Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Moving In

Well, the furniture arrived at the house today which makes us one step closer to living in this new place that I still have not seen.  

This whole day has been a little unsettling for me.  I can't think of a time when my husband and my stuff have arrived at a place before I did, and I'm not entirely sure I love this.  We were stuck here in the torrential Dallas spring rain while Craig directed movers into and out of the house all day.  I got a virtual tour tonight, and it looks pretty, but it's so hard to really see what and where anything actually is with boxes covering every square inch of every room.  I feel really detached from it all.  Craig is pretty excited about the whole thing, though, so I'm choosing to exercise some trust that he's picked a house that I will love as much as he currently does.  I'm sure I will once I get there.

Except sometimes in the chaos of these super busy days, and the haste of our mostly-texting conversations, it's so easy to get frustrated with him.  Sometimes Craig leaves out the details I need and leaves in the ones I don't.  Like, the carpet in the house smells like dog.  I didn't realize they had a dog.  We're all allergic to dogs.  I don't particularly want all my stuff smelling like someone else's dog or covered in dog hair before we even get there.  So Craig called Chem Dry.  They're coming tomorrow to clean the carpets.  

And the house isn't clean.  That's a little disappointing.  Like, you can't see out the windows because they're so dirty.  Hmmm...  Like, the bathrooms and showers are not clean.  Gross.  And he said he had to buy a new vacuum cleaner because the entire place is covered in dust bunnies.  Great.  

And the previous owner apparently has this weird attachment to his old home/lake/subdivision and has decided to make himself chummy with Craig, so they have a texting relationship now and the guy has come over at least three times since Craig got there yesterday morning, to do one more thing...and one more thing... Great. That will be awesome to have a complete stranger show up someday when Craig is out of town because he forgot a lightbulb in the basement and needs to get it.  

The previous owner's giant pool table is also currently still in our basement because it's 40 years old, and cannot be disassembled...or something, and requires a professional mover which would cost $400 and he's pretty sure he can get it out without paying that much...which means either he will be coming back to visit...again...or we will be inheriting a pool table.  Neither of those things is particularly appealing to me.  That room in the basement is supposed to be a guest room so my mom can come and visit from Hawaii and stay as long as she wants.  It's supposed to be where Savannah lives when she comes home from her mission and when she has breaks from BYU.  The pool table is in my way.  And that guy is freaking me out a little.  

But, the house is beautiful.  

The dining room table fits, even with all the leaves in it and 8 or 10 chairs around it.  So that's good.  

The furniture looks good in the living room.  

I love all the wood and the light fixtures and the giant pantry I have in the kitchen that is ten times bigger than any I've ever had before.  I love all the windows that let light in from every side of the house at all times of the day.  

But it doesn't feel like it's mine yet.  Nothing really does.  It's hard to muster up excitement about a place I've never even been to that I know nothing about.  I can't picture anything about this upcoming experience.  I can't imagine driving into the driveway or going to church for the first time on Sunday.  I have no idea who I'm going to talk to or what kind of first impression I'm going to make.  It's a good thing they're not meeting me this week because I'm not very delightful.  

The only thing I know for sure is that it must be better than this hotel experience and the rainy, miserable days we've had in Allen for the past two weeks.  Right?


Monday, May 30, 2016

Mid-Mission Crisis

Come one! Come all!  Sister Thunell's super quick recap of her amazing week starts now!

This week was the best week, numbers wise, of my entire mission!! 

Let's just get right to the good stuff: we had FIVE investigators come to church!!  We have NINE progressing investigators!!  Man this place has just exploded!!  It's crazy, and I love it!! I truly love each and every one of my investigators with all my heart :) and I was literally jumping for joy when each of them walked in and sat down for Sacrament Meeting. This week we visited a lot of members, a lot of less actives members, and had a ton of lessons with members present!  Members are the key, guys!  We also introduced Nadine and Gina to the Personal Progress program and we started doing it with them and they LOVE it!!  And they have become best friends!  BRILLIANT!!  A less active member and an almost new convert - how much more perfect can it get!!  We have two new investigators, both of whom just randomly showed up at church one Sunday and now we have been teaching them the lessons!  They are drinking it all up like lemonade on the 4th of July!  So awesome.

