Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 19, 2017 - Josh Comes Home

From Dad:

A spiritual evening going with Sam to the Stake Center to be set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to server in the Lusaka, Zambia mission, followed by a last session at the temple together. Sam got to stand in the circle with Sis Carlson and made her cry.

We then headed to Boston Pizza in South Edmonton Common to wait the final nail biting hour to go and pick Josh up at the airport.

We got there just as his plane landed and ran into the Sturko's waiting for their Son Michael to come home from the Saint George mission.

I started the Facebook live video going right away, but was dismayed that my battery started draining too fast and hearing from the Sturko's they had waited for 40 minutes for their son to come out of Customs. Sure enough I ran out too quick, so we switched everyone watching over to Jen's phone. But it too started to run out. 40 minutes in, I decided to make a mad dash back to the van to get Jen's charger. Huffing and puffing I came back in time only to realize I'd forgotten the charge cord, so away I ran again. Luckily made it back with about 3 min to spare. Watch the drama below!

Video and Pictures from the Airport:

December 18, 2017

From Jen - Lasts and Firsts

Dear Elder Smith,

I’m laying in bed this morning, already feeling tired in anticipation for the upcoming week. There are so many things happening and so many things to do yet, it makes my head spin. I decided to relax a bit longer and write you the last email. (Can you believe it?) First ... some perspective.

I needed this little quote when I read it yesterday. If we focus on the essential, then everything else is just gravy.

It is essential to connect with the Lord everyday in a meaningful way. If I can do that, the rest of the day goes smoothly, I handle busy-ness better, and I see the joys in the midst of it all. The weird thing is ... when life starts to feel busy, the first thing to go is scripture study. Why is that? So, once I’m done writing this, I’ll open up my scriptures. Essential. I hope you are doing yours, too.

Relationships are essential. I’m praying that you will fully recognize all of the eternal connections you’ve made on your mission and have the chance to say good-bye to all of them. Luckily, social media makes it easy to keep in touch post-mission. Your family relationships are essential. When you get off the plane, it will be just us. Just your family. We’ve told everyone we only get six hours with you and Sam and we want to keep in in the family. After that, though, and with the Christmas season, you will see all of your loved ones. You’ll be busy. Grandma and Grandpa Smith are staying here for Christmas so you will also get quality time with them!

So, no stress! Think of what is essential for you, then do those things. The rest is gravy.

Dad and I are so proud of you, Josh. You did it!! You held your course to the end! You are a finisher! The personal foundation you built on your mission will springboard you for the rest of your life. Keep in mind, it’s okay to freak out a little bit as you transition from missionary to normal life. Christian Graham got home a week and a half ago and you two should make time to chat and commiserate.


This week was full of performances and company and doing last minute stuff for Sam’s mission. He’s pretty much all packed and ready to go. We just went through his personal pharmacy while in Africa. It’s a lot of medicine “just in case.” It brings a whole new meaning to the word Prepare. (Sorry, don’t have a picture.)

But we do have a few of the play ...

Ben did fantastic in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I hope the DVD comes out soon so you can watch it. He had a solo that he nailed!

Abby’s piano is also getting really good. We’ll have to do a mini-concert for you when you get home. She played at the Christmas recital with no nervousness at all.

I’ve been helping Wendy Francis every Thursday for awhile and Sam came with me the last two times. He’s super good at assembling furniture and set up four bookshelves for her.

This picture made me laugh because as he was unbolting this shelf to move it, he found a ukulele and started playing it. Lol! I told Wendy that you would be coming with me next time. We’ll provide service to her and she’ll cut your hair. Haha. So, you see, I’m already booking you with appointments. 😉FYI, we’re also planning to meet Ebony in Edmonton to shop for some street clothes for you.

Mia keeps us on the straight and narrow for FHE. This week we only had time to do this week was spotlight and a game. She picked Apples to Apples.

Be prepared to play games with Mia. It’s her favourite thing.

So, you see, life goes on. There is a lot waiting for you and coming home at Christmas is about the best thing ever. You are still in every prayer and in our thoughts always. We love you.

Good luck with the flight home and all the connections. We’ll be waiting for you on the other side.

Love forever,


From Dad:

I'll add my two cents really quick here + some pictures.

Ditto to what Mom says about being so proud of your service to the Lord for 2 years. It will be a foundation for years to come.

