Monday, January 31, 2011

Tidbits From The Field


 I'll pick out a few things from this week's e-mail:

"Dear Family,

This area is awesome. I am doing just great. I am really liking this new area, there is a lot of work to do here...This week was pretty incredible. Before I showed up here I just decided that I would have a great attitude regardless of the situation here (because you don’t really know until you show up). When I got here I just went all out, we started working and miracles started to happen. We have been finding a lot of amazing people... Tell Seth to stay with the piano, I wish now that I had learned it better so that I could play it here for people, not many people here know how to play the piano...I am realizing more and more the blessings I will have from serving a mission. At times it is very hard to see the changes that I know have to be happening in me, and sometimes I feel like I haven’t changed at all. But every once and a while the Lord lets me catch a glimpse of how I am changing, and it is really wonderful. My desire to serve the Lord will ALL my heart, and in the best way possible, is growing. I know that I am changing for the better, but all of these are just side effects of serving the Lord. Far more important is the work that we are doing here, serving the Lord and his children, and as an added benefit we grow too. The Church is true. I am so grateful for all of the blessings that I have in my life because I am a member of the Church, because I have such a wonderful family and the opportunity to serve a mission. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, that Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that His gospel changes lives. I love you all terribly. Have a great week."

This e-mail makes me think of this quote:

"God does not begin by asking our ability, only our availability, and if we prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” Neil A. Maxwell

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Thoughts On Joseph Smith The Prophet

There was a front page article in today's Deseret News titled "Wiki Wars." The subtitle read, "Controlling perception: The battle to define Mormonism online." It was very eye opening. I had no idea there was so much online controversy about Joseph Smith. It seems there are many, many people who want to malign him and use anonymous online posts as a way to do so. The controversy in Wikipedia alone surrounding what has been written about Joseph Smith is astounding. That makes me very sad. I don't know who reads my blog but I thought I would add my thoughts about him to give my viewpoint. It is my conversion story. It is my life. The topic is deep, very deep... and very personal. The life of Joseph Smith had a profound eternal effect on my life. Read on if you like. I will write this for my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. As they are my audience, and I only have one grandchild age 6 months at the current time, they will know or someday know that I write this with love,  for them.

I was raised Catholic. I attended Catholic School in New York. I mentioned before that I had wonderful, loving, kind nuns who taught me from a very young age to love Jesus. I always loved going to church and I always loved Jesus from as early as I have recollections about Him. I come from a long line of very faithful Catholics. I even have two cousins who are nuns. I will always be grateful for the good examples of those who went before me and who were Christian in word and deed.

When I was thirteen years old, I started babysitting for a rabbi's family. They had three children. I babysat for them every year for three years. I babysat every Friday night so they could "go to Temple" as they said. He was the Rabbi and that is where they went every Friday night. I grew to love their children very much. I listened to the children as they practiced their Hebrew lessons and was always impressed and interested. Passover was always significant in their house and I felt it. The Rabbi drove me home every week. He was usually very quiet. The ride was less than ten minutes. One night he told me that the Jewish people were God's chosen people. That comment struck me deeply. I loved God. I felt somehow left out in the cold almost. That comment bothered me. I went and talked to a Catholic priest about it. I asked him, "If the Jewish people are God's chosen people, then why am I Catholic?" I just wanted to be with the people who were going to heaven (as I understood it). He gave me an answer but I was still left with a hole in my heart.

I wondered about that statement for years. I had this feeling that I was missing something but I didn't know what and I wanted to find it.

When I was seventeen, I was baptized into an evangelical church. It was a Baptist Church. I became a 'born- again' Christian. I was baptized by immersion but I did not know that that meant that in the eyes of the Baptist Church, I was considered a Baptist . No one told me that. I got baptized because I felt it would bring me closer to Jesus. I was searching for an answer to my nagging question and I thought this was the answer. By this time, I was away from home attending nursing school. I attended Bible study groups with other born again Christians near my nursing school and faithfully read the New Testament every day.

A year went by. I was eighteen (a few months shy of nineteen) and I had been away at nursing school for a year. I came home for a weekend visit every other weekend. One weekend, my mother told me she joined the Mormon Church. She didn't tell me much about it but she asked if I wanted to meet with the missionaries. I was religiously minded and I said yes. She set up the appointment with the missionaries for the following weekend visit in two weeks.

There was no one home when my appointment time came around. It was summer, early July. My school was a year round school and that's just the way it was. My Mom left me a pamphlet to look at before the missionaries came. The pamphlet was called "The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith." (That can be found here: http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng) or here: (http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,104-1-3-1,00.html)

I went and sat on the front porch steps to wait for the missionaries. I began to read the pamphlet. I was all alone. I had never heard that story or testimony before and only heard of the Mormons because I would watch the Donny & Marie show every Friday night when I babysat. They were Mormons. That was all I knew about the Mormons. As I read the pamphlet, I had a sense of wonderful peace come to my heart. I remember saying to myself, "He (Joseph Smith) had the same question I have." He was fourteen when he asked his question and I was thirteen when I started asking mine. I read the pamphlet and by the time I was done reading it, I knew it was true. To this day, I know it is true. I have never questioned it. I have never doubted it. I know it because of the strong feeling of peace and contentment that accompanied my reading of it. The peace was real and it was tangible. It was powerful but in the gentlest way. It was life altering and eternally significant.

