Monday, March 30, 2015

Blott En Dag

Well, hello there. Another week come and gone. 78 of them. Ungefär. And guys, it's been so good. It's been so, so, so good, and I'm so grateful for all the things that I've learned and done in the last week and in the last 18 months. 

Before I get all emotional, I'll go through the last week. Monday, we went to the Vasa Museum down in Stockholm and hung out with a bunch of missionaries I've become friends with in the last year. Guys if you are ever in Stockholm GO TO THE VASA. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING MUSEUM YOU WILL EVER GO TO AND THE SHIP IS AMAZING.  And getting to go to the YSA center- I have been so blessed for the last year and a half to be surrounded by so many missionaries, and I loved getting to see so many of them one last time before heading home. 

Otherwise this week...... let's see....We started teaching an amazing new investigator named Kim this week. She's investigated the church before, but she's finally feeling like she might be able to make the commitment to be baptized and so she brought herself to Family Home Evening and church, and teaching her, it's been absolutely amazing to see how much she already knows and how much of a desire she has to know more. 

We also got to go out to the house of a woman (named Emeron) in the ward to help clean up her yard. Her husband passed away about two weeks ago, so she's been needing a little extra help around the house and the yard. And guys, she lives out in the countryside, meaning her house is surrounded by farmland. Meaning her yard is ENORMOUS. It was so rewarding to go out and to just throw everything into getting some good ol' fashioned yard work done and then set all the weeds and branches on fire. Like, the fire we had going was made to rival Valborg fires at least in the volume of wood and garbage consumed. It was amazing to see the difference we made in the yard ( I personally worked at clearing an entire hillside of foot-long grass. I felt accomplished by the end), to see her gratitude for us, and as well as that, to hear that she'd had friends and neighbors call as they drove by to see what was going on at the house and if they could help and how she was able to turn that into a missionary experience and talking about missionaries and the church's emphasis on service. 

On Saturday, we had another viewing of 'Meet the Mormons' in the church, and we were able to get a few of the people we've been working with there. I know I've said it before, but seriously, the film is amazing, and there is a special spirit to seeing these members truly LIVE the gospel and to live so that their lives reflect their belief in everything they do.

Sunday.... Sunday was emotional. It still doesn't feel entirely real that I've been to my last sacrament meeting in Swedish for a while. The next time I go to church, it'll be in a Utah ward of several hundred, and I'm still not sure if it'll be more shocking to have that many people there or to have everything happen in perfect English with no translation necessary. As it was, it was a little strange to say goodbye to so many of the people I've come to love in the last three months here in Uppsala. When the bishop got up to announce I would be leaving, he told the ward 'Sister Maxwell is going to be transferred to the Bountiful Utah Marriage Mission,' Oj då. And to top it off, the next person to get up then pushed it farther by saying, 'And that's a calling Syster Maxwell. Fulfill and magnify it.' People! I've still got a nametag on! And no boyfriend. Don't get too excited over this whole thing. After church, we went over to the Hawley's for one last dinner before I leave on Wednesday. I seriously have been so spoiled in my last area, and I'm so grateful for that, and for the amazing missionaries I've served around.

Today, we went to the Tolley's to have breakfast before heading to the Nordiska Museum down in Stockholm with Sister DeMille and Sister Stewart. The museum was AMAZING (I now wish I'd visited more museums while I was in Stockholm), and we went to the YSA center one last time and I got to see my baby, Sister Allen one last time as well as Elder James from my group.

And now comes the emotional tirade. Prep yourselves; I'm not entirely sure what pent-up emotions are going to come out here guys. It's so insane to think that tomorrow is my last full proselyting day. We've got some amazing lessons set up with investigators and members, and then I'm heading to the mission home and then the air port. It's crazy how quickly the last 18 months have come and gone. It didn't always feel so fast in the middle of it, but now looking back, I feel like the time went way too quickly, but I am so grateful for everything I've been able to learn and experience for myself, and above all, I'm so grateful for the chance I've had to learn for myself that the greatest joy in life comes from living the gospel and loving and serving others. I have come to know my Savior so much more personally in the last few months, and to really see a small part of how much His loving, guiding hand is involved in even the smallest details of our lives. I know that our Heavenly Father loves and knows each one of us personally and wants so much for us to find happiness both in this life and in eternity. I'm so grateful for the relationship I've been able to build up with Him in the last few months as I've learned to rely and trust in the Lord. 

