Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Family!
   Can you believe that I've been on my mission for a year? It's a strange feeling to think back to my Thanksgiving in the MTC a year ago. Good times. :) Thank you all for your wonderful emails and for your love and support. This sister missionary feels very loved by her wonderful family. I loved hearing about your business trip in Maui, Dad. I hope things continue to go well. You're so great. To answer your question there are a ton of dentists in Solvang probably because it's so close to Santa Barbara. Everyone goes down to Santa Barbara from here to work, but they love living up here where it's a lot quieter and smaller. Solvang is great. It's fun to drive down the little main street and the people are pretty kind here. It has been getting quite cold here in the evenings and unfortunately our heater broke last week. They weren't able to fix it till this morning so we've been sleeping in billions of's been a bit nippy. But it's been fun. Some kind members took mercy on us when they heard our story and let us borrow their mummybags and sleeping bags. We've been much warmer in the last two days. :) Camping in Solvang.
   The work in our area is going well. We were able to see L. a few times this week. She believes that this church could be the Lord's church. She loves the gospel and all that it teaches. She has fears about coming to church and being with other people that we're working on resolving with her, but she is definitely headed in the right direction. Last night we stopped by to see her and our discussion was powerful. The spirit was strong and she recognized it. I was strengthened by the Spirit as well. I know that this church is true. :) I love those moments when that truth is re-confirmed to you in powerful, recognizable ways. It was a wonderful thing. We were able to sing a hymn for her and pray with her before wishing her a good night. It's cool, in this area we've been able to use singing a lot. The 4 of us missionaries in Solvang (us and the Hermanas) all love singing and we enjoy singing together and doing our parts and everything. We've been asked sometimes at the end of a dinner or at service projects to sing by members and nonmembers. It's been special. I love music. Mom, I loved hearing about your song. Do you remember that Nearer, My God, To Thee is my favorite hymn? I love that hymn. It's the one I sing to myself often, whenever I need comfort or to remember that we have a loving Father in Heaven and a loving Savior. I love that song so much. I can only imagine how powerful the musical number was this week. You'll have to play it for me when I get home.
   Zone Conference was wonderful. There was so much given there in that meeting that I needed and that will continue to help us to be the best mission and the best missionaries we can be. President Felix spoke a lot on our desires and how our desires affect our attitudes towards obedience. It was a wonderful subject to study both before, during, and after the conference. Our desires are what lead us to our thoughts, words, and actions. Desires are powerful. Sometimes we have desires that we don't want or that we know aren't completely in line with the Lord's will. The most powerful thing that I learned at our Zone Conference was that even our desires can be changed through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. What a message of hope and of potential. :) I have desires to be so much better, I think we all do. How hopeful to know that through Jesus Christ we can and will become so much better. We can do this! All of us can. :)
   Guess what?! I get to go to the Temple this week! We were able to figure out the trip for my birthday. I'm going to the Los Angeles Temple tomorrow (Tuesday) morning! :) I'm actually going on splits for it with Hermana Bennion. Sister Liljenquist will be driving us. I can hardly wait. It's been 9 months! I'm so grateful for the opportunity to go. I'm so happy. :) I will be thinking about you all. The Temple is a place where you can't help but think all about your family. I love you all so much.
   Concerning Thanksgiving this week we will have quite the fun day. You asked me what I'd be doing. Here's my schedule: After studies we will be driving to Santa Barbara with the Hermanas for District Meeting. Sister Cox and I are giving the EDPEP presentation this week on Following-Up with commitments. Then after we drive back up we will be going to Sister W.'s house at 1:30to serve her by helping her prepare her Thanksgiving meal. At 3 we will be going to the J.s to eat our Thanksgiving Meal with them, and then later in the evening around 5:30 we will be having a small dinner at Sister W.'s again. Then we'll help her clean up afterwards. Sister W.'s son R. just got back from his mission in the Philipines and he's been working with us a lot and coming to lessons. It's fun to hear about the differences with his mission and ours. So yeah, Thanksgiving day should be wonderful. I'll be thinking about all of you. :) I hope you have a wonderful day. It is crazy to think of where I was a year ago. Ha...well. Things have changed a bit and a lot has happened. What a good year. On the subject of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my mission. Wow am I grateful for it. :) And I am grateful for all of you! I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week and a Happy Thanksgiving!
~Love, Melanie
(Sister Hardman)

~Driving to Ventura for Zone Conference. The views driving along the ocean were beautiful.

