I opened the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionary portal website last week to review one more time what I needed to take care of in advance of our missionary service and was greeted with, “Welcome to Missionary Portal. Your assignment begins in 32 days.”
How had I not seen this before? They provide for you face-first, a ticking time counter for the exact day your life is going to be disrupted in ways impossible to predict. That’s how I felt the first time I noticed it. Part of me wanted to find and cut the wires to stop the clock.
The forces that would have us all cave to inertia had been strong just before my encounter with this countdown notice. We recently had a fantastic family reunion at a rented house near enough to a beautiful lake that we could enjoy it without worrying that any of the littles would accidentally wander off and down. It was so much fun to spend time together with everyone. Coming back from this and going through all the pictures, and choosing some to use as wallpaper on my computer suddenly brought home to me that I’m going to be far away from these wonderful people and children who I love to hug, and talk to, and cherish for two years. The grandbabies won’t be babies when we get back. I’m not sure how I’ll survive missing that precious stage of their lives.
And then I encountered the countdown. 32 days… 29 days… 28 days…
Anxiety set in. I’m going to live in a country where I don’t speak the language (again – flashback to China), don’t know anyone, don’t know the culture, and this time I’ll be working in an office doing who-knows-what, and I’ve never worked in an office before. The office is an English-speaking place, due to its international nature, but I can’t decide if that’s necessarily a great thing, since the rest of the Dominican Republic is Spanish speaking. I studied Spanish in high school and college and love the language, but haven’t worked at learning it for the last many years. I want to learn it. I’d like to be at least competent at having a conversation with people in a way that we can understand each other. I don’t know how that happens in an English-speaking office. I don’t know how any real work (on my part) would get done without it being English-speaking. And so, anxiety.
After noticing the countdown, I woke up one morning in a full-on panic. I don’t know what my dreams had consisted of, but I woke up convinced that I would not be able to learn the language, that I would be of sub-par use in the office, and that I would never be able to even make friends because of the language barrier. I was convinced that I was going to be a sixth toe on a foot — not merely useless — but actually in the way of important work.
Dear Mr Hot Stuff tried to reassure me and reminded me that we can hire a language tutor when we get there. My dear Scripture Sisters (my friends who help keep me accountable to read and study scripture every day) were there for me when I reached out to them. They reassured me that I have valuable things to contribute and that I can do the work I’m called to. When I prayed for help, the Holy Spirit told me to listen to talks from the last General Conference in April.
I started listening to the talks and had to laugh. SO MANY of them mention missionary work, serving missions, and the blessings that accompany missionary work, both for those serving and those being served. Even so, I think I listened to about seven talks before my panicked brain settled down.
Mr Hot Stuff has been hyper-focused on winning Duolingo these last few weeks. I’ve been using it, and it’s helpful for me to refresh and remember what I used to know about Spanish, but I was never proficient at speaking it and verb conjugation in non-written expression is the bane of my efforts. Duolingo plays to my strengths really well, but not so well to my weakness. I suspect that I need to be immersed to overcome those. I fear that I will avoid situations that require me to face my weaknesses in this area. I’m an introvert by nature, or maybe an ambivert. I need interaction with other people – friends and family – but it’s easy for me to hole-up and avoid challenging social situations.
So. I had a lot of loving help to get down off that cliff of doubt, but it’s one of those things that you can’t unsee once you’ve seen it, and now it looms more prominently in the background of my mind.
I prayed about what I should be spending my time and focus on right now – learning the language, learning how to better use certain computer programs that I think will be needed in the area office – but the answer that comes to me is, “Love your family and your grandchildren. Spend time with them now, because you won’t be able to get it back. There will be time to learn office skills and Spanish when you get there.”
So here I am now in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We have no pictures here yet. Mr Hot Stuff and I have come to see our oldest son and his wife and our granddaughter. We haven’t seen our son since January, when we helped them move out here for school. (No, I don’t actually recommend moving to Wisconsin in January, unless you have a death wish to drive across the Midwest in blizzards.) Our daughter-in-law and granddaughter were able to fly out to Utah for our reunion, but our son wasn’t, so we are here to see him, and maybe experience a little more of what non-alcoholic entertainment Milwaukee has to offer, lol. (Milwaukee is famous for its beer, for those who don’t already know.)
Somehow we lucked into a spacious hotel suite with the bedroom separated from the living area. This is a blessing because Mr Hot Stuff got a vaccine (not THAT one) the day before we left home and now he’s experiencing an immune response that has resurrected the cough he’d just managed to get over. Flying on a red-eye flight to get here, the small time difference, and him now not feeling great has caused some sleep disruption and it’s been helpful to be able to have a separate room to retreat to without having to bother each other so much. Sometimes these tender mercies are the miracles we need. 💕
I’ve been writing this in the wee hours of the morning and think I’ll head back to bed for a little more shut-eye. But I think I will end this post with words from Elder Quentin L Cook that helped to comfort and reassure me in the midst of my fearful thoughts:
Over a lifetime of service and spiritual experiences, I have come to understand that true conversion is the result of the conscious acceptance of the will of God and that we can be guided in our actions by the Holy Ghost.
Conversion to the Will of God