Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Winding Up Goodbye Week

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I must admit I've shed a few tears this week as our departure is nearly upon us.   There have been a number of "lasts" during the week and each time I realized it was the last time we would do something or see someone, I fought the tears.   I'm trying to be philosophical about it and remember that "all good things must come to an end."   It's a really good thing I have so much excitement about seeing family and friends when we get home or I would be a crying mess :)

Monday - I helped Sister DeBow learn how to get the departing missionaries all checked in for their flights and pay their baggage fees.   We had 7 departing missionaries and we had one tiny glitch with one and a bigger glitch with a second one......but all is good, we got it all figured out.   That evening we went to the Mission Home and had dinner with President and Sister Baker and the 7 departing missionaries.

Here we are all looking very satisfied after a delicious dinner and some nice conversation :)

Tuesday morning our local Sister missionaries who we have been able to work closely with came into the office.   Sister Zsembery knew that she was being transferred and would be leaving on Wednesday so we had to get a picture with her and one with her AND Sister Bohn who is staying here.

Also, on Tuesday morning the departing missionaries flew out of Norfolk Airport and the newbies arrived on Tuesday afternoon.   We left the office about 3 p.m. to go to Norfolk and greet them, make sure they all had dinner to eat and called parents to let them know their missionary arrived safely.  This was our last arrival dinner where we would get to meet the new missionaries and I realized I am going to miss this opportunity - at least until we get our first batch of new missionaries in the Arizona, Gilbert mission.     This greeting/arrival dinner is held in a church building (the first Stake building in this area) in Norfolk.   As a new Senior Couple walked in they commented that they could smell petroleum or coal.   Our mission president explained that the wood for the beams was soaked in creosote as the building was built (I think he said it was in the early 50s).   I was amazed that she detected the scent this many years later.  

This pretty woodworking is in the Cultural Hall.

Part of our last group of arriving missionaries :)

Three of the four arriving missionaries (I think the 4th was getting more food) and the two Assistants to the President on the left.   I think they all look pretty happy.    Elder Wright (one of our co-workers in the office) is gathering the trash.   He has taken that on as one of his responsibilities and does a great job-----never letting the trash cans get too full

The four new Sister Missionaries - cute young ladies who seemed excited for the new adventure.

As we were driving to the church building, I noticed several places where the water was literally covered with lily pads.   We tried to get a picture on the way back but there was no place to pull off and get out of traffic so I had to shoot from the moving vehicle.....some of the pads seemed to be about 10" in diameter.

A smaller bunch of pads on the opposite side of the road.

As we left Norfolk and headed back to the apartment after we had completed our tasks, my breath caught a little as I noticed this sign and remembered my feelings when we arrived in the area 1 1/2 years ago and I saw a sign that indicated we were going through a tunnel that ran under the water.   Now I'm used to that adventure and even felt a little nostalgic because I don't think I'll be driving through any tunnels that run under water in Arizona ;-D

Our final transfer day with the young missionaries was on Wednesday.   I loved this picture of President and Sister Baker with some new missionaries and those who will be training them.   I can almost feel the love and concern that the President and Sister Baker have for these missionaries.   I grow to love the young missionaries so much that I feel like they are like my own grandchildren, but I have watched President and Sister Baker have instant love for each missionary that comes in as they continue to love those who are already here serving.   President Baker is a very bright man - his occupation is Electrical Engineer and while he has some mannerisms or thought processes that are pretty normal for engineers, he is one of the kindest and loving men I have ever met!   We will miss serving under him and Sister Baker.

Sister Bohn ("our" Portsmouth missionary) with her new companion, Sister Iverson.   I have seen tons of growth in Sister Bohn over the last 5 months while she has served in Portsmouth.   It will be hard to leave her behind.

Us and Elder Wardell after transfer meeting.   He was new to the mission when we came and will be going home soon.

Us and Elder Giles and Elder Parkinson.   Elder Giles had a real baby face when he came (looked like he was about 14) but he is one of the original Dismal Swamp Rat Pack (Elder Ashton and the young missionary bike riders) who we came to love alot.    Elder Parkinson (the tall one) has been here almost as long as we have......and he can play the piano (by ear, self taught) like WOW!

