Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Visit to Montpelier

This week was our Stake Conference.  President Wilson, our mission president, spoke.  We had not heard this before, but in giving his talk about providing service as missionaries he mentioned that two young missionaries had lost parents while here on their mission.  They were both elders and they lost their moms.  They both chose to remain and complete their missionary service because they knew that is what their moms would have wanted.  We are always in awe the dedication and sacrifice of these young missionaries.  They are so impressive and inspirational.  We feel it a great honor to work with them.

We received permission from our Mission President to be released a week early.  Our official end date was March 1 but he is allowing us to leave Feb 23.  We thought we needed to spend more time with mother in Florida to help her get things under control there before we head back west.  We are planning to stop in Atlanta, Venice, Florida, Spring and Alpine, Texas, and Pagosa Springs, Colorado to see many family members.  Yay!

We had a good Officer Candidate School family home evening.  Our lone LDS marine was the only attendee again, but he is a really great guy.  He told us all about how hard the first week has been and we gave him encouragement and praise.  We had a good lesson about integrity and leading by example.  He loved the chocolate cake the other couple brought and ate two huge pieces and about 3 glasses of milk.  We are sad there are not more LDS students this time, or at least a few non LDS visitors.  But we know this young man needs all the support he can get, so we are glad to hold our meetings just for him.  It is pretty funny, 4 of us old folks giving a lesson and treats to this individual marine.  But it is always a privilege to work with these young OCS students.

We had a Senior Missionary activity on Saturday to tour Montpelier, so we traveled to Orange, Virginia on Friday.  Montpelier is the historic home of James Madison and it is located about 5 miles from Orange.  Lezlie has ancestors that settled in Orange County, so we decided to spend a day there doing family history research.  Well, Lezlie did the research and I did some reading and tv watching. She visited two different libraries and tapped out all the resources on the Conways.  It was a good day and she found some additional details she had not known before.  However,she did not find the big conclusive evidence about James Conway she was hoping to find.  Even though it was spitting snow we drove outside of Orange and found the land that the Conways settled- it is now a wildlife preserve that sponsors bird dog trials, a horse farm that raises endurance horses, and a large plant nursery. Orange is in the foothills of the Shenandoah mountains and the rolling countryside is beautiful, even in the winter. We saw some of the most beautiful horse farms.  We had a very nice dinner with the senior missionaries that live in Orange at an interesting local restaurant that had been a silk mill during the Civil War and WWI.  It was called the Silk Mill Grill- delicious crab cakes. This couple is going home next week, so it was fun to talk to them about finishing their mission and their plans for when they get home.  They have been here almost as long as we have, so we feel like we know them pretty well.  We talked about how hard it will be to say goodbye to the great new friends we have made here in Virginia.

On Saturday we had a great Senior Missionary Activity at Montpelier, the home of President James Madison and his wife Dolley.  Many years after the Madisons died it was owned by the DuPont family and became a horse farm. It is a national monument now, but it still sponsors cross country steeplechase type horse shows and fox hunts. There are beautiful rolling hills with horse pastures and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the front. We met at the visitors center and had a short but very spiritual meeting.  Since it may be the last time we see all the seniors we got a chance to bear our testimonies.  We talked about how much we have learned on our mission and about how blessed we and our families have been since we arrived here.  We have learned a great deal about faith, prayer, and about following the spirit.  We then got a special group tour of the mansion, and it was wonderful.  We had a superb tour leader who knew a ton of history about the home and the Madison family.  She even told a bit about James Madison's mom, who was a Conway. You might remember us mentioning that James Madison was born at Belle Grove, the Conway mansion.  He was born there because his mom went home to be with her mom when she had her first baby, James.  We stood in the room where James mom taught him his basic arithmetic and ABCs.  The guide was very dramatic and a great story teller.  So in addition to seeing the beautiful mansion and grounds we heard some great stories about James Madison, his wife Dolley, and about U.S. history.  James was an amazing man who had a huge intellect.  He studied the governments of the world in his home library for six months before the Constitutional Convention.  He evaluated why they failed and developed ideas about how to avoid those pitfalls in a government.  That is one of the reasons he was able to write most of the constitution all by himself when he attended the convention.  We had a very enjoyable day at Montpelier.  We are grateful that we have been able to see so many amazing U.S. History sites in Virginia.  We said goodbye to most of the other seniors as we may not see most of them again.  This was sad, but we are so grateful we got to know them and serve with them.  All have been wonderful examples to us.   The picture above is Lezlie reading on a bench with James and Dolley.   Below we are standing in front of the front porch at Montpelier.  Finally there is a picture of all of the senior missionaries from our mission that attended the activity. 

