Monday, December 27, 2010

Mexican/Asian Christmas

my dearest of dear loonies...
okay!  that phone call just stoked the fire.  It's really not nice the way they do that to us.  haha but it was so good to hear from everyone!  I'm sorry I talked way too much.  Next time i'm taping my mouth shut and just listening to all y'all tell me how much you love and miss me.  haha.  So did you all get off and analyze me?  What was the verdict? Am I weird?  haha.  or just fatter than you thought... hahah which leads me into:  thanks so much for the presents!  I felt like I had the Mary Poppins package...I just kept pulling things out of it!  and then me and my companions would ooh and ahh over whatever it was and we'd all try it on (the jewelry at least) and so it was exciting.  I told my companions that it's not fair that my family sends me a skirt that is too small for me and a bunch of candy all in the same package... talk about mixed messages.  haha jk it was all perfect.  Jessica.  That shirt was inspired.  I can't wait to wear it around all the zoobies on p-day.  Spence, your letter made my whole week.  I think missionaries are happier with mail and pictures than with anything else you can give them.  Sarah, I've already gotten a lot of compliments on the scarf, and I was actually looking at THAT VERY SCARF in the store the other day and wanted to buy it so bad but couldn't afford it so way to go.  we are so in touch.  The magnet is adorable and it's perfect because we have our bookcase sitting on our study table against the wall... (can you picture that? ) but anyways it's metal so I magnet up a bunch of pictures on the side of it and i was needing more cute magnets.  perfect!  John, the cd is amazing.  very inspiring.  Thank you thank you!  And as for Daddy and Mommy Warbucks...holy cow!  Did you realize how many price tags you left hanging on the stuff you gave me? haha.  you guys are in trouble.  It was all very cute stuff.  I love the pink flower ring.  darling.  i have the cutest jewelry of anyone in the mission.  it's just a shame that I serve in cloverleaf where I can't wear it so it only comes out for special occasions, but hey, i have something new to wear every zone conference.  Nice work picking it out.  You nailed it.  And MaryJane!  I love you, and i'm starting to wonder how busy a 12 year old can be?  haha but knowing you i'm sure it's legit.  Just don't forget my name before I come back. 
So Christmas was wonderful.  On Christmas Eve we went caroling with the English elders, which sorta feels like fraternizing with the enemy...and so then we bailed and headed over to a Christmas dinner at the Palomo's house.  They had a TON of people there and they had a whole Christmas program first, which included going around the room and bearing our testimonies, whether or not we were members of the church.  it was actually really cool.  And then we just ate ourselves silly.  Mexican Christmas food means tamales and pozole (a type of soup) and bunuelos (a fried flour tortilla dipped in cinnamon sugar...heaven in a tortilla) and champurado (hot chocolate with corn flour in it...there's more to it than that but it's also very good).  They even had  presents for us!  (gloves and toe socks) and the kids had written us some cards and stuck them in the christmas tree. 
Christmas day we got up and opened presents, then did our studies and then the Jacinto City hermanas came over for breakfast and we cooked bacon and mom's cinnamon/marshmallow/croissant things and german pancakes and eggnog and everything good.  it was really fun and we took up our whole lunch hour doing that. haha.  The crazy part is, between the five of us hermanas, we all go home on the same day!  So we're pretty close and we got laughing pretty hard all together.  AFter that we went out and worked until it was time to call the family. The Bishop's wife had us eat first (talk about tension...we were all so anxious to get on those phones!) but she made a complete meal of seafood, which not one of us likes.  haha.  it was really sweet of her though, it was a really nice meal - fish soup, crab legs, shrimp, and some weird tentacle salad.  Here's my thought process:  when I turned in my papers I had two stipulations for God:  I didnt' want to go asian and I didnt' want to go stateside.  (The asian thing was purely because of the food choices. )  Well...I went stateside and here I am trying to be positive and telling myself that AT LEAST I will never have to eat all that weird asian stuff...hahahahaha!  it's just so ironic.  Merry Christmas.  (spencer, that's a direct quote from you. )  Oh the best part of that visit was that they have two kids, an eighteen year old boy and a sixteen year old girl, and they're all really shy and quiet, and we're all really shy and quiet, and to top it off, the boy brought his girlfriend and she only speaks english so then if i could ever think of anything to say I didn't know whether to say it in spanish or in english...haha but it reminded me of the awkwardness of meeting your boyfriend's family and I wanted to laugh at that girl and tell her "i bet you're wishing you were on a mission right now." haha but i think she was having fun anwyays.  But Bishop and his wife all of a sudden busted out awesome english!  So that was entertaining.  They must really like this girl because they were pretty eager to make her feel comfortable.  they NEVER speak english.  great accents.  feliz navidad.
