Monday, December 23, 2013

God Jul!

I can't believe Meisha is home! She is so amazing. I remember last year at this time just sitting by my laptop every Tuesday morning waiting for her blog to be updated with more news and stories from the Philippines. She prepared me for my mission with her words of enthusiasm for the work and her love for the gospel. I am so grateful for her missionary service. 
we made over 80 sugar cookies this week for our christmas ward party #momstatus
At this time last year I was also thinking "next year at this time, I am going to be living in a winter wonderland!" Which has actually turned out to be quite the opposite. I was definitely expecting my only Christmas here in Sweden to be waist high with snow. But I have enjoyed the dark windy days :) Saturday was the first official day of winter and it is also the darkest day of the year here in Sweden! Now it will slowly start getting lighter every day until midsommar in June.
The other night I woke up at one in the morning to Syster Hosenfeld jumping out of bed and running over to the bedroom door. She was trying to get out but I guess, in her sleep, she couldn't get around our fan (yes. I make her sleep to the noise of a fan.) She was getting so frustrated and was moving around so fast. hahaha. I sat up and being half asleep yelled "vad gör du?!" She didn't answer me so I said it again "VAD GÖR DU!?" And then I think the fact that I was yelling in Swedish woke me up so I said "I MEAN WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?" Hahaha she answered: "I don't know! I had a bad dream I guess!" and then she ran back and jumped in her bed and was dead asleep within seconds. I just layed there re-playing what had happened and quietly laughed to myself. In the morning I asked her about it and she said: "what are you talking about?" She was definately sleep walking.
I love the Book of Mormon. This week while visiting our favorite old ladies, Aina and Isa, the first thing Aina said to us when we opened the door was "I LOVE THE BOOK!" and then while we were teaching Isa, after bearing our testimonies, she said "I have got to find that book!" (she already had one from years ago). The Book of Mormon is truly what converts. And I am so grateful for it.
Maria and her husband Mickey
I think Alma 28:8 perfectly explains the journey of life as well as the journey of a mission. It says that they had many afflictions and sorrows and also incomprehensible joys. This was a week of incomprehensible joy. Last preparation day, we decided to teach a couple of lessons and one of them was to our investigator Erik who is 14 from Russia. We invited him to be baptized on January 18th and he accepted! He had so many questions but he has a strong desire to be baptized and we are so excited for him. 

We also met with Morgan this week and before we started teaching him, we honestly had no idea what we were going to teach. All that we knew was that we wanted to ask him if he would be baptized. We read Mosiah 18:8-10 together, following the spirit, and asked him what he thought about these scriptures. He answered and said "I think I need to quit smoking first before I am baptized." WHAT?! So we taught him the Word of Wisdom and he gladly accepted. He drinks around 7 cups of coffee a day and also goes through about a pack of cigerettes a day. He said that he has tried quitting many times before but he has never had a reason besides that it is bad for him. He told us that his goal is to be completely done with smoking by New Years Eve and he is going from 7 cups of coffee every day to two. We set a baptismal date for him to be baptized at the beginning of February. He is so prepared and in fact he said that he feels like he has been meeting with the Jehovas Witnesses for the past year to prepare himself to meet us. He learned a lot about the bible from them but now he says that he feels like he has actually found people and a church who believe what he believes. I can't even describe our joy and the spirit that was there. Within a week, Morgan has decided to make this huge change in his life, which I know will bless him for the rest of his life.
 Earlier that day, we had been in Göteborg for a conference and I had an interview with President Newell and he asked me if I was happy or satisfied with the success that I am having on my mission. I answered by saying "yes, I am. Because I am giving this work my all, knowing that the Lord will do the rest." He said that is exactly right. We are asked to give our ALL. I have figured out that a missionaries' success has nothing to do with the amount of baptisms one has but on whether or not they gave this work their all. Because when we give it our all, we will find those who are waiting and are prepared to accept the gospel- and those experiences are wonderful to be a part of. 

