Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25, 2012

Dear Family,
Hi! So, this week hasn't been quite as crazy. I'm not sure whether that is because I'm getting into the MTC routine or whether it is because we have our more set schedule now or what. But yes. I did get your package; thanks so much! I was very impressed with both you with sending it off so quickly and the postal system for getting it to me in 2 days! And yes, Sister Bastow sent me cinnamon rolls, and believe it or not, Matt (Yes, my brother) has sent me like 4 letters! It's been awesome. I love getting mail--the only mail delivery day I haven't gotten a letter or package yet was this past Saturday, and that was actually more depressing than I thought it would be. Anyway. How are all you? Anything exciting going on back home? I know that Matt's EQP and that his papers are in and that Brett is going to Armenia. Crazy! I can't believe I'm old enough for them to be going on missions. But yes. Please use DearElder.com when you send me letters--I get it the same day, it's just like sending me an email, and it doesn't waste my precious 30 minutes to talk to you! The two you sent before weren't bad because I could read them really quickly, but if ever you are going to write me a longer reply, please use DearElder. It's amazing. Just saying.
Um. P-Days are great. We have a new saying in our district that Monday is the new Friday because Tuesday is the closest thing to a Saturday that we get. We get to go to the temple, and then email, and then do whatever we want until dinner, as long as it includes laundry and personal/companionship study. Most of my time is spent writing letters, and today I'm definitely planning on taking a nap. The laundry room here is EPIC though. There are just rows and rows of washers and dryers and it's one big missionary letter writing party while we're waiting for it to be done. After dinner on Tuesdays, we have scheduled "class" time, but since it's P-days no teachers come in. We just have to be in church clothes and we finish any study/language stuff that we haven't done today. Then we head off to the devotional! Last week Elder Gong came and gave a great talk--before all the firesides and devotionals the missionaries sing the first 20ish minutes of prelude hymns. It is such a great experience, and then every Tuesday we start the devotional by singing Called to Serve. It's pretty cool; 2000+ missionaries in one room singing that hymn. Awesome.
The rest of the days just consist of class, MDT (Missionary Directed Time, where we do Personal, Companionship, and Language study for an hour each), and Gym and meals. Most of the day is spent in our class room 207-10M, which is pretty much our home. But it's pretty great. All of our teachers rock. Brat Savage tells the funniest stories, and says "Fantastic!" all the time. We keep a tally. I think he said it 35 times this past week--and he's only our teacher for a 1/3 of the time we have a teacher. So each time he says it we all (well, usually it's only me and Cectra Bullough, but we're all supposed to) cross our legs and then mark it down. It's great. My favorite things about the MTC definitely consist of our district and how much we laugh and how AWESOME we are while still being productive, the devotionals and firesides, and companionship study. Each day Cectra Clark teaches me so much, and we have so much fun laughing and planning and learning together. Oh, and Relief Society. Always so great. We never know who's coming, but it is always such a great speaker with a talk directed towards us sisters.
Wednesday we went to the TRC, which was wonderful. We were all super nervous before hand, mostly because we had to contact someone pa-Ruski and talk to them, pa-Ruski (in Russian...and my transliteration is really bad) for 5 minutes. That was difficult and didn't go so well, but teaching the first lesson itself was great. I LOVE teaching the lessons, whether it's in the TRC to a volunteer, to "Katya" (the "older" sister in the district that's been here longer who is our progressing investigator each week), or just to another companionship in the district. The lessons in PMG just flow and are truly inspired. When you teach them and follow the Spirit, it is truly powerful. Ctaryayshena Clawson the other day, after Cectra Clark and I had taught him and C. Whittemore the Restoration, said that Sisters just do it better than Elders and he was like, "If I was an investigator, I would have been like 'BAPTIZE ME! Here, do you need my credit card?'" Haha, he's so funny. But it is always really awesome to get to teach. Tomorrow is the TRC again. The Russian part is going to be really hard, but we're slowly getting there, and then we're teaching the first lesson again.
Russian facts for this week: No word order. Since they have all the cases, you can tell what part of speech is what, and so it doesn't matter at all what order you say things in. For questions you just have to change your inflection. Also, "What Child Is This?" is in the Russian hymn book, but the literal translation of the title is really "What's with the Kid?" Ever since Brat Savage told us that we've been going around saying "What's with the kid?" So funny. We also like to play Russian pictionary to practice vocab. Also, all the adjective and noun endings rhyme according to case and gender, so there's tons of rhyme and assonance in Russian. It's really beautiful, even if it is Caveman talk (because it doesn't have any articles and things, i.e. God happy when we happy or Book of Mormon true)
Least favorite things about the MTC: when we don't have gym in the morning and have to get ready twice in one day. When they're cleaning our bathrooms right after we get out of gym and eat up our already limited 30 minutes of shower/prep time. When the showers are cold. And when the food is gross, which is actually most of the time. It's not always really bad, but it's never quite as good as you expected it to be, and it's definitely cafeteria food. However, my district thinks it's really funny how much milk I drink. They jokingly challenged me to do a gallon challenge, or to at least beat the Russian zones' record of how many cups were drank in one sitting. I think it's 9. I've been doing 3 a meal, so I don't think it's going to happen, but maybe. ;) Waking up in the morning actually isn't too bad, when I actually fall asleep soon after we get into bed. The days are just so long that you hop in bed and are out. The weeks are flying by though. It's been pretty much 2 weeks already! Crazy crazy.
I'm also singing in sacrament meeting next Sunday, which means that I need to get something together. I really wish I had brought some music, because I know the song I want to sing, but I don't know where it is in all my music, and the music library here is hardly ever open. I took some pictures during our temple walk on Sunday. I'll try to send some soon--I think I can email them to you from the printing order machine but I'm not sure. Anyway, I'll try to get you some. Keep me updated on what's going on at home. I think that's about it, and I'm really close to running out of time, but I'll email you again next week!
Cectpa Rachel Ashby

