Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moving Mountains

Coming home from a mission is hard. I was asked a few days ago what the hardest thing about being home is. Luckily, I had been thinking about that a lot lately, so I knew how to answer. This might take some explaining – so, I hope it makes sense.

As a missionary, I had almost daily experiences that reassured me that the Lord was directing my life. There were so many times that I could back on my day and see how the Lord had led me to accomplish His work. There were even many times that bad things would happen, but by the end of the day I could look back and see that those things had to happen for something else good to happen. For example, I was sick most of my mission. I actu
ally developed rheumatoid arthritis about halfway through. Because I was so sick, there were times that I was not able to get out and work as much or as hard as I wanted to. It was a daily struggle that had a big impact on my confidence as a missionary and my feelings of self worth. But when these negative feelings would get really bad, the Lord would give me an experience to show me that He was still pleased with my efforts. He knew my limitations and knew that I was doing the best I could and He blessed
me for that. Many days when I wasn't able to do much because I was sick, we would find someone who just got home from work, or had only a few minutes that they were available, or some other time constraint, that if we had not gotten there exactly when we did, we would have completely missed that person and lost the opportunity to help them feel the Spirit by testifying of Christ and His restored Gospel. The Spirit would hit me so hard during these times that the Lord knew my situation and directed my day perfectly so we would find who we needed to find, when we needed to. It was amazing every single time. I grew to rely on this direct guidance of the Spirit and crave it. I loved seeing the Lord direct my life, in large and small things. My testimony grew so much and I learned over and over again the power of TRUSTING in the Lord to use me as an instrument in His hands.

Fast forward to now. I’ve been home for 21 months. There have been times that I have seen the Lord’s hand in my life. He has directed me and I have tried to keep the Spirit with me so that I could be led according to God’s will. But life is different now. I wake up, I go to class and work, come home, study, and go to bed. There isn’t as much need for the Lord to direct my life because it is routine. I know I am where I need to be and for the most part, doing what I need to be doing. But I no longer get the daily assurances of the Spirit that I am where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing to serve God and bring about His purposes. I can’t complain about my life now, but it is just so different. I miss doing things that have direct and immediate implications for myself or other people. I know there are some things I can do to be more available for experiences like this, but overall this is just how non-mission life is for me right now. I’m not complaining, just recognizing that this is the hardest thing for me about not being a missionary.

This feeling in general has been weighing on me lately. This past semester was really busy. Then add on the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, and I was not able to reach outside of myself very much the past while. But I knew that I wanted to, and I prayed to be able to see the Lord’s hand directing my life. I knew that one way for me to be more readily available was through helping others, so I prayed for that as well. I just wanted to know that my life had meaning for more than just myself; that the Lord could and would still use me as an instrument in His hands to help others. So, I prayed, and tried to prepare myself. I wanted to see the Lord moving mountains in my life. Because that is when I am happiest and I needed more joy in my life.

The Lord answered my prayers!

I have a friend who was in my ward last year in Provo. Actually, when we were in Provo, I probably would have only called her an acquaintance. My roommate was much more her friend than I ever was. She was amazing. She taught Sunday School in the ward and I LOVED her lessons. I always felt the Spirit so much when she taught and I could see how much the Gospel of Christ excited her and influenced her in ways I admired and wanted for myself. She was so friendly. And she was gorgeous! I think the combination of all these attributes intimidated me. I didn’t reach out to her and become very good friends. We had a few conversations that I really enjoyed but mostly I would just watch her and think, “I wish I could be more like her. If I had to choose one person that I know to emulate, it would be her.” Then I moved back to Texas and she continued her life in Provo. I thought about her every once in a while when I would see things on facebook, or when I read her blog. But she was mostly just someone I admired and wished I could be more like. I regretted not getting closer to her, but I knew there really wasn’t anything that could be done about it. She was a missed opportunity.

Then I read her blog andshe had written about something horrible that had happened to her. She didn’t specify what it was, but I knew it was bad and my heart broke for her. I didn’t even know what happened, but I was crying for her. And I wanted to help. But what could I do? We weren’t close. I couldn’t ask her, “Hey, I know we aren’t really friends, but what happened and can I help? From Texas?” So, I prayed for her quite a few times. I put her name on the Temple prayer roll. I thought about her a lot and hoped that whatever she was going through wouldn’t keep her from being the amazing person that I knew her as. Of course, from her blog posts, I knew it wasn’t holding her back much because she knows how to completely turn to Heavenly Father in hard times. But still, I prayed. I though that was all I could ever do.

