Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One Year Later... Looking Back On My Mission

Today marks my one year home from the mission. I'm blown away at how fast this year has flown by. I wanted to write an entry all about the blessings and lessons of my mission.

The day I went into the Missionary Training Center I made a video on my computer for my family. I wanted to leave them one last message before I left. I like to look back and see the growth in the conviction of my testimony. I was terrified and excited. I was unsure about what I had signed myself up for. I didn't know what to expect and I was relying completely on faith in my Savior. If He asked me to go to New York and share the Gospel, then I was going to do it. 

I remember going into the Missionary Training Center and feeling so vulnerable. You are constantly sharing your testimony, which meant I was constantly crying. I wasn't used to sharing my closest feelings with others. My district became my family. We learned to rely on each other during the difficult days and we became a strength to each other. I became more confident in expressing my beliefs. I started to see myself change little by little. I was frustrated that the process wasn't faster. I wanted to become the woman God wanted me to become and I wanted to become her right then. I realized pretty fast that it didn't work that way. Like all good things, change takes time. 

Then I got out to New York and I realized really quickly that missionary work is just that... its work. It was hard. I felt alone. I had days where I honestly wondered why on Earth I would have chosen to do this. I had days where it took everything in me just to smile because I missed my family so much. However, I started to get the hang of things after my first transfer. I realized that if I wanted to be happy I needed to forget myself. I needed to spend time thinking about the people of New York and how I could help them come to know their Savior. Ultimately that is what was going to make me happy. Service brings deep lasting joy. I remember the joy I felt as I watched people change. I watched them light up as they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and chose to be baptized. I watched them change their lives and I saw them radiate the light of Christ through their countenance. I learned early on that the light of Christ is a real physical thing. You can literally see it in someones eyes. I was given the gift to see how much the Savior loves the people I served. I could feel it so intensely that I knew without a doubt they were loved beyond words. I remember being so overwhelmed at times by that love that I couldn't even speak. I got a small glimpse of the compassion and love the Savior has for each one of us. He loved us so much that He died for us. He suffered incomprehensible things. He went below it all so that He could help us rise above it. He loved us so much that He was willing to do that in order to have us return to live with Him again. I was in awe by the things I learned about my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I will never forget those "Ah-ha moments." 

I remember learning that everything happens for a reason. If we are living the way we should then things will work out the way they should. I do not need to know everything right now. I just need to place my trust in God and things will work out. I saw miracle after miracle on my mission. I saw the impossible become possible through the grace of the Lord. I learned the Atonement is not just for my sins but for my weaknesses, my imperfections, my ignorance. The Atonement covers it all. I learned that I needed to rely on the Atonement daily. I learned that there is no place I could go where my Savior hadn't already been. I learned that ultimately He is the only one who will ever truly understand me. He is my best friend. He is my confidant. He is my brother. He is the reason I have hope. He is the way home. He is peace. He is joy. He is unconditional love. He is everything to me! 

I came home halfway through for procedures and I remember I had some days where I missed my mission so much it hurt. I wouldn't let them release me because I heard horror stories of how hard it would be to go back out once you were released. So for two months my mum was my companion. That was cool!  

When I finally got to return to New York I experienced major home sickness. Honestly I think for a month I was depressed. I had never felt so alone and sad in my life. I considered running to the airport in the middle of the night and catching a plane home. During that time I learned even more about my Savior. I learned how to rely on Him when I felt there was no way out and no way up. I learned that I could talk to Him and to my Heavenly Father because they understood. I learned that not everything comes with a "quick fix" and sometimes it takes awhile to fully get over a hurdle. I believe that in those times we have the opportunity to grow closer to our Savior then ever before. After a month things got better. 

I remember the highest high I've ever had was when Sally told us she was getting baptized. My heart seriously grew wings and was trying to come out of my chest. I couldn't wipe the smile from my face even if I wanted to. I remember thinking to myself..."If the only reason I came on my mission was for this one moment, it would totally be worth it!" I remember thanking Heavenly Father over and over again for allowing me to witness the miracle and change in Sally as she accepted the Gospel. 

I remember the long hot days and knocking on doors. I remember the total creeps we met. I remember falling asleep every time we got in the car because I was so tired. I remember being rejected by those unwilling to listen... again and again and again. That broke my heart every time. I remember the long late night chats with my companions about deep doctrinal things. I remember making lists with them about who we are and what makes us... us. I remember the struggles we all had and watching as we each overcame them with faith and prayer. I remember thinking "The Gospel is SOOO simple!! How did I not know this before." 

Honestly I could not write every blessing and lesson learned from the mission. It would take far too long. Overall however, I remember realizing that my mission was in fact the best decision I ever made. I felt like I was doing God a favor and in fact He is the one who blessed me so immensely that words cannot do it justice. 

So now, a year later, here I sit reminiscing about my mission. I still feel overwhelming gratitude at all I have been blessed with. I am still amazed at my Savior and His unconditional love for each one of us. There is always hope through Him. I KNOW without a doubt that He lives and loves each one of us. I KNOW it with my whole soul. I know He knows us perfectly. I KNOW that we can live with Him again if we live the Gospel. The Gospel is what sets us free. It is what brings us eternal happiness. The Gospel is the answer. I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers. He hears every prayer we say. He loves us! I know that with faith all things are possible. I believe in miracles. I have witnessed them time after time after time. I know that even through our difficult times we can find peace in the Savior. We can know with a surety that we are NEVER ALONE! If we look we will see His hand in our lives daily. I know that through keeping our temple covenants we are blessed. We are protected. We receive clarity for our lives. I know that revelation and inspiration are real. I know that the Spirit will guide us and show us what the Lord would have us do. If we keep the commandments we can have the Spirit with us all the time. What a remarkable blessing!! I learned and have come to know without a doubt that obedience is the key to happiness. Obedience is what makes us free. Sin will always tie us down. Following Christ will set us free. I know that this is Christ's church on the earth today. I am SOO blessed to have it in my life. I am SOO grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with others. I loved being a missionary! It was the greatest experience I have had. I know that if we look to God and trust in His will, that things will work out. We can trust that things will work out in the way that is best for us. We can trust that He will be there with us every step of the way. We can KNOW that our lives are in His hands and we can surrender to Him. He can make more out of us then we could ever make of us on our own! I am SOOO grateful for my mission!