Us and Elder Sommer.   He always has the big grin on his face when he comes into the office and greets me.

The Azaleas are still in bloom and it has just been in the last week that the white ones have really burst forth......they are so snowy white and so abundant I just had to take a few picture of the beauty of these blooms.

Thursday and Friday were relatively quiet days in the office with us doing some final catch up and making sure that we have removed all of our personal belongings from our desk drawers

Saturday afternoon we took a few items to Goodwill and then I asked Elder Ashton if he would drive me down to the shipyard and into Old Town to find some old churches and the ship building site.   We were partly successful :) - never did see the actual ship building site.

I believe this one was called the Third Baptist Church.   A few blocks away we came around the corner and saw Fourth Baptists Church which was a totally modern building.   I think I prefer the looks of the historic church :)

St. Paul's Catholic Church - in 1897 the parish  which was founded in 1804 decided they wanted to build a new church - the result was the beautiful Gothic structure

This church, Central Methodist Church, was abandoned a few years ago, but I love the checkerboard pattern on the steeple and at the apex of the roof.

Portsmouth harbor - all kinds of boats and ships from yachts to tall mast sailing ships to much smaller motor powered boats (even a large naval or commercial ship in the background)

I wanted to see the dry dock that was the first one built and is located in Portsmouth as part of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.   The drydock was put into service in 1834 and still operates today.   We couldn't get in to see it, but did see this original wall around it.   

This is what the entrance to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard looked like yesterday with the flags flying and the white puffy clouds skittering across the blue sky.   Made my heart beat a little faster with a patriotic feeling.

The building where we have spent six days a week for the last 18 feels like a second home :)  As I hugged members we've known during that time and told them good-bye this morning, I felt so lucky and blessed to have been here and worked with the amazing people here.

I couldn't pass up this white flower on a bush in front of the is not the most beautiful of the flowers I've seen back here but I am sure it is one of the most interesting.  How many interesting characteristics do you see........Ahhhhhhh - the beauty of the earth!

In just 2.5 days we will get in the truck and drive out of Portsmouth/Virginia Chesapeake Mission, heading back to Arizona.   I am forever changed because of this experience!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Adventures of the Heart this week.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yea, yea, yea - the sun has been shining for several days and I am LOVING it!!!  And the weather app on my phone tells me we will have mostly sunshine for this next week - so I'm REALLY loving it!

Every day of the past week brought a little pinch to my heart as I saw or talked with missionaries and realized it might be the last time.  We didn't have any special meetings so mostly saw the missionaries we are most familiar with - those who serve around here.   It all started with a lovely dinner at John and Beth Taylor's house last Sunday.   They are a great family.   He looks a little like George Albert Smith, but always has a smile and a cheery word for us.   He likes to work in his yard so gave me a little explanation about some of the plants growing in his front yard.

I believe he said this is a weeping red bud.  You can see how the branches grow toward the ground and it is not just the foliage that weeps.

This bush had lots of these upside down little white blooms.   Brother Taylor had two or three of these bushes along his fence and said these are his blueberry bushes......he got about 9 gallons of blueberries off the bushes last year.

When the blossom falls off, blueberries are beginning to form.....don't you think a warm blueberry picked and eaten straight off the bush would taste good on a summer afternoon?

He also showed me the tiny blooms off another bush he had there - so dainty, delicate, and detailed in such a tiny bloom!

The missionaries came into the office and we were able to grab a picture with them.  I love how full of energy they look......I don't love how worn out I look - even Elder Ashton looks like he is full of energy compared to me.   I think I had a headache that day - at least that's the excuse I'm sticking to ;-)

I drove over to Great Clips on Wednesday evening to get a haircut and was excited to see this little family out for a walk.   I've been keeping my eye out for the last couple of weeks in that area because I thought it was about time for the goslings to hatch - sure enough some have started to come out of the shell.   I think it is interesting that even in the animal world, (at least geese) there is a mother and a father watching out for the little ones.   Looks like the one leading out is looking around to check out any possibility of danger

Here they are again, making their way across the grass.

