Monday, September 28, 2015

Week 16 - September 28, 2015 Saratov Adventures

My dearest readers, 

How is everyone doing? I love reading all of your emails! I really appreciate all of the love 
and support I get each week! 

Our Otkroog (district)

Hmm where to start? Well, I'm happy to share that sister Hansen 
and I survived our second week together. 
We literally have so much fun together! 
We have decided when we get home, to make an all girls indie-folk band! 
We have so many great plans together. It's really just one big glorified sleepover. 
Of course we work hard. We work sooo hard! We come home every night exhausted 
but glad we did it. Man I love her so darn tootin much.

We had such a great week!!! We had Zone Training on Friday. It was so great! 
Balakova isn't the most social area for missionaries 
so it was great to see all of the other missionaries serving in the Saratov Zone. 
Man, I have the best mission president ever! 
His wife, Sister Schwab, gave all the missionaries Oreos, which is such a treat! 
They gave such inspired advice. Our zone leaders are great elders too! 
One is from Germany so not only does he have to learn Russian, 
but he has to learn English to train us. I got to talk to him a little bit. 
He trained one of my friends from my MTC district. So much fun. 

​This is us at the baptism 
(sorry would send photos of my Russian friends but just too many restrictions)

Last Saturday was the first baptism I've witnessed on the mission. 
He was one of the elder's investigators. He's definitely golden. 
He got baptized in the Volga!!! Ain't that so great???? 
Sis Hansen and I hope that we can our two investigators get baptized this cycle. 
We shall see :)

My cute new boots!

I bought cute boots when I was in Saratov on Friday. 
I can't wait to wear them! It's the little things in life. 

I have come to realize that exercising faith in Jesus Christ takes great effort. 
Yes, we can all have faith all the time. But exercising faith in Jesus Christ is different. 
It's a decision you make every day, several times a day. 
I would even go as far to say every moment of everyday - if you are doing it right. 
Praying with faith has been something I've been working on this week. 

The prayer of faith is something that is so powerful! 
Although in order to properly access this power, 
we must be sincere and actually working during our prayers. 
It should take up all our time and attention. 
I can guarantee that 90% of my prayers are not like this. 
I definitely have a lot of work to do in order to improve my prayers, 
but I'm just so grateful and excited to be able to access this power. 
This knowledge that something so great exists gets me through the day. 
Instead of being discouraged at all the progress I still need to make, 
I'm choosing to look forward to all the growth! 

Another thing that has really helped me when work gets tough is having a thankful heart. 
If I find myself feeling down, or negative thoughts enter my mind. 
I think of random things to be grateful for. 
Every time, I find myself forgetting those things that tied me down with sorrow. 
I am lifted. It's a great feeling!

I feel like my prayers have greatly improved. We really need miracles here in Balakova, 
so we are praying each day for them. Man, miracles are everywhere!!! 
I have felt my understanding of the language improve drastically and so has my speaking. 
I definitely consider that as miracle. It's just soo cool to think less than 4 months ago 
I knew just a few words of Russian. 
Now I'm living in Russia and can understand what's going on . . .most of the time.

​Awesomely creepy baby photo ad

I find myself more at ease and really enjoying the work. 
We went out finding on the streets last night for 3 hours straight, yet it wasn't so bad. 
I would even venture to say that it was enjoyable. 
I am so humbled to be out here working in the Lord's vineyard. 
He has trusted me with His children. I think the more I remember this fact, 
the more devoted I become to this work. It truly is a privilege.

You know we were ready for P-day last night. . .thank goodness for self timers 

I feel myself growing and improving each and everyday! I know the Lord is aware of us 
Whelp I don't have much time, I have to go. But know that I love you all so darn tootin much. 

Be safe and remember that Heavenly Father loves you. Godspeed. 

General Conference is this weekend!!!! Can I first say how much I love 
and admire and sustain our church leaders? 
I just found out about Elder Richard G Scott's passing. He is an inspired man. 
Please please please watch conference this weekend. 
We can't watch for another week or two. Let me know which talks were your favorite! 
Also, let me know who have been called to be the 3 apostles. 