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18, 2011


Dear Family,
Hi! So. So much to say, and I only have 28 minutes and 30 seconds left! AH! Here goes. Are you ready?
It is CRAZY here at the MTC. The days are all so long. Not boring, but crazy busy. So much happens. We usually wake up and go to class and/or gym, and then lunch, and then more class, then dinner, and then more class. It's just exhausting sitting around most of the day, but it's all awesome. The first day was weird, because it was all kind of surreal and none of us knew each other yet, but I ran into so many people I know. I saw my old roommate, Sister Jessie Hawkes, Hermana Jessica Jones from Twin, a girl from my freshman ward, and the brother of a girl I went to England with. The first few days especially were so exhausting, but so wonderful. I really do love it here.
So, here are just some basics about my life and the people I associate with. All Ruskis (and I guess the two Elders learning Ukranian too) sit together during meals in the cafeteria. For those of you who have been to the MTC cafeteria, on the left side as you go in, there's an alcove with windows that has some bars kind of segregrating it from the rest of the cafeteria. That's where we all sit--behind the "Iron Curtain." The cafeteria never turns the lights on back their either, so it's always really dark when we're eating dinner--at 4:30 in the afternoon. But we're always starved by then. Our teachers are AWESOME. There's Sistra (Cectpa, in Russian) Jenson, who was actually in my ward at BYU, even though we didn't really know each other, she was roommates with some of my good friends in the ward. There's Brat Storey, who really reminds me of Kent Dodds (and I'm pretty sure I took a class with him two years ago or something). And then there's Brat Savage who actually served his mission with Ryan Ballestero from Twin (he was a year older than me) and his dad is Matt's Stake president. They're all great teachers and really fun. My district is amazing too. We are all like family already, and we've been together not quite a week. We have an Elder who's an expat who's been living in Deutschland since he was 8, two Elders from the deep South--one sweet, funny Elder who always looks like a GQ cover and has great hair, and one loud, funny Elder who talks all the time and makes us all laugh. The three of them are all going to Dnipopetrovsk in Ukraine, speaking Russian, as is my companion, Sistra Clark. Then there's two Utah Elders, one who knows the American Fork Ashbys, and an Elder from Texas who are all going to Moscow with me. So 6 Elders split between the two missions, and they're all hilarious and sweet. There are 3 other sisters (so 4 of us). Cectpa Clark is my companion. She's from Logan and a farm girl and is the sweetest person I've ever met. She can give my old roommate Lila a run for her money, which is saying a lot. She is always so happy and the other day when I was so giggly-loopy tired she just laughed with me and put up with me and kept my head on straight. Cectpa Bullough is from Indiana and was roommates with Michele Porter at BYU-I. She's funny, sarcastic, awesome and is coming to Moscow with me, as is her companion Cectpa Peterson. We're all in the same room and having a great time. The "older" district takes care of us and is great, and there's two other new districts that came in at our same time. We're all in one Russian branch with the 2 Ukranian Elders and then there's another Russian branch/zone too, and we eat with them but don't really know them that well.
Fun Russian language facts: There are no articles, or no present tense for the verb "to be," both of which are awesome. I'm so glad I studied German for so long, because when we started cases last night, it was so much easier, and I remembered struggling with them like 2 years ago and how long it took me to get them, so I was glad I didn't have to do that again. I just have to learn the 2 extra ones Russian has (they use the 4 German, plus another 2), but they should be pretty easy, and they make sense. Also, my branch President, President Childs, was a German major at BYU and he told me that at any given time about 20% of the branch has German experience. Just in our district there's me, Cectpa Clark, Elder Rodriguez-Vargas (the one from Germany), and Elder Clawson even has a bit. I guess once President Childs was talking with Elder Cook and he said that one of the indicators a missionary will be able to learn Russian is if they have German experience.
