Taking My Wand for a Nametag

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chapter 75: "Oh... Am I interrupting something Catholic??"

You know that feeling on the first day of school when you walk into class, sit down, and then... the teacher starts talking... and you look around a bit... and slowly realize that you're meant to be in freshman English, but are actually in the AP biology room?? And then you start sweating because you realize in that moment that you've made a very big mistake. And now you're going to have to get up and leave in front of everyone, because the exit happens to be at the front of the class and at the opposite side of the room? Yeah, that was kind of like us during today's Pday...

You see, there's this famous place called Loreto. Why is it famous? There's this giant Catholic sanctuary that's famous because within the basilica, there is supposedly Jesus's childhood home. Well, why not check it out? We showed up, and it was waaaaaaaaaay crowded! It all was just normal Catholic stuff, and then we entered "Jesus's house"... first of all, let me just say that this was NOT Jesus's house. I highly doubt that the Savior of the World had portraits of himself hanging in his own home. He's much too humble for that lol. But wait, it gets worse. So we enter this little house thing and my first thought is "why is no one moving? Let's look, and then get out. Come on people!" We quickly figured out why. There were all these Catholic priests and nuns chanting and doing strange things with staffs and candles. It was honestly pretty terrifying. Then all of a sudden, all the people around us started chanting in unison with the priests. I'm being 100% serious when I say it was the creepiest thing I've seen in my life. Also, I felt like the main character in a cult movie, when he's like "aw frick, gotta pretend like I know what's going on here" and people kept trying to do peace handshakes with us and then they started doing a weird sacrament thing with chips and we booked it right out of there! Just us two Amish looking girls pushing through chanting Catholics trying to get to the exit, conveniently located at the opposite end of the "house". Keep in mind, all of this went down in a small bedroom-sized space claiming to be the childhood home of Jesus. The apostasy is real, folks, and it's pretty freaky up close and personal😂

It's been quite a week. Branch drama has been going down, which is always an adventure. What do you do when your branch mission leader doesn't like your investigators...? Or when some of the women in the ward verbally attack your less actives the minute they walk into church? Or when they expect you to escort youth to Rimini or do random chores all with like 20 minute's notice? Or when everyone is very much judgmental and socially awkward? Typically, you just do your best and then end up giving a talk, teaching Sunday school, and teaching Relief Society all in the same day. Awesome🙃 oh, how I love these crazies!

Well, my happiness level is really high lately, although my appetite has been pretty low... it has been a rough week for my poor insides. Why, you may ask? Probably because although most Italian food is a m a z i n g, every once in a while people kind of make up their own things and it's bad. Or, it's fish, in which case it is just bad without any effort. 

Attack 1: A sweet lady made us lunch after church. There was rice (which is ok) and spinach (which is random but also ok). Then, a meat sauce over the top... containing turkey (semi sketchy but ok) and then a sauce of mayo and tuna (no no not ok double blink abort abort). Why do these people love mayo so much??? We were pretty sick that day, that's for sure. 

Attack 2: Hi, remember how I hate fish? 🐟🐡🦑🦐🐙🐠Ok there's this Peruvian guy William who is super cool. He and his son are fairly new converts but had kinda fallen away from the church for about a year, until like a month ago. So William invited us to Manuel's seventeenth birthday party... and we were assuming we'd get to talk to his friends but it turns out they'd only invited us and the Anziani? Nice. Well he starts us out with freaking fish pasta. We're talking clams, shrimp, squid, and unrecognizable things... and of course, my bowl had the least fish, but sweet William felt bad about that and scooped some more in my bowl. Nice. Hurst and I almost died, and the Anziani made fun of us the whole time. BUT WE DID IT! And we thought we'd made it through a bit nauseous but relatively unscathed. WRONG because then William hands us each a giant fish. And that's the story of how I had to eat an entire fish, literally off the bone, peeling off the skin and avoiding the eyes, brains, bones, and teeth. It was watching me eat it 🐟👀 Well, prayer works because I made it! Right in time for more vegetables and fruit and two cakes. I don't think my stomach has ever hated me so much, and we still smell fish everywhere😭

