Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coming Home

Our farewell celebration from the Mission Office staff
Goodbye Relief Society board - St Johns Branch
Christmas celebration at our apartment with President & Sister Jones, Assistants, Sister Rogers,
Sister Fredline, Sister Nelson, Elder & Sister Davis
Christmas at the Mission Home
Great missionaries going home in December
Missionaries to the resuce
Our helping crew to get us out of MI before the huge storm hits
More of our missionary help crew
Saying goodbye to Russ and Tammy Lincoln
On the way home - Carthage Jail
Remnants of the ice storm that recently hit the area
Headed home on streets of ice
Nauvoo Temple
Ice that took us off the road in Wyoming
Miracles: we were not hit by the truck flying past us as we hit black ice and jack-knifed going off the road, we went off the road at a point of gradual, gentle sloping and not a drop-off, we were not hit by other vehicles who hit the same black ice and slid all over the road, the car and trailer did not roll as we spun 180 degrees around and ended up going the wrong direction alongside the freeway, tires pulled off from the force of the impact, we were uninjured, our car and trailer both could be repaired enough to continue traveling the next day, we convinced our children NOT to come out in the storm to rescue us that night, the storm abated overnight and the next day was clear allowing us to drive home in safety.
Towing our damaged car and trailer back to Rawlings, WY

Kids waiting on the front porch for our arrival, December 23, 2008.

There is no way to put into words our feelings as we conclude our mission. It's been the best of times and the worst of times....thankfully the best has won out in the end. We've gone about saying our goodbyes these last days and weeks, not knowing if we will ever see many of these amazing missionaries and dear friends again. We feel we are leaving part of our hearts here and know that we will never forget the impact these nearly two years have had on our lives. We've said it before and will say it again now, we will never be the same because of the experiences we've had, the incredible missionaries we've rubbed shoulders with and the marvelous people we now call our friends. Serving a senior couple mission is a life changing experience. How blessed we have been to have had it in our lives.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Changing of the Guard - Step 2

We just completed the final Zone Conferences of our mission. We traveled to three different locations on three different days. Each conference was wonderful, each was sad.
We were asked to bear our testimonies and we cried as each of these opportunities came. And now, zone conferences are done for another transfer period. We will have returned home when they meet again in January 2009.
We will never again see many of these amazing young, and senior, missionaries. We may never again have the opportunity to learn and be taught in such a setting.
It's hard to have such times come to an end.
It's hard to say goodbye.

We received many letters and notes expressing kindness and love. That's what our mission has been filled with, kindness and love from so many. We don't feel worthy of the love they have so generously expressed. It seems we have not done enough to deserve such kindness. What can one ever do to deserve kindness? Our missionaries are just good to the core, and it shows in every aspect of their lives. How blessed we are to have it overflow onto us.

They will be forever in our hearts. I suppose that we will never be the same. I hope that we will never be the same.
Our gratitude knows no bounds.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a fun Thanksgiving with many of the senior missionaries in Big Rapids today. None of us knew quite what to do with just an assignment to bring, rather than preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner. But we somehow managed with the extra time and energy that afforded us, and had a fun day of feasting, creating a new Christmas decoration, playing games, and visiting. It's not nearly so hard to be away from family when we have good friends to spend the holiday with.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baptism Day!

We recently had a very special day with a gentleman we've been teaching for awhile, Russell Lincoln. Russ was baptized on November 15th, and Ron was able to perform that sacred ordinance. It was an especially sweet experience as we participated with this kind man who has physical disabilities that necessitate being in a wheelchair. A baptism that was very challenging worked out beautifully as we witnessed many special miracles. We are so grateful to have the privilege of being friends with Brother Lincoln. This is a day we will long remember.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homeward Bound

We've found that music often portrays our feelings better than words can express. When we listened to 'Homeward Bound' on a Tabernacle choir CD, in many ways it said what we are feeling:

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red,
When the summer's ceased its gleaming, when the corn is past its prime,
When adventure's lost its meaning, I'll be homeward bound in time.
Bind me not to the pasture; chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I'll return to you somehow.

