We have been called to serve a CES (Church Education System) mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England Birmingham Mission. Our assignment is to work with the Young Single Adults - ages 18 to 30 years - teaching religion classes, supporting their activities, assisting in the day to day running of the institute, and anything else as directed by our Mission President. Our 18 month mission begins on December 27, 2010.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

JOURNAL - December 12 - 18

Monday, December 12

Devon and I did a Tufts Christmas FHE tonight. We read four of our favorite Christmas stories - "Christmas Day in the Morning", "The Christmas Orange", "Trouble at the Inn", and, of course, Luke 2. I was surprised that only one young man had heard "The Christmas Orange" story, and no one had heard any of the other stories - well they all knew Luke 2. After that we served the two trays of Christmas cookies I had baked. Then we played a Christmas carol game and a Christmas trivia game - both fun. To end the evening I taught them "Everyone Who Loves Christmas" and the parts to "Jingle Bells". Doing all these familiar things felt like Christmas at home. I loved it, and the kids had a great time, too.

Wednesday, December 14

Had a great District Meeting today. It is the first one since transfers and was really good. The new DL, Elder Knecht, really tried to emphasize the positive by having everyone tell one uplifting experience since being on their mission. We heard some great experiences. I continue to be so impressed with the young men and women serving in our mission. Love them all!

Tonight was the last Institute class for the semester. Devon's lesson went really well. But, one depressing thing happened. There is a homeless Indian man who comes to the church once in a while if there is an activity and will eat the food. About six months ago he came in and stole the Tuck Shop money - probably about 10 pounds in change. Well, he did it again tonight. A couple of kids saw him leave and thought to go check the money. Sure enough, it was gone. Guess we'll have to hide it and post someone to watch for him. It makes me very sad for him. Life for us will go on without the money.

Thursday, December 15

We went with the YSA and missionaries to the Bullring tonight to go Christmas caroling. It was bitter cold - but I was toasty warm with tights, socks, jeans, sweat pants, a T-shirt, 2 sweaters, a hoodie, scarf, coat, and gloves. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do! We sang for about 45 minutes. During that time we passed out numerous pass along cards, gave away one Book of Mormon, and met a nice man who gave us his contact information and invited the missionaries to come by his home this week. He also said he would attend the Ward Christmas party next week. I would say it was a pretty good activity!

When we got home I had the nicest surprise. Linda sent me an email with a picture of my birthday present - a Christmas picture of me and my sisters, as little girls, on Christmas morning with all our presents. She also posted some other priceless photos from our childhood, including photos of the famous merry-go-round Daddy built for our back yard - priceless! Best present ever!
 L to R - Barbara, Linda, and me. Love my sisters!!!
Judy and Barbara on our merry-go-round.

Friday, December 16

Don't know why, but my iPad crashed. So today we drove to the Apple store in Solihull to get it fixed. We were there for an hour, but he was able to restore almost everything - all the important stuff, so that is good!

When we were walking back to the car, we noticed a stand selling roasted chestnuts. We've never had chestnuts, roasted or otherwise, so we stopped and bought a little bag of them. They were warm and pretty good - once we got the shells off. They remind me of pine nuts...just a lot bigger.

Tonight is Chill Night with the YSA.. We didn't know if anyone would turn up - especially tonight as many students have gone home - but we went anyway. There were five YSA that came. Three were involved with the YM/YW Stake Christmas party that was going on at the same time, same place, so they were in and out. But, we did have a really great game of Bananagrams and Wizard.

Saturday, December 17 - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US - 45 years

I remember telling Devon, "I just want to grow old with you." Well, looks like I have! It's hard to believe so many years have passed. They have been wonderful years, and we have so much to be thankful for. Top of the list is our wonderful family, immediate and extended. Second would be the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all the blessings and opportunities that are a direct result of the Gospel. We truly have had a "wonderful life."

We went to dinner tonight at a Brazilian restaurant in downtown Birmingham. It is much like Rodezio Grill back home. Same format, but about 1/4 the variety. Still, it was very good and the manager was so kind and attentive when he found out it was our anniversary - couldn't do enough for us, including a complimentary drink. We had Brazilian lemonade - a mix of lemon and lime - so yummy!

Afterward we walked a few blocks to Symphony Hall and saw a wonderful program of popular Christmas music with the Manchester Symphony Orchestra, 3 soloists, and a group of talented back-up singers. The music was good and it was a lot of fun with people in the audience singing along, clapping, and swaying to the music. Then we came home to watch the BYU basketball game on the internet. How could it get any better?!

Sunday, December 18

Very cold, rainy day. As we were walking into church it was trying its hardest to snow, but other than a few flakes that was all. When we got home, however, there was actual "white stuff" on the grounds around our flat. I have to admit it looked more like hail than snow, and it is pretty wimpy, but I had to take a picture anyway. Hopefully this will be the extent of our snow this year.

The pianist was a no-show at church today, so I got to play for Sacrament meeting. It felt so good to sit on the bench and play Christmas music - prelude Christmas songs from the Primary Song Book, and carols from the Hymn Book for the meeting. I feel so comfortable on "the bench" - thanks, Mom and Dad for all the lessons and nagging!

