Sister Nish the sister mish

Greetings from the humble LaVale library. There’s a pretty good little toddler here who has a whale spout AND pigtails. That’s about all I could do with my hair at this point. There’s also an area called the “teen zone” here with a swirly carpet to designate that it is hip and funky, and the same carpet is the background of the sign that says “teen zone” on it in a likewise hip and funky font. I love libraries. There’s a fellow in a cowboy hat across from me using the computer, probably watching instructional YouTube videos to improve his lasso swing and a very frail old man with long gray hair, an even longer gray beard, and thick glasses perched at the end of his nose browsing the stacks.

I spent the beginning of this week frantically packing my two suitcases worth of possessions and saying goodbye to everyone. There is never enough time to say goodbye so you only get to see about half the people you need to say goodbye to. I think it’s a condition of the mission. We then traveled to transfer meeting, to enjoy the chaos of having the whole mission gather in one place for those coming in and those going out. Three people who I entered the mission with have trainees, which is scary because I’m pretty sure we’re still in training ourselves. I’m really proud of them though. They’ll all make great trainers. My own trainer is also going home, which is sad for me but the Lord’s course is one eternal round and I have to accept it. Everyone cried a little/a lot extra because our mission president and his wife are going home. They were very much beloved by the mission and they are going on to great things, I’m sure. There was a little receiving line at the end when we gave Sister Richards a hug AND President Richards, which was a surprise because we usually got a firm yet tender handshake from him. The other sisters and I were all blinking in surprise a little after that one, and also because everyone was kind of emotional at that point.

After that I loaded into the car with Sister Nish, previously a stranger and now a full-time BFF. She is a great missionary who is easy to love. She has a tradition called “Preparation Day Eve” where we eat popcorn and watch a church movie on Sunday night. That’s the kind of companion she is. Full of cute and festive ideas. Poor Sister Nish was sick all week and I had one of those long-term headaches, so we were kind of a sorry bunch and took a little extra time to rest, as per the recommendation of Sister Richards.

Cumberland is a very unusual area, mostly because of its size. There are 900 people on the ward list and three states within the area (Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia). We also live in somebody’s house that they are renting out to us. I think it’s kind of fun because there are lots of interesting things to look at in this house and because it feels a little more homey and a little less sterile than my last apartment, which was a brand new townhouse with no furniture and nothing on the walls. I’m grateful for both of these living spaces, of course, especially thinking of previous missionaries who probably had to sleep in a barn or perhaps on a swirly carpet in the “teen zone” of the local library.

Another unique thing about this area is that there are a lot of elderly people out here. More than you would believe. It’s wonderful. They’re the best, honestly. A lot of new logistical challenges with everyone and their health problems, but that also brings in so many opportunities for us to be good missionaries. One example in particular comes to mind, and I like it especially because it illustrates how great and how special Sister Nish is. We were visiting a sister who lives in a nursing home, and we just chatted a little and said a little prayer. This is a side note, but a nurse walked in with a tiny puppy!!!! They like to bring animals around because they really brighten everyone’s day. It definitely brightened my day. Anyway, after we left this sister’s room, we were walking by someone who was coming in on her walker. She was wearing a pretty pink blouse and I said to her, “You look beautiful today!” She looked at me in kind of a puzzled way and said, “Why?” I elaborated on her pretty pink blouse and she told us that she was coming back from visiting her daughter in the hospital, who is 72 and who just had a bad stroke. She’s not expected to live much longer. Sister Nish said, “What is your daughter’s name? Would you like us to say a prayer for her?” and right there in the foyer of this nursing home Sister Nish and I bowed our heads and said a little prayer for this woman and her daughter before we parted ways. What an awesome servant of the Lord. She gets it.

I miss you all even though I have the best job in the world. I would love to hear from you, especially because my new mailbox needs to be christened! You can write to me at 923 National Hwy. LaVale, MD 21502.

Love,

Sister Asprin

Alice in Cumberland

The great and terrible week of transfers has arrived! And after a long time (at least in mission years) of being stationed in Charles Town, aka Almost Heaven, they’re sending me off to a new area that people keep telling me is “way out in the sticks.” Keep in mind, these people are Charles Town residents so they have some experience with the sticks. I’m sad to be leaving Charles Town because it is a wonderful, gorgeous place with great people and a practically perfect ward, but I know many more adventures await me in Cumberland. I will be companions with a certain Sister Nish, whom I have only heard rave reviews about. I think transfer time is always bittersweet.

