Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 17 / Thanksgiving

Dear Family!
On December twenty-first we will be having a "White Christmas" where every one comes together and all the people that are ready to get baptized do it together. It is going to be one happy, spiritual day. Sestra P and I have really been working towards that day, but we want our investigators to be ready and have a true desire, and not pushed. We have this one investigator who is incredible and it’s amazing to talk to her and know how much she truly wants this gospel but how hard it is for her to change when her family who are Catholic - are totally against the idea. But she is trying and we are building her faith and reassurance. Really it is up to the people to make that choice and all we must do is accept and love them and help them as much as we can. Whether they come into our fold or not, we just need to love them. This investigator wants to meet more and it took Sestra P and I back, before she decides. We went to church on Sunday and she just was there. We were not expecting her because she says she has to go to mass at those times. So it made me super happy and pumped. I sat proudly next to her and got to admire her awesome voice while singing the hymns. Did I mention she is an awesome singer? It is beautiful.

Also this week we have another lady who is starting to pray and every time she is done with saying a prayer with us she looks up and is just beaming, asking if she did all right. She is fantastic... it is sad though how much they do not believe in hope here. She has a hard time understanding that we need to be happy in this life even when no one can find a job, especially her son. Slovenia has gone through a rough time. She really wishes her son to have job. When she prays she never thinks of herself but prays so much, so sincerely for her son to find joy. We pray super hard for that too. It is interesting how you walk into a lesson sometimes preparing for a certain lesson but you end up teaching something completely different in the end, that happens a lot. The spirit guides and the needs of the people are what should guide the lesson. I am so lucky for the gift of tongues because it turns on when those moments happen, because it takes a lot of faith when the room becomes silent and you know it is your turn to speak and you have no idea how to say what you need to say in Slovene. But some how, some way, words flow, prayers are answered and hearts are touched. It puts me at awe every time that God being God takes our small and simple needs for each individual and blesses us. I am grateful for that and ever humbled.

Can I tell you again that I love my companion. At the end of the day we tend to sit on the floor with our peanut butter and apples and just talk. She always asks me what good I saw in the world that day, or what changed me, and what did I love. She has a very positive attitude. It keeps me strong and makes me always have the reassurance that even the rainy days, the hard days, can have  tiny miracles in between. And how we are just so small compared to everything, yet we mean so much. That we are but ordinary people who do extra-ordinary things because of our faith. Faith is what makes anything happen, and we all need a little help growing that. Even me, well especially me. It is nice to get on my knees everyday and pray to have an open heart, to have open eyes, to seek more faith. To repent of what we could of done better and than to get up and start a new day, a new slate. We are so lucky to have that knowledge that we always have a chance. Although, it is sometimes hard to see. We know it is true (most of the time, we remember that). 
We went to one of my favorite investigators this week... It is hard to choose my favorite because they all literally become one of them, but we went and sat as they sang to us some hymns and folk songs in Slovene. I could just lie on the couch and close my eyes. I don’t know why but the mom’s voice would remind me of your voice mom and it makes me feel at home... and warm. It is nice to be across the world yet I can still get little patches of memories of you. It makes things better.

Our members are doing wonderful and are really excited for the Christmas party coming up. One of our members invited a young 22-year-old man and he now comes every time. He told us how he just likes the feeling that we are all one big family. He told us he doesn’t have a family so it is nice. It is sad how many people here have lost their families or have had serious tragedies. There is a lot of hurt and poor here. But yet when you go to them they give you their all, their everything. It is incredible how good these people are.

The scenery is beautiful when you get in the countryside. It is hard to see when we are cooped up in a city. But the buildings are colored and the cobblestones work out your feet a lot. They are starting to put up Christmas things and they are really vibrant and warm in the center at night when things are dimly lit. One night they had just a bunch of candles out; it was enchanting like a fairy tale. The church bells here are my favorite, we pass by a great big red church everyday when going to our church and when I hear the bells I feel my heart ringing with it. I don’t know why but I just really love those church bells? 
Franciscan Church, the Big Red Church she passes.