I hope you can find someone like her some day (soon? :) ). We don't have a perfect marriage, but we are committed to each other and we are perfecting it in small and simple ways all the time. 

This process of small and simple improvement really struck me this time when I read Alma 37. It is now my new favorite B of M chapter. I especially like the idea of the scriptures enlarging our memories of the Lord's dealings with our forefathers so that we can add that to our memories and become confident in the Lord's promises for us and our families and to turn us to the Savoir. Also, the analogy of the Liahona  is so powerful and struck me in new ways this time.

We are steadily preparing the downstairs bathroom and probably won't have it done completely in time for your return (that was the goal), but as Mom has mentioned, our goal is progress every day, no matter how small.

Love you lots. Savor every last moment.



Cody got a haircut after Grandpa Bruce told him he'd give him $50 to do it!

Sam at the Institute choir

Ben's write up for the play

Ben and De Vries boys (who were also in the play)

Bathroom progress.

From Josh - He Lives:

​​I feel like I have not learned a lot on my mission, but what I have learned I value over all things.
I have learned that in all things God is there, He loves me and is reaching out to bless me and everyone. I have learned that if I trust in Him I can resist all evil, know what to say, be unafraid. If I trust in Him I never have to doubt where to go, what to do and how to do things. 

When we trust in God it does not eliminate trials, turn away trouble, people will still be jerks and those you love may not always be protected and kept safe in ways that we think. But when we put our trust in God we can fall into His holy arms, rely on the mercy that he freely gives to those who want it. even in the darkness, we have a place to turn to... Jesus Christ once said "I am the light that shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not" I know that in all things he emulates the Father, I know that Jesus Christ was sent into the world to save us from ourselves. I know that he has lifted me out of darkness many times, I am grateful for his love, that even when I mess up and make mistakes he still is reaching out to pick me up. 
I have gained a testimony of this work, and I know that this Church is God's true church on the earth, Joseph Smith was a prophet, he did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, I know that there is a true prophet on the earth today, and as we live by the words that he gives we will always be in the right way. 
I believe in the power of personal revelation and know that if we ask in faith then God will always give us answers. No power of influence in this world can compare to the power of a direct answer from God through the Holy Ghost. 

I guess over all I wanted to add my witness to that of the prophets and apostles when they said.
"Now after the many testimonies that have been said this is the testimony last of all...That he lives!"
And I truly, truly know that of myself, Jesus Christ does live, is he our savior, and redeemer, our advocate with the father, we was born for us and he died for us, and he lives for us still. 

In a recent Christmas concert that the Valencia stake had it was titled Christ the babe was born for you. It was a super amazing and throughout it I felt so much of the truthfulness of it, before the director, Richard Rich said a prayer for the Angels to sing with them and I wish I could get a copy of all that they sang because it was something I never want to forget. 

December 11, 2017

From Jen - Nine Days but Who's counting?:

Dear Josh,

Well, Sam’s Farewell happened. He gave a very spiritual and mature talk about why he’s serving a mission and The Path of Happiness. It’s starting to become very real, suddenly. We’ll spend our time doing last minute stuff as well as preparing for YOU. It’s crazy. I get a lot of comments about how emotional it’s all going to be. Yes, thanks for the reminder. Haha.

Great week. Here are some pics explaining it all.

Our dug out froze into a beautiful skating rink. So fun.

Ben, who falls asleep every moment he can. He spend 12-15 hours a day at the school practicing for his play. He’s tired.

We performed at the Ward Christmas Party.

Sam preparing for his talk

Any other spare moment ... playing Dungeons and Dragons.

We’ve also enjoyed focussing on Light the World and paying attention to different ways of serving. Sam and I are heading out this morning to go help Sis. Till with some cleaning and maintenance on the apartment she manages. It’s good to serve.

Also, you have nine days to pay attention to your personal prayers and scripture study. I have LOTS to tell you when you get home and I want you to be able to say that your last week of being a missionary was impactful because of your daily devotion to connecting with the Lord. Don’t slack. I love you.


From Josh - A lasting change:

"Don't let it slip away" was the counsel from a member of my ward, it is easy to lose a lot of what is learned on a mission. In my departing interview with my mission president said that with every decision that I need to move forward confidently. So here I go. 

