Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Joshua's email - 11/27

This week has been great!  I've definitely seen a lot of miracles from the Lord, and I know that those, along with trials, have helped me grow and learn how to be a better missionary, and how to be more Christlike.  Last week was kind of tough.  Elder G and I have been working really hard and getting along great.  We had Thanksgiving at a member's house with their family.  Some of their family isn't LDS, so Elder G. and I talked to them pretty much all of dinner, and answered lots of questions that they had.  The dinner was great, and we both felt great afterwards, thinking over how much we were able to share with the non-members.  We have a motto, "If you're not hurting, keep eating," and that motto has definitely given us some ups and downs, especially over Thanksgiving.  Haha. I hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving as well.

We worked really hard over the weekend, and we definitely had some trials to overcome, but we definitely saw the blessings that came from those trials as well.  Friday, we had very little success with finding people to teach, and we were both kind of discouraged.  We decided to go tract an apartment building before dinner.  All of the people rejected us.  We had time for one more door before dinner, so I knocked that last one.  A HUGE kid in his younger 20's came out.  He had an enormous dip in his mouth and piercings in his ears, so right off the bat, I had a feeling that said "He's not going to listen."  I shared a little bit of our message with him, and his response took us off-guard.  He told us to come in, and, surprised, we had to tell him we only had a couple minutes before we had to leave.  We gave him a Book of Mormon and set up an appointment for the next morning, and left. The next day, we went back to his apartment.  He wasn't there, but his roommate was.  He told us to call M and come back later.  Later in the day, M called us back and asked us to come over.  We went over at 4pm and taught M and B the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They told us that this is something that they have been talking about and thinking about for a long time.  M told us that when we came to the door, it was literally an answer to his prayers.  He's had a lot of hard things happen in his life, and he's completely ready to change and come closer to God.  After 30 minutes of knowing the two, we invited them to read the Book of Mormon, come to church the next day, and I got the opportunity to invite them both to be baptized.  They both accepted.  They have a baptismal date set for December 15.  We now have 3 baptismal dates set, and about 7 others that we are working really closely with.

Anyway, the next day at church, we were pretty excited.  We were supposed to have B, S, T and her kids, and M and B all at church.  Br was supposed to come with [a less active member], but for whatever reason, they didn't show up.  B is still serious about learning more about the church though, so we'll keep working with her.  T's family wasn't able to make it, but they're still trying.  Sarah made it, and she already has fellowshippers at church, which is good.  B and M came with one of the most solid guys in our Elders quorum.  His name's Brother A.  He's ridiculously nice, and he's knows everything there is to know about the gospel.  So they came with him, and then they sat by us in our church meetings.  M could NOT stay awake.  We wondered why he couldn't even stay awake when he sounded so sincere about everything we had talked to him about.  He literally couldn't even stay awake for 2 minutes.  He even snored through a lot of Elders quorum.  We found out that he hadn't even gone to bed the night before.  From the time that we left, until just before church, he had read over 200 pages of the Book of Mormon.  He understands what they were talking about, and he was able to tell us things about the Book of Mormon that even we didn't know.  We haven't taught him the Restoration of the gospel yet, so I don't think he understands completely why the Book of Mormon is so important, but he obviously has a great desire to learn more.  We're definitely going to be working hard with M and B.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a really short message on gratitude.  In Alma 26, it talks about how Ammon and his brothers are just finishing their journeys from their 14-year mission.  They had been rejected by many, and even persecuted and tortured, but they continued to work diligently to push the Lord's work forward.  Because of their diligence, they were able to convert thousands of the Lamanites.  And throughout all of these times, good or bad, they always remembered how God had helped them.  They knew that without God, those things wouldn't have been possible.  I can't remember which verses exactly, but I believe in verse 8, Ammon praises Heavenly Father as he recognizes the blessings that He had poured over them.  His brothers initially believe him to be boasting of his own efforts, but he continues on and says that he knows that God made all those things possible.  He talks about how he will praise God forever.  That really hit me hard, especially with it being Thanksgiving last week, and Christmas coming up.  Remember who gives you blessings, and strive to see those blessings in your lives.  I want to invite whoever is reading this to dedicate at least one prayer each day to only thanking God for the things that you've been blessed with in your life.  As you do that, you'll feel a greater love for the Savior and Heavenly Father, the same love They have for you.  Heavenly Father truly does bless us, especially as we keep His commandments, and sometimes it's only a matter of recognizing those things.  He blesses us, so don't forget to thank Him.

