Thursday, June 19, 2014

At the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair...

I want to share a personal experience that I had shortly after I opened my mission call.
Everyone warned me that "satan would work really hard on me" after I made my decision to serve.
And to say he worked hard on me and continues to work hard on me is an understatement!
I thought that I would be tempted with the things I've always struggled with, and that I would easily be able to overcome these temptations because I was preparing to serve a mission and that meant I would be alright.
Well let me tell you,
I was WRONG!
Just a few short days after I had opened my mission call, I began studying preach my gospel and I started reading the book of Mormon over again. What happened to me was totally unexpected, and extremely frustrating.
I began to question everything.
Now, before you start to think that I don't have a testimony, let me tell you what I have learned from this experience, and how my testimony has actually been strengthened.
I had never questioned anything before this point in my life. Ever since I was in primary, I just knew that this church was true and I loved everything that I was taught. So here I am, preparing to serve a mission in foreign county, in another language, and I'm questioning what I'm supposed to go teach?! I was beyond scared now. After a while of feeling frustrated, and feeling like I should just give up and not accept my mission call, I decided to try and push through these feelings and these questions I had. I was reading through preach my gospel and I got to a point where it challenged me to memorize Joseph Smith History vs. 16-17. Although I had read and heard these verses many times throughout my life, I learned something that day that I had never before noticed, but from that day on, I would never forget. Just to give some background to these verses, Joseph Smith had some pretty serious questions regarding religion and what church he should join. He went to a secluded grove not far from his home to kneel in prayer and ask.
Vs 15-17 have some very important points that I think we can ALL learn from when faced with adversity and opposition:
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
 16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
 17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
I had never before realized that Satan was actually the first to visit Joseph Smith in the grove. He felt his darkness as he stated "I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction." I could so easily relate to that feeling that day, as I had been feeling that darkness and was ready to quit myself. But I absolutely LOVE in verse 16 how he said he exerted all his powers to call upon God!
What do we learn from this?
That we cannot give up! Satan cannot win! I wondered why Satan was allowed to visit Joseph Smith. Why not Heavenly Father?
Well, I believe that this story is real life. Its a parable for our purpose in this life. We came down to this earth so that we could be tested and tried, and we were so very blessed to have our agency to choose! But if Heavenly Father always came first, we wouldn't have to have faith in him, and we definitely wouldn't grow.
I testify to you that God DOES come! He answered Joseph Smiths prayer, and he will answer ours!
One of my favorite talks of all time is called "Cast not away therefore your confidence" by Jeffery R. Holland. Please read it! If I could I would quote the whole thing, but I will leave it up to whoever wants to read it to find it on their own. But I will share one quote from it that hit me pretty hard.
"It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our life."
Well there was my answer! I was preparing to go on a mission which is a pretty significant step in my life, and that was exactly why Satan was working on me. That was a testimony to me that my choice to go on a mission was the right one- because Satan sure doesn't want me out there! It is essential to realize that Satan is the influence behind the opposition to the work of God.
"The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes." 
So I was VERY wrong in thinking that my decision to serve a mission saved me from temptation. In fact, I have come to find out that it is exactly the opposite. I'm never going to be free from the evil and cunning plan of Satan, especially when I am doing all I can to do what is right. I think we can easily get stuck in that "darkness" period and we give up or we finally give in to temptations because we feel like it's never going to go away. And its not. But I know that we have power over Satan if we do as Joseph Smith did and "exhort all our powers to call upon God." Heavenly Father will never force us to choose him, that was never his plan, as it was Satan's. Heavenly Father wants us to choose him and he will help us if we ask.
I testify that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live. They love us. They want to help us, and they will come! I have a testimony of adversity. That it is given to us in this life so that we can improve ourselves and become like God. I am eternally grateful for moments where I am able to use my agency to choose the right and to follow my Saviors example. I know that I will be tested by Satan for the rest of my life, but I am grateful for the atonement so I can have power to overcome.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

To the dear people of the Argentina Salta mission:

If you only knew how many prayers have been said on your behalf these past months as I have been awaiting the arrival of my mission! 
I can't wait to meet you.
I can't wait to teach you.
I can't wait to learn from you.
I cant wait to grow with you.
I can't wait to testify to you.
I can't wait to serve you! 

