Sunday, October 23, 2016

Leaving the field

Words for a friend who is leaving the mission.

"To die will be an awfully big adventure" -Peter Pan
There sure are a lot of references to death when someone talks about a mission. And it's an easy comparison to make, as I'll talk about a couple of examples before moving on to a happier, higher note, so hang in there.
Leaving the mission feels like dying. You don't know when or if you'll ever see these people again, and try as you might to ignore it you know that even if you do, it'll never be the same. And it won't. Unlike natural death, you know when it's going to happen, almost down to the hour. Don't let that make you paranoid. As a missionary, you know that you should never waste time but that doesn't mean that you should beat yourself up for every hour that didn't go as "perfectly" as you planned and hoped it would. Don't have unrealistic expectations for these days just because they're your last. When you look back on your mission, this week will be lost amidst the many other miracle-filled ones you've witnessed because of your continued faith and obedience. You've done well. Now comes the part of "enduring THROUGH the end." Have patience with yourself.
The death-bed speech: You can choose your attitude. You can either be an "old man filled with regret" for the things you wish you'd done better and for the opportunities lost now that your time is up, OR you can take the time to be grateful for the experiences and blessings that you've had. My last week in the field was one of the most peaceful weeks of my entire life because I knew I had served honorably and I let the Spirit remind me of it from time to time.
The charade: Try and go about as normally as possible, for your companion's sake, at least. Try as you might to avoid it, sending you home will make your companion a little trunky. Don't contribute to that more than necessary. Remember that mission life will continue without you- people will be taught and baptized, contacted, and dropped. That that is as it should be.
Remember the life you've lead: Take a nostalgic moment now and again. Remember that we are only called for 18 months. Accept that your time has come, and be at peace.
Freak-outs: If you haven't had one yet, you might have one soon. I remember as I faced the first day of the month in which I would go home, I was a wreck. I followed my companion around the streets without even the heart to contact and eventually sat down to sob at the approaching reality of my departure. If you have to cry, do it, it's ok. Normal, even. "The only way to take the sorrow out of death is to take the love out of life" and oh! How dearly have you loved these people! Your sorrow at leaving is a sign that you have developed charity- true Christ-like love. And that's a wonderful thing.
The upside:
As you pass through this veil, you get a glimpse, just a small one, of the incredible impact your time as a missionary has made. In the lives of some people, you have made ALL the difference. In mortal death, we have no lasting connection with those whom we leave. But thanks to the miracles of modern technology, YOU never have to loose the people you have come to love. I was a big Facebook user before the mission, posting pictures and "clever" statuses, but since I've returned I've used it to connect with dozens of beloved members and recent converts, even some investigators! I've had video calls and Manuela has called me every week since I left. These people are a part of your life now. No goodbye's only, "Hasta ver's."
Interview with President: It's really special. I won't give too much away but if a part in the middle of his monologue sounds familiar... that's because he borrowed it from my "Lo que el Senor me ha ensenado." See that? I'm haunting you from beyond the grave. ;) Also, it may comfort you to know that you don't actually have to turn in your emergency money. They just tell you that you do so that you aren't reckless throughout your mission. So if it's gone but you still have enough to live on for the next few days... you're fine!
There is proof of a GLORIOUS resurrection. You are going to die. You will fly home and see your family. It isn't going to be perfect, so don't expect it to be, but it is going to be so, SO good. And then.... you're back. A stronger, smarter, happier, more focused version of you. And you go on living a wonderful life, forever changed for the better by what the mission taught you. As a returned missionary, I have felt SO much JOY in sharing my experiences, taking the opportunity to bear my testimony, and hearing of the faithfulness of my recent converts.
I remember thinking that I was somehow doomed to misery when I came home. I thought I would be abandoned by the spirit simply because it would no longer be possible to completely live a missionary lifestyle. I realize now just how silly that was. I remember the answer to a fervent prayer, "How will I keep up on spiritual learning?" and hearing in my head, "duh, Institute." Missionary lessons? Visiting Teaching! Do the simple things.

