Monday, June 30, 2014

Journey to the Center of Stockholm (or, in other words, T-Central)

Hey! So, Missionary life is crazy. It just is. The concept of what we do is insane, how we go about it is crazy, and the missionaries themselves have pretty questionable sanity. Haha, but no worries, it's as fantastic as ever!

I feel this is pretty well evidenced by last Wednesday. We were on our way to a lesson in the morning, when we happened to run into the investigator we were on our way to meet on the bus. She told us 'I'm so sorry, but I can't meet today. I'm getting married.' Married?! We hadn't even known there was a potential man to get married to! But, we gave her a hug, wished her luck, and went out to find someone else to teach for the next hour before going to another investigators house. She had decided that after our lesson, we would make buns. So, we sat down to start reading the Book of Mormon with her, and she said that Sister Byrd and I should swap off reading. So we did. Until she suddenly started reading for a few verses. Then stopped. It continued like this for the rest of the chapter. And then while making buns, she kind of just pulled random things out of the cupboards and threw them in the dough. I got the lucky job of mixing the butter. Yup, just butter. It was a party and a half!

There are definitely moments where I sit and reflect, 'This was NOT included in my mission call.' Seriously, I have been a cook, a waiter, a therapist, a floor-mopper, a choreographer, a butter mixer, an event planner, a guinea pig, and so many other things that I didn't realize when I got my call all fell under the title 'missionary.' However, they have all been so much fun, and I'm sure one day, I'll be grateful for the training I've gotten in meeting so many different people out here on my mission.

And yeah. A huge chunk of our week was taken up this past week by our trip to Stockholm so I could meet with a dietitian. All went well, and we have a healthy Sister Maxwell for now. We also got to visit the temple while we were there, which was absolutely amazing. I love the temple so much, and I can truly say that the Spirit there is unlike anything else. 

It led to some interesting explanations to the temple workers, but it was, in a way, a blessing that Stockholm's Zone Conference was happening the same day. Everyone at the temple was wondering why two sisters  decided just to ditch out on the conference, but I was able to meet one of the elders from my MTC group on the train down to Västerhaninge and talk with him for a while. We also stopped for just a second outside the chapel on our way to the temple when suddenly Sister Stewart appeared at the door. I may have shrieked and ran to give her a hug. Seriously, it's so crazy to think that it was nine months ago Wednesday that we went to the MTC.

We also got the chance to visit my favorite Mexican restaurant in Stockholm, La Neta. Yup, it's just as good as I remembered. Definitely suggest it to anyone traveling through Stockholm.

But at the same time, it was a little weird to be back. We even stayed in my old apartment in Gubbängen. I think I can safely say after three weeks of being gone that I'm grateful to be in Borås and out of Stockholm after 7 months there. I love the area, and I love the people, but I'm also loving the learning and growth that's coming in quiet, statue-filled Borås.

We also had a really cool 'practice' lesson yesterday. There's a young adult in the ward who hasn't been baptized yet, but will really soon. We got the amazing chance to meet with her yesterday while making dinner for the Young Adults in the ward. That lesson was seriously the closest thing I have ever had to teaching a lesson like they have in 'The District.' It really was amazing, and I consider myself so blessed to have gotten to hear her testimony of Jesus Christ and the gospel and how it has blessed her. 

Still raining, and I'm getting more and more used to it. Serioulsy, I didn't know it could rain this much in a day before Borås. Oh well, I love it anyways! I hope you all have a great week, and I'll talk to you later!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best Part is, it's a Dress!

Hey, guys!

First, we have to start with a story called 'The Miracle of the Rainboots: Part II.' Last week we were doing our open church hours, and it started pouring rain. Like, solid walls of water pouring down out of the sky and drenching anything in its path in about 5 seconds. And, of course, since I was inside, I laughed a little thinking, 'oh, the poor Elders are probably caught out in this.' I paid for that later in the day when we went out and it started raining even harder (which I hadn't thought was possible until that point).  I was grateful for the small protection my light rainjacket provided, along with my umbrella. I have since decided never to leave the apartment without it. The ballet flats I was wearing got soaked through pretty fast, but in the days since, I have worn those beautiful rainboots of mine pretty much every day, and every day, they've come in handy. Seriously, it rains a RIDICULOUS amount here.

