#premissionslump

I never wanted to go on a mission.

It was about the furthest thing from my mind. I had other plans. I was going places. And an eighteen month break from reality–to serve the Lord–not one of them. I mean, I loved God. But I had things to do … important ones. And I felt like those things were more than enough to be worried about.

But the Lord’s plans often do not look a whole lot like ours … Happily, they’re better than ours. And even happier, He’s provided several ways for us to know what he would have us do.

One of them is through the words of a living prophet. This one’s pretty near and dear to my heart. I mean, I love that man! Because he was person God used to answer my prayers. The clearest answer I have ever received to a prayer came by way of that man, our prophet. Thomas S. Monson is an inspired man. The apostles are inspired men. The words they speak in general conference are absolutely the words that God would have us hear. He wants to direct our lives. And He will, IF we will allow it.


#storytime

This story begins back in 2009. I was a sophomore at BYU. And I’d successfully (?) maneuvered my way through freshman year without going on a single date. So, I did the only reasonable thing and decided to start off my #foreveralone life early by taking mission prep.

I loved that class. Everything about it. Brother Livingston. Genius! Street contacting on campus. No problem. Reciting section 4. Like a boss. Singing “Called to Serve”. Brought tears to my eyes. I had mission fever. Bad. And there was no cure!

(Okay, so maybe there WAS a time when I wanted to serve.)

But I was 19. And 21 was a long way away.

(Remember when 2 years was a long time. Yeah, me neither.)

So I did the only natural thing.

I decided to forget about it.

I refocused on other priorities and moved on. I put in a few more years of school. Learned how to bake bread. Joined my first sports team. Hosted a weekly game night. Took up Spanish. Dabbled in animation. Published a newsletter. Started a blog. And headed my first project in the Adlab.

And before long, the #missiondecision crept back into the conversation–Or, to be more correct–crept into EVERY conversation. Like, no joke. I could not avoid it to save my life. Even if a mission wasn’t on MY mind. It WAS on the minds of everyone around me. I’m talking roommates, coworkers, home teachers, visiting teachers, my bishop, and every boy I tried to work it with.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to make things happen with a cute boy when all he wants to do is talk about his mission. Or worse, when he wants to try and convince YOU to go on a mission.

Talk about a blow to your self esteem.

I could not escape it.

Which made me less and less interested in going.

So, I don’t like to be told what to do.

I decided to finish up school. Do an internship and then figure things out from there.

First the internship. Okay. Let me level with you here. I applied to over 30 locations. Everything from prominent and prestigious ad agencies to no-name non-profits that could really use some help in their communications departments. I applied in state. Out of state. Over seas. Nothing. Not a dang thing!

Finally, in March I got a call back. It was from this little agency in Boston. I’d seen their work. I’d seen their space. I’d done my research. And I just knew they were the one. I needed to work there. So I busted my butt writing the perfect cover letter. I milked my portfolio for all it was worth, and probably, actually, a little more than it was worth, and sent in an application. Two days later I got a call. They’d liked what they’d seen so far and wanted to do an interview. They told me they’d be in touch via email to set something up.

That email never came.

So I contacted them. I mean, I’m not about to let something that good just slip away!

Nothing.

I tried again.

Still nothing.

For whatever reason I never was able to get back in contact with them.

So I did the only thing I could do. I called my mom, frustrated and upset. She gently reminded me that I could try for something back home. She’d been suggesting it from the start. But I didn’t want to go back home. I felt like that would be career suicide–I mean, when you think advertising, you don’t think Oklahoma–but I was getting desperate. So that night I put in three applications.

The next day I got a call.

A couple of weeks later I had my interview. And that afternoon, I had an internship. Nine hours a day, two days a week, May through August.

Well, that still left me with three days a week where I wasn’t doing much of anything. And midway through June all of that free time didn’t seem quite as appealing any more. So I sent out another round of applications.

The next day. Another call. Everything went really well until they asked about availability. I felt wrong about leaving my other internship for this one.

Even though this one paid.

Really well.

So I expressed that to them. I told them about the other internship and how I felt that I needed to see that through–that was the beginning of the end.

And because I didn’t get that job or any of the other ten I applied to, I quit applying. I told myself I’d try again at the end of the summer when I had depleted all of my savings (?) and finally had a degree …

So I spent time in the interim cleaning house, going through the attic and organizing the pantry for my parents–anything I could do to pick up an extra buck here or there. Anything I could do to feel a little less like a free loader and a little more like an actual person. And when I wasn’t doing that, I spent all of my free time with my new best friend, Netflix.

I led an admittedly pathetic existence.

I felt like a nothing. Like a nobody. I felt like a waste of space. And a waste of time. I felt entirely too dependent on everyone around me. And, unwilling to be an emotional burden as well, I kept to myself.

Unemployment does not look good on me.

I spent hours in prayer looking for answers and begging God to help me. I felt so lost. I needed a shove in the right direction. Something. Anything, to let me know that I wasn’t going it alone.

