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It Is Not The End

The Freckled Canvas: It Is Not The End

Friday, January 3, 2014

It Is Not The End

I wasn't ready to write this. I'm probably still not ready but you'd start to ask questions soon and instead of answering each person and opening that wound each time I'm doing it once. I'm not looking for sympathy or for advice. Honestly I've pretty much heard it all, and I know it's true but it's not helpful. Not right now.

One day it really clicked for me that my dad was baptized. He had missionaries teach him the gospel of Jesus Christ and he believed and followed Jesus Christ's example and was baptized. I remember even at that young age that I was so thankful for their help. Because of them and my mom sharing the gospel with him, he was baptized and they were sealed in the Washington DC temple and I was born under the covenant. I knew that day that I wanted to be like them. I wanted to share the gospel too.

Years later I was in some type of meeting with young men and women and they talked about serving a mission. They talked at what felt at length about young men serving. But they didn't talk about young women. I was irked by this. Young women were encouraged to serve missions too, not as strongly as the young men, so why weren't they talking about it? I raised my hand and asked about young women serving and they kind of glazed over it and moved on. It continued to bother me through all my Sunday young women's meetings when they would talk about encouraging young men to serve. Why weren't we told that young men should be encouraging us or that we should be encouraging each other?

I didn't understand it, but I still had the desire to serve a mission. It didn't matter if I had had the support from my leaders growing up; it was my decision to serve. The missionaries that helped my dad have had their efforts multiplied with each person my dad talks to. They, my dad, and I will never know the extent their influence has had. I wanted to be able to do His work, spreading the gospel so that whoever I might have taught would be able to spread the message to people as well. It wasn't for the rewards; it was so that I could make our Heavenly Father happy.

Really, that's what it boiled down to. I wanted to make my Heavenly Father happy. I wanted to be able to say at the final day that I had done everything I could to pay back what those missionaries had been able to help give me by doing the same for others. It didn't matter where I went, I wanted to serve. I'm a picky eater, I hate bugs, I don't like being hot, the list could go on. I knew my Heavenly Father would do the same thing for me that he did for Nephi. He would give me no commandment, or call, without preparing a way for me to be able to fulfill it. (see 1 Nephi 3:7) Once people started asking me where I would like to serve I could say with an honest and full heart "Where ever the Lord sends me!"

I had started my mission papers in 2012 and then was frustrated at every turn. I was "mom" for quite a while around my house because of one thing or another. This summer I felt like it was finally my time again. I started preparing myself to turn in my papers, including things my bishop had asked me to do. To be clear these were just his requirements not requirements from headquarters in Salt Lake. In October I had finally completed the requirements and finished my paperwork. From the time I reopened my papers to the time I met with my stake president was a week and a half. October 30.

I felt confidant. I felt like this is what I should be doing with my life. On the way home from that interview my mom and I listened to Nashville Tribute Band's Hardest Thing I've Ever Loved to Do. Listen to the song and then read on.

I bore my heart to my mom. Leaving would be so very hard for me, but more than worth it. Because how could I tell my Heavenly Father that I couldn't give him 18 months when he had done everything for me? And I knew that no matter how hard it would be for me to go, it would be infinitely harder to come home. I knew I would love the people so much that my heart would never feel completely whole again.

At the time the turnaround for a mission call was about 2-3 weeks. With each day that passed my heart rose and sunk. I have trouble with letting myself get too hopeful and then my heart shatters when things don't happen. I would get so very excited and then have to tell myself that this may never happen. Little did I know then that it would shatter so badly.

This was the picture I submitted with my papers

My papers were submitted and a few hours later headquarters called my stake president to talk about a few things. No big deal. November 1. I didn't find this out until he called my parents after having the opportunity to talk to me about it. We sat in a room for over an hour after he had called and told my parents instead of just talking to me. November 3.

Things are never dull around my home. There are seven of us. Mom, Dad, my two brothers, my dad's parents and me. Grandma had just come home from the hospital a few days before and we had family visiting for thanksgiving who had just left and more family that had come to town to visit my grandma because things weren't looking well. On the way to check on his wife, my grandpa hit his head and was taken to the hospital. We were all up most of the night worried. It turned out to be nothing to be overly concerned about. December 7.  

I was the only one that made it to church the next day, and I missed sacrament meeting. After church as I waited to talk with someone my bishop came out of his office and talked to me across the hall. In front of a handful of people I don't necessarily trust or know he asked me if I had talked to my parents. Then he said the sentence that still rings in my ears. "The Stake President wants to meet with you and your parents tonight but that doesn't seem like it's an option anymore." He also said "I had someone call and tell your parents this this morning and to call and schedule a time." I knew right then and there what it meant. 

