Monday, December 1, 2014

love

This weekend I did the photography for one of my mission companion's weddings. Married already! And another missionary that was with me along the whole ride--there when I started, there when I finished--is coming home next week. Him coming home is kind of a bullet to the gut. I guess part of me thought it would never end. Part of me thought he'd always exist in France, walking up and down the aisles in trains, contacting people on busses. Part of me thought all of us would always be living in mission land, going in to the mission office, having conferences every couple of weeks, doing that silly wonderful grocery shopping every Monday. Now that they're all coming home, I'm realizing that it does end. A year and a half is actually a tiny, tiny amount of time,

and it goes
and it goes
and it goes.

I thought those relationships would be forever too. And they are, but they shift. I thought they'd be constant like the constellations, all neat and tidy in their little formations, makin neat and tidy little animals and warriors in their heroic groupings across the sky. But you come home and realize people have lives and social groups and maybe didn't secretly hope to be friends with you for the rest of forever. Ha. It's like all the stars still exist but they don't make Orion anymore... they make... well... a bunch of individual stars with individual solar systems and orbiting planets. We aren't in relation to each other anymore.

Once my friend said her greatest fear was that other people didn't love her as deeply as she loved them. I get that now. I would do anything for any one of those missionaries or for those people I met in France. I love them with all my heart. I guess I get what my friend's fear is. What a beautiful fear.

Someone -- I think it was Hemingway -- said the way to get over a woman is to write a novel about her. And so maybe I'll do that about what happened in France. There would be epic battles where a tiny group of brave and shining people go face all the evil forces imaginable. And they'd do things like ride horses with forcefields shooting out of their staffs to save each other, and figure out the riddles that unlock doors that have been locked to goodness for centuries, and release thousands of dead people from the curses of past mistakes, and let what virtue is theirs pass to those around them. They'd forget the taste of strawberries and give every last drop of themselves to restoring goodness and hope. They would sacrifice and they would love. Yep.

Blehhh I just didn't know loving people in this way existed.
Blehhh and it just gets worse everyday.

Go on a mission people.
Get baptized first if you haven't done that yet,
and then just go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To My Friends

Alright. This post has to happen because until it does, I can't move on with my writing life! (Or my life period, for that matter.)

So here's how we're gonna do this--the question no one actually cares to ask but can't seem to stop themselves from asking: "How's the adjustment back from your mission going?"

First matter of business, I feel super weird about the fact that I have a blog. I keep waiting thinking maybe it'll go away or maybe I'll remember why I started it in the first place. Ha. No such luck. So instead I'll just keep it going for the moment, for my friends or anybody who cares.

Second item: on Thursday last, in the middle of the cleaning-supplies aisle in the grocery store, I burst into tears. Like, BURST into tears. I was somewhere between the OxiClean and shoe polish. The butter is so expensive in America, and all the produce is organized maniacally like a factory, and the entire width of the yogurt "aisle" is shorter than my arm, and apparently sometime in the last year and a half they stopped making the only kind of laundry detergent that I liked. Also, everyone around me is speaking English.

I mean, I tried to pull myself together. No one except crazy people burst into tears in the middle of the OxiClean and shoe polish. I am not crazy. I just can't find the food I like because it's all in France!

So to summarize: I am currently incapable of grocery shopping.

Then we've got the daily "I just said what?" moments: Today a guy showed up at my door. More like I showed up at my door and he was outside plugging his phone into our porch wall (??), so I let him in, and he commented on how I was wearing two different colors of socks. I retorted, "They're gray and black. Gray and black aren't colors." Yep I actually said that. No social tact.

This is, of course, to say nothing of the fact that I suddenly have a streak of benevolence-bordering-on-affection for bugs, white eggshells creep me out, I want to use exclamation marks all the time!, and I still reach for the flush button on the top-center of the toilet.

What is to be said about this. Well, it took me two months to write. Talk about a blockage. I'm not entirely sure how one goes about breaking an 18-month writing hiatus, but likewise I'm not entirely sure how one goes about saying something about those 18 months that could wrap a pretty little bow on it all and let it be tucked away somewhere nice on a shelf to sit for the rest of forever. I think I'm hesitant to let go. Once you think through everything and set those thinks down on paper, the book is written. So I imagine this will be the work of the next few years--working out what my mission meant then and what it means now and what words are the hooks that untangle it all.

So thanks for being patient with me.
Love,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blackberry Picking (Welcome Home)

Blackberries.
Sneaky little devils.
They hide in the shadows in their black skins
and squeeze your mouth if they're picked before they're ready.
And the only way to know if they're ready is if they burst and bleed all over you when you pluck them.

Today I picked 19 blackberries off a branch a foot long.
19 heavy-hanging worlds
that pulled that one foot of a branch down to the earth.

Bees skipped from one to the next.
I left blackberry-blood prints on the leaves.

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Year LYON

It's four in the afternoon, and it's super dark outside and there's a huge thunderstorm. It's been like this all summer. Tender mercy from Heavenly Father to His heat-stroke-prone daughter? Yep.

Sr Floisand and I profited from our trip to supermarket Carrefour today by buying 20 euros worth of yogurt. Chestnut, plum and honey, Grandma's rice pudding, chocolate, Swiss mountain berry, coconut...yep. Stocking up.

Guess what delightful thing happened this morning? I washed my clothes and they all came out pink because I left a shirt in there that had too much dye or something and then I accidentally put the wash on hot. Ooops... But the delightful part is that I saw what happened, and I just started laughing. Not even mad-laughing, like really laughing. It was just really funny to me. I think this is a good sign. If nothing else, I no longer care if all my clothes get turned pink in the wash. That's a pretty good change I think.

Also my little camera got dropped and now it's broken. Everything's falling apart these last two weeks. Lucky I guess. I'm just hoping I can keep it all together until I get back. If I lose my journals on the train I mean airplane, then I really might cry. Maybe not though. Sister Floisand shared something really awesome with me that I've been thinking lots about and is helping me. She said that on her mission, she's just had the attitude of, "If my companion gets the bigger piece of cake, it's okay because in a year and a half I get to see my family, and that's all I really care about anyways." She said that helps her a lot to not stress when she misses busses or things are unfair or people say mean things. I think about that for life: "You know, at the end of my life, I'll get to go back and be with God, so I don't care." Ha. Funny how the little things that bother us from day to day totally fall away when we think of life in those terms.