This week I also went on exchanges with Sister Sirrine! She’s a wonderful sister who is in Harpers Ferry. Her area neighbors ours so it was definitely a so close, yet so far experience. Harpers Ferry has a very different vibe because it is a tourist town along the Appalachian Trail. There’s also a part of that area that everyone refers to as “up on the mountain.” At least 12 times since I’ve been here I’ve heard this conversation: “Where do they live?” “Up on the mountain.” I was lucky to be in Harpers Ferry on a day when we had appointments up on the mountain, and it is just beautiful. We drove up past a surprise mountain lake, past Moonshine Rd. and Sour Mash Rd., to a house in Mountain Dew Cir. There we helped one of the Young Women in the ward with mission prep and did some role-playing with her because that’s pretty much all missionaries do ever. We are constantly practicing our teaching on each other. Sometimes I ham it up a little too much and nobody can take me seriously, though. I’m working on becoming more reverent. On the drive home, as I watched the fireflies twinkle deep in the forest and reflect off the mountain lake, I was so grateful to be in such a beautiful area. This part of the country is so green and gentle and pretty.
A slightly less beautiful experience was back at the Harpers Ferry apartment. They are blessed with a bathtub with jets, which I obviously had to try out. These jets turned on just fine, but they did not want to turn off. I tried the button a few more times. It still didn’t want to turn off. I was out of ideas so I decided to go to Sister Sirrine, which was a very terrifying walk down the hall. She was not very excited. We searched around for the breaker box and tried to figure out a way to get the jets turned off but they just kept churning and churning with no end in sight. By this time we needed to be in bed so we decided to wait and see if they would turn off of their own accord. They didn’t. At 6:30the next morning Sister Sirrine woke up, already/still frustrated about the jet situation. This was 6:30, so I didn’t remember about the jets, or about bathtubs, or that I was on exchanges, or on a mission. They were still just going like mad up there but finally we found the breaker box and cut the power in the bathroom. It was terrible/hilarious.
In baby animal news, the fawns are just getting big enough to prance around of their own accord, and we’ve been seeing adorable wee flashes of them disappearing back into the thickets. The countryside continues to be full of knobbly-kneed foals and calves nursing and practicing being animals. So cute. In giant animal news, I met a St. Bernard that literally weighed exactly as much as me this week. He must have known that we had something in common because he really took a shine to me. I sat down and he was the same height as me, and he just wanted to be near me, slobbering and shedding all over me. He rested his giant, heavy head on my chest and shoulder and he even tried to hug me and put his paw around my shoulders. These situations are always a funny time for etiquette. I never know what to do so I just giggled. The dog owner was also really excited to tell us about her political opinions, which is another tricky place to be polite, so I just nodded along and tried to make a facial expression like a stone would make.
This weekend was #socialmediasplit weekend! We had members take ~action shots~ of us being missionaries and put them on some website called Facebook with the hashtags #socialmediasplit and #baltimoremission. Go see them! You might love it!
As I sat in the basketball emporium reading the Book of Mormon while the other missionaries did their thing, I came upon Alma 36. Have you read it?! It honestly blew my mind. I would definitely recommend reading it. It’s all about repentance. Speaking of becoming better/growing/etc, my theme for the upcoming transfer is CHARITY NEVER FAILETH. I want to become the most loving missionary of all time. I just want to love so hard. That’s the dream. Speaking of which, I love you all! Send me a letter at my BRAND NEW ADDRESS:
923 National Hwy
LaVale, MD 21502
Fun!
Love,
‘Splundy Girl (as one of the members loves to call me)

eye-pocalypse

June 15

june 15

This week’s positive highlight was that Sister Blanchard and I got to see an investigator I used to teach at her baptism. It was a beautiful service, with a wonderful musical number and testimonies and I am so proud of her. She was just glowing. She will be moving back down to Charles Town soon so we get to spend more time with her.

