Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015

To my incredible Grandfather,
I was hit really hard this week with quite a few lessons that you have taught me throughout my life. I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done for me. All you are. I would not be the same person...and definitely not the same missionary...without all of the precepts that I have come to learn from things you have done and experiences I have had with you. I thought I would share a few!!
Do you remember when I was just a little rat? Probably running around in footsie pajamas and screaming "TWO BATTERIES!!!"? On one particular occasion the little runt of a dude I was, found himself under a dining room table in hopes to escape your grasp as we played. You were chasing me with a foam bat and scaring me half to death! I imagine that I was pretty darn upset as well! Haha! This past week I realized something though...Don't we sometimes feel hopeless and under a table? In danger and in fear? Don't we often feel like God is picking on us? You finally had your laughs and set the bat aside. You slowly and gently pulled out the chair and laid on your belly and told me I had no reason to be afraid...and that you would never hurt me. I finally had the courage to come out from under the table and all that was waiting was your loving hug and a heartfelt kiss on the forehead. At times we feel under the table with fear and doubt. At times we don't trust in God. But all that is waiting for us is God's loving and extended arms pulling us in for a hug. All it takes is to have a little faith and trust in Him who tells us to have no fear. Thank you for helping me realize what faith in God means and how to show it. How to be hugged. For showing me that God gives no danger or fear. We cannot feel "under the table" with Him. He only waits for us to come unto Him to lovingly welcome us into His arms and kiss our foreheads.
"WHERE'S MY PIE? GET IN THE TRUCK!" That line will never be forgotten! Within SECONDS after just finishing a full course meal you have always asked, "Where's my pie?". This principle has played a big role in my mission and I did not realize it until this past week. Grandpa, there have been times here where I have been shattered. Getting rejected is hard. But each and every time we are denied...we keep on looking. We shake it off and get on our horses. Where is the next soul? Where are the sick in spirit? Where are the afflicted? "WHERE IS MY PIE?!?!" No matter how destroyed my heart gets at many doors are slammed in my face...or how worn down my shoes KNOW I am going to be looking for my pie!
I think I will finish off with the most precious of all: This week you strengthened my testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Things I have seen you do my entire life did not click until just recently but when they understanding of the Savior and His offerings sky rocketed. I grew up watching you give it all. The bill at the restaurant was always paid on your card. The groceries at the market have always been paid by your cash. Every gift you have ever offered has been amazing. "I would that ye should understand that God Himself shall come down among the children of men and shall redeem His people." In Spanish it says that "He shall descend"...The Lord descended from His thrown, His glory, and the presence of God to come to earth and do the will of the Father. Christ paid the price for our sins..."because He hath poured His soul out unto death; and was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors". He paid the price of it all just as you always paid the check at the restaurant and the price of the groceries. You helped me understand the price that the Savior paid for sin. He paid it all. He paid for the sins that we would commit just as you paid for the food we ate and would eat. 
Now comes the beauty of it all. No matter what you had given us throughout the day you always called us up to the counter. We would hustle over and watch as you inserted your hands into your pockets and scurried around for a short moment until you pulled out every last cent you had and put it all on the counter. From there you would separate the money equally and give it to us. EVERY LAST CENT. 
"He is despised and rejected of men...acquainted with grief...surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him...He was oppressed, and He was afflicted..." 
You have taught me on a deeper level of what it is the Lord offers us. The Lord pays our groceries and covers our bills. But after the miracles are manifested, the example set, the ordinances taught, and the price of sin, doubt, fear, and pain paid for...He took upon Himself a nail driven cross. he was lifted to die in the middle of two thieves after being whipped, smitten, spitted upon, and crowned with thorns. Jesus Christ gave it all. Every last drop of blood. Every last ounce of effort. He gave us all of His love. All of His heart and compassion. And then comes more...
And then comes the most miraculous of all...
And then He does what you have always done...
He emptied His pockets...
He arose.
As I think of all the years spent with you I think of the Lord's Atonement and all He gave us...and then I think of you emptying your pockets and I think of the Lord emptying His for my eternal salvation and exaltation. Giving me the chance to rise again. You have given us every last possible cent just as the Savior gave us and gives us every last bit of everything that He has.
I know you know this...but thanks to Christ's empty pockets He lives.
Thanks to our Savior and Redeemer's empty pockets there is a hug and a kiss waiting for us if we will just come out from under the table. 
Thanks to our older Brother's empty pockets He gives us the diligence, faith, and disposition to get in the truck and get the pie to save souls.
