Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

I think I jinxed myself last week when I mentioned that snow had finally come to Sweden, because the day afterwards, it melted away completely, and while it snowed once last week, we haven't had anything that's stuck. I'm still hoping for a white Christmas next week, but we'll see what happens with that. As it is, it's been warm enough I can shed a layer or two, and rainy. Contacting in the rain has definitely been fun in the past few days. Some times I think the US Postal Service motto fits the missionaries better- Come rain or snow, we'll be there.... or something to that effect!

The work is progressing, we're still working with the guy who started cussing us out on the street. He actually is really nice when he's not having a bad day, and it's amazing how much progress he makes. We've been working to get more lessons every week, and we're slowly but surely making it there. We've also gotten to teach a guy from Africa this past week who is... interesting. He's a self-proclaimed evangelist, and he has an enormous faith in Jesus Christ, which has been fantastic to see and to feel. He has some of the most bizarre word choices I have every heard, and it's kind of funny sometimes when he says one thing, and we say another, and after a few minutes of back and forth, we figure out we really meant the same thing. He's a challenge to teach at times, because he LOVES talking, and he'll get distracted on tangents, but really, it's just great that he has such a strong faith already.
Oh, I  suppose I should mention last week's Christmas concert  had some unexpected side effects. A lady from Hägersten Församling was there at the concert, and she heard me play, and decided it would be wonderful if I could also play for our sacrament meeting on the 22nd. She wasn't, however, sure who in the ward had a violin, so after a little bit of talking around, she decided that she wanted to take me to a violin shop and rent me a violin- and I have to say, it was a very sweet thought, and I would love to have a violin all the time, however, that's not something I want to ask someone else to do for me. It is too expensive on a missionary budget, and it is too much to ask a member to pay for, and beyond that, while transfers typically happen every six weeks, it isn't impossible that I could get called to another area unexpectedly. So, I tried to tell her I didn't think it would work and that I didn't want her to do it, which I think she misunderstood as me saying I don't know that it would be okay by the mission rules, because she then called the District and Zone leaders to get me permission to go to this violin shop and to see if it was okay to rent a violin for me. Then she called the proselyting office to be sure I wasn't transferring. And just to be sure everything was okay, she called President about it, which resulted in President calling me to figure out what was going on. I explained the situation to him, and told him I would much rather borrow a violin for as long as it was needed then give it back. He said he would see what he could do, and the next morning he called back and told me he had found me a violin for this coming weekend.
Really, I'm touched that this woman wanted to help so much; I'm an American missionary who she's known less than a month, and she was willing to sacrifice a lot for me, and that means a lot. I'm also grateful for President, who was able to calmly and effectively help us all figure out this situation. And I'm grateful as well that I'm getting to use my talents here on my mission; I've said for years that I would much rather play in sacrament then give a talk in church. Now all I do is talk in or about church, and I'm starting to realize how special the violin really has been to me, and it's great.
Speaking of talking in church, we had an adventure yesterday. We had just sat down in Sunday school after talking with some of the members when Syster McCollaum jumped back up and said we needed to go right then because we were teaching the Relief Society lesson. Apparently, she had recieved a phone call a few days before asking us to teach the lesson, and in all likelihood, she told me, and I promptly forgot, which explains why yesterday afternoon I was completely lost, and had no idea we were even supposed to be teaching in Relief Society. So, with 20 minutes until the meeting began, we started preparing a lesson about following Jesus Christ's example in our own lives. And I must say, it actually went very well. I'm still not able to understand all of what people say in church or lessons (it doesn't help that everyone has an accent from somewhere besides Sweden), but I could feel the spirit very strongly as we taught. It was really amazing to look at those women and hear their testimonies and hear a little of where they come from, and to know we are all united in and of that we are all members of the same church, and that we are daughters of our Heavenly Father.
And the other most spiritual moment of the week was Saturday, as we were able to go with Angie to the temple. She was going in to do baptisms for the dead for the first time, and she wanted to have us come with her, for which I'm extremely grateful. As missionaries, we're not allowed to be baptized, so instead, Syster McCollaum and I were able to sit and just soak in the Spirit for an hour or so. It's true I've only been out here a month, but I all ready miss having weekly temple visits; the temple is one of my favorite places to be, and I love the peace and strength that I can feel there. Syster McCollaum and I also had the chance to do some confirmations while we were there, and it was really cool to get to take such an active role in someone's baptism. It says in Preach My Gospel that temple work and missionary work are exactly the same, and in that moment in the temple, I could understand that statement very fully. That was one of the best moments I've had out here, and while maybe I wasn't out teaching or contacting, I felt very effective as I was helping others come to Christ through temple work. I'm sorry, temples are just the best. Seriously, they've got it wrong, Disneyland isn't the happiest place on earth, it is the LDS temples. They're just awesome.
One last note: things are changing here in the next week. This week is transfers, and while I'm not going anywhere, one of our elders is leaving, while another is coming in, and the two elders we have will be training two of the twelve elders coming from the MTC this week. I'll miss Äldste Hills (but he'll be great in his new area), but I'm also excited to see who the new elders we'll get will be, especially as I was able to meet them in the MTC before coming out here. I'm also very excited for this because, while I may still be the youngest sister in the mission (in terms of actual age) for a few months, I'm not going to be the youngest group (in terms of when we got here) anymore! and it will be fun, because it means we'll have three greenies here in Hägersten, but it will honestly be great to have six missionaries here, and that in and of itself is great. Oh, and we'll also be having Zone Conferencethis Thursday, which means I'll get to see a fair portion of my MTC group, and that we'll get to have a ton of missionaries together right before Christmas.
And that about sums up my week! I hope things are going well for every one at home, and that I'll hear if it's otherwise! So, wishing you all a god jul, or a very merry Christmas from here in Sweden where I'll be eating clementines and peparkakor while drinking julmust and watching Kalle Anka. Lots of love and prayers, especially at this Christmas time,
Love,
Syster Maxwell

