I can hardly believe it has been 7 weeks since I updated this.....nor can I believe it is almost mid-February 2017. However, we are having a variety of adventures in this new year and they keep us plenty busy - with not much time to spare.
In early January I left the office to head home for lunch and looked up to see the sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. I stared at it for a few minutes contemplating the beauty and peace I felt from looking at the sky......Heavenly Father's handiwork fills me with awe.
These gorgeous, giant roses grow in the front yard of a house across the street from the office. So each day as I back out of the parking lot, I get a beautiful view of these roses.
A view from a few weeks ago when I arrived home to see this beautiful sunset in the west.
Same view about 5 minutes later - wish I had time to sit and watch a full sunset from start to finish. I think Arizona produces some of the finest!
Each day as we drive back and forth to the office we see this "minaret" sticking up behind the buildings on the main road. One day I decided to take a little detour and drive back there to see what it was.....and was surprised to see this Byzantine Catholic church nestled in the neighborhood. It reminded me a tiny bit of the Russian Orthodox church we saw when we were on our Alaskan cruise a few years ago.
Sometimes I feel I need a little variety in my life so I get brave and take a different route to or from the office :) A few weeks ago I decided to take a different route home, through the up-scale neighborhood that is rather close to the office. As I drove through the neighborhood, I saw a number of bushes along the properties covered in white flowers so decided to stop and take a closer look.
Imagine my surprise when I walked closer and found pink buds rather than white ones.
Then, as I drew closer I noticed that the pink buds turned into these beautiful white flowers with just a tiny tinge of pink, accented by deep pink tiny dots. Gorgeous!
More of the flowers - some with many more pink spots than others - still gorgeous!
Driving home for lunch one day, I noticed that there seemed to be some colors (sort of like a prism) surrounding the sun. Elder Ashton tells me this is called a corona.
One of the things I loved about serving our mission in Virginia was the beautiful flowers and trees - I really fell in love with them. In fact, I fell in love with them so much I didn't realize how much I missed this orchid tree in our backyard until it started to bloom a few weeks ago. I am really enjoying the bright orchid flowers.
Notice that some of the flowers on this stalk have already bloomed but there are approximately 8 more buds just about ready to bloom.....it will be filled with flowers when they open up.
In mid January we thought it would be an appropriate missionary activity to travel to Denver for our grandson Joel's send off on his mission to Hong Kong. One of the best parts of the trip was our lunch with President and Sister Baker from the VCM. It was so great to see these people that we love so much and get to spend a little time with them. They are still as wonderful as I had remembered them!
While we were in Colorado we had the opportunity to attend a temple session with Joel, his sister Brynna, and his Parents, Curtis and Merilee. The tears were really close to my eyes as I contemplated what a blessing it was to be in the temple with family members!
Joel and his family on Sunday afternoon before we left to catch our plane home. What a GREAT weekend!
Left to right: Josh, 17 years old (almost), Joel (headed to the MTC to learn Cantonese for his mission to Hong Kong) and Brynna (headed back to CSU in Fort Collins to finish her last semester before earning her Bachelor's degree in music performance.
Joel, our handsome missionary grandson. He was interested to hear that we have been sharing the gospel with people from mainland China - we have had 4 baptisms so far since the arrived here to attend pilot training. Someone told me that people from mainland China fly to Hong Kong to attend the temple and then fly back to China. It would be wonderful is Joel had the opportunity to cross paths with some of those that were baptized here in Gilbert!
Another picture of Heavenly Father's handiwork from the neighborhood close to the mission office. So pretty and so varied.
On January 25th we attended a worldwide broadcast for missionaries where our purpose as missionaries was discussed and few changes in missionary scheduling were announced.
One of our happy Senior Missionary Couples, Elder and Sister Asbury, arriving for the broadcast
Two of our dedicated Sister Missionaries arriving for the broadcast - and I see that they have taken heed to the counsel they receive to keep water with them at all times so they can stay hydrated :)
Missionaries gathered for the broadcast - one of the Sister Missionaries greeting Sister Asbury with a hug. Some of these younger missionaries become really attached to the Senior Missionaries - almost as if they are adopted grandparents.
