Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thanksgiving and Christmas Lights 2012

Preparations have been moving forward to begin Christmas Lights on Thanksgiving Day.  It is amazing how many people have been involved in helping this project be ready for opening night.

New LED lights give vivid color to the grounds.

This is the first year that purple lights have been added.

A scene depicting Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem is positioned on the grass to the west of the Visitors' Center.

The Visitors' Center is decked out to receive the thousands of guests who will come to enjoy the lights.   We will have host couples on the grounds inviting people to come into the center to see the nativity exhibit,  hear the Christus presentation, learn about God's Plan for His Family, and see the story told in Luke II of the birth of the Savior.

Wonderful volunteers decorated the gigantic Christmas Tree in the foyer at the front of the Visitors' Center.  The small pictures are of different scenes during the construction of the Mesa Temple.
It is charming to see bouquets of lighted flowers standing all over the grounds.
To the east of the Visitors' Center there is a life-sized nativity exhibit.  The baby Jesus is placed in the cradle every night at 5:00 pm and left there until the lights turn off at 10:00 pm.  Then he is safely locked inside the annex building to avoid tempting anyone to take him home with them.
Above the stable a beautiful star marks the birthplace of the Savior of the World.  This particular star was re-strung with LED lights during the summer.  It is amazing to know that there are 10,000 lights in this one star alone!

On the grass north of the VC, three wise men, accompanied by their camels, make their way to the stable to visit the infant Jesus.

People coming to the temple grounds pass through these columns into a 'fairy land' of lights.  What a beautiful sight for young and old alike.

Bake at home, three pumpkin pies are in the oven getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner on the morrow.

The arrival of our families from Utah make the holiday especially enjoyable.  This little cherub is 10 month old Quinn.  She's not sure who that funny lady is who is taking the picture.  She was only a week old when we came to Mesa.

Our twin granddaughters Annika and Mia are not so shy.  They are excited to be out of their car and safely at grandma's - it was a l-o-n-g trip.
Our granddaughters are busily making place cards for all the guests who are expected for Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon.  Anna amd Mylee make the cards and the twins carefully place the stickers on the corners and find a place for them on the tables.

Brooks has been exploring the temple grounds.  He came home with this GIGANTIC yellow fruit - grapefruit?  lemon?  we're not sure which. 

These lovely sisters lounge on the sofa following a large Thanksgiving feast.  They helped clean up the dishes and then crashed!  We were delighted to have 11 of the sister missionaries join our family for dinner.  Here we see Sisters Aquino, Hamstead, Lewis, and Shurtz.  Sisters Christensen, Schwartz, Fors, Watkins, and Hollady, Avila, and Mackenzie have already left.
 After the sun set we took some of our family to see the lights.  The man next to Elder Beckstrand is our son Jeff.  Our daughter Traci and her husband Joel are on the right.  The children are loving the beautiful warm weather here, even in November.  Back in Utah there is snow on the ground.

Our son Dwight, his wife Melanie, and three of their five children stop for a quick photo.

The moment of discovery has come.  The only way we can convince ourselves that this is really a huge lemon is to cut it open.  Ready, set.....

GO!  Yup!  It's a lemon.  It looks like a lemon, it tastes like a lemon, I wonder how they got it to grow to such a monster size.

 Sunday morning arrives and Dwight's family have packed up their car for their return trip to Utah.  I took Traci's family to the airport to return to their home in Draper, Utah yesterday. It will be sad to see them leave us, but what a fun holiday we have enjoyed.

      Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy our beautiful family and feel their love and support as we serve here in Mesa.   We are so thankful for all of our children and grandchildren.   The opening of the Christmas Lights event this weekend has already brought thousands of people to the temple grounds.  We're so very thankful to be working at the Visitors' Center and to be able to share the gospel with all who come here.  What a CHOICE assignment.  We feel truly blessed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nativity Exhibt for Christmas Lights

Theater #1 is being transformed from a movie theater to an exhibit of nativities for the Christmas Lights event beginning on Thanksgiving Day.

These large containers hold decorations and ornaments for the trees waiting to be decorated.

Someone probably knows how to transform this chaos into a meaningful exhibit.  I'm glad it's not me!
That 'someone' is Sister Fuller on the far left.  She and her able team of helpers spent three days sorting through the boxes and decorating every corner of the room to enhance the nativity sets. 

Once they had the tables and Christmas trees set up, they started setting out the nativities.  These interesting set came from Peru.

I enjoyed this nativity made out of native Arizona wood - note the palm trees in the background. 
A quilt was delivered to the center from the Church Museum in Salt Lake City.  The quilt is a nativity scene done by a sister living here in Arizona. 

I was fascinated to watch it unfold.  Unbelieveable!!!

This quilt is truly a work of art created from fabrics instead of paint.  It is intricately sewn using a technique called 'needle-turn applique."

Speaking of art, many paintings by local artists were hung on the walls around the room to enhance the beauty and ambiance of the nativity sets.

The artist who did this amazing painting is only 15 years old.  What a talent!

Setting up Christmas trees in several areas in the room lent beauty and additional light for the nativities.  We are so grateful to these sisters who freely share their time and talents to make this exhibit spectacular for the thousands of guests who will view it.

The tables were covered with brown silk as a backdrop for the different nativity sets.  Each nativity represents a different country of the world.

I loved this Navajo nativity.

This set came from Israel, carved from the wood of an olive tree.

These African statues represent the country of Kenya.  We currently have a sister missionary serving from that country.

This set from Honduras also represents a country from which we have a sister missionary currently serving here in the Visitors' Center.

