Monday, October 19, 2015

Faith in God's Plan- Alison's Farewell Address

1 Corinthians 13:12 says- “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I am known.”
Even through all the trials, I have become somewhat of a hopeless optimist in my last 3 years of mission preparation. I didn’t know I was preparing for a mission for most of that time, but Heavenly Father was preparing me anyway, because He knows what’s ahead, and all things work out for eventual good in His timing, as long as we let them. That’s the subject I would like to talk about today, because looking back it has been the main theme of my mission prep and in my life- Faith in God’s Timing, and His plan for each of us. As of a couple years ago, I wasn’t even going to serve a mission. But then a series of events happened, and I would love to tell the whole story but we don’t have enough time here, so I’ll give the short and sweet version. I went to high school in Utah and in 6 months time after graduation 70% of my classmates were gone on missions. I’ve never been a trend follower, and hate doing what everyone else is doing, and there was also a lot of social pressure to go. So naturally with my slightly rebellious and extremely stubborn nature, I was really sure I wasn’t going to go. I went to college for a year and a half, and grew spiritually by leaps and bounds. Then I made plans to transfer my life to Nashville Tennessee, to get more serious about my songwriting career. I had a job and apartment all lined up, but when it came down to it, the timing just felt wrong. Driving back to the hotel from meeting my new roommates, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I knew this was not the right timing, and I started to panic a little, thinking “God, If I’m not supposed to do this, what am I supposed to do?” All the other education and job options I had, replayed in my mind, and none of them seemed right. There must be something else. And then it was like a voice spoke right in my ear. “Go on a mission” and the most overwhelming feeling of peace washed over me. From that moment on, I was 100% in, and never had another doubt in my mind that the Lord needs me in the mission field right now. Through that whole experience I learned a very important lesson that Heavenly Father is very much in control, not me, and he only wants what is best for me. I still want to move to Nashville after I get home, but I’m going to keep my mind and heart open to whatever God places in my life. The phrase, “I’ll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord, I’ll be what you want me to be” from our hymn, has definitely become a motto for me in the last year.
Often time things happen in our lives at a different time than we planned or expected, because God’s knows more than we do, and he can see the whole big picture. All we have to do is trust him. In Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5-6 it says “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”
The day I decided to serve a mission was January 3rd 2015, and it took me all the way until August 1st to finally receive my mission assignment. What took so long? Well, I had to decide to move to Texas with my family, then pack my house, move, unpack, meet my new bishop and stake president, and spend enough time getting to know each other so that they could actually give me a recommendation. You can’t really vouch for someone’s character or ability to serve a mission if you don’t even know them! Then, there was filling out all the paperwork, going to doctor appointments, getting dentist records sent over from Utah, and figuring out insurance! I hit so many stumbling blocks along the way.    There were a couple of times when I would think I was so close to submitting my application, but something would come up and tack a couple more weeks on. Why did this have to take so long for me? Most of my friends that have gone on missions have done their paperwork in 2-4 weeks! I was so confused and frustrated. Even after I sent my papers in, it still took me 3 weeks to get my letter! After I had opened my call, and all my friends had left, I was sitting at my kitchen table reading and re-reading my packet kind of just in denial. It had taken me 8 long months to get to that day and I couldn’t believe I finally knew where I was going. I was so grateful, but at the same time still so confused. I started to pray, “Heavenly Father, why did this have to take so LONG? I’m just trying to be a good person and help you out!” A few minutes later my mom came in and told me something really cool that she had just noticed. My mission is brand new! It wasn’t even formed until this summer. The reason it took so long for me to get my paperwork submitted is because my mission wasn’t ready yet! I was overwhelmed. I really felt so much love for my mission and the people of Washington already. The more research I did about Yakima, the more I realized what a completely perfect fit it is for me. First of all, I get to speak Spanish, which is truly a dream come true. My childhood best friend was Mexican, and being a part of her life, and a culturally diverse community instilled in me a deep love for Latino culture and the Spanish language. Right now, I speak enough to get by if I need to, but I want to be fluent so badly! My Mission is also one of the largest produce meccas in the States, especially for Apples. That’s a huge blessing for me, because I have a health problem that requires a special diet, and I basically live on produce. Heavenly Father is so aware of each of us, and our needs.