It just reminds me of how blessed I was feeling when I first bought them, as well as that little voice in the back of my head that said, 'Just wait and see how wet your summer gets!' Obviously, I continue to thank the Lord each and every day as I go out in the rain and try to do his work despite looking like a waterlogged.... something or other. We're not really sure just what, but we know it's wet.

Other than that, this week was fantastic! We had the chance to go to the Textile Museum here in Borås, which was fantastic. There was an amazing exhibit of clothes that looked frighteningly nothing like clothes. Seriously, they looked like floating balls of tentacles more than anything that goes on a human body. It was amazing to see how creative minds get with some of the things that we consider the most basic. And really, these clothes looked nothing like dresses.

We got the chance to help at the wedding reception of a family here in the ward, which was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot more of the members, and I got my second round of eating Sandwich Torta. Still not my favorite, but maybe one day, I'll learn to like the stuff. As it was, it was more than a little strange to be there and realize that in about 9 months when I get home, that'll be pretty normal for me to be going to weddings and having friends and relatives getting married left and right. Freaky. *Fun fact: 'gift' (said 'yeeft') in Swedish means both 'married' and 'poison'.

We also had several minor miracles in the way of our lessons this week. We got to a point where we didn't have a name to put with a time, which, as missionaries
, makes us panic since we pretty well micro-manage our lives. So, acting in faith, we decided that we would teach in the time that we had, even though we had no idea who to.  So, we went out that day, and managed to bump into a new convert with his friend, who we were able to teach the Restoration, along with an amazingly sweet Swedish girl that we taught and have plans to see again tomorrow. It really is so amazing; the Lord does pay attention, and he does take care of us when we are doing our part.

And then, the part everyone (okay, me, and maybe my dad) have been waiting for since I got my call..... MIDSOMMAR! For those who do not know, in Sweden, they celebrate Midsummer every June, which is when the last of winter finally melts away everywhere in Sweden (still highs of about 55 F when it rains here- or it feels like it at least), and everyone goes out, picks flowers, and dresses up the Maypole, which is a cross with two hoops hanging on the ends, and leaves and flowers all over, which is then followed by dancing and singing, and all sorts of other traditions, along with most swedes getting drunk.

No worries, we stayed far away from the crazy drunks, and we were safely up at a members cottage in the middle of nowhere, happily decorating our own small Maypole and getting to learn a little of the traditions. It was seriously SO MUCH FUN, slightly chilly, and the best part was, I got to wear pants all day for the first time in 9 months. I felt surprisingly normal. It was great! Honestly, Midsommar is the best!

I love you all tons, and I hope you have a fantastic week! Stay classy!

Syster Maxwell

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Next Up: Borås, featuring Charlie and the Monks

Okay, first and foremost, hi! I'm alive! Sorry if it scared anyone when you didn't get to hear from your favorite Syster Maxwell yesterday. We had a zone conference I hadn't known about before transfers that made it impossible for me to email yesterday because we were in Gothenburg the entire time. but I'm here now, and I have some crazy awesome stories for you guys.

So, transfers were crazy. We made it to T-Central around 7:00 and I was waiting for my train FOREVER. Luckily, I made it on without too many problems, and ended up knitting for the three hours I spent traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast of Sweden. Even as a missionary, I'm working on my  granny skills! 

Anyhoo, after the train, we took an hour bus from Gothenburg to Borås (for anyone wondering, the nearest English approximation is Boh-roes. Almost, but not quite), after which we took another bus to the apartment and met up with the elders who helped carry my luggage that currently holds all of my winter gear up four flights of windy, twisty Swedish stairs. They're champs.

And, I'll be honest, I think I brought the crazies with me from Stockholm. First thing when we got off the bus, some 80-year-old Finnish lady contacted us and started handing out self-made portraits of the Savior (that, by the way, were a little disturbing. They were NOT happy pictures) and telling us all about how He is the way. And for some reason, we just keep having all sorts of fun out here. 