Well, transfer calls came!  Sister Staack will be heading home since she is just serving a temporary two-transfer mission, and....the Graz elders will be shut down!!  So that means that my companionship will have to take over the entire area!!  I have had a couple meltdowns about that, but I'm fine now :)  

My new companion will be Sister Brinkerhoff, who is actually Sister Fast's companion right now in Munich!  Crazy how things circle around out here :) I'm so excited!  And to top it all off we are the Wien Sister Training Leaders again!  This coming transfer is only a five week transfer because this past one was seven weeks, so that means basically traveling every single week for tausches (splits,) and getting about four or five new investigators from the elders when they're shut down!  So much work and so little time!! It's stressful, but I can do hard things :) It will be sad to not have the elders here, though!  This coming week is gonna be a crazy one, so prayers sent this way will be greatly appreciated!  

Well, I'm going through a mid-mission crisis. Emails are getting shorter!!  My dad told me that there would be a point on my mission where emailing home would get boring and become a chore, and turns out he's right!  As usual!  But I love you all so much, and thank you for all the support :)

This morning I was listening to Elder Holland's talk from this past General Conference, "Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You," and even after the fourth time I still love it so so much!  I know that Elder Holland is a true disciple of Christ, and an apostle called of God!  You should definitely go re-watch it, or watch it for the first time if you haven't already, but to summarize: NEVER FEAR, GOD IS ALWAYS NEAR. He doesn't want us to be sad, or overwhelmed, or depressed, or scared, or angry, or any of those awful feelings that come from Satan. He wants us to feel joy, and happiness, and freedom, and peace, and calmness, and laugh and smile! We all fall short, that's just a fact in life. We are all inadequate and incapable, but the good news is that in this church you get credit for trying :) God is a loving, awesome God. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can get back up when we fall. We can try as many times as we need to, and we are blessed if we just simply DESIRE to do the right thing, or to change, or to become like Him. It's so great :) don't be discouraged. Don't be gloomy. DON'T GET MAD. GET GLAD!

Also part of the mid-mission crisis, I have no pictures to send home :(  sorry, Mommy!

P.S. If anyone has any cool, creative spiritual thoughts they used on their missions, or have seen missionaries do, feel free to send them!  My go-to spiritual thoughts are feeling pretty lame!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hotel Life

I don't want to be overly dramatic or negative about this experience because living in a hotel for 14 days on a relocation expense account certainly isn't the worst thing that could ever happen in life.  There are a handful of positive things about it, but it is definitely not the ideal situation for any of us and we're all anxiously counting down the days until it's over.

This is Emma and Megan's space.  Anyone who has to share a space with Emma is at a slight disadvantage because she tends to S P R E A D out quite a bit.  In addition to three quarters of the bed, she has also claimed all of the surrounding floor space and half the bathroom.    

This is McKay's space.  He starts out curled up in a small heap on this chair but we have a sleeping bag standing by on the floor for him because eventually in the night he comes to his senses and decides to stretch out.  He's not especially tidy either, but there is less of him to spread around than his two sisters so it doesn't feel as invasive.  

This is Megan's heap...it is banished to the other side of the room...far, far away from anyone else's stuff.  I sneak it out to wash it periodically and then sneak it back into it's heap.  That is all I'm saying about her space.  

This is the Master Bedroom.  Craig opted to "go green" with this stay which means we only have housekeeping service when we request it, but we get double or triple the frequent hotel points, which I have a feeling we'll be grateful for in the near future.  So I make our bed in the mornings...sort of.  And I have a nice relationship with the little ladies who clean the rooms on our floor so I exchange our used towels for new ones, because I can't stand piles of wet towels lingering in the bathroom.   
I'm sparing you the detailed account of the bathroom.  Imagine sharing a bathroom with your husband, two teenage girls, and a 12 yr old boy.  Whatever picture you have in your head right now is probably infinitely better than what this feels like every morning before school.   

