💖 👼 💖
Beginning with December 1, the entire month has been Christmas. It's been wonderful. It has given me pause to find my focus multiple times. Some of the most captivating moments haven't been discovered by camera or words, but they remain etched into my heart, to recall in subsequent years as this special Christmas time in the Arcadia, CA Mission.
Jump-starting us into a holiday mood and season was the opportunity to share "A Christmas Carol" at our favorite theatre-in-the-round in Glendale. And the very best part was celebrating it with Sister Bunker. We went on the first Saturday in December to a wonderful matinee, minus Brother Bunker, who had been in the hospital, so he was unable to attend with us. It was quite magical. We all enjoyed the production, the music, the set, which encircled us around the entire theatre, and the yummy dinner afterward at Los Gringos.
Each December Monday night was spent with missionaries eating soup and bread. We then decorated sugar cookies to fill plates and go caroling to the neighbors in the apartment complex.
This was all done P.T. -- Pre-Transfer. That changed the look of everything around here. We suddenly were without sister missionaries in this area, and cut back to many fewer elders, and different ones. But we still made the most of our Monday nights together, P.T. and A.T.
In all this, there were those horrendous good-byes to missionaries going home, among whom were Sister Mann and Elder Pao. We went to find Sister Mann and her companion in a different area to tell her good-bye...
|Me, Sister Martin, Sister Oh, Sister Mann|
...and we did one last Menchies run with Elder Pao before sending him back to Taiwan. Elder Pao finished off strong in our area, so it was nice to see him off.
|Family Photo before Big Changes|
There was the night of Violet Carmona's high school orchestra and band Christmas concert, and we attended with Jesus and Jazmin.
|Jesus, Jazmin, Me and Sister Martin|
Our Ward Christmas party was a multi-cultural breakfast one Saturday morning, and the entertainment also reflected culture. The Great Emcee was Samoan Brother Alo, and we had talent from Mexico, Polynesia, China, and the Philippines. The food was just as varied, and completely delicious!
|The Great Alhambra Ward Christmas Hall|
|Cultures represented: Mexican, American, Vietnamese, French, and North Pole-ese|
|Our great Polynesian Emcee, Brother Alo|
|Little Mexican senioritas|
There were also multiple opportunities to go to the LA temple grounds and see the beautiful lights and see the many varied, lovely, and unique Christmas trees in the Visitors Center. We always took someone with us on this excursion and it became a holiday favorite.
|Lola, Me, Sister M, Thanh, Mei|
And ever and always, there's food to "cap off" a memorable Christmas evening.
|Lola, Me, Thanh, Mei, Sister Martin|
I yearned to be part of a choir that Ben Salisbury conducted in our stake. He is a professional musician and a phenominal director. So when the opportunity presented itself to be part of the Stake Choir for a Christmas concert, I jumped at the chance. It entailed many practices during weeknights and Sunday nights. And it was so worth it! I will never forget the tender feelings I felt as I raised my little voice with so many beautiful, talented voices to sing praises of our Savior's birth. There was a string quartet, trumpeter, flutist, calypso drums and shakers, and awesome pianists and organists to add richness to the songs and evening. It will forever be a special memory from this Christmas.
A few days later, Ben and his wife and little son, Gabriel, presented a sweet concert at the temple Visitors Center that we happened onto, because we were visiting the temple grounds that very night. Very cool!
Sister Ballard and her new companion, Sister Ricks, met us for a quick bite at The Hat before doing a little shopping and checking out their cute Christmas apartment in Temple City. As always, it is a joy to be with Janessa and see her enthusiasm and growth as a missionary. It always feels a little more like home when we get together.
We spent a very cool p-day at Newport Beach, first at the temple, then on Balboa Island browsing around and being impressed by the magic of the island at Christmas. People go all out on decorating for Christmas and it is like a fairly land. One of the best parts about it was sharing the Christmas feeling all day with our good friend, Eddy.
|Me and a very cold Sister M|
It's winter, right?
This was the front of a house, fully decorated for Christmas as a toy shop store front. It's really just a house underneath!! Such fun.
I think Sister Martin got tired of me dragging her everywhere to "feel Christmas." I just didn't want to miss anything. So we went to a light show at a house in a neighboring community on a whim. It is all computer programmed to have different sets of lights flashing while playing various Christmas musical selections, all set to a Legos theme. Little Lego choir minstrels sang while lights played to the music.
V - E - R - Y C - O - O - L!!!
|Elder and Sister Knight Sister M, Me|
Sporting mission t-shirts
We can't forget the mission zone party. Skits thrown together with whatever props can be creatively utilized from meager supplies in apartments. Each district had their own version of Christmas. We didn't meet as an entire mission. The Church no longer does that for safety reasons, but it was fun being with a random zone.
One random weeknight, we packed up Sister Bunker spontaneously and she took us to neighboring communities of Altadena and Pasadena to see special Christmas displays. One was a spectacular mile-long neighborhood hill, lined on both sides with large, Christmas-lighted evergreen trees all the way up the hill. This, she explained, was Christmas Tree Lane, and even has its own road sign to let travelers know.
She took us to large neighborhood displays, where each area of subdivisions has their own theme, and to the top of a hill where a mansion stands with magical lights and decorations on every side of its grand magnificence.
That Sister Bunker! Her 93-year-old young self knows everything about everything here!
|Elder and Sister Knight, Me|
Christmas Eve 2016. Soup and bread began with a small group of us, but gained in numbers for activities as the night moved on. We had Christmas white elephant games, candle lightings while sharing traditions, unwrapping and placing each nativity piece while sharing impressive qualities about that particular figure, and sweet, tender testimonies under Christmas tree lights.
|Christmas Eve family photo, minus a few who had to leave|
Again this year, each Christmas Eve guest found a Los Angeles tree ornament on the tree to take home as a reminder of the importance of the temple, and the next time He comes, how Christ will come to His temple, so always remain worthy to be there.
One special memory from Christmas, 2016, that I'm betting will be among my favorites is taking a few minutes each night to sit in the easy chair under the tree lights after Sister M has gone to bed, listening to Christmas music, pondering about...things. There's much to ponder about Christmas, the past year, the mission experience. These are cherished moments that have become dear to my heart. What better time to ponder than at Christmas?
I love thinking about the gift of a Baby. That sweet and innocent Baby that had no idea in those wee, small hours on Christmas morning what lay ahead of Him. What love! What a gift!
💖 Merry Christmas, 2016! 💖