Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's cherry blossom time. . . . .

     Monday's are the day we "prayerfully" plan our weeks activities and call to set up appointments for the coming week.  There are several sisters that we have been calling each week since we arrived to try to go visit and each week we leave a message and never get a return call.. this week was different we received calls back from 3 of the messages we left and set up appointments to visit these sweet sisters.. we were so excited to finally be able to get to know them.  We generally make from 15 to 20 calls to set up our appointments throughout the week and get to talk in person to very few and almost hardly get any return this was very special.
     What a great week we have had back here on the East coast.. the weather has been beautiful and the flowers and blossoms on the trees are spectacular.  One day we went with Pat Gourley (our cute little 80 year old friend that lives down by the river) to visit the Charlotte Hall Veterans Hospital.  Pat and her husband visit there quite often and she wanted us to go with her for this wonderful experience.  It was tough for me, as I remembered when my own dad was in the Veterans Hospital in Idaho.. and also tender memories of Kent in his last weeks that he was with me.  But I am glad that we could go, since is meant so much to her. 

     Pat asked us if we had a few minutes to go with her on an errand and we said sure.. She took us to the Amish farm of the Byerlie family... WOW what a cool experience.. Pat goes there to get embroidered handkerchiefs to send to friends and family.  Katie Byerlie and her husband have a small store attached to their home that sells fabrics, household needs, small hand tools, and scrapbooking supplies.. can you believe that.. well I was in heaven and picked out some great things that I hadn't seen before.  Katie was feeding the brand new "kids", (baby goats) and I asked if we could go with her and watch, she said we could help her feed these 4 little live wires.. we each took a baby bottle and started feeding our kid.. mine liked to butt his head and jump.. it was really fun.. while we were there a buckboard pulled up with 6 of the cutest children you have ever seen. They were coming back from school, and each boy had on his straw hat and the girls had on their bonnets.. they were darling.. On our way to the farm we had passed an Amish farmer plowing his field, with "6" big horses pulling him on his plow.. I really do love the Amish and love to see the simple life they live.. In our new area it is really all out in Amish country..  

 The Byerlie farm

 The kid I got to feed

     We had a planning day with our new Stake Relief Society President Bonnie Ramon, discussing our new assignments and talking about ideas and concerns we had.  We will be starting in our new wards the Lexington Park and the Patuxent on April 15th.. since the first week in April is General Conference and the next week is Easter and Bonnie wants to go down with us on our first Sunday there. 
      It was a beautiful day on Weds. as we traveled to the temple.  We met with our district at the visitors center for our district meeting before our shift.. There are only 6 in our district and so it is very personal and we each get to share some of the highlights of our visits with each other and feel of the wonderful spirit that is present in these meetings as we talk about our service.  We also discussed our up coming White House tour on April 14th and made the plans to meet and ride the metro together.. We get to have both a West Wing and an East Wing tour.. which should be so much fun. 
     The temple was busier than usual which was wonderful, I love to keep busy as I work there.  I just love the friendships I have with the sisters I work with.  They are all so fun and we really do have a fantastic time together.  
      We were invited over to Kathleen Sponaugle's home for dinner on Thursday and she is really a good cook and puts out a fantastic spread each time we are there.  Kathleen is the one who rides with us to the temple each week and since we won't take any money from her for gas she has us over for dinner each month.. fair trade, I think.  She and her husband Robert are such caring generous people and we really enjoy our evenings with them. 
     We got to visit Shirley this week (she is one we have been trying to see for a long time). She suffers from Pulmonary Hypertension and so she has ups and downs with her health and it effects her coming to church, and she hasn't been for quite a while.  After our call she attended not only the Stake Women's Conference last Saturday but was also at church on Sunday.  Shirley is a first grade teacher that had to quit when her health problems became an issue.  She has never married, so her students were her special children.. We had a wonderful visit with her and she opened up so much about her past and what she is going thru now.. It is so sad to see someone so loving and wonderful knowing that she may not live long.. She is so excited that she is getting her temple recommend and going thru the temple soon.. We were so happy for her and can't wait to share that special day with her.  She said that she needs both a heart and lung transplant and the prospects aren't good.. Shirley lives on our way to our two new wards that we will be serving in for the next 3 months so we told her we would stop and visit often.. What a beautiful, spiritual day it was spending time with her..

