Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23--Dear Elder: Home Again

Now its Sunday and we’re home!  It is so nice to be back.  Even Dad said we were away too long, ha ha.  We enjoyed visiting the Animal Kingdom, especially the safari, which we went on twice, and the Finding Nemo musical.  The next day we went to the Magic Kingdom and it was fun to see how the same rides differed from their California Disneyland counterparts.  It was much more spread out because Disney has more land in Florida.

We had a wonderful vacation, Matt.  Dad is so fun to be with, and he always took care of all the arrangements.  He planned and navigated, and scheduled, leaving me free to just enjoy.  He is such a selfless and amazing husband.  I loved spending two whole weeks of one-on-one time with him.  He’s fun and thoughtful and makes anything we do together a blast.

While we were away, Thomas and Jon did a lot of barbecuing.  In fact, they bought a new barbecue.  Thomas also worked a couple of times while we were gone, and he also, according to Grandpa, saved the house from serious smoke damage one day when they left and forgot to turn off the beans.  Thomas came home, smelled something over cooking, and turned off the stove.  If he hadn’t, Grandpa said that the pan would have smoldered dry on the stove for six hours.  We feel really blessed that that didn’t happen.

We feel really blessed about a lot of things, Matt.  The kids were safe and happy while we were gone, and made good choices.  These things are answers to prayers.  I am so grateful to Grandpa and Grandma for staying with them and helping them to have full, safe, and happy days.  They got to see Elizabeth’s family a lot, and Rick and Sarah’s family.  It couldn’t have been any better for them.  Dad and I were also blessed with good weather, safe travel, and wonderful experiences.  Grandpa and Grandma seem to have enjoyed their stay, and got home again safely.  So many answers to so many prayers.

Coming home, our flight was delayed an hour and a half, so we weren’t able to see Katrina before she left on choir tour, which is really sad.  She took a phone, though, and we were able to talk to her yesterday.  I got a text from her saying that she now has bad phone service, so I don’t know how much we will be able to talk to her.  I have been praying that she will be happy and make friends, and have a nice host family and be safe.  I hope we can talk to her soon.

How is Miriam?  She is sick today.  It looks like she has tonsillitis.  Her boss gave her and her coworker iPads for passing the test, and she is really excited about that.  The local paper did a front page story about Preston graduating from Marine training and it quotes Miriam.  Pretty cool, huh?

Last night, Dad and I did a barbeque in the back yard with Thomas, Miriam, and Jon.  I really loved it.  The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed visiting and eating together.  Have I mentioned yet how good it is to be home? ha ha.

Today we only have sacrament meeting, and then at 4:00 we are going to watch the MTC broadcast put out by the church.  I don’t know if it is nationwide or world wide, but I think it is world wide, so maybe you will see the same broadcast, too.  I really look forward to seeing it especially because I think it will be about missionary work.  You can see it online already, but I will wait and watch it today with the fam.

Emerson, Cassandra and Lily will be here next weekend for a visit.  Woo hoo, woo hoo!!  I can’t wait, but I have a lot to do till then.  Yesterday we were able to buy a pack and play from the want ads for $25.  It is almost brand new, and it will make a good place for Lily and future grandkids to sleep.  Hopefully we will be using it tons in the years to come.

After Cassandra and Emerson have been here for a few days, they are going to Seattle to see Emerson’s grandma, and they are leaving Lily here for us to tend.  Woo hoo, woo hoo!!  I want to buy a little wading pool for her.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

June 19--Dear Elder Letter Installment: Disney World

Dear Elder,

Thank you so much for the letter.  It sounds like this will be a very busy week for you, getting ready to leave.  I am sorry that we asked you to buy so much stuff to send us.  I meant to erase all that and just leave the part about you buying whatever you want for us.  I also didn’t deposit more money into your account till Monday night.  I hope those two things didn’t mess you up or stress you out.  I want you to be able to do missionary work, not stress over buying stuff.  If you want you can ship the suitcase with nothing in it at all

Thomas was never able read the email you sent him.  Where did you send it?  It’s not on my email.  He says it isn’t on his.  Let me know where you sent it and I’ll let him know so that he can read it and then maybe he’ll send you a better letter.

Today is Wednesday and we are at Disney world.  Monday we went to Epcot where they have the World Showcase.  We visited many “countries” including Mexico and Japan.  Dad especially loved Japan, and we spent quite a bit of time there and ate there.  Yesterday we were at Disney’s Hollywood studios, and today we will go to the Animal Kingdom.  Since there is less to do here, we have had a very laid back time and haven’t had to rush from place to place which is nice, but we still prefer Disneyland.  I’m glad that, thanks to Grandpa and Grandma’s being willing to watch the kids for so long, we found out that we prefer Disneyland to Disney World without having to make a special trip to Florida just to go there.

It is quite humid here, which we don’t mind, and it has rained for awhile every day, which we don’t mind either.  We have not seen anyone we know, ha ha, and we have not even seen anyone who is obviously LDS yet which is weird after being on a Disney cruise that was full of LDS people.
The kids and Grandpa and Grandma seem to be doing well and yesterday they went up the canyon and met Sarah’s family who are in town, and Rick’s family and all had a picnic.  Preston left yesterday morning for more training and we won’t see him again till December probably. We will all miss him.  Poor Miriam!  Dad and I finally got to talk to him on the phone for awhile on Monday which we enjoyed very much.

June 17: Email From Matt: "Hey, this is an answer to your letter!"

A Picture of Your Son Eating Cow Guts
Raw Cow Guts
Just kidding, they were cooked.

Hey Mom and Dad! (and Family) I really liked getting your letters! They were very fun to read and they help me know how things are going for you! I loved the things, that you wrote Mom, about the beatitudes, they touched my heart, and I know that I'll be able to put them in practice. I'm gonna have less time to write because we have an appointment but I hope that you all know that I love you.

Mom and Dad, I'm gonna try and buy stuff for you, I don't have time or means to see your letters after I write this, but this might be my last monday in cabo san lucas and so I'll try to buy everything you said, but I wont have much time to do it.

How did this week go? well, bad. haha! yeah, it's true, but that doesn't mean that I feel down! I just know that I have to change. The most interesting and impacting that happend this week happend and I didn't even know about it.... like almost a month ago, we started talking to a less active family they are the Caamal family and they are very good people, anyway, so we talked to them and two weeks later they went to church, then they didn't come the next week, but then after that they came again, and they came again this last week. Their 9 year old daughter gave a talk in sacrament meeting, and her grandpa came to hear it. Her grandpa has been inactive for years. It looks like both of the familys are on the way to being active again, and hearing that changed my perspective on the whole week. The spirit touched their hearts in some point of this whole process.

I didn't even know that any of that had happend!

In other news, Arturo left this week, he's left the state and is living in another state with his family now. We miss him. We are teaching a few people and it's very interesting but I don't have time to send a good letter to talk about all of them! Sorry! I love you all!

