Tuesday, January 5, 2016

WEEK 75, January 4, 2016: Last full week as a full-time missionary = Gratitude

Danish Word of the Week: VIDNESBYRD (VIL-nes-byurd) Testimony

1st P-day in Denmark
This is so unreal! This is my last week as a full-time missionary. A lot of people have been asking me how I feel-and I don't really know what to say. In a lot of ways, it just feels like any other week. I'm still doing the same things, and it feels like I'll be here in Denmark forever. But then every once in a while it hits me: I'm not going to see these old colourful houses anymore. I'm not going to put my nametag on every day. This Sunday is my last Danish sacrament meeting! There are so many wonderful things about Denmark that feel so familiar to me-and I know I can't prepare for how much I'll miss it.

1st wk, 2nd bike wreck, 1st broken bone - ever!
The other thing I feel is gratitude. I will never be able to count all of the things that my mission has taught me! When you're on a mission, you are blessed with a very clear perspective. I have been told many times how important it is to write down all of the thoughts and ideas I have about my future while I'm here on my mission. This is a time when I am able to take a step out of the world and really see it with new eyes. I feel that I have been blessed with so much direction and guidance which I will use for the rest of my life.

I'm grateful for how hard my mission has been. This is the most difficult, trying thing I've ever done. There have been many times when I've wondered what I'm doing here, if I'm doing any good, and if I'll ever be able to live up to this calling. Those trials have given me a testimony that the Lord never leaves me. I have learned how to rely on his strength when I feel that I don't have anything more to give. Me and my companion were talking the other day about how it's possible to feel love for complete strangers. 'I don't really know these people, I don't necessarily trust them yet, but I just love them! How is that possible?' We realized that it's not our love we're feeling, God is allowing us to feel a portion of his love for these people we meet. That is such a privilege!

The hardest thing is saying goodbye to people. In the past, I have never said 'Farvel,' (Goodbye), I've always said, 'Vi ses.' (See you later!) But lately, I've been having to check myself because some people-I really won't see later! But what I've started saying is, 'Vi ses på Facebook.' (see you on Facebook.) J That makes my life a little easier.

Horsen Ward and George's Baptism
I asked my Bishop if he remembered what the last week of his mission in England was like. He gave me really good advice. He said, 'In my last week, I thought about the Savior. The last week of the Savior's life was the most important. If he had quit before the last week, his whole life would have been in vain. Work hard, be happy, and then you'll be able to go home and say, 'I did it.'' I really loved that. I know that I am a much different missionary now than I was at the beginning of my mission. My attitude has changed a lot, and I feel like I've become more steady and calm. I am looking forward to making the very most of these next 7 days!

I am excited to come home! A myth that I just want to bust really quickly is that it's not trunky to be excited to see your family. I love you all so much and I have missed you a ton! I'm excited to see you all again.

I hope you have a great week! Will you do me a favor and find a way to share your testimony with someone this week? It can be anyone, and it can be in a creative way. Tell me how it goes when I see you. J The best way to strengthen your own testimony is to share it. People need the light, hope, and perspective that the gospel gives us. If we don't share what we know, how else will others find truth? The joy of the gospel is understanding. In the middle of all of our trials, we understand that there is a greater purpose. I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me. I am grateful for his plan of happiness for me and for all of us. I know that he sent Jesus Christ into the world so that we could be lifted above all sorrow and pain. I also know that Christ is coming again, and I am so excited for that day! Because of Him, there is always hope. There will be a happy ending to all of this. He is our Savior, and he knows us perfectly. I am grateful to be one of his representatives, and for the honor I have had of bearing his name. 

Vi ses!
Love, Søster Van Orden

See previous blog posts for more pictures & uplifting insights to: Sister Van Orden Goes to Denmark
WK46: Legoland

WK50: Witch Burning Holiday

WK68: Bike Repair Pros!
WK71: Holiday Music Tour Rehearsal

WK72: Holiday Music Tour  

Missionaries in Denmark toured the wards in the country, 
singing in Danish and English. Here is their playlist!

WEEK 74, December 28, 2015: Christmas in Denmark

Danish Word of the Week: Juleaften (Yool-eh-ahf-en) Christmas Eve
In Denmark they celebrate Christmas on December 24th, which is Christmas Eve for us.

Christmas was so much fun this year! We and the Elders were with a member named Sofie who is an INCREDIBLE cook. She taught us how to make all of the traditional Danish Christmas food. Duck, pork, sugar potatoes, gravy ... but it's way better than American gravy, red cabbage (don't knock it til you try it), potato chips, and rice pudding for dessert. I am going to have to make it for you on Second Christmas.  It is probably the best meal I've had in Denmark. 

