I was 18 and a half when the age change for missionaries was announced. That meant that within a couple of minutes, I had friends announcing on Facebook that they were going to submit their papers as soon as possible. Honestly I just remember being in shock.
I was one of those lucky freshman who went to college knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I had a plan of what the next couple of years would look like for me, and serving a mission definitely wasn't a part of that short-term plan.
The possibility of serving a mission had been in the back of my mind. I was planning on graduating from BYU right before I turned 21. Depending on what was going on in my life in that time, I considered a mission a possibility. I definitely hadn't made up my mind, but I hadn't ruled it out either.
After the announcement, my initial reaction was excitement, especially for all my friends who had decided to serve. My next reaction was fear. I was not ready to jump on board with my friends who had already announced their plans to serve.
I stayed scared. I wasn't old enough to go for 6 more months, so I decided not to worry about it too much, but it was such a prevalent topic, that it was hard to ignore. My gut feeling was that I did not want to serve a mission. I don't think I ever admitted this out loud because it seemed so selfish. The Gospel had brought me so much happiness. Why wouldn't I want to share that with others? I felt so guilty, but that desire just wasn't there.
Over the next month or so, I felt little nudges and the topic of serving a mission always seemed to come up. I purposefully didn't pray to ask God if I should serve because I wasn't ready for an answer.
Finally it got to the point where I couldn't ignore it any longer. I had felt so many promptings and at that point, I was pretty sure God wanted me to serve a mission. I was terrified to pray, since I pretty much knew what the answer would be.
My dad scheduled a doctor's appointment for me, one of the first steps of the process of submitting mission papers. I guess at that point I had decided to start the process, hoping that as I did so, I would feel a desire to go.
The first week of December, I finally humbled myself enough to pray.
All my life I had been taught that the spirit speaks in a still, small voice. When I prayed to ask Heavenly Father if I should serve a mission, I couldn't even finish the question before I heard a booming "YES!" There were times in my life where I wasn't sure how to recognize answers to my prayers, but this time there was no denying it. I just started to cry because I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father wanted me to go on a mission, but I was still so scared.
I met with my bishop and then a couple of weeks after I said that prayer, my world was rocked. On my parent's anniversary, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Surely the Lord wouldn't want me to leave given this news, so I decided to pray again. Once again, before I could finish the question, I heard the same "YES!" The spirit literally yelled at me. I know that's not how people commonly describe the spirit, but I think God knew I was going to need a very clear answer in order to have the faith to actually go on a mission.
I continued the process of filling out the paperwork and meeting with my bishop. Honestly, I think in the back of my mind, I was still hoping that this would be a situation like Abraham's. I thought maybe the Lord was testing my willingness and then He would say, "never mind. You don't actually need to serve a mission, but thanks for trusting me."
That wasn't the case.
The process was long and there were a lot of hiccups, but finally I received a call on May 8th to the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission. When I opened my call, I was hoping for an overwhelming feeling to come over me that would lead to a strong desire to go.
That wasn't the case.
I was emotional and excited, but I was still scared out of my mind.
Ultimately I had decided to go because I knew without a doubt that God wanted me to. I was hoping that the strong desire that I had seen in so many of my friends would come, but it didn't. I knew serving a mission would be one of the hardest experiences of my life. I knew that I had better come up with a good reason for why I was going, if I wasn't going because I wanted to.
I remember reading my patriarchal blessing one night. It mentions my "many, many children." That night I decided that if I wasn't going to serve for me, I was going to serve for them and because God wanted me to.
My future children became the why. Whenever I was scared, I just thought about how much I want to be a wife and mother.
Up until the day I went to the MTC, I still did not want to serve a mission. If it had been completely up to me, I wouldn't have. But it wasn't up to me. It was up to God and the plan He had for me. I wanted to follow that plan and so, even though I was scared out of my mind, I left my family at the curb of the MTC for what would be one of the hardest, greatest experiences of my life.
The lessons that I learned while serving absolutely taught me how to be a better mother. They also taught me to be a better member of the Church, and ultimately, a better disciple of Christ.
I know that serving a mission is not for everyone. I know that God has a customized curriculum for each of us, meant to shape us into what He wants us to be. I also know that God wanted me to serve. Whatever it is that God asks of us, knowing the why helps us get through the how.