Monday, February 29, 2016

I CHOOSE To Be Happy

Hallo liebe Familie und Freunde! This week was one for the books! Just like every other week on the mission!

Tuesday we had District Meeting (just like every other Tuesday) and Sister Fast and I were in charge of creating a role play for how we, as missionaries, can use the Book of Mormon more in our lessons! Well instead of doing the boring thing where you just sit down and pretend to teach your companion, I remembered a quote by Elder Holland that said, "If Alma or Helaman were in the lesson with you, wouldn't you invite them to speak?" So we decided to give everyone a Book of Mormon character with their story, and then Sister Fast and I role played a lesson at the front of the room, and every time she had a question about something, I would invite one of the characters up to share their personal story or testimony. It was honestly the COOLEST thing ever, and they all got so into it, so the spirit was SO STRONG. So that just shows you how important the Book of Mormon is in your personal conversion! Even if you're already a member of the church, you still have to work to continually convert yourself every single day! It also shows that the Book of Mormon can literally answer any question you have!   I have tried it for myself, so I know it's true!  After District Meeting we went out for district lunch, and on the straßenbahn (tram or streetcar) a NUN CAME AND SAT NEXT TO ME.  I was freaking out!!  I've never been that close to a nun before!!!!  So I started talking to her, and I was seriously trying so hard to work my way up to a selfie with her, but then right at the climax of our conversation we had to get off the bahn :(  ...BUT ONE STEP CLOSER TO A NUN SELFIE...YES!

Wednesday was a strange day. Our sink has been flooded and leaking pretty much since I got here, so we finally had some plumbers come over and fix it! Well, they thought they could whip it out in like 30 minutes, but it ended up taking like 5 hours!!  It was two men, so we couldn't be here alone with them, so the Kinghorn's had to be in our tiny apartment with us, too!  At first it was funny to try and squish the 6 of us in here, and we had a good time talking about our families, and the ward, and upcoming plans, but then it just got annoying haha.  And after about 4 hours, the Kinghorn's had to leave!  So then the Elders came as the replacement babysitters, and that was a little more fun!  But we were just itching to get out and do something!!  FINALLY they finished, and we were sooo happy that we just HAD to take a selfie with them ;)  We also gave them copies of the Book of Mormon and invited them to church on Sunday, because, why not!  

Thursday we went to a funeral.  I have no idea who died, but I guess he was the very first member of the church in Graz!  The service was outside right at the gravesite and we were required to wear black, and it was literally the most depressing thing in the entire world.  I was the chorister for the service, and I kept smiling at people when I made eye contact with them, but it was awkward because everyone would just look at me like I was a crazy person for smiling at a funeral.  So I have officially decided my funeral is definitely not going to be like that.  Everyone will wear yellow and pink and it will be a happy celebration of my life! Hopefully not a celebration that I'm dead though..

Saturday morning was transfer calls, so Friday night we did Bible prophecies as a district!  I don't know if I've already told y'all about them, but basically you just flip to a random place in the Old Testament, and prophesy what will happen next transfer for that person according to those verses. It's seriously the funniest thing ever.  So, transfer calls.... So far I have yet to NOT be surprised at what happens during transfer calls. Waiting for the call in the morning was probably one of the most anxiety inducing things I have experienced on my mission, I have no idea why, haha.  We were waiting and waiting for the Zone Leaders to call and tell us our fate, but they were taking FOREVER.  I mean, they have to call everyone in the Zone, but it was like an hour past the time when they usually call! So we were joking around about becoming the first Sister Assistants to the President, and then all of a sudden PRESIDENT KOHLER CALLED US!  We were terrified!  BUT, big news!  Sister Fast and I are both staying in Graz! :) yay!!  And we are the new Sister Training Leaders!  NO PRESSURE!  It's gonna be fun to be a Sister Training Leader again, because that means we get to work with so many different people every week, and we get to travel A TON. Because our mission is so big we will pretty much be traveling every week, which is LEGIT! More picture perfect scenery to see!  So excited!  But Sister Training Leaders and Zone Leaders are expected to have at least one baptism per transfer, which is a lot for this mission, and considering the fact that we have ZERO investigators right now it's gonna be quite the challenge!  But I know that we can do all things through Christ, and with faith and prayer IT IS POSSIBLE.  But if you would like to pray for Sister Fast and I to find someone to baptize that would be really nice of you :)

So this past week or so my motto has been "I CHOOSE to be happy!"  I mean, I've been a pretty happy camper lately because I have an awesome companion, and we are beginning to see the work in this area slug along, (seriously, it might even be slower than a slug sometimes) but there are just some days when you wake up lazy! Or grumpy! Or annoyed with the world!  I've had a lot of them!  And I've decided that instead of letting it define my whole day, and letting Satan sit in my head for hours, I will CHOOSE to be happy! 

There's a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley that says, "Don't be gloomy. Do not dwell on unkind things. Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. Even if you are not happy, put a smile on your face. Accentuate the positive. Look a little deeper for the good. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life." 