After dinner and talking to the family we met up with the elders from our district and went caroling (in spanish this time) to our investigators and members of our ward. Very cold.  But fun. 
So there's all Holiday the details.  Yesterday was such a great pay day because Fernando passed the sacrament! hahah he did a great job.  And he had the biggest grin on his face the whole time.  Next week he's blessing it.  I can't wait.  haha. 
This morning we had to clean out an elders apartment because they just moved and they needed help cleaning out their old apt.  NASTY.  And as i'm staring at their mold encrusted, rusty, grime and germ collecting toilet, I made eye contact with one of the elders with a horrified look on my face and we both started laughing and then I said where's your toilet bowl cleaner elder? and he said "what's that?" and that says it all.  So we found it finally in the back of the cupboard, completely full, and I got that toilet looking great in no time.  But let me say this:  That is true love right there.  And I told Elder Peterson that.  And he agreed.  (why wouldn't he, when someone's cleaning your bathroom for you, you don't disagree with them about anything!) But in the end, it was worth it because they let us take their cute clock and their full length mirror.  Oh the joy of mission apartments. 
But hey, i'm out of time but i love you and i'll try to email some pictures next week. sorry.  i left my camera in the car and dragging three of us off computers and out to the parking lot is just a lot of effort.  But anyways.,  You guys are SO LOVED!  hahah (don't tell president)  I can't wait to hear from ALL of you (cough cough) this week.  and if i don't, then i'll just keep waiting.  Thanks for supporting me - i think we're actually going to make it!  hahah keep the prayers coming. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Happy P-Day!  and more importantly... MERRY CHRISTMAS!  We had our big Christmas conference this past week, so I got my Christmas present from you guys and it's sitting under our little tree, just begging me to open it.  I also got a package in the mail from Grandma Tingey that I am also waiting anxiously to open, so when you see her you can tell her it got safely to me and thank you so much!   It was fun to be at the Christmas Conference because the whole mission was there so we were all together.  Our whole conference was focused on the theme "miracles."  So as you all know and diligently remember, we had the mission goal of doubling our baptisms from last year.  We fell short by about a hundred and fifty baptisms, but we had the highest baptisms this mission has seen in eleven years! so that was a miracle for us.  One sweet sister even pointed out that if you add the number of missionaries serving in our mission to the number of baptisms, you get our goal, and WE have been converted during this year.  haha.  but that's actually a pretty good point.  We had Gifford Nielsen and his wife there to speak to us and in case you haven't heard him speak, he was a BYU quarterback and then went on to play pro.  Did I mention he played football for BYU? I think he was the quarterback for Brigham Young University. and when he played pro here in Texas, well... you just learn so much about the gospel playing football, it's hard to separate the two topics in your head.  ;)  Let's just say, I had a couple different spirits fighting for my attention while he spoke.  and to top it all off, yours truly was involved in three musical numbers so it was kindof a crazy day.  they had me and hermana cannon play an organ/piano to the world.  it was intense. haha dusting off those old organ skills.  It was a really good meeting though, even if it did last from nine until three.  haha no seriously.  And someone's mom sewed these little texas boot stockings for all of us and stuffed it with stuff like gum and candy canes and toothpaste which was really sweet. she sent a letter to the mission and signed it love mom so nobody knows who sent it (although i'm sure her son does).  For a minute I thought it might be my mom becuase she's really mom-mom like that but then I realized she said she felt honored to have her "son serving in THE mission."  ouch.  oh well.  it's the thought that counts, right? hahah jk mom i love you.  and I would have been mad if you had done something like that - spending all that time on other missionaries when it should be focused on ME! haha jk jk!
