Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January 4, 2016

Hey y'all!

My heart is so full today! I don't even really have words to describe how I'm feeling right now, but let me tell you, I am so grateful for this time that I've had to serve a mission.

On Saturday Sister Howell and I were able to go help with the tornado clean up over in Rowlett. It was seriously such a privilege to be able to help. We were on the "walking" team, so we went door to door to ask people if they needed help (sound familiar???) and then dispatch debris removal teams to go clear out all the lumber and broken things. It was neat. We were with our bishop's wife, a 50 year old man named FR from Rowlett, and MA and LE from Oak Cliff. Initially I kind of felt like we weren't doing much just walking door to door listening to some people's stories, trying to find those who needed help. But then we ended up having a really good conversation with MA and LE. They told us that they were taking a break from church for a little while because they thought it was boring. We told them that they shouldn't take a break from God because you don't want Him to take a break from you. But after a while, we starting sharing more about what we do on our missions. We asked if they had ever seen the Elders before, riding around on bikes in their white shirts and ties. They replied, "Yeah, we've seen them, but we always lock the door and turn off the TV when we see them coming." Anyway, by the end of the day that we spent with them, MA and LE told us that if they ever saw missionaries again, they would talk to them, and let them into their house. I considered that the ultimate success.

Through this final week of my mission, I have truly felt of the Savior's love for me. In my mind, that is the most significant part of all of this. I know that the Savior loves me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and is proud of me as well. I'm not perfect, but I'm trying to be perfect at trying. It's all about progress. As I've said goodbye to various ward members, less-actives, investigators, and other missionary friends, I've felt my heart just swelling with love for them. I love this time that I've had to serve a mission, and I love that I have the rest of forever to be a devoted disciple of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I know that this gospel changes lives. It's changed mine. It's refined me and helped me gain confidence in myself, but also confidence in the Savior. I love it. I know it's true.

It has been a privilege beyond compare to have served here in the Texas Dallas Mission with such wonderful companions, friends, districts, zones, leaders, and President & Sister Taylor. I am so blessed. The Lord knew where I needed to be, and it was here!

I love you all! See you on the flip side!

Much love,
Sister Gretchen Julie Gilbert

The Daily Buf. Sister Howell and I have had a joke about this sign the whole time we've been here

Glasses buddies! Us with Angel, seriously the sweetest little boy ever. His name truly fits him.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Torchy's Tacos and a Tornado

Hey y'all! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! I know that I sure enjoyed talking to my family. It's such a blessing that we are able to do that.

This week was good! And crazy!

We had planned to go on exchanges early Tuesday afternoon. I was planning on staying here in Dallas, and Sister Howell was going to go up to Allen 4/6. Well, Sister Howell woke up with an intense charlie horse in her calf, so we decided it would be best if we swapped and I went to Allen instead because she would've had to have ridden a bike. It ended up working out really nicely! I met a lady named RO who happened to be the grandma of the first person I was able to baptize (TR CH). So that was crazy. Then after a few other nice happenstances, we biked to dinner with the Wilson family. We walk inside, and I recognized one of the little girls. We both stared at each other trying to figure it out. Then we figured it out. She is from the McKinney 7th ward (NA ME). She was down at her cousin's house in Allen. It was so great! Just little tender mercies through the day. I'm grateful that the exchange worked out the way that it did.

Christmas Eve was full of delivering Christmas ornaments to people and contacting more media referrals. Can I just say that I love these people here?! They are so incredible. We finished the night up with a Christmas Fiesta with a great hispanic family here! We had tamales, beans, rice, guacamole, and an official Christmas program full of singing, video, and speeches. It was awesome!

Christmas was also wonderful! We had a pancake breakfast as a zone, skyping with the family, lunch with AM AL and family, then dinner with Bishop Hastings and family. I am surrounded by the greatest of people! Seriously.

Saturday was the craziest. It actually started out very normal. Studies, lesson and talk preparation, 12 week training, lunch, then out and about to contact all of our media referrals. Our only concern was that we had nothing lined up for the evening. We were trying to brainstorm ideas all day, but nothing was coming to us. So finally 5 pm rolls around. We had planned to go to Torchy's Tacos (one of my absolute favorite restaurants here in Texas) for dinner using gift cards that a member had given us. We got our food and were almost done eating. Around 5:30 ish all the phones around us starting beeping and we heard the tornado sirens come on! YIKES. So we called Sister Larsen who lives just around the corner from Torchy's what the weather scoop was. She said the storm was headed very rapidly toward White Rock Lake (just a mile from where we were eating). We drove over speedy quick to the Larsen's to hunker down for a while. It ended up not touching down in our area, but it did cause a lot of damage over in Rowlett. Crazy days for Dallas. Regardless, our empty evening of no plans ended up working out. We were able to be with the lovely Larsen's. The reports that I've heard have said that there were 11 twisters that actually touched down. So crazy. So, I have officially survived a tornado. Check.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak in the Garland 1st ward about Being Worshipful. Here are a few of my thoughts from the talk.