So this week CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY!  Life is hard. There are gonna be good days and bad days, or even good hours and bad hours. There are gonna be some times when you just wanna be an armadillo under your covers. WELL DON'T. GET UP AND DO SOMETHING! Don't just sit in your own poop. Cuz that's gross. Count to ten, or I like counting to three actually cuz by ten I've talked myself back into being grumpy or lazy, do a really big jumping jack or something, and then go out and do something. We have been sent to this earth to help people. To make a difference. To fulfill our purpose and preordained duty.  Do it!  :) put some Vaseline on your teeth and smile your way through the day. Pretty soon your brain will be like "Oh yes. I remember. I actually AM happy!"  Be an example to others and twinkle your way through life.  It will be great!!

Thank you for the emails, and the prayers, and the letters, and the support. I seriously appreciate it all so much, and I love you all so much!

P.S. German word of the week: eintausendachthundertundsiebenundzwanzig 
You can just look it up ;)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

P.S. (from Haunani...) 
Um, I will spare you the trouble of copying and pasting that word into Google translate.  It translates to 1827, which I thought surely was a mistake because why would she have 1827 be the German word of the week?  But when I asked her she said, "Yes, it means 1827.  Numbers here are all one giant word so I just thought I would freak everyone out and send home a giant word to translate...haha!"  
...thank you for being patient with Savannah's goofy sense of humor.  :)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Miracle of the 50th Baptism

25 years ago, Craig was serving as a missionary in Bordeaux, France.  His mission President was Elder Neil L Andersen.  In February 1991, President Andersen set a mission goal of 50 baptisms for the month.  Prior to that, the most baptisms they had ever had in one month was 20.  Effects of the ongoing Gulf War were felt in France during this month as well, and missionaries were confined to the safety of their apartments for several days at a time in February, making teaching and tracting even more difficult in an already short month.  Needless to say, 50 baptisms was a lofty goal.  

The story below is an excerpt from the journal of Sister Kathy Andersen that was posted on Facebook today.   

February 28, 1991
The miracle of the 50th baptism (written by Kathy Andersen)

There was great outpouring of the Spirit as we met with the Zone leaders at the beginning of the month.  As Neil spoke, he promised wonderful blessings would come as we pursued our desire for baptisms.  Then he said, "I will make a commitment to you that I will find someone to baptize this month and every month for the rest of our mission."  
That evening as we sat together as a family and recounted the wonderful experiences we had with the Zone Leaders, Neil explained also the commitment he had made to find someone to baptize.
During the next two weeks as Neil had interviews with each missionary and held zone conferences, our prayers ascended to heaven.  "Please bless us with 50 baptisms."  "Please bless our missionaries to find those seeking the truth."  "Please help us to find someone to baptize." "Please, Heavenly Father help Daddy find his person to baptize." 
Zone conferences ended on Feb 16 and Neil returned to Bordeaux.  A baptismal date was set the next week but the investigator with whom he had set the date was not at his home when he went at the appointed time to pick him up for church the last Sunday.  He would not be ready for baptism.  After a call on Tues from a missionary, Neil drove several hours to a city to challenge a long time nonmember who was very active in the church.  It was a good meeting but the man was not ready to join the church. Returning home that night he had another appointment with an investigator.  The children's prayers continued, "Please help Heavenly Father, help Daddy find someone to baptize."
On Wednesday at about 5 p.m, Neil received a message from the office that Kamla Persand had called and wanted to speak with the mission president.  Neil called Kamla.  She happily answered the phone and explained to Neil that she felt like she should call.  She explained that she had lived in Bordeaux and was a medical student.  Her father was one of the first members of the church on the island of Mauritius.  Her sister had served a mission.  She was not a member of the church but felt she should call.  She had only one hour before another appointment.  Neil invited her to come to our home.  She accepted and we went to pick her up.  She just happened to live less than 5 mins from our house.
Upon our first meeting, we felt a great feeling of friendship with Kamla.  We had only one hour.  Kamla told us about herself and her family.  She had had the discussions twice, had been to church and understood the principles of the gospel.  Neil asked Kamla why she had called now and why she had asked for the mission president instead of a missionary.  She explained that five or six months ago she had looked in the telephone directory for the church but hadn't found it. On Tues, Feb 26, she was looking in the yellow pages for a doctor and her eyes fell on the name of the church. "I don't know," she said, "I felt like I should call." She called the mission office but the recorder was on and she did not leave a message.  She called back on Wed, Feb 27.  She asked for the mission president, "because," she said, "I don't know - I guess I've always had a good relationship with the mission president at home."
Neil was candid and explained the miracle that was taking place in the mission. He said "Kamla, I think you are part of this miracle." Kayla said that she hadn't planned to be baptized until maybe the holidays - Easter - maybe April.  As Neil spoke with her, the Spirit was strong and he challenged her to be baptized tomorrow, Thurs, Feb 28, 1991.  He asked her if she would pray about it and promised her she would receive an answer.  She agreed to pray about it.  We had a kneeling prayer.  The hour had passed quickly.  We took Kamla home.  As she got out of the car she said, "You know, I really do feel like I've known you longer than an hour."
We pleaded with our Heavenly Father that night that Kamla's prayer would be answered. Thursday afternoon at 3:15 Neil called Kamla and she said,"I feel so happy, I've felt happy all day. I tried calling you last night, but your line was busy (Neil was doing transfers). Yes, I will be baptized tonight." 
We picked Kamla up at 7:30.  She was radiant.  At 9.00 p.m Neil baptized Kamla at the Eysines chapel.  After being confirmed a member of the church, she bore her testimony and expressed her gratefulness to Heavenly Father for His love on her baptism day.  Derek echoed the thoughts of each of our hearts when at 10.30 Thurs night, he prayed, "Thank thee Heavenly Father, for giving Daddy someone to baptize."