I am grateful for Syster Richins who taught me to give this work my all in Kristianstad. We went from three progressing investigators to 17 and a baptism with Nana. How? Because we gave it our all. And we did that by opening our mouths to everyone and giving them the chance to accept it through love and our testimonies. Those experiences prepared me to be ready and able to train and to do the same thing here in Halmstad with Syster Hosenfeld. We came to a smaller area and started out with nothing. It was hard but we kept going and for the past three months, we have been giving it our all. Inviting ALL to come unto Christ- which through doing, we have found the prepared and we now have two baptismal dates. It is not the fact that it is ME or it was Syster Richins, or Syster Hosenfeld... It is the fact that we are missionaries- set a part to do this work. Doing what the Lord has asked us to do. Knowing that the spirit will guide us and that the Lord will do the rest when we give it our ALL.
I am so excited for Christmas here. We have a full week planned. Christmas here in Sweden is celebrated a little differently. Their "Christmas Day" is on our "Christmas Eve" and instead of Santa they have Tomte who is a mythological creature who is associated with the winter solstice. He is little, has a long white beard and is the gift bearer. The gift bearer used to be a goat but now it is the little elf gnome. We will be eating lots and lots of swedish food and I can't wait! I also CANNOT WAIT TO SEE YOUR FACES TOMORROW ON SKYPE!!! Holy cow. Here are my expectations for skyping: 

I love you all! God Jul!! Puss o Kram.

write. laugh.
create. smile. breathe.
listen. walk. slow down.
imagine. work. trust. wait. love.
contemplate. talk. look. open. enjoy.
give. pray. smell. learn. forgive. grow. rely.
move forward.

Syster Christensen

p.s. a cool thing happened this week. One of the women that we met on the street texted us and asked us what our names were- I told her first and last- I didn't know why, but then she texted back a while later and said I just read your letters online about your experiences here in Sweden and I want to meet right after christmas. So cool! I CANT WAIT FOR TOMORROW. LOVE YOU ALL! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sankta Lucia

I'm staying in Halmstad! I hope. There are only a couple changes before Christmas but I have heard that there might be more changes on the 30th. But I think its safe to say that I am staying, which I am happy for. I am not ready to leave this place yet! 
 Typical swedish dinner at Lena's
Last week on Monday, we had a fun party with Lena who is less active and another lady in our ward, Karin. We did gift exchanges and had a lot of fun. 
Lena, Karin, Me, Hosie
Afterwards I had the bright idea to have Karin help me dye my hair from a box to go more my natural color which so happens to be brown now because A. it hasn't seen the sun in a good long while and B. I don't know... it's just not blonde anymore. But we had so much fun with her dying it. We were laughing so hard because when she was trying to rinse it out we were both getting soaked with water. It was hilarious. We brushed it out and dried it and I can't exactly explain the color. . . It was like green, gray, and bronze. 
green gray hair
So needless to say it was a fail and I immediately went to a hair dresser who dyed it brown. It was kind of a last minute decision and it turned out a lot darker than expected... So this week I went from blonde, to green-gray, to brown. It was an adventure. Sorry mom :/ although I don't feel like myself, I promise it's still me!!!
If there is one thing that I am mastering on my mission, it is looking people in the eyes when I speak to them. I can't even tell you the amount of people that answer the door in their underwear or no clothes. I have gotten really good at just looking at their faces and ignoring the fact that they aren't wearing any pants.

This week we have really been focusing on planning with FAITH. We have been having so much faith that if we plan three lessons even if we don't have any names written down, we are going to have three lessons. Everyday that we did this, we ended up having the amount of lessons planned. Which means that this was our first week in Halmstad of hitting 20 lessons! Woot. I have such a strong testimony that if we tell Heavenly Father our plans for the next day as we kneel down at night, he will help us accomplish those plans. 