And now, I'm going to do the very typical missionary thing, but there's a Swedish hymn that I've come to love throughout my mission that describes both our relationship to the Lord and how I've drawn closer to Him throughout my mission. Ironically (since I'm 'dying' this week) the hymn is a funeral hymn called 'Blott en dag' or, in English, 'Day by Day'. 

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best--
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, 
He whose name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy word.
Help me, Lord, when toi and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

I love the church, and I love the gospel. I'm so grateful for the time I've had to serve as a full-time minister in helping others to come unto Christ and to recieve the joy of the gospel in their lives. I'm so grateful to have been blessed to serve in Sweden- the Motherland, as my Dad calls it- and to come to know and love the land I've heard about since I was born and to FINALLY understand the language my Dad still speaks at home. I'm grateful for the chance I've had to see my Heavenly Father's hand in my life and in the lives of so many I've come to love in the last 18 months. 

I love you all, I STILL miss you like a fat-kid misses cake, but never fear- the waiting's done. I'll see you all on Thursday! Kramar! 

With love,
Syster Emily Ellen Maxwell

Monday, March 23, 2015

And at Last I See the Light

Tjena! Hur läget?

Okay, so this week has been crazy. I have literally been all over Sweden, or at least the northern half of it this past week.Tuesday we woke up early so that we could get down to Stockholm and go to the temple with the MLC. It was so great to get to go, and for a few reasons. I hadn't been in about 9 months just because of how far I'd been from the temple, and it was so wonderful to get to go in and feel the spirit that really only exists in the temple. It was also great to get to see a few of the friends I've made in the mission one last time. That, and it's officially spring in Stockholm. The farther north you go, it's a little more winter-y (is that even a word? Oh well, I just made it one. But really, we had flowers starting to come up in the grass outside our apartment, and then it snowed this week and they all died. It was awful. Spring has NOT hit Uppsala yet).

After the temple trip, we went up to Arlanda and then took a plane up to Luleå for splits. I think this was the most eventful splits I have ever been on. We made it up to Luleå around 8:30, and we'd just made it to the sister's apartment when a member called them to say that the Northern Lights were out. So, in pajamas and coat, we all ran out to the car and drove out to the edge of town to stare up at the sky. It was absolutely amazing. They were a lot more subtle than I'd expected; the amazing pictures you see in National Geographic really are the exception to the rule. These lights were soft whitish-greenish-blue and slowly moved across the entire sky in narrow, twisted ribbons of light. I'd honestly given up hope that I would see them during my mission, and it was such a blessing that I was able to see them.

The day after that, we had even more luck. We moved most of our p-day to Wednesday so we could take it up there. We happened to overlap with the apartment couple's trip up north to take care of apartments, so they offered to drive us up to Kiruna and the Ice-Hotel. Guys, it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Chandeliers made out of ice, wolves and fairies and apes and everything imaginable sculpted out of snow, and words and drawings frozen into enormous chunks of ice. Imagine if you got to walk around Elsa's ice castle, and you've about got it. It was so amazing to see how talented people are. 

On the way home I was even more blessed, and the Northern Lights came out a few more times- once along the road, and another time when we'd made it back to Boden, so we climbed up a hill with the elders to watch them dance across the sky for a few more minutes before driving back to Luleå.

The rest of splits were amazing, and I feel so lucky for the chance I've had to work with so many of the amazing sisters we have in our mission. I have learned so much from them and their areas, and I love each of them so much. Really, I am so grateful for all the chances that I've had to learn and grow and become better on my mission.

