Saturday, August 29, 2015

Called to Serve.

Three and a half months ago I was called to serve in the Montreal Canada Mission. I was called to report September 30th to the Provo MTC. For the past months this date has been ingrained into my mental calendar. I have planned everything with this date as my boundary. Pre-MTC and post-MTC. But this morning I was greeted by a call from the Stake President that changed that expectation. Apparently I scored well enough on my French language placement test and the MTC wants me to go on the fast track. I was given two options. Leave on September 9th or leave at the end of October. This would allow for me to arrive at my mission with a group of incoming missionaries rather than alone. Three weeks early or three weeks late. One and a half weeks from now or seven and a half weeks.
What a decision to have thrown at you before it's even 9 a.m. I was faced with the decision: do I wait around another two months, or do I put away everything I've been planning for this coming month and just leave? I've had this mentality of counting down, of planning my final weeks and weekends wisely so as to spend lots of time with family and friends. But at the same time I've been dying to get out the door and go to work. September 30th has seemed so far away. When the opportunity is handed to me to leave sooner, why shouldn't I take it up and begin my service?
It was quite a battle in my mind. I honestly did not know what to do. The idea of leaving in just 11 days feels terrifying. But it almost felt worse to imagine waiting nearly two months. There were pros and cons to either choice. My younger siblings begged me to wait until October. I knew I should choose what felt best. Honestly both choices seemed a bit scary. Keep waiting or throw myself into things? I felt so overwhelmed as I contemplated this decision. I prayed. I read scriptures. Finally I decided we should call our bishop and just see if tomorrow was even a possibility for my farewell. I was really leaning towards the September date. But I also didn't want to disrupt family plans so I could eave sooner, or stress my family out. Bishop said he'd let me do my farewell even if I told him the morning of. We continued to talk. The more we talked about this September departure date, the better it felt. I did feel apprehension about leaving so soon, but an even greater feeling of eagerness to get to work as a missionary. It felt right. So I told my bishop to schedule me in. I told him to plan for my farewell to be tomorrow. I told my stake President to plan for my departure date to be the 9th of September.
Four and a half weeks went to one and a half weeks in just a few short hours. Now here I am. Eleven days away from being a missionary. It's honestly kind of unsettling. I'm not sure what to think of it. There's been no gradual buildup of nerves or emotion. Instead they've just been dumped on me in one day. There have been tears as I've told family of my decision. Bitter remarks from Nakita that I'm leaving her. It's actually pretty painful. Like ripping off a band aid before you could even realize it was there. Suddenly I feel the nervousness and worry of leaving, the craze of preparing in just a week, and the need to spend every moment with my loved ones. It's a strange feeling to go from so relaxed, to feel like I have so much time to suddenly feeling like I have so much to do.

It's been just a few hours since I made my choice. Now that I'm suddenly so close to leaving, I can feel Satan trying harder than ever to keep me back. Friends have talked about the push you feel not to leave when the time gets closer. I haven't really understood until now. But now that I've made the decision to go I can feel him trying to hold me back. It's hard to make such a hard decision without doubting what you decide. I can feel those thoughts trying to creep in. Can you really do this? Are you really strong enough? Can you really leave your family? Maybe you should wait a while longer. But I know the feeling I felt when I made the decision. As soon as I said that this is what I want to do, I felt so light. I felt so happy. I felt ready. Whatever Satan throws my way in the coming week, I do believe this is the decision I was inspired to make. For whatever reason. I have been called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am so eager to be a missionary. I just can't put that off :)

So here's to a week of crazy intense mission preparation. A week of tears, hugs, and laughter I'm sure. I just have to remember that this is what I have been called to do. This is what the Lord expects of me. This is my call, and I'm going to fulfill it to the best of my ability. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Home again.

