Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sand and the Savior

Every once in a while an artist down at the beach decides to make a sand creation, some of which can be quite amazing. To illustrate this post I'm going to use some of those, although I'm sad I didn't get a picture of "Homer Simpson" on a couch with his dog and I can't remember what all else around him.
On second thought, given the subject of this post, that's probably to the best.  Because this last week was the Tri-Zone conference, for the Malaga, Granada, and LaMancha Zones of the Spain Malaga Mission, and it was totally awesome! I wish I had pictures. The Ayudantes taught how to extend commitments (during practice I played an investigator, and was a total pushover because I knew if I said "no" that would lead to a lot more talking, and my Spanish still has much to be desired. I did manage one really good sentence though!).
Hermana Deere taught on how to stay happy (and had the President down doing pushups and up doing burpies, etc., much to the missionarys' delight!), and the President taught on understanding the Atonement. And what was even better for me is that he and Hermana Deere spoke in English ( a rarity during a conference)!
The subject of the atonement has been a focus of my study of late, and is very near and dear to my heart. I listened to a GREAT talk on the subject by Brad Wilcox ( since I can't give you a copy of the President's message).
And President Deere frosted the cake for me. The atonement is the POWER that can change us - and the friends that we may introduce to the church. It is the fundamental building block of this church, the thing upon which all else is built. It is the "price paid" for our sins, a price willingly and lovingly paid, and is payment in FULL. As Bro. Wilcox says, he doesn't make UP the difference between what we can do and what is required, he makes ALL the difference.
President Deere went through four points - First, to understand the atonement, we have to acknowledge that we are in a lost and fallen state, living in a mortal, fallen world. That is vital for understanding the need for the atonement. Second, through the atonement the Savior not only saves us, but sanctifies us and makes us more like him. Third, without the Grace of Jesus Christ we remain unclean and unprepared to dwell with God and Jesus Christ. And fourth and finallly, our works of righteousness, our ordinances, and our obedience etc. while they are necessary, they are not enough. Without the atonement, all would be lost and in vain.
My "take away" was a deep sense of gratitude for the Savior and his atonement. He paid a price, the depth of which I can't even imagine. And he did it for love of me, and for each of you. And all he asks is that we do those things which will bring us closer to him - the things that will bring us closer to having more love, more joy, more true LIFE than we can possibly imagine.

One last thought - how much do you trust God?  Do you really, deep down to the core of your being, know that his individual, personal plan for you really is what will lead to your greatest joy and happiness?  For me, it has been a journey. At first I pretty much followed what I thought was best (keeping in mind God's advice of coarse). Then I started trying out the path he set - as long as it didn't go too far, ask too much, or ....  you get the picture. Just recently the last "caveat"  has fallen away - I've finally come to realize that even those things that were hard in my life are things for which I am grateful for - God's plan really has been for the best after all!  Wow what a concept. So while I still am not anywhere near perfect at it, I'm really trying to follow his plan for my life, no matter where it takes me. And that will be a grand adventure!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Renaissance Feria at Castillo Sohail, Fuengirola

I was looking through some of my pictures, and realized that I haven't posted about some of the things I've done here in Fuengirola. This Renaissance Feria was about a month ago, so I thought I'd better get it in here before I forget (a common occurance nowa-days :s )
  The feria (kind of a themed market place with booths to sell you just about anything you can think of) was up at the castle grounds, and even had a bunch of booths INSIDE!   That was pretty cool to finally be able to explore there. The picture to the left shows one of the many food booths, featuring the famous Jamon Iberico, which is a ham ( although I think the hanging hams are fake) made only from Black Iberian Pigs left to roam around in oak groves eating grass, herbs, acorns, and roots. Just before they are dispatched, the "best" hams are just fed acorns and then they are salted and dried for a bit, then left hanging to cure for a year or four. It never is cooked, but I'm told it has a delicious rich taste from the exercise, acorns, and curing, and actually has fat that's good for you. I haven't tried it yet (for one thing it's very expensive), but hopefully I will before my time here is over.

 Some other interesting booths included one that had herbs to cure pretty much anything that could possibly be wrong with you,  including (as shown here) high cholesterol, diabetes, lumbago, high blood pressure, and insomnia.

Here is the traditional meat-on-a-stick-over-a-fire booth, along with a look at the inside of the castle.
There was even a Gypsy Tarot card reading booth (the closest one to the left side of the picture).  And no I didn't try it. The only time I've gotten my future read was the summer I was the "dog barn superintendent" at our county fair and was killing time. She said that I had a very close boyfriend. Nope. Then she said I must be dating a lot. Double nope. Then she got a bit miffed and told me that I would be married within the year and kicked me out.  She was right. 

They had a raptor exhibit (along with a boa you could handle for a "donation"),  

and pony rides (with "just in case" help right beside them. And no, I didn't try the pony rides either ;)
I think the best part, though, was getting to explore the inside of the castle finally. And as is typical for Spain, it didn't open until 7pm, so when I got there at 8pm the crowds were still pretty thin. People didn't really start to come until I left, at 9pm.  An interesting note - because of this tendency to late activity, the missionaries do most of their finding and teaching in what is the evening to us. They don't have to be back to their piso (apt) until 10:45 in the summer and 10:15 in the winter, bed at 11:30/11, and get up at 7:30/7am. I tend to wake up when I wake up (between 6 and 8 usually) and go to bed when I'm tired :)  Senior missionaries - half the rules and twice the fun as Elder Castillo says!  :)    
This is one of the activities near the castle. Looks fun - but I need to find a buddy willing to go along with me (on this, and the paragliding, pulled behind a boat, which really looks fun!). You can also rent little paddle boats, but they had paddled out of the frame by the time I got a picture that was even remotely in focus.