Much love, 
Sister Graham

Monday, September 21, 2015

Week 15 - September 21, 2015 Attack of the Mosquitos

          My dearest readers, 

HULLLO! I have officially survived my first week of transfer. 
My new companion, Sister Hansen, is such a gem. I love her soo much! 
We've struggled together and laughed together so you know it's a good companionship haha. 
She is such a great example to me. We have been working really hard this week on trying to find people. We've been better at contacting this week than on my whole first cycle! 
We are told to contact for at least 3 hours every day. And due to forces beyond our own, 
we have definitely gotten in those 3 hours and then some! 
Can't say I haven't walked enough hahaha. 
We are both relatively new to the mission, so we are able to related really well. 
Krochi (in short), we are buds!

(Sister Hansen & I) Our First Selfie Together

Sooooo one day, we got pretty lost when we took an unfamiliar bus to try 
and find better areas to contact at night. We didn't know 
where we were since both of us were really new to the area, so we just tried walking home. 
We said a prayer out loud. I definitely felt the Spirit guiding me as we walked. 
We were able to make it home - even on time! 

I am doing really well. Although the only thing that is "bugging" me is the fact 
that I'm getting eaten alive by mosquitos! I'm super allergic so my legs look pretty leprous as of late. 
I'm taking some medicine. Hopefully they get better. If not, winter will be very welcome!

​Fruit Roll Ups Tattoos. Thanks Mom!!!!  

I seriously love baking!!!!! We made brownies from scratch. 
They were just magical! I'm sooo happy to have found this hobby of mine!!!! 
We are finding new recipes to try out. Cooking really isn't that hard! 
We can all be good cooks if we just do it!

Our First Apple Pie Together

Fun story: We were contacting in an area that's farther from home, so we had to bus it home. 
The bus comes and we dont want to miss it so we run over. We make it in time. 
I'm in a rush so I try and run on to the bus. . . .and totally EAT IT on the bus. 
I think it's accurate to say I faceplanted onto the bus. Of course, 
my natural reaction is to laugh it off hoping no one noticed haha. 
It's going to be quite funny to see this awkward soul function on slippery ice.

Our Last Photo Before Transfer
This week has really been an interesting one, I have had to go out of my comfort zone a lot. 
It's really helped a lot to have a positive attitude this whole week. I've had to rely on the Lord and 
His Spirit a lot this week. This has really kept me focused on what matters most. 
It's hard every once and a while not to get discouraged, but I've felt really good overall this week. 
I've been really focusing on making my prayers more meaningful. 
I carefully studied the preach my gospel section on praying in faith. The prayer of faith is so powerful! 
There are so many wonderful things the Lord has in store for us, 
we just have to ask Him and then put in our efforts to receive these blessings. 
Prayer really is powerful. We can do so much! And even more with the Lord on our side.

Mushu Knows the Gospel is True
I feel like I'm using my Russian more. It is actually a really beautiful language. 
I hope to become fluent in the future. Sister Hansen said that there was this pair of sisters 
who were really young on the mission who served together. 
Their Russian improved sooo much since they were forced to learn faster. 
Hopefully this will happen to us!!!!

Ain't Russia Beautiful!!!
I love you all sooo much! Thank you for all you do for me and my family. 
Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us. We all have a great work to do on this earth. 
You are great!!

Much Love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, September 14, 2015

Week 14 - September 14, 2015 Cycle one- down!

            My dearest readers,
where do I start? Whelp, I'm staying in Balacova! 
It's actually not bad at all, well except for the fact that my trainer is leaving me!!! 
She is going to Orenburg, which is something she's been wanting to do for over a year now 
(she was "born" there - it was her first area). I'm getting a new trainer in a couple hours. 
Her name is Sister Hansen and I love her to pieces already. 
We served together during splits and just felt so great! I felt like a really missionary haha. 
I know this is going to be a great time! 
She loves the same kind of music as I do and she is always positive. 
She's from Virginia and went to BYU-I. The real challenge about this all is just that fact 
that she's only served in Balacova for a day. So I'll be in charge of planning for all this week. 
And knowing where everything is. 
Man, i'm nervous about taking on more responsibility so early on in my mission, 
but I have to trust in God and remind myself each day that the Lord qualifies those He calls. 
He won't give me any challenge or commandment without providing a was ( see 1 Nephi 3:7). 
Also, Sis Hansen has been in Russia for about 4 1/2 months 
soooo we will both be learning more Russian together hahahaha Wish us luck!!!!!

