Monday, January 16, 2017

Winter Wonderland

Hello everyone! 

This week was crazy busy! It has also been snowing non stop the whole week, so we are living in a winter wonderland here! 

Highlights of the week:

-Sister Multamäki learned how to pray in English! She asked me to say a prayer first, and then she would try after me, and wow, I cannot pray in English anymore. It's embarrassing. But she did great! :)

-We had a tausch with the Zollikofen sisters, and I brought Sister Rasmussen back to Solothurn with me for a couple days! We stayed super busy with appointments the whole time, and then we ended our tausch with an appointment at a member's house eating Chinese food!
-We also had Zone Training this week, and Sister Multamäki practiced for a long time trying to make it good. It was a really great Zone Training, and I learned a ton!
-We met some new Finnish people here that we will hopefully start teaching this coming week! (Perks of having a Finnish companion.)
-We had a lesson in French with one of our investigators. We brought the Elders from Biel with us, because they both speak French, and I have realized that I can understand more Finnish than French...haha.

Something I have been thinking about lately is goals. Everyone always makes so many goals and New Year's resolutions at the beginning of the year, but by this time, or maybe in a few weeks, they all start to fizzle out. Sometimes it's like that on a mission too. We make goals as missionaries for the week for how many new people we want to find, lessons we want to teach, etc., and by the end of the week sometimes we have forgotten what our goals even were! Sometimes goals can be frustrating and demotivating if we don't achieve them. But I've learned on my mission that goals are more of an eventual motivational end point, rather than something that absolutely has to be achieved within a certain amount of time. If we make the goal to be more disciplined or diligent, and then forget, or get lazy, then that doesn't mean we have to just stop trying! If we make the goal as missionaries to teach 12 lessons, and we only hit 4 by the end of the week that doesn't mean we give up! Goals are something that always have to be reevaluated and carefully decided, with the help of the Lord. What goals do you have this year that will bring you closer to Him? Don't give up, every day is a new day. Have faith, work hard, and keep an eternal perspective!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Thursday, January 12, 2017


For as long as I can remember I've been afraid of bridges. Especially bridges over water.  And I don't love tunnels all that much either.  Mostly, I like to be on long stretches of level surfaces with 100% visibility in all directions that don't overlook anything or have water anywhere near them and don't go underground.

That's the way I like my life to be, too.  Unobstructed, flat terrain.  100% visibility.  Free of any difficulties and uncertainties.

Unfortunately, in order to get to the good stuff you have to travel across a few scary bridges and through some long, dark tunnels.  That's not my favorite part of road trips...or mortality.  

While we were on the Great Christmas Road Trip of 2016, we had to pass over a handful of bridges, and through two or three excruciatingly long tunnels.  Those weren't my favorite parts of the trip.  

But because I knew this was waiting on the other end...

...I made myself close my eyes and press forward. (Wait, not while I was driving...don't worry, my eyes were ALWAYS OPEN while i was driving.) 

This afternoon, I drove 2 hours to my uncle's house in Scottsboro to pick up my mom who's visiting from Hawaii.  She's staying with us for the weekend.  I took a different route there than the one I took last July when she was here and surprisingly, in the last 10 miles of the trip, I came around a corner, and found myself not only on an amazing and expansive overlook, but also overlooking a giant lake, and headed straight toward a bridge.  A huge one.  Over that giant lake.  Nothing but water as far as I could see...

I didn't even know there was a lake there.  I didn't even know it was coming it until I came around that corner, until my entire GPS turned blue and all the streets disappeared.  That's an unsettling feeling.  

Luckily, I was a little distracted by the beauty of the view.  And also a little irritated that I had forgotten my camera on this road trip.  (Note to self: always throw the camera bag in the car.)

But guess what I realized halfway across that bridge?

I wasn't scared.

My hands weren't sweaty.  I wasn't panicked or gripping the steering wheel.  I didn't cry.  And I made it across.  Trauma free.  

There is stuff happening in my life right now that's a lot like that bridge. Changes.  Improvements. Transitions. Stuff that's unexpected and a little scary.  I have no idea how long it's going to take to get across and I can't see all the way to the other side.  Normally that would freak me out and I'd be panicked, worried, crying, or obsessively cleaning something.  