Our Relief Society had a Christmas party at the beginning of the month. I walk in and am about to sit down and then there is my friend from Provo! What?! We hugged and asked how each other was doing and went our separate ways for the meal. Turns out that she was visiting one of her old roommates who now lives in my ward. I knew that I wanted to talk to her more and ask how she was really doing, but I did not know how! So again, I prayed that if I needed to talk to her, I would have the courage to and would know what to say. At the end of the party, we were told that if we wanted to, we could help wrap present for the family we were giving Christmas to. I saw her walk towards the door, so I hurried to go talk to her, thinking she was leaving. She was just going to wrap presents, so I sat down and wrapped with her. Remember, we weren’t close at all before, so I had the hardest time knowing what to talk about! Finally, we were done wrapping and stood up and just started really talking. I don’t remember now what we talked about, but it was a good conversation. I left excited that we were better friends and hoping that in some way I was able to help her, if only giving her someone she knew to talk to in a new place. I knew she would be at the ward Christmas part the next night, so I was excited to be able to see her again and hopefully become even better friends.

The next day was horrible! I did not want to go to the activity. I didn’t feel good, my sister and I tried shopping and it was just frustrating. I was in a foul mood. I almost convinced myself to skip the ward party. The only thing that made me go was that I wanted to see my friend again and felt like I needed to talk with her more. I now know that the bad mood was just satan trying to keep us apart. I went to the party and again, waited til it was over to talk to her. I sat down and again struggled to know what to say and what to talk about. Luckily, after a few minutes we were able to get into a rather deep conversation and it was much easier to talk then. We talked about so many things! From our confusion about individual realities, to my mission, to our spiritual journeys, to the trials we were going through, to the knowledge that the Lord brought us together. It was probably the most meaningful conversation I had with someone in all of 2011. I loved every second of it. We both laughed our heads off, then cried, and didn’t even notice that almost everyone was gone and everything put away. We were just lost in our own little world.

I am still amazed by the time we shared together. She let me know that she now knew that I was the reason she came to Texas – so that I could help her, and so she could help me. I needed to know that the Lord would still use me to help other people. I had been feeling so insignificant. Then the Lord brought my friend down FROM UTAH so that I could help her. That knowledge alone helped me so much. I was able to feel the Spirit so strongly and give of myself, which I hadn’t been able to do in a long while. I was having some self-esteem problems and she just told me how great I am and I believed her. Usually I have a hard time taking compliments, but this experience was so huge and real that how could I not believe her? Things like this DO NOT just happen. There was not one second of coincidence that weekend in the time we spent together. The Lord orchestrated all of it – to help her, and to help me.

Moving Mountains.

That is exactly what Heavenly Father did with this friend and I. And every part of our story had to happen the way it did. We talked about how we wished we had become closer while we lived in the same apartment complex. And while I still wish we did and am saddened by all those missed opportunities, I think our friendship happened exactly when it needed to. Like I said, I don’t know exactly what happened to her, but from what I knew of her before, from her blog, and from things she said, I can guess. And if we had been closer I am sure she would have felt like she needed to give me all the details, and I would have asked for them. I bet always having to talk about it is incredibly exhausting and hard for her. I am so grateful that she didn’t have to explain things to me. She could just say, “I’m going through a really hard time and it sucks!” She didn’t have to relive it. It was just like my mission – things didn’t go how I wanted them to, but they were exactly what the Lord knew needed to happen. I was upset that we weren’t friends previously, but the Lord showed me that we weren’t supposed to be yet, so that I could be there for her in a way that not many other people could. And not only was I able to be there for her, but she was able to help me in ways that I don’t think anyone else could have either. I needed her just as much as she needed me. It didn’t matter that we live 2,000 miles away from each other. Our Loving Father knew we needed each other and sent her to Houston. It had to be here, where she knew no one but me and I had a desire to make her feel welcome. And it had to be the weekend when there were two ward activities for us to see each other, because I almost never see her friend at church on Sunday because our ward is so big. Every little detail happened exact
ly how Father knew it needed to. Satan tried to prevent it. I am so grateful I did not listen to him, but followed the Spirit instead. The Lord moved so many different mountains to bring us together and I will FOREVER be grateful. I consider this girl one of my best friends. Not because we’ve spent lots of time together and know each other super well, but because we had such a deep and profound experience together. When that happens, how can you not develop an incredibly strong bond?
I feel like a different person after this experience. The Lord does still direct my life. He does love me and wants me to feel important. He has a work for me to do and I feel so much more prepared now to sacrifice myself to do Heavenly Father’s will. I am so grateful for the Atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ, who made it possible for me to repent and be worthy to serve God. And for the healing power of the Atonement – to heal my friend, and to heal me.

There are a few big things in my life that I can look at and know the God lives and the Restored Gospel is true purely because those things happen. This experience with my friend from Provo is one of them. There is no way it was coincidence. If there was no other evidence that God lives and loves His children but this experience, it would be enough. We are each so loved. And the Lord will do whatever it takes to help us. Even move mountains.

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” - President Spencer W. Kimball