Monday, December 29, 2014

a few glimpses of this christmas

Two days before Christmas, I sat in the family room, reading, all morning.  The house was quiet.  Periodically, someone would knock on the door: a neighbor, bearing jam or fudge or bread.  Neighbor would walk away with a bag of Chex-mix, and I would return to the couch, pull my legs under me, and open my book up again.

We woke up on Christmas morning to a mantle of quiet whiteness: snow, finally.

Ben and Wayne made each other laugh so many times.

I got to sleep under the softest down comforter, on top of the firmest futon mattress, in the dark basement, surrounded by boxes and boxes of stuff we are organizing as a Christmas gift for my mama.

My uncle Steve said something particularly hilarious, and I watched as my dad, overcome with funniness, sank to his hands and knees, then picked himself back up, eyes still squinted and mouth still open in a full-lunged bout of laughter.  One of my favorite things is watching my dad laugh, and there is no one that can get him going quite like his little brother Steve.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

a short list of things that have made my heart happy

1. hearing my grandmother's voice over the phone.  she told me I am in the richest part of my life, and you know what, I believed her.

2. Handel's Messiah.  I'm playing in a community orchestra for a Messiah sing-in.  the work is simply glorious.  did you know: Handel composed it in his best clothes because he felt he was going before his Maker, creating an offering to God.  a line that struck me tonight was this: "He is the King of Glory".

3. this song.

Addendum to the last one

I feel like I forgot to say one of the most important things about making decisions: that God loves us, cares about our lives and decisions, and both wants to and will help us and guide us.  He's promised us that.  Seek and ye shall find.  I will send you my comforter.  The Holy Ghost "will show unto you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:5).  We can trust in His promises and in His guidance.  He will nudge and help us along, because He knows us perfectly and has it all figured out.

We are so lucky He doesn't make all our decisions for us, and that He doesn't give us everything we think we want.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How Long Halt Ye?

There was a wonderful Sister in my mission who once told me, "Lately I've been doing this thing where I make up random spiritual gifts and then pray for them."  In addition to making me laugh, her comment struck me as a legitimately fantastic idea.  It reminded me of something George Q. Cannon said -- that we ought to pray and fast for the spiritual gifts we need.

Lately I've been praying for the gift of decisiveness.

I've always admired decisive people -- people who know what they want.  I tend to struggle with knowing what I want, and I often agonize over decisions.  A recent life experience got me thinking about all this, so I studied, and I've made some discoveries:

1.  Learning to make decisions is a heritage that goes all the way back to the garden of Eden.

It's kind of what mortality is all about.

God didn't make everything cut-and-dried for Adam and Eve.  He gave them options with consequences and required that they choose (See Moses 3:15 - 4:32).  Interestingly, He required that they choose without fully understanding everything about the situation.  This is something that paralyzes me sometimes -- feeling like I have to make a choice without all the information I want.  But I'm beginning to see that that's kind of the whole point sometimes.  Stepping into the dark.  Doing a trust-fall with God.  It seems to be pretty important to Him that we learn to do that.

He created "things to act and things to be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:14), and as His spiritually begotten children we are at the top of the list of creatures who are expected to act.  "The Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself" (2 Nephi 2:16).  He gave us that.  It's a responsibility but also a privilege, and we have to (get to!) figure it out, because it's central to becoming like Him.

2.  Some things really don't matter.

There are a LOT of decisions that really don't matter very much.  More than we tend to think (at least in my case.)  In Doctrine and Covenants there are many instances in which the Lord gives directions like this: "These things remain with you to do according to judgment ..." (D&C 62:8), or "...then you may return ... as seemeth you good, it mattereth not unto me; only be faithful ..." (D&C 62:5).

I think the Lord puts the decision-making firmly in our mortal hands almost all the time, encouraging us to make decisions, act on them, and learn from the process.  When it comes to choices between equally good things, He's not secretly hoping we choose one or the other, eager to punish us when we mess up.  He's just happy to see us growing, moving forward, making things work.

And, frankly, there are details that probably don't matter much to Him.  Like, when Jesus forgave sinners, He said, "go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).  He didn't say, "go, and major in accounting, and marry your neighbor's son, and name your children Zach, Harry, and Lela."  The decision to "sin no more" is really important.  The rest, well, it's way more flexible.

3.  Some things really do matter.

And when they do, we'll have the direction we need.  Boyd K. Packer taught that we will never be allowed to make a wrong decision without being warned by the spirit.  Whether we heed that warning or not falls to us, but God is NOT trying to confuse us.  Ever.  "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Also, He's made it pretty clear what is most crucial by giving us commandments.  As long as we are aligned with those, we can be confident we are doing right things.  Love God and His children.  Obey God's laws.  Focus on His approval above anyone else's, and remember that charity never faileth.  If those types of guiding principles don't make one of two good choices more obvious, the decision is probably a win-win.

This idea is expressed in 1 Kings 18:21: " long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him."  That matters.  Don't sweat the rest.

4.  God does not intend for fear to be a factor in decision-making.

This is one of the most repeated messages in all scripture.  "Fear not" (this two-word command appears at least seventy-eight times in the standard works).  "Be not afraid, only believe" (Mark 5:36).  "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).   "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not" (D&C 6:36).

Fear can lead us to feel paralyzed.  And paralysis was never God's intention for us.  In fact, paralysis is akin to damnation (the state of being damned, or stopped from moving forward).  If we are resisting decisions, we are being acted upon instead of acting.  Thus, a courageous decision to act in the face of fear is a very godly thing.

My grandma LaMyrl wisely told me once that sometimes the only way out is through.  At times, the decision-making atmosphere feels murky.  So we make choices and take steps forward and course-correct as needed and trust in God.  We press on with gratitude and creativity and initiative and resolve and we create something beautiful with each precious day.  Before long we see that much of the murk has cleared.

Whatever we can do to shed fear will dissipate the clouds around our decisions.  That being said, I want to clarify that I'm not a proponent of recklessness.  I think of decisiveness as a spectrum -- we want to be in the middle:

Reckless---------------------Thoughtfully Decisive------------------------Inert

Sometimes the right course of action is to wait; sit with something; let it percolate until the moment when the spirit says, "Go!".  But there is an important difference between confidence-based patience and fear-based immobility.

5.  There is something to be said for sticking to your guns.

Credit on this one goes to my roommate, who came home a few weeks ago after ending a relationship and proclaimed, "It feels really good to stick to your guns."

I love this verse in 1 Corinthians 14:8: "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"  One element of decisiveness is refusing to be wishy-washy once we've thoughtfully chosen a course of action.  This gives confidence to all who are affected by the choice, especially ourselves.

"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily" (Colossians 3:23).    It takes courage sometimes to not second-guess, but it feels good.  Charles Swift (my good friend's dad) said, "Make a decision, then make it the right decision."  We can't live our lives constantly looking back and wondering, "what would have happened if...?".  Let's have a little confidence in ourselves and in God that we are making good decisions, doing the best we can, and that the future is full of good, good things.  Because, honestly, it is.  Especially if we decide it is.  I mean, we get to create it.

So, your thoughts? How do we cultivate decisiveness?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Is Mortality

"Don't you ever feel that way?," my roommate asked me the other day, "Like, you're tired and stressed and sweaty and something goes wrong, and it's just like, this is mortality."

My roommate Elizabeth says all sorts of pithy, interesting things like that, all the time.  It's so instructive and fun to live with her.

Anyway.  She's right.  This Is Mortality.