Oh, also this week I got yelled at by a bus driver. I was just talking to this guy I was sitting next to, having a normal conversation (which was especially funny because I wasn't even really pushing the conversation, this guy had lots of questions and I was just answering :) and suddenly this big bus driver man turns around from the front of the bus and starts yelling in really fast French and I was so taken aback I couldn't understand what he was saying, and I'm just kind of looking at him like, "Huh?? Me?" And he's like "Yes, YOU!!" And the guy next to me's like, "He thinks you're trying to sell me something. It's fine, monsieur, we're just having a conversation!" So woot I can check that box off: got yelled to/threated with a hundred euro fine for contacting on a bus.

Also, today is my one-year in Lyon anniversary. We ate at a darling cafe.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Bastille Day

 Bastille Day (the 14th of July, as they call it). 
Happy independence-from-the-French-monarchy!!! Listen to some "Red and Black" and think of me.




We got special permission to go watch the fireworks! So we went with our friend from the ward Adeline (in the picture with us holding a french flag)...and with a bunch of other members and all the other missionaries. Look at that bridge full of people! Really fun.
 


Angel Jedi Leadership Council. Favorite day of the year. Best part is it happens every 6 weeks :) I like this picture the best because you can see President in the background. I love that man a lot. Ah. Such a good day.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Let's be legends.

This week all the new missionaries came into Lyon and we got to do some training with them, then go eat dinner. Over dinner, missionaries starting recounting legends of other missionaries who have gone before--of their goodness and bravery and courage. Of missionaries who could speak every language fluently, and who never stopped teaching, and would jump out of bed at 6:30 with a huge smile on their face to do their morning exercises. They told of other missionaries who had turned down international championships and transcontinental promotions and all sorts of other worldly acclaim to serve missions. We were all so breathtaken by these tales, we just sat there in silence, Sister Hutchins and I, with our mouths gaping open. And then one of the new missionaries said, "Well, let's do it! Let's be legends!" So here's to five more weeks of aiming for legendhood.

We're in the middle of Ramadan out here. We live in a quarter with lots of Algerians and Tunisians, so many many of the people we come across are fasting. Jesus fasted for a long time too. I was reading in Mark 1 and it's incredible to me how the Savior is off in the wilderness fasting, and then BAM he comes out and he's doing miracles right and left and teaching in the synagogues and declaring bold things and people are coming to him for healing...and it's like...what the...where did that power suddenly come from?? And I think a lot of it was from fasting. Jesus the carpenter became Jesus the Christ during those 40 days in the wilderness. He submitted so fully and repeatedly his body to his spirit and to the will of the Father that when he came out of the wilderness he was someone capable of doing any miracle, such was his spiritual strength of character. He had became such a personage of light and goodness that he could walk up to some random fishermen and say, "Follow me," and they would do it. What were they thinking? He must have had such strong goodness emanating from him that they would say, "I don't know who that is or why he wants us to follow him, but I trust him and want to do whatever it is he wants me to do." That is power. Go read Mark 1 and see. 

And then in Mark 9, a father brings his possessed son to Christ and so humbly says, "I brought him to your disciples but they couldn't heal him." I love in verse 21 that Christ asks how long the child has been tormented by this devil, as if to find out what kind of a devil he's dealing with. And then he heals the boy, and later the disciples ask, "Hey why couldn't we heal him?" and Christ explains that that kind of devil doesn't go out except for lots of prayers and fasting. He had more power to heal because of how he had fasted and prayed. Fasting adds light and truth and power and intelligence onto our characters. It sanctifies us. It lets angels come and minister to us. If you've read The Great Divorce, I think fasting is the fastest way to make us a little more solid, a little more capable of dwelling in a celestial realm. VOila. I love fasting.

Here's a list of blessings that Jesus (via Isaiah) promises us through fasting. Go through this slow, because every one of these promises has universes of beauty inside of it.

Is not this the fast? 
to loose the bands of wickedness,
to undo the heavy burdens, 
and to let the oppressed go free,
and that ye break every yoke?

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee; 
the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.

Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; 
thou shalt cry, 
and he shall say, 
Here I am. 

Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, 
and thy darkness be as the noonday:

And the Lord shall guide thee continually,  
and satisfy thy soul in drought.

And thou shalt be like a watered garden, 
and like a spring of water, 
whose waters fail not.

And they shall build the old waste places: 
Thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, 
the restorer of paths to dwell in.

If thou turn away thy foot from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; 
not doing thine own ways, 
nor finding thine own pleasure, 
nor speaking thine own words,
then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; 

And I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, 
and feed thee 
with the heritage of Jacob thy father.

(Isaiah 58)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Zero to Greatness

Send me to Nigeria. Holy cow, every person we meet from Nigeria is a walking lightball. A couple of weeks ago we met a Nigerian man, in his late 20s, early 30s. He said, "I've been praying to find people who speak English who can teach me about Jesus." We had our first RDV with him this week in a park. He was there early, with his New Testament. We sat down, did the whole prayer thing, and started in on trying to figure out who he is and what his understanding of God is. He cuts off and says, "Yeah, I have a question for you. What do you believe about praising God? In Nigeria, we pray and we sing and we praise God? Do you believe that is good?" With big smiles we said YES! That's exactly what we do every Sunday! And he said, "When we learn about him, we love him and we want to praise his name and show how much we love him. So I am very glad to hear that you praise God too." Then: "And what about fasting? Do you believe in fasting?" So rather than do the whole, "This is the Book of Mormon and it came from Joseph Smith and gold plates and there's a bunch of prophets and Jerusalem Liahona Moroni Mormon Nephi Savior in Americas bumble jumble, we just cracked that beautiful book open to Alma 17 where the sons of Mosiah waxed strong in their understanding and love BECAUSE of much fasting and prayer. He loved it. He said, "Good, because Jesus said there are some things that go not out except by fasting and prayer. I am very glad to hear that."

We are astounded by his simple and profound profound love for Jesus Christ. We briefly explained the Book of Mormon and read Moroni 10: 3-5 together and he said, "I believe this book is true. I will read it, and God will open my eyes so I can understand."

