Monday, January 26, 2015

Battling roaches- January 26, 2015

For those of you who know me well, you know that I consider roaches to be the lowest form of life.  In my career, I required people to get rid of roaches in their homes.  So, to come to Atlanta and find that I would be fighting roaches in my own home has been an eye-opener.  We have fought them since the day we moved in.  This is what our home looks like:

Certainly not what I would expect a home to look like with roaches.  We keep all of our crackers, cereal, pasta, flour, etc. in plastic bins.  We have had the apartment sprayed nearly every month.  We have used traps.  After the last treatment, we didn't see a single dead roach, but we saw about 12 live ones.  We decided that we would have to kill them and keep them in a bag or the roach terminator would think we were crazy.  He appreciated the effort and said that he had one lady who videotaped the roach walking over the top of the terminator's traps.  Apparently, the roaches are now smart enough to avoid the bait.  Now, we are going to have an expert do a "vacuum treatment", to try to find out where they are living and get rid of them for good.

Perhaps it is a bit like our lives.  We have those "roaches" in our lives we struggle to get rid of.   We may not appear to be someone who is dealing with any issues.  Sometimes we think we have eliminated them, only to see them come back.  The only way to get rid of them is by turning to the expert, our Heavenly Father.  He can provide the help.  But once we have gotten rid of the sins, doubts, roaches, whatever. . . we must be vigilant.  They never stop and we cannot either.

We had a great fireside last night.  We did not get good support from the Brazilian community, but those of our Branch who came found answers to issues and questions they have regarding immigration.  I am very grateful for President Kuck and his willingness to come.  He is a world-renowned immigration attorney and the President of one of the Spanish Branches.  He was terrific, and indicated that he is willing to do it again.  We may just have to take him up on that.

I have the privilege of teaching Young Women in the Branch.  These are really fine Young Women.  They are fighting the good fight.  Our lesson was on President Uchtdorf's talk "Your Happily Ever After". I love the message.  He covered so many things that are important to Young Women today.  I put some key points in a little booklet (I got the idea from the internet).  I included this promise from President Uchtdorf:

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I leave you my blessing and give you a promise that as you accept and live the values and principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, “[you] will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.” 10 And the day will come when you turn the final pages of your own glorious story; there you will read and experience the fulfillment of those blessed and wonderful words: “And they lived happily ever after.” Of this I testify in the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I hope that all of us realize the impact of an apostolic blessing.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Holding on to truth- January 18, 2015

This week, I am feeling frustrated.  We have a new convert who has already left the church.  There is a strong effort by the anti-Mormon community here to turn new converts away.  Unfortunately, one of the downsides of freedom of speech is that those people can tell people things that are not true.

I really struggle with followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ seeking to destroy the faith of others who may believe differently than they do.  When Christ was here on the earth, the Samaritans were a people who were not accepted by the Hebrews.  The animosity was so severe that the Hebrews would not even walk through a Samaritan town.  The Lord Jesus Christ refused to follow that practice.  He taught the Samaritan woman at the well.  He taught the story of the good Samaritan.  In that story, a man was attacked by robbers and left for dead.  Leaders of the church walked by the man and left him.  It was the Samaritan who took the man to an inn and paid for him to be cared for until he was well.

Jesus Christ set the path for us to follow.  We are not to judge others.  We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are to show charity.  The actions that I see don't seem to be part of the gospel he taught.

I wonder about the consequences for those who spread falsehoods.  In the Book of Mormon, there is an account of a lawyer (wouldn't you know it), named Zeezrom.  Zeezrom was a very influential person and a powerful speaker.  He convinced the people that those who believed in Christ were bad.  Because of his words, the people cast the believers into a fire:  women, children and their records.  Zeezrom began to see that what he had taught was wrong.  He began to plead with the people to spare the believers, but the people would not listen and began to say that he was crazy.  Zeezrom eventually was on the verge of death from his anguished soul.  He asked that the prophets come to him to heal him.  After he was healed, he began to preach the gospel.

I have seen the anguish of parents who made bad choices in their lives and then live to see their children repeat those patterns.  I have seen people's reputations destroyed at the hands of those who have something to gain.  I have experienced first-hand the prejudice and bias of the uninformed.  I have seen truth twisted until it no longer resembles truth.

