Sunday, March 30, 2014

One Year Mark!

Babysitting! (with special permission, of course!)
i think i have found the only thing in the world that is better than taking a nap: holding a snuggly baby. now before you judge me for being a terrible, disobedient missionary, let me explain myself. the lochhead's youngest daughter and her family came to visit and we got special permission to play with the lochhead grandbabies! they are the cutest things in the world!!!! Esther is 3 and is a total fireball. out of control. but adorable. and Sam is 1 and the cutest, smiliest, snuggliest little thing you've ever seen. i didn't realize how much i loved playing with kids until i had to go a year with out being able to touch them! (oh yeah, ps i was set apart 1 year ago today. nbd.)
okay so this week was crazy town!!! first we got 3 native sisters and 3 native elders from russia!!! they are all ukrainian and because of visa problems ukrainians are no longer allowed to serve in russia which is bad news for them but good news for us because we just got 6 natives! we have only had one native elder the whole time i have been here, so it's way exciting. so the native sisters flew in on wednesday and the elders asked if the sisters could stay wiith us since we have the biggest apartment. of course we said yes! we were kinda scared because everyone hears stories about crazy natives, but we were way wrong. they are all so cool! also they all have real good english so that helps a lot. so anyways, we were 'babysitting' the natives before transfer meeting and they had orientation at the lochheads, so sister nash and beaudin went to teach a couple lessons and i stayed with the natives. i realized that i didn't need to be in the orientation meeting, so the lochheads handed me the grandbabies and i got to go play with them in the other room for the next hour. it was so much fun. then yesterday the lochheads did a fireside about raising families and Sam was just crawling around getting into stuff so I picked him up and he sat in my lap for almost the whole time. i was in heaven. man i miss kids.

anyways, other good things about this week
-the weather is AMAZING! it got up to 64 yesterday. little flower buds are starting to come up an everything just feels happier. i went out with just a cardigan and not a coat yesterday and it felt so so weird. i have been wearing a coat and boots for 6 months. my shins didn't know what to do with themselves. i feel kind of awkward knowing that people can see my skin haha.
-sergei and tanya are on date to get baptized this saturday!!!!!!! there was a baptism in another branch this saturday and they went to it, and sergei typed on his iPad "can i get baptized today?" haha the elders told him that he could in a week and he got way excited! we can't wait.
-transfers were this week, sister beaudin went back to kharkov (as was expected) and sister nash and i are staying together in center!!! we are so happy.
-i got to go on a split with sister campbell!!!!! she was down in donetsk for a meeting and we got to go out together for the evening. it was so much fun. we were just out walking around in the rain looking for less actives and getting lost and it felt just like good old times in lugansk except we can actually speak russian now! haha who knew?
so today is my one year mark of being a set apart missionary. it feels weird. the thing about being a representative of Jesus Christ is that you still also feel like you. i don't know how to explain it, but it's true. i realized last week that i have finally gotten to the point where missionary work is comfortable. maybe it still isn't natural, it's still not in my nature to walk up to a stranger and start speaking to them (in russian), but it doesn't terrify me anymore. i know that i can do it with God's help, and I want to do it. last week i also realized that praying is way more natural for me in russian than in english. i have said all of my prayers in russian for almost a year now, and it just feels super awkward in english now.

if i had to end my mission today (knock on wood) i think my two biggest take aways would be this:
1. On my mission I learned how to use the Atonement. I mean like really use it. Not just to repent of sins, but to become better. To be more than I am and to do more than I could do on my own. Here we are literally asked to do the impossible, and we do it, but only with God's help. I can testify that there is NO way I would still be here doing what I am doing if I had to do it alone. There's just no way.
2. My life is not about me anymore. I realized this a few transfers ago. Everyone knows that when you lose yourself in service you find yourself blah blah whatever. It's one thing to say it, but I believe no one can really understand it until they have done it. I don't know at what point it happened, but i realized that true, real, lasting happiness comes from helping others. That is what I want to do every day of my mission, and in all reality every day of my life. I guess this is pretty dramatic, but i want to spend the rest of my life serving others and forgetting about myself, and I am so grateful for my mission helping me to realize that.

okay i am so out of time. sorry it's short this week, i spent all my time on your awesome birthday email. i just want you to know that i love you and and i miss you all and i don't hate you even though you're on a cruise without me! i would take babushki and borsh over the bahamas any day. i love you!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Good Soldier

