Elder Renlund in New Brunswick



We had a wonderful opportunity last Sunday to travel from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Sackville, New Brunswick to hear the newly called apostle Elder Renlund and the President of the Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Gong and their wives speak. I had only ever heard an apostle speak in person when Elder Oaks came to Sydney when I was 8 and at a Christmas devotional when I visited Utah when I was 18. Both felt like very distant memories and I was excited to be in the presence of an Apostle of the Lord again and gain all I could from the experience. 

As a family we prepared as best we could for the 4 hour round trip. We packed snacks and lunch, activities for the kids for the conference and were positive and hopeful it would be a spiritual and positive experience. I suppose we were naive to think that snacks and activities would be enough to ensure a 1 and 4 year old would sit perfectly still and content for 2 hours. It really is hit and miss with my kids, sometimes they are are content to sit and play, other times they want to break the confines. Sunday was the latter. I think because Levi and I were so eager to get something out of the conference it made it all feel worse than it probably was but at the time it felt frustrating and as though our efforts to attend were wasted. But here in lies, for me atleast, the beauty of the gospel and having a Heavenly Father who knows and cares about me personally. As I was sitting off to the side on the stairs letting Primrose climb up and down, I entered into a dialogue in my mind with Heavenly Father. 'What am I doing wrong?' I asked, 'Tell me how I can manage this better', 'Should we not have come?', 'I so desperately wanted to be here and now it feels wasted', 'Why are MY children like this?'. And then came his response... 'This is a short time in your life, nothing you could do would change it and you are exactly where you should be'. How grateful I was for those words. Immediately my spirit lifted knowing that if I gained nothing else from this conference, the very fact I was there and striving allowed me to receive from God the things that I needed to hear. 

As it happens that wasn't the only thing I gained out of conference either. The drive to the conference was so beautiful and New Brunswick is even greener than Nova Scotia, which I didn't think possible. It was almost radiating green! The conference was in a beautiful building of a university and the grounds where we ate lunch afterwards were so lush and beautiful. Finley fed the ducks and Levi and I took a breath and reflecting on what we had gained. I felt so strongly during the conference that the men and women who spoke to us were called of God. I felt the love of our Prophet through their words and the humility and gentleness of our newly called apostle Elder Renlund. I felt the sacrifice that these diligent disciples of the Lord make to brighten the lives of others and give them the gift of learning that they do have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves them. Sister Gong and Sister Renlund demonstrated to me what it is to be a women of God. They aren't subservient wives on the arms of great men, they are strong, hardworking, intelligent women who give their lives to build up the saints and share the gospel. The main message that I received from our Apostle was to carry on. In the face of challenge outside and within the church we need to embody what the Finnish people call 'Sisu' which loosely translated means to have stoic determination, bravery, resilience and perseverance. If we endure we will be blessed. 

At the end of the conference I was able to shake Elder Renlunds hand and with tears in my eyes I knew that I really was exactly where I needed to be. 

The One Off, Weekend New Yorker

There were lots of reasons that Levi and I wanted to experience life abroad but one of the main draw cards was the opportunity that is would give us to travel. Australia really is very far from the rest of the world and for me to jump on a plane for an hour forty five and spend the weekend in New York felt unbelievable! It gave a completely different flavour to the trip than my previous travels. I really just wanted to soak in the city, catch up with my girlfriends and eat great food without worrying about seeing or doing it all. Success on all fronts! I had an amazing time and felt the magic that is New York. 

I am lucky enough to have an old and dear friend of mine living right by Manhattan in Jersey City. Meredith and I have a wonderful, crazy history together (we could write a book about it!) and we hadn't seen each other in four years. It was such a cool experience being together again and especially seeing her beautiful children. She was a fantastic guide of the city and made light work of getting us around. We also met up with another friend Elisha who we both knew during her time studying in Australia. It was 11 years ago that we were all together - young, ambitious, opinionated and outgoing women and it was really wonderful to see and discuss where each of us had ended up. It was even cooler to see that we were still all those things, just a little older and wiser. 

We had a busy and fun three days together. After a night of chats and catch ups with Meredith and Troy, Meredith and I headed into the city and spent the morning in Central Park. What an incredible and beautiful place! It all feels so familiar from the movies but you really can't beat real life, experiencing the stunning beauty and magic of the park with it's huge trees, bridges and winding paths. My mum gave me two pieces of advice for my visit: make sure you notice the park gates and when you are walking in the city make sure you look up. The park gates are beautiful, as is the peace you find there away from the bustling city. When I come back to New York with my family I want to dedicate a whole day just to exploring the park. 
After meeting Elisha who bused it from Washington (which she doesn't recommend), we headed over to the Late Show with Steven Colbert which was incredible! It was a perfectly orchestrated production with an amazing band, a hilarious comedian and Rashida Jones from Parks and Rec was one of the guests. That night we ate amazing Italian in Greenich Village and went wandering. We stumbled across the filming of the Jim Gaffigan show, which I have to admit I have never seen or heard of but it was super cool seeing the insane amount of set up and man power that goes into filming one simple scene. Meredith and Elisha attempted to pretend to be extra's without success. It was entertaining to see them try though! Later in the night Elisha and I stumbled across 'Grom' and enjoyed some incredible gelato, a must do. 

The next day we spent the morning pursuing the Chelsea Markets and wandering Soho, eating cheese and treats as we found them and buying trinkets. The food was great and the architecture just as I imagined. Tree lined streets, stairs and fire escapes in every direction. We headed over to the Metropolitan Museum for the afternoon which was showing the Fashion Gala Exhibition which was just incredible. Without a doubt one of my favourite art forms is fashion. The dress designs were breaktaking (see below) and the workman ship was stunning. The Met it'self really was out of this world. The art was incredible and the building itself awe inspiring. After a huge day of walking we relaxed in the evening at a cool and dark Jazz club then went in search of the famous Iced Hot Chocolate at the Serendipity Cafe. There was a pretty epic wait but the place was very cool and there is definitely some degree of fulfillment to be found in recreating your own moment from a movie! 

The next day we took our time with a delicious brunch before farewelling Elisha. Then Meredith and I headed back to Jersey to attend church before I flew home that night. It was nice to take Sunday easy. The weather in New York was 30 degrees every day, which for me, now that I'm an acclimatised Canadian was extremely hot! We took the subway and used Uber (which is pretty fantastic) to get around but we walked for the most part which left this 'occasional nap taking mumma' pretty wasted at the end of the trip. I wouldn't have it any other way though, being thoroughly worn out after a weekend in New York is just how you want it to be. 

Did I mention this trip was solo...just me...no babies?? It was the first time I had left Primrose for an extended time and the second for Finley. It wasn't as though I felt like I needed a break, but I was excited to have some 'me' time, stay clean (as in literally keep my clothes clean), see and do more than I usually could, eat a meal from start to finish and take a break from the feed + clean x 3 cycle. What came as a surprise to me was that I actually didn't find it some huge relief like I thought I would. I was still busy, so there's that but I realised that the things I sometimes find difficult in my life aren't actually so difficult. In short I think I'm saying I've been a whinger and I gained some perspective on my trip. I love my babies and I love being their mum. I'm incredibly grateful that I have a husband who is completely supportive of me taking off on an adventure and wonderful friends who lend a hand too. I'm one very lucky Australian/Canadian, One Off, Weekend New Yorker.