Monday, December 12, 2011

JOURNAL - December 5 - 11

Monday, December 5

The days are definitely shorter and colder - bah, humbug! It was a good day studying for my lesson this week - resurrection, judgment, and kingdoms of glory. I was worried about preparing this lesson - feared it would be over my head. But, I have enjoyed studying and learning. Something did crop up that was a bit of a doctrinal question for me regarding Jesus as mediator and judge. Devon and I discussed it, but couldn't resolve the question, so I emailed our S&I Director. In a few minutes I had a response with a scripture reference and explanation that put it in perspective and answered my question. Thanks, Brother McMorn!

FHE was good. There was a pretty good turnout considering the cold night and the fact that it is getting to the end of the term - lots of school work for the students.

Tuesday, December 6 

Spent the morning revising my lesson outline. This whole course has been a hard one for me. It's a great course, but was written in the 80's, which means there are no quotes from the more recent apostles. The old quotes are great, but the YSA "know" and relate to the current ones.

In the evening we met President and Sister Ogden, Elder and Sister Skiles, and Elder and Sister Fanning at Aston Hall, an old, historic mansion. It was built between 1618 and 1635 and was the largest and most ambitious house of its day in Warwickshire. It has been lovingly cared for and is one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture in England today. Every other year they decorate the mansion and open it for tours during the Christmas season. It is lit only by candles and every room has an actor dressed in period clothing representing famous people from the past. They talk to you as you walk from room to room, telling you about "their life" and the mansion. In the main parlour downstairs a four piece brass band was planing Christmas carols. The people were encouraged to join in singing - wonderful!
Aston Hall by day
Brass band

Wednesday, December 7

Today is transfer day for the elders and sisters. Harborne ward has two sets of missionaries - one sisters and one elders. The elders have been a three-some, but President Ogden made it known that one of them would be transferred. Sure enough, Elder Anim is leaving us. He is a relatively new missionary from France. He's been amazing and we are really going to miss him. He called us to say good bye. I think he will miss Harborne, but he will be wonderful where ever he serves! Everyone else is staying.

We had the last Advisory Council meeting for the year tonight. Two of the presidency couldn't be there due to work demands, but still the meeting was amazing! It was organized, productive, and on time. I'm so proud of these YSA leaders!!! The majority of the meeting is spent discussing the missionary efforts for the YSA less-active and new members. As we talk about individuals, the love that's being given to them, and the progress they are making it really warms my heart.

My lesson is OVER! I think it went well. I'm done teaching until our new course starts in January. Devon has the last lesson next week, then we break for Christmas.

Received a care package from home tonight - so excited! The mother and grandmother of one of our YSA young men went to visit family in Eagle Mountain, Utah. They offered to bring a few things back for me, so I made a list and sent Emily shopping. They are home now, and Tom brought "my treasures" to Institute tonight: 4 pair of stocking tights from The Rack (2 black, 2 brown - the ones I brought with me are so worn out), Cover Girl foundation make-up, Lipton Onion Soup and Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix to cook with, Mucinex, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert from last year. I am a happy girl!!!

Thursday, December 8

Let the baking begin! We are doing a Tufts Christmas FHE next Monday. I'll write more about it after the event, but today I started baking some favorite Christmas cookies for it. While working in our little kitchen, I watched the Christmas Concert DVD on my computer. Absolutely as wonderful, maybe better, than I remembered it! Nothing brings the Christmas Spirit to my heart more than Christmas music.

In the early evening we went teaching with the sisters to an absolutely amazing woman named, Maria. She was doing really great, when suddenly she called the sisters and said she didn't want any more lessons for a while. They were devastated! They knew she had a lot going on with family and also had to move to a new flat, but were totally shocked she didn't want to see them. After about 10 days she invited them back. Now she is so anxious to be baptized. We had a wonderful lesson with her today. The spirit was undeniable!

Later we met up with some of the YSA for another movie activity. They movie was nothing to recommend - silly romantic comedy - but we did have a nice time with the YSA.

Friday, December 9

Shopping day. We need stuff for the Tuck Shop at Institute and for the multi-stake dance tonight at Harborne. So off we go to Wing Yip, for A&W Root Beer, and Costco - for the rest. What would I do without Costco?!

The dance was nice. We had a smaller attendance - between 200 and 250. They all seemed to have a good time. One YSA that came was a less-active young man from one of the smaller wards in our stake. I've had contact with him several times, mostly over Facebook, and have felt strongly that I need to keep that contact going. Tonight he came in, sat down by me, and we talked for probably 30 minutes. His parent are very active, wonderful people, but when he was about 14 he started to wander away - began smoking. Now at 20 he desperately wants to quit and is finding it very difficult, though he is making progress. He is a good kid - good heart, and knows what is right and true. Reminds me of someone else I know and love.

After the dance, about 12-15 YSA stayed (without being asked) to help with the clean up - be still my heart! The best part is...they were still having fun. They just hung around, after the work was finished, and enjoyed chatting with each other for a while. They really do enjoy being together!

Saturday, December 10

Today is Amanda and Nathanael's wedding - two YSA from Harborne. She is 11 years older, but they are so perfectly suited for each other and so much in love! It was wonderful to witness their civil ceremony and give them both hugs and best wishes. Later today they will drive to Preston and be sealed for Time and Eternity.

