so long, farewell

Today was filled with so much love, support, happiness, and STRESS. I slept through my alarm and was almost late to my own farewell; typical. I had spent the past two nights slaving away composing and when no one laughed at my jokes (except for the one about my friends reproducing) I thought that it had gone terribly. I was grateful for the praise I received later and the strangers that came up to me afterwards, because when a stranger tells you something nice you KNOW that it's true. Anyways, below is my talk for those of you that weren't able to come. enjoy! :)
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As I look around the room I see those that I’ve known for most of my life and those that I’ve known for only a short time.  Big or small you have all made an impact in my life, and have helped me to become the person that stands before you today.  I’m so grateful for your love and support, and I feel so blessed that I get to speak with you before I head off for my grand adventure to Posadas, Argentina (And for those of you that didn’t come just to listen to me, I’ll try and make this good for you too).
I look at my mom, and after all of the thoughts that are emotionally overwhelming, I laugh because apparently we were only 99.9% sure that I would never be delivering a missionary farewell talk.  Growing up in the Church I would say that my testimony was pretty rock solid for the most part, but a mission had never been on my radar.  Even when the mission age was lowered from 21 to 19 for girls, the concept went from apathetic to annoying.  Annoying because left and right I felt everyone was dropping everything and going, and people kept asking me whether I would serve.  I would just answer with my habitual, "no that's never been for me" "it's not my job, but of course if I knew I was supposed to go, I would go".  If the heavens had opened up and a loud voice commanded ,"go on a mission", obediently I would go, but I was honestly hoping that that would never happen. School was good (well besides chemistry), Gymnastics was going well, I had great friends, a job I loved, and I already had a life plan that did not include an 18 month break.  Boys are told to go, but girls are given the choice, which definitely made it more difficult.
When I returned home after my freshman year I had a meeting with the Bishop. After discussing school and how much I loved it, and how I couldn't wait to go back, he asked me if I had ever considered a mission. I shot down the conversation immediately.  Then he challenged me to go to the temple once a week and pray about whether or not I should go.  I went that week and then didn't return to the temple the rest of the summer.  As I sat there that day, on the temple grounds I actually began to really think about it, and that was scary.  I guess I thought that if I stopped progressively getting more spiritually in tune, that I wouldn't ever have to receive an answer I didn't want to hear.  Looking back, that was very dumb, because it clearly only postponed the inevitable.
But it had been more than lacking desire that was initially hindering me; more than anything I doubted myself and my abilities.  Some people are born more spiritual than others.  There were always those girls growing up that you could always point out, "Oh yeah, she'll definitely go on a mission, I mean look at her"  These are the girls that were always happy, spiritual powerhouses, and could make the birds sing as they frolicked through the meadow, and that was never me.  In me I saw this good  LDS girl, which I was completely content with; I was at a good school, with a good environment, and I can say I was a good addition to the campus.  But if you consider that, 'good' is good when it is compared to bad, how does 'good' measure up in comparison to 'best'?  I was not doing my best.
There is a story of an old Cherokee Indian teaching his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.  
One is evil; it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good; it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you---and inside every other person too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
One of my friends who was preparing to serve a mission was doing her best.  I started tagging along to her temple trips, and soon enough I was going on my own, a lot.  I was reading my scriptures, and praying for an answer that would help me finalize my decision to stay or go.  But then it got to the point where I was literally on my knees begging to receive an answer to go.  I talked to Bishop Hunt the next day, apologizing that I had not taken his challenge seriously and now that I had, I was ready to start my papers.  I still was a little unsure because I hadn't gotten the concrete 'yes' I was yearning for, but in Doctrine Covenants 4:3 we read, "Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work".  That is when I knew.  And since then I have never doubted this path.
Because of my entrance date into the MTC, I wasn't able to fit in another semester of school.  This turned out to be a small blessing, as I was able to go the Philippines with my family on a medical mission and vacation a little with my mom in Thailand.  Being the adventurous pair that we are (her more than I) we ventured toward the beach to try our hand at paddle boarding.  The guides informed us that we would be fine even as complete novices, but that there were jellyfish.  A little nervous because of my slight fear of open water, we headed out.  We found that the waters were calm and it wasn't too difficult to go from our knees to standing on our feet.  We were able to stop, look around at the beautiful seascape, and when we were finished and feeling sunburns coming, we headed back to the beach.  The next day we came back and again headed out on the paddle boards.  This time, the sky was gray, and full of clouds.  It was windy, but we were still having a good time.  We followed suit like we did the day before and stopped to look around.  But looking  towards the beach, we realized that we had quickly drifted extremely off course of our return destination.  I started paddling harder and harder and when I'd stop, I started drifting back out again.  It was absolutely terrible, and for a moment I truly thought I was going to die out there with herds of jelly fish using me for target practice.  It was hard, but when I continuously moved towards the beach without faltering, it slowly became visibly closer, and then it was even easier to paddle towards the beach.  Soon enough I could see this little man in yellow waving his arms at us, "Ma'am Ma'am, you come here"!!  He was down the beach from where we wanted to end up, but we could see that it would be much easier for us to get to him than to our desired point.  Eventually he coached us to get off without being taken by an incoming wave, and we made it safely to shore.