I think of you 
I want you to know, that I am preparing as hard as I possibly can so that I can give you my 110%!
I'm in no way perfect, in fact I feel so inadequate, but I have the strongest desire to become the best missionary I possibly can be so that I can effectively teach through the spirit. 

I have been so blessed throughout my entire life.
My greatest blessing though has always been my knowledge of the gospel.
It is something I will always be able to hold onto, even if I had nothing else. 
I can't wait to share it with you, because its 
life changing! 
I promise you, you will never be able to be the same after hearing the message the missionaries share.
Once you come to know and gain a sure testimony of the gospel, you cant be the same....
I sure wasn't. 
And this is why I plan on doing this.....

And a whole lot of this....

I will walk and walk and walk
until my shoes look like this....

I will knock on every door,
until my hands are blistered,

So that everyone can have one of these...
(which by the way is the best book you'll ever read, so please read it :)) 

Why would I do all this? 
I know it seems crazy....
and yes, its quite a sacrifice.
People always say i'm "giving up 18 months of my life"
but that's not how I look at it...
Sure, I'm putting off going to school, dating, marriage, family, etc.
But i'm not giving them up entirely.
These next 18 months are not about me 
its all about you!!
And that's why I'm doing all this...
because I want you to have what I have.
I want you to know what I know...

I promise to do all those things,
so that you can know him...

so you can have this...

He is the reason I am coming to serve you....
I can't wait to wear his name on my name tag...

So watch out Argentina.,
This future sister missionary is coming for you. I am not going to give up. I will sweat, I will cry, I will walk, I will pray, I will do everything in my power to serve my Heavenly Father faithfully so that you can be blessed with this wonderful message! I am already praying for you, that your hearts might be opened and that you are being prepared as well. I am planning on losing myself, so I can find YOU, and most importantly, so YOU can find Christ.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Called to bring the world his truth..

So.....I kinda made a big life changing decision in April 2014. One that I know will be the hardest thing I ever do, but SO worth it! It didn't take me long after praying and going to the temple to receive my personal answer that a mission would be good for me. I wasn't praying to know if I was "supposed" to go...more for the strength to follow through with the decision that I felt was right. I felt instant strength from my Heavenly Father as I went into my bishops office and told him I wanted to serve a mission. I started my papers the second I got home! I was going to keep it all a secret from my family, but anyone who knows me knows I can't keep secrets, and I was so emotional that day I couldn't hide it for long. So I skyped with my family after church and here is how our conversation went...
ME: "hey do you guys have $7200 I can borrow?" 
MOM: (rolling her eyes) "Why?" 

And then the tears came....
and they wouldn't stop....
My parents were beyond thrilled and the spirit was strong! 

So 2 weeks later, I submitted my papers! 
2 weeks after that....this happend:

I was actually getting really discouraged because my bishop had told me my call hadn't been assigned, and it had already been what felt like 4 weeks of waiting! So when I got this text from my brother, I in denial! My call wasn't supposed to come until the next week...but it came!
I had to wait 3 days before I could make it home to open it and the anticipation KILLED me! Trying to focus on preparing for finals week was nearly impossible. But finally Friday came and I cried the entire 3 hour drive home to open my call. I was more nervous then a teenage girl getting her first kiss! 
I really felt like I was going to stay in the States...and I was more than okay with that!
But the Lord always likes to surprise me...
and I sure was surprised with this one! 

Dont mind the fact that I'm a total wreck...
the spirit was just so strong...

Is this real life?! 

Someone please pinch me because I am in denial that this is happening....AND that I am going to the most beautiful country in the world! Ok, so I've never actually been to Argentina...BUT google images sure does make it look pretty! I mean, let me just brag for a second with some pictures:

I'm so in love already! 
But let's be honest...I'm definitely not going on a mission because I want to be travel and become a "tourist." If that was what I wanted, I would have chosen an easier route. I actually have a scripture that I like to call my "mission decision scripture."
 D&C 15:4-6 
"For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you. Behold, belesed are you for this thing, and for speaking my words which I have given you according to my commandments. And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentence unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen." 

 I know that I will find this scripture to be true as I continue with my decision to serve a mission. I have gained such a strong testimony this past year, and I cannot and will not deny what I know to be true. I can't wait to share that testimony every day for the 18 months I serve as a full time missionary, as well as throughout the rest of my life!
I know it...
I live it...
I LOVE it!