Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sounds of Christmas

Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
Oh, come ye, oh come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the King of angels;
Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Christmas Festival at Wabash College
Elder Packham was involved in several musical events during the month. One special occasion was the Christmas Festival held at the chapel on the campus of Wabash College. He played with the brass ensemble. It was a moving experience to COME with other community members, of all different faiths, to ADORE HIM.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come; 
Let earth receive her King! 
Let every heart prepare him room, 
And Saints and angels sing... 

Cookies and Caroling
The missionaries in Crawfordsville went "cookies and caroling" as requested by the mission president.  Throughout the evening, we could not agree on the words to Joy to the World.  Some were letting heaven and nature sing, while others allowed saints and angels to sing.  Sister Herzog insisted that we wear her Christmas hats.  Bro. and Sis. Swinford were Santa, Elder Packham and I were elves and the sisters were reindeer.  Besides sugar filled treats, the sisters gave out He Is the Gift pass along cards.

Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o'er the plains,
 And the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strain. 

Crawfordsville Ward Primary

One of our tender moments came in Primary. For sharing time, the children prepared for a live nativity. There were just enough costumes and parts for all the children. Of course, Mary and Joseph made the journey.  There was a shepherd, a few wise "people", and a respectable host of angels. As I quietly played this hymn and the angels hummed in the background, ward members filed into the Primary room. They just stood and reverently pondered on what they were witnessing. There was a special spirit there.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Mission Conference

We attended the Indianapolis Mission Christmas Conference in Fishers, Indiana. They had asked Elder Packham to play What Child Is This, on his French Horn for a musical number. It added to the spirit of our training that morning as our leaders used the scriptures to teach us of Jesus Christ. The afternoon's activities were fun for the young missionaries as they associated with each other, received gifts from home and from Elder "Santa".

With wondering awe the wise men saw the star in heaven springing, 
And with delight, in peaceful night, they heard the angels singing: 
Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to his name. 

Christmas lights at the Montgomery County Courthouse

All of the lights associated with Christmas time remind us of the star that proclaimed to the whole earth that the Savior was born. We enjoyed seeing the lights and displays in the shop windows downtown. Many homes on Main Street were festively decorated. Through effort and some creativity, we adorned our own Christmas tree in the apartment. 

Silent night! Holy night! 
Son of God, love's pure light radiant beams from thy holy face, 
With the dawn of redeeming grace, 
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. 

Visual reminders of the season

While singing this beloved hymn one Sunday, I was reminded of the fact that the first Christmas night was indeed the dawn of redeeming grace. As missionaries, we tried to maintain an atmosphere in our apartment that would remind us of the life and mission of the Savior. For 30 days prior to December 25th, we hung a quote from Preach My Gospel that taught about Jesus Christ. While not intended, the other objects in the picture testify of the mission of Christ as well.  The nativity set; the picture of the Ogden Temple; the statue of a mother and daughter reminding me of family members who are not with us this year; and the clock given to me by my family representing the need to use our time in mortality to become more like our Savior.

What can I give Him, poor as I am? 
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. 
If I were a wise man, I would do my part. 
Yet, what can I give Him, 
I can give Him my heart. 

It's raining "love" in the kitchen

Because we ran out of wrapping paper, Elder Packham's gift to me was uniquely delivered. As I entered the kitchen, I saw an umbrella hanging from the light fixture with homemade snowflakes and a personal message to me. (It looks like I am holding the umbrella, but it is actually suspended from the light).  Gift giving is part of the Christmas tradition.  Thank you to all who offered us your gifts this year.

I heard the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play 
And wild and sweet the words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good will to men. 

Skyping with family on Christmas morning

We loved hearing the voices of friends and loved ones through the telephone wires. We loved seeing your faces through skyping. We loved reading your messages of good will through the postal service.  We loved mingling with "peaceable followers of Christ" (Moroni 7:3-4) in the ward and neighborhood through activities.  It was a happy Christmas in Crawfordsville. We missed home, the traditions and the people we love, but the spirit of Christmas can surely be felt anywhere in the world. 

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

No Two Snowflakes

They say there are no two snowflakes alike.  I think the same could be said for old probate documents from Montgomery County, Indiana.  We have appreciated that our first assignment on our mission was to capture images of individual documents related to probate cases instead of uniform pages from books, which tend to look all the same.  The documents we've seen the last five months are refreshingly unique.

This document we call the introvert - I am not putting down introverted people, because I am one.
150 year old creases and folds

It came to us all folded up in a nice, little bundle.  It took some work to get it to venture out of its comfort zone of the last 150 years.  We stretched and pulled and bent the pages to get it to lay flat enough to capture.

A cousin to the introvert, is the extrovert.

Back in the days, this type of document may have been tacked to a wooden post or a board in the public square, needing to be seen by members of the community.

We have seen twin images that, because of their shape, look like other things.

Use your imagination

There have been documents in the shape of Nebraska and Vermont.  Some resemble boats, clouds, hour glasses, and trapezoids.  One of my favorites is this Abraham Lincoln profile.

Quite frequently we receive hospital patients, the sick or damaged documents.
Poor thing.  It needs some TLC

They require surgery, therapy and healing.  We find dozens of little, or big, pieces of paper and need to figure out where each one fits.
All of these pieces resulted in a multi page document

Unlike Humpty Dumpty, we try to put them together again.

We have giants who are very tall.

 We have tiny, baby documents.

  They come in all colors, too.

Documents often come in families, attached to each other.
Green and Red Ribbons

Sometimes they are glued or sewn together.  We have seen pins, heavy duty staples, rivets, brads, string, and pieces of ribbon.  Brothers and sisters need to stay together, so we attach them as a group.

With the improvements in printing procedures, some receipts after 1850, would include beautiful logos and headings.
One of our "beauty queens"

Too often we judge a document by its outward appearance.  Even the plainest document contains beautiful handwriting and valuable information.
This clerk should get an A in penmanship

What is important is not the elaborate art on the outside, but what is contained on the inside to help a researcher know the person who lived.

We love the variety in our documents.  It has made us reflect on the variety of God's children.  All are alike unto God, yet He knows each one of us. Elder Maxwell has said,

"I testify to you that God has known you individually...for a long, long time.  He has loved you for a long, long time...He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys!" 
(Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been, Ensign May 2004, pg 46)  

Whether we consider ourselves tall or short, introvert or extrovert, damaged or complete, we all contain something worth "capturing"-- our identity as a child of God.