Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mele Kamekemaka means.....Merry Christmas To You!

We've been working so hard - that I just haven't found time to write.  So here is our Christmas missive - a little later than I hoped for - but heartfelt all the same.








Thank you for your Christmas cards and letters.  Because of you, our sad little tree went from this:



To this!


Isn't it beautiful?


------------------


Christmas Lagoon - A magical two weeks of late nights.  PCC puts on this amazing night show canoe ride.  32 people fit on one of the canoes.  Our guests are taken thru the center on the lagoon, which is lit up only by millions of Christmas lights (and a few well placed spotlights) while being told the Christmas story with a Hawaiian theme.  





It is so beautiful and inspiring.  They then see traditions of Christmas from 'around the world', and finally get to meet Santa Claus and some dancing yetis and elves! 


Our 70+ year old Santa and his wife this year put everything they had into their performances and we just love them to pieces.  Can you imagine THIS being your mission assignment...to dance every night in a hot ol' fur suit in Hawaii at an age most people are going to bed at 8?  ...and they loved every minute of it!




Last night was the final performance....ever!  Times, they are a changing and the costs and resources are simply out-weighing the practicality.  How very blessed we are that we have been here for this wonderful effort to share this excellent Christmas story.  The place was PACKED last night and so full of Christmas cheer and goodwill.  How we wish you could have been there to experience it also.



  

Needless to say, this was great fun, and Elder Jones' mechanical skills and Sister Jones' ability to yack it up with 1,000s of people were put to great use.  

-----------------

Mele and Iosepa.  Remember the story line?  I was privileged to put together  an online Christmas picture storyline that consisted of two coconut dolls from Fiji.  Here is the entire series, in one fail swoop!
















Well, THAT was fun!  Won't lie - glad it's over - but writing and producing a storyline is really exciting.  Didn't go viral or anything, but it was a respectable smattering of attention.

-------------------------

And now - we just want to share with you our testimonies.  We are so very grateful for this wonderful mission that would never have been possible without the many blessings, the amazing miracles and the wonderful support of our beautiful family.  How we LOVE our family.  They are all the best and brightest - and we LOVE them!  They lead us, guide us, humble us and keep love in our hearts everyday.

We can testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not only still alive and and available, but is being spread across the earth.  We can see, beyond any doubt, that the Lord really does love us - so much that He has given His all and continues to give His all in order for us to have joy, knowledge and opportunities to return to our Heavenly Father - and all those that we love.

We testify that life is more than just presents, and jobs and status and that our happiness has grown by leaps and bounds because we are blessed to be able to meet and serve others from around the world.

Are you afraid of other people?  Have you lost your faith in mankind?  Think the world is run by greed and corruption?  Come here to the Polynesian Cultural Center where you will be exposed to guests and students from around the world, and you too will find out - the children of God are marvelous, beautiful and full of hope and joy!

We wish this knowledge and this joy for all our friends and family.  We love you and we cherish you. Be well. Be happy. Be brave and true.  The world is a wonderful place - and even more so because you are in it!

In closing, here is a little memory that brings to mind what this season is really all about.

-------------
MISSIONARY THOUGHTS

Because of Elisabeth

I have a friend named Elisabeth and she is a wonder.  We met one day at church, and our eyes locked and our souls touched and we became instant best friends.

Elisabeth is a woman of many accomplishments and adventures.  She travels the world.  Not for vacation, mind you.  She goes to the poorest nations, and serves the neediest of people.  And she loves them all.

And she knows everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY.

One day we were at a Relief Society function where we played the game where you write down something no one else would know and then everyone guesses who it could be.  One slip of paper said “I once dated Donny Osmond”.  Yep, that was Elisabeth.



Another time we were at her house having dinner.  She had the most beautiful album playing with Gladys Knight and the The Saints Unified Voice Choir.  I mentioned how beautiful it was and she lightly said, “Oh yes – that’s from the year I was in the choir.  What a great experience.  Let me tell you about it.”