~12 Month Mark! Year old missionary. :)

~Yes...this is how we went to bed this weekend. It was a bit nippy.

~I think my biscuits and gravy were almost a success. :) I'm working on it. They were alright. Not as good as all of yours!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hey Family!
   How are you all doing? Sorry to hear about some sickness this week. Lame stuff. I hope you feel better soon and are able to have a wonderful week still, perhaps warm soup by the fire with a Jane Austen movie playing? That will help you to feel better I am sure. :) Dad, I hope you're having a fantastic time in Hawaii! :)
   This has been a good week. Our companionship is doing well and our area is doing well. We're having a lot of fun and working hard...that's what missionaries do, right? :) I'm really enjoying this ward. The talks given during Sacrament Meeting yesterday and the lesson in Relief Society by Sister E. were wonderful and meant a lot to me. The members here are really kind. And fun. There are a lot of dentists in our ward. Haha one of the families this week gave us a box of nice, new toothbrushes. 12 of them! We loved it! We had a couple of lessons this week with one of our investigators, L. She's very sweet and loves our message. We re-taught the Restoration this week to her and it was powerful. She believes in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and is even willing to be baptized. However, she has a really hard time keeping commitments and taking steps forward because she gets anxiety about her health and about other things. We're doing all we can to help her progress and keep commitments. When we talk about the gospel it calms her down and she has a desire to do these things like come to church and be baptized. We've even been able to help her by simply singing a hymn or two to her. This week I really loved the zone meeting that we had in Lompoc. Sister Moure and Elder Wickern and a few other missionaries I know from past districts our in our zone over in Lompoc.  We talked a lot about ways to re-teach the Restoration to those who have already heard it once, or twice, or perhaps many times over several years! Our practices were powerful and we've been able to use a lot that we learned and felt throughout this week. I love the power of teaching the Restoration. When you're able to teach with the Spirit and both teacher and hearer are edified...there's no way to describe it. It's just wonderful!
   We had several good community service opportunities this week. We were able to help iron, cut batting, and quilt with a group of women from the Lutheran church. They were very sweet and enjoyed working with us too. Our companionship and the Solvang Hermanas were all there, and at the end while we were all sitting and talking over dessert, our zone leaders came so that they could switch cars with the Hermanas. The group of us 6 missionaries were able to sing I Know That My Redeemer Lives to the women. The Spirit was strong. :)
   We're all excited for a zone conference that we're having this Wednesday in Ventura. Zone conferences are always so wonderful, and I'm excited to be able to go to Ventura for this one! I think we're combined with our zone the Lompoc zone, the Santa Barbara zone, and the Ventura zone.
   Also coming up this week, on Thursday. I will have been on my mission for a year! Can you believe it? I keep going back and reading journal entries from exactly a year ago. It's so exciting and fun and happy. :) I'm so grateful for all that has happened and all that I've been able to do and work on becoming in the last year. I'm excited to see what the last 6 months of my mission bring! I love my mission. :)
   Alright, and one last bit of really exciting news. I got a letter from Sister Evans this week, who is still in Moorpark. (Like trainer like trainee right? 4 transfers is a charm in Moorpark.) She told me that S.S. has been baptized and confirmed!!! I'm so excited about it! I'm so happy and grateful. Sister Evans told me that after being baptized S.S. said, "I'm so excited!" :) I've been thinking a lot about C., S., and S.S. I'm so grateful for the people that I've been able to meet and love and teach on my mission. This work is amazing. :) I'm so lucky.
   Thank you all for everything you do. I'm excited for this week and excited to see how things go. I think you're all pretty amazing and I love you so much. "You biggest fan." ;)
Love, Mel
(Sister Hardman) 
P.S.- Mom, my strange food phase this week has been re-heated, day-old spaghetti with melted cheese. Haha. I thought of you. Thanks!