Thanks to His empty pockets I will see you again.
Thanks to His empty pockets there is more Finadene.
Thanks to His empty pockets I can feel of your love and your light.
Thanks to His empty pockets you will live again. Our family will live again. I will live again. And we will live in the presence of God, the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus the Christ.
All thanks to His empty pockets...a principle taught by a "Big Dufus" of a guy! YOU! A Big Dufus who I will be seeing shortly. Odie-O-Tote to you until all is restored to its perfect form and we can say it together.
I love you.

What have Christ's empty pockets given you?
Love you all!
Elder Noll

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 16, 2015

Hey All! 
Well...  I am somewhat in shock...  I just read my family attended a Raiders vs. Vikings game...  I don`t know if I am more in shock for the fact that I have waited 19 years to see them play and I missed it or the fact that the Vikes actually won! Haha! ;) Just messing! I am glad you guys had a good time!
How is everyone?! Special shout out to the ‘Ville...  what a great run you guys had! Get fired up for next year! Congrats to all of the players, fans, coaches, parents, and SHS as a unit.
Last week was a bit nuts so I didn`t write...  we got permission from President Riggins to visit Panorama so we spent PDAY down in Duran last week. It was so great to see the families again! Love them so much! They are all the bomb! And are doing so great. La Troncal is going well. The Mexican Elder just got transferred so we are waiting to see who Elder Neciosup from Peru picks up. Maybe I will speak something other than Spanish or Portuguese! ;) 
The past two weeks have been LEGENDARY. Nothing less! We found a really awesome woman...  she is actually a member but has separated herself a bit from the church for quite some time now. We had a visit with her the other day and started it off with a question:  “ What is your biggest worry?” Not knowing the answer we whipped out the triple and flipped open to Doctrine and Covenants 6. The verse that stood out was 36, “ Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” Not yet hearing her answer we were certain this verse was the one! Then came the response! “ I fear the future. I doubt my abilities. I doubt my potential. I am scared of what comes and scared of not having anyone to trust.” I was first struck with sadness for a daughter of God who feels like this and second struck with gratitude for the Holy Ghost`s leading spirit that led us to Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 which told her exactly what to do (look unto God in every thought) and exactly what to stop doing (doubting and fearing). How grateful for the spirit I am. How worthless we are in this work without it. This incredible woman left her job to come to church yesterday. How cool it is to see someone look unto God in every thought throw out all fear and doubt.
Another cool experience we had is really similar to the last. We went to visit a family in a branch that is having a hard time. Fights between the husband and wife, children, financial problems, etc. We have tried just about everything with them. We felt at a loss as to what we should teach and share. I said a silent prayer in my heart, and I am sure my companion said the same, with a desire to read their hearts and feel their souls to find what they needed. We flipped open to Matthew 4. We marked the first 2 verses that tell us that Christ was fasting...  so that’s where we went. We randomly taught a lesson on fasting and the blessings that come. When we finished the lesson the mother of the family said, “Thank you so much for sharing that. This is my biggest struggle as a member of the church. I have never been able to complete a fast. Will you help me?” So we planned a day to fast with the family and it went great! She completed it!!!
Which leads me to my next miracle!!!
Two weeks ago I felt such a heavy tugging on my heart. I could not figure out what it was! It was really starting to bother me. Finally I knelt before my Father in Heaven and asked. Without delay...  a picture of my hero popped into my mind. The coolest 11 year old to walk the planet. He has long, beautiful, blonde hair. Plays football like a champ. Wrestles like a warrior. Runs like none other. And woos the girls like no Noll has ever been able to! I felt like my little brother Al was in need of my help. I turned Mama Bear on. I felt like raging. Nothing hurts more than knowing that someone you love is suffering while you can`t do anything! But I didn`t know what was going on with my little Homie. So I decided to fast. Last week the first thing I read was this: 
“Poor Al is still not doing great. His fever is gone and most of the symptoms as well, but he has something called thrush - it is a yeast infection in the mouth - he has HUGE canker sores and yucky yellowish stuff. His bottom lip is about 3 times it's normal size!! I hope this passes quick.”
There is no doubt in my mind that my little brother was in need of a fast. And the spirit of the Lord spoke! Love you Al! I don`t feel so heavy now so I take that as you are doing a lot better! 
A couple more highlights of the past two weeks! 
We got to bless a newborn baby. What a miracle. What perfection in such a small body. What purity in such a tiny soul. 
An experience a little different... 
