Monday, August 29, 2016

Oktoberfest Season Has Begun

Guten Tag! 

So this week was another great one! 

On Monday evening we stopped by our Peruvian friends with some chocolate cake and visited with them a little. We are hoping to start doing weekly family nights with them soon, which will be so fun! 

Tuesday we had Zone Training in Munich, and it was really good! I had fun helping Sister Howsmon understand the German, and we both really learned a ton of new things that we can definitely apply to see the work grow even more in this area! One thing that we have both really been focusing on this week is mastering the message of the restoration. Because that is what makes us different! That's why we have the Book of Mormon, and the FULNESS of the gospel and God's authority on the earth today! We have been practicing teaching the restoration almost every single day, and it has really strengthened my testimony of the truthfulness of these events! I know that Jesus Christ really did live on the earth, and that he really did perform the atonement for us! I know that he was resurrected, and that after his resurrection he visited the people in the Americas. I know that Joseph Smith really saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and that he restored the priesthood, or the power of God, to the earth! I know that the Book of Mormon is the most true book on this earth, and that the Holy Ghost will guide us, direct us, and answer our questions if we pray with a sincere heart!

After Zone Training, we went back to bahnhof to head back to Augsburg, and I got to see NADINEEEEEE!! 

For those of you who don't remember, Nadine is my sweet investigator from Graz who will be getting baptized this June! I was so happy to see her and catch up with her! She is in Munich for about a month for a summer job, so hopefully I will get to see her again soon! 

On Wednesday we had a bunch of old lady appointments, but we had the opportunity to do the best service project I have done on my mission, for Sch. Weingardt. She has lots of hip/leg problems, so it's very hard for her to do a lot of normal day to day things! She has a lot of people that come to help her throughout the week, but some things still get lost in the mixture of it all. Like washing her feet. On Wednesday when we asked her what we could do for her, she shyly asked us if we would be willing to help her wash her feet. Of course we said yes, and this is embarrassing but I was actually getting emotional while we were doing it. I just couldn't help but think about my Savior, Jesus Christ, and how he washed his disciples' feet out of pure love for them (even though their feet were probably super disgusting). I LOVE being a missionary, and I loved the opportunity I had to literally do something that Christ did while he was on the earth! I am a representative of him, and I am trying to follow in his footsteps, and that made washing Sch. Weingardt's feet the best experience ever :) And she gave us some apples for doing it, so that was cool.

On Thursday we had a breakfast appointment with a family in our ward, and holy crap German breakfast is like a thanksgiving feast. Bread, butter, the whole winery of cheeses, wurst, all the fruits from the Garden of Eden, tea, juice, boiled eggs, tomato-mozzarella salad, and every vegetable that could possible be grown in a pot on a porch. Germans do not believe in real breakfast food apparently...haha. #lunchforbreakfast. But it was SO GOOD. Frohed myself. The best part about the appointment though was that THEY BROUGHT A FRIEND😭😭😭 first time going to a member appointment where they brought a friend without us having to ask. And this friend is super cool, and super ready to accept the gospel!! We showed her the restoration video, and then the Bertele's just killed it bearing their testimony and explaining all about the church, so yeah it was pretty amazing. #miracle. We could all see those gears churning in her head by the end :) She said she would come to the ward temple celebration next Saturday, so we hope to see her soon! 

The weekend was a strange one! Fireworks in the middle of the night that looked/sounded like Germany was entering WW3, drunk people causing a ruckus all day long, random giant parades through the middle of the city, and so much trachten!! We finally figured out that Oktoberfest season has begun, and we just so happen to live right next door to the Augsburg Oktoberfest! So crazy!

