Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Where Love Is, There God Is Also

This blog was my favorite outlet and I worked hard to make sure that I was always honest and sincere in every post. I didn't want anyone reading this to think that a mission was easy or that I was a perfect missionary. I wanted people to know how much I loved the Lord and how grateful I was to be serving Him. I wanted anyone who read any part of this to feel some small portion of the love I felt for my companions and the Bolivian people I served. I hope that anyone who has been a part of this journey in any way has felt something because of what I've shared. So that's the reason for this post, I don't want anyone to think that my life is easy or that I'm a perfect person. But I do want to share a little update on the past year of my life and I want you to know that God has a plan for each of us. I want to be real honest with whoever reads this and I hope you can be reminded that Heavenly Father is in the details of our lives.

A year ago today, my life changed forever. I came home, six months earlier than I had anticipated. It was...rough.

But it turned out that coming home was easy in comparison to adjusting to life at home. Anxiety hit me like never before and it was truly debilitating. Most of my nights were spent crying instead of sleeping and on the couch rather than my bed because I couldn't stand to feel closed in. I felt so lonely and I felt like there was no one who understood me. I would stay up all night worrying about anything and everything. My family was so patient and understanding even though I could tell they were concerned.

My entire mission felt like a dream and I spent hours rereading my journal and staring at pictures to remind myself that it was all real and it really happened. I wanted so badly to call my old companions and have them remind me that they knew me and remembered that I had been there with them. Those first few months were filled with tears and anguish. I was so confused and prayed often to know why God had sent me home early. I was still so sick and the various tests and evaluations weren't giving me the answers I desperately desired. I couldn't understand why I had to get sick when I had felt so right about serving a mission. Why wasn't God helping me fulfill my most righteous aspiration? Looking back now, I feel pretty naive.

November to January passed in slow motion. I finally got results back and was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in December. I know most people wouldn't say that finding out you have a chronic illness is a relief but for me, it was. I knew I was sick and I finally knew why. That was actually one of the first times I felt the weight of anxiety lessen.

In February, my stake president was sick, very sick, and we learned that our stake presidency would be reorganized six months earlier than planned. Our family assumed that my dad would be released as second counselor and we joked about his future calling in nursery. Ha ha ha... On February 13, my dad was sustained as the new stake president. It was a crazy weekend for my family and when I raised my hand to sustain my dad, I felt the Holy Ghost confirm to me that I was meant to be there in that room, that my family needed me right then more than anyone else. I remember that moment so clearly and thinking "maybe there is a purpose to all of this suffering."

A week later, I was still feeling anxiety, like I-feel-completely-and-utterly-alone anxiety. I had started attending the YSA ward in January but I still felt lonely, I hadn't made any friends and I felt like I didn't have anything in common with anyone. That Saturday night, I prayed harder than I had prayed in a long time. I told Heavenly Father that I wasn't looking for a husband or for a huge group of friends, all I wanted was to have one friend. I felt so pathetic but I begged for someone who would understand me and help me overcome the crushing loneliness. The next morning, I went to church and met Katie Lloyd. (Her name has not been changed because she deserves all the praise and gratitude I could ever give). We became insta-friends within the first five minutes of conversation. She had just returned home from a mission in Argentina (aka fellow gringa para hablar conmigo) and was going to be in town for a couple months on an internship. She was and is one of the most incredible friends on planet earth. Once she started coming to the ward, she made friends with other people and I can't deny I was a little jealous that she made it look so easy. Luckily, she helped me out and invited me to start hanging out with people that I had technically known for years but had never talked with. And that's when Adam's part in this story begins. Spoiler alert: he ends up being pretty important. :)

Adam became my best friend pretty quickly. He is so funny and we had so much in common, our families seemed to be identical and our love of swimming led to us getting trial memberships at the gym and believing Katie's crazy idea that we could train for a triathlon. (Side note: Adam and I have since ceased all training but superhero Katie completed a triathlon this summer, remember how I told you she was amazing??) Katie eventually moved back to Utah and I was left to my own devices to come up with a way to convince Adam to continue hanging out with me. First, I tried baked goods. I would bake 3 dozen cookies and tell him "oh man, you should stop by after school and take some cookies home." And since he came, I did it every night for a week. Then he finally asked me out and I didn't have to bribe him with cookies anymore. But unfortunately, he had plans to work in South Dakota from May-August and I had plans to go back to BYU-Idaho in September and I realized that things did not look optimistic, no matter how many cookies I baked.

But things worked out, as they tend to do when they're part of Heavenly Father's plan. Adam changed his flight and decided to come home in June. We skyped every single day that he was gone. We were pretty obsessed with each other. (I probably shouldn't have put that sentence in past tense because it's still true). While he was gone, I prayed to know if I should go back to Idaho and felt very strongly that staying home was right. I picked him up from the airport on the night he returned home and I could not stop smiling. It was literally painful to be as happy as I felt and my cheeks ached the next day.

Adam and I have been mostly inseparable since and so many spiritual confirmations have taught me that Heavenly Father was thinking of Adam when He sent me home one year ago today. Heavenly Father was thinking about my future. He was thinking about my sweet father who would be overwhelmed by his new calling. He was thinking about the YSA ward that would need a Relief Society President.  He was thinking about my best friend Breanna who would need a friend when wedding planning stress became too much. There are so many moments that come to mind and they all testify to me that Someone so much greater is in control.

What is all comes down to is this, if I had not come home when I did, I would not be the person that I am today. I would have surely enjoyed six more months in Bolivia. Heck, I would have killed for another year and I sometimes wonder what it would have been like.

But right now, I know that I never would have gotten to know and love Adam. I know that I very likely would have met someone else and probably would have been happy. But I thank my Heavenly Father every single day for taking away something I wanted so badly so that I could be with Adam. He is my favorite blessing of all. I could spend all day bragging about the man who gets to be my eternal companion in just eighty days but it still wouldn't be enough. So I'll just say a few things that stand out to me.

Adam is the most selfless, kind, and gentle soul. His love is so pure and so sweet. He takes care of me when I am ill, even to the point of driving the entire way home from Utah while I slept in the passenger seat. He reminds me to take my medicine daily and is so sensitive to my needs. He is so talented and I could watch him paint for hours. Adam is humble and I know he is blushing as he reads this because he thinks I am being completely biased and ridiculously kind to say all of this but it's true. He is so, so good to me and he makes me want to be a better version of myself. He prays for me and he prays with me. We have cried together, we have laughed together, and we have grown together. He is so much greater than I imagined and he makes me so, so happy. He is not perfect and I love him for his desire to improve and progress. He's my forever. He's my reminder that God works in the details of and through the people in our lives to help us become the best we can be.

I love my Father in Heaven. He loves each of us personally. He knows what we need to learn and how we need to learn it and He will always bless us. His son, Jesus Christ, knows and understands us perfectly. His atonement is real and I have felt its enabling power while I traveled through my Gethsemane in the past year. He can help us overcome any fear or weakness and He eagerly waits for us to accept His help. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's church upon the earth today. I am so happy that because of the restoration of the gospel, I will not hear the words "til death do you part" on my wedding day. Instead, I will be sealed to my best friend for time and for all eternity and our little family will be together forever. That is the most glorious message of all. Families are forever. I am so grateful for the people who were family to me while I was in Bolivia and that includes a lot of you who have managed to make it to the end of this post. Thank you for your prayers and support. I cannot thank you enough. With God, life is oh so good. ♥

 My family on the day my dad was sustained. 
(Fun Fact: Adam took this picture before we had ever really met.)
 Breanna's Wedding Day
The infamous Katie Lloyd
Happy, happy, happy. :)