April 7, 2014

Yup. I'm still in Tirana (that's a good thing. If I wasn't... that'd probably be a bad thing). I still miss my Durrës people. But that's okay, because I already love Tirana :) Actually, I'm not sure if I love Tirana or just love my companion to death! Sis. White, golly gee, this girl is awesome! I have a feeling this is going to be a fantastic transfer. We have so much in common, similar work ethic, etc... and she is so stinkin' fun. It's almost too good to be true, I hope this isn't the calm before the storm and something crazy happens down the road because I'm seriously having the best time out here with her. She's basically a combination of Aunt Debbie and Jessy. So basically, she's awesome.

We got the newbie missionaries last week. Poor guys. Deer. In. The. Headlights. Did I look like that? Probably. Eesh. My heart goes out them! Those first few weeks were rough rough rough! I'm so glad I'm out of that. It's true, a mission does get better. Thank goodness. Because sometimes it can be really really lame and really really hard and stupid and all you want to do is go home. Good thing it's totally worth it.

Today for pday we went to a place called the Stephen's Center. It has American food... and there were Americans inside! What the what? Wow! They looked so, so... American... American's body language stands out like a sore thumb. No wonder we stand out. Clothes, body language, facial structure. People say I look Albanian though so that's cool I guess. I hope. I dunno. Oh ya! I had a burger! It was okay haha but it was still a burger.

General Conference was great... to watch it touch the lives of Albanians haha in other words, I didn't get much. But that's alright. The spirit was still there. And I can read it later.

Thought for the day...
A quote from Elder Holland.
"... beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don't give up when the pressure mounts... Face your doubts. Master your fears. 'Cast not away therefore your confidence.' Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you."
There are so many times that we get an answer that something is correct and true from the spirit and we let life get in the way, we let doubts get in the way, we don't hold onto the answer we got and when the rains come down (because they always come down), our foundation washes away. We could avoid so much heartache and so much sorrow if we would just trust in the Lord and His answers to us. He shouldn't have to tell us 500 times that something is right before we act on it. 
Life is beautiful. Let us trust in the Lord and it will be even more beautiful.

Much love,
Motra Russell

Lost in translation, haha!

Downtown Tirana

My new companion, Sis White

View from our apartment


March 30, 2014

This is when I get to practice faith in the Lord...

Because Elder's are taking over my area and I'm being transferred..... sigh.... good thing this is the Lord's work and not mine otherwise I'd be freaking out right now. All of the sisters are being taken out of Durrës. I'm not going to lie, I was/am pretty devastated. Leaving all of our girls to Elders, they'll have no sister touch of love! Talk about rip your heart out, I'm crushed thinking about leaving these people... and it's only my first transfer! I'm going to die at the end of my mission... golly gee. 
Oh, you want to know where I'm going? I guess I can tell you ;) ... any guesses? Nothing? Silence? Fine, I'll just tell you... Tirana! Woo! I'm gonna be a city girl! And I'm going to be with the fabulous Sis. White (an MTC buddy). In other words, it's gonna be a party in Tirana. But seriously, she's so fun, I'm stoked. I really.... really... hope her language skills are better than mine, this is going to be interesting haha I'm sure Tirana is going to be amazing, but I think my heart will always be in Durrës. Sigh....
BUT! ......This means there is no excuse to not send me mail... because I can get mail now :) he he he

Anyways... :)
This last week we had a day that I was having such a tough time focusing in lessons. It was a rough language day and it's always hard to focus when you're having a hard time understanding... After the lesson, I told Sis. Heathcote that I was having a hard time focusing and she said, "ya, me, too.... " ... long pause.... "you have so many gray hairs, I couldn't stop staring at them..." ..... *face in palm* Are you kidding me? hahaha My massive amount of gray hair was distracting my companion, oh boy. I'm gonna come home and have the head of 50 year old. 
Story number two.
We were at an investigators house who didn't show up, bleh. And it started down pouring rain like crazy. So we decided to hang out on her porch and wait for the rain to let up. While we standing there, we see a cow run down the small mud road..... and then another cow came running.... and then another.... Looks like someone's cows got out... a few minutes later, here comes an old, hunched over grandma running down the road waving a stick in the air, "my cows! my cows!"  I about died laughing, maybe you had to be there... but trust me, it was funny.

