"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:19-20)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas is Coming!

Liebe Familie und Freunde:

Life is so good! I love being here in Wiesbaden! Except that my camera still won't hook up to the computer... it is thinking about it right now- maybe by the time I am done writing, I will be able to send some! One of the greatest things this week has been our preparation for the temple- we get to go to the Frankfurt temple tomorrow! It is a Zone temple trip, and I am so excited! I last went to the temple in the MTC in Provo- it's been almost a year! I love the temple. It truly is the most important place on earth. It has been really neat to read and study a little bit more about the temple and prepare to go to the House of the Lord tomorrow. The temple is where heaven and earth meet, where the grays and fog of life go away, and where we are filled with the Light of Life. I love that scripture in John 8:12- Christ truly is the Light of Life, and I have felt that light, that hope, that love, more in the temple and with our family than enywhere else. What better combination for love and happiness than our family at the temple?! 2020- keep it in focus, keep it in sight!

It is definitely winter here, but no snow yet! I don't know if I should be sad or grateful for this... But we have Stella, our car, which is a great blessing for the coming winter. I am glad that Elder Sheppard is the driver, because I have only driven once or twice in snow!

We also picked up a Christmas tree this week! Our apartment is definitely festive and smells like Christmas! I love Christmas. It is my favorite time of year because of the sights, the smells, the feelings, and joy. "Alelujiah, Gloria!" So many things are Christmas to me: The decorating the house and the tree, the Christmas lights, the little ceramic villages and nutcrackers, the reading of Christmas stories, the fireplace at our house that never had a fire in it!, the writing and reading of letters as a family to each other, the music and carols, the caroling and the service and helping, the Nativity scenes and the focus on Christ's birth. Especially the increased faith and focus on Christ. That's why it's the season of miracles: the whole world takes a pause to focus on the Babe of Bethlehem. I have never liked the stress and schedule and running around of Christmas. That's not what Christmas is about, but I have seen more and more the last few weeks that that is what "Christmas" has come to be: the next place to go, the next thing to buy, the next thing to give stress, the next thing to schedule or plan. Christmas is a time of Joy, a time of Peace, a time of Service and Smiling! Christmas is the happy word or the uplifting card, it is the testimony given through service and love. Christmas to me has always been the family sitting in the family room, with the lights low and the Christmas tree lights on, reading the Christmas story or our Christmas Eve letters, or figuring out how to secretly deliver some Christmas treats or notes, and just talking and laughing! The food is great, the music is better, but the quiet time together is what it is all about, where we realize that nothing else in the world really matters, and our understanding deepens that the family is one of the greatest gifts of God. I think that's why we are taught in D&C 14 that eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God- with the family it truly is! It would be an awful lonely and sad place in heaven for me without my family. I wished that those times at Christmas time could last forever. And I guess they can, as we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and experience the holiness of the temple in our home and prepare for our heavenly home after this life. What a special time of year!

We got word from Salt Lake that we can Skype! I am so excited to see you all on Christmas Day!

...the picture downloading is 44% complete... they're coming!

Amo is a young man the sisters in Mainz and we were able to meet. He is a refugee from Syria, and his story is something fantastic! I don't have time today to write it all, but just know, that today is a day of miracles, dreams, and faith. And so it has always been when the Church of Jesus Christ has been on the earth. Amo came to church yesterday, and introduced himself in Priesthood by saying: "I am Amo, I come from Syria, and I love being here in this Church!" The Lord's hand is in this work every day, for it is His! I can't even begin to explain all the miracles we see and expereince, the tender mercies and blessings of the Designer of this work, and the joy and happiness that comes to us missionaries and those we love and serve and teach as we talk about and live the Plan of Salvation. The Lord's work is the work of joy and salvation. Those two have and always will go together. I am beginning to understand more now when we read in 3 Nephi and in the New Testament, that if all the things that Christ did were to be written down, the world itself could not hold all the books that would be written- we don't even have a hundreth part of what was experienced and lived! I wish I could write about my experiences for days and days without stop, not just because it would be totally posible, but because every day is full of miracles that Christ does! Every day, we experience another of His miracles, another of His mercies that is a continuation of the record we have in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and modern scripture. If everything that the Lord has done for me here in the mission, for me in my life, and for you in your life and that of every person that has live, now lives, and ever will live on this earth was written down, then truly, the world could not contain all the books that would be written! What a blessing- His word and power and influence never ceases!

And in short, that's the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ: It hasn't stopped. Come and see is the invitation; MORE joy, MORE peace, MORE love, MORE comfort, MORE hope, MORE understanding, MORE freedom, MORE light, MORE unity, MORE faith, and MORE happiness is the pormised blessing. And they aren't just empty, hallow promises. I have experienced the blessings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Come and see- who doesn't want more?

I know this gospel is true. It makes sense to my mind and feels good to my heart. I don't know everything about everything of the gospel, but I know enough to trust it enough to live it and to receive the blessings that He has promised us: I truly and more happy thatn I have ever been in my life! I know He lives, whose Gospel this is, and whose name I am humbled and honored to bear!

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten! It truly is the season of miracles :-)

All my best, and as always:

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