Monday, December 9, 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

So, it finally snowed in Huddinge this week! I've been waiting since I got here in November to see snow, and it finally came this week, which made me ridiculously happy. That is until I realized that Swedes don't believe in snow plows or shoveling their sidewalks, and they don't do anything to really get rid of the snow. Because this means that I'm walking on 1/2 an inch of solid ice everywhere I go. Actually, I'll be honest, I'm just glad that it finally snowed, and I'm willing to pay for that by learning how to ice-skate in my boots every day. I haven't slipped yet, so we'll hope that pattern continues in the next few months.
Sweden continues to be beautiful. I love all the candles in the window for Advent, and we're starting to get little
blurbs of Christmas music in the stores. I miss American Christmas songs, but I've found a few Swedish ones to love, and every so often, we hear a little bit of an American song in the grocery store or coming from korv carts.
I actually had an amazing experience with music this past week. It's been really strange for me not to have a thousand concerts and rehearsals for Christmas this December, and I'd been missing it when Äldste Lambson asked me if I'd be willing to play with him in the Stake Christmas Concert that was in Västerhaninge last night. It took a little finagling, but we were able to find me a violin, which was absolutely gorgeous, and I was able to play a song called 'Betlehems Stjärna' last night, which was also absolutely gorgeous. It was absolutely amazing to get play and rehearse, and to get to share my testimony with others through music again. I love getting to do that, and I'm doing everything I can to get more opportunities like that.
However, we were only a small part of the concert; most of the concert was a local sånggrup who were absolutley amazing to listen to. They had the most amazingly in tune and pure voices, and the arrangements of songs they sang were stunning. The spirit was so strong in that meeting, and I consider it a privilege to have been a part of it. One of the songs they sang was a more traditionally Swedish song called 'Bereden väg för Herren.' We're supposed to be singing it in Sakrament in a few weeks, and I'm excited to learn it. They also sang 'Believe' from 'The Polar Express' and 'O Holy Night' in Swedish. It was amazing. I feel like I've said that a lot, but really, this was one of the most amazing concerts I've been to in a very long time.
We've also had a lot of fun in normal missionary work this week. We continue to contact all sorts of lovely individuals (some may not always seem so lovely, but I'm sure that they really are when you know them). I actually got a lesson on humility this week from that; we contacted a Turkish man on the street near our apartment, and he started freaking out on us and swearing at us because of how people of other faiths have treated him in the past. I was more than ready to leave, but Syster McCollaum patiently waited for him to stop swearing, and asked him if he wanted to meet with us. I was still not entirely sure I wanted to go through with this, but I didn't say anything. Friday, we met with him, and it was the most amazing lesson. Really, he would talk and talk and talk, but as he talked, you could feel the Spirit so strongly. We're continuing to meet with him, and we're hoping that he'll continue to progress.
Obviously, I don't know everything, because if I'd had my way, we probably wouldn't have met with him.
But luckily for everyone involved, I have an amazing companion and a Heavenly Father who understands much more than I do. I don't think we've had a single investigator so far that I would have really sought out so much before my mission, but they've all been amazing to talk to and teach.

I'm excited for Christmas to come. It means a lot more clementines, pepparkakor, and julmust for one, but for two, there's a different spirit in our meetings, and I feel like people are a lot more open to talking about faith and Jesus Christ.
Anyways, I hope people are enjoying the start of the Christmas season back at home! I love you all, and I think you're pretty amazing.
Love,
Syster Maxwell

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December's finally here

Hey, family and friends, love you all, and I miss you like a fat kid misses chocolate cake. I heard that from my companion this week, and I've been dying to use it on you, because I thought it was hysterical.
It continues to be cold and dark here in Sweden, and I know that I'm being blessed in and of that I'm learning to love the cold. I really am; I don't know what I'll do the next time I'm in hundred-degree weather, because the cold is just so beautiful! We were out contacting the other day, and I thought it was the most fantastic thing that every time I breathed, I could see my breath come out in a cloud of fog and that my scarf was growing icicles because of it. Any and all water freezes, and so the sidewalks glitter when you walk, because tiny little water droplets get stuck in the cement.
I'm also learning to love Swedish houses. They are so VIVID. I love the colors, and the variety you'll see when you're walking down the streets. Syster McCollaum probably gets a little frustrated that I do it so often, but I love stopping to look at the fantastic colors the Swedes have everywhere. It does get dark and grey by about 2:30 here, but there are so many colors around me that I hardly notice.
There's also a ridiculous number of Christmas lights out. It's different from the States in and of that they don't put so many lights on the actual house. Instead, they have candles in the windows for advent. It's so different, but I love it.
I also got my first taste of Julmust this week, which is the soda the Swedes drink just for Christmas. YUM. I don't usually drink soda, but I may make an exception at Christmas time for Julmust, because it's amazing.
It was an interesting week for missionary work. We are still working with our druggie investigator. He progresses really well, quite truthfully, and we're hoping to see him baptized by the end of the month. We had fun with another investigator this week when he informed us he supports polygamy and thinks the church was wrong to end it. That was an interesting lesson in SO many ways, but that was definitely not the least of them.
We had a rough(ish) experience with one of our new converts this week. She wanted to go to the temple, so we set up a time with them for her to go do baptisms. We got there and talked with the front desk, and she told us she was planning on going through a session. It was a little heart-breaking to have to tell her she couldn't go through the temple yet, but she was sweet about it, and patiently let us explain to her that she would have to wait a year, and that she could do baptisms for now.
And I would also like to say, we have the most AMAZING ward. Angie is just one example of our amazing ward members, but there are others. Last week, we went to a dinner with a member family, and they noticed that I was wearing my big thick boots. The wife asked if I was cold, and we told her that quite honestly, it wasn't that I was cold, it was that I had another pair of boots, and they were making it impossible for me to walk without limping, and that none of my ballet flats work for contacting in the snow and rain. So, she put out a facebook notice, and today, I am wearing a pair of the most wonderfully broken in, fitted perfectly to my feet boots. And that's not the only expample I have of how wonderful the Hagersten ward is, but that is the most clear example I have of what a blessing a ward family is, and how much my Heavenly Father must love me. Seriously, it's awesome.
Love you all, and I hope everything's going well for you!
Love,
Syster Maxwell

Monday, November 25, 2013

We Have Hit Negative Temperatures!

It’s true, we have finally hit the negatives for Celisus temperatures. I don’t know exactly how cold it is, but Äldste Hills was having fun ice-skating on the roads last night on our way out of a dinner appointment last night. Syster McCollaum continues to inform me that we haven’t hit real Swedish winter yet, but it’s also consistently sitting around 0° C. It’s not completely frozen yet, but weäll get there.
We’re finally getting to get more appointments and lessons in. One thing I’m starting to learn very quickly out here is not to judge. Everyone has their own set of problems, and everyone comes from different backgrounds. I’ve met people from just about everywhere, including China, India, Kenya, Ghana, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Canada, Chile, and SO MANY OTHERS, and from every walk of life too. It’s fantastically amazing who I’ll get to meet every day.
 
So, just a fun tidbit, the Stockholm temple is actually in my zone. It used to be in my district, but due to a complicated set of transfers, it’s now only in my zone. However, last week for District meeting, we met in Västerhaninge (the town where the temple is), and I walked straight by the temple. There are NOT many missionaries in Sweden who can say they saw the temple in their first week in the country.



District meeting last week was also my first chance to try kladkaka, which is the Swedish equivalent to brownies, and completely delicious, as well as kebab.
Let me explain kebab in Sweden- it is NOTHING like shish-kabobs in the states. There is no resemblance whatsoever. Kebab is fried lamb meat cut in very thin slices and put on pizza with sauce, peppers, and french-fries. The kebab I had last week also had tomatoes and lettuce, which Syster McCollaum tells me isn’t how it usually is (and I had kebab last night that would agree with that statement). It sounds bizarre, but it is SO GOOD. I think I’m in love with kebab and kladkaka, and it’s a good thing it doesn’t fit in the missionary budget to have both all the time, or I would be coming home as a very fat missionary at the end of my mission.