    Our next special visit was with Tammy, she has been on our visiting teaching route for 5 months and we have left messages and sent cards and still haven't been able to visit with her.  We finally got to meet her when we attended her mother's funeral last month.  We introduced our selves and she was very excited to meet us and when we asked if we could visit with her she was very positive.  We met for breakfast and had a fun, wonderful visit. She works for a patent litigation law firm in DC and works long hours.  She and her husband have been working on weekends to get her mom's home cleared out and ready to sell.  So she has been really busy.. She shared some wonderful stories about her mom and I know it was really good for her to be able to share those stories.  She agreed to meeting for breakfast again soon.. which we are so excited about.. we will still meet with her even after our assignment changes...

     It is the "Cherry Blossom Festival"  and that is the one thing everyone said was a must see when they heard I was going to DC. So on Thursday, Suz Martin (our fantastic tour guide) took us to see the blossoms.  WOW.. they are amazing and so breathtaking..(I will have beautiful pictures on my blog). We arrived in DC around 9:15 and found a fantastic parking place and started walking around the Tidal Basin.. The weather overcast, so the walk was very pleasant.  Took lots of pictures and then we started to visit the monuments and the different memorials that are housed around the area close by.  We visited the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, & The World War I Memorial. We then took our sack lunches to a cute little sidewalk cafe and people watched while we ate our lunch.  After lunch the sun came out and it was warm and sunny so we decided to see if there were any tour tickets left for the Holocaust Museum.. I wasn't sure about it, but sister Brown and Suz wanted to see it so I went.. I am so glad I did, what an amazing piece of history.. I was so touched and overwhelmed by the spirit that I felt in so many places in the museum.. I was in tears as we read the horror stories of how these people were treated and how heartless the men were who did it.  To see genuine items from that period in history brought me to tears.  To step into an actual train that had transported the people to the death camps was crushing.. The museum was very crowded but also very silent.. even small children were quiet as we all took in the magnitude of the displays. I am so grateful that I was able to go and better understand this period in the history of the world.  I will always remember how I felt walking around in that museum.   We spent 6 hours walking around the beautiful area in DC and I am so thankful for our friend Suz and the time she takes out of her schedule to show us around..
 The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin

The cherry blossoms

Suz our fantastic tour guide

 The Korean Memorial

 The Lincoln Memorial

Vietnam The Faces of Honor Memorial
     Drove out to Welcome, Maryland to drive Stephanie to the store.  She was in sad shape and really in no shape to drive if she had a car.  She kept repeating everything she told us and it was really sad to see her like this.. I'm glad we could help her out.. when we arrived back at her house she asked us to stay for a minute and came outside with 2 cans of pure maple syrup for taking her to the store.. It was our pleasure to be of service to her. 

     Today was our last Sunday in the White Plains 2nd ward and it was very hard.. We have grown to love everyone so much and even though we won't be moving out of our apartment we probably won't see many of these people again very soon.  We were invited over to Steve and Becky Nichols home for dinner.. They are the neatest couple and we really have so much fun with them.  Becky was the Young Women's President in the ward and was just put into the stake Young Women Presidency.. Steve is a pilot and flies Air Force One and Air Force Two, his current assignment is on the Presidential advance team.  They go to where the President is scheduled to fly into and complete all preparations for his visit.  Becky is an occupational therapist and works at a Senior Center.  It was a great evening..

Steve & Becky Nichols

 When we arrived home we had a visit from our home teachers, Becky and Joe Michela.. they are such great people and we really look forward to their visits each month.  Joe has been so helpful fixing small things around our apartment and wanting to help us in any way he can. 

Joe & Becky Michela

     So you can see we had a very busy week and we really like it that way.........

     "In the search for our best selves, several questions will guide our thinking: Am I what I want to be? Am I closer to the Savior today than I was yesterday? Will I be closer yet tomorrow? Do I have the courage to change for the better?  The years have come and the years have gone, but the need for a testimony of the gospel continues paramount. As we move toward the future, we must not neglect the lessons of the past."--President Thomas S. Monson

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring is right around the corner. . .

      I believe Spring is arriving here in Maryland, trees are blooming, daffodils and crocus and tulips are sprouting everywhere.. we even had temps this week in the mid 80's for a couple days..

     On Sunday we met with Stake President Sakai and the new relief society stake presidency.. President Sakai is expanding our mission assignment, we have been serving in two of the wards in the stake for the last 6 months and now we will be serving in the remaining 7 wards for the remainder of our mission. Since we work under the guidance of the relief society.. they will work out a new schedule for us in the next couple of weeks. So our mission is taking on a new direction as we learn our way around our stake.. which goes from Capital Hill to the tip of Maryland.. the drive North to South is about 2 hours in good traffic and East to West about an hour.

