered to help. But I also discovered that a humid climate does not react with a cotton candy covered body as well as dry climate. You know how in Idaho we just get covered in pink fluff when you spin the cotton candy and you just pull it off and eat it. But on the other hand in Florida, it melts to you. And your covered in liquified sticky sugar. But I still enjoyed it!



DSCN1333       DSCN1334

DSCN1335         DSCN1336

Happy Memorial day! I love y'all. Let's all remember and honor those men and women who understood what it means to be the change for other people and gave their very lives to show it. I am so grateful for everyone who serves in our armed forces and all that the past service men and women and the present and future as well!

Sister McCracken

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Part of Waking Up… email from 05-21-12 to a flood in your bathroom!!!!!

(you thought I was gonna say Folger's, but that's false doctrine anywho ;) )

(I'll explain this more later)

Today has been a rodeo. We have to use the public library computers to do our letters to the mission president and emails to y'all. We like to do it first thing just to know we have it done. Well when we came at 10 all the computers were we went to the grocery store and got groceries. Then we tried to go to the car wash, but we couldn't get the bike rack off...And then we came back and the computers were still full. So it's just been crazy and my nerves are frazzled. I want to disillusion any and all who think P-day is play day and nap day...p-day is stressed out of your mind trying to get everything done day...and then feeling guilty because you didn't get to write mom day...wooh!

But we have had a crazy and wild week for sure. My favorite part was getting to spend a few hours Saturday volunteering on the Navy base at the USO's Military Appreciation Day event they had going on. It was basically a giant carnival for families of active duty military. It was really fun to get to serve them and see them just have a little fun together. We even saw a few ward members! Which is always exciting! I got a bit of a sunburn on my arms and legs so that was exciting. But I preserved my face with SPF 50 sunscreen. :)

My least favorite part of the week was waking up yesterday morning to a new water feature in my bathroom ceiling...There was a fast drip that was threatening to become a stream coming out from around the little vent fan. And then another part of the ceiling was just freely dripping. Oh and water was coming out around the lightswitch in the bedroom. AAAAAHHHH!!! So we started calling around trying to get a number for the emergency maintenance guy. He got there pretty quick, looked at it, and then ran to the apartment above us where no one is currently living. He had the joy of discovering that a pipe had broke up there and had been flooding that apartment for who knows how long, and it had now gotten so bad that it was coming down on us. YAY!!! So all in all the morning was a ridiculous rodeo that I can't even explain through writing.

But then Heavenly Father blessed us at Church. Our investigator was there with his family and then another few nonmembers came that we didn't even expect. It was fantastic to see! I love the Lord! As people 'round here say "Thank You Jesus!"

It sounds like it's finally getting warm there if you have hit planting season. It's harvest here. People can't get anything to grow in the summer. So they had fall, winter, and spring gardens. No summer gardens! crazy right?!

Something I've realized is that change is neverending. I have realized that I have to be reevaluating daily whether or not I'm making the changes I need to and considering if there is anything more I could or should change. So remember, the word BE is present tense. Change is never finished.


Sister McCracken

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day—email from 05-14-12


Hola! Como estas? haha just kidding! I don't know any spanish except for Missionaro La Iglesia de Jesu Cristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias, and then I had them the number for the Spanish missionaries. :D

It was crazy getting to Skype home. It felt so normal and like I had just done it last week even though it had been a minute longer than that... it looks like everyone is happy and healthy, and that's what matters. It's freaky I only have one call left...I try not to think about it too much...

So this past week was super fast. As we began the week and I saw all we had planned throughout it, I already knew that we were going to be able to do everything we needed/wanted. There is just as much time in the week as I wish there were. Then again maybe I just need to budget better. 

I realized I haven't told y'all what a normal-ish day here is like (thanks Buh for that reminder). So here we go. We get up every morning at 6:15 to exercise and we either do strength or stretching and then walking or jump roping. After we get our little workout we get ready from 7 to 8 and do fun things like shower, do makeup and hair, search through our clothes trying to come up with an original outfit, and then fight the roaches for our breakfast...jk...sort of...there was one in the applejacks last week :(. Then we have studies from 8-10 am. An our by ourselves and an hour together. I love that time!!! I love just cranking through the Book of Mormon, and I'll be finishing it for the 4th time out here in a couple weeks. I love that book!!! Then we go out and teach!!!! All day until 9 pm. We take breaks for lunch and dinner, but otherwise we're out visiting potential investigators, current investigators, less-active members, active members, and former investigators. And all throughout we're talking to every person we see hoping that they are elect and ready for this message. It's crazy, but it's our life! And I love it. Our relief society president is really good and goes out with us for 4 or 5 hours every thursday to visit people with us. And it saves us oodles on miles! Yay!

Yesterday our little friend Jacob got baptized! His mom is a member, his dad is taking the lessons, and Jacob turned 8 on Saturday so he was excited to get in the waters of baptism and be able to say "I'm a Mormon!" like all of those fun commercials and videos. I sure do love that boy and can't wait to see him and his brothers as missionaries someday. They are so silly and crack me up. Their mom and dad are sure they are the worst children ever with some of the embarrassing things they say, but I say they are just silly little country boys stuck in the city. haha

Oh and to show you how pathetic I have become we had a funny experience yesterday. President and Sister Barry suddenly appeared in our chapel right before church. Which thoroughly freaked me out when I saw them I immediately began wracking my brain for what I possibly could have forgotten that we were doing that day. Or wondering if no one had told me they were speaking in our ward. So we went over to them and I nervously asked why they were there. They said they wanted to go somewhere that felt like family for mother's day, and one of the sisters in their ward grew up with their kids and was friends with the family, so they came. I sighed with relief and told them I was scared I had forgotten something. Sister Barry just laughed and hugged me. I love them!