But, for all that physical discomfort and inconvenience, though, the thing I've been lamenting  the most as we live through #hotellife is that there is no place and no time to just be quiet.  As much as I love all of the people who have been so kind and invited us over for dinners at their homes, and as much as I've appreciated not being cooped up in this space any longer than we have to be, I have missed all that blissful unscheduled time I usually have during the week.  I really miss being still and at home and quiet.  I like having time to read in the mornings and ponder things and pray and write stuff down.  And with Craig's office, the kids' bedrooms, and the kitchen all contained in the same 300 sf, it's difficult to find any privacy to do those things.  And if too many days pass without those luxuries that I've come to rely on, I feel a little disoriented and far away from the Spirit.  

Craig left for Birmingham today, which I am both happy and sad about.  His leaving means the rest of us are one step closer to Birmingham.  It means that we're just two days away from closing on that new beautiful house that I am so anxious to...um...see...and also to make a home out of.  It means that we'll have one less person crammed into what was a spacious hotel room before 5 people and a bunch of stuff settled into it.  But it also means that all the responsibility will fall on me again for a time to get all these kids where they need to be, to settle arguments, to make decisions, to organize and maintain some kind of order in this less than ideal situation, and to do it without having anyone to complain to discuss it with at night.  Single parenting is not my favorite.  Constant motion is not my favorite.  Driving kids all over Allen is not my favorite.

This morning, in the rainy, grey, quiet, unscheduled hours after Craig left, I sat here at this little makeshift personal space with Savannah's laptop and my iPad and two journals, and listened to this devotional by Jeffrey R Holland.  It was pretty much just what I needed to remind me that I don't have to have ideal conditions to have a spiritual experience.  
"We love and cherish our temples and we ought to go as often as possible...but you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable situations of your life.  In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail - spiritually speaking  But the lessons of the winter of 1838-39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through it."  - Jeffrey R Holland  
I don't know that this qualifies as a Liberty Jail experience.  It's not even all that miserable.  But it's not what I'm used to.  And sometimes just because the conditions are not perfect, I toss out the whole plan.  Except...I have a good plan that works.  My morning prayer, scripture study, writing and pondering routine in the mornings keeps me sane, functional and positive for the rest of the day.  And believe me, this two weeks requires an abundance of all that stuff!   Now is not the time to toss out the plan.  

So even though I may not currently be surrounded by all the personal things that bring me joy and peace, and even though there is more chaos in my life than I would like, there is still a little space and a little time to sneak in the things that work.  And surprisingly, even a small effort makes a huge difference in my disposition.  This grey, rainy day started out bleak and gloomy in my head when I thought about the ten long days ahead.  But now, after skipping the pedicure and opting for an hour of Jeffrey R Holland, an extended personal prayer and some much needed catching up with my journal, all of a sudden it doesn't seem so bleak.  I've made it through much longer, and much more miserable periods of my life than this.  

I can make it through the next 10 days...just not on my own.  

There is a reason we have the scriptures and the gospel and a Savior!  We're not supposed to plow through these challenging experiences on our own.  We're supposed to use all those awesome and essential tools to empower us to do the things we think we cannot do, even when conditions are less than ideal.  Especially when conditions are less than ideal.   I don't know why I always forget that, but I'm grateful to have been inspired today capitalize on a moment of clarity and a tiny window of opportunity.  And I'm grateful for that awesome talk.  

10 more days isn't that hard, especially with the enabling power of the Atonement.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Trumpets and Band Conerts

So let's talk about trumpets for a little while...and the Allen Eagle Band.  

I'm sure you remember all those previous posts about the world's largest marching band and the $65 million football stadium, etc...Texas does things in a big way and we happened to land in the part of Texas where they do football and bands the BIGGEST.  Allen is a ridiculously HUGE high school and the band is equally HUGE.  700+ kids.  

So in 6th grade when it was time to declare an arts choice and McKay said he wanted to be in the band and that he wanted to play the trumpet, I thought, "Holy cow, he's going to drown in that ocean of kids..." 