There were the stories about having Family Home Evening with our Prophet and his family, being friends with heads of large businesses, this singer and that painter.  The list went on and on.  But it was never braggadocios or vain.  All she did was share her life. 

Elisabeth is not the type to sit and wait.  She has things to do and people to see.  One day she said to me, “Nina, we’re going to play a duet at Church for the holiday.”  I might mention here that Elisabeth plays the viola….at concert level.

I play the flute, but definitely not at concert level.   Yet, I was willing to go along with her, because she said I could do it.
Not this piece, but
you get the picture

Then she handed me the music and my heart sunk.  “Elisabeth,” I explained.  “There is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to be able to handle this piece.”

“Nonsense,” she said.  And we practiced and practiced until she was sure I was ready.

In preparation for this great day, I took my student level flute and got it repadded.  It was ready just two days before our presentation.  I took it home, put it together, blew in it….and nothing.  Not one sound came out of that flute.  … and I thought “This is it.  I’m done.”

“Nonsense,” said Elisabeth.  “We will simply borrow one.”  And the one we found was a beautiful, shiny concert flute…with holes in the keys.  

I can’t play concert flutes with holes in the keys.  I simply cannot cover those holes adequately so what happens sounds more like a cat fight than a musical piece.

So we ran to the music store and got little plastic flute hole covers.

Except they didn’t fit.  Not well.  They were too small to snap in.

“Not to worry”, said Elisabeth.  “Just hold your flute up straight and they’ll simply stay in place.”



We practiced and it seemed to work just fine.

When it came time for our musical number I made sure my little pads were balanced perfectly and we started playing.  I don’t know what was different that day, maybe the humidity, or maybe my profuse sweating, but each time I touched a key with a cover in it, that cover would simply stick to my finger long enough to lift off the key and then ever so lightly float to the floor.

And I kept playing.  And somehow, by some miracle, it worked and I was able to play this lovely piece without completely embarrassing myself or my dear husband who had watched with great interest mixed with horror from the pew below me.

And I thought to myself, I have learned a great life lesson today.

Right after Sacrament, Elisabeth said, “I feel the need to go see Marge – come with me”

Marge was an older lady from our ward.  She had leukemia and was home bound, so I said “of course, let’s go!”

When we arrived, Elisabeth said “Marge, we’re going to play you a hymn,” and Marge said “I’d love to hear it”.  We got our instruments out and without any piano accompaniment we began to play.  And it was clear and sweet and beautiful and the spirit filled the room and gave comfort and joy to a woman who needed it so very badly. 

And I thought to myself, I have been part of a miracle today.

We have the same opportunity every day – if we just let ourselves take the risk and follow the promptings of the Savior.  We don’t even have to work hard at finding opportunities.  We just have to grab onto His hem and He will lead us where we need to go.

The worse that could happen is that we could learn a great life lesson.

The best that could happen is that we could be part of a miracle.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's CHRISTMAS TIME!!!

I love Christmas (whereas Elder Jones is more "eh" about it - but he likes that I like it.)

So, we are decorating our little abode with the Christmas cards we get from friends and family....that's it.  What says love more than those?  Forget the Walmart sparkles....  If we get a hankerin' for flashier decorations, we just meander over to the Visitors Center 1 block away and get wowed by their 19 decorated trees.



So, just in case you were wondering, Christmas at the Polynesian Cultural Center means:

1.  CRAZY HOURS - we thought life was busy before.  It's gonna be insane now.  We have our regular work, the luau and now we're adding on Christmas Lagoon (see below).  Also, there are all of the parties, the dinners, and the special concerts at the temple, at the Stake Center and at the university.  Baby, my dance card is FULL!

2.  Christmas Lagoon

This is a big event. Unfortunately, this is also the last year for this amazing show.  The drain on resources (man hours, electricity, etc., etc.) is proving to be too much. So here is our one and only chance.....to participate in something really special.