Elder Whicker

PS - Thank you KS for giving me the awesome Thanksgiving package!  It seriously made my day!  The cupcakes were seriously DELICIOUS!!!!! And the blueberry hand sanitizer is RIDICULOUS!  THANKS!

Monday, November 26, 2012


I'm trying not to panic. Our adoption agency just called to tell us they are discontinuing their China program once their Hague accreditation expires on January 22nd. They are "merging" with another adoption agency and will continue to do charitable work in China, while our file is transferred to the new agency. They're assuring us everything will go smoothly, but nothing with this agency has gone smoothly. If they hadn't delayed our dossier submission in the first place, we'd be in China and back before any of this takes effect. They're going to ask for our travel approval to be expedited, so *potentially* this could be a good thing.  I just can't help being a bit scared.  Besides just wanting Thalia home yesterday, if we aren't done by April, our homestudy and fingerprints will have to be redone, and this will cause more delays and huge expense, not to mention the hassle of trying to get Joshua fingerprinted in Wisconsin.  Ugh.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekly menu

Last week, I didn't bother to post a menu because it seemed pointless with Thanksgiving coming up.  To be honest, we ate pretty junky stuff because I was putting so much effort into getting ready for Thanksgiving that we didn't have time for much else.  We ate out one night and had stuff like Boca chick'n patties and nachos on the other nights.

Since there was no Bountiful Baskets on Saturday due to the holiday, we're really lacking for produce this week.  I do have quite a bit of fruit left, but virtually no fresh veggies.  In spite of that, I've vowed that I will make do and not go grocery shopping this week, other than to buy TP and fabric softener, which we are nearly out of.  Thankfully I have some frozen veggies from previous weeks which I'll be using in our dinners, but there isn't much of the veggie variety for our lunches.  We'll live.  ;o)

BBQ "pork" sandwiches (slow cooker)
Spinach and mushroom pasta - I have no recipe for this, but I plan to sauté some mushrooms, frozen spinach and garlic, add it to prepared pasta, top with Daiya Havarti-style jalapeño-garlic cheese (the BEST vegan cheese ever!) and bake it.
6-layer tostadas - tostada shells topped with refried beans, Yves soy crumbles made with taco seasoning, lettuce, tomato, Spanish rice, guacamole, cheese, etc.  I guess the number of layers will vary.  ;o)
Potato bar - baked potatoes topped with chili, broccoli, French-fried onions, tomatoes, cheese, etc.
Barley bean burritos (This is an old recipe of mine, and the only thing we do differently is use veggie broth instead of chicken, and use vegan cheese)

Friday is our date night and I don't know what we're fixing for the kids yet.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I-800 approval received!

Today we received our I-800 approval!  That means our letter from the National Visa Center should be here in a week or two, and then we'll be waiting on our Article 5, and then our Travel Approval.  The typical timeframe from this point is 7-13 weeks until travel.  Yippee!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