Before I forget, I need to ask for some things. I either need someone to bug Chip (Amanda Hufstetler) to write me a letter or to get me her address so that I can write her. I also need my loofah, which I left on the guest bathroom counter, some old plain flipflops for the shower/bathroom, a wristwatch and my old Preach My Gospel. I got a new one here, but I've found myself wanting some of the notes i wrote in my old PMG. I think it's just in either my green study abroad backpack or my black one. I packed it up last, so it should be pretty easily accesible. Also, just forward this onto Elizabeth so she can post it on my blog. :)
Let's see . . . what else is there. It's kind of hard, because all the days start to run together, and it really feels like I've been here about 3 months already. haha. Um. I can bear my testimony, and kind of pray in Russian, as well as sing hymns slowly, and read slowly, even if I don't know what it says. We all seem to be picking up really fast--the gift of tongues is VERY real. I can also introduce myself as a missionary and have a basic opening, "How are you?" conversation. It's crazy how much we've learned, and we don't even spend the majority of our time learning Russian. We spend most of it on the doctrine and how to teach it. For example. On Saturday, we got "thrown into the fire," as Brat Savage said, and had to teach one of the "older" missionaries who was role-playing as an investigator. We taught "Katja," a Russian single mom who taught Russian and English and has absolutely NO religious background! It was difficult to explain everything, but we managed to survive, with lots of help from the Spirit. Having the Spirit is everything--that's what tells you to give have the Restoration and half the Plan of Salvation sometimes, like when it was necessary with Katja to talk about how God loves her and is our Father and then about the Savior and why he's necessary. It was hard, and we get to do it again in the TRC with a real volunteer (not just someone we know) tomorrow, and then we get to keep teaching "Katja" as a progressive investigator every week. Practice makes perfect, I guess. But it was pretty nerve-wracking, especially since they told us we were teaching just a few hours beforehand.
Sunday was great. Relief Society is all the sisters together, and then we have Sacrament meeting after lunch with our branch. It's great, because Sundays are full of music--we can watch Music and the Spoken Word before RS, and we sing tons of hymns all day long. Sacrament meeting is great, beacuse it's half in English, half in Russian/Ukranian. Whenever we can, we're supposed to speak Russian in church, so...it's awesome to hear prayers and the sacrament prayers and hymns in Russian. Even though I couldn't understand anything that was said except for the announcements, the Spirit was so strong. We also get to get out and walk up to the temple on Sundays, which is really nice, because we don't see the sky at all here, and it's dark when we walk up to the temple in the mornings on Tuesdays/P-Day. But it was light when we got out this morning, which was beautiful. It's so great to be outside.
Well, my time is almost out. I just have 3 minutes left. Feel free to ask me any questions or send me any letters. It'll be hard to read your emails and respond in one 30 minute period. Write me! I love letters. Yesterday we were all depressed that there wasn't any mail, and we have no idea what's going on outside in the real world. I've gotten letters from Garin, Matt, Sister Lila Jenson, and a package from the Bastows so far, and it always makes my day to get mail! I feel really bad for not being a better letter writer to my friends on missions now.
Cectpa Rachel Ashby
MTC Mailbox #124
RUS-MOS 0329
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604
Love you all,
Cectpa Ashby! :D

