Thursday, January 31, 2013

Communication from Guate

Now calling all emails! Mom will post updates on this blog, but if you want to have the majority of the email I send home each week forwarded to you, please send me your email address - before Monday at noon :)

UPDATE: If you at any point want put on the emailing list, email my mom: gison at mccsc dot edu.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

An Unexpected Development

Today at church we talked about trials: enduring them, having faith through them, getting blessings out of them. I listened but mostly sympathized. My life is wonderful. I've had trials and certainly will have more, but in my own life, at least, right now there's nothing I want and don't have, nothing I'd change or improve. I am so blessed, and say it all the time.

I dared say it after our Relief Society lesson. Thanks, Sister H., for those words of wisdom. They were beautifully shared and I'll treasure them up for a day when they apply to me but right now isn't it great that things are going so good?

Hahahaha. I didn't do quite enough knocking on wood.

So Totally A Blessing

And it's not at all like this is a "trial." Not at all; definitely not in the way of years of infertility or perpetual singleness or death of a loved one.

But in my life of bliss and charm, it's a little bit of an ironic speed bump when your stake president finally gets in touch with you after a busy weekend and says, "I've talked with the missionary office, and ... you can start your mission March 6."

That's a month after I'm scheduled to enter the MTC. It would mean I get to skip 4 weeks of Spanish language training and jump right into the missionary prep, with mostly native speakers.

It would mean I get to have four more weeks of proselyting in my mission, instead of time in the training center. It would mean I get more time with my family (Mom and I spent an hour on the couch tonight talking profound things and cuddling and bemoaning the eight more days we have together), more time substitute teaching, more time writing and catching up and being with friends.

But it would mean I get home later, and probably wouldn't be able to start the Fall 2014 semester on time, or at all.

It would mean a lot of things.

The kicker?

I get to choose.

Off to Pray

And, the update: As awesome as it is to be home right now getting ready for a mission, I've decided not to prolong it.

I love spending time with my family and listening to Spanish music and finally getting done so many of the things I've wanted to get done for a long time - and there's still piano-playing and tshirt-quilt-making and lots of writing that will be chalked up as projects unfinished when I leave next week.

But I'm leaving next week. A week from three hours ago, actually, I'll have been set apart (meaning I receive a blessing that gives me authority to act as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

The Many Ways the Spirit Works

This decision was made in a few steps:

Paid attention to initial reaction. Once I understood what President S. was saying, thoughts went every which way. I needed to pay attention to what I was feeling so I could know what it was I wanted most - so I could take that with a grain of salt and try to separate my desires from what the Spirit might tell or be telling me.

Talked with mom, friend/mentor, self. I believe we are to rely on the Lord but need to use the reasoning powers he has given us as well. So I weighed the options and asked for my parents' advice, and paid attention to how I felt when considering all those. And not exactly how I felt, but how I felt Heavenly Father would want me to feel, if that makes sense.

Made decision before and while praying. It's probably not like this for everybody, but I seem to get a lot of answers while I'm actually saying the prayer. I made up - tentatively - my mind, went in a quiet place, knelt down, explained the situation to Heavenly Father, and in doing so saw elements of it and options that hadn't been clear to me before - namely, that if I really do know more Spanish than what is being taught in the MTC the first few weeks, I could help and serve others - and what a beautiful thing that would be. That's not something I would have really felt like was important if I'd just been thinking about it by myself. Anyway, I tried to pray slowly, and listen and feel, and look for any flags that might warn me the decision I was making wasn't the best one.

Sat on decision for a while, and told parents about it, to make sure it still felt right. Sometimes answers take a while in coming, or change as we stew on them. I didn't think this one was going to (and had to tell President S. the next day no matter what), but still spent some time tickling Robert and putting stuff in boxes before I shared it with my parents or felt final about it.

Moved forward with made decision. It's not hard to keep packing! Especially because I have good things to do either way, and know Heavenly Father would be pleased with me whenever I entered the MTC, as long as I strive to listen to him and work hard. Still, it's a good sign when I still feel good about getting ready to leave. :)


But - this decision was really made a long time before President S. made the phone call and presented it to me.

I had felt, clearly and definitively and kind of randomly, as I was preparing to receive my mission call and had been talking to people about leaving and going to Guatemala, that I needed to be back in time for school. I can't remember who I was talking to when I first said it - but the words came out almost as if I didn't have too much to do with them. And so I repeated it (this certainty that I would end my mission in time to get back for the semester) each time the opportunity arose, never sure if it was a prompting from the Spirit or just me thinking.