If you find it's me you're missing, if you're hoping I'll return, To your thoughts I'll soon be listening, in the road I'll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end, and the path I'll be retracing when I'm homeward bound again.
Bind me not to the pasture; chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I'll return to you somehow.

And so, our mission journey nears its end. We have less than 4 weeks left in Michigan, and the path to home we'll soon be retracing. The sacrifice of our children and family, in some instances, has been great. But they 'set us free to find our calling' and we'll return to them somehow. What a special journey it has been. Filled with challenges and growth, great joy and love. It has not been easy. We suppose it was not intended to be. Kind of like our journey through life. And when that journey is near its end, we know these years will be treasured, never to be forgotten ones.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Season of Gratitude

The past few months we've enjoyed many special blessings. This verse from Alma sums up our feelings “…live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” Alma 34:38

It's nearly impossible to make a list of our blessings, but here are some we're especially grateful for:

Wonderful missionaries who have become our substitute children, our forever friends, our heroes and examples of what is good and right in the world

Heavenly assitance in the Mission Office helping us do things we do not know how to do and giving us energy we did not know we could have

Celebrating the 36th anniversary of our marriage in the mission field, and being too busy to really celebrate, but being okay with that

Despite all her problems, our wonderful land of America, and so many who have and continue to sacrifice for our freedom and safety

Daily uplifting and spiritually nourishing morning devotionals with our office staff

Recognizing now more than ever, that Heavenly Father knows and loves His children, and hears and answers prayers

Our wonderful, faithful children, who have become our truest best friends, and who are trying so hard to do and be their very best each day

Precious grandchildren who add sparkle and laughter to every conversation, and the announcement of a baby granddaughter to join our family in February ‘09

Missionary miracles – they are everywhere, and testify of heavenly help in the details of our lives

Less active members finding their way back to our Heavenly Father and activity in the Church, and so many seeking for something better in their lives, and finding it in the gospel of Jesus Christ

Observing the faithfulness and sacrifice of senior and younger missionaries serving around the world

Our children’s wonderful blogs that keep us connected with home and family

Webcams, telephones and emails – the modern miracles of senior missionary service

Zone conferences filled with learning, growth, insight and goodness

Safety in stormy weather travel

Appreciating the watchful care, love, and concern of President and Sister Jones for their missionaries and participating as the work goes forward in our mission

The blessings and power of the priesthood - amazing and life changing

Beautiful Fall days and cool Fall evenings and seasons of change

Wonderful members of the Church being 'examples of the believer' as they try to do their best every day in following the Savior

Family visits, phone calls, emails, and packages from home

General Relief Society meeting and General Conference – remarkable men and women providing spiritual insight and direction for our journey on earth

The baptism yesterday of a gentleman we've been teaching, and the miracles that were involved in that

Coming to understand better what life is all about, and what really is most important

Monday, November 3, 2008

Autumn in MIchigan #2

Dinner at our house with some of the best!
We're on the Departure Board :(
Elder Lopez headed home
Elder Brinton celebrating "hump day" - his half mission mark
Sweet friend Sister Rogers serving with us in the Mission Office
Ever faithful, wonderful Sister Fredline serving in the Mission Office
Let's eat!
Elder Brinton and Hermonatt - serving with us in St Johns
Sister power #2

Monday, October 27, 2008

Music & The Spoken Word

What a great thought from the most recent broadcast of Music & The Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Delivered On: October 19th 2008
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell

Civility and Respect

Can you recall a time when someone treated you with particular kindness? Maybe it was a stranger, smiling as he held a door for you, or someone who sincerely asked how you were doing, or a person who was patient with you during one of life’s rough days.
Genuine respect is not easy to find, and it surprises us when we encounter it. Today it seems civility is waning, as people push and shove, bark and shout, replacing etiquette with attitude. We are so unaccustomed to the respectful language of eras past that old movies and old letters often seem stilted and old-fashioned.
We can’t turn the clock back and live again in a time when respect was expected, but we can try to stem the tide of rudeness and disrespect, simply by being polite and respectful. Even small acts cause a ripple effect that can inspire others, because those who receive courtesy are more likely to extend it.
It may be something as simple as complimenting someone for a job well done. It may be listening to someone who is down-and-out, granting him the same dignity we would give someone of high social rank. It may be extending extra patience to the elderly, to the disabled, and to children. Whatever the act is, it works best if we try to see others as their Creator sees them: as people of value, people with immense potential, regardless of their current station in life.
An ideal place to start is in our homes, where we can strive to hold back the rudeness of the world and through our example teach our families a better way.
There is beauty in civility and respect, and that beauty is worth preserving. It takes such little effort, yet it can have far-reaching effects. Let us fill the world with these shining, never-to-be-forgotten moments.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn in Michigan

We've loved the beautiful colors we see each day as we drive to the Mission Office. All but three of these photos were taken within a few miles of our home and the office. Autumn in Michigan is awesome!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Changing of the Guard - Step 1

Well, it was inevitable. The day we would be released from our mission seemed so far off. It looms ever closer.

Last night we were notified that it is official. A couple has been called to take our place in the Mission Office when we depart in a little over 2 months. We have a definite mix of emotions. We're very excited to be home with our children and grandchildren. It will be great to see friends and family. But leaving our missionaries and Michigan experiences is not something we are ready for.

Nevertheless, ready or not, December 19th will be here before we know it. We were concerned if we would have sufficient time to train the new couple. There is so much to running a mission office. We knew it would take at least a month. We're ever so grateful that they will be here around mid November. It took us much longer than a month to learn. We're sure they will be much faster learners than we were.

And so, the beginning of the end is in sight. Who knew it would be so bittersweet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Missionary Miracles

One of the things we've become aware of the last year are the miracles around us every day, which really feel like very tender mercies of the Lord in our lives.

We are frequently enabled in our Mission Office labors in amazing ways. Having important things brought to our minds that need to be attended to; being able to figure out computer programs or lay out documents or spread sheets in ways that we have no idea how to accomplish, but are able to do; having the right person that knows the right information 'just happen to come into the office' right when needed; having strength and energy to work very long days and nights, very frequently; ...and the list could go on and on.

Recently we've experienced some health related things that are very special miracles. Quite suddenly last month I had alot of pain in my lower back. I recognized the intense pain immediately as I had experienced it once before when I had injured my back and was diagnosed with a bulging disc. I knew it could herniate if I was not very careful. When this happened the last time 4-5 years ago, it took many months of doing almost nothing physically for it to heal. This time, it has improved drastically in only about a month. I've gone to the office every day, and quite miraculously, the longer we are there, the better it feels. There is no explanation for this except for the kindness and blessings of the Lord. How could working and sitting at a desk for 8-12 hours a day make an injured back better? When I am at home, I've discovered that an old chair that we brought with us to use at a desk is the exactly perfect fit for relieving stress and pressure on my spine. I roll it from room to room and am comfortable whenever sitting in it. Who knew when we got this chair at a garage sale, when we tossed it in the moving trailer, when we had already used it for 1 1/2 years here in MI, that it would be such a blessing to an aching back now. Well, we know who...

And, Ron has recently experienced his own miracle. In fact, our miracles happened on the same day. The day I went to the Mission Office even though I could not get out of bed alone, or dress alone, or hardly walk - Ron received word that the recent testing of his heart showed that it was back in rhythm. He has had arrythmia for at least 5 years, had numerous procedures and medications to try to get things back the way they were supposed to be, without success, and has had declining health ever since. Now, out of the blue, his heart is back in proper rhythm. If that is not a miracle, we don't know what is.

This week Ron got a cold. One of those miserable ones that put you to bed and make you wish you could just sleep for a week. These colds usually put Ron down for a week or two. He's had a few crummy days, but the fourth day into this, he is feeling better, not worse. He has just gone to the office and done the best he could each day, and is amazed at how this is turning out. Another miracle.