This evening was a baptism for Linda - another lovely lady the sisters in Harborne have been teaching. Devon gave a wonderful talk on the Holy Ghost, and I was asked to play the piano - just where I like to be. For prelude I played almost every Christmas song in the Primary Song Book twice, and loved every minute!

Afterwards we came home and called Lori. We have spoken with her every day this week. She has been having unbearable pain (muscle spasms). I know she will not complain to me, as she doesn't want to worry me, but I can see in her eyes that it has been horrible. Besides the pain she has had a horrific reaction to "something" that has left a large red, itchy, burned area several inches all around the incision on her back. Yesterday she went back to her doctor, who was SHOCKED, when he saw the reaction. They don't know what caused it, but have given her some cream and new drugs. Today she reports that she is a little better - fewer muscle spasms. Being so far away and unable to help her has been the hardest thing yet on our mission.

Sunday, December 11

It is High Council Sunday, and Devon was assigned to speak in Woodsetton - a very nice little ward. Church was great and so was his talk. We met the new elders in that ward. I think they will bring new enthusiasm to the ward. One of the elders is from West Jordan.

After Woodsetton we dashed back to Harborne to meet with the Bishop and YSA Ward Reps to discuss the YSA that will be here without family for Christmas. There's only a couple and they will be invited to spend Christmas with a family in the ward. Bishop DeSous thinks we need to plan a YSA New Year's Eve event to be held at Harborne, and he is willing to fund it. So after talking with some of the YSA and being assured they would organize it, we said...why not?! Howard and Edi will be here and I'm sure will have great fun with the YSA.

Lastly in this busy and wonderful week, was the delayed First Presidency Christmas Broadcast. We knew people could watch it on the internet from the comfort of their homes, so we wondered if many would come to the church to see it. There were probably about 60 people there - half were our YSA! Everyone left after the broadcast, except the YSA. Again, they stayed and chatted for a while and did a little planing for the New Year's Eve event. 

Upon arrival home, we called Lori again - actually, we Facetime with her - technology is amazing! She really is doing better - still very "wiped out", but much less frequent pain. For the first time, I feel reassured that probably the worst is over. I'm so grateful for her wonderful husband, Eric, who has taken such good care of her and their cute family during this ordeal.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

JOURNAL - November 28 - December 4

Monday, November 28

Today is Lori's back surgery day. We invited the sisters from Harborne over for P-day to help us put up our Christmas Tree. Actually, the real reason was to have company to help keep my mind off Lori's surgery while we waited for news. And it worked!!! We had a great time decorating the tree, eating lunch (taco soup), and playing games.
Sister Louis and Sister Whitaker putting our cute Ikea tree together.
Let the decorating begin!
Beautiful little tree. Notice the "star" on the top. It's an English Tudor Rose Christmas ornament I purchased at Buckingham Palace this summer. I pinned it to the tree top and think it makes a perfect topping for our little English tree.

FHE was amazing tonight. Tina prepared a wonderful lesson/activity about the First Presidency and 12 Apostles. She divided us into three teams and we played a really fun trivia game while learning more about these wonderful men. 

And best of all...Lori's surgery went well! I talked with her twice. The first time she was just waking up and in a lot of pain. The second time she was feeling better, thanks to good drugs, and had even been up to the bathroom. She said that although she has pain at the surgical site, the awful pain radiating down her leg and in her foot was gone. She reports that many friends from her old and new wards have called and are helping with meals and anything else she needs. My prayers are answered and I am so grateful! She will stay in the hospital tonight, but hopefully can go home tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 29

Today has been the windiest day yet here in England - just miserable to be outside. Thankfully we didn't need to be out in it very much. Devon ran a couple of errands while I caught up on paper work and worked a little on my lesson. I had a good conversation with Lori and she continues to do well and is discharged to go home today.

Enjoyed messaging with Natalie a little on "Face Time" this evening. Technology is amazing!

Wednesday, November 30

Woke up suddenly about 4:30 am to a loud thud and realized Devon rolled over and fell out of bed! Ouch! It wasn't funny then, but we snicker about it now. Thankfully, other than his pride nothing was hurt. Our bed is about the size of a USA double bed - much smaller than our king at home. The king beds here are about USA queen size (maybe a tad larger). 

We worked on lessons in the morning and then went to a movie with some of the YSA. It wasn't an official YSA event - just some of the kids that wanted to get together for a movie. We try to go whenever they invite us. Today it was to see "Arthur Christmas." It was fun to be with the YSA and the movie was okay. It had a timely message about not leaving anyone out - something the YSA Council is working on with the YSA.

The YSA have an assignment to sing as a choir in the Stake Christmas Fireside on Sunday. Tonight after class we practiced our song..."Where You There On That Christmas Night?" I get to accompany them and I'm loving it!  It's one of my favorite Christmas songs - brought back fond memories of the Leona Valley Women's Ensemble. Those were great times!

Our day started with glorious blue sky and sunshine, and ended with heavy rains at the end of Institute. We had four YSA attend Institute tonight that we haven't seen in a while. They seemed glad to be there and were warmly welcomed by the other YSA, so I hope they will keep coming. One young woman is from Lichfield Stake. She has classes in Birmingham and so will be coming to our Institute. It was GREAT to see her again. I miss the Lichfield kids - they are wonderful young adults!

