Saturday, August 28, 2010

What more could you ask for?

Hello dearest family!!

So, am i gathering correctly that Jamaica might be another "slice of heaven?" (not to exceed the heavenness of the convent of course....) How's the rest of the gang doin?! Is Halle the only one ready for school to start? (who is your French teacher going to be this year hals?) and OMG Matthew!!! I just realized this morning that you are going to be a freshman!!!!! oh my gosh!!!! did you have mom help you pick out your first day outfit? Joshy man, who is your teacher going to be? Johnny bravo--what classes are you taking? and nice job with that dubs win! Tara dear--I don't know how you have survived the summer; you are seriously a trooper. side note--i finished your letter and im putting it in the mail TODAY. Ok, also, I'm dying to know what the new family theme is, so someone needs to get on that STAT!

Anyway, this last week has been a crazy blur! Monday night we had FHE at Soeur Nikiema's house again, and remember how I told you I cleaned out the front closet? Well, while sifting through the "stuff," I found this photo album that looked like something she would like (she loves pictures and has pack rat tendencies--especially when it comes to missionary relics), so i thought "hey, why not?! she'll love it." So, we get to her house and I give it to her and she's all excited, and then adds, "Hmmm. That's so bizarre. I gave a book exactly like this one to one of the sisters a few years ago." Oops. Live and learn right?!

Tuesday we set a baptismal date with Antoine. He is seriously one of the most humble people I have ever met and is going to be such a solid member! We went into the rendez-vous with a date in mind, which he accepted wholeheartedly, but then was like, "or even sooner if you want!" I am way excited for him!!

And we got a text from Malala inviting us to come over and talk to her and her family about what we do as missionaries. I forgot to tell you this story, but way back at the fete des voisins, I was talking to one of our neighbors and found out they liked singing and music. So, I told her I played the piano and she was like, "you two should come over and play the piano and sing with the family." I said that would be great, but we didn't make definite plans that night. Then we ran into her a couple weeks ago on the street and I brought it up and she was super excited and we set a night. So, she and her family are from Madagascar and they are awesome--an adorable family! And it turns out that lots of the well-known hymns in madagascar are ones that are also in our hymnbook. So, we played and sang hymns for a while, and had a good time. But that night, we couldn't really figure out how to tactfully bring up the small detail that we wanted to teach and baptize them. So the next day we took a treat and a thank you card over and said that we had a short message and movie that we wanted to share with them about why we are here as missionaries for our church, so to let us know if we could come over some time to watch it with them. And Tuesday we got a text from the Mom asking what night we could come over?!!! Interesting how many different ways you can do "finding." And who knows how it'll turn out, but I'm excited to see, rather hear!

And then Wednesday, at 7:10 a.m., I moved to Paris Lilas!! You would seriously die if you saw where our apartment is. We are right down the street from the Bastille and live on this super chic upper-middle-class-hang-out type street. We ran around Victor Hugo's house the other morning. But, my two favorite runs so far have been down to Nation and to Notre Dame. Of course these runs are kickin my behind, but not gonna lie--it's pretty sweet running along the Seine down to Notre Dame! It might take a couple weeks to work up to the Champs-Elysees run, but I'm definitely lookin forward to it. AND, as if the location wasn't good enough, the shower head actually squirts in a uniform direction. (I had almost forgotten that those existed.) And my companion, Sister England, is awesome! Seriously--what more could you ask for?!

I'll be honest, neither one of us is very clear about what our area boundaries actually are, but essentially we cover half of Paris and a little more of the northeastish border. (yeah, that is sounding a little vague...maybe we should ask around about that. haha.) At the moment we don't really have any investigators, but it's gonna be a good transfer. We're going to work hard, smart and just going to expect miracles! And they are already happening! Yesterday a member showed up to church with a friend, Helene Beatrice, who she introduced to us by saying, "This is my friend. She wants to be taught and baptized." Well.....pleased to meet you Helene!! And, there are other good things happening. I've been saying I wanted to step up my contacting skills anyway, so heck--pretty good time to practice!

