We witness tender mercies and mini-miracles every day as we find joy in pressing forward. We are immensely grateful for our time of service as missionaries in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Life and opportunities continue. See our missionary and life story in pictures by clicking here: http://rayc.shutterfly.com/
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
The last few weeks have passed quickly. After setting up Christmas decorations, we took a spontaneous trip to Sun Valley, ID to celebrate Ray's birthday. It was very cold, there were few people as the ski season was just beginning, and it proved to be an enjoyable short getaway.
As is typical, the second week of December was our busiest. Ray returned to Fridays in the temple. We had two evenings of dinner with friends and Christmas shopping. On Saturday we enjoyed the annual Wasatch Cruisers (Toyota 4x4 Recreational Club) party. Sunday brought the "Prelude to Christmas" concert - a performance by the Orchard Stake Choir and Orchestra. It's a 25-year tradition in our stake (the orchestra for 5 years). Linda has sung in most of the 25 performances - it's a Christmas gift to herself. We have amazing musical talent in our stake, and the music and rehearsals are challenging and stimulating. Never a soloist, Linda still enjoys singing her first alto in a good choir. Leanna Willmore, the director, is the director of the Bell Choir on Temple Square. The weeks of Sunday evening preparation are a spiritual feast It was wonderful to have Mike and Faith and Hailey, our two granddaughters, attend the performance along with Ray.
Our best Christmas gift came when the surgeon cleared Ray on Wednesday, December 14 to reactivate our mission call. Bi-lateral hand strength is returning as well as some improvement in dexterity. On December 15 he went back to his hand surgeon and scheduled left carpal tunnel surgery for Friday. So all the repairs are complete and his stamina is returning. On Monday, December 19, we contacted the Mission Department and our application is in the works again. It's holiday season for Church headquarters, so we expect a small delay, but hope for a call in early January as our "new year" present!
We had a quiet and nice Christmas. We visited aunts and several niece and nephew families from both sides of the family in the days preceding Christmas and dropped off a homemade gift. A Sacrament meeting ward choir program completed Church on Sunday morning. A nasty intestinal flu is coursing through Mike and Wendy's house, so Wendy and Faith were unable to join the rest of their family for gifts and dinner with us and David at our house on Christmas afternoon. Healing tummies led to little appetite, so we'll make use of our leftovers by making some freezer meals to deliver to senior singles in our ward. It will be a fun way to connect with them prior to departing for our mission. It's very probable our ward family will change while we're away, so we want to let those who have been our examples and mentors over the years know how much we love and appreciate them.
It's likely we will set an all-time record for low/no December precipitation or snow this year (a bare .1 inch right now). No shoveling gives us more time to ponder the birth and mission of Jesus Christ and to plan next steps in preparing for our mission call. Daily scripture and missionary study have become habits. We will begin packing away closet items as we take down Christmas to make space for our renters, Nephi and Lilla. We can complete our income taxes and take care of a few other business needs in early January rather than leaving them to family to do. We now recognize some advantages to our delayed call. Gradually what has come to feel like pretend missionary preparation is again turning into reality - restless waiting for news of when and where and purposeful preparation.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
We enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with our family. Mike and Wendy were the hosts to her family and to Ray and me, 30+ in all. Dave was heading out for his traditional Thanksgiving camping, so he stopped by to visit before dinner. We enjoyed good company, cooking and cleaning, and visiting together. It was a lovely day. On Friday we served in the temple, and today we set up outside decorations for Christmas under blue skies and mild temperatures. Tomorrow Linda shares a "favorite" hymn as part of the Orchard 6th Ward's sacrament meeting centering on sacred hymns - another tradition. We're grateful for our sacred hymns and their teachings. Some snippets from Linda's message:
The alleluia song I’m particularly grateful for today is Hymn #81, Press Forward Saints. I love its positive message; I love its harmonies and energy. Its words lay out a clear and simple path for righteous living. As Ray and I been preparing for a mission call, its message is particularly meaningful to us. The Lord blesses us when we show our faith and move forward. He has made such wonderful promises to us if we will trust in Him and follow Him.
