Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21, 2014- Part two, another reason to celebrate

We had a wonderful reason to celebrate today.  Our good friend Marcio Santana was finally able to be baptized.  He will be a wonderful asset to the Branch.

These two sisters had a bad day and all of their appointments fell through.  They saw him in a parking lot.  He had always avoided Mormons, but these young Sisters were able to get him to talk to them.  He agreed to come to Church and loved the primary program and the focus on families.  He was scheduled for baptism once before, but his mother died and he had to go to Brazil for a few weeks.    Today we were finally able to have a baptism for him.  It was wonderful.

December 21, 2014- A work in progress

That best describes our week- a work in progress.  We were able to attend the Temple with the Sisters on Thursday.  Because it is not in our mission, the Elders and Sisters do not get to go often.  It was unusual to have Elder Dixon as the only male patron.  We were invited to go because they need a married couple.  It is a choice experience.

On Thursday evening, Sister Bennion had put together a sweet program for Christmas.  The Elders and Sisters performed in a choir and did a nice job.  It was great to see the joy that they felt in being able to participate.

On Friday, Elder Dixon and I began the decorating for the Branch "Journey to Bethlehem".  The Elders helped for about three hours and it was basically finished.  When we got home, I still had some costuming things to finish for Saturday.

On Saturday, Elder Dixon got sick.  We debated whether he should go and just lie down in the clerk's office, but decided we did not want him to make others sick.  So, I ended up going alone.  One problem, I don't have a key to the church and forgot to take his.  Fortunately, two Elders live fairly close and were able to let us in.

DSC00174.JPGThis project has been a passion for me for several months.  When we first arrived, the Relief Society President indicated that we needed to raise the spirituality of the Branch.  Usually, the Branch would have had a barbecue for Christmas.  That just didn't seem like the right thing, so I pulled out my favorite Church celebration.  It was a lot of work.  Lots of trips to Goodwill and sewing costumes.  I had to have a Portuguese speaker and English speaker in every room and had the Spanish Sisters come because they had invited some Spanish speakers.  The rules are tricky:  A missionary must be with a companion or a member of the Church (who is of the same gender) at all times.  That meant I had to have two of every position.  I revised the script to fit our situation.  As I was explaining it to our Elders, I realized that there was a significance to the characters.

The first character was the Shepherd.  He personally experienced the miracle of the birth of the Savior.  He was present when the angels appeared and announced the birth.  He actually saw the Holy Child and worshipped him.  The Shepherd had direct knowledge and did not doubt.

The room actually looked much better than in the pictures.  It was dark, there was a log fire in the corner, and there were bags of wool.  Don't mind the socks.  Some  Elders struggle with costuming!

The second room was the carpenter- a relative of Joseph's.  He knew of the character of Joseph and Mary.  He would have heard of the visitation by the angels, but did not experience it.  It didn't matter, he believed on the words of others.   He was a man of faith.  When asked about that, the missionaries explained that they knew because of the Holy Ghost.
Wood donated from the scraps at a construction sight made it smell nice.

The third personality was the merchant who had no interest in spiritual things.  The merchant's only interest in the traveling kings was in their money.  When Balthazar, a wiseman, confronted the merchant regarding the cost of his soul, the merchant determined that the money was not worth his soul, and gave gold to the "travelers".
The Innkeeper's character was too busy to realize that he had Christ in his midst.  He begins to realize that he missed something remarkable and is deeply sorrowful, we would call it repentant.  He asks the other travelers to take frankincense to give to the child.
Each of the characters represents people who may be seeking Christ.  For some, it means overcoming doubts or disinterest.  For some, it is feeling the sorrow for not accepting Christ.  For some, it means accepting the miracles that occur in one's life.  For others, it means having the faith to believe without seeing.  
King Herod was a lot of fun.  He enjoyed his role and persecuted the travelers.  He took the gold coins from them that Balthazar had given them.  The best part was that he kept picking up babies and saying "I think this is the one."  When one of the young mothers realized who he was portraying she said "Give my baby back."

Everyone who came was amazed.  They had not seen anything quite like this.  We did not have a lot of people attend, but people are already talking about next year since we will be here.  It is true that the second year attendance will be better, and if they continue to do it every year, it will really get big.  I hope that they can do so.  It was a very nice evening.

