I turned 19 at the beginning of this month. My 19th birthday was supposed to be monumental because it signified a big, new opportunity in my life. That day, October 4th, 2014, was my mission eligibility date. For years I have been counting down to my 'papers submission eligibility date,' or 120 days before my true eligibility date. I've known that I wanted to serve a mission since I was a young girl! Serving a full-time mission, attending BYU Provo, and getting sealed for time and eternity to the man of my dreams were my three childhood dreams. I never wanted anything else. As I look back, though, I can see that I never really asked God if it was right for me to serve a mission. I definitely had, (and have), the desire to serve a full-time mission, but I never asked God to know if it was right. Nevertheless, after BYU's Winter 2014 semester, I returned home for the summer, prepared to begin shopping, learning, and saying goodbye before serving my mission.
However... and there always seems to be a 'however'... I soon realized that I had a major problem.
I attended one Family Home Evening activity in my home branch - ONE - and I found him. We had one week to begin developing our friendship before he moved to Utah for a summer internship. We went on a few dates, enjoyed our time together, and went our separate ways, each of us regretting the fact that our friendship/relationship seemed to be so short-lived. However... we continued talking and texting from two states away. Our friendship blossomed. After about a month, we discussed my mission plans. We weren't dating exclusively; we didn't even live in the same state. He was my best friend, though, and I knew I could trust him. I was feeling a lot of anxiety about my desire to serve. One day, I would feel very strongly that I HAD to serve, and now. The next, I thought that it was the wrong time for me. This internal struggle got so intense that I was changing my mind every few minutes, literally. I was really struggling to find peace about either decision because I never settled on one for more than a couple of minutes. I was praying and pondering and studying and reading about serving a mission. I talked with my bishop, with my parents, and with my closest friend and confidants. Everybody had a different opinion. I turned to God, trying to receive the answer I wanted. Isn't going on a mission a good thing? Shouldn't everybody go on a mission? I really wanted to go! Why wasn't God letting me know that He was proud of and supported my decision??
One day, as I sat in the soft green rocking chair in my room, Aaron and I talked on the phone, he listened patiently to both sides of my internal argument. I talked quickly and passionately. He was the perfect soundboard for all my other thoughts and concerns. Why not this important decision? Unfortunately, he did not want to give his opinion or influence mine. He played devil's advocate, listening and asking and advising. I became very worked up about the situation. I was frustrated, confused, and totally without a plan.
I literally had no thoughts, concerns, ideas, or struggles.
I KNEW, with complete surety, that I had my answer. It was not in the form of words, or a plan, or anything else concrete. Rather, it was just an absolute surety that I must step forward with faith. That I would make the right choice. That I should not go on a mission. THIS was my answer.
Receiving my answer was not the end of my struggles, however. Everybody already knew that I had decided to serve a mission. Everybody expected me to go. Once I received my answer, and eventually started dating Aaron, people began talking.
They said, "She's not going because she's not worthy."
"She's not going because they're secretly engaged."
"She's not going because he talked her out of it."
"She's not going because she is being a typical teenager."
These accusations were hard to hear. I did wonder, at times, if I made the right choice, if I really received that answer, if I was being as stupid as the people around me made me feel. Fortunately, I had the scriptures to turn to. I really devoured the scriptures during this time. I read conference talks about remembering and acting upon past spiritual promptings and experiences. These scriptures, talks, and articles strengthened my resolve to follow my prompting. One of my favorite set of scriptures in the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 18:11-24. This section of 3 Nephi discusses so many beautiful and applicable topics: repentance, partaking of the Sacrament, listening to the Spirit, obedience, prayer, preparation, being an example, denying Satan and temptation, asking and receiving, familial unity (in prayer), and service. I learned so much from my scripture study during this time.
I came back to school instead of turning in my mission papers, obviously. I'll admit, it was strange to work in the MTC on my birthday instead of being a sister missionary there as I had originally planned.
And yes, I am still totally and completely head over heels about Aaron. :)