May 19, 2014

Remember how earthquakes terrify me? I woke up to an earthquake in the middle of the night. Can I just tell you how much I DON'T like waking up to my bed shaking and feeling like I'm going to die in cement rubble? hahaha I know my fear of earthquakes is irrational, but for being afraid of them and having gone from never experienced them to having had 7 now is not helping!

On another topic, I love being with Sis. White. She's such a wonderful companion :) Y'all just needed to know that :)

From when we skyped last week, I forgot to mention a funny story in my email ....
Sis. White has two sisters who are preggers, so she was trying to tell them how to say "I am pregnant" in Albanian.... the connection wasn't that great, so it ended up being her practically yelling over and over and over again.... "I AM PREGNANT!".... in a crowded internet cafe.
Hahahaha, oh man.... soooo funny hahaha She definitely got looks.

We had an activity this last week with 2nd and 4th ward about member missionary work. Us missionaries put it on. We made a list of ways that members can do their own missionary work and then we did skits of what to and what not to do as far as sharing the gospel goes. We had volunteers help which made the skits pretty impromptu and very funny. I would say it was a success :) I think my favorite skit was with the RS Pres from my ward. We told her to be ashamed of the missionaries that were teaching her a lesson once one of her friends came over for a visit. It started out with her sitting at a table with the missionaries singing before a lesson... she gets a knock on the door.... it's her close friend... so she runs and hides the missionaries behind the curtains and opens the door and tells her that she's alone and no, singing? What singing? There was no singing.... hahaha, oh man, it was sooo funny :) 

As far as a spiritual thought this week, I thought I would share an experience that I had.
This last week was a wonderful and awful one all at the same time. I thought I would just be totally open about it to all of you because you never know when someone else is struggling with the same exact thing.
My whole life I've never really had doubts about the church. I've always just known it to be true. I guess you could consider that a blessing. I sure never complained about it :)
So I find it ironic that when I'm living the most righteously in my entire life, is when I'm struggling with the most doubts that I have ever experienced. This last week was especially hard. I don't know what it was... but I feel like the adversary was hitting me at every possible angle that he possibly could. I was feeling attacked, depressed, anxious, all that horrible stuff ... missionary work was the LAST thing I wanted to do. I've never wanted to go home so bad as I did this last week. It all kind of escalated on Saturday. Despite all efforts, I couldn't feel the spirit, I couldn't focus, I absolutely did not want to go out and teach... It was awful! and I was so confused because I wasn't being disobedient, my studies weren't slacking and my prayers weren't either... so why? Why was I feeling the way I was? Why was I doubting my faith like I never had before? In that moment I made a decision that I think will bless me for the rest of my life.... I made the choice that even though everything seemed absolutely insane and crazy and illogical and unreasonable... I was going to believe. I was going to choose to believe. And so I put on a skirt and we went out to teach. I still didn't want to, but I did it anyways.
We went to teach our recent convert sisters who are amazing. We were teaching about missionary work. I was so scared about having to bear testimony, because I wasn't feeling ANYTHING... but during the lesson, their cousins walked in the room and our recent converts looked at us and said, "oh, we've been teaching them about the gospel and they want to get baptized... that's missionary work right?" hahahaha, yes, yes that is you angels hahaha
In that moment, I looked at their cousins and I saw how much God loved them, how much potential they had and how much the gospel was going to bless their lives. In that moment, that mist of darkness that I had been practically swimming in lifted. My faith returned. The doubts left. And what remained was a deep and comforting peace that I know only comes from the Savior.
During those moments I kept thinking to myself, what is wrong with me?! Why am I feeling this doubt? I'm supposed to have faith and not fear! But I don't think there was anything wrong with me... I think sometimes the "mists of darkness" are thick and we really can't see anything at all. It's those moments when we have to practice our agency and decide what we're going to believe in. It's those moments that decide who we are.... are we going to run from our faith and abandon God because it seems easier? Or are going to hold fast to the iron rod and hope that the mist parts soon so that the light of the gospel can warm our hearts and bring us that peace. We will not receive a witness until after the trial of our faith... trials aren't supposed to be easy. And doubt can be very tempting. And "Satan don't kick no dead dog." We have to decide now what we're going to believe in. And sometimes, even though it doesn't make sense, we have to just choose to trust in God.... but I can promise you, that it will always, ALWAYS pay off in the end. That witness will come. God has promised it to us and I can promise you that if we hold on and keep pressing forward, feasting on the word of God, we WILL have that witness. 

