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.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Missionary Mom Reflections

I have heard so many people tell me over the last several months that there are countless blessings that come from having a missionary serving in the field.  And I've been looking for them.  But it wasn't until the email Savannah sent yesterday that I realized we're actually experiencing tons of them, and I've just been missing it.  

I won't elaborate on all of them because there are too many.  

But one of the noticeable ones for me is that I have been surprisingly emotionally stable this week.  So far, there have been no meltdowns, I've been not only functional but productive, and I didn't cry or carry around any of Savannah's stuffed animals yesterday when I read her email!  That is miraculous.  Last Wednesday, I had honestly resigned myself to being hopelessly sad and inconsolable once a week for the next 18 months.  I'm sure there will be more of those days, but I am so grateful to know that it's possible to also find joy on p-days, too.  

The other miraculous blessing was in her email.  Did you read it?  

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much I adore my oldest daughter.  She is magnetic, smart, determined, hilariously witty, amazing and beautiful, and you can rest assured that very few of her talents and gifts have escaped me after 19 years of being her mother.  But I also know that she isn't perfect.  She struggles with things that frustrate me and that I know will cause future challenges down the road if she doesn't get a few of them under control.  During those three months she was at home preparing to leave for the MTC, a handful of her noticeable flaws were a huge concern for me.  I worried that her stubborn pride and strong opinions were going to be hard for some companions to live with.  I worried that her need for constant perfectionism (and her very vocal complaining about things that were only slightly imperfect) would be a huge impediment to the Spirit and the compassion she would need to have as a missionary.  She is also notoriously late everywhere she goes because she insists on seeing perfection in the mirror before she feels comfortable leaving it.  After 19 years of watching a tiny, strong-willed perfectionist become a grown up, strong-willed perfectionist, I spent a lot of time between August and October worrying about her mission experience.  I was a little bit consumed with guilt that I hadn't caught those things earlier.  I was a little bit frustrated that I couldn't figure out how to say the exact right thing to compel her to hurry and fix them before she left.  And I was a lot worried for her future companions.  By late September, I considered writing a personal note to each of them that she could hand out upon arrival, warning them about potential compatibility hazards and pleading with them to be understanding...and to pray a lot.  I thought better of that decision and just opted for my own pleading and praying with Heavenly Father to help her to grow on her mission.  

Again...did you read her email yesterday??  
"Sunday I had soooo many spiritual inspirations, but one that I want to share is that I have definitely been learning how to be more submissive. We are here in the MTC to learn how to submit our will. To our district leaders, to our zone leaders, to the president, and most importantly to the Lord. I've been trying to be a little more humble, and teachable, and submissive, and Heavenly Father has helped me so much. I feel like I'm not as quick to anger, I am willing to give up some of my pride and do what my companion wants to do, or what my district leader asks us to do, and I definitely feel like my faith in Jesus Christ has grown tremendously."
This is the same girl who for 19 years wouldn't let anyone else in the house pick the games we played, or the restaurants we went to, or the movies we watched without some serious battling.  This is the same girl who has taken her role as older, wiser leader of the family pack extremely seriously.  And somehow after three weeks in the MTC she has felt the need to be more humble and to give up some of her pride.  Miraculous...

And have you noticed her pictures??  Yes, she is glowy and radiant, but she's not wearing any make up!!  And her hair is just in a pile on her head.  No hair dryer, no straightener, no mascara, no fuss.  Which leads me to believe that somehow she has also felt compelled to set aside her need to look perfect for now, and get where she needs to be...on time and ready to work!  And miraculously, she still looks beautiful!

What an enormous blessing it is to see Savannah lose herself in things that are so much more important than appearances and being right.  How grateful I am for the Spirit that whispers those gentle reminders so much more directly and effectively than her parents ever could.  And how excited I am to have a tiny glimpse into the refining process and to watch the Lord put all of those amazing talents and gifts of hers to good use in His work.  

Only three weeks into this and I can't even express how abundantly blessed we all feel, not just because Savannah is growing and changing, but because we all are.  It is a tremendous blessing today to be a missionary mom.     

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Halfway Through the MTC!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Week 2 in England

Hellooooooo everyone! :) 

Week 2 has also been great!! There were some very very high highs, and some very very low lows!! But that's life (haha.) 