In better news, we had another great lesson with Salina. We were originally planning on teaching the restoration, but about an hour beforehand, we changed it up. Both Sorella Hurst and I felt very strongly like we needed to do a lesson on Jesus Christ and His Atonement. It ended up being exactly the lesson she needed! She ended up asking a lot of questions about the repentance process, and there was just such a special spirit in the room. She asked about when church was, and was like "I'll try to come as often as I can, because I want to feel these feelings as much as possible!" It was just super cool. We were really guided to share different scriptures and experiences, and she seemed really touched by it all. 

We have have had two amazing lessons with Jelena this past week! During our first lesson, we kind of just talked about what her concerns were (aka why she broke up with us a couple weeks back). The spirit was so strong and she was so open with us. I felt really at one with my companion as we worked to ask inspired questions and determine what would be best for Jelena. The basic conclusion we all came to was that Jelena still likes her old church and views it as being very similar to our church, so she views both as being on same-ish ground. Because of that, she doesn't want to rush into baptism for either church because she wants to be 100% committed to whichever church she chooses. She really seems to get how important of a covenant baptism is! So for now, we are going to finish the lessons with her and just kind of help her with her questions and doubts. We got a little nervous last lesson because we asked if she had any questions, and she brought up the temple and tithing😬 however, she just wanted to know more about the Rome temple, and with tithing she was like "look, this isn't anything new... it's even in the Bible!” She's so cute lol. She came to church and actively participated in each hour, even taking notes of each scripture or talk cited so she can read them later. She's been really eating up conference talks and the Book of Mormon. She really loves Elder Holland (don't we all?), and is stoked for General Conference in a few weeks!

I think what will end up making the biggest difference for Jelena in the end is the Book of Mormon. She's already read a good portion of it, and absolutely loves it. We asked her at the end of the last lesson if she'd prayed about whether or not it was true. She said she had. And that she really felt that it was a true book of scripture. She kept cross referencing different stories and teachings with those found in the Bible. It's just been ringing even more true than ever to me just how amazing the Book of Mormon is. It accomplishes so many purposes. It testifies of Christ. It clarifies and supports the Bible. Above all, it's a way for us to receive answers and truth.  It's something unique to the true church of Jesus Christ. Other Christian churches may have the Bible or some of the same teachings, but only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the Book of Mormon.

It's a really good book. 10/10 would recommend.


"We're not normal missionaries. We were basically called to chaperone 13 year olds, fix marriages, and clean churches." -Anziano Jacobsen

"Sometimes we joke that every time you say a prayer, your husband gets hotter!" -Sorella Hurst
"... Well in that case, can I say the closing prayer too?" -Jelena

"You Peruvians just need to stay in Peru! I'm sick of immigrants showing up in this country and stealing our jobs!" -Elena, Russian immigrant

1- Power nap whenever & wherever we can!  2&3-After surviving the fish! 4&5-When you visit ‘Jesus’s house’ and walk in on cult life  6-15 More Pday fun in Loreto!



Friday, August 18, 2017

Chapter 74: "Want You Back, Want Want You Back"

You know how in Harry Potter, they freak out when someone mentions Voldemort by name? Well, that’s kind of similar to the word "ferragosto" for Italian missionaries. Remember how all Italians just go on vacation for the whole month of August? Same. No wonder the economy here struggles🙄 Well, you can still usually find a person or two who doesn't do this whole month-long vacation thing. However, that is not the case for ferragosto, a holiday that falls on August 15th, and basically everything is closed and it's a bigger deal than Christmas... so it's been an adventurous week leading up to the 'day which shall not be named' full of slowness but also some crazy miracles🎉

I'm just gonna put it out there that if anyone needs good dating advice, I'm a good person to call. You're probs thinking "but Smeds... you've been basically a nun for the last year and a half!" Well here's my theory. The mission is kinda like one giant dating game. You've got your potentials, who sometimes show lots of promise, but more often than not stop answering your calls after the first date, er, appointment. Then you've got your investigators, who you meet with more regularly and either start progressing towards the big commitment, or they breakup with you. Occasionally if you get desperate enough, you call up some of those ex-investigators just to see if anything has changed. 

