If you would have told me 2 years ago at the ripe old age of 21 that I'd go on a mission, I would have told you (lovingly) that you're nuts.
Not because I hated the idea or didn't want to serve (I've actually had the nagging feeling I should go pop in my mind here and there since high school), but because when I was 21 my life was not on course to serve a mission. I wasn't fully prepared mentally or spiritually and my priorities were school and like every other girl my age, dating. So how on earth does a 23 year old college graduate end up with a mission call? By God directing my life even when I couldn't see it, that's how. And it all started 2 years ago today.
I'd been a "here and there" member of my young single adult ward for the last year or so. I'd go sometimes, but definitely not faithfully. I was the girl who would get regular visits from loving home teachers because they worried about me (which I am still grateful for to this day). I'd go to the occasional movie on Sunday or out to eat and look for excuses not to go to church, and I was the least happy I've ever been in my life.
That May, shortly after my 21st birthday, Carly and I moved in with Lizzy. She quickly lit up our lives by genuinely loving us. She wasn't pushy or judgmental, but she pulled us in and made us want what she had: true happiness.
Its because of Lizzy that we started attending our church meetings regularly again. I remember sitting in Relief Society one day listening to a girl share her story of her dad dying from cancer. I looked back on my life and the trials I'd made it through up to that point and thought, "Dang, I wish I could have another trial like that. I want to have a burning testimony like that girl does, a testimony that only comes by going through something really tough."
Be careful what you wish for.
Sunday, August 21, 2011. My mom and step dad were gone to Colorado on a motorcycle trip for the weekend so Carly and I went to their house to do laundry and hang out. I missed a phone call from my aunt and intended to call her back when I had a minute, but she kept calling. I figured it was an emergency and picked up the phone to call her back when I got a text from my brother: "Whit, you need to call aunt Laurie. Moms been in an accident."
My heart pounded with every ring. When I finally heard her voice I knew immediately it was worse than I thought. Her words were so fragile and delicate, like it took every ounce of strength she had not to break down.
"Oh Whitty Woo your mom is hurt. She's hurt bad."
"Please tell me she was wearing a helmet."
"Is she awake?"
That single word soon became an all-too haunting familiarity over the coming weeks. She wasn't awake. After several ambulance and life flight rides, my mom ended up at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado which has one of the best trauma centers and amazing staff in the country. I flew out the next day and quickly saw first hand the extent of her injuries. She broke almost every bone from her neck to her waste, had 2 collapsed lungs, and severe contact and sheering brain injuries after they hit a slippery patch of diesel fuel on the road and were thrown off, the bike landing on top of my mom. Miraculously my step dad Jeff wasn't physically injured.
Our lives over the coming weeks became a pattern of complications and set backs followed by small victories; waiting anxiously through treatments and surgeries wondering if or when she would ever wake up. But we never lost hope, we knew she was a fighter. I tried to only let myself cry as long as it took me to go to the bathroom and that bathroom stall became my sanctuary. More prayers were offered there than I've ever said in my life. I struggled with the decision to go back to school, but received a priesthood blessing from a family friend for guidance. He told me that I needed to try in faith, and that WHEN my mom woke up she'd be so sad if I put off my last year of college, and she would want to be at my graduation that May. I had to keep the hope that she'd be there, and decided to try. I remember holding her hand the night I left and asking her if going back to school was right, even though she couldn't respond. A powerful peace came over me, and I was strengthened as I did one of the hardest things that night and left her side. With the help of wonderful professors, family, and friends, I traveled back and forth between Logan and Colorado on the weekends and got to be with her as much as I could.
The support and love shown for her and our family was overwhelming. So many friends came to visit, strangers of every nationality and faith in the ICU became our friends and prayed for her together. My boss and "second mama" Jan took care of all the logistics, found us a place to stay, and paid for so much out of her own pocket. A Facebook page was created for people in the community to show their love. Weeks later the doctors were finally able to ween her off the breathing machines, and she eventually woke up. When her blood levels were finally stable enough for her to be transferred to a rehab facility, we were told insurance wouldn't cover the cost to move her from the state of Colorado. The Logan community rallied for her and put together a golf tournament and auction to raise money for her flight to the new IHC center in Murray. It's often easy to give to others, but can be difficult and humbling to receive. We felt so much love and will never be able to express our gratitude for those who helped us bring her home.
