Monday, January 27, 2014

God can make you happy.

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 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 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.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?"(Mormon 5:23)

This week we held a huge activity for the world of Lyon. We called it "Families are Magic" and did genealogy with people and talked about their origins and ate treats and told family stories and looked at family pictures. We had a slideshow of all the missionaries' family pictures, and a huge map of Europe and of the world where people could see their origins and write where they come from. We had an elder play the piano the whole time (Chopin, Rachmaninoff, hymns--it was seriously wonderful. Four hours of piano playing. Impressive.), and out front we made a huge tree and hundreds of leaves that people would write their names and ancestors' names on and pin them up. We invited the church members, and our amis, and people off the street, and made a lot of new friends and heard some really incredible stories. One lady was from Sicily. Her family was in the Mafia--the original italian mafia. They were also Jewish, and many went to concentration camps in World War II. After the war, the walked--walked--from Sicily up through Italy then traversed the Alpes, to get to France. They ended up in Lyon, and that's why she's here. We invited over 2,000 people to come talk about their family, made about 50 family trees with people, taught 5 lessons right there that night, and ate three plates of gingerbread cookies, two loaves of banana bread, a tray of marshmallow-rice-krispie balls, 120 chocolate chip cookies, and two cookie sheets of cinnamon rolls. (It was the first time I made cinnamon rolls. Not as good as mom's. I will continue trying.)

We did an exchange in St. Etienne where we had two miracles--we walked up to a building to visit someone right at the moment that a distressed not-French girl was there trying to get in. She was holding a pillow and couldn't for the life of her figure out how to open the front door to the apartment building. (Here in France the buildings have little black circles on the front that you have to wave a little magic key wand thing in front of to get in. She had no idea what to do.) So we helped her out, and she almost cried and said how hard it's been for her--she just got to France from Canada and nothing's been working out. So we got to talk to her a bunch and encourage her. Turns out the people we'd gone to visit there weren't home. But turns out we were supposed to be there for that girl. Cool feeling.

Then later I talked with a dad and his little son on the tram, and they were super nice--we had a really great conversation, but then they suddenly jumped off because they'd almost missed their stop. And I was like, "Aw nuts!" because they were wonderful and I wanted to invite them to hear our super wonderful message about how families are eternal. Missed that opportunity. Well thirty minutes later we were trying to decide where to go. We felt we should go visit someone in particular, and so we were walking to get the bus. Missed the bus. Missed the other bus. Kept walking. And then who should walk up, but the dad and his son, with the rest of the family! We got to talk to them and laugh with them and we got to tell them a little bit about our message too. I love moments like that.
Some good news:

1. For Christmas, we got some new "mission-approved music." On that CD is the Mormon Tabernacle's version of Lord of the Rings. During district meeting someone turned it on (I didn't know it was on the CD) and oh my gosh I almost started crying. Everyone laughed. I love Lord of the Rings okay?

2. While walking through the metro at Charpennes the other night, I realized that I'm now at the point on my mission where if any of my friends or close family members who are currently single find their "one and only" while I'm still on my mission, they can probably wait for me to get home before they get married. Thanks you people! (You know who you are. Now good luck in your finding efforts heh heh.)

3. Ate raclette for the first time this week. It smelled weird. Liked the concept though.

4. Transfers are this next week! I'm going to Nice to ride bicycles on the boardwalk and bask in the sunshine. (Or at least that's what I keep telling my companion to tease her.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

a scripture, a couple pictures

And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.

(Alma 7:23)
I love that everything in this scripture are things we become and create little by little, one tiny action at a time.


District Meeting! We made a ton of chicken and potatoes and had a feast. We kept making the elders eat more so we would have less to take home. Good old Foote woman techniques employed here: "Elder, there's just three left, you eat one and then we'll have the other elders eat the others." "Elder, there's just one left, you can do it." Ha they finished it off.

Me and Soeur Vidal eating kebabs! We're in France (the land of baguettes, escargot, mushrooms, pastries, etc etc etc) and yet we find ourselves eating kebabs. They're just so dang good.

We ate Gallete de Roi (King Cake). Apparently a couple weeks after Christmas (today actually) is the day they celebrate the Three Kings coming to give gifts to Jesus. There's a special cakes (flaky and almondy and really good) and everyone gets a piece and hidden in the cake somewhere is a feve (little porcelain baby or knick-knack of sorts) and whoever gets the feve gets to be king (hence the crowns). 

Friday, January 3, 2014

And a Happy New Year

And now I'm going to tell you what I ate for Christmas:

escargot (snails! Did you know they keep the shells from meal to meal, like dishes, and they just buy the snails separately, marinate them, and stuff them into the shells? Kinda funny/ingenious.)

foie gras (force-fed-goose liver. bleh. sorry France.)

raw salmon



froglegs!!! poor things. not bad though, with a little parsley sauce.


We helped out the young adults of France with their new year's party. It was Venice themed. In between hanging masks from the ceiling, wrapping smoked salmon around crunchy breadsticks, and unfolding and refolding napkins, we took a boat picture.

We saw mega lines outside of every boulangerie on New Year's Eve, as people were buying their baguettes with which to bring in the new year. 

I decided New Year's Eve to cut my own hair. Nothing like starting off the new year with a bad decision. Ha. But that is not what is being displayed in this picture. There is, in fact, a tiny lion sitting atop my head. Hence the look on my face. He he


And resolutions for the new year? I am realizing how not much matters more than how close we are to God. We can do a million things and be busy all the day long, but if we aren't going slowly and quietly enough to hear little nudges and ideas from Him, all our best efforts just exhaust us and bear little fruit. And the great thing is that what God nudges us towards is how to love people better, how to be happier, how to think about ourselves and others in a way that is productive and healthful and joyful. Thus, resolutions? Learning to cultivate this spirit of divine quiet. Being quieter and stiller and calmer, instead of hastier and more rushed and more finicky. I'm trading in panic for peace.