Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Only the beginning of the journey

Three years ago, I received my mission call to the Ukraine Donetsk Mission.

Well, that's not entirely true. I didn't get my mission call on November 26th, 2011. I got it on November 23rd, 2011. But, I always remember that I got my mission call the day before Thanksgiving. I remember the mixture of emotions and memories associated with Thanksgiving more clearly than the actual date--being home for the break surrounded by family and a couple of close friends, a perfectly crisp and clear November day, my sister posting my call on Facebook before I got a chance to, never running out of things to talk about that Thanksgiving, and knowing that I would be very, very far away from home the next Thanksgiving--my mission is now inseparably connected with Thanksgiving.

This is probably my favorite picture from the day. :) 

[Also, just an aside--I always seem to have major life events happen on holidays--I was baptized on Halloween, got my mission call the day before Thanksgiving, went through the temple for the first time on Russian Christmas Day, was set apart as a missionary on Valentine's Day . . . there's a pattern going on here . . .]

Three years is a long time. There is so much that has changed over that time.

For one, my mission doesn't exist anymore. Which is heartbreaking to me and I pray every day that there will be peace in Ukraine.

Also, I changed have over three years. Oh, how I've changed. For the better. Not that I was a bad person before. But there was more that I could become.

Look at what I wrote the day before I got my mission call: "And . . . I feel like I'm on the threshold of a new era of my life. Here I am, mission-call-less, unsure of what the next 1 and 1/2-2 years will bring: where I'll go, who I'll meet, what I'll say, who I'll become. There's a better Megan waiting on the other side. A more refined person. A more loving person."

That, my friends, was prophecy. Because there was a better person who came out on the other side. And it was because my 21-year-old self decided to take that step of faith into the darkness and into the pain of the refiner's fire. And I'm grateful that she was brave enough to do that. For herself, for the Ukrainian people, and for God.

People. People are what it's all about. Our relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves. That is what we take with us. That is what shapes us.

Three years ago, I didn't know what I was getting into. It didn't feel real to me. I didn't know the joys and the sorrows I would experience--the experience that would make me wise.

It's been interesting to read my thoughts from that day. They are raw, but I don't mind sharing a few of them, because I think they are what most people feel when they step into the unknown--whether accepting a mission call, starting a new job, or beginning anything new:

"I am scared. Scared out of my mind. I'll be gone for practically 2 years. So much can happen in 2 years. Am I doing the right thing?

"But I definitely did feel an overwhelming sense of God's love when I read, 'The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children.

"I cried when I read that. [. . .]

"But Ukraine . . . it doesn't seem real; I can't see myself there. But, I need to place my trust in the Lord. And I will."

And I did decide to accept the call. Because there's a choice. There's always a choice. And once I made that decision, the Lord confirmed it. A lifetime's worth of preparation, worrying, fasting, praying, doubting, believing, and deciding were summed up in these simple words:

"And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him." (Mark 1:18)

And I knew. I knew that's what I had to do, too. Not only for my mission, but my entire life.

And I didn't look back.

Straightway. And straight ahead.

How grateful I am for that decision.

It changed me forever.

I can't imagine my life without a mission. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was the hardest thing I've ever done--but also the best thing I have ever done.

A change in me. That is the best way I have ever been able to describe it.

"There's been a change in me. A kind of moving on. Though what I used to be, I still depend upon."

[. . .]

"For in my dark despair, I slowly understood my perfect world out there had disappeared for good.
But in its place I feel a truer life begin and it's so good and real, it must come from within."

[. . .]

"And I never thought I'd leave behind my childhood dreams. But I don't mind--I'm where and who I want to be. No change of heart, a change in me."

[forgive the cheesiness of the video/if it feels out of place with pictures of Ukraine--but it really does describe the change I experienced on my mission.]

I am grateful for that mission call. I am grateful that I accepted that call. And I am grateful that God allows us to serve--imperfect and weak as we are. Losing ourselves, we find Him. And by finding Him, we find ourselves.

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