Week 31. Counting sheep in German

From April 21:

eins…zwei…drei...

eins…zwei…drei…

What do you do when you can’t fall asleep at night? 

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You count sheep… or you count to 100 in German with your mission companion from Bamberg, Germany.
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So that answers a question that my mom has posed to me:  Yes, Sister Arnold and I do speak German together sometimes. I love it!  I’m way rusty and my vocabulary is very limited, but I can carry on a basic conversation and she appreciates that I try. I am loving the practice. 🙂
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Sister Arnold, Sister Hansen

Sister Arnold, Sister Hansen

Another transfer has rolled around and there are a lot of changes! But not with us. We will stay together for at least another 6 weeks and we will stay in Bloomington, with all 14 wards! Woohoo!   Yes, there are myself and my companion in the Bloomington Stake. We are the only full-time missionaries in our entire stake. No one else tracts, teaches, has dinner, coordinates, speaks in church, or anything else there. Just us. :_)
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Notes for the talk in Bloomington 3rd Ward

Notes for the talk in Bloomington 3rd Ward

Sister Arnold and I spoke last Sunday in one of our wards. We had no assigned topics so we decided to use General Conference talks.

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Some of you know my tendency to write down every  single thing, especially when I give a talk or a speech, so I thought you would appreciate the visual representation of my growth in this matter. Behold my notes –the only thing that I brought up to the podium with me to speak, aside from copies of the conference talks from which I quoted. I’m feeling proud of myself, if I may say so. 🙂

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Anyway, I wanted to share a few highlights from what I spoke on.  I decided to focus a little bit on President Thomas S. Monson’s address on the centrality and importance of love as the essence of the gospel. Along with that, I incorporated the sentiments expressed by Bishop Stevenson about the relatively short amount of time that we spend in this life after eons of training in our pre-mortal existence. But I began with a riddle that our Visitors’ Center director once posed to us in a training meeting. I love it and it’s the kind of nerdy, bible-dictionary-lover’s riddle that is right up my alley:
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What would you think if someone told you: “I love you with all my kidneys.”? (I got a good laugh out of that one :D)
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I went on to explain that the director had asked us that question and then directed us to the Bible Dictionary in order to find the answer. If you look under the entry for “reins,” the answer becomes clear! “Reins,” is another term used for “kidneys” in the old testament. The entry reads:
“The kidneys, but always used figuratively to signify the center of feeling, awareness, such as joy or pain, much as current English uses heart.”
So, saying “I love you with all my kidneys suggests that the love is deeply set and at the center of feeling. VERY COOL (says the Bible Dictionary nerd.) When our director asked us if anyone reads the Bible Dictionary for fun, I was the only one that raised my hand. But it’s ok. I’m secure in this. 🙂 STUDY THE BIBLE DICTIONARY. ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT.
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Anyway, I then related the kidneys to being not only the center of feeling, but the center of our motivation. What motivates us and the way we think, feel, act, treat ourselves, and treat others?
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I then spoke of how the Savior has asked us to express our love for Him by keeping His commandments. That he wants that to be the motivating factor that we give a place to in our “kidneys.” That can seem kind of daunting when you consider all the many commandments that we have been given. But I am not and you are not the only ones to have thought this! President Monson related the New Testament account of an occasion on which the Savior was asked,  “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”.

Matthew records that Jesus responded:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Mark concludes the account with the Savior’s statement: “There is none other commandment greater than these.”