Oh, and I had my first kiss in a while. His name is Olivier. He's four. We were over teaching the family (they are less-active at the moment), and at the end I guess he was leaning over to give me a bisous on the cheek, but I wasn't paying attention and turned my head and he got me right on the lips. It was absolutely hilarious because he sat there rubbing his lips off for like two minutes afterwards! Needless to say, I've been warmly welcomed into the ward! It is kind of weird getting to know a new ward, but Sister England knows the ins-and-outs (this is her fourth transfer here), so I've got it easy.

Anyway, life is great. Sure love being a missionary and am sure grateful for such an awesome family. (Side note Dad: i'll be honest--I have no idea what the word 'tome' means. Germane you have hammered in enough times, but this must be a new favorite word. Mind enlightening me? Still eating cereal at 930 pm sharp every night?!) Sorry, I don't have time to write more, but it's Paris P-day, so sisters are coming in to meet us at Les Invalides for a picnic and to see the Army (WWII) Museum. Love you!!! Miss you!!!! Hope you have a great week!

Love you lots and lots,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

That Just Happened!

What up gang?!!!!

How are you all doin?!! I'm gonna go out on a limb and venture that the Jamaican sun isn't treatin ya too badly! I hope you are profiting (as they say here--"profitez du soleil"), because if anyone deserved a vacation it was you two!!! goodness. Well, the verdict is in--I'm heading to Paris Lilas to serve with Sister England!! It's kinda the north-east paris area, I believe. I am excited to get to work there. But, for now I am still way excited about what is goin down in St. Ouen!

I was going to tell this one at the end, but it's just too great to wait. So, last week we got onto a bus and this man asked if we were Mormon, so we started talking. (I'll be honest, the salutation 'are you mormon' does not always end as well as this one did. haha) Turned out, he knew the church really well, because his brother is a big church leader in the Congo and he, Antoine, had been in contact with missionaries (im assuming missionaries, but i'm not quite sure to be honest) in Nogent and Mantes-la-Jolie years ago. Anyway, we exchanged information, but he just said he'd come to church and didn't want to fix a rdv. He said he didn't know if he could come that Sunday, but would come by. So he didn't come that first Sunday, but then we ran into him on the bus again (he lives just a few stops away from us), and he was like k i'm coming for sure this week, and of course, I'm like "ok great!," while really thinking, "yeah.....if i had a nickel for every time i've heard that....." k i totally fit the 'oh ye of little faith' category--so should have been struck down!

Fast forward a few days and we're doing an hour of spiritual finding in Neuilly and we contact this guy named Etienne. He seemed interested, but was very insistent on 'petit a petit,' so he wasn't keen on giving us his number. But, we invited him to pray about the things we talked about, invited him to church, and left him with a card with our number and the address to the church. Well, yeah, you can imagine how humbled I felt when both Antoine and Etienne came walking into church at 9 am Sunday morning!!!! They stayed for all three hours, received a warm welcome from the members, and really had a good experience. (And the fact that there was more than one mention of baptisms for the dead didn't seem to bother either of them!!)

After church we had a short rdv with antoine and he was like, "I'll be honest I have had worldly success (he's a cardiologist)--money, houses, cars, etc.....but none of that brought me happiness. I felt like I built my house on the sand and then the winds came and everything just fell to pieces." (I guess his wife kind of took advantage of him, so he has recently gone through a divorce.) He said that he is now taking some time to get some perspective, sort out his priorities, and he is grateful to get to try again. This time he is going to build on the rock, putting God first. And he wants to see things all the way through with the church this time, because he knows it's good. So, he's praying about it, and we're going to set a baptismal date with him on Tuesday!

