8 Months Later.

I had always wanted to serve a mission. My mom is a convert and I remember how awesome the missionaries were. They loved what they did, and they brought the gospel to our lives. I wanted to be just like them. Growing up, seeing a sister missionary, and better yet, befriending them was equal to finding a unicorn, in my eyes. I reveled in hearing mission stories, conversion stories and anything in between. Whenever I did anything wrong or disobeyed I immediately thought about how those decisions would affect my mission. Boys were formally informed immediately to not get too excited because I was going on a mission at 21.

"Today I'm pleased to announce that all able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19 instead of 21."

The moment my life changed. I didn't know how to fit the love of my Father in my chest. I bawled, I rejoiced. It was a little intense. Little was I to know the journey was just beginning.

As excited and pumped as I was, I had a lot on my plate at the time of the announcement (18 credit hours, two jobs, an internship, callings, and a wedding I was planning for a friend), but after persuasion from a friend I decided that The Lord knew my timing better than I did (this is funnier in retrospect) and knew I should turn my papers in as soon possible. So I put everything in my life down and tied up all my loose ends. Everything would work out His way and I needed to trust, instead of  trying to figure out everything on my own.

I Turned in my papers late November. Availability date: March 22nd. I finished school - Nothing. Christmas came - Nothing. I got a call from my bishop early January saying they wanted me to go to LDS family services, make sure everything was ok. It was to resemble a check up and nothing more.  I hadn't had a panic attack in over three years. The week from my bishop's call to my appointment at LDS family services I had over 5. Side note: this was the week school was starting. I had to make the decision of registering or not. All my classes were full. I had to go with faith that everything would work out though it seemed things were crumbling)

I went in. "Well, there it is, you have severe anxiety disorder."
"What - what does that mean?"
"They'll probably have you do some therapy, about 5 sessions and you should be good."

I went to therapy for about three months before anything really got rolling again. That was hard. It was hard because I still didn't understand. My counselor himself admitted my anxiety was not severe enough to have actually kept me. He didnt understand. That didnt help. I drowned myself in service, hoping It would make everything go away. For the most part it did. But I was stubborn, I didn't want to believe there was a plan. This was all a mistake.  My prayers were constantly filled with "I don't need to know why, but help me accept it. Help me be grateful. Soften my heart or I will burst with frustration. "

In a mission prep class we had mock lessons, my first time up to plate I forgot everything I had ever learned. My palms got sweaty, I got dizzy and I only remember saying "Jesus loves you" a lot. I was supposed to be teaching about modern day prophets.
I thought that was the answer to my prayers. And truth be told, it partly was. I'm glad I learned all the tools to handle anxiety and stress, to not let scary situations floor me. That answer kept me satisfied for a really long time. However, I think I had prayed for answers a little TOO hard, cause The Lord did not stop there.

In April, I got a letter from FAFSA (financial aid for school) saying I either provided a copy of a mission call for deferment, went back to school, or paid off my loans. I beelined to my Bishop's office for counsel. I was heartbroken to hear him say "go to school" ... My call was clearly not in the mail. That took time to accept as well. Why did I lose a whole school semester?! I learned a lot of great things but nothing that I ABSOLUTELY needed to know. Going back to school was gonna put me on the wrong track. I was going to fall into my bad habits:  procrastinating, cramming, panicking, lying, selling myself short, and generally taking the easy way out or quitting. I just. I didn't want to risk myself to that atmosphere, I had learned and progressed so much and it was all gonna get lost in term papers and quizzes. I searched for answers.

At the same time, The Atonement became a headliner in my life. It was EVERYWHERE. Everybody and their mom was talking about the atonement. It was in every scripture, every talk, lesson, magazine, movie, song.. seriously. It was this concept of "people in the church don't fully understand the atonement." Everybody kept talking about there being something MORE, like there was this big ol' secret you didn't know until you left for your mission. So I prayed. I prayed harder than I ever have. "What is it? What about the atonement am I missing? Help me learn more about it"

A series of events lead me to 2 Nephi 2. I read it and reread it. That chapter will always hold a place in my heart. I learned more things about the gospel and my testimony from that chapter in that one week than I have my whole life. It was like Christ himself was sitting next to me teaching me. Teaching me of the fall and the atonement, how they went hand in hand. Teaching me the plan of salvation. I got lost in it time and time again. One day, as I relayed to my mom with excitement the things I was learning, I started explaining verse 26.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

