#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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#nolongeravisawaiter

I put a ring on it.

It’s official.

I’m no longer a visa waiter.


“Choose your love. Love your choice.” Thomas S. Monson

A year and a half ago I put my papers in and received a call to serve in the Brazil Ribierão Preto Mission. And honestly it scared me to death. I’m a little white girl from Oklahoma and after 5 years of Spanish–I could BARELY get by. How was I supposed to learn a whole other language? In six weeks!

But after some very long prayers and with a lot of encouragement, I decided to do it. I got my wisdom teeth pulled, got about 15 shots, and I put in for my visa.

Not surprisingly, five months later, I ended up in the Provo MTC. My visa hadn’t come through yet. But I wasn’t worried.  Most people didn’t get their visas–at least for the first few months. And that felt right to me. I’d always thought that I would serve a stateside mission. And I wasn’t too bothered about getting my feet under me before trying to immerse in a whole new culture.

My six weeks came and went and I received my temporary reassignment to serve in the Oregon Portland Mission. I was actually really thrilled. Oregon seemed exactly right. And it has been. It’s really been good to me in the last year.

And that brings me to the #visadecision.

A month and a half ago, President came to me and asked me to make a decision on whether or not I would stay in the mission. He gave me a week. That week was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden. Given the option to “choose for [themselves]” what they would. I felt like there must be a clearly wrong decision. One that would completely change life as I knew it. But, hard as I prayed, I could not seem to come to an answer.

So I asked for a priesthood blessing. Because that’s the closest thing I can think of to having a sit down with God. In the blessing I was told that it was my choice. That neither choice would dramatically alter the course of my life. And that if I chose Brazil, that I would see its people and teach them. That should have been comforting. Knowing that I couldn’t choose wrong. But I still struggled. I felt that somehow choosing one would mean that the other was less important to me. That if I chose to stick it out for Brazil I’d be choosing against Portland and all of the people I’ve grown to love here.

Stupid. I know.

But that’s what was in my head.

So I deliberated.

I started out with going. Fully committed myself to that. And then, the next hour, fully committed myself to staying. Asked myself what would be different? What would be the same? What were the benefits? What were the drawbacks? How each option would help to prepare me for future service to God’s children?

By the evening. I had almost decided to go.

But I wanted to be sure.

So I asked for another blessing.

This time the focus was different. This time I was assured that I’d made relationships here that would last forever. That what The Lord wanted to happen would happen and that the decision I was considering was a good one. And feeling confident in that, I made the decision to go. I only had a month left before I was reassigned anyway. So why not??

And if there were any doubts, they were completely removed the next day when I received a very timely fortune cookie.

But as the weeks went on, I began to doubt. How could The Lord be sure that I would choose what He wanted for me? Unless my choice didn’t matter?

And then I heard that the powers that be in Salt Lake had adopted a new policy of NOT reassigning missionaries.

And then I called into the travel office.

And then I found out that once again my paperwork had to be redone.

So I decided to reevaluate the #visadecision.

Because with six months left to go. I’m not so sure anymore that I even want to.

First off. I love here. I love everything about here. I love seeing Mount Hood looming in the distance. I love the rolling hills of Damascus. I love going to Portland on P-days and finding any and every excuse to drive up the hill to the temple in Lake Oswego. But more than that I love the people. I’ve found a family out here in Portland. And it would break my heart to leave.

And then there’s the social media revolution. Here in the Oregon Portland Mission we’ve been given pretty much every opportunity to share the gospel. Every tool. Every advantage. And, being a
communications grad, I know a thing or two about social media. So there are things that I can do here to progress the work that I can’t do anywhere else.

So I took it to The Lord. Finally satisfied that He wasn’t going to settle this one for me. No matter how long I chose to put off the decision.

So I looked back over the past month. On how things had changed since I realized that no one was going to make my decision for me. And you know what. I discovered something very interesting. I’d altogether stopped. I’d stopped studying. I’d stopped checking my visa. I’d stopped even thinking about going. And it occurred to me that I’d made the decision a long time ago to stay.

So I got down on my knees. And I said a very different sort of prayer. This time I wasn’t asking what The Lord wanted me to do. I wasn’t asking what was right. I’d studied it out. I’d come to a conclusion. But I wanted to know that my decision was one that he would support.

And with that confirmation I called President and told him to let them know they could finally quit trying to push my papers.

They made a good effort. But I’m choosing to stay!

A Vida Sister Missionaria

So, sometimes when you’re a sister missionary . . . things happen.

This post goes into a little more detail about a few of the uncomfortable, ridiculous, and downright awkward things that have happened in my companionship this week.

Uncomfortable:
When you are a missionary you pray everywhere.

Its just for fun.

And because you NEED the Lord’s direction.

But sometimes when you pray, you kneel directly into someone’s dinner.

Which they unwittingly left on temple grounds.