And then on a fateful day in October. President Thomas S. Monson got up to speak in General Conference, and changed my life. By direction from our Heavenly Father, he lowered the age requirements from missionary service.

I was 23. So this didn’t really affect me. I could have served. If I’d wanted to. At any time. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t need to until He made the change. I just sat there thinking to myself about all of those young ladies who’d be going out. Ready and willing to serve God. Unlike me. And something inside me changed. For the first time in a long time I felt a sense of purpose. I felt like there was something that I needed to do. I felt like those young girls needed me. So I made up my mind to go. Right then and there.

Immediately I rushed to my room, grabbed a notebook, and started crunching numbers. I could have enough saved by the following August to pay for my mission in full. But I knew I couldn’t wait that long. I needed to be out in the field by August. I knew that with every piece of my soul. I concluded that if I had at least 4 months at a decent job, I’d have done as much as I could to make things happen on my own, while still respecting the Lord’s wishes. And I knew if I did my best, the Lord would help me.

And He has. It’s been here on my mission that I’ve come to understand that God is right there with us. He knows the twists and turns down the road. He knows what lies ahead. He knows where we’ve been and where we are going to end up. And He is very willing to guide us if we will let him. He won’t force it. He never does. But he will shine a light for us to follow.

That light can take many forms.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty partial to the words of the prophets. They are called and inspired of God to tell us what He would have us hear. But if we don’t listen. If we are unwilling to receive that counsel and make it part of our lives, then what does it profit us?

It doesn’t.

God gently suggested a mission to me loads of times. But I wouldn’t listen. He pretty overtly advised it on at least three separate occasions. But because I was unwilling to hear and even more unwilling to change, all of that counsel fell on deaf ears. God had to move heaven and earth to get me an answer to my prayers. So I KNOW that He can direct some one of the speakers in General Conference to get you the answers you need. And He will.

So watch General Conference. Just do it! And listen. Really listen. God’s got a talk with your name on it. He’s got an answer to your prayers. And if you’re willing to let Him, He will change your life.

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Concerning Portland, Brazil, and Trusting in the Lord

You’ve been asking, so here’s the answer.

“Why aren’t you in Brazil?”

For those of you who don’t know, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mission calls are assigned by a member of the 12 Apostles–men called as special witnesses of Christ.

These men look over EVERY application for missionary service.

And there are a lot.

And they pray over each one. They ask for the Lord’s assistance to determine where each missionary ought to go. Then they make the assignment and the applicant decides whether or not they would like to fulfill that call.

My call hasn’t exactly worked out the way that they normally do.

#visaproblems

So I’m here in Portland. Tracting, teaching, serving, and doing all of the stuff that missionaries normally do.

And I absolutely love it.

I couldn’t be happier.

“But I bet you’re anxious to get to your real mission.”

My call letter didn’t specify that I’d be here in Portland. And it certainly didn’t specify that I’d be in a temple visitors center, but I like to think that this is what The Lord had planned.

I like to think that the apostle who assigned me paused over my call–not really sure where to put me–that there was some hesitation.

Portland.

Or Brazil?

Visitors center.

Or full pros?

I needed to be in the MTC, when I was there. I needed to meet and teach and learn from the people I met there.

But I need to be here too.

I’ve learned so many lessons that I, personally, need. And I’ve met so many people who have changed me forever.

That could only happen here in the Oregon Portland Mission.

People always ask me if I’m anxious to get to my REAL mission.

I’m here.

The Oregon Portland Mission IS my mission.

And maybe Brazil is too.

Only time will tell.

If I never make it to Brazil, I’ll be satisfied. Because I know that this is where The Lord wants me to be. Right now. Consulates and red tape don’t stop Him.

Nothing can stop the Lord.

He’s got me right where He wants me.

And that’s right where I want to be.

I feel so very grateful to be here: hastening the work of salvation in the Oregon Portland Mission, in the Lake Oswego ward. I feel so strongly that this is where The Lord needs me right now. And whenever and wherever He needs me to go, I’ll be happy to do that too. Because I trust Him.

Of Children and their Fathers

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about children.

Because I am literally surrounded.

Everywhere I go.

Children.

And SURPRISE!!

There’s so much that we can learn from them.

Here are a few things I learned this week:

1. “Yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit”
So, Sister Ryder and I were checking up on potentials, like we often do. Because the missionaries before us left pages, and pages of potentials. And we happened to knock the door of a little Cambodian family.

A little boy, about 10, answered the door.

We asked if his mother was there. And she came from the kitchen. We introduced ourselves as missionaries and asked if they’d be interested in a message about Jesus Christ and families. She shook her head. And said no.

He son, standing a little further back, said yes.

At the same time.

She turned around, looked at him, and said, “Really?”

He nodded his head.

“Oh, okay.”

She invited us in.

