Sunday, March 28, 2021

Losing Loved Ones at Easter Time

I got a sad phone call from our good friend, Anatole, who is from Ukraine but now lives in Tasmania.  His beloved wife, Galya, has passed away after a long struggle with cancer.  My thoughts went back to the first time we met Anatole.  It was on the Sea of Galilee in Israel, where Anatole's son, Alex, was working on a "Jesus boat."  We had never met a Russian before, so we struck up conversation and immediately became friends.  We corresponded with Anatole for 10 years before visiting him and Galya in Ukraine, and then having them visit us on our farm in Alberta.

Anatole had a fairly good command of English, and Galya knew some, but could speak very little English.  We, of course, knew no Russian other than a few words our daughter Heather, who had lived in Russia for a time, had taught us.  I remember a particularly fun day.  I told Anatole that I was taking Galya to Lethbridge to go shopping.  He asked if he should go along as interpreter.  I told him that we would be fine.  And what a fun day we had!  Lots of sign language, along with Galya's few English words, and my very few Russian words, and we had a great day of shopping!  We chattered away to each other, knowing the other didn't understand anything we were saying, but we connected as women.  That is a fun memory.

Now Galya has passed to the next life.  And we've also learned that LeRon's cousin, Marlene, recently passed away due to Covid.  Sad times for those left behind.  But with all the sadness is the hope of the resurrection.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that because Jesus died and was resurrected, we will live again too.  That is such a comfort, especially in times of loss.

Today is Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week, sometimes called "The Greatest Week in History."  It's the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding a donkey as kings once did.  People laid their coats on the ground, making a carpet for the donkey to tread, and they waved palm branches as Jesus rode by.  "Hosanna," they cried, meaning "Save us."  

Two of our sons, Michael, and Eric, were in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday a few years ago.  They joined the throngs of Christians of all denominations, singing joyously as they waved palm branches and entered Jerusalem in remembrance of events of more than 2000 years ago.  There was a feeling of excitement and joy as the love of Jesus united them.  They both took pictures and if I can ever get hold of them, I'll send the link for them.

Our very energetic 95-year old church president, Russell M. Nelson, has asked us to "make this coming week truly holy by remembering -- not just the palms that were waved . . . but by remembering the palms of His hands" which were wounded for us.  This short video is full of hope and peace.  President Nelson is one very optimistic man!

So to Anatole and family, and to Marlene's husband, Del, and family, and to all who mourn, we send our witness that the resurrection is real, and that families can truly be together forever through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May you find peace this Easter week.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Month of Anniversaries

See the next post for more about our frozen snowy owl!!  But first . . . 

March has been a month of anniversaries -- our 46th wedding anniversary on March 6, my 69th birthday on March 9, LeRon's 68th birthday on March 15, and a year ago March 17th, we flew home due to Covid, thinking we would never see Sweden again.  We've had a lot of celebrations.  The office missionaries gave me a fun party, and plan to do the same tonight for LeRon's birthday.  Syster Davis, our mission president's wife, had a beautiful-looking and delicious-tasting cake with lots of fruit on top at our office meeting last night.  And missionaries posted lots of tributes to us on the mission facebook page.  So nice to be loved!  And of course, our own children and grandchildren, sent us remembrances too.

I am grateful to our mothers -- Pearl (Hancock) Conrad and Guinivere (Redd) Torrie -- for giving birth to us, and for raising us, and for teaching us to love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be contributing members of society.  I'm sure they're rooting for us from heaven.  Hard to believe my mother has been gone for 18 years and LeRon's mom for 6.  Time is flying by.

We still have many restrictions here in Sweden due to the pandemic.  Still no church services for more than 8 people, so we do meetings by zoom.  Small stores have limited capacities.  In malls, restaurants that are enclosed have to seat only one to a table.  You can imagine how popular those types of restaurants are.  Our missionaries are still very busy making advertisements and contacting people on social media.  Just in the past week, they have had 145 people ask for more information about the church.  The pandemic is definitely a time of stress for many people, and they are looking for something more in their lives.  It's interesting to see how God is using the pandemic to help the Gospel go forth.

Now for some fun pictures of birthdays, buildings, and beautiful homes, missionaries, cars, and fun playgrounds, and not necessarily in that order.

Fun to see these tiny cars that people drive when they first get their drivers licenses.  The cars are governed to keep them slow and safe, but they can be annoying too. This is the first time we've seen one of the tiny cars be a Hummer!  And you can see the studded winter tires.  Nice that they are legal in Sweden.  They're very helpful on icy roads.  We had studded tires 40 years ago in Alberta and I loved them.  Sadly, they were outlawed.