My mom got me a book called "Taking off the tag" helping missionaries adjust to normal life. It's helped me a lot. The gist of it is, don't forget. Don't forget the self-mastery you've learned or where your real priorities lie. Don't forget to serve and seek out the spirit. Don't forget to be HAPPY.
I'm telling you that it's all going to be ok. That I'm so, SO very proud of you, how you've grown, and all you've accomplished. My pride pales in comparison to that of your Heavenly Father, whose work you've done so diligently.
Well done, thou good, and faithful servant.
Hope to see you soon!
If this is your last time reading/writing emails... Hurrah for Israel!
Hasta pronto, Hermana.
-Alayna Een

Monday, July 4, 2016

God bless AMERICA

This one's going to be quick, But here's a couple of things.
I spent 9 hours working at an outdoor pool and am now tanner than I ever thought possible. I'm working a lot but still try and find time to go to church activities. This last one was "humanitarian night" where my sister Eliza kicked my butt with her beautiful crocheting skills making a scarf for orphans in the Ukraine. I started making one too, but I'm pretty sure not even freezing orphans would want that ugly tangle of yarn. I need to brush up on my homemaking skills.

We were learning from Alma today in church. (I LOVE ALMA, in case you hadn't caught on to that yet) Something really cool was brought up about the famous verses at the beginning of Alma 29: 1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
 2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
The teacher brought up that when his words were immortalized in the Book of Mormon and as we carry that book to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people in the hands of lovely capable missionaries, WE are fulfilling Alma's wish. He, as an angel (because... he's dead), is speaking from the dust and declaring the truths of the gospel to all who will listen. It's like the whole missionary force was adopted into the "Make a Wish" foundation and assigned to Alma's case. Good on you, genies!

My mom went up to girls camp with my little sister this week and having her gone for a week (not being able to ask her where something was, her opinion on this or that, etc) was pretty annoying. Then I had the thought, well, I was gone for a YEAR AND A HALF. So tell your family you love them today. They're making a big sacrifice, too. When she came back her leg was in a cast- leave it to my mom to break her fibula within HOURS of coming home. Lot's of one-legged and "break your leg" jokes are going around but I promise that we are otherwise being very considerate.

I was asked on my first date as a RM. He's short and a mutual friend suggested we go on a date because he thinks we'll "get along well." And since we're both RMs and are pretty much the only people who talk and volunteer for things in Gospel Principles, he has a point. Too bad I'm still in the "super awkward" phase. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm ridiculously excited to celebrate the fourth of July here in AMERICA. Freedom and happiness are SO connected, and are the building blocks of our great nation. A sweet friend of mine said something in our testimony meeting today that I'd love to share with you.
" I wish I had the guts to fight for my country, But I don't. So I do it in God's way, by defending His church."
Onward, Christian soldiers!
With patriotism and gratitude for the country upon which the church was restored,
Hermana Alayna Een

Monday, June 27, 2016


Once you find one excuse not to go to the singles ward, suddenly there's an excuse for almost every week. (it's Father's day, my Sister/cousin is performing in church, we're out of town for a homecoming/farewell, etc.) They probably think I'm inactive. Anyway, We went to the home ward sacrament meeting and then back to the YSA Sunday school/RS. As we got in there I realized the topic was Alma 5 and couldn't wipe the grin off my face. My sister says that I love Alma more than ANYONE other than possibly his wife and Amulek, and I think there could be some truth in that. ALMA 5:26 "...If you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask CAN YOU FEEL SO NOW?" I just want to ask everyone, shout it from the rooftops, put it on a billboard, paint it on a wall, EVERYTHING. It needs to be read, said, and repeated.

I watched a "chick-flick" in theaters for the first time in forever with my sister and a couple other girls. It was a guaranteed "tear-jerker" but I left the theater with dry eyes. So I'm still heartless, and I blame my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation for my complete disregard for the supposed sadness of death. I'm part of the fearless tearless
...until someone reads a "Chicken soup for the soul" or sings a song about worth and value of a soul or bears their testimony, then I'm a gonner. The mission makes you weird(er).
I also donated blood and compared missions to a high school friend who just got back.