We went to see him yesterday. We asked what he thought of the introduction to the Book of Mormon (his reading homework). He said, "It is perfect. It gave me insight to what I will learn inside. It is perfect."

Other things he said:

"I am so so happy to know you sisters. Because you preach about Jesus, and I love him. I am so grateful to have found you, and so grateful that you shared the Book of Mormon with me. This book can change lives, from zero to greatness. I believe it is true."

"There is nobody who comes to me that doesn't hear about Jesus. I talk to every person I meet about Jesus."

"With God we can withstand the storms of life."

"I want to build Jesus' kingdom and help people come to him. That is why I want to make a lot of money, so I can preach Jesus, and build churches and support missionaries and talk about him on the radio."

"The word of God, it is like the rain from the sky. That is what he says in the Bible, that he will send his word out like the rain and it won't come back empty. God has sent his word out, and I know it will make me flourish. That's why I need faith-- I read everything that talks about Jesus because I want to learn more about him because when we learn about him, it changes who we are all the other things in our lives are taken care of. Thank you for sharing the word of God with me."

This is what it means to be pure in heart. We love him a lot. We feel like we've been with the Savior after being with him.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter

All French people have slippers. They wear them on the second they come home. Also, they make their own salad dressing here. It's usually the same dressing: dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, oil. And most salads consist of iceberg lettuce and chopped hard-boiled eggs.

For Easter we went to a member's house and had a fun meal--potatoes and chicken and zuccini and baguettes and salad (with hard-boiled eggs) and lots of drinks, and then for dessert we had a nest cake! Apparently it's what they do for Easter: a round cake with chocolate eggs in the inside like a bird's nest!



We also got to garden this week, with one of our friends. I couldn't have been happier, sitting there next to her shock of violet gladiolas, weeding weeding weeding. And all the while our friend's bouncing from person to person making delightful comments, like "Oh, you have done such a magnificent job! Come look at this work she's doing!" "Look at these marvelous flowers! They're much bigger than they were last year!" She has this way of being astounded at every moment. Like a little child. This is something I'd like to practice.

Here's a video I really like: Because of Him

Monday, March 31, 2014

Leap of Faith

We had a zone conference in Geneva Switzerland this week. We got up at 4:45 to catch our 6:30 train (oh la la) and off we went! It was a zone conference of 5 zones (that's enormous! Lots of missionaries there.) President Roney spoke and told stories about Jesus. Every zone conference he starts out by telling story after story from the scriptures/with the scriptures about Jesus and how he works with his people. And instantly the Spirit comes. This time he talked about crises of faith. He started off by talking about how Bill Nye recently gave a talk at a conference where he scientifically explained that Noah's ark is not scientifically possible, what with the weight and the dimensions and all the animals, etc. And thus the Bible isn't real. And thus God doesn't exist. President talked about how many things there are in the Gospel and in the scriptures that science says are impossible. We as missionaries encounter that everyday--people logically explain themselves out of believing in God, or they can't believe more than what they can see, and therefore, there is no God. Often their explanations seem pretty dang sound to our logical minds (that's the worst when after contacting someone, you're like, "Uh, yeah, he has a good point. I have no idea why God took the gold plates back up/why there are so little evidences in the Bible about the apostasy/well EVERY religion says they're the true religion, etc etc etc"), and sometimes we're even tempted to give in to our doubts. But then we talked about the disciples during the Savior's death--imagine that you've been following around this man who professes to be the Savior of the world. Over the last few years you've seen him work miracles--walk on water, feed the multitudes, heal people, even raise people from the dead. And then that horrible week of the crucifixion, to watch this person who you've believed in, who you've trusted, be captured, beaten, and killed, and do nothing to save himself. To the logical mind, it would be so so easy to be ashamed, to think, "If he really were the Savior, why doesn't he save himself? This must mean he isn't who he said he was, and I was DUPED." To various degrees, some of the disciples did do this--recoil into the shadows out of puzzlement and embarrassment and doubt.

But then there's Joseph of Arimathea, who's this rich man who clearly has political power, and maybe up to this point hasn't done a whole lot to show his fidelity to the Savior. But in this crisis of faith, when by all worldly evidence, the Jews had proven Jesus wasn't the Savior because they were capable of killing him (What kind of a Savior lets himself get killed anyways? (see Hebrews 2 for the answer)), Joseph steps up. He goes to Pilate and uses whatever worldly weight he has and begs--begs--for the body of Jesus and lays it in his own tomb. In a moment when it would have been so easy to pull back and refuse to take a stand, sweet Joseph of Arimethea becomes a man of great faith.

We can think about Joseph of Egypt as well, who was in prison years and years and instead of the situation getting better, it just got worse and worse. What did he do wrong anyways? Surely if Joseph's God was the real God, he wouldn't have been stuck in such a base position for so long. Logically, Joseph's God isn't a very good God. Until, of course, God saves all of Egypt and all of Israel not just despite Joseph's position in prison, but because of Joseph's position in prison. When our life is illogical and when we are faced with crises of our faith, when all the world's logic says, "There is no God. The Book of Mormon isn't real. Jesus isn't the Christ." those are the happiest moments because it's in those moments when we get to step up and say, "I believe in Christ." and profess faith in the face of impossible odds. That is the kind of faith the Savior wants from his disciples. That is the kind of faith that somehow magically changes us into celestial beings. The Savior wants us to trust him, and to say that come what may, we will follow him.

After fishing all night, the apostles throw the nets over the side onemore time, at the word of the Master, and their ships start sinking for how many fish they pull in.

"You are asking me to take a leap of faith. You can't just tell a guy a message like that between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. I hope you realize the gravity and the importance of the message you have. I hope you realize the power you hold. You are literal angels. You have the faith to move mountains--literal mountains, yes, but more importantly mountains of ignorance and unbelief." (--what an ami said to Souer Hutchins this week, after learning our message that the Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again)

Monday, March 24, 2014

It is wonderful this Gospel!

Stories:

Getting off the metro to come write emails today, there were two kids with an accordion in the metro. I'm always tempted to ask them if I can play, but I just know as soon as I do, something bad is going to happen. Not sure what, but I feel a little weird playing the accordion as a missionary, so generally I've just chosen not to. Well today I decided what the heck I'll ask them. So I do and they don't speak French, so I sat by them and we tried to talk a little, and then they said I could and handed it over. And seriously no sooner had I unsnapped the buckle on top than a tall, professional man in a long peacoat and scarf comes up, pulls a card out of his pocket, flashes "AGENT" at us and says, "Do you know if is forbidden to solicit money in the metros?" Hahahaha, we smile and say, "We actually just got here and I asked him if I could play." He smiled too and all was well. But there you go. There are undercover anti-accordion agents on the metros of Lyon. 