We had a baptism!!!!!!!!!!! Not to mention is was with the most fabulous girl in the entire world. Oh my golly, words cannot describe how much I love this girl. Truly. Leaving her is ripping my heart out. But wow was her baptism beautiful. I even got to speak at it! I felt so special. It really was a beautiful and special day. I can't even describe. This is definitely why missions are worth it. Days like that day. I have come to love people more than I ever thought I could.

I was reading the parable of the talents the other day in Matthew. If you don't recall, there are 3 servants. One is given 5 talents, one is given 2, and one is given only 1. The one with 5 and the one with 2 go off and gain more talents than they had originally but the one with only 1 talent buries it because of fear. What we usually learn is to not bury your talent, don't be afraid of the world to do good works of the Lord, etc... But what I found really interesting from this story is the response the Lord has to the two servants who gained more talents. He says the exact same thing to both of them. "... good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter into the joy of thy lord." It's the exact same response. And it made me think about how all of us are given different abilities, different circumstances, etc... and it doesn't matter if one of us does a million amazing things in our life and one of us does only 5 good things... as long as we do our very best and keep our covenants, we will receive the same reward. 
So next time you compare yourself to someone who you believe to be greater than you... remember that it doesn't matter. If you are doing your best, you will be rewarded just the same. We are each children of God.

Much love,
Motra Russell

Just two photos today... one from our hike today, that's a shepherd looking over the cliff side. The other is our fabulous investigator :)

March 24, 2014

the mission email you've been looking forward to all week ;)

Just kidding, I know half you leave this email unopened in your inbox haha
So we went tracting (I still haven't figured out if that's spelled right, don't judge me). And found this lady who was interested and told us to come back later, so we did of course :) She had a family member over while we were there and they were both so interested in what we had to say! I can say right now, I've never been so pumped about a lesson as I was with them! In the middle of the lesson, we're bearing testimony and they stop us, look at each other and say... wow, they have the spirit of God when they speak! ... are you kidding me?! Perfect. It was perfect. And when we prayed, they said they had learned it like the way we pray before but the difference was that we had the spirit. I about died of happiness right there. Let's just say that Sis. Heathcote and I were very... very excited :) We got into the elevator. Waited until it had gone down a floor. Then proceeded to squeal and dance from how excited we were about that amazing lesson. Then, without us realizing, the elevator stopped and opened for a man on another floor. We froze with our arms in the air, looked at him, he looked at us ..... awkward silence..... after a second of deciding whether or not he wanted to join the crazies in the elevator, he stepped in. We pretended like nothing had happened and were silent the rest of the floors down..... he he... so funny :)
Crazy though, the family member that was there.... she's moving to my sisters mission. Small world ;)
Transfers are this week. I'll let you know where I'm going this coming Monday. Who knows where I'm gonna go!
I want to share a quote I read from a talk this morning that I loved from Neal A. Maxwell. 
"...it is also true (in someway we don't understand) that the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy." 
I thought that was profound and beautiful.
I know that there is no pain, no sorrow, that can't be justified and made right through the Atonement. Whether it be in this life or the next, all things will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I tell that to myself everyday. And I know that if you trust in the Lord and rely on Him, you can have joy that is as equally strong as the sorrow that you've felt. 
Don't walk away from the Savior. Turning to Him is the best thing you could ever do for yourself.

Much love from Durrës,
Motra Missy

Me... in glasses.

Durrës library

view from our new apartment (we had to leave the sisters :( sad sad tears...)

An albanian version of Syd Crockett (but seriously, it's trippy)

Me with a John Lennon statue..... haha

Stadium lights, sooccccerrrr!!

March 17, 2014

It's Spring, woohoo!!

One day Sister Heathcote and I were walking down a back alley to a lesson. There were some adorable kids playing soccer. They kicked the ball a little too hard and it came flying our way. Of course, my companion and her good heart ran to the ball to kick it back to them. I thought to myself, "awwww.... this is an adorable, cliche missionary moment that will be cherished forever... the missionary playing soccer with the foreign children in the dirt road... just precious." .... the moment I was thinking this, Sister Heathcote kicked the ball and it hit a little girl square in the face.
Moment ruined.
She looked at us like we were monsters. 
Sister Heathcote is no longer allowed to kick soccer balls.