I've been going to the temple every week (such a blessing!) Unfortunately, I've see the sort-of unfolding of a favorite Doctor Who quote "Make all of time and space your backyard, and what've you got? A backyard." Basically, because I was used to doing it, I slipped up and forgot how special it was, started zoning out a bit... until I caught myself falling asleep and snapped out of it. I had to do something, so I started looking at it a different way, reading in between the lines and gestures interpreting old, familiar things in a new and exciting way. And after the session we had a gospel geek session in the celestial room for 15 minutes. It was the most exciting and energizing and spiritual time I've had since the first time I went through. And I learned a lot: What is old and commonplace can be new again if we look through different eyes; God knows our hearts; there is always ALWAYS more to learn of what you know.

At some point we'll all have to face it: you all are in the final steps of this wonderful journey. These miraculous and life-changing experiences have been your metaphorical "backyard" for a long time now. Don't let that make you miss SEEING them.
I had a friend over who served a mission around the same time as I did. We talked of this and that, one thing leading to another and I brought up one of my "Hermana Een Theories" about "versions of Heaven." [Basically how we all say 'it wouldn't be heaven without so-and-so' and we build up our own groups of who we would like to hang around with for eternity. Unfortunately we're not perfect so there's always someone who -whether we admit it or not- we'd rather not have in our "version of heaven." The take-away point is that there is NO ONE who doesn't fit into GOD's "version of heaven."] Well, the conversation died down and she had to go home, but a few minutes later, my brother who I thought was completely absorbed in his computer game, turned to me and said "I like your theory." I smiled and asked, "Which one?" he thought for a moment and then said, "All of them."
I know that I gained a unique perspective of a LOT of things on the mission. It really IS 10 years of experience and knowledge crammed into 18-24 months! Don't forget to share it when you can. Don't loose it. They truly are treasures. You will come home a different/better person, don't forget that appropriately sharing what you did, what you learned, and what it meant to you can CHANGE the lives of others. You are a living testimony that the gospel is true and the work is so very WORTH it.

A vencer, amigas!
I'm praying for you all, so keep up the good work!
-Hermana Alayna Een

*Facebook posts you might want to know*
A vencer, amigas!
I'm praying for you all, so keep up the good work!
-Hermana Alayna Een

Monday, June 20, 2016

Risky Behavior

Risky: Full possibility of danger, failure, or loss
Behavior: the way in which one acts or conducts oneself.
21: the age of a "real adult" in which such risky behaviors are legalized. At 21 you can drink. And you  can also (if you have 3 years of driving experience) be the "adult supervision" for a person with a driving permit. And with my brother behind the wheel, I don't know which one is more dangerous. ;)

Well, this has been a... week. I turned 21 (which I don't expect any of you to remember because you don't have Facebook to remind you, but it's worth mentioning.) My dear friend and recent convert, Manuela from Bilbao, tried on 5 separate occasions to call and wish me happy birthday, but I was never home/ didn't have my cellphone. But no one does dedication like Manuela. So at 4:48am on June 18th, I got my first birthday wishes. Bless her.

I've been working a lot more: teaching lots of kids how to swim, running out of things to do and say and feeling super awkward spending most of the day in a swimsuit. In one of my classes I raced a 9 year-old girl... and it was a close tie. (She has swum 2hrs a day her whole life and I didn't even touch a pool for a year and a half, so my pride is injured but still intact.)
Because my records were first moved to my home ward and then to a Singles ward... I had two sets of visiting teachers. And just how things turned out... they both visited me on Thursday. (Doesn't happen to everyone!) Just a heads up, your future visiting teachers will be afraid to teach you, since RMs are supposed to know everything and be on a spiritual high. Help them out! I shared with them how as a 6-month missionary, I was sent to be the Sister Training Leader on an intercambio with someone who had a year on the mission. I felt much like they did, teaching me. Don't approach it as "I'm here to teach you something." but as, "I'll lift thee, and thee lift me, and we'll ascend together."

