Spring is continuing to come quickly. Flowers are starting to pop up, the grass is beginning to turn green, and I keep hunting for leaves on the trees, but I'm still waiting on that one. As it is, the sun is already up and shining when we wake up, and it's still setting at 6 pm, which is a HUGE difference from January when we had about 6 hours of real daylight in the entire day. And, I have to say that I'm ever so grateful that it's getting warmer and warmer. Yesterday all I had was my raincoat and a thin scarf, and I was dying to shed even those layers because it was HOT.
Adventures this week include Semlor Day. Semlor are a Swedish tradition from heaven only knows how far back. They are essentially a roll that they have carved out the middle of and filled with almond paste then topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar, and the top of the roll. They are SO GOOD (and so sugary- it's probably a good thing they're starting to vanish from the stores before I get addicted). I was able to get en semla the day after, and I have to say it was well worth it to explore the Swedish culture a little more.
I still can't believe I've been in Gubbängen for more than a month. The weeks have just been flying by, and I can't really believe it. Both Syster Robbins and Syster McCollaum will be going home next week (how crazy is that?!), and I'll most likely be staying here in Gubbängen with a new companion. It's so crazy how time goes out here on a mission. It doesn't feel like I've been gone nearly six months already, but at the same time, I look at how much I've accomplished and gone through in the last few months, and I'm amazed at how much I've managed to cram in there and how much growing I've done.
We had fun meeting with a lot of the members in the ward this week. We honestly have such an amazing ward, and I'm grateful for all the love and support of members, especially in the last week.
And then, there was yesterday. Yesterday was a very special day for both missionaries and members here in Sweden. We had about half the mission gathered in Västerås yesterday for Äldste Bailey's memorial. It was a bittersweet experience in so many ways. There was such a strong spirit there as members and missionaries talked about what a strong spirit he had and the amazing person he was. I had the opportunity to play the violin with several other missionaries as well as to sing 'Blott en Dag' with all of the missionaries who came. There was not a single dry eye among all the missionaries in that moment.
It's been a unique opportunity in the past week to think about what things are truly important and what a blessing the gospel is in my life. It's just interesting, so many people in Sweden are fixated on their appearance, and on making sure they have the latest iPhone, when truthfully, it just doesn't matter. It really doesn't. What does matter is the people you care about, and having faith in hard situations.
Really, all the girls in Sweden try to look almost exactly the same. Black fitted coat with fur on the hood, a Michael Kors bag or a Fjällräven backpack, Hunter Boots, dyed blond hair, and tights and a super short skirt or shorts, maybe black skinny jeans if they're choosing to accept that it's cold that day. And all of this is EXPENSIVE. But they do it, because they want to fit in.
Sorry, I realize I'm ranting a little, it's just that it makes me realize that 1- I really don't fit into the crowd here in Sweden, and 2- that I'm grateful for it. I'm never going to look like a Swede while I'm out here, and I 'm okay with that. I've got something way more valuable than a Michael Kors bag, and that's my testimony and my faith. There is nothing more valuable to me than those, and especially right now.
Missions are hard. I've got to be honest, there are hard days, and there are days where I simply fall to my knees begging my Heavenly Father for understanding as I face challenges I never could have expected when I left home. But I can still say as well that I would not trade a single minute of it. It is the best decision I have ever made to serve the Lord for 18 months of my life, and while I know it will only continue to be hard, I'm looking forward to the rest of my mission with hope and happiness.