June 17--Email From Matt

I just wanted to write to say thank you so much for the letter that you sent me, it was very touching and it had a good impact on the way I look at things, I'm gonna put it in practice as much as I can. Thanks Mom!

June 15--Dear Elder Letter Installment

Hi, Matt.  Now it is Saturday.  Dad and I were so happy to get your letters.  It is okay that you didn’t have much time to write.  We are glad for whatever we get.  Just so you know, Thomas had no way of emailing you last week unless Miriam or Katrina offered to let him use their devices which is unlikely.  He probably didn’t even get your email till this week.  Hopefully you will hear from him this week.  Grandpa and Grandma know how to get on my email so that he can write.

Dad says to fill the suitcase full of stuff and send it home.  Put anything you don’t need any more on your mission but do want back at home into it along with a nice strong hammock and any souvenirs you think are cool.  If you want a hammock for your own, buy two so  we have one for the family also.  I’ll have Dad deposit $100  in your account for souvenirs. Do you have any idea how much shipping will be?  Let me know before you send it.  I know that they sell ceramic tiles with numbers on them for people to put on their houses.  If you see tiles with letters on them instead, I’d like one tile for each person in the family (D for Dad, Etc.)  We like the colorful dishes they sell in Mexico.  A nice big platter would be nice.  So would a nice big serving bowl.  If you see a replica of the Mayan tree of life, that would be nice, but don’t spend too much money on it.  Pack it all really really well, ha ha.

We just got off the cruise ship and are now in a hotel in Cape Canaveral.  It is too early to call anyone yet, but we were able to get your letters and we are now hogging the hotel computers so that we can write to you.  We don’t have a room yet.  I can’t wait to see how everyone at home is doing!  I kept having dreams that I was able to go home and visit the fam between the cruise and our time at Disney world, but they didn’t come true, ha ha.  The cruise was so fun.  We saw some awesome ruins in Mexico and also toured the “secret river” which is underground in caves.  When we go on Disney’s island, we snorkeled some more including with the sting rays, and went on a nice bike ride to explore the island.

In Grand Cayman, we snorkeled.  Afterwards, we had 15 minutes to shop before the last tender boat to the ship.  We ran to Diamonds International as quick as we can and Dad bought me a diamond.  The diamond I have had in my ring is not a real one, Matt.  I lost my diamond over 10 years ago, but I don’t mention it to anyone because Dad asked me not to.  He’s wanted to buy me a new on all these year, but I wouldn’t let him until now.  I now have a new diamond--a bit bigger, and very good quality.   Dad insisted on the best.  He is so sweet! The cut is a Crown of Light which makes it really sparkle.  Disney had shopping guides to let us know which places were reputable.

The tour guide at the Choccoben ruins in Costa May was named Luis.  He was very friendly and helpful.  He sold maps of the ruins and three postcard pictures all for $5, which we bought.  As we looked at our map and our postcards, Luis’s name was on them.  We asked and found out that he had taken the pictures, and also had gotten a friend of his to draw the map.  It was beautifully done.  At the ruins, he showed us some pictures of things that they had uncovered while excavating them (they were discovered in the 1990’s and are still being excavated) and then covered back up to preserve them.  They were pictures he had painted on cloth.  He really made the tour interesting.  

Just as interesting was the bus trip to and from the ruins.  We could look out the window as we drove past lush vegetation and the homes of the inhabitants of Costa Maya.  The homes were bright but poverty stricken.  It was a lot to take in as we whizzed past.  The people selling things outside the ruins were of Mayan descent, and I wished I had bought the tree if life stone they had for sale.

The cruise ship was amazing.  It is a fifth of a mile from one end to the other, and there are 11 decks.  We always used the stairs and got lots of exercise.  I don’t think we worked off all the calories we gained, though, ha ha.  The food was delicious, and although I tried to eat healthy food, I ate a TON of it.  The shows were so fun, and so was the other entertainment on the ship.  Dad is so fun to be with!  I love sharing experiences with him.

There were lots of families on the ship, and also lots of extended families--family reunions.  It was fun to watch the grandparents with their grandkids.  It would be cool if we could do that with our grandkids someday, but don’t get your hopes up, ha ha.  There were also lots of Mormons.  All you had to do is find a group where every single person was dressed modestly, and you could be pretty sure they were LDS.  Usually someone in the group would have BYU on their shirt, hat, or backpack, and that was a dead give away.  We met some LDS people from Tennessee, and some other people who used to live in our stake and recognized us.

The workers on the ship were amazing.  On the last day, Dad got to talk to a girl from Japan--the only Japanese cruise member on the ship.  We were taking pictures and she asked us if she could take pictures so that Dad and I could be in them together.  She was so surprised when he started speaking Japanese to her!  She was homesick, and I think it was nice for her to hear someone speak Japanese.  All the crew members had some things in common--they were all from different countries, they were all so nice, and they were all homesick.  I was, too, ha ha.  They liked talking to us because we’d always ask them about their homes and families--their favorite things to talk about.

Now it is Saturday night.  It has been a good day.  After second breakfast, Dad and I hit the beach and walked for two hours in the shallow surf. We were able to talk to Grandpa and Grandma and all of the kids on the phone. After that, we napped and then went in search of food and ice cream.  We had Taco Bell for lunch, did some shopping at Ron Jon's surf shop, and then bought ice cream.  We ate the ice cream for supper and now it is time for bed.  I love you, Matt!



June 10--Dear Elder Letter Installment: Beattitudes

Now, it is Tuesday.  Matthew, I have been wanting to express some things to you and have been unsure as to how to put them into words.  Yesterday (Monday) I woke up with the beatitudes running through my mind and a deeper understanding of how they apply to you as a missionary.  I hope that you won’t mind me sharing my thoughts with you.

3 Ne. 12

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

One group that I think “poor in spirit” refers to are those who lack the spirit of the Holy Ghost, or the courage to obey the Holy Ghost.  The action that needs to take place in order for that to change is to come unto him as you did, Matt, when you poured out your heart to God as you spiritually planned your week, telling Him of your fears and your willingness to obey His spirit more fully.  His promise and assurance is that yours is the kingdom of heaven.

You have the fullness of the gospel, Matt.  You have the gift of the Holy Ghost, given to all those who enter into His kingdom through the gates of baptism.  You are an emissary of the Lord Jesus Christ.  You have everything you need to act in His name.  You are not poor in his Spirit; you are filled with it, but it does no good unless you allow it to overflow into action, blessing the lives of others, not just with comforting words, but with the fullness of the everlasting gospel and baptism into the kingdom of God along with the gift of the Holy Ghost that they will no longer be poor in spirit, but will be filled.

4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Matt, you mourn for your weaknesses, you mourn for those that don’t have the fullness of the gospel.  For this, Christ calls you blessed.  Yet, that mourning can turn to joy in Christ.

Alma, as he saw the iniquity of the Zoramites, realized the sorrows that lay before him as he prepared to go among them teaching the gospel, and he prayed saying,

Alma 30:31-38 “O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ…O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me…yea, even all these wilt thou comfort, O Lord. Yea, wilt thou comfort their souls in Christ. Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength, that they may bear their afflictions which shall come upon them because of the iniquities of this people. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.

