Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My farewell talk

For those who want to read it....hear it is:

Sister Abigail McNeill
Ohio Cleveland Mission

Just east of the temple mount on the base of the Mount of Olives lies a Garden. It is a simple Garden…the place of the olive press. It’s a beautiful garden, where one can find peace and serenity and a quiet place to think. It is a place called Gethsemane, and it is the place where the Savior did for me, and for you, and all mankind what we cannot do for ourselves, He atoned.
The definition for Gethsemane is “oil, or wine press”, and in knowing that, we understand how significant the symbolism is. In ancient Israel the olive tree was an important commodity, it became a symbol for Israel spiritually, scripturally and culturally. The olive is an important part of their economy. When a new tree is planted it needs great care to begin to grow. Once a new olive tree is finally established it is then considered almost immortal because it can last for such a long time. A considered dead olive root can quickly bring forth a new tree springing from the Earth in new life.
When the olive is harvested it is taken to an olive press. During the Saviors life, and can still be found on “display” in the city, an olive press was a great wheel like stone turned in a circle to get the juices. However, these stones were so heavy to push, and so hard to crush the olives that sometimes a large animal would have to turn the wheel in order to get the wheel to go. The olive was important to Israel in their everyday living, it was used as medicine and as the fuel for their light. It was used for sacred rituals in the temple, and because of its purity and symbolic reference it is still used in the church today. (blessings)
Now, think of the Savior suffering in Gethsemane…in the place of the olive press. The Savior was subject to such great pressure that He sweats great drops of blood, and it is by this “oil” that we are healed. The Savior is a never ending source of light; He is the ultimate “healer”. Symbolically we take of this fruit every week when we partake of the Sacrament. It is impossible to imagine what the Savior must have felt as the Father withdrew His presence from Him. The Savior, a perfect person, living His entire life in the presence of the Father, was now removed from Him. In Alma 45:16 the Lord says that He cannot look at the sin with the least degree of allowance, and now His own Son, was pressed into all the sins of the world.
Robert Millet wrote: “There was a tragic aura surrounding this night of nights, when he who had always pleased the Father and had thus never been alone (so far as being separated spiritually from his Father was concerned) was subjected to the forces and effects of sin that he had never known, forces that must have been poignantly excruciatingly intense…[He] knew all things…and yet there was something he had never known personally: he had known neither sin nor its effects…This was a night of irony. He who was sinless became, as it were, the great sinner…He who deserved least of all to suffer, now suffered most—more than mortal mind can fathom. He who had brought life…was subjected to the powers of death and darkness.” (1)
“The Atonement is the most basic and fundamental principle of the gospel—yet it is the least understood.” –Bruce R McConkie (2) Why? So many of us have a testimony of Christ, we know He is God’s Son. That He helped create the world, and we know that He suffered in a garden. But, do we understand when He says He suffered ALL things. There are stages to believing Christ that I learned long ago, they go like this.
Believe of Christ: We have heard of Him, and we know that we have family members that believe but we aren’t ready, or maybe we are just not willing to take the next step.
Believe in Christ: When we believe in Christ we believe that the scriptures are true, that going to church is a good thing…etc
Believe Christ: When we take out the middle word and we actually believe Christ…we believe that what He says, either through His messengers’ or directly to us, is the truth. He knows ALL! He will make NO mistakes in guiding us, therefore we will not fail. When we believe Christ, we believe when He says, “Yes even that, even that sin is covered through my atonement if you will but repent.”
Read Romans 3:23
Though I have never committed any kind of horrendous sin. I was never a heathen child…the atonement still works for me. Remember it applies to the smallest and the largest. In my life, applying the atonement has been the greatest preparation for serving a mission. How? I’ll tell you…
1. The Atonement has taught me how to pray. Throughout His ministry we can read in the bible the countless times that the Savior always pointed the glory back to His Father. He talks of how He can only do the things that His Father sent Him to do, or how He glorifies the Father after the miracle. And, even then, in that simple garden, when He performed the greatest event in all of mankind, He prayed to the Father. During that prayer He cried to the Father that the “cup might be removed from Him.” (Matt 26:39) and Heavenly Father said ,”No” and it was the good answer…the right answer. In my life applying the principle of prayer in all that I do, in asking for help and in thanking Him for my blessings the atonement has taught me that the Lord does know…everything and He will always give me the right answer.
