Monday, January 23, 2012

How To Build Another Nest in 7 Days or Less...

The roundabout sign near the London Temple in Newchapel.
Learning to count the exits and get off  (to the left)
at the correct exit is a daily challenge.  
      Yup, it's still true. When we first arrived on our mission in Washington, D.C., I wrote a blog about how quickly we become accustomed, as human beings, to new surroundings. I wasn't sure it would happen as soon in London. So many, many customs and practices are completely new and different to us - even strange - but even so, we are settling in. Within a week we were feeling pretty comfortable - especially around the Temple and the Visitors' Centre.

Road sign we encountered on our way to church Sunday.
Remind me not to go there when it rains....
          I can't say that we're really comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road yet, but we are beginning to get brave and trust our GPS (called "Satnav" here, short for "Satellite Navigation") to take where we need to go. We're able to find our way around enough to take care of our basic needs for food, shelter, and Sunday church meetings.

     We've been in our house in Ardingly for about a week. It seems more like home every day. On the way from Ardingly to the temple grounds every morning, we pass mothers walking their children to school. Lots of cute little kids and their moms all bundled up against whatever the weather happens to be. We snapped the picture below when we were stopped at a school crosswalk last week. Made us feel like we were home.

A "lollipop lady" (crossing guard) directing morning traffic.
There are lollipop men, too :)

      The place that we really feel at home, though, is on the temple grounds. I imagine that would be true no matter which temple grounds we were on. There are currently 136 temples operating throughout the world, and 33 more either announced or under construction, so that's saying a lot. There is a spirit in the temple and on the temple grounds that feels like home, no matter where you are in the world. I think it has the familiar feel of the time we spent in God's presence before we came to this earth.

      Our Visitors' Centre is just a few hundred feet from the temple and the entire front facade of the Visitors' Centre that faces the temple is floor to ceiling glass. We gaze at the temple as we work. We watch people come to the temple - alone, in couples, in families, in groups, and by the busload (or by "coach," as they say here). We work with five sister missionaries at the moment. They are a pivotal reason why we feel so at home already. They are warm, wonderful young women who have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each one of them has been assigned specifically to a Visitors' Center mission, which means that they serve part of the week in a Visitors' Center and part of the week tracting and teaching in their assigned area. When they are working their shifts at our Visitors' Centre, they have been teaching us. We are so happy to have them!

From the left: Sisters Jones, Corbett, Cabrerra, Burrows and Casasola.

      What a joy it is to be on the sacred grounds of a temple nearly every day of the week.  It is a place of peace, of learning, of worship, of reverance, a place of covenant making, of inspiration and revelation, of respite from the cares of the world. It is such a privilege for us to see the temple every day, to feel the spirit of the building and the grounds.  If we have time to attend a session, it is a two minute walk from our Visitors' Centre doors to the recommend desk. We feel blessed to have this opportunity and this time here.

      It seems that we have built another nest in seven days. At least within the walls of the temple and on the temple grounds, it absolutely feels like home already.                     ~Pat~

P.S. - My intention to write about all the interesting new foods we've run into in the grocery store will have to wait until next week. We haven't had any time to go to the grocery store this week. We are finding ourselves grabbing a bite to eat here and there and surviving on loaves of bread from our
local village bakery, along with a few frozen dinners, yogurt, cheese and jam. Several days a week, we walk over to the temple for a meal at noon. The cafeteria is open for one main mean every day from 12 - 2:30 p.m. They serve authentic fish and chips every Friday. So Good!

Our car, stopped in front of our village bakery in Ardingly.
If you look close, you can see Elder Carpenter buying bread.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Or: "How we survived our first week in London."   Here are some of our first impressions:

Our first sight of the British countryside

We flew right over Windsor Castle

1 - It's so beautiful in England!! Even though it's January and it's been cold (in the 40's during the day), it's still "lovely" everywhere you look. Everything is "quite lovely" here, as they say.The valleys and hills and hedges are a beautiful shade of green. There are little crocus and daffodils already popping up. Multi-colored flowers in the gardens on the temple grounds are blooming. I'm hoping that means that spring comes earlier here than at home!

2 - The London Temple is really about 20 minutes south of London in a rural area that looks just like a typical English countryside should look. The grounds cover over 30 acres. The temple is the focal point, to be sure, but the grounds are gorgeous.

The London Temple

The temple grounds

The Manor House on the temple grounds

3 - Everyone here has been so friendly - both on the temple grounds and in the surrounding villages. Lots of warm hearts - but cold feet. The humidity and dampness make it difficult to stay warm, even though the temperature isn't as cold as what we're used to.