Oh yeah, Sestra Br is in Ljubljana with Sestra Bu. I will see them probably in a week. I called her up when she first got here and talked to her. It was funny, Sestra Bu was like “Hey, Sestra Cuthbert is on the phone” and Sestra Br was like... “No way... SHUT UP”. We talked and it was good to hear that girly.  I love her a lot.

We were at another investigators home this week and he was smoking his cigarette on the balcony, it was really quiet and all of a sudden he just started going full out, singing Phil Collins “You’ll be in my heart” from the Disney movie Tarzan..... He was singing it in like opera form though. I didn’t know what to do with myself. He just looked at us and I just started singing with him. Why not?, I thought. That song reminds me of my brother when he was a little boy and singing it. It made me smile thinking about my best brother, my best friend back home.

No worries Mom - I bought boots for 30 Euros, they are pretty comfy but they are like mini combat boots. Our mission leader calls me a strong beast woman. They are just black short boots like my dr martens at home, just a normal boot... I didn’t realize how BB (bad butt) I looked though.. Opps. Still your daughter, I know…

Hah but ya no worries - I love you. And man we have such great kids in our family - Parker and Ivy. I love you, Mom. Glad you are happy and well especially with new calling. Ivy is going to be so much older when I get home... Weird... And Parker sounds like a man. Holy Hannah Batman. I just really hope and pray that they both will be strong, cuz it’s a crazy world out here.
Can I just say be happy because you have a testimony of the Savior. How can you not smile when you know this? If you understand this... Then honestly, there is no stopping us from having the fullest joy and the fullest smile. I am so grateful what this gospel brings and the dear family I have. I know I talk about that every week but it is true. I cannot get over that fact. We always hope that one day we will wake up and say I want nothing more. But with this gospel I can wake up now, everyday and say... I want nothing more. This gospel gives us what we need, it nourishes, it heals, it strengthens. It gives me the hope I didn’t think was possible, and it gives me the courage to move forward. This gospel is all about family and love - what is better than that. I want nothing more because it already is my “more”. May you see that in your life, too. May you see the light and not be blind. It is sometimes dark and even I get scared. But whether its in wisdom I see light or whether I see darkness all the days of my life I will be eternally grateful for the truth of this gospel, which I now see and which provides the light of my life. I am so thankful and full of heart. I wish you a very grateful Thanksgiving. I hope you realize how much thanks there is to give, but how much thanks I have for you, dear perfect family. I love you so.
Love, Sestra Cuthbert

P.S. We are going to be in Celje for Thanksgiving, with one of the Older Missionary Couples, we need more of them out here. They are so great and good to us.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 16 / I Won't Give Up

Love this Photo on the Hills of Solvenia.
Dear Mamasita, Dear Papa, My Siblings!

I love you dearly, I cannot wait to check my email every week and see the pictures and what is happening next. You always inspire me to see the beauty and happiness but realizing that life is real and there are hard things, but staying strong, breaking through it with love is the only way to live it. I really cannot wait to sit down on a couch and just snuggle up next to you. Mom, can I have a rain check for some Indian food with you? It will be our little date. They have some mean Indian guru food here. I live for those days we get it.

How is Papa doing? I hope he knows that every letter I get from him is inspired. There are situations that are happening with investigators and I do not know which way to turn. Dad's letters are always the answers.

What is also really amazing is I use songs to connect with people here. I am a walking juke box. I sing a lot, but in a lesson there is always a point that I feel I need to sing some tunes that really inspires me for the better. The people here in Slovenia love to sing. Usually when we hop on over to houses they bring out hymns, or like an amazing grace song. It not only touches them, but me. Because music... Is so... beautiful... It makes me the happiest even on the lowest days. One of our investigators was having a rough time with trust. She was asking why we do not just give up. That we are not enough. It touched me so hard that when I talked to her I began to cry because I knew how much God loves her. So many people here think they are alone. That God is not with them, that they turn hardened and distant. They get so scared. They want hope. It hurts because I know how it feels. We all know how it feels. We are so caught up in life and many times go through hardships where we feel so alone, that Christ is not walking with us. But what we do not realize is Christ is carrying us. Our burdens, our afflictions... He takes it away and gives us tender mercies of peaceful mindedness or calls to a friend to come cheer you up with a smile. We are so lucky, so privileged, and so worth it. So enough to God our Heavenly Father. I cannot tell you that enough. He won't give up on us, so never give up. I love absolutely love my investigators here.