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Putting Up the Shoes, Putting On the Tag

Dearest friends,

Today I wore my blue shoes to church. I wanted to wear heels one last time before I don't get to for a while--I remember how much I missed wearing them when I was in England, and so I wanted to wear my favorite pair today. All day I just kept thinking about how much I love those shoes, and the circumstances under which I got them, and all the memories I have associated with them. (I was also thinking about how coming back from England I couldn't walk in heels at all. That was after a 2 month absence. I'm sure you all want to be around to laugh when I don heels for the first time in 18 months.)

However, as much as I love those shoes, and you all, I love the Gospel more. As you know (or at least should, if you've been reading this blog or know me at all), I'm leaving on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday. Tomorrow night, in just about 24 hours, I will be set apart as a missionary. Since I wore my blue shoes for the last time (in a while, at least) today, and tomorrow is going to be insane, I thought it would be fitting to post my last blog post today. And so here I am, swapping my blue shoes for a black name tag.

I have never been this all-over-the-place emotionally with anything, which is saying something. But I know that it is right, and that I am called of God to preach His Gospel, which I know is true. Despite wanting to explode from this strange combination of excitement and fear and love and bittersweetness and overwhelmed with some heartache and lots of joy and tears and confusion because I'm not sure exactly how I feel, but at the same time I know exactly how I feel: happiness and peace, despite the mixture going on inside me.

Write me letters, because I'll miss you all. My address through the very, very end of March is:
     Sister Rachel Ashby
     MTC Mailbox # 124
     RUS-MOS 0330
     2005 N 900 E
     Provo, UT 84604-1793
And now, I'm passing the torch onto my little sister Elizabeth. She and/or my mom will be most likely posting parts of my weekly emails home on this very blog. It'll still be me talking, just not doing the actual posting. So please feel free to read up on my life--and then write me letters. :) Elizabewjkyghawkl3yhqlkwhe will post my address in Russia when I actually get there, and if you forget it, just remember that it's right there on the side bar on the left, just scroll down a bit. It's also on my Facebook info page.

From Russia (well, almost), With Love,
Sister Rachel Ashby

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Today I pulled on jeans for the second to last time in 18 months.
I am essentially all packed.
I get to spend time with some of my favorite people.
Writing your own farewell talk is stressful and surreal.
I'd much rather teach a lesson than preach to a congregation.
I feel so unworthy and inadequate.
It's been hard to sleep at night--always restless with bad dreams.
Ammon is my hero.
Everything will be okay . . . more than okay.
I'm so excited and scared and nervous and happy.
I will be a missionary in less than 57 hours.

Thursday, January 6, 2011



Isn't it funny how you never realize how expensive all the basic living stuff is until you buy it all at once? Hair ties and bobby pins and socks and nylons and toothpaste and deodorant . . . those things add up. I would know. I couldn't tell you how many times I've gone out to run errands in the past week because I keep remembering things.

And it's funny to pack away your life into boxes for a mission. It's different than going to college, because in that situation you just unpack it again in a few days, or you go home to it in a few weeks or months. But in the past few days, I've packed away almost my entire wardrobe, and everything that defines who I am right now. My jeans, my books, my favorite shirts (okay, I actually left two them out to wear the next two days), my pictures and coats and shoes and blankets and memories. All of it sits in 4 rubbermaid tubs in the hallway, or in a pile that still needs a tub, or in boxes in my Grandma's basement in Orem, and I won't see it again for 18 months.