On the funny side: I've decided to start the Book of Mormon over again, paying attention to the author- what they said and how they say it and what THAT says about THEM, what the intent is, what they thought was important and why... it sounds a bit silly but every day I find it exciting and new even though the words ("I, Nephi") are ones I've heard hundreds of times. ANYWAY, I was reading in 1Nephi 4 (Nephi kills Laban, gets the plates, finds an unlikely friend in Zoram.) Zoram is originally (understandably) a little freaked out about going with them to the Promised land but agrees within a couple verses and then off they go. But get this! In verse 36 they say, "Now we were desirous that he [Zoram] should tarry with us for this cause, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue and destroy us."
It really is a sticky situation. Zoram has to leave EVERYTHING he knows and go into the wilderness with strangers, or Nephi would have to kill him or something because he COULDN'T have gone back to the castle because then he would have been questioned and forced to tell the whereabouts of Nephi and his brothers. Playing dumb wouldn't have worked either. But ALSO...
CSI Jerusalem finds decapitated Laban in a hallway with his sword and clothes AND the brass plates missing and suddenly his servant Zoram is nowhere to be found? If Zoram had stayed in Jerusalem he would have either led the Jews to Lehi's family or been convicted for Laban's murder.
CSI Jerusalem. ;) So Zoram's addition to the group really WAS inspired and even though his decedents kind-of plague the Nephites for the rest of forever... it was part of God's plan.
Serious side:1 Nephi 10:17 has this beautiful definition, "Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him..." The Holy Ghost isn't some VIP membership benefit. ALL those who DILIGENTLY seek him... can feel his presence. You don't have to be perfect, but you should be good, and constant, and constantly good. ;) You have to ask for and invite him, but not much more than that. 'Tis a simple "gift."

 I went to Deseret Book for the first time since I went to buy mission things. My heart ached with longing looking at the missionary section- seeing the same bag I carried EVERY DAY of my mission, new and ready for sale. Tears sprung up as I soaked in the small Spanish section of the store. I felt the spirit so strongly as I looked into the eyes of the many depictions of the Savior in the art department, each sending a message to my soul. It was a bitter-sweet experience, a reminder of an ending. Two years ago today, I opened my mission call to the Spain, Barcelona mission. I couldn't begin to enumerate or explain the many ways my life has changed since that day, because every minute since then has been influenced by that simple decision to serve. In the simplest words of a Hymn, "I Stand All Amazed." And I know you will, too. I would love to be in your shoes, but I can't wait for you all to have my vantage point: to see the spiritual and overall growth in yourself and sneak just a peak at all the GOOD you've done.

Happy American Father's Day! Take care, dear friends, and give your best in the Lord's service.
... And send me a line if you have the time (at least forward your group email.)
Les quiero!
-Hermana Alayna Een.

Father's Day (With the favorite girls...)
My new favorite picture of christ with the title "Well Done." Couldn't be more fitting.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Wonderful Week and Willy

This week had a national friendship day thrown in somewhere (not international, but I love you all anyway. ;) ) and that was actually kind of the theme of my week. Work started, but they didn't give me ANY hours (to speak of) so I "disfrutared" and had a "hanging out with friends" marathon. I enjoyed catching up with my "seven year friends" the ones that have been there for so long (at least 7 years) that even when you go long times without seeing or speaking to each other, you start right where you left off. It's magical. (And since the mission is like 10 years of experience crowded into 18 months, we've got a head-start on that 7-year thing. ;) )
Someone was moving on Friday and I got all giddy and ridiculously excited to help them. We (my sister and I) were the only non-priesthood holders there besides the Relief Society President. Turns out that even in the REAL world, Hermanas don't do "service" like that. Turns out I still have that stubborn determination to defy that mindset. And in doing that service -seeking that opportunity- I felt like I did as a missionary.

I went to the Temple with a a friend.... and got us hopelessly lost. Turns out you can go to the same place every week and STILL not know how to get there.

I went out with the Sister Missionaries for the first time since I've been home (they don't ask me often and when they do it's last-minute and I'm at work). Their cita fallad (we all know how that feels) but we had a really good talk on the ride there and back (far away+driving mission). I mentally reminded myself that I was NOT their Sister Training Leader... and then continued to act like I was (asking questions, listening, giving advice, testifying with experiences...) old habits die hard.

