I just figured I should post something before my first email from the MTC (Missionary Training Center) gets put up!
"From the start after you get a mission call, you feel unprepared for a mission. I still do. Very often I have moments where I find myself in panic thinking I’m not good enough, strong enough to do the Lord’s work. That I don’t have the social skills to really impact the people I will teach. I obviously don’t know the language now.. when people ask how much Bulgarian I know up to this point, I can’t help but laugh and claim I know almost a whole negative percent.
From this comes the feeling that you have to work harder to strengthen your testimony, work to have the confidence to teach and testify what you know to people you’ve never met, to be worthy to feel the Spirit’s influence in order to teach by the spirit.
There’s always those talks to comfort you in knowing “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” And I used to take that saying for granted, not really thinking about what it meant. The thing is, I fully believe that the Lord is capable of seeing us in ways we have yet to be able to see ourselves. He knows our fullest potential. He is nudging us and hoping that we use our agency, our power to choose for ourselves to become the great person that we can be. That may not mean we win the Olympics, or become some spiritual giant, but simply to see things the way the Lord might. Even if we were to catch a mere glimpse of His love for us, I know our lives would change. Even for those who have yet to know God, or recognize Him in their lives. If there’s one thing I’m most sure about, more than anything else in this life, in our existence, is that God loves us. He loves me, he loves each one of you. When I think of the ways I know He loves us, words simply don’t work to describe it. The way I loved my cat as a child wouldn’t even compare. The way my parents love me, the way my grandparents love me, those who would do anything for me, that’s still only a limited kind of love when compared to the Lord and what He’s capable of. I know without a doubt in my mind that the Lord has more love for each of us, individually, and that if we could somehow clearly see that all love for us, we could do anything in our joy and in knowing our true worth to God Himself.
The purpose of my talk isn’t to say goodbye because I’m leaving. It may have been intended for that purpose when I was asked to speak, but I simply can’t waste time focusing on that when all I wish to accomplish here is to express how much my Heavenly Father means to me. The impact the gospel has made in my life is something I really can’t find words to explain to anyone who hasn’t felt it before. I never, ever would have imagined the endless joy that could come from knowing my Father in heaven. Just over 6 years ago, God seemed like a fairy tale, just some story people liked to tell. But once I got to know Him, and allowed Him to become such an important figure in my life, I can’t possibly deny that He loves me and that His one focus is on our happiness. He gave us so much, He continues to give us so much.
Now when I say He gives us much, the first thought to most of you might be blessings, right? Blessings of friends, a loving family, a bed to sleep in, a car to drive. Yes, that could count, too. But when I say that, I’m talking about the innumerable opportunities He gives us. When I fit my conversion story into a conversation, it’s not for attention, I promise. It’s because though my life might not look like it changed on the outside, I couldn’t be more grateful for the change I felt inside me. If nothing else, I have experienced a change in perspective. In allowing myself to stop and ask God to help me understand why things happen the way they do in my life and in the lives of those around me, though I may not get the answer right away, or even any sort of clear answer all the time, it has helped me to see every trial, every hard time as an opportunity to either grow in the direction the Lord would have us grow, or to push Him away and to throw some sort of emotional tantrum. Just in the past month, even, I have been working diligently on prayer. I wish I could say it was because I’m a great person who just wanted to work on strengthening my testimony of communication with our Father in heaven (though in the end, it really did help strengthen my testimony of many things), but it was simply because things were just not going the way I would have them go if I were the one in charge. I was confused and hurt about how things were playing out and things were not going according to my seemingly flawless plan I had come up with on my own. And in my moment of trying to wallow in self-pity, I decided, hey now would probably be the time to apply all those “Sunday school answers” that we repeat over and over almost every Sunday and try them out. Of course over the years, I’ve fluctuated on my ability to keep a good habit in my life of regular Sunday-school-answer practice, but I wanted to really, really apply it this time. I was tired of trying to run things on my own without asking the Lord for help. I was emotionally exhausted, I guess you could say. So. Any free time I had (even at work), I would open a book. Some book related to gospel principles and then I would pray. I would pray often, probably the most I’ve prayed in the span of a week than I had probably prayed in a span of a few months back in the day. I didn’t pray for things to be fixed this time around, though. All I asked was for understanding. Whether or not it was explained to me, I didn’t care. I just wanted to be at peace and know that in putting my trust in the Lord’s plan for me to serve a mission and for me to leave so much behind for a while, that I would be in good hands. That if I can’t influence one life in Bulgaria to be able to experience the full range of joy I’ve felt in learning of the gospel, that I might be able to take every opportunity thrown in my way to grow and to learn and allow my understanding of the Lord’s ways to increase and mature so that I may be able to be at peace no matter what comes my way.
If you get nothing else out of my rambling today, I want you to remember one thing. The one thing that has kept me going through everything. The Lord knows every little thing within us. He knows our thoughts, our weaknesses, our strengths, our desires. No matter what trial he places before you, please allow yourself to remember why He does this for us. In His incredibly matchless love, He looks at the person He KNOWS we are capable of becoming, and in knowing our weaknesses, he offers us opportunity after opportunity to become stronger. When I was younger and first learning of the Lord, I thought of it this way: My trials are almost nothing when compared to people who have to worry about when they will eat next, or people who have nowhere warm to sleep in the dead of winter. And though I didn’t exactly want those trials, I was aaaalmost jealous in a way of how strong the Lord must trust that they are. The Lord knows what I can handle and what I can’t. And the hardest things in life that I’ve experienced haven’t been physical trials as much as mental and emotional ones. That may be easily looked down on by someone who has physical proof of their trials in scars or in bodies that don’t work flawlessly, but somehow or another, though none of us would be qualified to rank the spiritual difficulties of trials, the Lord knows someone’s potential strength and knows the weaknesses it would take to build those strengths. Like it says in one of my all-time favorite scriptures, ever, 1 Nephi 3:7,
“... I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
In reading this, I always, without fail, think of the people who seem to have it much harder than me and find myself looking up to them. I know some things I couldn’t handle, and the Lord knows that even more than I do. Or maybe those trials don’t apply to me because I don’t need that learning experience as much as those people might. Regardless of who needs what, though, just trust in the Lord. Trust in Him and let yourself fall into His arms. Let Him guide you the way He knows you need to go to reach your full potential. And trust that that way may not be paved perfectly and that you may stumble, but he’s always there reaching out His hand for us to take it and to push forward with all we’ve got."