One of the routes to the office goes past a man-made lake in a neighborhood. 90% of the time there is a flock of ducks either on or near the water....I just had to stop and take a picture one lunchtime - this was about half the ducks that were there but I guess they didn't like to have their picture taken because they ran into the water as soon as they noticed I was there.
Pure joy! I really love this picture of my mom who is here staying with us and her great-great grandson Grayson. I think both faces show they are pretty happy!
This is the shamel ash tree in our front yard. The leaves all fell off it about 3 weeks ago and as you can see they didn't stay gone for long - it is already putting on new leaves.
I remember a conference talk from a few years ago that counseled us to "bloom where you are planted". When I came home for lunch the other day I noticed these bright orange flowers blooming in a broken pot under the ash tree. The pot got broken while we were gone and we haven't yet done a thorough cleaning around the ash tree - but these little flowers didn't seem to mind the adversity. I thought this was a great visual depiction for our lives - to remind us that we should bloom where we are planted even through adversity.
Binders prepared for the expected arrival of 12 new missionaries on February 7th.....by the time the missionaries arrived it was only 10 due to a couple of them receiving visas for their assigned country. It is my responsibility to put these together so I have 2 extra now but can make them ready for the next group by changing the name on the spine and on the first page of the binder. Now I have a head start for the arrival group set for March 21st.
24 binders set for mini missionaries for Feb 3rd- I had them all prepared and the Assistants to the President forgot to take them and hand them out......now I have a head start (again with a couple of name changes) for the group set for February 17th :) One thing I have learned while serving these two missions is that you really need to be flexible because things often change suddenly.
Exciting news a couple of weeks ago.....Elder Ashton and I are going to get another one of these (great grandkids) this summer. I sure do love them and they bring absolute joy to my life!
Sisters in the office last Monday, set to let one of their companions (the one in the green polka dot skirt) go home. It is bitter sweet to watch these missionaries who have become such good friends say good-bye to one another.
In the primary room where we give our training this large CTR sign hung on the bulletin board. I looked at the message and realized that many of the most important gospel messages are learned in Primary!
Elder Kearns set to go home. In the 9 months we have been serving here, I have never seen Elder Kearns without this great smile on his face. I believe this young man will go far and have an impact for good wherever he goes.
Sister Angeloudis completing her missionary service and going home to Australia. I will miss her smile and her Aussie accent. Sister Taufa who is of Tongan descent and has been called to serve a mission in Sydney, Australia speaking Tongan. Before she left she gave me a great hug and told me she felt a special connection to me and was sad that she wouldn't see me again. I love her and her smile!
Elder Ashton moving luggage on arrival day so the new missionaries can get to their bicycles and take a little ride around the church parking lot. I wish I had Elder Ashton's energy!
I guess we had out 6 weeks of winter and spring is here - I have noticed that the trees are starting to blossom and we should soon smell the sweet scent of orange blossoms!
Four Elders ready to go to work - one from Hawaii, one from Utah, one from Idaho, and one from Maryland.....all with different backgrounds and experiences so they can share with the people they teach.
Sister Boloorma (from Mongolia) and Sister Bradshaw (from Lyman Wyoming) - a half a world apart in their upbringing but united in their purpose of sharing the gospel with others. As few people as there are in Wyoming, I am surprised that we have 3 missionaries from that state. Must mean there are good people in Wyoming :)
My beautiful 93 year old mother who is staying with us for awhile. She was all dolled up here so we could go to the temple on Friday evening. As I helped her stand up and down and looked down at her hands in her lap while in the temple, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her and all she has given over the years to provide me with the foundation for a strong testimony of the gospel. It is hard to watch her as she is getting older, but I am so grateful to still have her here on earth and especially to have her in our home. Between the blessings of missionary service, home, family and the gospel, I feel I am blessed way above what I m worthy of. So grateful for my blessings!