We are made from the dust of the earth.  Our bodies tire, our minds become weary, our hearts hurt sometimes.  We get sick and we get better and we mess things up and we say stupid things to people we love and we cry and we feel lost and we get excited about small things and big things and we love each other and we try to improve and we laugh and we get bored and we forget things and we smell bad sometimes and we have to eat and sleep like all the time.  We are mortal.

And there are great things about being mortal.  Like how this week it finally got pretty cold.  It's amazing to me how it gets colder and you feel it -- your body all the way through can tell it's cold  and reacts and tenses up and you think, "It's cold!!"  Isn't it cool to feel that?

Or how sleeping actually rejuvenates you.  Isn't it incredible that you can "power down" for like 8 hours and emerge with greater clarity and energy and renewed motivation?  (Usually.)

Or wind.  You know how when it's really windy and you can feel it literally pushing against you?  Mortality is bizarre but it's also really awesome.

Having other mortals around is such a comfort, too.  I'm constantly struck with the quiet greatness of the people who surround me.  I mean, they are just themselves, but they are so exquisite.  Humans are just amazing creations.

Because, I mean, where I'm really going with this is the fact that, yes, we are mortal, but there is that within us which is ETERNAL.

"We are made of the stuff of eternity.  We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God." (Uchtdorf)  It is no wonder that we feel like "strangers and pilgrims on earth" (See Hebrews 11) sometimes.  Mortality is awesome but it's not the final destination.  Remembering that makes it all the better for its fleeting, poignant glory.

Anyway.  These thoughts are not eloquent, organized, or even really finished, but I need to go read my Physical Science textbook.  This is mortality, after all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Keeping These Things

 A friend asked me today what I like to do extracurricularly (is that a kosher adverb?) and I told him I enjoy writing.  "When I haven't been writing anything," I said, "there is a part of me that is sad."

Sometimes you can learn a fair bit from what comes out of your own crazy mouth.

So I decided to write something today, and cheer up the little corner of my heart that has been missing writing.

Let me acknowledge that I am not a good writer.  I write like I run -- not because I'm an all-star, destined for greatness, but because when I do it my soul feels good.


I have been thinking about one of my favorite sentences in the New Testament.  Jesus had just been born, and the shepherds were talking about it and everyone was rejoicing and prophesying and saying, "come and see!".  In the midst of all this prophecy -- both fulfilled prophecy and that which was to come -- Mary and Joseph must have been overwhelmed.  They can't have understood what was really going on.  They must have felt excited and honored but also terrified and uncertain.

Luke 2:19: "And Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

Mary is so wise.  I mean, of course she is -- God would choose a wise woman to be the mother of His Only Begotten Son.  But I'm sure she felt young and inexperienced and overwhelmed and confused and exhausted and anxious and insufficient.  At least sometimes.

However.  Her wisdom lies in her patience.  She doesn't freak out or fall apart or demand all the answers.  She accepts the pieces of the puzzle she is given, places them carefully inside her heart, and ponders.

I think about this quite often.

I have never and will never be asked to do something as overwhelming as raising Jesus.  But that doesn't mean I can't learn from Mary.

When you're a 23-year-old recently returned missionary about to graduate from college, there are about five gazillion important decisions to make.  There's managing your finances and deciding what you're most passionate about and figuring out where to work and where to further your education and when to and in which field.  There's discovering what really matters and what kind of person you want to be and what kind of person you want to marry and trying to figure out who in the world that person is.

After spending 1.5 years with the happy blessing of just thinking about other people, you get sick of yourself and your own decisions realllllllly fast.  I mean, thinking about yourself all the time simply never made anybody happy.

These decisions are all just blessings, I know!!  How ridiculously, abundantly blessed is a person in my circumstances!  I cannot let even a whisper of complaining infuse itself into this post.  I am truly, truly grateful for the exciting, wonderful decisions I have the privilege to be making.  But I would not be honest if I didn't admit that every now and then it is a tiny bit intimidating, if not disorienting.

I am trying to, like Mary, keep all these things and ponder them in my heart.  I've seen again and again that God graciously gives us what we need to move forward and learn and choose our paths.  He gives us ownership of our own decisions, always, and lets us take risks and walk under clouds and scrape our knees a few times, but He always, always illuminates as much as needs to be illuminated.  I've seen that so many times that I trust it absolutely.  I trust Him.  I really do.

So I'm pondering.  And in the meantime there are a thousand thousand little daily recompenses: runs and bike rides and crunchy leaves and autumny things and cardigans and the laughter of friends and meaningful conversations and books and breakfasts and naps and cries and hugs and, of course, writing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Swing Low Sweet Chariot ...

coming forth to carry me home, Swing low, sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me HOME!!!!!

Favorite people,

This week was a marvel.  I haven't had a week that felt like this since Evora, I think.  Such a blessing.

Isabel did in fact get baptized on Saturday.  It was so so so lovely.  SUCH a tender mercy to end my mission this way.  

Isabel really gets it.  She truly studied and learned and prepared and has such a sweet, deep desire to follow God.  A couple weeks ago she had told us that she wasn't going to tell her family she was getting baptized (they are very Catholic).  We told her it was her call, but that we've seen many times that a person's family often reacts much more positively than they expect.  Just tell them why this is important to you, we said, and invite them to your baptism.  

Well.  She did!  (This is how you can tell Isabel is PREPARED -- she actually does the things we invite her to do.  He humility is just beautiful.)  And they ALL CAME.  To her surprise!  Both her children, all her grandkids, and her sister.  The baptism was lovely.  We invited her to give a brief testimony after the baptism, and she was super nervous, but just spoke so sweetly and honestly about how she had been looking all her life for a church that responded to her questions and where she felt good, and she finally found it.  She is such a bright, bright example to me.  

The baptism was well attended, I got to play my violin, and afterwards Isabel invited us and two couples from the ward over to have dinner at her house with her and her family.  It was awesome.  Her family is so so cool and her house is really funky and cool and I think the family liked the whole experience, or at least got to see that we are pretty normal people after all.  Her sister even came yesterday to see her get confirmed.  And Isabel had to leave a few minutes early from church but as she left she said to Sister Wach, "that's my sister! go get her number and try to arrange to talk with her this week!!"  SO. COOL.  Seriously, you guys, Isabel is INCREDIBLE.

She just called me to say goodbye and was like, "we can still talk on email, right?"  Of course.  :)

That reminds me, I got to make some phone calls yesterday.  The best was talking to Nazare and Nelma.  Nazare is suuuuper sick, and it sounds like Evora is kind of struggling, so that phone call was a little sobering.  But she called me "my angel"  a hundred thousand times, and it was just so good to hear her voice.  That woman blessed my life sooooo much.  She is my hero.

Nelma was like "SANDHOESSSS!!!!" and talked to me as if I were in Lagos yesterday.  I love that lady so much.  She is still planning on going to the temple with me and Sister Warburton sometime soon, so I will have to start planning for that....  She also still is dead set on me marrying this one elder that left Lagos right before I arrived.  :)  Oh, Nelma.  Always the matchmaker.  She proposed a 3-way Skype call so that we could meet, and I almost gagged at how awkwardinho that would be.  Ohmylanta.  I was laughing my guts out, talking to her.


On Friday to Saturday we got to fast.  It saddened me that this would be my last fast in the mission.  I really really love the clarity of fasting.  We started our fast in the church, right after Isabel's baptismal interview.  I knelt against a chair near the baptismal font and thought, and prayed.  