Thursday, December 1

We actually have a day that we don't have to be anywhere - no appointments, classes, flat checks, etc. We spent the morning working on next week's lessons as we both will be teaching - Devon the Old Testament lesson for Brother McMorn and I will teach our Doctrines of the Gospel class. Then in the afternoon we caught the bus to city center to check out the German Market. There are 3 or 4 streets with various booths, one right after the other, lining the streets. We enjoyed looking, but didn't see anything we wanted to buy, except for a little food to eat that was over priced and not that great. But hey, we'll only be here for the German Market once so needed to give it a try.

Friday, December 2 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEVON

Lots of email's and birthday wishes for Devon! So nice! Went to Costco to shop for tomorrow's YSA Thanksgiving. It's hard to know how many will actually come. So far no one's called to say they can't make it - which is a good thing. We purchased the turkeys (3) and have distributed them to be cooked. Camie, our darling YSA culinary student from Wales, made the food assignments to the YSA. So hopefully they will all come - otherwise we could end up with lots of potatoes and no vegies. We'll keep fingers crossed and see....

We arrived at chill night about 6:45 pm to set up. But by 8:00 no one was there except Devon and I so we started taking things down and loading up the car to go home. When we went to lock up the church we couldn't find the church keys, so the next 30 minutes were spent looking for them. Fortunately they were under some stuff on the back seat of the car. Apparently they were put down while we were loading the car. As soon as we turned the lock on the church door, one of our YSA called to see if anything was going on. A few of them just returned home from dinner and thought about coming down. But since it would take them an hour to get there on the bus it was decided to scrap the evening.

Saturday, December 3

YSA Thanksgiving day - big success! We met at Solihull church. Lots of kids were there to help set things up before the American football game that was held in the park across the street. The weather was gorgeous - unseasonably warm and sunny - a gift!

I'm not sure which team won, but they all had a great time. As it turned out almost everyone with assignments came. We had lots of food...except no stuffing! Still no one complained as it was all so good and there was plenty. They loved my yams and apples!!!

This is Camie - culinary student from Wales. She bought me an apron to match hers - replica of the Welch flag. LOVE IT!!!

After our "feast" we went to the chapel for a devotional. Josh, the YSA president, gave a short message and then everyone stood and told what they were thankful for. There were wonderful thoughts - some very tender. What happened next was a gift. I was banished from the kitchen and the YSA did the dishes and clean-up. I can see why they want this to be an annual tradition.

As soon as our event was over the farewell for Jonny began. Jonny is going to Taiwan on his mission. He was scheduled to leave on December 5, but has been delayed for 3 weeks due to a visa delay. He is a little disappointed, but there's not much he can do about it. We'll be glad to have him around for a little longer. The farewell was very nice with many friends from the YSA, his ward, family, and others attending. 

Sunday, December 4

Fast Sunday today. We had ward choir practice after church to get ready for tonight's Stake Music Fireside. Then the Harborne Ward YSA had a "break-the-fast". All the left over food from yesterday's Thanksgiving meal was used, plus some that was brought today. The turn out was great. Afterwards they divided into four groups and went to visit some less-active YSA. I'm anxious to hear their reports.

The Stake Christmas Music Fireside was very nice! Everyone brought new, unwrapped gifts for women and children to donate to the Salvation Army. Two wards (Harborne and Solihull), the Primary children, and the YSA had choirs that each sang one musical item. They were all lovely (but of course I'm partial to the YSA). A representative from the Salvation Army and an Edgbaston government representative to Parliament were present and each gave nice remarks. President Griffiths also spoke. There were several "readings" from the scriptures, and the congregation also sang about 4 hymns. It was a lovely fireside and really helped to usher in the Christmas spirit. There was a really good turn out from all over the Stake. We especially enjoyed visiting with Elder and Sister Skiles, and Elder and Sister Edgson. It is probably the last time we'll see the Edgsons as they are released on the 21st. Also got to visit with some other wonderful people from the Stake and our Harborne missionaries. Transfers are due Wednesday, so wanted to give them each a hug/handshake. We know one elder will be transferred for sure - just don't know which one. I don't expect any change with the sisters...but we'll see.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

JOURNAL - November 21 - 27

Monday, November 21

Cold, rainy day - but never mind. Sister Whitaker and Sister Louis picked me up this morning to go shopping for a traditional Indian outfit. Sister Louis knew of a shop that was having a going out of business sale, so I said, "Why not?!" 
It really is pretty, though not exactly missionary clothing. It will be fun to wear at home. I'm sure the grandkids will like it. The day was rounded out with flat check in Kidderminister and FHE.

Tuesday, November 22

The highlight of today was a dinner appointment with a less active family and the Elders in Harborne Ward. The family is comprised of a mom and three brothers in their mid to late 20's. A couple of the boys come to church once in a while, but we haven't seen them out to Institute or any activities. They are all finishing up their university studies. A very nice, friendly family. They really like feeding the missionaries, but don't seem to have much interest in coming to church. They're all good people and would be great assets to the church. The missionaries will continue to meet with them. You never know when a spark will catch fire.

Wednesday, November 23

We went to District Meeting this morning. Some of the elders are really struggling - especially the elders in one small ward. They attended the first Ward Council meeting they had in months and it was nothing but complaining from everyone about how bad moral was in the ward. The cancer of discouragement is so destructive. The elders are trying hard to change things, but it is really hard. We have one really active YSA from that ward and she complains about the same thing. 