Most of the evenings this week we were on lockdown if we didn't have any lessons because they didn't want us wandering around looking for trouble (99% sure that rule was made with elders in mind. they have a knack for finding trouble). anyways, since we didn't have any lessons this week, it means we had a whole lot of companionship bonding time inside! it was fun at first but gets pretty boring after a while. we found uno cards and i tried to remember how to play freecell but i couldn't. that means i've been gone for awhile (ps my year mark is in 10 days. nbd.) also we started helping sister beaudin pack (she's heading back to kharkov. oh i guess i never told you why she came in the first place. she fell on the ice (don't we all) and one of her rib heads slipped out of place. luckily we have a senior missionary elder hawkins who is a chiropractor so he has been working with her for the past month and now she's all better, so she's going back to her old area). sister nash and i are staying together in donetsk and i'm so happy!!! it's so much fun being with a missionary your own age (mission age, that is.) 
this week our only lesson was pretty much a fail, but it's not our fault because the guy is crazy. his name is dima and he was baptized last year, but right after he was baptized something snapped and he went totally crazy. sometimes he is there mentally, but usually he is not. we taught about following the prophet and commited him to come watch conference at the church in a few weeks, but then he started talking about conference as this important meeting with lots of people and he somehow mentioned the USSR in there, so we're pretty sure he was talking about something very different, but what can you do?
okay so you know the whole battered and bruised thing? still in effect. last night we heard some sounds that we thought were either fireworks or you know, something i ran to the window and somehow tripped on two things and during some point sliced my foot open! it only bled a little bit, and sister nash bandaged me up, so no worries, but still! i think i am the queen of jinxes. i also put my winter coat and boots away and swore to never wear them again, so naturally yesterday we woke up to a blizzard! not cool.
okay the sad news of the week, vladimir did not come to church, so he won't be able to be baptized on the 29th. we literally did everything we could to get him there. we even fasted for him to be able to come but he still couldn't. we were pretty devastated. the good news is he is still reading and praying every day, so it will happen eventually. also he LOVES the lochheads (who doesn't?) and they are speaking in our branch on sunday, so hopefully that will get him there. the good news is that tanya and sergei, the mom and son i talked about last week came again! we passed them to the elders because sergei is slightly too friendly with us, but that's okay. sergei just adores the elders and they will be great with him.
okay the scripture for the week is "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." 2 Timothy 2:3
oh i came up with a list of the questions i am asked most frequently on my mission. here we go (in order of frequency):
1. Was that your stomach? Yes. the answer is always yes. we have named it tummy tunes.
2. Is that actually your name? Yes.
3. Are you sure I can call you Shrek? Isn't that the name of a green monster? Yes. Please. Call me Shrek.
4. Are you married? No
5. Do you have a boyfriend? No
6. Why not? I don't know.
7. Aren't you scared to be out on the streets? No. God is with me.
8. Where's your hat? I forgot it (usually a lie, but easier than arguing with a babushka)
9. Why do you have such a  weird/terrible accent? I'm from America. 
10.Where are you from in America? Chicago
11. Ah, the mafia's in Chicago! Have you ever seen anyone get shot? Nope
12. How long have you been studying Russian? Almost a year (weird!!!!!!)
13. How did you get so good? God helps me.
14. What do you like to cook? Macaroni, lots of macaroni. (that means pasta in general)

 i love you and miss you all and hope you have an awesome spring break without me! get an awesome tan in my honor! love you!!!!
A member's cute dog


We have company!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Concussions and Women's Day

okay i swear Heavenly Father has the greatest sense of humor. i guess he is giving me all of these hilarious experiences to take my mind off of everything that's happening here. well it's working. this may have been the funniest week of my mission (which is definitely saying something). first off, i managed to get two concussions this week. and it's completely my fault. when stuff was going down last week we were pretty sure we were getting sent home and i said "before we leave i need one of you to punch my arm so i can at least say that i came home battered and bruised." well i got exactly what i asked for!!!! this week i have tripped and run into things probably more than the rest of my mission combined! i tripped so hard walking to english practice on friday that there was so much momentum i had to kind of run to keep myself from falling over and then i almost ran into a pole. everyone around definitely thought i was drunk.....the good news it was at night so we weren't wearing out nametags so at least i didn't shame the church haha.

anyways, back to the concussions. the first one actually wasn't my fault. so sister beaudin as we have already established is a whopping 4'11'' and she's never had a short companion before, so she loves the fact that she can put her arm around my shoulder. anyways, one night we were just walking down the street and she swung her arm around me but she forgot that she had her Book of Mormon in her hand, so she accidentally STABBED me in the back of the head!!!! right behind my ear! it hurt SO bad, but sister beaudin felt even worse. she probably apologized approximately 4 billion times. anyways, it was kinda funny and then i was loopy the whole next day which was prefect because i wrote the sequel to our musical. i won't bore you with the details because you don't know anyone in it and therefore would not appreciate the humor, but i promise it's real good. now i know that if i ever need to be real creative for something i just need a good knock on the head.