Kamla's baptism, 2/28/91
Kamla and her family 25 years later

Craig, his companion and Zone Leaders after receiving the call about Kamla's baptism
The missionaries throughout the Bordeaux Mission were notified that night either by telephone or in person about Kamla's baptism and the completion of the mission goal.  It was also the same day that the Gulf War ended.  

Craig shared this story and Sister Andersen's journal entry with our kids tonight for FHE and sent a copy of it with the pictures to Savannah, so I thought I should post it here, too.  What a great way to be reminded of the amazing miracles Heavenly Father is capable of in our lives.  

"For with God, nothing shall be impossible."  Luke 4:37

"Being confident of this very thing, that He who hath began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Craig's travel schedule in January and February is typically pretty busy and he often misses all those significant events that happen around this time of year.  (Whose dumb idea was it to get married right in between Valentine's Day and my birthday, anyway?)  This year his schedule is even busier because on the weeks he normally would have worked from home, he's now commuting to Birmingham.  So early last month, he decided to take off this last full week of February to be available to celebrate all those special occasions he usually misses.  

Because belated is better than not at all, right?  

Except that sometimes life gets in the way of the plans you have in your head...

We're putting the house back on the market soon, so we spent all of Monday shopping for stainless steel appliances to upgrade our kitchen.  A normal person would have been more excited about that, but I'm not super enthusiastic about heading into another potentially long season of the house being ready to show on a moment's notice.  And surprisingly, shopping isn't on my list of enjoyable things to do lately.  I walked into that first store and realized it's been months since I've shopped for anything other than groceries.  Weird...

Monday afternoon, Megan came home sick from school.  

Because it was cold and snowy in Utah a few weeks ago, and because his parents can hop on a plane anytime they want and fly to Dallas (where it's not snowy and cold,) and because he knew he was going to be on vacation this week, Craig invited the Grs to come for a visit. So after shopping and taking care of a throwing up Megan, the rest of Monday was spent shopping for groceries, displacing people to different bedrooms and cleaning the house.  I snuck off to my 15th Street rehearsal at 9:00 and made it back just before Craig and the Grs walked in the door at 10:30 that night.

The queen bed now lives upstairs in Savannah's old room because of our past home showing/staging efforts, and the Grs don't climb stairs very well these days, so Craig and I moved up there for the week and gave them our bedroom, which meant sharing a bathroom with the other upstairs residents.  I tried to tell myself that it wasn't a whole lot different than staying in a hotel...except hotel bathrooms are cleaned more frequently, I'm pretty that didn't work.    

Sometime during my cleaning tornado, some sneaky red towel jumped into my white load of laundry and now everything that was formerly white is now pink.  Craig is less than thrilled about that.

The beautiful weather we had last week was replaced with rain the first two days of this week.  (Doesn't that always happen when you invite people to fly in from out of town?)
We opted to stay in jammies all day after taking the kids to school and just play games and hang out with the Grs.  It was great!

The rain finally stopped and it was a gorgeous spring day, so we took the Grs to lunch in McKinney.  Yum!  And then they wanted to go shopping at the outlet malls.  I currently need nothing and have zero desire to shop, so while they browsed leisurely in and out of a handful of places, I walked around the whole outdoor mall.  3500 unexpected steps in a day is always a great thing!

All the kids have Mutual on Wednesday nights, so as usual there is a whirlwind of activity for a couple of hours right after school followed by a couple of hours of total nighttime quiet (which is weird for me when I'm home alone, but pretty enjoyable with a house full of adults.)  While the kids were gone, I made everyone watch that YouTube video of Lehi's Journey to the Promised Land.  I know, I've seriously become such a Book of Mormon nerd...  I didn't even care that Craig was completely bored and that the Grs fell asleep through half of it and then pretended they liked it when it was over.  I love the heck out of that thing, and even after watching it for the 5th time, I was still totally engrossed.

Thursday was my birthday.  I really do try hard not to be a spoiled brat on my birthday and to remember that for the rest of the world it's just a day, but I really kind of like a fuss on my birthday.  I don't mind if anniversaries and holidays get a little bit lost in the busy-ness of life, but something about my birthday makes me turn back into a 5-year-old for some reason.  

Thursday also happened to be the best day for Craig and his dad to fit in their customary game of golf.  It is a priority and an expectation that when two or more Thunell men are gathered together, at least 9 holes of golf must be played.  Thursday was a beautiful day so they decided to play the full 18.  That's at least a five hour activity.  Craig asked about four billion times if I was okay with their plans, and I said yes...because what was I going to do, ask them to stay home and sing Happy Birthday to me all day?  My reasonable mind tried to tell me that it wasn't a big deal to have an ordinary Thursday and we could just bump the birthday festivities to Friday or Saturday or some other day.  But my inner 5-year-old was pretty loud.  I moped around after an ordinary breakfast and an ordinary morning routine, and then finally thought, "Well, if it were actually an ordinary Thursday I would go to the temple."  So that's what I did.  