I really cannot handle them having rough times and when they are down. I never thought I would hug so much. I love them and I want them to know how much God does too. It is truly a blessing to be out here and do that. To gather the children and care for them as our own. I am so lucky to have this gospel and to feel inner peace. I am so lucky that I have a family that never gives up on me, even when times get rough. I am so lucky that I have the best book to read and ponder on. That the Book of Mormon is my long life book that I will keep reading, keep scribbling in little revelations, little helpers that help me with each day. I am so lucky, so privileged to have my brother, my savior die for me, for us, so that we could receive the fullest joy and that here in this life we need to learn to be like him and love with all we got. I really liked what an elder said in his testimony. He said he was here....He was only existing because of families. It is true we are,  all of us families and we secure and help each other. We love each other. Well hopefully. Yes, we can be dumb... Yes we are not always our best. But we are working on it. We are trying and that is what counts. I am so lucky to call you all family. If you think about it, we are lucky for a lot of things... We have so many blessings. So many things to be thankful for. I know I do. And all of it is because of families. Heavenly and earthly. I hope you know how much gratitude I have for you.

We had transfers this week and Sestra P. and I are still together. Which is awesome I love her and she is like my mom. Always taking good good care of me. I owe her a lot. We work really well together and are on the same page. It is nice to know that God puts us with people, even across the world that is perfect for each other. It is too good. I have been a little sick but I keep strong and head out, we walk a ton and it is nice to have fresh air. Winter is coming so I drink a lot of herbal tea and am trying to stay as healthy as possible. But no worries. It is always looking up.

This week is exciting because we got one of our investigators on date for baptism! He is hilarious and I swear he is the most hyper-est 50 year old you will meet. He talks so fast, we had to like yell his name to get a word in but I love that guy. He is a really good man and gives his all. You can tell he just wants to be closer to the Savior. He told us he cannot cook and then this week he said he cooked for us. We went over and it was breaded so Sister P. couldn't eat it because she is gluten intolerant. So he told me I had to eat it all...Most interesting...Weirdest dish... I have no idea what I was eating, what I was tasting, but God blesses you. Truly even not to have taste buds and to have a hollow leg.

There has been a lot of rain. But it has been really good. A lot of wet clothes and shoes and we come home every night and just get warm clothes on to plan. Hot chocolate is a blessing and tea... Oh, their tea here is fantastic. Mom, I will make you try a lot when I take you back here.

One more quick story. The Holy Ghost is incredible. It is amazing how in tuned you get with it. Sestra P. and I have the same thoughts and are just on the same spiritual brain wave when it comes to teaching. Like exact. We have had a lot of incredible experiences with it. But one is where we were sitting at a bus stop and wanted to get on because it was so cold, there was a girl next to me and the spirit was just egging me on to talk to her. Sestra P. was feeling it too. Without telling each other or looking at one another we both walked up to her and began to talk. We gave the Book of Mormon and she was so excited and wants us to come over. We need more teens in this church!!! And it is really hard to talk to them here because they just do not want anything to do with it. But this particular teenager was intrigued. It is such a testimony to me that God prepares the people and prepares us to find them. I feel like Sherlock Holmes or a CSI detective when we are navigating out people and looking at where formers live and such. It is all fun but serious work- that I really love and my feet are still getting the hang of. We walk a lot... And run a lot.... my calves burn. SO I guess when I get back I will just have solid rock leg muscles. Eh? Eh? win. Win. Anyway love you. Cannot believe Laurel is about to get married, exciting stuff. I hope all is well. Love love you.

