Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Beautiful Adventure

Sunday, March 27

I took a breath, blinked my eyes and another week is gone.   I really do not know how we are already 1/4 the way through 2016!!!!   But the calendar tells me it must be true so I guess I must believe it and plan accordingly.

Monday we had our regular office staff meeting and that started with a rundown of the schedule for the next month.   As I listened to President Baker go through the schedule of Interviews, Leadership Meeting, more interviews, Speaking in stake conferences, and then the next transfer, I  was overwhelmed in thinking about the schedule our mission president and his wife keep.   There is NO WAY I could even begin to keep up that pace......I'm tired at the end of the day and more than ready to come back to the apartment and rest......and it sounds like they get very little rest and yet they continue to show love and concern for every single missionary.   I sure have grown to love and respect them while we have been out here,

Tuesday morning this envelope arrived in the mail......looks like it was dropped on the ground and run over.   We continue to have problems with the USPS and it makes me reluctant to send anything in the mail.   This envelope contained two missionary debit cards and I didn't dare forward them in the mail so sent them over to Newport News with the President and Sister Baker.

Spring continues to try to break through.....I have noticed that there are numerous Dogwood trees coming out in bloom along our route to the office.   This one is a very light yellow - haven't seen any pink ones yet.

 Tuesday was regular tasks at work until the Sister Missionaries called and invited me to go on a teaching appointment with them at 3 p.m.  I made sure that Elder Ashton was going to be in the office and went off to the appointment with them.  Seems like I get an opportunity about every other week to assist with a teaching appointment and although I am still a little nervous about offending someone, it gets easier each time.

Tuesday evening after we arrived back at the apartment, I was fixing a little dinner (maybe with a bit of a grumpy attitude) when I looked out the window to see this pretty sky.....made my grumpy attitude disappear immediately :)

Wednesday we were invited to go to dinner at the home of one of the members that is just coming back into activity.   I thought it was going to be us, the member Sister, and the Sister Missionaries.   When we got there she still had the little kids she tends (4 of them) and the parents of those kids.   We had over 12 for dinner and it was pretty chaotic......made me homesick for our family dinners in Arizona!   It was surprising to me with all the noise and confusion, but the Sister Missionaries read a scripture about Easter and even amongst all the confusion I could feel the spirit - hope the others could feel it too.

Thursday and Friday were mostly uneventful with continuing construction in the building and regular work tasks.   The weather was supposed to be relatively nice on Saturday so we decided to drive over to Norfolk (about 17 miles away) and go to the Botanical Gardens over there.   WOW, what a feast for the eyes!!!   They were having a special exhibit title Asian Lanterns....and only part of the garden was open - it fully opens on May 1st but we are running out of time to see things so decided to take advantage of this past weekend.

These are flowers growing alongside the road as you drive into the garden.   I believe these are Azaleas.   This garden was originally built on 30 acres in the 1930's as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps works and was built by African Americans.   They were paid $,75 per day for draining the swamp and planting the beautiful flowers and trees.  The size of the gardens was increased later and I think they said it is now 150 acres - we only saw a small part of it.

Daffodils and pansies in front of the visitor's center.

Another big clump of a different variety of Azaleas.

A net full of more traditional Japanese Lanterns as you drive up to the Visitor's Center

The "dragon" and flowers in front of the Visitor's Center.

This was a small display in the Visitor's Center - two different models that were given to General Douglas MacArthur by the Japanese.   One is a small pagoda built of wood and the other is a box that has gold and silver leaf on the inside.

I noticed this group of miniature pansies in one of the flowerbeds and felt very nostalgic as I looked at them.   I remember we used to have this kind of pansies at the back of our house when I was a young girl.

A fully open bright yellow tulip in front of the Visitor's Center.

I found these spiky little tulips that were in the bed surrounding the fountain to be intriguing.   They were very small and the petals were very spiky.

This was a pretty fountain surrounded by various flowers and was in front of the Visitor's Center.

As I sat on the tram waiting for it to leave, I had the gurgling of the fountain on my left side and this scenic view on my right.....with a very light breeze blowing.   I sat there for about 10 minutes and felt all stress just melt away!

These butterflies were part of the Asian Lantern display alongside the road.  They sure were colorful!

