Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Family Pictures 2015

Forever ago, we asked a really good friend of ours to take some pictures of our family before Savannah left on her mission.  He is remarkably talented and made all of us look amazing.  (I especially love that one at the bottom that looks like an album cover.) 









Monday, December 28, 2015

Frohe Weihnachten/Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Savior is Born



Savannah mentioned this week that she and her companion have been using this video a lot in their efforts to connect with people in Austria.  The version they have is in German.  

A friend's missionary son, serving in South America mentioned it in his email home to his parents this week.  He and his companion use the Spanish version. 

A blog I follow posted it along with the hashtag #ASaviorisBorn 

And on Monday night when we had the sister missionaries over for dinner, they showed this as part of their spiritual thought for the night.  

Oh, how I love this video.  I love that technology allows all of us, no matter how remote our locations, to watch it in our native language and to connect to the universal truth that the Savior was born not just for all of us collectively, but for each of us individually.  

If you haven't already, you should watch it.  


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Missionary Phone Calls

Remember when Skyping and emailing didn't exist and missionaries had to write actual letters home to their families and drop quarters into phones to talk to their parents twice a year?  I thought about that yesterday morning when we were talking to Savannah all the way in Austria...on a life size screen right in our dining room with absolutely no delays or connection issues.  I felt floods of gratitude for the blessings of technology.



Here are the things I want to remember about the conversation we had with Savannah yesterday...she has gained a remarkable amount of wisdom in the 8 weeks she's been gone.  


1.  "I don't want my grumpiness when I'm hungry to define me for the rest of my life." 
It's been interesting for Savannah to get used to a different culture.  They eat late in Austria. and one day, after three lengthy appointments that didn't involve food, Savannah said she felt herself starting to get irritable and impatient with her companion.   As her hunger increased, the pace of their search for food seemed to decrease.  So Savannah said a little prayer that she could remain patient and calm, and also that they would find a place to eat quickly.  They eventually found a cute place to eat, and the grumpiness was kept at bay.  No one tossed out casual words and no one's feelings were hurt.  I love that she prayed for help with that little weakness of hers, and I love that she considers it a miracle that help came.  

2.  Stickers.
Of all the things I included in that box of stuff I sent for Christmas, do you know what she was most grateful for?  The stickers.  Apparently the tiniest things make a big impact when the days are long and sometimes monotonous.  

3.  Journaling.
Savannah has never been much of a writer or a journal keeper.  I've given all the kids journals their whole lives in an effort to instill in them the desire to record memorable things.  But except for Megan, no one has really caught my love of journaling.  Until Savannah's mission.  Since leaving the MTC, Savannah said her journal has become the thing she treasures most at the end of a day.  It's filled with thoughts and concerns and church programs and train tickets and stories of miraculous things like the "hangry-ness" that was kept at bay.  I'm so grateful that she is writing all these things down.  

4.  European Chocolate.
I'm not a chocolate fan, but Savannah sent a tiny little Christmas package home that had some English chocolate in it.  And you know what?! It's actually pretty dang good!   In Austria, apparently Christmas Eve is the bigger celebration than Christmas Day, and everyone gives out chocolate.  Savannah and her companion left all their appointments with huge bags of chocolate!  So on Christmas morning, they gave it out to the all the homeless people on the streets with a little Christmas message attached.  

5.  Tracting.  
They don't really knock on doors in Vienna because everyone lives in apartments and you have to ring the apartment from outside, be invited into the building, visit the person you came to see, and then go back outside to ring the next person.  Missionaries are not allowed to just randomly knock on apartment doors.  So Savannah and her companion spend a LOT of time traveling on busses and trains and talking to everyone they see.  I would not have ever imagined my reserved daughter bus-hopping in Europe and striking up conversations with random people about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Miraculous. 