 

Another weird thing about Sweden, everyone here has a dog, a baby, or smokes, or sometimes a combination of all three. I think I have seen more pregnant women here than I did walking around BYU campus, which is a statement in and of itself. I’m also fairly certain that if I develop lung-cancer later in life, I will blame that on the Swedes. I love them to pieces, but sometimes, I wish the bus-station didn’t smell like tobacco.
Lessons are going great, and they’re always interesting, as is contacting. We do a lot more contacting than anything, and that’s mostly because we’re building up our area. For those who’ve been wondering, we do contacting, and not tracting, and that’s mostly because almost every apartment building in Sweden has a passcode on the doors. Unless you have the code, you can’t get in to ring the doorbell, and so, usually we just end up walking up and down the streets in Flemingsberg and Älvsjö looking for people to talk to.
It actually led to an amazing experience last week. We hadn’t been having much success in our contacting after District meeting last week, so we went to the side of the road and said a quick prayer. We went back to the road, and within seconds, we met this guy who was just out for a walk. We started talking to him, and he told us he had time to sit down and talk, so we sat on a bench, and taught him the entire first lesson. He had so many questions, and we could feel the Spirit so strongly as we taught him. It was freezing, and the rain was coming down, and we were pretty well soaked by the time we were done, but it was worth it! Seriously, it was the most amazing lesson I’ve been to yet. 
 


We still have not had any real snow; so far, it’s just been these frustrating little flakes that are almost more like a mist that is just cold enough to freeze and stick to you. I’m still waiting for some real snow to come, but Syster McCollaum says to be patient, because soon we’ll have so much snow we won’t know what to do with it.
Oh well, I haven’t frozen yet, for which I’m grateful!
Love, Syster Maxwell

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ursäkta

So, first and foremost, I'm still alive in frozen Sweden!
Actually, from what I hear, it's about as warm here in Sweden as it is at home. I'm actually not sure what the temperature has been here because I'm still not sure where a thermometer is, but itäs been about 5 degrees Celsius on average, if not a little less.
President and Syster Newell are amazing, as are all of the Senior Couples. We were welcomed in right away, and I can't say that things are uncomfortable right now, aside from going from sitting in a desk all day to walking around Stockholm for hours at a time.
I've been assigned to an area just south of Stockholm. We're lucky; our apartment belonged to senior couples before us, so it's HUGE, and really nice. It's a little different, because they shower is not at all seperated from the rest of the bathroom ( really, we have to hang the rug over the shower curtain every morning so it can dry out), but considering that that's the only strange thing I can find about it, I'd say we've got it made.
Speaking of 'we,' I have an amazing new companion, Syster McCollaum, who is a Doctor Who fan! We've both been celebrating our mutual nerdiness all week. She is from Delta, Utah, and only has a few more months out here on her mission. She's been great so far, and an amazing help with learning the language.
I got out of the MTC, and I quickly realized, I don't know the language half so well as I thought I did. Everyone speaks so fast here, and they fluctuate their words in spots Americans would never think to. I'm at least able to seperate different words, but Syster McCollaum does most of the talking when we're out contacting since I'm still trying to figure out what in the world people are saying to me.
It's definitely been different here; it's usually dark by about 4:30 p.m., and we stay out contacting until about 7 or 8. The phrase I'm working to master right now is 'ursäkta' or 'excuse me.' Contacting is harder than expected. I'm still not entirely sure what people are saying when they talk to me, so I'm a little more cautious when I approach them, just to be certain I'm not somehow saying something ridiculous or offensive.
I have done more running for Tunnelbanan and Pendeltåget than I have ever run for any form of transportation in my life in the past week. I'm pretty sure I'm getting just as much exercise walking around Sweden as when I exercise in the morning. We've yet to get an actual lesson in; we keep scheduling them, and people keep cancelling or not being home. Hopefully that changes in the next week, especially since we have a good number lined up.
We've also done an amazing amount of singing in the past few days. We had some Elders from the next zone over have us come and sing with them at a mall, which attracted a fair number of contacts. We also went to the Stockholm Stake conference to sing there. I was actually briefly able to see President Nyman, but due to time and language barriers, I didn't get to talk to him much. We've also been asked by the ward to sing 'If the Savior Stood Beside Me' as part of the Primary Program next Sunday. Also musically connected, my district leader is a violinist! He was playing yesterday after church, and I kind of did a little happy dance out in the hallway to hear strings played again.
The members are awesome, or at least, I think they are from how much I can understand when they talk (we're still working on that). They also love the missionaries. They had me get up to bear my testimony på svenska on Sunday in Sakrament, which was terrifying, and kept very short so I didn't have too much room to mess up, but great. They've also already had me pray in meetings. My hope is that I'll be forced to speak the language so much that it'll just start coming as I need words.
Oh, and one last thing: Sweden has been perfect for my diabetes so far. I do work hard, and once or twice, that's brought my sugars down, but never to an actual low. The food has SO much less sugar than the MTC or just American food in general. My sugars have been AMAZINGLY on track in the past week, which has been an enormous blessing as I've been out working all day to meet people interested in the gospel. It's been an answer to so many prayers from the MTC, especially given how hard it was to focus and progress there with out of whack blood-sugars.
Love,
   Syster Maxwell
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hejsan, hej då!

So, we have officially entered my last week at the MTC! It's so strange, but it's finally here! I'm leaving in a week! I had my last trip to the temple today, and it was gorgeous. It was a little bittersweet, because, although there is a temple in Stockholm, I have no idea how often I'll actually get to attend the temple, so this is going to be my last temple visit for a while.





 
This week has otherwise been great. Yesterday, we had a minor adventure early in the morning. We woke up and had a bat outside our door, just laying on the ground. At first we thought it was fake, but Syster Stewart decided to touch it with a fork, and it twitched. I thought I reacted pretty well to a bat in our Residence, but Syster Stewart disagrees. Apparently shrieking, running into our room, and refusing to come out until the bat was gone is not a positive response- although for anyone who's ever seen me react to any sort of rodent or animal I'm expected to touch, you will know this was a huge step forward from me. I successfully avoided the urge to climb on my bed and scream for about 1/2 an hour, which is pretty big for me. 

 
So, things are a little different this week at the MTC. Usually, a new district arrives the 
Wednesday after the last one leaves, however, since that means that the New Swedes would be leaving the week of Christmas, this means that they're arriving today and tomorrow. Our teachers have been telling us we're not allowed to confuse them by refusing to speak English to them, but I'm pretty sure we'll still be speaking whatever Swedish we can to them.

Oh, and the fantastic news: I'M FLYING OUT A DAY EARLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We got our flight plans last Friday, and we'll be flying our from SLC INT early Monday morning, and arriving in Sweden early the morning of the 12th. And even more fantastic news: I HAVE MY VISA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, if all goes according to plan, at this time next week, I'll have been in Sweden for a few hours! Oh, goodness, I'm so excited to finally get out to the field! I've loved the MTC, but I want to get out into the field. The idea both terrifies and thrills me, because I've talked to native Swedes in the last few weeks, and I fully realize I'm far from fluent in the language, and I know I'm a less than perfect servant, but I also have faith that the Lord qualifies who he calls and that I'll be fine so long as I'm doing all I can to serve Him. Okay, one more little moment of freak-out.......... I'M GOING TO SWEDEN IN A WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'M GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH BUT I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!.

 
They tell us to be quietly dignified. Technically, nothing audible happened there, so I think we can choose to overlook it. The only downside to this is that it means I most likely will not be allowed to email next week, so it may be a while before the world will enjoy another of my lovely updates. There's a slim chance I'll get to email when I first arrive, but I wouldn't say to count on it.