Really, though, Borås is a hoot and a half. We have palm trees, and there are hundreds of statues scattered around the city. Apparently Borås is famous not just for the number of statues, but in particular, an enormous statue of Pinocchio that I pass every day that is the largest in the world. And, I gotta tell you about the church!

We're walking up the street to the church, and I think I've spotted it, so I start turning, only to have Syster Byrd stop me and tell me that was the Buddhist Temple. That's right, the LDS chapel in Borås is located next door to the Buddhist temple that used to be a Jehovah's Witness Assembly Hall. We see the Monks out every now and again getting in their mini-van, mowing the lawn, greeting people.... I think it's the coolest thing in the world, right along with the automatic lawn mower that we have going 24/7 around the church lawn. I've fondly named him Charlie. It's great; we'll be sitting in lessons or meeting in church, and he'll quietly go right past the window.

As for the beautiful Syster Byrd, she's fantastic. She's an absolute sweetheart, and I already feel like I'm learning so much from her about diligence and teaching clearly and with the spirit. That, and, she sees to have an uncanny ability to know when I'm about to do something really embarrasing, like shove 10 grapes in my mouth, or a similar number of pringles, or just pulling a weird face, and catching me in the act! I'm pretty sure I'm the strangest companion she's ever had, but we laugh a ton, so it all works out okay.

Let's see... I love the ward here. There was a very different energy in the ward on Sunday then either of the wards I was in in Stockholm. They are a lot younger, and it just feels...... more relaxed. Or maybe that's just me getting into the new area. Whatever the case, I'm excited to get to know the members more.

Craziness from the past week included taking an 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Jönköping for district meeting, where it poured rain on us. Apparently Borås and Jönköping get a LOT more rain than Stockholm, as in almost every day, but so far, aside from district meeting, it's actually been pretty nice and sunny. Whatever the case, I've been carrying around my umbrella.

And, yeah. Zone Conference was amazing yesterday. It was completely unbelievable in so many ways that it was President and Sister Newell's last conference with us, but the spirit was amazingly strong as they were able to bear their testimonies to us one last time. I really am so grateful for the time we've had with them, and for all that I've been able to learn from them.

So, there's a week in Borås. I'll have more for you next week including SWEDISH MIDSOMMAR. Be excited, because I've been waiting for this since November. It'll be awesome!

TTFN, and I love y'alls stinkin' guts!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, June 9, 2014

Adventure is out there..... in Göteborg!

Well, it's finally happened. We doubted for months and months it was possible, but it has in fact become reality. After living the last 7 months of my life in the same 10 mile radius, I am leaving Stockholm! This Wednesday, I will be leaving T-Central and headed to the complete opposite side of Sweden to Borås, just outside of Göteborg (Gothenburg in English. Sorry, I forget that one sometimes).

But, let's back up just a little bit. Last week was AWESOME. If I had to leave Stockholm, I would definitely say the last week was how I would have chosen to do it. We had a great week, starting on Monday. I considered buying a reindeer pelt in Gamla Stan (joke- my Daddy told me not to do that before leaving, so I didn't really think to hard), and then went on splits in Stockholm. It was a ton of fun getting to go with Sister Gambles again and see a little bit more of central Stockholm. 

We've had a crazy time going around trying to help Sister Sjöblom learn to know the area- how we'll manage this, I don't know, but after two weeks of being here, she's going to leading someone else around. As it is, we've been to pretty much every part of our area in the last week visiting every member we can and contacting like nuts. 

And for the record, I am very sad to be leaving Sister Sjöblom. She is amazing, and I've absolutely loved the last two weeks, but, adventure is out there, and I'm just gonna have to love it and live it up. 

Gah. For the record, the circumstances of the call were absolutely crazy. We were at a members house roleplaying a lesson, and we'd pulled out our phone to look up something in Preach My Gospel (bad, but effective). We'd put it down and continued, when all of a sudden it started buzzing and it was flashing 'President.'  (Side note: I'd already had a minor freak-out earlier this morning when I'd gone to the bathroom and right as I came out, Sister Sjöblom started playing his ringtone- I wasn't too happy with her at the time).  The member told us to go ahead and answer, and the room was pretty well silent as I was given the information about where I would be going.