The temple is still a mess on the outside.  The landscaping plans are taking their sweet time getting done and it looks like a construction zone when you pull into the parking lot.  But on the inside, it is the same beautiful, peaceful place that always calms and sustains me.  It was a good idea to go there Thursday morning.  

"The blessings of the temple are priceless."  - Thomas S Monson

On an ordinary Thursday night, I would go to DMCO, and I love DMCO, so birthday or not, that's where I wanted to be.  They voiced us this week.  The good news is that I'm core again (core = the handful of singers within each section that the other singers listen to and voice to...they're supposed to sound like us.  Honestly, I do nothing to deserve that position except that I happen to have a darker quality to my voice that the director happens to like.)  The bad news is that I had to leave all my new tall friends in the back row and move up to the front.  Thursday was the only day in my whole life that I've ever wished to be tall.  

The high from DMCO and the peacefulness from the temple wore off sometime during the 15 extra minutes of rehearsal that I wasn't expecting, and my head started counting all the fuss that hadn't been made over me on this not so ordinary day, and the people I hadn't heard from, and the presents I didn't think I was even getting, and the week that hadn't gone my way.  Some mindless song came on that lent itself to being played way too loud, so I put it on repeat and listened to it for the entire 25 minute drive home.  My head ached when I pulled into the garage.  Everyone was asleep inside.  I threw myself into bed and tossed and turned the rest of the night feeling forgotten.  

It's a good thing sad and frustrating nights turn into sunny mornings.  Appliances were delivered early on Friday.  And installed.  It took all morning and most of the afternoon with different people in and out of our house, but the new kitchen is seriously beautiful!  I thought I liked it just fine before with the original appliances from 1999, but holy cow! the stainless makes it look amazing.  We converted the old stove top from electric to gas and that might be my favorite thing about the changes.  Who knows how long I'll get to enjoy cooking in there before it sells, but beautiful, brand new appliances even for a little while are pretty exciting.  

We went to an early bird birthday dinner Friday night with the Grs because that's when they like to eat and also it's less crowded at 4:45.  I requested Cheesecake Factory because  I love that place!  And I especially love salted caramel cheesecake!  Holy YUM!

There were unexpected presents waiting for me at home after dinner.  The kids made me cards.  There are a couple of cases of Diet DP floating around in my new fridge now, and tons of healthy road trip snacks for our upcoming Spring Break trip (more on that later...)  My mother-in-law bought me a beautiful pitcher that I've wanted for awhile.  And Craig totally surprised me with tickets to fly to Hawaii for a whole week in April!  
Once again, a normal person would be super excited about her sweet husband sending her to Hawaii by herself in the middle of April for no special reason except to hang out and play with her sister and her mom.  I think by the time I opened presents, Craig was pretty much done with the 24 hours he had endured of my 46-year-old bratty-ness, and probably just wished for a normal wife.  He was totally disappointed that I didn't jump around more, especially with his parents sitting right there also expecting some jumping around.  

I tried.  

But I'm not very convincing when I pretend to feel something I don't actually feel.  

As much as Craig likes to go and do stuff, I kind of prefer staying home.  And as good as he is at hopping on and off planes and packing efficiently in less than five minutes, it gives me tremendous anxiety to think about having to do that stuff...alone.  And with a house to sell, and an upcoming DMCO concert, and a choir to direct, and Gospel Doctrine, and 25 pictures a week to be submitted to the church, and kids to drive around, and two Utah weddings this spring, and that relocation always lurking in the background, I can't even figure out how a trip to Hawaii is going to fit in the middle of all that.  

Once I'm there I know I will completely love this trip, and fortunately for me, Craig knows that too, but until then, my poor, thoughtful husband will have to endure weeks of my agonizing over it before I get to the loving it part.  Isn't he so nice to put himself through that even though he knows I'm going to be insufferable to live with for awhile?  It's probably a good thing he doesn't have to live with me as much as he used to.  

So...the moral of this story is that it wasn't at all the week I expected to have, but I should know by now that expectations are never a good thing to count on.

Instead of what I expected, we had a lovely weeklong visit with the Grs.  They are super easy to host and so agreeable, and they love listening to the kids play all their musical instruments and talk about their lives.  Grandma even loved having the girls drive her all over town.  

Instead of what I expected, we have a new kitchen that I may not get to keep forever, but good heck! even a month with it will totally be a luxury.

Instead of what I expected, I have a crapton of upcoming things on my calendar to look forward to including a week in Hawaii with my mom.  Even I can't muster up much sympathy for all my complaining about how that unexpected birthday gift is going to impact my life.  

If I stop being a spoiled brat for a minute and think of it as a birthday week instead of just a day that was slightly disappointing, there really is so much to be grateful for.  There were plenty of acknowledgements and presents and fuss, even for the 5-year-old in me.  

