20

Bonjour tout le monde!

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes! This week was so great!
On Wednesday, we had our Christmas conference in Lyon. I was able to see a lot of missionaries that I love, including my missionary mom Soeur Hills who I haven’t seen since I’ve been in Chalon! Président and Soeur Roney gave really good talks and the senior couples put together a really great Christmas lunch for us all. During lunch, the office Elders dressed up as Santa and passed out everyone’s Christmas packages.The one you sent mom, was the biggest one in the whole conference. When they pulled that one out from behind the stage everyone was like, “WHOA.” HAHA. I also received packages from Debbie and Helmut, Big Momma and Big Daddy, and Jonah and Josie. So by the end of the conference, everyone was like, “Wow Soeur Jones, you must’ve been really good this year.” I have tried to be really good this year, but I think it’s not so much that as it is that I have a really rockin’ family! I am so grateful for such a wonderful family who loves and supports me so much, especially now, during Christmas when it’s very easy to get homesick. 
When I got home on Wednesday night, I opened the giant Christmas package from my parents (they told me to, don’t worry). There were a bunch of wrapped presents as well as a little Christmas tree and ornaments, which I quickly set up and decorated and put everyone’s Christmas packages under. As I was decorating my little tree, I totally got all teary-eyed because it made the whole “not with your family for Christmas” thing a lot worse. Then I remembered what Président Roney had told us earlier that day. He said that Christmas time is the time when most missionaries get sad and feel bad for themselves and miss their families. He said it’s okay if we miss our families, it’s actually preferred, but he would rather that we, instead of being sad, chose to make this Christmas a time where we can strengthen our family relationships and testimonies. So, really the only way I can think of to do that from so far away is to share my testimony in email form with you.
Someone that I love once told me that they loved Christmas because they liked how we take the darkest, gloomiest, coldest time of the year and brighten it up with twinkling lights and hot chocolate and gingerbread. I love that too. When I walk down the FREEZING streets of Chalon at night, it doesn’t seem so sad and cold when you see red and green lights strung from all the balconies. These tiny lights can brighten up a whole night. 
We always talk about Jesus Christ being the light of the world. As a missionary, I’ve seen very clearly how the light of the gospel can illuminate an entire person’s life. You can always tell when things click because a little light comes on in the investigator’s eyes that changes their entire countenance. I know that is what Christ does for people. He lifts us up, he brightens our lives. 
 
The gospel, like the christmas lights can take the darkest, gloomiest, coldest times in our lives and brighten them up. I am so grateful for my Heavenly Father and my Savior, and for all the light they bring to my life. I know that Jesus Christ died so that we can live. I know that He atoned for our sins so that we can have joy and peace. And that is what Christmas is about: joy and peace. So, I guess my Christmas wish for everyone who reads this blog it that we take a minute on Christmas day, in between all the present opening and picture taking and eating and think about where all that joy and peace comes from. It comes from Christ. I know that. I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 
Anyways, so Friday was my birthday! I’m 20! OLDDDD! I got up in the morning and opened my birthday presents from my family, which I LOVED. I loved the cute book of talks and the sweaters and 40 pairs of gloves and the necklace most of all:)  Here’s an awkward selfie of myself with my birthday sweater and necklace on: 
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Look at me. All old and 20. 
I had birthday lunch at a British couple’s home (the Croguennecs) in the branch with the Millers: 
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Then, in the evening, the DuCoeur family and our investigator Laurent threw me a surprise birthday party at the church! 
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Tout le monde. Laurent made my favorite french meal for dinner: tartiflette (potatoes and cheese and bacon) LOL. 
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Frère DuCoeur made me a birthday cake (their cakes are very different here). 
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I’m 20!!!
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Soeur Hutchins, Grandpa DuCoeur, me, Anne Fleur DuCoeur, and Grandma DuCoeur. HA. 
So, it was a super great night! Everyone gave me presents: mostly chocolate and french cookbooks. And peanut butter. 🙂
Well, the rest of the week really wasn’t very interesting because I woke up in the middle of the night Friday night with the stomach flu. So… I had to stay home all day Saturday and Sunday and I’m mostly on bed rest today with the exception of emails. On the plus side, I’ve lost about 8 kilos since Friday! 
Merry Christmas everyone! Or, I should say Joyeux Noël!!!
I love and miss you all and hope your Christmas is WONDERFUL!
Avec amour, 
Soeur Jones
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