Well, Jelena (our bap date who dropped us out of nowhere a few weeks ago) has been a bit of a sly dog as of late😉 Background story- we'd tried calling and texting her since 'the breakup' to see what was up. She texted back once telling us it wasn't our fault ("it's not you- it's me" 🙄how typical) but we hadn't heard anything from her since. Well we miraculously ran into her at a bus stop a few days ago, and she was like "wow this is crazy, it must be God" and we were like "yep probably". Then she texted us this morning out of nowhere, and the 'flirting' began... 
Her: so... I don't work at all this week...
Us: Nice! What are you gonna do?
Her: Oh... nothing...
Us: Well... you know... we happen to be free tomorrow... maybe we could meet up?
Her: OK! ...I mean... I guess I'm free...

SHE WANTS US BACK🤗 no one can resist Hurst and Smeds I guess🤷🏼‍♀️💁🏼 soooo yeah, we have a date with our ex tomorrow. Wish is luck 🤞🏼

Other than that, there's been the slowness that comes with ferragosto. That awesome moment when you only have like 6 total members/less actives to visit, and just a handful of investigators... and all of them but like one leave... but it's whatevs. We've done some service for our members and Anziani, went and helped at a baptism in Ravenna for my bud Anziani Gibb's investigator, and had interviews with Presidente!

Another cool thing! Since we had no one to meet with, we've been trying to use some of this excess time to plan some firesides and programs that are coming up. We decided to take a break and call through some old potentials. Well, 3 hours later and not a single person wanted to meet with us EXCEPT for this lady named Salina. She met the missionaries at an activity 4 years ago but never met with them again. Well, she agreed to meet with us and that's how we ended up doing a lesson in a sketchy bar last Friday lol. It was neat though, she said she's been looking for spiritual direction her whole life, and that she'd decided finally to pray and ask God to guide her to the answer. Well, the minute she finished praying, she got the call from us aaaand the rest is history. She's seriously super cool- a total miracle! We're seeing her again tomorrow❤️

We also had zone conference! My last one, which was weird and meant I had to give my dying testimony. Vomit. Whatevs, it was awesome to see so many past comps and mission friends, and we got a ton of awesome trainings! One awesome thing was when President Allen shared a talk from a couple years ago by Elder Anderson of the seventy. 

"Years ago I listened to a radio interview of a young doctor who worked in a hospital in the Navajo Nation. He told of an experience he had one night when an old Native American man with long braided hair came into the emergency room. The young doctor took his clipboard, approached the man, and said, 'How can I help you?' The old man looked straight ahead and said nothing. The doctor, feeling somewhat impatient, tried again. 'I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me,' he said. 'Tell me why you have come to the hospital.'

The old man then looked at him and said, 'Do you dance?' As the young doctor pondered the strange question, it occurred to him that perhaps his patient was a tribal medicine man who, according to ancient tribal customs, sought to heal the sick through song and dance rather than through prescribing medication.

'No,' said the doctor, 'I don’t dance. Do you dance?' The old man nodded yes. Then the doctor asked, 'Could you teach me to dance?'

The old man’s response has for many years caused me much reflection. 'I can teach you to dance,' he said, 'but you have to hear the music.'"

