16 December, 2013
Moin moin liebe Familie :)
Wow, I really love Langenhorn. It really feels like home to me.
Even though it is incredibly hard to be away from you all at this time, it brings me comfort that I can spend this special season with such incredible people. People that I have come to love so dearly.
Last Monday evening after eating dinner with a member family we went by the D** family. At our last appointment the mother and children told us that they have never had a Christmas tree before, but that someday they would have one. Money is really tight right now, and her husband won't allow one. They won't have any money for gifts or anything.
We had a tiny Christmas tree in our apartment that a member had made for us, and we decided that they needed it more than us. So we carried that little pot with branches with tender loving care, through the rain, onto the Bahn, and walked the familiar path of mud and road to their small apartment. It was late, cold, and rainy, but we were so HAPPY!
Schwester D*** was the only one awake and she started crying when she saw the little mangled tree we were holding. She invited us in even though we only had a few minutes, and we sipped apfel shorle and just talked. It was so sweet how much the tree meant to her, but I think her emotions were more for the happiness she knew it would bring her children. Even Herr D*** came out and was touched by our small gift. He isn't a member, but in the past couple weeks he seems to be having a change of heart . . . F** who is 14 came walking out half asleep in her pajamas after hearing us talking and her face lit up so big when she saw the little tree.
The more we learn to give, the more joy we receive. This is the meaning of Christmas.
Zone Conference this last Wednesday was INCREDIBLE. I love the energy and excitement of coming together with so many other missionaries.
It was fun to have four sisters spend the night in our apartment. Sister Darrington and I woke up bright and early, did morgen sport on the floor in the kitchen in the dark, chatting, whispering, giggling, and talking to each other.
We whipped out a stack of crepes-her speciality, and a stack of chocolate banana chip pancakes-my speciality! And had a little buffet right there in our small apartment. (It kinda brought back memories of Judene's "cruiseship" buffets at Grandpa's!).
Mittwoch 11 Dezember "Here at Zoko! Half the mission all together. Lots of green and red-feeling pretty festive :). It's been a good morning . . . 4 sister missionaries spent the night at our apartment-thank goodness we still have another couch randomly stranded in our living room or we wouldn't have had enough space! . . . Out the door in a rush dragging empty suitcases . . . It's Zoko post and CHRISTMAS= Christmas packages!! It's a funny sight in the foyer with so many suitcases and so many coats! This is the season! It's fun being all together at this time. Our mission family. Sister Darrington and I are twins . . . red cardigans and black skirts . . . :D"
"Quiet music playing. O Little Town of Bethlehem. Getting ready to be taught and hopefully learn and share a little bit with others as well. Oh what a wonderful day it is. I sang out loud on the journey here, and my song is still being sung in my heart.
Sister Darrington is reading in her small Book of Mormon beside me and writing in her small familiar notebook. Tears coming from her eyes. A sign of her love for the Savior and sensitivity to the Spirit. Oh how grateful I am for her and for her example. I know her Heavenly Father is proud of who she is."
Hearing President Kosak, Sister Kosak, the Assistants, and so many wonderful testimonies from fellow missionaries, I was so spiritually uplifted!
Sister Darrington was laughing at me because I wrote a total of ten pages during our time there in my little notebook, full of thoughts, feelings, impressions, experiences, and whatever it was that came into my mind. My notebook has really become a good friend the past couple weeks . . .
We were able to watch "17 Miracles" together which is such an incredible film. Half of the people were in tears around me, and we had a wonderful testimony meeting following.
I'm pretty sure the film touched Sister Darrington more than anyone, she sat there sobbing the entire time, her small frame shaking.
I love her so dearly. I had my arm around her and I let my head fall down and rest on hers and she just tipped her head to the side and let it rest on my shoulder.
This is just how our relationship is. We have hard times, but we love and depend on each other.
The next day I dropped like a rock. I can't really explain what happens on these days.
Donnerstag 12 Dezember " . . . [Yesterday] President Kosak showed us a painters video on YouTube. It showed the steps of a painting in a sped up time beginning to end. It related so well to me being an artist myself.