We have since learned that the bands here are really organized and intentional.  There is no drowning.  They set the kids up for immediate success.  The whole school district is one giant organization that works together (musically, anyway) to prepare all these prospective band kids as 6th graders to eventually become part of the massive Allen Eagle Escadrille when they get to the high school.  All the middle school band directors also work with the elementary schools so they know all the incoming 7th graders...and so the 7th graders know them...their expectations, their directing styles, and also all the Allen fight songs.  At the end of the school year, the 6th grade band students play in the middle school spring concerts with the 7th and 8th graders, and usually a few of the high school directors make an appearance.  They're a pretty big deal around here.  

In 6th grade, McKay worked with two of the middle school directors and loved them.  He picked up the trumpet pretty quickly and he practiced all the time.  Like ALL the time.  Every spare minute at home was spent playing the trumpet.  Both directors were extremely encouraging and excited about McKay's enthusiasm for the trumpet.  6th grade was a great year for him.  

McKay warming up the band before the 6th grade spring concert
We started him with a private teacher over the summer to keep up his excitement level and practice schedule.  He loved that, too.  And continued to play the trumpet ALL the time.  ALL summer long.  

This year, as a 7th grader, he made it into Honors Band, which he was thrilled about.  And then proceeded to secure first chair in that band, which consists mostly of 8th graders, for the entire year.  McKay made All-City and All-Region Band, and scored all 1s on his first Solo and Ensemble audition.  Apparently that's unusual.  The high school band directors already know his name.  Like...they talk about him with the high school kids.  And the high school kids know his name, too.  
All City Band concert

All Region auditions
All Region Results
McKay and his favorite trumpet partner, Ryan
Tonight McKay played with the Ereckson Full Orchestra, which is just all the orchestra instruments plus brass.  He was one of two trumpets.  His concert kicked off the long night of back to back AHS concerts.  

McKay has a few friends in those higher bands and he would always rather stay and listen to the high school kids than go home...especially when home happens to be a hotel.  So we stayed.  And it was SO worth it!  Each band got progressively better as the night went on, and four bands later they ended with a tribute to this awesome director, Mr. Ferguson, who is retiring this year after a 40+ year directing career.  What a wealth of experience and knowledge!  And he happens to have taken an interest in McKay.  After the gifts and video tribute, the whole audience including all the band kids were invited into the PAC lobby for a little reception.  Mr. Ferguson had a huge flock of people anxious to shake his hand and talk to him, but he took the time to not just acknowledge McKay, but to stop and chat with him, to encourage him in his future endeavors and tell him to keep being great, and to pose for a picture.  What a kind and generous man!  

This cute boy is Andrew.  He is a Junior at the high school and has totally taken McKay under his massive wings and decided to be his best band friend.  They met while McKay was helping set up chairs for the All City auditions in the fall and somehow became buddies.  Andrew is a tuba player...like the BEST tuba player EVER.  And he comes to McKay's concerts.  He stayed to see the All City results with McKay and even lifted him up so he could see his name on the list that was posted way too high on the wall.  Andrew came to McKay's All Region auditions.  And Andrew's parents recently offered to let McKay live in their guest room so he doesn't have to leave Allen.  Amazing...

I am absolutely in awe of the amount of attention and excitement one little trumpet player has drawn in his short time in this band community.  And I am so grateful for all the encouragement, support, and patience all of these people...and so many more...have had with him in the last two years.  What a blessing McKay has been given to have had so much immediate confidence with this brand new talent.  And how grateful I am for this environment of excellence that Allen creates in the same MASSIVE way that they do everything else.  

Oh, how we will miss this place and oh, how thankful we are for the many, many wonderful opportunities we have had here.  

Monday, May 23, 2016


Hello again! 