In the 2nd Book of Nephi, Nephi prophesies of things to come; testifying of Christ in a manner he describes as “plainness.” He foretells the ministry of the Savior among the Nephites, warns of destruction, and describes events of the last days. In the final chapters, he encourages us to gain personal knowledge of his prophecies through scripture and prayer. Centuries ago, in Chapter 31 of 2nd Nephi, Nephi summarized the Gospel in five steps: follow the Savior, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.*
* 2nd Nephi, Chapter 31, Verse 20:
Note: Nephi's counsel in Chapter 31 is now restated as the purpose of missionary work in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and introduces Preach My Gospel:
Your (My) purpose as a full-time missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Ray was prompted to follow through on some nagging aching and weakness in his hands. During his mission His physician cleared him for missionary service during the mission physical with the advice to proceed and have another surgery for carpal tunnel. The recovery is short, and he would heal long before a mission call would come. Well, one appointment led to another, and then another. The problem was not carpal tunnel, but spinal stenosis (narrowing of the opening for the spinal cord) in the lower neck. More arthritis fun! Typically this problem manifests itself with pain, which Ray does not have, but he does have numbness and weakness. The narrowing destroys nerves and functionality lost is never regained; putting off the surgery runs a risk. So after consultations and prayer, we reluctantly called the Missionary Department to request a hold on our application. Ray told the surgeon to operate right away, and on November 1st he had a cleanup and fusion of the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae. Originally the doctors felt an additional fusion of the 7th vertebrae might be needed, but we were blessed to have a more straightforward surgery. No pain after the surgery and Ray's doing great! Priesthood blessings and supportive information, faith, and encouragement from family and friends have certainly enabled positive outcomes. Ray has a post-surgery check-up in 10 days. We continue to pray for quick bone fusion and hope to reactivate our mission application at the end of December.
Just days before making the surgical decision, we spent 3 days in Moab with the Wasatch Cruisers Toyota LandCruiser Club and had a great time recreating with good friends in one of our favorite places.
We returned home for a surgeon consultation and then drove to St. George to spend a few days with Linda's brother and wife who just recently relocated there from Chandler, Arizona. We always enjoy time with Thyce and Harriet and look forward to having them only 4 hours rather than 12 hours away. We also had fun in the foothills of Tooele County on Halloween Day with Mike, Wendy, and the grandkids. We let 15-year old Faith drive our LandCruiser, and found feeling young again was a good prelude to a day of surgery!
Based on original plans, Ray informed his Bountiful Temple coordinators that he would have to wear a rigid neck brace for the two-month recovery, so in Saturday's mail he received a formal release as an Ordinance Worker. He will certainly miss the work. But since he does not have to wear the brace full-time, he may be able to return sooner as he's sure to be restless on Thursdays and Fridays when Linda is serving there. So for now, we'll enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with family.
We continue preparing to rent out our home, but on a more relaxed schedule. We finished our first study of Preach My Gospel and have expanded our reading to the Book of Mormon and the other authorized missionary publications. There are still many personal preparations (like coats or no coats) we just can't complete until we know when and where we are going. There will be some advantages in not leaving until 2012. It will allow us to take care of some business issues without having to leave them behind for children. We feel a bit letdown about the mission delay, but feel the Lord's loving hand firmly and gratefully directly the events of the last 30 days.
Indeed, November is a month of gratitude!
Monday, October 10, 2011
We also met last week with Lilla and Nephi Szvoboda, a young couple who are interested in staying in our home while he studies at LDS Business College prior to transferring to BYU in about two years. We're now in the deciding stage. We met them a few weeks ago when serving in the Bountiful Temple. Lilla was receiving her endowment for their marriage the next day, and Linda was her attendant. She is from Hungary; her new husband, Nephi is from Switzerland. Nephi's father is native Hungarian, and the two spent some time in elementary school together when Nephi's family moved back to Hungary for a time. Nephi helped with Lilla's conversion when he served his mission in Hungary. He is studying at LDS Business College. On the day we met in the temple, we discovered they both are well-acquainted (through time spent in Vietnam) with Billy and Karleen Jackson, a former member of our Stake Presidency and his wife, who served a mission in Vietnam and another sister in our stake. Nephi's father's business has a production facility in Vietnam. Linda felt a special bond with Lilla that day, even dropping off a wedding gift that night. Are these all coincidences? No. We feel the Lord's hand has connected us.
On Saturday, our grandson, Noah, was baptized. It was a happy and traditional Wasatch Front stake baptism day, with Noah and Nefi being the two boys baptized from the Centerville Porter Lane 1st Ward. Linda gave a message about the Gift of the Holy Ghost - good practice. The flashlights she used were a good object lesson to add to our missionary toolbox.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Ray's mom passed away in September 2010. This was a turning point in our lives, and thoughts for change included serious consideration about a mission. At the time we were enjoying our temple service so much we decided to wait one more year before departing. That would give us time to complete the temple work for Ray's parents before leaving in the fall (what we felt would be the optimum timing for us). The time has passed quickly!
On Tuesday, September 6, 2011, we clicked the button on our online application to officially begin the process. This morning we met with our Stake President, and in the next day or two, our application will move on to Church Headquarters for review. Now we wait for the call - when and where.
More to come!