As we worship through church and scripture readings, we can gain a deeper understanding of God's plan and love for us. Even this morning as I studied in the Book of Mormon, I found an answer to a question that has been on my mind for a few days. The Lord says in D&C 88:63 "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me." As we worship, we will develop a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father.

How to Worship by Elder Bruce R McConkie from December ensign 1971

"[To worship] is to work on a welfare project, to administer to the sick, to go on a mission, to go home teaching, and to hold family home evening."

For me, serving a mission has been an expression of my worship to Heavenly Father. In preparation for my mission, I recognized that one of the reasons I wanted to serve was so that I could fully devote 18 months to the Lord in an expression of gratitude and love for all that He has blessed me with. I have strived through my mission to remember why I'm here and to allow that to serve as motivation. I haven't served the perfect mission, but I feel good about what I've been able to accomplish. I know that these 18 months ultimately cannot pay back the numerous blessings I have received from the gospel and the Atonement, but it has been a way for me to say thank you. I have been greatly blessed for serving, and I know that the testimony that I've gained is beyond compare.

As we joyfully and happily live the gospel and endure to the end, we show worship and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the precious gifts that He has given us. He has given us the gospel, families, repentance, the Holy Ghost, and greatest of all, the Atonement.

I love my mission! I love getting to share the gospel and help people learn and grow. What a BLESSING!

Much love,
Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Last time riding a bike as a missionary on exchanges! Hollah!

Exchanges with Sister Cowper in Allen
Torchy's Tacos prior to the tornado

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas

Howdy! :)

So, this week was pretty wonderful! Here are some highlights!

Receiving a million (more like 30 but still) bible referrals. It has been so fun to contact the individuals and share with them their Bible, the christmas video and a message of the Restoration. Some have been more successful than others, but it still has been lovely. Here's a miracle from Tuesday. We had scheduled an appointment with a lady named MA to deliver the bible, but when we got there, she wasn't at her apartment. We decided to knock the doors around her. The first door we knock on, a lady opens up the door and invites us right in. WHAT. That never happens. So we went in, shared A Savior is Born, had a good discussion, invited her to church, and set a return appointment. She was so excited to meet us! Nothing has come from it yet, but it was another testimony builder to me of following counsel and guidance from our leaders to talk to everyone and contact the people who live around referrals.

We had a great lesson with RO, JA, BE, SC. Our lesson was about the Plan of Salvation, and we had a marvelous conversation. They had lots of questions about the pre-earth life, and I loved having the opportunity to bear my testimony that God really is our loving Heavenly Father. We talked to JA about going to do baptisms for the dead which she was really excited about. We love them.

Wednesday afternoon we were out delivering some Bibles. We were trying to decide where to go: we could either stay in the area where we were or head over to the far part of the area and contact a girl who was really excited. Well, Heavenly Father had different plans! Right then we got a call from a RA who was having a terrible day. We went over, helped her clean out her books and movies, and shared a couple scriptures. I was grateful we were able to be in the right place at the right time.

We also were able to go caroling with the youth one night and caroling with a group of families last night. Such a fun time of year.

Thursday we had our Christmas specialized meeting. It was such a wonderful occasion. We discussed the wonderful gifts that we've been given (baptism and the Holy Ghost) and shared Christmas traditions. After, we headed to the Taylors for games, music, and fun. From the White Elephant, I got bacon and a package of fresh oysters! Ha. So good. But President gave wonderful trainings. I'm so grateful to have such a wonderful mission president and mission mom. They are wonderful and inspired.

Friday I was on exchanges in McKinney. Sister Howell was able to set a baptism date with AM on the exchange! Such a miracle. It sounds like it was a great lesson. :)

Mary's baptism was a nice service! It was a little stressful because our ward mission leader was in Las Vegas for the byu/utah game and our assistant ward mission leader didn't show up until 5 minutes before, but luckily Sister Howell and I (along with the senior sisters) were able to get everything set up alright. The font was a bit cold, but what can you do? But more importantly, the spirit was very nice. We had another investigator able to be there and the elders had 2 investigators as well. After Mary was baptized, she bore her testimony. She relayed a story from work earlier in the week. All of her coworkes were on break, and they were discussing what religion they were. Everyone else in the room was Catholic, and Mary proudly exclaimed "I'm LDS!" This was even before she got baptized. She got a couple of reproofs and questions, but she boldly declared her belief. I am so proud of her. She is going to be even more of a wonderful grandmother and mother.