It makes me think back to the dance days❤️ during those long, long practices, we'd often go through parts of a routine without music, for the sake of correcting errors or clarifying steps. Those moments were never as enjoyable (for the dancer or for the viewer) as it was with the music. I also remember moments where we did run the full routine with music, and afterwards our coach would say something like, "Look Kaylee, you're just going through the motions. You're not listening to the music, and your heart isn't in it." Those moments were never as fulfilling as the times when the I felt so connected to the music that the movements just sort of happened! It happened naturally. This is so much like how the gospel works in our lives. Sometimes we're just doing the dance steps- we're keeping the commandments and simply going through the motions. We go to church because we have to, or serve out of obligation. And, like, yay for doing awesome things, but we kind of end up cheating ourselves out of the joy that comes with doing those things. Elder Anderson goes on to say:

"We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts."

Just like in an actual dance, the dance steps in gospel living require discipline, and that is both important and admirable. However, the joy in the dance, or the joy in living the gospel, comes only when we learn to hear the music.


1- Ferragosto lunch! 2-6 Last Zone Conference 7- Past comps-Orr & Carter  8&9-More Zone Conf. 10-12 The ‘dying’ sorelle 13-Anderson & I are piecing out✌🏼





Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chapter 73: The New Disney Princesses

"Disney is going to make a movie based in Italy, and we are going to
be the princesses in it. We chase sunsets and eat pizza and have
magical flower crowns, and we tell the princes they have to wait
because you guys are busy being missionaries and don't have time for
them." -Francesca

"Well... I liked the torture chamber part!" -Anziano Whitlock

"Man, you are about to make someone reeeeeally happy" -Francesca to
the pizza delivery man

"Look, if you get sorted into Slytherin, you've basically just been
screwed over. It's like 'hey 11 year-old kid, you'll probs be a death
eater one day.' Nice." -Anziano Jacobsen

It has been a week. What do you do when all but one person you're
teaching go on vacation? And you have under 10 active members? And
only 3 of the less-actives are willing to even talk to you? And there
are like no new people to find because everyone is at the beach? Well,
you get creative and try not to blame yourself for the slowness of the
work😂😂 also, you play Josh Groban music a lot. Also you try to serve
the Anziani in your city. And you try to visit or talk to anyone you
can. You also bake a lot, because we are not above bribing people. You
go on lots of crazy adventures, all in a skirt and a nametag. And, if
you're lucky, you get to do it all in a country you love with
missionaries you adore.🤷🏼‍♀️🇮🇹

Oh, funny story. So we went and visited this less active named
Christina. She's super cool, and the only reason she doesn't come to
church is because she's a live-in nurse. Well, we'd just gotten kebab
and had started our fast immediate after. Well sure enough, we show up
at Christina's house and she gives us each a giant pizza and makes us
eat it in front of her. I wanted to hurl. She also showed me her
kidney stone she keeps in a jar. I wanted to hurl x2

We also got to hold a mini sacrament mtg with the Anziani and a
less-active on Sunday evening. She hadn't taken the sacrament in almost a
year because of her work, and it was such a neat experience. Then we
got a call from her this week saying she's quitting that job- she gets
to start coming to church again first week of September! Man, faithful
people are so cool to me! Especially after normal sacrament meeting,
where a crazy Albanian guy showed up and called out all the members,
er, I mean, bore his testimony🤦🏼‍♀️🙄

In other news, we got wrapped up into a 30 min conversation with a
Muslim dude and it ended with him inviting me to convert to his
religion, then him accepting a Book of Mormon...? Whatevs. Good old
Isaac lol. Also, this random old lady who has adopted us as her
grandkids told this pizza place to put any pizza we order on her tab.
She also calls me kiwi and I adore her. Also, yay for small towns
where you are friends with all the bus drivers and shop owners. Makes
me feel like Belle in the beginning of Beauty and the Beast, and
sometimes it's nice to be reminded that some people in the city like

Pday was reeeeeeal good today. We took a train to this city called
Gradara. It happens to be a full-on medieval city with a super dope
castle used in movies. Also, any of you literary people out there, a
lot of writers refer to the tragic love story of Francesca and Paolo.
I know it's for sure in Dante's Divine Comedy, but it's in other
stories too. Well anyways, their tragic love story happened in this
actual castle, so that's cool. Just imagine a medieval castle with
trap doors and torture chambers and a drawbridge and probably an
actual dragon stored somewhere, and that's the Castle of Gradara.
Super cool. Funny story though, last night at English class we told
the Anziani about how we were going to this castle thing. Sure enough,
today as Sorella Hurst and I entered the city, we saw the Anziani
sitting on the steps looking rather put out.