Now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words, that he clapped his hands upon all them who were with him. And behold, as he clapped his hands upon them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  And the Lord provided for them… and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.”

Alma knew that even in their afflictions and their weaknesses, their sorrows could be swallowed up in joy, as can yours, Matt.  Were they successful in bringing the Zoramites to the truth?  With some, yes, but with the majority, no.  Yet their sorrow in that fact was swallowed up in the joy of Christ, knowing and having faith that everything will work out according to God’s plan.  Christ says blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.  Pray when you are sorrowful, and God will comfort you.

Even the great missionaries Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni, sometimes gave in to doubts, but they did not let them prevail.  They turned to God for peace.  “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren,… and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.”

5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

The meek are the teachable.  When you listened to the man telling you that he didn’t think we needed organized religion, you let God teach you.  Through His spirit and because you were meek and teachable, you learned to see that man as God sees him, and love him as God loves him.  Being teachable requires us to listen to the need behind people’s words, not merely to the words themselves.  It means listening to the Holy Ghost.

One thing that helps us to be meek is our weaknesses.  Ether 12:27—“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

He gives us our weaknesses.  These weaknesses come from many sources, our past experiences, the way we were taught, our physical shortcomings, and these experiences are all given to us by God that we may be humble and have faith and then He promises that our weaknesses will be made strong.  He doesn’t condemn us for having weaknesses, he gave them to us!  They are not sins.    He only asks us to stay faithful and humble, and He will help us to obey Him despite our weakness, and to make us strong.

6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.  

Hungering and Thirsting help us to have the Spirit.  Hungering and thirsting as we prayerfully fast brings the Spirit.  Hungrily feasting upon the word of God brings the Spirit.  Thoughtfully partaking of the bread (hungering) and water (thirsting) brings the Spirit. Christ is the bread of life and the living waters.  As we hunger and thirst after the Son of Righteousness, and do the things that we have seen Him do, we are filled with the Holy Ghost.  God blesses those who act upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost, as Christ did, with more promptings and more guidance and takes from those who quench the promptings further opportunities.

7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Matt, in bringing the fullness of the gospel to God’s children, you are performing one of the most merciful acts a person can perform.  God is so pleased with you!  He is full of mercy and compassion for you.  He loves you and wants you to have joy in your errand of mercy to save His beloved children.

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Harold B. Lee tells us that the pure in heart will not only see God, but will see God in others.  Matt, you are living the life of a missionary.  As you keep yourself pure in heart and unspotted from the world, you will be able to see God’s likeness in His children.  You will be filled with the pure love of Jesus Christ, a pure love for the people you serve.  Love for others will bring sorrow when they don’t choose the gospel, but overarching all sorrow is joy as we feel Christ’s pure love and mercy for us and them.

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

Matt, as you spread the gospel, you are making peace.  You are helping to bring forth Zion upon the earth.  You are anxiously engaged in the good cause of Zion, and God is with you!  Stay consecrated.  Give everything you have to him.  Hold nothing back.

10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.

Matt, we have nothing to fear.  We are not as Job, racked with bodily afflictions, or as Aaron and his brethren languishing in prison.  We are not as Abinadi suffering death by fire.  We are not as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered all things.  Are we greater than these?  What are we afraid of?

“2 Tim 1:7-8 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”

Let us be like Alma who forgot his own suffering and remembered instead God’s suffering children of the earth who cried saying, “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth."  Alma 29-:1-2

God’s children need more than words of comfort, more than acts of love, they need the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how blessed are they who declare it, and how beautiful upon the mountains are their feet and how beloved are they by their God!

The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel… for the prisoners shall go free.
23 Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” –D&C 128:22-23

June 9--Dear Elder Letter Installment: Sunday on Ship

Today is Sunday and we are on the Disney Fanatsy sailing from Florida to the Cayman Islands.  It seems like on our last Disney cruise there were more couples.  This cruise it’s families, families everywhere.  It makes me miss my own family!  Dad and I are having a wonderful time.  The food is good and he is great company.  Yesterday we boarded and immediately went to find some food which was delicious.  We saw a fun little game show with lots of kids playing it and the other big show yesterday evening.

It is not easy being on a cruise ship on Sunday.  This morning, Dad and I dressed for church, had breakfast, and then headed for the interdenominational service on the uppermost deck of the ship—deck fourteen.  We were hoping to meet some other LDS families, but we were the only ones.  We were also hoping to meet some families of other faiths, but there wasn’t much visiting.  We did visit with one of the crew members who is from Florida and also with the man who lead the service, Jerome from Jamaica.  He is the butcher on the ship and is lucky enough to have his wife here on the cruise with him.  She is a housekeeper.  He says having her here makes all the difference.  Yesterday we talked to a man from the Ukraine who has wife and two kids back at home.  He says he used to love cruising when he was single, but now all he wants to do is get home.  I totally understand.  Home is where your family is!

The service was nice, and when we got home we read a conference talk and also a bit from Psalms and from 1 Corinthians then we went out and walked on deck.  After lunch, we took a nice long nap.  Now we are awake and will probably go explore the ship or something.

June 10--From Matt to Brian

I was trying to figure out what MS was, haha, that is a great experience, I'm glad that you shared it with me. I don't know if I'm gonna have time to run over there and visit you, but i will be sure to face that way every once in a while and think about you guys :) Yes, Preston is an Elder, but I bet that mom has already told you that. I bet that our investigators feel like you did when you were teaching in prison haha! We were just the ones teaching them that's the only difference :) Don't worry, Katrina is pretty darn good with writing me, I was thinking that Thomas might write me after the letter I sent him, but he didn't. That's ok, he's probably busy being lazy or something like that, I understand. I tried to send you some other photos, but it didn't work out, if you want anything that you see there, just tell me, because I have an extra suitcase that I now can't have, (I can't really go into details, for time constraints, but its because of a change in the mission) and if you guys want me to, I can fill it with things and send it on back, or I can give it away, which would you like? Gotta go dad, but I love you.

June 8--Letter From Brian to Matt

Dear Son,
I am also happy to hear about your successes and struggles and everyday life.  It is wonderful to be able to talk to people about the gospel.  There was a gentleman on the plane yesterday that had MS that I was sitting next to.  When we got our snacks I was so focused on seeing how many carbs were in the snack that I didn't realized he was asking me for help opening his packet of cookies.  I felt so bad.  Then later he asked me what time it was and I was able to talk to him.   We then had a nice conversation about things and he asked me to hold my arm across his chest when we were landing because he doesn't have any upper body strength and would go flying forward.  It was so nice to be able to help him.

Mom and I were able to talk to another man on our next flight and he had a lot of nice things to say about Mormons.  it was fun talking to him, mom does such a nice job starting conversations with people!

Right now I am sitting in a hotel room in Cocoa Beach, FL, I can see the ocean out of our Hotel Room.  We board the cruise ship in two hours!  Of course seeing the ocean is no big thing to you! since you have been living by it for almost a year now!