We know there are times in life that these things are not so apparent. Times when things are just tough. We've had some of those times. But even in those times, there are special miracles and evidences of our Heavenly Fathers love and care. We hope to be more watchful and aware of them in the future. Today, we are extremely grateful for the special miracles He continues to bless us with.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

General Conference - Michigan style

Today was our fourth General Conference in Michigan. We loved it!

It's a bit different than back home. For one thing, we're two hours later, so the first session begins at noon rather than 10 am. That makes for a leisurely morning, of sorts. We were able to complete many of our typical preparation day labors: study, laundry, cleaning, baking, etc.
Another difference is that we travel to our little branch building to view the sessions.

The heating and air conditioning is all the same in our building - cold. So, we bundle up in blankets to stay comfortable. This heating/air conditioning problem is one of the few great frustrations for Elder Brunner. Having worked in the industry and designed heating and air conditioning systems and overseen installation of such in churches for 40 years, he has to bite his tongue every week when he can not solve the very poor heating and air conditioning the saints here have to put up with. But that is another story for another time. Back to conference...

Because it is some distance to get to the church, those of us who do not have satellite transmission at our home share a meal in between the sessions. Today we made a potato casserole (because we were given potatoes from someones garden) and a breakfast cake. Tomorrow we are bringing a squash casserole (because we acquired squash from someone elses garden) and a chicken pasta salad. So, we finish the first session, enjoy a lovely meal, view the wonderful specials in between sessions (which today were on the life of President Monson the first hour, and the Savior the second hour), then we see the second session.

After this we went to visit one of our less active families, had a great visit, and then back for the Priesthood session. The branch provides pizza before that session begins. Which we were too late for Elder B to enjoy any of, darn.

I headed to the little nearby strip mall and filled up the car with gas, got a couple things at the dollar store (which there are a zillion of in Michigan), a few groceries, and then home. I started working on our food for tomorrow, and then Elder B got home and told me about the wonderful Priesthood session, and now we are preparing for bed as the hour is approaching 11pm. And that is our conference Saturday.

The talks were just what we needed to hear, the spirit was strong, the feelings and insights many and powerful. It is always a delight to participate in General Conference. That is no different in Michigan, just a different setting, but the same amazing spiritual feast. We look forward to another wonderul day tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Family Visit

September brought the special blessing of having some of our family visit us. Ron's brother Fred, and his daughter Deborah and husband Cory made a quick jaunt to Michigan for the weekend. We loved having them here and catching up on the family. Unfortunately, it rained the entire time they were here, so our planned trip to see Lake Superior, lighthouses, musical water fountain, rollercoasters and submarine, were all tossed aside in the torrents. But, we had fun anyway, and ate our way around the Lansing area!
Cory and Deb were fabulous as they sang for our church on Sunday, with Fred's expert accompaniment. Fun family time for a whole 1.75 days!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Cool Michigan Stuff

A walking path in a park. Places like this are everywhere.

Look closely and you will see a heron making his way to the water,
right off our patio. We love to watch him catch fish in the pond.

Deer are everywhere, because there are trees everywhere. Even in the city it is not uncommon to see deer, squirrels, rabbits, etc around businesses and homes. There were 6 deer in this group, and some wild turkeys who just happened to saunter across the yard at the same time, close to dusk.

Just some of our great missionaries,
unarguably one of the coolest of Michigan "stuff"!

What is this? We have no idea, but the trees everywhere have these yucky looking things in them - like giant spider webs wrapped around some poor defenseless prey. Gross!

A common Michigan scene - lake, houses built around lake, ducks, geese and swans swimming in lake: beautiful!

We were headed back home from zone conference in Muskegon and decided to take the scenic route. We happened across a park with a bunch of these old fashioned bridges, moved all to one location so people could see how they were built in the days of yore.

We're driving to church, and there is a field filled with geese, just hanging out, eating and visiting; at least 75-100 geese, right next to the street, businesses in the background. Very cool!

This is a cool silo that is unique to Michigan (well, at least we've never seen one like it anywhere else). It's made of tiles and is very unique.
We loved it.