Linda & Blaine Haycock
       Our Sunday evening we were invited to have dinner with Linda and Blaine Haycock.. They are such a fun couple and we had a great evening. Linda is a substitute teacher and works throughout the area and Blaine is a pharmacist for the Air Force on Andrews Air Force Base.  
      On our 6 month anniversary we attended the first ward empty nester's family home evening,  held at the Franklin's home. On our way there we  saw a possum walking along the road and after arriving at Franklin's we saw 2 bright red cardinals sitting on the railing around the deck..These were the first cardinals I had ever seen up close and they were beautiful.  We had 20 people there and shared a wonderful dinner and then a lesson and a very fun game of church history Scategories. The friendships we are making as a result of activities such as this are prized.
      On Tuesday we were stood up for the second time.. We have heard other missionaries tales of being stood up all the time, but we had never had it happen until this last couple weeks. The one sister that was so happy to have us visit and seemed anxious to have us come again soon has fallen off the radar.. her phone has been disconnected and we have no way of getting in touch with her.. which makes us so sad.. She is a very special woman, that was excited to be coming back to church.. we won't give up trying to reach out to her, and let her know how much she is loved and missed.
     A great thing that happened was that we spent the morning making calls to set up appointments for visits later in the week.. We left several messages to a group that we have been calling for a few months and usually don't hear back from most of them, but this week we had several call backs and set up visits for next week.. We were so happy that we finally get to visit some of these sisters next week. 
Margaret Williams
     One of our favorite ladies that we visit on a regular basis is moving to South Carolina with her daughter.. Margaret is the one who has permanent custody of her 14 year old grandson that is currently in lock down detention in Baltimore.  She moved to our area from the district shortly after our arrival in September and we have been so close to her.  Her testimony is so strong and she has such faith.  We told her that we would send her name and address and phone number to my grandson Kelly who is serving his mission in South Carolina, and he would make sure that the elders in her area keep in touch with her.  She loves to have the missionaries visit.. We will really miss her and the great visits we have with her. 
      We had a beautiful day in the temple this week.. I really do love the people I meet there and the wonderful spirit that abides there. It is such a amazing place to be able to spend each Wednesday, being of service.  With daylight savings time, it was still light at the end of our shift... which I love.. driving home..

Our Day in DC
The tomb of the unknown soldiers

 JFK Memorial
Sister Brown, Me & Suz Martin
     Sitting in the large marble chair in the Memorial Amphitheater

      Thursday was our day off this week and we had a wonderful day.. Suz Martin and Stephanie Duncan of 1st ward took us to DC for the day.  We first went to Arlington National Cemetery.  We saw the JFK grave and memorial, and the changing of the guard and placing of the wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldiers. We rode the tour bus and the guides explained all the different parts of the 624 acres that shelter the remains of over 320.000 serviceman and women.  It was so inspirational to be in such a place of honor and remembrance. 

 One of the many beautiful stained glass windows

Abraham Lincoln
     We then drove into DC to visit the Washington National Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral was built in the Gothic style, characterized by the great height and the pointed arches, and beautiful stained glass windows.  I loved walking through this magnificent structure and taking in everything it had to offer. After leaving the cathedral we drove down Embassy row.. where the embassy's of all the countries of the world are.  We tried to figure out which country each one was representing, some were very obvious and others we had no idea.. We passed the Vice Presidents home & saw the white house and lots of monuments and pieces of history in our nations capital.  We are going up again in a couple of weeks to see the cherry blossoms and walk the tidal basin, where the Viet Nam Memorial and other great monuments are .. They should be out in full bloom then, there were just buds on the trees on Thursday.   
     The trees that are out in full bloom right now are the magnolia trees with beautiful pink and white flowers, and the pear trees solid in white blooms.. Driving up the freeway, the pear trees are thick and they look like they are covered with snow.. they are so beautiful..

 Magnolia tree

Pear tree
     Friday we met the outgoing stake Relief Society Presidency and the new presidency at Red Lobster for lunch and then headed over to the stake center to help decorate and prepare for the "Stake Women's Conference" that was held on Saturday.  The theme was "Eternal Life is a Marathon".. The gym was set to serve 250 box lunches and decorated with megaphones and trophies and awards.. The box lunch was a turkey & cheese croissant, chips, a clementine, a cookie & bottle of water. 