Essentially, I've spent the past week freaking out about how I go into the MTC . . .
Um. Yep.

This week has actually been pretty emotionally stable, surprisingly. I miss my roommates, but really, it doesn't feel like they're all off having fun without me because I'm still at home--it still feels like break to me. I miss Spencer, but we've been talking at night. And quite frankly, my emotional ("I'm leaving everyone and they're going to forget about me and replace me!") slash spiritual ("I'm not ready and I'll be a horrible missionary!") freakouts happened last week. This week, I've been worrying non-stop about the physical/material things, such as:
  • What if my suitcases are overweight?! (Last weighing: big one with most of my clothes was 35. I think I'll be fine, but I'm still spazzing)
  • What if my clothes are inappropriate or too freezing cold or too whatever-in-a-bad-way and I have all these clothes and none of them are right?
  • What if my companion thinks I'm a horrible person? What if it's a repeat experience from my sophomore year roommate situation?
  • What if I have missed something critical in my mission packet?
  • What if I get to the MTC and for one reason or another they tell me to go home before I even get started?
  • What if I accidentally bring something I'm not supposed to?
  • What if no one shows up to my farewell?
  • What if my farewell talk is really horrible?
  • Will I really need all this stuff? It's all so expensive! (and then five minutes later--I don't have enough!)
  • What if I can't get up in the mornings?
  • And so on . . . 
But besides my logistic worry-warting, and my occasional emotional explosions late at night where I become insane and no longer functional on a normal level of human reason, I am feeling pretty good about all this missionary business. I am almost done with the packing, with space and weight to spare. The goodbyes have been and will be hard, but right now I'm mostly looking forward to all the excited hellos from roommates and friends I haven't seen in a while this weekend and on Tuesday, and for all the new friendships and experiences I'll have on my mission. I've had a lot of help from the Lord in preparing, in leaving, in saying goodbye, and I am certainly hoping for even more as I am set apart as a missionary and enter the MTC. And I know that He'll give it, because He loves me and wouldn't just call me on a mission and then dump me without qualifying me for the work to which He has called me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lessons from 2010

  • It's all about the Lord's timing. And even when you feel so lost and confused, it's possible to still feel comfort and that everything will work out, as long as you are relying on Him.
  • Along with the Lord's timing, patience is everything. Patience is a key part of progression.
  • Life about creation. That is our purpose, especially as women--to create. It is a principle of the gospel, an eternal heritage, and power and identity comes through the work, the act of creating.
  • There are always reasons to what the Lord wants us to do, and if we follow His guidance, we are better in the long run.
  • Satan works hardest on those preparing for a mission, the temple, and especially both. I never believed/realized the extent of it until it was actually me.
  • Love conquers all. It is the driving force behind the Atonement, and hopefully my own life as well. 
  • It would take a very special man for me to fall head-over-heals and be interested in dating again, but he was/is out there.
  • God's sense of humor directly affects my life. He thinks I'm really funny and lovingly laughs at me. When I say I don't have time for something, He gives it to me. When I say I need help being patient, He gives it to me. But never in the way I was originally planning.
  • The temple is completion.
  • Sometimes even things you've waited your whole life for and want more than anything are hard to do.
  • LOVE IS A CHOICE. Not only that, but I've learned so much about what love--in all meanings to the word--really is.
  • If you really want to, you can make it work. ("It" being anything you want badly enough)
  • Sometimes the two best things in your life conflict with each other, and yet they're both good. Not only are they both good, they're both RIGHT, both things that were supposed to happen, that need to happen. And that's okay; even if the conflict between them is hard, if you're doing what you know is right, you just have to trust that everything will work out in the end and that you will be blessed and make it through.
  • A mission--to serve the Lord in Russia--is what I need to be doing this year. I wasn't supposed to be out in August. I was supposed to be in Provo this past semester. But I'm not supposed to put it off any longer. I'm supposed to go on a mission, and I'm supposed to go in 9 days, and I'm supposed to go to Moscow.