It feels like I just did this a couple days ago... :) 

Some cool things that have happened between Thursday and now:
1. We had a movie night with Chelsea (our exchange student friend from Idaho) and watched The Testaments and ate pizza! It was super fun, and she is always so lonely cuz she doesn't have very many friends here, so we were able to keep her company for a little while! 
2. We have three new investigators!! They're all super cute and super awesome :) Brigitte is the daughter of a member here, and her own daughter is a member, but she's not!  She had been investigating the church about a year ago but stopped, and now she has said that she is interested again, and we are hoping we can set a baptismal date with her soon! The other two new investigators are daughters of a different member and they're so cute! They're half Ecuadorean, and they have finally agreed to start taking the discussions and they're starting to make great progress!
3. Another girl, Gina, that we are friends with finally came to church!!  She is soooo cute and I just love her guts! We are helping her with her English class at school, and little by little we will get her coming to church regularly!
4. We did a district fast for Nadine! It was a cool experience, and so nice of the whole district to join in to help our investigator!

So now for some sad news. Nadine's parents have refused to sign her baptismal papers, and they're confused about the church but refuse to speak with us or the bishop, or anyone else from the church, so she can't get baptized for now :(  It was so devastating and heartbreaking, especially after having planned the whole thing and having fasted with our whole district, but she will eventually get baptized!!  The date is now set for June 2017, when she turns 18, and I know that it will happen in the Lord's timing!  Having such a big thing fall through like that definitely sets you back a little, but luckily I had just read about Christlike attributes in my personal study that morning and part of having faith and patience means trusting the Lord and in His timing!  He wants Nadine to get baptized more than we do, and He is in charge! So I guess I'll just let Him be in charge still and not worry about it :) We are doing our part, and that's all that we can do!

Okay, so Sister Staack and I have decided to speak only German to each other for our last two weeks together so I literally can't think in English at all because my brain is a German jumble!  And for some reason random Spanish words pop into my head too and sometimes come out of my mouth. (haha)  Important lessons I've learned this week:
1. Follow and trust the priesthood.
2. Why be sad and discouraged when you can be happy and hopeful??
3. Fasting for something doesn't always mean you will get what you want.  Sometimes you receive a direct answer that is the exact opposite of what you expected!
4. When you actually speak German, you realize that you know A LOT more than you thought you did.

I've been thinking a lot about the end of my mission this week.  Which is a strange thing to be thinking about because I still have a year left, but I've been thinking about what kind of person I want to be on the last day of my mission.  I was also thinking about the things I need to do now to make sure that my goals and vision for who and what I am are reached, and not just wish upon a star that they will magically happen.  Then I thought about after my mission.  I want to be able to keep this same spirit with me, and continue to strive to try a little harder to be a little better every day!  I've heard that it can be a really hard transition back into normal life from mission life, but I decided that for me it doesn't have to be!  It will be just like getting a new mission call, with a little bit of a different mission purpose :) 
I know who I am, I know God's plan, I'll follow Him in faith!  So to apply this to your own life: think about who you want to be at the end of this school year, at the end of the summer, or at the end of this year in December!  Think about how you want to feel about yourself, how you want Heavenly Father to feel about you, and what you are going to accomplish, and then set a plan for how you are going to get there!  Make specific goals, not general ones that are blurry and immeasurable.  And start small!  For me, little goals like simply not eating while I'm studying the scriptures can help me fulfill my purpose better and feel closer to the spirit.  Have a little more patience, pray a little more, and move forward with faith! 

Love you all from the bottom of my heart!

German word of the week: spielvarenfachgeschäft (game store)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wheat Field Retakes

In June 2013, one of my photographer friends in my ward sent out an email suggesting that we take some pictures in the wheat fields around Allen since they were looking beautiful and wheat-y and conducive to those D&C 4:4 kinds of shots...you know, "the field is white already to harvest..."  So we rounded up some young men and some leaders and one other photographer friend and had a whole photo shoot in a wheat field one Sunday morning before church.  Those other two photographers I occasionally tag along with are SO far out of my league and their pictures are beyond amazing, but I was happy to have been invited and happy with a couple of the shots I got that day including the one up there of Craig and his deacons at the time.  
photo by Kent Arnold
This year, we have the same late church schedule we had in 2013, and since our days in this area happen to be numbered, I thought it would be fun to retake this shot.  All those boys are still in the ward, they've all grown up so much in three years, and they also happen to all now be in the priests quorum where Craig is currently serving as one of their advisors.  I hoped the wheat was also going to cooperate and look like it did three years ago, but after an extensive search I realized that wasn't going to happen.  I sent out an email earlier this week to all the boys, their parents, and those two photographer friends who had that original idea.  And then I crossed my fingers and hoped a few of them would show up at 10:00 on a Sunday morning.  

