Monday, January 26, 2015

What My Mission Has Meant to Me

               I planned on going on a mission when I received my patriarchal blessing at age sixteen. It mentioned a mission and I felt like I had the personality and testimony for to be a missionary. I didn’t exactly stick to that goal though. Volleyball is one of my passions and I had the opportunity to play for one of the top junior colleges in the nation. I had my sights set on getting a full ride scholarship to a division one university and continue playing, which I did. In the process I lost sight of what mattered most. I let my good habits that I’d formed while living at home slip and although I never doubted the church, my testimony wasn’t very strong. Several times during this 6 year period I prayed about and received an answer that I was to serve a mission. But I let school, volleyball, boys, and other trivial things deter me from following through on this answer.
               Fast forward to October 2012. I was in my second year of teaching Kindergarten up in Utah and I was on break. I had gone home to California to visit and we watched general conference together. I remember sitting on the couch with my dad as the announcement was made. As President Monson announced the age for young men lowering, I thought “This will be so good for the church! I wonder if the age for young women will ever be lowered…” And then he said it. Young women were now allowed to serve at age 19. I got goose bumps as the spirit confirmed that this was from God. Then disappointment set in. See, at this point I was 23 and struggling with the idea of if I should still serve. I already felt too old to go and that if I went I’d miss out on things that I wanted to achieve in my life; namely getting married and starting a family. I felt so much regret for not going when I had been prompted to before. Now I knew I was too old. I didn’t say much to my parents (as they didn’t even know that thoughts of a mission were still in my head- though my little sister wanted to go). Later that night my dad came to my room and asked me what I thought about all of it. I told him I thought it was great and I was excited that so many sisters would now get to go. Then he told me something that changed my attitude. He said, “You know,  you’re not too old to serve a mission.” And he walked away. That really got my mind going, and it began a 5 month process of deciding and then receiving yet another answer that serving a mission was what God wanted me to do. My 21 year old sister had decided that she also wanted to serve.  So we submitted our papers the same week and both received our calls to serve! Having to work that hard for a decision and an answer was a valuable lesson. I know know what Enos meant when he speaks of "the wrestle which {he} had before God".
               I can’t really summarize what all of the individual experiences that I’ve had mean to me. I’ve seen so many miracles and had so many trials. I have had many companions who battled with mental health issues and wanting to go home. That. Was. Hard. I cried so many nights. But I have never had more sincere prayers. Before that I had never really felt the strengthening power of the Atonement. For the testimony that I gained of that alone, I am so grateful. And I learned that it is through trials that we make the most growth. After those experiences, I would find myself praying for trials. Well, sometimes I would. Other times I was fine with where I was at. But it has helped me to see that stretching and growth are a necessary and fundamental part of God’s plan.
              I have seen so many miracles that I could never count them. And honestly, if I hadn’t written most of them down in my journal I could probably never even recall them. But I’m grateful for feeling the spirit each day. I’m grateful for the spiritual promptings that I have received and acted on. I have obtained so much new and confirming revelation. I have come to distinguish more easily the voice of the Lord. I now know that I can never go without reading the scriptures or praying ever again. I have come to recognize the blessings that come with true discipleship. I’ve learned the importance of obedience and consecration. I’ve learned that sacrifice really isn’t sacrifice at all when God asks it of you. I’m grateful that I can finally be proud of the relationship that I have with my Father in Heaven. My mission has not just been time that I’ve served the Lord, but time that I’ve spent with the Lord.

               If I had known how much I would learn and grow while serving a mission I would not have hesitated for as long as I did (years!). I’m sure in time God would have taught me the same lessons and I might have been able to acquire the same attributes. Maybe I would have gained the same personal testimony of the gospel and the Atonement. But I’m convinced that the growth made in these last eighteen and a half months would have taken me 20+ years. God condensed what He wanted me to learn into this short amount of time and I know it will bless me as I continue to move forward! I truly have experienced what President Uchtdorf spoke of in the October 2014 General Conference when he said, “Let us acknowledge that most often gaining a testimony is not a task of a minute, an hour, or a day. It is not once and done. The process of gathering spiritual light is the quest of a lifetime. Your testimony of the living Son of God and His restored Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, may not come as quickly as you desire, but I promise you this: if you do your part, it will come. And it will be glorious.” I feel that I have reached that point several times in my mission where I have stepped back a thought “My testimony is glorious!” And I cannot wait to continue on this path of discipleship and testimony building so that I can say that again and again.

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