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    NYC Food Bucket List!

    Here is a list of some of my all time favorite places to eat in New York City! It can be so hard to decide where to eat and where to go when planning a trip to this city. I hope these pictures & recommendations will speak to your soul like they did to mine! 🙂

    #1 Taiyaki NYC – 119 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013

    Hands down one of my favorite ice cream cones I’ve ever consumed. This place also sells the infamous Japanese Soufflé Pancakes! We were dying to try them, but there was a huge waitlist for them, so we settled for ice cream cones. This place is a China town essential!

    #2 Max Brenner– 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

    Calling all chocolate lovers! If you love chocolate, then I promise this is the restaurant for you. We were all in chocolate heaven!

    #3 Dough Doughnuts– 14 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

    These are very unique doughnuts! The flavors we got were Hibiscus, Toasted Coconut, & Salted Caramel. Talk about yummy!

    #4 Clinton St. Baking Company- 4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

    THIS HAS TO BE MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST PLACE I’VE EVER BEEN TO! The eggs were the perfect texture, the pancakes were delicious & we almost went back again!

    #5 Serendipity 3– 225 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022

    This Restaurant is famous for their Frozen Hot Chocolate! We decided to eat too, and we were not disappointed! What a cute place! & the Frozen Hot Chocolate lives up to it’s reputation-that’s for sure.

    #6 Black Tap– 136 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

    We celebrated Rachel’s birthday by having dinner at Black Tap! They were some of the best burgers and fries I’ve ever had, and they are even more famous for their exotic milkshakes! To say I was in milkshake heaven is an understatement.

    #7 Levain Bakery– 167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

    These are the cookies I dream about in my sleep. I tried to make some at home, but they just weren’t as good as the real thing! We took some home and snacked on them all week long!

    #8 The Melt Shop– 55 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010

    This is my mom’s favorite place we ate! Their Truffle Grilled Cheese was fantabulous. We’ve been here a total of three times between the two times we have been to New York. It’s that good!

    #9 Murray’s Bagels– 500 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

    Honestly, there is just something so beautiful about NYC Bagels. They are perfect no matter where you get them. We just happened to be closest to this bagel shop after our red eye flight landed and we arrived to the city. Honestly, I would recommend any bagel place in New York!

    #10 Magnolia Bakery– 1240 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020

    This bakery is pure gold! They are famous for their Banana Pudding. I immediately fell in love with both their banana pudding and coconut cake. Everything here is picture perfect & sooo yummy!

    #11 Milk & Cream Cereal Bar- 159 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

    If you are an avid cereal and ice cream lover-like me, you will LOVE this place! They make ice cream cones and shakes with your favorite cereals and candies. I’ve always thought I was the first one to invent the fruity pebbles milkshake, but I guess this place beat me to it… hah!

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    Church of Jesus Christ!

    Advice from an Early Returned Missionary!

    Picture this: You are sitting in Sacrament Meeting and you notice that your friend or neighbor has returned early from their mission… Immediately you jump to conclusions and start wondering what happened to them & why they came home early! You think of several possibilities and don’t know what to say to them, whether or not you should approach them, and so you sit awkwardly and ignore their presence. Haha! Truth is-I am very guilty of all of the above practices! It is hard to know what to say or do when a missionary returns home early. It can be awkward for both you & for them!

    Having returned early from my mission myself, I want to address a few of my own challenges and concerns that I have faced. I also want to help you know how to react and what you can do to help out your friends who may have returned home early! That way you can avoid all that awkwardness, right? 😉 Here is what I wish people would realize about missionaries who come home early:

