Thursday, September 29, 2011

A weekend with Chopsy

Carli was so excited to borrow her favorite outfit of mine.  I was happy to be able to share my clothes with someone:)

With Chopsy, there is always time for a photo shoot!

Dressed up to go to the Relief Society Meeting

Okay, so I need to clarify something.  Chops is Carli's nickname.  I don't really know where it came from but I started calling her Chops a couple of years ago and it just stuck.  I am just thankful that the nickname she tried to give to me didn't stick!  Now almost all of her friends and all of my nieces and nephews refer to her as Chops, Chopsy, or Chopsidy.  I love it!  However, my mom is not to fond of it, which I guess I can understand.  It isn't the prettiest of names:)  Now that that is cleared up, let's move on!  So Chops came up last weekend just to play.  It was soooo great!  She got here at about 6:30 on Friday night and went with Tish and Wendi and I to deliver a cake to Sister Love, and then we got some dinner and played Just Dance (by the way, Just Dance is probably my most favorite thing EVER!).  She slept at her friend's house that night so that she could get the whole freshman experience.  Yes, they did stay up until 4 am.  Saturday she came back to my place and we went up to the bookstore so that she could get a USU hoodie to wear to the football game.  She got such a cute one and will be able to really get some good use out of it since she is moving up here in January!  We went to a dinner that my stake was putting on before the broadcast and had some yummy food, and then we were fed spiritually!  It was Chopsy's first Relief Society General Meeting because she just turned 18 in January and I was so happy that I could be there with her.  We enjoyed all of the Meeting, but were especially touched by President Uchtdorf's talk!  It was amazing!  That night we made it to the last quarter (and over time) of the football game.  So sad that the Aggies didn't win!
Chops, Tish, Me, Wendi...GO AGGIES!
The next morning Chops came to church with me.  My roommates and I got up to share our testimonies during the meeting, and Chops got up too!  I have never been in a testimony meeting where she hasn't born her testimony...she is such an example to me!  She also came to my Temple Prep class and gave some amazing comments!  After church, we colored for a bit together as we watched part of Monsters Inc. and then she took a little nap before driving home.  It was so sad to watch her drive off, but the weekend was so worth it!  I just can't wait until January when she is up here for good!  I love you Chops!  Thanks for making the weekend so great!  Know that you are welcome anytime!

I am better because of her...

On Tuesday morning when I woke up I saw that I had received a message on Facebook.  It was from Hellen Spijkerman, one of the dear members from the Netherlands.  She informed me that early Tuesday morning Sia van Andel had passed away.  For just a moment I was sad but the sadness was swept away as memories of her came flooding into my mind.  I still remember meeting her for the first time on my first Sunday in the Netherlands.  She was a member of the Zwolle branch and I was drawn to her because of the light she radiated.  I don't think I have ever met someone so kind and sincere in my life.  She was so patient with my Dutch, and although I could hardly say anything, she still loved me and welcomed me.  Over the next six months serving in that city, I learned from her selfless and Christlike service.  She was always doing missionary work with those around her.  She found joy in the gospel and she wanted others to experience that joy.  She would always come up to me at the end of Sacrament Meeting and say, "Komen jullie patat en ijsjes eten?!"  That means, "Are you coming to eat fries and ice cream with us?" in Dutch.  They had a family tradition that every Sunday after church they would eat fries and ice cream and she always invited us.  They lived an hour away from the church so they would drive us to their house, feed us, and then make sure we were at the station in time to catch the train back.  I always felt at home in their house.  She always took such good care of us.  For Sinter Klaas she hid presents in our boots that we had taken off by the door.  She invited us to dinner at their home on Second Christmas Day.  On every other occasion at their home, as we were getting ready to leave, she would be running around the house gathering things up for us.  She would fill a bag with juice, fresh fruits and vegetables, and some goodies.  The picture below is of Zuster Wieland and I eating the delicious kiwis she had given us.  She also asked us to bring her a copy of the Book of Mormon each week so she could write her conversion story and testimony on the inside cover, and then she would give it back the following week so we could give it away. She will never know how many have been blessed through her testimony! She loved her family and she loved the Lord.  She was loved by everyone who knew her.  I was so blessed to keep in touch with her throughout my mission.  Receiving a card or letter from her was a huge blessing!
 When I went back to the Netherlands with my parents, Sia invited us to come out to their house so that she could take us to the butterfly and orchid gardens.  We didn't want to pass that opportunity up so we made the hour drive to Emmeloord.  When we arrived we found out that she was sick in bed with a really bad headache.  We didn't want to bother her but when she found out that we were there, she refused not to spend the day with us.  That day was one of the highlights of our trip and my parents fell in love with Sia just as I had.  When we left her home after a day at the gardens and lunch, she showered us with gifts.  I will always cherish the Holland jacket she gave me.  It was so hard to say goodbye, especially because I didn't know when I would see her again!  But later that week we attended the temple with some members in Den Haag and she was there!  It was a tender mercy to see her again!  I will never forget how beautiful she looked all dressed in white.  I didn't think that would be the last time I would see her in this life, but what a sweet memory it is.  I can imagine that our reunion will be much like how it felt in the temple...full of love and joy.  A few weeks after we arrived home from the Netherlands, Hellen informed me that Sia had a brain tumor and the doctors only gave her a few months to live.  That was why she had such a bad headache when we had gone to visit her.  I was devastated, especially that one so pure would have to deal with something so horrible.  But I knew that Heavenly Father loved her and was watching over her and her family.  It is sad that she is gone, and I can't even imagine what it must be like for her husband or those who call her mom or grandma, but I know that we can all agree that we are better because of her.  I am so thankful that Heavenly Father arranged my mission so perfectly that I could meet her and get to know her so well.  I know that my parents feel the same way about our trip back and that we were so privileged to spend a day with her.  I love her so much and I know that she is continuing to bless the lives of others.  How thankful I am for the Plan of Salvation, to know that I will see her and all other loved ones again!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Night Out on the Town!

