Monday, December 29, 2014

Dear Family,
   What a wonderful Christmas week this has been. The holidays tend to make me miss you all a lot, but it's okay because I got to talk to you! Even though it was brief, it was so good to hear all of your voices and to feel your love. I hope you all know how much I love you. I love you so much! I love hearing from you and I love thinking about you. Don't worry, I'll be home before you know it and we can have a fantastic time together. Thank you for the great email today Mom. I loved hearing more about the events of this week and I loved hearing your plans for this day as well. I'll be imagining your happy doings throughout the day. As for us today, after emails we will vacuum the car, have lunch with the Hermanas and discuss how all of our families are doing as usual, then we will make a quick run to the store, and then go home so Sister Cox can rest. Unfortunately she came down with a really bad cold/flu this weekend and isn't feeling to good. Yesterday we had to come home after Sacrament Meeting so she could sleep. I spent all Sunday reading D+C, catching up on my journal, doing a 1/4 of a puzzle! and baking muffins for my companion. :) It was a pleasant way to spend the day. I've been listening to the new CD you sent me for Christmas. I love it! Thank you.
   So for the events of this week. Here we go:
   The Christmas Devotional on Tuesday was SO fun! It was in Goleta and it was with all of our mission leadership and half of the zones in our mission. We had a wonderful devotional on Christmas and on the spirit of Christ. We had a fun activity with identifying all of our baby pictures that the parents had sent. That was so funny. I love the sailor dress Mom. ;) Lunch was delicious and I got to talk with a lot of missionaries I know. Sister Hiapo, Sister Reneer, Sister Karatassos, and even Hermana Winn! It was so good to see them all. I also got to talk to the Elders who are still up in Pismo Beach. They told me how everyone was doing. Jim is doing great. He had a part in the Christmas Sacrament Meeting program reading the account in Luke to the congregation. It sounds like he is doing really well. Apparently he misses me and Sister Hiapo and told the Elders to tell us hi. We passes a message on for him too. Then after lunch was the talent show. Holy cow, it was so fun! The 3 assistants started it off with reading their own rewritten version of Twas the Night Before Christmas that was all about the wonderful things that the assistants have and do. Most of it wasn't true and was absolutely hilarious. "...the only ones with iPads in all of the land..." Ha, yeah right. :) We were all laughing so hard, and at the end they broke into an acappella version of Angles We Have Heard On High. It was very upbeat and fun to listen to. We all really enjoyed it. Then Hermana Hurley (one of the Hermanas in my ward here in Solvang) did a stand up comedy act. Have I ever mentioned that her parents are professional clowns? Yeah...they are. :) And she is SO funny. She had put together this really funny act for all of us missionaries, with lots of missionary jokes and fun things. She is so clever. She's an amazing balloon twister. So she made some crowns for the Felixs. You could tell how much they enjoyed it too. So yeah, that was our wonderful time with the mission.
   That night we had a wonderful lesson with L., J., and L. Those two boys are so smart and we love the three of them so much. We taught the full Restoration and it went really well. They really enjoyed our object cup lesson and the Spirit was really strong. I love teaching the Restored gospel. I really do. And it's an amazing feeling when you're teaching someone who is open and faithfully seeking truth. The Spirit takes over and everyone is just lifted. :) I love being a missionary. After the lesson Jake ran into the kitchen to grab a lemon cake that he had made for us himself. We felt loved. I was glad my cookies worked out and we were able to go carol and bring something back to them to show them our love. We love their family.
   On Christmas Eve we had dinner with the Klitgaard family. It was wonderful and we really enjoyed their special Christmas Eve program. It was very peaceful and magical. Just like Christmas Eve should be. They treated us very well and gave us each a big stocking full of Solvang-ish treats and stuff. We also got to see that video you told me about Mom. The Piano Guys one. Wow! I loved it. We really enjoyed opening presents together at home. I had my Celtic Christmas CD going that Sister Hiapo gave me for my birthday. Thank you for all of the wonderful gifts. I love them all. They were all perfects. I wear them, listen to them, eat them, and use them with joy. :) I feel very loved. Thank you. I love you too. Our district meeting in Santa Barbara was wonderful. We did something special for part of our meeting. We called it "Chapel time." We all went into the chapel and just sat there studying or pondering and listening the the hymns that Hermana Hurley was playing for a while. I loved it. It was very special to me and I received a lot of personal answers that meant a lot to me. I love the Spirit. I love hymns. I love the scriptures. And I love that we all have the opportunity to pray to our Heavenly Father. He will help us with everything we need. He will help us to become better. I know that He loves each of us and that He has a perfect plan for us. We will succeed with Him. I spent a lot of time studying the Atonement this week and studying about our Savior Jesus Christ. My understanding and testimony of these things have grown so much on my mission. Just that alone has changed my life and will always help me. After driving up the beautiful stretch from Santa Barbara along the sunny ocean eating See's candy and Pringles (bragging moment), we had lunch and then each got to make our phone calls to home. Again, it was so good to hear from all of you. I love you! After our calls we went and dropped our package and bags off at the Hoveys so that they could bring them up to Utah. It blows my mind that something I touched was in my home in less than 24 hours! :) Then we had a late dinner with a family in our ward. It was a very good Christmas.
   Well I think I've covered everything. I hope you all have a very Happy New Year! We will be in early (at 7) and we have Martinellis, Ritz, cheese, and summer sausage. We're excited! Have an amazing week family. I love you all so much and think about you every day. I love you more than Chick-fil-a! We all know how much that is! ;)
Love, Melanie
(Sister Hardman)