6.  Emails from Home.
In the MTC, the missionaries only had once a week access to their emails.  They had just about 45 minutes each week to read and respond to everything they received.  So we tried to make our family emails to Savannah brief.  We coordinated information so we weren't duplicating reports on events that had happened at home that week.  We limited ourselves to one email per week, usually on Sunday or Monday so they would be waiting for her on Wednesday afternoons.  In Vienna, though, she has an iPad.  And even though she can only respond once a week, she has wifi access at some point in every day, and she LOVES when there's a happy surprise in her inbox.  She asked us (begged is more like it) to please email as often as possible and to send pictures.  She has said that before in previous p-day emails, but I thought it would be too distracting for her to get little messages from home every day, and frustrating not to be able to respond to them.  But it's not.  It's uplifting and motivating for her.  And she's a detail girl, like I am.  

I am shocked over and over again at how Heavenly Father teaches all of us through trial and challenge and sorrow, and at how very close He is in each of our lives.  I am so grateful for the blessing of technology, for the sound of my daughter's voice, for her happy glow, and for the lessons she teaches me every time I hear from her.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Someone asked me this week if Christmas is "my jam."   (jam = favorite for those of you not familiar with urban slang.  I think typically it's used in reference to music, but I assumed what this person was asking was if Christmas was my favorite holiday.)

Christmas is not "my jam."  I felt guilty saying that then, and I feel guilty writing it now, where the whole world (or at least the handful of people who wander here regularly) can read it.  

I don't love Christmas.  There are too many expectations.  It's the one time in the whole year where the presents you give and the food you make are supposed to be a reflection of the depth of love you have for the people around you. There are Christmas treats to make, Christmas dinners and events to plan, caroling to coordinate with headstrong family members, special musical numbers to perfect, and way too many obligations.  I feel pressure.  I feel overwhelmed.  And 99% of the time I get to Christmas Eve and feel like I've failed miserably at letting people know how much they mean to me via presents, neighbor treats and Christmas cards.  There is always someone I've forgotten.  There is always more I could have done.  I hate that feeling.  

But here's what I thought when I pondered that question this week:  although the chaos of December is definitely not "my jam," do you know what is "my jam?"  Baby Jesus.  The Spirit of Christmas.  And the Light of Christ.  

Here are the times this month when I've felt those things especially strongly, and appreciated the Christmas season...
Watching the kids work together on this perfectly imperfect little gingerbread house that was given to us by the sweetest, most unexpected "secret Santa" who dropped presents on our doorstep for two whole weeks before Christmas.  


Sitting in the quiet, peaceful, expectation-free, stillness of Christmas morning knowing that everything I could do had already been done, and thinking about the people I love, the abundance of blessings in my life, and the way the Lord's hand has been apparent this year. 

The candlelight Christmas Eve service we attended with our neighbors, who we absolutely love, and the opportunity to feel the Spirit in a different way there.  The music was a little different.  The people were different than the ones we see in our ward each week.  The program was different.  But what was the same was the immense love of the Savior that filled the entire congregation regardless of our religion.  


Making Christmas cookies.  There are ancient George family recipes my dad made every Christmas when I was a little girl, and that I now make every Christmas.  And when I do, the smell in the kitchen reminds me of people who are not here anymore, people who I love and miss, and the best parts of my childhood Christmas memories.  
Emma's Ugly Sweater Party.  She didn't actually own an ugly sweater, so she made one.  She's so cute and creative.  I just love her.  And she's the only person I know who can blast out a last minute email and have a dozen people show up for a party.  



There are some very kind, very busy, and immensely talented people in our ward who go to great lengths to magnify their talents and the talents of the upcoming generation.  One of my favorite things this month was watching these two cute boys work for hours on Christmas music.  And while they were there, this very nice scout leader took the time to throw in a few helpful Jazz techniques that the boys will be able to use somewhere down their musical roads later in life.  I love people who do more than they are asked.

The decorations I love the most are the ones that remind me of the Savior, of the great gift He was from Heavenly Father on that night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and of the miraculous gift He continues to be 2000 years later.  

I have come to know that every year I can probably expect to feel a little overwhelmed at some point in the holiday season, but I also know that if I take the time to be still and look, I can find immense JOY in the smallest, seemingly insignificant, unexpected sweet messages of Christmas, too.  There were lots of those this year.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hallo Von Österreich





Translation of the German words:

Rathaus is just a place in Vienna. It literally means counsel house. It's like a giant castle thing or capital building. It's cool! I'll try and send a bunch of pics! And a weihnachtsmarkt is a Christmas market!! Imagine like the 24th of July celebration in Mendon, but huger and Christmassy, and a million of them all over Dallas.  I don't even know what to compare it to. They're huge and awesome! 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DMCO

At the end of the summer, when we found out a relocation was coming up in (what we thought would be) our near future, we also realized some sacrifices would need to be made...some of them harder than others.  

