Saturday, June 17, 2017

Week 25: Buckle in, kids. This is a very dramatic email.

Hello, everyone.
This letter is not going to be a chronological one, like the majority of my previous ones. Frankly, this week was very painfully slow as far as missionary work. We went on exchanges with the STLs; R is doing well; R dropped us; and we knocked many doors and went many miles. It was tough, and kind of discouraging. I have no desire to give all the gory details. Instead, in a kind of commemoration of the past six months, I want to share with you my whole, mostly unedited, story and how the past six months have changed me entirely.
Let's rewind a long bit. We're talking my junior year of high school. It was a very hard year for me. I had faith, but my morale was at an all-time low. I was involved and I was taking my difficult classes - my workload was heavy and my stress skyrocketed. I was in a show where they cast me as a dance role - I felt inexperienced and inadequate. All of this started a boiling in my brain. I wasn't angry; I don't think it's in my disposition to be angry often. But I was frustrated. I couldn't get everything done the way I knew it should be done. I didn't feel like I was doing enough, but I was also doing everything I possibly could, which in my head meant that I was just lacking. It was my own fault, and if I could just be better, I could get more done.
That was just the beginning. Around February, a kid that I was acquainted with, but didn't know super well, took his own life. Initially, I was shocked. Many of my friends, who had known him much better than I had, were devastated. I'm kind of the mom friend, so I put pretty much everything on the backburner to try and help out. Instead of sleeping, I listened to them or worried about them. I forgot to eat lunch sometimes because of worry. I wanted so much for everyone to be as okay as they could be, and for them to know that they were important and loved. In the process I completely did not take care of myself at all. It took about a month for me to reach a point that was pretty scary. I was so tired and so overwhelmed -- add to that that I experienced my first of a couple panic attacks and I had no idea what was happening to me, and that there was a lot of drama happening in my personal life at school, and I ended up being pretty hopeless. I drew the conclusion that if things didn't get better soon, it would be better for everyone if I just slipped away too.
Let it first be said that I don't blame this young man at all for what happened to me. He was a sweetheart, and I loved him. I didn't know him very well, but he sat by me in seminary. I was privileged, after he passed away, to be able to read a questionnaire he'd filled out at the beginning of the seminary year. I read the dreams he'd had for his life and I was filled with love for him. I know the Lord has a plan for him, as well as for me. I am blessed to know such a selfless, kind, and service-oriented person.
One night I was in the house alone and I was in a low place. I went upstairs and don't really know what I was planning to do, but my thoughts were dark. I figuratively stood on the edge of a roof -- if any of you have seen the "Like A Broken Vessel" Mormon Message, that is exactly how I was feeling. I was trapped inside my own mind and my own problems. Then, funnily enough, I looked out the window and saw my little brother playing night games with his friends outside. I kind of came to myself, like the prodigal son. I recognized that if I kept feeling like this, I wouldn't be able to keep going. Something had to change - for my little brother, for my parents, for my other siblings, for my future family. And for my mission. I immediately called my mom and told her I needed counseling.
I met with a therapist for 6 months. I cried and felt stupid and said a lot of crazy things in his office. I also began opening up to more people. During the darkest times, I shut off. I didn't tell anyone what was happening, and then got frustrated when no one could just tell how not okay I was without me having to say anything. So instead of assuming that people could just read my mind, I opened it up to them, a little. It was one of the scariest things I've ever done. To the eternal credit of my truly remarkable parents, my siblings, my extended family, and all of the wonderful friends who made and make up my support system, they stuck with me -- through the ridiculous and the sometimes downright insane. They reminded me not to take myself too seriously, and they helped me get outside myself. I found that by turning outward, instead of pounding the paths of my mind, I began to heal. 
Of course, pivotal in my recovery was Jesus Christ. Simply put, He did everything. The only thing I did was choose to let Him in.
Now, I don't want any of you to worry about me. My mission president is 100% aware of all this. I am doing well. I am happier than I have ever been. I'm just human, so I do have tough days. But I can honestly tell you that I am good, now. I am stable and sane. I can reason and I can be reasoned with. I may not be entirely "normal" (LOL who is normal? what is normal?) but I am so, so happy. Like, depths of joy. It's awesome. I knew even at my lowest point that I wanted to serve, and these experiences are all that I worked for and dreamed about. I know I am where I am meant to be.
So, it's been 6 months since I left all y'all. What have I learned, you ask?
Well, firstly, I learned why my mom especially is so excited when her kids go on missions. I have had many companions whose parents miss them terribly. I have heard of mothers who pine for their children on missions and I was a little miffed that my mom wasn't one of them. Now, if you are this kind of mom, please don't be offended by what I say next. My mom is so excited to send her kids on missions because missions, when done "correctly", will make you learn and actually put into practice what mothers try so hard to teach their children. My mom tried to teach me how to study the scriptures, to rely on the Lord and give Him everything, and to bear testimony at every possible opportunity because you have no idea how you might touch someone else. My mom tried to teach me how to serve others and focus on them first. And might I add, she did an excellent job! But I am a dumb kid who still had my agency and I didn't think I needed to take her seriously. But as a missionary, it's either do all the things mom's taught you for all these years or have no success and do nothing. I don't think I really could have "got" what my mom was trying all those years to get me to see without being on a mission, and my mom knew that that would happen. So, huuuuuuuuuge shoutout to my mom because she is actually the best. I pray that all my siblings who read this will take her advice way more seriously and actually "get" the stuff she tells them before they don't have her with them anymore. Thanks, Mom!
Also, for anyone who suffers (so everyone), but particularly those who are struggling right now, currently, I can confidently say that no matter who you are or what you suffer or struggle with or where you've been or the mistakes you've made or the color of your skin or hair or eyes or the gender you're attracted to or the people you've hurt or the opportunities you think you've missed or ANY factor you think might in some way detract from the love Jesus Christ has for you, it doesn't matter. He loves you anyway. On my mission I have come to learn that the defining characteristic of God is His perfect love. That love transcends all things and is the very reason for our existence as a whole. Jesus Christ is always there. Even when we hurt Him. And the price for loving deeply is pain - that is a part of how we come to be like God, who, as Enoch noted, wept for the pains and the sins of His mortal, imperfect, but endlessly precious children. Remember and seek out the things that God put on the earth to make you happy. There are specific things He designed with you in mind. He is so aware of you and exactly what you need.
Also, serve. Focus on others. I promise that right now you might be feeling a lot of pain and it seems actually impossible to get out there and help another person. Of course we need to take care of ourselves, but quite often the solution to helping ourselves is to help others. Don't disregard your emotional or physical health - I'm not telling you to be a martyr - I'm just telling you it helps to not be thinking about yourself all the time.
I still struggle. I've learned that I am severely imperfect. I really cannot do anything without the Lord's help. I have great days. And I have really hard days. I experience the full spectrum of emotion nearly daily. I constantly feel how inadequate I am and how huge the task is that I have undertaken. It's daunting. But I am super not alone -- I am blessed with a great companion, great leaders, and a great ward, lots of friends serving with me or in faraway lands, llots of friends who will serve, plus Jesus Christ, who is my best friend. Plus, it isn't my work, it is God's, and "no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing", including my unhallowed hand. Lucky for me, the Lord chose me for this -- He definitely didn't call the qualified, but I have relentless faith in His ability to qualify the called. Living the simple steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is important -- having faith, repenting, renewing those covenants, and keeping it all up until the very end, no matter what.
If I were to sum all this up, humility is key. If you're not a member of the LDS church and you're reading this, bless you for making it this far. There was a lot of emotions going on in my head this week. I want to address you specifically. Please, open your heart. Open your door when the missionaries come knocking. Listen to them. They have the most beautiful thing in the whole world to tell you. It's so important. They are so young, and they are giving up this time just to bring this message to you, specifically. I testify from the bottom of my heart that they were sent from God to you, specifically. This information literally saved my life. It has strengthened my family. It has kept us together. It gives me hope. It gives millions of others hope as well. You may feel content with what you have. You may like your current religion. You may have a great relationship with God. All of that is wonderful! That's wonderful news and wonderful things to be feeling. This message the missionaries bring to you isn't just for those who struggle or who feel distant from Heavenly Father. The message they bring is for everyone. SO JUST LISTEN TO THEM, with your heart and your eyes and your ears. I promise it'll be at least informational, if not divine and redemptive. 
Bless you, all who have helped me at all ever, either in the recovery process, in coming on a mission, in any of it.

