Friday, December 26, 2014

God Jul Allihoppa!

With the Holiidays the P-day schedule is all over the place for this week and next but we will be back on a regular schedule soon.  

Well, my mind is kind of boggled right now in several different ways. For one, it's about -10 Celsius outside and we have no snow. This is my second non-white Christmas in Sweden, and I thought I was guaranteed one at least 1 year. And then there's the other part- I've had two Christmases in Sweden. It's a little freaky, but so cool at the same time, especially since I actually understood what was going on this year!

Let's see, we'll start with last week. We made popcorn balls with cards and spiritual thought for ward-members, investigators, and less-actives, and it's been a lot of fun to see the general Swedish reaction which is usually something along the lines of 'Oh, the sweet sisters..... what is this strange American concoction?' Caramel popcorn just isn't a thing here, poor people! But, it's been really nice getting to share EVEN MORE the importance and power of our Savior's birth. It honestly has been so wonderful this Christmas to get to witness of the Savior's birth and ministry to literally EVERYONE. It's been great to hand out popcorn, and it's been great to realize what a miracle modern technology is so we could share 'He is the Gift' with our street contacts and members using our phone in just about any language. I think what I've loved especially about this Christmas season is that in sharing the gift of our Savior's birth with so many people, I've brought it a little more into my own heart and I've realized at a much deeper level that we celebrate so much more than a baby's birth every Christmas. We truly celebrate our Savior and the fact that he loved us enough to humbly come to Earth as a baby and one day offer up Himself as a sacrifice for each and every one of us, as imperfect and flawed as we all are, and for that, I am so, so grateful. 
Zone Conference was great; I got to play a duet of 'Away in a Manger' for the  Conference, and it was so fun to see so many of the friends I've made in the last year one last time before a lot of them head home.

Other news.... well, we had a little heartbreak with our investigator who travels so far to make it to church. Her husband and sons have all become Christian, but her father who still lives in the Middle East is still Muslim, and wasn't too pleased when he got the news that she was seriously considering converting to Christianity, so for right now, she's taking a little break until she can sort out what she wants to do. I know how strong a faith she has, and I know that she truly has gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but for right now, we can't tell her what to do, both because it needs to be her decision, but also because of the potential for more serious problems that could come from this, so for now....  we don't know what to do with her until she knows what she wants to do.

And then, there was Christmas. It's been so much fun; I got to watch Kalle Anka again this year, and it was amazing to realize I do actually understand what's going on in all of the cartoons now (take that, Swedish!), and as always, the Swedish tradition of Julbord has been great. But think Julbord on steroids. Seriously, I've had three or four Julbords in the last 2 days, and I'm really starting to get sick of meatballs and Janssons Frestelse, although it was fun to convince Sister Allen there was no fish in the Janssons Frestelse only to tell her a few hours later it was some of the fishiest stuff I've ever eaten (no pun intended), as well as to get the chance to try some Finnish foods, and to try eating bear, boar, and hart meat. It actually all tasted really good, I just don't know that I can eat many more Julbords after the last week!

And now for the big news. And just so no one is surprised, let's think this through: what do they always do to Syster Maxwell? They transfer her! And since there's a pretty large group going home next week to make it home for school, guess who's getting pulled out of Norrköping? This girl. And do you want to guess where I'm going? Stockholm! Yup, I spent seven months in two of the three or four sisters areas around T-Central in Stockholm, so it makes sense they would send me back just to make sure I really get the full Stockholm experience. Haha, it should be lots of fun, especially since they're putting me back with Sister Stewart, my MTC comp!

And yeah, that's Christmas in Sweden! I love you all tons, and I hope you have a fantastic Annan dag Jul!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nu Tändas Tusen Juleljus


Well, it's been a jam-packed week. We're still waiting for our white Christmas here, but we're definitely going to have an ICY one. Seriously, there are days I'm pretty sure it would be just as effective to wear ice-skates around as my boots.

So, Monday, as I said last week, we were in Stockholm for a doctors appointment (all is well and healthy, so I'll be here in Sweden for the next few months!), and then got to go around Gamla Stan with a few friends from way back in the MTC days before getting on a train back to Norrköping with the one and only Sister Stewart. Seriously, I love that girl to pieces, and it was so fun to get to spend a day with her and realize that after being out 14 months, we can actually speak Swedish now, and we are no longer playing pictionary with our investigators. That, and, it was just fun.

Otherwise, it was essentially a normal week. We seem to have a lot of luck finding people who want to get into 'friendly' bashes lately (there is no friendly bashing. I really hate any and all bashing; it's NOT effective), but it has been a nice opportunity at the least to realize that my testimony has grown so much in the last year, and that while I don't have the answer for everything, I do know what I believe and why. We've also gotten to show the Christmas video a lot, which has been fantastic, just to see the difference in the spirit of our contacting, and getting to get that little at least daily reminder that Christ is the ultimate gift given to each and every one of us (by the way, here's another plug to go watch the film- or - go watch it. Now. It's AMAZING.

Otherwise.... it rained a lot, and then snowed, and then rained more, so the streets are mostly ice, but we got to have some fun yesterday at a member's. They live a little higher up in the mountains (don't get too excited, these are Swedish mountains) where they actually have snow. They invited us and the elders over for Sunday dinner, and while they were getting dessert ready, they essentially banished us out to the yard for a snowball fight with the kids. I never thought I'd get in a snowball fight while wearing a pencil skirt, but it was so much fun, and I wish there was more snow down here in Stan!