This is the 'official' write-up:

Christmas Lagoon- Starts December 13th

We invite locals and visitors to join us at the Polynesian Cultural Center for our Christmas Lagoon festivities and make this unique and entertaining event part of their holiday celebration. Our Christmas Lagoon canoes whisk guests away to a Pacific winter wonderland accentuated by actors, animals and props on a journey through PCC’s tranquil freshwater lagoon past carolers, festival lighting displays and more. The festival extends beyond the traditional canoe experience with holiday fare, arts and crafts; live entertainment, choirs and bands; and keiki holiday train rides.
Adding to the joy of PCC’s multi-cultural celebration will be special displays presented in tribute to the people and holiday traditions of China, France, Spain, Norway, and Russia.

#3 - lots of Christmas programs
We went to see a the Shaka Steel (14+ steel drummers and percussionists) and Ka Pa Kani Ko'ele O Laie (a Tahitian drum troupe with Tahitian youth dancers) drum performers this last week.  
3.  Strange going ons on my department's Facebook page - 
So, if you're following us on Facebook (shop.polynesia), you may have seen that the Mele and Josepa picture stories have begun (remember - my little coconut head dolls?)   They now have their own little on-line adventure leading up to their first Christmas together).  It's been fun AND terrifying. There way no telling what the public's response would be, much less the administration's reaction would be.  
So, the public response has been - pretty fair.  Not viral by any means, and I'm sure that there are plenty of people saying "what the Holy Moley is this?" But it has been one of our leading posts (off and on) AND we have not gotten ANY negative comments.  So, we consider it an accomplishment. Here is the quick backstory and the first three 'episodes' (my apologies to those who have already had to suffer thru these - we're half-way thru - the end is near!!!!):

Mele and Iosepa's First Christmas: Introductions 

Christmas is a special time on the islands. We not only celebrate the joy and magic of the season, we know how to have fun! As a special holiday gift, we have prepared our own Christmas tale.  



Iosepa 
Iosepa is our brave, Fijiian warrior. He is mighty, he is strong, he is a risk taker!  Iosepa tends to think of himself as quite the handyman. Mele begs to differ.


           
Mele and Iosepa met on a beautiful moonlit night, right after he performed a traditional Fire Walk.  Somehow the combination of burnt up heels and that snaggle toothed grin won her heart, and they were happily married soon after.

Join Mele and Iosepa, (pronounced "MEL-ay" and "eYO-sep-ah") from the Islands of Fiji as they prepare for their first Christmas season together in their own, unique way. 


Each week leading up to Christrmas we will present another adventure, portrayed in snapshot format, showcasing the (mis)adventures of our crazy yet endearing newlyweds.



     
         
Mele

Mele is Iosepa's loving wife.  She is resourceful and wise, though she tends to panic easily. But then again, she's married to Iosepa, so it comes naturally.

Okay - here is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd episodes:
Episode #1:
"I Want THAT One!"
I want that one - Mele and Iosepa go Christmas Tree Shopping 
Mele and Iosepa go Christmas Tree shopping


Episode #2
"Iosepa Gets All Tangled Up"
  It appears that Iosepa has hung up more 
than just his Christmas lights.


Episode #3
"Iosepa Wraps Up More 
Than Just the Presents"
 
Mele stumbles upon her hubby’s first attempt 
at wrapping Christmas presents.


Anyway...............
Elder Jones just took a test "scuba dive" in a big pool over on the Army base.  We are now going to sign him up for lessons - check another 'to-do' off of his bucket list!  I hope to have pics soon.
Our GPS was being really clunky crazy here on the islands so we decided it was time for a new one. Once we decided to place it on our shopping list Elder Jones said "too bad these things don't come with voice command".  Voila'....they DO! 
You may not think we would need such a thing here on a little island in the middle of the sea. WRONG!  The roads around here are extremely convoluted and the people like to give directions using the terms "mauka, makai, leeward and windward."  ACK!  The only thing I wish this new machine had was a knowledge of the Hawaiian language.  You should hear how she (because it is a women's voice, after all) pronounces "Kamehameha", "Laie"  and "Hau-ula""It's pretty funny - but then again, my pronunciations are hysterical too.
a few more pics from this week...