~Funny moments. :) Text from Sister Hovey right after they dropped off my package. Fun connecting moment. :)

~And look what I made for our investigators. I was pretty excited that they worked out.

~District meeting "selfie" on Christmas.

~Phone call! I love you all!

~Christmas Eve with the Klitgaards

~Thank you for all of the wonderful gifts! Lots of love and lots of joy!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hey Everyone!
   This has been a wonderful week! There is a lot going on in this area and things are going really well. We're feeling the Christmas spirit and enjoying the opportunity to share it with others in various ways. Thank you for the letters, emails, and packages that I received this week. Mom, both packages are here, accounted for, and nicely spread under our tree. :) Thank you! I'm very excited to open them. I'm glad to hear there is a bit of snow on the ground! Oh I miss the snow! Please enjoy it for me. I'll see it in a year. Daddy I hope you had a very wonderful birthday! I was thinking about you and we sang Happy Birthday for you that night. Someday I'll show you the video. :)
   Lots of great work went on this week. We had a very productive week. We have been able to talk with so many people this week and everyone seems in a cheery accepting mood! L. is doing great. We taught the Plan of Salvation on Saturday and then on Sunday we were able to help her get to church. She loved the service and is excited to come back. Her son is in town and we haven't met him yet, but apparently he has been very touched with how we have helped his mother. He wants to do something nice for us too. I think L. wants to take us to lunch or something. It's amazing how love softens hearts. I love loving people. :) We also had a few really cool miracles happen this week. One night after leaving a dinner I felt impressed that we should drive all the way across Solvang and Buellton to go see a less-active member of our ward that we had been trying to see for 6 weeks. We got over there and the lights were on, she was home! We went and visited her. She had had a really hard day and she was in need of a warm visit. She told us that she could see that it was no coincidence that we showed up that night, that Heavenly Father was showing her that he's aware of and loves her. She gave us several frozen salmons. :) Haha. Sister Cox is excited. She loves salmon. I may venture to try some. Missionaries are supposed to be brave, right? 2nd miracle, we went and talked to a former investigator who is not interested in learning more about the church, but had some sincere questions about how we know when God answers our prayers. It was wonderful to be an instrument in helping her to see how her prayers are being answered. She was teary-eyed and seemed happy about our meeting. 3rd miracle, we had dinner with a woman and her two sons the other day. She has been less-active for a long time but is working to come back. Her two sons were never baptized. They're both in upper elementary school. It was fun to get to know them and answer their questions. Those two boys are so sweet and so polite. At the end of dinner their mother told us that she'd like them to learn the lessons from the missionaries now so that they can make a choice. They agreed and are really excited to learn. We have our lesson with them on Tuesday night. It was fun to say hi to them at church yesterday.
   Fun, random things from this week: We wrapped presents for a few hours with a family in our ward while listening to sweet Christmas music and eating way too many Danishes and pastries. :) Too fun! Oh, Bethany, do you remember that time a few years ago when we read the Little Match Girl and I started sobbing? Yeah, someone read the whole story in their talk yesterday. Don't worry, I didn't cry this time. Also, we went caroling around Solvang and to some of our investigators last night with the Hermanas and our zone leaders from Lompoc. Oh! Another funny thing, we had dinner with our bishop's family this week. Guess what? Do you remember when we met Harrison Haws and his family at the Candy Cane? Yeah, my bishop is his uncle, haha. Small world.
   Coming up this week we have a Christmas Devotional with several zones and our mission president tomorrow morning in Goleta. Christmas Eve we have dinner with the Klitgaards, where we will embrace a Danish Christmas. They have asked us to come prepared to sing a number for them. Sister Cox and I will be singing Away In A Manger. (I have come to love that song so much on mission.) As to what I will be doing on Christmas, it will be a crazy packed day. We have district meeting in Santa Barbara, then a few other things, then phone calls! Yay! :) I will call you at 5 my time - 6 your time, then dinner with a family that has a daughter out on a mission as well. We have to be in early, so we'll celebrate together too, just back at home by our cute tree.
   Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. I have loved studying, teaching, learning, and sharing about the messages of hope and love that we are reminded of at Christmas. Three wonderful examples from the scriptures that I love: Luke 2:10-12 "Lift up your head and be of good cheer...good tidings of great joy..." 3 Nephi 1:13,15 "Lift up your head and be of good cheer..." And of course the greatest message of hope, joy, and love: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." What an amazing message of hope for all of us. I've read this scripture so many times, but yesterday during my studies it hit me even more. I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I love him and I know that He lives. :) I have grown closer to him this Christmas. I pray that all of you have felt the same and will have an amazing Christmas. I love you all so much. Merry Christmas!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~Happy 13 Month!