Also of note: leaving an area is awful. I have come to love so many of the people in Gubbängen so much, and I am going to miss them like nuts. As I've been going around saying my goodbyes, I've been thinking a lot about how absolutely insane missionary work is. Seriously, we give up 18 months of our lives to go to a foreign country speaking  a language we've possibly never heard before in our lives, live with people we didn't know existed before we met them at the train station (dramatic, but some times true), and then go out and talk to complete strangers all day about a book. And the craziest part of all is that it is a priceless experience that I wouldn't give up for the world. It hurts a little coming to love these people so much, but in the end, they have helped me learn and grow so much that I could never give up the experiences I've had with them.

One thing I would say Gubbängen has taught me: it's great to go out on a mission with a testimony and a love of the Lord, but to do missionary work all day every day, demands something more. You have to be converted. It's okay if you don 't have that right when you leave home and go to the MTC, but it's something you'll discover you have to have as you go and tell people to change their lives. And I'm grateful for the chance I've had to 1) realize I really do have a good testimony of the gospel and 2) start my own personal conversion process really going.

I love you guys, and you're in my prayers. Have a great week!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, June 2, 2014

We're All Little God Seeds

Hey, everybody!

It has been another fantastic exciting week in Missionaryville, Sweden. It kind of froze over again for a few days, but otherwise it's actually been pretty nice. 

So, the last week has been kind of crazy. Why you ask? We had TRANSFERS. Duh-duh-DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Nah, it was actually really pretty great. Syster Morris has left, and I've now got Syster Sjöblom having to put up with me all day every day. Poor her. I really think she's getting the short end of the stick here because she's fantastic. Like, I've only spent four full days with her, but I've loved it tons, because she's really just amazing and I love how much I'm learning from her already.

My last few days with Syster Morris were kind of crazy. We ran all over the place to say goodbye to people (the phrase 'like chickens with our heads cut off' comes to mind, but of course, as missionaries, we were MUCH more dignified........), and on Tuesday, we had the amazing opportunity to go the temple with a recently reactivated member in our ward and do baptisms for the dead. It was actually really amazing; she picked out names for us specifically to do and then showed us pictures of the people and told us a little bit about them. I'd never really been able to do that with a name before, but it made it so much more meaningful in the temple to know what the person I was doing for looked like and a little about her life. Afterwards, we got burgers and fries with the cute woman we'd done baptisms with (and Swedes don't believe in small burgers and fries) and then literally five minutes later went to an African members house and got fed an entire second dinner along with dessert. We were STUFFED. But, it was really good, and it was amazing, as always, to see how much the members really do love and appreciate the missionaries.

As for the last few days with Syster Sjöblom, they really have been fantastic. It's been great to get a new look on missionary work in Gubbängen, especially when I've been here for a few months already.  I love getting out to contact with her. She will point out a 'beautiful daughter of God' a.k.a. a woman with a cigarette and headphones, and we'll briefly look to see if there's anything that sticks out and then talk to her about whatever we can come up with. It sounds crazy, but it really has given me such a different outlook on contacting and how it really is the way we find those people who are ready to listen to the message we have.

I remember too how we were preparing some of our lessons for the day, and we were talking about how God sees the divine potential in each and every one of us, and we compared it to a rose, and how it all starts from a seed. There's really not anything all that remarkable about a rose seed, and it's not necessarily even all that remarkable as it's growing, but we don't think less of it because it's not a rose yet. Instead, we nourish it because we know that one day it can be a beautiful rose. And it really is the same with us and our Heavenly Father; we're not perfect yet, maybe we're not all that remarkable now in the growing stages, but He knows our potential in Eternity, and that's why we're here is so we can grow. We're all just little God seeds waiting until we grow up into something more.

And yeah, there's my week. I hope you guys all enjoy the beautiful summer weather and have a great week! Love y'alls stinkin' guts!

Syster Maxwell