I really had to go to the bathroom so we passed by a members house real quick. Just a number 1 emergency so you all know. BUT...  when I entered the bathroom someone before me had left a little surprise...  okay...  a giant one. When I went to flush the toilet (by filling up cups of water and dumping them in the toilet until it flushes by itself because that is how they do it here because they don’t have the little knobs) it would not flush. I did not want them to think that I left the surprise though so I could not give in. I moved on to a small bucket to flush the sucker down...  still no luck. As I looked in the dark for something bigger (because there was no light), I came across a HUGE bucket/barrel thingy. I filled that animal cup by cup until it was all filled up...  then with every ounce of strength I had I power-cleaned the sucker and dumped it into the toilet...  VICTORY! The surprise left by someone else moved on...  it probably would have been better to just leave the surprise in the toilet and let them think what they wanted to think because I came out sweating bullets with wet shoes and driblets of water all over my tie...  but hey...  that`s life. 
Another experience for the books...  everyone and their brother sells bananas in the street here. So I went to buy a banana one day and I was feeling around and observing to see which one I wanted. The banana man went NUTS! “STOP SQUEEZING MY BANANAS!!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????!!!?!?!!! IF YOU KEEP SQUISHING AND DAMAGING MY BANANAS I AM GOING TO STRANGLE YOU!” Then he started throwing all of the bananas at me. I felt so bad! I didn`t mean to harm your bananas mister. I apologized from the bottom of my heart and left him with a good tip ;) I passed the following day and he sold me one without any trouble so I think he has forgiven me. Gotta be careful with those banana men. Dangerous.
Hang in there brothers and sisters...  this weeks’ message is a little longer than usual...  but I hope it will touch someone...  somewhere.
I was taken back as I read 2 Nephi 5:27. “ And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.”
- Where on earth did that come from, Nephi? TWENTYFIVE verses ago the anger of your brothers led them to “seek to destroy you.” How did your life go from nearly death to “living after the manner of happiness? How does a family, a friendship, or a people go from seeking to destroy lives to living after a manner of happiness? How can we obtain this happiness as a family?
So I went back from the beginning...  and I came across TWENTY-FOUR things that occurred among this people in order for them to come to the life that we all long for in verse 27.
I would like to share with you those twenty-four things and how we can apply them in our lives:
1: “I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God...”
- This is vital. A family that lives after the manner of happiness is a family that cries unto the Lord in united family prayer.
2: “I, Nephi, did take my family...”
- All things...  spiritual and/or physical...  should be done as a family.
3: “ ...  those who believed in the warnings…”
- TEENAGERS: (I can point you out because I am one of them too) Let us give heed to the warnings of our parents. Let us submit ourselves to their protecting guidelines, standards, and limits that will lead us to live in a manner of happiness.
4: “... believed in...  the revelations of God…”
- The Lord works through revelation. Our Heavenly Father is so loving and so caring that He has called a Prophet today to give us revelations. Listen to him. Go out of your way to read the General Conference talks and read the church magazines as a family. It is a required action if we desire to live after a manner of happiness.
5: “... they did hearken unto my (Nephi`s) words...”
- A happy family requires hearkening, listening, and understanding.
6, 7, 8: “... did take our tents...  and did journey into the wilderness...  and we did pitch our tents...
- “WE. WE. WE. OUR. OUR. OUR. This is the physical aspect. Spiritually speaking we must take are tents and journey forward. Progress. Improve. We much pitch our tents as we take steps forward... NEVER moving back. There cannot be returns to solved problems. Forget the past and journey forward. Pitch the progress. If you don`t pitch it... keep with the progress as a family... never settling.
9: “... take upon them to call themselves the people of Nephi...”
- This is more on a personal level. All that we do as individuals represents our families name. Represent your families name with honor so that you can obtain the manner of happiness that you strive for. Never do anything that would lower the level of excellence.
10, 11, 12: “… to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things...”
- The foundation of happiness is obedience. 
13, 14, 15: “… for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we did raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind.”
- To sow, reap, and raise are all things that show growth. They are all words that are results of edification. EDIFY. EDIFY. EDIFY. Edifying seeds of compliments will reap happiness in abundance. Raise flocks, herds, and compliments of every kind. 
16: “... brought the...  plates of brass...”
- A happy family studies the scriptures.
17: “...  and also the ball, or compass...”
