Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Fuengirola Christmas

I begin this Christmas message with a reminder that no matter the place, time, or season, Christ is the center of it all. His birth, life, atonement, and resurrection is the reason I am here in Spain, and is what gives this life meaning and hope.
Fuengirola Mediterranian, Christmas morning 2014

I am so very very grateful for His example, His atonement, and the love from Him which I feel daily in my life. I am thankful that I am able to serve his missionaries and his people here in Spain, and hope that you, too, are feeling the joy that comes from being in His service!

My "Christmas" began with the "He is The Gift" effort, with cards, videos, and etc.  It really started with the tri-zone Christmas conference in Málaga, where the Málaga, Granada, and La Mancha zones came together for training, visiting, and a talent contest. To the left singing and on the right (on the far left) are our office elders, Elders Mercado and Datweiler showing off their talents (singing and eating, respectively).

On the left are some of the little cabin-booths that popped up all over to sell Christmas treasures. On the right is the roundabout outside our office sporting its Christmas finery.

The same fountain Christmas Eve

More Fuengirola street decorations, Christmas Eve 2014.

Our little piso had a little tree we put up, and my friend Debbie gave us this cool nativity set. Just like home! The papá noel was in a store window, and I just couldn´t resist :)

The decorations in the Plaza Constitución were beautiful, as was the nearby catholic church, Nuestra Señora de Rosario.

Merry Christmas from Spain, and may your time here on this earth be filled with adventure and the joy that comes from service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Number One Attraction in Málaga, Spain

So is it the Castle?  The Fortress? The Picaso Museum? The Roman Theatre? The Beach? No!  None of that!
According to the UK Trip Advisor, the number one attraction is the Málaga Museum of Glass and Crystal! Say what? Seriously?  Well yes, seriously!  It is housed in a delightfully restored 18 century home where you can  ¨browse through the history of humanity by means of the glass.¨ Each room represents different periods of glass making, and is decorated with period furniture, pictures, floor coverings, etc.
What really makes this museum though is the fact that tours are given by the actual owners of the house and most of the furnishings, pictures, and etc. belonged to their ancestors. You see paintings of their ancestors, hear stories about the various pieces, and hear the enthusiasm in the guides´s voice (one of the owners) as he shares his considerable knowledge of both the science and the history of the exhibits. Thanks Hna Castillo for this picture!

They had some of the earliest examples of glass making, like this perfume bottle that is over 2,000 years old. Before they blew glass, they poured it or wound ropes of hot glass around a mold.

Again, it was so neat to see pictures and objects actually related to our tour guide and his partners. It made it much more personal and relevent to me.

More glassware - I don´t remember the specifics, but they had all kinds of periods, all kinds of different makers.

Cameo glass - the white glass is layered on top of the red glass, then parts of the white glass are carved away to leave the design.

They also had a number of stained glass windows mostly rescued from churches or homes that were being demolished. This one is from England, and  says ¨Jesus said, suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not¨ at the bottom. Very beautiful!

More beautiful glassware.

I loved the inlay on this table. There was all kinds of beautiful furniture, including a very old piano. They even let us play it a bit!

Hermana Castillo (she´s home, so I get to call her Jeanene now) was my companion for one last adventure - we had so much fun together! She did a much better job capturing the museum entrance.

Afterwards we went out for tapas - they were really good! There was a variety of both hot and cold, and you paid for them by what type of stick they came with. My favorite was the fried clam (at least that´s what it tasted like).

And to end - one last glass collection, with some neat etchings. Once again Spain came through with a thoroughly enjoyable day. You never know what you´re going to find here!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Love to See the Temple - twice!

Hurray!  I finally got to go to Madrid and see (and attend) the beautiful temple there! And I got to do so TWICE! Once in the company of an awesome reactivated member Debbie, and then again with a fantastic new (one year) member going through for her very first time, Ghazaaleh. I was fortunate enough to get to teach both of them, so I feel very blessed!
Out the train window on the way to Madrid.
We ended up taking the fast train both times (I got a really good deal and timing didn't work out for the bus - and none of the drivers who knew where they were going could go unfortunately (we can't take the mission cars out of the mission). We had planned to all go together, but found out that although Ghazaaleh had been baptized more than a year before our planned date, she had been confirmed the day after, and so couldn't go yet. And Debbie was moving to England soon and so HAD to go then if she were to go here, which we knew was pretty important. So I "sacrificed" and forced myself to go twice ;)
The Madrid Metro
The first trip up with Debbie I got to watch Frozen in Spanish (which was pretty fun), which made the trip very quick. The AVE (high speed) train goes up to 300 km/hr,(over 180mph) and takes a little over 3 hours (counting the train ride from Fuen to Málaga) for a trip that takes 6 hours in the car, and about 7 on the bus. Then it takes about another half an hour on the Madrid Metro to get to the temple (the metro stop is only a block or two from the temple).