Trust in God, He loves you and is looking out for you.

Motra Missy


We didn't have gloves to scrub our shower so we improvised.

The pyramid in Tirana. I don't know what it was originally... I just know not to go there at night haha

Also, old men play chess and dominoes ev-e-ry where. It's kind of adorable and very funny... here's a picture of a few...

Had a fabulous pday with the sisters from my MTC group, love them!

We went to the artificial lake for pday today... I was hesitant. Anything outdoors with artificial in it's name sounds very unappealing... but it was actually so beautiful and my favorite pday out in tirana yet!

May 12, 2014

Tiiiirrrrraaaaannnnnnaaaaaaaa..... has monkeys in petstores :)
I'm having to get creative with my email subject line. It's getting difficult to not have repeats.

We're already halfway through this transfer :( Boo.... I love Motra White! This transfer has been too awesome!

Speaking of, we had another baptism this past weekend! A fabulous girl who I adore. She's been an active non-member for 10 years. That girl is a rock star. Everyone loves her. We had as many people show up to her baptism that we have come to church every week haha

Okay, boo, I can't think of anything this week and I don't have my planner from last week which is basically my head... so what I'm trying to say is that I don't have my head right now. 

Skyping home was awesome!! I got to see my sister for the first time in a year! Wow did that year go by fast. I loved seeing family though. It feels like yesterday I was living at home.

I'm just going to go to my spiritual thought haha

I was reading in Luke 17 about the ten lepers. It's a story that shows the importance of gratitude. Christ heals 10 lepers and only one of them comes back to thank Him and praise God for everything that Christ did for him. I think it's a beautiful story. Something else that caught my eye was that when the one leper came back to thank Christ and praise God after being healed, Christ said something significant to him that I had never caught before. Because the leper "returned to give glory to God", Christ said to him, "Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." 
Ya see, this leper had already been healed of his physically infirmities. And because he gave thanks and glory to God and turned to Christ, he was then healed from his spiritual infirmities. And that healing, spiritual healing, is the greater gift. His body would still die, but his spirit being healed would only lead to eternal life. 
Christ taught in many parables. His life was also a parable for those who wanted a deeper and greater understanding. He healed many of their physical problems but that is not His purpose. He came to this world so that "whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Christ can heal us spiritually, to help us be in a position to receive that everlasting life. 
So when life gets hard, when we have trials, when we have physical infirmities that just never end... we shouldn't think "why are these not being taken away?" Because that's not why we're here. It's those experiences that help up grow to prepare us for something better. But we can still be healed. We can still have our hearts repaired and our spirit mended and then we come out all the stronger. We just have to turn to Christ.

Much love my friends,
Motra Missy

The fabulous baptism. And I got to hang out with rockin' sisters from my MTC group plus some! Love them all these sisters soooo much.

May 5, 2014

Yup, it's Monday again! What the what? How'd that happen so fast? I don't know either...

Random things from the week.

I saw an Alaskan license plate...... I don't think I really need to comment on this because, yes, I was as confused as you are. 

I saw fireflies for the first time!!!!!!!! Best day ever!!!!

I've officially been a missionary for 6 months now. Woo! We celebrated by eating a giant tray of treleçe. Don't judge me.

We were teaching a lesson and in the middle of the lesson I felt something under my sleeve. A ball of string? Maybe? I dunno. So I dig it out with my finger. Yup, it was definitely a giant, disgusting, black, huge, winged bug that was now unpleasantly squooshed under my finger. Did I die? Absolutely. I was trying not to gag while Sis. White and our recent convert got the rest of it out from under my sleeve while laughing hysterically. Hang drying clothes outside. I don't trust it anymore.