So this morning we went to the temple again! We pretty much go every p-day, and I forgot to say this last time, but last week was Sister J's first time going through the temple!! Sister J is a convert of 17 months from Thailand, and she is the happiest and sweetest girl in the entire world. She understands a lot of English, but it's hard for her to speak it sometimes, but just seeing her go through that experience for the first time was so amazing! And it was so cool that we all got to be there for her!! She loved it :) We have missionaries from all over the world here! It's crazy! We have mishs from Thailand, Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, France, Dubai, Switzerland, Spain, Finland, Brazil, England, US, Madagascar, Austria, and South Africa. And most of those missionaries just left yesterday actually because they're all english-speaking two-weekers! But tomorrow we are getting 12 new sisters and a lot more elders! We only lost 2 sisters so it's gonna be so crowded upstairs for the girls (haha.) The Sister from Madagascar is Sister A and she speaks French and Malagasi. She's learning English and so we all help her a lot and she is just wonderful too :)

So early this week every single missionary in this MTC got to bus down to Manchester and proselyte on the streets EXCEPT for the Germans!!! I was so sad!! Like what the heck??? It's because we are the only ones here without visas for England so we aren't legally allowed to proselyte. The Greeks are all European because you're not allowed to serve in Greece unless you're European so they even got to go :( So that whole day the Germans were all alone just moping around (haha.) 

Since the first day here our district has been singing hymns only in German, and it is so fun! And it really helps!! It's funny because a lot of the hymns in German are in different keys than they are in the English hymnbook, and in German the songs are just so much more meaningful and descriptive. It's crazy! And they also have Come thou Fount in the German hymnbook :) Sacrament is always cool because we always have three languages going on, German, Greek, and English. And then most of the time we all get confused and it doesn't work out so everyone reverts back to English (haha.) 

So p-days here are awesome. We take a coach to the local supermarket called Asda. It's basically Walmart. I actually think they're owned by the same person cuz they have the same slogan. But the first time we went there we were ooohing and ahhhing about everything, and now we are realizing how silly that was because it's exactly like Walmart (haha.) Then the coach takes us to the post office where we can mail letters or get stamps and stuff (by the way, I can get letters and packages here at the MTC. I didn't know that before), and then they drop us off at the LDS bookstore! It's like a 15-minute walk back to the MTC from the bookstore so we take our time and snap lots of pictures (haha.)

So our MTC President, President Preston, has been in the hospital since we have been here, with septic arthritis, but he just got released this week! So we finally got to meet him and he's awesome! He talked to my companion and I for a long time the other day in the hallway, and then just yesterday he came into our district room and gave us some really great advice :) He said that technically we have only been learning German for like 6 or 7 days cuz Sundays and pdays and our first day here don't count! And he said that with what he has heard us speaking just at meals and in the halls he is so proud of us and we are advancing so much! Which was comforting to hear because I feel like my German is coming along veeerrryyyy slowly. But here is my German word of the week for everyone! Entscheidungsfreiheit. (ent-shy-doongs-fry-height) It means agency :)'s crazy how long some of these words we learn are, but what's even crazier is that I can read and pronounce them now without hesitation! German pronunciation is simpler than I thought! The grammar on the other hand is still inching along.

We sang the EFY medley on Sunday to President and Sister Preston, and Mommy, I'm not joking I totally called it, I was the only one here who knew how to play it! I'm the only sister here who can play the piano! And the only other person is another elder who is in my district, so I made him learn it and play it (haha) because I was so nervous when we were practicing that I couldn't play it while everyone was singing.

So we have started to teach 1-2 lessons every day, and the other day we had our best lesson yet. It was with an investigator named Danny (brother fields) and my companion and I just played off of each other so well and I had an actual conversation with him! I am so surprised at how much I can understand now. Friday we are having German day, we're only speaking in German, and honestly it's gonna be great because we speak 50% German on normal days anyway so I'm ready!!

