I haven't much time today to devote to our blog. We are taking a Costco run (1 hour 15 minutes there; 1 hour 15 minutes back) with Pres. and Sister Jordan. If we keep these up the Jordans they will be our best friends! (Actually we truly love ALL the Senior couples here. They are diverse in talents, personalities and gifts, but every one of them love the Lord and are committed to serving Him with their best stuff! How can you NOT love people like that?)
Last week was devoted to writing down our family miracles. It was such a sweet experience "remembering". The day I wrote that blog just happened to be our 40th Anniversary. Forty years!!! Now THAT is a significant number. Ashlee I truly loved your anniversary post. It made me cry. Those same words have come out of my mouth! I, too, don't know where Starla ends and Jim begins. Who we are is so entwined that I truly believe my heart would cease to beat without him. He is the love and light of my life and now, more than ever, I rejoice and thank the Lord that my life is linked ETERNALLY with his.
To celebrate our anniversary we decided to see "Wicked". I've seen it with all the girls, but it's been years ago. Jim had NEVER seen it so I was very excited to take him. Another plus is the lead, "Glenda" is played by Savannah Stevenson who just happens to be a YSA member of the Britannia ward. (I'd never met her. The show's schedule keeps her from attending right now). She's been a huge endorsement for the church here in London and is a beautiful girl.
The Whites (the couple that came to see us at Christmas) told us a clever plan. They said that if we were willing to go at 8:00 am and stand in line the box office would open at 10:00 am and usually had left over front row VIP tickets that they would sell for discount of only 29.00 pounds. Since I was writing the blog that morning Jim volunteered to go and stand in line.
Now you all know your dad. Within a couple minutes he'd made friends with the people waiting. On one side was a girl that had literally seen the show over 100 times. Her name was Amanda and she was actually there to buy tickets for a friend. They became fast friends. She was the one who told Jim the exact BEST SEATS in the show. On the other side was Sasha and Mandy. Sasha was from Croatia and Mandi was a Brit. They had met at a hotel in Canada because Mandi is a flight attendant and Sasha worked at the hotel she would stay at. They had such a darling friendship and were outrageously funny and flamboyant. They, also, had seen the show dozens of times. Jim said it ended up being a party as they waited in line.
Jim got there early enough to get his pick of tickets. We were dead center, front row. When the show started we were probably 12 feet from the actors. I felt like we were onstage with the cast. IT WAS AMAZING! More about that in a minute.
Jim came home with the tickets, I finished the blog and we got ready and went to The British Museum. It is an amazing building full of artifacts from Egypt, Greece, Rome etc. We went through the ones that followed up on what we'd seen on our cruise. We decided that for it to be meaningful you really need a guide. Poor Jim has a very hard time just looking! Then we went to Covent Garden. It's an area of London full of shops, restaurants and street shows. It's electric with energy and showcased different performers on every corner. We ate dinner there and then made our way to the theater.
The show was fantastic. We sat next to Mandi and Sasha who loved watching Jim as much as the show and had continuous commentary that was almost as entertaining as the show itself. Savannah was amazing; a perfect Glenda. Elsaba was the understudy but I thought she was fabulous. Being so close you could see every nuance, facial expressions, details of the amazing costumes and feel the energy coming off the actors. It really was fabulous. Best of all, your father LOVED the show.
I want to share just two experiences from this week that has been full and fruitful. We are truly establishing meaningful relationships, giving prudent counsel and gaining the trust of the kids and the leaders.
Also your father has begun to be found out. He has done all his teaching with the two elders assigned to our Britannia ward. Well, I think the word is getting out. He's teaching more everyday as the missionaries realize what a treasure he is and how he can teach ANYONE! That brings me to our latest story.
Three days ago a set of sister missionaries had called to ask if Jim would come teach with them. When he walked in the building the sisters told him their investigator was late. As he walked by the other set of sisters he heard them teaching a young Christian man from Lebanon; Ziyed. This 34 year-old man really KNEW his bible and the sisters were having a hard time staying up with him. Jim introduced himself to Ziyed and they began to talk. Jim found out that for two weeks he had a strong spiritual impression to enter the church but had resisted until that moment. He had only been there for 10 minutes before Jim entered the building. That introduction ended up being a full hour long discussion and it ended with Ziyed begging Jim to stay and keep talking. He was hungering for what he was hearing. He had spent his life searching for the truth. Right on the spot he made an appointment for the next day.
When they met yesterday Jim said it was an amazing experience. One of Ziyed's first questions was how were those who never had a chance to receive the gospel going to be saved. Jim went to a scripture from the bible that he hadn't used in years but that came to his mind; 1 Peter 3:18-19 and 1 Peter 4:6. When Ziyed read it he proclaim, "This is in the bible!!! How have I never seen this in the bible?!!!! The hair on my arms are standing up!!!" Jim was able to testify of a loving Father who will give EVERY ONE OF HIS CHILDREN a chance to hear and understand. Jim taught baptisms for the dead and again showed him the scriptures in the Bible that testified of this principle; 1 Corinthians 15:29. Ziyed was overwhelmed. The whole lesson was one of questions answered and Ziyed's joy in finding answers he'd searched for his whole life.
