For the rest of you, I have a longer story. I'll try to keep it short but everyone knows I'm a little narcissistic and a little more longwinded... so no promises.
I started working on my papers back in August but stalled out several times for MANY REASONS I won't go into. I finally had my interview with the stake president on December first and the wait ensued. It was promptly halted because of past promblems with depression and anxiety and I was sent to meet with LDS Family Services so that my capacity to serve as a missionary could be assessed, then left to wait until we heard back from them.
SCARIEST MONTH OF MY LIFE.
Although I know that the problems I mentioned in my mission papers are long gone, I was terrified that I would be declared unfit to serve. On January 4th, the bishop told me that my results had come back and that everything was now in the stake president's hands. As we had already had our interview, didn't think the stake president would need to meet with me again.
So when I got a call on the morning of January 11th saying that the stake president wanted to meet with me, I was scared. The number one reason I could think of was that he wanted to break it to me gently that I was not going to be allowed to go. My mind was a warzone all through sacrament meeting as I fought with myself over the issue. But by the end of the meeting I had finally managed to place my mission on the altar and determine that if I wasn't allowed to go I could accept that the Lord had other plans for me and just be the best member missionary ever.
I went into the interview pretty convinced that I was waving goodbye to my mission. (Cynical Proverb of the Day: Always believe the worst. That way you won't be disappointed. <--BAD ADVICE I LIVE BY TOO OFTEN) The stake president asked me a few questions he hadn't before, like how I would deal with the ups and downs of a mission. He also asked what I would do if I was called to the Canada Winnipeg Mission. (Important note for all non-Southern Albertans: Winnipeg is the mission all Albertans hold up as the primary specimen of Worst Mission Ever. It's right next door, but even colder.) I told him my plan to pray and open my mission call by myself so that -- wherever I went -- I would be able to take the time to know that the call came from God.
Obviously, I passed the test. He sent my recommendation in later that week and the wait began for the second time. But this time was a lot brighter. Certain elements of stress I had been dealing with in December were gone. Life was generally sweet. Nervousness about the call disappeared and I was purely excited.
Because I know that a watched pot never boils I figured that a persistently checked mailbox would only deliver bills and flyers and decided not to go for the mail until a week after the call had been issued. (It normally takes a week and a half for mission calls to reach Lethbridge area.) So I didn't check until Monday. It was empty, as expected. (Empty of anything important, that is. We never check the mail so the contents of the mailbox virtually exploded out when I unlocked the door.) I wasn't terribly excited to check the mail the next day because I didn't want to go home empty handed again, but Mom convinced me to check it just before I ran off to go to the temple and drop my siblings off at their play practice.
When I found a white, rolled up envelope hiding behind amidst all the bills I did a double take. Checked twice to make sure that it really was from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Sister Margaret Anne Hudson. Maybe somebody else would be sending me a large white envelope? I basically started hyperventilating then and there, then skipped out to the car as quickly as I could with my injured knee. My instinct was to drive straight home and hole up in my bedroom to open it, but there were people at home who would all talk in hushed voices and make the air buzz with anticipation. And ... well ... my room is a disaster zone right now. (Things have been crazy and I can't bend my knee enough to reach the floor easily, so cleaning has been tricky.)
I drove to the fishpond instead. There's a certain spot out on the trails there where I once went to pray and decide whether or not this really is God's church. (The answer was yes, btw.) The sentimentality of opening my call in the same place got to me. Unfortunately my skirt and light jacket didn't do much to keep me warm and it was freaking cold out there, so I only made it a quarter of the way out to my destination before I retreated to the warmth of my car. I was so agitated all through the walk that I kept pacing in circles, moving to open the letter right there on the trail, and then changing my mind. What if it's, like, Winnipeg? I thought, Or, (sorry, Lisa!), Minnesota? Carrying that envelope felt like handling a live grenade, and I didn't want to open it before I was ready.
Back in the car, I finally said a prayer and opened it. Although I tried not to skip ahead, none of the words really registered in my brain until I reached Canada Winnipeg Mission. I did a double take. And then I busted up laughing. Exactly the place that I chosen as my example of THE WORST place. I had spent months thinking about where I would go and saying things like: "Russia is cold, but at least it's cold and foreign, not like Winnipeg," or "Utah wouldn't be anything new and exciting, but it's warmer than Winnipeg."
My laughing quickly turned to bawling all over the place as the Spirit testified to me that this was where I was meant to go and that the Lord was mindful of me. It was just too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence; it was the Lord saying that He was looking out for all my needs and concerns. I really want to travel to foreign places, but I don't want my mission to be one of those missions that's treated like an extended vacation. Do you know what I'm talking about? I've always been one of those people who wants to know all about the cool places people served their missions and pities the people who get called stateside. Yeah, they act like they wouldn't rather be called someplace cool, but they're just delusional.
Now I understand that missions are just different, not better or worse. The Lord sends us where He needs us and where we need to be. I know that I will grow so much more in Winnipeg than I would in Italy, much as I would love to serve in Italy. But I can go to Italy another time. I will go another time. (This is me making a commitment to all of you. Hold me to it.) My brother was so sorry for me when he heard where I was going because he knew how much I would love to serve someplace foreign, but I am not sorry for myself. Winnipeg is my mission. I used to think the name sounded weird but now I just think it's so pretty. Just say it. It's so soft and fluttery. And I'm excited to be serving in what must be one of the largest missions in the world. It takes up Saskatchewan, Manitoba, a substantial chunk of Ontario, and even tiny bits of Alberta and Minnesota.
I have so much left to say but this post is way too long already. Suffice it to say that I love my mission, and I love my Heavenly Father, and I am so glad to have this opportunity dedicate 18 months of my life to bringing others to Christ.
I will post again soon. Hold me to it.
(P.S. I am leaving in SIX WEEKS, people! Crazy amounts of preparation must be done and I want to see everybody as much as possible before I leave. I must find times to hang out with all of you, whether it be in person or over Skype. I love you all SO MUCH.)