Today was a triple sacrament meeting Sunday.  We were busy!  We began by getting up early to bake muffins and get ready for our 7am sacrament service on base.  We then drove all the way to the base and provided the sacrament meeting for our lone LDS marine currently enrolled in Officer Candidate School.  We had a great discussion on courage.  We have enjoyed getting to know this young man and think highly of him.  We get to love these young people so quickly and we just want all the best for them.  I think it is part of the missionary spirit that you can develop such a love for folks so soon after you meet them.  I supposed we should try to be more like that all the time.  Next we drove all the way back to Woodbridge and attended our regular church meetings in our own ward.  Our schedule is currently 9:00-12:00.  Our meetings were excellent and we enjoyed spending time with our dear Quantico Ward family.  Immediately after our meetings we headed for the Rock Hill ward in Stafford, which is south of the base.  We met a young marine family that are not members of the church.  She is a marine at The Basic School.  We first met her at OCS where she attended our services several times.  She contacted us and said she would like to take her family to an LDS church service.  So we met her, her husband, and her two children at a ward near them.  It was a really good experience.  Their children, two and four, had never sat through a church service like this before, and they did great.  They were well behaved. Many, many ward members came up and said hello and we think they had a nice time.  We are going to wait a few days and see if they want to come again or if they want us to stop by and teach them a lesson about the gospel.  We were happy to be able to facilitate them coming to church and were pleased with the way it turned out.  Upon arriving home we both kind of collapsed for a nap.  We do not handle these early, early mornings as well as we used to.  But it was an excellent day and we were grateful to be busily engaged in our work. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In Memory of Papa

We have not posted a blog update in a few weeks.  This is because Lezlie’s dad, Glenn Douthitt passed away on January 2 and we were away.  We received a phone call informing us early in the morning from Lezlie’s sister-in-law who lives in Florida.  Although he was 88 and in bad enough health that we knew this day was coming soon, it was still a shock and very sad news.  After multiple phone calls to Lezlie’s mom and other family members, many rearrangements of our schedule, and a quick job packing our suitcases we flew to Sarasota, Florida that afternoon.  We arrived in the evening and began doing all we could to comfort Lezlie’s mom and help take care of all the administrative issues associated with a death in the family.  Lezlie and her sister went through many files and made multiple phone calls to insurance companies, pension plans, etc.  Meanwhile I did the shopping, errand running, and handyman chores that needed doing.  Lezlie’s mom was blessed by having many family members visit to provide comfort and to attend the memorial service.  Lezlie’s brother and his wife and her sister and her husband were all there.  Seven of her eleven grandchildren attended and even a couple of great-grandkids were there.  Although it was a somber event that brought us together, the cousins all enjoyed visiting with Grandma and with each other.   Glenn was an Army Veteran, so he was buried in the National Cemetery of Sarasota, Florida.  We had a very nice outdoor memorial service there.   Three Army soliders were present.  When we began the service they marched in and placed the urn with Glenn’s ashes and an American flag on the front table.  Carrie said a prayer and Anne read a scripture. Then Lezlie read a biography of her dad.  Several of the children and grandchildren sang a song that Lezlie’s sister had written several years ago for Glenn and Connie’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Finally one of the soldiers played taps and the other two performed a very nice flag ceremony.  They presented the flag to Connie and on behalf of the President of the U.S. thanked her for her husband’s service to the country.  It was a very nice service and many tears were shed.  We then all gathered at the home of Lezlie’s brother David and his wife Liz.   They provided a wonderful meal and we had an informal sharing service where we all got to talk about our favorite memories of our father, father-in-law, and grandpa.  He was a great man, and we all had plenty of wonderful stories to share.  Many memories centered around his marvelous talents of art and music.  Some time in his forties he decided he wanted to learn to paint and he taught himself to be an excellent artist of land and seascapes.  Every child and grandchild has some of this art in their home.  We all remembered his skill at the organ, also self taught.  Every family get together was not complete until he sat down at the organ and played song after song.  There were also many memories about his kindness, his love of family, and his enjoyment of life.  It was a special afternoon where the tears were interspersed with laughter and contemplation about the good life of Glenn Douthitt.  We honor him and will miss him greatly.   But we know that he is now free from the pains and worries of mortal life, and that his spirit lives on.  We know that he is reunited with loved ones in heaven.  We are grateful to have known him and been a part of his life.  He was a great man who has left an outstanding legacy.  We honor his memory.  Here is a picture of Lezlie with her dad when she was about two.