But I'm not.  My hands aren't sweaty.  I'm not hanging on as tightly to things as I might have in the past.  I haven't cried yet.  And I know I haven't made it all the way across, but I feel confident that I will.  

And I bet whatever is on the other side of this particular bridge is pretty dang good. Maybe even better than whatever my imagination has conjured up.  Wouldn't that be the greatest thing?...if the compensatory reward for doing a hard thing was in direct proportion to the amount of courage and sacrifice it took to make it across?  Oh wait, it is.  Because that's how Heavenly Father works.  He gives us challenges, sometimes the same one over and over and over again, to help us build confidence in ourselves, to increase our faith in Him, and to learn to trust His plan.  And then, especially at the end, but also along the way, He pours out His blessings in abundance.  

I know some of the things Heavenly Father has in store for me.  I know that there is a plan and it's not mine.  And I know that this bridge I'm currently on and the ones coming around the corner are designed to help me improve and draw closer to Him.  And I'm super grateful today for that bridge in Scottsboro that reminded me of all that stuff.  

Who would have ever thought I would be grateful for a bridge?  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Our dishwasher has been having problems since Thanksgiving and the home warranty people are super SLOW about getting here to fix it for me, which has mostly been an inconvenience and a bother, but yesterday I had a tiny change of heart.

I don't love hand washing dishes...especially silverware and especially after big dinners.  In the past two months (which have included three major holidays, 8 batches of Christmas cookies, a couple of youth activities and a few get togethers with friends) I have become intimately acquainted with every pot, pan, and serving utensil in my kitchen.  That was not on my bucket list.  :(

But...Heavenly Father or someone else really wise, perfectly placed a window right over the sink which happens to overlook that pretty lake we live on.  Yesterday morning, we had a late start for school so while the kids slept in I washed a few of the previous night's leftover dishes.

...and I happened to look up and notice the amazing sunrise. 

Honestly, there isn't a day that I don't stop to notice the sunrise, but to have the extended opportunity to be standing at the kitchen sink at the very moment this spectacular-ness happened in the sky was pretty amazing.

...especially since it changed to this about 20 minutes later when the kids finally wandered downstairs for breakfast. 

The clouds rolled in and stayed there all day long.  It was cold and grey and kinda dreary, but I was so grateful to have been washing dishes and to have caught that first and only glimpse of the sun's appearance yesterday. 

Stuff is like that around here lately.  Fleeting.  It happens fast and then it's gone before I can catch it.  I see a beautiful thing, but I'm driving too fast to stop and take a picture of it.  Or I have some great inspiration, but I don't have the time to write it down anywhere.  My blogging and journaling have become brief and inconsistent at best.  My IG posts have changed from daily inspiring photography to casual iPhone snapshots of things that disappear in 24 hours.  It's frustrating.  

My desire this year is to stop and catch more of those little glimpses of Heavenly Father's influence in my life.  I think there are a lot more of them in a day than just the ones I happen to see.  I want to acknowledge those moments more often and take pictures of them so they last a little longer, so those glimpses become more than just brief and fleeting.

If a glorious sunrise can make me grateful that my dishwasher is broken, that's a pretty miraculous thing Heavenly Father accomplished in just ten minutes.  What else is He doing that I'm missing?  or forgetting?  

Monday, January 9, 2017


Hello everyone! 

Wow it has been a CRAZY week! First we had tausch Tuesday and Wednesday with the Burgdorf sisters. I got to tausch with Sister Mickelsen, my MTC companion, and holy cow it was the best tausch ever! I missed working with her! She's a bomb missionary, and we just talked each other's ears off the whole time!  We also found two potentials, and had a couple of appointments with some old ladies, and that was super fun :) 

Thursday and Friday we went to Munich for MLC!  I've missed Germany so much!  This was probably one of the best MLC's I've been to. I came out of it just so inspired to change and be a better missionary, and companion, and person in general. I've made lots of new goals for myself for this New Year, and I'm excited to work my butt off for the last couple months of my mission!

