Happy semi-anniversary to Elder Ashton and me.....6 months ago today we entered the MTC in Provo and I had no idea what to expect but never could have predicted all the experiences we have had - good, bad, ugly, sorrowful, uplifting, funny, inspiring.....I could go on and on. It has been an adjustment and I still miss all those I left behind fiercely, but we are having a great time!
This past week it was almost like I was in Arizona because Elder Ashton was gone most of the week. He left on Tuesday morning to travel around eastern North Carolina for 5 days giving training to young Elders and Sisters on how to take care of their mission vehicles. He taught them about checking the oil, checking their tires, safe driving , etc., etc. He said he had a great time but was tired at the end of each day and I think he realized he did not have as much energy as those 20 year old kids do! He will be doing more training this week, but will be home every night. This past week he didn't make it home until I was sound asleep on Friday night and left again on Saturday morning. He left his shiny new red truck so I had wheels! - and could go anywhere I thought I could get to without getting lost :) The first night I went to Ross, to Target, and just driving around looking at the beautiful plants and trees before I ever went home from the office. Sad to say there was an officer involved shooting on Wednesday morning where a young black man was killed and there was a fair amount of unrest in the town (there was already some problems because 2 members of city administration had just been forced to resign) so I decided to stay close to home. I waited until Friday after work and took another little drive to take a few pictures so you can all see some of the things I see.
We had some heavy rain early last week where the rain came down in buckets!!! It is good because that washes the pollen out of the air for a day or two. I came home for lunch one day and found this leaf blown up against my door. I was intrigued by Mother Nature's artwork - pollen that had gotten wet while on the leaf and then dried in a pattern.
I think the pollen is calming down a bit but that might be due to all the rain yesterday and last night....I know my allergies are much calmer today!
I noticed these flowers outside the church where we work every day.....they were on the front side and I never go in or out that side but they stood out to me. When I went out to take a picture I was even more intrigued to find the center of the flower is made up of tiny flowers!
The variety and intricacies of what I see around me every day is astounding!
When I arrived home on Tuesday evening, two very colorful cardinals were sitting about 3 feet from the door of the truck. I was really excited about getting a picture that close so reached to get my phone out of my purse and by the time I turned around the birds were flying away into a tree. I climbed out of the truck and tried to sneak up on them. But they had flown into a tree that was the perfect camouflage - how would I know which was a red leaf and which was a cardinal?
I was finally able to capture one from very far away when I realized the birds had not flown into the tree but were on the ground, blending in with the leaves down there.
Can you see the cardinal? - it's about 1/3 of the way down from the top.
I learned some interesting lessons this week- just from everyday occurrences. The first lesson I learned had to do with mt recent surgery and the allergies I have been suffering from. It is kind of hard to keep blowing my runny nose when my nose is still tender (but looking pretty good).
Anyway, as I was blowing and blowing my nose the other day I was reminded of an on-line discussion the Ashton family had on a private web site a few years ago asking if you "honk" when you blow your nose? and I answered yes to that question. I realized the other day that the pitch of my "honk" has changed and then just started to laugh out loud when I realized that my nose is just like a wind "instrument" and if the shape of the tube changes the pitch of the sound will change. So, now I "honk" in a tenor range rather than bass....might be something to consider if you are thinking about getting a nose job done ;-D
Elder Ashton and I pass this property several times a day on our way to and from the office....and I stare out the window at it every time. I just find the setting so tranquil and it just draws me in. I think I have mentioned before that they have various kinds of animals roaming the property and the other day I was able to capture some of those along with a very unusual evergreen tree - I've never seen anything like it before.
The horses were out.....I love the furry little pony!
The pretty white house and fence with a smaller building closer to the water.
A pair of geese were just getting in the water at the bottom of the property. Their personal pier and houses across the Elizabeth River
Another view from the edge of the bridge at the end of their property.
The unusual evergreen in the corner of the property. Do you notice that all the branches and cones hang down from the limbs? Anybody know what kind of tree this is?
As I was walking back to the truck after taking the pictures, I noticed that the property is called "Wildwood". I think that is perfect. I missed getting pictures of the llama, the goats and the ducks -but maybe another time.