~Christmas time :) and thank you for all your gifts! Love you!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Good Morning From A Chilly Solvang!
   It's been a beautiful week in Solvang and I have a lot to share for this week. Um...where to start?
   Transfer News~ We are both going to be staying here in Solvang! I get to be here in Solvang from Christmas! Yay. The K.'s have promised us a Danish Christmas when we go over there for dinner on Christmas Eve. I'm excited. So with that in mind, go ahead and send everything directly to my address here in Solvang. I'll look forward to it. :) Next transfer will be onJanuary 27th-ish I think. And today I am sending home a little package as my Christmas presents to all of you. It's not much, but it's my souvenir for each of you. I hope you like them. I thought they were special. I bought them in Jule Hus is Solvang. A Christmas shop that is open all year round. It's charming.
   Missionary work is going well here in this area. We're working with a few different people. I was so glad to hear about you all sharing "He Is The Gift". It's fun isn't it. People are so much more receptive and open to it. It's opening them up and bringing them Christmas joy. The other day we had stopped by to see our investigator E. and while we were talking to him on his doorstep about sharing "He Is The Gift" with his friends (he wanted extra cards to share, it was awesome) a UPS man ran up to the door to give E. a package. We turned to him and offered him a card too. He smiled as we told him about it and said he would watch it when he got home. Isn't the Christmas season fun? Also, L. is doing great. Special moments with L. this week: We read the Book of Mormon by a cozy fireplace in her living room. The following day we had a lesson and were able to help her commit to a baptismal date. We're working towards a day in late January. She's wonderful and we're excited for her to continue to learn and grow.
   Thursday was fun! You heard about the storm I gather. So that morning we drove down to Santa Barbara for District Meeting, which went well. Afterwards it was starting to rain, so we thought it would be safer to drive up the coastal way instead of taking the pass up to Solvang. It was beautiful to drive up there watching the stormy sea and waves. So cool! It rained lightly for most of the afternoon in Solvang. That night we were at dinner with a member and the winds picked up. We could see the huge window in their dining room bending in with the wind. They loaned us a fake Christmas tree and ornaments which all of us ran out to the car in the wind and rain. As we drove around Solvang we saw branches and things flying all over the place. It was crazy, and really fun to see at the same time. (You know me, naturally I was loving it.) The winds and rains continued to pick up. When we got home just before 9 our power was out. We got out our two little flashlights and planned for the following day. Then we decided to set up and decorate our tree in the dark. Haha. We would do that. We were almost done hanging up all the ornaments and we were joking about how funny our decorating job might look in the morning, when all of the sudden the power flicked on and the tree lit up. It was very pretty and I exclaimed, "It's magical!" And BLACK. The power went out again. It was a really funny moment. We laughed for a bit. The following morning we had power again, but it was humbling to drive around Solvang and Buellton and to see all of the damage from the storm. Palm leaves and tree branches everywhere. A ton of trees blew down! It's been quite the sight and things are still pretty messy outside. But it was a very fun storm to see. It's pretty chilly today and I hear more rain may be coming. :)
   Concerning Christmas trees, guess what? One of the members in this ward owns a few of the local tree lots and they had us come over and choose a tree! We chose a cute tree probably a little over 5 feet. We switched it for the fake one we had and decorated it. Every time we walk into our apartment we sigh. It smells so good! I love real Christmas trees. I feel so blessed.