Sestra Cuthbert

P.S. I am so much at peace... I have not had that in a while... It is so good I just do not know what to do with myself.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 15 / Love Fest

Draga Najlepsa Prijtelica, Ljuba Mama,

I love all the pictures you send me. All the little details and great stories that are happening back home. I love your words and what Parker, Ivy, and Laurel are up to. It makes me smile to know things chaos-ly go, but how great it all is. Tell the family I absolutely love them and their brilliance. Also, let the ward members know I have been receiving a few letters and it's been really the best to receive an abundance of love from around our neighborhood. Thank you. You all help me press onward.

I'll share a few quick things that happened this awesome week. A lot of thought process too. Vsem: The hot chocolate here is not what you think. It's divine, it's sure holy and it ain't watered down. No. Hot chocolate here is like a thick soup. We all went to get some on P-day after our hike to a church. We were all feeling very tubby afterwards. Fat but totally happy. Did I mention I eat like a hobbit here! I have my pre-breakfast, breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, brunch, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, supper, before bed time snack. The Slovenians feed us like kings... I can just see my future now... When I am getting off the plane and you all see me and stop clapping because I will just be slugging along being Jabba the Hut. Great times though. I really love the Celija Sisters and Elders. It's hard to see Sister L. go home because she is seriously the best, most funniest woman I know. I really loved going on exchanges and learning from her. She was very true to herself and honest. I absolutely love her. 

We had Zone conference this week and it was incredible how much the spirit was there. President Rowe is an inspired man. We talked a lot on how we can get the members involved. He also brought up the fact that we need to be persistent in our work. To never, ever give up. To love with all we got. That when we are down we have to pick our self up and dust ourselves off. Try again, and again. We talked about contacting and to never get discouraged. That we must replace fear with faith and trust in the Lord. Which I fully agree, you can't do anything with out Him. He also brought up what holds most value in this life... Throughout history it has been Gold, Oil, Coal, Diamonds, resources of this world... but also beliefs too. Beliefs held a lot of value and dictated a lot of how things were brought about. Religion... how it was and still changes history forever. This Gospel is worth more than gold. Our testimonies our worth more than anything. It holds our values, we can't just dust off the foundation of the old and call it good. But, we must grow and build on it. We can't just spout off words and expect it to hold someones attention as missionaries... But rather, we need to live it. Let it dig in our souls, thrive in our hearts, develop as our language and shine through our eyes. We have to, it is the only way. Great conference though. It really inspired and keeps us on our feet. 

When we were coming back from the meeting there was a man was sitting on the train near us... I felt very impressed to talk to him but he was reading and seemed like he didn't want to be bothered. We told him hello and such but I just didn't know how to start. I asked Sister P. for her Book of Mormon because mine was already given away earlier. She had a bunch of papers in it and I asked if I could take it out. I knew for some reason that this book was not going to be ours for very long. She asked for what and just leave it in. I told her "I feel it, Sister. I feel something huge is going to happen... And I won't take no for an answer." I said a quick prayer and then turned over towards him and began to ask if he knew of this book, which I was showing him. I told him it was a awesome book and began to bear my testimony. He took it and said he would look at it. He did and was trying to give it back but I knew I would not take it back. I wouldn't let it happen. I began to promise him that it will change his life, that it has changed mine and how happy I was because of it. Sister P. got in on it and helped out. And I showed him some verses and it seemed like the light just opened up in his face. He eventually and gladly thanked us for the Book of Mormon. We chatted a little more and after he got off... I could not wipe the smile off my face. Persistence... We have to be persistent, and do it with much love.

We did some contacting with the two young women we have in our branch. I love them both but the one that went with me is super feisty and I really do love her. So... we went on splits with these two lovely girls and We were contacting everyone and it was a challenge because well, Slovene is still coming. But it was fun. We got a lot of rejections but nevertheless we still kept our heads high. By the end we had just had so many no's that we sat on the bridge and the girl was feeling sad that she didn't get to place a Book of Mormon. Since it was just her and I, I told her that we've got this.. and that we should just pray... To let God guide us to someone. After we prayed we looked down under the bridge and noticed a very old lady needing help taking out her garbage. We both looked at each other and booked it down to her. I think we startled the old lady because we were running down the hill  so fast and grabbing her bags. It was quite funny and she was happy to stop and talk. We talked about the gospel and of the Book of Mormon and placed the Book of Mormon in her hands.  She and I were just smiling, as we walked away. Always be the first to rush and help, it totally pays off.

