first of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BEST BIG BROTHER A GIRL COULD EVER ASK FOR!!! you’ll never know how much i look up to you and admire you and aspire to be you. i miss you!!! you’re my best friend and i hope you celebrate and paint the town red like nobody’s business!

New years was quite the party–we watched tangled, it’s a wonderful life, and hercules. well actually i slept through hercules, but woke up to belt “I won’t say i’m in love”–i just knew. and then passed out until the last five minutes of the movie. i used to be to young!!! i used to party! anyways, “it’s a wonderful life” is the best! i know it’s a classic but somehow this was my first time seeing it. cried like a baby. i shall name my son george and he will lasso the moon. what a great message, i loved it!
some thoughts I’ve had recently:
1. on christmas we had a district meeting and as elder hark was talking about Christ and His life and character, i had the most beautiful epiphany that the person he was talking about is a dear friend of mine. someone I know. someone very close to me. someone I love. truly, my best friend. Christ has become so much more familiar to me this last year, and that is my most treasured Christmas gift and i will forever cherish this Christmas in Russia. Among many many other things, something small that has helped me feel so much closer to Him is the film “Come See the Light” it’s the Reflections of Christ (remember, from Savior of the World?), but the Book of Mormon edition. I watch it regularly and can never get through it without crying and wanting to just run into those arms. I know that Jesus is the Christ. and i will never be able to express what this knowledge means to me. google this movie!! and watch it!! 
2. yesterday in sacrament meeting i felt such an overwhelming gratitude. for the Gospel, but also for church. for the privilege we have to come and meet together and learn from each other and strengthen each other. so often i have received revelation specifically in sacrament meeting. and im so grateful for the sacrament itself–for the opportunity to pause and be still and reflect and remember. Im so grateful for my dear branch members who sacrifice to come. i know their names and their pets names and i care about their interests and questions. and i see them wrap their arms around each other even though they themselves are suffering. 
there is this lady the elders have been working with and she has some psychological problems but her son is a member and a missionary! anyways, this lady came yesterday and i met her for the first time and it was so beautiful to look past her frantic eyes and jittering hands and to see how beautiful she is. and kind. and she was so loving and sat behind me in sunday school and i felt this warm hand right on my back in between my shoulder blades and she just left it there–and i can’t explain it, but it was just so sweet. and then i sat by her in relief society and she was just LOVING the lesson and repeating under her breath, “yes, it will be hard, but we can overcome it” and i just wanted to cry and throw my arms around her and i put my hand on her hand and when i did, she just had the biggest smile on her face and sat up to tall and i just felt so much love her–love that is not my own. we are going to start teaching her daughter this week, hopefully.
3. we made new years resolutions yesterday (a little late) and most things can’t really be measured. and missionaries are all about measurable goals. but i hope that my the end of my mission, by the end of this year, by the end of my life, i can look back and realize that i have learned to me more patient. to listen more. to look for people’s potential and not to judge. to speak kindly of others. to turn outwards and focus on everyone around me and forget about myself. to humbly recognize that I am nothing without the Lord, but everything with Him. to recognize that this is not my work, but His. i also copied nicole (my role model) and am going to have a meaningful conversation with someone new everyday and i am going to include my testimony. even if it’s small and simple. 
4. last night i also was thinking about my mama. and how amazing she is. and selfless. and i really miss her, but i am so proud to be her daughter. and i hope i can be half the woman she is and i hope i can somehow adequately express my gratitude to you, mom, and to dad. for all that you have taught me and teach me. for your examples and love and prayers and support. that you taught me to work hard, and be independent. that you taught me to pray, and through your examples, that true happiness only comes through keeping the commandments.
5. this morning i finished proverbs (obsessed with it. it also cracks me up)…and i also was reading in romans and i came across scripture master romans 1:16 but the verse before it truly caught my attention. Paul says that he is ready to preach the gospel (in verse 15) because (in verse 16) he is not ashamed of the gospel. and he knows it is the power of God unto salvation. SO to my amazing girls (and boys) preparing for missions. For nicole and kendall and all the rest:  you are ready to preach the gospel, if you are not ashamed of the gospel. and you will never be ashamed of the gospel once you know, for yourself, that it is truly the path Christ showed us that leads us back to God. that leads to salvation and a fulness of glory and joy.
that’s all!
i love you ! and merry russian christmas! yes, it is today. we just never stop celebrating here in russia. i love my russia, just in case you didn’t know that.