I reluctantly sent an email a week or two later to the managing director of the Dallas Millennial Choirs and Orchestra to let her know that Craig, Emma and I would not be returning for the fall semester.  At the time, we were sure we would be in Birmingham long before a Christmas concert, and thought it would be better for us to give up our spots for people who would be available to participate for the full semester and perform in the concerts.  Craig and Emma were a little disappointed to leave this amazing choir experience, but I was heartbroken. 


For the first two months, I cried every Thursday night at 7:00 knowing that I was missing those 2-3 hour rehearsals I had grown to look forward to and love so much.  When a few of the members of a smaller singing group I currently belong to auditioned for DMCO and made it, I cried hearing them talk about the new music they were learning and the awesome Christmas concert ahead.  When we played Sunday music at home and in the car, I cried when the DMCO songs would shuffle through the playlist.  When Savannah emailed one week and said they played MCO music in the MTC and that it reminded her of me...that made me cry, too.  

Pretty much, I've spent the better part of the last 150 days crying about one thing or another.  It's been a long 5 months...

As the weeks went on, and my DMCO friends started talking more about the concerts, I anticipated the advertisements and email announcements that would be coming, and decided that if by some crazy chance we were still living in Dallas at Christmastime, there was NO WAY I would be able to attend.  Craig and the kids could go if they wanted, but I would be staying at home...probably crying.  

One Monday morning, I decided to leave the Sunday playlist on in the car for a whole week just to see if it would make a difference in the quality of our carpooling experience.  I had dropped all the kids at school, turned the music up really loud, and somehow one of those DMCO songs started playing before I could catch it and change it.  It was How Great Thou Art.  Not only is that my favorite hymn in the whole world, but that particular DMCO arrangement happens to be my all-time favorite arrangement of any hymn EVER...in the whole world.  The song started, and then the crying started.  Like sobbing.  All alone.  In my car.  In my jammies and bunny slippers.  Driving home from Allen HS.  Sobbing.  Isn't that the most pitiful thing you can imagine?  But miracles happen in strange ways sometimes, and between sobs, the clouds in my head parted for a second, and I heard Eleanor Roosevelt's voice say, "You must do the things you think you cannot do."  So instead of changing the song or turning off the music, I made myself listen to that song.  And then the next day, on the way home from the HS, I searched through the playlist, found that same song, and made myself listen to it again.  By the end of the week, I made myself sing it.  There was still crying, but at least I wasn't sobbing.

By the weekend, I had decided I needed to do one more hard thing and make myself go to that DMCO Christmas concert.  

That concert happened last night.  And it was the most amazing thing I've ever heard...seriously.  And guess what!  I didn't even cry...well, not until the very last song and by then everyone else was crying, too.  

This was my view from the center of the balcony section...  
...it is a completely different perspective to sit in the balcony and listen to a group you formerly stood on stage and sang with.  I loved it, but I prefer standing on those steps and having this view instead...


This church is stunningly beautiful.  It was filled to capacity last night with about 2000 people.  First ever sold out DMCO concert!  And I am so glad I didn't miss it.  

While I was sitting there listening to all my friends sing beautiful music, the thought occurred to me that with the house now officially off the market for a time, there's so reason I couldn't audition for DMCO again.  And then this email came today...


This is a more competitive group than it was when I originally auditioned two years ago, and auditioning isn't on the list of things I love to do.  But I'm doing it anyway because Eleanor Roosevelt's voice is pretty loud in my head these days.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Auditions are January 28th.  

Maybe some of the things that appear to be huge sacrifices, that we are heartbroken over, and that we fear are lost forever, are actually only gone for a little while...or maybe not even lost at all...


Monday, December 14, 2015

Vienna is Waiting for Me

Soo... My first area is Wien!! (Vienna)  It is sooo beautiful, and so is Österreich (Austria.) 

