I know. Sounds like either the beginning of a nightmare or a bad joke, but it's actually just part of life here in Oaxaca. Apparently, clowns are still cool here. THey just sort of walk around, hop on buses and entertain people. So, a couple of nights ago, after are hard day of working, we were waiting for a bus. A couple of clowns walked up and sat down next to us. Clearly, their day was over as well. They were carrying three tacos and a fanta and not being superobnoxious, although still in full clown make-up and get-up. After a while, us four realized that the buses had closed for a day, so we grabbed the next taxi. And there I found myself, trapped in the backseat of a taxi with two clowns. I think Aubrey would have died. But they were normal and offered me some tacos, which was delicious. I couldn't help but think which one of us people found more obnoxious: the missionaries or the clowns. I have to say, probably the clowns in the U.S., but the Missionaries in Mexico because clowns are still cool here.
Anyway, I'm not going to actually say much about my life this week. Not because it was bad or anything. We actually had a really good week. But, for those of you who do not know (i.e. non-members of my family), every year, The Johnsons have a tradition of writing a list of things they are thankful for and then reading alound each persons list on Thanksgiving. The process is, well, a bit annoying, but the result is wonderful, partly because Aubrey's list is always loquacious and funny, go figure. So, this is what I am thankful for this year. Well, these and many more
1. I am thankful for paisley ties. Paisley does not exist in Mexico. Only diagonal stripes. And they are boring. Paisley is awesome and I have to count my ties every night to make sure Elder Juarez doesn't steal one because he knows Paisley is awesome.
5. I am thankful for Rocky. He is fat. He likes to play. Elder Nataren is scared of him. He is the only dog in this world that I truly like. We should buy a Rocky and sell Dot.
6. I am thankful that my apartment does not have Cucarachas or Scorpions. We only have spiders, which don't really bother us.
7. I am thankful that Elder Monson left. This is not as terrible as it sounds; Elder Monson is my friend and an example to me. But he got transferred, and now we are Elder Monson-less. Which means we can play basketball as a district/zone because we don't have a giant 6'10" University of Utah basketball player in our midst who can crush tiny Mexicans. And now I'm the best player in our district, maybe zone. I am thankful for basketball.
8. I am thankful for the Jazz and the fact that I am not missing a season right now.
9. I am thankful for two hours of Internet time because this list will be very long.
11. I am thankful for other Missionary and missionary examples, like unto Elder Monson, Elder Edwards, Elder Juarez, Elder T. Johnson of Ogden Utah, Elder Hadley (way cooler than that Jordan kid I used to hang out with), Elder Shep, Elder Gunnell, and many others. I need these because I am not a natural missionary. I am lazy and content with things. I don't open up to people immediately. And that's not who a missionary is. Thanks to my examples, though, I have learned and I am learning. I am becoming more like what Christ wants me to be and that is the greatest blessing of all.
12. I am thankful for the United States because I miss it. I miss English, I miss our style of music, our style of food, and our style of living. I am thankful for nineteen years of comfort and economic prosperity. I miss our roads and our laws. Be thankful for them, those who have not lived outside the U.S. We are unique and we should be thankful for that.
13. That being said, I am also thankful for Oaxaca. I am thankful for a loving people who give when they have little. I am thankful that there is no such thing as jaywalking. I am thankful for tacos al pastor, salsa, and tlayudas. I am thankful for warm winter days with fall nights. I am thankful for palm trees in a city, parades in November, little wards that can, Primary programs in Spanish where the children know more memorized scriptures than I do, inactives who come to Church just because we left a passalong card, little family owned stored on every corner, magnificent support for our Work, returned missionaries who served in the U.S and know how I feel and can explain it better in Spanish, soccer, taxis, buses, and everything. I am grateful for my mission and the miraculous opportunit that I have to serve here.
14. I am thankful for my father, who sends my an inspiring quote every week and every week he just so happens to choose the exact thing I need to hear. He is not the most talkative man. He is very busy. He may intimidate some people, but I love him with all my heart. I love that he loves Mustangs. I love that he loves classic rock music. I love that he loves to read. I love that he manages to be intellectual without trying. I love that he loves the scriptures more than I do and shows me that I have room to grow. I love that he works so hard without complaint. I love that he loves spending time with Tyrel. I do too. I love that he likes to camp because I love it. I love his obsession of cowboys. I love that he is oldschool. He is a man and I love that. I want to become a little bit of who my father is because my father is a man to be admired.
15. I am grateful for each and every one of my siblings. I am grateful for a little brother who makes the effort to write to me even though I know he doesn't like to and who I can write to every week with my advice and babble. He reminds me of me when I was his age. He teaches me how to enjoy simple things again, like weird stuffed animals found in church buildings. I am grateful that he is prepared to finish middleschool and start high school while I am gone. I am grateful that he like to go to church. I am grateful that he is bored when there is nothing because, people of the world, nothing is boring. I am grateful for Colton. I love you.
I am grateful for Taggart, for his quirks and his sameness. He has and always will be uniquely Taggart. He will get married, finish school, find a job, become a bishop, and always be Taggart. I am grateful for that because I have depended on Taggart to be my best friend for 19 years. We played Power Rangers as a kid. We played basketball as Middle Schoolers. We had the same friends my first two years of high school. We've shared the same room, same bands, and same opinions (almost) for a long time. Now we share a love of missionary work. He shares his experience with me. I share mine with him. This is a relationship between two brothers to be envied. I hope we share much more for a much longer time. Love you Taggart.