When I found out that Teresa was going to be Miss Hannigan in the play"Annie" I just had to get tickets!  I grew up going to plays quite frequently because we always got season tickets to the Hale Center Theatre.  I have really missed it so any chance I get to go to play or a musical, I jumpEd right on it!  I invited anyone and everyone...and I am so happy that Steph, Tish, Wendi, Johanna, Lisa and Carolynn could come with!
Tish and I went on a little shopping spree this we decided to wear our new stuff! 
These three photos are evidence that Carolynn was with us...she demands the perfect pic!
And here is the lovely Miss Hannigan/ Teresa Jones...she is amazing!  When I talked to here after the show, Wendi took a picture and then Tish took a second... I am glad that I got the second one...Miss H's face is perfect!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I give you permission to laugh...

I can't believe I am really posting these pictures but I figure I might as well share the humor with everyone! I found these pictures as I was cleaning out my closet at the beginning of the summer and Brooke and I just laughed and laughed.  In high school, dances were like the most important thing ever!  It really mattered what dress you were going to wear, who you were going with, what you were doing for your day and night activity, how your hair looked...all of those silly things!  I had a lot of fun at all of the dances and have some good memories, but I have certainly come to realize that those things aren't really what matter.  Anyway, I am still glad that I have the pictures so I can have a good chuckle...what was I thinking in some of these pictures?!

My very first dance...Spring Fling of Sophmore year.  Date: Jared Day.  Dinner at my house before the dance and then a party afterwards.  Don't you love the brace face!

Homecoming of Junior Year.  Date: Michael Sayer. Lunch at Cafe Rio, games at a park, Color Me Mine, dinner at Applebee's, activity afterwards (I don't remember what it was).
Morp of Junior year.  No date...just a big group of friends!  I loved this dance...twirling competition with Jeremy...I won!

Sadie Hawkins Junior year.  Date: Andy Wasden.  We had a good time!

Sweethearts Junior year.  Date: Tyler Sorenson.  Lots of laughs!
Prom Junior year.  Date: Wesley Simon.  I left out the couple picture for a good reason...I look awful!  Maybe as time goes on I will be able to laugh a little more about that one too and I will share it with you:)

Spring Fling Junior year.  Date: Jeremy Knowles.  So chill!  I really enjoyed this one.
Morp Junior Year.  No date again!  So crazy fun!  Can you find me?  Yes, I am the creepy Raggedy-Ann in the front.
Sadie Hawkins Senior year.  Date: we kept switching throughout the day and night.  For every activity we would draw a name and that was our date until the next was wonderful!

Sweetheart Senior year.  This was such a special dance for me.  I was in the Special Needs Seminary class and decided that I wanted to take one of the boys in the class to the dance.  I got a few AMAZING friends in on it with me and it was a blast!  I love all of these people!
Prom Senior year.  Date: John Southwick.  Very fun!  This is the one dance that ended earlier than the others. ...I got home at 10:00.  If you want to hear a good story, just let me know!
Spring Fling Senior year.  Date: Wesley Simon.  Good times!
This was our Senior Dinner Dance.  Pictures were sooo cheap so Molly and I decided to get one together to remember the good times!  I can't help but smile when I look at this picture!
Our group.  The terrible ten plus a few others that were always welcome.  I love these guys!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Love to See the Temple...

