I love hearing from you. It lifts my heart higher than you could imagine and even though I've been gone from home for several years the mission has deepened my understanding of the importance of the family unit. It is so hard to be grateful for things that you have always taken for granted. I know I still enjoy many of those wonderful blessings each day and take them for granted. I meet so many people every day from all over the world. God has blessed me so dearly with a wonderful family of love and security. Taught me how to be self sufficient and lift, love, and encourage others.
Mom! You freakin rock! That's all I have to say. All those things I was asking for were alreadycoming . Your package got there later that day and I didn't have to remind you about any of them. Thank you so much. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my coat thank you. It's absolutely perfect and its so warm! Do you want to hear something sweet? The weather here has been really nice. I've barely needed my jacket at all. But no joke, the day my coat got in, the very next day it turned to winter and I've been grateful that I've had it every single day. Thanks for paying my credit bill. My bags actually weren't over at all. I gave all my extra weight to Elder Lewis because his bags were light. I just had to pay for my baggage in general and then they reimbursed me on my mission card. Then I had to get some groceries when I first got in and I didn't have my mission card yet so it worked out perfect. I got my new one activated that you sent etc. Thanks. Oh and you should have seen our faces mom as we opened the package and found all those Christmas gifts in the bottom. We have had so much fun finding all of the gifts to open throughout the season. Sister Stephens says thank you so much! Symbria I know you helped mom a lot! Thanks for the advent calendars! We love them! We made our little craft the other morning and we will send you a picture later in the season. It's so cute. We also have a little pine tree that we had in our pad earlier so we put all the gifts under the tree. Our little pad is so cute. I lucked out. In the mission it's called the "celestial pad". We don't have any roach or bug problems like some of the others which is awesome. I guess I'll deal with that as it comes. lol. What do you all want for Christmas from big old NY? What can I send home for you?
I had another really bitter sweet experience earlier this week that has helped me think alot about life and why things happen in life. We've been working with a less active part member family the Viterri's. Mario (the father) is less active and he lives with his wife daughter and a few grandkids. We went over just last week to teach and share a message and invite him back to church. They had a new arrival in the home. The daughter and her husband had just had their new baby girl that was barely 2 weeks old. It was their second child. Both girls are just beautiful. The other little girl is about 2 years old. The newborn girl was born a few weeks premature but was doing well and they just were adoring the new member of their family. Yet Friday we got a call from Mario telling us that the newborn had passed away and they would like our presence at the funeral. It was really tradgic for the mom. They don't know what happened. The autopsy and such didn't tell them anything. Of course we went. It was very different than any other funeral I've been too. The rest of the family is catholic and they did it according to that fashion. The mom was in such pain, I've never seen that type of pain on someone's face before. I've never been to an infant funeral before but it was so sad. It's sparked her attention to a bunch of different questions though. She's heard things that we can see people again, even after death. That God has not only given us families for this life but for the life to come. She wants to know more, how is it possible. So we have scheduled an appointment with them and we are going over later this evening to teach them about the plan of salvation. We are going to teach her about life after death and the knowledge that we can be with the members of our family again. God has prepared this plan for us and he's ordained families. The family unit is important and is to be forever. As missionaries, We sang a few hymns for her and I hope it provided some sort of comfort for her in her time of sorrow. I know that hard things happen in this life but everything happens for a reason. God has a timetable that we are not aware of but that we will understand some day. God loves us and he will not leave us in our hard times.
How was thanksgiving?! Lots of good food? Did you have pumpkin upside down pie? Jenna I bet you rocked those pies. I had a big thanksgiving dinner with the ward earlier in the week. It was my first official Latino festivity. It's so fun to get the mixed cultures here. It cracks me up but I love every moment of it. They have loud mexican music, dancing, traditional and Latino food. I'm eatin all sorts of good stuff here. Yet My Thanksgiving day turned out perfect as well. It was quite different than I expected. Initially my companion and I had a fun day planned with a few appointments in the morning and a few Dinner Appointments with member families in the evening. Yet Wednesday my companion was hit with El Gripe (the flu) and wasn't keeping anything down. She was really bummed about the timing and so she went to sleep about 4pm on Wednesday and did not resurrect until 8pm Thursday evening. I think half the mission called while she was out. President Nelson called to check up on her a couple of times and the A.P's would make runs to the store to buy Zero Sprite and Saltines for her. Yet she did survive and we are out and about again. At first it seemed like a bummer deal but I quite enjoyed my Thanksgiving. It seems as if time is something that doesn't really exist on the mission and I was able to step back and really focus and center myself on the things I'm truly grateful for in my life. I cleaned our whole apartment and decorated for Christmas. I was able to sit down in the evening turn on the christmas tree, christmas lights, lit the gingerbread candle, ate a polmagranite while I read of Christs life, wrote in my journal of all my blessings and the cool things that are happening in the mission. I felt the spirit and the love of my heavenly father. It was the perfect way to start out the holidays. I love you family. Jael sounds like you where amazing at the Ballroom concert. You are amazing. Some guy is going to be extremely lucky to have you. Keep up the good work. Mom I'm glad you and grandma are back safe from China. Sounds like you had an amazing experience. I believe God will bless you with the wonderful desires of your heart to serve there. Times are coming and the work is pressing forward. May God bless you and may you feel an abundant portion of his spirit all throught this holiday season.