But the clear, obvious, and winning highlight of the week was this morning. When Willy, a man that I worked with in Barcelona (after almost a full YEAR investigating) was finally ready to be baptized. And thanks to iPads, willing missionaries, and the miracle of modern technology, I was able to BE there! (Facetime) It was a sweet and tender moment, as the current sister missionaries sat in the front row of the baptismal room with the Hermanas who first contacted and taught him (Hermana Wiseman and I) on the iPads in their laps, and together we watched a dear friend take the first covenant on the path back to his Heavenly Father. This was a moment that "defied all description." In this work of harvesting, sometimes we plant good seeds. I was lucky enough to see this one in it's long growth. Every little effort counts.

I was looking at that picture of the Savior knocking at the door during Sunday School today. It's something we've all seen a million times, but this time I saw it and thought of all the times we spent in similar situations. We're out there knocking doors... and we're in good company. I also went to a fireside tonight and something the speaker said really impressed me and made me think of the importance of the work you are doing.
It was these simple questions: "If not YOU, who? If not NOW, when?" When we get shy or embarrassed and let someone pass by or if the fear of rejection stops you from pushing farther or extending a commitment, I want you to think of these two questions. Be determined, be brave, be bold. Know that you're backed by the BEST and the Spirit won't let you down.

I love you girls and hope you have a FANTASTIC week of miracles. If you aren't already forwarding me your emails, DO it, or drop me a line, I want to know how you're doing!
Alayna Een

some of the best people in Barcelona.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Week

I'll try to give an update without boring you too much. (That, and I've already re-started the habit of staying up too late. Don't do that! ;) )
-This week I re-started my old job as a lifeguard/Water Saftey Instructor. I was looking for something a LITTLE more grown up (little miss soon-to-be-legal-adult) but hey, it's easy and it pays well. It's weird to re-enter a familiar world only to realize how much YOU'VE changed... and that they haven't really.
-I taught my mom's YW kids a dry-land synchro routine for their girls camp skit (my mom owes me BIG time) and showed them the Noche de Talentos video when us missionaries did it in Barcelona for an example. Good times. It was impressive stuff!
-Went to the temple. I've tried to make a weekly trip. So far, so good! Now if we could stop cutting it so CLOSE and almost missing the sessions!
- Had a choir performance on Sunday after church for a group my mom roped us into. She basically wants to show off her talented kids (my sister and brother). Who can blame her? Anyway, it was also FAST SUNDAY and I was trying to be good so I didn't eat and... almost passed out on stage. Saved by a timely intermission. Lesson: Don't fast during performances, drink water, don't buckle your knees, and ditch the heels (even the little ones can be deadly!)
- Singles Ward stuff. You re-run into people from long ago. They're familiar so you can talk to them, but you also have NO idea what has been going on in each other's lives for the past 2ish years, so it's a bit awkward. One kid asked "Didn't someone have their mission call? When do you leave?" To which I answered "18 months ago." Turns out he mistook me for one of the other girls in the room who is leaving for Missouri in a month. I'd switch places with her in a heartbeat. (even though we all know Spain is better).
-I've gotten some friend requests from veteran missionaries. Signifying the start of a new transfer. Make it a good 6 weeks.
I remember in one of my last District meetings, we talked about how many of us knew people who said they wanted to "do the mission over again." Sure it's a great sentiment... but in what context do they wish it? Do they want to do it again because it was a wonderful experience- a time in which they were fully consecrated servants of the Lord and were able to feel the spirit and witness miracles? Or do they wish it because of regret- they realize too late that they slacked off, fell short, or missed the point?
Know that the decisions you make now determine your destiny, and decide to give it your all. The miracles you see in this transfer, this week, TODAY can be greater than any you've seen in your mission so far! If you prove to the Lord that you trust him. If you give your all, and if you let Him lead His work.
Today in Sacrament meeting a missionary stood and said "Our level of obedience reflects our level of conversion." Exact obedience is a result of deep and honest conversion. (And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. That's where our example comes in.)
Ok, I'm done preaching.
I love you all and pray for you often.
Have a great week!
-Alayna Een

bonus: family photos we finally got. (Does the shirt look familiar? It's the one I used to say goodbye on every transfer Sunday.)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Transfer Time

I imagine that, with the recent transfer calls, all of you will be saying goodbye to an area or a companion. You've been on my mind a lot this week. I'm wishing you all the best and anxious to know where you are and who you're with. So don't forget to tell me... I have no other way of knowing. ;) (real life probs)
The boring/life stuff this week was a trip to the DMV on my mom's birthday (Lame but necessary), a minor moving violation (18 months out of practice didn't help my already awful driving skills), and the set up for an interview at a law office on Tuesday (wish me luck in a "grown-up" job... most likely filing).