We taught a beautiful woman out in her garden in the sunshine teaching her the Plan of Salvation and she about fell off her chair she was so happy to hear that she was going to be resurrected again and see her parents. She loves her parents a lot.  She is so full of light and faith in humanity and love for God. When we left, she clipped two yellow daffodils and a pink tulip from her garden and gave them to us, saying, "I usually never cut them."

Last week we got a text: "Hello Thomas S. Monson. I'd like to learn more about your church."
We have a new amis that came out of nowhere. He found our card on the bus one day and decided to call. And he's hungry to learn and so wonderful. All this time we've been thinking, "He is such a miracle! We're so cool to get to have this miracle blah blah blah" Come to find out yesterday that he is actually someone that our Gerland elders contacted several months ago, who just now decided to learn more, and happened to find our card. Our Gerland elders who worked so so hard last transfer and barely saw any success...in fact, mostly just saw people they were teaching become disinterested or reject them. Turns out that most miracles are actually the result of someone's hard, hard work. There's something incredibly comforting and inspiring about that.

Favorite moment of the week was last night when we were just about to go into our apartment, we walked by a family of four and so we ran over to them and started a really funny conversation with them using the questionnaire ("Question One: Who is the cheif of the family?" They all laughed and pointed to their dad. "Question Two: Who in your family has influenced you the most?" They all laughed and pointed to their dad again.) Then another woman and her daughter came up and chipped in, and then it got real and the adults started talking about how much they loved their moms, and then we testified that families can be together after death, and the woman who had walked up halfway through steps forward really intense and says, "Tell me more about that. That interests me." They were all on their way to a party, but they wanted instead to stay and talk about the Plan of Salvation. We taught a lesson to that woman in the lobby of her apartment building and gave her a brochure. It was humbling to see how thirsty people are to know the truths we know.

It is wonderful this Gospel.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Four-Leaf, Four Questions

This week we had Fellowship of the Jedi Conference (where all the leaders come together from all corners of the country to learn how to be better missionaries for a day). It was AWESOME. We're doing this questionnaire now. It has four questions:

1 Do you think there are serious problems in the world today? 

2 Do you think it'd be a good idea to have the help of God today? 

3 Do you think it'd be a good idea if God talked today through prophets like he used to do? 

4 If God talked to us today, would you want to know what He said? 

President and the assistants presented it to everyone, then we all went out and practiced it for two hours! Oh my gosh it was wonderful. Imagine 35 missionaries all with this new tool that their President who they love just told them is what we're going to throw our whole hearts into for contacting. We were on fire. One missionary (Elder Dean, who is crazy.) got on the five-oclock rushhour-packed metro, stretched his arms out, and yells, "Hello everybody! Don't be afraid!!! We are the Mormon missionaries and we have some questions for you!" And then the group of 15 missionaries just went around from person to person ministering and loving and finding people ready to be taught. (Hahaha, they did say though that people were really afraid at first. Men reached over to protect their wives, etc. Never know what's gonna happen on the metros :) We're having fun with it. I don't know what it is but something about the questionnaire opens people up to actually talking about their feelings instead of feeling defensive right away.


So Sister Luthi and I are using only the questionnaire from now on in contacting and it's changing everything. We talk to way less people everyday, but the people we talk to actually want to see us again. They invite us over to talk to them about religion. One guy this week said he didn't believe in God at all and hated talking about religion, but because i had this questionnaire and because he was a nice guy he said he'd anwer the questions. With no effort on my part, he opened up about his family and how hard it is to raise children in this world and so forth. And when we got off the bus, he said, "I live right over there. Would you ilke to come over sometime to talk to me about religion and God?" And then on the busride back from there, I talked with a teenager who was atheist, but one question led to another, and I felt like I should ask him if there was a God who was all powerful and could do anything for him because He loved him, what he would ask God to do. He laughed and said, "To have blue eyes instead of brown." And then he got serious and paused for a long time, then turned to me and said, "To be able to see people again who have died. My mom's brother committed suicide when I was a child. I only have a few memories of him. I'd really like to see him again because I think he has things he could teach me." We're teaching him tonight.

An update on our delightful Catholic Buddhist ami: she came to church on Sunday and about died she was so delighted by everything. I have never seen anyone, member or nonmember, enjoy church so much. She was "ravi" by everything--the songs, the children, how much everyone smiled. And she was so concerned about doing things the right way. When I was taking her to meet the bishop, she said, "What do I call him?! Mon frere? Mon pere?! (like in the Catholic church) Monsieur??" Hahaha, "Nope, just by his name." And then she got to talk to President Roney for a little bit because he's in our ward and she loved that, oh my word. I guess the whole way home she was telling the member she went with how much she liked it. 

She is the epitome of sunshine. She fed us lunch this week and just bopped around serving us and talking to us about the adventures she's had in her life.

That's all I have time for. I love you so much! Read Ether 12: 4. The gospel is simple. Believe in Christ, then go be happy and do good.



Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Across the Sidewalk

You know you're in France when...

Monochrome monochrome monochrome. French people wear lots of grays and blacks, but if they wear color, they go all out. We're talking whole monochrome outfits of purple, orange, blue, pink, you name it. This week I talked to a lady wearing four different shades of plum, saw a girl wearing neon green pants and a light neon green scarf (who knew there were so many types of neon greens), saw another woman all bedecked in beige/brown, and saw our young adult friend in a mint green sweater, olive green teeshirt, and forest green pants. It's classy. Try it.

Another great French ritual is the table clearing. We all sit around the table for dinner and someone brings each person a plate and utensils. We eat (usually the mom serves everyone at the table, and we wait until she has served everyone before we start eating). Then, after, someone (the dad or the teenager) goes from one person to the next, collecting their plates. He scrapes all the remnants of dinner onto one plate, then stacks all the plates, gathers all the silverware, and carries the stack back to the kitchen. This table clearing ritual ("debarassing la table") is fascinating to me. I can't remember what we do in the States, but I'm pretty sure it's not the French way. I like it here.