Anyways, I  think I'll tell you about my experience with native Swedes so far. For TRC every week, people come in and we teach them lessons on the gospel. So far, we've taught a fair number of native Swedes, including a family from Göteborg last week, who were amazing to teach. There was an amazingly strong spirit there, even though we'd only known them for about 20 minutes, and they were so excited to learn we'd be in Sweden in just a few weeks. We've also been having fun getting to know Syster Bussman. She's a sister from the northern part of Sweden going to Russia. We've had fun getting to practice our Swedish with her, and while she's shared swedish candy with us (it's VERY different from American candy), she nearly started crying when I told her she could have some of the knäckebröd I have in the residence. She's been absolutely adorable to get to know, and has only fed into my excitement to get over to Sweden. 

I love the fact that I'm a missionary. It's a struggle; it's not easy, but it's so amazing. I know I'm where I need to be, and I'm excited that in a few days, that means I'll finally be in Sweden! 

Med kärlek,
Syster Maxwell

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Revelation through Cake

Hallå min familj och vänner! Hur går det med du?

Life in the MTC continues. This past week has presented some interesting challenges. I caught the cold at the MTC, and my insulin decided to start going bad- meaning it still worked, but only when it wanted to. Between that and the MTC food, my blood-sugar has been fun- fun enough for me to write in my planner "Revelation through Cake." I'm pretty sure I meant "Revelation through Church," however, the concept of good food is so foreign at this point, and essentially miraculous, so maybe i was being smarter than I thought when I wrote that. Not that I think I'll actually be receiving revelation anytime soon by eating cake. Oh well, only two more weeks of MTC food, and then I'm off to eat potatoes and pickled herring for 18 months! Yum!

Life outside of food and blood-sugar has been great. Syster Stewart and I are still having fun walking the MTC singing Disney songs. The new dutchies thought we were kidding when we told them they'd hear us coming- they now have to admit they were wrong. We have fun as a district and zone. What started as a rivalry with the Norwegians has calmed down a lot now. We still tease each other mercilessly, but we're all amazing friends now. We still enjoy our Eldste Edwards-isms. He says and does the most interesting things. Apparently cream cheese is the nastiest thing he's ever eaten, but the MTC did an okay job with fish and chips- he looked like a kid at christmas when he sat down with two plates, and didn't talk to any of us until both plates were clear. Oh, and he was about a tenth of a second away from a spit-take the other day when I did my impression of Wallace and Gromit- "Cheese, Gromit!"

All of the Sisters are great; we have Disney parties in the showers, and eat ridiculous amounts of food- seriously, I have an entire shelf on my desk which is just food. How I'll finish it before leaving the MTC, I don't know, but I'm not gonna let that go to waste anytime soon.

So, Syster Stewart and I had a rather unexpectedly awesome experience with one of our investigators, Alex, last week. We've felt a lot like we've been struggling to get through to him in the last few lessons. So we planned this lesson less to teach a new doctrine, and more to gauge what he's learned, what he's hoping to gain by continuing to meet with the missionaries, and how we can help him build a testimony of the gospel through questions. We were expecting a lesson a lot like the others, with a lot of "Um's" and "Ja vet inte's." However, we were only a few minutes into the lesson when we started feeling the spirit so strongly as he bore testimony of the things he had learned with us. At the end of the lesson, we asked him why he hadn't decided to be baptized, and were shocked when he answered, "Because you haven't asked me!" Oops! However, it was a good reminder on our parts that even if we're not always on top of what's going on, the Lord is, and He can turn a situation into something far better than we ever had planned.

One of my favorite words that I've learned på svenska is 'omvändelse'. It literally means 'an about turn' or 'to turn around,' but in a gospel context, it means both "to repent" and "to be converted." I'm not sure if I'm using the verb form right there, but no matter how you use it, it means the same. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and honestly, I kind of wish it worked the same way in English. Atonement literally means "an at one-ness" with the Lord. As we repent we become more in sync, or at one, with the Lord. I think it's an interesting concept, that our conversion, and the degree to which choose to repent are in many ways the same thing- choosing to put behind you old wrongs, and to turn back to the Lord. Anyways.

Oh, another interesting tidbit- both Brother Bush and Brother Jorgenson (two of my teachers) were Adam Webster's mission companions. It's a small world. And admittedly, it was a little strange to have Brother Jorgenson explain he's been to the Webster's new house and old house, and to figure out that means he's seen my house. It's a VERY small world.

One last note- thank you so much to my beautiful soul sister, Miss Oakleigh Yost. I got her belatedly birthday present yesterday, and I was a VERY happy missionary! I'm now the proud owner of my own sonic screwdriver, some doctor who pins, and doctor who post-its. Dalek post-its will soon be invading the MTC. :D
 

this is said happy missionary!
Anyways, I love you all, I miss you, and pray for you! I love getting letters from everyone and hearing how things are going with y'all (it's amazing how using that word på svenska makes me want to use it more på engelska).

Med kärlek,

Syster Maxwell

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hejsan!

So, life continues here at the MTC. Seriously (the food aside) this is the coolest place! After the last group of Dutchies left last Monday, another set came in last Wednesday. They are so much fun, especially the new sister, Sister Jones. She's so amazingly talented, and funny.

So, my zone actually has about 35 missionaries. There are only 5 Swedes, but we also have the Norwegians, the Danes, and the Dutch. There is one Dutch Elder who arrived on the same day as me (2 weeks ahead of the other Dutchies) who's going to the West Indies, so he's our "lone Dutchie" in one of the Norwegian Districts.


 
The MTC is awesome; I've got three fantastic teachers, all returned missionaries from Sweden.  Bro. Jorgensen is the youngest and was the one who told me about Pres. Nyman, but Bro. Bush and Bro. Dunn are where to go for vocab and grammar questions


My dorm room is actually pretty great. Although there are 6 beds, it's just Syster Stewart and me. We're right next door to the other 5 sisters in my zone. I have a fridge, and it's been great for keeping my insulin cool. Oh, and it's insane, but from my room, I can see Heritage Halls and BYU printing. I keep an eye out for Doug's car, but I haven't seen it yet.
Syster Stewart is fantastic. She's from a farm in Spokane Washington. She's the second of 8 kids, and she talks about her family all the time. She'll be 20 in December, but we have sisters in our zone who are almost 21. She, Sister Buhler, and I have fun being nerds together.

The Swedish is coming slowly but surely. It's interesting, because every time we teach, it's pa svenska, but truthfully, we don't really use our language aids as much as we used to. We teach at least one investigator every day, and we had two yesterday. Investigators tend to be our teachers taking on the role of an investigator they taught in their missions. One of our teachers, Brother Jorgenson, is playing a 10-year old, and he's freakishly good at it. We love getting to teach him, because he's very quick to catch on, and very driven- the kid read the Book of Mormon twice in 10 days! Teaching him is so cool, especially because he's so enthusiastic about the gospel. Our other investigator, Alex, is coming along well too. Not quite as fast as Adam, but he's becoming more and more receptive to our message.