I was currently studying David A. Bednar's talk : The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality, which if you've never read, talks of the atonement's enabling power (Nephi didn't ask The Lord to break his bands but the for the strength to break them himself). When I read that verse, it changed the game. Maybe it was just the way I interpreted based on what I was learning in life, scripture, and in Elder Bednar's talk,  but I understood that because of the atonement we are free. Not just from sin but from our fears and doubts. We are not bound to our shortcomings. Christ died so we could act for ourselves and not be acted upon

I finally realized that the atonement was an every day thing. That because of it I had the power to be the person The Lord needed me to be. The atonement enabled me with every tool, every skill, and every opportunity I could ever need, it was already neatly packed inside me, ready to be used whenever I decided to. Whenever I chose to come unto Christ. Whenever I made decisions. Whenever I chose to no longer believe I was bound to my flaws. The atonement frees us from sin, but it also enables us. Every single thing we cannot complete, Christ compensates for it through the atonement and He already went through it! It's already done, we just have to use it! Like a power boost in a game that's been sitting there for six levels! Use it!

To this day, I do not know how I went so long in my life without realizing how all-encompassing the atonement is. How through it, everything I am, could be, and will be has already been made possible. How it is there for our joy because it absorbs our pains. How we can't come to it without exerting every last ounce of strength of work and squeezing every last resource we have, just so  we can look over and realize that Christ has been doing the heavy lifting this whole time. How being completely broken and alone is what it takes to realize He's always with us. How we've done nothing to deserve it, yet we have to do everything to use it. It amazes me.

I went back to school with new spirits. The Lord was giving me a chance to make up the semester I  had  missed. I worked harder than I ever have. Turned absolutely everything on time and gave it my all. I didn't know what being a good student was. Dude, it was hard. I rarely slept and made sure I had a personal relationship with each of my professors. I learned I could do it. It was all neatly packed inside me - the good student.

Last week of April I got in a car accident. (It was not my fault!). I bruised my femur and pelvis and was on crutches for three weeks. My thoughts? "ARGHHFHEBGATAHGJFNRGRNDJAGSBFKVJFHAH!!!"
I would need to do at least a month and a half of physical therapy. Bite me. There's no sweet and happy learning experience in this one. This one just sucked. But it did help in my eventual learning that sometimes life just happens. It's not God "teaching me a lesson", or a consequence of something, sometimes it's not even satan. It's just life.

In May they resubmitted my papers. Here we go.

Mid May (this one I hesitated sharing) I awoke one night restless. My track record isn't spotless, yet I had gotten everything cleared, had come back and straightened out years before the age change had even happened. However, I hadn't been entirely honest, nothing major, but there were still tiny shrapnels of past sin that were slowly poisoning me and I hadn't noticed. That night my spirit could no longer handle it. The closer you analyze truth the harder it is to shy away from it, I suppose. I sat in bed distraught, convinced there was no way in heaven, earth or hell I would be allowed to serve a mission. I begged covered in tears for sleep, for The Lord to allow me ignorance. At the moment I wasn't sure if it was The Lord or Satan. I trembled as I wept, contemplating keeping it to myself, going through with a mission nonetheless. I couldn't. I knew the truth, the Father as well, and I was convinced I'd never sleep a wink again until I no longer had this beast inside. I closed my eyes again and again hoping it would go away. I felt entirely worthless and humbled. Again, whether it was The Lord putting me through the refiners fire, or Satan infesting me with fear, I yet don't know. But slowly, after hours of aggressive sobbing and one tired little lady later, I found peace. I decided no matter how scary the consequences may be I knew what I had to do, there was no way around it. I was terrified, but prayed fervently for the courage of the lion. I was forced to almost very literally face my demons that night. It was and is still consistent work but I'm happy to report I got everything sorted out, and it turned out to not be as scary as I expected. Or maybe I just developed the courage I needed, who knows. His mercy still astounds me. 

Second week of June I found out the school had lost my Financial Aid application when I walked into my class and was informed by my professor I could not be in there because the school had withdrawn me for "non payment". Commence the most stressful week of my life. After hours of crying and begging with countless administrators and office aids, searching for my application,  I was donezo. All my hard work and effort down the drain. The options were as follows: lose the semester (and pay all my student loans now) or fork out $3,600 in two days. I prayed. I prayed wrong. There is a wrong way to do it. I prayed angrily, I prayed for answers I didn't need. I prayed for MY results. I did sneak some humble moments of "help me know what to do" but they were few and spread out. My sweet mother paid the $3600 with my mission money. I was mad. I don't get mad often, but I was mad. And at the wrong person - my Father In Heaven. I was lost, and I'm ashamed to admit that my faith was shaken. After everything else, THIS is what shook my faith.  I felt so betrayed. I couldn't find answers. I had worked so hard. This was supposed to be the reason my call took so long - so i could finish my semester! I remember blindingly praying to pay my mom back NOW. I didn't want her paid back in "blessings" or  "eventually" I wanted to find a way to pay her her money and her sacrifice NOW. I wanted, this one time, for things to go the way I wanted them to.

