Sunday, November 27, 2016

Planting seeds in the wintertime

We had a wonderful experience this week.  Utrecht is a university town, with lots of students.  The elders had met one of them who was clerking at a store.  The clerk said he was the leader of a group of students who were studying religion and were interested in learning what the "Mormons" believed.  So arrangements were made for them to meet at the Utrecht Chapel to learn about us. The sisters, elders and ourselves met with them.  The students were interested, respectful and mature.  Most of what they know about the "Mormons" comes from watching "Sister Wives"!

 The missionaries did a great job of explaining what we believe and how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is different from other religions, When one student asked about women and leadership, I was able to explain the organization of Relief Society and the role of women.  The students were so honestly inquisitive, mature and religious.  One of them said the closing prayer.  A girl wanted a Book of  Mormon to read.  We chatted for a few minutes afterward the meeting.

At this point, no one said "please teach me more!" or "could I be baptized?"!  But in the cold winter of organized religion, the perception that people need no religion, and lack of faith, some seeds were planted in fertile soil that will some day come to fruition.  I am grateful to have been a small part of this planting.

And when we walked out of the building after locking up, there were all the students, in true Dutch fashion, riding out of the parking lot on their bicycles, on a cold, damp winter night made warmer by an intelligent, congenial exchange of ideas.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Traditions matter :)

We love our American holidays!  Thanksgiving is one of them.  It’s just another day here in the Netherlands of course….so do we make it a holiday or just ignore it?  Since I was cooking dinner on Wednesday and Friday for the YSA’s in Utrecht and Den Bosch as usual and Sister Hill had invited us to a potluck Thanksgiving dinner on Sat., I sort of decided by default that I would ignore Thanksgiving on Thursday. 

But our amazing District Leader, Elder Roberts,  called and asked if I would host Thanksgiving for the elders and an investigator (potluck, of course!).  Sunday in Relief Society I was mentally wandering during the announcements (after 2 hours of listening to Dutch and straining to catch a word or two I sometimes find this happening!) when I heard the RS president say my name.  I looked up and she asked me if I was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the missionaries. As the sisters all looked at me I was happy I could say yes….it would be awkward to be called out in RS and not have the right answer!  She was happy and said she just wanted to make sure the missionaries had their holiday dinner (LOL!).

It sounds easy enough….but finding a turkey proved anything but.  I finally found a whole, frozen turkey but it was too big for my crockpot and my microwave/oven just won’t do the job.  So I settled for turkey roasts.  I decided we needed one our family’s traditional foods….homemade rolls.  So I 

 started experimenting.  My oven bakes unevenly, burning the edges and the bottom so I have been looking for a silver cookie sheet to replace the black one I have.  No luck but I did finally find a silver pizza pan!  I found the warmest place in the house, the entry way, and set the rolls to rising.  To my joy they baked up better than expected….just a little strangely shaped and a little unevenly browned but they tasted delicious! 

and brought a pie and the yams.  Our new friend, Jacqueline brought green beans and a delicious pear/cinnamon fruit dish.

We are grateful for traditions! It was a lovely evening with good food, a new friend, kind and caring missionaries, and gratitude for all we have been so abundantly blessed with….especially the privilege to be here, together serving our Heavenly Father’s children in the Netherlands. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Summer, _____ ,Winter?

We arrived in the Netherlands in mid August amid beautiful sunny, hot, summer weather.  The Dutch shook their heads and told us how unusual it was. 

 They issued an extreme weather warning when the temperature hit 85.  We admired the beauty of the country and basked in the summer.

By mid September we were settled in our home and bought bikes.  The weather was still a steady parade of gorgeous summer sunny days.  The Dutch continued to shake their heads and tell us how unusual it was.  We just kept loving it!

By mid October I was beginning to wonder if Fall would come, if the stories of cold, wet weather were just that…stories.  I started to ask the locals if all the beautiful trees lost their leaves in the winter.  They assured me they would and that the winter we had heard about would indeed arrive.  

By the end of October the leaves finally began to change colors.  As we drove around the center of the country the trees were such a deep orange and red, not so much brown.  
The leaves finally began to fall to the ground.  The bike paths crunched as we pedaled to Ziest to do our errands.  Fall arrived and was over in a couple weeks.  

Today our favorite street was mostly bare of leaves, both the trees and the bike lane.  It has been alternately cold, cloudy and damp, and then only cool, cloudy and damp!  We’ve only had one trip to town on our bikes when it was really raining.  Today it was just sprinkling a little.   I guess winter is here to stay since I am wearing tights every day!  I would love to see the canals freeze over this winter so the traditional ice skating race across country could happen.  They say it hasn’t happened for a number of years now.  I think I’ll pray for that!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

My God and your God

Last month our mission President challenged each of the missionaries to read the Book of Mormon from beginning to end by Dec. 31, 2016.  Our purpose is to look for and underline any reference to Christ or the atonement.  We are to record all the names used to describe Christ.   I began by recording the names in the front blank page of my Book of Mormon. In a matter of a few short chapters I realized there wouldn’t be enough room there, so I began recording them on an additional piece of paper. 
I have read the Book of Mormon many times and yet I am amazed how many times our Savior is referred to in the Book of Mormon!  I have read as far as Alma 34 and have found only three pages without a specific reference to Him! 