Me NOT enjoying the beggar ducks
Took the girls to a special fireside presentation

Why it would be special to preteens - yep, that's David Archuleta
Ron in the ancient banyan tree being a little boy again -
Recognize this place?  You would if you were a fan
of Lost and/or Pirates of the Caribbean
Me on the ground, exactly where I belong
Thanksgiving Day at Tita's Grill - a wonderful
family that looks upon missionaries and the
homeless with equal love and compassion.
The band that came to entertain.  They were fun...though, I
must say, "Margaritaville seemed a strange choice for a
room full of missionaries and people who may have a little
problem in the drink department - but hey, they did a fine job!

Missionary Thoughts
So, I just got back from Church.  I was so frustrated!  I shouldn't be.  I should be patient and humble. Oh how I wish I was!  Elder Jones and I are teaching the Marriage and Family Relations class for Sunday School.  We work pretty hard on it.

It's a small, intimate group of couples and we're glad it is...except today only one person came AND our normal classroom had some other people meeting in there ..... so we had to find another place to go.  To top it off, there were a few other couples from our class in the hallway, but they were talking to other people and after 10 minutes of just standing there waiting, I personally decided that this just wasn't going to happen and went over to attend the regular Sunday School lesson.  I'm okay with that....even though I found myself with stupid tears in my eyes - I think because I started worrying about the significance of the class and whether it was simply not interesting.  Really, it was just circumstances.  And before anyone starts talking about how rude the attendees were - it really is a different culture around here.  I can get all up in arms about it, but it will only frustrate me.  I need to understand and work from within rather than want to get all boo hoo'ey about things.

So I was thinking while I was all sniffly about a talk given just today in Sacrament. There was a touching story I could never summarize sufficiently, so I am going to share the actual words taken from a talk given by one of our Church leaders, Elder Bednar:

Early one summer morning I was showering. My wife called to me in the middle of my shower and indicated that I was needed immediately on the telephone. (This was before the day of cell and cordless phones). I quickly put on my robe and hurried to the phone. I next heard the voice of a dear sister and friend informing me of a tragic automobile accident that had just occurred in a remote area involving three teenage young women from our stake. Our friend indicated one of the young women had already been pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and that the two other young women were badly injured and presently were being transported to the regional medical center in Fayetteville. She further reported that the identity of the deceased young woman was not yet known. There was urgency in her voice, but there was no panic or excessive alarm. She then asked if I could go to the hospital, meet the ambulance when it arrived, and assist in identifying the young women. I answered that I would leave immediately.

During the course of our telephone conversation and as I listened to both the information being conveyed and the voice of our friend, I gradually became aware of two important things. First, this friend's daughter was one of the young women involved in the accident. Our friend lived approximately 35 miles from the hospital and therefore needed the assistance of someone who lived closer to the city. Second, I detected that the mother simultaneously was using two telephone handsets--with one in each hand pressed to each of her ears. I became aware that as she was talking with me, she was also talking with a nurse at a small rural hospital who had initially attended to the three accident victims. Our friend was receiving updated information about the condition of the young women in the very moment she was informing me about the accident and requesting my help. I then heard one of the most remarkable things I have ever heard in my life.

I faintly heard the nurse telling this faithful mother and friend that the young woman pronounced dead at the scene of the accident had been positively identified as her daughter. I could not believe what I was hearing. I was listening to this good woman in the very moment that she learned of the death of her precious daughter. Without hesitation, and with a calm and most deliberate voice, our friend next said, "President Bednar, we must get in contact with the two other mothers. We must let them know as much as we can about the condition of their daughters and that they will soon be in the hospital in Fayetteville." There was no self-pity; there was no self-absorption; there was no turning inward. The Christlike character of this devoted woman was manifested in her immediate and almost instinctive turning outward to attend to the needs of other suffering mothers. It was a moment and a lesson that I have never forgotten. In a moment of ultimate grief, this dear friend reached outward when I likely would have turned inward.