Stories about people:

Last Pday we went to the park (it's our favorite place). We played frisbee, ate some food, ran around like hooligans, and finished it all off with a jumproping competition. (Soeur Hutchins and I challenged our district to a jumproping competition at the end of the transfer.) So we've been out every morning training for it. And the elders have been like "Meh, we kinda tried. In our apartment. It's hard." We thought we had it in the bag. We jumped pretty decently. Then Elder Schneider and Elder Johnson are like, "Well, I guess we'll try." And then out of nowhere they SCHOOL us. I think Elder Johnson did 13 crossovers in a row without messing up. Apparently they'd been training every single morning. Hahaha, win. WIN. These are things that bring us joy.
                                 

While we were in the park we met a really nice Chinese couple. He spoke a little French, she spoke a little English, so we had a very broken conversation. They both said they were feeling a little lost in life and were looking for direction, and hence would like to learn about Jesus Christ. The girl was going back to China the next day (so we got her contact info), but the guy lives in Lyon, so we started meeting with him. He knows nothing about God. We explained who God was (kinda like Alma and Ammon do with the Great Spirit--God is a force, the power behind all things, etc. He could understand that.). He asked, "How can I know God?" (That kind of question more or less knocks a missionary off their chair, it's so beautiful.) He was like, "Wait, God exists? Can I find that out too? How?" He wants to feel closer to God, and we told him we can help him with that. He was like, "How much does it cost?" (Again, we about fell off our chairs with how real his intent was.) We taught him that praying is a way to feel close to God, taught him hox to pray, and invited him to start praying every morning and every night. And then at the end of our little lesson, we asked if it would be alright to finish with a prayer. We kneeled, and I was about to say the prayer, when he said, "Can I do it?" (Again, fall-off-chairs moment, except for we were already kneeling on the floor so...) He prayed. It was the first time he'd ever prayed. He starts, "Uh...Bonsoir Dieu..." We get to see the most pure sincere moments here.

Our next lesson with him, we introduced the Book of Mormon. It's a book of scriptures that helps us get to know God better. He read the title page (in Chinese) and we asked what he'd understood: "God exists. His Son saves us. This book explains that to us so we can believe too." He was so excited to start reading it.

Oh yes, and I got transferred! I've been in Gerland (Lyon) for 5 transfers now and I pretty much knew that I would be leaving after this transfer. Soeur Hutchins and I just laugh way too much to be together for long. We're creating a black hole of joy. :) So the day has finally come for me to leave Gerland. I'm moving (drumroll please) to Ecully! 

(laughing to myself, because this means absolutely nothing to you, but it's actually hilarious.)

Let me explain: Ecully is still Lyon. It's just a different ward. The only one I haven't served in here in Lyon. Sister Luthi and I are going to create a new sister training leader equipe there, so it's a bit more manageable for the sister training leaders. We'll have 7 equipes of sisters in our little group now instead of 11. It's going to make a huge difference. 

So in short, I've packed all my bags, and in approximately 30 minutes I'm going to take them all from my apartment in Gerland, down the metro escalator, take one metro line three stops away, and voila, fifteen minutes later I'm in my new secteur. 

It's essentially like living in Highland and getting transferred to Alpine.

But I love Lyon and I'm excited to change my approach to missionary work a little this next transfer. Last transfer we tried to do a lot of activities. This next transfer I'm going to spend as much time as possible knocking on doors and visiting people who were once taught. I want to be with people more.

I love you all! I'm getting deeper and deeper in this missionary thing. I might not come home. 

LOVE.

                                                                          KEBABS


                                                                 OUR DISTRICT LOVE


 APARTMENT VIEW

Monday, February 24, 2014

One Year.


This year I...

became an aunt

spent a few hours in London, a few days in Switzerland, 2 minutes in Spain, and many many moons in Fraaaaance

learned to sorta speak French

turned 27

learned that teaching literature is one thing, and teaching English to non-native speakers is something TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

graduated with a Master's degree. oh yeah, forgot about that thing.

ATE: pain au chocolat, beignets, eclairs, mille feuille, religieuses, crepes, and various others patisseries.

ATE: frog legs, foie gras, escargot, and caviar.

ATE: lots and lots of baguette sandwiches.

was on a worldwide broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people. cool.

talked to over 13,440 people.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Let's not think like Pharisees.

1. Happy Valentine's Day last week everyone!

2. Happy Year Mark this week myself! Stay tuned next week when I will present the numbers...

3. Pictures of our life in Lyon:

--running to catch busses

--finishing one exchange, praying with the sisters before they leave...and then having 30 minutes before the next equipe shows up to start their exchange. it's a busy life this.

--coming out of the study room to find Sister Hutchins standing by herself in the hallway, still wearing her coat, halfway through eating a Milky Way chocolate bar in silence. this is what happens after a week of exchanges. we have a panic drawer in one of the desks--it's stocked with chocolate. hahaha, we panic a lot. but we pray a lot too. so it's okay.

4. I read Luke 7:39 this week and I keep thinking about it. 

36 ¶And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.

 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

I think we all get confronted with these moments daily-- whern we can either choose to reject things of faith and of love because they don't fit into our concept of "the way things work," or we can doubt our doubts, accept that maybe our idea of "the way things work" may be just a little sliver of the Truth. If we open ourselves up to believing and to faith and to love, then our understanding can be enlarged.

Pictures:

This is my friend. This is a Nigerian outfit he's wearing. Cool huh.

This is a castle. Yep, still livin in France.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Gaspar the Ferret

//FRANCE COMINGS & GOINGS//

We write our emails in an Algerian internet cafe where they play 90s girl band music and every Monday from 10:30-2:00 the place is wall to wall missionaries writing their emails home. The man who owns it knows us by name and often doesn't make us pay full price when we print things. Nice.
Today on the way out of our apartment, we ran into a man on the landing who had a flashlight and a badge and was walking down the stairs with his flashlight touching the walls. We didn't think anything of it, and then we realized how bizarre it was, and we've been laughing about it ever since. He was just going around touching the walls real quick as he went down the staircase. I feel like nonsensical things like that happen a lot. A lot a lot a lot.
Last P-day we went bowling...and Soeur Hutchins and I being the super-bowling Americans we are invented challenge rounds like bowling on one leg and bowling in partners and bowling with your left hand and bowling with your eyes closed. The last one was incredible and dangerous. No one got hurt. Best part: Sr Hutchins and I got the same final score. 69. Not super impressive. But for bowling with our eyes closed, I mean...can't really expect much more.

