WONDERFUL FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!
What a fantastic week this was!! First off, I LOVED being able to talk to you!!!!!! What an amazing Christmas & Birthday gift it was to be able to talk over Skype. I never thought that day would come where I would be able to Skype home and now it`s schon vorbei! That experience was one I will never forget! Skyping with you offered me your incredible love and support. I am so blessed to have a family such as you!
Christmas Eve (which is celebrated more here than the 25th) we spent with the Schmid family and the Huy family. We were able to enjoy a delicious lunch at the Schmid´s, complete with knödel and Schweinbrat. It. Was. DELICIOUS. (Let me just say I am very happy I got to maintain Brown/Motto family tradition of eating a German meal for Christmas Eve.) After dinner we were able to attend Midnight Mass at the majestic Stephan´s Dome with the Huy`s and the rest of the missionaries in Vienna. What an experience that was --culturally and religiously very interesting. Over 500 people came to the mass and it was enitrely in German, not Latin like I thought it might be, so I was able to understand it. Imagine people from all walks of life, most dressed in their finest traditional Austrian trachten, coming together to celebrate the birth of the Savior. As I sat there and observed, I pondered that many of these people are probably "once-a-year Church goers"....and believing that honoring their Savior in this way is completely sufficient. Alas ..this is why we are here...to remind His children that there is more!
Overall it was really an amazing experience and one I will never forget. As we waited in line, we talked to a super fun couple from Seattle who was traveling Vienna for Christmas. We talked to them for 2 hours while we waited, and had a really great discussion about the Church and what we do as missionaries. This couple was so warm and friendly and very curious about what we believed, and what the differences between us and the Catholic church were. They found it amusing how many missionaries were at the Mass, and afterward we exchanged information. The also sang me happy birthday after the mass was over! So sweet of them....and strangely reminded me that it actually was my birthday! I was so caught up in the cultural experience and the moments of celebrating Christmas...that I forgot I was turning 20. I feel so blessed to be able to be here as a missionary on Christmas and to have this 20th birthday!
We were able to spend Christmas Day with our Relief Society President and another cute single lady from our ward. They made us a beautiful lunch....I feel like I've been eating so much! I am still feeling full! I am so grateful to incredible ward members who support us and take care of us. Overall, this Christmas was wonderful, and one I will never forget. Now I know what people say when they mean that Christmas will be the most special on your mission. I was able to contemplate and really, truly, deeply focus on the meaning of Christmas. I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven for the opportunity I have each day to focus my energy and thoughts on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how that made my Christmas THAT much more special.
Now that the Christmas season is over-- it´s now time to floor the gas pedal and work that much harder as a missionary! Making goals is something not strange to missionary life, and I look forward to making resolutions for myself for this next year of 2014. Also, as a missionary, it´s really interesting to know the difference between diligently and prayerfully setting goals and accomplishing them, as opposed to setting goals just to set them.
It is my testimony that in this new year, we can be completely made new. Just like in baptism! Exactly 12 years ago tomorrow, I made a very big step. I didn´t quite understand it, but in that font in Chicago, Illinois, I made one of the best choices of eternity. Through that decision to be baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, so many unseen and seen blessings have come into my life.
I am so grateful for all of you and for your support and love. Talking with you gave me such strength and peace in knowing that all is well at home. I pray for you all by name, each and every day, and I cannot wait to talk to you again very, very soon. Know that I love you and am eternally grateful to be your family!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Guten Rütsch!
Sister Natalie Motto