Sign greeting arrivals at Heathrow Airport
4 - All the people sitting in the passenger seats of cars aren't really passengers, they're DRIVING! - and on the wrong side of the road. Our first driving experience was three days after we got here, and it was crazy! Even though we've driven on the left side of the road in England before, and in New Zealand, it was awkward and downright scary to relearn. Our first trip was in the dark of night, in heavy fog, on winding little two lane country roads.  I truly was waiting for Mr. Toad to pop out of a hedge with a big stop sign. Since that first night, we've seen several large foxes running across the road in front of us as we've been driving at night.

Ardingly, England
5 - When we had to pay $5 (U.S.) for a bottle of water in the Dusseldorf airport, I thought, "Welcome to Europe," but the prices haven't been as bad as we expected. Yes, things are a little more expensive, but food is reasonable, even in the restaurants, and if we shop at stores like Tesco and ASDA, other things are fairly  reasonable, too. What IS outrageous is the price of gas. It's about $8 a gallon. Yikes!  Good thing the cars are small and much more fuel efficient.

6 - Nothing looks familiar in the grocery store. Even after all our years of traveling in Europe with Clog America, it's surprising how different products are here. I'm planning to write a blog about our first trip to the grocery store. Amazing!

7 - At the temple, we're in the flight pattern of another major airport. It sounds like Dulles again! We're just 10 minutes from Gatwick, and planes descend right over the temple grounds at all hours of the day and night.

The Temple Accomodation Center
Our first "home" was in the Accomodation Center.
We've since been moved to a 170 year old home in the village of
Ardingly (pronounced "R-ding-lie").

The village of Ardingly

60 High Street, Ardingly, England

8 - There's a lot to learn about running a Temple Visitors' Center. We've been in meetings with local leaders, the temple presidency, security, and the Missionary Department in Salt Lake. We're busy!

Our new favorite temple visitors' center!

Other side of the Visitors' Centre, looking toward the temple
9 - We can't say enough about the sister missionaries assigned to this Visitors' Center. They are truly amazing young women, or as the British would say, "They're just fantastic."

10 - British Mormons are just like Utah Mormons. The Church is the same everywhere you go -- and that's comforting.

President Shamo welcoming newly arrived missionaries
11 - The senior missionary couples who serve in mission offices throughout the world are some of the most knowledgeable, hardest working, kindest people anywhere. We love Brother and Sister Kearl from Canada already! Bless them for helping us get settled in.

Outside the London South Mission Office

12 - Even though I miss my family terribly, I've already learned to love the good people here. Two of the sister missionaries who have served here for eighteen months left this morning to go home. When Sister Polaboina, from India, said good-bye last night to her old companions, I cried with her. After just a week here, I could already see how hard it will be to leave. This is an exciting experience!      ~Pat~

The London Temple at dusk

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leavin' On A Jet Plane, Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again...

 We're on our way! Only 737 days to go!

One tired missionary-husband!
Heading across the Atlantic

After missing our London-bound flight in Chicago due to an airplane malfunction, we've been re-routed to Dusseldorf, Germany and I'm writing late at night as we cross the Atlantic.  By the time I'm able to post this, we'll be in our new apartment in Newchapel, just outside of London.  Hard to imagine right now.

Oh, how I miss my daughters tonight!  It's been even harder than I thought it would be.  Early this morning we said goodbye to Emily, Janet and Kristen, along with our two youngest grandchildren.  I think I'm glad neither Amy nor Jenn were in Salt Lake.  I don't know if I could have said goodbye to all five on the same day.

Never mind that we're grateful and excited about this privilege and opportunity.  Never mind that I'm full of faith and gratitude that this will be a time to learn and  grow and serve.  Never mind that I know that the Lord will watch over our family while we're gone.  Never mind that I knew it would be a sacrifice.  It still hurts to leave them all -- a lot.

You know that feeling you get after you've had a good cry?  That kind of soggy feeling around your eyes and a real soft heart?  That pretty much describes how I've felt since about a week before Christmas.  Once we arrived home from Washington, D.C., my heart started recording: the last Christmas Eve nativity we'll have with our family for a few years, the last family dinner, the last hug from each of our grandchildren for a while, the last time to attend church in our ward, the last movie with our best friends, the last time to Curves with another good buddy, the last time to wrap myself in the quilt Amy made that kept me warm and comfy through chemo, the last .., the last ..., the last....  You get the picture.