This Thanksgiving was one of the most fun I've ever had.  We held it at our house, and along with my parents and local sister's family, my sister Brooke and her family also came to visit.  The sister missionaries and another from our family came, too, so we had a full house!  I think part of the reason that it was more fun this year is because I got an earlier start on cooking, cleaning and otherwise preparing, plus Curtis and the kids did a great job of helping.  I was also really happy about how the dining room turned out.  Even though it's STILL not finished, I decided to do everything in there that I could by myself and get it looking the best it could.  I FINALLY sewed my curtain panels, and that took me nearly a day.  We hung up our stained glass windows, artwork, decorative plates and a mirror (all of which we've had, minus the plates, for years as we've been waiting to have our kitchen and dining room done), and I also kicked my butt into gear and made myself finally get the dining room table stained and finished.  My Dad and I built it about 18 months ago, but it had sat unfinished in our dining room all this time.  I sanded it down, "smoked it," using Rubio smoke treatment, and then sealed it with some Rubio Monocoat clear oil.  I love how it turned out.

Speaking of tables, we had THREE set up for Thanksgiving.  In addition to the dining room, we had one in the kitchen for the little kids, and one in the center hall for the 10-17 year old set.  I wish one of my finished projects could have been the hall walls, which were stripped of their wallpaper 3 years ago and have sat waiting for doorways to be moved and new trim to be installed, but that didn't get done.  I got a bid to have it done - a mere $3000.  Waaaahhhh.

We ended up putting all the food on the island and letting people serve themselves and their small children, and this helped make things easier too.  The food was delicious, the company was great, and it was just an all-around good day.  I missed having Joshua and Teffy there, and that was hard, but it felt good to be surrounded by so many loved ones.

The dining room, with my beautiful but too-short table cloth.  It's hard to cover a 10 foot table!

My well-mannered children  ;o)

Again with the manners...

And again...

And again!  

The kid table.  Adding to the general confusion was that my two blonde nieces (different families) ended up wearing the same shirt!

Even Buddy came to visit from Colorado

Add caption

My mom will be mortified if she sees this picture, but it was the only one I got with her face showing!  Sorry I caught you with your eyes closed, Mom! 

And then to cause further embarrassment, I caught Jaime with a mouthful of food.  She still loves me.  :o)

And my beloved, with his gingham shirt playing tricks on my camera.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Joshua's email 11/19

How's it going everyone?  This week has been pretty great!  Elder G and I were realllllllllly busy!  Last Monday we had a "prime proselyting day," and so we had P-Day on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, we had to clean our apartment because Elder and Sister S were coming to inspect our apartment.  We're pretty lucky because the members here are really nice and always give us lots of food.  So our fridge is STOCKED.  But we had been noticing that our apartment really smells bad, and so we decided we should wash the sink full of dishes and clean the bathroom, kitchen and fridge.  We finally realized why our apartment smells so bad!  The fridge is full of food from missionaries who have lived here previously, even as long as a year ago.  We've had half a watermelon in the back of our fridge for about a month now, so I told Elder G. that we should probably take it out.  He tried pulling it out, and his fingers went right through the watermelon..........  We had to use a couple spatulas to get it out, because it was SO moldy and squishy, and we had never even realized it!  It took a while, because the watermelon collapsed and the juice poured all over the bottom shelf of the fridge.  It took us a while to take it out and put it into our garbage.  We also found a package of meat from about 6 months ago that was green and blue.  And a package of apples that looked like raisins.  So we threw away all of the old food, among other things that we found, and the foul odor was gone!

Later that day, we had a District Training Meeting and afterwards, Elder G. and I had some return appointments with some potential investigators.  Those went well, and while we were there, we helped another couple move some things into their apartment, so we now have another potential investigator.  We're definitely staying busy with all of our potential investigators, and we've got a few that seem promising.