I have learned a thing or two on my mission... I have learned that in order to get the trust of people you need to be yourself, be real, help people to see that you are not just there for yourself but for those you speak to.

Two years can change a man... It is super weird that I have only one week, I am trying to do all I can to leave a lasting impact and help this ward to be better for having me rather then giving up... It is hard at times, I am grateful for all the words of encouragement and support that I have gotten on my mission, I realize that I could and should have done better on a lot of things, like sending letters home, being more confident, and speaking to more people, I still have many things to work on as a person, and I am excited to continue to rely on the Lord for what I stand in need of. 

I was reading recently in Alma just beginning the war Chapters and I have been struck by the onset and the integrity of Moroni, and in the most recent story I was surprised to admire Zarahemna and his honesty, when given the option to enter a covenant and leave or continue fighting he could have accepted it and lied about entering a covenant, but he told Moroni that he would not enter into a covenant that he felt he could not keep. I wrote in my margins "don't promise things that you won't follow through on" A good proverb for life... Another thing about that story is the comparison with armor and testimony, even though the Laminites fought like dragons, they still were swept down because their armor was not there, they had none, the same would happen to us if we had no testimony. The Book of Mormon is amazing. 

I love you all and hope things are good, this week will be full of lasts and good bye's, and next week will be a lot of firsts and hello's I am excited for one and not so excited for another, I will truly miss it here, the people, the places, and the experience, I love my mission, and I am so glad I was able to serve with all my heart, so many things have come and gone, every day is a gift and I hope to cherish and value it as much as I can. 



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 3, 2017

From Mom - Elder Smith:

Dear Josh,

Here is a picture to start the email ...

(They were watching promo videos.) It’s such a strange idea to think we’ll be swapping Sam out for you. In three weeks, I’ll be sending a picture like this to Sam but you will be in his place and I just can’t wrap my brain around it. Don’t get me wrong, we all are SUPER super excited to see you. The girls are marking off their calendars until the big day (and it’s not Christmas). ðŸ˜Š

It’s been a busy, busy week. Ben is at the school until 9 every night (that makes 15-16 hour days). It’s insane and I’m not happy about it. Having said that, I think it will be a good experience for him to be in a live play. They are doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

We also performed as a family at the Stake Christmas Event. This is what my journal has to say about it ...

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Our family was asked weeks ago to sing at the Stake Christmas Event. My opinion was a resounding “NO” but Chad had other plans. I reluctantly and petulantly went along fighting with my own inner demons along the way. The end result was Mia singing her rendition of Jingle Bells on the ukulele which morphed suddenly into Ben’s God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen piano solo which morphed to Sam playing guitar while Abby sang Samuel Tells of Baby Jesus where Chad and I joined at the end at which point we all sang Away in a Manger. I was particularly proud of my role playing percussion on the jingle bells (insert eye roll) but I was NOT prepared for the onslaught of sincere compliments. 

My favourites were, 

Jeff Fitzner: “I do not often get emotional, but when your family went up and I heard you sing, I was definitely teary-eyed.”

Danielle: “I loved your song! I loved it! My favourite from the entire night! Your children are so grown up and adorable at the same time.” (Coming from a girl in my young women’s group 17 years ago). 

Ron and Alaina Sirtonsk (from our old ward): “We were at the temple and decided to crash Riverbend’s Christmas Concert. Boy, are we glad we did. Seeing your family up there (everyone is getting so big!) made our entire night. Beautiful. Thank you. We miss you.”

Church society is not where I look for validation, but I was surprised by it this time. I attribute it to the softening of my heart I’ve experienced recently. My humility project has opened my eyes to possibilities I’ve never considered before. While we were singing I saw teary-eyed Kenny sitting with Ruby. For that alone, I was glad. For the few who matter to me, worth it. Worth it all the way. Thanks, Chad. If it wasn’t for you, many things wouldn’t happen in my life that need to. We’ve somehow become “that musical family,” which is the biggest surprise of my life. 

Now we can focus on the rest of Sam’s prep. He has one rabies shot to go and he’s caught up. Poor kid has had enough needles and pills to last a lifetime to prevent him from getting malaria, typhoid, cholera, rabies, poliomyelitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, influenza and any number of bacteria he might encounter in Zambia for which his little-white-boy-first-world-upbringing has not prepared him for. Oi!