So let's start at the beginning...my last few days at the MTC were crazy, but good! Miraculously all of my stuff fit perfectly in my suitcases! I definitely need to get rid of a lot of stuff though (haha.) So the flight to München (Munich) was only like 2 or three hours long but the man sitting next to me just started a conversation by saying how full the flight was for 5am and I totally hopped on that and basically taught him the entire first lesson (haha.) The poor guy was stuck next to a brand new eager missionary the whole time, and I wouldn't let the conversation die! But he was really nice haha :) 

As soon as we landed in München we were greeted by President Kohler and Sister Kohler and the assistants, and honestly it just felt like coming home! They were so warm and welcoming! :) we loaded all of our suitcases into a van and first thing, they handed us all copies of the Book of Mormon and put us on a train to hand them out! I was nervous about my German, but I gave out my copy! The lady I talked to was super nice and very patient with my broken German, and she actually seemed really open and listened to me!  After the train we went to the München stake center and did a lot of training and welcoming, and we got our iPads!!  iPads are SO great! I can read my emails throughout the week as I get them, so PLEASE email all the time now! :) I love getting random emails in the week!  I can only reply on Mondays, though.  Wednesday night we all found out where our first areas were going to be and who our trainers were!  Everyone in my MTC group is spread out over the entire mission! Some of us were put in Switzerland, some in Austria, some stayed in Germany, and Elder Jensen is in Italy! I'm so glad I'm in Vienna because that's seriously exactly where I wanted to be, and I heard its the best place to be for Christmas!!  My trainer is Sister Jest from England.  She's been on her mission for about 13 months, and she's been a trainer a couple of times!

So all day Thursday I was on a train with Sister Gilmore to Wien. It was about a 6 hour ride, and Sister Jest was there to get me, and then we had about another 30 minute train ride to our apartment. That night we just planned, I unpacked a little, and then we both totally crashed. Friday was so great!  We taught a lesson to a girl named Andy. Talk about a golden investigator! She has been reading in the Book of Mormon and she had so many great questions and committed to being baptized! She doesn't want to set a date quite yet because she has only met with the missionaries like twice, but she is totally progressing so quickly! It was a rough lesson for me because I understand way more German than I can speak, so I couldn't say anything that I wanted to say, but Sister Jest helped me a lot. She said that she's so surprised with how much I can understand and how much I can speak with only learning German for 6 weeks! I don't feel that way but she says my German is good so I'm staying hopeful! We also taught a man named Yemi who had a baptism date, but he never comes to church so they had to move it back :( he wants to get baptized soo badly because he received an answer while reading the Bible that he has to be baptized to be saved, but he's having some struggles with his testimony. So we are trying to help him as best we can, but it's hard for him to really understand. Yemi is from Nigeria and he speaks less German than I do so we teach him in Englisch. I'm actually really surprised at how many people speak Englisch!  It's required to learn it in school so really there are very few people who don't speak English.  Sometimes it's frustrating because as soon as people hear my American accent they switch into English because they think it will be easier to talk to me that way. The first couple of times it happened I literally thought the gift of tongues had fallen upon me because all of a sudden I was understanding perfectly what people were saying! But then I realized they had just started speaking in English :( I want people to speak to me in German though so I can learn!

Saturday was horrible. Friday night I was feeling extremely nauseous and I couldn't sleep at all. Then I woke up Saturday sooo sick, so we had to cancel all our appointments for the day, including going to the ward Christmas party :( I was so frustrated, but we called Sister Kohler to tell her I was sick, and she said that like 3 other goldens had called sick with the exact same thing! (They call the new missionaries goldens here instead of greenies). So I guess we had all caught a 24 hour stomach bug or something, and I felt so bad for the others too because it was horrible. I couldn't even stand up all day long :( but the elders came to our apartment and gave me a blessing and brought me some Austrian fizzy drink, and that helped so much!  By 8pm I was feeling so much better!  Poor Sister Jest had to stay in the apartment with me all day, and she didn't really know what to do to help me so she kinda just sat there staring at me, freaking out all day. I felt so bad for her!  Sunday was great though :) I woke up feeling so much better, and I got to church and learned that Sister Jest and I were singing Oh Holy Night with the elders for sacrament, which everyone forgot to tell me about. But I winged it and it was good!  Heavenly Father definitely blessed me because I was singing soprano and had to hit that really high note towards the end, and luckily it didn't sound awful (haha!) Then I had to bear my testimony in German, which went well, and then I guess no sisters in relief society play the piano! So I am the designated piano player again! I'm gonna have to get over my fear of playing for people very quickly, I guess! Even though I couldn't understand very much at church, I always love Sundays! They are so rejuvenating :)