You're all in Spain so you probably didn't notice, but tomorrow (Monday) is Memorial day. It's a day most people have off of work, one  of the few national holidays we have (Spain has bastante). I came up to Utah for my cousin's homecoming (he served in Peru) and (because 90% of all El Faro missionaries seem to live in Utah) took advantage of the shortened distance to see some missionary friends.

On Friday I met with Hermanas Eyring, Bastidas, and Fenn. We talked about Spain, about the mission, about life, and got into a really long and detailed dating story (you can guess that it WASN'T mine). The mission has helped me make life-long friends.
Saturday I met up with an old roommate, watched my first movie in a theater since I left, and VISITED THE PACES.
They send their love to the mission and it's missionaries. They are still the sweetest/most Christlike people out there and seeing President Pace with his grandkids was enough to melt my heart! It was a long time coming, but that "Welcome home" hug was well worth it all. He showed me their mission reports for the years that I was there with them, and I got a peek at the old noticias (seeing my name or miracle) and then he shared with me a his notes from their last concilio- when every Sister Training Leader and Zone Leader stood and bore their testimony. That June day (almost a year ago now) I said something like "The gospel is more than just 'interesting.' (you know how people say that in the streets "interestante" in response to our testimony). The Restoration is the most important truth that this world has ever known."
I knew that was true then. I know that it's true now. What other truth can rival it? It's the beginning of hope for our day and the pathway to our future. It's a life and eternity changing. And it's worth every effort to share. Always remember that.

This Sunday night I was able to talk with my trainer, Hermana Manwill (now Vanessa Dayes), for the first time in, well... forever. I've been home a month now, so... around 16-17 months. It was so nice to catch up.

The friendships you make there will be a benefit and blessing to you for the rest of your lives. So keep meeting new people, share your special quirks and talents, and remember that YOU can make a difference.
I'll wrap up this weekly pep talk with a couple of pictures and just want you to know that I'm thinking of and praying for you all!

Alayna Een.

The last one is a chess set my cousin Michael brought back. Spaniard royalty vs. Peruvians. History says I win! ;)

Monday, May 23, 2016

More Stuff

I'm getting REALLY creative with my titles...

Hello Hermanas. 
Fun week!
We made a girls trip and went to three California temples/beaches (but spent WAY more time at the temples than the beaches #RMprobs #stillwhite #fairestofthemall), a broadway show (the Newsies), and an incredible homemade icecream sandwich place (definitely worth mentioning). So your names and the names of my various past investigators/converts are scattered around different parts of Southern California. It was fun to be in a place that was partially settled by/discovered by Spanish conquistadors! We stopped of at a lighthouse (El Faro forever!) didn't have ANY car problems (a straight up MIRACLE for my family, with our track record), stayed in military hotel (connections are cool), and watched the Incredibles (YES. it's as good as I remember it. YES I know it mostly by heart and my excessive quoting of it #sorrynotsorry was mostly accurate). 
It was a fun little escape and then we came back to family life, work stuff (for the first time in a year and a half, I smell like chlorine again), and the like. 
I bit the bullet and went to the YSA ward today. It was... I mean... fine. Except for the fact that there were so many disgusting COUPLES everywhere. I thought that the Singles ward was a sad place for the lost and lonely not a crazy dating machine. And due to my recently self-diagnosed "Post-mission romantic gag-reflex" (it's a real thing!) I didn't quite enjoy it. But then I was asked last-minute to talk in the mission prep class and the teacher cited part of my "What the Lord has Taught me" which I had emailed him after my report to the high council. People REALLY listen to RMs. 
I've been home almost a month now. There are some things I've done well. There are some ways I've fallen short (I haven't written in my journal ONCE!). I'll continue to do and be better and invite you to do the same.

Food for thought:
In the lighthouse there was a quote that I really liked, said by George Bernard Shaw (who is somehow famous)
"I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve."