My soul filled with gratitude, my heart hurt with gratitude and felt fleshy and full.  I thought how it is almost uncomfortable to feel so grateful to the Lord and not know how to ever repay or fully express that gratitude.

A thought came to my mind: "The way you can thank me is the way you live."

It's true.  The only way we can show our thanks to God is in the life we live -- the kind of people we become.  I just want to be good and righteous and virtuous and gentle and compassionate and forgiving and pure.  I want to show my thanks to God in the way I treat every person around me.

The mission is nothing but a gift.  We come out here thinking we are offering something to God, and I suppose we are, we are offering our selves, and doing that inevitably brings us to realize that being here is much less an offering from us to Him than it is a Gift from Him to us.  He lets us participate in this glorious work, and it changes us forever.

The mission is a gift God gives us to help us get over ourselves and internalize the gospel by DOING it.  We can talk about gospel principles all day long and feel the spirit, but the mission gives us the chance to SHOW that faith in the face of opposition, and emerge tested and with deeper roots and more resilient faith.

We can't learn to love like Christ until we're out here having the chance to love people who may seem less loveable than we are accustomed to.  It is a gift.  It is a gift, and my soul aches that I have to move on from this phase, but I know that the way to thank Heavenly Father for this gift is how I live the rest of my life, starting now.  I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

We can talk about these things as we sit around the firepit making delicious hot shmoes in a couple days.

I am so excited to see you.

I love you.

Sister Sandholtz

25 Aug 2014 - This is Salvasation!!

I said that to Sister Galloway this morning in comp study, accidentally.  I give us a lot to laugh about with all the bizarre things that come out of my mouth.  I blame it on Portuguese but I think it is also partly because I am just ridiculous.

Dear Folks,

I am going to print your emails out and read them.  Sorry if I don't respond to something important.

Question:  Is brother Aidukaitis, the one teaching you Portuguese, a member of the seventy?

Other Question:  I feel stupid about this one ... who is Clara?  Did Allie have another baby that no one ever told me about?

Ah, guys.  Life is just so dang beautiful, man.

Isabel is going to be baptized on Saturday.  She is so ready and humble and willing to act.  It is breathtaking, really.  I was lying in bed last night thinking about how much I admire our investigators.  The humility and courage and child-like-ness required to take upon yourself these big life changes and commit to them forever is really really admirable.  These people teach me more than I teach them, without a doubt.  

We had 5 people in church yesterday, which was lovely.  I love the Oeiras ward so much.  Yesterday before Sacrament Meeting started I was looking out over the hubbub and thinking to myself, "I love this.  I love Portugal.  I love these people!".  That thought was followed by another: " I am leaving all this in 10 days, and that feels SO RIGHT."  It boggles my mind that both of those thoughts can coexist so peacefully inside me.  But they do.

Grace, you guys.  Grace.  It is the most beautiful thing.  

I will leave you with another funny thing that came out of my mouth accidentally this week.  The other day we were planning in the kitchen (the other sisters were in the study room) and the laundry machine was making some pretty intensely loud sounds that sounded like a space ship landing.  I got a twinkle in my eye, looked over at Sister Galloway, and half-whispered, "The aliens has arrived."  We died laughing.  Who the heck am I and what happened to my grammar!?

Ah, guys, I love you.  I think I will get to email you next week, but if not, Nao Faz Mal because we will be together soon.

Forca!  (Strength.)

Sister Sandholtz

Thursday, August 21, 2014

18 Aug 2014 - I will miss boxed milk

Most american missionaries dislike it, but for some reason I just love it.


Well, dears, this week was WACKY.  I don't really know how or have time to describe it, so I will just give you some of the facts.

1. Joao and Sara and Sira didn't get baptized this week.  Sara and Sira kind of disappeared for much of the week, but Joao was em casa and we taught him everything we had left to teach him and we reviewed the interview questions with him and he is sooooo ready it's incredible.  But he doesn't feel like he's ready, and wants to prepare more, and I respect that and I'm not going to force anything.  It's hard to know how to walk that line of helping them see they are ready and also just letting them to come at their own pace.  He said he's never going to miss another Sunday in church.  He's super cool.

2. Isabel is doing great.  We found out she smokes, like 2 cigarettes per day only, but she wants so bad to be able to quit before the 30th for her baptism.  Ah, guys, Isabel is such a huge blessing in my life right now.  I am so grateful for her.  will you pray she can keep progressing and get baptized on the 30th?

3. Transfers!  Sister Stewart is going up NORTH to Braga!!  One of the most beautiful areas.  I will miss her a TON but I know she is in excellent hands ....... with Sister DUKE!!!!  (My mtc comp!  remember her!?)  I am staying here for the next 2 weeks, being comps with Sister Galloway, which is great.  The other area got whitewashed -- Sister Swasey got a surprise phonecall on Saturday morning telling her she would be going home to figure out what is going on with her health.  So now Sister Galloway and I are roommates with Sister Torres (a portuguese sister waiting for her visa to go to brazil.  she seems really neat) and.... wait for it ..... Sister Wach!  A year later, we get to live together again.  It is so fun to see her again and see how much we have both changed and grown in the last year.  When I go home, the areas will merge and the sisters will be a tripla until Sister torres gets her visa.  Lots of changes for Oeiras!  I hope it all goes smoothly!

4.  Hey, cool tender mercy this week -- last Monday S. Stewart and I went to Sintra.  It was beautiful there.  While waiting in a line at the Palacio da Pena, I noticed the couple in front of me was speaking a language that sounded like weird Portuguese morphed with Spanish.  I thought, they must be from Galicia, so I started a conversation with them, and sure enough they are Gallegos!  My heart swelled even though I have never been there -- I thought of you, Dad.  I took a picture with them and will show it to you in 15 days.  

THEN a few days ago I started a conversation with a lady at a bus stop who I noticed looked Indian and was speaking English.  Turns out she is from "near Bangalore", oh, where?,. "Hyderabad.", "HYDERABAD?!"  Cool!!  Her name was Roshni.  I told her my brother Nate was a missionary in Hyderabad a few years ago.  So cool.  She said she might come to church.  

It was just a fun little bit of celestial symmetry, you know?  I was hoping I would bump into some Argenines, Wayne, which I didnt, but I had a vivid dream that I met some, so that's got to count for something, too.  :)

 Well, I have to go.  Email time was robbed today by transfers.  But I got to see Sister Radvansky.  :)

I am so grateful for you.  Keep those chins up!  I love you!

Sister Sandholtz

11 Aug 2014 - you're a wizard, Harry


I am thrilled to hear you are learning Portuguese!  Wahooooo!  Yes, Dad, the language feels WAY different in your mouth than Spanish.  Especially Portuguese in Portugal (not Brasil).  I love it so much.

Speaking of learning Portuguese, we had some fun bloopers this week.  Sister Stewart speaks very well and is learning incredibly fast, but there are still funny moments sometimes.  For example, we were learning bedroom words.  I told her to say "guarda-fatos" (closet), and she said, seriously, "guarda-fatso".  HA!!  Later in the week she accidentally told someone she is studying "enfermidades" (infirmities) instead of "enfermagem" (nursing).  The joys of learning a new language.  :)

Ah, guys.

Have I told you anything about Isabel?  She was a referral from our digeridoo-playing WML, Ruben.  She's around 65, gentle, into Eastern Philosophy, does "sound therapy" for a living, and for many, many years has been looking for a church in which she feels good.