I then drove to the hospital with a concern in my heart for the well-being of the two other beautiful young women who had been involved in the accident. Little did I realize that the lessons I would learn about Christlike character--lessons taught by seemingly ordinary disciples--were just beginning.

I arrived at the hospital and proceeded to the emergency room. After properly establishing who I was and my relationship to the victims, I was invited into two different treatment areas to identify the injured young women. It was obvious that their respective wounds were serious and life threatening. And the lovely countenances and physical features of these young women had been badly marred. Within a relatively short period of time, the two remaining young women died. All three of these virtuous, lovely, and engaging young women--who seemed to have so much of life in front of them--suddenly had gone home to their Eternal Father. My attention and the attention of the respective families now shifted to funeral arrangements and logistics.

A day or so later, in the midst of program planning and detail arranging for the three funerals, I received a phone call from the Relief Society president of my home ward. Her daughter had been one of the victims in the accident, and she and I had talked several times about her desires for the funeral program. This faithful woman was a single mother rearing her only child--her teenage daughter. I was especially close to this woman and her daughter having served as both their bishop and stake president. After reviewing and finalizing several details for the funeral of her daughter, this good sister said to me, "President, I am sure it was difficult for you to see my daughter in the emergency room the other day. She was severely injured and disfigured. As you know, we will have a closed casket at the funeral. I have just returned from the funeral home, and they have helped my daughter to look so lovely again. I was just wondering . . . why don't we arrange a time when we can meet at the mortuary and you can have one last look at her before she is buried. Then your final memories of my daughter will not be the images you saw in the emergency room the other day." I listened and marveled at the compassion and thoughtfulness this sister had for me. Her only daughter had just been tragically killed, but she was concerned about the potentially troublesome memories I might have given my experience in the emergency room. In this good woman I detected no self-pity and no turning inward. Sorrow, certainly. Sadness, absolutely. Nevertheless, she reached outward when many or perhaps most of us would have turned inward with sorrow and grief.

Let me describe one final episode related to these three tragic deaths. On the day of her daughter's funeral, this Relief Society president from my home ward received a phone call from an irritated sister in our ward. The complaining sister had a cold and did not feel well, and she basically chewed out the Relief Society president for not being thoughtful or compassionate enough to arrange for meals to be delivered to her home. Just hours before the funeral of her only child, this remarkable Relief Society president prepared and delivered a meal to the murmuring sister.

We appropriately and rightly speak with reverence and awe of young men who sacrificed their lives to rescue stranded handcart pioneers and of other mighty men and women who repeatedly gave their all to establish the Church in the early days of the Restoration. I speak with equal reverence and awe of these two women--women of faith and character and conversion--who taught me so much and instinctively reached outward when most of us would have turned inward. Oh how I appreciate their quiet and powerful examples.

Let me suggest that you and I must be praying and yearning and striving and working to cultivate a Christlike character if we hope to receive the spiritual gift of charity--the pure love of Christ. Charity is not a trait or characteristic we acquire exclusively through our own purposive persistence and determination. Indeed we must honor our covenants and live worthily and do all that we can do to qualify for the gift; but ultimately the gift of charity possesses us--we do not posses it (see Moroni 7:47). The Lord determines if and when we receive all spiritual gifts, but we must do all in our power to desire and yearn and invite and qualify for such gifts. As we increasingly act in a manner congruent with the character of Christ, then perhaps we are indicating to heaven in a most powerful manner our desire for the supernal spiritual gift of charity. And clearly we are being blessed with this marvelous gift as we increasingly reach outward when the natural man or woman in us would typically turn inward.

Wow.  The person I am now would not have acted like that Relief Society president.  The person I am now would have taken all of my pent up anger, hurt and grief and hurled it at her like a canon! And that isn't' who I want to be, because I really do see that it takes all that perseverance, love, charity and humility to become the best I can be.  As the Primary song goes:

I'm trying to be like Jesus;
I'm following in his ways.
  I'm trying to love as he did, in all that I do and  say.
  At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
  But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

Chorus
"Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.