Well, this week was (can I say this?) a little boring.  At least as far as emailing the family.  We didn't have too many crazy contacts, just a lot of people who weren't interested.  But we had some pretty cool lessons.  One woman we taught let us in and was all smiles and really cute to us becuase we reminded her of her daughters who are in honduras...we started teaching her a first lesson but as we talked, we started noticing things.  (like, she told us she and her "husband" weren't really married)  so we started kinda directing the lesson towards that and finally we asked her a question and she just put her head down on her arms and broke down sobbing.  She told us that she doesn't go to any church but she feels like she's letting God down because she's living with a man without being married. they've been together five years and she said she's never felt right about it.  How crazy is that?  She said she's to the point where she doesn't care if they break up or stay together, she just wants things to change.  I think she might be one of the few people I've met that actually understands the seriousness of breaking the law of chastity.  and she doesn't even have a religion!  Talk about the light of christ being inside you.  I'm just glad I'll never be in her position.  That law of chastity is a doozey, but i've come to love it! 
We had another similar situation yesterday.  A man who we've been working with named Sylvestre didn't come to church so we stopped by to see why.  He was bbqing and so we got talking to him and he started opening up and telling us how he gets afraid when he's inside churches and he just wants to get out.  We kept asking questions until he finally told us that nineteen years ago, he had a little three year old girl that died of cancer and ever since then, he hasnt' gone back to church until a couple weeks ago, when we invited him.  It was a much longer, sadder story than I have time to type out but we were able to teach him the plan of salvation and he was in tears.  When we talked about the celestial kindom he said he wanted to be there.  with his nina.  It made me think of you dad and the time we spent together in the hospital when I was about that age.  It made me think about you, mom, and how you are literally my very closest friend.  It made me so grateful for my siblings and how close we are, and more than anything, I thought about the promises we've made and will someday make in the temple, that bind us together so tight that nothing but our own disobedience can separate us.  It has been a bit of a goober week, as you can probably tell.  But i want you all to know that this is the last Christmas I'm ever spending without you guys.  haha.  I hope.  And I think that being on a mission is the only place I could be and still enjoy Christmas without my family there. 
It has been a really neat experience this year to experience Christmas without any of the fluff.  Does that make sense?  Like, Only the Christ stuff about Christmas.  The rest is really fun, and it is good, and I'm not saying we should do away with it, but it's a pretty rare experience to be able to step out of all that and just celebrate the birth of the Savior.  (don't get me wrong, the only way I can do it is on a mission, because i HAVE to.  it's a lot harder to have commercialism when you can't watch commercials) But I'm glad my mission timeline fell such that I have two Christmases in the field.  (the first one was similar, but I was so green it was hard to enjoy it. haha)  I love it too because it's so easy to see the good in people during christmas time.  Everyone is thinking about others.  lots of people we meet are bitter and say that christmas has lost its true meaning but i think it just depends where you look.  Thanks so much for sending me stuff for the holidays!  i think the best gift will just be getting to talk on the phone!  I love you all and I'm sorry I can't really send everyone a present but I'll be thinking about you. 
talk to you soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time is flying!