So, just as an overview, a day at the MTC goes roughly like this:
6:15 Wake up and shower
7:00 Go to the gym and play volleyball and foursquare for an hour
8:00 Personal Study
8:45 Breakfast
9:15 Classtime and teaching
1:50 Lunch
2:30 More classtime and teaching
5:45 Language study
6:45 Dinner
7:30 More study time
9:00 Planning
10:30 Bed!!!!!!

The schedule doesn't go exactly like that every day, but all of that is fit in there somehow or other, and we are busy every minute of every day. Maybe I don't have as many different activities going on as the high school and college kids do, but I promise, I'm working so hard I essentially fall into my bed every night. Well, technically, I don't fall since I have the top bunk, but I look like a zombie stumbling up the ladder.

We have a lot of fun, singing disney songs, and making up our own parts to hymns (Syster Stewart takes soprano, I take alto. All together, it works out well). We quote movies like no one's business, and over-all just love life as misisonaries.

I love being a missionary. I really do. I'll be honest, it's hard, and I miss my family, and there are times I wish I could be there with them, but I know I'm exactly where I need to be. I have so much fun here and I've seen my testimony grow and my understanding of the gospel has expanded so much already. One of the best quotes I've heard here at the MTC is "The atonement isn't part of the gospel; the atonement is the gospel." It's a different perspective than I had before on the Atonement, and it has reshaped my testimony so much as I've thought about it in the last few weeks. None of the gospel matters without the atonement, and because of the atonement, we have an amazing, bright hope that something better is always going to come, because we have a Savior and a gracious Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can possibly begin to imagine.

Just as a note, to date, I have seen Elder Dexter Murray, Elder Chandler Young, Elder Jaik Brown, Elder Jake Jenson, Elder Nick Elg, Elder Nathan Ricks, Elder Danny David Dawson, Elder Riley McEwan, and Elder Ben Van de Graaf. Sister Victoria Violette, Sister Rachel Page, and Sister Melanie Hunter. I also was able to talk to Elder Adam Isaac a few times before he finally left for Kobe, Japan, which was amazing. I thought I'd said goodbye to him back in August when we all were hanging out at the Bell's one last time before he and Elder Mike Vance went to the MTC, but I was able to shake his hand (because that's the only contact Sisters and Elders can have) just hours before he boarded a plane to fly out to Japan. I haven't heard anything since, but I know that he's going to be an amazing missionary in Japan.

Being a missionary isn't easy. Last week after Devotional, Syster Stewart had a minor break-down. She's had her faith tried much harder in the last few months than ever before, and as a missionary, she wants to be exactly obedient, and know that what's she's teaching is absolutely true. And I can definitely understand that; it's terrifying, in a way, to contemplate that I'm going to tell people for the next 18 months how they should change their lives and why. We've been working together to help her overcome that, and I do think that she's doing better now, but it has made me reflect a lot on why I'm here.

I'm here because the gospel is light in my life, and I want to share it with others. I love the promise of the restored gospel, and I think that promise should be made available to everyone. Someone is out there, waiting for what I have to offer as a missionary. I don't know who they are, or when I'll meet them. I might not even know until after this life, but I do know the Lord has a purpose for me out in Stockholm, and I want to get out there and fulfill that purpose.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week 2



So, the MTC remains amazing. It's both sad and awesome, we sent off our Dutchies along with Elders Bodine and Reber, and Sister Frampton in the past two days. The Dutchies are off to serve in the Belgium-Netherlands Mission. Elder Bodine had a broken foot, but since it's healed, he went off to Sweden on Monday morning. Elder Reber and Sister Frampton were both supposed to go to the Norway Oslo Mission, but they're visas didn't come in, so they were reassigned last week and are now serving in Nampa, Idaho, and Raleigh, North Carolina repectively. It's seriously been so amazing to get to know these elders and Sister Frampton, and I know that they're going to be just as amazing out in the field.



Last Friday, Syster Stewart and I had prepared an amazing lesson for our investigator, Johan. We'd been waiting upstairs for several minutes when he came in and shirt and tie, and asked us what we were doing there. Apparently he's our new teacher. As a district, we've affectionately named him Faux-han. It's still a little bizarre to hear him speaking in perfect english, but he's an amazing teacher. We now have two investigators; Adam, who is a 10-year old chinese boy who speaks swedish (played by our teacher, Broder Jorgenson) and Alex, played by Broder Dunn.

It continues to get colder down here, and I'm really starting to appreciate my scarves and fleece-lined tights. Apparently BYU controls our heating, so we still get the air-conditioner blowing in our class-rooms, even though it's only 40 degrees out when we get there.



And they made us move classrooms! I'm still not entirely sure why, but yesterday they announced to us that we were moving classrooms. I'm not complaining; we used to be in the basement, where all we could see was the tunnels. Now we're on the top floor, and we have a lovely view of a tree, which is a great reminder that the world still exits. The only downside is that now we have desks that don't have room for our books, and the desk is attached to the chair. Gone are the days of padded, wheeled seats, gone are the days of chair-races down the hallway. Oh well, now we have a tree, and it's beautiful. Oh, and now we have a second British Elder across the hallway in addition to Eldste Edwards. I'm getting a lot of practice on my British accent.

So, Syster Stewart and I have officially joined the MTC choir. It's insane what they manage to pull off; we walked in to rehearsal on Sunday night and sight-read a Mack Wilberg piece we're supposed to perform tonight in devotional. It's absolutely amazing to hear; it's a version of 'Praise to the Man,' and of course, since it's Mack Wilberg, the chords are gorgeous and full, and the transitions are amazing. And amazingly enough, even though we're an enormous group of teenagers, we are managing to somehow pull it off.

Really, it's amazing to see how the Lord quickens our understanding as missionaries, musically, and in our lessons. I've learned more Swedish in the past few weeks than I know what to do with, and I would not have believed that we could learn a Mack Wilberg piece in so little time. Again and again though, I'm reminded that the Lord DOES watch over His missionaries, and He will help us as we work to serve him.

Love, Syster Maxwell

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hello from the MTC! I hope everything's going well at home!
 

The MTC has been amazing; I'm so relieved to finally be out working! After all that waiting and trying to find something to keep myself busy (except for when I was suddenly slammed with getting ready in the last two weeks), it's been fantastic to be here and to be actively engaged in something every minute of the day. I go to sleep exhausted, and I wake up exhausted, but at the same time, I'm thrilled to be on the Lord's errand.
 
I have the most amazing companion; I love Syster Stewart! I don't know why everyone seem so concerned I'd annoy my companion to death. Okay, that's a lie, I do know, but for all of you who were concerned, things couldn't have turned out better! She's a music geek like me; she has a ridiculous knowledge of musicals, Disney movies, and hymns. She actually brought a binder of vocal pieces with her, and later we're going to try through one with a violin obligato, for which I am immensely excited. She also has the most amazing testimony and concern for others, which is a trait I should probably work to develop more in myself.
 
It is hard work here. We're up every morning by 6:30, and it's a crunch to make it to bed by 10:30. Every minute is spent either learning the language, or preparing for our next lesson with our investigator.
 