Institute started tonight with YSA Council meeting. The presidency has decided to dedicate one meeting each month to "training" for the Ward Reps. Tonight was their first training night and I think it went well, especially for the first attempt at this kind of thing. Most of the Reps were there for at least some part of the meeting. Our attendance was very low at Institute...so discouraging. I always question "what am I doing wrong," but no one else seems very concerned with this one night of low attendance. Our presidency says that the colder weather, shorter days, and university demands all take a toll this time of year. 

Thursday, November 24 - HAPPY THANKSGIVING

I've been having a very "blue" week - won't elaborate on all the reasons as some things are best left unspoken. BUT...I'm determined to work this out! I'm starting today with a nice nap - haven't been sleeping well and when I'm tired I'm cranky. The nap was wonderful! Also wonderful was the Thanksgiving dinner at President and Sister Ogden's home in Sutton Coldfield. Most of the other senior missionaries were there. Sister Ogden cooked the turkey and stuffing, and the rest of us brought the side dishes. It was delicious!!! I think turkey dinner with all the trimmings is my favorite meal. It was also wonderful to be together as a group.

Someone on Facebook said they were thankful for a day that made them think about all things they had to be thankful for and I agree. Happiness doesn't come from focusing on the problems, but rather from focusing on the good things...and there are so many good things. I am grateful for a wonderful family (parents, sisters, husband, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins), good health, my lifetime association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the many wonderful people I've met and associated with throughout the years, the amazing YSA and people we have met here in England, and so much more. Perhaps we should have days of thanksgiving more often.

Friday, November 25

Busy day. We did flat checks for the final three areas today - Solihull, Sheldon, and Redditch. Always glad to get them over. Transfers will be in less than two weeks and then it begins again. We had lunch at a nice carvery between flat checks - very nice!

Tonight was a multi-stake event in Coventry. Each of the five stakes made videos and submitted them. We had an nice ham dinner and watched the videos. Afterwards everyone voted on different categories for the videos and then presented the awards - much like the Oscars. It was fun, though disappointing that more of our YSA didn't attend - probably because no one organized rides. 

Saturday, November 26

Another nice nap today and I am feeling better! Tonight was the Birmingham Stake Winter Ball. A couple of our YSA girls have been working very hard the last four days putting up decorations for the dance - and it looked beautiful! The dance was scheduled to start at 7:30 and about 5:30 I got a frantic call from one of the girls saying that the photographer the stake had scheduled to take pictures of the couples couldn't make it and they asked me if I would fill in. I have a nice camera, but I'm certainly no photographer. But...have camera, will travel. I took pictures until about 9:30 when one of our YSA arrived and took over the duties with his camera. The dance was very nice. Everyone had a good time, the decorations were amazing, and the food was great, too.
Here are a few pictures from the dance.
Stake President Griffiths and his wife, Heidi
President Sagal, his wife, Carol, and their daughters Laura, Marietta, and Natasha.
President Wilkinson, his wife, Pat, and daughter, Laura. He is over the YSA.
Bishop DeSous and his wife, Ann from Harborne Ward.
Naomi and Joseph McMorn. He's our new S&I Director.
Owen and Sharoon
Kezia and Adam
Back row L to R: Laura, Sarah, Sarah, Lauren, Amanda, Tasha, Marietta, Beth.
Front row L to R: Josh, Jared, Adam, Yanos, John.

Sunday, November 27

We went to Sheldon Ward today with the YSA presidency. We planned a "munch and mingle" after church with the YSA from that ward in an attempt to get to know them better. There is one active YSA and many inactive, but five with potential. We contacted and invited them to come, and so did the presidency, but none came. Pretty discouraging! We did have a nice lunch of taco soup, homemade rolls, salad, and chocolate cake (the presidency all helped bring part of the meal), and spent the time discussing the inactive YSA with the ward rep and what we can do to fellowship them. The bishop was glad we made the attempt. I sent Facebook messages to them saying we missed them and three of them responded with apologies for not coming - so I guess that is progress.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

JOURNAL - November 14 - 20

Monday, November 14

It begins again - another round of flat checks for the missionaries. Today it was for the Harborne Sisters (Whitaker and Louis). They are great and their flat was nice. When I say nice I guess I should explain. All but one of the flats are old and could use remodeling. We have a check list we go though for each room. I must admit I'm pretty easy and we always take treats - this time cookies from Ikea.

We had a smaller than usual turnout for FHE. Several of the uni kids had "tons" of school work and so they didn't come. But we did have a very nice lesson and played "Scatagories" - so much fun! The young woman who gave the lesson shared these "beauty secrets" from Audrey Hepburn.

For attractive lips - speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes - seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure - share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair - let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise - walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

Tuesday, November 15

Flat check today for the Harborne Elders (VonBrughan, Anim, and Hudac). Usually they chat with Devon while I do the check, but today one of the elders followed me around the whole flat and was very interested in what they need to do a little better. He is a great elder, but sometimes I have a hard time understanding him. He has a strong accent (from Slovakia) and a stutter; but it doesn't keep him from expressing himself. He is such a nice guy - they all are!

The flat check was in the afternoon, so we spent the morning working on our lessons - AGAIN!