Hey everyone:
Was it just me, or did this week go by RIDICULOUSLY fast?  We had a lot going on this week.  I'll try to hit some highlights:
On Friday we had a service project at the George W. Bush International Airport (no it's not a joke, and what sort of cruel, ironic humor drove our zone leaders to set up a missionary activity in an airport?  I'll never know.) But we were setting up a Christmas Fantasy Carnival for terminally ill children from Texas Children's Hospital which is in downtown Houston.  It was pretty cool.  We got to wear jeans (shock!  a little tighter than they used to be!) and we set up inside an empty airplane hangar.  But it was cool because at first they had to move a plane out of it so we were basically standing right there while they moved the plane.  Then they fed us and got us unloading more christmas decorations than you've ever seen in your life.  I spent most my time decorating about twenty five christmas trees that they had to set up all around the hangar.  They had Christmas music going, they let us build a stage for Santa to sit on, we brought in hay for the petting zoo (the elder from gunnison was having christmas morning right there when they brought the hay in!) yeah.  it was cool.  and as I said, Nothing says "Christmas" like "petting zoo."  Only in Houston. 
Next big item:  We had a recent convert marry an hermano in the ward this week.  Let me just set up for you the awkwardness of this situation.  He got divorced last february.  His ex-wife is still in our ward.  yep.  they both come to church every sunday and every activity.  they just sit on opposite sides of the chapel.  So now he is married to a lady that got baptized around the time he was getting divorced and they asked the MORMON MISSIONARIES to sing at their wedding.  why not?  So there we were, directing traffic, setting up tables/centerpieces, and singing spiritual hymns, when it suddenly hits us... they're using us for free labor because we can't say no! hahahha jk we love them but still... kinda true.  And then i start asking myself, as I'm hearing love songs blaring out of their dj sound system...this really isnt' a missionary atmosphere...did we ask permission to do this?  and I start asking around among the zone leaders and turns out...NOBODY ASKED.  so we probably weren't even supposed to be there.   But oh well.  hahaha that was a funny mission experience.  they made us take pictures by the bride and groom and i was laughing so hard because we looked like bridesmaids and groomsmen.  hermana case just kept getting creeped out seeing the elders in suits at a wedding... and then we just started teasing everyone about the next time we're all at a wedding together and who the bride and groom will be.  we're definitely awkward missionaries. 
And I'm basically out of time so I'm sorry this one is short this week.  The best part of the week was sunday.  We had four investigators come to church so we're hoping to get some of them progressing towards baptism soon.  (why does it always have to be so hard? haha jk) and "atheist" Fernando got the priesthood! haha he was smiling so big.  he's so ... i dont' know he's just crazy and I love that kid.  We asked him how he felt after.  we said, "how do you feel Fernando?  like a million bucks?" and he just laughed and said "MORE!"  He's working on his parents becuase he wants to go on a mission!  he'd be agreat missionary too because he came out with us this week ON HIS BIKE! to go do visits. haha he calls us the LDS biker gang and says that we need to buy leather jackets.  He even wore a helmet and everything.  adorable.  haha he said he wants to do something for us for christmas since we've "been helping" him and everything.  He said he wants to do something for our families so we'll see what he comes up with.  we already know what we're giving him for christmas.  he always asks if we can get him in to get his picture taken with the prophet and we always tell him no so then he finally dropped his expectations and asked if we could get him in with the twelve apostles - ANY of them.  hahaha!  NO FERNANDO, we can't!  so we bought a picture of the twelve apostles and we're photoshopping him into it with them.  i can't wait to give it to him!  hahaha he's so great. and he says he's going to move to utah to find a "righteous girl" so i'm guessing you'll all get to meet him someday. haha you have to.  he's my favorite!  i mean, i don't have favorites.  love him. 
okay have a good week! i love you all!  counting down to christmas phone call...

Monday, December 6, 2010

You just fit his stereotype...

Dear Family,
I'm sitting here, late, because we've had one after another unfortunate event prohibit us from emailing on time and in the normal place (san jacinto college campus).  So thus i'm crouched on a tiny chair in the children's section of the public library, next to a woman chomping chewing gum, and I have a "runner's" magazine staring me in the face, begging me to pick it up and read it.  But...never fear.  That's an easy one to resist.  I can't even run two miles anymore without breathing hard. As for the woman next to me... I think she'll resist the temptation just as easily as I will.  Although she is dressed in a bright pink running suit, she seems a little too into her abc streaming of some doctor show.  (not to mention, just based on her build, i'm going to guess she's NOT a runner.  but that's okay.  not everyone is.)