Sis. White and I were both pretty sick this last week and so not too much happened besides lots of tissues and naps between lessons... I know how exciting that is haha BUT! We did have a baptism this last week of the most fabulous nëna ever! Goodness I love her. I'm so happy for her. It was a really special day. AND! We have a baptism next week, too! She's basically been an investigator for about 10 years now... she's 16 and when her brother, a member, announced to everyone in fast and testimony meeting that she was getting baptized, there was an audible gasp. It's pretty exciting. I definitely did nothing to make this happen, it's pretty cool though that I get to be the missionary with her when she's finally made this wonderful choice.

I love this scripture... talking about God's children,
"...for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Hard times and good times come to everyone. It doesn't matter how righteous we are, it doesn't matter how good of people we are or how bad of people for that matter. It doesn't matter if we serve, don't serve, love or don't love... hard times and good times come to everyone. The only control we have is what we do with those hard times. Are we going to grow? Are we going to stay close to the Lord? Are we going to end up better people with a more firm foundation? Or are we going to crumble? 
For those of you in hard times... I love this quote from Elder Holland.
"Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee."
God loves you. That doesn't take away the rain, but it sure does bring peace to know that everything will be okay in the long run.

Të puth fortë.
Motra Russell

for all you Doctor Who fans hahaha

Some lovely scenery.

And and one of my favorite people came to visit Tirana!! Sis. Singer!!


April 28, 2014

This last week. Wow. So rad. (Apparently people don't use that word, am I uncool?)
Also, every time (and by every time I actually mean about 5 times) people read my name tag they say "Russell... oh! Russell Crow!" ..... I guess??

First off, we had two baptisms of the most amazing sisters in the world!! It was so beautiful and I was so overwhelmed with joy. I am thrilled for them. They were truly prepared for this. 
But wow was I dying of laughter! The oldest sister walks into the font to get baptized first.... The bishopric member has her grab his wrist, the usual routine. She takes a deep breath, says a preparatory okay and "one, two, thr...." 
"NO NO NO NO!!!" 
She was totally ready to dunk herself :)

Oh man, we got served the worst thing I've ever been served at a lesson before. It was, I kid you not, the most sugary thing I have ever in my life encountered. It was basically a dried angel hair pasta type thing soaked in sugar then soaked in syrup then dipped in sugar then drowned in syrup for good measure then frosted on top then chocolate chips and then a cherry on top, you can't forget the cherry. I literally thought I was going to die right then and there. I've never not finished something served to me! I was determined to finish! I was almost done and decided to just bite the bullet and take a huuuge bite to get it over with and I put that huuuugggee bite in my mouth and my body screamed, "I HATE YOU!!" and wouldn't let me swallow it! So I bent over and pretended to scratch my head to hide that I was trying so hard not to laugh and throw up at the same time. I FINALLY got that sick wad of sugary mess down my throat and instantly lost 5 years off my life. I am ashamed to say that no, I did not finish it, I had 2 bites left :( I literally could not do it. I put it in a nice little pile on my plate instead to make it look like I had eaten more than I actually did... yes, like 6 year olds do.

Sis. White and I both accidentally yelled out "NARWHAL!" after seeing a picture of one pop up on a tv screen on the bus. We definitely got a LOT of looks. 
That same tv also played a world report of two cats playing laser tag... is that what's really happening in the world right now?? Because uh... haha