Wednesday, November 16

Today is Zone meeting in Coventry. I'm feeling a little under the weather, so we thought we would stay home, but...the elders needed a ride to Coventry, so we went. Really glad we did for two reasons: first, it was a great meeting, and second, we realized the reason the elders wanted a ride was because they were getting low on money for the month and didn't want to buy a train ticket. Missionary work has slowed down a bit as evidenced by fewer people to teach and fewer members going with the missionaries to teach. They say the slow down is due to the colder weather and the holiday season that is approaching. They talked about trying some new things and hopefully that will improve things. Usually the missionaries all go to lunch together, but the Harborne Elders didn't even want to spend money to buy lunch, so we just came home after the meeting. After we dropped them off, we stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. It was sooo good and tasted like the Mexican food at home. I must admit I was a little afraid of what we might get, but I'll go back there again! They even served taco chips and salsa - a very small bowl with no refills, but still very good.

Got an interesting phone call from one of our YSA prior to Institute. She is a Ward Rep from one of the smaller wards. She told me she would be late, but that she wanted to make "an announcement" - a problem with the YSA she thought they should know about. She wouldn't tell me what it was over the phone, so we agreed to talk about it before we would have it announced. She didn't come at all, so now I'm wondering what it's about. Tried to call her, but no answer so I left a message. Will call her back.

We have a new YSA young woman that just moved into Woodsetton Ward. She was baptized in February and has moved to Woodsetton to live with her dad (who is not a member). She is wonderful and will be such an asset to Woodsetton Ward. We have three other YSA there - two (the reps) who rarely go to Sacrament meeting, and one other young woman who is very active. She is thrilled to have someone to sit with at church!

Thursday, November 17

Still not feeling very good and didn't sleep well last night. We had two flat checks scheduled, so we did those and then came back home. I went to bed while Devon worked on next week's lesson and his Sunday High Council speaking assignment.

Friday, November 18

Feeling better, but plan to take it easy again today. It's haircut day. There's a wonderful little sandwich shop, "Pickles," next door to the salon, so we had lunch there prior to our haircuts.

Chill night was fun - we played a very exciting game of Monopoly. I was the first one to go bankrupt and Devon was second. After a while the rest of the players banded together into two teams (basically boys against girls) for a very competitive game. It was tons of fun. When the evening was over we were surprised by the thick fog that had rolled in. I always envisioned fog in England, but this is the first time in almost 11 months we have had this kind of fog. It made driving an even bigger challenge. The kids said the thick fog was pretty unusual.

Saturday, November 19

Still some fog this morning, but much less. Made a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the YSA event tonight. It was a trick to find canned pumpkin here, but one of our YSA did an internet search for me and found that Waitrose stocked it. Fortunately there is a Waitrose close, so we picked up a couple of cans of Libby pumpkin a coupe of weeks ago. Also did laundry and a good flat cleaning - love when everything is clean!

We rode the bus to city center to pick up our tickets to a candlelight Christmas event we had ordered over the internet. We were aware the much talked about "German Christmas Market" had started, but didn't have any idea of how massive it was, or that the building where we had to pick up the tickets was in the middle of the market. I would say it is like Swiss Days in Midway on steroids! We didn't have time to look around - just picked up our tickets and headed back home to get ready for evening YSA event. We'll go back and check things out on a week day and hope there will be less people.

Tonight is the farewell party for Lauren - our very special YSA from Australia. She has finished her nanny job and will be flying home on Friday. Her mother is here for 2 weeks to tour England with her. We had a nice group of kids come to say good-bye. We are really going to miss Lauren!!!

With Lauren and her mom, Annette
Some of the YSA at the farewell party

Sunday, November 20

Devon's talk went well. This evening we went to Lichfield for a multi-stake fireside with our Area Authority, Elder Donaldson. It was a wonderful fireside! I sat in the small chapel and thought how blessed I am to be in the company of so many amazing young adults. Elder Donaldson's talk was inspiring - the spirit was so strong. Also, it was wonderful to see and visit with the Lichfield group of YSA. In one word - it was PERFECT!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

JOURNAL - November 7 - 13

Monday, November 7

Today was a nice Monday, as usual; worked on our lessons, laundry, and getting things ready for an anticipated very busy week. I always mention FHE because we enjoy it so much with the YSA. We have such a nice group (mostly from Harbone Ward) that come faithfully and enjoy the evening with us. The young woman who signed up for the lesson called about 2 hours before saying she couldn't make it, so Devon prepared a lesson from PMG (Preach My Gospel).

Tuesday, November 8

Zone Conference was today at the Wylde Green Chapel by the Mission Office in Sutton Coldfield. Elder Donaldson and his wife were the main speakers. It was really good although lasted longer than usual. We gave the Harborne Elders a ride over. They are on bikes and are always very grateful to get a ride!

Wednesday, November 9

This is a red letter day - Devon passed the driving test for his UK license! Oh happy day!!! He scheduled this test in Cannock - a smaller community in the Lichfield Stake area. When looking for a date to repeat the test this center had the first appointment, so he took it. The tester was a very nice, relaxed man. Devon said it was so much different than the first test. He is very relieved to have it over. Totally it cost about 300 pounds ($483)! At least it is a tax deduction.