Also big news from the past week: it was Santa Lucia! For those who don't know what Santa Lucia is, it's Saint Lucia's feast day, where, for the Swedes, it means that teenage girls dress up in white dresses, put wreaths with real candles on their heads, and sing Christmas carols in the local church. There are lots of different traditions around it, and if you want to Google it (a luxury not afforded to us poor missionaries), you can probably get a much better explanation of why it all started than I've got for you. But, in any case, it was amazing to get to sit in one of the old churches down in Stan and listen to these girls sing- with real flames on their heads. Seriously, I think that is one of the bravest things I've ever seen to walk down the aisles of the church pews with 5 legit candles burning on your head.

And otherwise.... it's been a good week. It's been a lot of fun, there've been great lessons, and lots of laughs. 

I hope you all have a great week, love ya tons, and God Jul!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, December 8, 2014

Stockholm? Again?

Well,  another week come and gone!

I've got a little countdown going until the 21st- that's how long I've got until the days are getting lighter and lighter, because right now, the sun is going down around 3:00, and then it's just dark. And there's no snow, so it's just dark. But on the bright side (clever, right?) there are lots of Advent and Christmas lights out, so it's been great!

Let's see.... well, in the last week, we've had a few adventures. We've been blessed to get to meet with a number of new investigators who are positive to varying degrees. The one thing I tend to notice as a general rule is that they're all very chatty, so we're doing our best to keep our lessons short, but they generally tend to run a little long. Oops. We'll be repenting and continuing to try to  work on that in the next few weeks.

Otherwise.... not much. Sorry, it's really short this week guys, but I'm currently not even in Norrköping, so everything's kind of getting squished in there. Where am I, you ask? Stockholm, that beautiful city that I never quite seem to escape. We came in for a doctor's appointment (no fears, this girl is healthy and staying in Sweden for 4 more months!), and we're headed out on splits with the Sister Training Leaders later tonight, which should be fun, since that means I'm taking Sister Stewart to Norrköping with me- making it the first time we've really had time together since the MTC!  It should be a blast.

More stuff next week, I promise, but I love y'all, I miss you like a fat boy misses chocolate cake, and I'll get back to you in a week!

Puss och kram

Syster Maxwell

Monday, December 1, 2014

He Is the Gift!

Hejsan allihoppa!

Oh, my goodness. It's December. Do you know what December means? CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry, for those of you who don't know, Christmas is my favorite holiday EVER. It even tops Hobbit Day. Yesterday was the first day of Advent, and there are now lights up all over town, and I'm totally buying an advent calender (because Chocolate- must have) in addition to our paper chain, and pretty much, I've been talking to Syster Allen about Christmas since I picked her up back in October. That's how  much I love Christmas.

And please, don't think this is the selfish, childish, 'oooh, that means I'm getting presents, and Santa's coming, and all the gingerbread (although Swedish pepparkakor are FANTASTIC)'. I think the best way to sum this up is with a quote from President Monson:''To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the spirit of Christ.'' I love this special time of year where simply by talking about the days to come, we speak the Savior's name, and I especially love that, as missionaries, we don't necessarily get a ton of expensive gifts or special work Christmas parties or concerts, but instead, we get to go out and tell people WHY we do all those things.

This Christmas, the church has put out an AMAZING video called 'He is the Gift' that's about exactly that- WHY we celebrate Christmas. It is so amazing, and I would invite everyone who reads this post to go find the video and then #ShareTheGift. I would even love to get emails back about how you've done it- be it sharing it on Facebook or inviting someone to church, or anything in between. As missionaries, we're really going to be focusing on that in the next month, and I'm so excited to have the chance to really bring Christ so directly into my missionary work. (BTW, the video is at Sorry, I know I'm now being a missionary even in letters home, but guys, I'm just super excited about this video, and I want you all to be excited about it too, and especially, I hope that you'll take the invitation given at the end of the video to think of ways you can invite Christ into your celebration just a little more this Christmas.

Okay, as for Syster Maxwell's week, it's been great. It was really kind of weird because my last P-day was over a week ago (week from Saturday to be exact), so it's been a lot of go-go-go, and it's been so fun. There's an elder in my district who's got a record of 13 blåsts in a week- we gave him a pretty good run for his money this week, but we also were able to get in some really great lessons as well, including a few teaches on the street- not as common as you might think, but even more especially since it's getting dark out and we officially hit negative temperatures (Celsius, thank heavens not in Farenheit) this past week. I think some of my favorite lessons to teach were watching the video with members and then inviting them to do something with it, and I really am excited to continue sharing it in both contacting and lessons. Serioulsy, BEST VIDEO EVER. 

What else, what else..... so many things, like the fact that we have no cake-pan, so to make kladdkaka, we take off the handle of our frying pan and put it in the oven, our bathroom STILL smells like something out of a septic tank. We had a man ask us if we like to 'vatten pipa' and I'm sitting there like, 'What is water piping in English?' Eventually through a mixture of charades and explanations that 'it's not a cigaratte, and it's not marijuana' we realized he was inviting us to smoke hookahs with him. It was a hard decision, but we had to tell him no. :)

We also were blessed (back to the spiritual) to get our investigator and her husband to church yesterday (remember when we were stranded outside Linköping? Yeah, after visiting them) to talk with the bishop about all the help they need, and then getting to stay for Sacrament, and it was so great to see them there with big smiles and listening to everything going on in Sacrament meeting, even though their understanding of English or Swedish is pretty minimal (thus my translating probably didn't help much). But really, it's such a testament to me that they would travel an hour and a half to make it to church where they don't understand much more than the general idea that they're talking about missionaries and to take the sacrament and worship the Lord. It's absolutely amazing.

I love you all, and i hope you have a fantastic week. Stay classy, watch He is the Gift, and know that I think you're fan-flippin-tastic. Love y'all tons!

Syster Maxwell