Cute, right? And as missionaries, that's true of you as well. You've left it all behind and rebuilt yourselves as servants of the Lord. You're there to help others. You teach, lead, and guide lost souls. You are the self-less saviors of those Spaniards! 
Let the lower lights be burning.
You are in my heart and prayers. Have an incredible week!
Con amor,
Hermana Alayna Een

Monday, May 16, 2016

Return and Report

Return: Go back to previously inhabited place or time
Report: give updates

A little bit of info on the week, and tips for those of you still in the field.
This week I've watched a lot of Marvel movies, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. Tip for the future: You don't have to catch up with two years of cinema in a week. Or... ever. Disney movies, however, deserve to be caught up on.
We watched Star Wars:The Force Awakens which was quickly followed by the unfilmed but inevitable sequal, "The Alayna asleepens."
Working on the work situation and other boring life stuff.
Talking with the Relief Society was really neat. They had a sister preparing to serve speak, the current missionaries speak, me, and then Skyped in a missionary who had gone home from our ward with health challenges. It was really interesting to see the different levels of spiritual power that accompanied them all. I've decided that the RMs have an Avengers-worthy super power. You give me a word, ANY word, and I will SHOW you how the root of that word... can be related to a true principle of the gospel, of which I will then testify, give a scripture reference, show you a mormon message for, and refer you to the local missionaries for more information. BAM. Power. 

I gave my homecoming talk this weekend. It was funny to reflect on my Farewell as I gave my Homecoming and see the things that have and haven't changed.
1) Talking style- In my Farewell, I spent a full day writing a concise and perfectly scripted one-page talk, stood up and gave that talk.
In my Homecoming, I basically re-gave my "Lo que el Señor me ha enseñado" with mission experiences tossed in for flavor and the most "preparation" I did for the talk was spending the past 18 months as a missionary (which, to be fair, is quite a bit of prep!).  
2) Follow-up speakers: In my Farewell Sister Ballard spoke after me (and was a bit shocked I didn't talk longer). In my Homecoming, Bishop Ballard (her husband) spoke after me (and had a rather short talk). 
3) The color orange: That was a given. Everyone in my family wore it. Even Bishop Ballard went home after a meeting to change into an orange tie for the occasion. 
4) Photos with a Spanish Flag: We took them with people before I left, we took them with people today. My hair is longer and my face is a little thinner but everyone else seems to look about the same. 
5) Paella and Spanish food: Of course, for my farewell party we didn't actually know what paella was supposed to be like so it was nowhere NEAR authentic. Yesterday I slaved over tortilla de patata to varying degrees of success and my mom bought out the "taste of Spain" special in Smiths. 
6) Family musical numbers: We make the Sound of Music seem lame. Last time EFY medley, this time our good old mission song.

Anyway, it went a lot better than I thought it would, thanks to the spirit, and there were many improvements. 
I've communicated with some recent converts and investigators and members from Spain. I had a missed call from Manuela (CR, best recent convert on this side of the veil) and she said it was really important so I freaked out all night until she woke me up with a phone call the next morning just to say..."Thank you for teaching me, thank you for loving me, I love the gospel and I have a testimony. Have a nice day." It was really sweet. Almost gave me a heart-attack at first, but really sweet in the end.

No boys to report on other than the freakishly tall one I call my brother. I haven't made it to the singles ward yet but I'll get there eventually. I went to do baptisms and things with my family the other day and saw more baptisms in 30 minutes than I did in my entire mission. What a funny thing missionary work is. What a pleasure it is to do it in whatever form.

Food for thought:
You can only teach the teachable, but you can testify to everyone.
The best measure of success at the end of a day is if you can sing "Have I Done any Good in the World Today" from the top of your lungs and with all of your heart. (Preference to the Alex Boye one)
The gospel is a gospel of constant progression. There are always ways you can improve, repent, and be better. Find one.

We'll be doing a girls temple trip in California this week (trying to hit as many temples as we do beaches), so I've got that to look forward to.
Love and prayers being sent your way! Hope you have a great week!
-Hermana Alayna Een
A random non-member sent me flowers, so that's nice...?