On Thursday, we had New Missionary Training for missionaries 1-6 weeks. Elder G. and I had to prepare to give a teaching on a fundamental taught in Preach My Gospel.  Our teaching lasted 40 minutes.  I was NOT looking forward to having to stand in front of 30 of the "best" missionaries (according to the APs) in Wisconsin, the APs, and President and Sister Jones.  Elder G. and I practiced and prepared a lot a few days before we had to go to the meeting, so we were feeling okay about it.  We were the only trainer/new missionary companionship that had to teach that day, at the very end of the 6 hour meeting.  We got up and I was a little nervous, but I was feeling okay.  Elder G. is usually extremely calm when we teach, and usually I'm the one that occasionally gets nervous, but in his words, he "blanked out."  I remained calm and taught really well in front of everyone and everything went smoothly, except that Elder G. just seemed like he was in another world, haha.  I didn't realize what he was doing, so I just continued to teach the way we practiced, and as directed by the Holy Ghost.  Everything went well and I was glad to be done with it, but I was really surprised to hear from Elder G. that he blanked out because he was so nervous, haha!  We were really glad to be able to see our friends, and my MTC district.  Elder K finally got here, and he's doing really well.  He got a companion named Elder M, who is HILARIOUS.  Imagine Jacob Y.  He's a lot like him, but possibly even crazier, hahaha!

Friday was scary.  Elder G. either passed out or had a seizure, I'm not sure what happened to him.  We were studying in the morning, and he got up from his chair and walked across the room and fell into the corner.  He didn't just fall, but he DROPPED.  I turned and looked at him, and his face was looking right at me, but he started shaking for a couple seconds.  I yelled, ELDER G!  and he stopped shaking, and looked at me, and he was like, "what am I doing on the floor?"  He didn't even realize that he had gotten up and that he had fallen.  It was really scary, but he says that it happens to him sometimes when he gets lightheaded.  Later that day, he had fallen asleep in his chair while we were weekly planning and I was making phone calls.  He was asleep for literally 20 seconds, and when he woke up, he yelled, "WHY IS IT SO QUIET IN HERE!".........  I just looked at him confused.  He asked how long he was asleep because he had thought he was asleep for five hours.  I think my companion is mentally unstable.  Haha, I think he's okay now, but there was definitely "some sketch goin' on."

Saturday we had exchanges.  I was with Elder W from Beaver Dam.  He's from Virginia.  He likes nascar and rodeo.... haha.  We had a great time and we worked really hard and got a TON of work done.  Elder G. was glad to come back to Sun Prairie and see all the work we were able to do.  We invited T and her family to come to church, and they ended up coming.  T's 11-year old son started reading the Book of Mormon.  He's in 1 Nephi 3, so I talked with their family about how we can all relate to the things that Nephi and Lehi taught.  We can all relate to their stories as they talk about the problems their family had and how they overcame those problems and how Nephi would strive to always keep the commandments of God.  Heavenly Father asks us to do hard things sometimes, but He won't ask us to do something that we have no way of accomplishing.  He always blesses us for doing His will, and we grow from those challenges.  Our muscles get stronger from doing hard work, they won't grow if we let them relax all the time or do the same thing every day.  The same goes for our faith in Christ.  It can only grow if we exercise it and act on our faith.  If we put it in a sling, it's gonna be weak and wimpy.  Don't be a pansy!  Be strong and God will help you if you seek His help.

Sunday was really good.  We had talks and "Thanktimonies" in sacrament meeting about gratitude, and being thankful for the things Heavenly Father has given us.  I decided to make it my goal to say a prayer thanking Heavenly Father for everything I've been given at least once a day.  In Elders quorum, we talked about Christlike attributes, charity, love, and kindness.  The guy who taught the lesson made it really relate to all of us, and it was probably the best lesson I've heard in church for a long time.  I feel like I'm getting better at loving the people that we come in contact with as missionaries, just as our Heavenly Father loves us.  I'm working hard at loving all of God's children, because we're all brothers and sisters. I love my family and I know I'm blessed to have them.  I working hard to have that same love that Heavenly Father has for us! And I invite you to do the same.

Elder Whicker

Saturday, November 10, 2012

weekly menu

Here are the recipes for the week:

Pumpkin-kale lasagna (sorry to be lazy, but I don't want to type it all out!  It's from this month's issue of Veg News, and I'm leaving the parsnips out because I don't have any and didn't want to use the carrots I had planned for soup.  I'm also subbing chard for the kale.)

