Friday, February 21, 2014

It's Okay to Freak Out...

My fellow sisters,

Honestly? This is something really hard for me to blog about.  I've always been a "high achieving" type of girl.  I'm used to taking on challenges, doing things that are hard, tackling scary tasks, etc.

But, lately, I have been struggling.  And, since I was unable to figure-out what has been wrong with me, I made something up...

I am suffering from: Acute Pre-Mission Anxiety Syndrome, or APMAS.

Definition: Acute Pre-Mission Anxiety Syndrome: / noun / An irrational disorder characterized by intense feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease about the imminent uncertainty of full-time missionary service. May be characterized by sleeplessness, illogical crying spells, shortness of breath, feelings of inadequacy, and countless absurd "what-if" scenarios that the patient imagines and then obsesses over.  May be misdiagnosed as a psychotic break.

Don't get me wrong, I am honestly excited to serve my mission.  That is part of what makes my case of APMAS so illogical.

Have you ever seen Tangled? You know the part where Rapunzel finally leaves the tower?  One minute, she is skipping and running all over the place so excited, and the next she is freaking out and crying "what have I done?!"

Yup... That basically sums up how I feel.

For the past few days, I have been feeling hard-core anxiety about leaving on my mission.  It has been difficult for me to nail-down the exact cause of my anxiety.  Sure, mission work will be hard, I will miss my family, it will be difficult to adjust to an entirely new culture, learning Spanish will be a challenge, but even more than that...

I worry that I am going to fail.  

I worry that I won't be able to do it. 

I feel so inadequate. 

And it all came boiling over the other night.  

My sister asked me a basic question about my mission.  I melted down.  We're talking full on sobbing to the point where I can't breathe and snot is running down my face and I can't calm down. (Hot, I know) 

 And I couldn't understand why I was so afraid. 

This is very uncharacteristic of me.  And I know that I am supposed to serve a mission.

So why do I feel this way?

After my family (unsuccessfully) tried to comfort me, I hid myself in my room.  After calming down enough to read a few scriptures I knelt to pray. It went about like this:

"Heavenly Father, what is wrong with me? Why do I feel so afraid? I honestly don't understand.  Have I developed a serious case of Bipolar? Have I suffered a psychotic break??? Please help me understand."

After ending my prayer, I had a distinct prompting that I needed to check my email. And, since this was such a strange request, I did.  What I found was an email from a dear friend of mine, who is serving in Ecuador.

He had no idea that I am feeling so scared.

He didn't know I was suffering a massive psychotic meltdown.

I prefer for people not to know that I am unstable.

However, despite not knowing about how I was feeling, his email was a direct answer to my prayer.
He said:

"Dearest Sierra, 

I've been thinking a lot about this week about Satan. But not in a sketchy apostate missionary kind of way. I've been thinking about the opposition that he is so very good at putting in the way of our progress. It's more apparent and obvious here in the mission than anywhere else. Something absolutely always happens before a baptism, before an important lesson, or something that stops an investigator from making it to church. 

I felt like I should share my pre-mission experience with you, which is something I have never really done before with anyone, not even entirely with my parents. I gained my testimony of Satan (sounds weird but bare with me) in the months before I put in my mission papers, because I faced more real and powerful opposition than I ever had before. I gained a testimony that the most powerful tools he has are doubt and fear. Hes so good at making us afraid and making us feel inadequate. He knows that the more doubtful we are, the easier it is to drag us down and to subject us. I talked a lot about this with my parents and my bishop, and I realized that most of the fear that I felt was not from me. It was enlightening to come to that realization, that literally the feelings I was experiencing were not my own, that they were put there by a specific person, for a specific reason. 

Knowing this helped me more than anything else, though I never stopped doubting. The doubts and fears kept up until the moment I stepped on to the plane, at which point I more or less went to shock. But the point is, Satan is very real, but we don't have to give in to what he wants. He is able to influence how we think and feel, but we don't have to let that influence how we act. I know that the Lord is there to strengthen us, because I have felt the strength that comes from him and have seen how He has made impossible things possible for me. 

So don't worry hun. You're going to be a wonderful missionary and you're going to kick Satan in the pants with the amazing work you'll do. Hang in there, ok?" 

This boy is clearly so in-tune with the Spirit.  It was like he knew exactly how I was feeling! Which made me realize, lots of missionaries feel this way.  

I seemed to be under the impression that only "bad" missionaries are scared to go on missions. This simply is not true.

Missionary work is hard.  Really hard.  But that doesn't mean that we can't do it.  

The Adversary is going to do everything in his power to stop us.  But, in the wise words of Miley Cyrus, "We can't stop, and we won't stop.

It's just like my friend said, "[Satan] can influence how we think, and how we feel, but we don't have to let that influence how we act." 