So all in all my experience here has been good so far! I think I was homesick for the first time the other day, just because it's Christmas time and everything is so family oriented and Christmassy here, but it's okay :) in my entrance interview with President Kohler I was telling him how before I got my call I really wanted to go to a third world country and he said, "You are in a third world country! Maybe not material wise, but definitely humility wise!"  I thought that was so funny, but it is seriously so true!  People here are very wealthy and very comfortable, so it's hard to convince them why they need to change! But I love being a missionary still! :) 
Love y'all!

Tschüß!!

Sister Thunell


Friday, December 11, 2015

Staying



Guess what!  We took our house off the market today.  We'll try again sometime in the spring.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Safe Arrivals

Just when the last tender mercy was starting to fade for me last night (...I know, it was just a few hours before this one, but I can't seem to get the joy and comfort to stick these days) another email came from Germany, this time from Savannah's mission president and his wife.  Oh, I love those people already!  If only I could get an email every night saying that she had arrived at her destination and was safely in bed.  But, for now, I'm just super grateful for this one that came when I needed it. 

And...Vienna!!  Holy cow, this girl!   





Dear Family of Sister Thunell -

We are delighted to tell you that Sister Thunell arrived safely in Munich this morning!  She has been fed and trained, and is now in bed after a long day of orientation. 

We thought you might enjoy this picture from our meeting this evening. Her new companion will be Sister Jest, and they will serve together in Vienna Austria. 

We are thrilled that she is here and we are grateful for her preparation and enthusiasm.  She will be a wonderful missionary.  We love her already, and will do all we can to help her have a successful mission.  

Your daughter’s preparation day is on Mondays, and that is when she will be e-mailing you each week.  We also have a mission blog if you would like to see occasional pictures of what is occurring in the mission.  The address is:  www.alpinegermanspeakingmission.blogspot.de

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.  We know that the Lord will bless you and your family during the next year and a half as you support your missionary in her service. 

Sincerely,
President and Sister Kohler
Alpine German-Speaking Mission



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tender Mercies from Germany

It's Wednesday and typically at this time of day I would be sending emails back and forth to Savannah in the MTC.  Even though we only did that for five weeks, I got pretty used to the comfort of knowing that I could count on some signs of life from England every Wednesday.

Savannah left the MTC for Munich this morning to start the real work of her mission, and although I have been thrilled and excited for her to get on her way because I know she is so excited to get going, I have also been worried because I knew it would be a little longer before we would hear anything from her.  (Since this is her MTC p-day and she's traveling, she will just move right into her new mission schedule and p-days will now be on Mondays, which means I won't hear from her for another 5 days...eternity for this mother who thrives on details.)

I have heard from my missionary mom friends that sometimes the missionaries get to sneak in a quick phone call home on their travel day to their missions, so I (not so quietly) got my hopes up that she might get to call from the Manchester airport.  I turned the ringer up on my phone last night before I went to bed because there's a 7 hour time difference and I was afraid she might try to call while I was still sleeping and I wouldn't hear it.  (Like that would ever happen...a fly couldn't sneak into my house without waking me up...especially when Craig is out of town.)

12:00...some iOs update reminder woke me up to tell me that it was unable to run the update I had scheduled ??? Since I was awake anyway, I checked to see if Savannah had sent an email or if I had missed any calls.  Nothing.

3:00...why do I always wake up at 3:00?  Since I was awake anyway, and it was already 10:00am in Germany, I checked to see if I had missed any calls or emails.  Nothing.

3:15...impossible to go back to sleep because my head started wondering what time her flight might have left and if she was already in Germany or still in the air, and that led to 30 minutes of searching Lufthansa Flight Tracker and trying to guess which of the flights might have been hers.  