It was kind of a stormy day, which is unusual. I loved the sky - and I love sailboats, so I couldn't resist :)

Well, that's it for the Feria. We have a generic version every Tue at the fairgrounds that's kind of a farmer's market combined with booths of usually cheap merchandise. Then on Sat there is one that's kind of like a giant flea market with booths selling used "treasures" of everything imaginable. Kind of fun to explore. As a last note, this last week was transfers. We got in 26 new missionaries, and sent a bunch home too, so it was a very busy week of feeding hungry young missionaries, trying to keep them awake while getting in a bit of training, herding them around, and in general trying to give them a good start to their new mission. I absolutely love being around such fantastic young people, and look forward to getting to know them better. We also said goodby to a bunch of old friends (a couple of which I had gotten to know very well), and got THEM started on their "real" lives. Not a one of them wanted their mission to be over!  Judging from them, the church will be in good hands for many years to come.  I love being a missionary!!!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spain Can Be a Bit ...... Different

Okay, so I had to include some pictures of
the last "Super Moon" of the year :)

As I've grown to know and love Spain more and more over the months I have been here, I've also become aware of a few quirks and twists that occasional take me by suprise and make me wonder.  Since we're already at the beach with the last Super Moon of the year, I guess I'll start with boats. For some reason, it seems to be a rule that if you have a fire on the beach, that fire HAS to be in a boat. Most of the beach restaurants roast fish over a fire, and all of the fires are on boats filled with sand. They even have a whole bunch of boats that you can rent out (by the half) to have your own personal fire in. No clue why.
Next up - street signs. At first glance at the picture on the left it looks like they have normal street signs, but look closer - all those nice big signs are advertisements - NOT street signs. They are very helpful if you want to find a store or whatever, but if you're trying to find an address - good luck. The street signs (if you can find them at all) are the small green signs on the corner of the buildings, if they are there at all (the above sign is the one on our building for our street).
And streets decide to change their names seemingly at random - it is VERY hard to find where you're going in Spain - so a GPS is pretty much a necessity. And they like to fake you out by putting up signs that LOOK like street signs, but are really an advertisement for their store or restaurant (see picture to the left).  Also, all the buildings have their own names, which is often included in the address (the building above, Andalucia 4, is the building with my apartment in it. It took me forever to find the name because it's rather high up and hard to see from that side of the street). The address you COULD send mail to me at has "Edificio Ofisol" in it, which is the name of the building the office is in.                      
        Something that drives me crazy is DOORKNOBS!  They are seldom where you would expect them to be, but are usually either in the middle of the door (like the office door on the left) or somewhere inbetween (like the door to our apartment on the right). This means that when I close the door with what feels like the appropriate amount of force, I end up either not closing the door fully, or slamming it shut way too hard. I still haven't quite got the hang of it. At least the locks are where you would expect them to be!  Although since the lock is never part of the door knob, the door ALWAYS locks when you close it - so I'm always having to double check to make sure I have my keys (and yes, I have forgotten them a few times!) Good thing my comp has a set too.                                          
And that brings me to "small stuff". Sometimes it's cute (I'm trying to  get a picture of the cute little garbage trucks and street cleaners), but sometimes it's a bit inconvienient, like the tiny elevators (modeled by my comp Hermana Chantrill at the right).  If there is more than just a couple people they get quite crowded. Especially considering the fact that antiperspirant is pretty much unavailable here, and even the deodorant leaves much to be desired (I'll leave it at that). And if you have a couch or stove to replace...
Staying in our apartment building, a personal pet peeve is our floor. It's all tile, which is fine (except I've heard it's very cold in winter, esp. since we don't have heat), but for some reason they picked a design with black blotches that is almost impossible to distinguish from dead bugs. So... can you tell where the dead bug is in the picture to the left???  Hint - it's neither of the big black blotches.
And the picture at the right is an example of the wiring here - random wires are strung wherever, and make quite a hodge-podge. I don't always agree with the regulations in the States, but sometimes... Also, they painted the building across the street from us, and it was a bit scary seeing the little wooden platforms they stood on that looked like kid's swings suspended from ropes, and the rigged - up safety equipment (when they used it).

The entrance to my street (with vet sign
pointing to it) with hashed crosswalk.
Last thing - DRIVING. I haven't done much, but one thing that takes getting used to are all the roundabouts. And the fact that people just pop out seemingly at random wherever there is a pedestrian crossing. The Spanish are awesome parkers - the streets are lined with cars almost bumper to bumper - but they pay almost no attention to traffic while walking. There are white hashed crosswalks regularly crossing the street in the middle of the block, which is also awesome, but you have to watch really closely, especially when cars block the view, because people will walk right into the middle of the road without even glancing to see if you noticed them. I'm not that brave - I always wait for either eye contact or at least a bit of a slow down to make sure they noticed me. And the mopeds/motorcycles!  They pass everyone and anyone on whichever side (and sometimes on the sidewalk) and are VERY hard to keep track of. Also if you double park and put on your emergency lights, you are essentially invisible to any police cars that may happen by. Once we had a huge semi do it in front of the office blocking all traffic for a good five minutes. People were not happy with that one, but usually they just go around you, no problem.
Well, that's about all I can think of for now, so I'll leave you with a final Super Moon shot. Enjoy!