Anyone looking for a project for Family Home Evening?  I imagine children would love finding rocks to use as the basis for a nativity set.  Very creative!
From the land of France we see another lovely nativity.  We currently have two sisters serving here from that country.

This beautiful kreche is another artist's concept of the miracle of that sacred night.

Here we have a lovely set from Mexico - Sisters Aquino and Aranda come from this country.  We recently said goodbye to Sister Falcon who returned to Mexico City in November.

I loved the idea of this nativity that was created from needlepoint. 

This was a little nostalgic for us - a nativity from The Netherlands, complete with windmills and blue and white porcelain made from Delft's blau (blue).
The sisters who were setting up the room frequently stopped to confer over different aspects of the display.  They wanted it to be just perfect. 

I can't believe the difference three days has made.  All of the boxes and containers are gone, the tables are laden with beautiful nativity sets, and the final step will be to insert the cards identifying the country from which each of the nativity sets originate.  It has been an interesting process to watch unfold.  We are so grateful for the hard work these sisters have expended.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saying Goodbye Again

Welcome to our home!  We're excited to host the Farewell Breakfast for four lovely, seasoned missionaries who will be going home at the beginning of next week.

The early birds, (Sisters Lewis, Snodgress, and Miller) are first to offer their help in final breakfast preparations.

Sisters Burton and Gordon have enjoyed being companions during Sister Burton's final transfer.

Sister Cottrell is an expert trainer for Sister Valladares.  They are doing such a great job!

Everyone come and get it!  Sister Mackenzie leads the way, with Sisters Avila and Aranda coming up behind.  We had a breakfast casserole with fruit, orange rolls, and juice.  The sisters seemed to enjoy the food, and I enjoyed having them in our home.

Sister Holladay gets a roll while Sister Avila helps herself to some casserole.  We've got 28 in our VC group this transfer - our largest number yet.  In order to have that many sisters, we're borrowing five full field sisters to work with the VC sisters. 

A quick pic of the sisters as they finish their breakfast.

Table 2 -  Everyone looks happy and wide awake for 7:00 am!

Table 3 - Yes, you're beautiful also.

Table 4- Elder and Sister Jenkins are keeping Sisters Aranda and Schwartz in line. 

Sister Kranendonk shares memories of serving with Sister Anderson.

Sister Burton tells us some of the things she learned from Sister Parker.

Sister Dashjav shares fond memories and experiences while serving with Sister Burton.

Sister Schwartz shared a very touching tribute to Sister Falcon.  She paid me NOT to show her crying on the blog - she said that's not her usual demeanor.  She's usually all smiles.

 Following breakfast, and hearing the beautiful testimonies of our departing sisters, we adjourned to the Christus for a final group picture .  What a beautiful group of young missionaries !! (That's including the couple in the middle, of course.)  Our four departing sisters are sitting in the front:  Sister Falcon, Sister Anderson, Sister Burton, and Sister Parker.

The next thing on the agenda was the traditional singing of 'God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again."

Many smaller group shots were taken of former companions and special friends.  All of these sisters develop a bond of love that will last a lifetime.

Sister Anderson was our Administrative Assistant during the past six months.  She was so efficient and dependable,  I don't know how I will get along without her when she goes home.

Lovely Sister Parker was our hospitality chairman for the past two transfers.  She made everyone feel loved and welcomed, whether it was on birthdays or when they arrived new in the mission.

The talented Sister Burton was in charge of the music for the English firesides once a month.  She used her amazing talent at the piano and singing in the choir to really bring music to the firesides that enhanced the spirit of the meeting.  We'll miss all of her other special gifts as well.

Sister Falcon has been a VC trainer since we arrived in January.  With the able leadership of Sister Falcon, we have watched the Visitors' Center run smoothly even while the new "greenie" Beckstrands were learning their duties and responsibilities.  We'll MISS her.

Thank goodness there is always the blessing of new sisters to help assuage the sting of losing the departing ones.  This new arrival is Sister DeMille who hails from Cedar City, Utah.

Sister Demille (actually Hermana, since she will be a Spanish-speaking sister) will be trained by Sister Slater.  Lucky girl!

Our other new arrival is Sister Brownell from Beaverton, Oregon.  We've already discovered that she has a lovely singing voice and is delighted that she can be part of our VC choir.  What an asset!

Sister Javed will be the trainer for Sister DeMille.  Sister Javed loves to coordinate her clothing with her companion.  Already we see them here in colorful skirts with black tops.  They look good together!

Meanwhile, outside the Visitors' Center things are really moving forward in preparation for Christmas Lights.  Jon Jackson is putting garland on the front of the VC with the help of the motorized lift that gets him up to his work.

"Is this where the bow goes?"

Ah, yes - that looks BEAUTIFUL!

All around the grounds the lights are starting to look amazing.

I enjoy watching each new area being prepared for the lighting event.  Many, many volunteer hours go into preparing the grounds for this annual event.

In front of the Visitors' Center, these men are preparing the stage for the concerts that will begin at 7:00 pm each evening.
Next they put the canopy over the stage floor to keep off the rain in the event of inclement weather.  The risers and piano will be added closer to the opening night's concert.

Out in the bowl we see Wise Men and camels beginning their long trek to find the Christ Child.

Josh Jackson and his friend Katie spend their Friday night date putting up a 12 foot Christmas tree in the Visitors' Center.  This project took them about two hours of concentrated effort.
Their hard work certainly paid off.  When it has been decorated in a couple of days it will be magnificent!  So many people donate so much time and effort to make this event a success.  That's what the Spirit of Christmas is all about.  Next week I will share the beautiful exhibit that has been set up just across the hall from Katie in Theater 1 - over 100  nativities from all over the world! It is totally amazing!