We also had the privilege of babysitting Todd and Jamie’s boys this week. Just a little recap from Instagram ...

I suppose we’ll have to remind you of everyone’s names when you get home but apparently Connor has diligently prayed for you for two years despite the fact that he can hardly remember you. Todd says he  prays “bless Josh on his mission that he will be safe.” So cute. 

And this is Nate, who was a tiny baby when you left. 

It’s going to be a pretty fun Christmas this year. 

Just to be accountable, my personal scripture study is going strong and I’ve loved the challenge of making it a higher priority to  my morning routine. It makes SUCH a difference. I’m excited to show you my new study method. Keep a going, Elder Smith. Stay focused. Make as much difference as you can. Strengthen your testimony daily. Follow the Spirit. Keep smiling.

Love you forever,


See our driveway made of ice? Dad’s getting good at pulling people out. 

For fun:

From Josh - Peace is my watchword

This week has been a constant up and down... mostly up though, which is good, I have been really slacking these past couple weeks on my prayers and scripture study, and I have been really trying this week to get back into the groove of things, saying my prayers every night, reading the scriptures more devotedly, and this week I have been the recipient of much peace and energy.
One cool experience was when my companion got an energy drink to keep awake and going, and I really wanted one because I was super tired, but I prayed instead and asked for the energy I needed to continue on, because I knew that nothing in this world can compare to the wonders of God, and throughout the day I was filled with so much excitement and energy that I didn't know what to do with it all, I felt as if I could walk and not be weary, run and not faint. It was pretty cool to feel. That was my little miracle this week.

Most of the things that stuck out this week were the ward Christmas party, teaching in spanish and members feeding us soooooo much food, I love it though, there are so many people are that I have grown to love, and a fact I have realized my whole mission is that the Lord doesn't transfer me from an area until I truly fall in love with the people in that area. And this time he times it perfectly, he knew exactly how long it would take for me to truly feel like I found my place and that was when I was going home, I am really looking forward to coming home, but will miss it here, I will miss the wonderful experiences and the great people who have had such a great impact on me. I have learned a lot here and one of the things I have learned the most is that people care more about how much you care rather then how much you know it has been a guiding light and a great realization for me, that no matter how many people try to prove me wrong when I tell them how much this matters to me and bear my testimony from my heart, when that happens no human logic can deny someones passion for the gospel, and no one can take away the love you have for someone else. People can feel that even when it isn't expressed, when you do something out of christ like love it impacts those who need that love. I may have said this before and it may sound kind of nerdy but in Star wars those in the dark side try to avoid feelings of love, because love is weakness, it is a reliance on someone else, an opening up that leaves you vulnerable to more pain, but when you open yourself up, you open up to greater peace and joy, happiness and wonder. 

Christ is always reaching out to us. We may withhold our hearts because of others or because of disbelief, he is always ready to lift us up, he is our master and peace is his watchword, he offers it freely to everyone who will have faith in him and keep his commandment.
We were in a lesson recently and we were teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, (something that sam will get pretty acquainted with) and after the lesson the member piped up and said, that no matter what happens, no matter what anyone tells you, if you rely on the gospel and kind of go back to the basics whenever someone offends you or whenever something comes up that makes you doubt if you go to the simple gospel it can help you keep a focus on what is important. That really stuck out to me because there will be offenses there will be things that come up that we don't know, church leaders are imperfect, but the gospel is perfect and if we rely on that we will make it through. 

Well I love you all, these emails are in shore supply, but I want you to know that I have a testimony of this Church, it is truly Gods church on the earth in these days, the fulness of the gospel is found on the earth once more, that is the gospel I have been called to preach, and its the gospel that we all are responsible to stand as witnesses of. At all times, in all places. 

Hope you all have a good week. 


Pictures with members, important memories to keep. 

And... Flying spaghetti monster religious sticker... funny idea that. 

November 27, 2017

From Dad - Busy Season

Hi Josh. Hope things are going great in Sunny California. We've been having some unseasonably warm weather here. The challenge is that everything is turning into a skating rink especially our driveway. Ben pulled a little too far out of the garage before turning towards the driveway and ended up stocjnin the slope mainly because his front wheels were on pure ice. 