The Lord has counseled us "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." (D&C 6: 36)  This is totally easier said than done, I get that. But we also know that "The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which He commanded them." (1 Nephi 3:7) That means that if The Lord doesn't want us to be afraid, He will provide the means by which we can be comforted. And if He wants us to serve missions, He will provide a way that we can do it!  

For me, it helps to remember that I know that I am supposed to be doing this. Elder Holland once said: "If it was right when you prayed about it, and trusted it, and lived for it, it is right now." I know that this is right for me. 

I know that these feelings of worry and doubt may not entirely go away.  But I also know that through my Savior, Jesus Christ, I can do all things.  Even serve a mission. 

I may still be afraid.  But that's okay.  I will get over it.  I know that The Lord will help me to be a great missionary.  Through Him I can accomplish all I have been sent here to do. Through Him I can beat APMAS.

And you can do it too.

So, let's all kick Satan in the pants!


- Hermana Wise

[Editor's note:  For an update on how Sierra feels about her freaking out period, click here, where she addresses it one year into her mission.]

Sunday, February 9, 2014

To Serve? Or Not to Serve?

Ah, the age change... About a year and a half ago, President Monson's announcement about the change in mission age radically changed the futures of thousands of LDS youth.  This announcement particularly impacted prospective sister missionaries as the potential for missionary service became a tangible reality.
This opportunity for sister missionary service brought with it a plethora of questions, namely: 

"Should I serve a mission?"

For men, this decision is largely made for them.  Missionary service is a priesthood duty.  They already know that Heavenly Father wants them in the mission field.  Easy- peasy.  

However for women, it really isn't that simple.  For us, missionary service is an opportunity, but not an obligation.  Which brings us back to the golden question, "to serve? Or not to serve?"

There are infinitely many "sub-questions" which fall under this "big question."  Some of which I have heard personally, others I have heard through connecting with other prospective sisters via social media.  These questions include: 

"Prior to the age change, I never really considered a mission as a real option.  How do I know if it's right for me?"

"I want to serve a mission, but I feel so inadequate.  Can I really be a successful missionary?"
"I don't know if I should serve a mission, or continue pressing forward with my education.  Both are good things, how can I decide what's best?" 


So ladies, let's have a heart- to- heart about this topic: 

First off, if you feel insecure or uneasy about your personal capability, knowledge, ability-to-be-awesome, divine nature, faith, or capacity-for-good... STOP IT. Jeffrey R. Holland put it bluntly when he said, 

"If you lack confidence or always sound apologetic or feel you have an inferiority complex, get over it.  We all start humbly, ...we all think the fellow seated on our right and the woman on our left are more talented, are more gifted,... and are going to do better in life than we ever will.  Well they aren't, and they don't, and they won't! They are just like you.  We all have fears and insecurities.  But it would be fatal to stay in hat swamp of insecurity, to mire down and stop, to fail to look up and fail to look ahead and fail to be believing."

This may come as personal revelation to you, I know it did to me.  But the reality is that we will NEVER find eternal happiness or peace by comparing ourselves to others.  The Lord doesn't expect us to be perfect.  Instead, He invites us to become perfected through Him.  He also doesn't expect us to always feel good about ourselves.  Instead, He asks us to see our own divine potential.  We are promised that weak things will become strong unto us.  So, don't allow fear of inadequacy rob you of the potential blessings of sharing the Gospel.  

The Lord knows us perfectly... Every shortcoming and insecurity included.  And guess what? HE LOVES US ANYWAY.  So, place your trust in The Lord, give everything you have, and He will make up for the rest.  

That being said, missionary work is not right for everyone.  Not every sister who COULD be an awesome missionary SHOULD be a full-time missionary at all.  

A dear friend of mine had the desire to serve a mission.  However, when she prayed about it, she felt she was not supposed to go.  Although she was disappointed, she placed her trust in God.  The next day, she was called to be the Relief Society president of her YSA ward.  She had an overwhelming confirmation that her unique mission was serving and blessing the lives of the sisters in her ward. 

Not every sister will have the desire to serve a full time mission.
Not every sister will have the resources to serve a full time mission.
Not every sister will have the ability to serve a full time mission.
Not every sister will receive a "yes" when she prays about serving a full time mission. 

...and that's okay!

Reguarless of your situation, please know that your contribution to the building of Zion is no less significant that of a full time missionary's. 

So, in answer to the question: "To serve? Or not to serve?" The answer is: 

However, full time missionary service may not be right for you. 

No matter who you are, where you live, your past, talents, intellect, resources, full time missionary, or member missionary.... YOU CAN make a difference.  YOU CAN be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  YOU CAN inspire others.  YOU CAN share The Gospel.  YOU CAN serve and be a missionary! 

Because, really, the most important missionary tag you will ever wear, is the one you stitch on your heart.  

So, remember to faithfully and fearlessly bind your will to that of The Father's and He will direct your path (whether it be toward the mission field, or another awesome place).

Best of luck to my fellow sisters.

            - Hermana Wise