It was warm outside after and we found watermelon at one of the tiny gas-station sized grocery shops in the city and we bought it and ate it, then ran off to catch our train to Clermont-Ferrand. Clermont-Ferrand is famous for it's black cathedrals. It's a town with lots of volcanic rock apparently...and what does one do with excessive amounts of black volcanic rock? Why, build cathedrals of course.
We're in the process of composing a list of things in French that we say all the time that don't translate into English at all. Like "Mince quoi." It essentially means "Shoot!" but translates to "Skinny what."
We had the LUCK to eat patisseries twice this week: once because we said "we are in FRANCE let's get a patisserie" (raspberry tart? chocolate chocolate chocolate cake) and once because it was an Elder's birthday so our zone leaders got us patisseries and we ate them in a park together in the sunshine and sang happy birthday.
//MORE MEANINGFUL STORIES//

I'm trying to develop the reflex of following the Spirit faster. All the time I have little ideas like "say this to that lady" or "apologize" or "give him a card." And you know what the natural man does with that? S/he says "Nah, ___(insert logical reason why I shouldn't do that thing)___" and then s/he doesn't do it. LAME. I realize how often there's this little kid voice inside of me that wants to just go around without inhibitions, helping people and saying funny things and being without care and without concern, just with joy and purity. So I'm trying to trust those little ideas more and dissolve the obstacle course of my logic between those good thoughts and my actions, so that someday I am brave and pure enough to just do everything that little child voice says.
For example, there was a lady on a bench one day and we were about to walk past but the little push said "Talk to her!" so I did and it turns out she just recently decided to be Christian. She decided to believe in Christ she said. Cool. We're teaching her this week. And then a couple of hours later, the same thing happened, the prodding to talk to a lady at the bus stop. She also decided to believe in Christ recently. Neither of them are practicing, but they said they have chosen to believe in Christ (CHOSEN. powerful word right there. That is courage, that is faith, that is logic beyond our own.). So it turns out that little prodding voice works. I want to get to the point where following it is a natural reflex, the way kicking your leg up is a natural reflex to having your knee hit by the doctor.
A few nights later we were walking around the streets of Lyon trying to find some referrals when that little feeling came again, to stop and talk to someone. He was an older man (90 to be exact) who was strapping a baguette to the back of his bicycle, and who very jovially proclaimed he neither believes in God nor the devil, just in himself and even that's a little sketchy at times :) But we kept talking and he told me that he was raised Protestant, but met his wife and she was Catholic and all her family too, so he converted to Catholicism for her. I asked if he loves his life a lot, and he said, "Yes, but she is in the cemetery now." He said that his wife died this year, and that they were married for some 70 years and she is magnificent and he visits her in the cemetery often. In between his stories about the wars he fought in and his grandkids, we testified a little about how God has a plan for the families that makes it so we can be together forever. We went back on Sunday to see him again. He is magnificent. Truly. He opened the door and had combed hair and was wearing a blue suit and pants with a full paisley vest underneath and a checkered shirt and a polka dot tie. The man has class. He also has an albino ferret named Gaspar who snuck up on Sr Hutchins and bit her during the lesson and we couldn't stop laughing.
Crazy English class is finally starting to bear fruit. We had a short lesson last week about how families can be together forever. No sooner had we said "families are important to God" than one of the students started asking if everyone will be resurrected and where we go when we die and why Jesus Christ matters and who will judge us in the end and how will be judged. (Our faces: blank stares...smiles...) "We want to answer all of your questions. Would you like to meet with us on Saturday night?" Yep. All FOUR of them. So Saturday night we had a group lesson about the Restoration and it was AWESOME and all three of them had questions and got them answered and now they're all reading the Book of Mormon and are coming again this week to learn about the Plan of Salvation. Cool!
This morning I was reading about when the Savior came to the Americas. I want to highlight a few verses that show how much He loves us (from 3 Ne 23-26). Look at what He does when He's with them:

31 And it came to pass that he went again a little way off and prayed unto the Father;

32 And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.

33 And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.

14 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them.

1 And it came to pass that he commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them. And it came to pass that after they were written he expounded them. And these are the words which he did tell unto them, saying: Thus said the Father unto Malachi—Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.

1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had told these things he expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small.

2 And he saith: These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.

3 And he did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory—yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away;

6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;

13 Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.

14 And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter.

15 And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—

He prays for them and with them and teaches them so they can understand things and he blesses them and heals all of them and lets them be part of something "great and marvelous." This is the kind of experience that changes you forever. The kind of experience you walk away from smiling and shaking your head because what you just were part of was incredible and magical.

Oh this mission. I know I'm going to ache inside for this life, when it's over. The roads and the people and my missionary friends and the sisters I work with. It's the ephemerality of it all that makes it so sweet. I was talking to another sister about it this week and I had to stop because I was starting to cry. It is a precious, precious time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Waiting for Your Hair to Dry and Other Miracles

Last P-day we went to a big park/zoo. The zoo got boring fast, so we found a big field and a huge sign that said ONLYLYON. We have limited resources for entertaining ourselves as missionaries so we brought our frisbee and our exercises bands that we got at the MTC and played frisbee. Then had a three-legged race with the exercise bands. Then played three-legged frisbee. Then launched the frisbee with the exercise band.
And then it started raining and voila, a rainbow over ONLYLYON. We be real happy here. This P-day we're going bowling. Soeur Hutchins and I are going to win. Because we're American and we know how to bowl.
rainbows attend us everywhere we go
Just kidding about the American thing though. Because we really lost really bad at frisbee and the three-legged race and the three-legged frisbeeing. But it's okay. We've challenged our whole zone to a jumproping competition at the end of the transfer and Soeur Hutchins and I are training like Rocky every morning. 