So here's what I learned from this experience about intentions and talents:

Some people will show up to support you no matter what, and some people won't.  One of Craig's boys showed up at 9:30 and was waiting for us in the parking lot when we got there at 9:45! (Holy cow!)  One of those photographer friends of mine had to be at a ward conference several miles away but opted to come to the photo shoot anyway and just get to ward conference late.  He brought his camera to take "back up" pictures even though we all knew his would be a million times better than mine.  He even brought me a ladder to stand on.  (Holy cow!)  A few of the boys I most wanted and expected to show up didn't.  (They're 16- and 17-year old boys.  That's not really shocking.  It's also not an indication of the amount of love they have for me or for Craig...I had to keep reminding myself of that...)

photo by Kent Arnold

You cannot control all things.   I tried.  Really hard.  I scoped out a nearby field with a parking lot.  I did a test photo shoot the day before.  I sent out "save the date" emails a week ago and then emails last night with detailed instructions.  But I could not make everyone show up on time.  We had 10 boys come in total, but only 7 in one shot and 5 in another because they weren't all there at the same time. :(  And I could not make the sky blue.  The weather was seriously crappy.  It was overcast and muggy and the sky was this weird shade of greenish grey.  And I could not do anything about the pests.  There were tons of weeds and more thistle than wheat in some places, and everyone came home with chigger bites, I'm pretty sure...except for me because I was on Kent's ladder.  

Righteous desires do not always guarantee perfect results.  Oh man, this is one of the life lessons I like the very least in mortality.  There are a handful of things I desperately and unselfishly want to do...sing, teach and take pictures are three of those.  And I happen to have almost no natural ability in any of those areas.  But I really, really love them.  And I really really want to be better at them.  So I just keep showing up at things and I keep singing wrong notes and teaching less than stellar lessons and taking crappy pictures.  Like this particular wheat field photo shoot.  Imagine all the great things I could produce if it only depended on the amount of willingness and good intentions I brought with me.  

And here's what I learned about teenage boys...they don't care about perfection or intentions or talents or weedy wheat fields or even chiggers.  What they knew was that this was the last opportunity they would have to hang out for a little while with this scoutmaster/youth leader they have come to love.  Craig has collected quite the loyal following in this ward, not because he's especially cool or awesome or because he's everyone's BFF, but because he just loved all of these boys, even when some of them were squirrelly and awkward and annoying and less than lovable.  He loved the heck out of them anyway.  They knew it and their parents knew it.  A few of them are different because of him.  And he is vastly different because of all of them.  

Oh, how we will miss this ward and this great group of young men.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Closing Day

We finally CLOSED on this house today.  30 minutes and 200 pages of signatures and poof!  Our house officially belongs to someone else.  

Good gosh! I feel like this has been the longest "getting out of a house" process in the history of ever!  I know that I have this obsessive need to document every emotional shift and every temperature change, and that no one can take a breath in this house without it showing up in a blog post, but holy cow! I'm even sick of house posts, so I'm sure you must be.  This is the last one...about this house at least.  

Our original closing date was Wednesday, May 18th (two days ago) but there was some hold up on the buyers' end and they needed to bump the date to Friday, May 20th (today.)  

A few of us are handling this move really well and are excited for the adventure that awaits.  You know, blank slate, new house, new friends, etc.  A few of us are a little overly anxious to completely sever all ties here and would like to be gone...um, yesterday.  A few of us have been sad and have wanted to cling to this place and these people a little longer because well, I LIKE THEM.  And a few of us are not at all happy about the reality of moving and have turned into fire breathing dragons.  When we found out about the change in closing dates, Craig and I thought maybe a couple of extra days in the house and maintaining the same daily schedule through the week, instead of rushing off to 17 days of hotel life, would be good for the dragon-y types in the family.  So Craig transformed into scoutmaster mode and dragged out just enough air mattresses, sleeping bags and camp chairs so we would be  as comfortable possible living in a house with no furniture for three days.  

