were the happiest of my life.
They were definitely the hardest. And easily the most exhausting. But somewhere in there comes the happiness that comes from doing hard things (and from doing them well!).
For most of my life, I did not plan on serving a mission. But in 2012 everything changed and I knew that I wanted to serve my Heavenly Father by spending 18 months as a full-time proclaimer of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
People serve missions for a lot of reasons. And I don’t know if I care so much about why people go as I do why they stay. But for me my intent in serving a mission was so simple: I knew my Heavenly Father wanted me to go, and I wanted to do whatever He wanted me to do.
Life as a missionary is quite different than normal life. You leave your home. No cell phone, no Facebook. You don’t work, or go to school, or date, or watch TV, or wear jeans (…except for certain purposes, i.e. service). You go nonstop from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm every day. Sometimes people talk about the sacrifices of serving a mission, but for me I never felt that they were sacrifices. For everything I gave, I received so much more. So much more.
One thing I gained was a strong sense of loyalty to the restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. That occurred to me on a day in August when it was 98 degrees and humid in only a way that Virginia can be. I was knocking on doors in a community of mobile homes and mostly getting yelled at. My companion (missionaries always go two-by-two, or sometimes, three-by-three) had been on her mission for about a month. It was really, really hot, and I had sweat dripping from everywhere. And as we walked from home to home in the blazing sun, I realized that I was so happy to be there, and so glad to be sharing the message that God still speaks, and that the way to find happiness is HERE and it’s TRUE.
Another thing I gained was a love for obedience. I’ve always been a rule-follower, but on my mission I really learned that nothing we’re asked to do is arbitrary. Obedience to the commandments of God is the most important thing in my life. I feel like I learned that through training wheels: the missionary schedule is detailed and very important. I learned that if I could be on time for studies at 8 am, even when only me or my companion would know if I were late, then I could be obedient in much larger things. The practice of submitting my will to God’s in small things prepared me to be obedient in larger matters. (And it helps me to have faith that I’ll be blessed for doing so.)
I just learned more about love in 18 months that I ever would have expected—love for God, love for others, love for myself. And I learned about it through these amazing people that I met, served, and served alongside.
I just couldn’t be more grateful for every day I got to wear that nametag.