This is exactly what happened to Sister Priday this week.

We were really earnestly seeking advice on how we could help someone that we were teaching. So we walked across the street to the Temple and knelt down by a bench. We were hoping that by going to the temple we might get some more clear promptings about what to do.

So we knelt down and offered a prayer.

And then when we got back up and sat on the bench to talk about it, Sister Priday made a noise of disgust.

“I thought that was wet leaves!!”

But it wasn’t.

She’d been kneeling in a pile of wet fried rice that somebody must have spilled the day earlier.

And like the good companion I am, I cracked up.

And couldn’t hold composure.

Because who really could.

She’d been kneeling in somebody’s gross day-old dinner for like 10 minutes.

Ridiculous:
Today Sister Schmutz got a package.

From her wonderful sister.

As she opened it she said, “Oh, they know me so well, it’s half full of candy.”

Then we got in the car and started driving.

Like the good companion she is, she offered some of her “weird” candy to me.

I picked up a piece and read the label.

It said, “Calcium & Vitamin D”.

I declined.

She’d already eaten 3.

Downright Awkward:
Sister Quent told me that I talk like Bane.

I have nothing more to add.

A Sister’s Guide to the (Provo) MTC

1. “Stick to your (meal) ticket”: It opens doors (unless you’re Sister Baker who routinely swipes 10 times before getting in) and rains down manna from heaven.

2. Avoid the cafeteria on Wednesday evenings around four:
You will be greeted by a sea of orange dots and about 10 million 19 year olds.

3. B.Y.O.S. Bring Your Own Spoon:
Though the BYU Creamery ice cream they provide in the vending machine is heavenly, THEY DO NOT PROVIDE SPOONS.

If you forget.

You’ll just end up drinking it.

4. The ghost choir in the girl’s bathroom is NOT Moaning Myrtle:
It’s nothing other worldly. It’s actually fairly normal. Just roll with it.

Sometimes its a real treat. And you can make a request.

Sometimes you decide that you could really go another day without showering.

5. Sometimes Elders will ask to street contact you:
This means they will ask for your number.

They probably won’t call.

6. If you make it through day 3 the worst is over:
Day 1: you arrive
Day 2: you teach your first discussion-yes, in your mission language. And yes even though you’ve only been learning that language for 12 hours- 8 of which have been spent asleep.
Day 3: the longest day of your life
Day 4: Deliverance Day: this includes BYU Creamery ice cream, choir, devotional, and (church) movies!

7. The Elders can be your best friends or your WORST enemies:
They say really funny stuff like:
“Dude, my little brother looks like a Keebler elf.”
and “Its relief society–where I can relieve myself.”

All the time.

So much so that you forget that you actually, probably, really should be studying for your lesson–in a foreign language–that you are giving in 1 hour.

8. Staying up late will kill you: < this is not a joke>
Good luck making it through TALL tomorrow.

9. Humor can compensate for all sorts of awkwardness:
Like when your investigator (who is also your teacher) shows up early for your lesson and asks what you’re doing in their house . . .

10. The Elders are often impressed by:
comic book references and beat boxing

11. Join Choir
Even if you can’t sing. Or would really rather not sing. Brother Eggett is hilarious. And has some super profound insights that he likes to throw in between constructive insults.

12. Invest time in investigating the left-behind box:
You will save all sorts of money on laundry soap, dryer sheets, soap, and snacks.

13. Bring headphones:
2M Fitness gym has a sweet cardio theater where you can watch an excellent selection of Mormon Messages, conference talks, and church produced short films.

Mission Musings

So, in case you haven't heard.  Or I got distracted by something shiny and neglected to tell you.

I'm mission bound.

SURPRISE!

Last week I submitted my application for missionary service.

Last week, or this week, or maybe even right now, one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelves Apostles (yes, just like the twelve in biblical times) who I have never before encountered, met, or even spoken to, will be calling upon the spirit to receive revelation about where I will be spending the next 18 months of my life.

There are 340 missions.

All over the world.

Speaking about a million different languages.

Needless to say, I'm a little bit nervous.

And totally excited.

I mean there are lots of things to be nervous about.  Like whether or not I'll get called to a foreign country and get lost on my way out of the airport–OR even worse–lose my passport.  Or how I'm going to be able to fit everything I could possibly need into one suitcase.  Or if going to be able to get by on 30 minutes of shower time a day.  I mean these legs aren't going to shave themselves.  

But then its a total thrill to know that in just a few months I'm going to be out, somewhere in this big ole' world, exactly where the Lord needs me to be.  Knowing where and what the Lord wants you to be doing right now in your life.  And wanting to do it.  With all of your heart.

You can't beat that.
I just can't wait to get out there and share with others the truth I've come to know.  The joy I've found in the living, restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Knowing that families can be forever, sins can be forgiven, and we can one day return to live with a loving Heavenly Father.

How could I not?