And since he doesn't actually ever wander here to read the contents of my head that I dump out all over this blog, I probably should say all this to my husband, who is still mad at me, and thank him for everything he did for me and for his parents and for the kids during his week off of work.

Because belated and unexpected is way better than not at all.  

Friday, February 26, 2016


If you've been following Savannah's emails that I've posted, you might remember the whole moth infestation problem in her apartment recently.  Last week she mentioned a cute senior couple who came over and helped her and her companion throughly clean and de-bug their apartment.  How grateful I was that week for those kind senior missionaries and for the guidance and assistance they are for all the younger missionaries.   (Holy cow!  Some of these kids have never even left home before, much less had to leave the country and learn a new language and also deal with bugs in their cereal!)  I was grateful that there were people available in Graz, Austria to do what I was not able to do from Texas.  And I was grateful that Savannah mentioned their names so I knew specifically who to thank Heavenly Father for in my prayers last week.  

Yesterday, Craig and I received an email from that senior missionary couple.  They wrote to us and also to Sister Fast's family in California because they wanted us to know that they have enjoyed their recent interactions with our daughters, that the girls' companionship is a successful and happy one, and that the girls have helped them with some computer issues they weren't able to figure out on their own.  

How sweet was that?  They totally didn't have to write to us.  They don't even know us.  But sometime yesterday, among all the other things senior missionaries have to do, a thought occurred to them to send that very short, but oh so meaningful little note of reassurance to us.  

I love people who do that.  

What a nice reminder that even the tiniest generous thought can have a huge impact on someone.  I hope someday to be inclined to act on as many generous thoughts as I have.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hallo from Your Favorite Sister Mish!

German moment of the week: (I was hoping that these awkward moments would start to decrease by now, but they seem to be increasing..)  So we were dooring the other day, and this one guy answered and I told him we had a message about Jesus Christ to share with him, and he said "Nein, ich habe kein zeit, leider."  Which means "No I don't have any time, unfortunately."  But I thought "leider" meant "liar" instead of "unfortunately," so I was like, "No really, we are telling the truth!! I promise! We aren't liars! The gospel is true! We have the restored church on the earth today! And prophets! And the priesthood! And The Book of Mormon!"  And basically Sister Fast just started cracking up so hard, and the guy was just really confused and just said "okay bye" and shut the door.

This was a great week!  Sister Fast and I are really cracking down hard and working our butts off.  Monday we had a lesson with Najla, a newly baptized member who is SO AWESOME!!  She wants to go on a mission (preferably to America), so we are helping her practice her English, and she is helping us practice our German by letting us teach lessons to her!  Seriously love that girl :)  Tuesday we had one of the best district meetings I've had on my mission so far!  Our district is really like family, and the spirit was so strong this week! After that we pretty much went finding for the rest of the day, but we have made up this score/point chart to make finding more fun!  Like 1 point for every "no" we get, and 10 points for every Book of Mormon we give out, and 25 points for every baptismal date we set on the street (haha.)  It makes things so much more fun!  Wednesday we had a member dinner appointment at the Hirschmann's. They are CRAZY!  The wife is from Switzerland, and the husband is a professional dirt bike racer, and they have three little girls who are just wild. But it was so fun playing with them all night!  Seriously as soon as the 4 of us walked in the door we were ATTACKED, but we had a blast being their ponies for the next couple of hours!

Thursday we had an appointment with a less active member named Rosa. She is 95, and 80% blind, so the biggest reason she is inactive is just because it's super hard for her to get to church.  She is one of the loveliest women I have ever met.  Her German is very clear, so I could actually understand everything she said, and I could have a normal conversation with her!  She is hilarious, and sooo so sweet.  We were visiting with her for 2 hours, but it felt like 30 minutes!  She is very lonely so we are definitely going to make this a weekly thing, which I'm so excited about!  She even gave us some ideas of how we can find more people to teach, and how we can get people to listen to us!  Friday we went to a less active's house to help her prepare for a baby shower!  Her name is Ketty, and she's from Peru!  I seriously love finding all these random Peruvians here :)) then I can pepper them with questions about Piura (haha.)  She is definitely a firecracker.  We were there for about 6 hours whipping up empanadas, and cupcakes, and fruit salads, and rice, and chicken, and a million other things.  She speaks to us a mile a minute, in Spanglish, with a few random German words thrown in, so I have to focus super hard to switch my German brain off and try to dust off my tiny Spanish brain and start using that.  She is so cool though :)  I guess she's been pretty inactive for most of her life, but she loooves the missionaries, so we are going to start visiting her more and hopefully get her to church!

Saturday we went hardcore finding. Our goal was to not go home until we got 81 no's, because if you shoot for the no's then you're less disappointed when people don't say yes, and man, it was hard!  We were dooring until our brains started bleeding, and then we kept going.  It was crazy, but we finally got 81 no's!  And we probably doored like 200 apartments (haha.)  We came home with our legs feeling like spaghetti and our noses feeling like frozen strawberries.  But boy did we sleep well that night!  Sunday was great!  Actually one of the best Sundays of my whole mission!  We met this girl, Chelsea, who is from Idaho and she's doing a study abroad program here, and guess what she's studying!!  Anthropology!!  I don't think I've ever met another anthropology major, so it was so cool to connect with her through that.  She doesn't have school this week, and she is a little nervous about the tiny bit of German she knows, so we are planning on scooping her up and taking her with us around Graz and helping her with her German!  It's gonna be great.  