A light pink bunch of Azaleas and some salmon colored ones in the background. 

More purple and white

These flowers were about 3" across and even though my sniffer doesn't work very well anymore, I caught a tiny scent......they smelled really good :)

Clearwater lake - it supplies some of the backup water for Norfolk and Virginia Beach

This is part of the statuary garden.

Another part of the statuary garden

You can see the white Bradford Pear tree and the orchid colored Saucer Magnolia pretty!

Bright Fuschia Azaleas

Note all the flowering trees and the small canal running in the background

Lighter pink Azaleas

Miniature daffodils at the base of the tree

Whimsical cherry blossom trees in front of the real thing - part of the Asian Lantern display

Moon and Stars party of the display

Entrance to the Children's Garden portion of the property

A 200 year old white oak that grows beside the cobblestone bridge.   The bridge is paved with cobblestones that were used on the streets (1700-1800) of Norfolk.

A few dogwood blossoms popping out on the closest tree

Picture an idyllic Saturday afternoon on the lake......this is a real life picture of that :)

More Saucer Magnolias along the path by the lake.

Another example of interesting bark on a tree here in Virginia.   I have no idea what kind of tree it was, but the bake almost looked like bricks had been laid on the outside of the tree - very interesting!

Daffodils at the base of the trees

Purple Azaleas, yellow daffodils, yellow forsythia.......I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world and that I am enjoying another colorful spring in Virginia.   I am blessed to experience all this.

Easter church service was especially good this morning.   Our new bishop related a story that he attributed to a talk given a number of years ago by President Hinckley.   The story was about a schoolteacher who was hired to teach in a one room school house with only boys for students.  The boys had succeeded in running off the previous 3 teachers and this teacher was determined to succeed. Of course the boys had other ideas but on the first day the new teacher let the boys set the rules for the school and he also let them set the punishment for breaking any of the rules.  The rules were things like no swearing, no stealing, etc.   The punishment was being hit with a rod across the back 10 times with no coat on.   

A few weeks later, Big Tom noticed that his lunch was missing and it was soon discovered that little Johnny had stolen the lunch.   The teacher didn't want to exact the punishment on little Johnny, but knew that he must.   He called little Johnny up and told him to take his coat off, only to discover that little Johnny did not have a shirt on under the big coat.   He asked little Johnny why he didn't wear a shirt to school and Johnny explained that since his dad had died they didn't have much money and he only owned one shirt which his mother was washing that day.   Little Johnny started to cry and said he would take the punishment but begged the teacher to let him leave his coat on.   The teacher knew he couldn't do that and was struggling to inflict the first blow when Big Tom came to the front of the room and said he would take Johnny's licking for him.   The teacher agreed after explaining to the class that there is a law that allows another to take the punishment for someone else.  After the 5th blow the rod now little Johnny was sobbing and telling Big Tom he was so sorry that he took his lunch but that he was awfully hungry.  Soon the boys were hugging each other........with gratitude.   Big Tom was glad that he was strong enough to take the licking and that he could help Johnny and Johnny was indebted to Big Tom for taking his licking.

I shed quite a few tears as I reflected on the fact that the Savior has taken upon himself my punishment for sins I may have committed, my sorrows, and my shortcomings.   What wondrous love he has for each one of us!

We've enjoyed a wonderful Easter Sunday - went to dinner at a member's house and had good food and conversation, then met the Sister Missionaries for a lesson.   We are blessed to be able to be here serving.

Happy Easter to one and all from Virginia!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

A "Crazy Mormon" Adventure

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Here we are at the end of another week already.   I am amazed that we are moving forward quickly and will soon be 1/4 done with 2016 and I can hardly remember to write that year.   With the passage of time, I should be able to look outdoors and see more sunshine, but it seems we are stuck with more gray, rainy weather than sunshine ;/

Monday we arrived at the office under gray skies and with puddles all over the parking lot ..... and construction workers and equipment.

This  green machine was sitting in the parking lot, ready to go to work.

Some digging work had commenced the week before...