Another lady randomly showed up to check out our church, because she was mad at her pastor (uh......), but long story short, I don't think we'll be seeing her again. But, the Miracle of 2010 is alive and well in St. Ouen! The elders have two baptismal dates (one of them is moving to paris lilas' area though soon) and we have two more as well. Certainly it has nothing to do with us, but it is definitely rewarding to just get to be part of the team. After church and our meetings, Sister Bellini and I walked out of the building and were like, "That Just Happened!!!" (John i totally thought of you when i said it.) Seriously, it was awesome!

In other news, Tina is doing well, but she'll be en vacances for the next couple weeks. We saw her the night before she left and the lesson went great. I said a quick good-bye, but it still kinda felt like one of those dagger-to-the-heart, with a quarter turn, experiences. But, hey gotta know the pain to know the joy right?!

Oh, a funny contact this week--I ran up and stopped this guy, introduced ourselves, and then he just took off and started in like we had been in the middle of a conversation. He is an inventor, and totally of the "absent minded professor" type. He was spouting off about divine numbers and number combinations (mostly 3s and 9s--ie dieu, jesus christ, saint esprit), and also about how he was working on a gas fuel source so we would no longer have to use petroleum....? Anyway, the conversation ended shortly after he was like, "ya know, I think I'm gonna start my own church." And I'm totally not exaggerating when i say that there was hardly a breath between the sentence discussing petroleum and the one discussing recruiting members for his new church. And then he went off mumbling about something else. Oh, just too good!!

Best Public Transportation moment of the week had to have been on the metro. I saw this guy start doing the high-priest-falling-asleep-in-church nod, and then all of a sudden he had a particularly violent nod and cracked his head on the window. He gave it a pretty good thump too. I couldn't help but smile at him a little. But, let's be real, whenever I do embarrassing things like that I'm always at least somewhat glad that someone else got to enjoy it with me! haha.

Well, sorry, kinda boring, but this week has just been a whirlwind and I can't remember many details. Oh--we did do our big transfer cleaning this week, and I took the camping motto (leave it better than you found it) to heart when it came to the front closet and the bookshelf. 6 garbage bags, 2 loads to the dumpster, and about 5 loads of laundry later, we have nicely organized sheets in the front closet, without any unnecessary-been-sitting-in-there-for-years-and-years stuff!! So, if nothing else, at least I left that legacy in St.Ouen!! hehe. Anyway, I sure love you and miss you!!!! Hope you're adventurin up the last few couple weeks of summer vacation and hope you remember that I'm always prayin for you!!

Love you lots and lots,

pss i can't really send you my talk. haha 1. i don't exactly have handy access to a little pink netbook that i can pull out of my purse, so it's hand-written, and 2. im not sure that it would do you much good anyway, being that it is in French. sorry!!
pps also, im not doin so great without stephanie these days. somehow i think my stuff is expanding!!
ppss---if you ever see Andrew, tell him I met the elder he trained!! he's doin great; he's the new greffier (one of the bureau elders)
ps4 i sent home two big envelopes with some of my letters. just keep them safe, please!
ps5 tell paige congrats!!!!! seriously so exciting! (and mike too. I guess he did play an important role after all....)
ps6 liz--thanks so much for the e-mail. laughed so hard. oh, the classic memories of the cafe rio tin and the spider nightmare!!!!
ps7--rebs--i still need your address!!!!
also, matthew--how exactly did you kill this super venomous rattlesnake before you skinned it? how is your knee? love you.
john--how did kalamazoo turn out? I hope you're bein smart. have you been eatin much ice cream lately?! love you. (and i think it's cheating to send the same letter more than once!!! hehe. you and joshy!!!)
side note, you probably know this already and may have already finished the book of mormon. But, just fyi, the first interview with your branch president in the MTC, he asks if you have read the book of mormon all the way through and if you have a testimony of it. so you have been warned!!

halle and josh love you guys
tara, i promise i started a letter to you today!! but who the heck is will scarlet??????!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just Like Laundry!

hello hello gang!!!