Oh, I suppose I should mention that we've already had two discussions with our investigator. His name is Johan. We first met him on Friday, which was absolutely terrifying. We'd only been studying the language for two days, and we were lucky to be able to understand what he was saying to us! Yesterday's lesson went better; we weren't as freaked out going in, and we (technically, Aldste Allen) had the brilliant idea to take a white board in with us so when we came to a word we didn't know, Johan could write it down so we could understand him. There was a moment as I was talking that I could feel the spirit so strongly- it was awesome, and exactly what I needed at the moment. I hope that my Swedish continues to improve so that we can have even better discussions.
 
I have an amazing district and zone; besides Syster Stewart and myself, we have three elders in our district, and our zone includes the Norwegians and our lone Dutchman. I think it's awesome; the Norwegians have a British elder, Eldste Edwards. It is the best thing to hear him talk. So far, we've heard such novelties as "no malarky back there," "good golly," and my favorite, "don't throw your teddy out of the pram." Syster Stewarts usually gets in trouble for imitating his accent, usually without her realizing that she's done it.
 
And the Norwegian sisters are amazing! I love Sister Buhler! We have very deep and moving discussions about Disney movies (usually after Syster Stewart or I make a Disney reference. Cuz that's what we do. A lot.) and other geekly things. She's also taught me a new way to Donald Duck.
 
It's insane, actually; it's the MTC, and you can always feel the spirit here, but I laugh so much, because the people are so amazingly funny and nice. My first morning here, as I was walking to breakfast, Syster Stewart and I heard some elders imitating wookies-something which has actually been repeated upon several occasions.
 



General Conference was amazing from the MTC. It seemed like a lot of the talks focused on missionaries and members helping us out, as well as on being accepted for whatever level of faith you have and family history work. I was kind of surprised by Elder Hollands talk; it didn't seem to have all of his usual fire, and it was an interesting (but still amazing) topic for him, and I LOVED President Uchtdorf's talk on Saturday morning.
 
Something amazing from this week, I'm not sure if anyone from home remembers, but as we were eating lunch at Zupa's before dropping me off last wednesday, there was another sister eating there who we recongnized as a diabetic. I honestly didn't think I would run into her again, but as it turns out, she is four doors down the hall from me. I had forgetten about her until Friday night, when I ran into her brushing her teeth in the bathroom. I saw her tubing hanging out of her shirt, and I decided to strike up a conversation-weird for me, but I'm glad I did.
 
Apparently, she was only diagnosed back in July. She was supposed to have come to the MTC back then, but they pushed her date back so that she could have some time to learn to deal with the disease. She's already on a pump (actually, I'm a little jealous, because she has a t-slim- something to look into when I get home), but she's still trying to emotionally come to terms with her diagnosis. She had been feeling angry and alone here at the MTC, and struggling to understand why God would give her this trial at this time when she was already sacrificing so much for Him.
 
She seemed so relieved to know there was someone else there who understood what was going on, and to know that although it's hard to come to terms with the fact your life will never be the same, that doesn't mean it has to be terrible. I've seen her a few times since then, and she always says hello with a smile on her face. I hope that she's able to continue to control her diabetes so well, because she makes my blood-sugars look awful, and Doctor Lindsay was always ready to serenade me as his best patient for my hA1C.
 
And there's my week! I hope everything's still going well for everyone back home! Love and miss you tons!
 
Love, Em



Monday, October 7, 2013

October 4, 2013
Hallå min familj!
The MTC is great. For Mom’s sake, there is a dietitian who I’ve talked to. She’s given me wheat thins, and there’s apple juice and PB sandwiches waiting for me in the kitchen ANYTIME.
I’m loving min kamrat, Syster Stewart. We have fun quoting Disney movies, breaking into accents, and singing at the top of our lungs. Seriously, I don’t think I could have asked for a better companion. She’s crazy, but the same way I am so it all works!
The MTC is the best; I always feel happy - exhausted but happy. I’ve also come to realize the Elders do strange things. Yesterday as Syster Stewart and I were going to breakfast, we heard 3 elders imitating wookies, and today, a ton of them were singing Lizzie McGuire at breakfast.
But they’re all nice to the sisters, so it works out.
By the way, it’s FREEZING in Provo! Today while Syster Stewart and I were walking back from the gym, it started snowing. I think I left my tights in the laundry room because I can’t find them, but they would be nice right about now (hint-hint; wink-wink; nod-nod).
Our district is small, there’s Syster Stewart and me and a tripanionship of Äldste Brinkworth, Äldste Allen, och Äldste James. Our zone includes the Norwegians and our lone Dutch. It’s awesome. Eldste Edwards (Norway) is from England, and Syster Stewart regularly gets in trouble for imitating his accent without realizing it.
The language is hard, and I wish I’d more time in my scriptures. We had our first investigator, Johan, today. It was a train-wreck, but we made it through. Studying with Dad has definitely been a HUGE help. I’m understanding at least the gist of everything our teachers say, and I was able to help min kamrat translate a lot of what Johan said. Okay, maybe not a lot, but a few things.
I’m not homesick, but I do think about you guys all the time. You’ll have to tell me how Paige decided to ask Matt to Sadie’s and how Haley’s soccer season is going. I found a Pokemon card Nate gave me before leaving today -- tell him I love him and I miss him tons. Kiss Gus for me.
Love you guys, and I hope to hear from you soon!
XOXOXOX
Em

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mission Address

I'm headed out later today, and I wanted to give one last goodbye. From here on out, my blog's going to be run by my beautiful mom and sister.

While my mission home address is right, the MTC address on the sidebar isn't correct for anyone who's interested in writing me; it's actually:

Sister Emily Ellen Maxwell
NOV12 SWE-STO
2011 N 900 E Unit 252
Provo, UT 84602

I'm excited to get to the MTC, and hopefully posts start showing up here regularly! See you all in 18 months!

Farewell Talk

As I was getting ready to write this talk, the words of a hymn came to mind:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

