Holidays are Here

25 November 2016

This Thanksgiving, Bob and I enjoyed spending the day with a wonderful family, the Talberts, whom we’ve known and loved for many years, but, haven’t seen most of them for a long time. We enjoyed the day immensely – even though we really missed being with our own family.

And, now, with thinking about Christmas, I love the Church’s Christmas initiative this year - for us to Light the World (#lighttheworld) this Christmas season. It’s truly inspired!
There’s a short video introducing it that is absolutely beautiful! I could watch it again and again.
The initiative is based on two scriptures: Christ said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) Later, He taught, "Ye are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14). 
Beginning with a worldwide day of service on December 1st, we’re encouraged to be a light to the world by following the example of Jesus Christ and serving others.
There’s even a small calendar we can download from with suggestions for ways to serve “25 Ways in 25 Days.”

After Thanksgiving, it didn’t take long to put up our few Christmas decorations. We got a free table-top tree at a swap shortly after we got here. Then, I made the “ornaments” for it – they’re pictures of each of our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren. At least they'll all be with us in photos this year. :-)
​I still need to make a star for the top, but, otherwise, it’s finished. 
Besides the tree, we have one nativity set, a couple of throw pillows, and something festive on the door, so we’re good to go!

We know we’re where we’re supposed to be, and there are many wonderful sights and activities all around us this year, but, we especially miss our family and friends at the holidays.

A Remarkable Week

19 November 2016
We had some remarkable experiences this week! 

On Tuesday morning we were given a rare opportunity to be among a relatively small group of people who got to sit in on a meeting of the five brethren (of the 70) who are over Family History in various parts of the world. (i.e. One brother is from New Zealand and he has stewardship over Australia, Asia and the South Pacific; one brother, from Germany, is over Europe and Africa; one brother, from Uruguay, is over Central and South America, etc.)
It was a one-hour meeting where they “counseled together” about the vision of the Family History Department. It was a regularly scheduled meeting for them, but, Bro. Rockwood, who is the staff member over the Family History Department who reports directly to the First Presidency, arranged to have some of us be there so we could observe, and begin to catch the vision ourselves. 
I’m realizing as I write this that I wanted to share more details, but I left my notes from this meeting in my desk at the Church Office Building. :-/ 
It was a wonderful meeting, however – and I left filled with the Spirit of Elijah. It was an honor to see how these good men serve together to accomplish the Lord’s work.

I also donated blood on Tuesday and the intake nurse made me smile. When she asked my birthdate, and realized it was just the day before, she said, “If anyone asks what you did to celebrate your birthday, just tell them – ‘Oh, I saved lives.’” :-)

On Wednesday night we heard an inspiring story from Sister Phillips, who is serving here in the Family History Library. She wrote a book a couple of years ago about a tragedy that happened in her family in 2013. Yet, her telling of it was remarkably uplifting. (She lost five members of her family in a plane crash in a remote area of Northern Idaho that December.) 
Her book tells about the 41 days it took them to discover the plane after it went down, and of all the many, many strangers who just showed up and offered help. Someone gave them lodging near the search area, others with planes, and even a helicopter, showed up to volunteer with the air search (during the few days the weather was clear enough for one.) Someone else set up a website so that other volunteers who were searching satellite images could post their findings for everyone to see. They were in such a remote area there was no cell or internet reception, making communication difficult - and another stranger showed up with a device that enabled them to receive these services. One man drove from California with his large snowcat! That piece of equipment is what eventually helped them get close enough to find the crash site. (Of course, much of the searching still had to be done on foot – in deep snow.) They didn't know any of these people beforehand, and yet, they all just came and helped. It was amazing! And, I’m so impressed with the strength, the faith, and the testimony of Sister Phillips and her family!

Thursday we had a wonderful session in the temple. I love this temple!!

Friday, we got three new full-time missionaries in our zone. (Bob and I are zone leaders over the Digital Imaging Processing Zone) We currently have 36 missionaries in our zone (20 full-time, and 16 part-time, church-service missionaries) and there's pretty much a constant flow of people leaving and others arriving. We've had several leave since we got here, so were really glad to get these three!

And, we got some fun news this week that we'll have company soon – my oldest brother and his wife are going to drive up from New Mexico in early December and stay a few days. We’re looking forward to their visit!

OH! We also got tickets to attend the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional. I’m excited! We've been so blessed!

