Friday, December 26, 2014

December; Busy, Spirit-filled Christmas

(Continued from last blog)


Hanging on the wall is the Santa Stocking I found in the basement garage. Perfect for our tradition we shared with our kids. Also notice my new keyboard. Such a precious gift!

                             Some pictures of the flat at Christmas Time!

I’m so grateful we need to only be gone one Christmas from our family. Of all the seasons of the year this is the one that makes me cherish our children and grandchildren the most. I’m so filled with gratitude for the gift of eternal families that is possible because of the birth of that tiny babe in Bethlehem. Yet being here in London this month has been so sweet, so Christ-centered, so full of service that we didn’t have much time to be too lonesome for our family.

This month has been full of really fun events. Very busy but without the intense stress of November. Some of the highlights of the month was an All-Sisters Missionary Conference. You know how we love the Jordans. This was all Sister Jordan and it was amazing. We posted a picture on Facebook taken of all 65 young sisters and about 10 senior sisters from just this mission. Our sister missionaries are such a power for good here. We get to watch them teach and fellowship at the Hyde Park Visitor’s Center. They rock it!

We had our Ward Christmas Party. After the insane month we had in November and as a gift to me, Bishop White had the dinner catered. We even had Hyde Park 2’s decorations to work with. Pretty much we just showed up and were fed a turkey dinner. After the meal we had a Scottish Kalleigh (spelled totally wrong). I’m sure our square dancing in America came directly from the Kalleigh. We had callers and a Kalleigh band come and teach us the different dances. Talk about a crazy workout. Everyone was dripping wet. What was so great about doing the Kalleigh was  EVERYONE was involved and dancing. We had at least 150 kids there for dinner and most stayed to dance. It was a wonderful, fun night. Everyone loved it.

The following weekend we had a delightful experience going to a Balleywood Dance-Off with 8 University dance teams competing.  We went because Sanjay had killed himself for 3 months learning the dance routine that represented Imperial College. It was such a fun night. Great dancing, great costumes, beautiful Indian women and fun competition. Best of all Sanjay’s team took first place. They now go and compete in the all UK competition this summer.
Sanjay at his Ballywood competition. He's the one on the far left. They did such a marvelous job. It was amazing!
Yet another fun event was traveling 1 ½ hours to see Katie Morrill act in one of her Master’s Production. I so wish all of you could have seen this play. It was actually written by her team of masters students. It was taken from the two true life stories of those that were responsible for the creation of the Grimm’s Brothers fairy tales. The life stories were so fantastic that you could hardly believe they were true. It was amazing to see what these students were able to come up with in the way of dialogue and blocking. Their acting was amazing and the stories truly astounding. Even Jim LOVED IT!!! It was worth the trip to get there. So fun!

Another Christmas highlight was our ward choir. It was very dicey since my two strongest sopranos had already left for Christmas and I had only 2 basses (ended up borrowing two missionaries who were great basses to fill in.) We sang for our Christmas Sacrament Meeting. One number you all know well; “Sing with the Angels”. The second song is one I never did for Sing Noel but the choir loved it. It was called “If This Child was Born Today”. For the talent we had the choir did amazing. (With the varying circumstances of kids going home for Christmas or not being able to get to practice because of transportation I’ve had to let go of my perfection. It’s been good for me.) We also had Katie (my substitute Megan) and a phenomenal tenor studying opera; Robin Dick do “Christ Child, Christ Child” as a duet with the tenor on melody and Katie doing alto. It was stunningly beautiful and knocked everyone’s socks off. (Tanner and Megan we really need to do this when I get home. I’d never thought to do it before but it would be beautiful with your voices!)  

That night the Stake had a Christmas Devotional and asked for musical numbers and the choir to sing. We did all the above and added another number; a French Horn solo by one of my favorite girls; Emily Bier. She is doing a master program on horn at the Royal Academy of Music here in London and she is AMAZING!!! You all would have loved what I had her play. We took my choral arrangement of “What Child is This?” arranged by Howard Helvey (It’s delicious) and turned it into a horn solo. It was actually a duet. The piano part very very difficult and is equal to the solo. It was deeply moving.

Sister Jordan had a missionary choir do several numbers. They sounded beautiful, especially the Elders. Some real talent. Instead of talks the stake showed portions of Christmas videos. It was probably the best thing I’ve been to that the stake has done since we’ve been here. Our Stake President was totally thrilled. The first thing out of his mouth was “So what are we going to do for Easter?” This is from the man that didn’t trust me to know how to choose a musical number for Stake Conference. FINALLY I think we’ve won him over.   