The missionaries came, taught me, and not too long after, I was baptized. This time I was baptized a Mormon and I knew that baptism meant that I was then a Mormon.

I have heard strange things about Joseph Smith and the Church over the years. There are many people who have had the unfortunate experience of being swallowed up in the tons of anti-Mormon literature available in movies, books, and now on the internet. I have always felt sorry for the people who believe the antagonistic, venomous attacks on Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Church. Those anti-Mormon attacks will always be there. So be it. So many people have believed that nonsense. It is so sad that some people make eternal decisions based on nonsense. What can one do? It has always been such and it will always be such.

God has been very kind to me. He is kind to all who seek Him and love him. There are so many wonderful people in other churches. As the years go on, I have developed a tender heart towards everyone. I can't help it. God has blessed me with a loving heart. I always tend to see the good in everyone. I have lost friends over my decision to become a Mormon. I have felt the sorrowful sting of family rejection at times because of that decision. I have been the recipient of unkind words and unkind looks from strangers who thought it best to let me know of their disdain for the Mormons. I know what true loneliness is.

But I also know the profound joy of having had a sincere question answered. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God just as the ancient prophets were. Of this I have no doubt. He translated the Book of Mormon by the power and gift of God. He was responsible for restoring the Church of Jesus Christ as Christ established it when He was on this earth. Joseph was responsible for restoring the blessings of the Holy Temple including sealing families together for eternity.

Of all the things I feel passionate about in my life and of all the things that can reduce me to tears and leave me speechless sometimes, my testimony and firm conviction of the prophet Joseph Smith is the one thing that will do it.

For all those who spend a lifetime time maligning the prophet, how could they ever explain away my peace?

I am a Mormon. My question has been answered. My life has been changed forever. The Savior said, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you." John 14:2

Gratefully because of the love of our Father in Heaven, Joseph Smith restored all things according to God's will so that we all may return to the mansion of our Father one day if we live worthy and are deemed worthy by Him to do so. The path is crystal clear. One need only look for the path and stay on it.
The background trees on my blog page were always meant to represent the Sacred Grove where Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

http://jesuschrist.lds.org/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ac6968f0374f1010VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Banana Grove, A Broken Sandal, A Cave, And A Harrowing Experience

I was reminded of this story at dinner tonight.

Early on in my mission, I was informed that our district was having a special P-Day. This was no ordinary P-Day. I'll just quote from my journal again:

" Today was P-Day. We went on an activity with all of the Young Adults, about 35 of them, and about 10 missionaries. First we went strawberry picking. Then we went to a banana forest." (I think they are called groves). "My sandal broke and I had it held around my foot with an elastic band and an orange ribbon-cute. Then we went to pick some more fruit and I traveled through the woods again- in a skirt." (I remember this banana grove, it was very big. I remember not being able to walk well because of the broken sandal).

"Then we went to a park that had a mountain. We decided to start climbing it." (I'm sure that was not my decision, I can tell you now. I'm sure it was the decision of all the people who had on good shoes.) "It didn't look too bad-until we got half way up and realized that there was no turning back, you had to go all the way to the top! Well here I was in a black skirt and sandals (one of them broken) climbing up the side of a mountain. There was at times almost nothing to hold on to and it was steep and straight up. All the way up I prayed that I would be safe...in a dress no less."
"So then we got to the top-great! They said the way down was different but was supposed to be much easier. We crawled through these caves THROUGH the mountain that the Japanese had built (during the war.) These things were crawl space caves and I had a skirt on!! We had a couple of candles and they kept going out and then we also found out that there were forks in the cave." (I remember how scared I was. We were in a long line, one person following the other, sometimes in total darkness. The elders had a a job to do just keeping me from freaking out. They kept calling from somewhere in front of me that we were OK and to keep going). "So I crawled up and down on my bottom in a skirt in the dark." (That was the only way to crawl, it was very difficult).
Somewhere along the trail.

"FINALLY, we found our way out and there was a steep downhill to climb down, almost all dirt. One time somebody said, "Just swing on the bamboo." Great, now I was Tarzan!" (I remember being terrified. My sandal was broken. You are not supposed to climb mountains in sandals anyway. I had on a skirt. I am not adventurous to begin with and that is an understatement. The elders had on pants and good shoes and they were always up for an adventure. But I was stuck, frozen in time on the top of the mountain with everybody on the bottom constantly telling me to just slide down. Can I just say that I still cringe when I think of this.)

"So I managed to slide down the mountain with the help of an elder and a Chinese man, in a skirt." (Needless to say, it was the least modest time in my life). "But it was either die on the mountain and be modest , or go for it and live...Well, I came down and I was covered with dirt from head to toe, FILTHY-a great representative of the Church. Everybody had a good laugh and once I was down I decided that it was fun..." (No doubt delirium had set in by then.)
This was almost at the bottom.


That sure was a new meaning for the word different. :) 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Amazing Picture

I went to the chiropractor today. Unfortunately I smashed the windshield of a car with my head when I was eighteen and I have neck issues which need addressing every once in a while.

At any rate when I was there, I saw some amazing pictures on his wall. He has this side business where he sells light box type things where you can put any picture in a light box and it illuminates it from behind. I have never seen anything like that before. I thought it was so amazing. http://www.backlitbox.com/

On the way home, I went up near Park City. They have no inversions in the mountains and the clear blue sky and beautiful sunshine did me the world of good.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Dog Story

I guess I'll tell a few mission stories this week.