Random highlights of the week:
1. I tried Finnish food for the first time—fish soup! It was delicious.
2. We found three new families that we are going to start teaching this week!
3. We got to ride a boat across the Bodensee on the way home from MLC.

4. It finally snowed!! Snow in Switzerland is seriously MAGICAL. And it finally feels like Christmas. Oh wait, too late!
5. On Saturday night Sister Multamäki and I were tired of walking on our way home, so we stopped to make some snow angels in a parking lot :)

6. Sister Mickelsen inspired me to learn how to brush my teeth with two toothbrushes. Much more efficient!

Well, today for pday we went sledding in Biel, so I'm exhausted! 

And the whole week has just been running around like crazy people, but we have seen SO many miracles it's crazy.  And I have a feeling that this week we will see even more!  I feel like I have finally gotten out of the way, and I am letting Heavenly Father teach me and mold me into what He wants me to be, not what I want for myself!  And it's so much better that way!  I have really learned a ton this week about the Holy Ghost, and how that is really the most precious gift in my life!  And, once again, when you give Heavenly Father a little, He gives you a Gurke!! 

Love you all!! Have a wonderful week!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Sunday, January 8, 2017


After a really pitiful Thanksgiving (I was pitiful, the day was not...) and after moping around this place for the better part of three months complaining about all there was to do and all there wasn't to be inspired by, Craig gave in and decided to take us to Utah for Christmas.  

What I thought I wanted from this trip was to reconnect with family (mostly my father in law because he reminds me always of what is important and who I am,) to have a change of scenery, to shirk all my new responsibilities for awhile, and to TAKE PICTURES!  I also wanted to go back to a place I felt connected to and to be inspired by the people and the surroundings so that I could come back here and get back to work with a better attitude and restored confidence.  

Because honestly, how can you not be inspired by this place?

Everything about Cache Valley makes me want to spend the entire day exploring and taking pictures.  I feel that way in every season, in every temperature, and under any circumstance in that place.  I love it and I could easily spend the rest of my life there photographing every beautiful thing and never tire of it.  And that's exactly what Megan and I did every morning that we spent there.  We got up as soon as the sun made an appearance, which is surprisingly late on that end of the time zone in the dead of winter.  We put on layers and layers of snow gear, scraped and shoveled ice and snow out of our way, and drove in vehicles equipped for treacherous weather just so we could get the pictures we had been dreaming about.  It was exactly what I needed to help me remember that I love my camera.  

But, as always on those trips back to places we've lived before, there are unfulfilled expectations.  It may not help that my particular form of expectation is the ridiculously high, unattainable kind.  While the picture taking and barn hunting were completely fulfilling and exactly what I wanted and expected, the other stuff wasn't.  There wasn't enough time with people I wanted to spend time with.  There wasn't enough quiet time to take advantage of the limited time I did have with a few people.   And the fact is, we don't live there anymore, so as much as my heart longs to 'belong" to Cache Valley, I just don't.  

That's the thing about moving around a lot.  It gives you an amazing perspective when you leave a place and come back to it, but it also comes with this agonizing void of not belonging anywhere.  Seven years, no matter how pivotal in may have been in my opinion, is really such a short amount of life.  The people we left in Mendon don't think about us during their average days, so there's not a lot to connect us anymore.  Our family has moved twice in the six years since we left Utah.  People have since moved into our old house, replaced us in the church callings we held, and filled whatever voids we may have left when we drove out of that valley in 2010.  And we've changed, too.  Some of our kids have now lived away from Utah for longer than they lived in Utah.  They're different.  We all are.  

So after my super high expectations came crashing back into reality, and after I spent a few hours crying about it, I went upstairs and talked to my dear, sweet father-in-law who is a wealth of wisdom.  We talked about life in Birmingham, about weighty responsibilities and busy schedules.  He asked if I felt spiritually challenged and if I was magnifying my new calling.  He asked about temple attendance and scriptures.  He asked how this experience is different than our experience in Allen.  And after sifting through all of my answers (and all of my whining) he talked about the amazing opportunity we have in Birmingham to BE THE LIGHT that we have been gathering in all the other places we've lived.  He talked about the responsibility and the blessing of that LIGHT and mentioned the vast capacity my particular heart has to love life and the people I am surrounded by.  And he said that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  He's not the first person who's told me that since I've been here, and to hear it from a second person that I love and respect in almost the exact same words was totally overwhelming. Sheesh...if you think that didn't make me cry for a million different reasons, you must not know me very well.

