Monday, February 22, 2016

Visitors from home

Toni Erling
Sheryl Harris
We have some very special guests from the USA staying with us this week.  Larry's younger sister, Toni Erling, and her good friend Sheryl Harris, have come for a visit.  We have had a delightful time showing them the sites of where we live.
While they are both genuinely fun to be with, one of the best parts of having them here is to get to look at the beauty of New Zealand through fresh eyes.

When we first came here we were in awe with the wonder of the landscape.  The many shades of green, the textures of the land, and all the year round flowers captivated us.  We felt like we were in a land of magic and stunning beauty.  

Over time, however, we've gotten so used to our new surroundings that it has sort of become our new normal.  I wouldn't say we entirely take it for granted now.  But we have lost some of the initial sense of wonder.

Watching Toni and Sheryl's reaction to the things we show them and all the places we go remind of just how very special this place truly is.

Auckland Skyline

Dock at Lake Pupuke

Lynda in front of mammoth hydrangeas in Cornwall Park

Larry and Lynda at One Tree Hill Monument

 Today we did simple things.   We took a picnic lunch to Lake Pupuke and enjoyed watching the scenery and the birds (even if at one point we could relate a bit too much to Tippy Hedron in the Alfred Hitchock movie "The Birds" when the seagulls, pigeons and sparrows all decided they wanted a share of our sandwiches.)
Swamp Hen , also known as "Pukeko"

Black Swans

The pigeon that mugged Sheryl

After lunch we headed over to Cornwall Park to show them the amazing 380 degree view from the One Tree Hill monument and explore around the park a bit.
One Tree Hill Monument

Maori figure on One Tree Hill Monument

Cornwall Park in Auckland

Later we did the very normal and mundane chore of doing a bit of grocery shopping.  But somehow even that became an adventure when we watched our guests examining strange produce, unrefrigerated eggs, unfamiliar brands of cereal and a meat counter filled with all sorts of different selections of lamb.  Things here are so very different from the USA.  Watching their reactions took me back to how strange and unsettling it all seemed for me when we first arrived here.   It made me recognize how much we truly have adapted to our temporary home here in New Zealand.

A lot of the little things that used to be a big deal to me  are now simply taken for granted as the way things are here.  Today I accept them as part of my Kiwi life.  This applies 
both to things I used to find intensely positive and those I considered unbearably negative.  

I remember my white knuckle fear of riding in a car on the left side of the road in what seemed early on to be horrible, extreme traffic.  For the first couple months we were in country I was truly afraid every time we got in the car to go anywhere.  The roads were too narrow, the oncoming traffic, far too close.  The round abouts were too confusing.  The signs were unfamiliar.  It all added up to emotional gridlock for me for a lot longer than I ever would have dreamed it would before I came.   I can't really say when I got over being so nervous about the traffic.  But eventually, I did.  I no longer close my eyes when we cross the harbor bridge.  I no longer grit my teeth when we change lanes in downtown Auckland.  These days, I take it in stride.  That's a good thing.

However, I've also lost some of the intense feelings I once had on the positive end.  I remember how enchanted I was by all the many flowers that bloom year round here and by the amazing dimensions of multi-hued green mountains and valleys.  Coming from the perspective of one raised in the North American west I have seen a lot of brown in my time.  Here, the land is lush with grass, trees, bush, flowers beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  My eyes would pop as I took in the cabbage trees looking like something created by Dr. Seuss, the Silver Fern trees, the majestic Norfolk Island pines and all the rest of the landscape.  I still think it is pretty.  But the wonder of it has faded considerably from the way I felt when we first arrived.  

As I reflected over this,  I was reminded of a certain passage in the scriptures in Chapter 5 of the book of Alma.  It comes from the words which Alma, the High Priest, delivered to the people in their cities and villages throughout the land.  Starting in verse 26 he says:

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"  (emphasis added).

Alma goes on to ask the people who would have been the members of the church at that time whether they were keeping the commandments, and whether their attitude toward the gospel was as strong and as committed as it had been when they first became converted.

Sadly, we forget.  Just like we tune out the constant hum our refrigerator makes, in the same way we can stop hearing train whistles in the night or the sound of Tue birds in the early morning, we can stop noticing even very important things that are around us all the time. If we are not careful, we can stop feeling how special the gospel truly is.

There are so many things I do NOT want to forget - which is one of the main reasons I write this silly little blog of mine.  I want to have it to refer back to long after this mission is over so that I can remember the special experiences and feelings I had here.

The word "Remember" occurs 497 times in the scriptures.  I think that makes it pretty clear that Heavenly Father does not want us to ever forget the things that are truly important - the sacred teachings of eternity.

I want to always remember this time, this place, the people I've come to love here.

Even more important than all of that, I want to always remember the feelings of KNOWING that Heavenly Father is real and is aware of me on a very personal basis.  I want to remember the times when we have seen very specific and personal answers to prayers.  I want to remember the sense of peace that came to us in times of struggle.  I want to remember the times we were given to know what to say when we absolutely had no idea what we were talking about.

So I'm deeply grateful to my dear Sister-in-Law and her friend for coming to pay us a visit here on our mission - not just because I genuinely like them both.  I am grateful that they have helped me remember the wonder of what it is to be here in this amazing land.

And I am grateful to them for helping me to ponder deeper what other things I may be taking for granted so I can open my eyes to them again.

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