As we entered the apartment parking lot on Thursday, my eye caught on two flowing shrubs that I hadn't noticed before.   Both shrubs are Azaleas and coming into full bloom - so pretty,

I have nicknamed this the "Redskin" Azalea with the Red and White colors for SJ Redskins :)  Look at the intricate coloring - almost like brushstrokes on the flowers!

On Thursday night we had the opportunity to go out with the young Sister Missionaries and introduce the Book of Mormon to a man of the Muslim faith.   He seemed very interested in the book and said he would definitely read in it.   I don't know if he is just curious about our faith or what he is looking for, but I can tell you he seemed like a very genuine and kind man.   He had the cutest little 5 year old girl names Layla who was very well behaved.......he and Layla were at home doing laundry while Mom was working.    The missionaries have been invited back to answer his questions when the wife is home.

Elder Ashton and Elder DeBow in training mode on Friday.   As you can tell from the key garage, Elder Ashton is a bit compulsive about organization and I do believe that Elder DeBow is a notch above him - it is interesting to hear them talk about organization options for the Vehicle Coordinator and get excited about different ways to organize things.   I also thought you might be interested in Elder Ashton's reminders to the missionaries that he has tacked up on the wall - how to organize gas receipts when they turn them in and how NOT to park your car if you want to avoid a tow.  You would think that after living with Elder Ashton for nearly 49 years his compulsion for organization would have rubbed off on me........hmmm... not so much!

Sister DeBow training on financial matters and how those impact housing on Friday.   They are both catching on to the tasks REALLY well and will keep the mission humming along.

When the sun is shining we have lots of contrails that we can see from the military jets.   This picture of the blue sky, white contrails, white clouds and soaring trees makes me count my blessings that I live in the USA.

On sunny days, it is a beautiful time of year to drive around town.   We go past these properties several times of day on our way to and from the office.   I think the different colored Azalea hedges and the flower bed are beautiful in the yard in the foreground and when I look up and see the flag flying in the yard in the background, it seems like a great scene to me!

A little more packing up each day as we continue to prepare for the long road trip.   I think we are about half done with packing and the truck is about half full so we just might be able to cram everything in.

Counting down the days with excitement when I think of going home to family and friends.
Counting down the days with dread when I think of leaving behind the mission, missionaries and friends.   The closer we get to the end, I realize more and more that this really has been an excellent adventure in MANY ways!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Colorful Springtime Adventure

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This past week sped by as we were busy training Elder and Sister DeBow who will be our interim replacements in the office.   They live in Virginia Beach and drove to Portsmouth on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for some training in cars and finances.   They are catching on to everything VERY fast and I feel confident they will be able to do everything on their own with another few days of training.  They are a great couple and it is a real pleasure to work with them.   However, there is one problem with getting them trained up - that means we will not have any excuse to stay here longer and as the days pass and it gets closer and closer to the time when we will leave, I recognize more and more that I am really going to leave a part of my heart here with the people I've come to know!  In fact, as I bore my testimony this morning I said, "I love all y'all" and that phrase just slipped out of my mouth very naturally as I realized how much I meant it.

It had rained a little on Sunday night/early Monday morning and as we arrived we were greeted by this small Azalea bush along the sidewalk into the office.   It was such a bright, cheery pink that it really caught my eye.   So I decided to take a walk just around the church parking lot and see what else was in bloom.

I came upon this tree that was half dead, but was still putting out blossoms on the half that was still alive and these tulips that had been beaten down by the rain during the night.   

These two sights immediately brought to mind some of the messages from conference about how much Heavenly Father and the Savior love us, no matter the circumstances of our lives.  
I especially loved this counsel from Elder Holland and the half-dead tree and beaten down tulips made me think what he said in the final talk at conference.
"Now, with that majestic devotion ringing from heaven as the great constant in our lives, manifested most purely and perfectly in the life, death, and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can escape the consequences of both sin and stupidity—our own or that of others—in whatever form they may come to us in the course of daily living. If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth “that all things work together for good to them that love God.”10So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."
One thing of beauty I noticed in the church atrium was this little rose.....with some of the rain drops still clinging to it.   I thought this was a perfect example of how going through hard things sometimes brings about very beautiful things - I think the same applies to our lives.