I had one experience in Taichung that I will never forget. I have thought of it many, many times over the years. It is one of the reasons I am not worried about Ian as a missionary. I'll just quote it from my mission journal:

The date of this entry was September 17, 1982... 4 years to the day when I was baptized.

"We were tracting in a neighborhood of houses tonight, all of which seemed to have dogs.  (I remember this neighborhood. It was a long, narrow lane shaped like a "U" where there was only one way in and one way out. We had left our bikes at the head of the open end of the "U". ) We were walking back to our bikes and all of a sudden this humongous horse of a doberman pincher came charging at us. We let out a yelp and were petrified. He stopped all of a sudden one foot in front of us, cocked his head (to one side) and looked at us almost as if he has seen something and turned around real fast and ran the other way back to his gate. I don't know why he stopped and looked at us so strangely but I know we were protected.  My life has been spared so many times here. I know we are protected."

I can still see us standing frozen with fear as that dog came charging at us. He was huge and he literally charged at us. To this day, I have a little fear of dogs charging at me. I remember we got on our bikes as fast as we could got out of there!

I'm just so glad that missionaries are in the Lord's hands.

I copied  and pasted this from the net: "Doberman Pinschers along with Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Chow Chows are one of the most dangerous and hostile breeds all across the United States. Doberman Pinschers, like Pit Bulls, are considered fighting dogs and therefore posses the natural characteristics of a dominant and aggressive dog. Their natural muscular stature makes them strong in their demeanor. They are great work or service dogs (Police Dogs, Guard Dogs, Military dogs, Watch Dogs) because they are protective, intelligent, zealous, and are a powerful breed of dog. However, since they are a strong and large type of dog, they are more likely to attack a person than a smaller breed of dog. Although some pet owners may argue that a Doberman Pinscher's temperament is a misconception, no one can really predict if this breed of dog will attack and cause a dog bite-related injury. But one can be aware of its natural traits that are often associated with dangerous behavior."
This was my companion at the time, Sister Newburg. She had only been my companion for four days when this incident occurred. She had also been one of my MTC companions.

Oh, and my hair ALWAYS had problems in Taiwan!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Transferred


It's interesting to me that as I was writing about saying goodbye to a mission and a mission area, Ian was on a bus doing the same thing. :)

"Beloved Family!

You may be wondering to yourselves why I didn’t e-mail yesterday. Well the answer is that I spent the entire day on a bus because......... I was transferred! I found out Sunday that I would be transferred, Monday morning at eight o’clock I got on a bus to Londrina, and showed up there at 8:30, 12 hours on a bus. I thought that it was going to be terrible, but it really wasn’t. There were a bunch of other missionaries on the bus too and I talked to Elder Carter who is finishing his mission the whole time about all the things he has learned and stuff. It was actually really great. We showed up in Londrina and we slept with some missionaries there, then this morning I got on another bus at 8:30 and showed up here in Presidente Prudente and about 11:00. All in all I traveled about 15 hours all the way across the mission. I was wayyyyyy down at the bottom of the mission in Foz do Iguaçu, and now I am wayyyy at the top here is Presidente Prudente. It is not quite as hot here, but it is still very hot. I just need to accept the fact that is will continue to be ridiculously hot throughout the mission.

All and all I am doing great. I had a wonderful run in Foz do Iguaçu, there are some people there who I will truly miss, I hope that one day I will return there, many missionaries do, and I still have 19 months left. It was a great area, a great place to start...We worked hard and had a lot of fun. They should have about 5 baptisms there in the next few weeks, and two this week. Transfers were great, I got to meet a bunch of new people and see a bunch of other people....Well my time has come to an end once again. I leave you with my testimony of the truthfulness of this Church. I am learning this more and more everyday how true the church is and the power it has to bless people’s lives. I love you all very much, know that I am well and that I am loving my mission, I appreciate all your prayer e-mails and love...Pictures of various things... my last area, my district. Enjoy, more to follow next week I hope."

They look happy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoughts On Saying Goodbye

Ian never did e-mail today. I'm sure there is a good explanation why he didn't write but I suppose I'll just have to wait a day or two  to find out.

I finished a book this afternoon that I have been reading. River Town by Peter Hessler is a very good book about Peter's life as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small river town on the Yangtze River in Fuling, China. I have read two of his other books and he does a great job of writing about Chinese life. I especially liked his book Country Driving. The last few pages of the book I just finished were about the way the people said goodbye to him when he left the town he taught in for two years. The way he described acquaintances faces when he said goodbye to them was very touching. It reminded me of saying goodbye to Taiwan and the people I grew to love when my missionary service was over.

I distinctly remember saying goodbye to one woman we taught the gospel to. Her name was Mrs. Hé (pronounced like 'huh') and she lived in the small rural town of Heng Chun. From my understanding, Heng Chun is not small any more but it was when I was there and it was extremely rural.

My Chinese name is 何佳莉, Hé Jiālì, (pronounced like 'huh jyah lee'). Hé is my Chinese surname, Jiālì is the first name. It was given to me by my instructor in the MTC. It is as much a part of me as my own English name. Jiā means "good and beautiful" and "lì" means jasmine flower. Many females have a flower reference as the ending of their first name.