It turns out that living in a house that once looked and felt like this...

...but now looks like this...
...isn't as delightful as you might think.  It was actually pretty depressing.  And I thought all the life had been sucked out of my house when I took the pictures off the walls...

For the last three days, our lives have looked like this...dull, boring, grey, lifeless... 

...which has been unbelievably depressing, but also kind of a blessing in disguise.  I realized while we were hauling everything out of the house and into the cars for the last time this morning that I actually felt really ready to give this house to the next owners.  I love this house and I have loved every minute that we've lived in it, but without all the furniture and the life breathing into it, it's not really the same.  And I don't know that I would have felt that way without the last three days of house drudgery.  

So as we drove out of the driveway for the last time and went to that closing this morning, I shed a couple of tiny tears but only for a minute, and then I was just ready to move onto the the next phase of this adventure.  

Bring on 14 days of hotel life...fire breathing dragons and all! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Gift of Uvulas


I'm sorry that you didn't get an email from your favorite Austrian sister missionary on Monday.  We had to change our pday to Thursday because we just have so many appointments that we are drowning in the blessings of the Lord.  

So, to the weekly awesome things:
Last week we had Zone Training in Wien, which is always super delightful! And afterwards we went on tausch with the Wien 3 sisters! I was with Sister Gilmour, my MTC bff, and we had a lot of fun and some much needed heart-to-hearts! We played with glow sticks, (see attached video) and strolled down the streets of Graz in the pouring rain, and even taught a super awesome lesson to Nadine! We were actually both sick during the tausch so we also snuck some super needed naps in here and there.

This week was also full of a bazillion member appointments, and a few frustrations for me because of the fact that Europeans are just super blunt, and I am a very soft egg and can't really handle people being mean to me. I learned a very important lesson this week though: I am trying to become like Christ! Christ was the perfect example for us, and he was not angry at the people who were mean to him. He loved them and prayed for them, and served them, and that is the key! Service, the pure love of Christ, and trying to be Christlike :) 
Love your enemies!! That's actually not the answer I wanted to hear as I was moping around wondering why I was even trying so hard if the ward members were just gonna tell me I am a horrible missionary, but that's what I heard, so I decided to listen. And let me tell ya, listening is so much easier than trying to fight it and come up with your own answer! When we listen to the Spirit all of our anger, frustrations, and sadness are immediately swept away! It's such a cool thing! And took me so long to learn!

Saturday we had another lesson with Nadine, and she is still on track to being baptized on the 28! Keep her in your prayers please!! We also made quiche for a member in our ward, and for the elders because they can't make their own food apparently, and it was so good! It reminded me of the quiche my mom makes that I miss so much! 

Sunday was a crazy day, as usual! But #miracle: a random girl just walked into the church saying that she was researching the Mormon church and decided that she should probably actually come to church instead of reading stuff online!! So crazy!! So we took her under our wing and taught her about baptism and answered some of her questions, and hopefully we will be able to start meeting with her soon! These small and amazing miracles are what lift me and carry me through the hard days on my mission :) Then on Sunday evening we went to Lunar's apartment, she's our Chinese investigator, and she made us Chinese food and gave us super nice Chinese chopsticks! All those years of Panda Express served me well, I guess because she said that I was a chopstick master :) #yes 

It was such a fun night, and we taught her more about the restoration and answered her questions, and she is just so spongey!! I love all these spongey people here! It's great! We took some selfies with her selfie stick, and ordered her a Chinese bible, and learned so many cool things about Chinese culture. Best night ever!! Lunar is like my new best friend (sorry Sister Fast.)