The Lord answers prayers.

I was reinstated that Thursday. I begrudgingly went back to school knowing I had a long road ahead of me after all the days I'd missed and so close to the end of the semester, but I went back.

For days I'd been getting calls from my HOME stake president (my YSA stake and ward had been handling all my mission stuff). I went in to his office. He had urgent business to discuss. Urgent it was. He had gotten a letter from the missionary department. They wanted to send me on a trial mission in my home town. I would be leaving 14 days from then. This was three days after I was reinstated. The semester ended in a month. Yeah. I would go on this trial mission and receive my actual call one transfer in (about 6 weeks), I would leave one transfer after that. I did not know where I was going but I would not be coming home. My family would have to buy any necessary provisions not already with me and send them. I would not be getting my endowments until my actual call came and I would not be going to the MTC. Straight into the mission field. They were worried I wouldn't be able to handle the stress and anxiety of a mission. So they provided me with the most stressful situation they could. Only a newborn baby and a bomb would have caused more anxiety. My sweet stake president looked at me and said "you can get the money back from the school, can't you?" Yes. Yes, with a copy of this letter I could finally defer and get all my money back - RIGHT. NOW.

I remember the overwhelming emotions as I sat there. Excitement, happiness, fear, panic, stress, anxiety, frustration, confusion, anger - wait. This is not what this moment was supposed to be like. Nonetheless, I said yes. This wasn't about me, it was about the people I was going to serve.  My mother panicked, I think it was just the shock. I was laughing a lot, in between the tears I couldn't help but think of everything that was happening. Sometimes, my life is a funny, funny thing.

The next day I withdrew out of my classes, and started the process of getting my money back.

That night my Bishop called. Long story short: my YSA stake president heard what was going on, basically said "no way Jose!" Spent all day on the phone with the missionary department, had them review my papers AGAIN, sent two more recommendation letters and got me taken off some "rejection" list I didn't even know I was on. I'm blessed with amazing priesthood leaders. My home stake president, my YSA bishop and my YSA stake president are saints.

That week my call came. I calmly told my family I wouldn't be opening it till Sunday. Eh, I waited eight months, what's 4 days?!

I will be leaving October 30th for the Kansas Wichita mission, Spanish speaking.

Point is: I still find myself looking back sometimes, questioning why all the things happened and why they happened the WAY they happened. It's not as much as before (thank goodness) but I still do. However, I also spend much more time on my knees, my prayers ask more to be who He needs me to be than who I want to be. I recognize opportunities to serve a lot more. I've learned to trust myself, to make decisions based on faith in that I'm living my life as I should and that that equips me with all I need to make the right decisions. I've learned that God is always on our side.. even when we're yelling at Him.. His mercy is beyond any understanding we could ever have. I learned He answers prayers, so be careful what you pray for. He doesn't micro manage. He's given me (and you) divine gifts to be the best we can and if you're expecting Him to tell you what to do before you do it, you need to work on your faith gift (it's ok, I did/do too). However, isn't it great to know that after you make a decision there's always a sign from Him if it was right or wrong? Even a small one, always. Above all, I've learned God is a comic. Not a rude, sarcastic comic, but a subtle mix of Bill Cosby and Gordon B. Hinckley. With sweet irony, a soft smile, and cute pun. If you sit back and see the puns in life, you'll laugh a lot more. I learned life is short but that doesn't have to be scary cause home is on the other side. Every trial here is merely temporary and find comfort in knowing that God has a plan no matter how many times you mess up and please, please, please don't.. Don't try to do it on your own. The hard or the painful, stop trying to carry it on your own.

This, believe it or not, is the watered down version. There have been so many more trials and so many more miracles. I can't tell you I'm quite at the place where I'm HAPPY it all happened, but I am so very thankful. I know my Father loves me and I know this is the only true church, there was never any doubt of those two things. Because of those simple truths, I anxiously await October 30th. To wear His badge, to meet His people, to do His work and to serve Him.

Also, I got to do a lot of really cool things the last 8 months, more to come! :)

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this. Congratulations on your call from a fellow Hermana!!


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