4:00...raging headache 

5:40...woke seminary kids up and checked again.  Still nothing.  

6:45...drove to retrieve seminary kids and checked again when I got home.  Nothing.  

A restless night and a worried heart are really all it takes for my thoughts to spiral rapidly out of control.  By 8:30, after all the kids had gone to school and I was back home and alone in this way too quiet house, I was a wreck.  Worried.  Disheartened.  Hopeless.  Frustrated.  Oh, how my constant battle with impatience must weary Heavenly Father...

8:36...this email came from Savannah's miraculous little camera:



Those sweet people in the picture with Savannah are the Zaugg's, a senior missionary couple from Plano.  Their son and daughter-in-law used to live in our ward a few years ago and Savannah nannied for their children one summer.  When the Younger Zaugg's moved to Houston, we offered our home for their Open House and we met the Senior Zaugg's.  They were delightful, and so chatty and super interested in my Hawaiian ancestry for some reason.  They stayed long after everyone else had left and talked to all of us for quite a long time.  It's been a couple of years since I've even thought about any Zaugg's...until today.  

And today, I am so very grateful that we had a little Open House a few years ago, that we made a connection with people we thought we would never cross paths with again, and that they happened to be in the mission home today to receive my brand new missionary.  What an immense comfort to my fretful heart to know that there's a little bit of "home" in Germany with her.  And what a huge confirmation that there are no coincidences in life.  I am convinced that the people who come into and out of our lives are there not by chance, but for very specific reasons, and often they circle back in when we need them again.

How grateful and humbled I am, once again, at the depth of Heavenly Father's love for us, individually and collectively.  When I ask for comfort, He sends it.  Every time.  Never in the way I request it.  But it always comes.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas Devotional

"When times are difficult, we can make the choice to turn away from Him and struggle through our afflictions alone, or we can make the choice to turn TO Him, and to the Father's plan, finding that we will suffer "no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the JOY of Christ."  - Linda K Burton



The selling of this house has become quite the burden for me.  This whole real estate thing is not for the faint of heart...or the perfectionist of spirit...that's for sure.  To choose "homemaking" as your life's work and then to have 60+ random people walk through your home within a 90 day period, and for one reason or another decide it's not right for them, takes a toll on your confidence level.  According to our realtor, we may lack a "WOW factor."  Why does a house need a WOW factor?  Why does no one look for comfortable, clean, organized, or peaceful on the list of the things they have to have in a home?? 

Craig's travel schedule and his increased responsibility at work have become a burden for me, too.  He misses stuff that happens at home...just the trivial things which don't matter at the end of a week, but matter a whole lot in the hour when they happen.  Like the toilets that overflow only when he's out of town.  Like the baby lizard I discovered in the dining room right after a showing one afternoon.  Like the 5:50am and 6:45am Seminary runs I used to share with a companion, but now handle alone.  Like the car that seems constantly to need gas.  (Putting gas in a car is my least favorite thing to do.)  Like the weird noises the refrigerator makes at night.  And even more than all of those things he misses, I miss the debriefing of all of them that I would normally do with my husband, and now instead just ponder on my own at 3 or 4am.  

The three teenagers (ok...McKay's not quite a teenager, but I think 12ish is close enough) who live in my house with me can be a burden sometimes.  The girls are frustratingly unmotivated to engage in anything but Netflix and texting lately.  McKay adds another expensive wish to his Christmas list every day.  There are concerts and lessons and babysitting jobs and church activities that only I can drive people to since there are currently no other drivers in my house.  Someone forgets something every. single. day.  People are tired of the food they find here and would rather eat out every night.   And they are understandably frustrated and confused by the relocation to Birmingham that we talk about every day, but seem not to be moving toward with any urgency.  

There's more, but that's probably a long enough list for now...let's just say the load feels unbearably heavy sometimes.  

Last week I tried "struggling through my afflictions alone."  I disconnected from everyone outside my house.  I made minimal efforts to invite or listen for the Spirit.  I talked to as few people as possible, assuming they must be as sick of me and my afflictions as I currently am.  I created nothing.  I magnified nothing.  I illuminated nothing.  

And I made a miserable week even more miserable.  

