As of yesterday at 6:00 pm, I'm officially 23. It feels real weird. Actually, it feels the same as 22, but it's weird having to tell people I'm 23 now. I loved 22.
Anyway, yesterday was probably one of the best days of my life, definitely the best birthday I've ever had. MTC birthdays are the BEST. Thanks so much to everyone that wrote and sent stuff. I've got enough food to feed my district until we leave for Russia. But seriously, I felt sooo incredibly loved yesterday. It was great. We woke up, went for our morning run, then ate breakfast. After we finished, Sister Moffatt said she had to go back to the room to get something. It turns out she was stalling for our district, because when I we entered our classroom, it was decked out in all things 'birthday.' There were signs everywhere, stickers, the chalkboard was covered in birthday messages, and they got me a real big birthday hat and glittery sunglasses, which they made me wear almost all day. I think Elder Astle got some pictures with them; I'm sure he'll post them sometime in the future. They're probably super embarassing. After all that, we had personal study and then class, where we talked about commitments with our investigators. I had to sit and role play with two elders asking me how I was doing with the word of wisdom looking like I just came back from Mardi Gras with all my birthday stuff hanging off me. I couldn't keep a straight face.
THEN, at lunch. Oh, gosh. Alright, so I may have already told you that the elders in my district found out that I'm super ticklish and jump anytime someone pokes me in the sides. They do it ALLL the time. ALL THE TIME. To the point where I've actually started developing anxiety. Well, there's this new elder named Elder Bickley that thinks this is the funniest thing ever. Kind of like Dad, actually. He'll sneak up behind me and blurt something into my ear and poke my sides and watch me flip out. He's done it at least once a day since he's been here. So yesterday, I sat down to lunch and said my prayer, and right as I opened my eyes he poked my sides and yelled, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" in my ear. I didn't see my face, but Elder Astle and Elder Martineau said it was the most terrified look they've ever seen. I started laughing/hyperventilating uncontrollably. I couldn't breathe or eat or do anyting but laugh and cover my face for a good 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Elder Bickley was having the time of his life. Since then, he's offered to let me punch him in the stomach to make up for it, which has been trained by the Marine Corps, so it probably wouldn't even hurt him. I'm real tempted.
After all that, we had an awesome lesson with Aleksander about his daughter, Oksana, who he's been trying to get to meet with the missionaries for a long time now; we also set up his baptismal date. That night after dinner, I got TONS of mail. (Thanks again!), then we went to devotional. Elder Bruce Carlson of the Seventy spoke, which was absolutely perfect. He lived in the Dulles area for a while, he's a four star (I think) General, and he was actually in the Pentagon when the planes hit, so I felt right at home. haha. His talk was fantastic. He definitely sounded like a military man. He talked about commiting ourselves to our missions like a war and serving to be "the missionaries our mothers think we are." I loved it. Afterwards, Sister Moffatt and I went up and talked to him and President Brown (the MTC president). I also got to hug Sister Brown. Twice. Happy birthday, me :) And THEN, when we went back to the classroom for district review, I found out that the district had planned a party for me. Elder Martineau's mother sent in cupcakes for me. CUPCAKES. Banana and peanut butter cupcakes! It was the best. The whole zone wished me happy birthday, gave me presents, made me a huge card, (this, on top of the 1,000 birthday wishes I got walking around the MTC), and sang "happy birthday" to me. I loved every minute of it. I don't usually like celebrating my birthday, but having everyone else want to celebrate it for me was awesome. Haha. I love these people.
Now for the rest of the week. Not a lot happened, actually. More classes, more lessons. Our lessons all went really well this week. One of our investigators, Anton, asked us a really great question in our last lesson. He asked why we needed a Savior if God is God and has the power to bring us back to Him anyway. It was really hard trying to come up with the Russian vocabulary to answer him, so we said we'd study it and answer him next time. Since then, it's been all I've studied. I've read and re-read 2nd Nephi 2 about 20 times in the past 2 days. If you have time, you should read it. It explains everything so clearly. The purpose of the creation was for us to receive bodies and have agency, thereby leading us back to Heavenly Father. BECAUSE we have agency, a Savior/sacrifice is required. Were there no agency, the plan would be pointless. (Verses 12-16 explain this better than I can.) I've also been working on translating Elder Anderson's talk called, "You Know Enough." It's been one of my favorites for a long time now, but let me tell you, the Russian translation is so much cooler. Haha. Russian makes everything so speific. Through cases and declinations, it's literally impossible to be misunderstood (if you can understand Russian). He quotes a scripture from Nephi in the talk that says, basically, "I might not understand the meaning of all things, but I know that God loveth his children." That's sort of a motto at the MTC. You might not know why the language is so hard, or why you're tired all the time, or why you want to cry every time you have to go to another workshop, but know that God loves you. For all you back home, you might not know why you're not making enough money, or why your friends seem like jerks, or why your children misbehave, or why life is so HARD, but know that God loves you, and that it's all for your benefit. (*Steps off soapbox*).
We've heard a lot of cool things about Russia from the older district that just left. Apparently there are a ton of gypsies in Samara, and they love playing sports with the missionaries. A group of elders that just left has started teaching four or five of them. This past week I've started realizing that I'll be talking with actual Russians in less than 3 weeks. It's coming up so quickly. I don't feel prepared at all, at least as far as my Russian goes. I mean, I don't mean to brag, but my Russian is pretty solid. But when I think about teaching it to an actualy Russian human being, with actual Russian bluntness, I get really nervous. BUT, I know it'll be fine. Better than fine. It's gonna be great. This past week we've focused on talking to people and getting to know them. It was my favorite lesson so far. We just roamed around the MTC, talking to random people for an hour. We met an Elder Greer during our last couple of minutes, and let me tell you, Elder Greer is the man. He's a TERRIBLE missionary, but he's the man. He's hacked the MTC security so that he can translate on Google, he takes naps underneath the stairs on almost a daily basis, and so much more. He's like what John Cusack would be if he became a missionary. Anyway, it was great, and it made me really excited to meet people in Russia.
Welp. That's all I got for today. Thanks again to everyone that sent me things or wished me a happy birthday. Twenty-three's gonna be a great year- my Russian year. Woohoo! I love you all so much. I miss you all the time. I can't wait to talk to you guys on October 1st (2nd?)! Be good. I love you!