A couple weeks ago we went tracting in a neighborhood and we saw a lady walking very slowly out to get her mail. I asked her in Swedish if I could help her and she spoke back in English in a voice that sounded very familiar. She said that she would love the help. We helped her get the mail and talked to her for a bit. She comes from Barbados and moved here because she married a Swede. He died 15 years ago but she has stayed here in Sweden even though she doesn't speak the language. She also had a stroke about six years ago which makes it really hard for her to get around. She told us we could come back and visit with her the next week. After we left Syster Hosenfeld said, "I swear I just read about a lady from Barbados in our area book." But we thought it was probably just a coincidence. We forgot about it that day until this week when we made plans to go by and see if she was home. 
Bethlehem for dawgs
Before we went over we looked through the area book and read: "Isa from Barbados". It was her. I turned the paper over and realized that I had called her last month to see if she wanted to visit but she said no. We went over to her house that day and she told us about the missionaries who visited her in 2009 and she pulled out a white paper with the plan of salvation drawn out in full detail with bad hand writing. We had a great lesson with her and have plans to go back again this week. If we would have not seen her that day we were tracting in her neighborhood, we would have never known that she would be willing to listen because she said "no" when we called a month ago. I am reminded again and again of how much God loves his children and this work as I witness miracles like this.

Later that day we went tracting in another neighborhood where a dad had answered the door a couple nights ago and said we could come back. This time his wife answered holding two little kids in her arms and another one was standing behind her. She invited us in and said that she too, had met with the missionaries about 7 or 8 years ago and that she would love to meet with us. And then on the bus, Syster Hosenfeld talked to a man named Morgan and got his number. We called him later that night and he said he would meet us at the library. He is a Swede and he has been meeting with the Jehovah's Witnesses for the past year or so. He is really searching to find the truth. We taught him the restoration, he said that he would be baptized when he gets an answer and then he came to church yesterday. Of course this Sunday was the primary program, so I kept reassuring him that it isn't like this every Sunday. He was very patient and listened to all of the speakers and afterwards had a lot of questions. I taught him the plan of salvation with Karin, while Syster Hosenfeld taught another class. And then he stayed for all of Priesthood. He is meeting with a ward member two times this week to talk and we are also meeting with him. This week has truly been a week of miracles!
A LONG time ago I talked about us going to an old folk's home to help out there because we didn't have a lot going on here and we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to serve. But before we heard back from the Old Folk's Home we ran into an old lady, Aina, while tracting (this was about a month and a half ago). She invited us in and we talked to her and shared a little message. She loves talking about the Bible, but when we tried showing her The Book of Mormon, she said she was to old to read a new book. But we continued to go by and have gone by every Thursday since we met her and most of the time we just listen to her talk and tell us about her life. She always has little chocolates set out for us and she absolutely LOVES it when we go over. She even tried paying us to listen to her. We are so grateful that we met Aina because right after we did, we started having a lot more going on and we wouldn't have had time to do the Old Folks Home every week. Instead we get to spend a couple of hours with Aina each week. At our last visit, we brought up the Book of Mormon again and gave one to her and read out of it with her. She loved it and said that it makes so much sense that we would have a book for "our time". She is a very smart woman for being in her 80's and we love her. She also helps us with our Swedish which is a bonus.

At the Sankta Lucia Concert
Another lady that I love is Göta. She is a member and is also in her 80's. She reminds me a lot of Brita Eriksson from Kristianstad. She is always smiling and she takes a taxi about a half and hour to church every Sunday. She is pretty blind and she doesn't talk much, she just comes and sits there and smiles and loves it. So no one else can have any excuses about it being to hard to make it to church! Haha
Santa Lucia Concert
This week I was able to go to a REAL SANKTA LUCIA concert! I have heard about Sankta Lucia my whole life from dad and I always thought it was so weird that a girl would wear real candles in her hair. But it was so fun to see. Santa Lucia was a saint who died for the Christian church. It originally came from Italy but the Swedes have always celebrated it. "Sankta Lucia" wears candles in her hair because the people tried to burn her but she didn't die so they cut her in half and that is why she wears a red sash around her waist. #interesting. They sang beautiful Swedish Christmas songs and I loved being able to be a part of this tradition that I have heard so much about.
Yesterday as we were riding home on the bus, I watched the HUGE red and orange sun slowly set at three pm. It was so beautiful. This week I have been thinking a lot about slowing down. Although I love to meditate and do yoga which is very slow moving, I am also known to be pretty fast paced. I am impatient, I walk fast, and I just like things to get done! It has been a struggle with some of my companions because we all move at different paces and I always want to walk faster and just get to everything on time and then get out and keep going, going, going. So as I was watching this huge sun slowly set, I thought of the lyrics by Michael Franti, 
"Don't fear to walk slow, 
don't be a horse race, 
be a marathon." 
It is such a good reminder to slow down. To take deep breaths. To walk slowly with my companions and get to know them better. To learn to be more patient. To sit in each lesson and focus on the people I am with and not be so worried about making it to the next lesson on time. And to be able to take life with ease if things aren't going the way I planned.