We found out today that the equalization plan that went into effect for senior missionaries in September will finally go into effect for us in January. It's been such a problem figuring out who would help us set it up. We are CES missionaries and as such are separate from the Birmingham England Mission. It has been quite annoying, but at least it is finally getting set up.

Institute was good - 55 kids.

Thursday, November 10

Rain off and on the last few days, but the temperature has been rather mild - I'm so grateful! I must also mention the short days we are having. Since we turned the clocks back a few weeks ago, the sun is up about 7:30 am, and it is dark by 4:30 pm. Unfortunately, the days will continue to get shorter until winter solstice on December 21st.

We drove to Kidderminster today to visit a recent YSA convert, Becky. She is going to church and doing great, but unable to attend Institute or other YSA activities due to her work schedule and lack of transportation. It was really good to visit with her. She is hoping her work schedule will change in January and she can come to Institute. Transportation is a continual problem for the YSA in the small, outlying wards and we don't see any solution in site. We try to visit and encourage, but even the YSA Reps struggle.

Friday, November 11 (11/11/11)

Today is Veteran's Day here and in the USA. They sell little red poppies that everyone pins on their shirts, just like at home, except a lot more people wear them here - in fact most have a poppy. It's nice to see.

We did a big shopping at Costco today to get ready for a very busy weekend - and we had a list from both sets of Harborne missionaries of things they wanted from Costco. Elder Anim from Paris wanted a whole box of Snickers candy bars (48). Hope he doesn't get a tummy ache!

Tonight was the monthly multi-stake YSA dance at Harborne. We had about 300 kids attend. After the 500 in September, it seemed like a small group. They were well behaved, as usual, but it took nearly an hour to get them to vacate the building - always such a struggle. Our YSA were lined up with brooms, vacuums, supplies to restock the bathrooms, etc., but we couldn't get the cleaning started until the others left.  Our YSA have gotten so good at helping with clean up after everything. The building is generally not cared for well - except for our YSA who have earned a reputation for cleaning-up after themselves. I'm really proud of them and grateful for their help!

Saturday, November 12 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY

We met the YSA at the Stake Center at 8:30 am, and boarded a bus to go to the London Temple for a service project on the temple grounds and baptisms. Brother and Sister McMorn (our S&I Director and his wife) and President Wilkinson went with us. Our area is assigned to the Preston Temple, but we couldn't get a date there. We started trying to get a date shortly after we arrived last January, but no go. So President Griffiths, our Stake President, gave us permission to go to London. They had today open and we took it. The YSA were thrilled to go to London as they have been to Preston several times. It took 3 hours each way, but was well worth the drive (and cost of the coach - very expensive). The temple grounds are large at London. We divided into groups and worked several areas weeding, cleaning the pavement, and raking leaves. After our service outside we changed into our Sunday clothes, had lunch in the Temple cafeteria and then did baptisms for about 250. It was the first time at the temple for two of our YSA. Tasha was baptized a little over a year ago, and Madhi was baptized about 6 months ago. It was very special for both of them - such great kids!!! All in all a great, though exhausting, day of service outside and inside the Temple. Thankfully, we have already booked dates for Preston Temple in 2012.
 Sister McMorn, Daisy (her cousin), Kezia, Amanda
Bradley, David, Sharoon, Jonny
Camie, Marietta, Stephanie, Darren
Betty, Alex, Tasha, Michael (the tall, cute guy is Elder Tufts!)
Joshua and Madhi with Laura in the background
Jared, Jonny, Sarah, Laura

Sunday, November 13

Can't believe how tired I am today. Enjoyed church, came home, fixed dinner, and then took a nice hour nap! This evening was our last CES Fireside broadcast of the year. The fireside was great and we had a good turnout of kids. They are so cute and really enjoy being together - and we love being with them!

Monday, November 7, 2011

JOURNAL - October 31 to November 6

Monday, October 31 - HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Our friend, Cheryl Fugal, shared this information about Halloween and I thought it was really interesting, so I've decided to record it in my blog. Thanks Cheryl!

"It’s thought that Halloween likely had it’s origins in the pagan festivals held around the end of October in the British Isles. In the year 835 AD the Catholic Church made November 1, a church holiday to honor all the saints. Although it was a joyous holiday it was also the eve of All Souls Day, so in Medieval times it became the custom to pray for the dead on this date.

"Another name for All Saints Day is 'All Hallows' (hallow is an the old English word for 'saint'). The festival began on All Hallows Eve, the last night of October.
"According to an Irish legend, jack-o-lanterns were named after a man named Jack who couldn’t enter heaven because he was a miser. He couldn’t enter hell either because he played jokes on the devil. So he could only walk the earth with his jack-o-lantern until judgment day.
"In England and Ireland lanterns were traditionally carved from turnips. In Scotland the thick stem of the cabbage plant was used.
"The wearing of costumes originates in Celtic tradition. People thought that when they left their homes on Halloween night they would come across ghosts so they worn costumes to avoid being recognized by those ghosts. Halloween used to be a time for making mischief in parts of England so it was called Mischief Night."

FHE had a rather low attendance tonight, probably because it is Halloween. Still those that came had a great time - bobbed for apples, carved a couple of pumpkins, and played a fun game trying to pick up a bag with their teeth.

