Twenty Years.

Twenty years ago today I went into the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and started my LDS mission. It began 18 months of illness and injury, discovery and doubt, fear and faith.

For the next 18 months, every week I’ll share a journal entry or experience from my time as a missionary. I’ve been thinking about my mission quite a bit this week, as meteorologists are predicting a brutal ice storm to hit the Omaha metro. (Incidentally, I can trace the beginnings of my back troubles to this storm.)

But this week, instead of sharing something from that first day in the MTC, I want to share an effect of my mission.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with the most basic component of my faith: trusting God knows I’m alive and cares about me. While in the MTC, I remember going to many meetings in which I was told the most important person to convert as a missionary was myself.

Twenty years later, I know that is truth.

This morning I woke with a heavy heart and a helping of survivor’s guilt. The reason is not important; what’s important is the events of the morning. I knew I needed to be around people, that I needed to reach out to anyone, so I could feel reassured that it’s okay I’m alive.

What followed might seem like a series of coincidences to most people, but for me, was clear evidence that God knows I’m alive and I’m here for a reason. It’s still a bit too raw and personal to give specifics, but here is what God told me today:

He told me I have a big heart and a capacity to love, and that I shouldn’t feel bad about that capacity. He told me to love those around me and not hold back, that part of why I’m still alive is because of how easy it is for me to love people. He told me that the little things I ask for in times of need are just as important as the big things other people ask for, because they are important to me, and I am important to Him.

My former bishop has been trying to tell me for the past 6 years that God loves me–unmarried, childless, liberal, cantankerous me. And I’ve had glimpses of that in the past, for sure. But today was a day when I felt it to my core.

Which brings me back to my mission. Over the next 18 months as I share pieces of that life, one piece should be clear: the person I am today, for good or ill, would not be the same without my time in Montreal and Ottawa. My ability to talk to God would not be the same, my knowledge of scripture would not be the same, my faith would not be the same.

And as for God knowing me? It’s relevant to share this tidbit, from when I received my mission call in November 1996: missionaries often dream of where they want to go, hoping when they open their letters it will match their dream. For some it is Asia, for others it is Europe, for some (the more humble than me) they are just happy to serve. For me, I wanted to go to one place.

Montreal.

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