This week I got a cute package in the mail from Marian and she included five awesome talks that I loved learning from this week. I am so grateful for all of the Christmas letters and gifts! I feel so loved. I CANNOT WAIT TO SKYPE HOME NEXT WEEK. I can't believe that time is already here. We won't be emailing on Monday because we are supposed to proselyte that day so I will Skype home and then write on the 26th. Love you all! Have a wonderful week before Christmas!!


Monday, December 9, 2013

s t u c k

This week was filled with very many unexpected adventures. It seems like we were not the only ones who had a storm this week- sorry about the weather with all of your gift shows mom! What the-? not fun at all. The weather here continues to be insane. As I look out the window of the library right now it is sunny and looks as if everything is the same as the week before- which was not the case during the week.

On Thursday we had a one hour meeting with our whole zone in Helsingborg, which was kind of pointless especially due to what followed. Some people traveled three hours to this meeting and then afterwards we were supposed to stay to get an interview with President Newell. We were also going on sister splits for the rest of that night until the next day and in order to get to our teaching appointments in Karlskrona, we had to leave before President got there. I went on splits with Syster Bass who came in Syster Hosenfeld’s group. 
Syster Bass and Lucia
We got on our train at 1:30 when all of a sudden a storm hit and we had to transfer to a bus and didn't end up getting there until 5:30! We got off the bus and ran to our appointment with a new investigator that the sisters had not met with yet. We were nervous that she wouldn’t be able to meet because we were an hour late, but she was very kind and made us homemade hot chocolate. We had a normal first lesson on the restoration, and then I felt impressed to share a very random and personal experience with her. I told her the story and bore my testimony and afterwards she was silent- she didn’t respond to what I had said, and I was worried that it didn’t make sense and was not what she needed. She then said, "I am not sure I believe everything that you guys taught me tonight, it is a lot to take in, but once you shared your experience and said that you knew that this is true, it really meant a lot to me." 

She thanked me for my testimony and said that she thinks it is a very powerful thing that we would come here and leave our families at this young age to share this message that we believe to be true. I think this is the first time someone thanked me or even acknowledged the power of my testimony. I know that it was the Holy Ghost who gave me the impression to share that story and it was the Holy Ghost who bore testimony to her through my mouth. I am grateful that I was able to experience the spirit that was in the room that night. She invited the missionaries to come back again, and I am excited to hear about her progression from the Karlskrona sisters. Afterwards we taught a member, Lucia, and then headed home in the storm.
I called Sister Hosenfeld to see how things went in Halmstad with Syster Richins, and because of the storm, they ended up having to take a bus home as well and missed all of the appointments we had set up. They got back to Halmstad and ran into one of our old investigators, Marcus, and they taught him a lesson as they were waiting for the Bishop to pick them up because no buses were running out to our apartment in Tylösand. After they finished teaching Marcus they were walking outside with him and all of a sudden he stopped walking and screamed out and fell to the ground- foaming out of his mouth and had a seizure. They called the ambulance and he got picked up and taken to the hospital- we were actually able to talk to him on the bus this morning and he is doing fine. But that is so scary! They got the numbers of the people who came and helped them with Marcus and we are going to teach them this week! ...miracles everyday. 

After that experience, they got in the car with the bishop and as they were driving home, there was a huge tree in the road and so the bishop said that he had a chain saw in the back of the car- they thought he was joking. He wasn’t. They got out and cut the tree and made an opening for the car to get through. Hahaha. Needless to say, Halmstad had a lot of adventures that I missed out on. The next morning we were planning on doing the big switch with all of the sisters to get us back in our areas before our lessons that day, so Sister Bass and I went outside to see the first snowfall in Sweden! We walked in the insane wind to the train station, to find that there were no trains leaving all day. We got on a bus to Kristianstad so that Syster Bass and Randall could get back together and I was literally stuck in Kristianstad with Syster Richin’s companion, Fawcett, for the rest of the night. There were no buses or trains leaving, so what was intended to be a one day sister split turned into three. Of course, being stuck in Kristianstad was actually a blessing! 

