Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the Light of the World

That which is of God is light
and he that receiveth light,
and continueth in God,
receiveth more light;

and that light groweth
brighter and brighter!
until the perfect day.

And again, verily I say unto you,
and I say it that you may know the truth,
that you may chase darkness from among you.

(Doctrine and Covenants 50:24-25)

May your holydays be merry and bright!

love this: What Shall We Give?



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fa la la la la

We went to the funeral of the mother of a woman in the ward. The mother has been sick for a really long time. It was in a cemetery and was only 30 minutes long, very simple. I cried the whole time. I was thinking about Lana, and then about my grandparents and my parents and the others that might go before me into the next room, and I thought about how tender these relationships are to me. I have a family here on earth. They are so good to me.

This week we were office sisters. Meaning we were at the beck and call of the assistants and the office elders. We spent all day Monday helping the new missionaries around. Then Tuesday we got all 11 new missionaries to the office by 7:30 in the morning. Then we went running to the gare to get the trainers who were coming in. That is the 007 part of my job--running up and down train platforms in Europe trying to find lost missionaries--"Her train comes in in 2 minutes? Do we know which platform?!" "Elder, you have 3 minutes to get to your platform! Gooo!" "Has anyone seen Sister Smith? She didn't get off the train, and she doesn't have a cell phone--call her zone leaders and see if they have heard from her!" "The train from Dijon is en retard 20 minutes? That means he'll miss his next train. Is there another that leaves tonight?!" It's all really dramatic (not really, but maybe in the life of a missionary it is.) and all really fun.

We had the ward Christmas party this week. They asked us the missionaries to do the spiritual thought. So naturally we did the nativity scene. Because we are in the apartment with a bazillion beds, we of course have tons and tons of sheets. So we wrapped everyone up like angels and wisemen and shepherds. It's amazing how many different ways you can wrap a sheet :) Soeur Vidal read Luke 2 while I played hymns in the background. And Mary and Joseph came in, ringing a sheep bell, and asking people if they could sit by them (there was really no room, the chapel was STUFFED). And it was actually really touching. The bell made all the difference.

The wise men and shepherds threw candy out at the crowd as they were walking towards Bethlehem (and the audience loved that), and we sang hymns throughout. One of the sisters wrapped herself up in lights and was the star that went before the wisemen. The whole thing was really lovely--the perfect mix of spiritual and delightful. At the end, Soeur Vidal bore her testimony and read Ether 12:41--

And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.

Then we all ate cheese and sausage and bread and clementine oranges.

This morning I was reading a talk by Elder Christofferson called "Redemption" I think. It was from the April Conference. He talks about the Atonement. I've never really understood when people say, "I made it through that hard time because of the Atonement." Or things like, "Apply the Atonement in your life." How does one do that exactly? Elder Christofferson says:

The Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane and His agony on the cross redeem us from sin by satisfying the demands that justice has upon us. He extends mercy and pardons those who repent. The Atonement also satisfies the debt justice owes to us by healing and compensating us for any suffering we innocently endure. “For behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.”

I realized when I read that that because the Savior experienced the Atonement, he knows how to succor us. Because he suffered what we suffer, he knows exactly what will help in every situation. He knows the antidote to pain, to loneliness, to confusion, to sorrow, to debt, to insecurity, to anger, to embarrassment, to mockery, to all of it. So when we experience those things, He is capable of healing us, because He has been there and He knows what we need to feel better and get better. We apply the Atonement when we believe that He can do that. Seeing the Atonement at work in your life really just means seeing the tender mercies that the Lord gives you, that are specific to you and your situation, and realizing that He is able to know how to specifically succor you because of what he suffered in Gethsemane.

I love the Savior.


Us sisters waiting for our training meeting to start. At first we weren't cold. Then we got really cold. And then an hour later the building was opened and we could go inside (I'm only early when I don't end up needing to be.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thankful

It's the last week of the transfer...I've been in Lyon for three (the same amount of time I was in Bayonne), and I've been with Soeur Vidal for two transfers (the most I've ever been with anyone), so I'm thinking something is going to change next transfer. To be honest, what I really want is to go to some tiny village in the mountains and trudge around in the snow and knock on doors for a transfer. all day yesterday, I was thinking, "I don't think I can do this sister training leader thing for another transfer." I feel like I've given all the advice and love I know how to give, and I'm running a little empty. Not so much in a selfish way, but just in "I think my battery has lost its charge" kind of way. Time to recharge before I can be useful to anyone again. Preferably I want to recharge in a little mountain village with lots of snow where we're the only missionaries for miles. Hahaha. But then right after I thought of a story I read about Spencer W Kimball once when he was called to be prophet, and how he battled for a long time with it because he felt he wasn't qualified (obviously this is a bit of a stretch of a comparison.). That's mostly how I feel lately though--that I don't know exactly how to help the sisters I work with, and I feel there are so many other people who really could do a much better job. But then I thought of those stories, and I thought, "Well, if this is where He wants me, then He'll help me do what He needs me to do." I read a scripture in 2 Timothy 1:9 this morning:

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.


So that makes me feel better. If I'm called to do this another transfer, He'll teach me what I need to do and how.