We are slowly pulling together a medley of songs for our family to perform at the Stake Christmas party on Saturday. We are both excited for it and excited to be finished it. Here is the plan:

1. Mia starts with "Jingle Bells" on Ukelele on a stool in the spotlight at the mike with Mom playing bells in the background
2. Ben comes in with a piano solo "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
3. Sam and Abby come up and Abby sings "Said Samuel" while Sam plays the guitar.
4. Mom and Mia and then me join in the second verse.
5. Ben plays intro to "Away in a Manger" and accompanies the family singing this to close.

Amelia pulled out her homeschooling calendar today and started writing down all our December events and pretty much filled every day in with something. Ben has a school Christmas concert plus a play. Sam has an institute choir concert just like you did before you left.   

Ben was invited to the LCHS awards ceremony. Little did we know we would have to wait through 2h of awards to get to the honor role so Ben could get his very own.... wait for it ... pen. Woot woot. 

As you can see from the attached picture that the girls have already imposed their Christmas spirit on our home with decorations. 

In other news, the boys have found an alternative to video games. Once Sam stopped working, he decided to help fill he time, he would get into Dungeons and Dragons... in my day parents worried about this game like we do about video games today. The good thing is that it is face to face and the kids are doing it together and with Cody and even the DeVries boys. Like all things, done in moderation it can be good.

I got an invitation from Sister Lambert this last week to pause every day and identify the hand of God in my life and to note the whispering of the spirit. Then, she invited me to share in Sunday School. 

So I shared my most recent experience from yesterday. 

One of the people that Sam worked with (Daryl Teeter) at Classic, has been coming to Church and was baptized yesterday. Because Sam worked with him, Sam wanted to go to the baptism after coaching his Gymnastics class. I had met Daryl in SS class a few Sunday's ago and I had the impression to go to the baptism. Saturday afternoon the opposition started. First the car was dead, then I plugged in the charger to a cord that started spitting fire. Finally I got the car started and headed off. First tender mercy was that the baptism started late and so I got there just in time and when I entered the RS room, there was Sam. It was a great feeling to see him there of his own volition. Then, on Sunday, in Ward Council, I found out that Sam had been asked to perform the confirmation! Of course he hadn't thought to tell us, but we were proud of him all the same. 

There is something just amazing that happens in little ways when we follow the spirit.

Another conversation that I enjoyed at Church yesterday was with Brother Don Bates. He was telling me about his new job and how they were dealing with various challenges and implementing different initiatives. He made the statement that he was "Drinking the Kool-Aid, essentially meaning he was buying into the company direction and philosophy wholeheartedly. This sparked a conversation with Ben and I this morning before he drove himself to Seminary (still hard to believe that he's able to do that!) where we talked about drinking the Kool-Aid of the Gospel plan and participating in the church. We talked about the purpose and joy of having a calling and serving in the church. I shared with him my testimony of how important that has been for me and about wholeheartedly being "All In" so that we can have the full joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his Church. 

So now you have just a few weeks left, I hope you are still drinking the Kool-Aid of your mission experience and being wholehearted about your service and efforts. It is the true path of happiness.

Love Dad.

From Josh - Enduring to the End

The gospel of Jesus Christ embodies five main points, first faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by the proper authority, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. 
I feel on my mission it has been such a great chance to develop faith, I have had many opportunities to repent, I have taught and have tried to stay true to my baptismal covenants, I have been following the spirit as much as I can... Enduring to the end is a little difficult at times though. 

This week was not the most eventful week, since it was thanksgiving, we have been having a fun time though with the Christmas initiative #lighttheworld, it has a great message, but what frustrates me is when people don't want to listen, or get into the spirit of Christmas, what makes me the most frustrated is when you have such a wonderful message that you know will change peoples lives and they don't seem to see it. 

I recently read in Alma 27 and one of my favourite few verses are 17-18 when Ammon sees Alma and his joy is so full that he is overcome and falls to the ground. Then next verse explains that that is the joy in which only comes to the humble seekers of happiness. A happiness that is explained earlier that comes from seeing each other still strong in the faith, I encourage you all to seek to continue to develop your testimonies that we may see each other  whether it be in this life or the next still strong in the faith. 

I am sorry that this is short, we have been busy and I don't have much time, I hope all is well with you all! That everyone is getting into the Christmas season! I love you all a ton. See you soon.