2. The Atonement has taught me true self-esteem, true joy. You and I were purchased with a price, and the knowledge and understanding that someone loves me enough to die for me is to have an understanding of your true eternal worth. Russell M. Nelson said, “In order to experience true joy…at any time, at least three factors are needed. You need to feel good about the people with whom you live and work—your companions in life. You must feel good about yourself—not in any sense of conceit, but simply a proper esteem for yourself, well deserved. And possibly most important, you must feel good about your relation to God and sincerely love Him.” (3) When we can understand how much God loves us our own self-love and self-esteem fades into insignificance. The world’s yardstick will always measure things woefully short. But when you use the Lord’s yardstick, you learn that your worth is great, your purposes for being here are of incalculable importance, and your opportunities for eternal accomplishments are unlimited. (4)
3. The Atonement has taught me how to serve. Jesus Christ lived His entire life in the service of others…for you and for me. He ended His life that way, ultimately serving everyone by allowing us to one day return to His presence as well as our Father in Heavens and live with them and our families forever in a glory that we do not now understand.
4. The Atonement has taught me how to trust. It has taught me how to face the storms, to know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. To trust that life is not supposed to be safe. It’s only in our mistakes, our errors and our faults that we grow and truly live. (5) I trust that the Savior, through the power of the atonement, can indeed fix the unfixable.
5. The Atonement has taught me how to love. The Savior loves ultimately, and unconditionally. There are never any preconceived notions. He never holds a grudge, and He always comes when you need someone to talk too. He paid the ultimate price for me, because He loves me…and it is with that love that I can build others, I can teach others, I can pray to see them the way the Savior sees them.
6. The Atonement has taught me how to be a friend. Just as the Savior was suffering in Gethsemane because He was separated from God, His greatest friend. I know that God was suffering also, because the greatest being to ever exist, our Heavenly Father, not only makes time for us…but He yearns for us! How great a blessing that is! And, in yearning for someone, you always make time for them. The way a perfect friend would. A phrase to the song “O, Holy Night” says, “In all our trials-born to be a friend. He knows my name, to Him I am no stranger.” Oh how beautiful! (Zane Grey)
7. The Atonement has taught me how to not be afraid. In a meeting with the Bishop I expressed to Him my deepest fear in serving a mission. Our wonderful bishop, after giving me his words of advice said, “After that, turn it to the Savior, because He knows…He’s felt it before.” Read Alma 7:11-12 He did that that He might know EXACTLY how I feel in my circumstances. (while bearing the weight of everything else) When walking out of the light and into the unknown, or that small moment of darkness, one of two things will happen. Either you will be given solid ground to run on, or you will be taught how to fly. Knowing that, there is no need to fear.
8. The Atonement has taught me that through my obedience I’m never alone. He is always there, and He always understands! Through my obedience to the laws of the gospel His presence never will depart from me. 2 Ne. 9:20-21
9. The Atonement has taught me how to work. Jesus Christ life was never easy. Isa. 53:3-5. The Savior was always busy doing the Father’s business. He was never idol. Even to the end of His days. The atonement was hard work. And repentance is hard work. Through the process of applying the atonement Jesus Christ gave us the opportunity to repent, to be better, to succeed! A Harvard theologian Peter Comes said this about success in spite of weakness: “Put your confidence in something that works. It is God who will keep you when all else has failed you; and it is to God to whom you will turn when you have exhausted all of the alternatives. It is God on whom you will call when you get that fateful diagnosis; it is God on whom you will call when the bottom drops out; and it is God on whom you will call when you pass through those seasons of doubt and despair, when life itself seems not worth the living and you cannot remember the last victory; and it is God on whom you will call with you very last breath.” (6)
10. The Atonement has taught me how to smile. It is because of the atoning blood of Christ, because of the hanging on a cross at Calvary, and because of being laid in a garden tomb, where He then did, in reality, take up His life again that I, too, can be resurrected. I can have an eternal family…I can be with my friends again, and I can be with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again, and knowing this, without a shadow of a doubt….I cannot help but smile. A smile of joy and a smile of gratitude, because I am forever grateful for that blessing.
All of these things, and more, to pray, to find joy, to serve, to trust, to love, to be a friend, to not fear, to never be alone through obedience., to work, and to smile. All of these qualities will help me to be a better missionary. I learned these things from the atonement, and I know that without the Atonement I will truly fail in the Lord’s work. I cannot convert people, nor can I change their lives. I cannot forgive them for their sins, and I cannot get them back into the presence of our Father in Heaven. But, Jesus Christ can, through the Atonement. That is the message I will share. That yes, even that, is covered by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ through the everlasting atonement for our sins, and our pains, and our afflictions. When all is said and done, the value of my life as a missionary will not be determined by my accomplishments, but by what my Heavenly Father has been able to accomplish through me. (7)