We quickly learned why the Lord knew she needed to be in Salt Lake. Our prophet President Monson's wife had fallen and was staying across the hall from my mom's room the entire time we were there. We had the privilege of seeing and greeting him almost daily, and being first hand witnesses to the love he has for his sweet wife and for everyone he meets. In the middle of such a painful time for him and his family, he never stopped smiling or joking with the nurses and offering his love and encouragement to families. One of the first memories my mom has is walking down the hall and coming face to face with the Prophet of God. What an overwhelming blessing.
She was eventually able to come home, and although its been a long process, her progress has been truly miraculous. She still battles with pains and set backs daily, but we are so blessed. She shouldn't be alive or even be able to function. But she's getting her life back. She's here.
Throughout her journey there were many sleepless, exhausting nights where I found myself asking the Lord if He was really there, and if He had forgotten us. It was during these dark moments that I felt so tangibly of His love. I learned of the enabling power of His atonement and His ability to literally carry us through life when it becomes too much to bear. I learned that He fills our lives with tender mercies and that every experience teaches us and comes from a place of love and desire for whats best for us. We will all have the privilege of experiencing this in our lives, of relying on our Savior and being converted to His gospel because we NEED it. Because it's all we have left.
My mom was able to make it to my graduation that May just as we were promised. Jan offered me a full time position with her company after graduation. Carly, Lizzy, and I moved to another apartment and I became actively involved in my ward and led by men who I know were put in my life for a reason. Everything changed.
Even though I was doing the things I should and grateful every day for my mom's second chance at life, I still felt something missing this year. I had a constant feeling that I wasn't doing enough and that I wasn't living my life according to the potential the Lord had blessed me with. I applied and interviewed for several jobs and considered moving, I dated up a storm. But not one thing worked out. I didn't understand why I was finally living my life how I know I should but the things I wanted just weren't happening.
A mission kept popping in to my mind, but I quickly brushed it aside. I was too old. I had an awesome job. The next step in my life was supposed to be marriage. I was trying to force all the things I wanted. Finally, it reached a point where I knew I needed to take action. I hadn't received a for sure yes or no answer, so I decided to start my mission papers and see how I felt.
I was blown away by how smoothly everything worked out. My mission papers were done in a week. I began studying and preparing and quickly felt a rush of joy beyond anything I've experienced. I started to forget about myself.
My decision to serve a mission didn't come with one big booming answer, but from an accumulation of a million tiny feelings and confirmations along the way. I realized that my Savior has and continues to save my life. He directs my path toward happiness when I'm not strong enough to redirect myself. He loves me unconditionally and never breaks His promises to me. He is my constant. The least I can do to show my love for Him is serve His children and share with them the same happiness His gospel has given me. I can give Him my will and my whole heart.
I opened my mission call alone on Sunday, overlooking the Logan Temple. I must admit when I read New Mexico I almost laughed out loud. A couple of months ago when I finally gave in to seriously thinking about a mission, I searched "sister missionaries" on Pinterest and found the blog of Hermana Silva serving in the New Mexico, Albuquerque mission. I remember thinking how I would hate to be called there haha but I read her blog often and decided to take what she said and apply it to where I was called. The Lord must have known I needed to be humbled.
Those feelings of disappointment quickly went away, first when I read that I report to the MTC on October 2nd, the very same day as Carly. Thats definitely no coincidence. But the real clincher was when I saw the faces of my mission president and his wife. President and Sister Miller are from Logan. My family and friends know them. President Miller was the stake president in my dad's ward and greatly influenced my brother Braydon to go on a mission this year at age 20. He used to joke with Braydon about "pulling some strings" and getting him to the New Mexico, Albuquerque mission. Little did we all know later this year he'd be getting Braydon's big sister instead.
Every experience in my life has led me to this. The Lord has guided me and brought me to a place I never knew I could be. There are friends in New Mexico that I knew before this life, and I promised I would find them. I know I was meant to leave when I am, and to serve with President and Sister Miller. For the first time in my life, I know with complete certainty that I'm exactly where I should be.
This is a gospel of becoming. Our Savior has the power to change us and make more out of our lives than we can even see. There is power in submitting. All He asks for is our will and our hearts. He will take what we bring to the table, multiply it, and give us back even more. I know that to be true. New Mexico, here I come!