Sunday, January 1, 2012

           Last week this is where the sun was at noon day only about two degrees above the horizon and needless to say not much heat from the sun.
                                    Sister Lolita Gridley--she loves missionaries and was born and raised in                                   Alaska and makes the "kuspuk" style aprons as modeled above.
                                 Some of the young single adults at the Verhagens' home for a party. The Verhagens' came to Alaska in the 70's to work for one year and ended up staying and raising their family in the small villages. They are a great and strong LDS family.
                      One side of a battle of nerf bullets blown through pvc tubes at the Verhagen home.
                                A grizzly bear display at the Museum of the North on UAF campus.
                                        Line dancing any one?  Happy New Year's Eve party.
                   Our little Christmas tree.  (That's not a ufo--just a reflection of a light in the window.) The suburban's little resting spot beyond our apartment. The car actually gets cleaner as the winter progresses because the snow is so clean since everything is permanently frozen. No dirty roads in the winter here.

How blessed we are to be able to contact our family on Christmas Day and later at the family party through the miracles of cell phones and computers.  It was especially fun for us to meet Shellie, my brother Jack's wife.  We look forward to meeting her in person later this year.  We are so grateful for all of our family and extended families.  We pray for continued health and strength for Mom and Dad.  It was fun to be able to "see" them on the computer for a few minutes and talk to them.

Although the institute was closed for Christmas, we were able to keep busy.  It was nice to have some quiet time to relax and get refreshed.  We have met several new people at the Branch and have invited them to attend institute classes when then start up again.  In the mean time, I have been working hard on the library and Jim has been studying for upcoming classes.  It's been so fun to see our friends that have come home for the holidays.

Every day it gets a little lighter during the day if it's not cloudy.  Today we had exactly 4 hours of sunlight!  I will admit, it's hard to get used to the darkness.  However, the cheerful faces of our friends here add sunshine to our souls.  One of those kind people is Sister Gridley.  When we were at her home for dinner a couple of weeks ago, I saw some "kuspuks" or summer Eskimo dresses that she makes to sell.  She offered to let me copy some of her patterns.  She also makes "kuspuk" style aprons.  I asked her if  I could have a copy of that pattern and she gave me an apron already made!   Feeding the missionaries every other week is one of her great joys.

Friday we drove to Nenana to share some time with the Verhagens before the start for Juneau for the legislative session again.  The boys invited us to their party and we took Randi and Karlie Ellingson and Joslyn Feddern with us.  The kids had a great time playing games and having a war of nerf blow darts while we enjoyed talking to Paul and Merrily (the parents) and learning more about them.  Paul told us that the natives play a lot of mind games during the winter hours to keep their minds sharp.  We will miss the boys while they are in Juneau, but Elder and Sister Schindler are anxious to add them to their classes.

Saturday we decided to brave the cold and go to the fireworks on campus.  The museum opens for one hour before the fireworks with no admission fee.  There were a lot of families with small children there enjoying the displays and staying warm for a while.  It was -27 degrees outside for the fireworks.  I was quite warm with my real Alaska mittens and my warm coat, but with a dress on, my legs got a bit cold!  It was a delightful display of fireworks that lasted about 15 minutes.  I don't think we could have handled much more.  Afterwards, we went to the Institute for the Branch New Year's Eve dance and party.  They were having a good time and we only stayed about an hour.  We were home when the new year arrived.  Today because of the cold temperatures, we only had Sacrament Meeting.  The theme of the meeting was repentance, or making resolutions to live better lives which repentance is all about.  How blessed we are to know that Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to return to live with Him and our Father in Heaven if we will repent and keep His commandments.  Those commandments are to help us become more like Him.

I was very impressed with an article in the Ensign, Dec. 2011, titled "Take a Gratitude Challenge," by John Hilton III and Anthony Sweat.  I'd like to share it with you.

"Let's not just talk about counting our blessings--let's do it!  Write a list of 100 things you are thankful for.  If that sounds like it is too many, try this:
   1.  Write 10 physical abilites you are grateful for.
   2.  Write 10 material possessions you are grateful for.
   3.  Write 10 living people you are grateful for.
   4.  Write 10 deceased people you are grateful for.
   5.  Write 10 things about nature you are grateful for.
   6.  Write 10 things about today you are grateful for.
   7.  Write 10 places on earth you are grateful for.
   8.  Write 10 modern inventions you are grateful for.
   9.  Write 10 foods you are grateful for.
  10.  Write 10 things about the gospel you are grateful for.

"When we make a list like this, we discover that a list of 100 doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all the things God has given us."

As we begin this new year, let us be more aware of the blessings of the Lord and of the kindness of those around us.  May you be blessed with a happy new year filled with gratitude and love.

JoAnn & Jim