It's interesting what we let our thoughts do to us....but it's time for some new perspective. Well, I still feel a little soggy, but I've now come to realize that even that is a blessing. I could have missed this whole soggy experience!  Don and I are both lucky to be alive. I have to remember that. His last Christmas could easily have been 1995.  My last Christmas could have been in 2006.  But we're still here and we've been allowed so many rich and varied experiences since then.  So many blessings -- and some trials, too.  But the point is we're here and each new day is a gift.

Before we left, Janet (courtesy of her dear friend, Erin) emailed me a devotional address Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave at BYU in 2009, entitled "Remember Lot's Wife."  I finally had time to read it tonight on the plane and found it to be a deeply insightful talk.  You can find it at .  Elder Holland's words sank deep into my heart when he said, "Faith is always pointed toward the future....Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there.  Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the "high priest of good things to come."

It's incredible what faith and perspective will do for you....The gospel of Jesus Christ gives me both. I'm so grateful for every member of my family that I miss right now -- every daughter, every son-in-law and every grandchild.  I am grateful for all the experiences of the past.  They have made me what I am.  And now, I will choose to put my faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ and go forward trusting that there are great things in store, both in my family at home and in our work in London.

737 days of new experiences and opportunities and blessings -- for them, and for us.      ~Pat~    

Thursday, January 12, 2012

All I Want For Christmas

Not what you'd expect under the Christmas tree...

We had a grand Christmas this year. We arrived home from Washington, D.C. on Friday, December 2nd, with just two weeks to unpack and repack in preparation to have our personal belongings shipped to England. We had lots of packages under the Christmas tree, but they were brown cardboard boxes full of clothes and books and household items we'll need for the coming two years. Josh said we were doing a good job of getting ready for Christmas... until Allied Moving Company came and packed all our boxes on Friday, Dec. 16th. No more packages under the tree. Now we had to find a real Christmas.

Iron Chef Sisters Competition - Carpenter style

Jacob, our first Eagle Scout
Mary and Joseph a.k.a. Laina & Ammon
Colin and Amy arrived that same weekend, then we had a week to get some real presents. We kept it pretty simple this year, but we did the important stuff! We got a new family photo taken (through a series of minor miracles), had our second annual Iron Chef Sisters competition, congratulated our first Eagle Scout in the family, took the grandkids to a couple of movies, celebrated Christmas Eve all together with our traditional soups, live Nativity, and a visit from Santa (thanks to Bob & Jane Hyte), sang in the ward choir on Christmas Day (another tradition we love), and completely enjoyed every minute with our family and friends. Phew! What a great week.

Then, we had two weeks to move everything out of our bedroom (no small task after 17 years), reorganize several things in the house, spend as much time as possible with our kids and grandkids, pack for the MTC, and pack for our move to London. Not much sleepin' goin' on during those five weeks between our arrival home from the Washington, D.C. South Mission and our departure for the London South Mission. (Might do things a little differently if we had it to do over again..., but we made it.)

Monday, January 9th, we checked in to the Missionary Training Center in Provo for the MTC President/Visitors' Center Director Seminar. Every detail had been planned for us. On the first evening, we were set apart by Elder David R. Evans, managing director of Church Missionary Department. His gentle counsel and inspired blessings gave us and our family who were able to come great comfort. Tuesday and Wednesday we attended informative training sessions and spiritual presentations that gave us much to ponder about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a dinner and fireside with Elder Russell M. Nelson. (I even got a hug from Elder Nelson to give to his daughter in England. What a thrill!) We stayed in the newly completed building that includes senior missionary housing, a new bookstore, health services, travel services, work-out center, copy center, post office, etc., etc. What a place! It is hard to describe the spirit of the MTC without using the words uplifting, inspirational, and filled with the power of the Priesthood and the Spirit of love. What a privilege to be there twice in six months.

January 9th at the Missionary Training Center in Provo
On Thursday, January 12th, our training group spent the day downtown on Temple Square and in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. More practical training and experiences, but the highlight was to be taught the true nature of the Godhead at the feet of another apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. His personal witness of  the physical individuality and powerful unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost left us sitting in our seats not wanting to leave at the end of his remarks. Reverence, love, and personal testimony were strengthened.

As we leave our home and family for two years, our hearts are tender and we are humbled by this great opportunity to represent our Savior Jesus Christ and his teachings to the world. It will not be a vacation. It does not come without some sacrifice, but our lives would not be the same without the knowledge of the gospel that we have and the covenants that we have made. We look forward to sharing the truths that have brought so much  peace, love, joy and purpose into our lives.

All we want for Christmas during the coming two years is to find those who are searching for truth and to share it with them.                      ~Pat~