Beautiful Zion

12 November 2016
The other day, I needed to walk over to the Family History Library and on the way I captured this shot of the sun lighting the top of the temple. I love seeing this temple every day!! (And, knowing that it is only a 5 minute walk from where we live!!!) What a blessing!
And, although crews have been hanging Christmas lights on trees and shrubbery all around Temple Square since August, I wasn’t quite prepared for the fully decorated tree that appeared in the lobby of the Church Office Building on November 1st. (It is beautiful, though)
Once a month we're encouraged to take a whole day “off” so we can work on our own family history and take names to the temple. We are allowed to travel within a 60 mile radius of the mission, so that includes 10 different temples. We mostly attend the Salt Lake Temple because it’s so convenient, but we hope to attend all of them, eventually. When we first got to the MTC in late August, we attended the Provo City Center Temple. And, yesterday, we went to the Bountiful Temple. It was lovely!
(Bountiful Temple)
We feel blessed to be able to serve where we are, and, to serve with all of the wonderful people here! It’s a great place! 

And, finally, this week, I got my hair cut — and even treated myself to having it professionally colored. (I usually color it myself.) The color is a bit darker than I typically have it, but I like it!
I also ordered some new glasses, and can hardly wait for them to come in! Generally, I'm not a fan of selfies (at least, not my own) but since I turn 68 in a couple of days, I decided I may as well document it. Here's to birthdays!! May we all have lots of them! :-)  (And, at my age, I'm happy to say that I'm still flexible enough to touch my toes.) Heavenly Father has blessed me in so many ways!!

People We've Met

5 Nov 2016

Most mornings we start our day with a short devotional time (15 min) with just the 30+ missionaries who are assigned to our zone.  (Song, scripture, inspirational message and prayer)

However, on Monday mornings, we have a one-hour, mission-wide devotional. During this time we usually hear from several different missionaries. They take a few minutes each to tell us about themselves and share their testimonies. 

I’m always impressed by what a diverse group we’re in!! There are senior missionaries here from Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, Japan, Cuba, Canada, American Samoa, Russia, Armenia, and more — as well as from all across the continental U.S. And, their backgrounds are just as diverse as their locations. 

- One sister told us that she got her pilot license before she turned 15! 

- One elder was the mayor of his town before coming out.

- We loved meeting one sister who is here from Brisbane, Australia. 

- One couple we know — both served as EMTs before their mission.

- Another sister said she’d never been outside Missouri until she came on this mission! 

- I loved the story one sister told who is an adult convert. She said she had always been what she described as “spiritually curious.” She remembered that when she was about 6 or 7 years old, she asked her mother if she was sure they were in the right church. It was years later before she understood why her mother got so upset with her question and told her never to ask such a question again. Her father was a Lutheran minister! LOL. 

- And, finally, though there are many stories, I was touched by something one sister shared. She said she and her husband had 8 children, and the budget was always tight, so buying life insurance was just something they always put off. However, one week, day after day, they kept getting flyers in the mail advertising life insurance. After a few days, she thought, “Maybe the Lord is trying to tell me something.” So, she prayed about it and asked Heavenly Father if they should buy a life insurance policy for her husband. The answer she got was an immediate and emphatic, “Yes.” Then, because the answer was so strong, she asked if her husband was going to die. This answer was also “yes” but, she said it almost felt like the heavens opened to her and she was surprised because she wasn’t sad or upset, but was happy for her husband for what he was going to experience. (She said it felt weird and wrong to feel happy when you find out your husband is going to die. – which, of course, it would.) The other part of the revelation was that she was told she was not allowed to tell her husband. So, she moved forward from there, not having any idea how long he would live, but, making the most of what time they had left. He lived for one year after she received that revelation. And, she expressed her profound gratitude that the Lord gave her that knowledge ahead of time and gave them that year together. (A rare gift!)

Of course, we hear from the young elders, too. Since all of them (in our mission) struggle with some type of disability, it is very sweet to hear their testimonies. We especially enjoyed hearing from Elder James Stephens (great-nephew of our former stake patriarch) who is here from NC. He shared a remarkable testimony.

A lot of the senior missionaries we serve with are close in age to us, though some are older. Some must deal with varying states of health. A few have physical limitations such as having to use a cane or even a motorized chair to get around, and, yet, they are here. It is inspiring to see the cheerful service they render in spite of the challenges.