This week we've been sharing Mosiah 3:1-9 with a lot of families when we visit them. We're talking and teaching about ministering. I love verse 6, that says that Jesus cast out devils...or in OTHER words, the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men. We see this all the time, in ourselves and in others--evil spirits of loneliness and selfishness and miserliness and worry and frustration and grudge-holding and bitterness and fear and self-consciousness and shame and sorrow... I mean, Coldplay calls these things "death and all of his friends." And this is what the Savior does--He chases all these things out of our hearts. And this is what we have power to do, as his disciples, to chase these things out of people's hearts. This is ministering. And so we're asking people who they know who is sad or weak or lonely or scared and needs healing.

Thanksgiving...well, we had district meeting,; then when to a friend's house and ate...curry and nems! (Nems are like egg rolls. They're super good and French people (or maybe just French Mormons, not sure yet) are OBSESSED with them. We made them at a ward activity a couple weeks ago, and there were HUNDREDS left over, so a bunch of members took them home and froze them. Then this week (hahaha) we've been fed nems every time we go to a member's house. Best.) The day was pretty tranquil...didn't really do anything special, actually. 

Funny story of the week: a man on the metro accused me of being a spy. He was like, "My brother works for Interpol. Do you know that the Mormons are spies? Yep. They have a bio on every person living in Europe. They are SPIES." And I was like, "Actually, Monsieur, that is not true." with a big smile on my face. And he was like, "Well you don't know about it, but it's true. You're a spy." And I was like, "Actually...I'm a missionary." Him: "Well I'm a missionary too. But we don't do missionary work in the same way." Me, laughing: "You're right, you accuse people of being spies! I'm just trying to invite you to learn about Jesus Christ!" Hahahaha the whole conversation was HILARIOUS. And kinda sad that he really believes that. But it's okay, he's going to have a really awesome experience with the Spirit one day and then he'll have a good story to tell his grandchildren.

Merry December!

Monday, November 25, 2013

So this is what it feels like to live in a classy apartment in France

We found out late last night that we were moving apartments. An emergency move. They've been wanting to put us in a big apartment for a while because there are always people staying with us for exchanges, for coming into the mission, for leaving the mission, and we have not the space! So finally last night it happened. We threw all of our stuff into our suitcases as fast as we could and moved a couple of streets over (dramatic, huh) and now live int he classiest apartment in all of France. Let me just describe it, because it is soon going to be filled with 10 triple bunkbeds (TRIPLE. they're turning us into the Lyon Barracks), so I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts! You walk past a fruitstand and come to tall, thick, double wooden doors. We push those open into a big marble entry way to the building. There's a skinny elevator and cold marble stairs that spiral up into the building and an old wooden handrail. On each floor, there are tall windows, the glass so old it's wobbly and thick in places. Outside there is a chimneyed house with ivy crawling up the side and the red tile roof and the brick chimney. The ivy leaves are changing color with the seasons. And then our apartment--chevronned wooden floors that creak and that have woodworm lines in them. A bedroom with tall Cinderella windows and drapes, a fireplace and marble mantle with a huge mirror above it. Old doorknobs, old keyholes and keys in every room. Beauty-and-the-Beast-tall ceilings, and another fireplace in the parlor. Lovely. A walk-in closet. Parlor room window that open out to lacy wrought iron balconycages and a street beneath lined with big French autumn trees.


That's all, just livin the highlife. :)

Now here are the really beautiful things from this week: 

There's a family that an old missionary recommended we try to go see. We've gone before, but it's impossible to get into their building. They live in an apartment, and to get into the building you have to have a badge that opens the door. In other words there's no way to even ring their apartment and have them let us in. So we kinda gave up on it. Well a few days ago we walked back kinda by their house, and I thought, "Maybe we should just see if the door is open." So we walked by...it wasn't open, but RIGHT AT THAT VERY SECOND, the man who puts magazines in all the mailboxes came by. He opened the door and didn't care that we followed him in :) So we went up all the floors looking for their name on the door. Finally we found it, and they opened and they are wonderful! They were so happy to see us, and they gave us their number and we're going to see them later this week! That really was a miracle though, that of all that night, the one man who would let us in happened to be there at the very second we were pushing on the door trying to get in. Best.

My other favorite part of this week was doing genealogy with a grandpa who is incredible. He called us because he really really wanted to do his geneaology...so we set up a RDV and oh lala he brought a big folder full of pictures and letters and driving licenses from the 1910s, pictures of his school class back in 1940, and better yet, stories. His ancestors were clockmakers in western France, but then they were forced to moved to Switzerland for religious reasons (along with many other clockmakers, apparently), and that's one reason there are so many incredible French clockmakers that are based in Switzerland. He said these ancestors (we're talking around the 1800s) had a family clock on the mantlepiece that got passed from generation to generation, and each generation would inscribe on the back their name and their life dates...so they got a ton of genealogy info from this clock! It had generations and generations of father-son carved into the back of it.

These are my favorite scriptures this week: Doctrine and Covenants 7:

 1 And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.

 2 And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.

 3 And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

 4 And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.

 5 I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.

 6 Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.

 7 And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.

8 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.

I love verse 8--you'll both have according to your desires, because they're both good and they'll both bring you joy! When I first read this chapter, I thought what the Savior was saying in verse 4 and 5 was, "John desired something better than you did, Peter, so he's going to be better off in the end." But actually he's just saying, "Don't compare yourself, Peter! John wanted to do this thing, and he'll have joy in it, and what you asked for is wonderful too, and I'll give you both what you asked for, because you're going to find joy in it!" Looks like we can have our cake and eat it too. Oh how he loves us.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lyonlily

Cool things that happened:

We got off the bus and went to meet up with a lady, but we were early, so we went back to talk to the lady at the bus stop. The conversation went like this:

"Hi, we're missionaries for Jesus Christ--"

"Jesus Christ! I love Jesus Christ! Okay! Tell me!"

