Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rambling

Hi family,

There are a few things I need to write before I forget about them.

First of all I'm so grateful for all the wonderful outside of my family- the Mitchells and the Linkouses in particular. They are the best. Even though I never write them back I'm so grateful for whenever they write me. I've discovered lately the power that the good people in my life have on me. I find that when I remember the good friends I have in life it motivates me to put aside my selfish, petty desires and be a better nicer person. To name just a few people there are the Linkouses the Mitchells, Hunter, Nick, Stephen, and all my other friends. Mary, Grandpa Fritz and Grandma Maria and of course my own family. So, thank you. Thank you for expecting the best of me and making me better.

On Monday I was sitting in district meeting when Anz. Lynch pulled me out and told me there was someone on the phone asking for me. "Elder Lund or something. I don't know he must be from Frankfurt or something" he said. I answered the phone and there of course was Jamie Lund. It was really nice to talk to him and was in fact another moment of someone building me up and making me want to be better. Neither of us had much time to talk, but it was nice to hear a familiar voice.

Giacomo in fact seems to have been haunting me this week. I was cleaning some stuff out and I found an old mission history from the Padova mission. On one of the first pages I found an interesting entry that I took a picture of. Find out when Jamie Lund came home from his mission and then we can know for sure if this is him although I think it is.

Mom- I totally agree with the advice from the other missionary. The point that I like the most is that it would be so sad to put real relationships and communication on hold for two years. Anyways I think the hard things are just as important to life as the good things. It would feel so fake and sterile to only write about happy things and along with that there would be some weeks where I would have really short emails if I left out the hard stuff.

It's amazing how so many of the things in the happiness book are things that I've already discovered, but that have been put into words and facts and proven by scientific research. The gospel really is all about happiness- at least for me- because I feel like I've tried so happy to be happy as a missionary and I feel like It's forced me to figure out how to be happy and I've realized the gospel is all about being happy.

The work is still going really well. Bety and Luis Miguel are getting baptised tomorrow. This last week wasn't as good as usual due to lack of planning. We planned much better for the upcoming week and I can already tell it will be much better.

I feel more focused than ever lately. I've never dug into Preach My Gospel so much and been so into what we are doing in our area. I love it but at the same time it kind of hurts. It feels harder for me to come up with things to write about. Lately I've been amazed at how normal missionary life has become. I've had a few moments when I've realized how crazy my whole situation would seem to myself a year ago, but know it feels totally normal. The other day we knocked on a guys door and he let us in. We had a good lesson with him, but in the middle of the lesson. I remembered being at home and wondering what missionaries did and I remember sitting in the MTC wondering how anyone could really speak and teach in Italian. I was sitting talking to a Romanian man and I wasn't even thinking about speaking in Italian.

I love this and I hate it. I feel so good being so focused on missionary work because I know that's what I should be doing, but at the same time it hurts to realize how much I have let go of my life before, how good I've gotten at coping with being away from my family, never seeing my friends and only writing letters to Mary.

I know that in the end it will all work out though. Even though I've left my life behind and I will continue to be more and more here and less and less at home, when the time comes I will go back home and it will all work out. I wonder if that's why babies cry so much. I wonder if they're realizing that they really have come to earth and that they're going to be here for a long time and they're forgetting very quickly what life was like before birth.

Well I cried a lot as a baby I guess it only makes sense for me to put up a fuss now.

I loved your blog post mom. One of the biggest weakness about missionaries that drives me crazy is that they're so used to teaching that they teach all the time and they constantly think they should give advice and teach. I'm afraid that I'm the same way sometimes even though I try not to. I tell every missionary I see about this bit of advice. Just kidding. I don't. I actually try to hold my tongue a lot and subtly nudge people in a direction when I think I have an idea that could help them.

I love you. Have a good week.

Love Ben

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Asalam Malaykam

Oh my dear darling wonderful family (don't I sound like Mom?)

What a wonderful day to email. I often joke that this is the highlight of my week- sometimes it's a joke, but at the same time it never really is. Right now I find myself in a strange limbo between total and complete focus and 100% trunky. Let me explain.

Lately the idea that a mission is training for the rest of your life has become really real to me. It just totally makes sense that habits and skills I develop will be useful for the rest of my life. Because of this I think of the rest of my life, but it's all focused on my work right now. I guess one way to explain it might me that I've realized that my mission is my life, or rather it's part of my life. It can be so easy to think that these two years are totally disconnected from the rest of life when in reality that's totally not true. I've found among missionaries that those who were happy, hardworking people with a testimony are happy, hard working missionaries with a testimony that keeps them going. I would guess that the same applies to post-mission. Those who are successful as missionaries go on to live successful lives. My life is a continuous line and it doesn't break because I'm a missionary. Of course people can always change course, but the idea is that it's much easier to be on course before, during and after a mission.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I am working in an office and even thought it's still very possible to see the excitement in missionary work in the office it is a different experience. As President Wolfgramm puts it we're doing a secular job under a spiritual umbrella. The reason it makes me think so much more about my life in the future is that I'm doing all kinds of things that I'll probably do in the future. I order supplies and write blogs and newsletters and help deal with the general business of the mission I even help with apartment stuff and make sure people get electricity in apartments when they move in. I do it all in Italian too so I figure doing it in English will be a piece of cake. Anyways I really do like the office and I feel like I'm learning a lot of lifetime skills.

