Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our First Christmas

Christmas on our mission has felt different---but very good---this year.  We enjoyed spending time with ward members, the other missionaries, and then Skyping on Christmas day with each of our children and their families.  It was a sweet experience for us to open gifts via Skype with each family.  Mike and Heather's family did a Nativity play also. They did several different scenes over a few days so everyone had more than one part, then they emailed it to us.  So fun to watch!  Besides the '12 Days of Christmas' gifts and memories that Jared's family sent, we had other special gifts sent to us from others in our family. It was always fun to see a package at our mailbox.

Our "Christmas card door tradition"
at home turned into a "Christmas card wall" here.  We sent more cards than we have ever sent before and it was fun for us to get lots of cards and pictures in return.  It sure reminded us of how precious our family ties and friends are to us.

In previous years we remember feeling a little emptiness at times when we just seemed too busy to really appreciate the quiet beauty of the season.  We still got busy towards the end, but keeping things simple, and concentrating on visiting and serving others was so refreshing.  We were able to get our few gifts and Christmas decorations done very quickly and things put away in about an hour compared to a whole day or so at home. What a relief!!  Substituting a poinsettia for a tree might not be such a bad idea!

On the Monday night before Christmas we went on a "date night" to Phipps Conservatory to see the Christmas Lights.  It is a beautiful botanical garden where they have garden displays both inside and outside.  We walked around and saw all the Christmas lights that were put up everywhere indoors and out.  It is a different experience for us to pay to see Christmas lights.  We think we have taken Temple Square for granted all these years!

On the 23rd we were invited to a ward members' home for a holiday party for many people in the ward who were not leaving town to see friends and family.  As we were visiting, we made another interesting connection!  We met the Liu's who are second generation Chinese members of the church. He is from Texas and she is from Taiwan.  He is a student at CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) and she is teaching school.  We found out that Sister Liu actually taught in the Chinese Immersion program in Jordan School District before they moved to Pittsburgh.  We were especially interested in that because our granddaughter, Kennedy, is in that program also.  Anyway, as we visited with them, Sister Liu shared how satisfying it has been to have some of her students being sent all over the world as missionaries

who are speaking Chinese on their missions.  She mentioned Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Canada.  We then mentioned that we have a "grand nephew" (Jim's brother's grandson) who is serving in Canada (Mandarin Chinese speaking).  She got a big smile on her face as she looked at our last name on our name tags and she said "He was my student at Herriman High School"!  It is definitely a small world!

On Christmas eve we were invited to a "chili dinner" in the area of the mission where some other senior couples live who work in the mission office.  When we got back from dinner, we gave the Elders who live in our same building a call.  They had two other elders in our district staying

overnight with them.  They asked us previously if we would have a "Christmas Eve program" with them.  We were delighted to say "yes"! They came down in PJ's and with their blankets, and they had a program all planned.  We talked about feelings about the Savior, watched "He is the Gift" video and had pumpkin pie with them.  It was wonderful to do things with them that we were all missing doing with our families at home.

We found out that the elders had spent the earlier part of the evening decorating their van with removeable car paint that said "Merry Christmas" and "He is the Gift". Then they drove around downtown Pittsburgh shouting "Merry Christmas" to everyone.  They had a ball and we had fun listening to how excited they were.

They said many people waved and and yelled "Merry Christmas" back at them!

We invited the Elders to our apartment on Christmas morning for our traditional 'breakfast casserole' and we also had 'monkey bread'.  Then we opened our computers and Ipad for them to Skype with their families.  Christmas Day and Mother's Day are the only two days of the year that the younger missionaries can Skype or talk on their phones to their families--- so they were really excited for the opportunity.

Besides all of our Skype fun on Christmas, we were also invited for Christmas Day dinner to the home of the Hoskins.  Getting to their home was an adventure in and of itself.  It is at the top of the steepest hills we have been on in Pittsburgh so far! Sister Hoskins is
from Brazil and is an excellent cook.  She made "flan" and "made from scratch pumpkin pie" for dessert that was heavenly!  It was interesting to talk with them and get to know them. They also invited a brand new set of Elders to the area and Brother Lewis from the ward.

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