Oh man, favorite story of the week.
We go over to some investigators house who are rockstars and we adore. Two sisters. It's the older sisters birthday. It's a pretty common tradition in Albania to buy other people gifts and treats for your birthday. So Dori, a fabulous and wonderful member who we have all gotten so close to calls to say she's coming over for our lesson... They immediately start panicking, they have to get her something! The older sister tells her younger sister some quick instructions to go to a local shop and get some earrings... problem, it's Sunday. So we immediately tell them no no no! It's Sunday! You can't do that on Sunday! 
They give us a confused look.
We give them a confused look right back, we definitely taught them Sabbath day.
They say, oh!! okay, we'll just buy it and give them the money tomorrow!
No! It doesn't work that way! hahaha
(I'm laughing soooo hard by this point...)
They think that we just aren't understanding the language, we tell them we definitely are. They say, but we aren't working! 
It doesn't matter, THEY are having to work when you buy things on Sunday!
But it's my birthday!!
It's still Sunday!
But Dori will love it!
Dori will be sooooo much happier if you keep the Sabbath day holy than if you bought her a gift, we promise!!
Literally right as we were saying that, Dori walks in with a box in her hand...................
I bought you a cake!!! 
*face in palm* Are you kidding me? hahahahahahaha it was too ironic, the timing was too perfect, we died laughing hahahahaha Apparently she bought it because it was her birthday, didn't help our argument at all :P

Okay, now for my thought for the day after this crazy long email...
I love the story in 2 Kings 5:10-14... Naaman was asked by Elisha's servant, not even Elisha in person, to wash in a dirty river to be clean. It wasn't a grand healing, it wasn't anything amazing, it was a boring river with nothing grand. Naaman was ticked and left not doing it. My favorite part is in verse 13...

"My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some agreat thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"

He then washes in the river and is healed. 
The gospel is so much like this. Sometimes reading the scriptures every day and saying prayers can seem so simple and so mundane. Sometimes answers to prayers aren't amazing. But that doesn't mean any of it isn't adequate. That doesn't mean it isn't exactly what we need to heal.

"O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way;..."
Alma 37:44-47

Living the gospel is exactly what we need to be healed from the trials and burdens of life. "Life is hard, not the gospel."
I promise that the Atonement is enough for us. Living how Christ taught us to live is enough for us. And it's exactly what we need to be so happy :) So do it and be happy!

Motra Missy
some pretty views ...
our new pet cactus named Bëdi! (buddy haha)


April 21, 2014

This week was another wonderful one. 
I feel like I can say with full confidence that choosing to serve a mission was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I am so happy. I am growing so much. I am so blessed. If you're deciding whether or not to go, just go. It's been amazing. 

I feel like walking around Tirana is similar to playing minesweeper. There is a road where the sidewalks are cement tiles. A lot of the tiles have had the dirt underneath them eroded and muddy water will pool under them... so when you step on them, it splashes up your skirt like you stepped on a bomb. Blast it, it's the worst hahaha

Lion bars from Nestle. The best. It's like a combination of a KitKat and 100 Grand, my two favorite candy bars in one. Oh the heaven in my mouth!

Two of our investigators (who are getting baptized this week!! WOOO!!!) taught us how to make byrek last week! It was so fun! And surprisingly easy. I'm so excited to make it when I get home, ya'll gonna love it ;)

The other week I was on my knees sweeping a rug with a broken broom and I thought, I'm in Albania sweeping a rug with a broken broom on my knees... when did my life get so awesome? hahaha

Whenever we meet with people they'll always ask us the same questions... where are you from? how long have you been here? Do you like Albania? ... we'll always say yes, I love Albania. And they usually always respond with a pause and then ........... why? ..... I don't get it, it makes me laugh. And is mostly really awkward.... but funny? I dunno haha

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter! We sure did over here. We had an activity and they handed out food with easter eggs. Of course I ate them, duh. I love eggs. But I guess we're not supposed to eat them, we're supposed to keep them for a year (gross haha) ... I decided to still eat them, but everyone thought I was weird... why would I eat the egg? I say, why would you NOT eat the egg... :P
Speaking of Easter, Sis. White was praying and definitely said... "We thank thee for the opportunity to celebrate Fish... Ah shoot..... " I was rolling laughing, it was hilarious hahaha Mainly the "ah shoot" response after a good pause hahaha

I read a wonderful talk by Neal A. Maxwell recently called Meekly Drenched in Destiny. It talked about the importance of having meekness. I would definitely recommend it. There was one quote that I particularly liked...