We finished the week up by going with Sister Washburn, our lovely primary president, to deliver cookies and the Christmas video to her neighbor. I love her! It was so wonderful.

My ponderize this week: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14. I hope each of you can find that peace and good will.

I am so grateful for this Christmas time of season. I love our Savior Jesus Christ, and I'm so blessed to be a missionary for Christmas again. LOVE Y'ALL!!

Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Exchange/bike life back in McKinney with Sister Klinkowski

Sister Olsen and I at the Christmas specialized training

Mary's baptism! Here's all of us - Sister Putnam, Sister McCarthy, Mary, me, Sister Howell

President Taylor during the white elephant gift exchange

Sister Howell and I

Friday, December 18, 2015


Hello! It was a good week.

Some adventures include:

  • District meeting with our new district (still weirded out by the change, but it's all making sense now). 
  • Parking in the skinniest parking stall ever for district lunch and consequently making our zone leader drive the car out because I was too scared to. I wish I had a picture of that one.
  • Going on exchanges with the lovely Sister Swan. She leaves for Australia this week. I am so excited for her!
  • Holding a baby bearded dragon on exchanges
  • Receiving supplies to make gingerbread houses and making them during lunch
  • The Lake Highlands ward party which included a live band, a huge fajita feast, and family feud. So fun. Also, one of my old ward mission leaders was there with his girlfriend. That was really fun to see him again!

Some of the more spiritual things:

  • Meeting an amazing lady named KE on exchanges. She just said she knew we were genuine people and could feel of our love.
  • Going with Sis Farmer from the ward to deliver cookies and a message to her neighbors. Only two actually accepted the invitation to watch the A Savior is Born video, but we had wonderful conversations with both the ladies. This year's video is children from around the world telling the story of Jesus Christ's birth. Both the ladies we shared it with had a passion of working and helping children, so that was nice to be able to talk to them about it. 
  • Trying to contact a referral, but she wasn't there. But we met a lovely woman named NA who was interested in our video. She was really great. 
  • Okay, does everyone remember AM AL her daughter AS? They both got baptized earlier this year. Well, AM's mom, MA has been meeting with the senior sisters for a while. So we went with Sis McCarthy and Sis Putnam to teach her the gospel of Jesus Christ. The lesson was incredible. There were powerful testimonies of God's love for us and of the truthfulness of repentance. At the end, Sister McCarthy asked MA if she would pray to know if the gospel was true. She said she already knew and wanted to set a baptismal date! She decided that before Christmas would be the time to do it. SO WE ARE HAVING A BAPTISM this Saturday, Dec 19. MIRACLES all around. MA is incredible. She has seen how the gospel has blessed her family and is excited to join the church and be a part of our world wide family.
  • Accompanying the little spanish choir at the Casa Linda ward party (the spanish ward the covers our same area) I didn't understand much of the words that were sung, but the familiar tunes rang to my heart. Also, I could feel the Spirit testifying of the truth. The Spirit has no language barriers. It testifies of all truth. 
  • Some thoughts: distance doesn't really mean much. It's more about heart-distance. How close are our hearts to each other? How close are our hearts to God? Relationships are everything, people. 
  • A wonderful day at church. During ward council this morning, Bishop announced that there won't be any meetings until January. They all then looked at me and said, "We will miss you dearly, Sister Gilbert!" These wards have become family. When I got transferred from McKinney, I thought it was going to be impossible to love that much again. But my heart has grown. I love these people.

I love each of you! Thank you for your love and support. "let us go to and labor with our might ... and it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things. " Jacob 5: 62, 72

Muah! Have a great week!
Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Christmas lights. Texans don't mess.

The District - S Howell, me, S Cloward, S Stripling, E Thornley, E Phipps (who just left today to go to Ecuador), E Chancellor, E Hanson.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Plentiful Adventures

A good week!