How are ya doin?!!! I can't believe how many different places you have been this summer. The amount of packing and unpacking and laundry and re-packing alone sounds kind of exhausting! But that is absolutely HILARIOUS about zack and keaton in michigan!!!!!! laughed out loud for like 5 straight minutes, not joking. I'm SOOO glad Dad capitalized on that opportunity. And yup next week is transfer week, so you probably shouldn't send anything else here. Unless something totally surprising happens, I should be the one transferred.) I love hearing what's going on at home!!

Anyway, the other day Sister Bellini and I were walking somewhere and I saw a super cute family or something and I said, "oh it's just like laundry!" That was, apparently, the first thing that came into my head that adequately illustrated how seeing that adorable family made me happy. Sister Bellini just laughed, because she was already well acquainted with my love, or weakness i guess, for the smell of laundry. I know that whenever we pass roses or a restaurant cooking chicken, she has to pause for 5 seconds to take savor the moment. And she knows that whenever we pass a laundromat, I have to take advantage of the moment! (We are seriously a well-oiled machine these days. Like I said, four and a half months together will do that to you!) She insists that I'll be one of those pregnant people who craves detergent or something, but I don't care--I am a firm believer that "dryer sheet" is the best scent in the world! (closely followed by a newly bleach-cleaned bathroom, of course) So, for me, passing a laundromat is just like one of those simple pleasures that make life so GREAT!! With that said, I thought I would catch you up on some of the things that have happened the last couple weeks that have been "Just Like Laundry."

1. Tina asking if we could serve non-alcoholic beer at her baptism. I'm not gonna lie, I usually try to maintain some semblance of the whole "dignity of your calling" thing, but when she said that, I just about ended up on the floor laughing!

2. One evening, Sister Bellini and I are looking up addresses for the next day in our banlieu, and she goes, "Hey how close do we live to Avenue Georges Clemenceau?" To which I tried to respond with a straight face, "Well....we live on Avenue Georges close." Considering we have lived on Avenue Georges Clemenceau for about the last 3 months, it's probably a good thing I'm usually the one who navigates!! Can't help but love her

3. Having an investigator with three children, whose names are (and i am not joking) as follows: Precious, Happiness, and Blessing. Precious is the boy, in case you were wondering.

4. another laundry moment was having a woman contact US on a bus because she is our fellow "sister in christ" and wanted to exchange cards (which means that she did in fact have a card). Gotta love african evangelists! But hey, this one said she'd be interested in hearing our message at least, so you never know!

5. Managing to hold my own in District Around-the-World-Ping-Pong. J&M are you proud?! Nyloned-feet add an extra slippage element to running around the table, let me tell ya, but hey, just makes it more fun!

6. Seeing the primary answers work a miracle in someone's life is definitely like laundry. We had been working with Yrina (young adult less-active) for a while, but can I just say how great it feels not to be needed anymore?! From that first rendezvous, she almost seems like a completely different person. She has let go of a lot of hate and heavy stuff and let the Atonement work on her, and she just seems so much lighter and happier. It was a testimony to me that the we learn the "primary answers" for a reason! Scriptures, prayer, coming to church, and studying the simple doctrines are powerful tools that we have!

This last week we had kind of an enduring to the end lesson and then talked about Moroni's Title of Liberty and the things in our own lives that are worth fighting for. One of the things she said she wanted to fight for was the right to be married in the temple. She says she knows it'll take time and work and preparation, but now she knows that she doesn't want to settle for anything less. My heart was absolutely full!!! I am so happy for her and so impressed with how hard she has worked and how far she has come. (I just feel so spoiled to get to know such great people!)

7. Having Tina show up to church not scantily clad!! (k, i had a chat with her about it before, but still with her you just NEVER know!!) And on top of that, fast and testimony meeting was amazing! The spirit was so strong and it was one of those moments when you sit back and are just so proud to be a member of the Church and surrounded by such stalwart saints! That was like a double dryer sheet day.