I'm trying to love my neighbor;
I'm learning to serve my friends.
  I watch for the day of gladness when Jesus will      come again.
  I try to remember the lessons he taught.
  Then the Holy Spirit enters into my thoughts,  saying:

Chorus
"Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.

If I'm only like Jesus when it's easy, I'm not living up to my full potential and I'm not being of any good on this mission or beyond.  I really am trying to be like Jesus - so I really do want to conquer selfishness and pride.  The little things in life that cause annoyance come mostly from an inability to see the big picture.  What if that surprise meeting in the classroom was to help a family with a problem?  What if people didn't show up (and this really is the truth) because one couple just had their baby last night earlier than expected, one husband was teaching another Sunday School class, one wife had to cover for someone who was sick and one couple had a toddler who was absolutely inconsolable and they didn't want to disrupt the class?  What do my little sniffly feelings matter when I didn't even take the time to consider the needs of others?  Just seems like a whole lot of unnecessary hoorah to me, and I jumped right into it.  So I'm going to work on doing better.

Thanks for letting me talk this out.  I feel better now!

LOVE and BLESSINGS to you all this great holiday season!!!!







    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    November in Paradise!

    Elder Jones and I have been putting in loooooooooooonnnnnnnnggggg hours - and will continue to do so through the holidays.  I'm feeling a little brain-fried.  How bout I just let our pictures tell our story?

    We've greatly enjoy our lunches at the PCC.  We've gone thru all of the shows and most of the demonstrations now.  This is some of the canoe pageant that they have everyday at 2:30
    First, a beautiful lady scatters flowers upon the water
    Then the royal court is presented

    Then each represented Polynesian culture comes by with their
    own canoe.  This canoe is for the island of Tonga.

    Aoeteora (New Zealand Maori)

    Samoa - they really get it rocking and always gets one of the guys tossed into the water. They have so much fun (well, maybe not the guy in the  water.....)

    All in all, there are 6 countries represented - along with the royal court and the flowers.  It makes for a very entertaining 'parade' on water.

    We also took the time to see the demonstration in Fiji
    on how to extract oil from a coconut.  Anyone
    who knows me, knows I LOVE that coconut oil!

    So here's a funny experience from this week.  I was taking tickets with some of the sister missionaries at Hale Aloha Luau.  Along the main path comes a little red-haired boy....all by himself.  He could not have been older than 5 or 6.

    "Hello little fella," I said brightly.  "Where's your momma and your pappa?"

    He shrugs his shoulders.

    "You look a little young to be walking down this path all by yourself.  Are you lost?" I asked.  The other missionary ladies started gathering round.

    Just as pretty as can be, and in this adorable little voice he says:  "I'm a keeeeeeeiki."  I'm not kidding - just like that.

    I lean down and said "I'm sorry, little guy.  I didn't hear you,"

    "I'm a keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiki.", he repeated.  Ah, how cute, I thought.  He learned how to say child in Hawaiian (keiki = child)

    "Little fella, where is your mummy," asks one of the Sisters?

    She's at work.

    "Does she work here."

    He shakes his head yes.

    "Here we go then," I said, taking his hand.  "I'll help you find her."

    "But," he repeated with more urgency, "I'm a keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiki".

    Oh......crud......he's a keiki.  As in one of the little children who performs at the Hawaiian luau.  You see, the red hair threw me.  And here I was, about to march him down to Lost and Found and to send out an all points bulletin for his mommy.

    The stage entrance was just around the corner.  I gave him a little pat on the back with a "well then, young man, you'd best run along."

    I'm telling ya.  I'm getting more and more dense as the days go along.

    Not him, but you get the idea.  Honest, if
    he didn't have red-hair, I would have gotten it
    right away


    Some other news:


    We bought a Mac Pro.  It is awesome.  We are happy.