After seven weeks I'm finally back home in Bountiful again. Seven weeks of lugging overstuffed bags, laughing and crying, overwhelming architecture and masterpieces, and the most wonderful people. Seven weeks really isn't that long. Still it feels like it's been forever.
Coming home I can feel the affect Europe has had on me. I tied some string across the trees in our yard so I could hang my clothes out on the line. I feel like I actually care about recycling. It's no longer the annoying thing Dad forces me to do. I found myself sorting out the trash from recycling as I reorganized my room. Without really even thinking about it. I find myself wearing the same thing 2 or even 3 days in a row--because it's practical or just because I love it. I don't seem to care as much about everyone's opinion. Why worry about making myself appear perfect or wealthy or incredibly smart? Why not live the way I truly am and be appreciated for that? I want to walk and bike to the store. To take the train or bus when I need to go a greater distance. To sit at the dinner table for hours, simply enjoying the company of those I'm with. To eat baguette for breakfast and yogurt with jam for dessert. I find myself wanting to live the way that I want to live. To find the lifestyle I prefer and go ahead and live that way. To appreciate the world, to treat it accordingly, to live my life to its fullest. To quite getting caught up in opinions and making impressions. To be who I am. Not to waste my life working just for the sake of money and status. Not to spend my life cleaning for the sake of keeping a constantly crazy house within my expectations. I want to live. To walk, bike, paint, hike, camp, cook, talk, laugh, and cry. I want to wear my yoga pants around the house and wear my sandals everywhere else. To eat huge bowl fulls of rice and fresh pineapple. To sing and play guitar, sit around campfires, and garden with sunflowers and veggies. I feel that so many get caught up in their routine. Have ideas of what they'd like to do someday.Yet they spend every day doing the same things. Going to work. Cleaning the house. Doing the laundry. Cooking the meals. Occasionally taking a moment to enjoy, occasionally thinking about those far off bucket list items, but never really making them a reality.
But I want to do those things. To travel, play, and learn. Develop new skills and hobbies, while keeping old ones. Discover new places and cultures and languages. To take the time every day to talk and laugh with loved ones. To enjoy and love each other. To remember what makes this life worth living.
Sure a nice  house would be nice. A decent income would be good too. But when it comes down to it, what life will be fuller? The one that worked tirelessly, that slaved away for the money they could scarcely take the time to enjoy? The one who cleaned their house so much they hardly got to enjoy the people and memories happening within? Or the one who took the time to really live?
What if we all took a little time each day? Sat down with the family for dinner. Took the time to talk and to enjoy, rather than hurrying to get on with the next part of the day. Planned for new adventures and actually carried them out. Continued to learn new things. Spent less time getting ready for the day and more time enjoying those things you set out to do. Live. It's pretty simple, actually. But I think everyone should be capable of it :)
For some it might be a weekly barbecue, chocolate banana pancakes, or a bowl of rice. A weekend camping trip, a daytime hike, or a walk around the neighborhood. Playing a sport or sitting to paint. A family trip to Disney Land or a simple dinner around the table. Regardless of what makes you live, wouldn't it all be a lot better if we focused more on those those things? Focus more on our relationships, our hobbies, our goals.
Seven weeks in Europe taught me this. To live my life. To revel in the sight of hung laundry and healthy food. To jump at the thought of walking all day and biking til my buns are sore. To use window shudders and fill my flower boxes with flowers :) To live my life the way I choose to live and make the best of the luck that's given me. We don't always choose our status. We don't choose our looks. But we do choose how we live our life and how full that life will be. As for me, I'd like to live mine the fullest it can be :)
With my dearest Adina :)

My first Doner. Mmm mmm! :)
Leaving Liepzig for Berlin

Berlin Bear!! 
The Berlin Wall.

Sisters :)

He'll never be too big for rides from his big sister :)

Family :)

Extended family... (the Konig side ;)

Family picture in Austria :)

More extended family... the wonderful Jung family :)

Our big family photo :) our French family.