OKAY SO THAT WAS A LOT OF REALLY SERIOUS STUFF AND I NEEDED TO TALK ABOUT IT, so here's some jokes to bring things back to normal.

What do you call a gator in a vest?
An in-vest-igator
Why don't you ever see elephants hiding in trees?
Because they're really good at it
What's gray and can't fly?
A parking lot
What's big red and eats rocks?
A big red rock eater
What's green and has wheels?
Grass. I was lying about the wheels

Those are the best ones I have.

Also, we did bike this week, and my bum hurts a lot. The elders were very impressed (about the bikes, not the hurt bum) so they wanted a picture. So that's the picture.

I love y'all! Seriously, I am doing great. Do not worry!
Don't let the muggles get you down!
-Sister Pew

ooooh! Also, a couple funny things:
-I got a warning from a police man for loitering (in our car, on the side of the road, while planning a lesson, and it wasn't even on a private road or anything)
-It was Elder K's last district meeting so we took pictures. They are dorky. Also, I made maple bacon cupcakes.
-It rained a lot, so the elders (on exchanges again) made me take pictures of how wet they were from walking around all day. Funny thing is you can't even tell how wet they are.

At Lake Moultrie, humid 

The elders wanted her to take their picture because they were so wet. But they don't in the pictures so she was cracking up!

They have been riding bikes more.

After riding bikes, they are glowing!

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