I have been very nervous with separation anxiety about leaving the Visalia 3rd ward. I have made lists and lists of people to visit, of concerns they have, of commitments to follow up on, of continued progress to monitor. I have color coded maps and made the typical map with pins marking all sorts of different things from members, to car washes, to church buildings and other places of interest. I have written directions to all of the major destinations (including the mall and In-N-Out) as well as all the gate codes I know and just ridiculously random information. I am not prepared to leave. :( Miraculously, I started and finished packing on Monday. Considering how much STUFF I have and have gained while on the mission, I am in shock of how quickly it occurred. I have been cleaning and cleaning hoping that the sister coming in won't judge me for the state I have lived in for so long. My things are just sitting by the door and I just stare at them and can't imagine that this is it!
Late Christmas eve two elves dressed in suits dropped off eight packages at our apartment. The Zone Leaders had seven packages for Sister Denton and one for myself (most of mine had come early ;) ). That evening we decided to break with normal tradition but continue in Bolliger tradition and open all of our packages! It was very enjoyable. We called it our white trash Christmas as our little teeny Christmas tree was set on a white trash can to give it some umph. It was so much fun to see what we had been given and we were both so thankful for being thought of! It was quite a surreal experience to think that this was Christmas. With no snow, temperatures in the 50s, and no family, it was quite an unusual time. But, it was wonderful nonetheless. :)
Our Christmas morning began with a Christmas brunch at a family in the ward. The parents of the sister were able to be there and they had just returned from a mission in Nauvoo! They had also presided over a mission in Florida, so it was quite the company! We were then ushered to the church building to watch a movie with the other missionaries. We watched "How to Train Your Dragon." I decided that I was going to truly enjoy this experience so I ordered the Elders about. When the dust settled, the comfortable chairs from the foyers were in the room we were going to watch a movie in set neatly together for my companion and I. With one particular stare I had other chairs set up for our feet. I rewarded their excellent listening skills with some of the goodies that we had been given for Christmas. Haha. It was quite the experience. It was really weird watching a movie. The whole time I felt guilty and kind of like--this is what I did for entertainment before the mission? It's odd how things and habits change. :)
John called me as I was leaving the home of our brunch, and it was so odd to hear his voice! He asked for the curly haired Sister Bolliger and I immediately knew that it was precious little John from San Bernadino. I was grateful to be able to talk with him! He was quite the talker! He had so many experiences and questions that we talked about the mission almost the whole time. It is amazing to see how much he has grown...and how much growing there is left to be done. ;) Talking with the fam was amazing as well. It was so strange to be able to speak over the phone! Of course everything I had thought of to share left my brain, but it was a wonderful time just talking about my mission, home life, and realizing that this marks the halfway point of my mission! How did 9 months ever go so fast? I didn't get teary or even homesick until it came time to say goodbye. Then the tears came as I was trying to hang up the phone. It was hard to focus that night, but after lots of prayer I was able to refocus and continue doing the work of the Lord the next morning.
Chuck W continues to amaze. This Sunday we noticed that he had a different set of scriptures with him. Chuck ordered himself a nice Christmas present by treating himself to new scriptures. He got large print and got his triple combination and bible in different colors so that he could more easily tell which one was which. Then, he put a return address label on the front of his scriptures so then he could easily distinguish between which side was the front. :) He said he was tired of wasting time that he could be reading the scriptures trying to figure out which one was which. Chuck also blessed the sacrament this Sunday. He had some trouble with the little differences between thee/the/thy. But, when you imagine the horrible lighting and tiny text behind the sacrament table, it is easy to see why it could be hard to tell the difference! He shook his head afterward and laughed how he had spent so much time practicing the word sanctify that he hadn't paid attention to the other little details. :)
Peace be the Journey,