So this week we will be in the sam country!, Costa Maya and Cozumel, so if you have some time you can run over and see us! ha ha.  Thanks for the photos.  Hey, I think that Preston got ordained an Elder!  He graduated Marine Corps Basic training and is  now an official Marine. Also Miriam passed her test to be licensed to sell insurance.

I was so tired of working in the Jail, I didn't mind the students but I just hated being locked up!  I really did!  I mean, I cant get out of even the classroom unless someone else lets me out.  I just don't like it.
Well, I am sorry that the kids probably wont write you this week.

I sure love you and we will write you next week for sure!
Again, I love you and am so proud of you and all that you do.

June 10--Email From Matt

This is me and my companion.

Thanks for the letter.  Looking at this past week, there are always new things that I need to learn. One of them being, putting my own self to one side. I wish that I had more time to write you, but I did write a happy and somewhat lengthy letter to Cassandra, and one to Dad too! I am so happy to know that I have someone out there who really prays for me and cares about me! (make that two, for Dad) You gave me excellent advice and I will try to follow it. I commented to Dad that I have a suitcase that I no longer can have, so what do you want me to do with it? Fill it full of souvenirs and send it home or give it away? Oh, if you do want me to send it home, tell that to Jon too, he wanted me to buy things for him.

I love you Mom, this letter isn't long enough and it doesn't do a very good job with telling you how much you guys mean to me. I love you all. One of the great blessings that this mission is giving me is a new perspective on how wonderful every one of you are. You all are in my prayers too, I'm just praying that I can come home different for all of you.

P.S. I did write down what I learned about hope. :)

June 8--Dear Elder

Dear Matt,

How are you?  Thanks for your letter.  Guess what?  I got a text at camp (which is a miracle of itself) from Miriam saying that Preston has been ordained an Elder!  I was so happy when I heard it, I cried.  It scared the other camp leaders because they thought something bad had happened, ha ha.  It was the best news I could have possibly received.  I am so proud of Preston!  Heavenly Father has really blessed us, Matt.  Preston graduated from training on Friday, and Miriam sent us a picture of him.  I can’t figure out how to send it to you, but I asked Miriam to do it.  I hope she does.

Hi, I bet you didn’t expect to hear from us today.  I didn’t know exactly how things would go for us, so I wasn’t sure if we would be able to write or not.  Anyway, we are in Cocoa Beach Florida and it is beautiful!  As soon as I got off the plane and walked into the airport, I could smell the difference in the air.  I think it was the ocean although we were an hour away from it.  Anyway, the drive from the airport to the beach was so beautiful and lush.  I slept for part of it, though.  We are staying on the beach and this morning we went out on the balcony to see the sunrise.  It was only 4:30 our time, so we went back to bed after that.

Our flight was just fine.  Dad and I weren’t able to sit by each other at first and that was not fun.  I was super tired and dozed off a lot, but couldn’t stay asleep because I was wedged between 2 people with nowhere to rest my head.  The second half, Dad sat by the window so he could rest his head on it and I slept on his shoulder.  I got some nice sleep.  I knew that we should talk to the guy next to us, but I didn’t want to.  Then I thought about how much Heavenly Father loves him and how much I have been blessed and realized how unthankful I would be to Heavenly Father if I didn’t do what He wants me to.  I turned to him and asked him if he lived in Orlando, and he started talking.  He was a real interesting guy who has done a kajillion things including some things where we live.  He said he loves Mormons and asked if we were Mormons.  We had a nice conversation with the man and he thanked us for starting the conversation.  Nothing beats the feeling that comes from pleasing the Lord!

It was sure nice to finally get to the hotel and eat dinner because we sort of skipped lunch, ha ha.  Dad ate a full rack of pork ribs at dinner.  He gave me one and they were so good, I couldn’t blame him.  I wanted more, but they were pork, so I just ate a little.

From Monday to Thursday morning I was at girl’s camp.  We leaders went up Monday afternoon, but the girls didn’t come up till Tuesday which means we had a nice relaxing time settling in and setting up.  It was really fun, and we talked and giggled at bedtime.  The next day it was work, work, work, but it was fun.  Some of the things I was responsible for was helping the youth camp leaders over the second year girls help their girls make journals, giving a devotional, helping the “drops of awesome” committee make a banner, doing an “mtc” class, taking the second years and their ycl’s on a hike, and doing another devotional.

The journal activity was insane, but we got through it, ha ha.  For my devotional, Sister Melton wanted me to talk about how life is a journey, and our destination is eternal life, so I wrote a song to the tune of Gilligan’s Island, and we in the Young Women’s presidency sang it with sailor hats on and then I quickly wrapped it up with my testimony.  I was surprised how many people came up to me and said they loved it.  The banner was so cute, the girls made it look like a pirate map with burned edges and Islands on the map to represent each day.  We got it up, but it was hard work to keep it up—it kept wanting to fall down.  The hike was beautiful and, by the time we’d stopped and pondered and written in our journals a couple of times the way the ycl’s planned, it ended up being pretty short.  It was a good experience, though.  For the MTC class I talked about the characteristics of Christ, basing the lesson on Elder Bednar’s talk, “Characteristics of Christ.”  I think it went well.

The last devotional I was supposed to do, had for the theme, “Rise to the Rock,” the rock being Jesus Christ, and Jon gave it for me.  He did a great job.  Lots of people came up to him afterwards to tell him how great he did.  It was awesome!  He also drove me home.  It was the perfect way to end a wonderful girl’s camp.

Dad was waiting when I got home—he was on lunch break.  All of the kids besides Jon were gone.  Katrina was still at camp, Miriam is at Preston’s graduation, and Thomas is on a camp out.  I hope they are all having a wonderful time.  It is a nice feeling to know they are all in good places.

I just talked to Jon on the phone and he said that Katrina got home at midnight and that she also threw up last night, so I guess she got home from camp early and sick.  I haven’t been able to get a hold of her yet to see how she’s doing.  I hope she’s okay, now. Cassandra’s family has also been feeling sick.  I got to talk to Lily yesterday and, happily, she sounded like she’s doing pretty good now.  She sang “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam to us.  She is so cute!  She calls me “Grammy.”  Isn’t that sweet?

Thanks for your letter, Matt.  I am so grateful that you had such a wonderful district meeting.  I have been praying and fasting for you, and I am so glad that both your district leader and your zone leader were in tune with the Spirit and could help you feel hope.  Hope and joy are an important part of the gospel plan.  What good would the gospel be if it didn’t bring us joy?  I hope you will be less worried now and more happy.

I am glad that you worked to create your week spiritually before you lived it physically.  I am so glad it helped you. I think it is so important to renew my covenants and think of the atonement during the sacrament.  I use my morning prayers to ask Heavenly Father’s help in creating my day and week.  When I am able to focus on Christ during the Sacrament, it sets a pattern of focusing on Christ throughout the week, whereas if my mind wanders during the sacrament, I find myself straying more from Christ during the week.  This is the way that the sacrament spiritually creates the week for me.