A few years ago in Seminary, we were asked to do something for the new year to help us remember the Savior every day. I decided that every day I would write down something the Lord had blessed me with that day. And every day for about 2 years now, I have.
I never thought much would come of it other than to keep me grateful, but I was proved wrong a few weeks ago. I was feeling alone. Many of my friends are already out on missions, and everyone else is at school or work, which has often left me home alone. I was struggling a lot right then, and I remember praying to my Heavenly Father for peace and strength as I continued to prepare for my mission. The thought came to me to read me gratitude journal. As I opened it and read, I got a glimpse of how much my Heavenly Father loved me, and how involved He is in my life.
 While reflecting on gratitude, a verse in Moses 1 came to mind, where we read that Moses “Knew that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” Initially, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with gratitude. But if man really is really nothing, then we have a lot to be grateful for, because we have been given everything by a kind Heavenly Father.
In a session of April 1992 general conference, President Monson instructed us to ever have an attitude of gratitude. I came across that quote a few years ago, and it’s come to mean a lot to me, particularly as I’m getting ready to leave on my mission, and I realize how blessed I am in my life.
It’s been an enormous blessing in my life to have been raised in the church where, since primary, I’ve been taught that I’m a child of God. This actually got me into trouble a few months ago in Young Women’s. I don’t remember exactly what the lesson was on, but we’d gotten side-tracked on how so many women struggle with self-confidence and self worth. I’m listening to it, and all I can think is, “Why? I’m surrounded by beautiful, capable, intelligent women.” And, I’ll admit, I was a little frustrated, but I was trying to come up with some spiritual tie in, so I raised my hand. I’m sure the leaders were expecting some profound comment, but instead what came out of my mouth was, “I’m sorry, I think I’m awesome.”
And the laurels class just stared at me.
Not that I can blame them; I don’t think anyone was expecting to hear that at that moment. But, (at the risk of sounding cocky), I’ll still say it’s true. I am a daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves me, and I love Him. We said that every week in Young Women’s. I think it’s important that it is the first thing we say, because it’s true, and too often we forget. Heavenly Father, the God of all loved each of us enough to send his Only Son to be sacrificed and atone for our sins so that one day we could live with Him again, because it’s His work and His glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
I am far from perfect, and I’m going to be fighting my entire life to become perfect. I am one of the most flawed people I know. I mess up every day. But, despite that, my Heavenly Father still thinks there’s something worth saving in me. He sees something amazing in me. The scriptures teach that God is omnipotent, and D&C 18:10 says “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” One of my favorite quotes is by Marianne Williamson. “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God!” He sees something amazing in each of us, and even if we can’t always see it, it will always be there, and He will always love us.
I’m reminded of that love every time I go to the temple. It is impossible to deny it, whether you are doing ordinances for the dead, doing ordinances for yourself, or watching someone else go through for themselves.
A few weeks ago, I was able to go through the temple as one my friends received her endowment. Afterwards, in the celestial room, I was waiting my turn to congratulate her, and was watching as other friends and family went to congratulate her and give her a hug. Everyone was beaming, I don’t remember seeing a single straight face, and it was clear how much they loved her, and how proud they were of her. It made me think what it will be like when we’re finally allowed to enter the Celestial Kingdom, and how overjoyed we’ll be to be with our loved ones forever. I remember thinking, “Heavenly Father, if this is what the Celestial Kingdom is like, then I want it.”
I’m so excited to be able to go out and tell others that the church has been restored and temples are on the earth again, and they can be sealed to their loved ones- their parents, siblings, children, and sweethearts- for time and eternity.
I love my family; I don’t know where I’d be without them.  My mom and sisters are my best friends, as are my dad and brother, who are amazing examples to me of strength and forgiveness. I can’t imagine eternity without them, and every day I pray that one day we’ll get there.
But, as we’ve already established, I’m not perfect, and I’m not going to be for quite a while, so the atonement and the idea of forgiveness are necessary. I was trying to come up with what to say about the atonement, and I couldn’t come up with a thing. Then, the other day as I was praying, a story from elementary school came to mind. When I was about 9, I had a friend at school that I would do almost everything with, but we fought A LOT. One day, I came home from school crying, and I was trying to tell my mom. She told me she’d heard it the day before, and to just let it go, which of course, made no sense to my 9-year-old brain, so I went to my room to keep grumbling to myself. And in the middle of grumbling, I suddenly found myself praying for this friend, that she would know that I loved her, and that our Heavenly Father loved her, and that even if it was hard at times, I wanted to keep being friends. And I was able to forgive her and completely move on at that point. We would still fight, but I learned that forgiveness is not a one time thing, but more a process. In the years since, I’ve had to apply that over and over again, to myself and others.
D&C 64 reads, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” Forgiveness can be hard; people will offend you accidentally or on purpose, they’ll hurt you repeatedly. It’s hard to forgive yourself when you’ve made a mistake. It’s not easy; many times, forgiveness is a day-by-day decision. But the atonement has made it possible to forgive as the Savior forgave. During his mortal ministry, he would forgive and heal those that most would never approach. In the atonement, he did the same thing. Each of us can be forgiven and made clean again. We can be made whole and our sins will be remembered no more.

I love the idea of being made clean. It’s part of why baptism and the sacrament are so beautiful. And of course we’ll make mistakes, but hopefully we learn from them, going forward with faith that our sins are remembered no more. To me that is a promise that you can be more than you were the day before, for this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. Every day, we can grow and stretch ourselves. To me, it is a lot like practicing a musical instrument. I remember when I was little and just starting, that there were some things that were hard, and I’d like to thank my mother for not taking my violin back to the shop after every tantrum I had when I didn’t get something. But just because I didn’t understand something or didn’t quite have it right didn’t mean that I quit. Day by day, I kept working, and slowly, I became a better musician. Now, fourteen or fifteen years later, I can look back at all I worked through. It was hard, and there were definitely times I wanted to get back, but looking at the music I can play now and how much I love it, there is no way I would give it up, and I can see a similar pattern in my regular life, as I look at how I’ve grown in the gospel and how it has already made more of me than I could ever have been on my own.


And here's one last picture of me and some of the most amazing girls I know!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stake Conference

I was asked to give a talk about my mission call in my recent Stake Conference. Since this blog is about all things to do with my mission, I thought it was fitting to put it here. Enjoy!

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters! I'm Emily Maxwell; I've been called to the Sweden Stockholm Mission, and I go to the Provo MTC on October 2nd.

My decision to serve a mission and getting my call has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. As I've studied the scriptures so that I can be prepared to share them with others, I've come to know and love them in a new, and I've been able to see my Heavenly Father's hand in my life, and I know nothing could have shown me this like getting ready to serve.

I consider my call a miracle, for several reasons. First among them is that, if it had been up to me, Sweden is where I would have chosen to go. I'm by no means everyone should expect to get called where they want to serve, but I consider myself blessed that I was called where I wanted to go. And honestly, saying I wanted to serve in Sweden makes me sound insane. The winters are frozen; I'm expecting an average of -40 Farenheit, and since it's so far north it actually crosses the Arctic Circle, I'll be going for weeks at a time without seeing the sun. It's a European mission, so I'm not going expecting to be bringing in huge masses of converts, and from the stories I hear, apparently the people have no problem talking to you only long enough to say they're not interested and then shutting the door in your face, and are apparently blunt to the point of being rude (by American standards).

And yet, it's where I wanted to go, for the simple reason that it was my dad's mission. I grew up hearing little bits of Swedish and stories from his mission. If you ask many of my friends from high school, I would bring knackebrod (which is Swedish rye bread) for lunch all the time, although the first time most of them saw it they asked why I was eating cheese on a graham cracker. In my house, Swedish fish doesn't mean red gummy candies, but an actual dinner involving fish and potatoes. I grew up loving Sweden and loving it's people and culture. It's always been a goal of mine to go there and see the things my dad talks about. And it's been amazing in the past few weeks to get to share Sweden with my dad and to start learning the language.

This brings me to reason number two. I am a diabetic. Generally, it's church policy to keep diabetics in their countries because it's easier to deal with medical care. I can still remember a few months ago I came out of a doctor's office shouting over text at one of my best friends that there was a small (as in 1 in 1000) chance I would get called on a foreign mission. And even at that, when I opened my call, I was fully expecting to read something like "Colorado" or "Washington". It's a blessing in my life to know that diabetes does not limit me or what I'm capable of accomplishing.