8. Going up to greet the 100-yr-old Sister in our ward as she walked into church and having her say, "Well, I forgot my glasses and my hearing aids. So, I can't see you or hear you, but darn it I'm here," just made me grin. (K and I'm not exaggerating about the one hundred thing, this darling stubborn old lady was born in 1910!!)

9. Doing exchanges in Belgium again this week was great! Soeur Bagwell and I had a lot of fun porting this adorable street out in the suburbs of liege. Mom--you would have died!!

10. Going up to ask a blind man if he needs help and having him be like, "yeah, do you have any cigarettes?" I'll be honest--so annoying! But the irony of it was certainly deserving of a laundry moment. We had our hands full, including lugging a suitcase up a huge staircase in Saint Lazare, but we saw this blind man walking around bumping into people, so I was like, well he looks like he could use some help. So, we walk back to where he was and ask if he needs help finding a train and turns out he was going around bumping into people, on purpose, in order to ask for cigarettes. so lame!!!

11. Another laundry moment had to have been the overwhelming relief that came when i was walking to sit back down after giving my first Sacrament talk in French. You know how I feel about talks in general, so I'm sure you can imagine how pleased I was when the "little service" I readily accepted from the bishopric member was to give a talk on Sunday. ugh, so glad that is done!! But, hey I'm counting my blessings because Elder Perez was asked to do one in a couple weeks on "les Reserves"..... ie Food Storage. haha, so he may be francophone, but still!!!

12. Ok and the last laundry moment of the week was definitely showing up to Tina's apartment and having her present us with gifts from the Angel boutique that included angel incense, a copy of the page in her book describing each of our guardian angels, and an illustration of the angel talisman of power!! I promise we have been sticking to the simple lessons and she knows the first 3 lessons and the big commandments inside and out, but somehow she has still had this obsession with angels lately. She then proceeded to tell us that we could burn the incense while we prayed to invoke the power of our guardian angels.

We said thank you and that our next lesson would be a review of the doctrine of prayer (to include a clarification on who exactly it is that we pray to)!! It's just Tina. You just love her and are so frustrated by her all at the same time! Only frustrated because you get all ready to give her a "talking to" and then she pulls out a super sincere and profound testimony of Joseph Smith or something and instead you're like, "hey can i hug you?!" She is doing great though, and we are so proud of the changes she is making in her life. Honestly there are just too many laundry moments with her to even begin to illustrate how awesome she is. I am very blessed to have been able to get to know her and see her progress towards baptism!! so so lucky!

Anyway, family, life is great and full of lots of laundry!! I don't know a whole lot, but I do know that I am so lucky to get to share my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ every day, because it is truly the way to be happy. I'm sure grateful for you guys!! I don't know how you're keeping up with everything going on over there, but I love hearing about it. Hope you have a great week!!

Love you lots and lots,


p.s. you know what's ironic--as much as I love the smell of laundry, it is still definitely not my favorite chore

pss to MOM: cant believe you got shingles. what the heck? are you still in pain?!! that sounded terrible. no more stressing!!!! hilarious about kirk. And poor kate!

and side note: mom,what you said at the end of your e-mail letter last week made me think of the grey's anatomy when christina tells meredith that she is "her person" (because she had put her number as the emergency contact when she was going to the hospital). As funny as the context is, the scence is actually super cute cuz it's the first time christina ever says anything like sentimental or even close to disclosing feelings. But, I have decided that you are "my person!" So you can either be flattered that should the need for me to be in the hospital ever arise, you'd be the first on the emergency contact list, OR you can just know that I love you lots and am grateful to have the relationship that we do. Take it either way!! but, miss you mommy dearest. try not to swallow a bee in san antonio.

ps3 last week for pday we went to sacre coeur and then followed that up with a nice pop up at the moulin rouge. the irony of their close proximity is just too good.