On Friday we took about 30 minutes out of our work day at lunch time for a little levity. These young missionaries had just finished a meeting in our building and in their "world" they say they are "dyeing" when they go home.....meaning their mission life is over. Sooooooo, our mission secretary, Carol Stoecker, has been with the mission since May of 2013 when they first started planning for the mission which was organized in July 2013. She lives here in the area and has come into the office for about 4-5 hours every day to write letters, make travel arrangements, help with communications between missionaries and parents when there is a special need, etc. She will be finishing her mission on Thursday, April 30th, so she decided she wanted to go out with a bang and planned a wake for herself. And she even provided the luncheon after her wake - pizza and chocolate cake. It was great to see how much the young missionaries have grown to love her and how much they will miss her.
Everyone was trying to look like they were mourning, but I see quite a few smiles :)
Sister Stoecker and Sister Parry who will go home in September. This young lady has an amazing voice and can play the violin so beautifully it will bring tears to your eyes!
Sister Stoecker and Elder Willis. Elder Willis will go home in June - he's a really nice, but very skinny young man. I think his mom will need to fatten him up when he gets home.
Another lesson learned from Mother Nature this week. As I was driving around, looking for pretty pictures to share with all of you, I noticed some delicate, lacy light purple flowers/vines drooping over a fence. I was in a place where I couldn't stop but ran on to some others later in a couple of places.
Running over fences and climbing up into other trees, all around you see these delicate little light purple flowers. I've learned it is Wisteria......and I really like it - very pretty. However, after it was brought to the area and planted because of its ornamental beauty, homeowners began to realize that this plant needed to be cared for regularly - or it would take over other things in their yards, sometimes even choking out the other vegetation. As I was reading about it the other night, I learned that it must be pruned at least once a month and then pruned back by half the previous years growth just prior to winter. In other words, it's a lot of work to keep it under control!
As I thought about how beautiful the Wisteria is, I realized it is even more beautiful when it it cared for and its growth is contained rather than left to grow wildly. Isn't that much like our lives - how much more beautiful and happy they can be when we follow rules and guidelines rather than living for the moment with no thought for the future or for how our actions affect others. Below is a well contained Wisteria - BEAUTIFUL! - just as our lives can be when they are well-contained.
Saturday was a busy day. It was rainy and Elder Ashton was gone. The laundry needed to be done, the groceries needed to be purchased but most important, Sister Ashton NEEDED a pedicure. I've only had one in the 5.5 months we've been back here and didn't go back because I thought the salon was dirty and not very well organized. I finally asked Sister Stoecker (the mission secretary) if she knew of a place and she told me there was a good one over in Suffolk - about 8 miles away. So I pumped up my courage and told Siri where I wanted to go - and we made it. The salon was so nice and clean and very nice technicians who couldn't speak much English. The one who did my toes was so gentle she didn't hurt me a bit when she got my ingrown toenails taken care of. I'll be going back to see BB in about 6 weeks and my best friend Siri will go along with me because she got me there without any problems :)
I went straight to the grocery store from there and was busy putting groceries away when the two young Sister Missionaries called to ask me if I would play the piano for a baptism that was starting in 2 hours. I told them I would because they were desperate, but to expect that I would make mistakes because I was out of practice. I got the groceries all put away and 2 more loads of laundry done and then quickly changed from my jeans to a skirt and headed to the church. What a tender mercy I received as I was able to play about 10 songs (some for prelude) with only one or two mistakes. I have not played the piano even one note for about 10 months so I was really surprised I could play the chosen songs and others appropriate for quiet contemplation. And to add to the tender mercy- the neuropathy in my fingers did not hurt at all while I was playing or for a couple of hours afterward! I know those things were help from above to bring peace and calm to the meeting. The young mother spoke about her journey in deciding to join the church and how she was looking for a church that would help her repent so she could stop feeling guilty about some things she had done. She felt impressed to come to our church one particular Sunday and found that the theme for Sacrament meeting was Repentence. She left the meeting in tears and went straight to the bishop to tell him she wanted to be baptized. The young Sister Missionaries have been teaching her and she seemed ecstatic after the baptism.
One last bit of spring beauty to share with you. The Azalea and Rhododendron bushes are blooming - lots of glorious colors! I couldn't resist snapping this picture as we drove by.
My eyes see lots of beauty around me and my heart feels lots of joy as I meet and learn to love more and more people. We have 14 missionaries going home on May 12 and I have grown pretty close to 8 of the 14 as I have helped them out in the office. I'm sure I'll miss them after they go home, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to know them.
These last 6 months of service have been a wonderful learning and growing experience for me!