I just thought I'd tell y'all about my decision to go on a mission, tell you what I've packed (clothes, etc), and later how things held up/what I liked/didn't like/what I would have liked to have on the mission, and also the letters I get to write once a week (which will be posted by my lovely sister Shelley!).
So, without further ado, let's get started!
Growing up, I didn't really think about a mission very much. When the mission age change happened back in 2012 ["Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19..." Welcome to Conference (mission age change)] (was that really four years ago?), I... sort of started thinking about it, but it wasn't until my sister, Shelley, decided and went on her mission to the Argentina Rosario (and later the Santa Fe) Mission that I really had to think about a mission. And during the deciding process, I always had the mindset that if I was supposed to go, I would. But then, if I didn't need to go, then I probably wouldn't. Throughout all this, I prepared by studying Preach My Gospel and continuing to pray and study my scriptures. (Keep in mind that this was back in 2014, when my sister was just beginning her mission).
I graduated from high school and started my first term at BYU. One plan that I had been toying with was that I could just go to Summer Term and put in my papers afterwards (because my birthday was in the fall). But that plan didn't really stick. So I started Fall semester and anticipated Shelley's homecoming at Christmastime. But my birthday happened in there too. And when your 19th birthday happens at BYU in a YSA ward with everyone (or almost everyone) contemplating missions, the question is asked. Multiple times. "So are you going on a mission?" "Are you putting in your papers?" "You're nineteen! Have you thought about going on a mission??" And I don't mean offense, it's a legitimate question that I'm even guilty of asking people when they turn age. It's almost a rite of passage. So that kind of deferred me from talking/thinking about it. My response was, "I'm going to wait until my sister comes home and then think about it."
So that happened and my sister shared all her great experiences and it kind of died out. I can't remember what happened next, if I started thinking about it or not, but then, about mid-march (2016) I woke up in the middle of the night with the distinct impression that I needed to learn and testify of Christ. And what other way than to serve a mission? So that really got me started thinking about it. This was a Monday, and for the rest of the day, it was constantly on my mind. Tuesday's devotional was by Jennifer Rockwood [Drawn to the Light]. She gave an example of someone who finished college and then went on a mission, and I had a little epiphany. I don't have to go on a mission when I'm nineteen. Just because the age change happened, doesn't mean that everyone needs to go right as soon as they can. It's up to personal revelation between you and God. And so that was the path that I was going to take for a while.
Then, my brother-in-law and I had a heart-to-heart and he said that I would be a really good missionary. It was General Conference weekend, and when Elder Hales spoke and said,
'As we listened to conference, ... immediately the Spirit of the Lord touched my very soul. ... There was no mistaking the message for me and for my sweetheart. We were to serve a mission, and the time was now.'And then my brother-in-law swung his head around and looked at me. It was very well timed, but again, I was... "skeptical." I guess I just didn't want to make it a big deal. I don't know. Whatever.
Anyways, the next day (Monday) I had decided. It was going to happen. I was going to go on a mission. And I was going to go right now. So, April 10, 2016 I met with my YSA bishop and the process started. And then I told my parents when I Skyped them later that Sunday. They were surprised because I didn't really talk about the process to... well, anyone for that matter. But I knew that they would support me in whatever decision I made. Monday I filled out the bulk of the information, and by Friday I had made appointments to get my physical and dental work done (luckily I got my wisdom teeth out in high school). And by the time we returned from Utah, my papers were done. I met with my bishop and stake president and my papers were officially submitted 8 May 2016.
But then we went on vacation to visit family and just barely returned yesterday (5 June 2016). We went to the post office and I opened my call.
Texas McAllen Mission. Mexico MTC. Report Date 12 July 2016. Spanish speaking.
And it was kind of nice to know where I was going before anyone else because part of me wanted to open it by myself, but the other part of me recognized that my family will want to see my expression and hear those special words too. So it was the best of both worlds!
Sorry that was kind of long, but thanks for sticking with me! I hope this tells you a little of my thought process and my unconventional mission call process as well.