- The happy family has a functioning Liahona. It functions through “faith and diligence” and ceases with “slothfulness.” Let us be spiritually diligent and faithful. Avoid spiritual slothfulness. My mom is going to kill me for this one... we must also avoid physical slothfulness. We must maintain a clean home and work TOGETHER to do so. The spirit cannot dwell in an out of order, messy home. Live after manner of cleanliness to live after a manner of happiness.
18: “... did take the sword of Laban and make many swords after its same manner...”
- Your sword is your testimony. Parents especially have the calling to help their children make their swords. Parents and older siblings have the obligation of helping children and younger siblings find their faith and obtain their sword.
19: “... teach my people to work in all manner of precious substances…”
- Family members must help one another to develop their talents and work with their “ special substances” that the Lord has blessed them with in order to live after of manner of happiness. The home should be a home of learning and teaching. I bet you Nephi did a whole of his teaching on Monday Nights...  (hint hint)
20: “... did build a temple...”
- A happy family will visit the temple regularly. A happy family will ENTER the temple as frequently as possible. Strive also to make your home “constructed after the manner of the temple.” Sanctify your homes. Make them holy.
21: “... did cause my people to be industrious...”
- Cause that your families learn and live principles and values of how to save, earn, and manage money. Cause that your families pay tithes and fast offerings and participate in monthly family fasts.
22: “... and to labor with their hands...”
- Happy families have to work hard. Look for chances to use your hands. SERVE! Work. Developing homemaking skills and lending service brings happiness. Make us children work. Make us sweat.
23: “... I was desirous that they should have no king...”
- Nephi did not seek attention nor fame. Humility and equality are crucial in creating a happy family.
24: “... did consecrate...”
- This happiness cannot be obtained in the home without the Priesthood. God`s ordinances are needed. Fathers… search for opportunities to use your Priesthood. Give blessings! Ordain your sons! Magnify your callings! 
Brothers and sisters, I know that these twenty-four things bring peace and joy. IT IS A LOT...  I know! But little by little, through our Savior and His everlasting Atonement, and though His sacrifice that enables us to progress, we can come to live after a manner of happiness as we desire.
I want to thank my amazing parents for the manner of happiness they strive for and for all they have taught me while obtaining this manner.
I love you all and share these things in the sacred name of our older Brother, Jesus Christ, the giver of happiness. Amen.
Elder Noll

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2, 2015

Hello Friends and Fam!!
Hopefully Halloween treated you all well and you are all recovering just fine. We actually had an activity as a branch to celebrate Halloween on Saturday. It was really fun. We started out with a spiritual thought and then did skits and watched the little kids play games. It was awesome because tons of the members, even though the branch is super tiny, brought some friends and family who are not members of the church so we got to mark them down as references and get to visit them a little later on in the week! We are super pumped about that. 
I am convinced that NOBODY looked as good as the Noll's. Special shout out to my Mommy and the costumes she always throws down! My little brother, Al, looked like a champ and never in my life have I seen such a good lookin´ trio so close to breathing their last breath! ;) 
So as you all can guess...this week was another great one! Ecuador never fails me :) On Tuesday I got to go out to a tiny little town called Naranjito and work there for the day. We had a super neat experience! There is a Recent Convert family and the sister of the recent convert wants so badly to be baptized but she and her boyfriend are not married and the boyfriend wants NOTHING to do with baptism...nor the Missionaries for that matter. He has denied them, denied them, and denied them...but this time was different! We headed over there with determination and with a firm belief that the Lord was going to soften his heart...and He did. He accepted the lessons for the first time! It is amazing what the Gospel does to a the end of the lesson he was a different person with different goals and a different look on his life and where he wanted to go. He decided for himself that he wants to be married to his girlfriend so that they can both be baptized. So touching. The Lord truly has a time for everyone...just a matter of waiting until he puts His perfect plans into play.
Naranjito even has a Elder W, an Elder from Chicago, and I got up a little earlier to get a pump in. Man did that pump rip me apart. It has almost been a week and I still can barely peel my bananas. Nevertheless, a chest and tri´s work out made this week a great one for sure! ;) 
   On the way back from Naranjito we had to take various buses...the last bus only passes every 45 minutes and we got off from the second to last bus JUST as the last one was heading off. We went running chasing that sucker down! I felt like Lloyed Christmas chasing after the Bikini Tour Bus to tell them that ´´the town is that way´´ but the result was different. The bus driver must have been in a hurry because there was no stopping him.
