i can’t believe nicole is getting set apart tomorrow. i just read kendall’s email and she describes the mtc experience PERFECTLY about how truly the “hard” part of missionary work is the inner battle you face everyday against yourself–your “natural man” self and your “disciple and representative of Christ” self. and it’s really hard, and unfortunately, it doesn’t stop once you leave the mtc. i’m still fighting that battle everyday: faith over doubt, optimism over discouragement, smiles over tears, energy over exhaustion etc. etc. etc. and the most important thing is that you don’t stop fighting–and truly it’s not really fighting. it’s more like yielding. yielding to the Spirit, to the will of the Father, to His  plans and His perspective. and I”m so excited for you Nicole, i can hardly stand it! yesterday I read in Alma 29:16 when Alma describes it perfectly: when i think about the success of my [brothers and sisters], “my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy.” The joy i feel is almost an out of body experience when i think about my nicole about to serve a mission and about kevin and the noble way he served and continues to apply all that he learned and jess who is super mom and raising her children to believe in Christ and follow Him and blake being such a good example at school and passing the sacrament and playing the tuba! and of course my parents. i always understood that parents like you are not “the ordinary” and have always felt so immensely blessed but my gratitude has grown and deepened exponentially on the mission where i am far away and have to do so much and figure out so much on my own…where i can’t call you every night. and where i’ve seen lives destroyed because parents don’t understand and fulfill their responsibilities. but this is a commonality all over the world and doesn’t really have to do with being in Russia, but rather, in seeing the absence of the gospel and its principles and foundation of family and faith in the home. I am so grateful for all that i have been blessed with, i can’t say the smallest part of which i feel (alma 26:16).
 
and this week was wonderful. it’s been snowing almost non stop and i actually think it’s hilarious and crack myself up because i picture the streets lined with children throwing snow cones at my face. because that’s exactly what it feels like. and this is funny to me. unfortunately we had a rough week as far as not having very many opportunities to meet with people who want to learn more, etc. but hopefully we will this week–so many people are sick because of the weather. but we still met with members and they spoiled me–one member called me on my birthday (i don’t know how she knew) and she was in the hospital!! she had fallen on ice and they are operating on her arm today actually but she called me to sing/wish me a happy birthday and to apologize that she couldn’t invite me over and feed us birthday dinner. HAH! i was obviously just shocked and so humbled by such Christlike people who even amidst personal trials are turned outwards and thinking of others. but my birthday was my favorite one i’ve had in my life because we just met with less active members and how many times in a lifetime can one say that he/she spent his/her birthday bearing testimony? in russian no less! it was amazing. with one family, we talked about covenants and baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. and I told them about when i saw Nick Allegretti get baptized and when he came up out of the water he kinda laughed–not in an irreverent/disrespectful way, but simply because he was so happy he couldn’t even hold it in–joy was written across his face and i remember thinking, “me next!” and was almost jealous and yearned for such an experience/such a feeling and was sad that i didn’t really remember my baptism because unfortunately the only thing i wrote in the journal my grandma gave me was what i ate that day. but then i remembered that each Sunday we can have such an experience/such a feeling as we take the Sacrament. We are re-promising the Lord remembrance and obedience and He is re-promising us His Spirit to always be with us. And we are made clean once again–we have that new start. and so each week, we should think about that and have joy written across our faces. And I reminded this family of when they first agreed to be baptized, and why they did so. and i reminded them that missionaries had sat across from them, just like i was, and had asked them to be baptized. and then I asked them to “be baptized” this Sunday–that is, to renew their baptismal covenants, that is, to take the Sacrament. And they accepted! 
 
It’s kind of strange because Easter is not celebrated/recognized in Russia until May 5th…don’t know why. and i didn’t even think about it and assumed that that’s when easter is this year for everyone, but then i think the senior couple mentioned that it’s this week…so i’m just going to celebrate for the next month or so. good idea.
 
i can’t wait to hear about this week with its upcoming festivities like Nicole going to the mtc and carley getting married!!! take mannny mannny pictures. carl i’m so thrilled for you and wish i could spend this wonderful day with you celebrating but know that i will be thinking of you and remember that really the only important part is that you and Adam will be promising the Lord to love each other and to love God and to be faithful to each other and be faithful to God and in return, He will bless your family and you will be together forever. Marriage is so beautiful and i’m so happy for you!!
 
1. too bright to open my eyes. should have brought my ski goggles.
2. this is an old russian orthodox temple we explored last p-day
3. 22! this is on my birthday–with the family i wrote about. i love them.
4. the circus!! we went for our culture night on friday night–it had some competing to do because the last two circuses i went to were in dublin (shout out to nicole and kieran and ange–such good times) and in cancun hahhahahahha mom, dad, nicole, blake–you know the one. bendy bobcat pretzel with braces. but this circus was awesome, tooImageImageImageImage
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