Fun snippets: Had my first Russian meal from a member, of whom I love very dearly. 
She takes care of us. She bakes the BEST pastries. I die every time. 
Then last night I had borsch for the first time ever. So good! 
I even did as the Russians do and put a little tiny bit of mayo in it ahhaha. 
We baked ginger snaps, chocolate chip cookies, and made fudge this week. 
Cooking and baking is sooo much fun! Only tough because they don't have brown sugar here 
(we used Sis Parlmer's stash she got from Merica for the cookies). 
When I get home I'll be a cooking machine!!!!!

Miracles: Whelp we had a slower week, BUT that doesn't mean we didn't see miracles. 
It was so great, we were walking around looking for this potentials apartment. 
We ask for directions from these two babooshky. 
They tell us for about 5 minutes, until one of them decides to just take us there herself! 
So they two of them walk with us for about half an hour at 7pm! They were HILARIOUS! 
I didn't understand much of their banter but they were so sweet. 
They asked what made our church different so we said that we have prophets today 
and the Book of Mormon. When we got there, one of them gave us a can of tuna, a juice box, 
and this random dairy product from her grocery bag. Then we gave her a BoM. 
She promptly invited us over in the future. Can't wait to meet with her!!!!

One of the things I've been working on has been a turning inward in the sense 
that the only way I can see change around me, is if I become that good change myself. 
So I've been working on the Christlike attributes of humility, gratitude, and hope. 
Through these attributes, paired with patience, 
I can more fully access and appreciate the enabling power of the atonement: grace. 
It's not easy to willingly humble ourselves, but if we do it, 
we will see just how much the Lord has touched our lives. 

Whelp, I've run out of time, but I love you all sooooo much!!!!! 
Being in Russia has helped me really appreciate the blessings I've had in my life. 
I'm meeting soooo many wonderful people here. They are just so strong and tough! 
Yet they love with all their heart! It's awesome how they can still love life and this gospel, 
against all odds! Serve someone today. Make them smile

Much love, 

Cecpta Spam 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Week 13 - September 7, 2015 A Week of Celebration

          My beloved readers,

First and foremost: thank you. I feel like it's near impossible to thank you 
for all that you have done for me, and continue to do for me. 
I always feel your love each week. 
The reason for the subject line is that this has been quite the interesting week ahha.

 Us and the Cute Art

We were out and about for Tuesday and Wednesday dealing with various things 
so we couldn't cook very often. We had super good beef schwarma two days in a row. 
I am so happy haha. It's a cross between a burrito and a wrap, with delicious bbq meat. 
Last Monday I tried Russian pizza for the first time. . ...it wasn't bad. 
But it was drizzled with. . . MAYO. 
I tried to eat it like a champ. I finished two pieces!!! 
Although whilst walking to the branch building (prihode) and eating the slice at the same time, 
a piece of tomato came off unexpectedly and got mayo over my chin and neck. 
I literally almost had a panic attack hahaha. All was well. 
I was able to clean it off after struggling for 5 minutes to find tissues in my bag. 
Sis. Palmer was just laughing the whole time. I also had soft serve for the first time. 
Milk is a little different here, like a different aftertaste. I don't mind it. 
The soft serve was just not the same though.

 The Coat I Just Bought

I think what has helped me the most through rough times 
is trying to develop an attitude of gratitude. 
I had such a wonderful study session this morning on gratitude, humility, and grace. 
When we are grateful, we thank God for ALL of the things He has given us. 
Which includes this gospel, our loved ones, our achievements and failures, 
our strengths and weakness, our blessings and trials. When we are grateful, 
we realize that all that we are and all that we have comes from God. 
This, my friends, is the definition of humility. It's complete recognition 
and reliance on the Lord. When we are humble, we receive the fulness of God's grace. 
It's this wonderful formula that has been here this whole time. 
I look forward to studying this more in depth later this week.

 Apparently if you put your arm around his its good luck in romance

A lot of what I studied this morning was in 1 Peter 5. I strongly encourage anyone 
who has time to check out this chapter. 
I get the most out of my studies when I try to dissect each verse and apply it to myself. 
Next, I'm going to study how to humble myself willingly.  

