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.