Just quickly, I would like to share a story from my dad's mission, and I share it because it's still important to me today.  While my dad was serving in an area called Lulea, he was teaching a man. His wife had been a member for years, and he'd been an investigator for some time, but the missionaries could never quite get him to commit to baptism, for many reasons, like work, family, and his friends. After my dad had been in Lulea for quite some time, he and his companion decided to take this man to stake conference, hoping that he would hear something that would touch his heart and convince him to be baptized. After the conference, my dad, his companion, and their investigator met with the mission president, who after several minutes of talking, asked the investigator, "Do you love your wife?" to which the investigator replied, "Yes." The mission president then asked, "Then why haven't you been baptized?" He and his wife talked it over, and he decided to be baptized that night. They couldn't get the font to fill, so they tried filling it with buckets from the kitchen sink. That took too long, so they decided to get the fire-hose from down the hall and filled the font that way. He was baptized, and as he was confirmed, he was blessed that he would become a leader in the church in Sweden. This has been realized, and he's now a leader I'm sure to come in contact with in Sweden all these years later.

In closing, I would like to bear my testimony that this is the Lord's church, and His work. It is a privilege to be taking part in missionary work at this time, and I'm grateful for the testimony I have. I know that my Heavenly Father is involved in every part of my life, and I'm grateful for His influence. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Love to See the Temple

This was a week of miracles. One of the biggest struggles I've had this summer is trying to balance out college life and getting ready to leave on my mission, and trying to make it so the Spirit is always with me. It's very different from home, and I'm trying to find new creative ways  introduce the Spirit into my everyday life.
One of the ways I've done this in the past few weeks has been to make it to the temple before one of my best friends leaves on his mission to Oaxaca, Mexico. He's been pushing me to get it done ever since my call came, and I wanted to get it done while he's still here. 
So, I pushed through temple prep, and I got my temple recommend, and I assumed it would be easy enough to just schedule an appointment with the Bountiful Temple this week since it's the temple closest to my home. And then things started happening. For one, Pioneer Day is kind of a big deal in Utah, so of course every temple was closed. Then, someone chose to inform me that the Bountiful Temple was in fact closed all week for yearly maintenance work, and it doesn't open again until August 5th.
Luckily, other temples in the area were still open, so on Tuesday, I called the Draper Temple, and set an appointment to go through on Thursday, and continued to get everything ready to go. Here was the first miracle; just minutes before the temple called me back to confirm my appointment, someone else called in to cancel their appointment. If that hadn't happened, it likely wouldn't have even been possible for me to go through this week.
The next miracle came Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. Late Wednesday, the Stake Clerk in my home stake called to say that they were having difficulties in locating my records. Although I'm home every week to meet with my bishop, all of my records are apparently with my YSA Ward at BYU, and this created a problem on Wednesday when they told me I might not be able to go through. I jokingly told a friend with all my usual sass that I would be going through the temple Thursday night, but I really did mean it. It had been a goal for the past month to get it done, and I knew that going through the temple was something I needed to do ASAP. So, I kept a prayer in my heart all of that night. The next morning, I rolled out of bed and said my prayers, pleading with my Heavenly Father that I would be able to enter His house that evening. I nearly started crying when I opened the door of my bedroom to see my mom walking down the hallway to tell me that she'd just gotten off the phone with the stake clerk and that I would be able to go through the temple that night. My Heavenly Father knew it was what I needed.

And it was exactly that. I will not pretend to understand everything about LDS Temples, and I'm grateful to have a lifetime to come understand them a little bit better. But there is one thing I do know, and that is that there is a spirit unlike anything else inside the temple. Going through, two things truly struck me: 1) God has created a beautiful world for us to live in. It is meant to test us, to break us, and to reform us into something more than we were before. It is a blessing to be here, and it is a blessing to know that we have the ability to become infinitely more than we could every hope to be on our own through Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. 2) God loves us. Of all the things I have a testimony of, I think this is one of the most important. God loves us, and he wants us to succeed; he didn't place us here on this earth to fail. There were moments inside the temple that I could feel such love that it brought tears to my eyes- yes, moments, as in multiple times.
The temple is beautiful both inside and out, and it's truly representative of all that God desires for us.
I'm grateful that I have another 67 days until I leave for the MTC; it means I'll get many more opportunities to go through and come to know my Heavenly Father better each time. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go

I'm a planner. I like to map out my life and know exactly where I'm headed. On Friday, October 5, 2012, I was going to the University of Utah as a Dietetics major, and a mission was a vague possibility in three more years. But apparently, my Heavenly Father had another plan for me, and he completely changed my plan in under 10 seconds on Saturday, October 6, 2012.
I can still remember what was going on when President Monson made the announcement that men would be able to serve missions at 18, and Sisters at 19. My sister and I had just started painting our bedrooms, and she had about five boys in her room helping her to tape up the floorboards. As a general rule, 16-year old boys are loud, and always talking over each other. But when the announcement was made, my sister's room got dead quiet. I swear, I had never heard those boys be that quiet before the announcement, and I haven't heard it since!
I instantly realized this meant that I had less than a year until I could go. Unfortunately, I can't say I was one of the girls who instantly decided that I would go when I was 19. Instead, I waited for a few days, reasoning out in my mind that I could still go when I was 21, but I couldn't quite shake  the feeling that I needed to go on a mission. So, I met with my bishop, started mission prep, and began preparing to turn in my papers in May.
I still remember one day in mission prep, I had the feeling that I would go to Sweden. Until that point, I was secretly hoping for England, but the more I thought about Sweden in my mind, the more I liked the idea, and I very quickly gave up on England.
However, I'm a diabetic. Diabetics don't serve missions outside the US. It's unheard of! So I tried to make myself give up on Sweden too. But then, in April, my endocrinologist had to go and tell me that a few diabetics had been called out of the states. I was so excited that I texted my best friend on the way out of the doctor's office to tell him I might go on a foreign mission. And the secret hope that I would go to Sweden lived on.
I had convinced all my friends and leaders that I wanted to go to the East Coast- because that was as far out of Utah as I thought I'd get! I only briefly mentioned it to my stake president and one of the counselors in my ward bishopric that I thought it would be amazing to go to Sweden.
There was nothing normal or expected about the manner in which my call came, or where I would be headed. I was out with a friend the Monday after my call had been assigned when my dad called to say my call had arrived. I thought he was joking, but I rushed home anyways. Living in Utah, it's pretty predictable that mission calls come the Wednesday or Thursday after they've been assigned, and maybe later than that, but never on the Monday after it's been assigned! 
I'm glad my dad wasn't just trying to tease me; if it hadn't really been there I might have smacked someone. The rest of that day, I couldn't get Sweden out of my mind. I remember several prayers that no matter where I was called, I would feel it was right, and where I was meant to go.
The is no real way to express the shock and/or joy I felt when I opened my call and it said that I would be going to the Sweden Stockholm Mission. I had no problem in being excited for where I was going. In the past few weeks since my call has arrived, it has proved to be such a special blessing in my life. This truly is a remarkable time in the world's history. The Lord is preparing the way for His work to come forth, and I'm grateful for the privilege I have of being able to serve and progress the work. I am going where the Lord wants and needs me, and while I don't know what struggles I will face in the next few months and years, I can hardly wait through the next 90 days to enter the MTC and begin my mission!