1. Millet, Life in Christ 66,69
2. Bruce R. McConkie The Purifying Power of Gethsemane Ensign, May 1985
3. Nelson, Joy cometh in the Morning,” 67
4. Anderson, Your Divine Purpose, 66
5. Beck The Christmas Sweater, 247
6. Gomes, Strength for the Journey 302
7. Anderson, Your Divine Purpose, 1

I love you all!

Goodbye Fans!

Well, tomorrow is the day! I can't believe how quickly it happened but it happened! I'm going on a mission and I'm so excited. My mom is going to post my e-mails on her blog and mine every week so keep reading to find the good news....for those who are interested my address is...

Sister Abigail McNeill
The Ohio Cleveland Mission
2070 W. 117th Street
Cleveland, OH

I love you all and ask for your thoughts and prayers!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

writing my talk

Okay, so as I've said before I'm speaking in church this Sunday...you know for my mission...well, I'm having the HARDEST time writing this talk. I don't know why. I keep using the excuse that I don't know what to say, or that I'm distracted or I can't focus where I'm currently at...all three of those are true.

I wish I was blessed with a better gift for the using of words. I'm worried my talk will be lame and all the people that have come to listen to it will be disappointed. I want to much to say something inspiring that I can't say anything at all. It's very frustrating. Mom says that it will be fine, and that my talks are always good...but there is a first time for everything.

I realize now why it was so smart for the church to do away with "farewells" because it's stressful enough just getting ready to leave on your mission, plus speaking in church, but then making a big deal out of it...I can see how that could be much worse. By the way...thanks SO SO much Aimee and Ryan for making it a point to come out! I can't wait for you to get here!

Well, that's the news of the day, is the struggle for me to write my talk. Any words of encouragement that you wish to offer would indeed be helpful. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mom has a blog!

No more just looking at everyone else....she has her own!!! Well, it's going to be the families blog, and whoever wants to update on it can..but I thought all would be interested to know.


About the updates

Okay my loving and adoring fans...i apologize for not updating more often, I know how much that upsets you so please except this heart felt apology.

I'm on the eight day countdown!! I can't even believe it. It's come SO fast. It's been interesting to watch all of the little miracles that have happened along the way. It's crazy. People have been asking how I've been feeling and the only words I have to describe it are...numb. It's weird. You're just so busy that you don't have time to do anything except go through the motions and when you finally get the chance to slow down all the emotions come smashing into you all at the same time, it's weird. I used to think that 7 weeks was never going to be enough time, then I realized, once again, how much the Lord knows me because I'm at the point that I just want to go...now. There is no way I could have waited three months like some of these missionaries do. Kudos to them...but I know that the Lord knows each one of us and the callings and places and assignments that would be best for us as individuals. It's so GREAT!