Us: "Wow, way to copy our Pday!..... and why do you guys look upset?"
Them: "We thought this was gonna be a super cool medieval thing!"
Us: "...aaaaaaand?"
Them: *points at the castle*
Us: *sees castle and streets have been covered with butterflies,
streamers, and a big glowing sign saying "Magic Castle"*

Ok, so yeah, they're doing a princess festival this week... buuuut
serves the Anziani right for trying to copy our Pday 🙄😂

We also got to do an awesome FHE with Francesca. She's so funny... we
went to the church to meet up with her, and instead of driving to her
house or someplace for the FHE, she headed to the beach...? And that's
the story of how we had a super spiritual convo on the beach whilst
watching the sunset. Also the story of how my childhood desire to be a
mermaid has totally returned. Maybe I'll look into it after this
mission thing😉🐬

I know I always talk about how much I love these stubborn Italians, but
y'all can deal with it since you only have to listen to me for about a
month longer lol. This last week, I got some emails from my precious
Firenze friends. It was really neat, because the bishop and his fam
sent me the talk "Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence" by Elder
Holland. I'd read it various times before, and always liked it. It
talks a lot about the spirit of revelation- how it works, the ways
Satan tries to combat against it, and what we can do to remain
grounded. I love it because he utilizes Doctrine and Covenants 8 ("Now
behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit
by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on
dry ground.") to explain how revelation really works, and what we need
to do. His main points brought up were to come with a question, do not
fear, and remember that God will help us.

I loved this. In the end, it is really simple and super beautiful. He
knows all the answers and wants to help us, but we gotta invite Him in
and stay strong against whatever Satan might throw our way. The
adversary tries to discredit our spiritual experiences and cause us to
doubt and fear. We just need to not, lol. I mean, I'm sure the people
were pretty freaked out at this whole "parting the Red Sea" thing and
probs thought it'd be impossible, but there's a first time for
everything lol. God gets pretty creative on our behalf, and we really
just need to trust Him.

And that's all I've got today.

Princess Smeds👸🏼

1-???  2-The Magic Castle LOL  3-Our copycat Elders  4-9 Medieval/Princess Festival 10-20 Beach FHE with Francesca


Chapter 72: "The Sunset is My Boyfriend"🌅

Well, it's officially August😳☀️Crazy stuff. Last Wednesday, I finished saying my goodbyes💔 aaaaaand got up at 5am so we could send off Sorella Arndt✈️🇺🇸🇦🇸 and also catch our 7am train🙃 but fiiiiinaaaaaly we made it to Ancona. And I absolutely love it here! Just think of a smaller city where all the buildings and apartments are up in the hills looking over the sea, and that's Ancona🏝 It's a smaller branch here, which means the missionaries hold half the callings and usually teach on the spot, and there are typically like 15ish people in church. Also, the branch president is in the Philippines right now and no one knows exactly when he's coming back...? Ah, it all reminds me of the good ole days of Savona💕 Anyways, the city is beautiful, the people are great, and my comp is the best. Here's some memorable quotes from this week!

"Sometimes girls really scare me..." -Anziano Whitlock 

"Who needs boys? They're all stupid. The sunset is my boyfriend. Also, pizza." -Francesca

"The truth is, I'm not actually a missionary... I'm a tour guide. Welcome to the best-kept secret of the mission: transfer 12 doesn't really exist..." -Sorella Hurst, five minutes after arriving in Ancona

"You look tired... do you need cake or something?" -Francesca

*During Branch Council* "Ok Anziani, you should visit and teach this list of people. And sorelle... maybe you can bake something to send with them, and that'll count as your missionary work." -Paolo, who is only slightly sexist.