Back in Uppsala, things continued to go well. We got blåsted quite a bit in the last week (why, people, why? We don't bite, and we're not THAT weird. Don't you want to meet?), but we were still able to get some really good lessons in. One in particular I remember, we set up an appointment with a relatively new member who's been struggling to come church since before I made it to Uppsala, and I've only been able to meet with her once the entire time I've been here, and Sister Modersitzki had never even seen her, so we had no idea what to teach her. So, we planned a lesson centered around the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. As we got into the lesson the next day, it was amazing to see how the lesson we planned had exactly answered her needs as she expressed her concerns and doubts with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It's not necessarily a unique experience in my mission, but by the end of the lesson,  I just had a strong feeling that this was Heavenly Father using me and my companion to answer her prayers, which was an amazing feeling. We're still continuing to meet with our sweet investigator from Gambia, and she's still asking all of the right questions and doing everything absolutely right. This week we challenged her to begin thinking about a baptismal date, and while she wouldn't agree to a solid date, she made it pretty clear that she'll get baptized because she knows this is THE true church, and that she would do it by the end of May. 

And there's the week. It's been awesome, and with every day, I realize again how grateful I am to be a missionary and to be in Sweden- even when it's gray and cold out, it's a beautiful country, and I'm so lucky to have been here. I feel so insanely blessed it's not even fair, and I'm so grateful for every last second of the last 18 months. It's a little crazy to realize that I've only got one full week left (time flies. Insanely fast. I hate it), but it just gives me that much more of a push to get out to use every last second and to give my all to loving and serving the people.

I love you all, and I miss you like a fat kid misses cake. Which, quite obviously, is a lot. Have a fantastic week, knock it dead, and I'll talk to you again soon. Ish. Like in a week.... yeah, I'm awkward, I know. Anyways, have it so good, and TTFN!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, March 16, 2015

The City of Dragons

Hey, Everyone!

Well, another week come and gone, and I'm still rejoicing in the fact that the weather is getting warmer and warmer. This week, I shed my big coat and went down to a smaller one. Spring in Sweden isn't quite like home where it meant you didn't need a coat anymore, but I'm happy that I can at least have a few less layers on every day. 
This past week was super good; we were able to go on splits up to Sundsvall. Last time I was up there, we spent most of the day outside the actual city, so I was really happy this time to get to walk around the main square and see the area I've heard a few of my companions rant and rave about, along with some of the amazing dragon statues the city gets its nickname from. I got to work with Syster Banks, who just made it to Sweden a few weeks ago, and it was so much fun. I think the poor girl got a little lost in the language when we started teaching a lesson on the street to a guy who 5 minutes in started saying we were being repressed as women and the church is nothing more than a hierarchy, and we had given up some of the best years of our lives for nothing, but we also had a really good lesson later on with a super sweet girl who just moved here from Syria a few months ago.

Here in Uppsala, things continue as normal- meaning a lot of finding and setting up appointments. It's really been great in the last week to meet with a few new people. We've met with self-proclaimed 'healers' to Persians who speak no Swedish to Persians who speak really good English and Swedish (BTW, I'm totally addicted to the saffron rice and chicken Iranians make. Best. Stuff. Ever.). We met with our sweet investigator, Grisel, who has so much stacked against her right now, but who has the most sincere desire to find the peace she knows the gospel can bring her.
Something I've been hit with more than ever this past week is that the time we have out here as missionaries is so precious, and it really is so important we make the most of every last second. I remember my mission president talking at a zone conference about what it's like to go home- you go and meet with your stake president, talk a little about your mission, bear your testimony, and then he'll tell you it's time to take off your nametag. And whether you have a magnetic tag, or one on a clip, or a pocket-tag, as you pull it off, there'll be a loud click, and just like that, you won't be a missionary anymore. And as he said it, I could feel the terror and had the feeling that I would never take that tag off- like, sleep with it, tag it to my towel in the shower, and just never let it leave me sight. Now that that 'click' is just a little closer for me, a lot of the same feelings are coming back, but rather than just getting that feeling that I'm going to sleep with my tag on (which is still tempting sometimes), I feel so much of a push to share the amazing joy the gospel has brought me in my life. And I don't care how disinterested or rude people may be- the gospel is everything to me, and I am going to spend every last second I can as a full-time servant of the Lord letting everyone know exactly what it means and how important it is.
I love you all, and I hope you have a fantastic week!

Kramar och ta hand om er.

Syster Maxwell

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Swedish or Not?

