This week, I want to tell my story so far and talk about the tender mercies that the Lord provides us in our every day lives, even if we don't notice them.
I was never planning on serving a mission. In fact, the people closest to me will tell you that I was adamant that I wasn't going. A few weeks before, my bishop told me that all the girls in my ward were going on missions and jokingly asked when I was going to break the news to him. I quickly told him. I'd researched schools and scholarships and already had my whole life planned out; I'd go to BUY-I, major in Music Education, get married, have a bunch of adorable kids, and live happily ever after. Everything a girl could ask for! Right?
Now those of you who know me understand that once I have a plan in place, I NEVER change it. And I'll admit, sometimes I lose my cool if something does change (something I'm still working on improving!) So then what could make me completely change my mind? About a year ago, I sat in sacrament meeting feeling pretty low. I just wasn't where I wanted to be at that point in my life. I had decided the night before to make some changes. The Lord humbled me at exactly the right time to be prepared to hear a beautiful farewell talk from a girl in my ward. Sister Hunt was leaving to serve in the Ohio Cleveland mission. In her talk, she read the following story:
(The following event took place in a ward in Salt Lake City in 1974. It occurred during a sacrament meeting and was told to me by a Regional Representative of the Twelve who was in the meeting. A young man, just before leaving on his mission stood in sacrament meeting and bore in essence the following testimony)
Brothers and Sisters, as you know, the past two weeks I've been waiting for my mission call. During the time I was waiting I had a dream. I knew it was not an ordinary dream. I dreamed I was in the pre-existence and awaiting my call to come to earth. I was filled with the same anticipation and excitement that I had before I received my mission call. In my dream I was talking to a friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I've never met him in this life. As we talked a messenger came and gave me a letter. I knew it was my call to go to earth. In great excitement my friend and I opened the letter. I gave it to him and asked him to read it aloud. It said: "You've been called to earth in a special time and to a special land. You will be born to the true church and you will have the priesthood of God in your home. You will born into a land of plenty, in a land of freedom. You will go to earth in the United States of America."
My friend and I rejoiced as we read my call, and while we were rejoicing the messenger returned. This time he had a letter for my friend. We knew it was his call to earth. My friend gave me the letter to read aloud. His letter said: "You've been called to go to the earth in circumstances of poverty and strife. You will not be raised in the true church. Many hardships will attend your life. Your land will be fraught with political and social difficulties - which will hinder the work of the Lord. You will be born in Costa Rica."
We wept, my friend and I, as we read his call. And my friend looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, "When we are down on earth, you in your choice land and me in Costa Rica, my friend, please come and find me."
The this young missionary, with tears in his eyes, said, "Brothers and Sisters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica."
There is a sequel to the story. About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it and on that sheet written in capital letters were four words:
The Spirit pierced my heart so deeply and as I turned to look at my mom, we both knew that the answer I needed would change my plan. I had to serve a mission.
It came as a bit of a shock to my family that I suddenly did a 180 from an adamant no to an absolute yes! But I knew in my heart that I needed to serve and I knew that as long as I was willing, my Heavenly Father would help me to be an effective missionary. I knew He would help me grow in ways that I couldn't without complete dedication to my faith.
Immediately following our 3 hour church block, I spoke with my bishop and told him I wanted to serve. He smiled at my sudden drastic change of plans and supported me wholeheartedly. I started attending Mission Prep and Temple Prep classes and planned to stay home, get a full time job, save for my mission, start my mission papers in June/July, and turn them in EXACTLY 120 days before the date I was available to serve (the earliest you can submit a missionary application).
However, at the end of June 2014, I was suddenly offered a full-tuition scholarship to Eastern Arizona College (EA) and told I would receive a brand spanking new French Horn to play while I was there. I toured the school and LOVED it. There was an amazing spirit about the school and I knew I wanted to go to school there.
So I began preparations to move to Thatcher and start school in August. I found an apartment close to the Institute building and right across from the school. My family helped me move everything and I began my journey in the scary adult world... I mean seriously, sometimes it is REALLY scary.
I was so excited to start my mission papers with my new bishop. It was rumored that the bishop for my ward was the best of all the Youth Single Adult (YSA) wards. Unfortunately, a week later, they realigned the ward boundaries and I was assigned to a ward with a brand new bishop who had zero clue how to begin mission papers (wouldn't you know).
And then.... there was a whole mess of my home ward changing bishops because one moved and the other one didn't know who I was and didn't know if I was worthy to serve a mission so they had to track down the old bishop and there was a lot of waiting on my part........ Needless to say, I started realizing that the Lord was testing my patience, my biggest trial in life.
Once my YSA bishop finally received confirmation of my worthiness, we began the mission process. Yay! I figured the application would take about a month, maybe two, to complete and that I'd have it submitted by October.
But the Lord again saw fit to teach me to be patient. Due to complications with my physical, the application took ALL SEMESTER to complete (this is a whole other ordeal!). By this time, I had taken the Temple Prep course 3 times and was sooo ready to leave!
On December 2nd, 2014 my mission call was assigned and on December 5th I opened it with my friends and family surrounding me. I was called to serve in the Oregon Salem mission, speaking Spanish. I couldn't be happier!! Until I read the report date: April 15th.
I'd already been waiting for so long, and now I had to wait another 4 months. One by one, friends of mine from EA and San Tan Valley received mission calls after me with report dates before mine. I grew agitated and frustrated and, at times, angry because of it. I began to question if the Lord still wanted me to go. I tried to pass the time by crocheting Disney inspired hats and selling them to earn money and went job searching as often as I could. I was finally offered a position as a full time Optician at the end of January and began working at the beginning of February.
And then..... I realized the real reason the Lord had kept me waiting for months. While at work, I noticed a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen which continued to spread and worsen. After a trip to the doctor, I was sent to an Imaging Center for a CT scan to check for appendicitis. Sure enough, my appendix was swollen and surrounded by fluid. As I sat in the ER getting poked 11 times by IV needles, the news traveled to members of my family and my friends. I received text after text consoling me and suggesting a very prominent and spiritual message: "Maybe this is why the Lord asked you to wait so long for your report date".
I can't imagine how hard it would have been to go through surgery for the first time without my family. They were there to help at a moment's notice. I received numerous visits before and after the surgery to help comfort me and bring a smile to my face. I don't think I could have conquered that trial while away from my family. I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father knows better than I do. I am so grateful that He had a plan for me from the beginning of this journey and that His will superseded mine. I am thankful for those tender mercies that He so graciously blessed me to recognize. I encourage you all to try more fully to recognize the Lord's hand in your life. Even the most terrible, discouraging trials are there to bless your life. I leave this quote with you and hope that together, we can recognize the strength to be gained from each and every trial.
"My dear brothers and sisters, there will be days and nights when you feel overwhelmed, when your hearts are heavy and your heads hang down. Then, please remember, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, is the head of this Church. It is His gospel. He wants you to succeed. He gave His life for just this purpose."