But within a couple of hours, the rain had stopped and the digging got serious

As I wandered around the office and looked out the windows, I wondered what people driving by must think......and I started to giggle.   One of the other office missionaries asked me what I was laughing at and I told her I was just thinking about how the media blows everything out of proportion and how funny it would be if a reporter was driving by and decided to publish a headline, "Embattled Mormons Build Mote Around Local Building"  I was tempted to make a poster that said, "Nothing to see here-----just plumbing repairs"  This is in front of the entrance to the office so we had to use other doors to the building.

I sure would not want to be one of those workers!
Finally - on Friday afternoon they started to cover the trenches over.

Even in the midst of construction projects, the work of the mission continues.   This last week was more zone conferences and Elder Ashton was busy inspecting missionary cars, but in the midst of that he also had time to sell one car, except for the final paperwork which he left for me to do.   Some of the missionaries call him the Chariot Master and I'm thinking of asking that I be given the title of Jr. Chariot Master because it seems like I have the privilege of helping him out with his tasks on a fairly regular basis.

Thursday was Zone Conference for our area and the missionaries all brought their cars in to be inspected.   For any who know Elder Ashton, you won't be surprised to know that he has the whole thing well organized and missionaries know they are to park their cars in every other space and leave the hood and trunk open.   Elder Ashton,  Elder Wright, and young Brother Goldade inspected 17 cars thoroughly and it took them about 2.5 hours.  Thank goodness they had one of our rare beautiful weather days for it! 

One of the missionaries told me they worked really hard to make sure their car was clean - they spent most of Monday cleaning it but by the time Thursday rolled around (they park in a dirt driveway, under a tree) it was dusty again.   He was disappointed that they didn't get a prize after they worked so hard so I told him he needed to take his complaint to Elder Ashton- that I thought it was valid.   Maybe the next Chariot Master that comes to this mission will not be so strict on cleanliness of vehicles;-)

This was another week of struggling with the mail service in this area.   This is a check that was sent from Church Headquarters in SLC and arrived at the apartment complex like the bag that says "WE CARE?"   Wow!

I had to cancel this check and issue a new one.

Received this "damp" envelope this week.   The bill inside was a little damp but was still legible so I could go ahead and pay the bill.   
The post office staff is probably familiar with my name by now because it seems like I call on a fairly regular basis to report missing mail, tattered mail, no delivery, etc.   We have had 5 days since January 1st when no one bothered to deliver mail to our building and I think I've heard every excuse imaginable.   Usually, if we haven't received mail by 4 p.m., if I call the post office, we get a delivery the next day.   I wonder if we will have those same kinds of issues in the Arizona, Gilbert mission.

Elder Ashton had the opportunity to go with the Assistants to the President to teach a lesson on Thursday evening.   He came home and said the lady was really interested in joining the church.   She came to church this morning and was telling me that she really wants to be baptized soon - just needs to finish the lessons and get it set up.   It is interesting to watch the transformation in people's lives and to hear them say that when they heard the missionaries it just "felt" right.  

Even though skies are mostly cloudy and gray, we do notice several signs of spring.   I drove past this little bush a few times and then finally decided I liked it enough I wanted to stop and take a picture or two.   

Lots of flowers on one little bush

I love the coral color - very vibrant

Makes me smile when I see that cheery little bush!

No blossoms on the pear trees last weekend, but by Thursday of this week, they were in full bloom....even starting to turn from all white to some green showing as the leaves break out too.

By next week, the ground beneath this tree will be white with blossoms.

This is the little tree in our parking lot that had the red berries on it.    Now it has red buds and little pink/white flowers.

 Lastly, as I was walking through the parking lot today, I could hear birds singing and looked overhead to see these birds sitting about 30 feet up at the very top of a tree and singing loudly.   That brought a smile to me face, even though I felt a drop or two of rain as I looked up.

 I have loved the beautiful trees, bushes, and flowers back here and it looks like I am going to get to enjoy them for one more season before we head back to Arizona.   I'll have great memories of the beauty of Virginia to take home with me.   I'll also have lots of memories of the great people we have had the opportunity to associate with.   We had the Sister Missionaries over for dinner last night and we were talking about how it would be strange for us and strange for them when we go home, because we have kind of liked the role of Mission Grandparents.    I sort of feel like I've acquired hundreds of new grandkids in the last year and a half......and I've almost gotten so I can get "y'all" to roll off my tongue ;-)