So that's what I've got this week. oh, and this too...BE THE CHANGE! :D

love y'all,

Sister McCracken


So the pics are of my legs after getting chewed alive, and Sister Gneiting and I being bored...yeah.


Monday, May 7, 2012

It’s MAY?!?!?!—email from 05-07-12

Ok, I'm sorry, but I'm still a little bit in shock that it is May. And that today is my 8 month mark in the mission. It does not feel like I have been here more than a month. But then again I'm starting to have a hard time remembering any life other than the life I'm living now. It's just coming natural now. (It's about time!)

This week has been another week in the wild Beaches of Jacksonville. We had so much fun. We had a young woman who is working on her mission papers come with us for a day to see if missionary work really was her thing. And at the end of the day she said she was excited! So I guess we didn't scare her off too bad!

Thursday our Relief Society President went out and worked with us. She tries to go out for a few hours every week with us to some of the Less-Active families homes that we know a bit better so that she can start getting to know them as well. She has discovered just how hilarious mission life really is by going out with us. She is always saying things like "this is really how you do this? This is really what you're doing every day? I'm scared!!!" We just laugh and tell her it's going to be great and to get out of the car now. :D But she always buys us lunch too. So don't worry mom, I'm getting at least one good-ish meal a week. It usually includes a chocolate malt. :)

My opinion is that the first week with a new companion is like a blind-date that you can't just get a fake phone call during and leave. You are stuck with your date so better start getting to know them. And boy have we had a funny week. I was scared that she was going to think I was weird or pathetic or who knows what. But guess what? She's weird too. So we can be weird together. One hilarious experience we had this week was when we were driving to our apartment one night and I was driving through the complex. And suddenly Sister Gneiting keeps saying "You're gonna hit it! You're gonna hit it! Stop! Stop!!" I had no idea what she was seeing. The only thing I could see ahead of me was the grate in the the pavement that I drive over multiple times a day. So I had no idea why she was freaking out. Finally I saw something moving just past the grate and realized that it was a turtle!!!! We have a pond in the middle of our apartment complex where a turtle colony dwells. Sister Gneiting was so excited she had no idea what words to use to say "turtle". haha So I stopped and she saved the turtle. And for some reason some people walking through the parking lot just stopped and stared at us the whole time like we were a couple of crazies. When really we were just being kind to the poor turtle and saving his life. I loved it.

We had a trade-off and our Sister Leader came here. So I got to have a crazy loud Samoan companion for a day. It was really fun :) I love Sister Fitu. I learned so much from her. But it sure was crazy having all those extra people, because their companionship is a trio. So we went from two people at our apartment to 5. CRAZY!!! But when you get 5 women in their 20s can only imagine that we have some fun! :)

I have a little quote I got off a cereal box that said "What are YOU doing to create change today?" And I have it sitting next to my picture of the Orlando temple. That's my thought today. BE THE CHANGE!!!

love y'all,

Sister McCracken

The first pic is an Elder trying to look like a body at a crime scene...Pretty accurate don't you think?


And the next...well Hannah got a hold of my camera. That's me looking scared to play sports!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Brrr…—email from 04-23-12

So it started raining Saturday night and rained most of yesterday and now it's 59 this morning! Ahhh it feels like winter again! We got our sweaters and tights back out this morning. I'm hoping this cold doesn't last too long.

We had a good week. Sister Barry, the mission president's wife, came teaching with us Thursday night. It was really fun and nerve wracking all at once. We felt so nervous during one our teaching appointments when she pulled out her notebook at started taking notes. But it was funny because even our investigator was made nervous by it too. So everybody just got to be jittery that night.

The rest of our week was slow. It was national "don't answer your door/phone" week in Florida. Or at least I'm telling myself that. One guy we talked to on the street teased that it was because everyone was hiding from the IRS this week. But whatever.

Saturday I surprised Sister Surtees with a little going away shindig. I talked to some ward members and said I wanted her to know how valued she was here so we invited a whole bunch of people to come to the church Saturday evening to say goodbye. Sister Surtees thought we were going to the church to give a church tour to one of our investigators. Little did she know he was in on it too. :D But somehow she started putting pieces together throughout the week since I was passing secret notes to ward members and having whispered conversations with them every once in a while. But it was still a surprise and she still had no idea what was happening. So it was all good!

Sunday I had a stomach virus which made Church interesting. But we had to go because Sister Surtees was talking in Sacrament Meeting. It was fun sitting in the back row hoping I wasn't going to have to run out at any moment and totally freak her out. Luckily I was ok until Church ended and then I was able to go home and have my sickness get the best of me. It was still a good Sunday though. Sister Surtees gave a wonderful talk and Elder Webb and Jazzlyn (a ward member) did a wonderful musical number (which I'll attach the recording of) It was an arrangement just for Sister Surtees after an experience she had when she was sick and going to the doctors all the time.
Now we plan to go to Olive Garden today to celebrate her goodbye and each as much soup and salad as we can. :) I'm excited and scared to see what this week brings now that I'm not training after all. The list of sisters transferring is nothing any of us expected so I have no idea who is coming to join me.

On to pictures.

So 1273...well surprise! Sister Surtees dyed my hair last Monday! I'm back to being a strawberry blonde :)


1272 is us and Elder Webb and Elder Wilcox. We spend a lot of time around these Elders since we share a meetinghouse and carpool to all meetings and on PDay. They are some good Elders! And luckily they're staying this transfer to keep me sane.


1267... is when Sister Surtees pinched me. And she gave me a heart shaped bruise when she did it!

DSCN1267 when Sister Surtees packed mismatched shoes to change into after zone pday. So she had to wear those the rest of the day we were out. It was hilarious.


love y'all and the changes you're being :)


Sister McCracken