I wrote a whole post about serving a mission even though I didn't want to, but this is the story of what happened after that. I'll warn you now, it's long, but there's a point :) The day I went to the MTC was hard (I cried at the drop-off and it took 4 people to pry Owen off my leg so I could leave), but I was fine pretty much as soon as I walked into the first MTC building. My decision was made and I was determined to make the most out of the experience of serving a mission. I loved my companion and worked hard in the MTC.
After 13 days spent absorbing more than I thought was humanly possible, we flew out to Philadelphia. My trainer and I opened up a brand new area and we were the first sisters to serve in right in the city in who knows how long. Our apartment was completely empty (it took a couple of weeks to even get beds) and I wasn't sure I was still in America.
We worked hard and tried to meet as many people as we could. I had been in the city for about 5 weeks (so almost at the end of my first transfer) when I started feeling sick. I thought it was just low blood sugar, which I already knew I had, but after talking to the mission nurse and trying a few different things without success, I went to the doctor.
The blood work came back normal and so they started looking at my heart. There were no answers and I was getting sicker and sicker. It was really hard to be an effective missionary when so much time was spent on getting me better. I kept declining until I was passing out 20 times a day. Weeks had gone by and countless tests had been performed with no definitive answers.
The week of Thanksgiving, I remember getting a blessing from my district leader (who I went to high school with). During the blessing, I kept asking Heavenly Father the same questions, "What do I need to do to get better so I can focus on being a missionary?" "What doctor do I need to see next?" "What do you need me to do?" I didn't seem to be getting any answers and eventually I stopped asking those questions. Instead I asked, "Heavenly Father, am I going home?" Immediately I got my answer, "Yes. But not yet. I still need you here, but be prepared."
I was crushed. I hadn't even considered going home until that point. I thought that surely the doctors would figure out the problem, tell me how to fix it, and I would be back to normal. Even though I spent so many months not wanting to serve a mission, all I wanted at that time was to feel better so that I could finish the rest of my mission.
A few more weeks went by, more tests were performed, and I was getting used to being sick all the time. I got permission to go to bed an hour early each night, but that was the only real change to our schedule, besides the doctor's visits. I was still doing everything that a missionary does.
I got to talk to my family on Christmas Day and at the end of the conversation, my parents asked me if I was coming home. I told them it hadn't even been discussed yet, which was true, even though I knew from that blessing that I would eventually.
Then seemingly randomly, the mission doctor called me and told me that he had just recommended to my mission president that I be sent home. Had I not received that answer during that blessing weeks before, I would have been caught so off guard, but Heavenly Father had prepared me. As much as I didn't want to leave, I felt that it was the right call. 2 days later, I was on a plane to Salt Lake City.
The plan was to be home for a couple of weeks. During that time, I would be able to focus 100% on getting better, without having to juggle missionary responsibilities. I went to the cardiologist that my uncle sees and we were able to learn pretty quickly that I have the same heart condition as my uncle. I found out it would be at least a couple of months before I would be able to return.
I got home January 1st and by April, I was ready to resubmit my papers to Salt Lake for approval to return to Philadelphia. I had been cleared by my cardiologist, and I just needed Salt Lake to be on board. But every time I moved forward, something didn't feel right. My anxiety increased but I pushed it to the side, much like I had when I knew I was supposed to serve a mission but didn't want to. The plan had been simple: Go home, get better, go back. That had been the plan for 4 months so I didn't really stop to question it.
Finally I realized that I needed to pray to see if that was still Heavenly Father's plan for me. When I prayed, I felt like I wasn't supposed to go back and I was so confused. I hadn't wanted to go at all in the beginning, but Heavenly Father had softened my heart and then all I wanted was to be a good missionary and finish my mission.
I was hurt. I wondered if Heavenly Father didn't think I was a good enough missionary. If He thought I was too broken. I had been hit with what felt like this huge "NO!" from Heavenly Father and I didn't know what was next. All I wanted to do was exactly what I thought Heavenly Father wanted me to do--be a dedicated missionary that He could count on.
But that big fat "NO!" turned out to be one of the biggest blessings. Because God's "no" is actually a "I have something better in mind." I'll be honest, I didn't really accomplish a whole lot in those next few months. I was trying to figure out what God's "something better in mind" was, but mostly I was directionless.
I started BYU again that fall and THANK GOODNESS! If I hadn't gone that semester, I wouldn't have made the lifelong friends that I did, I wouldn't have had my 2 favorite jobs (Resident Assistant and EFY Counselor), and I wouldn't have learned all the lessons that I did at BYU that year. Yes, there are undoubtedly things that I would have learned by being a missionary during those months, but I grew so much that year as I tried to figure out what God's "something better" was. I have been able to share the gospel in so many untraditional ways that a full-time missionary can't. Heavenly Father helped me figure out how to serve a mission in the way that He needed me to.
This was really long and if you made it to the end, you're a real champ! But the point is that if you ever felt like God has dealt you a big fat "no," I guarantee you it's because He was something better in mind.