I am glad also that you are feeling more courage to obey the Spirit.  I have been praying that you would.  I am glad you were able to comfort the woman with the baby.  I pray always that you will be able to bring the gospel to good people like her because that is where she and everyone will find true happiness.  One thing that helps me when I feel afraid to obey the spirit is to ask myself “What are you afraid of?”  When I directly face the fear, I usually realize that it is unfounded, and that the real tragedy would come if I ignored the prompting.  I love you, Matt.  You are an instrument in God’s hands.  He loves you.  Write down what you learned about hope so that you can refer to it when you need your hope renewed.  I love you so much!



June 3--Email From Matt

Haha, I think that your week must have been very  busy but I'm glad that you got a chance to go metal detecting :) I think it'd be pretty cool to find old stuff. So, I'm actually just going to answer to you and Mom here in this letter, I really don't think that there were any real questions in Mom's letter, but I'd like to thank you both for sitting down and taking the time to write me, it's the only look i really get into how the family is doing, because you guys are the only ones that actually write about what is going on haha :)

So, looking at that from that perspective, it looks like you guys don't know how my week goes unless I write it for you, so here it goes,

Monday I had to do a lot of things to get my FM3 card renewed so that I could stay here in Mexico for another year haha :) so we didn't get to work on Monday as much as I would've liked and the lesson we did have, we had with a less active young adult and he didn't pay a lot of attention to what we were saying and so we just kind-of ended the lesson and left, so with those failures and the other things that I had done wrong fixed into my mind we woke up Tuesday and headed off to the church to study and to have the district meeting and to do weekly planning, well in the district meeting the Zone leaders came to pick up the papers that I had filled out on Monday and, thankfully, all of the paper work turned out well, but anyway,

In the district meeting, we always start off with a song, a prayer, we recite D+C 4 and then we have someone share a Christ like attribute, anyway the District leader shared the attribute and it was Hope, man, I think he (the district leader) thought I was mad because of how concentrated I was on what he was saying, because it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment, suddenly, because of his words and the Spirit which bore them to my heart, my perspective of my mission suddenly changed. I had never studied hope before and frankly I had been working with out it for a long time. I was so grateful to the insights that the Zone Leader, Elder Miranda shared too, as they took the message of our District Leader and tuned them to be the exact message that I needed to hear in that moment.
All throughout the week I have been seeing situations with new hope that has allowed me to act towards people, my brothers and sisters, with new love and less fear of failing them. I can honestly say that that changed my week.

This Sunday as we were taking the sacrament, I started thinking about what you, mom, wrote me last week of shaping everything spiritually before making it a reality. I started to talk with the Lord about the struggles that I was facing at the time, the things that I had failed to do and what I really wanted to improve and how I planned on doing it. I talked to Him about talking to the people that I felt impressed to talk to and the fear that was always present before I contacted anyone, and I asked for His help and His courage to be able to do anything that He wanted me to do. That night as we were walking down the street, we saw a young woman sitting just outside of a small store drinking a coffee and I felt the small impression to talk to her, then we walked by her without talking to her, I stopped walking and, in my mind, I asked my Father if He wanted me to talk to her, The feeling that I felt, so subtle, loving and soft, testified in such a familiar way to my mind that I should talk to her, to not be afraid, and that it was the will of the Lord. So that's what we did, her name is Loreto, she has a new born baby of 6 months old and she told us that she just wants to be the best mom that she can be for her son and that she didn't know how. We were able to testify of the Lord's love for her and tell her that the Lord wants to help her be a good mother for her child. I know that I've talked about this before and that it really is just a simple experience but, I just want you to feel what I felt, the sweet soft fatherly love that I felt, -a direct answer to a prayer that I had said earlier that same day- as we walked away.

I love you all so much! I am learning so much here and I have so much more to go that I don't think that I can do it in the year that I have left, but it doesn't matter, I'll move forward in hope and faith.

June 3--Photos From Matt

So, this picture was the last picture that we took as a district before the transfer

Here's a picture with us and Elder Holland.
The last 4 rows, where I was standing, were photoshopped-in

June 2--To Matt From Brian

Dear Matt,
First let me tell you about my week.  On Monday, Memorial Day, I realized that Thomas would be working and Mom and the girls all wanted to go shopping,  so I decided it would be the perfect time to go out into the boonies because nobody wanted to do that with me.  I took my metal detector out t0 an old mining town in the desert and searched around for about 5 hours.  I found a little mini railroad spike for a mine car track, a cool keyhole faceplate for a front door from the 1860's and a 1860's fork.  I also found some reloading brass and just enjoyed wandering around in the desert.  I probably should have finished up my projects at the laundry but I needed a break, and even though it is summer I am working almost every day this summer for school.

On Tuesday I started working for the summer at the Jail teaching GED to the inmates.  It was quite an interesting experience.  Everytime I taught a hispanic, I would always ask them if they were from Mexico and then tell them about you!  The Jail is a fairly intense experience and you have to be locked in the room with the inmates but my previous law enforcement experience really helped out.  I am used to being in such an environment but it is still emotionally draining.  My hours are 8:30 to 4:00.  I work next week and then not until the last 2 week of the summer.

In the evenings and this Saturday I worked on the projects at the laundry and almost got them finished.  I finished building the new handrails for the upstairs apartments, I have to tell you I am very proud of that.  I have never done something exactly like that before but I conceived in my mind what it needed to be and what would work and did it.

I also worked on repairing a rotted piece of roof edge.  It was truly a pain.  It took me all day yesterday but I am also proud of that.  It would have cost Vic a fortune to have anyone else do what I did. but it literally took all day.

I have been going to lunch at subway or cafe rio and bringing a book to read.  I am reading a book called "10 conversations you need to have with yourself" by Rabbi Schmuley  This conversation that I am reading right now is how we need to stop blaming others and to look at our true selves.  its good stuff.

Well, that is my week, almost as busy as yours!
I hope that you had a wonderful week and were able to share the gospel, and that things are going well with your companionship.

The work that you are doing is so important, realize that you make a difference in people's lives even if you don't see it at the time.  Some of the people that had the biggest impact in my life never knew it because I was hostile to them at the time or might have seemed uninterested at the time. The person who rejects you today may have had a life changing experience but didn't know it.  So be sure not to judge your actions on immediate results, just make sure that you follow the spirit and share the spirit with as many people that you can.

I'm sure that you do and are doing wonderful things, remember that you are doing more than you know and the work, even though it may not seem like  it is going better than you think.
I love you Matt.  Thanks for being my son

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2: Dear Elder

Hi, Matt.  Today is fast Sunday and I am fasting for you that you will bring souls unto the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I'm fasting and praying that you will be filled with the Holy Ghost, and with righteousness, and with a deep and abiding love for God's children.  I love you!