(we start smiling because she's just so enthusiastic and happy to hear who we are.)

"Well, would you like to learn more about our Church?"

"Yes! Do you baptize in your church?"

"Yes!"

"Okay, I really want to get baptized. I am READY. I know I need to be baptized to live with Jesus Christ again, and I want to live with Him. Can I please be baptized?"

(                       )

"Yes! Will you prepare yourself to be baptized?"

"Yes! How long will it take for me to be ready?"

"A month and a half, two months or so, probably."

"Oh good, another church told me I have to wait two and a half years. That is too long."

My companion and I walked away giggling. She was so full of light and happiness.

Another night, we invited our ami over to a member's house to have dinner and a lesson. During the lesson, she says, "I just feel really strange now--during our lessons and when I read the Book of Mormon, I just...want to cry, it's so beautiful! I feel really warm inside!" Then after the lesson, we took a little tour of the house, and in one of the rooms, there was a painting of the second coming of Christ, the one with all the angels around him. And our ami asked about it. We explained, "That's a painting of when Christ comes again to the earth." Ou ami said, "Is it really going to happen like that?"  And we told her yes, and she literally almost fell over laughing for joy and grabbed my arm and said, "Oh, Soeur Carter! C'est trop beau! That makes me want to cry!" and then she got big tears of joy in her eyes. She is wonderful.

Third, I love this scripture and what it teaches us about the character of our Heavenly Father:

Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.   (D&C 29:5)

I just want you all to know I love this Gospel. It helps us be happy. It helps us live our lives in a way that produces joy and peace.


Here are some pictures too:
1.) Went to a park that had carousels! Oh man I was in heaven.
2.) Then there's some chocolate too. Most beautiful chocolate I've ever seen.
3.) Then one day we were taking the trash out and the bag ripped open and down the stairs went a lot of gross stuff. Bleh. But funny. We laughed a lot.


PS: Sexy Sax Man is playing in the internet cafe where I am. I cannot escape this song.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire


Guess what we ate last night. CHESTNUTS ROASTED ON AN OPEN FIRE. People do that here in France!!! You gather chestnuts in parks and forests and sidewalks and wherever else there are chestnut trees and then you stick them in a big pot and put it on the fire. The shells start popping open and turning dark brown, and then you can peel the shells off and eat them with butter. Oh la la. We had dinner at the bishop's house last night and first we ate pumpkin soup with pears and creme fraiche (it's like sour cream but really more like nectar from the gods) and chives on top (delicious) and then they brought out pot after pot of chestnuts and we all sat around shelling and eating chestnuts and butter and drinking apple cider. This is what heaven is. You better believe when I come back I'm bringing this tradition with me.

We also ate at another family's house this week who are wonderful. This is a video about the dad. 

    http://mormon.org/fabrice   ( turn on English captions )

At dinner we talked about Nephi and prayer and how no matter what happens--death even--we have a Father in heaven who loves us and a Savior who has power in him to bring back from the dead and to forgive our sins so we can advance in life.

Our ami came to church this week for the first time and she loved it. She took out her notebook during Sunday School and was taking notes about the temple and the gospel and family history. After sacrament, she couldn't stop smiling and said, "This is amazing. Don't worry, I will be back next Sunday." 

With our other ami we've been reading the Book of Mormon together with him every day almost. He has a hard time understanding the language sometimes, so we read verse by verse and he asks questions. The other day we were reading in 1 Nephi somewhere and he cuts me off and says, "Yeah but, what I wanna know is, how do I have strong enough faith to become like Jesus Christ?" Oh Promise. The question of the century! We were teaching with a member and she bore testimony really simpply and really eloquently that in living the gospel day to day, our hearts are changed, and over time, we become like Jesus Christ. He loves being around the young adults--he came every night this week to institute. (Institute class is in French. He doesn't speak any French. That's how much he loves the spirit at the institute building and the spirit of the young adults there, how warm and welcoming and happy they are.)

Our goal as missionaries is to help turn people away from the devil, to help them change the way they live, so that they can be happier. Because the way we live determines our happiness. There are eternal principles that a loving God in heaven who knows how our spirits and our bodies work better than we do has taught us that lead to happy days and hours lives.

I'm learning this week something called, "If I don't do it, no one will." I found myself very often this week being hesitant to do things--hesitant to talk to people, hesitant to ask for things, hesitant to lead off on things. I was waiting for someone else who is more experienced than I am, wiser than I am, better than I am to lead out. That's meekness after all, right? And I'm working on being more meek. But then I realized it isn't really meekness. I still don't know how meekness and strong leadership work with one another, but I do know this--I need to live in a way where I lead out, on setting examples, on being brave, on getting stuff done. I tell myself, "Well, if I don't do it, no one will." and even though that probably isn't true, it helps me be brave when I am scared. Or when I am lazy. Which maybe after all we'll see are the same things.