This week’s less-positive highlight was that Sister Blanchard got a bad cold and pinkeye. We weren’t really sure if we should go out and teach while we were walking biohazards so we unfortunately didn’t get to spend as much time proselyting as we usually like to. We also had a fun visit to an urgent care unit, complete with a secretary who had a Mormon son and was way excited to see us. By Sunday Sister Blanchard was feeling a lot better and we went to church as usual. I was doing my normal missionary duties and said hi to and shook hands with everyone in the chapel and was feeling like a great missionary when I sat down and noticed that my right eye was a little itchy. Without thinking, I started rubbing it a little and it started to swell, and continued to swell, and got even a little more swollen until I could barely keep it open. I was quietly panicking when the woman we sat next to that day caught a glimpse of me and nudged my companion. I had been infected. We decided that our best option was to walk right out of sacrament meeting lest we infect everyone else. We texted the elders to come meet us in the foyer and told them about our situation. These wonderful elders decided to alert everyone in order to avert a public health crisis so Sister Blanchard and I were the subject of what must have been a very exciting and unusual announcement over the pulpit. The whole way home Sister Blanchard and I were alternatively laughing and crying because the whole situation is so absurd. I kept saying, “I shook every hand. EVERY HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Being a sick missionary is even less fun than being a sick civilian because there is no good TV, but we sat around for the rest of the day putting together a puzzle that depicts Jesus with many diverse children which I believe is called “Children of the World” and watching The District, which is a reality show about missionaries that we watch for instructional purposes. We also dipped strawberries and read old letters aloud to each other. That is the wild life of a bored missionary.
Our entire Relief Society is totally pumped on essential oils so the moment a sister in the ward found out about our ailment, she called the network and arranged for secret healing potion to be mixed up for us. That is one of the reasons why I love Mormon ladies. They are the ultimate first-response team. Charles Town’s economy is largely based on a racetrack and casino that are centrally located, so we ended up meeting the wonderful sister who brewed our healing balm in the parking lot of the racetrack. This felt a little shady, but on the bright side there was an excellent view of the track and we got to linger for three or four extra minutes to watch a race. Definitely an important rite of passage for any Charles Town resident, also it feels very weird to hang around near a racetrack and casino as a missionary.
On Monday we joined our mini recent convert for Family Home Evening, which is our usual Monday night routine. She is so cute because she loves hosting us and putting together a little program of events for the evening, always culminating in a Book of Mormon skit thematizing their reading assignment for the week to the captive audience of her mother. This week we played a game our li’l convert put together called “Funday Funland” which was a board game she drew herself possibly inspired in structure by Candyland (one of our FHE faves), with detours in the track such as “the apple orchards” “the experiment center” and “slide down a rainbow.” These detours were funny because they were positive experiences (such as apple picking) but they resulted in the loss of a turn. We weren’t sure if we should be happy or sad when we landed on a detour, but such is the nuance of Funday Funland.
In animal news, we met three fat horses on Friday. We had a lesson with some investigators who live way out in the country that evening, so we sat on their back porch watching the sun set and the fireflies come up and their fat horses galloping around. They were talking about the moonshine distillery they were thinking of building (they assured me it was strictly for fuel) and explained the purpose of a burn pit and that tires make for superior burning material. It was a perfect West Virginia evening. The husband in the couple we’re teaching also told us a story about when he used to own a goat, which he later shot and ate because, in his words, “he done ticked me off!” These folks are some of our best friends out here. I just love them.
We have been doing a service experiment where we show up somewhere in our service clothes and jump in without really being invited. We’re trying this because we want to help people out but we know how hard it is to ask for help. Some examples this week included showing up at the church during the church-cleaning hours of the week and asking to be put to work, arriving at a neighbor’s house as she was carrying in her groceries, taking them out of her car, and then putting them away and doing her dishes, and stopping at a local sister’s house while she was mowing her lawn so that I could divert her while Sister Blanchard took over the mowing. I’m going to call these experiences service pranks. Highly recommended.
In a week where our imperfect mortal bodies provided something of a hindrance to the work, I believe a quote by President Uchtdorf is very much relevant: “I suppose the church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and his doctrine is pure. But he works through us– His imperfect children– and imperfect people make mistakes.” Such as shaking hands with every person in the chapel with their infected hands. Oh goodness. My mission president elaborated on that quote by saying, “None of us is perfect, and the Lord is there to compensate!” which is such an important reminder to me. Sister Blanchard and I were definitely struggling with feeling bad about needing to be out of commission for two days out of eighteen months that we have dedicated to the Lord, but we know that He really is here to compensate when we mess up or when we just aren’t able to teach people about the gospel without infecting them with pinkeye. Our district leader also said something very useful about missionary work this week when he said, “God is not going to let you get between Him and any person out there. This is His work and he just lets us help out.” From the mouths of babes.
Wow, what a beautiful group of people I get to email. I love you. You are exciting and marvelous and you should write me letters because I have no idea what is going on otherwise. My address remains 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414
Love,
Sister Sparklebritches (as one sister in the ward called me when I wore my favorite sequined skirt this week)