What have I been up to?  Camp, camp, camp.  I'm having girls over today after church to work on a big banner we're making.  They want to burn the edges to make it look like a pirate map and at first I thought it would take forever, but in the night I realized that we can tear the edges, roll it up, and hold it over the burner of the stove.  I hope we don't burn down the house ha ha.  It's weird how hard our brains keep working even when we are asleep.  I've heard that in our deepest dreams, we are problem solving.  I have noticed that Heavenly Father also sometimes uses dreams to answer our prayers and give us guidance.

Yesterday I washed all my clothes.  My goal is to pack totally different clothes for camp and cruise, and I think I have been able to do that for the most part.  I also organized and packed for camp.  It was lots of hard work!  Today I will make up a calendar, menu, etc for Grandpa and Grandma.  They are so nice to come!  You kids are very blessed to have a couple of younger grandparents that can still be a part of your lives.  I had the same blessing growing up, and it is comforting to know that I still have two grandmas going strong.  Well, going feeble might be a better description, ha ha,  but they are amazing!  I got to Skype with Cassandra and Lily just a bit.  Lily wanted to show me her bunny shirt.  She calls me "Grammy."  She has a name for Miriam and Katrina (the same name), but I can't remember what it is.  I sent off Emerson's birthday present early since we will have just been home a couple of days before his birthday and won't have time to get anything off then.  He is the awesomest son-in-law!  Lily went a couple of days not seeing him because he got home so late from work.  I know that was hard on her--she loves her daddy so much!

Katrina has a pre-tour concert this evening and we are looking forward to hearing the songs that they will be singing on tour.  I paid the last of her tour money yesterday, and she is all set.  Thomas worked yesterday cashiering and he also hung out with Garred a lot.  Katrina mowed and helped me a bit with camp stuff.  Miriam worked and got her hair cut.  She hates the cut.  They made the bangs really short on one side.  She posted a comment on the salon's facebook page asking how she could get her money back.  They called her and are giving her money back and are going to fix her hair.  They were very nice about it, and she is happy.  Dad worked on the roof of the laundry all day till very late.  I got to see him as I did my laundry.  When he got home late, he went to the store for me.  I can't even remember what I needed, but he did it to save me time tomorrow.

Matt, I love you so much!  Stay faithful and work hard.  I know Heavenly Father will bless you.  As you train your new companion, ask yourself, what would Elder Livingston do?  Ha ha.  Never postpone a prompting and never never never ignore one!  Thanks for being who you are.  I'm sure you are very aware of your own weaknesses right now, but with you and the Lord together, it is enough.  With God, all things are possible.  Be of good cheer, Matt, you are on God's errand and whom the Lord calls, the Lord blesses and I know that He will bless you with every needful thing.

Keep up the good emails.  We love hearing about your experiences!

Love, Mom

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June 1--Dear Elder

Dear Matt,

Thank you so much for your last letter.  I am so glad that Arturo got baptized!  Where did the flowers in the picture come from?  I liked hearing about how you listened and responded to Pablo with love and didn't tell him how he was wrong.  I am trying to work on my listening, too.  I am trying to look beyond what is being said and focus more on the meaning and feelings behind the words.  Your experience helps me see that I need to focus on who the speaker is as a child of God, and try to see them and love them the way Heavenly Father does.  Then I can interact with them the way he would like you did with Pablo.   Thank you for sending pictures.  It helps me imagine where you are a bit more.

Did you hear about that Mormon mom from Arizona who was put in a Mexican prison for drug possesion.  She was coming home from a relative's funeral in Los Mochis, and police made a raid on the bus.  They found 12 lbs of drugs stashed under her seat.  At first they were going to arrest her husband, but she begged to go along as an interpreter and they decided to release him and arrest her instead.  Our government put lots of pressure on the Mexican government to let her go, and at her trial, they showed a survelance tape that showed her and her husband boarding the buss carrying very little; there was no way they could have carried on the drugs.  Anyway, she is free now, thank goodness.

Well, today is Saturday and it is the first time I've written because the week is so busy.  I have been getting ready for girl's camp and for the cruise, and doing my monthly Costco, Walmart, and Macey's shopping so that the house will be well stocked when Grandpa and Grandma com to take care of the kids.  I have been working hard since Monday and still have laundry, packing, phone calls, and a ton of other things to do before I leave for camp on Monday.

At camp we are doing an MTC activity so that the girls can get a feel for what it is like to be a missionary in the missionary training center.  They will rotate through classes and each class will be about one of the chapters in Preach My Gospel.  I volunteered to do a class on chapter 6, the attributes of Christ.  Remember that talk by Elder Bednar called "The Character of Christ"?  I used it in planning my lesson.  I am excited to talk about Jesus Christ and share how he always put the needs of others above his own.

I have also been asked to do a devotional called "Rise to the Rock"  the rock being Jesus Christ, of course.  For that one, I decided to show the girls the big wall hanging that we had in the entry way before we painted the house.  In case you don't remember, it is of Jesus standing on rocks above a stream holding a little child in one arm and reaching down with the other to help a young girl climb up.  It is called "Be Not Afraid" and it is by Greg Olsen.  It definitely illustrates rising to the Rock of our Redeemer.  I thought of the idea in the middle of the night one night and had it all figured out what questions I would ask the young women in order to discuss the picture with them, but when I sat down later to organize my thoughts and write the questions, nothing would come.  I expressed my frustration out loud, and Jon, who was in the room, told me exactly what I could ask and say.  I was so impressed I told him he should come up and give the devotional and he said he would and now that's the plan.  He'll do a great job!

I am over many of the youth camp leaders, including Katrina, who are in turn over groups of younger girls.  We call the YCL's "Big Sisters" and they mentor their "little sisters."  They have planned activities for their little sisters to do, quotes for them to read, journals for them to write in, and time for them to study scriptures together.  It is amazing to watch these girls make plans and carry them out.  They are learning lots about love and leadership.

I'm writing to you about camp stuff because that's pretty much my life right now.  Let's see...what have I done besides camp?  Well, I got to Skype with Cassandra and Lily.  She is really growing up.  Cassandra wrote a few of the things Lily says in her blog.  Here are some of them:

"You dropped the oatmeal." She said this to me after she dropped some oatmeal.

"YOU dropped the spoon." She said this to me very sternly--you guessed it--after she had thrown her spoon on the floor.

"Sorry" after bumping into someone.

"You OK?" after someone gets hurt.

"Wanna bite?" She said this to a dog today, while holding out her hand...yikes!

"Bless you." after someone sneezes.


"Oh, yeah!"

"That's a lot of poop." during a diaper change, of course.

"Dat's da rule." When she's in trouble and broke a rule.

"I eat the food."

"I was...snack." when asked what she did at nursery.

"Night, night...tight!" trying to say "sleep tight."

"Stay awake!!!" this when she's tired.

So cute!  She is really liking nap time these days because it is one of the few times in the day when she gets to have her binky, ha ha.

Thomas worked only once this week, the other two days he was scheduled to work got cancelled because of weather.  He and Katrian helped me out a ton yesterday as I did inventory and shopping for the month.  They helped unload the car, put stuff away, refill stuff, etc.  Even with all that, they managed to waste plenty of time as well, ha ha. Katrina will be singing with the children's choir this Sunday at a pre-tour fireside.  I know it will be wonderful!