Likewise, I had said to several people that hopefully I'd have a longish time in the MTC; I wanted the extra language and missionary preparation. Without really researching how long I was likely to be in the MTC or what my "advanced" language placement would mean, I adopted this attitude - I just felt like I'd want to the training if I could choose.

It never crossed my mind that I'd actually get to.

But here I was, being seemingly inexplicably prepared for something that wasn't like to be a factor - and then it was.

I am so, so grateful, that the Holy Spirit chose to prepare me for this decision. There are a million ways I could have been living a more perfect life these last few weeks - and yet, because I have been baptized and confirmed and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Heavenly Father allows me always to be privy to this kind of subtle love and preparation always, so long as I'm trying.


This is just a small example of having to make a tough(ish) decision, but in outlining it here, I realize how important prayer and being in tune with the Spirit are in the pattern of decision-making. It's a huge blessing to have these options in my life, and I know they are of great help in all sorts of situations (choosing friends, picking a college or major, etc.).

I feel like it would be a lot harder to navigate life without the Spirit. (Or maybe just a lot less peaceful, because trying to be in tune with God's will for you takes a lot of a very edifying kind of work.) Anyway, I'm grateful I've grown up knowing this (because it's a process that takes a long time to refine, and I will still always be refining). I want people to know that having some guidance and direction in making decisions like this is a huge blessing of being a part of this church and being actively spiritual/religious.

I hope I can teach this pattern on my mission, and that it will help someone else.

Mormon Messages are the bomb. Especially this one, which talks about how it's easier to feel the Spirit when your life is in order:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another thick envelope

For real

This came in the mail today.

Holding it in my hands is a reminder to watch my words, watch my actions, watch my thoughts and appearance and behavior.

I am a representative of Jesus Christ, simply by virtue of the fact that I have been baptized into his church and have promised to be.

But, in a week and a half when I get set apart and put this nametag on, the responsibility (and the privileges and powers of that responsibility) will be so much more real. There is no going back. There is no CTRL-Z. I'll only wear this nametag once.

A challenge

In the envelope with the two nametags and the flight itinerary came a pass-along-card. A simple piece of cardstock with a painting of the resurrected Savior and an invitation to start the process of getting closer to him printed on the back.

There was no note or explanation given for the presence of this card. There didn't need to be one.

It was as if church travel were saying: we've given you nametags; God's given you everything. Now give him something back. Your conscience knows what to do with this, and the Spirit will show you how.

It's in English. It's for the airplane.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Llamada a Servir

Well. It's been a while. Life is a whirlwind, is it not?

My mission call came! Of course. It arrived on December 1, a day after I'd anticipated its arrival. Mom called at like 11:17 a.m., as I was getting dressed to go to our church's annual nativity event. I think I had one shoe on, and most of a blouse, when she said the words, "A letter came in the mail today..." And I screamed. So loud, in fact, that Taylor and Elise from next door became quite concerned. I assured them that everything was most definitely most (and more than!) okay.

It still is.

In the month and a half since I read that letter (in a young women's room full of Chirstmas-colored, incredibly supportive, patient and loving friends and family who tolerated my freaking out all day with shared mission stories and smiles), I've watched two other friends prepare to leave on their missions and have continued the process myself. It's good.

Here are some things I've been doing:
- writing in my journal
- reading Preach My Gospel (the manual for missionaries) and taking notes on the basics of the gospel principles
- praying morning and night, on my knees
- trying to be nicer to my family
- hugging everyone, a lot
- checking out all kinds of Guatemala-related material from the library, and reading things online. So far I've learned 1/5 people have internet access, 1/30 drive a car, the money is named after the beautiful quetzal birds, there is a free press, there's Spanish plus over 20 Amerindian languages, etc...
- reading a lot of the Pearl of Great Price (a book of additional scripture Mormons have) and taking the temple prep lessons to prepare to go to the temple, where I'll make covenants with God to live righteously and learn holy truths and of additional blessings

I've said this before, and maybe you've seen me, grinning from ear to ear. That's because the first time it came out, I marveled. The words sounded so extreme, all-encompassing; I didn't want to say them without meaning them. But they're true, completely true, and I love the chance I have to utter them. This time is good. This work is hastening. The church is true.

And I've never been happier in my entire life.

If we're Facebook friends, you can watch me open my mission call letter here: