i am SO SO excited for general conference. and whenever this thought comes into my mind, i just have to shout it out loud in that very minute. except right now i can’t because i’m in a library. but anyways, we’ll be watching it..not this weekend but hopefully the next. probably part in english and part in russian. and we’ll hopefully watch the relief society broadcast, but i’m not sure…i’ve never been in moscow for conference so i don’t know how it’s done. but anyways, family–you should read this talk from october 1992 conference called “becoming wise unto salvation” in order to prepare for conference. it’s awesome.
 
speaking of general conference, my precious Nastya who was baptized a few weeks ago gave a talk this sunday and the theme was, “The Soul”. intense. i know. but it was the most beautiful talk i’ve ever heard. i was entranced! and the Spirit was so strong. i was just in awe watching her flip through her scriptures with post-its and hand-written notes and watching her cross reference and analyze scripture and testify. as always, i learned so much from her. ahhh i love her so much!! i can’t even explain it.
 
this week we went to lipetsk and voronezh and they are the farthest cities we go to and they are south and thus should be warmer but NOPE! it snowed in voronezh. snowed in september! it was comical. we obviously were not prepared for such weather and we were on the streets allllll day with such strong winds, our umbrellas were useless and snow was just swirling about us and when frozen, it is even harder to speak russian but all of these elements just made it hilarious to me for some reason i just couldn’t stop laughing. the sister i was on a split with didn’t appreciate it when my laughter proceeded her slipping into some icy mud hahahhaha such good times. nothing can rain (or snow) on my parade!
 
also, i forgot to tell you that when i went to a russian ballet in the kremlin on red square a few weeks ago, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me! it was so beautiful. i’ve never seen anything like it. i realized it was my first real ballet. and it was in russia. i’m pretty lucky to say the least!!! and i was “bewitched body and soul”. mesmorized. but maybe it was a bad thing because afterwards, i was trying to understand this feeling i was feeling and i realized that watching a russian ballet made me feel the same way as when i’m in love! hahahah so that was probably distracting to the work. but what was beneficial to the work was that it made me feel like i could fly and do anything. it was awesome.
 
sister tolbert and i prayed and planned a lot and decided on what our training was going to be on for this transfer when we go visit the other sisters. we start off by reading the scripture, “many are called but few are chosen. and why are they not chosen?” but we change the words to, “and why ARE they chosen??” and relating it to us. why were we chosen and blessed enough to be here in our mosssst beloved Russia. at THIS time? and then we have one companion tell the other why she thinks she was chosen–because it’s so much easier to see it in someone else than in yourself. and then i read one of my favorite favorite quotes: “fear of the unknown or fear that we don’t have the scriptural skills or language required (and i would add–or that we don’t fit the ‘perfect missionary’ mold–which is arbitrary by the way) can cause reluctance to serve. But the Lord has said, ‘if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.’ Your life is your preparation…just go and be yourself” Robert D. Hales. And then we pulled that last part apart. firstly: just go and be yourself. sister tolbert’s trainer told her that she worked her entire mission to be someone she could be after her mission. and her trainer was 100% herself and not your “typical missionary” but she was awesome. and so often we feel like we have to be perfect and we stress out so much and then what? we go home and sigh in relief as we take our tags off and put on our jeans and say, “Finally i can be myself!” that’s sooo sad and that’s not what it should be like. as missionaries we are set apart to a higher standard. a more strict way of life. a higher plane of thought, speech, and behavior. and i cannot simply be “erica.” But “sister hawkins” can help “erica” be her better best self. but i’m still myself. if that makes sense.
we talked about joseph smith and how we was called to be a prophet and to restore Christ’s church, but he would run around with the kids and play games. he was himself. and that’s why WE were chosen–to be ourselves. to use our personalities and our spiritual gifts to connect with these people and help them be their better selves. but then there might be the question–well who am i? ha. zoolander. “i don’t know….i guess i have a lot left to ponder”. that was assignment one. to ponder about who we really really are and why WE, personally, were chosen to come HERE. and the next assignment goes along with the other part of that quote: “your life is your preparation.” In “the 4th missionary” it talks about how we are the sum total of everything we have seen, heard, thought, said, and done. and we will be the sum total of everything we will see, hear, think, say, and do. the Lord has been preparing us for THIS for a long time. once again, I thought about the “Work of Salvation” video when it had that video and the song, “I hope they call me on a mission” is playing in the background and it shows children in primary and throughout their lives and their spiritual growth and life experiences that lead up to their missions. so we tell the sisters to think about their own version of such a video–think about your life from sunbeams to seminary to now. think about your family and friends and relationships and jobs and education and experiences that lead you HERE. and write down  some of these experiences that prepared you for this.
so i took my own challenge and started to do this. i started by answering zoolander’s question, “who am I?” and thinking about why I was called–what i have to offer. and i started writing about things that prepared me for what i have experiences here. I didn’t get very far because I started with: “my mom” and wrote about things you taught me, mom, and the example you are to me, and obviously started balling. and honestly, this will be an infinite endeavor. because though i had no idea, i really have been preparing for this my whole life–my life is my preparation. there are so many sacred experiences that solidified my faith and my conversion that changed everything for me. and then there are silly things like, my love for snickers (they have kind size here called Super Snickers that are way more delicious than any snickers in america and do you think it’s a coincidence that it”s been my favorite candy for a long time? i think not.). also my ability to sleep anywhere and through anything.also, not tooo long ago i found out regina spektor is russian. i had no idea and had been listening to her music a lot before i came–secretly preparing to go to her country. also, i found out the really annoying song, “Maya Hee Maya Ho” is in russian. i thought it was alien language. and who knew that i was singing along to russian words at stake dances for yeeeears.
but anyways, this is quite the novel. just wanted to share these things that i’ve been thinking about. i’m soooo infinitely grateful for this time here. it’s the most treasured gift the Lord could have given me. i love you very very much.
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