Chickpea noodle soup - just use your favorite chicken noodle soup recipe and sup veggie broth for the chicken broth and chickpeas for the chicken.  Mine will have homemade noodles, carrots, onion, celery, and whatever spices I want to throw in.

Stroganoff - I'm using eggless ribbon noodles (not gluten free) and I may add some seitan.  We'll see.  :o)

Potato bar - we do this a lot!  We just bake some potatoes and put out a bunch of toppings like Amy's chili, broccoli, cheese, sour cream, Bac-os, french fried onions, etc.

Quesadillas - I plan to roast some peppers, corn and onions in the oven and then sandwich them between whole wheat tortillas with a little Daiya cheese and vegan queso.  The soup will be -gasp- from a can.  :o)

And here's what we got today in our Bountiful Baskets:

honeydew melon

green leaf lettuce
romaine lettuce
sweet potatoes

And here's what I either bought or had left over from last week.  We made a trip to Costco last week, so I couldn't resist all the gorgeous berries and red bell peppers!

sugar snap peas
butternut squash
carnival squash
acorn squash
spaghetti squash
vinegar cucumbers
red peppers

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Joshua's email - 11/5

Hello everyone!

This week has been awesome!  It's starting to get really cold, which is unfortunate, but we're still staying really busy.  Our mission president allows us to have an hour of exercise time a day since we have less daylight through the winter, which is awesome.  Elder G always tells me, "Before transfers, I just kept praying that I would have a companion that would want to exercise with me and push me to do more."  Well he definitely got the right companion for that job then.  We run at least a mile every morning before Elder G. does core and I do other stuff.  Our apartment is awesome because we have a bench and a barbell and weights.  We also have two sets of dumbbells and my resistance bands and a speed jump rope.  So we definitely get our exercise.  I'm getting physically stronger every day as well as spiritually stronger.  Somehow, I manage to lose weight even though I eat a TON every day.  Elder G. eats less than me and he gains weight.  Last week, we didn't have a dinner for 3 nights, so two of those nights, we both ate an entire frozen pizza each.  You could probably guess that we will never want to eat pizza again.  The very next night, we both went to a diner called Country Cafe, and we both ate double cheeseburgers, fries, chilli, and milkshakes.  We both felt miserable afterwards, hahaha!  And somehow I still can't gain weight............ It makes me laugh because I was always really worried that I was going to gain so much weight on my mission, that the damage would be unrepairable.

We hung out at the [C's house] again last week for Halloween.  Wisconsin has a law that you can only trick-or-treat between the hours of 4-7pm, and it was bright outside until about 5:45, so that was pretty weird.  The Cs feed us a TON every time we eat there, and our routine has been to check our weights before and after we eat (they have a scale right next to their dinner table, haha) so that we can see how much weight we've gained! They seriously feed each of us enough for an entire family......

We also had a District Training Meeting last week, so that was pretty fun.  There are two other sets of elders in our district.  I'm the youngest one by far.  We have an elder who has been out for 14 months, and I've been out for 1.  The time goes by super fast here, but at the same time, it feels like I'm walking down a million-mile path, and I've only walked a very small fraction of it, physically and spiritually.  My testimony has grown a lot so far.  More than I could have ever imagined, so I can't even imagine how much stronger it can get throughout these next 23 months!

One thing that I have noticed so far, is that I'm starting to really care and love the people here.  At first, I had a hard time with that.  I'm starting to find the desire to build their faith and bring them closer to Christ through helping them to receive His restored gospel and by being baptized.  I'm still trying to learn all of the ward members names, but some of the families that I've met are some of my favorite people already.  The same goes for some of our investigators, less-actives and part-member families.  For example T's family.  I can't remember if I talked about them before, but they're a Hmong family that lives here in Sun Prairie, WI.  T is married to N, and N is a recent convert.  T has two sisters, Y and S.  T has two kids, E (4), and S (3).  They're SO funny! I love teaching them and seeing their loving family and really how blessed we are that God has given us families.  I hope that they can make the decision to be baptized soon.

