AfterExcept for Stake Conference today, I basically haven't been out of my room since I opened my mission call Friday afternoon.
I have been called to serve in the California Carlsbad Mission, English speaking. I leave June 19th. (Read the 'before' or watch me open my mission call)
I never would have guessed or picked any of these things for myself, which is part of the reason why I know that it is perfect for me. When I read the call, I didn't have any thoughts, positive or negative. Instead I was filled with emotion, most of it excitement and built-up anxiety, and that happiness that sometimes signals the presence of the Spirit. I was happy. I was assigned. I belonged somewhere.
It took a few hours for it to start to sink in, that I had finally, finally received my call.
I won't lie to you. Once my friends left and the shock wore off, I felt a little bit of everything. I was ecstatic, heartbroken, doubtful, angry, and everywhere else in between. I'm not proud of that, but I know that I'm not the only person who has felt doubt concerning their call.
I was happy for a long time, in the best way. I knelt down in a patch of sunlight in my room and thanked Heavenly Father for my opportunity to serve. I kept crying and reading through the packet that they give you which covers the basics of mission life. I posted a status on Facebook, put up the video that someone took of me opening my call, and started googling Carlsbad and other cities and towns within my mission boundaries. I checked the weather in California.
After a while, though, the excitement and the adrenaline wore off and I found myself troubled. My heart had been hoping, beneath all of the truth I knew that where you go matters very little, that I would go to Europe, where everyone else seemed to think I would go.
I started feeling upset, then unqualified, as if the reason that the Lord hadn't sent me somewhere that I really wanted to go was because I wasn't good enough.
You see, as much as I can preach about these things, when the time came and I was in the thick of it, I fell into the exact way of thinking that I already knew was warped. I wanted to know why, why the Lord decided California, of all the places in the world, why English speaking and why I would be leaving so soon.
After being frustrated with myself I started to get angry. It was unfair. I deserved to go somewhere that I wanted. I deserved to go to Europe. I deserved to learn another language. I deserved to have a few more weeks of summer at home. All of the positive energy I had felt while reading my call disappeared, and I was left alone in my dark thoughts of inadequacy and unfairness.
I forgot everything I knew and just cried.
I cried a lot. I tried calling my mom and dad but they didn't answer. I kept crying for at least an hour.
The night before I opened my call, I read Alma 47 as a part of my personal reading. It's the story of Amalickiah, who tricking his way into becoming king of the Lamanites. The Lamanite king gave him dominion over a group of men and sent him to go retrieve Lehonti, captain of a dissenting army of Lamanites.
Amalickiah was told to battle Lehonti's army and beat them into submission, but instead he sent a messenger to Lehonti to have a meeting with him. Lehonti was stationed on a mountain and refused to go down to meet him. Amalickiah came up to where he was and asked again, and this time Lehonti agreed to meet. Amalickiah and Lehonti joined forces, and later that night Amalickiah had Lehonti poisoned, giving Amalickiah possession of Lehonti's men.
Between my fits of anger and of pain as I contemplated my mission call, I recognized that I had allowed myself to take that step down the mountain. Satan doesn't need you to commit a crime in order to take hold of your heart. He had mine with a tiny sliver of doubt that found its way into my thoughts, and from there blossomed into deafening negativity.
I knew I had to find a way to force that sliver back out, so I turned to The District. I've already watched all of the episodes, and I knew that the second series features missionaries in California, so I started the first episode to drown my brain out.
And it worked. I stopped crying and started listening. I realized that those missionaries were real people, just like I am, who were called to serve in the same state I was. I paid attention to the sisters as they taught the Robles family. I realized, for the ten hundredth time, that what I wanted, more than anything else, was to connect to other people. I saw how connected the sisters were to the Robles family, and how all of them was blessed by that sweet experience. I saw how grateful the Robles were that the sisters had sought them out and brought light and goodness into their home. I started feeling the Spirit again.
That is what I want, I decided. Not a fun, all-expenses-paid trip to a European country, not the ability to speak another language, not a beautiful foreign culture to experience. I wanted what every missionary, no matter where they serve, deserves to have: the light of Christ in their life and loving relationships with God's children that are an anchor in hard times.
And I know that no matter the reasons why Heavenly Father is sending me to Carlsbad, I will get that if I do my best to work hard. I know that somewhere within my mission bounds are hearts that have been softened and prepared—in fact are still being prepared—for me to connect with them and love them. I know that rich experiences and happy times are in store for me, as well as challenges and heartbreaks, but that when I am on the Lord's time, He will make all things bearable.
I know that He is not sending me there because I don't deserve to go to Europe or I am too unintelligent to be able to pick up a foreign language. He is sending me because I belong there, whether I understand that yet or not.
I have been prepared for Carlsbad, and Carlsbad has been prepared for me.
I am not special or important by serving in a foreign country or learning a foreign language. As it says in my patriarchal blessing, "in your obedience and service to your God you will not lose your individuality...obedience will cause you to shine like the stars in the heavens." By trusting in the Lord, by being obedient and serving where He asks me, I will be refined until I shine like a star.
I'm grateful that I'm speaking English and leaving in 66 days. It just means that I will be working and forgetting myself even sooner. I am that much closer to falling in love over and over again with the sweet, searching hearts that were meant for me to find.
It means that I will be able to speak to those hearts directly and clearly about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. It means that I will be able to tell them how much I love them and how much the Lord loves them confidently, without stumbling for the right words.
It means that on June 19th, I will report to the Provo MTC and receive my badge, and I will officially begin my one year, six months, forever.
And I can't wait.