This weekend we had a lesson with our investigator Izu (who is making sky rocketing progress towards his baptism in a couple weeks, by the way! He's so awesome!) and we were bearing our testimonies about how we can overcome temptation. I told him that when I feel tempted to do something wrong, or a bad thought pops into my head, I immediately pray to Heavenly Father to help me overcome it! He asked, "and does it always work?" I realized that no, it doesn't always work. But I told him that Heavenly Father isn't a magic genie who grants wishes. We can't just pray to Him for help, and then sit there and continue doing what we were doing before. We have to do our part, and then Heavenly Father will do His part! D&C 82:10 "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." I know that when we try our very best, but still fall short, the grace of God will be there to lift us to where we cannot go. The atonement is real. Our Savior loves us and took the sins of the world upon him so we can return to live with our father in heaven. Turn your face to the light of the Lord, and you can overcome darkness. 

Love y'all!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Friday, August 26, 2016

Updates for the Week

So...this hasn't exactly been the week I had planned.  (Who even gets a cold in August?...that's so lame.)

I'm supposed to be driving to Louisiana right now to take pictures of the flood clean up...except I'm still feeling super crappy so I cancelled that trip.  I'm not sure cold meds and DDP are a good combination, and another 6 hour drive right after that marathon road trip we just came off of didn't sound all that exciting...

OK, back to the week...

12 loads of vacation laundry and four hours of grocery shopping with Emma to restock this house after being on vacation for 10 days.  
Ward Temple Night and youth baptisms at 6:00pm.  Oh, I could have thought of ten million reasons not to go.  But we went.  And it was amazing and there were the usual blessings of clarity and peace because we were there...until I got lost coming home. 

First day of school for all three kids, and first day of seminary for the girls.  They loved it!  All of them.  They made friends.  They found their classes and their lockers.  And when McKay's band director saw him, he said, "Oh, you're the legend."  We have no idea what he's heard or who he heard it from, but after two days of school and without playing a single note, McKay is 2nd chair in Honors Band.  

Emma now has a parking permit at the HS and will be alternating driving to and from school with another seminary kid in our neighborhood.  (Megan still does not have her drivers license.)

And about halfway through her day, Emma texted this...
The kids were all a little nervous about their summer reading that still wasn't done, and even though they had a sufficient amount of time to do it, their teachers all just assumed they would need more since they're new to the district.  Megan and Emma each have an extra week to finish reading, and McKay has a whole month!  Holy cow...!

And the magic of Amazon delivered all those books to our door on Wednesday afternoon so now we can return all the overdue ones to the library!  

My stove has not been working since before we left for Texas, but since we were going to be out of town, we scheduled the repair guy for this week.  Unfortunately, he didn't show up and the missionaries come to our house for dinner on Thursday nights.   So I improvised and copied my sweet friend, Stephanie's, crock pot pulled pork recipe that she made for us while we were staying with them last weekend.  While dinner made itself, I slept the ENTIRE day and woke up just in time to take a quick shower and try to be presentable before the sisters came.  They loved dinner and they said I looked beautiful.  I'm not sure what I loved more yesterday, the sisters, my crockpot or Stephanie King.  

Megan is sick now, too, so she stayed home from school today.  We both just hung out in my bed and watched Netflix all day...and The Food Network, which just made her hungry.  Apparently cold meds don't affect Megan's appetite at all.  
And then at 3:00 this afternoon, Craig texted saying that the sister missionaries had been emergency evacuated out of their apartment because of unsafe fumes from moth balls in another apartment, and needed someplace to stay.  
um...this bedroom has been just sitting downstairs unused...of course we invited them to stay here.  They waited for a few hours to get official approval from SLC because we have a teenage boy living in our house, but eventually got the phone call, and tonight at 7:30pm two exhausted missionaries pulled into our driveway with all their worldly possessions stuffed into their tiny car.  
They've had SUCH a challenging week...and it's Sister Brown's last transfer.  She leaves to go home on September 6th!  We're not sure how long they're staying with us, but I'm so happy to have these cute girls in our home for as long as we get to keep them.  Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow so I can hug them.  Tonight, we just fed them ice cream.  

This week definitely did not look like what I envisioned in my head, but there were a ton of tiny miracles and blessings despite the fact that I've been in bed for three whole days.  And I'm so grateful for that temple trip on Tuesday and for these two amazing girls that are currently filling our home with the Spirit!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sick Days

Well, this isn't exactly how I planned to spend my first day alone in my house with the kids all at school...

My throat feels like it's lined with razor blades.  I'm super sneezy.  I have a raging headache.  I've gone through an entire box of kleenex, taken a bunch of those orange things, slept for four hours, listened to three kids debrief their first day at their new schools, and now I'm ready to take the green ones and just go to sleep for the night.   

So much for all that meal prep and YW planning I was supposed to be doing today...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Be A Sunflower

Hallo!!  So much to say this week! 

Quick recap: Monday night we had fufu round two with like double the Africans, so double the fufu, and let's just say that I think fufu is more of a one-time kinda deal. 

Tuesday we had district meeting, and then some family friends of Sister Abram came to pick us up and take us out to lunch!  It was so nice of them, and they were so fun!!  It was like a mini p-day because we took them on a little tour of the city, which was cool!  

Then that night I finished packing for Sister Abram and we got her all ready to DIEEEEE. (That's missionary lingo for "she finished her mission and flew home on Wednesday.")  
Mensch, I miss her so much! (mensch = gosh)  The mission lost its best missionary on Wednesday!!  

But my golden (golden = new missionary just out of the Missionary Training Center), Sister Howsmon, is literally the cutest thing ever!!  I was praying that she would be a missionary who wanted to work hard and be obedient, and that we would get along, and hey! Prayers work!! And holy cow, she has brought so many miracles with her! Thursday and Friday we did a ton of finding, and Sister Howsmon would just walk up to people and say "HI!!!" And then stand there awkwardly smiling cuz she can't speak German yet, and people would just be so surprised and laughing at how cute and bold she was that they would stay and listen me explain what we were doing!  So, I would say we're a good team! She learns super quickly,too!  So it's great being a mom (mom = training a new missionary) to an awesome little golden. :)

I wish I could write all the miracles we have seen in the past few days, but here are just a few:

1. We were walking down the street to the church and this man stopped and asked when we have church. So we told him on Sunday's at 9:30 and then he said he would come, and so we gave him our number and then he just walked away. We were really confused because no one ever comes up to US and says they're coming to church!  Well, he actually showed up!!  So random!  So we were freaking out and all happy and stuff, and then we found out that he's a member visiting from Russia...haha!  But still I am counting it as a miracle. :)

2. Stanley came to church, as usual, and brought his German teacher with him!!  He's already being an awesome member missionary :)  She stayed for sacrament and said that it was nice!  Unfortunately, she doesn't really have an interest right now, but maybe we can change that ;)

3. This African guy named Izu has been coming to church for the past couple weeks, and I guess he is a former investigator who had a baptismal date but then disappeared, but randomly has started to come back!  So we've been teaching him a few lessons here and there, but he can be a little frustrating sometimes and it's complicated to have male investigators here without elders because all the members we could bring for joint teachers live like two hours away!  But this Sunday he came to talk to us and said that he really wants to get baptized. So we had a lesson with him and made sure he was really serious about it this time, and we set a baptismal date for Sept. 18!!  There are a few hurdles and complications we need to get over first, but I think with faith it can totally happen :)

There are tons of others but they're too long to type. Just know that we are doing awesome over here and the Lord is blessing us a ton! 

This week I read a conference talk from April 2015 called "The Lord is My Light" by Quentin L. Cook. He talks about standing strong in our faith in Christ through difficult circumstances, and how we need to always follow the Savior's example.

"Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life."

So, be like a sunflower! :) There will always be hardships, always be trials, and our faith will always be tested!  But if we simply face the light that Christ provides for us, we will always know that there are good times ahead, and that we can make it through hard things! 

Love you all and have a great week!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Good Things So Far This Week

The sun came out yesterday...

I noticed a sign on the bridge yesterday morning that reminded me to look for pelicans... and thinking about pelicans first thing in the morning is always the start of a great day.

We found the beach!

We played there for several hours...all of us!  Yep, I even got in the water and played with the kids.

I also found the world's most perfect umbrella and chair that I'm pretty sure were put there just for me.

Craig made it back to the condo on Monday night just in time to take us to Isla Blanca where we watched the sunset from a huge, beautiful jetty.

McKay fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams of standing on the edge of a jetty and getting sprayed with water.  (...yep, we were all quite surprised to find out that was even on his list.)

There are some cool Pokemons at the beach!

It was rainy and cloudy again today, so we walked 6,000 (of my recommended daily 10,000) steps and did some souvenir shopping.  Sharks are Emma's favorite so the girls had to get a picture with this giant one.

Eventually, when it stopped raining we walked to the beach and played for a couple of hours.  This cute thing washed up on the shore shortly after we got there.  :)

We combined our collective efforts and tried to build a sand castle, but eventually turned it into a sea turtle because we couldn't get the sand to pile higher than two inches.  
Design and construction:  Emma
Collection of shells for body:  Megan and McKay
Clever use of recyclable materials for eyes:  Me

I got the nicest anonymous text from someone this morning who happened to be visiting Germany and happened to take the sister missionaries to lunch.  Oh, I just love unexpected surprises.  People are so kind to missionaries and so thoughtful to think of their moms!  

It's been a mostly lazy, mostly relaxing two days on the beach so far, and I mostly love it.  Lots of playing, lots of sleeping in, no driving or running errands, no make up, siestas in the afternoons, and lots of Olympics.  It's been a pretty great week so far and it's only Tuesday!  

Quote of the Day:  
"I think these cloudy days are the best time to come to the beach.  There's no one here.  There's no sun so we won't burn.  And the waves are super wavy!"  -  McKay Thunell

Monday, August 15, 2016

Highlights from the Week

Hello everyone! This has been an awesome and crazy week! Natürlich Wie immer :) highlights of the week: (I will try to make this email shorter because I guess my emails are super long) 

Tuesday we made lasagna for a family from Columbia who are new in our ward!  They only speak Spanish, so we used google translate to write a little note for them :) thank you, Mommy for always making lasagna for dinner so I could try and remember how to recreate that for this Colombian family!  I think it turned out pretty good!

On Wednesday we did another Pokemon ausstellung, and it was more successful than last time, but still not as successful as we were hoping!  So we decided that we are gonna just go back to advertising about Jesus instead of Pikachu and maybe that will work better :)  We also had an appointment with a member family, the Kern's, and had another dessert competition!  We won with our ice cream sandwiches made out of chocolate chip cookies :)  

Thursday we had a couple of old lady appointments and then we went to MLC (Mission Leadership Conference!)  This MLC was seriously so awesome!!  I got to see Sister Fast, and I learned a ton, and it was just very spiritually uplifting, and extremely motivating!  Now all I wanna do is work, work, work!!

 Saturday was transfer calls, and I have been called to train a new missionary again! Woohoo! I wasn't excited at first because training isn't particularly my favorite thing, but now I'm super pumped and I've already filled her desk with notes and treats to start off her mission right!  Maybe second time's the charm and I'll be a better mom this time!  We also had an appointment with our Peruvian family, and Phillip has agreed to start taking the missionary discussions!  They're a family that I can absolutely imagine being sealed in the temple in a couple years :) so please pray for them!

Sunday we went to the Winkworth's for dinner after church. They are a family from Australia and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.  They remind me so much of my family, so it feels kinda like coming home! It was so fun to be with them :)  We went by a couple other people and had a couple other appointments that day, too.

This week, I have been thinking a lot about the story of Job, and studying it a lot, too!  It is just amazing to me what Job went through, and the positive attitude he kept and his relationship with Heavenly Father. What a great example to all of us!  Heavenly Father has given us all that we have, and when He takes it away we can know that it is because we have better things in store for us :)  I have learned a lot this week about the Atonement, and keeping an eternal perspective, and the importance of acting upon spiritual promptings!  We talked a lot at MLC about how it doesn't matter if it is your own thought or the Holy Ghost, just act!  If it leads to a good thing then move forward and trust in the Lord :)  And I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that the Lord is in the details of our lives and always directs our paths!  He truly cares about even the little things, and I am so grateful that I have been able to develop a better relationship with my Heavenly Father out here on my mission! It's funny how sometimes we have to be sent across the world to learn a new language and have some hardships and struggles to remember and learn more about the Lord.  But that's how it has worked out, and I'm definitely not complaining :) 

Life here is great, and I am truly learning to LOVE everything more and more every single day. I think after nine months of being on a mission your capacity to love just increases so much!!  I mean I still get frustrated with people sometimes, BECAUSE HOLY CRAP JUST ACCEPT THE GOSPEL ALREADY, MAN.  But then I compose myself and love them anyway ;) 

Love you all and have a great week! :)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Sunday, August 14, 2016

One Last Vacation

About a month ago, we received an invitation to an Eagle Court of Honor for one of Craig's favorite former scouts.  And since his family was so nice to actually send us an invitation, and since I SUPER miss everything about Allen, I orchestrated and begged and cajoled Craig into working out a McAllen business trip into his August plans.  

McAllen is no where near Dallas.  In fact, it's about as far from Birmingham to Allen as it is from McAllen to Allen.  So logistically, this trip makes absolutely no sense at all.  But I REALLY wanted to go, and I never want to go on trips, so Craig thought we should probably capitalize on that little anomaly.  

We had originally planned to leave Saturday, drive halfway, stay somewhere so we could go to church on Sunday morning, and then make the second reasonable length drive after church.  But, there was that dance.  And the girls had already invited the whole ward to our house for that pre-dance party.  And since I'm in the YW Presidency, I now get to carpool to and chaperone at those youth dances.  So we changed our plans, and made the whole 15 hour drive in ONE DAY...except because it's us, and because I have to stop every 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, somehow that 15 hours turned into more like 18, I think.  We left Birmingham at 4:00am and drove into our condo on South Padre Island at 10:30pm.  That's definitely the LONGEST drive we've ever done in one 24 hour period.  And probably the longest we'll ever do because there aren't many more driving hours you could fit into one day.  

The weather was not ideal.  It's raining everywhere in the southern half of the United States apparently.  We were diverted because of flooding in Louisiana, hit torrential rain in New Orleans and Houston, and didn't see even a tiny bit of blue sky the entire day.  

And there's a very good possibility the rest of the week might look the same... 
But even if we just sit in the condo and watch the Olympics all week with the beach in the background, it will still be a good week because there are NO responsibilities at the beach.  I'm not even planning on wearing make up for the entire four days we're here!  And since Craig will have the car with him working in McAllen all week, which is an hour away, we'll be happily stuck here.  

While we were on that long drive, Craig took us on a surprise diversion through Houston (which isn't my idea of a great surprise because Houston isn't my favorite place, but this one was kind of worth it.)
This place also keeps with the whole scouting theme of the trip, too, don't you think?  

Craig wanted to show the kids the giant wall of immortalized Eagle scouts from the Houston area.  He lived in Houston in high school and earned his Eagle in 1986.

We were all pretty impressed with that little sighting, especially McKay, who now wants his name engraved somewhere.  :)

Although it was a super LONG, rainy, tiring day, we listened to some amazing BYU devotionals, we sang our heads off (ok, maybe that was just me...) we caught a couple of Pokemons, we tried out McKay's new trumpet silencer (it works!) and we made it safely to our vacation home for the next four days.    

Now we're all just hoping the rain stops long enough for us to play on the beach a little before school starts next week...and I might be secretly counting the days till we get to Allen.  I might cry when we pull into that place and when I see all those people I love.