Miriam is gearing up to go to San Diego with Preston's family to see him graduate from Marine boot camp or whatever they call it.  She is very excited, but first she has to take that test for work again Monday.  She has been taking an online class to study for it.   She found a "detox" online.  It is a 5 day eating regime that is supposed to detoxify your body whatever that means.  Anyway, it is a pretty good diet because it has lots of fruits and veggies, nuts and legumes, and she asked me to do it with her.  The deal is that I paid for the food we need and she prepares it.  Today is our last day, and it has been fun to do it with her.  I guess we will end our detox with a fast since tomorrow is fast Sunday.  I plan to squeeze in all three meals before 4:30 which shouldn't be hard to do because they are very low calorie and then start fasting.  Anyway, Miriam has been so busy that it is nice to do this with her, and I have been so busy, that I don't have much time to prepare my own meals anyway.

Dad has been so nice about everything!  Last night was supposed to be our date night, but he asked me if I needed to do camp stuff instead and asked what he could do to help.  We couldn't even go out to eat or have our Friday night treat because of the detox.  It was really hard for me to miss out on Tamale Thursday at Cafe Rio with Dad, ha ha.  By the way, he asked a hispanic lady and she said that there is a little tamale place locally that makes delicious tamales.  Can't wait to try it!  Well, I'd better get busy!  Actually, I think I'll go back to bed instead, ha ha!

May 27--Email From Matt

This is a picture ok? Take the luck that you might have, take it cherish it.
cherish is a hard word to spell.

Hey mom,

Thanks for writing I really do enjoy your letters, a lot of the time, they give me good insights on missionary work and life, ok, your questions:How is the work? It's going pretty well, I mean it's been hard but really we have both been growing, and we still need to grow a lot more but I have a lot of trust in the Lord and I'm a gonna work this week, so everything is going to turn out great.

 Did Arturo get baptized? I sent you a picture of his baptism so I guess that answers most of those questions right there haha! He got baptised and confirmed 2 weeks ago, this last Sunday he received the Aaronic priesthood as a priest so that is amazing!

Who are you teaching now? That is the biggest problem, we haven't been able to find new people to teach.... But I know, in part, what we need to do and we are gonna do it! Anyway, we are working with ward members and the thought of not having anyone to teach reminds us that we need to ask for references after teaching so that's been working out well.

 What have you been studying? About that, I need to improve my studies, tomorrow I am going to diagram what is happening in the BOM when I read it because right now I-m in Isiah and that is some heavy reading, but I love it.

What have you been thinking? Thoughts usually, but most of the time I sing hymns. I think of who we need to talk to and praying for the direction of the Lord. How is your companion?  Tell him "hi" for us. He is doing good, I always forget to say hi to my companions on your part, but I'll try to remember it this time hahah :)

This is a picture, just a little disclamer, it's a very nice picture, so it might try to be your friend.

What experiences have you been having?  Well, you'll just have to wait until the end of this letter. I really did like what you wrote about having to spiritually create things before physically going through them. That is a wonderful analogy and I'm going to use it.

We had a chance to talk to a guy named Pablo this week, he's a married man and has a wife and 3 kids, he has already talked to missionaries before, but anyways, we started talking to us and he half-way interrupted us and started talking about how we don't need churches and that the church is just inside of everyone and not necessarily an organization. I'm going to be honest.  A human frailty that I have is that when people start saying things like that, I don't get mad or anything but I look at it as just a puzzle and after they finish, I usually point out how they are wrong and then I say what I know to be right and that almost never gets me anywhere. But as we were listening to this man, I felt the subtle impression to stop look at what he was saying in that way and to start looking at him as the brother that he is, I decided to follow the impression and tried to let love rule my judgment rather than pure logic. After Pablo finished his small discourse on why we were wrong, I responded but not pointing out where he was wrong rather, with love and the Holy Ghost, he did not question my answer and accepted it and we were able to teach a little bit more before leaving. Maybe it isn't a miracle to many people but it was to me. I know now that the Lord loves all of His children and I know that He want's me to treat them with love like He would.

-Elder Cole

May 27--Dear Elder

Hi, Matt.  Today is Monday and you know what that means...we get each other's emails.  Hooray!  I am so glad.

Substituting in nursery was so fun and so exhausting!  I forgot how tired I'd come home every Sunday when Dad and I were in nursery when Miriam was two.  A special needs twenty year old girl and I were the only ones there, but one of the primary counselors checked up on us often and she helped us when we needed it which is good because the kids were great playing with toys, but it go a little crazy during lesson and singing time.  We survived, though.

Yesterday after church, we celebrated Father's Day early because we will be on a cruise for the real Father's Day.  We had Dad's favorite meal that I cook, barbeque chicken.  We also ate strawberry pie.  Dad asks the kids for the same thing every year on Father's Day--a heart felt card, so the kids each wrote him a card with things they love about him and a coupon for something special they will do for him.  He hasn't decided how he wants to spend his Father's Day money yet, so we gave him a check to use when he figures it out.  Then we all went outside with him and he showed us how his metal detector works.  He found lots of metal stuff, and even found the throwing knife that Thomas and Jon lost in the yard when they were playing mumbly-peg, a game which, by the way, is found on the "art of manliness" website, and which Grandpa was fond of playing with his pocket knife as I was growing up.

Then we went for a drive.  We went west of town to see what we call the hobbit house, and what I've also heard called the bunny house.  Remember the one with the cool rounded, kind of thatched roof?  From there we drove toward the lake, and we found that Sister Francis Monson's funeral was being re-broadcasted on the radio, so we kept driving along the lake, around the mountain, listening to the service, and stopping periodically for Dad to pick up brass.  As I listened, I played close attention to the way they described Sister Monson, because I know she is an elect daughter of God, and I want to be more like her.  She was unassuming and didn't seek the limelight.  Now that's something I could really work on!  What a sweet lady.  President Monson must miss her so much.  Either President Eyring or President Uchtdorf said that grief is a part of love which is so true!

We made the loop around the mountain and drove home.  On the way, we saw the new temple being built--finally!  After we got home and had family prayer, Dad and I went for a nice walk.  It was a good day.

Matt, I've been thinking lately about the creation and how when God created the earth, He created all things spiritually and then created them physically.  I've been realizing that I'm supposed to do the same thing in my life.  I create my day spiritually when I say my morning prayer and then study the gospel.  I create my week spiritually when I go to church and partake of the sacrament, renewing my covenants.  I create my month spiritually when I fast and when I go to the temple.  When the spiritual creation is over, I live it physically.  I have been paying close attention to my ability to focus on Christ and renewing my covenants with Him as I partake of the bread and water during the Sacrament each week.  I see a connection between my ability to focus on Christ at this time and my ability to focus on Him during the week.  When I remember during my morning that I am spiritually creating my day, my prayer is improved, and so is my day.  Just thought you'd might like to know what has been going through my brain.