I've definitely found that I am way harder on myself than I should be. My comp and I are study rats.  We study and practice teaching and speaking German and grammar concepts like 24/7 while a lot of the other mishs like to take breaks and goof off sometimes, and I still feel like I'm not learning as much as I'm supposed to be. But on Sunday both President and Sister Preston were basically praising the sisters for how great their language was coming along and how wonderful we are and how we are doing everything perfectly, and then they were SO HARSH on the elders! It's crazy, I feel so bad for them. But I guess I'm harsh enough on myself that I don't need them to tell me I'm doing everything wrong too. My companion and I are so strict with the obedience thing. I was told EXACT obedience brings blessings, so we are EXACTLY obedient! But sometimes I hold myself to too high of a standard, I guess.

Our worst lesson so far has been with Sabina. We walked in and she said she only had five minutes to talk with us, so we basically gave her 5 commitments in five minutes. Will you read the Book of Mormon? Will you pray about it? Will you come to church on Sunday? Will you be baptized if you find out it is true? And will you bring your husband and sons to meet with us next time. too? hahaha...we were honestly cracking up so much when we walked out and realized what we had done. We were just trying to do what Preach My Gospel says, though! But we have learned from our mistakes.

Wow I'm sorry this is so long! I just have a couple more things to say! So this week has been really spiritual for me. I've had some breakdowns, but I've also learned how to rely on Heavenly Father for what I need. I am so used to running to people for help, and now I need to learn to run to Heavenly Father for help, and He really will help you. As a missionary, I am authorized to receive personal revelation for not only myself but also for my investigators, and I have the blessing of having the spirit with me so strongly every second of the day as long as I am doing what I should be doing. I have seriously prayed about the silliest things, and I receive immediate help and comfort. So I know without a doubt that my Heavenly Father knows me personally and loves me. I am part of His army, so He wants to be there for me and help me! I also know that feelings of incompetence or negativity are not from God. They are from Satan so don't listen to them. I am so glad I am a missionary!!! 

I have so much more I could say, but this email is so long already. Thank you again everyone for all the kind emails!! I love hearing from you!!

Sister Thunell

Monday, November 9, 2015

Missionary Motherhood

For those of you who are here often and can do the math, I'm sure you've already figured out that I didn't actually post that letter from Savannah last Wednesday when I received it.  It took me a few days to be able to read through it and edit it for publishing here...not because I was busy, but because I couldn't even get through the thing without crying.  

Good grief!  This experience has been so much different than I expected.  

I fully expected to be heartbroken and sad on the day we took Savannah to the airport, but I was fine.  I expected to be non-functional for 3-4 days after she left, and even blocked out those days on my calendar, but I was fine.  And I expected to be excited and thrilled to receive her emails on her preparation days (P-days,) but instead I am a complete mess the entire time she's online and well into the 48 hours following.  So my missionary mom advice for the day is: Don't try to predict how you're going to react over the next 18 months (or 2 years, if you send out a son) because you honestly won't know until you're in it.  And every single person is different.  

It is especially hard to know what to say to her in my emails.  I know her time online is limited, so I don't want her bogged down reading trivial information from home.  But I also want to keep her informed on what we're doing here, because although she is worlds away right now, she is still part of the family.  I don't want to go on and on about how much we miss her and how I carried her stuffed animal around for an entire day last week, but I also don't want her to think we're having a party here without her.  I have mostly tried to make sure to let her know always how much we love her and how proud we are of all that she's doing.  Who knew communication would be so hard with this little thing who I typically communicate with so well?

Wednesdays are especially hard for me because no one is home.  Savannah is 6 hours ahead of us, so her emails come in the morning just after I've dropped kids off at school.  The house is quiet.  Craig is almost always out of town at that time of the week.  There is no one available to talk me down off of these ledges.  But as much as I don't love wading through all that sorrow by myself, it has been a good learning experience to rely solely on Heavenly Father for strength and sustenance.  I thought I already did that.  I had no idea...

I have prayed many, many desperate prayers in the last two weeks to just be able to get myself together enough to do something besides cry and mope all day.  And every time, He has sent some helpful little distraction, or some thoughtful text from a friend, or some pink sparkly thing to remind me that my daughter is fine, and I am fine, and that He is in charge of this.  He has a plan.  For all of it.  For us.  For her mission.  For the relocation and sale of this house.  For my lonely days and my good ones.  

Giving up control and the desire to orchestrate and hurry things along, and trusting in Heavenly Father has not come as easily for me as I thought it would.  But, apparently I have a few (million) things to learn from this mission experience, too.   

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

First Week in the England MTC