So now to the subject of my email, because I'm sure you're all wondering :) THE GIFT OF UVULAS IS REAL. Not the gift of tongues. That's different. So in German people roll their r's, but instead of rolling them with the front of your tongue like you would in Spanish, you roll them in the back of your throat like you're gurgling water. And basically it's super hard for Americans to do without choking on their uvulas and almost dying. I have been practicing for six months now and I still sound like I'm hacking up a lugie.  BUT, perks of having a German companion, Sister Staack made me practice for like an hour one day, and I was so frustrated but I decided to say a little prayer so I could just do it correctly and she would stop making me do it haha.  WELL, YEAH IT WORKED.  MY UVULA FINALLY ROLLED THE RIGHT WAY AND I DIDN'T CHOKE OR DIE. YES!  One step closer to sounding like a native ;) 
Oh speaking of sounding like a native, this lady on the street told me that my German was so good and I sounded like I had been speaking it for four years, not six months! Best compliment ever!  :)

Well, you will probably get another email from me in a couple days so I'll wrap it up, but I am soooo so grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary!  There are ups and downs, but the ups definitely outweigh the downs!!  I am learning how to be more Christlike every second of every day, and I would challenge all of you to take a look at your lives and maybe pick something that you can stop doing, and find something better to replace it with.  Try a little harder to be a little better, and remember that the Lord loves you and HE WANTS WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU!  He loves you in ways you can't even imagine!  He has a plan for you, and it's up to you to turn on your ears and listen to the directions!! 

Love y'all so so much! Bis Montag!  see you Monday! :)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Savannah's Room

I was supposed to do this Friday, but I just kept procrastinating and procrastinating until there were no more days left.  And then today I had nothing else left to do.  

But I was heavily hung over from way too many allergy meds yesterday, and the day was grey and rainy and cold, and there's nothing left in my house anymore that feels like mine, so all of those things together made me super emotional this morning...probably not the best day to take on something I knew I would be super emotional about doing.

So I put it off for a while longer...  

I went to brunch at my VT's house and lingered there for a couple of hours with her and her comp and their cute kids.  

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to get some Claritin because I'm not taking any more of that other stuff that makes me sleep like the dead and wake up feeling still dead the next morning.  And when I cried all the way through the grocery store because I was going to miss the cute little special needs kid who always waves at me in the parking lot when I drive in, and the nice sushi guy who always saves me samples, and my favorite checker of all time who always always says hello whenever he sees me and then always has some funny story to tell me while I'm paying for my groceries, I realized there was no way around the tears today.  

So I drove into the garage and braced myself for the inevitable.  And then I came home and talked to Craig for awhile, and answered a few emails, and responded to a few IG and FB comments...and put it off for a few more minutes.  

Finally, when I could put it off no longer, my neighbor Karryn happened to text and ask me how my day was going.  When I told her what I had to do, she said, "How about if I come over and help you?"  And that might have made me cry a little more.  

Savannah and I painted the chalkboard half of this room together right before her birthday in September 2011 just after we moved into this house.  The previous homeowner's little girl had cute baby pink and white stripes below that chair rail and it was a little too young for an Savannah.  The chalkboard paint was the perfect solution.  That one little change transformed her whole room.  I thought those walls would change over the years, but they never did.  Every time a friend came over Savannah would have them draw something and sign their name on her wall and she never erased a single one.  Every picture and every love note from every friend or relative or neighbor who wandered into that room and picked up a piece of chalk stayed there until today when Karryn and I cleaned it all off.  

I kept putting off this thing because I thought it was going to be impossible to do without my heart aching.  I thought it would feel like erasing Savannah.  But it didn't.  With Karryn here to distract me a little, it was just fun to reminisce about painting that wall and to think about some of Savannah's goofy friends who I hadn't thought about in such a long time, and we finished it so quickly.  It was almost painless.  And guess what...I still have all those pictures and all the blog posts and all the memories of sitting in that room.  I'm sure there will be some other space that Savannah and I will decorate together.  And without all of her personality in that room, I'm kind of ready to turn it over to the new people who want to live in it now.  That was the last thing I was hanging onto.  

I'm grateful for hard days that turn out to not be so hard, and for really good friends who always show up just at the right time.