Steph and I decided we were really in need of a temple night so we made a plan to go tonight at 6:30 so we could be there for the 7:00 session.  We invited anyone and everyone to go with us and we ended up having a fabulous little group!  I don't know what it is about going to the temple, but I feel like when you have a goal to go, someone is really trying hard to stop you!  Like tonight, about 15 minutes before we were supposed to leave, a whole cup of bacon grease exploded all over my skirt and shoes.  That just put us behind.  Tish had made an amazing dinner and we were trying to have a bite before we headed out.  As we were about to pull out, I realized that I had totally forgotten my wallet.  Luckily we still made it in time for the session!  The temple was totally PACKED tonight!  The whole chapel was full and there were just too many for one session so we had to wait until the 7:30 session started.  Normally if you are some place it would get a little frustrating to wait but when the temple is busy that is like the coolest thing ever!  So much work is being done!  I didn't mind have the extra time to just sit and meditate and read in the scriptures.  And my whole experience tonight was so wonderful.  I love how the session is the same every time but depending on the circumstances you get something different out of it, something that you really need.  I love walking into the temple and feeling so much peace.  I love that everything in life seems to be put into perspective.  I love being able to receive personal revelation.  I was just recently called as the Temple Prep teacher for my student ward.  This Sunday I will begin teaching.  The lesson is about how the temple helps us better understand the Plan of Salvation.  It really does!  But I am open for any comments or suggestions you have to would help!  I am kind of rambling now...but these are a few pictures of us afterwards.  I first asked another patron to take a picture of us but Carolynn wasn't pleased with the amount of temple in the background.  So she continued to take picture after picture after picture until we got the last one...and then she was satisfied!  I love these girls, and I love to see the temple...

Collegas: Companions

It really hit me the other day, after seeing a post left on my blog from my friend and trainer, Christa, how much of an impact my companions from my mission had on me.  They truly became my sisters and I learned so much from them.  They were all amazing and taught me sooo much and I still think of them almost daily as I see or do certain things that remind me of them.  I realize now just how inspired it was that President Brubaker put me with all of the companions I had.  I needed every one of them!  I just want to thank all of them!  I love you all and will always be here for you if you need me, just as you have done the same for me!
My Mom was my first companion.  I remember the night that my stake president, President Barlow, set me apart and invited my Mom to be a companion to me until I went into the MTC the next day.  She was the best companion ever!  I still waking up on July 15, 2009 and having my first companionship scripture study with my Mom.  That is one of my sweetest memories.  She prepared me for my mission and for all of the other companions I would have.  I love you, Mom!
Zuster Jillian Fritz was my first companion!  Oh, how I love her!  We just clicked and had the most amazing MTC experience together.  She was majoring in German so her Dutch was incredible!  It was such a blessing...I had a personal language tutor!  I don't think that I have ever been so open with someone so fast.  Magic Tuesday just forced me to...and I am so thankful for it!  I will never forget laughing so hard at night until we would almost wet our pants (okay, so it really happened once), crying because we didn't know how we were going to do the whole mission thing, and having two hour companionship inventories because we couldn't tell each other just how much we loved each other in just 30 minutes!  Throughout my mission I looked forward to seeing Zuster Fritz and I still do!  She was always someone I could talk to...and still is!  I actually called her up the other night and it was as if we were still in the MTC.  I am so happy for her that she is now married to Elder Christensen!  It was such a blessing to be at her wedding!  I love you, girl!  
My first trio!  I remember vividly being at the mission home my first night in the land and getting an envelope with a letter inside that would reveal where I would first be serving and who my companions would be.  I had already heard a lot about Zuster Baxter and Zuster Erickson in the MTC so when I read that they were my new companions, I was so happy!  And, even though I knew nothing at that time about the city of Zwolle, I already had a great love for the area.  Both companions and city were amazing!  Zuster Baxter was my trainer and I could not have asked for a more loving, dedicated, and kind missionary to work with and learn from.  She really set the tone for my mission!  Zuster Erickson was also wonderful, but she only remained in Zwolle for a week and a half before being needed in another area.  I love these two so much!  Even though I was with Zuster Baxter for only a transfer before she headed home, I gained so much from her...and I still do!  Ik hou van jullie allebei!
Zuster Wieland was spectacular!  We served together for three transfers in Zwolle and I grew to love this girl!  She is so pure and honest and her only desire is to serve and love others.  She was so patient with me and the struggles that I had as a new missionary.  I will still never forget just plowing through the snow and rain and cold together.  We both had a common desire to find and teach people and we were certainly blessed.  She knew how to follow the Spirit and she trusted me when I felt that we needed to do something, even when I didn't know if I trusted myself.  I remember laughing so hard when I would scare her or when she would hide during companionship prayer.  It was so hard to see her go home and leave Zwolle at the same time.  It was such a blessing to see her at the airport when Sue-Haina came to Salt Lake from the Netherlands to begin her mission.  What a happy reunion!  I wish her all the best...she will be getting married shortly!  I love you!