   I watched a rocket launch! The other night we were at dinner and they told us there was going to be a rocket launch from the Vandenberg base. We watched the clock and went out to watch it. It was SO cool! It lit up the sky as it went up. I watched the pieces detach (Dad...I'm sorry I don't know what those are called) once it got up there and then the rumble hit us over there in Buellton. It was so loud and sounded like an earthquake. But there's a dream fulfilled and checked off my list. I got to watch a rocket going up into space. I think it was a spy satellite or something. Apparently it was a really big rocket though. You probably know more than I do though, you have access to the internet. ;)
   Daddy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I love you so much and I hope that you have an amazing birthday. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers, as always. :) I love you. Thanks for being a wonderful dad.
   Oh! I forgot to tell you all last week, I got exciting news from the sisters up in Pismo Beach. J. got baptized! Yay! Sister R told me that it was a wonderful baptismal service and that he is doing well. She said that he was sad that me and Sister Hiapo couldn't be there, but that he's very grateful for us. Jim is so great. I'm so happy for him! :) Oh, it just feels so good to hear news like that, both with Shan Shan and Jim.
   Well, it sounds like things are happening back home. Thanks for sharing what's going on with me. I love hearing about you all. I'm so excited to call home on Christmas. Is it okay if I call at 11:00 my time (12:00 your time) on Christmas morning? Same as usual I'll be calling you via cell phone and it will be about 40 minutes. :) Are you excited? I am. I'll probably sob. It will be so good to hear your voices. Should I call you cell phone Dad? Is that the best and is it still the same number? I hope that you all get feeling well, those of you who are ill. I love you! You've got this! And by the way Mom and Emma, you are both so crafty and skilled. I wish I could be like you. I did mend my yellow cardigan this last month. I was making my stitches up, but Sister Cox said that I have it in my genes. I thought you'd like that Mom. :) Oh and I made chocolate chip cookies that tasted just like yours...almost. :)
   I hope you all have a wonderfully, fantastic week getting ready for Christmas. My present that I am sending can be opened right away so that it can be a part of your Christmas season too. I have the same one that I keep hanging right next to my desk so I'll be right there with you. Your missionary loves you all so much!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)
P.S.- Haha in my personal study yesterday I came across this scripture and I started laughing. Luke 21:19 ;) You all know what I'm talking about. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hello Loved Ones!
   I hope that you are having a wonderful week. I loved your emails today, and I loved hearing about what's going on back home. By the way, I think that's adorable Jana, that James "mailed" me something. :) Tell everyone I love them! All of you reading this: I love YOU. 
   Wow there is a lot that happened this week. Solvang is getting so cute and Christmas-ed up. If that makes sense. It's so fun to see all the lights and to carol and stuff. It was a great week. To start off, it rained on Tuesday. A Lot! I loved it and it was very fun to be able to go about Solvang in the rain. Beautiful. Funny story from Tuesday. This was so crazy. We were going to meet with a less-active member for lunch. He wanted to buy us pizza at this good restaurant. That was delicious. Then we went to visit someone else...who insisted on feeding us pizza. Not to mention we had had pizza the night before with a family for dinner. But get this, we went to our dinner on Tuesday night and...they had ordered a pizza. Haha. It was so funny! Three times in one day. :) It's okay, I still love pizza. It was just a crazy amount for one day. My stomach didn't like me that night. Now I'm craving pizza again, so no harm done.
   On Wednesday we participated in a community service project that a bunch of women in our community do. We were packing care packages for the troops and sending them off. We worked for several hours and it was a special thing. We got to write a little letter with each one, and it was special to send love to others that are also serving away from home this Christmas. It really was a special service to do. Yesterday a member told us that they saw us on TV! There was a reporter there and apparently you can see us in some of the footage. I always wanted to be on television. ;)