All this happened the first two weeks of December!!!! I kept thinking once the Dec. 14th Christmas Devotional was over we’d have a open week and then Christmas Eve would be here with our kids for dinner. Nice try!!! Even though we had no firm commitments we had kids here every day. One of our older single Chinese members (not YSA but teaches our Chinese Institute class) begged us to go on the Hop On Hop Off bus to sight-see London. It was such a fun and meaningful day with Jin who is an amazing converted Chinese Muslim.
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I also made, with Sister White, 50 Christmas ornaments to give to our kids coming for dinner on Christmas Eve. I spent hours trying to find Christmas paper to type up a couple Christmas stories and ended up having to order paper on-line (and it was still pretty ugly.)

Getting together with Bishop White and Jenny we had divided those kids that were going to be here over Christmas with no where to go. We ended up with most the Chinese coming over to our house for Christmas Eve Dinner. What was so exciting about that is most of them had never had a Christ-centered Christmas before because they didn’t have Christ in their lives a year ago. I felt committed to making it memorable for them. 

One thing I really wished for was a keyboard to sing Christmas carols with. Out of the blue one of our girls, Marita who is a recent convert from Latvia and attends the Lea Valley Ward, heard I was looking for a keyboard and offered me hers. She had gotten it free from her school and never played it. Last Saturday she hauled it here herself. How precious it that? It didn’t have a stand or cord so that very day we got on line and ordered one, hoping we’d get it in time. It arrived late afternoon on Christmas Eve just in time for our dinner!!! Merry Christmas from your dad to ME!!! (You can see it in the pictures of the flat!)

We ended up having two non-members, four Americans and 12 newly converted Chinese members here. It was a magical night. We had a wonderful dinner and then did the Nativity with carols interspersed. We asked the question, “Who was this baby Jesus and what does He mean to you? Sweet testimonies. We watched The Piano Guys Video of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and then did our Santa Stocking (found a huge Santa Stocking sitting in our garage at Church that worked perfectly.) By the end we had every one there in tears. Everyone loved it. It was a sweet and holy night! Then we had a raucous time eating dessert. We weren’t done cleaning up until 1:30 a.m.

We had to be at church by 9:00 Christmas morning to make waffles and bacon for the 65 missionaries close enough to walk to the chapel (there is no buses or tubes running on Christmas day. I love it!) When breakfast was cleaned up we got to go and watch “Meet the Mormons” that will begin to be shone at our Visitor’s Center January 1. I loved it but midway through fell asleep for a few minutes. So tired from the night before

After the show we came home to find a priceless gift from Ashlee waiting on our blog. Unbeknownst to us Ashlee had gotten hold of all our old pictures and mission letters written by me to Jim on his mission and put together a gift that means more than anything we could ever have received. She hacked into our blog and left the previous blog telling our 48 year love story. I cried and cried as I read her sweet words; words that made any sacrifice we’ve ever made so worth it! The power of remembering. I couldn’t get to sleep last night because I was so caught up in the pictures and memory of our life together. Ashlee thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It is a true treasure!

After reading the blog we got to Google Hangout with ALL our favorite people in the whole world, received a report from each of the grandkids on what Santa had brought them, watch Marin and Skyler open some presents and take a visual tour of Tanner and Shelby’s new home. All in all a very perfect day.

Horrible picture taken at night of a ice skating rink they put up in winter that's two blocks from our flat with a giant Christmas tree in the center. Fun!

England doesn't go all out with Christmas decoration but this is the closest giant mall not far from our flat that was pretty darn amazing!!
I’m sorry this blog has run on and on and on, but so much has happened and too much time has gone by to make this short and concise. I apologize. This might be just for us so we won’t forget. I’m finally coming to appreciate the power of journaling that lets us never forget the Lord’s continuous hand in our lives. Ashlee’s gift is an especially poignant reminder of that!

At this season I am especially grateful for my Savior. I did the 30-Day Devotional; listening every day to a different conference talk about this man Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever loved Him as much as I do this day. I pray EVERY DAY that this testimony, this unchanging conviction, will be yours. That you might know with all your heart that He lives, that He loves YOU and that He know you by name. We need never be desolate or weighed down with burdens too heavy to carry. I testify He is there to help carry your load and lead us all gently home. I love and adore Him. I live for the day I can kneel at his feet and wash them with my tears of gratitude for the gifts He has given me my whole life; the greatest being all of you. I witness this to each of you and send my love this sweet Christmas season. Your mom and Maga! (Pictures will be coming shortly!)

1 comment:

  1. Quit apologizing for the length of your blogs! They can never be long enough! I love to hear about all that you are doing. It makes it so much easier to be away from you if I know all the good that you are doing. I love you both. We sure missed you this Christmas. Love you! Keep the blogs coming.