Miracles: So I can't exactly point out any huge, mountain moving miracles. 
We try to pray for miracles everyday. Honestly, I think there are too many little miracles 
that happen in our lives everyday that we fail to notice. 
Elder James E. Talmage writes a wonderful exerpt on miracles in his book, Jesus the Christ. 
Pretty much miracles are happening all around us. 
He gives the example of a seed growing into a grape. Simple yet significant. 
These miracles we have had include being able to have each day work out. 
We had a lot of things that needed to be done, 
and a lot of stumbling blocks got in the way, but we still managed to have everything work out. 
We also had three new investigators this week. 
One of which was a total surprise through a member. 
Another was a fruit from our labors of calling out of the area book. 
Hopefully these turn out well!

My First District

Friday was my monthaversary in Russia. 
We told the elders to make the treat this time for district meeting. 
They made fudge!!!!! Three layer fudge in fact haha. I thought that was super sweet! 
In all senses of the word possible haha. Next week are transfers!! 
Woooo I'm made it this far!!! We may or may not be staying in Balakova. 
So we will see. If not I will be leaving behind a trail of lots and lots of cats and babooshky.

 The Fudge the Elders Made for Us 

I love you all sooooo much. We are all capable of doing greats thing today! Right now! 
Right where we are planted. There are people waiting for us. 
We just have to open our eyes to see. 

Much love, 
Cectpa Spam

ps: it was also city day on saturday so all of balakova under the age 70 (probably half of the population) 
was out on the streets at this concert. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Week 12 - August 31, 2015 My Month - Anniversary in Russia!!!!

             My Dearest Readers,

Wowsers, thank you all so much for all of your support, prayers, love, and emails!! 
I always look forward to each p-day just so that I can talk with all of you! 
You really brighten my week! 

Whelp, it's official. I've been in Russia for about a month. Kind of crazy! 
This Thursday I'll hit my 3 month mark on my mission! 
It's so incredible to think that I've made it this far. 
Really I have felt so blessed and humbled these past few weeks. 

Last weeks we had my first splits! Sisters from Saratov came 
and stayed with us for about 3 days. 
I worked with a sister on her 3rd cycle and then the sister training leader. 
It was really cool to work with other sisters for a change. 
We all have our unique teaching and finding skills. Sis. Palmer says that 
I'll soon find out what type of missionary I want to be and what my "thing" is haha. 
She's great. She's been pushing me to do more things outside of my comfort zone. 
I finally got my own little Russian Bible!!! It's seriously soooooooo cute.

It's incredible how much my soul yearns for the hour of personal study each day. 
I don't know how I survived without it before the mission! I'm learning so much each day! 
I actually spent one whole hour just on Words of Mormon 1:7. I was just studying all the footnotes for 7a. 
It was incredible!! I really learned a lot. "I know not all things, but the Lord knoweth all things." 
That is such a comfort to me when I feel discouraged or confused. I may not know everything, 
but I have put my trust in an all-knowing God and Savior. If we just trust 
God that everything will be for our good and learning, 
then it's easier to do the things He asks us to do. Be diligent.

Another great thing that I learned, just today, is that God loves all of His children. 
But, like all things spiritual, there is a greater understanding we can have of this love. 
The fact that He loves all His children is just the fundamental of this powerful love. 
It is only when we obey His commandments, love Him, 
and believe in Christ can show unto us His perfect love. 
I think it's in 1 John 2:3-6. His love is perfected when we follow His word. 
When we love God we enable ourselves to receive the fulness of the blessings 
as a result of God's love. It's really incredible. 
I encourage all of you to study about God's love. 

One of the things I really want to work on while serving this mission is how to enjoy each day. 
I need to learn to live in the moment. So many times we miss out on blessings 
or don't see the Lord's hand in our lives because we are too busy 
looking forward to the nest stage in our lives. Or even too busy living in the past. 
While it is good to make plans and look forward or reflect, if we let that take over our thoughts, 
the now is consumed by tomorrow or yesterday. I know that when I learn to do this, 
I will live a more satisfied today, for the rest of my life. 

I love you all sooo much! I pray for you all everyday! 

Much love, 

Cecpta Graham