All right, people, I've been putting this off for forever, but after as many months as I've been out, I've decided that it would be fun to send you a little email, because it's amazing what things are Swedish that people have no idea about but use all the time, and other things people think are super Swedish that Swedes just kind of blink at. So, here's the list: Swedish or Not.

ABBA: Very Swedish. For those of you unaware, ABBA made it big in the 70's by winning a competition called Eurovision. They are all from Sweden, and for a while, they were Sweden's biggest industry.

Swedish Fish: Not Swedish. At least not the little gummy candies we eat all the time in the States. While Swedes like their fish AND their gummy candy (that can be fish-shaped at times), most Swedes have no idea Americans even eat a candy with the word 'Swedish' on the label.

IKEA: This one surprised me that people didn't get it; the entire store is blue and yellow! Of course it's Swedish! And after living in Swedish apartments, just the entire thing is one big lesson on Sweden and it's culture and their ability to cram their entire lives into a tiny little apartment.

H&M: The official name of this store is Hennes och Mauritz, and the headquarters is located in Stockholm. It's also a super Swedish store, and one I've definitely fallen in love with- thank heavens I won't leave it behind when I go home!

The Swedish Chef:  Very American. Also, it's not quite worth it to give it it's own point, but the Swedish Chef's accent is very definitely a Muppet and not a Swedish thing; Swede's actual speak very good, intelligible English.

'The Final Countdown' by Europe: Yup, Swedish again. The band started in Stockholm.

Ace of Base: Anyone who knows any of their songs from the 90's (The Sign, for example) knows more Swedish music.

'All I Ever Wanted' by Basshunter: Swedish!

'Young Folks' by Peter, Björn, and John: Swedish. Fantastic song.

Other Swedish Bands: Icona Pop, Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Roxette, The Cardigans, Robyn, Rebecca and Fiona, and First Aid Kit, to name a few. 

Crepes: The French steal credit for it, but if you ask the Swedes, Swedish Pancakes are the original crepe.

Smorgasbord: Smörgåsbord. Every large gathering, the Swedes always have a table set up of a modge-podge of foods that you can pick and choose from.

Thor: He's Norse. Meaning Scandinavian. Meaning, the Thor legends spread over Sweden and Norway, and parts of Denmark too.

Swiss Army Knives: NOT Swedish. I can't tell you how many people have told me to buy an army knife.

Swiss Cheese: Also not Swedish. While Swedes's have fantastic cheese, it's not particularly famous for a certain holey cheese.

Swiss Chocolate: Also Swiss. Meaning, also not Swedish. Although, Sweden does have some REALLY good chocolate.

Swiss: I regret to inform everyone that Swiss is not a language, and I do not speak it. Not even a little bit.

Switzerland: This one is definitely not Swedish. It's a small country located between France and Germany, while Sweden is at the Northern end of Scandinavia. 

Volvo and SAAB: Originally created here in Sweden. Very Swedish.

Spotifiy: Mycket Svensk. Swedes are very proud of this one.

Skype: Also Swedish. Thank you, Sweden, for letting me talk to my family twice a year.

This has been 'Swedish or Not?' We hope you've learned something or at the very least, gotten a bit of a laugh.

Syster Maxwell

Monday, March 9, 2015

Våren Kommer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, goodness, this has been an amazing week of tender mercies and miracles, for which I am so grateful. First and foremost, spring has come to Sweden. It finally got above 40 F this past week, so I shed my big winter coat, went to a lighter jacket and have enjoyed taking it off when the sun is out and shining. Sweden has turned me into a sun worshiper, and so anytime the sun comes out, I do the exact same thing the Swedes do, which is take off as many layers as possible and turn to face the sun with my eyes closed and just enjoy the warmth and feel so insanely grateful to my Heavenly Father that I can be there to experience it. 

Other things this week: it was bittersweet, but Tuesday was my last zone conference. It was so great to see so many of the friends that I've made in the last year and half, but more than that, I'm so grateful that I went to that conference and could literally feel my spiritual bucket being filled as every question and concern I've felt in the last few weeks was answered during that conference. Seriously, everything from 'how do I feel the spirit more in my life' to 'what do I do when I'm not wearing a name tag anymore,' and beyond. One thing I definitely learned from the conference is that our Heavenly Father knows each of us and our needs so much better than we even know it ourselves, and literally, all we have to do is ask, and he will bless us as much as he can in any way possible.

