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Friday, June 20, 2014

Farewell to Spring! Hello Summer!

Looking Back on the First Day of Summer

Spring continued to be amazing here in North Carolina. One of the wonderful things about spring in Coastal Carolina is that it comes early and stays late.  We are just now hitting temperatures in the upper 80's and low 90's. However, I believe summer is now here and hot humid weather will be with us for quite awhile.

 Once the azaleas, Bradford pears and dogwoods quit blooming, a new cast of trees started showing off.  First came the magnolias and gardenias.

Looking like glowing white candles, the first buds appeared on the magnolia trees.

Opening, they revealed a beautiful waxy white flower with a heavenly fragrance.

There are evidentially several kinds of magnolia trees with the most common here being the stately grandiflora.  The trees are huge and you see them everywhere.  They stay green all winter and lose some of their leaves when new leaves form in the spring.  Did you know magnolias were around during the age of the dinosaurs?  They were one of the first flowering trees to appear after the conifers.
(Sorry, once a teacher always a teacher).

The mimosa trees add lovely color to the late spring.  Mother used to have a smaller mimosa tree in her yard in Green Forest.  These seem larger to me, but maybe this one is just older.

The crepe myrtles are just beginning to bloom and they come in an astonishing array of colors -- white, pink, purple, and red.  I love this tree.  Even the trunk and bark are beautiful.

On my early morning walk I spied these gorgeous hydrangeas.  I know hydrangeas come in pink and white, also, but I have only see them in this lovely blue color -- probably because of the acidic soil from all the pine needles.

Most of the yards in our neighborhood do not have lots of flowers, as in flower beds.  The trees and bushes provide the color.

Locally grown tomatoes, cucumbers and squash have been available since May along with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.  Many of the young families make an outing to go berry-picking in the local fields.  We decided it was just fine to buy from the local stands.  It's a little hard to pick in a skirt or white shirt and tie.

The Activity Day girls (ages 8-11) in Primary (the children's auxiliary organization in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) sponsored a wonderful Mother's Day "Ball" for all mothers in the ward.  Each received a scroll summoning them to the Royal Ball.

The room and tables were quite festive.  As we entered, the name of a Disney princess or character was taped to our backs and before we could receive our crown we had to guess who we were by asking yes or no questions.  The young men from Mutual served the food and lemonade.  The girls led the mothers in a couple of enthusiastic line dances and then each Mom was presented with a special gift to remember the occasion.  So cute!

Friday nights are our "date nights." Usually, we try out one of the local restaurants.  This particular night we ate seafood on the patio by the pier.  It was quite charming and very relaxing.

This graceful cypress tree was right beside our table at the restaurant.  Notice the Spanish moss. I've been trying to figure out why some trees are loaded with Spanish moss and other nearby trees of the same species have none.  The moss gives an eerie look to the tree, especially at dusk.

For those of you following our on-going battle with the bird seed robbing squirrels, we have so far managed to hang one bird feeder that has not been conquered -- yet.  We decided to admit defeat with the other feeder and just enjoy their acrobatic moves as they pull out the seeds.  One plus is that they scatter a lot of seeds in the process and so provide food for the ground birds such as the flicker and mourning doves.

One day we watched one of the squirrels perform all kinds of rather parkour-like stunts.  He would run up a tree and do a back flip off about a third of the way up, run around in circles and do it again.  Then he took off up the tree at a rapid pace and leapt from tree to tree only to come down and repeat the whole show.  Bob wondered if some of the seeds had fermented. :)

Despite the competition with the squirrels, we have had new birds at our feeders.

Tufted Titmouse, isn't he cute?
Had a hard time identifying this one.

This flycatcher kept flying into our window
each morning -- not hard, just fluttering
against the pane.  For several days he
arrived at the same time and would flutter
against the window, fly to a tree and then
return.  Maybe he saw his reflection?

Each month the senior missionaries have an activity--usually seeing some of the sights within our mission.

In April we had a Senior Conference in Wilmington.  We had a great training session and a guest speaker who told us a little about the history of Wilmington and of the history of our church in this area.   The first missionaries arrived in the early 1900's, but the church didn't really start to grow until in the 60's.  Now there are several wards and a stake in Wilmington.  It would not surprise me if someday a small temple is built here.

We took side trips to Fort Fisher and to a large state run aquarium.  Fort Fisher was the last southern port to fall during the Civil War.  Once it fell to the Union, General Lee was no longer able to receive arms and supplies.  Prior to this, blockade runners had managed to sneak through the lines and bring back supplies that were shipped to Richmond, VA by rail.  Once this route was closed Lee was forced to surrender.
Fort Fisher

Beach near Fort Fisher

You can't see this too well, but we are in the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh for our May Senior Activity.   Behind us are displays of plants and animals native to North Carolina.  Upstairs there are skeletons of the whales that frequented the coast in times past.  From a distance we thought they were dinosaur skeletons. We found the varying sizes and features of the different whales quite fascinating.