~A member gave us a box of 12 nice toothbrushes this week! Yay! :)

~This is our District. Sister Cox and I are the only English companionship. Everyone else is doing Spanish work.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Good Morning From Solvang!
   Hello everyone! I enjoyed your emails today. :) I loved hearing about all of you. I hope you have a fantastic week and that you feel my love and support.
   So to explain the rest of my birthday, we did a ton of fun stuff. The Sisters made is so special for me with presents and birthday parties, Thai food, butterflies, ice cream in downtown Arroyo Grande, etc, etc, etc. It was a fantastic day and I had so much fun! It was so happy. And packed. By the end of the day, we picked up ice cream from this cute shop in downtown AG and as we walked back to our car along the mainstreet and it got darker it felt like the end of a good, full Disneyland day. I enjoyed it. We then went to say goodbye to J. He's amazing. He's around 89 to answer your question, Dad. He's so sweet and he's excited to get baptized and to "put the Elders to work." Jim said that he got his confirmation and that he's going to get baptized. :) It was quite the birthday present. I'm excited to hear about it. He's so sweet.
   Transfers all went smoothly and well. I love long drives along the coast. Beautiful. And then for District Meeting on Thursday we got to drive down to Santa Barbara. It was so fun to go there. It's beautiful and we passed the Mission. Thought of you and the pictures, Bonnie, Lisa, and Alan. ;)
   Wow, what a week. It was a strange one because Sister Cox was sick for several days. The truth is that being here I've only had a few opportunities to go out and work in my new area so far. But she's doing better for the most part, so this week we should be able to go out and see the people and share the gospel! Our area is doing well for what we were able to do this week. I've only met a couple of people we're working with, but we've had a few good lessons and one of our investigators came to church yesterday, surprising us after not coming for several weeks. We were also both asked to give talks in Sacrament meeting yesterday which went really well. We spoke about Preach My Gospel and we were speaking with a returned missionary who just got home from Brazil. It was fun to talk with him and hear his stories. I'm excited to be in the ward and to serve in this area. My first night in Solvang we had dinner with a family that is very Danish and proud of it. :) It was such a fun welcome to Solvang. Also, a funny coincidence. I received a letter from my friend Elder Trent Reimschussell who is in Denmark my second day here.  Can I just say that this town is the cutest thing I've ever seen! It's adorable. And so randomly placed in the middle of nowhere. I'll have to find out more history about Solvang. But the cute little downtown area is so fun. We drive down it every day. We live a few streets over. I'm excited to get to explore it a bit on some future preparation days. It's magical and I'm starting to feel the holidays coming up. And it's been a little bit cooler also. Hooray for being able to get away with wearing tights, boots, and scarves. :) I love it!
   Concerning my new companionship, I'm excited to be able to work with Sister Cox. She's from Mapleton and has been out for one transfer longer than I have. We've had a lot of fun getting to know each other and doing things in the apartment. It was hard this week because she's been sick. She needed to rest and sleep a lot, and I did all that I could to help her. But as I said, we have had a lot of fun already and we're doing well.
   I did really appreciate the extra time to get settled and to study more this week though. I studied and read a lot. I finished the Pearl of Great Price last week, and I'm nearing the end of the Book of Mormon. I'm enjoyed the Old and New Testaments.  Also, I had a nice little tender mercy that came in the mail in my time of need this week. I had been in for several days and I think I was starting to go a little crazy. I even suddenly got up half-way through making a planner cover to do a "Cabin-fever" dance. ;) Anyway, a friend, Elder Tyler Lindsay up in Washington sent me a really cool talk in the mail as a birthday present. If any of you have heard President Uchtdorf's "Fear Not, I Am With Thee." Talk that he shared at a new Mission President's seminar I think. He shared a story of an Elder Strong and an Elder Green. The talk or paper I guess that Tyler sent me is the extended, full story of the "Elder Strong and Elder Green" story that President Uchtdorf shared. It's called the Ricciardi Letter and I really enjoyed reading it and applying Elder Ricciardi's attitudes towards missionary work. I always want to do better. And it was powerful, encouraging, enlightening, exciting, and fun to read. In addition to that, I spent this week doing a lot of personal time while she slept. :) I cleaned, unpacked, organized, baked and cooked (that was fun!), read, colored, took random pictures, organized all of my pictures into my little books, wrote in my journal, read some more, ate, ate, ate, organized some more, sang songs, pretended to practice the piano, read a cookbook, etc. It was a fun week. :)
   Alright, well I best be signing off. I love you all tremendously! You're all amazing!
Love, Melanie
(Sister Hardman)

Birthday party at the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.