After the discussion Jim brought him to our Institute dinner, introduced him to many of our kids, took him up to our precious Job Search missionaries; the Garners (Ziyed just lost his job. He'd managed 4 restaurants that had just been sold and he was laid off. It was all a part of God's plan. Ziyed would never have had time to search out the church working 100 hours a week. God loves and knows each of His children and opens the way for those that truly are seeking to find the truth!) And today they meet again. Jim loves this righteous man. It's been such a sweet experience.
This past Tuesday was a very difficult day for me. I woke up feeling very blue and homesick. I was tired. I felt stuck in the routine of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping! I was feeling like I wasn't making a big enough difference. Just feeling sad. But it was more than that. I also knew I had Institute that night and that I couldn't begin to teach that class without the spirit. Yet I struggled all day. I finished preparing the lesson, finished making our dessert and cleaning the house. Then I just begged to have the spirit. The lesson was on redeeming our dead (temples), one of my favorite topics, but it was very deep subject. Right before the class was to start I had 2 different sets of missionaries call to tell us that they were bringing investigators to class (this had never happened before). I panicked. This was not a lesson for investigators but I had NO TIME to change. People were already arriving. I just prayed to be sensitive to who was there and asked Jim to add explanation as he felt inspired.
I was concerned as I taught, but the spirit came! I was very aware that it was in that room. I knew it. And the darkness I had felt all day was GONE (and has not returned!). After class the kids stayed, fellowshipping one another. There was such a sweet spirit of unity and love for each other and for us. I realized that the darkness I had felt all day was directly from the adversary bringing despair and overwhelm to dissuade and discourage. When I fully recognized what was going on I was so angry. But I'm also glad. Now I know that through the priesthood I can have the darkness cast out and keep moving forward. It was something I really needed to understand and a great learning for me.
One last thing; last night Jim and I gathered with our stake presidency counselor, Pres Stephenson, and a roomful of Chinese YSA to begin planning a Chinese YSA Conference to be held in November at Hyde Park chapel that will include Chinese members all over England. It will be a 3-day affair. It's a very big deal with very big implications. What wonderful, amazing chinese we have on this committee. They continue to amaze us with their valiancy and testimonies. It's powerful to behold. A great work is abroad on the land!
Well, Pres. Jordan just called and canceled our Costco trip. Darn! I'm needing to go again, badly! I've had to bribe kids to come practice choir for Stake conference next Sunday after General Conference. We are meeting between sessions; 1-3 and 5-7p.m. I told them I'd do our traditional conference breakfast; Swedish pancakes, homemade syrup, or strawberries and whipped cream. Need stuff from Costco. Hopefully we'll go tomorrow.
This choir business here has been hard. It's such a different set of circumstances than what we deal with in the states. Most our YSA lives at least 45 minutes away by tube, many live 1 1/2 hours away by tube. Not only is time involved but it's VERY expensive for them to travel, costing up to 5-6 pounds one way. It's no small thing to be active in the church for these youth! This makes it impossible to call rehearsals that are not attached to another meeting that they need to be at. But by doing it that way you run into the problem of conflicting meetings, home and visiting teaching that they do at church etc. And doing the choir this time for Stake Conference has been especially difficult because of the number of valid conflicts; last week was Mother's Day, which many of the local members go home for, university spring break which allows the kids time to go travel, general conference and then the very next Sunday is Stake Conference. Not a good combination for trying to rehearse. IT'S BEEN SO FRUSTRATING!!! That's why the bribe for brunch between sessions. Luckily I have two very easy hymn arrangements that we can hopefully pull together in basically one rehearsal hour. It is what it is! Just praying we get enough kids there to pull it off. I've been sending out emails the last two days to every person that might sing. (I finally got a ward list that allowed me to do it.) I'll let you know how it goes. I definitely have a new appreciation for the difficulties that the church faces here. NOTHING is simple or easy! I witness TRUE sacrifice EVERY DAY here just to be an active member of the church! It humbles me!
That's all for now. I've been smiling every time I think of our new granddaughter; London! Love the name! Now Bri let's make sure it's a girl, O.K. We got to finally see Skyler with open eyes and a darling smile. Made us very happy! We just love you all so much and continually pray that you will take advantage of this weekend's general conference and listen and apply the words of the prophets to your individual lives. How blessed are we to hear God's direction for us NOW! Don't take it for granted. (You should see our crazy schedule of when the sessions are broadcast! They are all over the place. Just grateful we can go and feel the spirit of the sessions, no matter what time it is.)
The work continues. We are being blessed and recognize the privilege we have in being called to this place at this time! We are so blessed. Love to all!