This is an edited version, folks!
I love this time of season. It brings me back to eight years old again. It also gives me ganas to buy stuff. So if I draw out my personal money this month, just know that it is being used towards Christmas and birthday gifts to myself. My gosh, I'm self-centered, aren't I? I'll try to make up for it by sending you my REAL thankful list, now that I've been able to read all of yours (except for dad's). By the by, they made me cry again. Good going.
1. The Atonement - I am so thankful for this. I believe in Christ. I believe He lived a perfect life. He made it possible that I might be forgiven. At times, I think I understand it. Then, at other times, I think, "Why would a teacher pass me on my failed test just because my classmate got a perfect?" I think God just loves us too much. He wants every single one of us to become something that we cannot vision nor comprehend. We cannot see it, therefore we do not trust it, therefore we fight against it and put our will in front of His, but it all comes back to the Atonement. Truly, it was the reconciliation between us and God. I am so grateful for it. He loves us, He wants us to love others so that we might feel more love. We, especially me, have some much work to do in learning to live the Christlike life.
2. The Book of Mormon - I have not read it enough recently. I have now read it at least two times in two different languages and I don't get it. It makes me a better person, yet it neither thinks nor acts. It is simpler, yet more profound than all other books. I feel like I have all the stories and scriptures memorized, yet if I read it, I make better decision throughout the day. There is a power in that Book, a divinity that we cannot comprehend, and it is only another example of God's love and understanding for us. If all people read the Book of Mormon, we would not have the problems that we have in the world today. How can anybody say that it doesn't come from God?
3. People Willing to Listen - Getting in a house, whatever house, gives me a chance to do what I love doing: share the Gospel of Happiness with people who are remarkably far away from their potential. I love people willing share a few minutes with me. I don't want much, though they give me water and food and other things sometimes. I just want their time to deliver my message and my invitation to come unto Christ. I am blessed when God entrusts me with one of His precious and valuable children. I do not fully understand my responsibility for if I did, I would certainly be a lot more afraid of it.
4. People Willing to Change - They are few and far between. I am not talking, anymore, about people willing to listen with their ears. There are many of those. Turns out, there are quite a few people in this world willing to be respectful and cordial to tie-wearing strangers. However, there are very few loving and humble enough to listen with their hearts, to truly search out God. We are all so stuck in our ways, yet we know from the scriptures that God's ways are not our ways. Why won't we change then? Therefore, I am thankful for all the people better than me who are willing to listen and to change. Those who stop drinking, who quit drugs, who serve, who love, who take time that they've never taken before for God, those are the people better than me, regardless of their currently religion. I love people willing to change.
5. President - President is not the most compassionate of men. There have been many times when I have gone to him in my mission seeking comfort and instead only gotten the cold, hard truth. It has left me feeling bitter and abandoned sometimes, resentful and angry, but then, after that moment has passed, it leaves me feeling edified. He teaches me. He teaches me to own up to my actions and decisions and to not shift the blame to anybody else. He teaches me to truly repent and invites to do this essential step in my salvation. He has never lied to me, he has never been anything but constant. He has not altered in his stance against immature and unprepared missionaries. He, like the Lord, demands righteous missionaries and because of that stance, I am a far better missionary today than I would have been if I had been left to my own devices. I am thankful as well to the Hermana Leyva, who, honestly, is a cartoon character come to life. She has a Disney princess sized waist, way to much make-up and often makes me laugh, but she cares. She loves as a mother should. She is the yin to President's yang. Together, they are the perfect super team. I hope their son the best as he prepares for his mission in the states. He's a darn good basketball player, by the way.
13. Good Examples - I have many of them. My aforementioned family is the biggest of these examples, but I have others. I have prophets and apostles to guide me, both ancient and modern. Could we really find a better example of Christ-like, selfless service than Thomas Spencer Monson? It's ridiculous how few people there are in this world who know he exists. Watch "On the Lord's Errand" please. It really is an excellent movie. I would also like to mention here missionaries like Elder Day, Elder Gibbons, Elder Bridgeraj and Elder Edwards who are missionaries that really understand what sacrifice is and how to truly serve. Also, I have my friends from BYU like EJ, Shep, Tay-Tay and the gang, who just do their best and don't worry about the rest. I need this many examples in my life.
14. The Utah Jazz - They are my pride and joy. I would choose them above everything except for my family and the gospel. That includes all girls, food, technology, and star wars. I miss them dearly. The world is not the same without them. I get why everything else is denied to a missionary, but couldn't they just let me have my Jazz updates. I swear I wouldn't ask for anything more.
15. No Worries - On the mission, I just worry about talking to people. At home, I would worry about careers, family, girlfriend, friends, influences, money, making an impact, resumé, job, temptations, food, rent, where I live, what I study, classes, teachers, how much sleep I get, etc. I am thankful I worry for nothing for two whole years of my life.
16. The Mission - It is such a blessing to be here. I am learning everyday, growing everyday, and being tried by fire everyday. Surprisingly, I have made it halfway through without giving up. That is a blessing. Nobody else I knew before the mission really has done what I have done. I have direction and vision in my life. I have confidence in my God. I need nothing else. Nobody from my highschool can say the same. I should not be bragging about this, but I can't resist. My Church has taught me more than your church and it's because of the mission. I am thankful for every person I've met, every convert that I have, every member who has given me food, and every second of this experience. I love the mission.
17. Mexican Culture - It's fun. It's weird. It's foreign to me still. They worship virgins, love visits, make great food. They are simple, real, intelligent, incredible people. They are soooooo hard working. They make cool clothes. They eat a lot of fruit. I want to keep some of this with me when I have to go back there.
18. Patience - I do not have much of it, but I am grateful for all I have. Mostly, though, I am grateful that other people have it. My mom, my dad, my siblings, my president, my companions, and, most importantly, My God. They have not given up to me. I am very thankful for patience.
19. The Holy Ghost - I drive him away a ridiculous amount, yet he always comes back to gently guide me and counsel me. I could not have accomplished what I have accomplished in my mission without him. He is the way my Father communicates with me. He makes me feel good. That's more than I could every ask for right there. Most of all, when he is with me, I know I am doing alright, for if I weren't, he would be gone. It's good to have that guide.
20. The Light of Christ - I always have hope. We can always do better, always climb out of the hole that we dug, and always get back to Christ. I am grateful for that.
Well, that's it for this year. I've got to go do a Noche de Hogar. We need to start establishing skype details for the Christmas phone call. Love you all and see you in a year!