Tuesday, November 24, 2020

These are a few of my favorite things . . . la la la

President Nelson, our church president, just posted a video with a short message of hope and healing for our troubled world.  I highly recommend it.  It's for all people, not just those of our faith.  It can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlcILxGmVrI

President Nelson asked us to thank God for our blessings and to share with others the things we are grateful for.  I'm thankful for the beauties of nature.  My dad often quoted the poem that starts with "I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree" and ends with "Poems are made by fools like meBut only God can make a tree."  I love trees too but I like them even better a little further away from me than they are here.  The reason for that is that I absolutely love the sky.  For the most beautiful skies, you need to see the ones in southern Alberta!  We don't see much sky here in Sweden, at least not in Stockholm.  Trees are everywhere here.  But at night, when we walk around the neighborhood, if we look way up, we can see the stars, even here in the city.  Yes, I'm thankful for nature, and for eyes to see the beauties that are all around me.

I'm also thankful for light.  There is so much darkness here at this time of year but there's also lots of light.  Street lights shine light everywhere.  Curtains are open, spreading indoor light to the afternoon darkness.  Christmas lights are already popping up in yards, at intersections and in malls.  I'm thankful for light.  And for eyes to see that light.

When you look at some of the pictures below, you'll think that all we do on this mission is sing.  Yes, we sing a lot!  The mission president asked one of our sister missionaries to compose a mission song.  Syster Nissen composed it in only three hours -- both the words and music, and it is beautiful!  She felt pure inspiration flowing down.  And the song is truly inspiring and the melody memorable.  Another missionary, Elder Safsten, scored the music, and Elder Torrie lent his creativity to the accompaniment.  It's called Gud finns här i Sverige, (loosely translated, God is here in Sweden).  And that is so true.  Even though Sweden is a secular country, we definitely feel the hand of God here.  He loves His children in Sweden as much as He loves His children anywhere.  So I am thankful for God's love, and for music, and for ears to hear that music.

Lighted Christmas trees spread warmth to the evening darkness.

The first snow came last Thursday.  Too bad you can't see the flakes falling down in this picture.  But you can see the joy that these two missionaries had as they frolicked in the snow, or rather, in the snowflakes.

It only snowed for about half an hour but Elder Stinson (from New Zealand) and Elder Nordgren (from Texas) are loving the snow!

The Täby Mall is alight with Christmas lights!
Not too many people are here on a weekday.  My daughter says she's glad to see people staying home.  But we went to the mall on Saturday and the parking lots were absolutely full.  We didn't stay, of course, but the mall must have been jam-packed with people getting their fill of shopping before further restrictions, which start this coming week.  Not sure how it applies to shopping malls, but only 8 people can congregate for the next four weeks.  So much for Christmas celebrations!

This must look amazing in the late afternoon and evening.  The mall closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays, except for Friday night when it stays open until 8 p.m.  Not the long shopping hours like in the west.

These six elders live above us and we associate with them everyday so it's like we're one big happy family!  We meet weekly for a mission counsel meeting.  L-R: Elders Nordgren, Stinson, Walker, McGill, Hoyt, and Olson.  The Sister Training Leaders meet with us often too: Sister Locher and Sister Perdue.

Elder Hoyt (in the middle with the grey sweater) is being transferred out of the office.  He's been an Assistant to the President for 7 months and to three presidents: President Youngberg, interim President Mattsson, and current President Davis.  He will for sure be missed.

We're all singing the new mission song.  It's powerful.

Sister and President Davis have joined in the singing too.  Music brings the spirit of the Lord into our meetings and into all that we do on this mission.

Elder McGill and Elder Hoyt in their office on Elder Hoyt's last day.  We love these Elders.  Glad that we still have Elder McGill in the office.  He will be joined by Elder Rantaniemi from Finland.

New missionary from England, Elder Wilkey (2nd from left) and new Assistant to the President, Elder Rantaniemi (2nd from right).  Singing again!!  I'm grateful for music in my life.  I'm not as musical as the rest of my family but I do enjoy it and appreciate it.

Two new missionaries came in this week:  Elder Wilkey (with the halo over his head) and Syster Saarinen (in the greenish sweater) from Finland.  Happy to have them join our mission!  There's Elder Torrie on the far right, taking a break from the piano to join the picture.

It has been great to work with you, Elder Hoyt.  You will be missed in the mission office.  Elder Hoyt will be serving in another area of Stockholm so he's still nearby.