As we left the office on Monday afternoon, I noticed that the little Azalea bush that was mostly buds in the morning had burst into bloom - so pretty.

I am certainly going to miss the beautiful flowers, bushes and trees.

Tuesday morning I had a couple of  couple of short errands to run, so decided to take a few extra minutes away from the office and take a couple of pictures.
I call this a "tissue paper flower" tree.   They are just beginning to bloom all over town.

This really reminds me of tissue paper flowers I used to make when I was a girl.   I remember making LOTS of these to use a Prom decorations when I was in high school :)

Tuesday when we arrived home from the office and I started to get out of the truck, I noticed this cardinal sitting on the railing, singing a loud song.   I snuck as close as I could to get a picture of it, but it quickly flew away to a "camouflage" tree. 

Can you tell which one is the cardinal and which are red leaves?

Wednesday was a regular day at the office with regular tasks.   The main excitement was when the mail came and we had more bills to pay and Elders Ashton and DeBow got more gas receipts to reconcile.   I loved the outside of the envelope that contained one set of gas receipts.

Oh, how I am going to miss the wonderful young missionaries.   They bring a smile to my face with their smiles, their enthusiasm, and the little messages they send us.    Sometimes I think Elder Ashton is too hard on them about keeping their cars clean or that he teases them too muc, but we got two messages of love and thanks in the mail this week so I guess we are doing OK.

I had noticed some pretty pink dogwood trees growing close to the office, so Friday as we were getting ready to leave I told Elder Ashton I was going to walk over and take a couple of pictures and for him to pick me up on the way.  

I really like Dogwood trees and how lacy they look.   I thought this was an interesting picture with the lacy dogwood showing blue sky and clouds behind.

A closer version of the same tree.....I really like the shape of the flower petals and the pretty salmon pink.   I'm going to miss dogwood blossoms when I get back to Arizona.

I find many of the shrubs/trees around here are quite unique in that they have only green leaves for part of the year, but when they start to put on new growth in the spring, the new growth comes out orange or red.   In the plant above you can see the new growth with tiny buds of white flowers......not quite in full bloom yet.

I had only been standing outside taking these pictures for about 7 or 8 minutes, but the wind was FREEZING cold and I was really cold when I got in the truck! 

Saturday morning I woke up in good time so we decided to get our grocery shopping done early.   We got that done and as we were heading home I asked Elder Ashton to drop me off on the East end of the bridge across the river so I could get a couple of pictures.   I asked him to park on the West end of the bridge and wait for me.  

I really like this large Azalea plant - and the blooms that are dark pink in the middle edged with a very pale pink.  You might be able to tell from a few of the blooms in the foreground that we had a couple of cold nights this past week and some of the petals got a little frost and have started to brown.

I'm going to miss Azaleas when I get back to Arizona.

This is a view of the Elizabeth River from the other side of the bridge.....the bridge railing on this side is higher so I seldom get pictures of it.   If you look closely at the water you can tell that the wind was blowing pretty hard and it was VERY cold!  I won't miss the cold damp wind.

As I was walking across the bridge I noticed these mallards popping out from under the bridge and swimming and diving over to the dock ramp.   Their heads don't show it as well in the picture but they were a BRILLIANT green in the sunshine!

Here's more of the green with red bushes/shrubs.   Here you can see the white blossoms are a little more fully developed.

I forgot to get cheese at the grocery store so I ran over to WalMart to get some and when I returned home....IT WAS SNOWING - on April 9th!

I'm not going to miss snow in April!

More snow as we drove over to GoodWill to drop off 7 bags of did we acquire so much in just 17 months?

Catching our breath after some cleaning and packing - this is definitely a mixed feelings picture!
Today I realized it is our last Fast Sunday here in Virginia and started thinking about all I have learned while we've been here.   It has been hard in many ways, but so great and rewarding in so many other ways!

I hope Arizona will have some warm weather waiting for us :)