Our Mission President and Sister Bennion are so supportive.  Because Elder Dixon was sick and another person did not show up, I was in a difficult situation.  President Bennion was willing to stand in and even wear a costume if needed.  Our Senior Missionary couples came from the office in support.  Love these people!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14, 2014- The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

This is such a glorious time of year.  I have been so very lucky in my life to have a wonderful family with whom I have shared the holidays.  I have such sweet memories of my birthday and Christmas.  I never felt cheated because my birthday was in December.  I always loved the fact that my birthday was the day before my sister's.  One of my favorite pictures ever is of us celebrating our combined birthdays.  I don't have it here with me, though.  I was actually cute then!

We are 17 years apart, but she has always looked out for me.  Even now, when I was concerned about the missionaries having Christmas packages, she and her neighbor responded.  The missionaries were grousing a bit about not being remembered at Christmas and I told them that they did not need to worry, someone had thought of them.  It was very sweet.

My birthday started with a sweet breakfast from our Spanish sister missionaries.  It was a very nice way to start the day.

My sweet mother-in-law has made an extraordinary effort to see that we have cards in the mailbox.  She sent money for my birthday.  It was spent on the last few things we needed for the upcoming Journey to Bethlehem.

Now Elder Dixon can't keep saying that it is a waste of time to go to the mailbox!

The missionaries knew it was my birthday and created a card for me.  They called to wish me a Happy Birthday or Para Bems.  Kaitlyn sent us a great little package with Danish Dessert (because we can't find it here).  She included some charms with strict instructions that I am to share them.  Hmmmmm, that will take some thought.

Our sweet Brazilian Elders had a picture taken of themselves and put it in a frame.

We received two adorable Christmas cards from Titan and P1 with ME's help.

Our delightful Mission Mom, Sister Bennion, also called to wish me a Happy Birthday.  We LOVE our Mission President and Sister Bennion.  They are really choice people.

Unfortunately, however, my birthday fell on a the date that missionaries were notified of transfers.  As I have expressed before, I hate transfers.  I ESPECIALLY hated this one, though.  Because fewer sister missionaries are coming out, one of the sister apartments in our complex was closed.  Other sister apartments had been closed earlier.  We always hate to lose missionaries, but the Sisters add an extraordinary element to our mission, and losing them is really hard.

Even worse, our sweet Sister Barros returned to Temple Square.  She was my second companion (Elder Dixon is still the first and will remain so) and served wonderfully in the short time she was here.  We had held out hope that the Mission President on Temple Square would let her stay, but it did not happen.  The Brazilian Elders loved having her here and have acknowledged that she did great work.  She and Sister Madsen (who had been so wonderful at supporting the work and devoting a day of their work to the Portuguese Branch), came over to say "until we meet again" and brought a lit cupcake and balloons.  As we posed for this picture, Sister Barros tapped the balloon so that it would be in the air in the picture.  It hit the lit candle and exploded.  We laughed so hard!  Unfortunately, we did not capture that on film.  I will miss these Sisters!

We had our District Meeting on Tuesday morning.  We had several transfers in our District and another apartment of sisters was shut down and replaced with Elders.  Our Elder Castro was transferred out of the Branch to work with a Spanish-speaking Elder.  Elder Sousa was transferred into our District as Elder Lima's companion.  Elder Galvez (originally from Guatemala, has learned English well, but does not speak Portuguese yet) has transferred in to be Elder Cruz's companion.  We lost one of our Zone Leaders that we love.  One of the Elders who has been here as long as we have been was transferred to another area.  Our District Leader was sent to another area. One of the Sister training leaders was transferred.   It was a day of signing "bye-bye" books and as Elder Castro said "Sister Dixon, you will cry."  He was right.  I did.

Sorry about the quality.  If you had seen the poor photographer trying to take pictures for all of us, you would have understood.
 Elder Castro's Christmas wish is that he will be rid of his cast.  This time, it is not bright red.  He wanted something more appropriate for the Temple.

We have heard from Elder Castro from his new area.  He is so excited.  He was able to be part of a baptism on Saturday.  He has not had that opportunity yet in the Branch.

Elder Cruz and Elder Galvez are already hard at work.  They have found people to teach and are working in a new location.  Elder Cruz looks very happy.

 I found out that if we want a picture published, they will not do so if there are hand gestures.  Can't get the Brazilians to quit the upward thumb!

These are the North Point sisters.  They have served the singles in our District area.  They are a close companionship, and being transferred was hard.  We enjoyed dinner with them.  One of the things I love about them is when they didn't have any dinner invitations they would call and see if we had plans.  We will miss them.