For those who haven't heard I'm speaking in church this Sunday (the 28th). It's at 10:50am. Call me if you have any questions. Also, about getting my weekly letters, for those that are interested. My mom is going to post them here on my blog so she doesn't have to collect e-mails, rather she can just give them this blog address, or, she is going to start a blog and put them there, we are undecided which yet, but we will do something.

I'm happy to say that I've caught the Christmas spirit. I'm not as into it as I have been in the years past, but I've definitely felt a little bit happier to celebrate in the traditional ways. I just had to step back and decide what was most important and focus on that.

Okay, I got to go...I love you all. I'll try and keep you posted as the next eight days fly by. Oh, I've been thinking back on the last 18 months of my life and I realized that what I did 18 months ago feels like yesterday, and this 7 weeks has gone by so quickly...I can't even imagine how fast my mission is going to go!!! Loves!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas with the Crank

I don't know what it is this year...but I am just not in the Christmas spirit. And, it seems, that no matter how hard I try I just can't find it in myself. I've tried shopping, decorating, giving, serving, and am just not having any luck. In fact, yesterday I was about ready to cancel Christmas. Our family doesn't even have our decorations up yet and if it wasn't for everybody coming at the end of the month for me we probably wouldn't even put them up. (at least that would be my opinion.) I also went shopping and finally told my siblings that we either needed to draw names or I was canceling Christmas because I'm not in the mood to pick out a present for all of them. I guess I've been pretty ornery lately because I wasn't in the mood for Halloween, or Thanksgiving, and now Christmas. I really am the Grinch this year. I just don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm tired of being "alone" for the holidays and having nobody special invite me to ride the carriage in Salt Lake, or see the lights...or dress up to match me or invite me to meet there family at Thanksgiving. Maybe it's because I don't feel like we need holidays to remind us of the things we should be doing everyday. Maybe it's because I want to know I have a special present waiting under the tree for me...only to find that it's not there, not that I even know what I would want it to be. Perhaps, it's because, no matter how much I do for other people I feel like there is more to be done, or that those asking for help appear to be doing nothing for themselves.
Regardless of the reason, I have yet to find the Holiday spirit since last Christmas. All the holidays between then and now have been pretty bland for me. I try to get way into them, and that doesn't help. I try to step away from them, and that doesn't help. What's a girl to do!!!?? I am thankful for all my blessings and for the Saviors birth, death, and resurrection. But I haven't caught the holiday bug...perhaps it was that flu shot I got. Nobody said that would be one of it's side effects.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Well, the rest of my California adventure turned out to be a great success. We went back to Disneyland and I fell in love all over again. I can't believe how well they do at bringing out the kid in everyone who walks through their gates. I truly and 100% enjoyed my time very well spent there.
I hope that everyone's holiday was as great as mine was. As I thought of Thanksgiving this year I tried counting my blessings...but I realized that I have to many to count. The Lord truly has spoiled me rotten in my life and I am forever thankful for that. As I went to bed that night I layed down quietly and thought to myself how I truly can say "it's a wonderful life" because it is. I have the best life! I love being alive and having "my turn on Earth" as Aunt Lani put it. In the end...all of our "stuff" can be taken from us. All the we posses and the material things that we hold dear...and after that all you have left is your story. And, that's what I'm trying to do...is just live a good one. A good one of laughs, of testimony, of strength and knowledge, but mostly a life that will Glorify my Heavenly Father in all that I do. I love Him, and He has blessed me so much in my life that I want nothing less then for all the credit to go to Him.
I also had the amazing chance to go to the Redlands Temple while I was there. I love the temple. I'm so grateful for the gift of eternal families and being with the ones that we love forever...clothed in a miraculous glory. It's fabulous!