When I got to 2 Nephi 10:3 I found the first use of the name “Christ” to refer to our Savior.  At that point I became interested in recording not only the names used but the reference where the name was used for the first time in the Book of Mormon. 

I began to do a little research and discovered that others had had the same curiosity. There are over 100 different name-titles for the Savior in the Book of Mormon.  John W. Welch [“Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon” in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon , ed. Bruce A. Van Orden and Brent L. Top, Deseret Book, 1992] wrote “Of these 

names…many were used exclusively by one author, while others were used almost universally.”

 On a website dedicated to building faith in Jesus Christ through the Book of Mormon,, I read “The writings of major Book of Mormon prophets reflect a personalized understanding and testimony of Jesus Christ.  This is evident in part by the unique names that they used to describe him……Lehi is the only author who refers to Christ as “a prophet”, while his son Nephi alone uses the name “Beloved Son”…….It may be that Lehi’s calling as a prophet allowed him to identify personally with Christ on that level and that Nephi’s position as a “beloved son” of Lehi helped him to readily understand Christ’s sonship.”

As I have pondered these thoughts and the names on this list I have made, I am profoundly moved by two thoughts.  Enoch says in Moses 6:43 “The Lord which spake with me, the same is the God of heaven, and he is my God and your God.”  First, the names I have listed as I have read testify so beautifully of the universality of the Savior’s atonement and love for all of mankind everywhere.  Second, at the same time, our personal experiences in mortality, our circumstances and our learning and growth in the gospel allow us to have a personal, unique relationship with the Savior.  He knows, loves, and will succor each of us in a very individual, intimate way.  I add my testimony to that of the Book of Mormon that the Savior is the God of all mankind and is my God and your God, in His name, Amen.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Where are Grandma & Grandpa?

We spent a lovely three weeks in Zeist with a short trip to Barcelona over Halloween. It was great to see what G & G's life is like, what they are doing and meet their new friends. Our first week was spent trying to recover from jet lag and following G & G around while they did their work. 
 On our first evening the institute that G & G taught was at a bishops house and what would you know they had a trampoline, Chuggington, Thomas the Train, and How to Train Your Dragon toys so the kids were right at home.



The kids loved the nursery's so we played at the 2 churches while G & G taught institute later in the week.

We accompanied G & G to stake conference and is Dean listening to the English translation.

The people were exceptionally kind and friendly and kids made a few friends quickly. Dean says the favorite part of visiting G & G was the park behind their house. Here he is with a few neighbor boys at the park. They played on the playground, with hot wheel cars, and shared Kinder Eggs (chocolate eggs with a tiny toy inside).

Dean also made friends with one of the missionaries, Elder Roberts. We saw him three times during the trip and you would have though they were best for years! 


Dean has been into Geckos lately (dressing up as a gecko in his long johns every single day) and one of the toys that Grandma was able to borrow was a blue rubber gecko. Before we left Sonder ( the grown boy whose toy it was) gave it to Dean for a birthday present so we got to take it home. Dean was so pleased!

One evening G & G invited some friends over for dinner and what do you know, they knew how to tie balloon animals! Ruby was instantly in love. 

 One of the best parts of visiting G & G are the priceless moments together between work and tourist adventures; squeezing OJ, playing toys with Grandpa, playing with grandpas headlamp in the wee hours of the morning, and of course drinking juice out of a bowl in Grandmas kitchen because that's what geckos do.

Where are Grandma & Grandpa? This was the response I got every time we went to G & G's house here in Utah before our trip. And after, we drive past G & G's neighborhood and what do hear from the back seat? "Are G & G waiting at their house for us?"......Not for another 15 months, buddy!... We might need to take another trip. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bikes, buses, boats and bathrooms

     With Dona and family here we finally took some P-days and went sightseeing.  Getting around was an interesting activity!  Peter rented a GIANT van (which we have never seen here but are a common sight in the USA)!  It made getting the 6 of us around so convenient......with the exception of the City Centrums (downtowns) which are virtually impossible to drive or park in.  So we traveled like the Dutch.
 We began on the bus in front of our house and rode 29 minutes to Utrecht Centrum and the train station. (It takes 20 min. to drive and then 20 more to try to find a parking place).
Bus pass

train ticket
10 min. after arriving at the train station we boarded an intercity train for Amsterdam.  It was streamlined, fast, quiet, comfortable and only a 30 min. ride!

Canal boat ticket

The sights we wanted to see in Amsterdam were in a large ring around the city.  Dona figured out the best way to see them was on a "hop on, hop off" canal boat tour.  It was so fun!  We got to see the city, the famous canals and sites without worrying about driving!  It was the perfect way to see Amsterdam with kids.
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A sightseeing trip wouldn't be complete without a bathroom pass also!  The public bathrooms aren't free or particularly clean so we use any private bathrooms we find (like at McDonalds :) and as a last resort pay 0.20-0.50 cents to use a public bathroom :)

       But of all the modes of transportation we have enjoyed, we love BIKING the BEST!!