I tried to stay stoic for what felt like hours but was really only minutes. I walked down the hall to the back of the church, out a door to a spot where I never park. That hallway felt like miles, like I would never make it to the car. I made it. I made it out of the parking lot and down the street before my heart shattered. Shattered hard. I knew what the stake president wanted to tell me and I knew I wasn't ready for it. I pulled in my driveway, pulled myself together the best I could, walked up the front walk, I walked in the front door and right up the stairs and straight into my room and right onto my bed. How was I supposed to tell my parents? How was I supposed to tell my best friends who had been rooting for me for months, years even? How was I going to be okay?

My mom was the first one to knock on my door. She was the first to know. She was the first one to understand that it was not all right and that I needed to grieve alone. She was also never known to hide her emotions. She walked down stairs and instantly my dad and my aunt Sharon knew. Hours later I told the woman who has become one of my favorite people; she has become family to me. They were the only four who knew for days. That afternoon my dad called our stake president to talk about it. Making me wait days for a meeting that I already knew what the agenda was cruel.  I was told that I "didn't fit into their box." There was no other option, it was a flat no. We also found out that he had known for almost a week, but he "didn't want to ruin our thanksgiving" That was not his decision to make. That was the darkest day. December 8.

I retreated to a dark place. I didn't talk to people or respond to any kind of contact except my mom and dad. I couldn't even hear about missionary work, let alone talk to the missionaries in our ward. Missionaries who had become some of my closest friends. I yelled at God a lot that week. Why would he do this to me? Why would he let my local leadership handle the way they did? Why would he tell me no when I had such righteous desires? I cried a lot and slept even more because I would cry myself into hyperventilation attacks and then pass out.

That next week at church was the hardest. I had already started attending temple prep but now there was no reason for me to go. I couldn't even bring myself to tell the teacher, I had my dad do it. One more person. I wrote my friend Lauren and told her. One more person. I wrote my friend Riley and told her and tore up the letter before I could send it. I wrote the sisters serving in my ward so they would know why I couldn't be around them right now and I tore it up. I didn't want anyone who didn't have to know that I wouldn't be going.

I didn't want people to look at me and think I wasn't good enough. I didn't want to see all the same pitting looks I saw for years after my brother died. I just wanted to pretend like it had never happened. It didn't help that I had people close to my family asking my brothers for years when I would be putting in my papers trying to glean information without asking me.

Some days it feels like years ago that I was told that I would never receive that white envelope and some days it feels like today. Some days I make progress accepting that it won't come and other days I am pushed thousands of steps backward.

For right now my immediate family, the kids I serve in church and these quotes are getting me through.

"The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning. You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you." President Boyd K Packer

"In the sight of the Lord it is not so much on what we have done, or where we have been, but much more on where we are willing to go." Elder Edward Dube

"Everything will be all right in the end…if it is not all right then it is not the end." Sonny (And yes I do mean all right, because things will not be kind of right or mostly right-they will be all right.)

If you're reading this and you're going through the same thing if you only remember one thing I want you to remember this- It's okay not to be okay. I'm not okay but I'm working in that direction.

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At January 4, 2014 at 12:05 AM , Blogger Cindy Howard said...

You serve in your callings like a Isaac and I were just talking about how amazing you are today. I think you are already on the Lord's errand.

At January 4, 2014 at 8:38 AM , Blogger Monica said...

I'm so sorry you didn't get the answer you wanted but I agree with Cindy, you are AMAZING!!! You are one of those people who inspire the rest of us to do better at our callings.

At January 4, 2014 at 11:25 AM , Blogger Kim Lewis said...

Hugs!! and Love!! Heavenly Father has a mission for you...I have learned that our plans for life are not his plans for our life...Our faith is tested around every bend. You are an awesome, amazing Daughter of God.

At January 7, 2014 at 11:45 PM , Blogger Kinsie Peterson said...

Having a desire to serve is the first step in being an incredible missionary. So that's incredible as is. I understand why you're feeling this way though. You want to change other's lives just like how yours was changed by your dad converting and being sealed in the temple. But just remember- "If He brings you to it, He'll bring you through it." Good luck with everything your going through Ellie. I know everyone has tried to share advice, sympathy, and all sorts of different emotions to try and comfort you. But the truth is that no one knows what you're going through. No one knows exactly how hard THIS is for YOU and no one can fully understand your exact emotions. Nobody can. Except our loving Savior. I came across this quote by one of the former counselors in the General Relief Society Presidency (Sister Chieko N Okazaki) : "We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It's our faith that he experienced everything-- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism. Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down's Syndrome. [And I add in this for you: He understands when you have such a strong desire to serve Him, even if things don't work out for you to have that oppurtunity. He knows how much it crushed your heart.] He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only visitors are children, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that. He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief."
Good luck as you continue your journey through life and whatever you plans may be now! :)


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