#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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Visitors Welcome

I remember my first day in the mission field. I’d gotten up that morning at 3:30, done a final weight check on my luggage and gone to the Travel Office to grab my plane ticket and bus passes. I said farewell to the remainder of my district and got on the bus to Salt Lake.

I’d barely sat down when I heard two girls up front talking about their calls: they were going to the Oregon Portland Mission—my reassignment. I yelled up to them that that was my mission as well. And they explained that they were going to be Visitors Center sisters—I didn’t even know Oregon had a Visitors Center!—naturally, I began to wish that I would be lucky enough to serve in the Visitors Center.

I almost, for certain, knew that I wouldn’t.

I was on visa wait.

And they don’t just let any sister serve in a Visitors Center.

But a girl can dream.

After we’d gotten off the plane and met with President and Sister Morby, we loaded our luggage into a couple of vans and headed to the Temple. They took our picture, walked us around the grounds, and then took us all to the Visitors Center.

Immediately I felt the spirit of this place.

I remember that Elder and Sister Johnston called Sister Riley and Sister Quent up to the front because they’d be working in the center—I longed to be up there with them. But I was sure I’d be transferred out to some remote area of the mission and never set foot inside again.

After what felt like only a few moments in the center, they took us to the Lake Oswego Stake Center for transfers. We ate lunch and then they took us down to the Relief Society room to meet our new companions. As I watched the crowd of missionaries around me diminish, I began to get nervous. There weren’t any companions left. And it was just us visa waiters left.

President Morby explained that our companions would be meeting us later at Transfer meeting. He advised me that mine would be Sister Schmutz and Sister Priday.

A little before the meeting started Sister Brandt came up to me. She told me that she knew my companions. And that I’d be in the Visitors Center. I choked, “What?” She said, “Yeah, Sister Schmutz and Sister Priday are in the Visitors Center. They’re really cute. You’ll love them.” I could hardly believe my ears. I didn’t even dare to believe that she was right.

And then, after my name flashed on that screen and I could hardly believe my eyes.

I was going to serve in the visitors center.

And then almost as soon as I’d stood up, out of the pew, Elder and Sister Johnston were right there to welcome me. Sister Johnston gave me a hug and Elder Johnston shook my hand. And then they said something that I will never forget. They said, “We’ll keep you as long as we can, but you’re going to want to stay forever.”

And they were right.

I’ve never been happier than I am now.

Never more productive. And never in a better cause.

Fan Girls

When you are a Sister Missionary you have fan girls.

They are usually about 6 years old.

And they think the world of you.

And when you are 23 years old, it makes you a little baby crazy.

And A LOT humble.

Because these sweet little girls are straight from God’s arms.

And they want to be friends with you–wretched girl that you are–because they look up to you.

As a missionary, everyone watches you. They may not listen to your message or accept your book of scripture. But they’re watching you. But its the little girls that I’m most concerned about. What we do and say has an effect on them. We need to be, to them, exactly what the Savior would be. Because little children are so fragile. They SO need to be loved and cared for. And they need to feel that they are important.

And that is exactly what the Savior would do. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for such is the kingdom of heaven.”

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.

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.