So here I am!  and it's another beautiful day in the neighborhood.  i mean, the 'hood.  A little cold today.  the weather this week has been crazy.  On Friday it was about eighty degrees, but then the next day it was about thirty. so what can you do?  buy tights to go under your skirt, right?  WRONG.  wal mart doesn't carry my size!  they have ten billion pairs of tights but NOTHING my size.  so ironic. haha oh well. 
ANYWAYS.  It has been a good week.  We had a family home evening last monday and brought Carlos and Fernando and Carlos had his conversion moment!  That may sound weird but... it's true.  He just kept saying how suprised and grateful he was that they would let him in his home.  He said he has been so happy ever since his baptism.  You could see it in his face.  Then, last night we took him to the Christmas Devotional and I got talking to him after and asking about his parents, who he is about to move back in with in Mexico, and he got all choked up telling me how he doesn't really know his parents because at age eight, he moved out to go work.  He said he doesn't have even one loving memory of them.  and he really doesn't remember NOT working.  Here is this grown man, once an alcoholic, who has definitely seen some hard things in his lifetime, breaking down about the childhood he never had.  I wished so badly right then that I could just put my arm around him or something.  But he said he finally feels hopeful about the future.  He said words wouldn't say how grateful he is to us.  I told him he doesn't have to say anything - just stay in the gospel and share it with others. 
So the other day we had another "experience" to add to the "weird contacts" list.   We were knocking these three trailers and set an appointment with the first woman, who thought we reminded her of her daughters in mexico who are our age...the second one was a drunk man who just shrugged and smiled really big when we asked if he'd be interested in our message... but then the third one kinda threw us off.  We walked up and it was dark but we could hear a dog barking from under the trailer, we jsut didn't know if he was chained or not.  of course I (the fearless leader) went walking right up to it and realized it was behind a fence thing... so I walked up the front stairs and then saw their second dog, just waking up.  luckily, the owner walked out right then otherwise I might have been writing this emial from a hospital bed!  But she (the owner) hurried and stepped on the dog's chain, right up by it's neck, and asked in a great white lady texan accent, "what religion are y'all from?"  we told her and she said, "okay, NOT INTERESTED."  (ouch) and then she went on to tell us how we really shouldn't be out after dark in that neighborhood, that after her street we might as well just give up because everyone was so bad (oh wait, we baptized carlos who lives four streets up from her!) and how cops will pick you up just walking the streets in cloverleaf because the prostitution problems are that bad.  (that's kinda true...)  then, mid conversation she stops, looks at me and says, "you are soooo CUTE!  I wish my brother was here so I could line you up with him.  (texan accent still) You just fit his stereotype:  tiny, white, and pretty!" hahahaha????!!! what? ahahha that was weird.  So we all just laughed and said "yeah"  but in my head i was saying "not on your LIFE you crazy lady!  what on earth makes you think I'd be interested in marrying your brother who lives in a trailer in cloverleaf texas, with a sister who says no to mormon missionaries?!"  haha but hermana case told me that if things don't go well dating wise for me after the mission i'll always know that there is a tiny white guy waiting for me in cloverleaf.  so true. 
well, I have a really bad headache today so i'm sorry if this emial isn't so great.  i'm having trouble focusing on this bright screen.  But things are looking great for us - we had three people come to church yesterday and we've got a few prospective baptismal candidates so we can't complain!  I think I've finally gotten to the point where I'm really falling in love with my mission.  I never thought I would really ENJOY missionary work but it is addicting.  and it helps to have two companions that you really get along great with.  i thought three would be hard but it feels like everything is easier with the work spread between the three of us.  Loving life!
p.s. how are christmas preparations goign?