Getting lunches prepped
      That evening Elder Shurtleff came over with his new companion Elder Epperson.. who has been out for 4 1/2 months.. We really enjoy the friendships we have with the elders.. just like having substitute grandsons here.. We love that they feel comfortable spending time with us. 

     Saturday the Stake Women's Conference started at 10:00 and we arrived early to meet and greet new and old friends, before it started.  The chapel was full, we were asked to sit on the stand and were introduced by Bonnie Ramon the new Stake Relief Society President and asked to join her at the podium, while she told those in attendance about our mission and explained that we would be working throughout the entire stake and asked everyone to introduce themselves and give us a hug through out the day.  
 There were 6 mini classes held during the morning on these topics:
*Daily Warm Ups: Prayer and Scripture study
*Personalized training: Living by the spirit
*The buddy system: Building relationships
*Getting back on track: Repentance
  *Training Nutrition: What are you feeding your spirit?
*Aerobic Exercise: Exercising the Heart (service project) we made telemetry bags for the children's hospital and flannel stuffed hearts that they put in with preemies that the mothers had worn for a few days so they have their scent on them..
Everyone got to choose "3" classes to attend.. the ones I attended were so inspirational and uplifting. After the classes we broke for lunch and fun conversations.. we had so many come up to us and say they wanted us to start working in their area.. it was really complimentary.. of course those in the two wards we have been in for the last 6 months aren't quite sure they like this new wrinkle in our mission.  We assured them that we were not abandoning them.. that we would still see them often.. After lunch our keynote speaker was Sister Vicki Matsumori ( our mission presidents wife).  I could listen to her talk for hours, she always has the greatest stories and is so motivating. It was such a great day, we met so many new wonderful people and are anxious to start serving in our new assignment.  The talks & the beautiful music that was performed brought such a special spirit to the conference and I know that we all left feeling uplifted and determined to do better in our Marathon Toward Eternal Life....

      We are happy to have appointments set for every day next week, and can't wait to sit and visit with each sister and let her know how much she is loved, not only by us but by her Heavenly Father as well. We also have our District meeting next week, which I always look forward to.. being able to interact with the other two sisters who are serving the same assignment as us in another part of the mission and also with the Noels, our district leaders. Each of them are so dedicated to serve the Lord.

       "Although the world has changed, the laws of God remain constant. They have not changed; they will not change. The Ten Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not suggestions. They are every bit as requisite today as they were when God gave them to the children of Israel."
--President Thomas S. Monson

 May the Lord bless each of you and may you have a wonderful week ahead..

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Music is what feelings sound like

Music is what feelings sound like. ~
Author Unknown

     Last Sunday we attended a "Night of Music"  Fireside, presented by Haleigh Vance.  She had gotten different professional artists from around the area to perform at the fireside.  It was such an inspirational evening of beautiful music.   We listened to the beautiful music performed thru strings (cello & violin), vocal, piano and saxophone.  The program lasted an hour & I loved it. . . . After the performance we had a chance to talk to everyone & I met Steve Nichols father, who used to live in Scottsdale and served as Scottsdale Stake President.  I asked him if he knew our uncle Albert Choules and he said "of course", he was Camelback Stake president at the same time as I was serving.  We talked about Arizona and he asked where I lived and what stake I was in and when I told him, he laughed and said "then your stake president is Steve Rizley".  I said yes and then he told me that President & Marilyn Rizley were very close friends..they have a home next to him just north of Park City, Utah. It was very fun being able to talk to him and share some Arizona facts.

     Monday, Sister Brown and I split up to be able to serve two different needs.  She took Bonnie Ramon to a doctors appointment in Annapolis and I met with Kristi and Liz for a visiting teachers lunch. The weather that day was "crazy", it was snowing as I left the apartment and by the time I picked up Kristi and we arrived at lunch the snow had stopped and it was beautiful blue sky, then black clouds rolled in, then snow again and then blue sky.. each would last less than an hour, it went like this the whole day.. Our lunch was great with Liz, she is such a cute girl and it was fun to get to know her as we sat and talked for a couple hours.  She is a real estate agent and has 2 kids 12 & 14.  Her husband works for the Navy.  We work with her on the Relief Society board, but really didn't know her, so this was a great opportunity. 
     Tuesday was our monthly card club. I love to meet with everyone each month.  It was held at Tina's home this month and there were 11 there.. we talked and created cards and shared the cards we had made for the monthly swap.  Our theme was green this month and I shared my get well card with the frog on the front.. It is so fun to leave with a stack of  completed cards after the swap. 
     Wednesday morning Kathleen and I drove up to the temple alone.. Sister Brown was under the weather and stayed home.. It was a beautiful day out, high 60's and sunny.. My day in the temple was wonderful.. I am making so many friends there and I love the day I get to spend in service with them. 
Salena's home it is really neat
The gate at the Indian Head Naval Base