Several years ago I went to a  Mormon Tabernacle Choir Music and the Spoken Word concert on Temple Square. After a typical concert, many sister missionaries stand with a sign indicating which language they speak. People who visit from other countries can visit with the sisters in their own language.
That day, I happened to go up and talk to the sister holding the sign from Taiwan. At that time, I had little ability to say anything in Chinese as I had lost my Mandarin over the years. But I could say my name and that I had forgotten my Chinese. Well this sister who I had never met before jumped up and down very excitedly when I told her my name. She said over and over again with astonishment in her voice and an astonished look in her eyes, "You're Hé Jiālì, you're Hé Jiālì!" Finally she calmed down enough to tell me that the woman who was instrumental in teaching her the gospel was someone I taught as a missionary. This woman apparently told her all about "Hé Jiālì" and how with dogged persistence, I continued to teach her for a long time until she understood the deep message we had for her. That woman later became a Relief Society President and this is how this missionary knew her. She was the Relief Society President who worked with her as a new investigator. It was an extremely humbling experience for me to have my missionary efforts come full circle like that. I will never forget that experience or the joy with which that missionary said my name, "You're "Hé Jiālì." I will also never forget the respect she showed me having never met me before.

Hé is a common Chinese surname. Mrs. Hé in Heng Chun had the same last name as me. She lived a very modest, simple life. She was married and had one child. She took the missionary lessons from us every week for several weeks when we visited her town. She changed because of the message we taught her. She wanted to be baptized but at that time, her husband wouldn't let her. She hung on every word we told her. She was a wonderful woman.

This is from my mission journal about my last goodbye with her one week before I left Taiwan and the last time I left her town:

"We went to Heng Chun yesterday, my last time. I visited Mrs. Hé, our investigator who wants to get baptized but can't because her husband won't let her. We said goodbye and ran down to get the bus and missed it. She came down again to say goodbye (she's never done that before). Then it started to rain and she had to leave. I knew it was hard for her to say goodbye. She said she'll miss me. The last scene I remember was as we were driving away in the taxi and she was halfway up her path standing in the rain, both she and her daughter, both waving to me as I was waving to them. It was touching as I may never see her again and we both knew it but I couldn't help but think what a different person I left than than the one I found and all because of the gospel."

I have thought of her many times over the years. Sometimes if I close my eyes, I can still see her face. I can only wonder what happened to her. She left her footprints on my heart.

Reading the end of River Town reminded me of Mrs. Hé again. I hope someday I find out whatever happened to her. She will always remember me as Hé Jiěmèi ( 何姐妹), that's the way you say "Sister Hé" in Chinese. I often think of myself as both Hé Jiěmèi and Hé Jiālì. That's just part of who I am.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another Picture/More Quotes

I found this picture the other day. I forgot about it. We all had a trip back east in 1999 and one time we met up with my brother Rob and his wife and kids at the DC Temple. She was just starting to learn how to be a photographer and used us as practice. She has a pretty good business now. Anyway, this is a pretty good picture.

A few more good quotes from Elder Maxwell:

"Coming unto the Lord is not a negotiation, but a surrender."  
 
"The acceptance of the reality that we are in the Lord's loving hands is only a recognition that we have never really been anywhere else."
 The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book
 
"God will facilitate, but He will not force."
 
 
 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Another Great Sunset

Sometimes they just stop me dead in my tracks
and I go get the camera.

And another great quote:
"Do not let the future
be held hostage by the past."
Neil A. Maxwell

Friday, January 21, 2011

Night View

I love this picture from our deck. 
Julie Pacini took this picture for us.
  She did a great job and we consider it a treasure.
Thanks Julie!

Julie Pacini:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Sun Is Shining...

So I think the weatherman must have listened to my list of suggestions because...and I quote..."A cold start, but at least we get plenty of sun."         

See, life is better for everyone now. :) 

Yesterday I mentioned Elder Maxwell. I thought about him yesterday and decided that he has had a very profound effect on shaping my life, how I think, and some of the things I choose to do. I thought of the most influential woman I have known as well who has also had a profound effect on my life. Her name is Mary Ellen Edmunds. 

Sister Edmunds as I knew her, was the director of training at the MTC when I was there for two months at the end of 1981. I think she taught us about five times a week when I was there. I was called as a regular missionary but with additional assignments as a Welfare Service missionary. This required a great deal of specialized training in the MTC. Sister Edmunds was in charge of that training. Every Welfare Service missionary had a different experience on their missions because of the location they served in and according to the needs of their local leaders. We were trained to be resources to the local leaders. We did all kinds of different things as part of this special calling. One of the things I was asked to do was to coordinate lessons to teach the local leaders the Welfare Service plan. I did that on a number of occasions for several different groups of leaders. It was always humbling and always rewarding. I did a lot of leadership training which helped me the rest of my life.

 1982

Sister Edmunds taught me what the Welfare Service plan was. It has been quoted to be "the essence of the gospel." I listened very carefully and it had a profound effect on me. It was one of those times in my life when the whole course of my life changed. I always think of her fondly. She is one of the women I admire most and I will always be grateful for what she taught me.

The following is a talk about the Welfare Service plan which we studied as a missionaries. This is what I taught many, many times to Chinese leaders. It is also part of who I am.


President Kimball gave this talk. He was a prophet of God. He said that the Welfare Services plan "is the crowning principle of a Christian life." I hope I have been true to what I was taught so long ago.