So, I took some time refreshing my soul with things that are true.  I watched some beautiful videos which tell the truth about the Church.  I cried as I felt the spirit of those messages.  I went to Church.  I heard the messages there.  I took of the sacrament.  I taught a Primary lesson about John the Baptist.  I taught a Young Women lesson on the Holy Ghost.  I went with the missionaries to a lesson for a couple investigating the church. I explained about my own conversion and struggles.   I talked to my daughter.

And tonight, I will pray.  I will pray that we can overcome the adversary.  I will pray that we can find those who have been prepared for His word.  I will pray for those who are struggling.  I will give thanks for the gospel in my life and that I did not have people trying to destroy my faith when I was baptized.  I will say thanks to my parents who, though not members of the Church, taught me to love other people and to live up to commitments that I made.

Praise To The Man (The Prophet Joseph Smith)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hotlanta- January 12, 2015

Along with much of the United States,  we have been experiencing cold.  Although we do not compare to the cold that many of you have experienced, we have been down in the 20 degree range.  This is Richard's fountain.  Just the week before, it was in the 60 degree and 70 degree range.   Imagine the confusion the local wildlife must have!

 I have decided that the only thing less predictable than the Atlanta weather are the drivers.  We were driving in the slow lane of the freeway, nearing an exit.  A Georgia driver was in the lane on our left.  He decided that he needed to get off of the freeway, so he changed two lanes, darted in front of us and took the exit.  Had Elder Dixon not been watching, we would have run into him.  We are grateful for the blessings that that Lord has given us in protection.

There are things here that remind us of friends and family.  There is McFarland Road.  When we pass that I think of Jenny and Scott.   But my favorite is the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority- MARTA.  For those of you who do not know, Marta was my maid-of-honor.  I am reminded of her about every day! 

We have been really busy.  We have been doing inspections of missionary apartments.  I just have to say how much I appreciate the talents of Elder Dixon.  He doesn't simply inspect, he looks for things that need to be fixed and fixes them.  There are many drawers, dryer hoses, leaks and squeaks that are better because of him and even lights that work. .  There are homes that feel safer because of his priesthood.  On Friday we traveled over a hundred miles to do inspections.  Don't feel bad for us, though.  Our other Senior Missionary couples are doing a lot more than we did.

He is also great at sharing the gospel.  The Brazilian missionaries are in a trio and are working really hard at finding people to teach.  As a result, they often need him to work with one of them as a companionship.  He also shares the message of the gospel in stores, repair shops and doctor's offices.  He began speaking with a wonderful man in the doctor's office and ended up giving him a Book of Mormon with a challenge to read from it and pray about it.  He promised he would and that he would call us.  I am grateful for this great companion!

I have been spending time preparing lessons for the Valiant class and for Young Women.  Fortunately, the youth are all fluent in English.  I had 11 children in my class on Sunday.  I wish that was because the Branch was getting so big, but it is really because the Valiant classes are all combined because of a shortage of teachers.

Elder Dixon attended a presentation by the Stake Employment specialist.  He is well-informed and knows his stuff.  He said that everyone should be looking for a job all the time.  You should have your linked in account active with a current resume.  He said that you should be receiving calls from head-hunters at least once a year or you need to update your skills or improve your profile.  There are companies that are now using Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter in recruiting.  You should not have more than 10% of your Linked-In contacts from your faith, because they are not the ones who will likely be hiring you.

We are looking ahead to this new year.  We hope to add many families to strengthen the Branch.  If you know any Portuguese speakers in Atlanta, send them our way!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

'Twas the Night After Christmas- January 4, 2015

We didn't take any time to let Andreia, Kaitlyn and Titan relax.  The day after Christmas I was convinced that the best tourist stop to hit was Stone Mountain.  Bad calculation on my part.  We paid to park, but when we discovered that the line for one ride was 2 hours, we decided to switch plans.  We did eat some Honduran food, then we took care of some errands and ate Brazilian food.


On Saturday, we made certain that we left early to hit Legoland.  That was the one thing that Titan really wanted to do.  It was fun.  It doesn't take a long time to see and do everything there.  I especially was impressed with the Lego buildings built as replicas of the buildings in Atlanta.

Notice the King and Queen?  Nicely done, don't you think?
 We took the family to eat at Mary Mac's Teahouse.  It is a great place to try true Southern food.  We ordered fried green tomatoes, but they didn't come.  We did get the family to try the Pot Likker and fried okra.  Can't say that either of those was a hit.  It was still fun to introduce our family to the South.