1) We found out that we've been going to the wrong district for these first two weeks of the transfer! Haha. We got a call from one of our zone leaders. He said, "Sisters, your district leader told us you weren't at district meeting today!" Wait, what? "Yeah, you weren't there." No I'm pretty sure we were there. I played the piano. "No, Elder Chancellor (the district leader of our new district) were the sisters at district meeting? Nope!" Hahaha. Apparently at transfers they swapped our district and didn't bother to tell us. Good times. So we'll start going to the new one this week.

2) we got a big screw in our tire. That took an hour or so at Firestone.

3) we got to help a group from our ward go around and put Christmas lights up for a few families as a service project. That was SO fun and helped me get in the Christmas spirit more. :)

4) ward Christmas party and a progressive dinner with the relief society sisters in the other ward. Everyone was so excited to see us at both events. That made me feel good. :)

5) cool experience during testimony meeting yesterday. I felt really prompted to share my testimony. So I did and spoke about the importance of the family. While I was speaking, I realized that I answered my own question that I had been fasting about that day. I'm grateful that we get to bear testimony. It allows us to strengthen and deepen our own beliefs.

6) I started writing down Christmas memories everyday. That's been fun. It's definitely another good way to get in the Christmas spirit.

7) KR been reading the Book of Mormon on her own! This is HUGE people. I am so happy for her. She will come around someday.

8) we got to go with our relief society president and share the video on with two of her neighbors. So awesome.

9) We got to watch the Christmas devotional with a family. That was wonderful. I loved the spirit of the devotional and of Christmas.

The spirit of Christmas really is the spirit of Christ. How grateful I am to be a missionary this time of year. Love you!

Love, Sister Gilbert


Monday, November 30, 2015

A Cajun turkey this year

Hey y'all! Happy thanksgiving!

Btw this is already my third attempt at writing this email. The other two were deleted. :(

Anyways, this week has been lovely!

Monday we had 3 family home evenings all about thanksgiving! One of our ward missionaries called and invited us over because she wanted to see us for sure before she went out of town for Thanksgiving. We were all happy that I stayed, and it led to a fun evening for sure. We were also able to visit Sister Pettigrew. I had met her several times before coming to Lake Highlands, so it was quite a fun surprise to get to be in her ward. We just had a good discussion about thanksgiving and missions and the gospel. She had a profound thought about the scriptures. The Bible and the Book of Mormon are Heavenly Father's love letters to us. If we want to feel His love, we should read the scriptures.

Tuesday was transfer meeting. We thought we had a sister training leader meeting after, so that's why we went, but the meeting ended up canceling. We had a wonderful time being spiritually fed by the lovely President and Sister Taylor. In one of the testimonies of the departing elders, he said, "Do you believe in love at first sight? I didn't, until I met the Taylors." I AGREE. They are incredible people, and I am so blessed to serve here in this mission with them.

Tuesday evening was awesome. We were invited to attend the annual lake highlands youth thanksgiving bonfire! We had hot dogs, s'mores and Thank-i-monies. It was wonderful. I love the youth. In preparation, all the young women made a portion of a thanksgiving meal - potatoes, casseroles, rolls, desserts, sides, dips, etc. After the bonfire, we loaded up into our cars and drove to a woman we've been working with. Several weeks ago, she told us that she was worried how she was going to feed her family thanksgiving. Sister Howell had the brilliant idea to partner with the young women to make a meal for her. So we did. And it was awesome to deliver. Service is such a blessing in my life. I feel SO blessed being able to offer simple service.

Wednesday we met our new district. They should be good. :) It's always an adjustment. I have officially been in the zone the longest. Party! We had dinner with the Orozcos - a delicious breakfast for dinner and discussed what we are thankful for. We finished the visit up with a little Kamikaze Khristmas Karaoke as Sister Orozco calls it. That was so fun and definitely got me in the Christmas mood. Then we were going to go visit a TA, but when we got there she told us she was sick sick sick with the flu. So we reschedule. But then later she sent us the sweetest text. She said, "I'm sorry I had to cancel. I need to feel your comforting spirits tonight though. So even though you only stood at my doorway, it was what I needed." Oh that was heart warming. I love her!

Turkey day! We had two meals! One with an active family and their whole clan. The other was with Amanda (recent convert) and her part-member family. They had cajun seasonsed deep friend turkey. YUM. That was pretty incredible. After all our eating, we went with one of the young women and dropped cookies off to ward members and investigators and shared thanksgiving messages with those who were at home. Basically it was wonderful.