We've run into a few new potential investigators in the last two weeks.  One is an old lady named M.  We haven't been able to have a lesson with her yet, but we've visited her a few times, and have even given her a blessing because she was really sick and has a hernia.  She promised us that she'll read the Book of Mormon and she's really really willing to hear our message, which is awesome.  I know good things will come from us knocking on her door.  We also ran into a lady with a lots of kids.  I remember when we knocked on her door, Elder G introduced ourselves.  Normally we refer to how the gospel of Jesus Christ - the same one that He established - has been put back on the earth today in its fulness through a prophet, Joseph Smith.  This time, you could tell that the Spirit changed the words that Elder G spoke, right at that very instant.  As he spoke, he put more emphasis on how God blesses us with families that can be eternal, and you could seriously tell that the Spirit pierced through her when he said that.  So now we're going to be meeting with her pretty soon, and hopefully good things will come with that experience as well.  We are still meeting with K, who still has a baptism on December 1st.  We're trying to get his wife involved.  She's very willing to hear our message, but is very busy with work (K doesn't work because he had his hips replaced, so we speak to him often).  We're also meeting with the J family.  T is the mom, and she has four kids that live at home.  We brought a family from the ward, the Gs, to help us teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to T and her kids.  She has a strong testimony of the bible and has a lot of faith, and we're trying to build her testimony in the Book of Mormon as well.  She has accepted our invitation to be baptized, but she is praying to know if Dec 1st is the right date.  Her 18 year old son, H (he's huge! 6' 7")  is interested in our message too, so we're hoping we can get the whole family involved.  Elder G. says that he often wonders why we're so blessed to have so many investigators with lots of potential.  I'm hoping that they can accept the gospel and see how it can bless their lives as it has ours.

Anyway, that's pretty much all I have for this past week! We read Ether 4:15 yesterday and talked a lot about it in church, and it has inspired me to strive to have a humbled heart.  Read it, live it, love it!

Please write me!

Love, Elder Whicker!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

weekly menu

Here's our exciting menu for the week.  :o)  I'm proud of myself because it uses almost everything we got in our baskets, minus spaghetti squash, and a few acorn squash, plus it uses up a few things I had left over from last week.  I didn't plan anything for Friday because I'm not sure what our plans will be that night, but I'll figure that out later.  :o)

Here are the recipes!

Black bean quinoa - I'm adding tomatoes, zucchini and avocado
Candied acorn squash (I usually don't do sugary squash recipes because I think it's sweet enough, but everyone raves about this recipe, so I thought I would give it a try)
Fettucine alfredo sauce - this is my own recipe, and it's yummy!!!
Butternut squash fries (The black bean burgers are not, alas, my husband's beloved zombie burgers, but instead some packaged ones from Light Life that I wanted to try.)

The sesame broccoli "beef" thing is something I'm throwing together from Gardein beefless tips, broccoli, boy choy, and some sesame-ginger sauce.

And this is our veganized Panera cream cheese potato soup recipe.  If I have any leftover broccoli and/or cauliflower, I will add that too.  We top it with a little Daiya cheddar, green onions and Bacos.  I'll be making breadsticks from scratch, but I'm not sure yet which recipe I'll use.


serves 4-6

4 cups veggie broth
4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
1/4 cup minced onions
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into chunks (I use Follow Your Heart, but
Tofutti is also good)

Combine broth, potatoes, onion, and spices.
Boil on medium heat until potatoes are tender.
Smash a few of the potatoes to release their starch for thickening.
Reduce to low heat.
Add cream cheese.
Heat, stirring frequently, until cheese melts.