Tuesday, November 1

I happened to call the sister missionaries with a question and randomly asked if there was anything we could do for them? As it turned out they had an appointment to teach a wonderful investigator named, Maria, but the ward member that was going with them just called and cancelled - so, we went with them. What an amazing experience! Maria is a very educated woman who recently decided she wanted to find a church. She was raised in another faith, but has not been practicing that faith for a long time. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and feels such a peace and honesty in it. She wants to learn more and wants to pray about baptism. She is so easy to talk to and teach.

After the lesson, we drove to Costco. Sister Whitaker was wearing a darling, very warm pair of boots and I wanted to get a pair. It's always so hard to find shoes that fit, but these boots fit perfectly. They came in US sizes so it was easy to find a pair. They are not only cute, but very warm - will be wonderful when the cold weather hits.

Wednesday, November 2

Still not feeling well. Devon went to District Meeting while I stayed home to put final touches on my lesson for tonight and rest! Took all the drugs I could before my lesson and still had a major coughing spell in the middle of it - too much talking for my throat and voice. Oh well, other than the coughing, I think the lesson went well. We had a very successful Advisory Council meeting. Love seeing progress!

Friday, November 4

I'm feeling better, but now Devon is starting to get sick, so we stayed in most of the day. I caught up on laundry and house work - also made some banana nut muffins to take to Chill Night. We only had about 10 kids at Chill Night, but it was soooo much fun! President Griffiths was there hanging out while his son was in a Seminary meeting. He played Bananagrams and Uno with us and had a ball! Also Elder Donaldson, our Area Seventy, was there for the Seminary meeting. He and Brother McMorn (our S&I Director) watched us play games and ate muffins and brownies. It was really a fun evening!

Found out some hard news today. Lori, our daughter with six beautiful children ages 13 to 1, has been to two different orthopedic doctors for opinions regarding her back pain. Both agree she needs back surgery NOW. I was hoping it could wait until I was home, but that is not an option. Without it she is facing serious nerve damage. It has hit me hard to think I can't be there when she needs me, and I know she is concerned about how things will work out, too. After tears, prayers, and thought, I realize I must put it in the Lord's hands to inspire family and friends to fill my spot. Her siblings have assured me they will come to the rescue - still my heart aches to be there!

Saturday, November 5 - GUY FAWKES NIGHT

Guy Fawkes was involved in an attempt to blow up the House of Lords in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was part of a group that wanted to bring Catholicism back to England. His job was to guard the gunpowder stored under the House of Lords. Someone tipped off the guards and Guy Fawkes was captured, tortured, confessed, and sentenced to die by hanging. However, he jumped from the gallows, prior to the hanging, broke his neck and died. Many communities celebrate this event every year on November 5th with a huge bonfire where they often burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes. This event is followed by a big fireworks display.

Today also happened to be the five stake YSA volleyball tournament. They have them twice a year, and this time it was in Leicester (about an hour's drive from Birmingham). There have been three tournaments, that I know of. Birmingham won the first two and Coventry won the last. Each of the 5 stakes can assemble as many as three teams and the games go on all day. The final round was between very evenly matched Birmingham and Coventry teams. Birmingham won the first match. Coventry won the second. The third and final match see-sawed back and forth going into extra points. But in the end Coventry won. I was really proud of our kids. They played hard as a team and showed great sportsmanship.
L to R: John, Jonathan, Kynna, Lauren, Amanda, Sharoon
Back row L to R: Darren, Tom, Owen, Joseph - Front row L to R: Stephanie, Hannah, Lucy.
L to R: Josh, Jared, Tina, Kezia, Lauren, Jonny.
 Above: our three teams. Below: most of the Birmingham YSA that were present.
Back Row L to R: Stephanie, Tina, Lucy, Tom, Hannah, Jonny, Tristin, Erin, Jonathan, Darren, Sharoon, Jared, Joseph, Jared, Andrew - Kneeling row L to R: Josh, Lauren, Kezia, Amanda, Lauren - Front row L to R: John, Kynna, Sarah, Laura, Owen, Marietta.
After the games, we went with the kids to grab a bite at KFC/Burger King. Some of them went to one of their houses and set off backyard fireworks. We just went home. While driving home we could see fireworks going off in many communities around the motorway. 


Devon is officially sick. All the shouting and cheering at the volleyball game didn't help either of us. He got up and drove me to church, then went back home to sleep. Church was great! After Fast and Testimony meeting the Harborne YSA had a "break the fast." I was assigned to bring bread, so I made a half recipe of Arlene Keysor's good French bread (two large loaves). That has to be one of my favorite recipes. I use my Bosche mixer at home, but here all I have is a hand mixer with dough hooks. They work surprisingly well and the bread was a big hit. I mixed it up at home, and baked it in the oven at church, which was sort of mean as the smell of freshly baked bread was throughout the building. There were probably 20 YSA at the meal.

In the evening we met the sisters and elders at the home of two of our less active YSA from China - Diana and Ian. Sister Louis from  India was in charge of the dinner. We had tomato curry over rice, fried potatoes, hard boiled eggs, some kind of Indian tortilla-type large flat cracker, and chocolate chip cookies (guess what I brought?!). The elders had to leave after dinner, but we had a nice lesson by Sister Whitaker and then played a card game. It was really fun. Today we also enjoyed talking with Matthew and hearing all about his birthday, and Skyping with some of our other kids and their families.