It's a good thing no one tells me about someone new getting married every week or even sending me a whole wedding album. I'm just kidding. Keep telling me about the weddings and I always love to see pictures. The Katy and Clint album looks really good.

Oh man, Mary I'm so excited for your semester in Israel! I really like your Chacos. I don't know why you're so ashamed of them- I always thought they were kind of cool.

Ok Hans- I just can't help but jump on the great opportunity that you have right in front of you. In fact just this morning we were talking about how to use members better in our work and one of the things we discussed was having normal members- instead of weird missionaries- doing the big three with their friends. What are the big three? Church, Scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) and Prayer. There's no better way to help someone taste the joy of the gospel than just inviting them to live it with you. Betty and Luis Miguel who just had their baptismal interview last night have changed so much and this time around with the missionaries they've really decided to make that leap of faith and be baptised because their member friends have been reading with them and inviting them to church. Cool huh? So what you should do is just invite your friends to come to church with you or read the Book of Mormon together or even pray. It doesn't have to be a big deal and it probably sounds really awkward- which it could be, but an invite never hurt anyone. Just the other day I gave a Book of Mormon to a lady who lives in the apartment above our office and she said she was actually really interested and she wanted to read the Book of Mormon, but she had always just been scared to ask. Who knows how many people are interested, but are just too afraid to ask. She also told me that she would never change and then showed me how she had "Ave Maria" tattooed across her chest, but you never know what can happen. Anyway give it a shot and I think you'll be surprised at what might happen. By the way did anyone invite anyone to church last week?

OK mom to answer your questions- I'm not the secretary. Anz. Anderson is. My official title is Captain of Cool. The Captain of Cool is in charge of ordering supplies and getting them to missionaries, mail, the blog, newsletters, baptismal certificates and all around awesomeness. It's a tough job, but who better to do it than me?

Please tell me that you'll wait until after I get home to go visit the Bradfords in Switzerland?
I was wondering if you could send me a few bigger prints of your coolest picture of the Salt Lake Temple. There's a lady in our branch who's really cool, but still is just haunted by the past a lot. She had some crazy experiences with getting too into yoga and an evil guru. Anyway I was thinking a cool picture of the temple would be a nice way to help her focus more on the future. We have pictures of temples, but I was just thinking it would be way cooler to have a picture that my own mother took. If you can send me maybe four or five too that would be great.

As for how long I'll be in the office I have no idea. It could be 6 more months or 6 more weeks. No idea.

Well I don't know how I'm going to be happy this week because I don't have my weekly brainwashing instructions. I actually have been trying to train my brain to be happier and more opportunity seeking and even though I'm not that good at it I feel like it helps to have it on my mind. There have been so many times when something or someone has been driving me crazy and then I remember that I should try to think about it in a different way. I'm a work in progress, but I'm getting there.

Well my dear family I love you so much. I promise I'm still focused, but I do think about seeing you every day. I still look forward to coming home to you so much. I really can't describe how happy the thought of seeing you makes me. I can't wait to see you again. I love you so much and I just can hardly wait to sit around and do nothing at all with you.

Have a happy happy week.

Love, Ben

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Happy Spring!

Oh but I were an angel and could just fly over to you and tell all of you how much I love you.

Even if I could just deliver a letter to personally make sure it got there.
I really just wish I could pour my heart out to you and tell you all the things, and hopes and dreams I have for you.

I have so many things that I want to say and so many emotions to cover in just one email.

First of all I'm so happy just from hearing from you. I'm so glad that something finally went Stefan's way with the scholarship. I'm so happy about seeing pictures and getting emails.

There are also so many exciting things going on here too.

We have eight people getting baptised in the next month and things are going fantastically well. We noticed a change in 15 year old Luis Miguel about a week ago. He seemed so much more interested and excited about our lessons. We just found out that his member friend Marcos has been going to read the Book of Mormon with him. His mom Betty said that she has been putting aside tithing for years, but she was really worried about fasting. She could hardly imagine not eating for so long and asked "not even water?" On Thursday we asked her if she was excited to fast with us this Sunday like we had talked about and she said "Yes, and in fact I already tried fasting this week and I liked it."

We've had miracle after miracle and a lot of it has to do with members helping us with their own friends so much. So my challenge to you is to invite someone to church this week.

I talked to Anziano Stanley who is serving in Siena right now and he told me lots of really exciting news. Siena is doing really well and the coolest thing for me was that a lot of it was built on work that I had done there. I saw some success while I was there but a lot of the time it just felt like we weren't going anywhere. But now they are getting referrals from a guy we reactivated and Lorena who I found is one of the strongest members. I'm really not bragging, but my point is that it was really cool for me to see that my work had resulted in something good, rather than the nothing that it often seemed like.