On our way home, Craig asked me if I had gotten what I wanted to out of the trip.  I think I did.  It came in a different way than I expected, but I left there with renewed confidence, greater purpose, more motivation and inspiration to come back to Birmingham and work hard, and a totally different idea of what "belonging" is.  

I don't really have a hometown.  I never know what to say when people ask me where I'm from.  I don't belong to Hawaii where my mom and sisters live, or to Utah where Craig's family lives.  I don't belong in Allen anymore, or Atlanta, or Seattle, or any of the other places I've lived.  But they are all part of me.  And right now, I have brought pieces of them with me to Birmingham, where I currently "belong" because my home, my ward, my daily life, and most importantly my family are here.  

This place is beautiful and challenging and uplifting and inspiring just like all those other places I've lived.  I don't need to plan a "Utah fix" regularly to regain any of those things I think have been drained out of me in this place.  I just need to remember those wise words from wise people and stop complaining.  I need to make more of an effort to look at Birmingham the way I look at Cache Valley, with hope and love and with the expectation that I will find something beautiful.  Because there's certainly plenty of it here.  It just looks a little different.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017


I was feeling especially sluggish this morning and lamenting the fact that I haven't yet done even one noteworthy thing in all of 2017.  And then I remembered that this is January 7th! 

I NEVER do anything noteworthy in the first 6 days of the year.  I don't think anyone really does.  And this year was no exception, especially coming off of that crazy long road trip we took across the country and then Craig and I taking turns having varying degrees of the flu for the better part of the whole week...

But, what I also realized this morning is that I LOVE January 7th.  

Here's why:

1.  Even if we've stayed home for the holidays, I usually need about 7 full days to pull myself together after a whole season of partying and overindulgence.  
2.  By January 7th, I've usually stopped trying to be amazing, I've stopped feeling discouraged because I'm not amazing, and I've gone back to just being normal.  
3.  Always, by January 7th, all traces of Christmas have finally been packed back in boxes in the garage and I've stopped mourning the loss of color and the absence of Santas in my house.  
4.  January 7th is almost always the day that I feel life breathing back into me.
5.  By January 7th, everyone (mostly me) has let go of any ridiculously high expectations they might have had in December, and any leftover guilt about gifts they might have forgotten to give and cards they might have forgotten to send out.  
6.  On January 7th, I always, always sing really loud.  I just always do.  

7. In exactly 7 weeks, it will be my birthday, and that is my second favorite day of the year!

So, Happy January 7th!  Hopefully it's a great day where you are, too!

Friday, January 6, 2017


Over Christmas break, I made some decisions about eliminating a few things that are taking up way too much of my time in proportion to their place on my priority list, like keeping track of my daily water intake and every bite of food I eat.  ugh...who wants to do that?   And I also made a mental list of the things I want to make MORE time for because I love them and they make me happy.

1.  Connecting with PEOPLE!
I've met so many people in the few months we've lived in Birmingham.  More, probably, than I met the entire time I lived in Utah.  Most of them are really interesting.  And for some reason, the ones here ALL like to talk!...or maybe I just never knew how to ask the right questions before.  There's a way to connect with everyone, you know?  If I ask enough questions and listen well enough to the answers, I can find something in common with everyone.  We all can.  There are people in my ward that I want to know better.  There are people in my family who need me to stop being in constant motion and listen to them more often.  There are missionaries and teenagers and VTing sisters and sometimes even complete strangers who just want someone to talk to and connect with.  And this year I want to be more available for those connections. 