Skeleton of a Right Whale

So let the summer begin.  We took the sister missionaries to the beach in late May, before the big beach season to hunt for shells and shark teeth and enjoy a picnic lunch.  It was a beautiful day with a cool breeze and only a few families enjoying the spring weather.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On a Mission, Always Expect the Unexpected

The Best Laid Plans Often Go Awry

We do our best to plan out our week, scheduling visits and preparation around recurring obligations such as conducting Sacrament Meeting and holding Family Home Evening for Marines at Camp Johnson, working with the Family History Center, leading the Addiction Recovery Program, and supporting Institute class.  Visits to families of deployed soldiers and families with new babies,  searching for the "lost sheep" in the Jacksonville area, visiting new member move-ins, and providing support to our missionaries (usually rides, meals, or help with investigators) keep us pretty busy.

Just when we have a day planned out, there is often a "monkey wrench" thrown into the works and we must replan and adjust.  For example, Monday is usually our preparation day and I had a list of things to take care of today and was looking forward to starting off the week running several errands, finishing this blog and "getting organized." Then last night after a long day of Sunday meetings and activities, plus an extra unexpected meeting after church, we received a text from one of our young Marines asking if we could pick her up from the Wilmington airport Monday morning and bring her back to base.  We left at 8:30, picked her up at 10:30 and returned to the apartment about 12:30.  Just in time to get ingredients to fix a dinner to take in to a new mother.  

Last week, Bob and Elder Abney were called to give four blessings.  This little boy was running a high fever for several days and was quite miserable.  The Navy doctor said it was just a virus, but he kept getting worse.  After the blessing, she took him back, saw a different doctor, and found out he had a double ear infection.  He is back to his usual rambunctious self.  Then right after they gave this blessing, a young couple called from the Greenville Hospital (about an hour and a half away) and asked for a blessing for their little girl (3 weeks old) who was having seizures.  The mother was from the Greenville area which is why they went there rather than here in Jacksonville.  The call for the third blessing came after we were already in bed and ready to turn out the lights.  This call was from a Marine way out in the country who was in a lot of pain and wanted a blessing of comfort.  Then Wednesday when we were at the Family History Center,  one of the ward members came and asked for a blessing as she was having a hard time shaking a bad chest cold even with antibiotics.  Bob is always honored to use his priesthood to bless others and he has had many opportunities to do so on our mission.

Then there are happy surprises, like last week we had 21 at Family Home Evening at Johnson (usually have 2or 3 on a good night.). The Young Single Adult group from the ward had arranged to come out and meet with the LDS Marines on base.  They did the whole thing -- lesson, treats, conducting.  The Chaplain's assistant told us Sunday that when she told the Chaplain how many had attended Monday night he didn't believe her (we always leave a slip with how many were in attendance so they can count this in their report).  She assured him that it was true -- she could tell from the amount of trash in the garbage can and that we were very careful to be accurate.  He laughed and said, "What did they do, bus them in?"  Which was pretty much what we did, only we brought them in cars rather than by bus.  We did have 5 of our own from Johnson which is pretty good for us.  We have a good group in training right now and so our numbers are up.  Three are cute women Marines and they reach out and invite their friends.  Funny how that has increased our count.

Going to Columbia, Medellin

Another happy surprise has been that two of the Marines we worked with at Camp Johnson have received mission calls.  They enlisted as reservists and the Marine Corps grants a two year deferment for missionaries, so when they went home they sent in their mission papers.  One is going to India, Bangladore and the other to Columbia, Medellin.

It sometimes seems as if the military does everything possible to make it difficult for Marines in training to attend any type of religious service on a consistent basis.  However, a couple of weeks ago, a sergeant brought one of the Mormon Marines under his command out to Johnson from Main Side (about a 20-30 minute drive) and stayed through Family Home Evening to take him back.  He said he knew how hard it was to attend church when he was new to the Marine Corps (he is Baptist) and he wanted to help someone who had a desire to stay active in his church.  He even volunteered to drop him off at the ward on Sundays as he drove to his own church, but we have been able to arrange rides.  What an unexpected blessing from a rough, tough sergeant.

Another wonderful surprise was discovering the Nelson family, whom we had known in Salt Lake on our Inner City Mission, were living in Jacksonville and were in our ward.  In fact, Erlene is our Relief Society President.  Her oldest daughter just graduated high school and will be attending BYU on a full ride scholarship.  It really is a small world.

We love working with the great missionaries here in Jacksonville.  They keep us amazed (and entertained).