She first came to the ward BBQ a few weeks ago, then we got her contact info and invited her to church.  We've started teaching her with the RS president.  She is super sensitive to the Spirit and seeks to know deeply and understand.  She's been reading the BOM and told us that when she reads she feels something different -- something changes.  It's hard to explain, she said, and we're thinking BINGO that's the Spirit!! 

She loved the Plan of Salvation (I love how much my affection for and understanding of the Plan of Salvation has grown on my mission).  At the end of the lesson, I realized we technically should have planned to extend a date because this was the second lesson with her.  Frankly, I didn't want to.  She struck me as someone who would take her time and come at her own pace and yada yada yada.  

But I wanted to be obedient, so I prayed in my heart "God, I am going to extend a date.  Please cushion it and carry it unto her heart in the way it needs to be carried."  I couldn't remember which days in August were Saturdays, but I remembered August 30th was, so I took that and ran with it.

"We will be having a baptismal service on day 30 of August," I said, "Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that day?"

She looked at me, smiled, and said, "Yes.  That is what I want to do."

Truthfully I was very SURPRISED.  I didn't expect that.  But it was a beautiful moment.  Isabel is a humble, truth-seeking person.  It is such a privilege to know and teach people like her.  Also, moral of the story: PMG is always right.  :)

Maybe I'll be here for her baptism?  I have no idea what they're planning to do with me for the last 2 weeks of my mission.  

We'll see.

Andre came to church!  I wish I had time to tell you the funny story about that.  

Joao, Sira, and Sara came too!  We are planning their baptism for next Sunday!  I don't have time to tell you more about them, but will you pray that they can continue to feel the Spirit and have courage!?  They are so cool and so ready.  

I am learning a cool lesson about the power of the spirit.  I feel like the Spirit is a healer.  Let me illustrate this with a brief anecdote:  Last night we were out working and I was feeling really pretty horrible.  (This is not uncommon --- it was a Sunday night -- last day of the week -- you're exhausted and ready for Pday and it's summer and it's hot and your body is breaking down because missionary lifestyle is unnaturally demanding etc etc.)  We sat down on some grass and made a few phonecalls and were conversing a bit.  A man with a backpack and a scruffy dog passed by us.  I didn't feel like I even had the energy to talk to him, but thankfully I have an amazing companion.  

Sister Stewart really felt like we should talk to this man, so we got up and crossed the street to catch up to him, and started conversing with him.  I remember thinking to myself at the beginning of the contact, "I don't know if I can do anything else after this contact.  My head hurts, my body hurts, I just want to lie in my bed and sleep for 14 days and then I can move on with my life."  But as we continued talking to him, and bearing testimony of the Restoration, and listening to him talk about what he believes about God and life, those thoughts faded away.  The Spirit helped me stop focusing on myself and start being genuinely interested in this guy, Fernando.

We said a prayer with him and gave him a BOM (this is a spiritual gift of Sister Stewart -- she is so good at placing BOMs in the street) and and arranged to meet with him again on Thursday at the church.  It was a brief encounter -- no more than 8 minutes -- but the Spirit was present and we felt it and he felt it.  

As we walked away, I felt an evening breeze and smelled the summer grass and thought, "Hey!  I feel good!  I can definitely make it until 9:30."

This type of thing happens again and again and again for me.  As missionaries, we are constantly exhausted.  That is just part of the great adventure.  But the one thing that never fails to give me animo and make me feel better is teaching.  Teaching about eternal truths and feeling the Holy Ghost is transformative.  One good lesson can change a "meh" day into something wonderful.  It is remarkable, actually.  I am so grateful.

Well, we're off to Sintra for pday.  

Huge hugs,


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Emergency Transfer!!

Dear ones,

We have a full hour and a half to email for the first time this transfer (finally!) and I am going to make it count.

News from the week:  Sister Hirschi got Emergency Transferred down to Olhao (you were guessing it was me huh? made you look!!) and we have Sister Galloway with us now.  I miss Sister Hirschi a LOT but it's all good because Sister Galloway is also wonderful.  I'm just happy as a peach that Sister Stewart and I get to stay together, because I love her so stinking much.


Earlier this week I was reading President Monson's latest conference talk.  It is titled, "Love:  The Essence of the Gospel".  It talks about when somebody asked Jesus, essentially, "Which commandment is the most important?", and Jesus responds LOVE.  Love God and love your neighbor. 

That really hit me, even though I have read that story many times before.  When Jesus was asked, "What is most important?", He did NOT say going to sacrament meeting or baptizing or paying your tithing or even having faith or EVEN repenting!!  He said LOVE.  This is the great commandment.  

For some reason that is hugely comforting to me.  I sometimes wonder if I have not helped that many people get baptized on my mission, or if there is something wrong with me because I still have fears and doubts sometimes and I don't know all the answers and I am ridiculous and imperfect.  But as I reflected on this I thought, "do I have greater capacity to love than I did 18 months ago?" and the answer, I think, is yes.

If Heavenly Father has taught me anything on my mission (and He's taught me more than I can ever express), He has taught me about love.  His love.  Pure, powerful, divine love, which is found in such unexpected places and showered upon His crazy, wonderful children in all the earth.

It is a privilege to get to feel that love for all the random Joaos and Marias in the streets of Portugal.  It is an abundant blessing to have loved and been loved by eight true sisters who have lived with me, laughed with me, cried with me, and stood by me through all the craziness and wonder.  It is inexpressible to love this land, to love this language, to love these people and traditions and this culture.  Most of all my love for the Lord has increased and deepened and broadened.  I Love Him.  I trust Him more fully than I did before.  I have felt His love and seen it manifest in so many tiny daily miracles that I am left astonished.

I feel like I am doing a very poor job of expressing how I feel, that it is coming out pious and trite.  But I am just trying to say that even if nothing else good even happened on my mission (and many many good things have happened), the way my heart feels like a deeper receptacle for love is a stunning and brilliant and absolutely worth-it-all miracle to me.


Sacrament Meeting yesterday was indescribable.  Our investigator, Joao, who is from Guinnea-Bissau and is ELECT and is marked for baptism on the 17th with his sister Sira and neice Sara (pray for them please!!), came and LOVED it.  So did a couple other really high-potential investigators.  The Spirit was like a river.  It was fast and testimony meeting and this ward is INCREDIBLE.  He was reading the Gospel Principles book and asked me if he could underline a certain paragraph about service, and I was like Be My Guest.  He didn't sing in the hymns but would follow along with his finger to show me he knew where we were.  :)  He is just super awesome.  I haven't felt so much potential in a person for a long time.  He needs to get baptized PRONTO.  

I wish I could describe to you how my soul was feeling during the meeting.  I guess all have to say is that I was feeling the spirit super strong and you all know what I mean.  It was just so powerful and poignant and important and felt a lot like happiness but also a lot like sadness, as only eternal things can.


After church we took naps because we have been kinda sick, but then we went to Adriana's house.  We didn't have a marked apt.  When we knocked she invited us is, but said she had visitors.  We looked into the kitchen to see several of her friends, sitting around with their Sunday afternoon beers.

Earlier on my mission I think I would have been like, "oh, hey, you're busy, we'll come back later, we don't want to interrupt this or incommodate you....", but I am losing my vergonha (shame/timidity) and becoming more bold about what I know to be true.  She invited us in, right?  And I mean, THESE ARE THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE.  There is never a time when we ought to apologize for being there, trying to help people be eternally happy.  So we just went in and started talking to people and handing out our cards.  The party was winding down and pretty soon most of them left.  

We sat down and talked to Adriana for a bit.  I looked around at the empty beers and it just seemed like such a cheap substitute for that real, bone-deep, eternal whatever-it-was that I had just felt.  