"Yes, there are real costs associated with meekness. A significant down payment must be made. But it can come from our sufficient supply of pride. We must also be willing to endure the subsequent erosion of unbecoming ego. Furthermore, our hearts will be broken in order that they might be rebuilt. As Ezekiel said, one's task is to "make you a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31). There is no way that such dismantling, such erosion, such rebuilding can occur without real cost in pain, pride, adjustments, and even some dismay. Yet since we cannot be "acceptable before God save [we are] meek and lowly in heart" (Moroni 7:44), the reality of that awesome requirement must be heeded. Better to save one's soul than to save one's face."

I especially liked the quote... "Our hearts will be broken in order that they might be rebuilt." I found that so poetic and so beautiful. I know that to be true in my life. There are many hard times but they are always turned into experiences of improvement if I rely on the Lord and I always look back on those experiences as blessings.
Rely on the Lord, let Him rebuild you.

Motra Russell

Making byrek :) They even gave us hats to wear haha


April 14, 2014

I think I can say with full confidence that this last week was the best week of my mission up to date. I LOVE being with Sis. White and I LOVE working hard and being together, it's just so much awesome I can't even handle it. 

I forgot my planner, prandaj, I don't remember anything that's happened in my life. Ug. Okay, I'm gonna try!

We have 333333333 ... woa, calm down sticky keyboard .... we have 3, yes, only 3, not that other number... people on baptismal date which is super awesome. Not to mention THEY are super awesome. Two are sisters that are just the best ever and make me laugh so so hard. We went over this last week and they decided to give us manicures and then hair things... and then jewelry... and then clothes... they were just going through their closet and giving us stuff they didn't want anymore, slightly awkward, more hilarious. They wouldn't take no for an answer! It just kept on coming! hahaha oh boy... 

Oh! I am officially a missionary! I have destroyed my first pair of shoes! hahahaha That was a joke if you didn't catch onto my laughing ;)

A smelly, gross, dirty homeless man tried to kiss Sis. White... that was ... awkward.

Okay, that's all I can remember. How is that possible? We live crazy busy lives and all I can remember are 3 things... bleh. Sorry friends haha

My thought for the day.
Read the full one, that's the one that I read, the link is at the top.
The part that really hit me was this... "I am convinced that personal prayer is one of the most significant challenges facing members of the Church, particularly youth and young adults. And because they struggle with prayer, they struggle spiritually."

I was thinking about that when I read 2 Nephi 32:3-5. I love how it says that we should feast on the the words of Christ and that they will tell us all things that we should do. Then, if we don't understand, we should ask God and then the Holy Ghost will show us all things that we should do. It really emphasized how important not only searching the scriptures is, but seeking understanding from the spirit through personal prayer. He then goes on in the chapter how prayer is so essential to us and that we should pray always (there is so much doctrine, so much to learn from this chapter... you should really read and study it. And also 31... and also 32 and 33... and also the whole Book of Mormon.)
I have such a testimony of this. When I feel close to God, my prayers are more meaningful and sincere. When my prayers are weak, I feel equally distanced from the Father.

"Prayer is an essential and enabling spiritual link between God and man. Without prayer, there is no possible return to the Father. Without prayer, sufficient faith to understand and keep the commandments is impossible. Without prayer, the necessary spiritual power to avoid temptation and overcome trials and adversity would be unavailable. Without prayer, repentance, forgiveness and the cleansing power of the Atonement are unattainable. With the power of personal prayer, all things are possible.
Prayer enables personal revelation and spiritual gifts through the Holy Ghost. It is the spiritual channel made available to all God’s children, giving us constant access to our Eternal Father, His Beloved Son, and the Holy Ghost. Prayer is powerful and compelling evidence of the reality of God the Eternal Father. Personal prayer is indispensable to understanding God and our divine identity."
I have such a testimony of prayer. Real, sincere prayer is work. Hard work. But it is rewarding. It connects us to our Heavenly Father, it reminds us who we really are, it helps us to learn truth and feel the spirit stronger than ever. If you aren't putting forth the effort to pray with all your heart, do it. It's worth it.
Much love!
Motra Russell
Went to some botanical gardens today, it was pretty fun :)