Sunday was so great.  I was so excited to introduce our daughters and Titan.  I find it fun, and a little amusing, that the Brazilian doesn't speak Portuguese, and the red-headed American does.  It confused my Branch family a little!

I was also happy that they were able to meet Elder Sousa before he was transferred.  True Dixons that they are, they helped in the kitchen for his little mingle.

We went to the Georgia Aquarium on Monday.  It was nice to see the dolphin show.  Andreia cooked some great food and Kaitlyn taught me how to make my favorite Brazilian bread.

We split up one day so that Andreia and Titan and I could visit a children's museum (of sorts) and Elder Dixon and Kaitlyn went to the High Museum of Art.  Lest any of you thinks that Andreia and I sacrificed to do that, that is not the case.  Kaitlyn and her father are both museum aficionados and can spend hours looking at every exhibit.  Andreia and I are more into the "speed museuming".  We get through every exhibit as quickly as our attention span can handle.  It was a great way to have all of us get the best experience.   We then took the family to "The Varsity" to eat.  Definitely not a hit as to the food, but everyone enjoys the "whaddayahave, whaddayahave, whaddayahave?".

Elder Dixon and Titan read and played together.  We enjoyed their visit tremendously, but it came to an end.  On New Year's Eve morning, we took them to the airport.  They went from our pleasant weather to very cold weather.  

On New Year's Day, we had a special opportunity to visit Elder Dixon's brother and his family at the Atlanta Airport.  It was great to reconnect.

This is the one last picture I wanted to post about the Journey to Bethlehem.  These were the bags that those who came received.  At the end of the evening, they had a bag of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  It was real frankincense and

So, Christmas decorations have been taken down.  We gave away the pile of goodies we had accumulated.
 On to a new year, new goals and new challenges.  We wish all of you a great New Year!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmas 2014

For my entire life, Christmas has been more about family and less about things.  When I was young, every Christmas was about who was coming to our house or where we were going.  I traveled across many states to visit my siblings during those years.  I loved Christmas and being with family.

On Christmas Eve, we would have Oyster stew, crackers, cheese and vegetables to dip.  Over the years, we discovered that no one actually like Oyster Stew, but for pure tradition, we continued serving Oyster Stew.  We branched out to include Chili and/or Elder Dixon's wonderful clam chowder.  Had to laugh when, at Thanksgiving, Dominique served Oyster on the Half Shell. so I had some oysters!

This year, we looked to sharing Christmas with our Missionaries and friends.  On Christmas Eve, we invited the missionaries who had not been invited anywhere else to come here, but they all found a place to go.  We were able to share some of the traditions with Bala and his family.  We dropped the Oyster Stew tradition, but we still remembered (and that is good enough in my book).  

We then went to Richard and Peter's home for their Christmas Eve party.  It was lovely.

 Christmas morning, we had breakfast for Bala and his family, the Portuguese missionaries and our newest convert, Marcio.  We had a breakfast casserole, pancakes and juice.  It is always fun to see the reaction when we introduce new foods to our friends and missionaries.  Many of them had never had any of those foods.

 Couldn't help but have them try a little fruitcake, too!

Our missionaries were not forgotten and received some very nice anonymous gifts like ties, hacky sacks, and cookbooks.  We just bought inexpensive things so that we could have a gift exchange.  Note to our wonderful Santas:  we shared the package that you sent because there were several missionaries who would otherwise have been forgotten.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!


Elder Galvez's mother sent these lovely runners as a gift.  They are from Guatamala.

What you see behind them is the string of Christmas cards we received.  My cute mother-in-law sent a Christmas card for every day!  We thought she was doing the twelve days of Christmas, so we didn't open any for a while!
That would have made a terrific Christmas, but it just kept getting better.  We were able to pick up Kaitlyn, Andreia and Titan from the airport to stay for almost a week.
Richard and Peter graciously put off their trip to be able to see them.  They made a wonderful meal for us.

This was the fun table at Richard and Peter's home.  We all had a popper on our plate.  The children really enjoyed it.

So, it was a Christmas of family and friends.  We didn't need snow or presents.  We had the joy of being together.  We miss those who could not be here and hope to share our mission with them at some point.

It was truly a Merry Christmas.