    1. Coming home early is a NOT an easy decision. In fact, it was probably one of the HARDEST decisions I’ve ever had to make. It is something that I fasted and prayed about for weeks-maybe even months on my mission! I fought hard to stay out on my mission. I didn’t want to be seen a quitter-or to be seen as someone who wasn’t strong enough to make it. However, my health was in jeopardy. For me, it took the kind nudge of a church member who was genuinely worried about my well-being to help me realize that going home was an honorable option too! After talking with that member, I felt so much peace come over me. I had resisted the decision to come home for so long, and as soon as I let go of what I wanted-I FELT LIKE A BURDEN had been lifted off of my shoulders. That is how I knew that I had made the right decision. That is the feeling that happens when we align our will with the Lord’s-no matter how hard it can be, it’s worth it!
    2. No matter how long a person serves, a mission is successful in the eyes of the Lord! God loves all of his children! Ultimately, he is proud of anyone who dedicates time to the Lord and to building up his Kingdom. If you have returned home early, I’m sure you had a similar experience as me where you felt the peace of the spirit comfort you in your decision. The adversary will do ALL he can to make you doubt your decision. He will try to make you feel like a failure. I know-I’ve felt it. It has been so important for me to reflect upon the spiritual witness that I received when I made that decision to first come home. If you have returned early from your mission yourself: Please never doubt your decision to serve in the first place, or your decision come home!!!! There will be days when you doubt your decision or feel like you weren’t successful. & that is normal! That is okay! But it’s important to reflect upon the positive experiences you had and to reflect upon that original witness you received from the spirit. Because GOD IS proud of you! Any missionary who serves with all of their heart, mind, might, & strength is a successful missionary!
    3. Missionaries who come home are BRAVE! They have gained all of my respect, that’s for sure. It takes a lot of courage to go against the church “norm” and return early. I have noticed that there can be such a negative stigma associated with missionaries who come home early. & it can be a challenging for missionaries who do come home. It is important to realize that everyone’s situation is so different! There is absolutely no room for judgement! The most important thing we can do is to love the missionaries who serve-no matter where, or how long they served! Personally, I love whenever people come up to me and ask me how I’m doing, or how my mission was. Sometimes it can be hard for me to talk about it, but I’ve found that by being honest and open about my feelings, it often lifts me up higher and has helped me through some of my hard times.

    So what can YOU do to help those missionaries who return home early?

    I think the most important thing is to LOVE them no matter what! Treat them exactly like a missionary who served for a whole 18-24 months! Really it should be no different. Of course, it’s going to be natural to have judgements and to not know how to act. But you don’t know anything about their mission experience. Most people would never have guessed I was super sick and miserable for most of my mission haha! You just never know! 🙂

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    Church of Jesus Christ!

    How My Mission Changed My Life Forever!

    Before I go any further, I just want to clarify a few things. A) This was MY personal experience. Please remember that my circumstances are very different than most people’s & B) Mission experiences are catered to the individual & everyone has a different experience! This post should by no means affect the way you view the mission! I’m just trying to help others grow and learn from my experiences! Everyone has a story to share, and I hope that by being vulnerable, I can touch someone’s heart, or help someone in their decision to serve. With this in mind, let’s begin! 

    I’m not going to sugar coat it. My mission was a rough experience for me! It was hard, I was anxious, I was sick & it wasn’t very fun. Was I traumatized when I came home? Yes! Of course I was! It was not the experience I set out to have. Was it worth every second? Yes! & here’s why: 

    1. MY MISSION HELPER ME DISCOVER MY PURPOSE! The mission helped me discover SO much about myself! It taught me a lot about who I am as a daughter of God & helped me truly KNOW & LIVE what I believe. Reviewing the principles of the gospel helped me understand the purpose of my life! We are here to have Joy! We are are here to progress, to follow after the example of our Savior, and to become like him! Going on a mission really helped me come to know the purpose of life for myself. 
    2. MY MISSION STRENGTHENED MY TESTIMONY! My testimony grew 100% deeper & stronger! I honestly thought I had a pretty solid testimony before I left, & I did! But it grew to a state of surety and steadfast faith while on my mission. & now I can undoubtedly say that I KNOW God loves each & everyone of us, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, & that this is his restored church upon the earth! 
    3. MY MISSION EXPOSED MY WEAKNESSES! This sounds scary, but I promise it’s actually a blessing! The mission will teach you exactly what you probably didn’t want to know about yourself. Sometimes it takes an incredibly stressful or new experience to help you see where you need to grow in life. While on the mission, I discovered that I struggle with anxiety! I discovered that I have some major food sensitivities that have been affecting the quality of my life. & I know that if I hadn’t decided to serve a mission, I never would have learned these things. Sometimes it takes hard and life change experiences to expose the weaknesses within us. But I promise that God will turn your weaknesses and trials into strengths if you let him! “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”-Ether 12:27
    4. MY MISSION HUMBLED ME! It opened my eyes to the realities of this world. It taught me how incredibly lucky I am to have the family, home, and knowledge that I have. It is safe to say that I was sufficiently humbled daily on my mission. I have learned that the only way we can truly be successful in life is to rely on the strength and grace of God! We cannot do it on our own. We NEED HIM!
    5. MY MISSION TAUGHT ME LESSONS THAT WILL BLESS MY FUTURE FAMILY! I experienced some of the hardest trials and experiences on my mission. However, the thought that these trials are preparing me to be a wife and mother got me through those hard times! I learned that I CAN DO HARD THINGS! I learned the fundamentals of the gospel and strengthened my testimony in ways that I know will benefit my future family! That is what missions do-they are one of the best ways to prepare for a successful life!
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    Church of Jesus Christ!

