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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Week 2: "Not So Bad, Could Be Worse"
So everyone that emails me or writes me letters starts with "How's the Russian?" and I think I'm going to address that first, with a quote from a hymn no less. You know the hymn "Come come ye saints," with the chorus at the end "all is well, all is well." Well, when that hymn was initially translated into Russian during the Soviet era (not sure why they were translating hymns in the Soviet era since there was definitely no religion or Mormons in Russian then, but anyway) that chorus was translated "not so bad, could be worse." Which is wonderful because it's so very Russian. And that's how my Russian is right now; not so bad, could be worse. It is still incredibly hard. We started learning cases this week, which means nothing to you if you've never learned Russian. Basically cases are the way that nouns and adjectives changed based on how they're used. So if the same noun is written differently as the subject, direct object, indirect object of a sentence or if it follows a preposition or if it falls into one of the other ten billion rules. So anyway, that's hard. But I'm doing okay. I'm amazed how much I'm able to learn and I'm being pretty patient with myself. I had a lesson yesterday that was amazing for me. We were teaching that God loves us, and trying to help our "investigator" feel that. I swear it was a gift of tongues lesson for me. Normally in Russian I have to reach for words, but yesterday, they were just coming to me. It was amazing. Another cool thing that happened yesterday was the Richard G Scott (Quorum of 12 apostles) came and spoke at our devotional. Not once but TWICE he invoked his apostolic blessing specifically on us missionaries learning languages that we would be able to learn them. I felt kinda bad for the missionaries speaking English who didn't get that blessing, but for all of us other missionaries it was pretty incredible to have such a blessing pronounced upon us. It was something to put in the storage to rely on during those days when Russian cases seem impossible.
Also, I went through a petite existential crisis this week.
I have found in my life a reoccurring problem which I have named "the fallacy of the wanderer." (I know, it's kinda pretentious, but it fits, I promise, just keep reading). The fallacy of the wanderer is the idea that once my situation changes - once I go to Vienna or college or on my mission, once I get a job or quit my job or find a new extracurricular, once I have more friends or a new boyfriend or whatever - things will be different and I will be better. This has happened at every major changing point in my life and of course, it happened when I got to the MTC.
The funny thing about the fallacy of the wanderer is that it's true - for a very short period of time. And after a day or a week or maybe even ten days, the newness wears off and I'm still the same old me with the same old bad habits and weak spots and flaws. Which is always a little disappointing. This past week was that crisis for me. For the first little bit of my stay in the MTC, I was exactly what I thought a missionary should be, in the most conservative and superficial meaning of the word. I was all "I'm a missionary now, so I don't struggle with any of the things I used to struggle with" (including "what is feminism anyway? It doesn't bother me at all that there's some decidedly sexist practices in the way missions are organized"). Which was short lived because after a little while I started feeling this underlying discomfort. And I didn't identify or deal with it until one night when I had a really good journal session and realized that what was going on was that I wasn't being me, which was very hard. That then led to me feeling like "well, how can I be Hannah and be a missionary? I'm irreverent and not conservative enough and I don't care about the detailed implications for the rules. Missionaries are all those things I'm not. All my bad habits and week spots and flaws are going to get in the way."
So I sought answers about who I was going to become. (I know I probably should have thought this through before I left, but I didn't, so whatever). Anyway, as I as searching for who I wanted to become I wrote and read and made all kinds of goals. I thought I'd kinda figured some of it out. But that "figured it out" was followed by probably my worst day in the MTC. (I know it's only been 14 days, but it feels like forever). Anyway, that night I was struck by the thought that I hadn't asked the Lord what He wanted me to be. But it wasn't a thought, maybe more of a feeling. Or a heart prayer. A prayer that I didn't vocalize or even put into words in my head but that was strongly felt. Immediately, I knew I needed to go to my Patriarchal Blessing. My PB is long and fairly open ended and beautiful - I really love it and am grateful for it and have faith in it. As I read it, I realized that it is a map of who my Heavenly Father would have me be. So I read it again, but this time I made a list of 25 questions for me to ponder and pray about, whose answers I hope will turn into applications of the blessing which will, in turn, help me to be the person and the missionary the Lord intended me to me. (That was definitely not a grammatically correct sentence #EnglishMajor). It's amazing to me how good I feel about this approach. In the MTC, I'm constantly flooded with ideas and council on who I should become and do and it's so overwhelming. But with this I feel peace. I feel pretty strongly that this was a little piece of revelation given to me in answer to my prayers.
Also, I realized that the Lord called me. He didn't call superficial missionary Hannah. He called me. And He did not call me to fail.
Another thing that is amazing was a small moment I had during my hard day this week. The fours sisters in our room were all getting ready for the day, blow drying hair and using flat irons and putting on makeup. (Sidenote, we've blown the circuit almost every day because we keep forgetting we can't use 3 hairdryers at once). As we were all doing that one of them started softly singing a hymn. And then we all started singing. We spent probably 10 minutes hopping from hymn to hymn, getting ready for the day and never addressing what was happening. It was lovely. I had a moment when I realized "even though this is really hard I am genuinely grateful I am here. There's nowhere else I'd rather be." эио чуда
Another really lovely experience I had this week was that I had a blessing from the elders in my district. It was on my "holy crap I'm having an existential crisis" day, and I felt really strongly that I needed to ask them for a blessing. So I did. None of them had ever given a blessing before, and it was pretty special. They all formed the circle and the elder who gave the blessing did beautifully. He talked about all the things I needed to hear. Actually, that has been a reoccurring thing for me this week. It seems like in every prayer that is said, at least one thing that is exactly what I need or want or have been praying to hear is said. It amazes me every time.
Elder Scott talked yesterday about how when the quorum of the 12 and the first presidency meet in the temple every week, they always pray for the missionaries. It has stuck me how many prayers are being said for me and the missionaries. It's unfathomable to me. There's so much power in that many people putting their faith out there for us. So thank you for you prayers. And thank you for the letters and Dear Elders and emails and packages. It means a lot to me. I'm so grateful to have so much support so I can be out here doing this thing I love so much.
All the love,