French mommy and grandma :)

Europe was full of experiences. It was more than a trip. Far from what most would call a vacation. More than seeing a couple famous buildings or paintings. More than seeing the Colosseum or the  Berlin wall or the Eiffel Tower. It changed the way I see art, people, food, language, and culture. It changed the way I see life, and I think it changed it for the better :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Paris dans la pluie! :)

Paris was actually quite lovely. More so than I expected. My past impression of Paris wasn't too great. It had been fine, beautiful, lovely, but not comparable to the other places I visited while in France (probably because I visited just after having been in Hardelot ;) ) But I was glad to turn my perception of Paris around after visiting last week :) Paris is stressful with 8 people, and not always perfect. Everyone has their own pace, their own ideas of what to visit, their own ideal day. But still I was able to have quite the enjoyable experience :) It worked well for me to spend most of my two days in Paris in a smaller group, navigating on my own without the worry of a big family getting lost. Day one I took charge of giving Nakita a little tour of some major sights. L'arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, then a walk along the Seine, passing many other beautiful sights. Sainte Chapelle followed by Notre Dame. A beautiful and full day.  Day two was lovely. Lunch in the Versailles Palace gardens. A stressful drive through Paris centre ville. Musée de L'Orangerie. Walking the Seine with Heidi. Antique shops. Rain. Eiffel Tower at sunset. Picnic with Jacques et Nathalie. Paris at night. Driving around the sites. Paris in the rain. Lovely :)

I've since determined that I want to come back again. Maybe for a romantic getaway. Paris at night is pretty enjoyable actually :). Sometimes it is a loud, tourist-filled city. But it really is beautiful. It is full of history. The Seine is lovely. The museums are wonderful, the parks sublime.
Musée de L'Orangerie. Wow that leaves such an impression. I could go there every day. Such a beautiful place full of such beautiful art. It's smaller, more of a gallery. The first rooms contain Claude Monet's Nymphéas, or Water Lilies. Two ovular-shaped rooms, connected to form an infinity. A panorama of four large panels in each room. Possibly the most peaceful, tranquil, beautiful piece I have ever seen. It was remarkable the influence it had. Downstairs hosts a collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Two of my favorite art styles. Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Manet, Matisse, Picasso. It was such a fulfilling experience. I feel that museum really had a profound effect on me.
And then the Seine. Heidi and I walked along the water's edge, enjoying the beautiful views of Paris and the more quiet atmosphere away from the busy streets. There were white tents set up along the river, full of people selling antiques- books, dishes, art. We saw such lovely things at the shops there. Heidi found some amazing things for her soon to be home :)
It rained. But we were able to make our way to the Eiffel Tower beneath a shared umbrella. A picnic looking up at the Eiffel Tower. Ca c'est magnifique. Vraiment. The Eiffel Tower at night. Really it is amazing. When it's all lit up and the rain is coming down softly, one can't help but wish for a romantic getaway to this beautiful city. Really, I think I'd actually love to go back :) I would recommend skipping the lines wherever possible. Avoid the extra-touristy areas and enjoy the smaller museums, the quiet of the gardens and the seine, and then make the necessary visit to the Eiffel Tower. Really, it is a beautiful and enjoyable place if you do it right :)

Sainte Chapelle.  Located in Paris. Honestly one of the most beautiful churches we've visited in our 6 1/2 weeks.

Notre Dame de Paris. Avec toute la famille :)
At Versailles Palace :)
La tour Eiffel :)
Picnic-ing under the tower :)
Beautiful. :)
Ooh la!

Paris by night :)
Crazy, loud, and tourist-y. But worth it if you can do it the right way :) J'aime Paris dans la pluie!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh, J'aime Hardelot.

I am in Hardelot, France. My most favorite place on earth :) 3 years ago I would have never imagined I'd be back so soon. But here I am at this wonderful place yet again. Hardelot. The place of soft sand, the kindest French Grandma, and the greatest French cooking. Cool weather and wind, beautiful sand dunes, forest, walks through the centre ville. Fireworks on the beach, music and dancing, sail boats. Sitting around the table, talking and laughing so hard with friends. Speaking French. One can imagine why my heart and soul is so full to be back here again. :)

I can't quite explain what it is. What makes Hardelot stick out so much to me. It's really pretty cool most of the time. It rains a fair amount as well. The water is cold. The majority of the village was destroyed in the war, leaving it fairly modern compared with the rest of France. But I love this place so much. My heart and soul belong in Hardelot. There's something about the sea that I have always loved. Any coastal town steals my heart fairly easy, but none has ever gained such a fond place as Hardelot :)