On Tuesday we had our magic meeting of the transfer (aka Leadership Council). You leave that meeting feeling like you've been with angels. My favorite moment of every transfer is when at the end of that meeting, we all stand and sing "Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes" and the walls reverberate with our singing, and apparently the people below complain every time. Oh quel bonheur. Angels are there when we sing that. After the meeting Sister Moderzitski (who is from Alpine) came up and said something about how I only have 3 transfers left after this one, and I FREAKED OUT. My heart stopped and I started shaking. I thought I had 4 transfers left after this one! (Then we figured out that indeed I do have 4 after this one, she'd counted wrong.) But wow, I didn't expect to have that kind of reaction to my mission coming to an end. I'm hitting the one-year mark in a couple weeks. There have been so many moments when I've thought it was never going to end (moment of honesty here), and lots and lots of time spent just feeling like this is normal life, but that is punctuated by these really deep beautiful moments when the significance of being a missionary and of this little moment in time in France pierce me to my very heart. And those are the earnest that this will be a blessing for all my eternity. I am so grateful to a patient Heavenly Father who gave me this year and a half to learn and to cry and the strive and to push and to laugh and to love and to be left totally alone and to be with Him constantly.

And there are lots of France moments I will miss. That is for sure. Like the muesli cereal, and being able to walk out the apartment at any moment and speak French to anyone I come across, and the patisseries on every corner, and people saying things like "up!" and "tak" as their noises they make (instead of "oops" "there we go"). Oh France.

We had an exchange in Valence this week. On the train ride there, we were in a train compartment like on Harry Potter with 6 other people and Sister Hutchins was sewing up her purse and I was sewing up my coat pocket and we were laughing about how we're totally reinforcing France's stereotypes of Mormons--that we don't use electricity and that we're Amish. Yep. Handsewing up our very well-used vetements.

a pretty door in Valence

And our joke of the week is that we have way way way too many things to do for the amount of minutes we have each day. But we teach our ami every night at 7:30, so whenever we think of something else we have to do, we've started saying "Well, we'll just do ________ while we're teaching our ami!" Need to call all our 22 sisters and follow-up on them? Great, I can do it while Soeur Hutchins teaches our ami. Need to make cookies for the fireside on Sunday? No problem, we'll do it while we're teaching our ami. That's also when we'll type out the report for the genealogy activity we had, prepare English class, practice the piano for the musical number we're doing, and oh yeah teach all the rest of our amis! Haha we laugh a lot at how stressed we are. And the laughing helps alot. Soeur Hutchins helps a lot. We bear this burden well together. And by burden I mean joy. We think the same things at the same times too, so we're going going going all the time. It is near seamless wih her. Having fun, trying to make some miracles here in ONLYLYON.

Also we had an ami text us this week that he couldn't come to church because he had to wait 2 hours for his hair to dry and hence, couldn't make it. WE LOVE THESE PEOPLE SO MUCH. funny funny funny

A miracle for the week:

We took a train out to a little town called Bourgoin Jallieu to visit a family. We ran to catch it, and another girl ran right behind us to catch it too. We had a presentation to prepare for our zone training meeting the next day, and we only had the 20 minutes on the train that were free for the day. So we started in on our preparations, spread all our materials out on the train compartment table. And then the Spirit, that wonderful persistent Spirit, started pushing me to talk to the girl who'd ran to catch the train and sat down by us. After a couple more good pushes from the Spirit, I finally said something to her, and we started talking. And without us saying anything, she started asking all kinds of questions about faith v. logic. Which was perfect because that was the very thing we were preparing our presentation about. So we taught her from the scriptures we'd spread out all over the train compartment table. I've been studying a lot about faith lately, and what I'm learning is that the whole point of faith is to believe in things that seem impossible! Like that a man can heal sicknesses. Like that He could walk on water. Like if we follow Him, we'll be happy. Like that He has the power to resurrect. Everything Jesus does with his disciples in the Bible is to help them build their faith. So often He asks them to do impossible things (or at very least illogical things), like in Luke 5, when he asks Peter who is an experienced fisherman and has been fishing all night with no succes to throw his nets in one more time. And laying aside logic and pride and fear, Peter does it. He just lets go and trusts and does it. And they pull in so many fish their nets break and so they call over the other boat to help them out, and they pull in so many fish that BOTH boats start sinking. The whole POINT of faith is that you can't see the proof. It's to believe in things you don't know yet, things you can't prove, at least not by our limited brain's logic and understanding of the laws of the universe. There is something magic about undying faith. It isn't weak, but it is a mark of the strongest men and women the world has ever seen. Faith demands miracles come. So believe in God, believe He loves you, believe He has a plan, even and especially when it requires you to believe in things not yet seen or not yet fully understood. Study Hebrews 11. Then read these verses, because herein lies all of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 4:

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

More on faith later. I love you all! Happy week!

my companion has basketball scriptures

Monday, January 27, 2014

God can make you happy.

Highlights:
1. Quote from Soeur Hutchins: "I was thinking about how President told you how our companionship would be a marriage of great American sports. I started thinking about French sports...there aren't any, except for soccer, and ballet maybe because it sounds French, and walking while pulling a chariot." (This is only funny if you've ever lived in France and found yourself daily walking behind a elderly woman of four feet height, pulling a chariot behind her.)
2. Sister Hutchins laughs like an Everton which makes me feel like I'm with my cousins all the time. We pray a lot--like all the time--and we have good ideas and are reading the whole Book of Mormon before Tuesday (75 pages a day. Fly like the wind.) to figure out how to better find and teach families.
3. This week we may or may not have gotten really freaked out one night that someone followed us home...so we locked all 18 of the deadbolts on our heavy wood door, I put a knife under my bed and Sister Hutchins put scissors under her pillow. And then we barricaded ourselves into the room by sliding one of our 13 spare triple bunkbeds against the bedroom door. Yep, we work really long days and sometimes by the time 10:30 hits, our brains are a little frazzled hahaha.
4. Don't worry though, we're really safe.
5. We ate caviar this week. Turns out caviar pops in your mouth.
6. About the Book of Mormon reading--oh MAN do you learn different things when you read fast like that! I'm seeing patterns and connections between stories that I never have seen before! Here's a favorite:

 11 And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
 12 Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
13 Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.
14 Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
15 And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;
16 And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.

 Let's all be a little more like Moroni and his people this week shall we?

7. And lastly, a quote from one of our favorite people here: "God can make you happy. You just have to follow Him." Amen brother.