 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another Great Quote

I love this quote by Elder Neil A. Maxwell:

"When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution..." Ensign May 1978

I have read many of Elder Maxwell's books, some more than once. I also have many of his talks loaded onto my IPod. I have listened to many of them over and over and over again. He has been a great teacher of mine. When he died I really had a hard time. Now I am just grateful that there are so many of his talks and books available for me to read.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_A._Maxwell

This is where I downloaded most of his talks for my IPod:
http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=browse&speaker=Maxwell%2C+Neal+A.&topic=&type=&year=&x=9&y=5

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Great Quote

We have tried to have a Family Home Evening about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. each year for many years now. Last night we read his speech given on February 4, 1968 in which he extrapolates on what he calls "The Drum Major Instinct." It was an excellent speech. I have read several of his speeches and they are all worthy of thought. I particularly love this quote from that speech:

"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.
You don't have to have a college degree to serve.
You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.
You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.
You don't have to know about Einstein's theory of relativity to serve.
You don't have to know about the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."
                                  

Monday, January 17, 2011

He Sounds And Looks Good


Here are a few lines from Ian's e-mail today:
"oi familia!

As always it was wonderful to get an update on everything, I am glad that you are all well. I am doing just dandy, this week was my first zone conference! It was great, we got some great trainings, president was here, we got to hang out with everybody in the zone a little bit, all was great... My Portuguese is also coming along quite well I think...In other news the rest of my district from Provo is finally showing up...Also, they are having some huge problems in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro right now with rain, many people have already died, and many more have lost their homes. We here however are high and dry, although in the past few days many more people have begun to ask us if we think these really are the last days and if the world is ending...I am still losing a bit of weight, but I am really not worried about it, I think it will slow down more pretty soon here. My body is just adjusting to this new life style and I am not getting sick or anything, and heck, I am not complaining about losing a bit of weight. Believe me, I am trying to eat everything I can, I leave lunch every day hardly being able to walk, and people always give us cake and juice later in the day too.

That's all for today. I testify that...the knowledge of the restored gospel is one of the greatest gifts that we have in our lives and we have a responsibility to share it with other people. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, it is a proof of all that we claim. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God. I love you all so very much, and I am so grateful for your constant support, prayers, and help.

Love,
Elder Freeman"


I specifically asked him about his weight so I guess we'll just have to wait until he stabilizes. He looks OK in his pictures though and his mission president and his wife look like wonderful people. It's amazing to me that the visas for the last of his district from the Provo MTC were finally cleared. What a long wait for those elders.

What a wonderful sight. 
This is from the baptism last week.
Others at the baptism.

Oh, and the inversion cleared and Jim and I went for a walk this morning and I see clearing skies headed my way out of the west. Thank goodness.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Again

Today was a particularly lovely Sunday. Our church services were very good and very thought provoking. The messages were delivered well and I came away feeling very peaceful. Taking the time to ponder about spiritual things on the Sabbath is always a blessing to me.

I have a playlist on my IPod which I named "Sunday songs." Sometimes I find myself listening to it during the week as well when I need a calming influence or just need some time to ponder about things. One of the songs I have on there is by Andrea Bocelli. He sang it with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir last year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEplqV0scyo
It's the 'Lord's Prayer' and it is really beautiful.

One of the first prayers I ever remember learning was the 'Lord's Prayer'. The nuns taught it to me when I was a very little girl. The Savior meant it as a pattern of a prayer for us to follow when we say our own prayers. When thought of as a pattern of how we can pray, it takes on a whole new dimension. Hearing it sung so reverently by the choir and Bocelli is very uplifting.

Many years ago, Jim gave me one of Andrea Bocelli's CD's for Mother's Day. It was his Sogno CD. That started  me on a journey of enjoying his singing immensely. He is from Italy and he sings a lot of his songs (most of them actually), in Italian. I do not know any Italian. I just loved to listen to them anyway and I would imagine he was singing this or that as I would listen. I think his 'Lord's Prayer' with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is my favorite of all his songs.

Pondering is a good thing for all of us. For me especially. I like this scripture:  
"Ponder the path of thy feet." Proverbs 4:26

I have been doing that very thing this week. I have been considering what "path" my feet should take next in my life. I have been pondering it all week and have prayed about it as well. I have been considering the possibility of pursuing a Master's degree in Public Health. But I am not so sure now. Today someone talked a little bit about Peter, the chief apostle. He said something that struck me pretty deeply. He said after the Savior died that Peter went back to fishing. That's where the Lord appeared to the disciples after He was resurrected, on the shore... while the disciples were out in a boat trying to catch fish without any luck. He said the Lord talked to Peter from the shore after Peter swam from the boat to meet him. He summed up in essence what the Savior was trying to get across to Peter,"Peter, you don't need to be fishing anymore." Now that's not in the scriptures and that's not how the conversation really went but it was a really good way to put it. The Lord had called Peter long before this time and Peter just needed to be redirected again to what the Lord had called him to...His work.

As much as I love medicine, health, and all things medicine related and having had the opportunity to work in a field I love as an R.N.... I don't think that's what I need to be doing anymore. Somewhere deep in my heart, I think doing God's work in some way, shape, or form is what I need to be doing. And what I want to do.

How and what is the question.

So I ponder.

And I'll ponder some more until I figure it out.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Inversion Causing Writer's Block

How is one supposed to write anything 
meaningful when the air is this bad?
The haze, dirty air, and inversion 
get uglier each day until we get a storm.
This is what it said in the paper:
"Dirty air is expected to cloud most of the northern Utah valleys through Sunday as forecasters predict a bit more snow and rain for the area...will remain under a red air alert until Monday, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. A red alert means people with heart and lung disease, and older adults and children, should limit outdoor activity."
 It's pathetic air and the pollution blocks the sun!!!