Both times we got to stay in the temple hostel, which has bunks and costs just 10 euros each a night. And there is even a small kitchenette to fix your food in the room, in addition to a large general area.

As always the temple grounds were beautiful with fountains, etc.  It was also fun to see the MTC area where my daughter Marie was taught before her Spain Bilbao Mission.

It was cool seeing familiar statues and phrases in Spanish, including "La Casa Del Señor". I love Spain!!

While Debbie was in the distribution center, I wandered around taking pictures :)

We were able to attend the temple both Wednesday AND Thursday, and do multiple things which was just fantastic. The celestial room is gorgeous, and as always the peace and Spirit felt there were awesome. How I have missed the temple!

On Thursday our friend the Castillos were able to join us for a session before they left Spain, headed back to Arizona by way of Paris. Oh I miss them!  But I love being here, and they are now loving on a whole passel of grandkids, so all is right with the world :)

Two weeks later I was back on the train with Ghazaaleh (going to the temple for her first time) and the Padres, a Phillipino couple in our branch who completed our group.  It was the first time the Padres had been on the bullet train, and they were abolutely thrilled. You'll notice I have tennis shoes on - last time I wore my "good" shoes, and by the time I got home my feet were KILLING me, so this time I decided comforted before fashion. Besides, they match my outfit ;)

Again we stayed in the temple hostel, and again we had a lot of fun!  Wednesday Ghazaaleh did her own temple work, then Thursday we got to go through again a couple more times before we had to hurry and get back to the train station.

Before we went, though, we snuck into where the nativity scene was to take some pictures. We had so much fun we kind of cut it close getting back to the train. We made it though!

This is on the way home. We actually got to ride in "first class" as that was where the cheap tickets happened to be, and I guess we didn't look like your typical upper-crust riders as they checked our tickets TWICE! (They usually don't check at all - just look at what seats are occupied).

All in all I had an absolutely wonderful time. The Spirit was strong, we accomplished what we came to do, and I can't think of a place I would rather be.
Temples and missions are SO COOL!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving and other fun stuff

I still can't get over the Fuen beach. Such beauty!  I am so grateful to be able to spend time there. And I have so much more to be grateful for too. The week before last we were visited by one of the 70, Elder Kearon. It was a totally wonderful conference - very inspirational. I am so blessed to have such a great mission president, President Deere (and Hermana Deere too), and to be able to be taught by a spiritual giant like Elder Kearon and Sister Kearon too. A great day.

President and Sister Deere, Elder and Sister Kearon,
and Pres. and Sister Himenez, Pres. Deere's councelor.

An interesting side note - many years ago our branch president was a ward mission leader and the sister missionaries serving his ward in England came and told him about this fantastic new investigator they had found... they were sure he would be baptized, and in fact were sure he would one day be in the bishopric... or bishop... or even stake president.  Sure enough, that was Elder Kearon! Small world. He was so nice and so grateful too. He must have thanked us at least 20 times, and in fact thanked and shook the hands of every single missionary (including this one). And he has inspired me to "attack the day!" and start it with more diligence, which if you know me is a tremendous accomplishment :).
I also feel blessed to be able to associate with such awesome "seniors". We just got two new couples into our mission. This is Elder and Sister Redd, who will serve in Cáceres, helping with the branch up there. The other is the Frosts. She is the new mission nurse, and he is working with the JAS (YSA) program. He worked as a veterinary pathologist in his "other life". It'll be fun to get to know them!

This last week the Málaga Zone got together for Thanksgiving. Those missionaries are amazing cooks!  One companionship of Elders started a couple weeks before-hand to perfect their roll-making skills. It took a number of tries (forgot the yeast, too much sugar killed it, too much grease, etc), but they got it down and killed it - the rolls were AWESOME!  And so were the other dishes.  I brought cranberry sauce that turned out pretty good too :)

These cute little girls (I got to hold one and President Deere is holding the other - mom is holding their brother Asher) are in our branch. Their mom just found out yesterday that they are identical, even though they were in separate sacs. It was so fun holding a baby again!  And I was the envy of all the Hermanas (younger missionaries can't hold children).
More of our great missionaries in the Málaga mission waiting for the rolls to get there so we could eat (it was worth the wait!)

On the left, the ¨Thankful Tree¨, and right - our office couple the Coombs and office elder, the Deere´s son, and (beyond him) one of our Ayudantes (APs).

Our after-dinner food coma (ignoring the bottle) :)  It was all delicious and very hard not to stuff ourselves!  For once there was leftovers - the missionaries might have actually gotten their fill for once!
It was a GREAT couple of weeks! And I'll end on one more picture of Fuen's beauty :)