We greeted new missionaries this week and now we are sending missionaries home.  Syster missionaries serve for 18 months.  Syster Horne is going home.  One last time to sing together.

And Syster Hunsaker, Syster Adams, and Syster Andersen are also going home after having served for the past 18 months.  They come knowing a little Swedish, and they go home being fluent in Swedish and with strong testimonies of the gospel.  Syster Andersen translated for us in sacrament meetings when we were here in January and February.

This is where I work all day long.  My desk goes up and down so I can stand up when I get tired of sitting.  I'm very pleased with the way things are set up.  I have file cabinets under that long table so my files are easy to reach.  But most things are kept on computer files.  The work is very interesting and I feel needed and useful.  I'm thankful that I can be of use in my old age!
Here's LeRon's side of the office.  We enjoy working together.

The red dots on the map of Sweden show the location of all our wards and branches.  The furthest north branch is in Luleå (pronounced Loo-lee-oh).
I took this picture this morning.  We haven't had too many sunshiny days lately but today it was bright and cheery.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Shorter Daylight but Still Busy Days

The days are definitely getting shorter.  The sun rose today here in Stockholm at 7:42 and will set at 15:21, which is 3:21 p.m.  In comparison, in Alberta, it will rise at 7:47 today and will set at 4:47 p.m.  This past week has not been sunny.  It's been light for a few hours, but no sun.  The junior missionaries tell me that that's the way it's going to be from now through December.  I checked on google for the sun's altitude and here in Stockholm it's at 6.93 degrees and in Alberta, it's at -56.30.  Not sure what that all means, but it's quite a difference.  The sun here must be very low in the sky, but we wouldn't see it anyway for the trees.

The darkness doesn't bother me like I thought it would.  We just keep very busy.  I remember how I worried about the darkness when we were going to Kenya in 2016-17.  There the sun comes up sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 and sets between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. all year long.  I adapted there much easier than I thought I would.  And I seem to be adapting here too.

We've finally got our office organized.  We now work in the same room, which is really nice.  Easier to ask LeRon for help when I'm having trouble with a spreadsheet!  This is my side of the office.

And this is LeRon's side of the office.  So fun to be working together!

Ha ha.  We're twins today!  Syster Mattsson is the wife of a counselor in the mission presidency.  She's a lovely Swedish lady who served a mission in her youth in the US.

This sweet sister from Chile, who now lives in Sweden, sewed me this apron with the Swedish Dala horse on it.  So cute!  She also brought us Halloween treats.

Sunday evenings we always have a get-together with the junior missionaries who live above us.  We work with them daily in the office and it's fun to have a relaxing evening (from 9-10 p.m. or later!) and sing and eat together.  Tonight we are having popcorn and fudge.  It's a Torrie tradition.  But because they have no chocolate chips in Sweden, I melted 3-200 g. Marabou chocolate bars, added 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 4 T butter and it made the most delicious easy fudge!  When you're in a new country, with different ingredients, you have to adapt.  L-R: Elder Nordgren, Elder Stinson, Elder Hoyt, Elder McGill, Elder Walker, Elder Olson, Elder Torrie.  I am definitely outnumbered!  But it's okay because these wonderful young men are now my grandsons!

Out for a walk in the middle of the day yesterday.  Bedrock everywhere.  You wonder how they ever built the roads.  Basements are just sort of scraped into the bedrock and then they build up.  This house (that you can barely see) is built into this rock.  They've added handholds so now it's a climbing rock!  How cool is that?

And just down the street is a mini-forest.  Someone has been building a fort and there are leftovers of a campfire.

More bedrock.  You wonder how the trees can grow.  

We get very turned around here.  The streets wind like cattle trails, but if you check the trees, you can see that this is north.  Doesn't moss grow on the north side of a tree?

Love the white and red on this house.  Now that it's fall and the leaves on the deciduous trees have fallen, you can see the lovely homes easier. 

An evening of music with the Cowgurs, a senior couple from Arizona.  LeRon and Syster Cowgur both play by ear so they had a lot of fun jamming together.  Next time, LeRon wants to play on the keyboard he bought, which is a much better keyboard than this one.  So we'll have to invite them over to our teeny-tiny apartment.  The Cowgurs' livingroom is about the size of our whole apartment!  But we're content with our apartment because it's cozy and very convenient to the office.

Selfie with Elder & Syster Cowgur, and Syster & Elder Torrie

Christmas lights are popping up everywhere.  So nice in the dark sky.

I thought this was pretty cool!  I snapped it just as we whizzed by.  It's the same trees as in the picture above.