Today for pday you'll never guess what we did. Hiked Schlossberg!! Again! :)  Still just as great.  It's like the Y mountain of Graz. :)

So this week Elder Kinghorn, who is a patriarch, an ex-mission president, has served in multiple temple presidencies and as the Asst President of BYU-I for many years, told all the missionaries in our district that we should read our patriarchal blessings with new eyes this week.  So I did!  He told us that we should make two columns: 
1. Blessings the Lord promises me
2. Things the Lord expects me to do.
 It was seriously SO awesome seeing all the many things the Lord has in store for me, and so cool to see some things that maybe I should start working on more.  I will challenge all of you to read your patriarchal blessing this week and make those two lists, and just see for yourself all the new things that stick out to you!

D&C 82:10 "Ich, der Herr, bin verpflichtet, wenn ihr tut, was ich sage; tut ihr aber nicht, was ich sage, so habt ihr keine Verheißung."
(English translation:  I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say;
but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.)

Also, I hope your daily scripture study is going well!!  I don't know about you, but I'm actually having a lot of fun doing the dot-to-dot chart as I read in the mornings!!  I love the Book of Mormon!!  Honestly I loved it before my mission, but I have gotten to the point now where I don't think I could get through a day without reading it.  It is more important to me than breakfast...and food is very important to me!!  So I'm feeling kinda bad now that I was always grumpy and half asleep during family scripture study...but hey, I still turned out okay!! I love being a missionary even though it's the hardest thing I've ever done, and sometimes I just feel like a nun.  I love learning and changing and growing every single day, and I love how close I am coming to my Savior.  I love Jesus Christ, and I KNOW that no matter what he is proud of me at the end of the day, even if I'm not very proud of myself.  He loves me more than I could ever imagine, and during some of those hard days where I just am so hard on myself it is always so comforting to think that he is always right beside me lifting me up and smacking me back into my naturally silly and bold and happy personality.  I KNOW IN WHOM I HAVE TRUSTED! :)

Love y'all! Bis später! (See ya later!)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

P.S. Speaking of nuns...Graz is INFESTED with nuns.  It's so awesome.  Every time I see one I tell Sister Fast that we are gonna have a blessed day, because we saw a nun :)  I WILL get a selfie with a nun before I leave here.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On Patience...

Um...remember that time when I was super complainy and impatient and you were thoroughly shocked at my ridiculously immature attitude?  And remember when I said that part of my frustration was because I couldn't sing and I couldn't teach and I had heard nothing from SLC yet about the pictures I submitted?

Well, as of last night I could sing just fine.  

And as of today at 6:02, I also heard from SLC...


Sorry my idea of patience is having to wait more than three days.

Sorry I always assume that a lack of response equals rejection.  

Sorry I vent when I'm frustrated.     

Someday, I'll figure out that the desires of my heart always eventually get here...sometimes they just take awhile.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On Giving Up...

I tried so hard this week to sit in my Pit of Despair and think of all the reasons I should give up on things.  I had grand plans of living in that Pit for the rest of my life.  But, fortunately or unfortunately, I can't seem to sustain discouragement for as long as I would like.

It's definitely been a long, discouraging week, but four days of wallowing in self pity is plenty for me.  There's seriously too much to be grateful and happy about to hang out in there for very long.  The sun comes up and the birds start singing and darn it if I'm not compelled to climb out of the Pit.  

Sunrises Make Me Happy.  It's hard to stay grumpy and sad when the sky looks like this in the morning...  
(There are definitely benefits to having a 15-year-old who wants to drive everywhere.  If I had been driving, I would never have been able to catch this shot.)  

Productivity Makes Me Happy.  I have spent this entire week holed up in my house with the ancestors.  My obsessive need to tidy when I'm irritable and my desire to speak to as few humans as possible when I'm sad leads to pretty productive family history days.  I think I found about 50 names and cleaned up a whole family of duplicates.  

Singing Makes Me Happy.  I can sing again!...which is great for so many reasons.  We had a super intense three-hour DMCO rehearsal tonight and I was even able to sing the high notes!  I can't even tell you what a huge relief it is to be able to produce sound again.  Who knew laryngitis would make me so miserable?  
In previous DMCO seasons, I've stood on the front row for rehearsals, but since I've returned, there seem to be a lot of divas enthusiastic women up there, and it's way too squishy and competitive for me, so I've moved to the back.  And aside from not being able to really see anything over all the tall people, I really love it back there.  It's a totally different perspective to be able to hear the entire choir.  And the tall people are really friendly!  I just have to make sure to sit on the end so I can scoot into the aisle when I need to see the director.  

Music Makes Me Happy.  And this is a really cute song about persistence...

I'm grateful that in some things, persistence is the only option, and that life outside the Pit of Despair is so much better than life inside it.  
"Joy is not an alternative to opposition, it is part of a compound that comes out of our coping with the challenges and conditions of mortality." - Bruce C Hafen, Opposition, Joy and the Nice LifeEnsign, December 1992

Monday, February 15, 2016

Faith to Find

Another week has come and gone!  Holy poop! these mission things go by fast. 