Here's a scripture I love this week: John 18:3-4

3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

There's something in this about Christ's character--that he knows beforehand what will happen, andhe goes out to meet them. He's anticipating this horrible, painful, terrifying moment, and he has prepared himself enough that he knows what he will do and say, so that even here in this moment, he can act in a dignified manner. He can act, and not be acted upon. I hope to be like this someday, master of myself enough that when others come to hurt, insult, or attack me, I can remain in control of myself, I can be graceful, I can be dignified. CS Lewis said something like it's in moments of extremity like this that our true selves are revealed. What here is revealed of Christ? Not panic, cowardice, anger, but divinity.

Here's a quote about service that I like:

"The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!" (Spencer W Kimball)

Pray for magical things. 

Find people around you and make friends.

People are so quick to smile.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Praying works

Speaking of missionary work and faith, we're trying to work really hard, but let's be honest, we aren't perfect and even on days with our best intentions, we aren't perfectly effective or efficient. Our prayers aren't perfect, our contacting isn't perfect, our teaching isn't perfect. Not even our "trying" is perfect some moments. But we keep on with our faces to the sun, as they say. Mostly we are praying and dreaming and hoping for miracles. We've seen so many. This week a young man showed up at the institute and wanted to learn more. He asked us at the Halloween party how he could get baptized. At Church on Sunday he leaned over and asked me if we could meet with him the next day to help him understand the Book of Mormon better, because there are words he doesn't know in it. So last night, we all sat side by side with our books of Mormon and read and helped him with words he doesn't understand, and I got to explain in very very basic terms the story of the Book of Mormon, so he'd know where it came from and why it's important. That was a special experience. I feel so special and honored to be someone at this moment who Heavenly Father lets see miracles like this. Sometimes I feel like we just walk around all day seeing miracles.

And speaking of miracles, something really beautiful happened this last week: we had a dream day set up--lots of lessons set up and lots of good good things we set out to do that day. Guess what. Every single thing fell through. And on top of that all, we felt really tired and horrible all day and we just kept thinking, "This isn't normal. What is happening?" Well, a couple of weeks ago, President told us that he's been praying for us specifically by name, me and Soeur Vidal, every day. So when we had this day where all the powers of hell it seemed were dragging us down, my first thought was, "I bet President didn't pray for us today." We saw him the day after actually, and we asked him. And guess what. He said, "You know. To be honest, yesterday I was doing interviews all day. And I forgot. It's the first day I haven't." First, I'm always a little skeptical when people say, "Will you pray for me?" Usually inside, I'm like, "Yeah, that's a nice gesture but it doesn't do a whole lot." Well, I don't feel that way anymore. I have never seen such a stark contrast. The prayers of others do so much. We are carried day to day on the prayers and faith of others it seems. I think of Enos and the sons of Mosiah and Alma and all the prayers of their parents that saved their very lives at times (see Alma 17:35). Thank you for your prayers!

1. At the halloween party

2. We went to Valence for an afternoon to help teach someone (long story). But look at this pretty building!

3. And look at that castle on a hill with ominous clouds. I live in France. There are castles.

Photo added by Mom: November Ensign pg 66 France Lyon Missionaries.  The Elder two over on  her right is her dear cousin, Elder Kevin Foote!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Still in Lyon

It's the start of a new transfer! I'm still in Lyon (yeah!) and they gave us another ward to work with, so now we are at church all day on Sundays, and get to keep teaching all the cool people that we find that didn't live in our ward boundaries before. It's wonnnnderrrrful.

Our miracle of the week was when we were on the metro and we said to a lady,"Hi" and she said "Hi, I've spoken with missionaries before. I want to learn more." We have a rendezvous with her tonight.

We also had a baptism this week! He is a friend of a member in our ward who is wonderful. We started teaching him about a month ago. He's been coming to church since April but hasn't let the missionaries teach him. Well for some reason he let me and Soeur Bicchierri teach him one afternoon, after a baptism that he'd serendipitously showed up for. And we prayed together that lesson on our knees and he cried for how strong he felt the Spirit and the love of the Lord. And then from there we taught him all the time. At first he said, "Yeah, I know the Church is true. I've already read the Book of Mormon and there's no other way to get back to God except for baptism. There's no other way. I'll get baptized because there's no other way. But not for two or three years." Heh heh heh. The cool thing was that we decided then and there to just teach with love and hope that the Spirit would push him to be courageous enough to be baptized early. Because he's already living all the commandments and he's already incredible and it's time. Well one thing led to another and this Friday he was baptized! He's wonderful wonderful.

There are some chapters in Job I'd like to recommend everyone reads: Job 38 until Job 40:10. Look for how the Lord chastises Job, and then how immediately after Job realizes his nothingness, the Lord says essentially, "Okay, now let's go do this thing! You're majestic and glorious and holy! Onward!" I think that's one of the beautiful things about repentance: it is a clean slate and it takes only as long as it takes for us to say, "I will change." and mean it.

I love you all!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Let every heart prepare him room


We just got back from an afternoon at Pres. & Sister Roney's house, and we walked along a cobblestone ivy-ed neighborhoods and the leaves are changing and the air is cool and we're coming upon the end of a transfer and I have that familiar ache inside me of autumnal nostalgia that threatens that maybe things are going to change. The nostalgia of not wanting to leave something you love and yet have not learned to love well enough. The weeks are too long and the minutes are too short. I wish I could bottle this life up so it wasn't quite so terminal. Then maybe I could enjoy it. But it has an expiration date and there are many friends to know and things to learn and all the while I wonder if I make even one atomal dent in this cosmos and we keep marching on. I need an afternoon to wander the streets and be in France and soak. Maybe more than that though I need a year and a half of not having time to soak, so I learn how to be happy and full along the way, instead of pushing off happiness for when I can get a break. It's tricky, this living thing. There's an art to learning to enjoy things in the right season, when they're ripe and ready to be enjoyed. 