We got some nice photos while in Florida.  Here are Abby and her 6 month old cousin Austin, son of Lee and Laura Douthitt. 

Here is a nice picture of Abby with her great-grandma as well as a four generation shot of Abby, mom Carrie, grandma Lezlie, and great-grandma Connie.

At the end of December we had a pleasant surprise.  We got the chance to see our nephew Michael Parsons and his fiance Alexis.  They were in Washington DC visiting friends.  They were visiting the Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport on their last day in DC and invited us to visit them there.  We did and it was a wonderful visit.  We enjoyed chatting while we walked around and saw the amazing planes, rockets, helicopters, and anything else that flies.  They both know a lot about aviation and space.  We got to see the Space Shuttle Discovery and Michael showed us the engines he worked on.  Very Cool!  We really enjoyed getting to know Alexis and thought she was a wonderful girl.  They really seemed happy with each other.  We were flattered that they invited us to spend time with them.   

We recently talked with the Church Military Relations Department.  We were sad to hear they do not have a couple lined up to replace us yet, at least not that will be here when we leave.  It will make us sad if we do not get to turn over these wonderful marines to another couple.  The soonest anyone would be here would be mid April, so that would mean about a 6 week gap.   But that is better than no replacements at all.  We will have to leave a lot of information for the new couple so that they can quickly come up to speed.

Lezlie had a delightful phone call with the grandma of our young marine friend – the spudnut grandma.  She was delighted to hear that her grandson had enjoyed spudnuts on Christmas morning.  We assured her that they were not as good as her spudnuts.  She and Lezlie had a good laugh and a nice talk on the phone.  We were so delighted to be able to make that surprise work out.  It was a blessing for our marine as well as his grandma.

After a slow Monday of catching up from our trip to Florida we went out to dinner with our senior missionary friends Kevin and Mala Anderson.  They have served here in Woodbridge for 6 months and we have greatly enjoyed working and socializing with them.  They are leaving tomorrow, so we took them out to dinner.  It was fun but bittersweet because we are sad to bid them goodbye.  While they were here we visited Monitcello and Mt Vernon together, went to the temple, shared several meals and got together in each other’s  apartment several times.  It has been wonderful to become close to another senior couple and talk about our missionary work.  We will sure miss them.
We had a great experience one evening last week with a marine family.  One of the female marines that frequently came to our Officer Candidate School classes and who is not a member of the church filled out a religious survey form at The Basic School.  She put down that she was interested in attending LDS services.  The chaplain sent us her information.  So we went and visited her family and got to know them a bit.  She has two young children and a husband who is very nice.  He is a retired marine.  He said that he had several close LDS friends in high school so know something about the church.  We are taking them to sacrament meeting at the ward near their home this Sunday   It was exciting to talk to them and get to know them just a little bit.   We are happy to get to take them to church.

We have actually begun sorting through some of our closets and shelves here. We have just a little over a month left. Some things we will leave here, some we will ship home, some we will give to Goodwill, some we will give to the young missionaries, and some we will take in the car.  You can really accumulate a lot of stuff in 18 months, so we have a lot to go through. 

Friday evening was our first meeting with the new Officer Candidate School class.  We had only one show up, but he was a very nice guy.  He is originally from Utah, but has lived in Portland for the last couple of years.  So it was fun to talk to him about Oregon.  We had a nice lesson about having the courage to Stand Alone.  He had some excellent comments.   The other service missionary that help with OCS and I were able to give him a blessing.  He is not worried about handling the physical stuff, as he is in really good shape.  But he is worried about getting injured.  So we gave him a nice blessing. The chaplain told us he thought that there were a couple more LDS folks that might show up next time.  We will just have to wait and see if there are others.