Tuesday we went back to Wien, again!!  Three weeks in a row!  How lucky am I?!  Haha they just can't get enough of me there ;)  Once again, the train ride was gorgeous.  Might have drooled a little cuz of the view.  This time we were going for Zone Training!  I can't believe it was already zone training time again.  We just barely had one!  Time goes too fast.  I learned soooo much that whole day, though.  It was like a personal General Conference for me!  I learned how I can be kinder to myself, how to be a more diligent missionary, and how to manage my time better, and to put Christ as the center of everything I do.  I wish I could tell you 2% of the things the spirit whispered to me!  But yeah, I am so grateful for inspired people, for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and for the power of 40+ missionaries gathered in the same room.  It really is quite a special and sacred thing to be a member of this little army preaching truth to the world.  After Zone Training my district went to a restaurant called Herbs, famous among Wien missionaries for awesome and GIANT schnitzel.  The missionary challenge is to eat a giant Cordon Bleu and a bowl of French fries the first time you go there, so I had to do it. It was HUGE so yeah I didn't finish haha, but it was so good, and so fun to be there!

Wednesday we went finding with the elders, which means we walked down opposite sides of the street and had a competition of who could talk to the most people, give out the most pass along cards/Books of Mormon, and who could get the most phone numbers!  It was pretty fun :)  We have also been having a lot of member dinner appointments lately!  We haven't really had that many since I've been here, but last week when I got up in sacrament to introduce myself and bear my testimony I said, "Ich mag Essen" (I like food) and BAM! Member appointments coming out of our ears! ;)

Friday, Sister Kinghorn (senior missionary couple in our ward) came over and helped us clean the crap out of our apartment!  She is a beast haha.  We basically bleached everything, threw away half of the furniture and things other sisters have left behind, wiped everything down with vinegar, mopped, swept, and vacuumed the floors, walls and ceilings, washed 18 loads of laundry, and stuffed moth balls anywhere and everywhere we could. And we now have little moth traps all over the place, and a new supply of moth killer spray, SO YEAH MOTHS..TAKE THAT!!  It was great.  Matthew 6:19-20 is also now framed on our wall.  ("Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.")  Now we just need a plumber to come over and fix all of our sinks, and then a painter to repaint for us :) but it feels so good to have a (hopefully) moth free, and squeaky clean apartment.

Saturday we planned to make dinner for this nice lady in our ward.  She is an older single lady, and a less active who we are just now reactivating, and she is doing so good at coming to church every week and reading in her scriptures every day!  She invites us over every other week, and tries to make us food, but her house is just so gross, and covered in cat excrete, so we will not eat her food.  So to compromise we decided we would just meet her at the church and make her a super nice meal and have a nice appointment reading in the scriptures together.  So Sister Fast and I got to the church like an hour and a half early and started cooking our little hearts out, and then 15 minutes before she was supposed to show up she called and cancelled :(  So then we had this Austrian feast sitting in the kitchen (I'm really becoming quite the chef out here), and the elders were gonna show up any minute and we couldn't just eat alone with them, so we just started freaking out and calling everyone in our phone who might be able to eat with us last minute.  Finally we just called the Kinghorns, and they saved us!  So it was a little missionary meal, and it was so fun!

This week we have really begun to see the fruits of our labors.  We have been working SO HARD the past couple of weeks, and progress is coming along!  Very slowly, but still coming along :)  I know without a doubt that our companionship was inspired of the Lord!!  We teach each other so much!!  Sister Fast is my trainer, so obviously she teaches me how to teach lessons, and helps me with my German, and how to get around the area, and adjusting to missionary life.  I love her!  And lately I've been helping her with being brave and bold!  I am finding that it is way easier for me to go up to a random person and ask them if they want to be baptized into our church than it is for Sister Fast (haha)  I was struggling with the fear of talking to people a little bit last week, but then I realized that was Satan trying to discourage me from fulfilling my purpose, and now Sister Fast tells me I'm a little TOO bold sometimes! Haha.  Then I tell her there's no such thing as being too bold as a missionary, and I run up to the next person and shove a Book of Mormon into their hands and tell them church is at 9am on Sunday.

A big part of missionary work is having the FAITH that you will find people, and that Heavenly Father wants things to work out even more than you do.  This is His work after all. We are searching for the elect...those who are spiritually starving and looking for the truth. So obviously we have to talk to EVERYONE so we don't miss that one person who might be the one Heavenly Father has prepared!!  Having faith is much easier said than done, but I can bear witness that my faith has grown leaps and bounds.  I still have a long way to go, but I am so grateful for this new perspective I have out here.  Being on a mission really gives you a tiny tasting spoon of the love that Heavenly Father has for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS CHILDREN!  Even the gross dirty homeless guy on the street.  Even the smelly cat lady.  Even the prideful and stubborn oldest child who thinks they deserve everything.  No matter the circumstance, no matter the history, no matter the appearance, Heavenly Father loves each one of his children so so much.  And because of His son, Jesus Christ, we can all become perfect, and clean, and pure, and find peace, joy, and hope, and return to live with God again!  Because of Jesus Christ we have the opportunity to change, and to become better, and to work towards something much more important and much more eternal than our simple earth life!  ETERNITY PEOPLE.  THATS THE GOAL!  Always keep an eternal perspective :)