Tracting is fun here (did I spell that right?). We get food a lot of the time. All rules of not talking to strangers or taking candy from them is out the window. The other day we tracted into an old lady who I still can't decide if was just awesome or not all there... anyways, she opened the door and started dancing she was so excited to see us. She then shot her arms straight up in the air and grabbed our faces and kissed our cheeks like I've never been kissed on the cheek before. She wished us happiness, beautiful husbands, lots of money and a long life. She offered us a place to sleep and clothes if we wanted them and food. She then went and grabbed a tin of cookies and offered us some, I took one and she yelled at me, No! Not one! .. uuuhhhh haha.... So she grabbed a handful and gave them to me haha She then kissed us again, wished us bright dreams and told us not to be out so late haha I have never felt so loved tracting before! It was the best thing ever!

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis... "I believe in Christ as I believe in the rising sun-not because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else."
That's so beautiful to me. 
I know we are made free through Christ. All He asked of us is to keep His commandments. What a small price to pay compared to what he has paid for us. 
"The principle is this: If you're confused about a matter, be true to that which you know is right, and in the Lord's time and according to His purposes you will be given enlightenment and understanding regarding the matter you were confused about." -Stephen R. Covey
I know that to be true. Like John 7:17 says, we must first live the doctrine to know if it's true. 

I just realized that these are connected but are all different thoughts :P I'm sure you can make sense of it :)
Love you all!
Motra Missy

Sorry, no pics, the comp won't recognize my memory card reader.

March 10, 2014

We are now a Stake!

Did you read that?! There is now a Stake in Albania! What an amazing blessing! There was a conference in Tirana that all the missionaries and members went to and we got to listen to two General Authorities, Elder Kearon and Elder Charles. It really was just a special experience to be able to witness and be a part of. There are a lot of very special here in Albania. I'm so grateful to be able to be a small part of their lives here.

Still living with the other district sisters. It's basically the best thing ever. I love every day I get to live with them.
The other day we went to a less active members to teach them a lesson. They are so sweet and it was so fun to meet with them. But oh man, I thought I was going to die! She brought us out a plate of cake... not just a piece of cake, but 6 pieces of cake. SIX pieces of cake. SIX! I was still full from lunch and 6 pieces of cake? Heavy, thick cake... I thought I might burst. But I put on my missionary smile and dug in. You better believe that I finished it! (which is exactly why I'm going to come home with a few extra pounds than when I left haha) I thought I was free until she went back into the kitchen and I heard the word "apples" .... oh no, I don't like apples at all.... Please don't bring out apples... yup, she brought out apples. Cut apples. A plate of about 4 cut apples overflowing with all it's nasty apple goodness. I cried a little. But after I unbuckled my belt, I dove in again! I almost finished it and was slowing down big time and put down my plate when the nëna gave me that look and said, "eat." Oh man, tears, there were almost tears haha.... but hey! I only left 4 small slices! I walked away basically feeling like a champion.
Okay okay okay! Ah! I just read my sisters email... what the what?! All of my siblings have baptisms on March 29th!! What the amazing!? Okay, here's my story...
This amazing girl came to english course (speaking of, I love teaching english here). She came up to the elders after class and said that she wanted to be taught, uh, perfect? So they pulled us aside and we got her number. First lesson she accepted baptism and has a date for March 29th. End of transfers, best end of transfers ever! She is so ready for the gospel. So ready to have the blessings of baptism in her life. I am so excited it's insane. And how cool that my brother and sister have baptisms the same day!! Wow!
As far as my thought.... I was reading 2 Nephi today and came across 10:16 and read "they who are not for me are against me...". I thought it was so interesting. It really impacted me. We have been blessed with agency in this life and the ability to act. We can choose our life. We can choose who we become and what we do with our little time here. And if we are not actively using that agency to choose things that are FOR the Lord, we are against Him. And that includes fence sitters. When we do not act, when we choose to not do anything... that isn't for the Lord, so the only other option is against Him. We so often think of sins of commission, but how often are we thinking about sins of omission? The things we're not doing that we should be... like serving, loving, forgiving... Are we using our agency to be for the Lord? Or are we using our agency to do nothing at all?
Use your agency to be for the Lord. It's a better choice and a better road.
Much love,
Motra Missy
Motra Singer straightened my comps hair, she looked so fabulous!
Some other random pictures...