The trials I experienced while trying to submit my missionary application reminded me of a passage from Matthew chapter 14, right after Jesus had blessed and fed the five thousand people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship and go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. He then went up into a mountain to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit! And they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them saying, be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou; bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, Save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.” There are so many times when we have trials and struggles, and times when we begin to doubt Heavenly Father’s plan for each of us. We see the boisterous trials we are going through and begin to loose our eternal perspective. We start to sink in all the stress, but all we have to do is sincerely ask for help or knowledge. It might not always be immediate like it was for Peter, but I know he will show us in time the important reasons why we have to go through the trials.
When I was 13 we had to suddenly move away from our home here in Rockwall, to Utah Valley, Utah. I stayed there for almost 6 years, and to be honest, living there was a huge trial for me. Utah culture is very weird to me, and kind of hard to explain. It is just so completely different from Texas. There’s hardly any separation from church and school because the community is 90% Mormon. The whole social structure there is based around extended family, and the only extended family I have is in Texas, Michigan, and California. Most families I knew had been in Utah for many generations, starting with the Mormon Pioneers, and there was a severe lack of ethnic and cultural diversity, compared to what I was used to in Texas. When we first moved there, there were kids at school who would laugh at me when I said “yall” or “fixin to”, and others who would call me a hillbilly when they thought I wasn’t listening. I never could quite fit in, and it made me miserable. I was beginning to have a hard time separating doctrine from culture, and losing my faith in the Church. For years I had been upset wondering why we were still stuck in Utah. We had made several attempts to move away, but all of them had fallen through. It wasn’t all bad though; there were some really good times and a lot of blessings that came from living in Utah. I met my 2 best friends, I was 30 minutes away from Temple Square, and I rarely had to listen to swearing at school. And the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. My family loves outdoor stuff, and we lived 2 minutes away from the mouth of the American Fork Canyon-which is the perfect place for camping, hiking, rock climbing, and zip-lining! I even had the chance to perform in a featured choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City, because of the high school I went to. It wasn’t until I had lived there for nearly 5 years, that I truly humbled myself and realized these blessings. I had always thought that probably when I graduated high school I could finally get out of there and go to college in Tennessee or somewhere. But after having a spiritual confirmation that I needed to go to Utah State University, I understood that obviously I wasn’t going anywhere, and if I was going to stay in Utah I might as well like it. I realized that I was the weird one, and no matter how mad or annoyed I was at the culture around me, it wasn’t changing anything. The only person it affected was myself. I felt guilty for all the years I had wasted being angry, and prayed to Heavenly Father that he would help me learn to love Utah, and then I went to work. I started channeling the peacemaker side of my personality, and started to see the positives all around me. It actually turned out kind of funny, because as soon as I accepted Utah and my life there, that was when I finally had an opportunity to move back to Texas, and succeeded. Living in Utah was one of the hardest trials of my life, but I am thankful for it, because I was humbled, and became a much more positive person. And I fully believe that timing was everything. Maybe I wasn’t ready when I was 15, 16, or 17 to be humbled like that. The greatest changes happen right after a low point. It’s like we’re starting over at the bottom, so Heavenly Father can build us back up, a much better and happier person.
In Conference a couple of weeks ago, sister Neill F. Marriot quoted a beautiful Protestant hymn called “Have thine own way”, which also just so happens to one of my favorite gospel songs. I would like to share some of the lyrics as my talk begins to close. “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me an make me after thy will. While I am waiting, yielded and still. Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Search me and try me, Master, today. Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now. As in Thy presence, humbly I bow.”
            I don’t know what is coming up for me. There have been some huge trials to face in the last couple of months, and I have learned so much already. Missions are hard, really, really hard, and I know I’m going to miss home so much, but I know that even if I only help one person, it will be worth it. I know that this Church is true. I bear my witness that the leaders of this Church are called of God, and that if we do our best to take their advice, and live the standards laid out for us in the Scriptures, our lives will be filled with good attitudes, peace, and lasting happiness. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the full Gospel through modern prophets. I am so grateful for my family and the knowledge that I can be with them for eternity. I have a testimony of the power of prayer, and that even if we didn’t get the answer we wanted, it doesn’t mean He didn’t answer. And most of all, I know that Heavenly Father loves every one of us. In the hardest trials, or happiest moments, and even just regular old days, He never abandons us. I am so grateful for my chance to serve the people in Yakima Washington, and my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I say these things in His name, Amen.

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