    Thursday we drove down to Indian Head Naval Base to spend some time with Salena.  She met us outside the gate and escorted us onto the base. As we drove by some homes we said wow that one is so neat, and guess what?  It was her home, it is a colonial 3 story that was built in 1904.  It has 4 fireplaces and 6 bedrooms.. a back staircase from the kitchen that the servants used to get to their quarters (she doesn't have servants).. As we toured the house with her it went on forever.. Her youngest son Jace was home with her and he is so cute.  She is such a kind, caring person.. she serves as the compassionate service leader at church, and is wonderful at it.  Her husband is the Air Force liaison on the Naval base.  He is a the only non-naval officer on the base.  He is stationed out of Hill Air Force Base in Utah.  They have 6 children, 5 boys and one cute girl, ages 16 to 4.  We love to visit with Salena, she is so up-beat and fun. 
     After we left her house we drove out to Hughesville to visit with Evelyn, who is suffering from major back problems.. she and her husband own a health food store near us and we love to shop there.  Their home is in an area that is comprised of large farms.. theirs is on a beautiful hill with lots of land surrounding it.  We had an appointment and rang the bell and knocked on both the front door & the back door, but no answer. . . we thought she might be sleeping. We left our card on both the front and back doors and headed home.. about 30 minutes later our phone rang and it was Evelyn.. She had been sitting on her back patio and said she was listening for us and didn't hear us and then saw the card we stuck in the door.. she was so sorry she missed us, but we assured we would be back out to see her.. so we are going next week.. we will check the back patio next time also. 
     Our Friday morning appointment Vivian called us early and said that she had an emergency and couldn't meet with us.. hope she is OK and also hope she is not avoiding us.. We really love her and had such a wonderful visit with her last time.. and she was very anxious for us to come on Friday.
      We have a lunch appointment with Cracker Barrel, I had never eaten at one before and it was really a fun place.. wonderful gift shop plus a really good lunch.  Renee is in the relief society presidency of the 1st ward and such a sweetheart.. ..
     After lunch I drove over to visit with Vera, our little retired nurse.. Kathy wasn't feeling well and stayed home to rest.  When I got to Vera's and rang the bell no I knocked and still no answer.. wow stood up twice in one week.. we will call her to make sure all is ok the first of the week.  
       Saturday we drove up to the visitors center to attend a concert by Paul Cardall..Also at the visitors center is a beautiful room full of had made quilts and other textiles. 

Some of the beautiful needlework on display

Paul Layton Cardall was born with a severe heart defect, and was only given a few months to live. However, he survived through numerous surgeries. He began piano lessons at the age of eight but quit after six months because he was frustrated with the practice routine. During high school Cardall lost a close friend and in search of solace he sat at the family piano and discovered his ability to play by ear and transcribe the feelings of his heart through music. Cardall would play the piano two to three hours a day. Cardall studied a couple of months with pianist Craig Kaelin and credits him with teaching Cardall how to chart music. Cardall lived 36 years with Congenital Heart Disease. He was born with only a single functioning ventricle or half-heart. In August 2008, with his heart failure, Cardall was listed for a heart transplant. After waiting 385 days, he received a donated heart via transplant on September 9, 2009. Each of his new CD's have hit the top of the charts and he now travels all over the world performing his beautiful music and inspiring all who listen to his story.. The concert was wonderful and the music was so beautiful.  It was fun to be at the visitors center and see so many of the friends we made when we worked there during the festival of lights in December.

The thought I want to share with each of you tonight..
"When we have sampled much and have wandered far and have seen how fleeting and sometimes superficial a lot of the world is, our gratitude grows for the privilege of being part of something we can count on—home and family and the loyalty of loved ones. We come to know what it means to be bound together by duty, by respect, by belonging. We learn that nothing can fully take the place of the blessed relationship of family life."
President Thomas S.Monson

I hope everyone has a wonderful week. .