This year, I'm delegating as many of the planning and administrative duties in my YW calling to my counselors so I can TALK TO THE GIRLS!  Holy cow, it's been so frustrating to have had SO many interactions with this handful of girls and yet still come home from a thing and realize I've barely said any words directly to them.  The past three months have been filled with way too much setting up and planning and not enough sitting down and making eye contact with people.  

I've also decided that I need to REMEMBER people more.  I like thoughtful people who call me when I'm sad (well, text me actually cuz I hate to talk on the phone.)  I like when people ask me how I'm doing when they haven't seen me in awhile.  And I really like when people remember my birthday.  It occurred to me over Christmas break that maybe everyone likes that stuff.  

So I found a space in my planner to write down every single birthday I want to acknowledge this year.  I've reorganized and restocked all my birthday, thank you and just because cards.  And this year, I'm going to just CONNECT thoughtfully, enthusiastically and often.  

2.  Taking PICTURES.
I love taking pictures!  Like, I seriously LOVE it!  I love driving around hunting for beautiful things.  I love finding them in unexpected places.  And I love capturing them and keeping them forever.  While we were in Cache Valley on our morning photo shoots, Megan and I decided that we were going to come home and carry our cameras everywhere with us and take at least one picture every single day.  Well, we haven't.  And I feel the void.  She does, too.  That's going to change...  

3.  WRITING stuff down (journaling, blogging and social media)
Everyone already knows that I have a crazy obsession with documentation.  I am a compulsive hoarder of pictures, memories and words.  And the more days that pass when I haven't made time to write something down somewhere, the easier it is to tell myself that there's too much I've missed and I should just not bother.  And then there's another void in my life.  The void I feel when I'm not writing and remembering is even bigger than the void I feel when I'm not taking pictures.  Nothing fills that.  

This year, I've deleted a few apps, purged a few unnecessary habits and I'm replacing them with a handful of intentional things that will hopefully make me more balanced, more effective, and more influential in good ways.  I'm not going to start anything new.  I'm just going to pick up all those things I've put down for way too long.  

So, be patient while my fingers try to remember how to type again and while my photographer eyes learn to readjust and find beautiful things not just in Utah, but here in Alabama.  


Monday, January 2, 2017

Alles Güte für das Neue Jahr


This was one slug of a week! Monday was probably our busiest day. We had some Christmas appointments, so we didn't even have a pday! Here in Switzerland (and Germany and Austria) they celebrate Christmas for three days! The 24-26. We had a super fun lunch appointment at a family's house who has 6 very energetic kids. Then in the evening we went to Basel to meet with the Scheible's, who served their mission with my dad back in the stone ages. It was so fun, and they were so nice. They asked us to share a spiritual thought to help their son prepare to go on a mission soon, so we made a list of 10 things we wished we had know before our missions! Here are some of the highlights:

1. Take lots of vitamins and build up your immune system. (You get sick way more on your mission than in normal life)
2. Become familiar with Preach My Gospel and go out with the missionaries as much as you can!
3. Don't buy the cheapest toilet paper, it's a trap. It feels like cardboard. Just go for the second cheapest.

Tuesday we had District Meeting, and afterwards Elder Nielsen made us all Danish food! Because we have people from so many different countries in our district, we decided that we are gonna eat food from all the different countries every week after District Meeting from now on :) Wednesday we got recruited with the elders to paint a room for a less active lady in our Ward. It ended up taking forever, and we still didn't get finished! In the evening we practiced teaching about the Holy Ghost to a young couple in our Ward, and they just totally destroyed us haha. We definitely need to practice that lesson more. Thursday was my 14 month mark as a missionary. Crazy. Sister Multamäki was sick all day, so lucky me, I got stay in my jammies all day long! It was so awesome! I finished reading the New Testament (we have been reading that as a mission for the past 3 months), I watched all the church movies in our apartment and colored some My Little Ponies in my coloring book, I read lots and lots of Ensign articles and General Conference talks, and I had a nice long chat with our Ward Mission Leader about how the work has been going here. Luckily I have been taking lots of vitamins and drinking water like a camel, so I escaped the throwing up disease. 