It was so fun to be back there walking those streets that are so familiar to me. It was the weirdest feeling to be there though because it was so familiar and everything was the same and yet I felt like I was supposed to be home in Halmstad! But it was so fun to see the apartment, and Isam, and the progress with the construction haha. We went to the Sandelins that night for dinner and oh do I love them. Noah was so excited to show me the new Smurf characters that he has collected and I had a lot of fun catching up with Sara.
The next day the winds calmed down in Kristianstad and there were blue skies but it was supposedly a blizzard in Halmstad. We tried calling every train company all morning long and none of them had any information about what was going to happen. Long story short, we caught a train later that evening, the sisters in Halmstad caught a bus and we all met back up in Helsingborg to be re-united! The Halmstad Elders along with 8 others had been stuck in the Helsingborg apartment for two days straight. Hahaha. We all made it back safely. And now the snow is melted and it is blue skies again. But we did lose a lot more trees. :( poor trees (again.) Well, besides that not much happened here! It was a long week and quite adventurous and I am excited for a full week of work this next week. I can already tell that I am going to be a weird return missionary because on days that we are stuck inside or can't get any work done- I go insane! It will be weird to not have something actively planned for every hour of the day when I get home and I am afraid that it will be a hard transition. Haha good thing I don’t have to worry about that for 9 more months.

This week I read a talk that Kristin sent me by Elder Oaks. It is called "The Challenge to Become." I don’t know if it was from conference this year or not, but it is awesome and I suggest reading it! He emphasizes that our gospel means a lot more than just testifying of its truthfulness. It is a gospel that challenges us to be "converted." He says that we as members cannot merely testify that we know that it is true and declare it, but that we must be converted- to do and to become. It requires us to always act and to become someone better. He also says that the importance of conversion and becoming should cause us as members to reduce our concentration and statistical measures of actions and focus more on what our brothers and sisters are and what they are striving to become. We need to be less judgmental of others, knowing that through the atonement, we can all become something greater. 

Senja said something similar. She said that we should treat our husbands (or anyone) as who they have the potential to become. I love that. It is not about what we have done it is about moving forward. We will not be judged according to every mistake we have made, rather, we will be judged on who we have become at the end of our adventures here on earth. I love that challenge: the challenge to be converted. The challenge to do and to become. The challenge to work hard and to never stop improving to reach the measure of our creation. I love the gospel. I love that it challenges us to do more than move through the motions of life.

I am LOVING this time of year. It is such a wonderful time to focus on the gospel and family. I love you my dear family. Thank you for your love and examples.

puss puss (kiss kiss)

Syster Christensen

Monday, December 2, 2013

Första Advent

outside our apartment at 8 am
What an awesome and busy week! On Monday we didn’t have a p-day because we went to the temple on Saturday instead. So after emailing, we went out and preached the gospel and had a successful day. 
happy birthday to me from Syster Hosenfeld!
I had a wonderful birthday on Tuesday and I cannot believe I am 20 years old! #oldievoldie. My companion is the cutest and blew up 20 balloons and wrote funny things on the outside of all of them and then on the inside she wrote one thing she loves about me and is grateful for. It was so so so nice and thoughtful. 

We got out of the apartment at 8 am to teach someone genealogy at 9:30. And once we get out of our apartment, we are out for the whole day since we live so far away. Our mission president has asked that we are in the church a certain amount of time every week to teach people genealogy and we have had no success. Every contact and tract we do, is inviting people to do genealogy and for the past two months, the only success we had, was with a member. 

But two weeks ago we knocked on a lady’s door, Jenneke and she said she would love to come do it! She came and we helped her get started but she didn’t have very much information. It was cool to see her call around to her family for information and see her excitement about getting her tree started. I know that President Newell is very inspired and that if we continue to do what he has asked us to do, we will find success with our missionary work. We taught lots of other lessons that day and then went to sushi and hot chocolate for dinner! It was the best birthday ever! 