We attended a farewell fireside for 10 sister missionaries and 3 elders.  Poor Sister Bennion!  She has worked hard to have a missionary choir and that just does all kinds of damage to the balance!

Once we learned who we will have to be the characters in the Journey to Bethlehem, we turned our attention to costuming and food.  Our very talented Sister Mingorance got permission to use some of the costumes from their school, but they didn't have enough of what I needed, so I see up a workshop.  This is what our apartment looks like while I am doing this:

This probably makes my family and close friends laugh, because I tend to avoid sewing, if possible.  Thanks, Pete, for lending me the sewing machine.
 This picture brings back memories of raising teenage girls!  I have to make two costumes for each room because our missionaries must remain together in twos.  Also, I will need one English speaker and one Portuguese speaker in each room to accommodate whichever language the people attending need.  We are also pulling in our Spanish Elders because they have some Spanish-speakers who may come.
So, in this pile there are two shepherds. two kings, two carpenters, two innkeepers, a couple of serving outfits and I am finishing up the tax collectors.  I will put pictures in once the costumes are on people.

I am very nervous about Saturday.  We haven't tried an activity like this before.  I hope it is well-received and we have enough of everything.

Today we had Stake Conference at Lanier Technical College in Cumming, Georgia.  The Stake Center is not large enough to accommodate the Stake attendees at the Sunday Session.  It was nice.

On Thursday we have the mission Christmas party.  On Friday we go to the Temple with the missionaries.  On Sunday, I will need to teach the Young Women and we have a baptism.  Next week, Kaitlyn, Andreia and Titan will be coming to visit!  What an exciting time!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, 2014- A Mission Christmas

I couldn't conclude Thanksgiving without the traditional homemade noodles.

That dish brings back years of sweet memories.  I had to laugh a little this year, though, because I always thought my sister was the traditional one.  For Thanksgiving she had steak and crab!
With the Thanksgiving celebration over, we moved on to creating Christmas here.  Thanks to Pete and Richard, we were able to "borrow" Christmas.  They graciously loaned us lovely things to use to decorate.  That is the greatest!  We didn't have to buy anything, can return it after the holiday and won't have to store them.

The wreath was one left by the previous Senior couple.  The ribbon bow was one of Pete's.  I added the gift tag to let people know that "He is the Gift".

This Christmas season has been one of reflection for me.  Yesterday, we were in Walmart.  There was no music.  No Christmas carols of any kind, nor any other kind of music.  Elder Dixon, who hesitates to ever sing even with a choir, began to sing Christmas songs.  I totally understood.  There was something terribly missing from Christmas.

A sister in the Branch asked why we celebrate Christ's birth on December 25 since we know that is not really  his birthday.  That is a reasonable question.  The history of the December 25 date is not based on any biblical information.  I suppose my answer would be that it is not really about the date.  It is an opportunity for Christians to celebrate one of the greatest events of all time.  It is an opportunity to turn hearts to Him for whom the angels sang.  It is an opportunity for us to serve as He served and to love as He loved.  It is a time to stop and remember all that is good.

So that is what has troubled me so much.  I looked for opportunities this year to take my non-LDS friends to Christmas events in our wards to share the most important story ever.  What I often found were celebrations with Santa Claus, barbecues and even the Grinch.  I began to understand how our non-LDS friends would question whether we are Christian.  The events by other Christian faiths here are completely tied to Him.  They have advents, concerts, and live nativities.  I haven't seen a single sign from another Christian church in which they said Santa Claus would be there.

So, I look forward with great anticipation to trying to create that journey for those who still seek him.  We will have our Branch Christmas party on December 20.  I hope to create the "spirit of place" and, by so doing, give all who attend the real spirit of Christmas.

Our sisters serving in the Spanish Branch borrowed some of the props for their party yesterday.

My second companion, Sister Barros, is returning to Temple Square this week.  We will miss her.  She was a real addition to our missionary team.  It was hard for me to adjust to having a companion I could not leave, especially with the issues that we sometimes have for coverage of assignments in the branch.  She was patient and kind.  I have such a hard time letting go of these great missionaries. . . .

It is also transfer week and our sweet Sister Adorable will be going home.  We will get to see her once or twice before she leaves.  We miss her, too.  She was the first about whom I learned that I hate transfers.