I will say, however, that Christmas music can be enjoyed in any season. (My companion's not a super huge fan of me wanting to decorate the apartment and me singing Christmas music all the time and talking about how much I love Christmas. Heh heh.) :)

My favorite scriptures for this week are Luke 1: 68-75: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, ...that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life." That we might serve him without fear. We can go forward and be happy and love and teach and give and not need to be constantly borne back by our mistakes and our fears and our hesitancies. 

Photos:

A huge pile of ice cream I was forced to eat. After eating a similarly sized plate of chicken and plate of potatoes.


Found an accordeon a few weeks back on Pday. Best moment ever. (But really.)


What we look like most of the time. Like when trying to do weekly planning. Oh la.

Monday, October 14, 2013

i love all of you. i love each of you.

Right when I get the France computer keyboard mastered, I go to Switzerland for a day and their keyboards are totally different too! So this may be rather disjointed, this here letter.

So much has happened this week oh my. We had an awesome zone conference (complete with a finale where the assistants to the president attached a huge banner to the projector screen and raised it slowly, while playing epic music, while projecting flames onto the thing. It had OPEN YOUR MOUTH written across it and afterwards we all signed it as a pledge to open our mouths all the time and talk to people. That moment, single handedly may have been the most unforgettable moment on my mission: Ha, we have the greatest assistants.

We also spent a couple of days in Switzerland on exchanges. One day we rode a train around Lake Leman (possibly the most scenickly beatiful moment on my mission--the mountain valleys had vineyards and cottages and sailboats and men fishing on rocks on the lake shores) to get to a village called Vevey where we talked to a lot of people. We were walking up a wide sidewalk beside a mountain stream with bridges and trees turning orange and there was a tour bus off to the side of the road and the driver was out smoking and waiting for his tourists to come back, I suppose: I asked if he wanted to learn more, and he said he couldnt speak French, which was good because I dont speak French either, so we had a good conversation in English. He is from Croatia. I asked him if he believes in Jesus Christ. He said his country is )) percent Catholic, so it's a big part of his traditions. So then I asked though if HE believes in Jesus Christ, and he said he believes in God, but he is really bothered and confused by all the churches and all the people who profess to be Christians but don't live their lives that way. He said there are so many churches on the earth and none of them seem to be the Church of Jesus Christ. Bingo. I told him that we believe that Jesus Christ has restored his Church to the earth through a prophet and I asked him if he would want to learn more about that. He said, "Yes. But how? I live in Croatia." Bingo. We have missionaries there. To see the earnestness and hope in his eyes when I told him that we believe Christ leads our Church was my favorite moment of these exchanges in Switzerland.

My other favorite Switzerland moment was when Soeur Vidal and I got on the tram in Lausanne, after a lot of hours of train rides and walking. We got on the tram, looked at each other, nodded, then went from person to person, talking to every single one and inviting them to learn more about Jesus Christ. It was one of the more epic moments of my mission.

And as for our exchanges in Lyon this week (had one of those as well), my favorite moment goes like this: 

Homeless man to my companion-for-the-day (in French): "You are really pretty! Oh lala! Really pretty!"

Homeless man to me: "Your daughter is really pretty! You--you are not pretty. But your daughter is really pretty! Is she your daughter?"

Me to homeless man: "Thank you very much, and no, she's not my daughter."

Me to companion-for-the-day: "Seriously?!?!"

We laughed a good long time about that one.

Two more things: 

ONE. A quote.

"As we confront our own trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did...[we can] paraphrase Moroni's words, 'If I am sufficiently humble, which personal weakness could now become a strength?'"

One quiet thing, amid all the conversations and goals and conferences and so on, is that I see every now and then subtle changes in my character--being a little more prone to share, a little less prone to criticize, quicker to forgive and forget, slower to jump to conclusions. The changes really are tiny, and probably no one would notice them except for me who battles internally with these character flaws all the live-long-day. But I love seeing changes like this. It means progress happens and our souls can change and become better people. One of the greatest lies is that we can't change. But the power is in us, and however long and hard the road, change can happen and it can happen with joy and hope and light in our eyes. I'm learning here that when I am confronted with my own selfishness, pride, lack of self-control, etc etc, that instead of wallowing in it, I can learn from those less brilliant moments, stage out how I'll act the next time I'm confronted with a similar situation, and slowly practice being who I want to be. Practice works. We can become whoever we want.

TWO. A goal.

I'm in the process of learning how to say, "I'm a missionary for Jesus Christ. Do you want to learn more about Jesus Christ?" in as many languages as possible! So far I have Italian and German down. I'm working on Portugese and Chinese (Chinese is impossible). I have yet to figure out what I'll do when the people I say this to actually respond...I guess smile, nod lovingly, and then make a "call me" gesture and get their phone number? Ha, one step at a time.

And the photos:

1. Me and Soeur Vidal and Elder Ferguson at zone conference. This was after lunch. For lunch at conferences we always eat baguette sandwiches. That seems like an important detail to include.
2. The assistants holding up the OPEN YOUR MOUTH banner after the conference so we could all sign it.
3. Soeur Vidal on a train. We take these sometimes (a lot of the times.) 