I am grateful for my one and only sister. I cannot imagine the difference in our family if we did not have this feminine influence governing the realm of Children. She always set the precedent for us. She was smart; therefore, so were we. She was clever; we tried to follow. She liked the Jazz; so do we. She lives 90's rock; we breath it. She is the Johnson, the founder and figurehead. As we have gotten older and begun to differentiate a bit, it is in Aubrey's shadow that we remember the Johnson in us. I am grateful for what she chooses to share with me, whether that's the love of a Game or the music she has found. I hope we become closer as life goes on. I love you Aubrey.
Perhaps most of all, I am grateful for Tyrel. I don't think any of my siblings has shaped me as much as Tyrel has. I think he, of all of us, chose the direction of the Johnson. I think we are close because we had to be close for Tyrel. I think we say what we say because we learned how to talk with Tyrel. Sure, some of us may not be super close with the big boy, but when he is in trouble, we are there for him, whether as baby sitters, therapists, or just the friends that he needs though doesn't know how to make. I spent hours trying to teach him how to be normal like me and I think I ended up more autistic. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the humor behind the eyes, for the sadness when his family isn't there for Christmas, for the love of an apple orchard because we all used to love it. He is still paving the way for us, yet he is the relic of our childhood that we will never forget. We will never forget the state fair when he got lost. We will never forget peeing next to the Bellagio. We will never fully pronounce the k at the end of words. I will never forget running for my life when I made him so angry that he wanted to kill me, nor will I forget the day when he had his first seizure on my watch. I will never forget showing up to work my next shift after those events because I was his brother. He has never judged me, never made me feel small, always loved me, always been the constant in the house. I love you Tyrel, and I am forever grateful for you.
16. I am grateful for my Heavenly Father. It's such a phrase, Heavenly Father. I am grateful, then, for my Father. I am grateful that He loves me. I haven't heard His voice much. The world only has on several occasions. But we heard his words in the mouth of Jesus Christ because He only did what He knew the Father to do. We see Him in the eyes of a Prophet. I have become closer to my Father than to anybody else on my mission, whether that is Rocky, a companion I have to live with all the time, or even my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whose name I preach. This is because I understand who my Father is: He is who sent the Christ. He is who first taught the Gospel to His Son all those eternities ago. He is who started the Creation, who made this wonderful Plan in which we can become eternally happy, like unto Him. He is what He gave us: our weaknesses and strengths, our smiles and frowns, our births and deaths. He is, was, and will forever be our Father. He is who created worlds and universes, things we cannot comprehend, and He is the one who knows us perfectly. We never need to feel small when we know Our Father. I am thankful for my Father.
17. I am thankful for His Son, Jesus the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the World. I am thankful for His priesthood, that I have used to give blessings, confer the Holy Ghost (a member of the holy GODhead), and receive revelation. Yes, I have received revelation and I will not deny that. I received it because I am worth of it because I am trying to live like the Christ. I am thankful for His love, for His example. I am thankful that His words apply to all parts of my life. I am thankful that in the moment of most supreme agony the world has ever know, He called our to the Father. Now I know I can do the same. I am thankful that he suffered for all I have done and suffered all that has been done to me. I am thankful for my Advocate, my Friend, my Savior, and my God who I know personally.
18. I am thankful, in this last section, for the Book of Mormon, the very word of God. You may hate it, depreciate it, disbelieve it, ignore it, or read it, but you cannot take it away. It is the word of God, meant to spread a Gospel of Joy to an entire world. This is the keystone of my faith. I urge each and every person I meet to read it. It has a power that I cannot explain properly. I took it for granted for too many years. I know it intimately. I find stories, scriptures, and principles with ease because I know it, as a child knows his mother, a husband his wife, or a lost teenager his best friend. I know it. I see it in the lives of the people I look up to most. It has brought about more good in this world than Prophets, wise men, philanthropists, presidents, or Bibles. I make that claim with the knowledge of the amazing good it has wrought in my life. If you have ever wondered, ever doubted, ever admired, ever wanted, the Book of Mormon can help. I know it. I am grateful for this Book more than any other book, movie, teacher, teaching, or poem that I have ever encountered in this life. I mean to be strong here, in my language, because this Book deserves it. Read its purity, its real intent, and now that it is of God and that you will find a better relationship with God that you can imagine ONLY through it's sacred pages. I end with this story, of two missionaries and an investigator. It was published in the special Book of Mormon issue of the Ensign. I do not remember where this story takes place, but it goes something like this: two missionaries taught a young man. The young man accepted every teaching of that lesson, seemed enthusiastic to learn more, and seemed willing to go farther in his beliefs. When presented a Book of Mormon, however, he silently stood up and left the room. The missionaries, naturally, were confused at this stony refusal of the Book. When he returned, however, he took the Book with a smile and explained, "In my culture, it is custom to wash one's hands before touching a sacred object. From what you have explained to me, this Book is most sacred." Indeed, the Book of Mormon is a sacred instrument of God, more sacred, I would say, than the rod of Moses, the Breastplate of Aaron, the Ark of Noah, the Throne of David, or the Mantle of Elijah. This Book is the work of God's hands and it should be shared. I am thankful for that, for my calling, my privilege, and right now, for my life. I have a testimony of all these things.
I love and miss you all. I have more, but no more time. Have a very merry Thanksgiving!