Friday we were all recruited again by the same lady to build a cabinet for her! We all felt so cool because we got to use all the tools on our Swiss Army knives a member gave us for Christmas. The manual said that it would take 2 hours for a man and a woman to build it, and we figured that since we had double that amount, it would take half the time! Wrong. I remember Brother Bailey saying one time that the more men you get together, the smaller their brains get, and that definitely applies to missionaries as well. It took us 7 hours to build!

Well, Happy New Year, and I hope you all have a wonderful week! Remember that this is a new start, so decide now to be better and put the past behind you.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hello! It's Me Again

Hi everyone! 

Well, I don't have too much to say today because I just skyped with my family yesterday, but this week was great! 

You know that scene in The Grinch where all the Who's feed him their Christmas foods they made, and at first it's delicious, but by the end he is SO FULL but they just keep feeding him more and more? Well, that's what I have felt like all week. Like that feeling you have right after Thanksgiving dinner where you need to just roll onto the floor and nap for 12 hours. It's awful, but the members here are so good to us. 

Besides gaining about 10 pounds this week, we had a few other successes! We found 3 people who said we could teach them more about the gospel! So exciting. We also had a pretty good Zone Training on Tuesday, and an awesome District Christmas breakfast on Saturday!

Now that Christmas is over, it's time to start thinking about the New Year! I can't believe that this WHOLE YEAR I have been a missionary! What a great year it's been! I've been in 3 different countries, had 8 different companions, and served in 4 different areas. I've had some of the hardest trials of my life, but I've also seen the biggest miracles of my life! I've gotten up at 6:30 every single morning for a whole year (that is quite an accomplishment) and there also hasn't been a day where I haven't been wearing my little black name tag over my heart. My German has gotten a little better, my friendship circle has grown a little wider, my heart has been meat hammered and tenderized a lot, and the Savior and I have become much closer. My "black year" has actually been the brightest and best year of my life, and I am so so grateful for it. But, it's not over yet! So let's make the most of the last week of 2016!!

Alles gute zum Neuen Jahr!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Monday, December 19, 2016


Hello again! 

Less than a week till Christmas, so crazy! This was a super great week for us. We are staying busy, happy, and feeling fairly successful as we both try to get to know the people here better. Something I've been thinking about lately is just how we can make Christmas more meaningful. In Relief Society yesterday, we talked about the story of Christ's birth, and how he is the perfect example for us to follow. I had an interesting thought as I was thinking about how there was no room for Jesus in any of the inns on the night of His birth. Christmas is the time to celebrate our Savior, but it is also the time when people are the most stressed. We asked members at church how they were doing yesterday, and if they were excited for Christmas, and most of the answers we got were: "I'm so tired, I can't wait for it to be over," or "I have parties to plan for, food to make, guests coming over, presents to wrap, a house to decorate, I can't even think straight!" While we offered our help to anyone who wanted it, I thought it was so sad that Christmas is the most hectic time of the year. How ironic it is that this is the time when we should be letting Christ into our lives more, but our "inns" are so full of candy and toys and decorations, that we have no room for Him.

So, how can we make Christmas a little more "Christmassy"?

Gute Frage. (Good question.) As a missionary that's not really a problem. Although missionary work is very stressful, and there is even more to do during this time of the year, EVERY day for me is CHRISTmas!  I am preaching of Him and rejoicing in Him and learning about Him every single day! And it can be that way for you too! So for all you normal people, try to set aside some time this week to turn off the Mariah Carrey, put down the frosting bags, stop shopping for presents, and really think about what this is all about. Why are we giving presents to people? Why are we singing Christmas carols? What is all of this FOR and what does it MEAN? Do things because it's what Christ would do. Celebrate with all of these fun traditions because you are REJOICING in the greatest gift the world has ever received. Our Redeemer and Healer and Savior, Jesus Christ! Make a snowman (unless you live in Alabama), eat some cookies, and let Christ take this Christmas stress away. That's what He's there for, to lighten our loads and burdens. He would probably love to do that for you ESPECIALLY during the season celebrating His birth; I know that He has done it for me!

I love you all, and wish you a FROHE WEIHNACHTEN! :)
(Still hasn't snowed in Solothurn yet)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell