Monday, December 26, 2016

Hello! It's Me Again

Hi everyone! 

Well, I don't have too much to say today because I just skyped with my family yesterday, but this week was great! 

You know that scene in The Grinch where all the Who's feed him their Christmas foods they made, and at first it's delicious, but by the end he is SO FULL but they just keep feeding him more and more? Well, that's what I have felt like all week. Like that feeling you have right after Thanksgiving dinner where you need to just roll onto the floor and nap for 12 hours. It's awful, but the members here are so good to us. 

Besides gaining about 10 pounds this week, we had a few other successes! We found 3 people who said we could teach them more about the gospel! So exciting. We also had a pretty good Zone Training on Tuesday, and an awesome District Christmas breakfast on Saturday!

Now that Christmas is over, it's time to start thinking about the New Year! I can't believe that this WHOLE YEAR I have been a missionary! What a great year it's been! I've been in 3 different countries, had 8 different companions, and served in 4 different areas. I've had some of the hardest trials of my life, but I've also seen the biggest miracles of my life! I've gotten up at 6:30 every single morning for a whole year (that is quite an accomplishment) and there also hasn't been a day where I haven't been wearing my little black name tag over my heart. My German has gotten a little better, my friendship circle has grown a little wider, my heart has been meat hammered and tenderized a lot, and the Savior and I have become much closer. My "black year" has actually been the brightest and best year of my life, and I am so so grateful for it. But, it's not over yet! So let's make the most of the last week of 2016!!

Alles gute zum Neuen Jahr!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Monday, December 19, 2016


Hello again! 

Less than a week till Christmas, so crazy! This was a super great week for us. We are staying busy, happy, and feeling fairly successful as we both try to get to know the people here better. Something I've been thinking about lately is just how we can make Christmas more meaningful. In Relief Society yesterday, we talked about the story of Christ's birth, and how he is the perfect example for us to follow. I had an interesting thought as I was thinking about how there was no room for Jesus in any of the inns on the night of His birth. Christmas is the time to celebrate our Savior, but it is also the time when people are the most stressed. We asked members at church how they were doing yesterday, and if they were excited for Christmas, and most of the answers we got were: "I'm so tired, I can't wait for it to be over," or "I have parties to plan for, food to make, guests coming over, presents to wrap, a house to decorate, I can't even think straight!" While we offered our help to anyone who wanted it, I thought it was so sad that Christmas is the most hectic time of the year. How ironic it is that this is the time when we should be letting Christ into our lives more, but our "inns" are so full of candy and toys and decorations, that we have no room for Him.

So, how can we make Christmas a little more "Christmassy"?

Gute Frage. (Good question.) As a missionary that's not really a problem. Although missionary work is very stressful, and there is even more to do during this time of the year, EVERY day for me is CHRISTmas!  I am preaching of Him and rejoicing in Him and learning about Him every single day! And it can be that way for you too! So for all you normal people, try to set aside some time this week to turn off the Mariah Carrey, put down the frosting bags, stop shopping for presents, and really think about what this is all about. Why are we giving presents to people? Why are we singing Christmas carols? What is all of this FOR and what does it MEAN? Do things because it's what Christ would do. Celebrate with all of these fun traditions because you are REJOICING in the greatest gift the world has ever received. Our Redeemer and Healer and Savior, Jesus Christ! Make a snowman (unless you live in Alabama), eat some cookies, and let Christ take this Christmas stress away. That's what He's there for, to lighten our loads and burdens. He would probably love to do that for you ESPECIALLY during the season celebrating His birth; I know that He has done it for me!

I love you all, and wish you a FROHE WEIHNACHTEN! :)
(Still hasn't snowed in Solothurn yet)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Bells are Ringing

I LOVE music.  I love singing.  I love playing the piano and guitar.  I love listening to music, and I love directing music.  It's one of the things that makes me the happiest!  The best way for me to feel unified with my companion is when we sing together.  The most meaningful Sundays at church for me have always included singing my favorite hymns.  The quickest way for me to cast away fear, or discouragement, or to motivate myself is through music!  My favorite way to bring the Spirit into a lesson is to sing a song.

A couple of years ago, a returned missionary in my ward in Texas gave his homecoming talk and spoke about how he had found out the way that the Spirit speaks to him.  He LOVES food, and he realized that when the Spirit was confirming the truth of something to him, he felt like he had just eaten a warm, yummy apple pie.  When he was being prompted to leave a dangerous situation, or that something was wrong, it felt like he had just eaten something rotten or really sour.  The Spirit spoke to him through his stomach and tastebuds!  I have always remembered that, and since then I've been searching to hopefully find the specific way that the Spirit speaks to me. 

I think i've finally found out how the Spirit speaks to me.

First of al, the Spirit does not only speak in one specific was to a specific person.  Just like us - we talk to people on the phone, sometimes face to face, we send a text, or sometimes we know exactly what someone is trying to say without them even having to say it - the Spirit has many forms of communication.  For example: the best way to communicate with my grandma is definitely NOT through text messaging.  Calling is much more effective.  But, if I really need to, I can reach her through a text.  The Spirit knows that the best way to communicate with me is not through giving me visions and dreams, but sometimes if He really needs to, He can reach me that way. For me, the most effective way that the Spirit speaks to me is through the thing that I love the mostL MUSIC!  When I hear things that I know to be true, or someone bears a powerful testimony, the phrase, "music to my ears" is the best description of how I feel.

For the last couple of weeks I have been struggling spiritually.  I felt like my soul was just in pain.  I was questioning why I was even on a mission, questioning my testimony, not wanting to do all these things I've been doing my whole life anymore, just wanting to throw in the towel and not have to go to church, not have to be a missionary, and not have to deal with my problems.  This week I was really searching for some kind of relief.  I was still praying.  I was still reading my scriptures every day.  I have been exactly obedient, but I felt like I was just going through the motions.  The Spirit told me a lot of things this week, and at first I didn't want to listen.  But then we had Christmas Conference in Zurich, and between listening to President and Sister Kohler speak to us, and hearing all the dying missionaries' testimonies, my heart was softened and I started listening.  I found this quote in my personal study this week by Neal A Maxwell:

"Discipleship is to be lived in crescendo."

For some reason that totally clicked in my head and I finally got it!  I don't need a break.  i don't need to continue having pity parties for myself.  I need to step it up and keep working harder and harder, and growing stronger and stronger spiritually for the rest of my life!  A mission is not an uphill climb at the beginning and then simply sustaining a really long and boring note.  It's starting small and then as your strength and capacity grows, getting louder and louder, and making it more powerful and interesting!  And it's not over after the mission.  Your LIFE is to be lived in crescendo!  

We saw tons of miracles this week after I decided to rededicate myself to this work and this gospel.  I know that Heavenly Father blesses us beyond our imagination when we give Him just a TINY bit.  So just think how much He would bless us if we gave Him our ALL!  That's easier said than done, but it has become my quest give Him my everything.  Because He has given me everything.  

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Monday, December 5, 2016

Der Welt ein Licht

Hallo from Switzerland again. Still can't believe I'm here, living right next to THE ALPS!  It's so beautiful here. 

Well, this past week was a pretty crazy one!  We got Sister Jones all ready and shipped off to Stuttgart, and then I picked up my new companion, Sister Multamäki. She's been on her mission about 6 months and she already spoke German before she came here, so it's gonna be a good transfer!  I know I say this a lot, but this week we were REALLY running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Just basically sprinting from one appointment to another, and trying not to get lost because I've only been in this area tor 3 weeks. Since we're both super new, we have been trying to get to know the members, and call less actives, and figure out our way around this area...haha. It's gonna be an adventure! 

Some highlights from this week:

Karyna isn't able to get baptized this coming Saturday because the church won't be available, and she said she doesn't feel quite ready yet so we are pushing it back a week. But we met with her a couple times during the week, and went to a volleyball game with her and her kids! We made her some soup for lunch one day, and we thought we would just put it in a big plastic bowl and cover it with tinfoil and carry it over. Well the bowl was a super awkward size, and water mixed with vegetables is actually super heavy when you have a 25 minute walk, and tinfoil definitely does not make big, awkward bowls spill-proof. So 40 minutes later we arrived at Karyna's to bear our gift of a mildly-cold bowl of soup that used to be about 1/4 more full, some really tired arms and a couple of scarves that now permanently smell like chicken bouillon. But the smile on her face made it worth it.  :)

We also found a new investigator!  We met with a lady in our Ward who suggested one of her friends to us!  We decided that the three of us would go over together and give him a Book of Mormon and invite him to church. Well we went over and ended up having like a two hour appointment with him! He is from Africa and only speaks French, so we did a lot of translating through Emi, but he was so touched by the Christmas video and the words we shared about the Book of Mormon. We gave him his own copy in French and he said, "I know with all my heart that the words you are telling me are true and that they are the words of God." Well, if that doesn't make your heart burst with joy, I don't know what does!!  He made us some yummy African food, and then I played the piano while we sang some Christmas songs!  It was so great, and we have another appointment with him this week!

On Sunday we went to an older couple's house after church for lunch, and before we left I asked if they knew anyone nearby, so we could stop by and say hi for them! They told us the name of an Italian family across the street, and gave us a giant gingerbread house to give them as a gift. We went right over, and it worked!  The family was so surprised and so happy, and they invited us in right then for "a coffee? Or Snaps? Or an Espresso? How about Tea?"  We told them that actually we had just barely eaten a lot of food, so water would be just great! Then they showed us all the family picture albums they owned, and we shared the Christmas video with them. We are planning to go back soon and give them an Italian Book of Mormon. They were so nice! And that is the first time I've been invited into someone's house when dooring!  Members: give gingerbread houses to the missionaries. It works!

Well, that's all I have for today, getting back into writing detailed emails takes forever.  But I just wanted to quickly share a story from my personal studies this week. So in our apartment, our desks for studying are pushed together and facing each other in our living room. One day my companion was eating breakfast during personal study and it was bothering me SO MUCH. I couldn't focus, and then I was just getting annoyed, and it sounded more and more like an animal the longer I sat there waiting for her to be done chewing. So I decided to stop reading in the Book of Mormon, and maybe try reading in the New Testament to see if I could concentrate better there. We have been reading the New Testament as a mission the past couple months, and I flipped open to where I had left off, Romans 14. Literally the 3rd verse I read said, "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him." OKAY HEAVENLY FATHER I GET IT. SORRY. Gotta appreciate those little slaps in the face from Him sometimes. So then I forgot about the chewing and continued learning from the word of God.

I hope you all have a great week! Bis nächste Woche.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Lighting the World

I love this initiative from SO much!  The missionaries secretly knew about it in advance and we have some connections with them so I knew it was coming.  I printed out that calendar up there for my family and for the YW, and heavily promoted it everywhere the opportunity presented itself.  I couldn't even wait for December 1st to get here so I could start serving and LIGHTING the world!  

Day 1 came and I spent the day anxiously looking for ways I could serve and waiting for inspiration to come, but nothing did.  I didn't carry anything heavy or open any doors for any old people.  I didn't let anyone sneak in front of me in line at the grocery store.  I didn't write any letters or send any uplifting texts.  I just ran errands and had a plain, old Thursday.  :(

So at the end of #LIGHTtheWORLD Day 1, I had done nothing LIGHT-worthy enough to post anywhere or to tell my kids about and I hadn't even quietly brought any additional LIGHT to any small part of the world. 

I knew there would be a potential opportunity to do something good on Day 2, but I was dreading it.  Someone had asked me to sing How Great Thou Art for a myself! with less than 24 hours notice!  (I tried so hard to say no, but something about a stronger will on the other end of the phone makes me cave every single time.)  Unfortunately, the song was less than stellar, and I left there thinking, "Oh, forget it!  I'm never answering another unidentifiable phone number.  I'm burying my talents from now on so I never have to sing again.  And I'm officially giving up on #lightingtheworld."  For heavens sake, I couldn't even LIGHT a dang funeral, how in the heck was I supposed to LIGHT the whole world?  (Sometimes when I get frustrated and discouraged, I have been known to do that thing where babies and bathwater all go flying out the window together.  It was like a mass purge here on Friday night!) 

It's been a few days, and I've calmed down about my disastrous musical number.  But I've also realized that this particular initiative to #LIGHTtheWORLD may not have been designed specifically to motivate me.  

I kind of already like to LIGHT stuff.  I try to make an effort every day to post something uplifting or inspiring somewhere on social media.  Almost every day I try to act on the random generous thoughts and impressions that come into my head so that someone else might feel happier.  I've been living this initiative for years.  It just hasn't had this particular hashtag attached to it, and it didn't come with a list of suggested ways to LIGHT things.  I just want to leave sunny footprints behind wherever I go.  

I love this initiative and I love what people are doing with it.  I love that my IG and FB are filled with daily scriptures and posts of the various ways people are finding to serve one another.  I would way rather see those posts than all the political rants or Elf on a Shelf escapades.  

But I am personally opting myself out of the daily suggestions on that calendar up there.  I'm better at spontaneous service and LIGHT, I think, than trying to figure out how to help someone see on Day 3 and feeding the hungry on Day 7.  

I love LIGHT.  I love service.  And I love the Savior.  Everyday.  Not just for these 25 days prior to the celebration of His birth.  So, all of you who are inspired by this, please keep LIGHTING things.  It makes my heart spill over with gratitude that people have the ability to be so kind and filled with the Spirit in such a unified way.  It is absolutely inspiring!  But the calendar is too much pressure for me.  If all of you keep covering December in LIGHT and LOVE, I will try to pick up the slack on the random days in January or August when the hashtags have all been forgotten.