Transfers are this week and the anticipation of transfers is a lot different when President is just in the next room making the decisions. Anz. Anderson and I don't expect to be going anywhere for several months.

Dad- I'm feeling cheated on not hearing from you and not getting my brain training update.

Update: I just got your email and I feel so lucky that you wrote me so much. Not only that I had to go help Anz. Lynch go open up the garage door and was anxious about getting taken away from email. Lucky for me the delay prevented me from missing your email. Cool huh? I hope this last sentence shows you how much I love and look forward to your emails and happiness training. I've been keeping a little gratitude journal lately. I write three things I'm grateful for, one way I've seen God's influence in my life and one thing I love about my companion. I do it right before I pray and go to bed and I've noticed that it makes my prayers more meaningful too. I think that training your brain to look for opportunity really applies to finding people to teach, because I've just gotten so used to seeing anyone and everyone, especially who are friends of members as possible golden contacts. Voice inside your head- Keep sending these happiness updates. The more the better.

My toe is doing well. It's so funny to think that I dealt with on my own it for months. Then the doctor was able to fix it pretty easily and now my toe feels great. I guess it just goes to show that I'm not as good at giving myself medical treatment as I thought.

I'm doing really well. I feel happy and springy. Warm weather and brain training are helping.

I really do feel happy and focused and lots of good things are happening.

I hope you have a great week.

Love Ben

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Buona Pasqua!

Hello family!

I have to admit that there seems to have been some kind of burden lifted ever since I have been able to say that a year from now I will be with you again. Isn't that a lovely thought. Am I trunky? Not really. I'm doing so much crazy stuff right now that I don't really feel trunky. It's just a nice happy thought to think that time is moving on and next year I'll be pushing Gabe and Mary aside to get to some good Lindt chocolate.

Lately I've gotten settled into my job in the office enough to start really doing stuff I like. Do you remember how excited I got about cleaning the pantry? Just imagine that with a garage full of Book of Mormons and pamphlets and then a whole other room that's organized- but in my opinion I can make it better.

Just like everyone asked me in their emails this week is Easter and it is kind of a big deal. Such a big deal that everyone goes to church for one of the two times that they go every year. As for culture items they have the Colombo cake which a cake that's supposed to be shaped like a dove or maybe it's a lamb. Anyway, it doesn't really look like either. They have giant chocolate eggs. Giant as in bigger than your head- some of them are over a foot long. Just imagine chocolate filled with toys. Last night I saw lots of little old ladies lining the streets with candles and I think it was for Good Friday. If so I would guess that the candles would have some symbolism of welcoming Jesus. I might have just made that up but I thought it was cool.

I'm talking way more about Italian culture than normal but while I'm at it I might as well tell you about Chiara. Chiara got baptised a little more than a year ago and she's really nice and still needs lots of help. She would love to visit America so she may come and visit us at some point. The cool thing is the trade off. I told her she could come stay with us if we could come stay with her. Her parents live in a former monastery right in the middle of Crema. It's a beautiful two story house with a big lawn courtyard in the middle. It's hard to describe, but you'll just have to trust me on how cool it is. I'm already dreaming of staying in Crema and then popping over to Cremona where Stefan can play a little violin on a Stradivarius.

As for my brain training- Dad- I've been doing the gratitude journal along with your and pres. Eyring's added point. I have to admit that I like the idea of forming a habit of gratitude and I think it has helped. I've needed to stay steady and happy more than ever this week. I'm trying to keep myself happy and I try to just laugh at the craziness sometimes.

Toenail update: My toenail has healed surprisingly fast. In fact I went running the other day and I'm going to play basketball today. In fact out of all my toes among those that hurt the least because I have a couple other minor ingrown toenails that I'm battling.


I just watched the sippy cup video and I loved it. I have to say that I do love cookies and milk. Lately, however, I have had to stop eating so much junk because I got sick from diving into my Easter package. I ate too much too fast and American candy is so sweet. I loved it but it made me sick.

One thing I've been thinking about a lot this last week is that I've notice a recent theme in general conference talks. A lot of them seem to be talking about slowing down a little bit and not being so crazy and busy. Pres. Monson sealed the deal with his talk last week about not missing out on the important things in life because we're too busy. I've been listening to a lot of conference talks lately because I listen to them while I work in the stock room. They all talk about slowing down, not getting lost in too much busy-ness and appreciating our families. One of the tough things about conference and being a missionary eight time zones away is that we always miss the last session. It seems like every time someone tells me about a talk that I missed.


OK well I've rambled on enough for today. As for the update on my personal well being I'm doing well. I'm trying to be kind and brave and patient. Life is crazy, but I'm really trying not to get distracted from the good things in life. By the way did you watch the resurrection video on lds.org this week? I really liked it.

I love you all very much. Happy Easter.

Love Ben

By the way dad- keep up the brain training stuff. I really like it.