4. Me makin calls on a truly old school phone in a chapel in Switzerland. It's amazing how well you can hear on landlines. I think I may go the route of landlines and landlines only for the rest of my life. I thought of my dad when I was making these calls, because I think he probably used phones like this on his mission.
5. view out the train of Lac Leman
6. another view
7. me and the rain and my suitcase in Switzerland!
9. chairs that are pretty
10. a lil chateau or something Swiss, with vineyards all the hillside down

Monday, October 7, 2013

Meek and Gentle (and Guns too)

Watching General Conference as a missionary is incredible, because everything they say immediately applies to you, in seems. My favorite talk of conference was the one about meekness. The next day I studied meekness in the scriptures, and I found Matthew 11: 29. "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls." I love this scripture because I think one thing the Savior is saying is that when we learn about his character, about who he is and who he wants us to be--namely that what is required isn't flashy displays of intellect or incredible feats of talent or outgoingness or humor, but meekness and gentleness and willingness--then we find rest to our souls. This helps me a lot on days when I feel not quite enough.

Funny stories for the week:
I talked to two large, tough looking men on a bus. They actually started talking to me first--they were looking at my plaque and trying to see what it said, but the bus was too loud to hear each other very well. Luckily they got off at the same stop we did...and it was in an area I've never been in before, one that is potentially sketchy (just kidding, I'm really safe here...but you know...new areas...not a lot of people around...end of the bus line...can be a little scary). So they're all saying how we're a sect and so on, and then we start talking about our beliefs, theirs and ours. We explained how we read and love the Bible. We explained how we believe Jesus Christ is our Savior. We explained how we believe he's returning and that this life is the time for us to prepare. And then they realized that everything we were saying they already believed. Then one of them says, all tough, "You wanna know what? I pack guns with me every day. No matter where I go, I carry a gun in my bag. You wanna see it? You wanna see my gun?" And he reaches down into his bag and starts rummaging around. And I'm like, "AH I'M GOING TO DIE." (that's what I was thinking in my head). Then he pulls out his New Testament and is like, "Yeah. This is my weapon. I read it every day." In my head: "Cool that you read the Bible. Not cool the way you presented that information." Hahaha

Other funny story: I called a lady in the ward who we haven't met yet. I call and ask if it's Geraldine (name changed to protect the innocent heh heh) and she's like, "Yes, this is Geraldine." "Hi Geraldine! This is the sister missionaries. We just wanted to say hi and introduce ourselves because we haven't had the chance to meet you yet. How are you?" "This is who?" she says. "The sister missionaries. From the ward." "Oh, no no no, you've misdialed. I don't know any missionaries or any Church. And my name isn't Geraldine and this isn't my phone number." So that was cool.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Come listen, there's a prophet.

At 8:50 one night this week, me and Sister Hutchins were on exchanges and we contacted someone coming out of the metro. He said he believes in God, so we started talking and told him all about prophets and so on. We prayed with him then and there. And then he said, "Just this morning, I prayed that God would send me someone to show me the path I should take in my life. Then I meet you!" NOT A COINCIDENCE, MISTER. :)

People, General Conference is this weekend. The prophet and apostles are going to talk to us and teach about the Savior. I am so excited, because every time, I hear really specific counsel that speaks right to my heart and right to my needs, and I'm gonna do what I can before then to prepare to receive such great light.

Go here to watch it online: LDS General Conference!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ne Craignez Pas. Nothing Will Be Lost.

I forget from week to week what I've shared, so apologies if this is repetitive. Sometimes I think I'll come back from my mission and finally have the chance to read back through what I've learned, and all I'll find is the same email written again and again and again. And that would be okay--I think some things take lifetimes to learn. And what better proof that something is true than to come upon it week after week, every time in a different form, a different experience, a different story.

This week me and Soeur Vidal (my new companion!) spent some time with the assistants to the President. They asked us to help them out with a training about how members of the Church can work with missionaries, for the stake priesthood training. Very humbling moment, as I'm doing these skits in French, with a native French speaker and two missionaries who are at the end of their missions. Suddenly my "awesome" French is baby talk again. (And by "awesome", I mean that sometimes I think I can actually communicate good. Then moments like our skit happen and I realize oh lala learning a language takes a looooong time :)

On our way back from the training, I asked the assistants what the most important lesson is they've learned on their missions. One of them said he's learned about repentance. He said at the beginning of his mission, his one goal was to not have any regrets. Over time, he realized that it's impossible to not make mistakes, but he learned that he could still live without regrets if every mistake he made he used to become a little better. That's what repentance is. My first few transfers on my mission, I was really overwhelmed with how much I didn't know, and how badly I was doing everything. But as I've accumulated a few more transfers since then and can see with a bit longer perspective, I see that in each transfer, I've learned a little better how to be a missionary. They aren't grand changes, non of them. They're just little tweaks, little adjustments in perspective, little polishings of this rough and rocky soul to make it a little prettier and a little holier.

The next day I found these scriptures. They're in Doctrine and Covenants 50: 40-42

40 Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;

42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.