What do you seek in your life?  What do you wish for?, I asked her.

It took her a while to respond but she ended up saying, Happiness I guess.

I looked into her eyes and told her that the world has a lot of voices.  The world has a lot of paths that it will tell you lead to happiness.  But the world has a lot of falsehood.  We cannot trust the world.  But there is One we can trust.  There is One path that leads unfailingly and always to happiness.  True happiness.  Real, eternal joy that doesn't last a few seconds or a few minutes or even a few days or years, but for eternity.

I testified that Christ showed us that path.  That He is the way.  The ONLY way.  That loving Him and following Him and doing what He asks us to do is the ONLY way to acheive that true, lasting, real, deep happiness.  

It brought to my mind the exchage between Christ and Peter when many of His disciples had stopped following him and He asks Peter, "Will ye also go away", and Peter is at a loss that He would even ask and responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life"  (John 6:67-68).  

There is nothing else that even comes CLOSE to the words of eternal life.  To whom else could we even go?  

It breaks my heart how often people don't understand what they are turning down when they decide not to follow Christ and keep His commandments.  They must not understand, because if they truly understood, to whom else would they go?  He has the words of eternal life!

I often feel like such an insufficient vessel.  If I could somehow help people to better understand this!  Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart ....  

At the very least, Heavenly Father is sure helping ME understand this, and I suppose that is a good start.


We contacted a Sao Tomense family and the 3 light-filled little boys were giggling after the prayer and exclaimed, "we didn't close our eyes!!" , and I laughed and my heart hurt because they were so full of light and pure and innocent.  Children are astonishing to me.


I have to end this.  

My heart has been feeling so much like a heart of flesh lately, not a heart of stone, and that has felt really good.  Heavenly Father is pouring out a lot of grace and understanding upon my head during this the end of my mission and I can't express how grateful I am.  Minha alegria transborda.  Overflows.  There's too much to contain.

You all are miraculous.  Thank you for being your magnificent selves.

Be kind, be good, be gentle, be honest, forgive, love.

Walk in His paths.

I love you.


Monday, July 28, 2014

When your heart hurts so good

Ah, guys.  I am SO HAPPY.  Thank you for your prayers this week.

Our week swam in miracles.  Let me tell you about some of them:

Adriana e Rhaiane.  Okay this is a sweet story.  We contacted them a couple weeks ago, and then went back to teach the first lesson.  It was one of the most powerful first lessons of my mission.  They understood the importance of our message and we felt like instant friends with them.  They are a Brazilian mom and daughter.  Rhaiane is 16 and was asking us if she could go on a mission and if maybe she could go out and work with us sometime.  SAY WHAT?  Um..... yeah!!  They accepted the convite suave in the first lesson.  They werent able to come to church, but I have high hopes for them.  We went back this week and taught Adriana.  She has a baby daughter who is soooooooooo cute.  Oh my gosh.  I was dying.

She told us the story of when we met them, from their perspective.  They had been really stressed and tense, and there was some conflict between them that day.  Then we had shown up out of nowhere and contacted them, and apparently from the moment we showed up, Adriana felt a great peace, which helped her calm down and relax.  It stayed with her for the rest of the day.  SO COOL.  

Elder Kearon taught us that people become converted because of what they FEEL, not because of what they KNOW.  So evident in this case.

Andre.  Other HUGE miracle.  He stepped out of an apartment building and into our path, and Sister Stewart contacted him.  (She's a BOSS!)  He told us he's at a moment of starting anew in his life.  He has crazily blue eyes that are intense against his dark European complexion.  He had a rough adolescence -- kicked out of the house at age 15 because he had started smoking marijuana.  He majored in film and has been fending for himself his whole life.  I bet he's about 28 or 30? We went back and taught him the first lesson yesterday and it was so WONDERFUL.  I felt such an outpouring of love for him, as we sat at a picnic table in the middle of Oeiras and spoke with this humble, changing man at dusk.  These moments are indescribable.  He told us he had decided the week before to quit smoking drugs, and he was shaking visibly during our lesson with him.  He also told us he normally judges religious proselyters, but he is trying to be less judgmental, and that is part of the reason he consented to talk with us more.  He is so open and thirsty and searching.  It's beautiful. 

At the end of our lesson we left him the BOM and a couple chapters to read.  

"Este livro é seu," I told him.

"Dont call me você!!"  he said.  (This is a sign of proximity -- he sees us as friends/peers and doesn't want us to be all formal and call him voce.)

"Ta bem", I said, smiling,  "Vou tratar você por tù."

He corrected me: "Vou tratar-TE por tù."

I don't know, I can't explain it.  It was just so tender and human and sweet.  My heart just exploded.  Ahhhhh, guys, my heart.  My heart just explodes again and again doing this work.  God's children are just so exquisite, and feeling His love for them is indescribable.  I love Andre a lot.

Eddy.  I will tell you more about Eddy next week.  We are in Lisbon and only have a half our to email.  :( LAME.  (BUT.  I ran into Sis. Gutzwiller and it was SUCH a tender mercy!!  I got to take a photo with BOTH my trainees.  So cool.  Ahhhh the mission is the best.)

My comp and roommates are SUCH a blessing.  Let me sketch them for you.

Sister Stewart.  Guys, she is soooo cool.  I love her guts so much.  She is fun and dedicated and courageous and full of faith and bright freshness.  She is fun to be a missonary with, and I LOVE that we are opening an area.  It's fun.  It's a cool challenge and the miracles are so stunning and abundant.  She's five foot one and adorable and shops in the kids section sometimes just cuz she can.  She's funny and kind and just quirky enough to make me crack up all the time.  (ok, let's face it, who doesnt make me crack up all the time?  but seriously.)  I love her.

Sister Swasey.  She is tall and 1/4 Japonese but doesn't look it.  She speaks PERFECT Portuguese and it is so fun to learn with her.  She says what she is thinking and feels what she is feeling and is generally a passionate, emotive person.  She is so good.  She makes us all laugh.  She is currently going through a crazy health crisis -- possibly mono? Will you pray for her?

Sister Hirschi.  Ahhhh guys I LOVE Sister Hirschi so much.  She is hilarious.  She, like mom, has the gift of remembering details from her childhood.  She has me dying when she tells us stories about her pet gerbils growing up.  How they accidentally started multiplying and then dying and they had a bunch of gerbil funerals and her dad pretended to cry and she and her siblings made up a special musical number.  She says it all with this impish grin and a twinkle in her eye.  I wish you could see it.  She has the most contagious laugh and is just good through and through.  One time she was telling us a story about the beginning of her mission and I started dying laughing before she got to the punchline just because i KNEW it was going to be SO FUNNY.  (I have problems.)  But she is just so fun and cool.  Sometimes when I am washing my face she waits until my face is all wet and I'm trying to find my towel and then she puts her head in my face so that the first thing I see when I squint my eyes open is her goofy grinning face.  Ha.  It is so funny.  I can't describe it.

These sisters are AMAZING.  I am so so blessed.  It's like a family.  It's a party whenever we are in the house all together.

I am feeling good.  Like myself.  Happy.  Close to God.  GRATEFUL.  Being a missionary is such a privilege.  

Our ward mission leader is named Ruben and teaches digeridoo lessons.  No lie.  

Must go.  Love you all so much.


Sister Sandholtz

Sister Stewart and I in OEIRAS

I finally got to try sardines!