Our Elderly Couple are leaving and we had a party for them. It's hard to see them go because they were just very awesome but it's been really great to have them, they have been like our grandparents out here. We ate with them and they have been was absolutely incredible and funny. It's amazing how many others devote their life to God's work and it was cool to hear their stories and for them to hear ours.

We went to the Goat ladies house again she couldn't hear us knocking at her door so we were going all Romeo and Juliet on her from the window. She came out and told us to go visit her daughter in the barn. We sat on haystacks in a tight room with the biggest cows ever, which surrounded us as we taught a lesson. The cows were just licking us and trying to eat our clothes. I must have looked confused and distraught because the cows just kept pooping and I couldn't keep a straight face. We got home for lunch break and we laid on the floor trying to figure out what had just happened and laughed it off. It was Good day.

From my favorite artist, Jason Mraz... (but let me take it out of the context of the song and put it right here on this e-mail as something I feel and that we all need to hear as individuals, as His children) "God knows we're worth it" Do you know that? Sometimes it's even hard for me to believe. But it's true. We should always be reminded of that. So let me tell you how much you are. Especially to me. I love you all. I see us as music and at some points we can't hear the rhythm and with God we have harmony. Life is full of sound and tunes and that makes us rejoice, sing, dance. But when we fall or mess up in life... it just feels empty... The harmony breaks... and the music stops. You notice something is missing, we carry no tune, only the buzzing noise of pause on a boom box. Only when we live through God will our song be loud. Only when we have the courage to press the play button and let the music play on. The music is within us, we all have that light, and you all are making a symphony and making the best tunes around. Let us dance, let us sing, let us be happy.

I love you all. I realize we need to say it more. I've decided I will say it more.. Even here in Slovenia. We went to one of our investigators that is in the hospital and she is very old and the cutest thing. We sang "I am a child of God" and I told her that God loves His children that I love Him and that I love her, too. It's true though... We all our family. Might as well love. If we do: burdens will be lighter. Times will be easier and smiles will grow brighter. I truly believe that. And with all that in mind. I wish you all a happy love-saying-fest week. I love you. Be good.

Sestra Cuthbert

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 14 / Loving this Life

Family, MOM!

Here in Slovenia, we sound like a funeral march when we sing. It is the most hilarious thing ever. I love it. We have ward choir every Tuesday and I am usually just laughing at how interesting we sound. But it's still quite good despite my misgivings. There is one guy in the choir who apparently can only sing soprano (he looks like Bane) who gave me a "sweet" but disgusting sweatshirt that is tiger print this week. He told me to be tiger woman. I got strange looks wearing it today - but hey,  I was very happy.

They don't celebrate Halloween here so during English class we brought candy and made them trick or treat. They were eating it up, literally. I can't believe the time is flying though. Soon it will be Guy Fawkes day! Remember Remember the 5th of November.... So have a good one for me alright? 
Anyway this week is like the week of dead and they take candles to the cemetery and clean it up. We went on Halloween and it was quite peaceful and everything was just glowing. We had a Halloween party afterward where we had to stuff our faces with whip cream to find the gummy worms and make each other mummies with toilet paper. One of our members brought a friend and he could only speak Serbian. He singled me out and was going off about how I looked like his daughter in Serbia. I just used it as an opportunity to invite him to church since we are already like family. Aye? aye. It worked! But it's been really fun talking to the members about being bold in talking to their friends and just bringing up the church in small ways. It's making progress here. 

This week we were looking for former members and we are going to all different kinds of apartments and knocking on a bunch of doors. They are hard to track down and sometimes we feel like just big stalkers. But hey, it just makes the work more fun. 