Oh, Zuster Stapleton!  This girl was a spiritual giant!  She and her aunt were the only members of their family.  She had joined the church when she was 18 and came on her mission only a few years later.  Her testimony was burning and her love for people and for the gospel was tangible!  She seemed to really be able to click with people because she knew what it was like to investigate the gospel.  I was amazed at how many people we met during our two transfers together that were also from the Antilles.  She also had a special connection with them and we saw so many miracles because of that!  I will never forget getting locked out at 6:30 in the morning as we went to exercise.  I will never forget how she had no fear and would talk to anyone and everyone.  I am so thankful that she helped me adjust to being in a new city.  I grew to love Groningen within a day because of the love she expressed for that city.  I haven't had any contact with her since being home, but if she ever reads this, I want her to know that she has so much courage!  I hope that she is doing well!  I love you!

This is a little bit of a combo picture.  Zuster Harrington, on the left, was my first greenie.  She and I served together for a transfer in Groningen before we were both transferred to Den Haag.  As you can see on her face, she is just bursting with excitement!  I was a little nervous to be training and I remember waiting at the train station for her to show up.  She was already talking to Dutch people when she got off of the train and she would only speak to me in Dutch.  She was dedicated!  I will never forget how hard we worked during that transfer, and how much fun missionary work was.  She was never negative...NEVER!  She is still on her mission until November.  I know that she is still as dedicated as she was her first day! When we went to Den Haag we joined Zuster Reber.  We were quite the young companionship.  I was in my 8th transfer, Zuster Reber in her 4th, and Zuster Harrington in her 2nd.  We never stopped for those 6 weeks!  I had never contacted so many people in my life!  We had so much fun jumping off of our bikes and talking to people.  We saw many miracles.  Zuster Reber truly wanted to please Heavenly Father and she was a master of goal setting.  That transfer was so fun and went by sooo fast!  I was sad when it was over because I benefited so much from having two companions.  Zuster Reber recently returned from her mission.  I hope she is enjoying her time at BYU!  I love you both!

This picture says it all!  Zuster Pierson came to Den Haag, replacing both Zuster  Reber and Zuster Harrington.  She was starting her 3rd transfer.  I had never prayed as much as I did at that point in my mission for guidance from the Lord.  Den Haag is one of the largest cities in the Netherlands and it has the biggest ward.  I was used to a branch of 40 and a ward of 80 so being in Den Haag was a little overwhelming...we didn't really know where to start!  We put the map to good use and just got to work.  At the time, we didn't know any of the members so we just started going through the ward list.  Member missionary work was the theme of our four transfers together.  I just loved every moment with Zuster Pierson.  She had been sick since the beginning of her mission and the doctors just couldn't figure out what was wrong.  But she never complained even when she was in so much pain.  I also admired her for her strength.  Her whole family is not active and she wasn't re-activated until she was 18.  She really did serve with all of her heart, might, mind, and strength!  We laughed and cried together and talked very openly with each other.  I was so sad when she went home because of her sickness.  It broke my heart!  I am thankful that she is now doing better, and that I have been able to see her a number of times.  I love you schaatje!  

Zuster Hill was my second greenie and our transfer certainly didn't start out the way I had planned.  I was into my "extra" time on my mission and I was so excited to get to work!  But the day before Zuster Pierson left I got really sick and there was a huge snow storm.  After dropping Zuster Pierson off at the train station, I stayed at Familie Navarro's.  The plan was to be there until Zuster Hill arrived but because of the snow, she wasn't going to make it until the next day.  Zuster Garvin came and spent that night with me and then Zuster Hill arrived the next day.  I was in bed for the next five days but she jumped right into working!  The members in Den Haag were so committed to helping us that one would come and stay with me while another would go out and work with Zuster Hill.  I can't even imagine being new and going with complete strangers who spoke a foreign language for the day!  She was amazing!  I only had a transfer with her but I loved every minute!  She is about half way through her mission now!  I love you!

Zuster Jeffs was absolutely delightful and one of the greatest blessings of my mission!  She was such a happy, positive person.  For being a greenie, she had amazing Dutch skills!  I still was sick a lot when she came and she was so patient with my frustrations and disappointments.  We had lots of adventures together...a mouse, thousands of cookies, yellow sticky notes, and lots of miracles!  I was so happy that she was taking over Den Haag.  She was so outgoing and friendly that she really got to know the ward and the area and was so prepared!  We laughed a lot and had some amazing, spiritual experiences together.  She is also still out...and I know that she is loving it!  She will be a blessing to all of those that are companions with her!  I love you!