Monday, January 20, 2014

It is well with my soul.

Well, this week was transfer calls. Let me explain a little what that means: every 6 weeks there's the possibility that we get moved to a new city. The last week of the transfer, all anyone wants to talk about is their speculations for the next transfer--where they'll go, who they'll be with, etc. All last week my district leader kept telling me, "You're so gone Sister Carter" because, well, I've been here in Lyon for 4 transfers and that's a third of my mission which is a really long time! Friday is call day, when President Roney calls every missionary to tell them where they're going and who they'll be with...so pretty much all Friday morning is shot...eating breakfast and showering and getting ready, you're on pins and needles. And then someone calls and you both run to the phone and your heart starts beating really fast...and then it's just your district leader trying to freak you out by calling. Then President does call and he tells you what is happening, and there's a moment of clarity, and then you start thinking through all the implications--of who you'll be with and what you'll be doing and what members you're leaving behind and what your plans are for the next transfer etc etc etc. It's like New Year's Eve and New Year's Day every six weeks. For the last two or three weeks, I knew I would be leaving Lyon. And then I woke up Friday morning and started thinking through what I've done here in Lyon, what I wish I would have done better or differently, and then things I would do if I were to stay. I worried if I've done what I was sent here to do.

And then President: "Sister Carter, you are staying in Lyon. Again."

I stay.

I think sometimes Heavenly Father is merciful and doesn't let us move on prematurely. He lets us stay until we're satisfied, until we've finished all He wants us to do in a place. And I'm grateful for those early-morning friday feelings that confirmed that He and I are working together out here. (I know before I said I was going to die if I stay in Lyon another transfer. Well, not dead. And very happy and very very excited for this transfer!)

And then, well then you can pretty much kiss goodbye to studies Friday morning--texts coming in with where people are going and asking where you're going and your milnd all awhirl with dreams for the next six weeks. Oh call day. It is a whirlwind and a delight.

So yes, I stay. I stay! And I am with Soeur Hutchins. Soeur Hutchins who is six foot and loves basketball so much she doesn't play on her mission lest it get outtahand :) Soeur Hutchins who bought a meerkat calendar last transfer as a gift for someone. She's going to protect me if scary things happen.

Which is good. Sr Vidal and I had a rather eventful week. Quick story: last night we had a super dinner with some members (nems and sushi and fish and a galette de rois and fruit) and we leave their apartment full and happy, and a little worried about getting home on time, so we start running out to the tramway, when some men yell at us, "No need to run, that tram's not going anywhere!" And sure enough there are about 8 ambulances and fire trucks around the tramcar, and policemen roping off the area...uh...turns out their was a gas leak or something, and they have to secure the area. So a few phone calls, a rainy walk to the bishop's house, and a comfy car ride with his wife later, and we're home safe and sound. Oh la la.

We taught a delightful family this week. One of the missionaries had met a grandma who asked for a Book of Mormon in Romanian. They got her name and address, and asked us to take the Book of Mormon over. There was no building number where the address should have been, just a glass door with a last name written on notebook paper taped to it. Inside there was a long staircase but it was so dark inside we couldn't see more. So we rang the bell and hoped for the best. A little boy appears at the top of the stirs. We smile really big and wave. We smiles back, waddles his way down the stairs and opens the door for us. He is adorable and all smiles, and then before you know it, a little girl about the same age appears at the top of the stairs, all smiles too. They take us upstairs, to a warm and cozy apartment, buzzing with movement--kids in every room, parents walking from one room to the next, someone in the kitchen cooking something that smells like chicken soup. We don't know exactly who we're looking for, as we weren't the ones to talk to the lady in the first place, so we just act generally pleasant and like we know everyone. Eventually someone finds the grandma and she comes and warmly welcomes us, brings us into their front room (decorated with elaborate Romanian vases and plants and figurines. Lovely.). There's no light, so the daughter gets a lamp and brings it in while her brother finds a bulb, stands on a chair, changes, the one hanging by a long cord from the ceiling. There are brocaded couches and the walls are painted dusty yellow. They sit us down at the table and we serve us multifruit juice and a heaping plate of pain au chocolat. We teach the grandma that Jesus Christ loves her and her family. She doesn't speak much French, and pretty soon, then the daughter comes back in, closes the door behind her. We start asking questions about their beliefs, to know how we can help them. Every 30 seconds or so another person opens the door, pokes their head in, then comes in an introduces themselves, sits down on the couch, and joins in. As best we can figure, there are 23 people in their family, with kids and grandkids included. And I think every one of them poked their head in at some point that night! And they laugh and the kids cuddle with their parents and their is love love love in that home. It was so wonderful to be there. We taught them a little more, and then have returned several times to teach them more. They are Romanian and delightful. The daughters complimented our skirts, and we complimented theirs and then we all talked about how it's hard to find modest skirts here, and they said that they wear skirts all the time, and not very much makeup because their bodies are sacred. Well how about that. Everytime we go over, they bring us food. So a couple of nights ago we made a big batch of Mom's Mrs. Field's cookies and took them a huge plateful.

I read a really good story from General Conference this week: It's from President Monson's talk "Come, All Ye Sons of God." He talks about how if we are serve the Lord with all our heart and are obedient to Him, miracles--MIRACLES--can happen in our lives. The kinds of miracles that are things that are just too good to be true, that in our deepest dreams we hope for. Those kinds of miracles happen! When Jesus was with the apostles on the sea, and he told them to pull their nets in, their nets came in bursting at the seams. And then their boats started sinking because of how many fish they'd brought in! This must have been the best day of those fishermen's lives. And what did they do? They left those nets and probably those fish too, and their boats and their livelihoods and whatever else they had and followed Jesus Christ. As a missionary I get to do this! I get to leave my nets and go and do, and trust with all my heart that when I come back to those nets, they will be full to overflowing and all will be provided for and better than I could have ever fixed it to be myself. Better than I could have dreamed up or believed was possible. I've seen this happen before in my life--when there were things too good to ever happen to me, but that I wished for with all my heart, and it required that I awake my faith, serve God, love others, and trust Him. And miraculously, those boats and nets and fishes all came in, in ways that are so beautiful to me that I still cry when I think about them. So let your light shine and trust the Lord. He will take care of you. My shepherd will supply my need. Jehovah is His name.