Sister Swasey, Sister Hirschi, me, and Sister Stewart on our first day all together :)

Monday, July 14, 2014



Okay, update:  My comp is NOT Sister McCall.  She got sick or something and stayed in the MTC.  My comp is Sister Stewart, from AZ, and she's awesome.  I love her so much already, and I LOVE training.  

I think I am destined to have trainees who are teeny and adorable, because Sister Gutz sure was and so is Sister Stewart.  They actually look remarkably similar!  My dream is that Sister Gutz comes and finishes Sister Stewart's training once I leave, because then in mission geneology, Sister Stewart would be my daughter AND my granddaughter.  :)

It is so so energizing to work with her -- there is something so beautiful about seeing someone do her first contact, teach her first lesson, invite someone to be baptized for the first time.  I love it.  I love Sister Stewart.  I love being a missionary.

I love having the job of just telling someone how GREAT she is doing.  Being a new missionary is OVERWHELMING, and I love being the one who gets to tell her she's normal and that Portuguese will get easier and that I felt the spirit when she testified of Christ.  I love getting to buy her her first Milka bar and teach her how to pull money out of a Portuguese ATM and teach her what to say to stop a person in the street, then watch her do it and succeed.  So so cool.  Heavenly Father ROCKS.  He knew just what I needed to give me a little extra boost at the end of my mission. 

Sis. Stewart was responsible for starting to take the lead in contacting situations, and extending baptismal convites this week.  5 estrellas!!  She's done both, and lots!  We contact A LOT, seeing as we are opening an area, so pretty soon she is going to be a contacting MASTER.  I want her to feel totally comfortable in contacting situations before these 6 weeks are up!!  She's also been inviting people to be baptized! 

Miracle of the week:  The longer I am on my mission the more I realize that the miracles we see are truly not because of what we did, but because the Lord is merciful and pours out His grace on His servants who love Him.  I feel like all too often we missionaries (myself included) take a little too much credit for the great miracles we see.  We write up our miracle stories as if it was us who made it all happen, when in reality it is ALL the Lord and His Spirit that works ANY miracle.  We are simply servants, participants, benefactors of His grace and goodness.  This has been especially clear this transfer, because we arrived in our area on Thursday and started almost completely from zero.  We had nothing; we had "earned" no miracle, but Heavenly Father poured out His grace to help us get started.  (Sister Swasey and Sister Hirschi, our roommates, have been wonderful in helping us get started and get to know a few investigators.  Life savers!!)  Anyway, the day before Sis. Stewart got here I was working with Sister Hirschi and we bumped into a less active and her husband in the train station, who we figured out lived in my new area.  We made an appointment, and then on Saturday, Sis. Stewart and I went to the appointment together.  The whole family gathered around -- Mircia (LA), Cassio (pesquisador), Marta (LA), Melissa (LA), and Cassio's brother, Olivio (Pesquisador).  We taught them the first lesson (Sis. Stewart did a great job teaching all the points we had planned for her to teach!), invited them all to read and pray about the book of Mormon, and then Sis. Stewart invited Olivio and Cassio to be baptized!!  OLIVIO ACCEPTED!!!!  For the 27th of July!!  And Cassio said he'd pray about August 10th.  We were astonished and so grateful and joyful!  I am so grateful that Sis. Stewart is already having such amazing experiences. After the lesson we freaked out for a second outside and said a thankyou prayer.  

I love training.  If I were an elder and had 6 more months on my mission, I would ask if I could train for ALL of them.  It is so so cool.  I love it.

Sis. Stewart's first lesson was with a lady named Fernanda.  Fernanda had met with the other sisters 2x and has now come to church twice.  We are going to mark her this week -- I really feel she is ready to be baptized.  But Sis. Stewart's first lesson ever as a missionary was really memorable because during it her trainer got a bloody nose!  HA!  That's unforgettable.  :)

I love living with other Sisters.  Sister Swasey is hilarious and speaks impeccable Portuguese, which is really fun, because I am learning a lot.  Sister Hirschi has the most contagious laugh and is full of light and makes me happy.  They are both incredible missionaries.  I love living with them.  It's like a party all the time.  So fun.

Oeiras is cool.  It's outside Lisbon and it's sunny and hot and different from the North.  

My address, before I forget, is

Rua Jose Regio No 5 R/C dto
2780-129 Oeiras

Well, family, I love you.  I love you TONS and I am so grateful for your faith and prayers.  I have FELT them this week and every week.  Keep them coming!  

I read a cool verse in Alma 4 yesterday about how Alma was sorrowful, but "nevertheless the spirit of the Lord did not fail him."  The Spirit will never fail us.  I have felt that on my mission -- through it all and the ups and downs and craziness and miracles, the Spirit of the Lord has been a constant friend.  I am so so grateful for him.

Keep shining.  Have a great week.  Ben, Joe, Coby, thank you for the email updates!  I love them!

More yours than ever,

Sister Sandholtz

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Hey guys.

not much email time this week, which is a shame seeing as we saw TONS of miracles this week.

Lidia came to church!  We met Imma Mimba!  (total miracle -- ask me to read you my journal entries from this week when I get home.)  he came to church too!  We taught Fabrice the law of chastity in ENGLISH for the first time ever on my mission and it was so awkwardinho.  We almost died.  Except that I love the law of chastity and think it's the bomb.  TWICE in lessons this week people were like, "wait, so you are VIRGINS!????"   Heck yeah!!  

So, um, transfers.  We were not even thinking that anything would happen besides SG leaving and me staying.  Um........ wrong!

I am in Oeiras!!!!!!!!!! Serving in LISBON for the first time in my LAST transfer, and living in a house with 4 sisters for the first time, and whitewashing/dividing an area for the first time, and .....

are you ready for this? .....




I'm training!!!  Her name is Sister McCall and she'll get here on Thursday.  Will you pray for her?  And for me, that I can be a great trainer for her?

I am happy.  I am also SUPER intensely tired.  Will you also pray that I can have energy and not die?

I am so happy that Dad you are getting better.  Keep it up!  Thank you for not having lots of scary news this week.

I had a cool experience praying on Monday night because obviously I was freaked out that Dad was in the hospital and I was talking to God about it and crying and really worried and everything, and then I had this crystal realization that because of faith in Christ, even worst case scenarios are overcomeable.  With that realization came a lot of peace, and I handed the situation (and my desire to have more control over it) over to God, and felt His peace through the rest of the week.  Such a tender mercy.

So glad you're doing well, Dad.

I love you!

On to the next adventure!

Stay safe, be great to each other, shine His love,



ps. mom have fun at camp!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

fight manfully

Ah, family.

Can I please just say that this week you all need to be really careful and not get hurt or injured or diagnosed with any weird diseases because I do NOT want to read another shocking email next week!  Two weeks in a row was plenty.  It is so bizarre and I feel so disconnected, half a world away, and I want to be able to call you up and tell you I love you, or drive over right away and give you a hug and cook dinner for you and laugh at your jokes and just BE with you.  And it is weird to have to process these things all by myself out here on a different continent.  So, Dad, no more flesh eating bacteria, ta bem!?  Your assignment is to get better FAST.  And the rest of you, also, be careful and don't get into trouble.

Okay.  Sorry.  I am being selfish.  I just love you so stinking much.



This week was cool.  We broke a barrier and had 7 investigators in church! Fernanda, Dalila, and Cristina all came.  And Elias!  Dude, you guys, Elias is awesome.

Then, Fabrice showed up during the 3rd hour as well, and told us he had slept in but had committed to himself to come to church, so he came, even though he came late.  We are going to teach him the commandments this week and are hopeful and confident he will be baptized soon.  This week if possible! 