o that i were an angel

Last night I sat up in my “bed” (a mattress pad on the floor in the basement, because it’s too hot upstairs) and ran upstairs to my study desk because I needed to remember what had blown my mind about Alma 29 earlier that day. Friends, countrypeople, etc, this is a fantastic chapter with great personal relevance to my life and yours as well. It starts off with Alma saying, “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! 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 the face of the earth.” Have you ever felt this way? Wishing you could change the world so that there is literally no more sorrow anywhere all by yourself? I sure have. I have also directly, specifically wished that I were an angel before. In particular in my young teenage years I thought about that a lot. I imagined having special powers of some kind, and a really important mission from God, and not being bound by the limitations of mortality. I hadn’t thought about that particular desire in years, until I read this chapter yesterday. Alma goes on to call himself out, and me along with him in verse 3: “But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted me.” Awkward for me and Alma and our sinful wishes. Alma describes the doctrine he is preaching as a regular, mortal missionary and the glory and truth and importance of his calling and says, “Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” This chapter seriously blew my mind. I want the glamour and importance of being the one who ensures that there is no more sorrow on the face of the earth, but that is not what the Lord has asked me to do. I do not have responsibility to cry repentance unto the ends of the earth, I have responsibility to cry repentance unto the greater Charles Town area. What could be more important than exactly what the Lord has planned for us? I also love this chapter because it reads like a sonnet, with a little volta and everything. It particularly reminds me of Shakespeare’s sonnet 29. Alma 29, sonnet 29… coincidence? I think not. The Book of Mormon is the whole package.

Our week began with zone conference, which is a new concept for me. It was my zone conference and the mission president’s last zone conference. The mission president is just such a dad and he loves being such a dad, and needless to say he got all emotional and then we all got all emotional and it was just a big missionary love fest. We also got soft serve on the way home so I was extremely satisfied with our experience. My favorite notes from the conference read “gratitude is a cure-all” and “love is foolproof.” I don’t super remember why or when I wrote those statements, but use them however you’d like.
This week we also got to take an investigator on a church tour. These are the best! She is an investigator we picked up this week and I am really excited for her. I know in theory that the gospel has something to offer everyone but being able to see what the gospel specifically has to offer everyone as individuals is a special experience. Church tours are great because we get to set up the sacrament table, which I have never had a reason or opportunity to do before. This is a very spiritual experience. Sitting in the chapel, especially when it is quiet, is a surprisingly sacred experience. We also took our investigator through the bathroom into the baptismal font, which had a huge spider in it, because there was a big meeting in the room that the font opens into. I was just planning on forgetting about the baptismal font portion of the tour, but we had a recent convert and a good friend of our investigator helping us with the tour and she was so excited to show her friend where she was baptized. Despite the spider and the bathroom and the weirdness of standing in a closed, empty font, there was something really nice about hearing our friend tell us about how wonderful her experience of being baptized was.
This week I also had my first reuben sandwich over at Mama Tyrell’s house. Have you ever had one of those? Highly recommended! She mentioned that she was making hummingbird cake for the elders (if you haven’t had it, think of the most Southern cake you can imagine and there you have it) and the next evening while we were winding down from the day there was a knock at our door. We never really expect people to come to our door so we were a little nervous. I believe Sister Blanchard said, “Is this going to be the Saratov Approach all over again?” Surprising to us, it was actually just Mama Tyrell’s best friend Greg with two slices of hummingbird cake.
Here is the animal news of the week. First of all, the toads are out hopping around. I was so excited when I saw one for the first time, and I just had to pick it up and say hi. If you’ve ever met and tried to handle a toad before, one of their defense mechanisms is to pee. A lot. I am an experienced toad-handler so I held my new friend at an arm’s length. Honestly, I don’t know how that much fluid came out of such a tiny animal but it did. We are also enjoying the fireflies so much. Yesterday there was a huge thunderstorm and as I fell asleep I watched the lightning bugs twinkling below and the lightning flashing above. We are too lucky.
ingrid toadingrid toad1
A fun and adventuresome feature of our experience this week is that we ran out of miles! We’re only allotted 1,000 miles per month and about fifty more of them were taken for other missionaries. On Thursday we have to spend a few hours planning out our week but we also needed to use our final fifteen miles to drive to the car repariment emporium and back for our early morning appointment there. We couldn’t afford to drive home and then drive back into town to proselyte, so we ended up parking at Dairy Queen, buying Dilly Bars, and conducting our studies and our weekly planning session at a sticky DQ table. The next day we had someone drop us off at the far end of town and spent the rest of the day walking home, visiting people on our way. We discovered a lot about Charles Town and the surrounding countryside that day and enjoyed walking the scenic stretches of farmland on our way back. Needless to say, I am very grateful for the advent of a new month and new miles.
If I were an angel, I would definitely use my powers to pop in and visit you all. In the absence of said powers, write me a letter so I can hear all about your life, because I miss you! You can write me at 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414.
Love,
Sister Casplund