The blessings continued as I got to go on splits with Gubbängen right after the conference with Sister Allen and Sister Nielson, which was so much fun, both to see them and to see an old area. We got to visit for a while with one of my old investigators who got baptized while I was in Gubbängen- the first baptism of my mission, and I still think about him often and worry/wonder about how he's doing. Well, I'm done worrying. Meeting with him, it was amazing to see how much he's grown in the last year and how absolutely he believes in the gospel as he bore testimony to us about why he believes in  God and Christ and their plan for us and wrapped up the lesson asking for a few Book of Mormons to pass out to his friends when they asked about his 'new' religion. It was such a strength to me to see how deep his conversion has gone and to see how much love he has for the church and the gospel. 

Otherwise, here in Uppsala, we've definitely seen some blessings this week as we've been able to meet with a few new investigators and have begun seeing them become interested in meeting more and really try to develop a faith. We've got one girl from Gambia who has the most sincere desire to learn more, and has been telling us how she's recognizing the spirit and how good it feels every time we meet or that she comes to church. We've also got a sweet Swedish girl who's investigating more because of a member boyfriend. She's still somewhat skeptical about a lot of stuff, but she also has a want to know more, and she's willing to try just about anything, for which I'm very grateful.

Sunday was great for a few reasons; Fontana, who was baptized last Saturday, got the Aaronic priesthood. Guys, he still absolutely glows with the new testimony he's found. It's amazing to see the change in him in the last few weeks and to see how much happiness and light the gospel has brought into his life. I feel so grateful to have been here to see it happen. 

We also had an amazing lesson all about faith that I'm so grateful I was there in Sunday School for. Sometimes it's a little too easy to get caught up in the routine of missionary life and to realize that even the smallest, most basic prinicples of the gospel still have a lot to teach us. For me, it was just an amazing reminder that faith is an action, and that it doesn't just happen- you have to actively choose it and work for it each and every day. It is a lifestyle, and not just a part of life; it literally can change everything about you, your outlook, and your circumstance if you'll just let it work a change in your heart. I'm so grateful for the faith I have and continue to build on and for the chance that I have to share that with others.

I love you all, and I hope you have a splendiforous week!

Syster Maxwell

Monday, March 2, 2015

Baptism! Gotta dop 'em all!

Oh, goodness, the past week, the past week. It's been a crazy good week, and we've been running back and forth from Uppsala to Stockholm more times than I care to count. Pretty much all day Tuesday we were in leadership meetings just learning more about what President Beckstrand's goals for the mission are and how we can help to carry that out to the mission, which was great. 

Right after that we got to head out on splits, which was a bit of an interesting experience this time. I got to go out with a greenie who had quite literally been in Sweden only a week. It really made me reflect A LOT on what that was like. It seems like it was both forever ago and not so long ago that I was a wide-eyed greenie who literally had no idea what was going on or what anyone around here was saying. I had so many hopes and dreams for my mission, and while not all of them have come true (for example: convert all of Sweden. The population is still largely aethiest and Muslim despite my best efforts), I feel like my Heavenly Father has instead given me something so much better than I ever could have thought of as a greenie, and that's the knowledge that the gospel is true (and I had better know that after as many times as people have told me I'm crazy or brainwashed) and that our Heavenly Father really does have a plan to bring each and every one of us home to Him again if we can only accept his Son's sacrifice and and do our best. 
Let's see, the past week was good but kind of slow. Getting sick kind of forced us to take it a little slow for a few days, and we're still trying to figure out how to build up our teaching pool because............ WE HAD A BAPTISM!!!!!! It was seriously the coolest thing I've seen all week/month/year. It's seriously been amazing to see the change the gospel has made in this investigator's life- not in anything big or obvious, but he literally glows with the light of the gospel, and he has become different as he's gotten himself outside his normal comfort zone and made commitments and steps towards his Heavenly Father.

And there's the week. It's not a lot (Hopefully there's more to tell you guys next week!), but it really was a good week. I love you all, and I hope you have a great week!

Syster Maxwell