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So, instead of being overwhelmed by 20 some commandments (or more), we can take heart in knowing that there are 2 commandments that can, if kept, help all the rest to just fall into place and be much, much easier.
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He went on to say this:”We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do notlove God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”
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At a time in my mission when I was neglecting taking care of myself in order to feel like I was taking care of others (and consequently, not really taking care of anyone and just becoming discouraged, tired, selfish, and weary), a sister that I served with at the Visitors’ Center shared this scripture with me. But she helped me see it in another light. She quoted, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” and pointed out that the sentence structure is on purpose! We love our neighbors, AS ourselves, suggesting that we must love our neighbors, but we must first love ourselves. When we love ourselves and feel confident in who we are, but not PRIDEFUL, we can more easily turn out. So, basically, our Savior has asked us to love God, to love others, and to love ourselves.
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But how? It is sometimes so easy to be selfish (and that is NOT love), down on ourselves, etc. I suggested that all this should be connected to a popular missionary phrase: “Picture them in white.” Alllow me to explain what that means. That phrase, at least to me, basically means: picture everyone in heaven, in the temple, purely, and as the child of God that they are. Don’t look at all the worldly fluff and don’t let your own ego or misconceptions get in the way. Love them. See the child of God in them. See what God sees. Picture YOURSELF in white. Love them. Love yourself. That should motivate us. That love should motivate all things. And that will allow us to more easily keep the Savior’s commandments.
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I then related all of that to the thoughts of Bishop Stevenson in his most recent conference address. He equated life to the 4 minutes that a bobsledder spends in a race. After months and years of training, their efforts culminate in 4 short minutes where their performance must be stellar and the outcome could change everything. That’s life. We have been prepared for this. We are in our 4 minute run, and we have to do our best. I told the congregation that I had never been in a bobsled, and probably would never be. But I had been in a marching band.
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I had spent months and months training and preparing and working hard. And all of it culminated in a 9 minute performance at a marching band competition. And we would have to “leave it all on the field” as my band director would say. But that was the best part. That we had worked, and worked, and then given it our all. And that’s life! And along the way… we have to remember to “picture everyone in white.” Including OURSELVES. Bishop Stevenson told this beautiful story about how one Olympian learned and employed this lesson. He said,
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“As a skier and a snowboarder myself, I was deeply impressed with the“four-minute” silver medal-winning performance of Australian LDS athlete and snowboarder Torah Bright in the half-pipe competition. She dazzled the world as she finished a virtually flawless run culminating in a backside rodeo 720. However, even more impressive and surprising to the world was the way she reached out and demonstrated Christlike love to her competitors. She noticed that American snowboarder Kelly Clark, who had a bad first run in her final round, appeared to be nervous about her second run. “She gave me a hug,” Clark recalls. “She just held me until I actually calmed down enough and I slowed my breathing. It was good to have a hug from a friend.” Kelly Clark would later join Torah on the winners’ podium as a bronze medalist..When asked about this unusual act of kindness toward her opponent,which could have put her own silver medal at risk, Torah simply said, “I am a competitor—I want to do my best—but I want my fellow competitors to do their best, too.”.Now, we aren’t competing against each other in this life. We are running together, fighting against the adversary and the people and things that wish to make us doubt our divine identity as children of God. Don’t let them win! Don’t do it! Love yourself. Remember who you are. Love others. Remember who they are.
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Torah Bright, Sochi Olympic Silver Medal Winner

Torah Bright, Sochi Olympic Silver Medal Winner

I loved learning this as I spoke to the members of that ward that day. What is in our kidneys, my dear friends? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the essence of which is love, burning brightly in our kidneys, motivating us, and residing at our center of feeling? It should be. It will bless our lives. We will love ourselves more, love others more, and will love our God more. And actually, we can start with loving God more and the others will fall into place.
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I love you all. I do. I truly do. I am blessed to know you. Thank you for teaching me, and for loving me. I picture you all in white. You are truly loved children of a loving Heavenly Father and I don’t want you to doubt it for a second. Picture yourselves, your families, your friends, your classmates, your coworkers, your ward family, your neighbors… in white. Love them. Love you.
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I love you more than words can say.
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Much love and rice and beans,
Sister Hansen
…and in the Small World Department:
With Clarissa Hellman, from our former Pennsylvania York Stake.

With Clarissa Hellman, from our former Pennsylvania York Stake.

With Haymond family friend, Marti Packham Clawson.

With Salt Lake Yale Ward family friend, Marti Packham Clawson.

With Zone Leader, Elder Jensen, from our former Illinois Nauvoo Stake.

With Zone Leader, Elder Jensen, from our former Illinois Nauvoo Stake.

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