Here's the front of the Hummer.  My cousin had a big Hummer and once brought it to a family reunion.  It could drive straight up high hills and then straight back down again.  The kids loved it but it scared me to death.

It's our weekly Sunday night get-together.  Happy Birthday to Aldste Olson.  Tonight we are having potato chips and dip, and vegetables, and lots of yummy nutritious food (and some non-nutritious food too!)  The candles are creatively in the Ranch dip.  

One Saturday we took a 2-hr drive south to Norrkoping to do some recording at the church there.  I love this church.  It looks like the underside of a ship.  Here you can see the porthole!  Swedes seem to love round windows.

Here Aldste Ronndahl and Aldste Nordgren are setting up the microphones for the filming session.

Aldste Torrie is in the far back by the organ, waiting for things to begin.

There's an organ and a piano in this chapel.  The inlaid wood was really pretty.

Another view of the ceiling.  So interesting to see the bottom of a ship on the ceiling of a chapel!

Aldste Bills and Aldste Spellacy are the missionaries serving in Norrkoping.  They do a lot of their online work here in the Norrkoping chapel.  They have access to computers and the internet and spend a lot of time teaching people via the internet.  Aldste Spellacy was in the group that arrived when we were first here in January 2020.  So he and the others were our guinea pig group, in that we were first learning our duties.  I've talked with Aldste Bills on the phone, but this is the first time that I've met him.  So nice to meet all these fine missionaries.

Aldste Wrangell (pronounced wrong-ell'), on the left, is one of our Finnish missionaries, and he now works with us in the office.  A senior missionary, Aldste Cowgur, is in the background, waiting for the concert to begin.

Aw . . . at last . . . the performance is beginning.  We are filming for an Easter presentation that one of the stakes is putting on, virtually, of course.  Syster Cowgur, on left with the cello; Syster Searle with the violin; Syster Allen and Syster Gilbert singing; Aldste Torrie on the piano.  They are performing I Stand All Amazed at the love Jesus offers me.  Aldste Torrie is playing by ear, and Syster Cowgur wrote the arrangement for cello and violin.

Syster Allen and Syster Gilbert were spending too much time looking down at the music, so Aldste Nordgren had the great idea to write the words out for them.  It worked like a charm.  It's in Swedish, of course.

Syster Cowgur, Aldste Torrie, and Syster Searle practising.

And now we're all singing the mission song.  L-R: Syster Allen, Syster Gilbert, Aldste Spellacy, Aldste Bills, Aldste Wrangell, Aldste Ronndahl, Aldste Nordgren with Syster Searle on the violin.

Syster Gilbert (pronounced eel-bair) and I have a connection because, even though she was raised in Sweden, she was born in Canada to a French Canadian father and a Swedish mother.  She is fluent in Swedish, French, and English!  It's time we Westerners learned a few more languages.

These beautiful sisters are friends and companions in the mission.  Usually companionships are just two, but they are sometimes three.  Syster Gilbert, Syster Allen, Syster Searle.

For our Sunday evening get-together, we invited the two Syster Training Leaders to join us too.  I'm also trying out the wide-angle on my new phone.  Pretty sweet!  L-R: Aldste Longman (kneeling), Aldste Ronndahl, Aldste Austin, Aldste Nordgren, Aldste Wrangell, Syster Hall, Aldste Rantaniemi, Syster Jackson, Syster Torrie, with Aldste Torrie kneeling at her feet.

Now Aldste Olson has joined our picture!  Yeah!  He's been in the office as long as we have.  We came in October 2020 and so did he.  He will probably be transferred to a new area soon, and we will miss him.

Now for my birthday party.  The Elders invited us upstairs to their apartment, and we had a grand time singing and dancing and eating!  Not sure what song we are singing here, but it looks fun!  Just missing Aldste Nordgren who is in the kitchen watching the food.

Fun Happy Birthday poster!  Canadian flag.  Kenyan flag.  An elephant.  A tractor!  Next time they could add a Swedish flag because we are loving Sweden too.

Aldste Ronndahl's dad is a baker and he has taught his son how to bake delicious food.  This is a Princess Torte, which is a very famous cake here in Sweden.  It's the best Princess Torte I've tasted here.  Better than the bakery ones.