We played a fun game called Pakkeleg. It's the Danish version of White Elephant. There is a pile of mystery packages in the middle of the table, and there are two dice that get sent around the circle. Every time you roll a 1 or a 6 you get to take a package out of the middle. Once all the packages are out of the middle, you set a timer and every time you roll a 1 or a 6 you steal a package from somebody else. It keeps going like that until the timer goes off. It was so much fun! I got a board game, candy, socks, patch kit for my bike, and soap. Pretty good haul.

On Christmas Morning we met the Elders at 7 am and opened presents under the Christmas tree in the church. I'm so glad we did that.  It felt like real Christmas morning with a little family!  A few members have given us presents over the past few weeks, and it was really sweet to open them and see that they had been thinking of us. 

We even had our own Christmas miracle with finding Nikolaj and Genesis on that street corner. I still can't believe that happened. I'm so excited for missionaries to keep teaching him in the future. He's going places.   I love seeing little glimpses of Heavenly Father's plan for people. I will never forget the hope and light in Nikolaj's face as he talked about how Christ can make him clean from the mistakes he's made in the past. I'm so grateful to know that it really is possible for people to change! That is the biggest miracle in the world!

I'm grateful that I get to end my mission on such a high note. The holiday season is the best time of year, and it is the best time to be a missionary.  I'm so glad I got to talk with all of you on Christmas!!!!!!!!! Not trunky or anything, BUT I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU.  Thanks for the letters you all wrote to me.  That was seriously the best Christmas present I could have gotten. 

I am way looking forward to Second Christmas at home! Christmas was fun and everything, but it's just not quite the same without family.  Keep the Christmas tree up!

Love you all so much! Have a good New Year! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

WEEK 73; December 21, 2015: So many feelings! Finishing Christmas Firesides, Filming Musical Numbers, and P-day at the Beach in our PJs!

Danish Word of the Week: Skype! oh. wait. They stole that from English. I love it when they do that.

I'm so happy!  We had our last concert last night, and it went amazingly well! This whole week has been incredible. Word got around that the firesides were really good, so we had full houses every night with lots of members and guests!
This is after our concert in Fredericia

It has been so special to see this whole thing come together. Everyone is so incredibly talented. It was amazing to see how not just our musical talents, but our personalities worked together and were used. Every single member of this district was there for a specific reason. The spirit we have felt every day has been unlike anything I've felt my entire mission. We were all so happy, fulfilled, relaxed, and so enjoyed being missionaries in this way. It was exactly what we all needed. More than that, I know that it is exactly what the members needed! This was such a great missionary tool for them! I can't even express how grateful I am to have had this opportunity

A major miracle that happened - Our ward mission leader in Esbjerg runs a tv station
 We called him and asked if it would be
Recording in the film studio
possible for us to come and record some of our songs in his studio so that we could have some high-quality videos to put out on YouTube. He said yes, and we got to record not just some, but ALL of our songs. He had 4 cameras running so he can edit the footage and work in some fancy shots from all different angles. His brother is a sound guy who came and made sure we sounded good, and they did all of this for free. I was blown away that he would do that for us on such short notice in the middle of the Christmas season. He's getting some way good Sister Missionary Christmas Cookies this year. No seriously, we're going to get him something nice.

I am so excited for Christmas! I'm excited to be back in my area. I'm so excited to not live out of a suitcase and to actually wash my clothes in a washer that WORKS (long story), and for my last 3 weeks as a missionary. I could not have picked a better way or a better time to end my mission. God loves me! 

We had a Christmas Zone Conference and we watched Inside Out!  That movie.  So many feelings!  I was like - This was me in California!!  Everyone cried. Elders cried.  President cried and he's seen it 3 times now! 

For Skype, we will be calling at 4 pm Denmark time, so 8 am Idaho/Utah/Colorado time. I hope that works for all of you! Sorry it's a little early on Christmas morning, but like, am I not the best present ever?  

I love you all so much! Drive safe to Idaho and hug everyone for me!

P.S.  I'm really proud of this outfit. We all realized that we didn't pack any P-Day clothes, so we ended up going to the beach in our PJ's.    

For P-Day we went to the northernmost tip of Denmark. It's a city called Skagen. The cool thing about this place is that this is the point where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet. You can see the waves from the two seas crashing into each other off the coast. 
We had so much fun playing on the beach!

 The Seesters!