We have to begin somewhere and we just have to continue working. It seems like every painting I do I get to a point where I just look at my canvas or my paper and I am just disappointed. It had been looking so good . . . Why now does it look so awful? What have I done? Something that I've realized thought is that that stage seems to come in every painting. I have learned to just keep going. I just keep doing what I am supposed to. I follow my intuition. I mix paints, I apply them to the canvas. I go back and forth from palette to painting. Sometimes it is so fast and innate that I almost can't keep up with my hands. Other times the work is so slow and precise. The painting actually seems to be becoming. I don't feel disappointed, but I feel rather proud. I have done it! The feeling within me is one of happiness, satisfactory. I have done it.
As a missionary I wonder what stage of my painting I am in. Last week I don't doubt I was in a pretty ugly stage-perhaps the colors just weren't right. But I pulled through. I kept going. Yesterday and the day before I was completely elated. I was loving the work, loving every minute. Today seems to be average, just working harder on my painting. I just know that I can't give up, just because the painting isn't complete yet. I still have refinements :)
But just as when I am painting and feel joy in every brushstroke, I want that here to. Sometimes I feel a little discomfort because I don't quite know what will come from my efforts or risks. But how am I supposed to know if I don't make them? I will finish my painting :). Whether it is of a person, a landscape, or something more abstract, I know not yet. But I know that as I accept help from the Master, that it (I) will become something great. I would change this quote from the poem that Bruder Davis shared in the MTC. "Don't quit. Keep playing."
I would say, "The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, don't quit, keep [painting]."
I won't let you down, Lord. I will continue painting. I will do my best work. I will try my hardest to make you proud."
It was after this study that I was reduced to tears once again, something that I couldn't explain. Why is it that at times when I begin to feel so much strength, so much motivation, and courage, that I let fear and worry overtake me.
Freitag 13 Dezember "Guten Morgen. Today is a new day! Yesterday after personal study I felt so filled-it helps me so much to take the time to write down my thoughts and feelings. I prayed for us and once again I was come to feel the Spirit so strong as I was praying that I almost started bawling. . . . During the recitation of "our purpose" I had to seal my eyes shut firmly and speak with a wavering voice just to keep the tears from flowing freely. I shared my thoughts from study with Sister Darrington from yesterday morning and as I spoke the words and thoughts just broke me down to sobs. The emotional artist comes out as she talks about "her painting." She just listened and she could tell how much of an impact this small video clip and discussion from President Kosak had had on me. I realized just how much I miss painting as I described in tears my experience of mixing my own colors and beginning a new piece on blank canvas."
Depression seemed to hit me hard these two days, and I found myself on my knees on so many occasions feeling completely helpless. On one day we had planned to do our weekly planning, and I just stepped into the bathroom to pray on the rug (such a great place, shared with me by Sister Darrington!). I felt fine, but for some reason I felt fragile again.
I came out and pulled Sister in for a hug and we ended up just bawling together. We prayed together, and she encouraged me with her words. We went to visit Bruder Woelfl and Schwester Nilson, and I was so happy to be there. Schwester Nilson reminds me so much of Grandma Shelley. The way she sits there, speaks, just her very nature! Before leaving she pulled me in for a hug, "God bless you." "I love you." I love you too. So much.
As we walked back home a random woman stopped us on the streets--a GERMAN woman--and just wished us a merry Christmas. She greeted us so warmly with a hug and kiss and we didn't even know who she was. I swear God put us in her path because he knew that I needed her . . .
I pulled out the great missionary stress booklet which was actually great. I know it is a little embarrassing, but hey! That book is inspired. Sister Darrington listened to everything that I was feeling, and just wrote down the thoughts that I had.
It turns out that my perfectionism and high standards can be kind of deadly, because too often I just feel disappointed in myself for not reaching enough.
Sister Darrington ended up making a list for me in which she titled, "The perfect missionary--Sister Shelley's Standard." She then helped me identify two of the points that I wanted to work on and then set goals. I love her.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I am back to my bubbly self. We have been laughing, listening to music, and working well together as a team to convert the multitudes! Everything is going GREAT!
On Friday we also had our ward party which ended up being one of the most exciting times of my mission yet. Schwester Salzinger and I sang a duet … it felt so good to be singing again. We sang Petit Papa Noel in French which was so cool. She even made me a lovely angel costume complete with a halo headband, and gold shoes! Everybody kept on telling us how much they loved it.
Even though there have been more challenges this week, I can say in complete honesty that I LOVED this week.
Once again, I learned a lot, and I feel like I am becoming more and more every day.
I love my companion. I love Langenhorn. I love being a missionary.