There were two experiences this week that absolutely shattered me...yet I learned so much. I won't go into detail but we had two lessons with two different people this week that, for various reasons, felt like they could not pray to God. They felt like they needed time. That they needed to be better. They REFUSED to pray. I was so distraught. I thought of my own earthly parents. How much I love them. How much I miss them. How much I need there instruction. And where I would be without them on Monday's...even if it is just a short moment through words. Then I thought of my Heavenly much I need Him. How much I long for Him. How much I need His protection and instruction and where I would be without my daily conversations with Him. I know that the power of prayer is real. I know that it is the answer to all doubt, sorrow, and or fear. The sadness I felt as this man and, later on in the week, this woman, expressed their ´´unworthiness´´ and ´´lack of desire´´ to pray only strengthened my gratitude for prayer and all that is gives us and offers us as we do so.
One day last week we were teaching a lesson a cat entered the front door and beneath my seat with a MASSIVE bird hanging from its mouth. The bird was flocking around and dying...feathers going everywhere, blood spurting around, etc. The old man we were teaching said, ´´Ahhh...Not again!´´ (As if this happens frequently?) Haha! So that was a little strange...but I managed to grab a feather from the poor bird to save it as souvenir. The man yelled at the cat and him and the wounded bird scurried off out the door...oh the things that occur in a lifetime.
What more...???
We were blessed with a great fast Sunday yesterday. 
A man thought we were insane when we told him that we don´t receive money for our service...that our pay is the happiness of others. That caused for quite the reaction.
We are coming up on the rainy that will be sweet.
We have a family night with a less active family and I am going to ATTEMPT to make a ´´TRACY NOLL-WORLDS FAMOUS-BANANA BREAD´´ batch. We will see how it goes!
It is a Holiday here today and tomorrow so basically nobody is working. The streets are super dead. It was a miracle that we found a cyber! It is ´´Day of the Dead´´ and everyone is visiting the cemetery and drinking something called ´´Colada Morada´´ is purple goop with just about every fruit you can possibly think is super good! They eat it with Gingerbread men. 
I think that is all that is new...
A lot comes to my mind every Monday as I begin to write these spiritual messages. I pray to the Lord each week that He will lead and guide me through His Holy Spirit to satisfy the needs of you all. Something tells me to touch a bit on becoming something that not all of desire to become.
As the Lord reveals unto Joseph divine directions to build a temple He says, ´´...that I may bring to pass my strange act...´´. The Lord´s acts are strange. His acts are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So to all of you who perhaps are not members of the Church...that is why the Mormons are so ´´strange´´ is because we do what the Lord tells us to...and His acts are strange. For those who have been baptized into the Church in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we promise to keep the commandments...we promise to follow these ´´strange acts´´...therefore making us...strange. Christ´s work is strange...and if we too are not strange...something is very wrong. The Lord then explains that this ´´strange act´´ is so that He can ´´pour out His spirit upon all flesh´´. I promise that as we become strange we will have His spirit to be with us at all times, in all things, and in all places. The Lord again calls His acts and works strange in section 101:95, ´´That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work,...´´.
And now comes the why...
Why does the Lord want me to look strange? Why do I have to be different? Why would I EVER want to be strange?
´´...that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.´´
I am here to testify that to choose the right is peculiar. Obedience is odd. To set an example is weird. The Lord´s ways are NOT normal ways. On the be ´´cool´´ is wicked. To ´´fit in´´ is a principle that only Satan teaches. This strange work is to separate those who are righteous and those who are wicked.
Do all in your power (YOUTH) to look strange. 
Are you the ´´strange´´ student who arrives to seminary on time and participates?
Are you the one who they call ´´weird´´ because you went to mutual over the party or basketball game? 
Are you the one they call peculiar because your shirts cover your shoulders and your shorts go to your knees?
Are you the ´´strange´´ one who says ´´I can´´s family night´´?
The questions could go on forever that could classify you as ´´strange´´ or not. And I devote my entire soul to those of you who answered ´´yes´´ to those questions in gratitude. You are the ´´light of the world´´. You are ´´among the noble and great ones´´.  It is a matter of discerning between the righteous and the wicked. It is having the Holy Spirit poured out upon you or living without it. It is a matter of being like the Savior or submitting yourself to the eyes of men. It is a matter of salvation and eternal happiness or misery.
STRIVE to be STRANGE. There is NOTHING normal about the Lord´s Gospel. The Kingdom of God is NOT normal and only will the strange obtain it. Only the strange will be exalted. 
Love you all. I wish you all the best of luck in your journey to become strange in the Lord. I promise the blessings of Heaven over your head as you all do so.
Elder Noll