How is one supposed to write? :)

Is it Valentine's Day yet?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Top Ten Tips For Weathermen

So the calendar says January 15th. In my book that means "the dead of winter." I am not particularly a fan of winter. Anyone who knows me, knows that I really thrive in the sunshine. Not so much in winter.

Emily Dickinson said it best when she said,
"I shall have no winter this year...
I thought it best to omit the season..." 

She wrote a poem that sums up winter afternoons:

"There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons—
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes—...
When it comes, the Landscape listens—
Shadows—hold their breath—
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death
"

Granted, I am not as bad off it seems as poor Emily was but I did drop a class once because the professor insisted on trying to bend this poem into a number of strange interpretations, none of which had anything to do with the fact that it was well known that Emily didn't do well in the winter. I sat there and listened to him and thought, "gee-all poor Emily needed was some sun." I figured if he couldn't figure that out and he had a Ph.D, it was going to be a hard semester. I took the class again from a different professor and it was much better. 

At any rate, I do much better when the sun is shining and the days are longer. Most people do actually. When Valentine's Day rolls around, the dreaded Utah inversions tend to go away, the days are longer, and the sun stays out most of the time. I wait for Valentine's Day every year. I really think I was meant to live on the equator.

I watched the news this morning before Jim and Seth got off for work and school. I wanted to know what the weather man would say. He said very matter of factly, "mostly cloudy today" or "clouds all day" or something like that but the word cloud was in there and no mention of the sun at all. It was a terrible forecast said so glumly.

So I have decided that the weatherman needs some alternative ideas for what to say on January 15th for all the people like me and Emily. :)

Instead of saying what he did, I recommend the following top ten list...

  1. Hang in there folks, Valentine's Day is right around the corner.
  2. It looks like the SUN will be shining next Wednesday as you can see right here on my chart.
  3. Every cloud has a silver lining and therefore you can think of a cloudy day as really a "silver-lined" day.
  4. You know folks, today might be a good day to look at pictures of Hawaii on the internet.
  5. The days are getting longer everyday, isn't that wonderful!
  6. "The sun will come out tomorrow...bet your bottom dollar" (The musical Annie)...and he could hum.
  7.  If you close your eyes and imagine, you can picture yourself enjoying spring which is right around the corner.
  8. You know, Thumper's Dad said that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" (The movie Bambi)... so today I will just point to a picture of the sun and say "tink happy tawts." (The movie Hook).
  9. There is a large sale going on right now for sunscreen, you should all stock up.
  10. I forecast SUN and lots of it...just not today. Hang in there folks. 
Now isn't that a much better forecast
than the one he gave this morning?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love This Picture

This was always one of my favorite pictures.
This was Ian when he was three
and Seth at about three months. 

There was actually another short e-mail from Ian on his last P-day that came after I posted the first one. This is part of it:

"I am glad to hear that Seth is doing well, I have been thinking about him this week. I would like to live with him at BYU when I get home. I think it would be great but I think he would want to live in freshmen housing, and I think it would be better for him. Tell him that I love him too, very much."

I've been thinking about that statement today and how nice it is that he cares so much for his brother.

Missions do wonderful things for people. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Elisa's Homecoming

Elisa served a mission in West Virginia a few years ago. Sister missionaries only serve for eighteen months as opposed to a male who serves for two years. We all missed her while she was gone. It wasn't an easy mission for her.
But she eventually came home and we were so excited.  
She barely got off the escalator when she was bombarded.
I had just had surgery to repair my broken elbow one week before she got home. I could not really extend my elbow for several months after the surgery. My poor husband had to do my hair for me which was a challenge to say the least!!!
I just remember how nice it was to be all together again
 after having her be gone for so long with so little contact.
Elisa...
The gal with the forever smile.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Solution To the Mold Problem?

Ian sounds fine this week. Here is a little bit from his e-mail.

"Dear Family,

Sorry another short email again this week, but I am doing excellently! We had another baptism this week! I have already told you a little bit about C and her family, well she was baptized this week... It was an amazing baptism, with a wonderful spirit...I had the privilege of baptizing her, I will try to get you pictures next week. The work is going quite well in our area.

I found out that I think now that I won’t have to come home early for school, but that I will probably get home about the 24th of August, which doesn’t leave much time to get ready for school. Oh and I have lost 22 pounds (10 kilos) to date. I miss Nathan. Still dealing with the mold, but I have it contained to 3 shirts... I am thinking of having you guys include 2 new shirts in the box so I can just throw the problem away... Love you all very much. Email next week will be better.

Love,
Elder Freeman"

That's as good a solution to the mold problem that I can think of. Makes sense to me.

And it looks like he could actually have a week to get ready for school when he gets home from his mission. That sounds like it will work out just fine. I had six weeks to get ready for a wedding and a move across country after I got home from my mission. One week to get ready to transition back to regular life and school...piece of cake. :)

Sounds like he will also come home quite fit as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Good Talk By Seth

As parents, Jim and I have tried to teach our children the importance of understanding spiritual things. We've always gone to church and usually had family scripture study. We have been faithful (most of the time) at having Family Home Evenings over the years. Sometimes you just wonder about how much gets absorbed and understood. It was/is important to us to teach our children as it says in the following scripture: "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ...that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.." 2Nephi 25:26 (Book of Mormon)

Seth was asked to give a short talk in church today. He wrote this talk himself. As his mother, my heart is grateful that he understands what we had hoped he would understand all these years. It did sink in. He had a lot of other teachers besides us and we are grateful to them for teaching him as well. He's 16. To get this and understand this at age 16 is a good thing. I wanted to blog it to preserve it and keep it with the things that will get passed on to my posterity.

