So, we had Christmas this week. :] To recap, on Heilige Abend, we were at Sister Fischer-Ladenbach's house. We went to an old folk's home right before that delicious dinner to sing to a member of the ward. She wasn't in her room - she was in a cafeteria area with about 10 other residents, and we sang to them, too. Then we (the elders, Sister Fischer-Ladenbach, her daughter and granddaughter included) went around and wished each of them individually a Merry Christmas. It was so cool, and they were all so excited. After dinner and the white elephant gift exchange, we went to the Mason's (the senior couple) apartment and played games until it was time to go to the midnight mass. I suppose if one is only going to see one Midnight Mass, this is the one to go to. In short, in 17-something, a battle with Austria took place, and every year, they commemorate it. The people dress in traditional costume, carry torches, pitchforks, the whole nine yards, and march through the streets of Munich behind a brass band. Then we go back into the cold, drafty church for the service. The preacher had a lisp, so that was embarrassing for him, and the brass band continued to accompany the music. We weren't able to stay for the whole service because the buses stop running at 1:30. Quite the interresting night.
We were at the Arnold's home all day on Christmas, and it was seriously just perfect. I wrapped a wonderful chair for Camille, and she loved opening it and sitting in it. We watched We Bought a Zoo, Elf, and My Best Friend's Wedding. Brother Arnold cooked a fabulous turkey dinner for us. That guy is talented, I tell you what. It was so nice just being able to sit and not have any worries. We also had a Devil's Chocolate (ironic) cake and sang ''Happy Birthday'' to Jesus, which I had never done before. It was really neat, though, to see how good the Arnolds were at helping Camille remember the reason for the season.
The next day, we were at the bishop's house almost all day. They have a way cool house, and their daughters are about the cutest. Their house is about 80 years old and has a whole half that is not finished. But if they ever finish it, they could have a bowling alley, a basketball court and an excellent (Elder Root suggested) motorcycle restoration garage. Anyway, after we left, we got a call from Chia Ling asking if we had some time to meet with her that evening. We asked the Masons if we could watch a movie at the JAE Center, and they invited us to their home to play games. We arranged to meet her and then go the Masons' together. Underway, she told us about why she had cancelled coming to midnight mass with us a few nights prior and why we hadn't heard from her in the meantime. We had been so worried that something had happened to her. Well, something had. She is working on her PhD and apparently didn't get a good grade in one of her classes. One of the top professors told her that he would work with her. As he worked with her, he tried to use her to get a music therapy program started in Taiwan. After she had coordinated with the appropriate people in Taiwan and learned that that wasn't a possibility, she reported to this professor that that would not happen. On Christmas Eve, he told her that she would be done with the program all together then. She had been emailing all sorts of people for the last two days! Apparently this professor is a pretty big guy in that department, so even transferring schools isn't really going to be an option. She was very distraut. Understandably so. We took her to the Masons' and wound up just talking to her. Elder Mason has a projector, so we watched this talk in Chinese with her and talked about the idea of the current bush discussed in this talk. Elder Mason apparently had a similar thing happen to him while he was working on his PhD, so it was so perfect that he was right there to share his experience and bear testimony that it would all work out. Her visa is good until next October, so we told her that these next 10 months should be very prayerful ones as she considers what it is the Lord would have her do. We talked about how sometimes the Lord lets bad things happen because he has something way better in mind for us. We watched this Mormon Message at the end.
I have been thinking about repentance and the atonement this week. As President Hinckley once said, ''We honor His birth. But without His death, that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the Redemption which He worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting. His was a great Atonement for the sins of all mankind. He is the Resurrection and the Life, ‘the firstfruits of them that slept’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Because of Him all men will be raised from the grave. We love Him. We honor Him. We thank Him. We worship Him. He has done for each of us and for all mankind that which none other could have done. God be thanked for the gift of His Beloved Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, the Lamb without blemish, who was offered as a sacrifice for all mankind.'' The gift that God gave us makes it possible for all of us to pick up the pieces of the shattered past and create something beautiful. As Elder Shane M. Bowen taught, ''The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us. His Atonement is infinite. It applies to everyone, even you. It can clean, reclaim, and sanctify even you. That is what infinite means—total, complete, all, forever. President Boyd K. Packer has taught: 'There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.'” In Doctrine and Covenants 128:22, it says, ''...Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!...'' This morning in my personal study, I found this scripture in section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants. ''Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord....Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion...unto the mountains of the Lord’s house....But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him.'' With the new year approaching, I find it appropriate to share this Mormon Message. It takes a lifetime to achieve perfection (3 Nephi 12:48), but it is possible through little steps everyday. Afterall, isn't that how the Lord has always worked? (Alma 37:6,7) The New Year is a perfect time to start anew. Leave your past in your past. Learn from it. But don't dwell there. Believe in the promise that the Lord makes in section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants: ''Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more,'' and the first chapter of Isaiah: ''Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'' You really can be made completely clean. I have seen that in my own life and in the lives of those I have met on my mission. A new start is completely possible. It feels so good to be clean. Don't wait one more day for that renewing feeling. Pray and ask your Heavenly Father what you can do to be just a little bit better. Then ask Him for the help to turn your weakness into a strength. (Ether 12:27) It's a new year. Forgive and forget. Said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, ''So how do we make sure that we never ignore or slight or forget His greatest of all gifts unto us? We do so by showing our desire for a remission of our sins and our eternal gratitude for that most courageous of all prayers: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' We do so by joining in the work of forgiving sins.'' And remember that forgiving others most definitely includes forgiving yourself. Don't be afraid, and don't look back.
I love you all! May you have a pleasant transition into the new year:]
Sister Stephanie Reid