Guess what. It's okay that we can't bear everything right now. It's okay that I'm imperfect. I have to grow in grace and knowledge, the same way the Savior did. But the truly beautiful part is the promise: that nothing shall be lost. When Jesus feeds the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and some fishes, at the end he asks that all the fragments be gathered up, "that nothing be lost." This is the same Christ here, who says "Fear not, you are mine, and none of mine shall be lost." On days when I make a ton of mistakes and all my best efforts really do seem totally useless, I find a lot of peace in these verses. Sometimes in my life I've applied all my efforts and force to bring about good, happy miracles in my life, and all those best efforts don't do anything, and I wonder if all those efforts were pointless, if I'm just wandering in circles trying to do good things but all of them just being sent up into the ether to dissolve into thin air. But He promises us here that that isn't how it works. He promises that if we are anxiously engaged in good causes, trying to do lots of good things, that even if we aren't totally sure how to apply these efforts, that the rewards will come (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28). So fear not little flock!

As for miracles this week, I only had about 87 (translation = too many beautiful moments to write about all of them), so I will pick a few favorites.

 4. One night, we tried to reschedule a rendezvous because it was going to be impossible for us to get there what with the training thing we'd been doing, but the person the RDV was with wouldn't let us reschedule. He said it was super important. So we moved heaven and earth to get there, at the last thirty minutes of the day. We taught a sweet little lesson about our Heavenly Father, about how we can know He exists, about how we can know He loves us. Our ami is reading and praying and coming to church now. I love getting to meet people like him and talk to them about such meaningful things.

3. Six of the people we're teaching came to church. One had showed up at noon and called us to see where we were (we were still at home...church doesn't start till 2), and he had to work all afternoon, so he couldn't stay for church. But then, the last 20 minutes of church, he walks in and sits next to us. He had just finished work and said to himself, "well, I know there are only 20 minutes left...I'd still like to catch those 20 minutes." Three weeks ago he didn't believe in God. But now he's praying and feeling for himself the proof of such unproveable things.

2. One day we hadn't had a ton of time to talk to people on the street--we'd been inside doing planning and teaching lessons most of the day. But we had 30 minutes to walk home, and so we talked to every single person we crossed on the sidewalk. In those thirty mintues, we found three people who want to learn more about how they can have more peace through Jesus Christ and we also found six girls who were in the middle of moving all their belongings out of a moving van into their new apartment, and we got to help them. Service opportunities like that don't come around super often. Every corner we walked around their was someone to teach and someone to help. Great walk home, those 30 minutes.

1. And my all-time favorite moment of the week: when I got to co-teach a lesson with Elder Foote, my cousin. Soeur Vidal and I have been teaching an ami who technically doesn't live in our area, so we needed to get the right missionaries teaching him--the ones who actually serve in his area. So one night we decided to make the transfer. Me and Soeur Vidal and Elder Foote and Elder Escobar all went to teach him. We've had a lot of relatives from that side of the family serve in France--my brother, my two second uncles (or whatever they're called technically...I'm not sure), and Elder Foote. I think we must have some roots there, or an ancestor who helped start the Church in France. Maybe it's where Grandpa Foote would have been called had he been able to serve a mission :) But to get to sit next to my cousin and testify about the Spirit and Heavenly Father and how the principles of the Gospel bless families and individuals--that was a once-in-a-lifetime special experience. 

And as for the picture this week...well, life this week has been crazy. We've planned exchanges with the 11 companionships of sisters we serve with, taught a whole bunch of lessons, had 3 days of training stuff, took 30 new missionaries contacting (these are the awesome things we get to do since we live right next to the office, where the new missionaries spend their first few days), and adjusted Soeur Vidal to a new ville. This is the only picture we had time to take this week, and it was taken while we were speed-walking to do our emails, not on preparation day but on Tuesday since our preparation day was spent in leadership training and buying a new microwave because ours is leaking nuclear fog. It should be noted that in this photo, Soeur Vidal is on the phone with the gas company because also our hot water doesn't work. It's been 4 days of cold showers and today we're putting our foots down.
:)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Feels like Home

Last P day, we went to president's house and played games. I was in the middle explaining to a couple missionaries that I don't play sports, when suddenly a ball comes rolling my way. A bunch of people were playing volleyball, so I pick it up and expertly smash it back to them. It didn't work so well. Elder Dampt (one of the office elders) falls on the ground laughing saying, "That isn't even a volleyball!" Exactly.
But don't worry I gave President a run for his money at pingpong. 21-2 at the end of the game (President won). Was almost like my basketball triumph a few years back with Coach Raymon. But for reals, then we all played around the world and I was one of the last ones left in almost every round. Glad those Christmas break hours of playing pingpong are paying off big time now as a missionary.

Also please see the picture of me and Elder Foote, my second cousin. Look at how wonderful he is. Look at how he's wearing the infamous Foote brothers shirt. We played volleyball together and I thought about the ranch and all the volleyball games there. Eternal families are important. In fact this morning I started crying for happiness when I was explaining to my companion how much I love my family.
And speaking of which, this week we took an ami to a family's house in the ward. We ate a good meal and did family history online, with familysearch.org. We talked about how the family can be together forever after this life, how Jesus Christ has made the way for that to be possible, and he has revealed it to prophets who have revealed it to the world. The whole bus ride home, he couldn't stop smiling, thinking about the implications of that--"you mean, I can be with my family, forever. You mean all my family that I've never met before...that is distanced from me...I can be reunited with them and live with God with them?" Yeah. It means you don't have to worry that the beautiful things you've built in this life with the people you love are going to evaporate after death. I told him it means that you can have peace and joy every second, because you know it's all for a purpose, and that it's eternal. As this is all starting to sink it for him, his smile gets bigger and bigger, and finally he says to us (we're just smiling at him, confirming all the truths he's realizing about the promise that a family can be together forever), "How can you just be smiling? With this knowledge, you should be standing on roofs shouting for joy! You should be swimming in the lake!!!" I am happy because of the Gospel. I have peace because of the Gospel.