I hope your day is good, Matt.  It's Memorial Day, by the way, I doubt you knew that.  What do you plan to do?  Our plans for the day are a bit fuzzy.  Miriam has the day off, yay!  She needs to sign up for classes.  Thomas works today for the first time this year (not counting training, etc).  He had a slight fever last night.  I hope he's well enough to go in for work!  Katrina wanted to go to the library, but it's closed.  Dad is going out metal detecting in the morning.  I want us to all meet up in the evening and have a picnic in the park and a walk along the river bottoms trail.

 I have so much to do this week, you would not want to see my list!  Girls camp is a week from today and then the cruise, back to back.  I hope we can make it all happen.

How is the work?  Did Arturo get baptized?  Who are you teaching now?  What have you been studying?  What have you been thinking?  How is your companion?  Tell him "hi" for us.  What experiences have you been having?  Remember to obey the Spirit.  It will bring to your remembrance all things that you should do.  I love you, Matt, and miss you and I'm so proud of you.

Love,  Mom

May 26--Dear Elder

Us at Miriam's Graduation.  No, I didn't style my hair that poofy, the wind did, ha ha.

Now it is Sunday.  It has been a wonderful week.  Why?  For one thing, the weather has been beautiful.  For another, we've been together lots as a family because it is the last week of school.  I love this time of year!

On Monday Miriam and I went to her college orientation.  I really enjoyed being with her.  We learned a lot of cool things the school has to offer, but as Miriam pointed out, she works so much that she will not be able to participate in much.  I really hope that she'll be able to juggle work and school.  She's swamped!  Dad had to attend graduation, so we didn't have much of a family home evening, but we were able to read a conference talk.

Tuesday after work and school I took Thomas in for an ultra sound because last fall the doctor at the children's hospital said that we needed to have him checked to make sure that his spleen is not enlarged before he plays any contact sports, and football is starting.  Thomas has been joking that he got an ultra sound to see if his spleen is a boy or a girl, ha ha. Anyway, it is not enlarged, so he gets to play football.  Tuesday night we went to the awards assembly at the junior high where Thomas received a gold presidential award for academic excellence signed by President Obama.  Awesome, right?

Tuesday or Wednesday at school, we took the kids out to the playground and watched the junior high kids run past on a 5K that most of them ran for fitness day.  Thomas was running it, and I was able to cheer him on as he ran past.  He ended up getting 21st place.  Wednesday was my last day of work till next school year.  Yay!  I got a card in the mail that asked if I wanted any work over the summer, and Dad kinda wondered if I should say yes, but I said no way.  I am not going to be away working while my kids are at home.  I can't wait to be with everyone this summer!

Anyway,  Wednesday afternoon, I ended up driving Thomas and Garred in to the water park for training, and Dad and Katrina went shooting.  She's been wanting him to take her shooting for awhile now.  Why?  Because she wanted to shoot her math work book now that it's all filled out and she doesn't need it any more.  Apparently her math teacher collects math books that various students have destroyed in creative ways at the end of each school year, and she wanted to add a target-shot math book to his collection, ha ha.  I am so glad she and Dad had a fun time together!   I stayed in town and shopped for camp stuff.  After that I drove Thomas and Garred back home, and we took Miriam out to dinner for graduation.  She chose to eat at PF Changs.  I loved their lettuce wraps! 

Thursday Thomas stayed home from school because the school went to the amusement park, and he went last week.  We went out for tacos together around noon.  It was my lunch and his breakfast, ha ha.  Then we checked out "That Thing You Do" from the Library and had fun watching it.  Later after Katrina got home, the kids and I drove into Miriam's work and dropped off a sandwich and her graduation robe.  She drove straight from work to graduation.  After that I went home and crashed.  I slept so hard, we almost missed Miriam's graduation!  Luckily Dad called and called until one of the lazy teenagers around here finally answered the phone.  The kids woke me up and we took off.  We got there about the same time Dad did and were not late, but Don, Renee, Becky, and Donny were late because they went to the high school thinking graduation was there.  They called us and we set them straight, and they weren't all that late.  We had a wonderful time cheering our graduate when she got her diploma.  We are so proud of her!  Afterwards we all went out with Don and Renee etc for Fro Yo.  

Friday was the last day of school.  Matt, I do not know what it is about the last day of school, but I love it!  I have such a sense of fun and freedom on that day that I look forward to it every year.  This year was no exception.  Thomas and Katrina went to school half-day and then had parties with friends.  After doing my morning work, I went out and shopped til I dropped.  There is a little thrift shop down town that is very picky about what clothes they sell, and their stuff is real nice.  I got a pair of jeans, a pair of capris, two pairs of sandals, and five shirts, all for $40.  I had so much fun.  After that, I got to Skype with Cassandra and Lily!  Could the day be any better? I submit that it could not.  Lily is so cute, and she is really talking well these days.  After that I went into the laundry to help Dad.  He is doing a big project and needed some help.  It is looking real good.  After that we went out to eat Mexican, and I got a tamale and some very yummy soup.  

While we were gone, Katrina came home from her party, but Thomas stayed at his.  He and the other guys walked all over town and then they walked all the way to the Hari Krishna place and toured the Hari temple.  A lady told them all about the religion and she was ready to convert Thomas on the spot because he understood their philosophy real well, ha ha.  It was a good experience for them.  After we ate, we drove home to take Thomas from that party to another party and then we went and got ice cream for us and Katrina.  Miriam worked way late, poor kid!

Yesterday we did our traditional Memorial Day grave visits.  Jon bought some beautiful mums for us at Costco.  We started by putting flowers on my cousin's graves--Michael and Amanda and Neisha.  Then we worked at the laundry for awhile.  The kids earned money cleaning and Dad and I worked more on his awning project.  Then we drove up to Grandpa's grave.  We stopped at the ski resort and ate at the Teryaki Grill.  It was delicious!  After putting flowers on Grandpa and Pauline's graves and her first husband's grave, we drove to Grandma's grave and put flowers there.  We said a prayer at Grandpa's grave, but forgot to at Grandma's.  I wanted to thank Heavenly Father as a family for the opportunity we had to take care of Grandma in our home before she passed away.  I hope we can remember to do that at family prayer tonight.

Miriam didn't go with us because she had to work, but by the time we were done, she was home, so we went and got her and then went to the park for a picnic.  Our neighbors, the Meltons were there, too, and we had fun visiting with Brother and Sister Melton while Thomas kicked a soccer ball around with the Melton girls.  It was a nice time.  After we got home, Dad went to try out his new metal detector in the basement of the laundry.  It's such an old building that he was hoping to find treasure in the dirt floor.  He asked Vic if he could do it and he promised Vic half of anything he found.  Vic is now thirteen and a half cents richer, ha ha.  I visited with our neighbors Kellie and Sylvia and then cleaned the house for Sunday.  Today I am substituting in nursery.  I don't have to give the kids the lesson, just be there and help out. I can't wait.  Too bad it's not Lily's nursery class!