Monday, May 2, 2016

After the (Spanish) Sky

Sky: A thing that airplanes fly through
Spain: An incredible European country, with half of my heart scattered around in it.
First sighting on the escalator by the lady who had also come from Barcelona--and choreographed "High School Musical"
 Understandably, a lot has happened in this last week y pico. I spent my last time in my area and with my companion. I did my last intercambio. We had our Talent show which turned out better than expected. Saturday night was transfer calls, and although it didn't really matter to me (I already know where I'm going) it was an exciting experience. As a missionary leader, and even more so as a member of El Faro, one of the greatest responsibilities as you end missionary service is metaphorically "passing the torch." Sometimes it's more literal. My companion, Hermana Arauco was called to be (and sort-of replace me as) a Sister Training Leader. I also found out that Hermana Manotas (mi hija) was called to the same position and also to train the new missionary. It was a great way to see the legacy continue with the the people that I love.
Last intercambio with Hermana Martinez

I had my exit interview with President Dayton (which included a longer talk on marriage and dating than I was banking for) and then was free to visit my old area of Barcelona. And so I did. I was able to visit with Willy, who was wandering a bit on that straight and narrow path we'd shown him. I went with sweet Norma (Best Spanish member ever) and shared Alma 5:26, and now he's dedicated to start again.

Willy and his family, in my Barcelona visit.
Dear sweet Norma. She's a missionary, just without the chapa. And so in an unplanned moment... I gave her mine. 

I also met with sweet Edy, ate gelato, reminisced, and caught up. On the last day I was able to stay with Hermana Manotas and O'Neill (a good friend going home with me) and catch up with whatever missionaries wandered through the Barce Sans Train Station.

Barcelona, Valencia, Lleida. Hermanas Een, Manotas, and O'Neill

And then I came home. I wasn't alone on the flights because of two facts

1) Missionaries contact people: I talked with the sweet lady sitting next to me on my long flight.
2) Members contact missionaries: Almost the moment we sat down by our gate, different groups of member came and talked to us- congratulating us on our service and asking about our return, and one of them stayed with me through my connecting flights and on into Las Vegas.
The Daytons on my last night
A last goodbye to Hermana Arauco
A last goodbye to Hermana Randall

Farewell at the mission home, which felt like mine

Saying goodbye at the gate, homeward bound!

The Barcelona sidewalk, my holy ground
It was quite the trip, and I was blessed along the way with understanding customs officers, perfectly timed flights, and so on.

The little brother that grew . . . and note the broken shoe strap.

And so I came home. It was a sweet reunion. I was released as a missionary. It was a little sad and a little strange, but it was also time.

Meeting with President Gutierrez to be released.

I've spent time with my new niece who is now old enough to waddle around and say words. I've gone to the temple, a wedding reception, a swim meet, a YSA devotional, church in English, and I've watched my first movie (Cinderella).

First temple trip as an RM

At David's swim meet, he cut 10 seconds of his backstroke and qualified for regionals, also bettered his time on the IM.
 Although I miss being a missionary and still slip in silly little ways while I'm continuing to adjust (I still call everyone "Hermana" and have to awkwardly translate little phrases to Spanish, and let's not talk about how many times I've almost awkwardly besoed someone or had to tell myself it's ok to hug guys), it really is good to be home.
The best way to describe this feeling, a heart torn between two good worlds, is said by a dear friend, Jack (from the musical, Into the Woods).

"When you're way up high, and you look below
At the world you've left and the things you know,
Little more than a glance is enough to show
You just how small you are.
When you're way up high
And you're on your own
In a world like none
That you've ever known,
Where the sky is lead
And the earth is stone,
You're free, to do
Whatever pleases you, (ok, not exactly, whitehandbook. Conversely, agency.)
Exploring things you'd never dare..." (Going to Spain, the mission, the untold adventures that follow)
(Then someday you go home and...)
"The roof, the house, and your Mother at the door.
The roof, the house and the world you never thought to explore.
And you think of all of the things you've seen,
And you wish that you could live in between,
And you're back again,
Only different than before,
After the sky."

Thanks for coming along on the journey,
Love you all!
(No-longer-Hermana) Alayna Een


Oh ye who labor planting seeds... in the month since I've come home.