If the ocean is our life, and the beach is paradise, one must constantly have your sight set towards the goal.  The minute we stop trying and allow ourselves to drift away, before long, the journey back on the path will be more arduous than it was ever meant to be.  There will be times when life is like the first day: calm and peaceful; and if you choose to stop paddling you won’t notice that you are gradually drifting off course.  When life appears effortless, it is easy to forget that we still need to be focused on where we are trying to end up.  We need to keep pushing on toward our goals, so that when the stormy days come we won’t be in distress.  But if the stormy days come, and we weren’t prepared, as we realize where we want to be, we are blessed to have a Savior to help us part of the way; our own little man in yellow, guiding us to our destination.
There are so many components that have encompassed my thoughts in regards to my mission.  I can consider all the purely selfish motives that I have: no school, no worries, I get to learn Spanish, I'll gain all of these important life skills that will mature and prepare me for life, it'll give me people skills, and I'll practice to be more organized and studious (two necessities which I definitely need to bring home with me).  And then I think about the mission, my mission for Heavenly Father, and the people of Argentina.  I get to share the biggest part of my life, the part that is the reason for me being the happiest I've ever been.  I've never felt so loved and safe and confident about what my life is and should be, and that is all because of this gospel.  I can't wait to share my love for this Church and all that it has to offer.  As mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 4:4 we read, “For behold the field is white already to harvest” To imagine that families are waiting to accept or reject, but at least hear the true messages of the gospel, is so exciting.
A lot will happen within the next 18 months; my family will go on a cruise without me, I'll miss the Taylor Swift concert, friends will get married (maybe even start reproducing), and these are all good things that I would've loved to have been around for.  And everything will change without me.  At times it’s stressful and it IS a big deal to not go to college for a year and half but something that puts me more ease are the words of Dallin H. Oaks when he shared with us that, "As we consider various choices, we should remember that, it is not enough that something is good, other choices are better, and still others are best.  Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may be the greatest choice of all."
When we know that we could be doing better, why aren't we doing better? The answer is of course, is that it's much easier to make average choices. Why should I put in the work for an A, when I could settle for a C? It's much easier and I can spend more quality time with my Netflix.  Life will go on, and you will graduate if your GPA is a 2.0, but if your GPA were a 4.0, doors of opportunity would be flying open.  
Maybe we make the choices we do, because we think we are already putting in our 100%. However, often we don’t realize that we have barely scraped the surface of our potential.  In Joseph Bishop’s handbook entitled, 30 Ways to Love Your Mission, he says,”Reaching our potential is dynamic.  It requires a constant reaching out and up and a continual revision of goals.  It requires a positive attitude.”(closed quote)  Everyone has the potential to be their best selves.  Whether it’s within your church calling, relationships, academics, athletics, or career; these are all pieces that we can continuously be working on, that will lead us to achieving our long-term goals. Even if we aren't making bad choices, by not making the better and the best choices we are giving up some of the benefits that could've been reaped from the best choice.
In a conference talk from 1976, Thomas S. Monson told the following story.  “At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.”
Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.”When I think of my life without the gospel, I think of trying to manage surviving my life without glasses. (my vision is absolutely terrible, so basically it would make life unbearable).  To think that there are people wandering through life without their spiritual lenses on, makes my heart hurt.  Living this gospel everyday, has blessed me with the knowledge that we have a Savior, he is real, he loves us, and we are never alone; and everyone deserves to hear this truth.
I can't believe that I'm actually leaving, that I won't see my friends and my family or my dog for 18 months.  I am so blessed and grateful for everything that I have been given, which of course makes it so hard to leave everything temporarily behind.  But because of everything I have, how could I not go.  How could I not go and further the work.  "Because I have been given much, I too must give".  I truly believe those words and my decision to serve my Heavenly Father.  At this moment in my life, I know that this is a better choice for me, and I have no doubt that when I return it will have been the best choice that I could've made.
I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to serve the people of Posadas, Argentina.  I'm ready to help them and for them them to help me.  I believe with all of my heart that this Church is true and I can't wait to share its treasures.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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