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Monday, November 23, 2015

Freezing But Happy!

Dear loved ones,

So sorry that I won't have time to email those of you who have written me this week - we have ZERO time. Which is happy for a missionary :)

Here's a little postcard from this week: Christmas lights and telephone wires strung with hundreds of shoes swung in the NordSea wind as Sister Demke and I walked the magical streets of Flensburg's Innenstadt on exchange - passing cathedral after cathedral, quirky coffee shops, old stores from the 1400s, and a harbor full of dinky little tug boats strung up with more Christmas lights. A group of about 10 older men and women were standing in a half circle playing trumpets, trombones, and horns for the whole city to hear as workers started to set up the Christmas market. I could see the light from the lighthouse, safely guiding the ships into the harbor. I could almost hear my dad singing...

1. Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

In a way, Sister Demke was my lower light on this exchange. The hour and a half train ride from Kiel to Flensburg melted away as we talked about everything and anything, both pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to be so open. On that train ride and throughout the whole exchange, she taught me about the capacity of the human heart to handle tragedy and then, through the Savior, to bounce back stronger, more sure, and full of love. She taught me how important it is to value this time on my mission as a sacred time of growth. She taught me that we do not need to be defined by our experiences or circumstances, but rather by our reactions. I'm grateful for this new friend.

Jeralie, a 16 year-old Hamburg native, was my companion for a youth missionary weekend - a chance for 16-18 year olds in the Hamburg stake to go on splits with the missionaries and see what it's like. She was a trooper as we spent the whole day going door to door, street contacting, and visiting less-active members in the lovely German winter rain. We were cold, but we were happy. That evening, as we said goodbye, she told me that now she knew that she wanted to go on a mission. I told her that it would be the best decision she could make.

On Sunday we missed our normal bus to church and had to find an alternate route. We found ourselves walking down the 'beach' of the Elbe river, freezing cold. Everything we passed seemed to be glowing as the lilac morning light slowly began to thaw the frost that had coated every surface. I thought of a talk given by Elder Neal A Maxwell that I had read just the day before. He said "Brothers and Sisters, this mortal experience through which we are passing is one in which beauties abound; subtleties and delicacies are all about us waiting to be noticed. Wonders are everywhere to be seen. It is, however, the observing meek who will ponder the galaxies and see God moving in His majesty and power. It is also the meek who will notice, and then lift up, those whose hands hang down."  I want to be better about that. It's a beautiful way to go through life.

I loved watching Aiden, a 5 year old from Australia, who was in shock as - for the first time in his life - he saw flakes of white magic blanket beautiful Altona during church ... pure glee as he caught snowflakes on his tongue and blinked through the ones getting caught in his eyelashes. He then helped a little 3 year old make a snowball and dusted off another child who had fallen down. Heart melt, right?

It's funny. Regardless of how many drunk men hit on us, how many crazy people we ended up talking to on the bahn, how many people were never at home, how many buses fell out, and how cold it got, this week I really had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the opportunity I have to be on a mission. This is an experience unlike any other.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace

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