But then unexpectedly, I felt compelled today to watch the Christmas Devotional I missed on Sunday night.  
"Jesus Christ is the LIGHT which shineth in darkness.  In every season of our lives, in all of the circumstances we may encounter, and in each challenge we may face, Jesus Christ is the LIGHT that dispels fear, provides assurance and direction, and engenders enduring PEACE and JOY."  - David A Bednar 
"During this Christmas season and throughout the coming year, I pray that we will remember the Generous One.  Our God.  Our Father.  Our Beloved Shepherd and Counselor, for He is the Gift Giver.  He is the Generous One.  When we, His children, plead for bread, He does not hand us a stone.  Rather He endows us with gifts so sublime and precious that they exceed our ability to fully comprehend and even imagine.  He gives us PEACE, JOY, ABUNDANCE, protection, provision, favor, HOPE, confidence, LOVE, salvation, eternal life.  He saves us from loneliness, emptiness, and unworthiness.  He opens our eyes and our ears.  He transforms darkness into LIGHT, grief to HOPE, and loneliness to LOVE.  May we this Christmas season remember our generous Heavenly Father and give profound heartfelt thanks to our almighty God who has given all of His children wings to fly."
Perspective is fleeting these days, and in an hour or two I might forget the truths I was overwhelmed by this afternoon, but for now, I'm going to let myself bask in them a little and provide the much needed HOPE and comfort I've been seeking. 

How grateful I am today for technology that allows us to catch the important things we miss, whether inadvertently or on purpose.  I'm grateful for inspired messages from the men and women who lead this church.  I'm grateful also for people who go to great lengths to check on me even when I try to make myself unreachable.  There are people in my life who have assigned themselves to be guardians of my happiness.  I love them and I am grateful everyday for their quiet presence in my life.  I'm grateful for the peace and comfort the scriptures bring.  And I'm immensely grateful for the power of prayer and the lifelines that come just when I'm at the end of my own little frayed rope.
"And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant ye have made unto me, and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.  And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God do visit my people in their afflictions.And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, and the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." - Mosiah 24:13-15

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Last P-Day in the MTC!

Halo! 

I can't believe this is my last p-day in the MTC! So crazy! This week has been great. Biggest news: My companion and I got our first baptism commitment!! And our second baptism commitment!! We have been teaching Vincent and Moritz for 5 weeks now, and even though they're "fake investigators," it was difficult teaching them!! We finally committed Vincent to baptism and he finally recognized answers to his prayers! And Moritz (the one who slammed the door in our face and yelled at us) was ridiculously stubborn and never wanted to listen to us, but after teaching him that God is our loving Heavenly Father and we are His children about 12 times, and after he committed to reading the Book of Mormon and praying every day, he finally committed to being baptized as well! It seems like a small thing, but I am just so grateful for this tender mercy :) Sadly, our other two progressing investigators dropped us and we haven't been able to contact them :(

On Thursday we got a new batch of missionaries! And most of them were the native-speaking Germans going with us to the Alpine Mission! We have all become SUCH close friends and I'm really getting confident with my German speaking abilities!! But now we aren't called the Germans anymore :( They're the Germans and we are just the Americans :( But they're all super hilarious, and really fun to play volleyball with! Tomorrow we are getting another big batch of missionaries going to England missions so there will be 64 of us total! Right now there have only been about 40 at the most, so it's going to be so crowded!!


Thanksgiving here was awesome! The chef here is so gourmet it's ridiculous. Now all the Christmas stuff is up and I'm getting excited to spend the holidays in Germany! So ever since one of the other elders left last week I have seriously been the only person in the whole MTC who can play the piano. It's ridiculous. And the scariest thing ever. I've had to play for every meeting, devotional, choir practice, and sacrament meeting! I'm running out of songs that I can play! I'm pretty sure I've played Sweet Hour of Prayer and Praise to the Man like 12 times! But I've been practicing some new songs and Heavenly Father is definitely blessing me with more musical ability than I thought I had! And I don't get nervous anymore when people are singing! Because before I couldn't even play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while someone was singing without messing up.

