Why There Were 21 Candles On My Birthday Cake

16 days before my 19th birthday, President Monson announced the minimum age for full time missionary service would be lowered to 18 for boys and 19 for girls. After he announced that, I cried through the rest of that session of General Conference. I wasn't crying because my boyfriend was  leaving six months earlier than I expected, I was crying because I was faced with a very important decision two years earlier than I expected. I felt like I had been hit by a truck.
Going on a mission has always been something that I've considered. With a mom who is a returned missionary and a dad who's a convert, I grew up in a home where missionary work was always very important. I always thought that I would decide if I should go on a mission when I got to that point in my life, and so until the announcement was made I'd never given the matter a lot of thought. But suddenly, I found that that point in my life had arrived. And I realized I had no idea what to do. I also realized that the idea of going on a mission truly terrified me.
There are lots of reasons I'm scared to go on a mission. I'd spend most of my time talking to total strangers. I'd face a lot of rejection, maybe even hostility. It would put me two years behind in school. I'm scared of being called to serve somewhere I don't like. Honestly, there are some places that I really would not like going on a mission. I'm scared of leaving my family for 18 months, especially since my grandparents are getting so old. I'm scared they might die while I'm gone.
But even though a mission is a scary thing to me, I knew that I couldn't let fear stop me from going if I was supposed to go. For days I thought and prayed. I read my patriarchal blessing. I prayed more. I went to the temple one morning. While I was sitting in line, the title of an ensign article caught my eye. The title was "You Haven't Fasted Yet". I had read the article a couple weeks ago, and remembered the story. I realized I needed to fast before I was going to get an answer.
So instead of praying for an answer, I started praying to know when would be the best time for me to fast. Last Wednesday morning, as I was finishing my scripture study, I saw our copy of the Ensign was sitting on the table. I grabbed it and read an article about senior missionary service. I found that a lot of what the article said applied to me, specifically my fears about going on a mission. I realized I needed to fast that day. Thursday morning I went to the temple again, still fasting. While I didn't receive any confirmation that I should go on a mission, I didn't feel like I shouldn't. I felt like going on a mission would be a good thing for me to do. So I decided this was one of those instances where God wasn't going to give me a clear answer and I was just going to have to do what I thought was best, which in this case meant serving a mission.
 But it wasn't until later that day, in my Book of Mormon class, that I really received my answer. My teacher told us the story of a mission president serving in Polynesia. A little girl was born with severe health problems that couldn't be treated on the island. The president arranged for the girl to be taken to Salt Lake to be treated in a hospital there, and arranged for a family to take care of her while she was there. But the visas and passports needed for travel were delayed. One morning, the president felt that he should stop everything else that he was doing and focus only on getting the travel arrangement for this girl set up. He spent all morning on it, and was able to get everything set so the girl could leave the next day. He ran to find the bishop, who taught at a local school. He told him that everything was ready, and asked where he could find the girl's family. The bishop told him that the little girl had died that morning. The mission president was shocked. As he walked home, he prayed and asked God why he had been inspired to set up travel arrangements that wouldn't be needed anymore. In reply, he felt a rush of love and comfort and a voice said, "That girl has done all that I sent her to do. She has united the community, and brought love to them and to her family. Her work was done, so she came home."
After my teacher told us that story he asked us a very simple question- do you trust the Lord? I don't know why that question struck me so much, but it did. As I silently answered "Yes, I do trust the Lord", the feeling of peace and confirmation that I had been waiting for came. And I felt that the decision I had made that morning was the right one.
It wasn't until later, as I was telling a dear friend of mine my decision that I found out that my friend had been fasting for me when I received my answer. I also found out that my dad had been impressed to put my name on the prayer roll at the temple when he had been there earlier in the week. I'm sure both those acts played a role in helping me receive an answer and I'm very grateful for them.
So that's why my mom put 21 candles on my birthday cake last night- to make up for the ones I'm going to miss while I'm serving my mission. I'm going to start putting my papers in in a couple months, and hopefully I'll leave sometime in May or June. I'm so excited to serve a mission, and although my fears are still there, I know they're not going to stop me.

1 comment

  1. SO proud of you. You're going to make a wonderful missionary!!!