It's amazing how much I can feel the emotions of the people I teach. When one of our investigators walked in I just had a deep feeling of stress rush over me. We went along with the lesson and yet it was still pounding at me. I stopped the lesson and asked how she was and that I was having this feeling that she was just hurting. She admitted how much she was hurting and needed our help! It was nice to see the Spirit prompt me and even though I didn't know at the time if it was just me or not - I went with it and it made the rest of the visit so much more peaceful that we could help with her needs and go in the right direction. The Spirit is fantastic and we are so lucky to have it in our lives, we really just need it to let it illuminate the way. The Spirit we feel is a reflection of our own strength, our devotion, and our goodness. If we are seeking the good and being the best... We will feel the Spirit wrap itself along our path. I know this and have felt it in my life. It's amazing how sensitive you become to the Spirit. I get the chills even on the slightest of remarks... like "families are forever". It's a great hope and not wishful thinking that brings me peace that I can share with others.

We walked in to another house yesterday when it was pouring hard, Sister Porter and I were hugging each other and were drenched. A man let us in and led us to his mom who was dying to see us. His mom was not looking so good - healthwise. The man didn't know why this was happening to her because she has so much faith, prays and reads scripture everyday. He asked "Where is Jesus now?" It hit us because we knew even especially now Jesus and our Heavenly Father is always with us and actually even here in this room. We asked if we could pray and try to help. During the prayer the room got brighter and the Spirit began to pour out to him. He took great comfort when we talked about the Plan of Salvation and how we are a big family and that God and his servants will take good care of him. That Jesus is taking good care of them. He was unbelievably happy and was glad we randomly stopped by.

If you are ever thinking about giving up... As Elder Uchdorf said -stay a little longer, there is room for you here. Hold on. Hold on. God is with us.... and loves us a ton. 

The parable of the Prodigal Son has been coming up a lot this week. After the son left, after squandering all of his inheritance and then realizing later what he had done and how much he wanted to come back, and thinking that he would do anything to even come back even as a servant to his Fathers house. Is humbling. (How often do we as children do this to our parents.) Then as he returns, his father sees him and has compassion and runs to him, and falls on his neck and kisses him. I love that because the father was already waiting for him, and when he could see him even when he wasn't close - he was still a far way. "great far way off" and the father doesn't just walk to his son...he runs to him.  I feel like that brings so much love in my heart. That he runs to his son. How much do we do wrong in our youth. How much we can hurt and disappoint our parents. But all we have to do is just turn around and want to be better - they have such compassion for us - such love, ready with open arms. Already forgiving. How much we need to know that our Parents here on earth do that but also knowing that our Heavenly Father is running to us as well. We need to Let him in. Letting us find in that space, His peace. It brings me such comfort that our Savior has given us the Atonement and we can always turn around, that we can always come back home. We may be lost at times... but know that - we can be found. Hope springs eternal.

I have been focusing a lot on light this week for one of my investigators and it's amazing to know and to feel that everyone has a light, that we all have the spark of Christ in us. That all religions have a beauty, a flame. That its up to each of us to grab that light and see the beauty in it all.  The Gospel is the source of the greatest power and the brightest light in the world, it is amazing and the best thing ever. But what is so cool about it, is that we, mere mortals can reflect that light, and whats more is we can and must magnify that light.
Looking down in to the valley in Celje...see the light

Family you magnify the light... never just merely borrowing the light, but letting it grow brighter and brighter, showing Heavenly Father's radiance and your own beautiful radiance. I love it and Thank you for letting me grow in this Gospel.  It's a true blessing - to have you forever is all that I ask. I love you, and I love my Savior and Heavenly Father. Thank you for all the wishes and prayers. 

Love to you all
Sestra Holly

P.S. they love spiritual energy and yoga here. We do it a lot with friends and members and it's hilarious how I can't do the positions. 
It's been a really eye opening week.  
I miss american peanut butter and hispanic food. Mucho mucho chupaccabre'
Beautiful Slovenia