red hot

Good old Carlos Town has a new Sister! Sister Blanchard, bless her heart, is a wonderful lady. She’s a twin. She’s from Colorado. Her favorite kind of ice cream is mint chocolate chip. And so forth. I had been praying for a companion who would just be a total workhorse and who I could have an amazing working relationship, and Heavenly Father totally followed through! Nice one! She and I jumped right into teaching in unity, which is missionary jargon for saying approximately the same number of words. It’s harder than you might think. It was sad to say goodbye to Sister Pratt, my Big Sister. She might be the last Big Sister of my mission considering my age and everything. We don’t really have senior or junior companions in the mission (I’m not really sure which one I am at this point, for example) but now that I’m finished training and feel like a real missionary I might not ever be able to have the comfort of following another missionary around all the time.

Speaking of which, I’m taking over the area right now??? Taking over an area is when you’re the companion who has been there longer. Sister Blanchard doesn’t know anyone here so I am introducing her to the area and the ward and the people we’re teaching. It’s liberating in some ways but I miss the suffocating warmth of being under a huge blanket/being a trainee. I think Sister Blanchard will probably know the area as well as I do within a week, though, because she is very diligent and solid. It’s been amazing to see Charles Town through her eyes and remember how magical and wonderful our area is. Saying goodbye to Sister Pratt was very sad and took place at a large emporium of chaos by the name of “transfer meeting” where all the missionaries get together and trade companions and cry and the ones leaving and coming in bear their testimonies. I’m sure you can imagine all the crying. It’s wonderful because you get to see all your missionary friends from past areas (aka from the MTC, in my case). This time around, there was an overturned milk truck on the way there (I won’t even try to make a joke about that one) and one of the outgoing elders did not arrive until long after everyone had finished up with their testimonies. The poor mission president had to keep speaking and speaking to stall but eventually the belated elder (is that the name of a mystery novel? The Belated Elder?) burst in through the chapel doors and ran up to the pulpit to deliver his parting words.
In baby animal news (the most important news) we pulled over at the side of the road the other day because there was a field of lambs!!! and their parents. We watched them literally frolic and prance through the literal meadow they were in. Have I convinced you all to move to West Virginia yet? If not, try this one on for size: THE FIREFLIES ARE OUT!!! They are so beautiful! Their time of the day is the time we  come home and start planning and there is a big meadow behind our palace so we just stand behind our house for a few minutes at twilight watching the fireflies. Just look at the words in the above paragraph: lambs. frolic. prance. meadow. twilight. fireflies. Do you want to move to West Virginia yet? I don’t know how I’ll ever leave.
Something fun about being a missionary is that the people you hang out with are chosen seemingly at random, in other words by revelation. This means that the missionaries I’m around are all jocks, even the sisters. This morning I had to attend not one but two athletic experiences, including ultimate frisbee and kickball. I sat on the sidelines and read Jesus the Christ, and I was the only person who wasn’t way excited for the sporting. I hope the other missionaries know what a sign of love and devotion to mission unity it is that I would be in such close proximity to a game or a match or whatever of any kind. The poor elders also really struggle to spell my name right, as does everyone else. Missionaries all have these journals that we write little notes in when we part ways, and two different elders addressed a “Sister Aspland.” I should call the mission office and figure out who she is so I can deliver these heartfelt messages. This same sister was supposed to say the benediction at a recent baptismal service, according to the program, but she wasn’t there so I did it instead. Sister Aspland is a total flake. On a serious note, though, I really do wear a name tag with my name spelled on it at all times. I’m not sure how I can be so prone to failure.
Something amazing that happened this week is that I discovered that red lipstick is allowed in this mission! I went straight to CVS and bought some. I feel like myself again. I found a nice bright summer red with a matte finish that wears long too, so I’m in heaven.
Sadly this week we parted ways with Yvonne. She just loves being baptist so she decided to stick with that. We will miss her but we’re meeting with some of her neighbors so we will hopefully get to stop by for a little visit every once in a while. In case you don’t remember Yvonne, she is the ancient, mostly blind Jamaican lady we’ve been meeting with for a while. Before we left she said, “Wait! I must show you some music. If you can listen to it and not cry, you must have a heart made of stone.” and then she turned on some gospel reggae and proceeded to sing and dance along to it while her grandson did his fave Power Rangers moves and her daughter just looked at us like we were a camera in The Office.
OK I love you all. Read the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, this week, it’s a great one. And as always, write me soon! at 14 Deerbrook Drive/Charles Town, WV 25414.
Love,
Sister Aspland