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for one day. Give a man toilet paper, and he'll never use a bidet!" -Anziano Jacobsen

As for work, it's been kind of a crazy week due to different meetings, and having to go up to Rimini twice. Buuut that's ok because I got to see Sorella Orr, Sorella Carter, Anziano Gibb, and Sorella Anderson so no complaints here!❤️❤️❤️ We got to meet twice with our investigator Jelena, and it went awesome both times! Francesca came and was the perfect member-present. WAIT I didn't explain Francesca. So she's absolutely one of my favorite people in this country. She's like 30 and actually lived in Firenze for a bit, where she was baptized! So she knows all my beloved Firenze people❤️ Also, she's just the coolest person ever. I really think she's a big reason for why God wanted sorelle in Ancona for the first time. It's so neat. Every moment we're with her, it just feels right. She's working on her mission papers right now, so we're waaaaay excited!

ALSO on Sunday, we found two super cool kids we've started teaching. So their mom is from Ghana, but they were born here in Ancona. In September, they're moving to London with their grandfather who is a member of the church! Anyways, we've met with them twice so far (Jason who is 15, and Suzanna who is 13), and they are super smart kids. Pretty shy, but you can tell they're really thinking about the stuff we teach, and their answers to our questions are always so profound! We are meeting with them again tomorrow so we're pretty stoked🤗

Ok so that's all great. Most of this past week in Ancona has been absolutely awesome! However, we all have those harder days, and yesterday started out as one of them. There was a combined district meeting in Rimini at around 11. Well, what do you do when your bus doesn't come, and you live on top of the hill far far away from the train station? What do you do when eventually the bus shows up, but you miss your train? What do you do when you find a different train, but then miss the bus from the Rimini station to the church? What do you do when, during all this chaos, you get a text from your most promising investigator saying they won't meet again? Lol my list of potential included crying/saying "screw it" and going to the beach/eating my feelings🤷🏼‍♀️

...but here's the thing... Elder Richard G Scott once said, "Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, “Men are, that they might have joy.” That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.  Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy."

And so, we chose faith and joy. First, faith. Sorella Hurst and I had a good long chat about the situations of the day lol. All the craziness with the transportation was 100% not our fault, and it was something very much out of our control. As for the situation with our investigator, we prayed for a good long while, and we know we handled everything the best we could, and we made some plans to potentially help her back on the path. In the end, we realized we can only trust in God, knowing that so long as we do our part, His will is gonna be fulfilled. 

Then came the joy. A cool concept I've been studying lately is how to consistently live in joy, despite the fact that most aspects of life are outside of our control. We can't stop disappointing things from happening, and we can't just wait for the good moments like vacations or whatever to come, saying "well, when ______ happens, then I will be happy."  The idea rolling through my head lately is that we are more likely to be living a life of joy if we can add happy moments on our own. So we tried to do that yesterday. I've got a lil list now of things I can make happen, so I can be happy no matter the circumstance. Granted, my list is a bit different here on the mission than it will be at home, but it's the same concept. My list includes things like getting gelato, having a 5 minute dance party, serving my comp, watching the sunset, visiting a fav member or investigator, laughing with other missionaries, etc. So yesterday, we ate our feelings a bit with the rest of our zone lol. Then, we played card games on the train ride home with our Anziani. We had a quick dance party to the Princess and the Frog soundtrack before preparing a lesson. And we ended the day watching the sun set over the water with Francesca.

And let me just tell you, trusting God and chasing sunsets is the best medicine for just about anything.

Sorella Smeds🌅🏝

1-3  Last goodbyes from Firenze   4&5 Carter & Orr   6-8 Ancona Adventures  9-12  SuNsEtS🌅