   Now how about that amazing Christmas Devotional last night? I always love those and last night's was special too. To share some of my thoughts, I'll share some of what I wrote in my journal last night: I loved all that was said about how much developing the Christlike attributes and turning to our Savior will enable us to "succor" or "run to and lift" those in need and to bless their lives. Just as our Savior was sent down to Earth from Heaven to do the Father's will and to have a huge, good influence, we are sent here for the same noble purpose. We can make such a huge difference for others. President Henry B. Eyring's talk then went perfectly along those lines. He talked about the light that each of us can have. He spoke of the Light of Christ, how we can "glow", and how if we seek and obtain and work to share that light, it will be given to us more and more. We will glow more and more. I loved that. I want to glow! Jesus Christ is the light of the world. If we stand with Him we will also be a light to the world. The song lyrics came to my mind. "Remember you are greatest when you walk with God. When His light is in your eyes, you are truly strong." Cheesy, but I love it. There are moments sometimes after a lesson that goes really well and is super powerful when you look in the mirror and you can see a light in your own eyes. I don't know how to describe it, but you feel beautiful and light when you feel the Spirit and you know you're doing your best. I am striving to be a light to others. In a lesson with L. yesterday I was truly humbled and lifted. She is doing so well. She's progressing. She knows this church is the Lord's church because of us, the members. She told us that! She said that our Christlike examples tell her that we are His messengers and representatives. She said that we bring the Spirit and our love and she recognizes it. We did have some special moments with her this week. We helped her get to the ward Christmas activity which she loved. To help her get ready for the party we stood there for about 30 minutes combing through her knotted hair. It was something I never imagined myself doing, but it was a tender moment, just focusing on helping her to feel loved and well enough to come to the party. She asked us to sing hymns to her as we brushed. We did. :) I braided her hair when we were finished and she was so excited to go to the party. Special moments with L. :) By the way, yesterday she wanted to ask all about our family. I showed her the pictures that I carry with me and she thinks our family is wonderful. Mom and Dad, she told me to tell you that you are doing a wonderful job and to keep going.
   Have you all watched the "He Is The Gift" video and have you all been sharing it like crazy? I hope so. ;) We love sharing it. We got tons of the special pass-along cards and we're working hard to invite others to focus on and embrace their Savior. It's been wonderful.
   Coming up this week: The huge, delicious and fun Relief Society Christmas party is this Tuesday. And the new norm for transfer calls is for us to receive that call and find out the Saturday before. So this Saturday I will find out about next transfer. Exciting stuff. You think I'm staying here in Solvang? I hope so, but I'll go where the Lord wants me to go. :) I trust Him. He's been answering my prayers and giving me everything I need. Yesterday after fasting I received some clear answers to my prayers while reading the scriptures. I love prayer. I love the scriptures. I love the Holy Ghost and my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. I feel very loved and led.
   I hope you all have a wonderful day and a fantastic week. 
I love you so much!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~It rained A LOT on Tuesday. It was beautiful.

~This house is a great source of entertainment for the neighborhood. They went all out with the coordinating lights and music. Every time we drive past there are a ton of people watching. We enjoy it a bit too. :)