Well, have a great week guys!  Just so you know, this email took forever to write because English is getting harder honestly haha.  Which is a good thing I guess!  Maybe I'll sound like President Uchtdorf by the time I get home!  Oh yes, also, Sister Fast and I made a music video hehe. You can beg my mom to show it to you if you really want to see it. Here's a sneak peak ;) 

Love y'all!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Friday, February 12, 2016


Sometimes too much information isn't a great thing for me.  I can easily become a news junkie and pour over every detail of every major disaster and tragedy in the world and then not be able to sleep for days worrying about them all.  I have tried to avoid getting much more than surface information regarding world news since Savannah left for Germany in October.  I probably don't need to know every detail of the bomb threats and refugee challenges and terrorists attacks that are happening in Europe, at least for the next 18 months or so.  But I'm a detail girl, and sometimes details creep into places I don't expect them.  And then the worry and fear are usually not far behind.  

On Wednesday morning, I happened to read the headlines on CNN and noticed one about a head-on train collision in Germany killing 10 people and critically injuring several others.  Savannah's not currently in Germany; she's in Austria.  But that train collision did happen within her mission boundaries.  And she did just ride a train through the Alps last week, as she will continue to do fairly regularly throughout her entire mission.   I probably didn't need to add "head-on train collisions" to the already lengthy list of possible things to worry about at 3:30 in the morning.  

Not long after I read that story, though, an email came from Savannah's Mission President:
Dear Parents of an Alpine German-speaking Missionary-  
There is no need to respond to this email, I just wanted to give a reassurance where you may have questions. As you may have learned from the news, early this morning (Tuesday) there was a tragic train accident in our mission in Bavaria just south east of Munich.  None of our missionaries were involved in this accident and all are accounted for.  Even though there are accidents from time to time, the transportation in our part of Europe is very good, safe, and dependable.  I know that our missionaries are watched over and we continually remind them to be obedient, smart, and to follow the promptings of the Spirit.    
We love your missionary and so much appreciate the work they are doing.  
Regards, Präsident D. Brian Kohler
How grateful I was that morning for a kind and considerate Mission President who is aware of all of his missionaries, who knew that parents would be worried, and who provided quick reassurance for all of us.  

With people I love spread far and wide across the country...and now across the world, it seems there is always something my head can conjure up to be worried about.  I am immensely grateful this week for the blessings of technology and instant communication.  I'm grateful for answers to prayer.  I'm grateful for reassurance and signs of life that come quickly when I need them and in happy, unexpected ways.  And I'm especially grateful for the peace that comes from being still and waiting.  

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalms 46:10

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Better Days

Great things about today:

  • I did NOTHING.  Well, I did a lot, but I didn't have to change out of jammies to do it.  Any day that involves no driving between the hours of 8-3 is a great day, in my opinion.
  • All the laundry is done which is always a nice thing to have finished before Craig gets home so he can just restock his luggage for his return trip on Monday.  
  • I disinfected all the sheets and pillows so that Craig doesn't come home and catch what I've had all week.  
  • I found a cute little bird nest outside in one of our trees this morning.  Spring has come early here.  Hopefully it will last long enough to sustain little eggs while they turn into baby birds.  Sometimes Texas winter weather is sneaky.  
  • The sweetest little bird (of a completely different variety) reminded me last night that I need to watch the Grammy's on Monday night because the remaining Eagles are performing a tribute to Glenn Frey.  Awards shows don't usually fly in my radar, so I totally would have missed that.  
  • At 1:00 this afternoon, when I could no longer procrastinate my shower, I decided to color my hair.  I always get the same brand, but I can never remember what color I use.  It's either Dark Brown or Medium Brown, so I just sort of take a chance every time.  Apparently I used Medium Brown last time because now I have this distinct difference in color from the top where I got rid of all that grey with the box of DARK BROWN I used, and the bottom that doesn't need to be colored.  Like it's noticeably darker!  But the great thing about surrounding yourself with style conscious teenagers is that they always notice everything and they're always brutally honest.  I picked up Emma after school and the FIRST thing she said was, "Whoa! Did you get your hair ombre'd?"  Um...I don't even know what that means, so no.   And then she made me pull into the sun and stop the car so she could see it better, and said, "What did you do to it?  It's so cool!"  Story of my life...accidentally and obliviously cool.  
  • 24 hours of antibiotics combined with a ridiculously painful steroid shot works wonders. I feel so much better today.  No headache.  No aches anywhere else.  I barely coughed at all today.  And my throat no longer feels like it's lined with prickly hamster fur.  Hallelujah.  I still sound like Jessica Rabbit and I can't sing a darn thing, but the feeling better part made a huge difference today.  
I'm grateful today for spring, for birds (of all varieties,) for drugs that work, and for DMCO tonight that I'm going to sit through even though I can't sing because there is no place else I would rather be on a Thursday night.