The biggest lesson I think I've learned this week is that in order for me to be a good missionary and to become more Christ-like I have to "turn outward when the natural man would turn in" according to Elder Bednar (my new favorite apostle). Patience, humility, and charity are the things I'm trying really hard to work on... but baby steps!! It's still hard for me to find the line between being prideful and hating myself (haha) But I know that through the Atonement I can be changed and become more Christ-like. 

Once again, I love being a missionary! And next time you hear from me I will be in Germany!! Or Austria. Or Switzerland. Or Italy. Or Lichtenstein. Heh :)

Sister Thunell

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Week 4 in the MTC

So don't ask me how this even happened, but on Thursday I woke up and my back was hurting so bad, so I had the MTC doctor come and look at it and apparently my back had spasmed and my left shoulder was 3 inches higher than my right shoulder. He told me that I basically had to stay in bed until Monday, laying flat on my back the whole time, which is literally the most uncomfortable position ever. The doctor didn't know how it had happened, whether it was the way I slept or playing volleyball or what, but he said that we would try to do everything we can and load me up on medicine, but if it was a more serious back problem that I might have to go home to get treatment. When he said that it was seriously like 5 million tons of bricks fell on me. I just had a meltdown and I couldn't stop thinking about what a failure I would feel like if I had to go home. Even if I would be coming back out to finish my mission.

Two of the elders gave me a blessing and I just remember the words "you will be healed according to your faith." So I just started screaming in my head "I WILL NOT GO HOME. I HAVE FAITH IN THEE." I think that in the back of my head I knew I wouldn't be sent home, but Satan knows how to sneak into my mind and make me feel hopeless sometimes. So I began my death-bed sentence a little depressed, but trying to keep my faith burning. 



The MTC staff was so sweet, though. They set up a little robot camera in my classroom and a monitor in my bedroom so I didn't miss any of my classes! It was pretty cool. And they gave me a portable DVD player and Preach My Gospel videos, and stocked me up on medicine and heating pads and blankets! Although the pain was really bad and I was super lonely most of the time, those words from that blessing kept running through my mind, so I had to stay faithful! I felt really bad for my companion, though, because she had to take on all the Sister Training Leader responsibilities herself while also taking care of me! Sunday they allowed me to come to Sacrament meeting and they called me to give a talk!  I was surprised, but really happy because I had spent soo long translating it!  My talk was on the Atonement and I actually felt really good about my German! The gift of tongues is so real!

On Monday, I was allowed to do all my normal stuff and go to classes again, but by the end of the day my back had seized up again and the pain was worse.  I felt so helpless not being able to move, and our little district had some other challenges, so we all just had to plead with Heavenly Father to help us get through our trials. Yesterday I went to the hospital (it's called a surgery house or something here so it was kinda scary) and the new doctor told me that he was going to prescribe stronger medicine for me to break the cycle of spasms and that I should be moving around as much as possible! I was SO happy to hear that! Apparently these pills have morphine in them, so I'm feeling REALLY great and a little high haha.

Today for p-day we went on a church history tour instead of going to the temple! Although I love going to the temple, this was so fun and a really great change of scenery!!! England is so beautiful and green, and there are just giant fluffy sheep everywhere! It's great! 



So although this week has been the hardest week of my mission so far, mentally, physically, and emotionally, I am still in awe at how much I continue to learn and grow each week. I've never really had any physical problems before so I was just asking Heavenly Father "why now??" But then I remembered a devotional by Elder Bednar we watched recently where he said that bad things happen to good people because the Lord trusts them to learn the lesson they need to learn. So I've learned to humble myself before God and give Him the broken pieces of my heart and try to listen for what He is trying to teach me. I have grown closer to my Savior this week than I have ever been before, and I am grateful for these trials I am having, Because if this is all it takes for me to develop Christlike attributes and prepare to be a better missionary, a better wife and a better mother, and to receive eternal life and glory, then I will do it! When you look at your trials from an eternal perspective it seems like such a small price to pay for all the blessings we have been promised! Especially considering what Christ went through so we can overcome both spiritual and physical death. I love being a missionary. My mission is the most precious thing to me in my life right now and I will not let anything get in the way of my ability to serve and fulfill my purpose. 

Love y'all! 

Sister Thunell

"Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, and on, on to the victory!" D&C 128:22.