Other cool miracle: We have been praying to get in contact with Imma Mimba, Fabrice's friend who speaks French AND Portuguese, and we got a text from the elders this morning saying that they had met him and gotten his contact info!  Miracle!  I am SOOOO excited to meet him.

We had lunch with four Portuguese bitties at a restaurante this week.  We were invited by Ana, a Portuguesa of about 60 years who is devoutly catholic but LOVES Mormons.  she always tells us, "I'm not the only Catholic who loves the mormons!"  

Sister Giberson is a GENIUS and a great example to me.  During the lunch I was thinking to myself, "Hey, I can't really think of a way to tie the gospel into this conversation, and it's our lunch hour, and we're in Portugal eating lunch with 4 old ladies, and it's awesome, and I'm just going to enjoy it without trying to force a lesson key-indicator into it..."

But Sister Giberson was smarter and more consecrated than I.  Near the end of lunch, she expertly said, "We are so grateful for this lunch, we'd love to do something to thank you!  Can we give you a tour of our chapel next Thursday?"

They all seemed excited, and I added that I'd bring my violin, which sealed the deal.  :)  Then SG said to me, "want to share a scripture?", and I did, and it wasn't weird; it was normal and good and positive.  I'm so grateful for her.  :)

I am overally really really happy.  We are near the 40-day effort in the mission to purify ourselves, and the extra effort makes me feel so much peace -- that I am doing my part, regardless what is happening around me.

I love you.  Holy cow, I love you.

Be safe.  Be good.  Fight manfully for Him.  I will too.


Sister Sandholtz

me and elder da veiga.  he doesn't make normal faces in photos, ever.  miss this kid.  Our new DL, elder munoz, is also a total gem.

me and elder staples.  He was my first district leader.... now he's home.  this was taken like 2 weeks before he left.  he had just given his tie to another elder .. ha!  I know it looks weird to see an elder without a tie!

got to go running on a division in braga.... this is like a month ago... sister miley's jersey is cool, huh?  

here's what is in store for you...... be excited (this is nazare's chocolate mousse recipe I told you about.)

My cool visual aid for the Plan of Salvation :)

this is Irene

divisions with the stl's fell during the fair Senhor de Matosinhos... so we celebrated with "F. Burgers". Kind of like a worksburger in that it was HUGE

Then we got blue ice cream :)

when I was sick.  this picture can tell you a lot about our lives.  I am sitting in the comfy chair by the fridge where I pray each night.  you can see our metro map behind me, our broken stove, boxes of milk on top of the fridge (it comes in boxes here), my violin in the corner.... it's like I spy!!

district lunch! we cooked! plus ricardo, a cool kid in the ward 

self explanatory

a piece of my day to day life. 

this type of grafiti is found in the crosswalks of matosinhos.  it always includes the orange U, LET, and ME, but in different permutations:

LET ME see U,
LET ME travel with U,
LET ME take care of U,
if U miss me, LET ME know,


It's fun to find them all over the city.  we get excited when we find a new one

Monday, June 23, 2014


My dear cranties,

Cranties is the name of a breakfast cereal in Portugal.  The names of the breakfast cereals here never cease to delight me.  Sister Giberson and I have enjoyed finding every reason to shout the word "CRANTIES!" whenever occasion permits.  We have such a good life.

We have also been on a raging pineapple kick.  This week and last, we bought 4 pineapples and consumed them voraciously.  One of the best things about summer is produce.  I love my life.

I loved loved loved your emails this week (and every week, let's face it).  We just live the most abundantly blessed existence.  Mom and Dad, I am SO thrilled about your trip.  I want to meet Ami and her husband!  And I want to go to Greece....

What sobering, tragic news about Bonnie!  My heart just hurts and aches.  The scripture that came to my mind was Job 1:21 - The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  Some things are just so inexplicable.  All we can really do is keep calm and carry on, trusting that everything will work together for our good, even in the most seemingly cruel and undeserved moments of darkness.  Certainly these next months will be beautiful, close, precious family moments for the Barnetts and all of us.

I read something interesting in PMG about the atonement this morning.  (I love personal study so so so so so much.  I am so grateful.)  It was in the section of the Plan of Salvation lesson about Judgment.  It said that the only ones who will inherit Eternal Life will be those who made themselves free of sin and suffering through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  

I LOVE that.  The atonement not only frees us from sin (redeems us), but also from suffering (empowers us).  Or rather, when we have deep-rooted faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement, nothing can shake us.  We are serene and grounded even through the most harrowing trials because we trust so infinitely and completely in Him.  We rejoice in the gift and the Giver, through everything He gives us, even if it seems at the moment to be more of a curse than a blessing.

I am talking as if I know anything about this -- of course in the midst of these things we just feel like we are about to fall apart.  But I truly believe that every one of these experiences is given to bless us.

My prayers for Bonnie and Adam and their kids and all the Barnetts will be in full gear. 

This week was lovely.

Irene didn't get baptized.  She was SOOOO close. But I still love her complicated guts and she's still teaching me so much.  When we taught her the word of wisdom she told us she drinks coffee daily and that she WON'T quit.  (she is the most stubborn person I know).  But then she quit.  The next two days in a row we didn't even ask about coffee and she slipped in hints with a twinkly eye that she hadn't drunk any.  I'm pretty sure she'll never drink coffee again.  

As for baptism, we'll see.  She told us if it weren't for her pain-filled, infection-filled legs, she would have been baptized on Saturday.  But then like 2 seconds later she was ranting about how she doesn't like this church and doesn't believe in it and yadayadayada.  She's a confusing lady.  But I just love her so much.  Teaching her has made me realize (again) how much I truly truly believe all this is true.  Her reluctance to accept the overwhelmingly huge blessings of the gospel and the ward family that is literally and figuratively ready to accept her with open arms just seems so STUPID.  I mean that in a way that is completely un-belittling to her -- I understand that there is surely a longer story to this whole issue than I perceive -- but I am just trying to emphasize how clear it has become to me that the gospel simply blesses our lives and makes us happier.

I choose it.  And I am blessed again and again by that choice.

And I rejoice in the relationship and friendship we have with Irene, whether or not she gets baptized in the short run.  She has blessed my life.

Fabrice is still going strong, Armando is running away from us but I am confident it's nor permanent, Dalila and crew didn't come to church again but I believe they will someday soon.  We are struggling to get many people in church!  Will you pray we can be creative and have more success in that arena?

Sister Giberson had her golden birthday on the 21st, it was great fun.  We fasted.  ha!  She was such a good sport when the bishop announced we would be doing a ward fast on her birthday.  We managed to celebrate a lot anyway.  :)

Dad, I gave your BOM with the dedicatory in it to an ELECT lady I refer to as Elisabete 5 (we are, or have been, teaching 5 women named Elisabete, so I number them).  She LOVED it.  She was freaking out at how great it was and was SO grateful.  Thank you for the perfect dedicatory.  ;)

A cool miracle from this week -- one morning we were out working and I felt like we ought to stop and pray.  I honestly was kind of in robot mode that morning.  So we prayed.  After the prayer we stood there with eyes closed for a second and I silently asked God to help me WANT to be there in that moment.  I opened my eyes and took a deep breath and looked across the street at the old, disintegrating, Portuguese, stone building with ivy growing all over it and I thought, "I live in Portugal!", and I was happy.