 I even got a call from our old investigator in Kristianstad, and he wished me a happy birthday. It was good to hear from him but I don’t know how he remembered my birthday and got my number... "He's nice. But creepy. Like Santa!"- Despicable me.
syster haynes
On Wednesday, I spent the day in Lund on sister exchanges with Syster Haynes, a sister training leader and one of dad's old seminary students from East haha. She is so cute and I learned a lot from her. We have so many incredible sisters in this mission- Syster Newell told us that before my group of sisters, there were 14 sisters and now we have 50! Holy. There is also a transfer coming up on the 20th and there will be 12 Elders coming and 0 sisters- I am worried that I will be transferred because we will finish training on the 16th and I want to be here in Halmstad for christmas!
Cute Sys. Hosie
This week we lost my favorite investigator, Jolanka. She is so sweet and loves us so much but we are having some serious communication issues. She doesn’t know very much Swedish and she cannot understand us- We are so sad. It breaks my heart to be holding something in my hands that I know could bless someones life and see them not have the patience or time or courage to take it. I pray that she will come in contact with the gospel again in her life. 

On a better note- I was talking to a guy named David on the bus and we ended up teaching him the next day! It went really well and he is super interested and cool. I love our investigators and I see so much potential with all of them. Sister Hosenfeld and I have really been focusing on increasing our effectiveness this week and we talked to more people than usual which resulted in more phone numbers and random lessons on the bus or in the park and being blessed with more lessons than we have ever had here in Halmstad.
hot chocolate!
I am so excited for this Christmas season. The Swedes do something called "The First Advent" where they have four candles and every Sunday before Christmas, they light one of the candles. It began yesterday, so we went to a members house for dinner to begin the advent! Here in Halmstad they do a "light fest" every Sunday until Christmas for the advent- where they light up all of the Christmas lights all over the city. It is beautiful and so fun. I love the Swedish traditions and I am trying to soak up all of it because I will only be here for ONE Christmas! It's all going by so fast and I am enjoying every minute. Whenever I have feelings of wanting to just take a break or stop- I imagine myself being home at this time next year, and I know that I will be missing this place, these people, and my experiences.

Every month for the past eight months, I have chosen one Christlike attribute to work on. There are nine Christlike attributes listed in Preach my Gospel, and this month is my 9th month. Which means by the end of this month I will be half way and I will re-focus each month to a Christlike attribute- going through each of them again until I go home. I have learned so much from applying myself to be more like Him. This month I have chosen knowledge. I want to focus all of my studies to learning more about the doctrine of the gospel so that I can better understand and therefore, help our investigators understand. Instead of trying to finish the Book of Mormon in a month, I sometimes spend a whole hour on one chapter. New ideas and thoughts have been opened up to me and I have been able to apply all that I learn to every aspect of our teaching and work in general.
you must know I love pez :)
Recently, I have been studying a lot about Satan and his power that he has over us as imperfect humans. In every scripture that I studied, it talks about how powerful Satan is and how he can influence the hearts of man. On my mission, I have strongly felt his influence. These are personal feelings that I have not openly shared besides to my parents, but I feel that I should share them now. He has made me feel "lesser", inadequate, guilty, and I have had real feelings of doubt and sadness in my heart. He knows my weaknesses and he knows that if he makes me feel low, that I will not be as focused on the work that I have been called to do. I am grateful for my parents who have strengthened me and have uplifted me. For their inspiring words to choose God and to fill my mind with light. I have been happy and grateful my whole mission, but I have also struggled. These struggles and feelings from Satan have taught me so much about the Light of Christ. I know that Satan is real and that his power is real. And I also know that God is real. That his love, his grace, and his mercy is infinite. It is my wish to all of you to choose God. He is love. He is light. I have a testimony stronger than ever that Christ’s atonement is real and that He loves me. He loves all of us. I am grateful for what I have learned from this experience because my testimony that I share several times a day, is so much more authentic. Because I really do know that what I am saying is true. I love the gospel. I love the scriptures. They are good and they are true. I love feasting upon them everyday. I love teaching from them. They are up-lifting. They come from God. Read them. I love you all,