Interesting apartment buildings.  So glad I don't live in one though.

Lights in every window and curtains open.  So nice on dark evenings.  But we never see people in the houses.  They must be there somewhere.  I think LeRon and I are the only ones who actually look into the houses.  Everyone else is so used to curtains open at night that they just walk by.  And here we are, peering inside trying to see if someone really lives there!

The "Tree of Life" all lit up for Christmas.

The Natural History Museum of Sweden is a lovely old building.  We need to go there sometime.

Elder Safsten (left) and Elder Warenski (right) popped in for a visit one late evening.  Elder Safsten has a gorgeous voice and we practiced the new mission song with him.  Then we gave them some ice cream for a treat and found out they hadn't had anything to eat since morning.  So we pulled out lots of food and they had a feast of all kinds of food.  So fun!

Sweet Tamara moved here from Montenegro.  I'll tell you how we met her.  We met Elder & Sister Olson at the MTC (the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah) in 2016.  The Olsons were going to Montenegro where Elder Olson was to serve as the branch president and we were going to Kenya on our mission.  We kept in touch with the Olsons while they were there and met up with them after both our missions were over.  Then when we were assigned to Sweden, the Olsons told us that someone they knew from Montenegro had moved to Sweden.  So we contacted Tamara and her husband, Marko.  Finally, last week we were able to meet up with Tamara.  Such a fun visit.  Now we just need to meet Marko.  It's very hard to move to a new country, especially one with such a difficult language.  We hope we can be a good support to such a lovely couple. Another interesting thing, is that the Cowgurs (the senior couple in the pictures a few pictures back) lived next door to the Olsons for 20 years.  It's a small world.

I finally was able to snap a sort of okay picture of the butterflies hanging in one of the tunnels.  They try to make the very long tunnels interesting, just like they do in the tunelbana (the underground, the metro, or the tube, whatever you want to call it).

Still trying to get a good picture of the waterways.  So many rivers and ocean inlets here but usually there are high sides along the freeways so you can't really get a picture.  Oh well.  Next time.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Halloween the Swedish Way

Back in my younger days, Halloween was a spooky time with its emphasis on scary things, such as witches, goblins, ghosts, two-headed monsters, headless creatures, and vampire with blood dripping down their faces.  My mother was very good at making creepy costumes and putting together spook alleys.  We even sang Halloween songs in our weekday Primary meetings.  "Hallowee-ee-een, the witch is riding by, can you see-ee-ee her shadow in the sky . . . "  I didn't like it and was glad when Halloween was over.  So nice that the emphasis now is on having fun and dressing up like princesses, snowmen, Little Bo Beep and her sheep, and knights in shining armor.

LeRon and I saw a very different Halloween this year in Sweden.  Instead of Halloween costumes and candy, we saw families honoring their deceased ancestors and family members by putting candles on their graves.  The sight of thousands of flickering lights in the darkness was inspiring.

Halloween used to be spelled Hallowe'en, meaning hallowed evening, or holy evening, which was the evening prior to All Saints Day.  Originally, All Saints Day honored deceased saints, but it has become the day on which to honor all deceased loved ones.  Sweden celebrates All Saints Day, not on November 1st as do many countries, but on the Saturday between October 31 and November 5.  In 2020, All Saints Day is October 31.

We went to the nearby Danderyds Kyrka cemetery on Friday night.  It was very cold and foggy.  So magical in the dark with the twinkling candles.  On Saturday night, we drove to Skogskyrkogården, the largest cemetery in Stockholm where we joined the throngs and enjoyed the way they celebrate Halloween.  It was a moving experience.

Candles for sale everywhere.  The ones on the left are 10 kroner, which is about 1 USD.  The bigger candles burn longer of course.  Most people put out the candles on Friday evening so they can burn through Saturday night.

Pictures and cards are also put on the graves.

This area honored those who were cremated.  We talked with a family who had just cremated their dad's father last month.  It was nice to be able to assure them that they will see him again.

The candles are put on graves also but it was harder to get a night-time picture of that.

Christmas wreaths also.

I said there were thousands of candles but I think there are hundreds of thousands of candles.

Hundreds of people -- the elderly, families with children, young single adults -- all honoring their loved ones.

Hard to get a picture of all the lights.

Individual graves also had candles.

The stones reminded us of the Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem where they honor their dead by putting stones on the graves.

Love to mama; love to grandfather; I love you mama.

Watering can and water easily available so people can care for the graves of their loved ones.