Friday we had great lessons with both KR and the BAs. We brought the senior sisters to KR's and had a great discussion based off 1 Nephi 1 about righteous parenting. We committed her to read the Book of Mormon and when we followed up with her last night, she had read! Yay! We were going to drop her earlier last week, but she called and asked for a visit, and then the visit ended up going very well! The BAs were wonderful as always. We talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Side note. I just want to share my testimony of Him. I am so grateful for our Savior. I know that it is through Him that we can accomplish everything that we are sent here to do. He has made it all possible. There is a really touching article from December's ensign. It's called "A Gift of Life and Love." I encourage you to read it. But I just want to share a quote from it:
"Wearing a face mask, Ed walked in the door, headed straight for Dottie, and enveloped her in a tremendous hug. As they embraced each other, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Everyone could feel the love emanating from them. A sister had suffered in order to give her brother the gift of life. It was a gift of love, a gift of sacrifice, a gift he couldn’t provide for himself. 
 "As I watched them, with tears streaming down my face, it dawned on me: this could be what it will be like to meet the Savior face to face. He did something for us that we are unable to do for ourselves. Only He, being divine, was able to endure a sacrifice so great that the law of justice would be satisfied. And only He, being perfect, was worthy to atone for the sins of all mankind so that the law of mercy could be extended to all who accept Him as their Savior."

Lastly, we stopped by Bishop Martinez's Saturday night on our way home. We just shared a quick visit of thankfulness and of gratitude. The conversation ended up on trials and how much we get to learn from them. I love his family. I am so blessed to serve in such incredible wards. I am so so blessed. On Sunday, Bishop gave his closing remarks and said, "Last night, two angels stopped by my house - Sister Howell and Sister Gilbert." I feel so loved here.

Here on my mission, I may not have baptized the most number of people, or reactivated the most, but I truly feel like the bonds and the strengthening and the service that I've been able to do among the active members will last forever. I love these people. I'm sitting here typing this with a tear in my eye. I am so blessed and so humbled that Heavenly Father has allowed me to come labor in this part of His vineyard and be so blessed.

I love you! I know that the Savior lives. I know that He was born so that we might have life and love and hope and possibilities and progression and happiness.

Much love,
Sister Gretchen Julie Gilbert 

The old district after playing ultimate frisbee

Sister Howell and I getting some peppermint hot chocolate!


Golfing adventures at top golf

Monday, November 23, 2015


Hey there!

Another week has come and gone! They are just flying by at this point! It's crazy. Today marks the end of another transfer! Sister Howell and I are staying together for my last transfer (it's crazy to say that). We are glad!

A brief sum-up

We had a great lesson with BE. I've definitely gained a testimony of bringing the RIGHT member to lessons. We had a wonderful discussion about the sacrament. That's one thing I've really gained an appreciation of - the sacrament. It's such a wonderful opportunity to reflect and recommit.

We had zone conferences this week. It was wonderful! Slight drama on the way there....I got pulled over. BUT I got away without a warning, so I'm grateful for that. Let's just say that driving in an area you're unfamiliar with, in heavy traffic, trying to follow the gps often leads to speeding in a school zone. WHEW.

Then on Wednesday we had a great service opportunity helping the Salvation Army package snacks and treats for prisoners. It was so fun! They had a brass band playing Christmas music - just a fun, holiday deal.

Most of the week was spent just going around sharing thanksgiving messages with people!

Yesterday we had Stake Conference. Before the meeting, I was greeting people. I said good morning to a tall gentleman with white hair. He said, "Hello Sisters" I introduced myself, and he did like wise. Turns out it was Elder Steven Snow, our presiding general authority! I had a strong impression before stake conference to talk to a couple in our ward. We chatted with them for a minute, and I asked if we could come by later that evening to share a thanksgiving message. Brother BA agreed, but his wife was hesitant. They finally agreed, so we set the time. That evening we went over and shared "In the Spirit of Thanksgiving" and ended up having a great discussion about that. Sister BA was working on a paper for her sign language class, and Sister Howell was able to give her some help and suggestions because she knows ASL as well. At the end, Sister Barrus expressed her gratitude for us coming over. I was grateful I followed the prompting.

The meeting was great. A young woman spoke about "mastering the art of sharing" in regards to doing missionary work. Making family a priority was also stressed. I'll share a few more highlights:

  • We can do small acts of kindness for the people within our sphere of influence. Our sphere is often bigger than we think it is.
  • The most clear indication of our personal progression and conversion is how we treat other people.
  • Jesus Christ is our Rescuer, our Redeemer.
  • This is the plan of happiness. We're right in the middle of it. Are you happy?
  • The gospel binds us together.

I love all of you! Have a beautiful week!

Sister Gilbert