Monday, December 1, 2014

He is the Gift

May this Christmas Season be filled with reminders for you that

He is the Gift

November 30, 2014 Elder and Sister Dixon and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very-bad last week of November

When I was younger, I fell in love with the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Day".  For those of you unfamiliar with the book, the young boy wakes up with gum in his hair, his favorite marble goes down the drain and his day gets worse from there.  Each time something else happens, he says "I think I'll move to Australia."

When Elder Dixon and I got married, we had a honeymoon with issues just like Alexander's day.  I used the book and wrote a parody of  "The Dixons and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Honeymoon."  Over the last many years, we have had laughs about the challenges we had during that trip.

Okay, this week deserves the Elder and Sister Dixon and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very-bad last week of November.  Not that there were not good times, because there were.  But here's the "ode" to the bad times.

On Monday, we were making a left turn while on a trip to see the Elders.  The light was yellow and was ready to turn red, there was a car coming that decided to try to beat the light.  He put on the gas and Elder Dixon saw him coming so Elder Dixon put on the gas.  We were not able to completely get out of the way and he hit the left back passenger side of the car.  He stopped briefly, then took off.  We forgot that red lights here mean speed up.I prefer driving in Utah. . . .

On Wednesday, we went to the grocery store to get what we needed for Thanksgiving.  We forgot some things, so we went back. Elder Dixon was making the dessert and it went lumpy. So we went back to the store to get ingredients for a different dessert.  I think we remembered things better in Utah. . . .

On Thursday, two of our Elders needed a ride to Alpharetta to be able to go to a dinner appointment.  They called later and needed a ride home at 8:30 p.m. from their dinner appointment.  We drove from Roswell to Alpharetta to Roswell to Atlanta to Alpharetta to Marietta and back to Roswell.  We got home about 11:00 p.m. and had driven 120 miles that day.  We got more sleep in Utah. . .

On Friday, we were serving dinner for Bala and his family.  We needed whipped cream, soooo I made another trip to the store.  They didn't have the aerosol kind, so I had to get the kind that we whip.  I had checked out and was on the way home when Elder Dixon called to say that the can opener just broke.  I returned to the store AGAIN.  The turkey wasn't as good as usual.  Later, I went with Sister Madsen and Sister Barros to meet a potential investigator.  We tried the gate information she had given us, but it would not open.  I decided to follow another car (bad idea in Georgia) and the gate arm hit the back window.  Later, we were trying to finalize information for the programs for a baptism.  Our Elders had lost contact with the investigator in Brazil.  The Branch ordered some food anyway.  Herding cats in Utah is probably easier than this. . .

On Sunday, we were not able to find the investigator.  I found out that we are over the budget for the Christmas party and we don't have the food yet.  We were able to save some of the food from the baptism., but some had already been cooked, so we had a linger longer.  We didn't get notice to the Mission Presidency in time, and one of the Mission Presidency came in support of the baptism.  Contacting people was easier in Utah. . . .

On Friday, our son called to tell us that our house in Utah is falling apart.  There was a leak and it damaged a wall in the downstairs bath that we had just fixed before we came.  Our wonderful neighbor came to help, and they stopped that leak, but then it apparently started leaking further up the pipe.  At their Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, our children fixed a traditional corn dish that we have and apparently the crackers they used were moldy (didn't know that was even possible).

Maybe we don't want to be in Utah after all!

So, just like Alexander, the small things that seem to make a bad week, could happen anywhere, and everyone has a bad week now and then.

Honestly, we are blessed, and are blessed to be here.  We had fun with Elder Cruz and Elder Sousa on Monday.  They wanted to learn how to cook as part of their P-day activity.  I think they were hungry, also, so we made Shepherd's Pie for them.  Elder Sousa is not a fan of green beans. . . .

We had a nice time on Thursday at dinner with Dominique and Michael and many of their family and friends.  We enjoyed the joie de vive that they showed as they cooked the meal.  I have never before seen people carving turkey while dancing and singing show tunes!  Their children made the place-cards for us and they were delightfully creative.  We were grateful for the kindness and warmth that we felt there.

On Friday, we enjoyed fixing a small Thanksgiving dinner for Bala and his family.  They found turkey to be boring, but liked the side dishes.  They were not fond of the pumpkin pie, however! The sparkling grape juice was also a new adventure for them.

So, we can move forward to another week of adventures!  Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers (or take pictures of them, at least!)  These are blooming near the Marietta Elders' apartment (this is the end of November, right?).