the second concussion was last night getting on the bus after a lesson. i was standing at the front paying and then something happened and somehow there was a shelf above my head and we hit a bump and ouch. did my companions laugh hysterically at me? yes. can i blame them? not even a little bit. i am not nearly as loopy today, so it must not have been as bad as the first one. moral of the story: be careful what you wish for cuz you just might get it. (pussycat dolls said it best).
okay so the closet story. about 2 weeks ago we started noticing this beeping in our apartment and it has been driving us crazy!! it is literally every 30 seconds a little muffled "beep beep" like those annoying people with watches who beep on the hour every hour. anyways we can NOT find the source!!! the tricky thing is that it MOVES. sometimes it sounds like it's coming from one direction and then the next time it is somewhere else. we are thinking it has to be the neighbors because we have torn our apartment apart. my companions made me sit in the closet for a while to see if it was coming from there, but we couldn't find anything in there that could possibly beep. our best theories so far are that either our neighbor has a terrible memory and has to remind himself to drink water or breathe or something, so he has a watch that reminds him OR there is a ghost haunting our apartment that swallowed an alarm clock and he is haunting us because he wants us to find and baptize his family so that they can do his family history work (once again, i blame the concussions).
egg story: we were visiting this less active and she is moving to russia to live with her family so she wanted to give us a gift. she gave us these TINY bird eggs and said that we can eat them OR if we want we can turn them over once a day and in 18 days we will have BIRDS!!! i wanted to do it but my companions wouldn't let me.

this week some of the elders in our branch had a baptism and our investigator Vladimir came!!! we were pretty skeptical about whether he would show considereing it was a holiday (get to that later) but he came!!! we were so excited when he showed up. it was so good for him to see how a baptism works and to feel the spirit so strongly. we had a lesson with him after and taught the Word of Wisdom and he agreed to it all! the only thing he will have to change is that he occasionally drinks on holidays, but he knows that drinking is addictive and bad for you, so he wants to stop anyways. he is awesome. our main problem is that he can't come to church because of work. this week we are praying with him to find a way that he can come to church. if you could pray for vladimir to come to church we would all appreciate it!
also this week the mom and brother of a recent convert Olya (19) came to church! we were not expecting them at all, it was definitely a miracle. Olya's brother, Sergei (23) was in a terrible hit-and-run car accident (he was walking crossing the street and a car ran a red light) 2 years ago and he was in a coma for an entire year and only has probably 3 years left to live. he can no longer talk and struggles standing and walking, but he is mentally all there and can communicate by typing on his iPad. His poor mom literally spends every minute looking after him. we convinced her that the elders would take care of sergei during priesthood and she came to relief society with us. she loved it! unfortunately sergei kind of freaked out and got mad at the members who kept telling him that God loves him (he's pretty angry at God right now) but the elders handled it so well and helped him out to the lobby and so we and the elders just sat and talked with the mom and sergei for the rest of the third hour. anyways, the mom is the sweetest lady ever and definitely wants religion in her life. she even tried to pay tithing haha! sergei is understandably less open to hearing about how much God loves him, he feels pretty abandoned right now, but he LOVED the elders and became super good friends with them, and they are planning to come to our game night on thursday, so hopefully we will be able to start teaching them. if anyone needs the gospel, it is probably this family.
oh so saturday was women's day!!! it is way better than mother's day because it is for all women (even young girls actually). we had been reminding the elders all week that it was coming up so that they would get us something haha and they definitely pulled through. they got us a cactus (because flowers are so mainstream hahaha) and also tulips just incase we didn't like the cactus, but the best part was they made a playbill for the musical i wrote!!! haha it has our pictures on it and everything. i'll take a picture and send it next week. it made our week. i didn't ask them why they took the time to make a playbill for our fake musical but forgot to make programs for the BAPTISM they had this week. haha anyways, for womens day we bought flowers and walked through the park and gave them out to all the women we passed. or tried to anywyas. the first people we walked up to turned out to be Jehovan's Witnesses and refused to take the flowers because the Bible doesn't talk about holidays and therefore we can't celebrate holidays. whatevs. anyways, it was a great day and the weather was BEAUTIFUL and i almost forgot for a second that the country is falling apart. i don't want you to worry about me because everything is fine here. the work is going forward, funny/painful/awkward things still happen to me daily, and life is good! i love ukraine, i love the people, and i love being a missionary!
Chocolate Pillows - my favorite breakfast! I eat them every day. Don't worry, Mom. They're super healthy!