"Good morning brothers and sisters, My name is Seth and I am a priest. Today I will talk on the doctrine of Christ and conversion.

What is the doctrine of Christ? 2 Nephi 31 is all about the doctrine of Christ. Verse 13 reads:

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost."

The instructions given in this verse are the same as in Article of Faith 4:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

So the doctrine of Christ is very specifically this set of instructions. These are the steps to conversion. As everyone knows, these are the steps investigators of the church take to become new members. But conversion does not stop when we become members of the church. Conversion is the continual process of change. We continually become “new creatures in Christ.” We can continue to follow these steps, through the sacrament, as we renew our baptismal covenants and gain access to the spirit. However these are not just steps, they are not something to do, they are something to be.

How is this change possible. 2 Nephi 31 verse 19 says:
“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.”

Another enlightening scripture is Mosiah 3:19:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

So we are converted through the Atonement of Jesus Christ if we have faith in him. We must rely wholly on his merits, no works of ours are sufficient to save us. If we come unto Christ and are changed in him we can put off the natural man and become saints, and become all of those wonderful things: submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to the will of the father. Christ has the ability to not only cleanse our sins but also change our hearts and this is true conversion. A change of heart means that we have no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually. The people of King Benjamin experienced a mighty conversion, they said:
            “Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

What do we do after our initial conversion, or how do we retain our conversion? 2 Nephi 31 verse 20 says:
            “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” Feasting upon the words of Christ means studying our scriptures, for they are the words of Christ. There is a difference between reading the scriptures and really studying them. It is like the difference between snacking and feasting. We preserve our change of heart through doing the basics. Dale G. Renlund in the 2009 

October conference said:
            “To endure to the end, we need to be eager to please God and worship Him with fervor and passion. This means that we maintain faith in Jesus Christ by praying, studying the scriptures, partaking of the sacrament each week, and having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.”

True conversion lasts, it is enduring to the end. In the book of Mormon the converted Lamanites endured to the end. 1000 of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s perished by the sword because they refused to fight and take up their weapons of war. They buried their weapons of war deep within the earth as a testimony to God that they would stay faithful. Later on the converted Lamanites continued to remained faithful. 3 Nephi 6:14 says:
            “In the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.”

We should try to be like the righteous Lamanites. We can figuratively bury our rebellion against God by repenting of our sins and never returning to them. We can endure to the end if we continually live the doctrine of Christ by developing faith in the atonement of Christ, by repenting, by renewing our baptismal covenants, and by seeking the Holy Spirit. Also we can receive strength through scripture study and prayer.

I’d like to close my remarks today with the last verse of 2 Nephi 31:
            “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.”

Testimony:

If we do these things we can be continually converted and that if we endure to the end we can live with God our father once again.

Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Christ's atonement is real and the plan of salvation is real, and it functions through Christ, for he is the key. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen."

I guess I'll be saying goodbye to him one day as well as he leaves to serve a mission too.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bishop Jim

This picture was taken in September of last year right after Jim was ordained the Bishop of our ward. He is a very busy man. He is a very good man and a very, very kind and thoughtful husband. He  is gone a lot either at his regular employment or doing service as a Bishop. It's Saturday evening and he is off right now at the Bishop's office doing a bunch of paper work.

Occasionally he asks me to make visits with him. I always love doing that. Over the Christmas break he asked me if I would go and visit the widows in our ward with him. I really love doing that. He has always had a soft spot in his heart for the widows, long before he was called as Bishop.

Jim is generally a very quiet man. Being Bishop requires that he be a bit more social than he is used to. He is thoughtful in that regard and extends himself as needed.

I think Jim is honestly the kindest, nicest man I have ever known in my life. There isn't a selfish bone in his body. If there is, I have never seen it and I really cannot imagine it.

This is what it says in the New Testament about Bishops:

“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre…” Titus 1:7 I never see Jim get angry and he is certainly not selfwilled.

It is a tough calling for him sometimes. The calling averages about five years of service and then he is released and it is someone else's turn. He has about four more years to go. It is a nice time for me to support him as he serves God by serving others.
Bishops are asked to be clean-shaven. His employment also asks the same. I always liked his beard, I miss it. I figured out why I like his beard besides the fact that when I first saw him wear one after we started dating, I was quite smitten. To me, it sort of represents his gentle nature, therefore his heart. He still has the same nature without it and I like him just fine without it, but I like when he gets to grow one like these two pictures when we went back east in October. It was coming in really nicely and then one morning the day before he had to do a day trip of business, I walked in the bathroom and he was shaving it off. No warning to me. Gone again.


I suppose I'll just have to wait until the next vacation.



1981
1982

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can You Believe Another Audition?

Elisa sent me an e-mail one Sunday morning about a month and a half ago or so. This is similar to what it said:

"The LDS Church is entering pre-production on a very large film project, “The New Testament” based on the events of the New Testament, to be produced near Salt Lake City, UT.  We seek a broad variety of cast who resemble the cultures and races represented within the scriptural account, namely: Semitic, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and others of Middle Eastern/Southern European/Arabic/North African origin.