Aldste Longman is trying to perfect the making of Swedish semla buns, and I think he has succeeded.  Semla buns are flavored with cardamom, and filled with almond paste and whipped cream.  Apparently, you eat them mainly in February.  But Aldste Longman has decided to make them once a week!  They were yummy.  I really like the cardamom flavor.

So I took pictures of the missionaries, and I forgot to get a picture of LeRon and me.  These missionaries made the evening so fun.  Aldste Austin, Aldste Rantaniemi, Aldste Longman, Aldste Nordgren.  And Aldste Austin and Aldste Rantaniemi gave me the tulips.  Spring is nearly here.

Aldste Ronndahl (on left) made and decorated the cake.  Aldste Olson and Aldste Wrangell are waiting to dig in!

Here's a close-up of the birthday poster.  You can see that I am driving the tractor.

The day after my birthday we awoke to snow!  That's our little red car with 💙 you on it, a message from the missionaries.

Our walk was snowier than it's been lately.  Here's another interesting house.

And it's nice that there's no leaves on the trees because now you can actually see the house.

This beautiful house has two large balconies.  I've always wanted balconies, but there's nowhere to put them on my house at home.

Here's a close-up of the balconies.  How fun to sit there in the summer!

The next night, the snow was gone.  Love this red house and the white fence.  I know it would look funny in southern Alberta, but I sure love it here!

We discovered this fun playground on one of our neighborhood walks.  The elephant caught our eyes.  It's a bit cold here in Sweden for elephants.

Fun slide going down the elephant's trunk.  Great idea for a playhouse!

Last Saturday we went down to Gamla Stan, the Old Town.  Such a picturesque place.  Love the brickwork and clock on the German Church tower.

In the courtyard of the German Church is a building with beautiful arches.  So different from western architecture.

We're looking from the German Church yard into a street in Gamla Stan.  People live in those beautiful old buildings.

Are these snowdrops peeking out from the cold soil?  Yes, spring is definitely coming!

A tiny play area near some apartment buildings hosted this unique sandbox toy!  What a fun idea!!

And again, our Sunday evening sing-along with Elders Wrangell, Longman, Austin, Ronndahl, Rantantiemi, Nordgren, and Olson.  They love singing together, especially the mission song called (loosely translated) God is in Sweden.

We were spec-ing (is that a word?) out the Mall of Scandinavia, which is supposed to be the biggest mall in Scandinavia.  This building is near the Mall.  So interesting with all its round windows.

On a wall in the Mall of Scandinavia is a painting taken from the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren.  Pippi is the strongest girl in the world -- so strong that she can carry her horse!  Very crazy books that will make children laugh.  According to Wikipedia (who knows everything):  "Pippi is red-haired, freckled, unconventional and superhumanly strong – able to lift her horse one-handed. She is playful and unpredictable. She often makes fun of unreasonable adults, especially if they are pompous and condescending. Her anger comes out in extreme cases, such as when a man mistreats his horse. Pippi, like Peter Pan, does not want to grow up. She is the daughter of a buccaneer captain and has adventure stories to tell about that, too. Her four best friends are her horse and monkey, and the neighbours' children, Tommy and Annika."

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Our Aging Owl

We always check out our snow owl when we go on our daily walks.  The temperature here in Stockholm has ranged between -4 C and +7 C in the past two weeks.  The snow was gone, and then it came back, and now it's gone again.  March is just as blustery here as it is at home in southern Alberta.  And the days are getting longer.  It's now lightish at 5:30 and the sun comes up just before 6 a.m. and sets around 6 p.m.  12 hours of light!!  (Just like in Kenya year round).  So nice!!  

Our snow owl is aging!  But it's still basically intact, due to Per's daily care!

Nice to see our owl in the daylight.  The tarp protects it from the rain/snow.  It's so big that it takes a very long time to completely melt.  Remember how our grandparents kept ice under straw in a pit all summer long?  We remember LeRon's grandma, Flora Torrie, telling us how they were able to have homemade ice cream in the summer with the ice they had harvested from the river in the winter.

Per scoops snow from the back end to keep the head built up.  This snowy owl is going to see flowers blooming in the spring!  Click on this picture to enlarge, and you will see the "scarecrow" Per made to scare off vandals.  From a distance, and particularly at night, it looks like a man standing there.  So creative!

We saw our aging owl on the evening of March 17.  It's looking a little wrinkly and its eyebrows are showing its age!  Per made the eyes from rounds of wood that he painted with glitter.  The beak is made of a tree root, and painted with glitter.  The table in front is a mosaic Per made.  What a handyman!