That just got me thinking about how much more receptive little children can be to the enticings of the spirit. Sometimes as people, we get caught up in a whole bunch of “stuff”. There are so many things that compete for our attention. And sometimes we don’t take the time to really listen.

We let ourselves become closed off to what Heavenly Father wants to say to us.

But, if we take the time to remove ourselves from the distractions of “grown-up” life. Just for a little, we can really hear, and really see what’s right in front of us.

2. “Full of love”
Yesterday we were visiting with a new family in the ward. They moved from Norman, Oklahoma a few months ago. So I was fairly eager to visit with them. Because I am quasi obsessed with Oklahoma. Also because you don’t run into too many Oklahomans this far north. After our lesson, Owen, their 4 year-old son came running up to me to give me a hug.

And I panicked.

Like sister missionaries sometimes do.

I just stuck my arms straight out in front of me.

And he, looked about as confused and then started crying.

I could have died.

My heart really ached for him as he, confused and probably somewhat embarrassed, hid under his blanket. His mom, bless her, tried to explain why I couldn’t give him a hug. And Sister Ryder tried to console him with nuckles and high fives.

But he wouldn’t have it.

Kids are that way.

You know them for five minutes and they’re your best friend. They want to show you all of their toys and hug you.

As we grow up we lose that. We’re not quite so trusting. Not quite so willing to love. And that’s a total bummer because love is the best thing there is.

And we’d all be a little happier if we tried to love a little more.

3. “Submissive, meek, humble”
When you tell a child something, they believe you.

Yesterday we were at dinner with a family and as the parents were putting some of the last few touches on the meal, their children were running around.

Pretty typical family.

On one of her rounds, their daughter fell down.

Pretty hard.

She sat there crying a bit before Sister Ryder came over and held out her hand. She helped her up and said, “All better.”

Almost immediately, she stopped crying.

And then happily yelled, “Hey Mom! I’m all better!!”

It was adorable.

I want five of her.

Wouldn’t it be neat if we were all like that. If when Heavenly Father told us something we simply believed. No questions asked. If we could trust that everything he tells us to do is for our own good–if we didn’t have to do things the hard way to find out that there’s a better way.

Mosiah 3:19 reads: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putteth of the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

We could all learn a little something from the children around us.

That being said, I’ve also been thinking a lot about fathers. And who our Heavenly Father is.

I found this video particularly insightful.

The Lord wants the best for us. He’s not going to give us more to deal with than we can handle. He’s got a plan for us to learn what we need to learn in this life, and if we trust Him, we’ll get there so much faster.

I read recently in Stephen E. Robinson’s “Believing Christ“.

“When our twin daughters were young, Janet and I decided to teach them to swim. I started with Rebekah. As we went down into the public pool together, I thought, “I’m going to teach her to swim.” But she thought, “I’m going to drown!” The water was only three and one-half feet deep, but Becky was only three feet tall. She was so terrified that she began to scream and kick. She was unteachable.

Finally, I held her close and said, “Becky, I’ve got you. I’m your dad. I love you. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you. Now relax.” And bless her heart, she relaxed. She trusted me. I put my arms under her and said, “Okay, now kick your legs.” And she began to learn how to swim.

Spiritually, some of us are so terrified by the questions “Am I celestial? Am I going to make it?” that we cannot make any progress. We’re petrified by our fear. But if we’re trying to follow his teachings and paying attention, we can almost feel the Savior’s arms around us and feel those assurances as the Spirit whispers of the Savior’s love for us: I love you. Trust me. And if we do trust him, he can begin to help us live the gospel. It is as if he supports us, whispering through the Spirit: Okay, now attend sacrament meeting. Very good. Now accept a call to serve. And so we begin to make progress.”

As a missionary I feel like I learn that over and over.

The Lord isn’t taking us out to the pool to drown us. He’s taking us there to help us learn. A little on the job training, if you will, but He’s never far away. He doesn’t take off the floaties until we’ve learned to swim. And he’s always got a lifeguard on duty.

The Lord loves each of us so much. He wants to help us. He wants to teach us. And if we let Him, He will.

Seven Days

So, it’s official.

In one week, I’ll be a full-time sister missionary.

Well, more like six days now.

Just a few more odds and ends to purchase. And a couple of beefy big suitcases to pack and I’ll be on a plane . . . to Provo (where the Pope isn’t, and will likely never be).

For six glorious weeks.

In which time I will probably outgrow all of my clothes if rumors about the Provo Missionary Training Center prove to be true.

Six weeks of nothing but Portuguese.

Which is a good thing.

Trust me.

Because at present all I can say is “a mulher come uma maçã,” in very broken, ugly sounding engla-guese.

And I really don’t think that I’ll have much use for that. But then again, maybe lots of ladies eat apples in Brazil. And they do it covertly, so I’ll have to point it out. To my companions. Very loudly. With a very american accent.

Who knows.

And then onto Brazil. The great beyond.