We seek individuals with dark hair (white, gray or bald is also fine), olive to brown skin tone, and notable bone structure. Men should be able to grow a beard.

If you know of anyone who fits this description and would be willing to participate in our production, please forward this information to him/her.

We seek ALL possible candidates for a variety of roles: Actors and Extras." They also said somewhere that they were looking for people who looked like they could have stepped out of the pages of the New testament.


Well it took me about ten minutes to go to their site, apply and attach two pictures of my "notable bone structure." I love the New Testament. I told myself I would never do any acting again after "Fiddler on the Roof" but their website seemed to be looking for mostly what I see in the mirror everyday so I thought I needed to apply. I had/have absolutely no expectations except that I thought it might be wonderful to be some sort of extra in this film. I can't really remember much of the online application except that there was a part to put in some sort of personal thought about yourself. I mentioned that all I knew is that when you put a head scarf on me, I absolutely look like I could have stepped out of the pages of the New Testament.

About a month ago there was an e-mail notifying applicants about an audition workshop to teach you how to audition. A few days after that I received another e-mail stating that although I had not necessarily applied to audition for one of the speaking roles, I was invited to come to the workshop and then to audition. (I think this e-mail went out to more than just me). 

I thought about this long and hard. I had a few times where I thought to myself, "Do I really want to see my nose on the BIG screen?" Me in a head scarf without makeup is really not all that flattering. It takes some work in the morning to get myself presentable to be seen in public and anyone who has seen me in the morning can attest to that!

Anyway, I went to the workshop. It was very, very helpful. Today was my actual audition. I was a nervous wreck but I was prepared. I even went without makeup. I kept thinking about my audition for "Fiddler on the Roof" the last few days. Gratefully-there was no singing this time!!! It was all VERY professional. I had a part they wanted me to memorize and read opposite someone who was reading for the Savior. All the women auditioning for any woman's part had to do a short audition about the "woman at the well" from John chapter 4. I have a picture of the "woman at the well" posted  near where I read my scriptures every morning. It's been there for about the last 7 years. I look at the picture every day. I love that scripture story. I really love that scripture story. I frequently look at that picture and think about what she was doing there and how meaningful that event was.

The person who was doing the audition and reading for the Savior talked to me about the story for about a minute before the taping began. He wanted to explain a little bit about the story to me. He didn't know about my picture and so I didn't say anything. I just listened politely. He was very, very nice. He asked me to do one part over again a different way. I was glad when the audition was over because I was really nervous but I did the best I think I was capable of. 

I have no expectations. All I know is what I see in the mirror and what the casting director said the night of the workshop. She said the director was looking for "notable bone structure." Then she proceeded to very, very politely point to her nose and mention that she thought that meant "the nose and cheekbones." She was really very polite and thoughtful when she said it.

Let me digress a little bit. When I was on my mission, there was one common phrase I heard over and over and over again my whole mission. "你有很大的鼻子! (nǐ yǒu hěn dàde bízǐ) This was always said with a great deal of shocked and surprised emphasis as if the person saying it had never seen anything like it before. Translated that means "you have a VERY big nose!" The emphasis was always on the word "BIG." Their eyes always went really wide and the expressions on their faces were always the same...as if to say...it's huge and I've never seen anything like it before!!! I got used to it and never took offense. They were just stating a fact.

So when the casting director very, very politely referred to "notable bone structure" as being somewhat associated with a nose, I thought how very polite she was and how nice it was to hear it referred to so politely for a change.

I had to have two headshots (pictures)  taken of me today to be attached to my file. When they said "turn to the side" for a profile shot I thought to myself..."notable, isn't it?" :) At the end of the audition tape while the camera was still rolling they had me turn to one side and then the other to get a shot from the side. No one blurted out  "nǐ yǒu hěn dàde bízǐ!!!" It was so nice and one of the only times in my life I didn't mind having a "dàde bízǐ". :)

I have no idea what will happen from here. I think being an extra in this production would be a wonderful experience. Here is a recent link about the setting. It looks like it will be wonderful.

I love the New Testament so much. As I mentioned before in one of my posts, the nuns taught me it so well. The New Testament stories are really are a part of me. It would be so cool to be just someone in the crowd even if I did have to wear a head scarf and see my profile from the side on the big screen..

At least if I get a callback this time, I'll know what a "callback" is. :)

But the Church is serious about getting their actors right because I found this on the casting website:

2010 AUDITIONS
Utah Area Auditions: January 5-8 and 12-15, 2011
Los Angeles Area Auditions: October 20, 21 and January 18-20, 2011  
San Diego Auditions: October 19 -- COMPLETED
Fresno/Bakersfield Auditions: October 19 -- COMPLETED
New York City Area Auditions: October 23, 26, 27 -- COMPLETED
Toronto Area Auditions: October 21, 22 -- COMPLETED
Montreal Area Auditions: October 27 -- COMPLETED
Ottawa Area Auditions:  October 28 -- COMPLETED
Auditions in the United Kingdom, France and Italy -- COMPLETED
Andalucia, Spain Area Auditions: November 2-9 -- COMPLETED
Madrid, Spain Area Auditions: November 10 -- COMPLETED
Phoenix, AZ Area Auditions: November 12, 13 -- COMPLETED
Sao Paulo, Brazil Area Auditions: November 29, 30 and December 1 -- COMPLETED
Santiago, Chile Area Auditions: December 1, 2, 3 -- COMPLETED


My goodness. They really are serious.