    I am developing many of the graphics on the homepage of shop.polynesia.com
    This is where I started skills wise (actually, much worse than this even, but
    I'd be embarrassed to show you...)
    I'm getting better!  I guess I can say I'm a graphics designer now (thanks to much help from some of the real experts at PCC and my wonderful and talented daughter, Audra.  She, Mike and Roni are always pulling my fat out of the fire!)



    "I Want This One!"
    Mele and Iosepa Go Christmas Tree Shopping
    This is the firs of our PhotoStories for the Christmas Season.  I am going to bet that most of you have seen this by now since I've been plastering it EVERYWHERE!  There is quite the backstory on how these came about, but let me just introduce you to Mele and  Iosepa and invite you to read more here:  http://shop.polynesia.com/blog/mele_and_iosepa
    I'll post the other photostories (6 in all) each blog.

    So - this is life right now.  My department is really gearing up for Christmas.  It's actually quite insane and if I'm driving any of you crazy with the Facebook posts re: our products, websites or or darling Mele and Iosepa - I truly apologize....and hope that you are patient with me.

    Conversely, Elder Jones is very busy with some energy management tasks.  We know this is not the typical mission and that it may seem confusing to many - but we really are just concentrating on helping a wonderful institution to keep supporting the Polynesian students and their culture.  This next week we are looking at becoming mentors to one or two of the on-campus student organizations. We also try to be really involved in our ward and stake.

    We feel so blessed and so honored.  Somethings may be frustrating, while other things are so exciting!  Mostly, we just love the Lord and know that this mission is a learning environment for us to improve and to support.  Thanks so much for your interest and involvement.  You keep us going!



    ----------------

    Spiritual reflection:

    From the talk "Lord Is It I"?, October 2014 General Conference (click here to read the talk - it's a good one, you'll love it!)

    How lucky am I that my husband is assigned to speak at different Sacrament meetings every month. I help him get his talks together.  Therefore, I get to reread some wonderful talks.  This subject really lifted both Elder Jones and I - making us want to try harder to reflect and improve.

    Elder Jones and I are such opposites.  He is confident, I am critical.  He is relaxed.  I am tightly wound.  He is self reliant.  I am extremely social. He is stubborn, and I am......stubborn too!

    We both recognize that we have weaknesses and strengths.  Ron spoke today about weaknesses simply being one side to a coin.  When Heavenly Father talks about turning our weaknesses into strengths, he's not talking about taking a magic wand and making those weaknesses disappear.  He's telling us that he will help us to take who we are and make something 'beautiful'!

    But the first step is to recognize those things we need to improve.  To stop making excuses for them (rather like Adam saying "Eve - that gal you gave me - MADE me do it!" or Eve saying "The serpent TRICKED me) and instead to utilize who we are and how we think to ours - and everyone elses' advantage.

    So let's say your weakness was that you can be extremely critical of people and situations around you.  This is truly a negative.  However, looking at things critically can also be a positive - for instance, your nature may help you to analyze situations and needs because you look at both sides of a situation.

    You can develop your ability to analyze, always checking to see that you are striving to be honest with yourself about how you view things.  You would then make the resolve to recognize that hurting people's feelings, or tearing down sincere efforts is not a useful goal.

    President Uchtdorf shared the following in his talk:  
                      ..... being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us.
    To be truly honest with yourself, you will need to admit that it is, in deed, YOUR weakness (not mommy's, daddy's, spouses, or even God's fault). You develop the attitude that "I am in control of my own thoughts and actions. If I learned it as a child, I can unlearn it as an adult."

    You come up with an action plan:  "I will reflect each night on things I may have been too critical about during the day.  I will pray for forgiveness and insight.  Tomorrow I will come up with positive statements to my spouse, my children and co-workers to show that I do support and care about them."



    Then, to utilize the trait in a positive manner, you decide to research and practice steps to 'critical thinking' that concentrates on solutions rather than voicing negativity.  You explain this plan to a trusted family member or friend and ask for help in recognizing both errors and progress.

    Well, that's my deep thoughts - for now.......  God bless you all.  We love you!