I felt like there was someone nearby that we needed to meet, so we started knocking a predio on the other side of the street.  Before long a guy in a suit walked by who looked and reminded me of Charles, but we were in the middle of talking to someone's doorbell/phone thing.   The man stopped, and then turned around and contacted US.  

He is a brazilian businessman named Elias who read a book by a brazilian mormon billionaire and for the last 2 weeks has been LOOKING for mormon missionaries to talk to.  MIRACLE!!!!? Sooooo yes.

We've taught him a couple lessons as of yet and he really reminds us of Charles.  So fun.  I don't think he's going to jump into the baptism font quite like Charles did, but he's got LOADS of potential.  I hope he comes to church this week!

Portuguese people speak in a way that, when translated to English, seems comically formal.  For example, Angela made the following coments this week:

"Fatima, the Lord Bishop is King!  You can't say no to the Lord Bishop!"

Hahaha!  and,

"That dessert is the divine food of God!"

So classic.  We love translating things in our brains into English.  We walk around saying, "Good afternoon, brother!", and stuff like that.  It's a good life.

A very common good-bye in Portugal is, "Little kisses!"

Ah, loves, you are exquisite.  Have a happy week and lift each other up and praise Him and be excelent to those around you.  You are such a light.

Yours, yours,


Ps.  quote I loved from Rosemary Wixom:  As individuals, we are strong.  Together with God, we are unstoppable.  


Little kisses,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David

My jewels,
I happened upon this treasure during personal study this week.  Psalm 40:
 waited patiently for the Lordand he inclined unto me, andheard my cry.
 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miryclay, and set my feet upon rockand established my goings.
 And he hath put new song in my mouth, even praise unto ourGod: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
 Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, andrespecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
 Many, Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thouhast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot bereckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak ofthem, they are more than can be numbered.
 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desiremine ears hast thouopened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.
 Then said I, Lo, come: in the volume of the book it is written ofme,
 delight to do thy willmy God: yea, thy law is within myheart.
 have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, Ihave not refrained my lips, Lordthou knowest.
 10 have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; havedeclared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: have not concealedthy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.
 11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, Lordlet thylovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
 12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mineiniquities have taken hold upon me, so that am not able to lookup; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heartfaileth me.
 13 Be pleased, Lordto deliver me: Lordmake haste to helpme.
 14 Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek aftermy soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put toshame that wish me evil.
 15 Let them be desolate for reward of their shame that say untome, Aha, aha.
 16 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let suchas love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.
 17 But am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thouart my help and my deliverer; make no tarryingmy God.
Isn't that just lovely? Oh, family, how I wish you could have lived this week with me!  It was so beautiful.  So many miracles, with investigators and within my own heart.  

Our mission is doing a 40-day-fast thing.  One of the things I committed to do was to actually keep the rule about only speaking Portuguese when we are in the street or in public.  This was previously a mission rule that I have kept only 90%, and I felt that I needed to make that last little sacrifice and consecrate the last 10%.  It has felt really good to know that I am truly living this precept, and since I started doing this (3 weeks ago), I have had several people tell me, "wow, your Portuguese is good!".  The other week someone asked me, "Are you Portuguese?"  (YES!!!  I had only said like 2 words to him, and once I said more he was like, oh, yeah, you're not, but I will take what I can get!  I can say at least two words in a truly Portuguese accent!!)  Anyway, I feel like there is a correlation here.  I have been blessed as I have tried to be more consecrated.  The Lord is good.

I have been studying my personal theme of the transfer: "exact obedience, great faith, filled with love". I found a scripture that I LOVE that has to do with obedience. John 8:29: "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." We can only have the presence of our Father with us when we are doing the things that please Him. I desire to "do always the things that please Him". It gave new light and purpose to my 40-day fast. I am seeing myself grow and change.  It's grand.

I also read an inspiring talk, sent to me by Sister Giberson, called "The Fourth Missionary", given by a mission president named Lawrence E. Corbridge. It reminded me to not just do all the things we are supposed to do (and all the things on my 40 day fast list), but do them BECAUSE I WANT TO SERVE THE LORD. It was such a relief to remember that I am here not out of duty, but because I love the Lord, want to serve Him, and want to be changed by Him to become like Him. Since I realized that (during comp study on Thursday morning, when I had a nice little cathartic breakdown), everything has changed. The things I do, I suppose, are about the same, but HOW I FEEL is completely different. I am way way happier than I have been in the last few weeks. Inner complaining and self-pity have vanished and turned into gratitude. We have seen miracles. I am so so grateful.

Okay, investigators:

Irene. She had been marked for baptism for the 14th, but it didn't go through. This week we passed by and did service for her -- cleaned her house and sang hymns for her. Then, on Sunday, the Bishop visited her with a rapaz, Ricardo, from our ward. (Ricardo has been teaching her with us and she gets along great with him.) We couldn't visit with them, because our Sunday afternoon was booked with important compromissos. So they went alone, and it turns out the Lord has a specific purpose for that: they marked her for baptism this Saturday!! Talk about AMAZING ward leadership!! We had earlier that day had a correlation meeting in which the Bishop proposed a joint fast of all the ward missionaries and full time missionaries that we can baptize people in June. During the same meeting he gave us a LONG list of potential investigators who are family members of people in the ward. We are SO grateful and excited! This ward is INCREDIBLE.

Fabrice.  He has the most cool factor of pretty much any person in existence, becuase he totally doesn't try to.  He's 20, from Cameroon, speaks French (but it's african french, which means it is completely unpretentious and calming and beautiful.  every time he reads scriptures out loud from Le Livre de Mormon I just about die of how awesome it is.), plays soccer here for a team in Leca (the elder's area), and is simply, deeply good.  He has no desire to "do bad".  We invited him to be baptized on the 21 but he said that day won't work, when is the next day I could be baptized?  So we are planning for the 28th.  But we want to have a support system for him here (he doesn't speak Portuguese) so we're going to try to ...... baptize all his friends!  Will you pray for his friend, who is named Imma Mimba (!).  We still haven't met him.

Elisabete and her daughters ALMOST came to church yesterday.  Bummer.  

Lidia still hasn't come either. :(  But it was her husband, Sergio, who thinks maybe Jesus was an alien, Wayne.  He's a cool dude.  

Dalila (another radsauce name) and Cristina and Fernanda are women we contacted with Angela at the ward proselyting activity a couple weeks ago.  I thought they had 0 potential (where is my faith!??), so when we knocked on Dalila's door the next week for our return appointment I was not surprised when no one answered.  So we called her up and she was like, "I am almost there!  The others are coming too!", and before we know it we are sitting in her living room with the three of them and Dalila's daugher, having one of the best first lessons ever.  Did I already tell you this story?  Anyway, they didn't come to church :( but they had a good excuse.  We passed the house of Fernanda yesteday and met her husband, who, by chance, has already been reading the BOM.  Supes de cool!!  I think there are miracles to come in this thread of the tapestry. :)

I just got a GREAT email from Sister Rad talking about awesome miracles in Evora!  They baptized a rad guy who is best friends now with Antonio Jr.  Marina is going to EFY!  Sonia is giving them references.   Ana is loving the BOM and her testimony is strong.  Manuel (as far as I know) is still stoked about a mission.  Gahhhhh I am so proud of Evora.  Real growth!!!   Yay yay yay.

Will you pray for these people and that our ward can baptize at least 4 people in June?  I will be praying for Ben and Joe and y'all to be safe and happy during the trips!  Have a blast!

Thanks for hosting the Gibersons!  

In parting, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.  I love you.  

 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father,which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
Love, Annie