Thai food with my favorite sisters. :)

Welcome to Solvang!

Organizing pictures while my companion was sick. :) I have a lot more printed out than I thought!

Hey Family!
   Thank you so much for amazingly supporting your missionary. Your support means so much to me. I am having a wonderful birthday and all of your gifts, letters, cards, emails, and prayers are lifting me so much. Today really is a Happy Birthday. :)
   So I need to tell you about my week. It's been a very exciting week filled with BIG surprises.
   Biggest surprise of the week was transfer calls. Since we were pretty positive that I was staying and Sister Hiapo was leaving, when we were on the phone with the Elders and they asked who wanted to find out what was happening to them first, we said me, assuming I was just staying, then Sister Hiapo's would be really exciting. Surprise! I am being transferred after just 6 weeks here! Guess where I'm going?! You'll love this, Mom. I'm going to Solvang!!! :) Yes! I'm SO excited. Seriously, it was such a big surprise though. I was sure I was staying here. So Sister Hiapo is going to Santa Barbara. They're white-washing our area here with Elders actually. We call it a "Tie-wash" I guess. :) We're doing our best to prepare the area for them. Exciting stuff though, right?
   Another fantastic surprise came on Halloween. It RAINED!!! A lot! (For a couple of hours at least.) It was a miracle and it was beautiful. All day it was cloudy, but that's not unusual. Rain was a possibility and a hope in everyone's heart. We prayer for it to rain a lot. And we even did a rain dance and song. Near the end of our dinner appointment I heard something that I hadn't heard in a long time. I said, "Do you hear that?...Is it raining?!" We all went out the front door. It was pouring! Happy Halloween! Halloween was fun. This Tuesday we had a fun ward party and we got to go "trunk-or-treating." And on Monday we got to go carve pumpkins as a district. It was a fun week!
   Our area here in the Pismo Beach ward is doing great. Our investigator J. is doing amazing. He came to a baptism with us in Orcutt this Saturday. He met President Felix there. He knows he's going to be baptized, and he seems so excited. He's gone to several dinners with members this week and he was excited to go to all three hours of church this week. He still has the baptismal date of November 29th. Haha, we had him show us his Navy pictures of him when he was 18. He's a World War 2 veteran. He's a great person. We love him very much. We're sad to leave him, but excited for the Elders that are coming. He needs them now.  
   As always, we love doing service. It really does soften hearts, it helps us to gain special bonds and experiences with those we serve, and it just feels right. I love doing service. We saw many service miracles in this area that I am so grateful for. I think that part of what made this transfer so wonderful is how much we were able to just serve others. I love service opportunities.
   Sister Hiapo is great. I have loved this transfer with her. We got along so well and we worked together so hard. It was a wonderful transfer and I am so grateful for all that I was able to learn from her and with her. I've never met my new companion, Sister Cox, so I'm excited to meet her this week and begin working with her. Please pray for us as I go to a new area with a new companion. :)
   I reflected last night on the last 20 years of my life. Today I turned 20 and realized that it's been a long time. I thought about how Heavenly Father has directed me throughout my life and where he has led me. I feel closer to him every week on my mission and I know that he loves me and is guiding me. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities, trials, experiences, friends, family members, responsibilities, answers, etc. I have been given so much. I love the life that I have. It's nice to be able to look back on 20 years and to be able to say and know that you are happy with how you are doing in your life. I will do my best to keep it up for the rest of my life. :) Yay for 20 years!
   Again, thank you so much for all of your gifts and letters! I haven't been able to fully read the emails from today, but I have loved what I've been able to read so far. Thanks for telling me about your fun Halloween week. You're all in my prayers every day. I love you all so much and I'll be thinking of you today. We have a fun day ahead of us. It's kind of fun to have your birthday on a preparation day. ;) We're going to Grover Beach to a Thai restaurant! I love Thai food and it's been awhile. Yay! The Sisters are so good to me. Have a wonderful day!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

This is what your birthday girl has been doing this morning. My companions/roommates are the best. They set up a lot for me. :) And we enjoyed a lovely California morning walk. It's lighter because of daylight savings ending. :)

 Loving the rain!!! :)

Carving pumpkins as a district.