My other favorite moment this week was when we contacted a guy for the second time--the first time was a couple of weeks ago, and we had a really good discussion with him on the street, about what it means that the Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again, led by Jesus Christ. Then we saw him a couple of nights ago, and had a simiarly cool conversation. Then we asked him how he felt last time we talked, and he said he felt like home. He felt like he was around the table with his family, having a good conversation, enjoying being together. This is what people most commonly say about how they feel when they start praying, reading the Book of Mormon, talking to the missionaries--that they have this very warm, happy feeling. Like they're home. I love that with all my heart. We are creatures of another world, and our spirits witness to us our home is not here.

1 art museum. yep. couldn't have been happier that day.

2 rain drenched missionaries. we suffered for the work.

3 laughing and contacting on our way somewhere.

4 morning exercises
5  eating homemade ice cream sandwiches (so much fun to live with an italian and get to teach her about things like ice cream sandwiches, and quilts, and infinity blackout.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

hard work + happy = magic

This morning I was reading in the gospel of John, the story of when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. He healed the man, and then I guess because the crowd started to gather there, Jesus left. But later, it says, he found the man in the temple, and finished teaching him. He taught him that yes, he'd been healed, but what was more important was that he not sin anymore, that he change his life. I love that Jesus found the man again, knowing the man didn't quite yet understand fully what he needed to do. This is really important to me, in terms of the character of Christ. There have been times in my life when I've taken a giant step of faith--when I've taken up my bed and walked, so to speak--but when right after, I realized I had no idea what to do next. These moments are scary. But this morning I realized that part of the character of Jesus Christ is that he promises he won't ever leave us only halfway there. The Lord will not suffer that we should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, as Ether 2: 7 says, but that we should come forth even unto the land of promise. He'll find us in our places and teach us the rest of what we need to know to get to where he has promised we could be.

We had zone conference this week and it was so so good. Every time I get to talk to our mission president, I come out a different person. He explained that as sister training leaders (me and Sister Bicchierri's job right now), one of our most important jobs is teaching 22 other sisters missionaries and motivating them. I love love love it. He asked us to do as many exchanges as we could in the last two weeks of the transfer, so we're doing one every day except for Sundays. Our main goal in exchanges is to uplift and motivate and teach the other sisters how to have success on their missions. President Roney said the formula I'm supposed to teach sisters is that happy + hard work = magic. So needless to say we're having fun. And learning how to have fun better. It's incredible how heavy the weight of missionary work can be somedays. I can't quite figure out why it is this way. Perhaps it has something to do with knowing you have to talk to strangers all day, and be outside of yourself all day... (This is coming from a girl who prefers a quiet room with an accordion and a novel on Friday nights...) Sometimes we feel really inadequate (sister missionaries especially). Plus the fact that every moment you feel the clock ticking and the constant question, "Am I doing enough? Am I loving my mission enough? Am I doing everything I need to???" I'm learning how careful you have to be with your thoughts, because regret and worry is a black hole. But oh how laughter and talking fixes these crazy ways of freaking ourselves out. So yeah: we try to laugh a lot and talk a lot on our exchanges, all the while teaching sisters better, happier ways to be missionaries. Oh lala. It is an adventure and I love it.

And one lesson I learned this week is that one little kind word can totally change a person. Even words you don't think are particularly profound or anything. If they're encouraging someone to be more who you know they can be, they are very very important. I think of the kind things people have said to me before that probably to them were nothing but to me I have reflected on again and again and drawn strength from to become better and lift my sights of who I can be. I remember all the times my parents told me nice things about myself. Sometimes I look back and think about what a stinker I was sometimes and think, "Wow, they really had to see through a lot of rotten behavior to be able to say something that nice" hahaha, but oh how what they believed they saw in me shaped who I tried to become! We can help each other to become better by seeing good things in each other!

My goal for this preparation day today is to find an accordion. Pictures next week if I'm successful.

Pictures for this week:

1. Decided I needed to retake control of myself by not eating cereal for a week. This was the last bowl we ate before starting. It was delicious.
2. Makin calls. Bane of my existence. I'm so awkward on the phone, in French.
3. Art, in the middle of Geneva! At one point in my life I knew who made this rather large chair. I think he also made the large eraser in DC and the large arrow in San Fran but at this current point in my life, the only artist I can think of Leichtenstein. And Calder. I can always think of Calder.
4. Gex! So storybook it killed me.
5. At a lil service project. I got to weed for an hour and half and have never been so happy in all my life. Nature is a good good thing. Even the bad parts of it like weeds and dirt. (I don't know if you can see in the picture, but my hands were caked in dirt.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pictures...

We spent most of the week in Switzerland on exchanges with other soeurs.

1. trying to plan for the upcoming week oolala. planning is hard.

2. in switzerland!

3. on exchanges with soeur heitbreder, who uncle john met in germany last year!