    10 Things I wish I would have known before serving a mission!

    1. Missions are HARD! Going on a mission is a sacrifice. It is a lot of work & you will never be comfortable! When I say missions are hard, I mean that is a kind of hard that you just cannot prepare for… honestly the best way to understand what this means is to just experience it yourself! Anyone else who has served a mission can vouch for me-I promise! Just know that the experiences you are about to have are not going to be easy. Joy comes with a price!
    2. Proselyting Missions are NOT for everyone. I feel very strongly about this one! Honestly, you need to pray, pray, pray about whether a full-time mission is right for you! (Sisters especially!) There are SO many ways that you can serve the Lord, and it doesn’t have to be in the form of a full-time proselyting mission-I promise! You know yourself best, so go with what you know you want and know you can handle. Counsel with the Lord when making your decision! He knows what is best for you-even when you don’t. That leads us to point 3!
    3. Missions are SACRED! They are between you & the Lord! Cue in the cheesy white handbook statement: “Your loyalty is first to the Lord, then to your mission president, then to your companion.” The sooner you can understand that your mission is between you and the Lord, the easier it’s going to be for you. This is your time to serve him wholeheartedly! You will never get another time to serve the Lord 24/7 like you do as a missionary and as a result, you will grow so much closer to Him! Is it WORTH IT? 100% YES!
    4. It does NOT matter WHERE you serve!  I cannot stress this enough! You are called to the exact place that you need to be! Calls to serve are very inspired and God knows the people that only you can touch and reach. You do not need to be called to Paris or France to have a good mission experience. I am not a fan of the stigma associated with foreign versus stateside missions… Missions are NOT a vacation! They are a time to serve the Lord and serve God’s children, and it does not matter where you go.
    5. Stateside Missions are the BEST EVER! I’m a little bias on this one 😉 But there are a lot of perks to serving stateside! For example: Excellent Health Care, it’s easier to send and receive packages, you have access to places like Target & Chickfila… haha! No matter where you go, I’m sure you will think your mission is the best ever! (& if not, realize that’s okay too, you don’t have to love it)
    6. You CANNOT compare your mission with anyone else’s! Your mission experience will be catered to YOU! I can promise that there is no missionary in this world who is going to have the exact same experience as you are. Each individual mission, place, and person are so different and there is really no room for comparison! We all have different struggles and trials and I strongly believe the Lord will give you exactly what you need to learn on your mission.
    7. Know WHY you are there & never forget it! I strongly recommend that you go into your mission knowing the WHY behind your decision to serve. Before you go, really make sure that you know WHY you are there. If you don’t have the motivation or reasons to be there, it is going to be a lot harder for you. Remind yourself daily why you want to serve the Lord, and what brought you to your decision to serve! I promise it will make the world of difference in your mission experience!
    8. Serving a mission is THE BEST thing you can do for your future self & family! I promise this is a life changing experience. You will figure out so much about yourself, what you believe, and how you want to live your life. The habits and principles that you learn and live on the mission really do set you up for a successful life! You will learn more about the reality of the gospel, and the atonement of Jesus Christ than you can imagine! You will come back a changed person!
    9. Missions are physically, emotionally, & mentally draining! You are going to experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a VERY short amount of period. Missionary work is exhausting in every way, shape, and form. You will be tired, sad, homesick, lonely, yet the most happy you’ve ever been! It’s a crazy experience, that’s for sure!
    10. Going on a mission will be *one* of THE BEST decisions you ever make! Gotta be careful with how I phrase this one…haha! I can honestly bet you that if you go out in the field and have a terrible experience, you still probably won’t regret your decision to serve. It might take you a while to look back and be grateful for your experiences, but I’d say for the general population, most people come back and love their missions!
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