Monday, June 29, 2015

Blessings on Blessings on Blessings

When I was 14 years old, my older sister made the decision to join the church.
A year later when I was 15 years old, my sister talked me into going to a pre-girl’s camp activity a week before camp. Sister Amy Barton from the Santa Cruz ward was the camp leader that year, and as soon as she saw me she told me that they could get the things together to have me at camp, and she talked me into going.. At camp I felt the spirit and knew that I needed to join the church. Three weeks later I was baptized.
When I was 16 years old, the Madsen’s had visitors staying with them who went to BYU. I remember talking to them about how I love the church but I would never go to BYU.
Then when I was 17, I not only decided to apply to BYU but it was my number one choice.
When I was 18, I was accepted to and decided to attend BYU. I was talking to Meredith Barton about plans for the years to come, and she told me hers was to go on a mission. I replied by saying I love the church and I am excited to attend BYU, but I would never go on a mission.
Then when I was 19 I was prompted to serve a mission and turned in my papers.
Today I stand before you honored to give my mission farewell. I leave on Tuesday to the Dominican Republic, and I could not be more excited.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to speak on because I knew I could pick my own topic if I wanted, but I felt like it was too much pressure, so I asked Bishop Madsen for a topic. His first reaction was that if he gave me a topic I probably wouldn’t speak on it because he knows that I am stubborn and I tend to play by my own rules. But then he said how about you speak on sacrifice. I know during my mission I will have to make many sacrifices, so I thought I would start by sacrificing my stubborn ways and speaking on the given topic. And I am proud to say that I have stuck to my subject and written a talk on sacrifice.
I looked up the definition of sacrifice and it states:
an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy

I really liked this definition because of its use of the word worthy. It is nice that even the dictionary definition lets us know that the sacrifices we make can lead to worthiness. I know personally I dwell on having to give something up rather than celebrate the fact that whatever the sacrifice is will bring blessings into my life. Obviously a mission is a lot of sacrifice: a year and a half of my life, not seeing my family, no cellphone, no TV and the list just goes on and on. But in preparing for my mission and this talk, I have learned that the number of things I will have to give up can’t even compare to the number of things I will gain.
President Gordon B. Hickley gave a talk called Of Missions, Temples and Stewardship where he states:
Of course your time is precious, and you may feel you cannot afford two years. But I promise you that the time you spend in the mission field, if those years are spent in dedicated service, will yield a greater return on investment than any other two years of your lives.

President Hinckley then goes on to list the many strengths that missionaries gain and weaknesses that they overcome on the mission. He ends it by saying
Two years will not be time lost. It will be skills gained.

I think this can be applied to more than just missionary work. Any sacrifice the Lord asks us will eventually end up blessing our lives. Another point President Hinckley brings up is that
You will bless the lives of those you teach, and their posterity after them.”

I think sometimes we have to look beyond ourselves. Sometimes it can be really hard not to be selfish in these situations, but sometimes we need to make sacrifices to bless the lives of those around us. I know that the missionaries who taught me the lessons missed their families just as much as I will. They gave up those years of their lives, and I am so grateful for that. I hope that through the sacrifices that I am making I can bless the lives of others the same way those missionaries blessed my life.

My life was blessed recently by finding out about a defect that I have. I went to a new eye doctor to get new glasses and contacts for my mission. This eye doctor did new tests on me and found out that I have a convergence in the alignment of my eyes. So basically I have a slight cross-eye. My sophomore year of high school I started getting these really bad headaches. I ended up missing a lot of school and because of it my grades suffered. I had always been the brain of my family. I was the smart one and my sister was the funny one. It was really hard for my parents to watch my grades drop and not understand why. I think they thought I was kind of just being a lazy teenager who would rather sleep than do homework, but it turns on that because my brain has to work harder than a person without a cross-eye that intense studying actually makes me fall asleep.
I feel really blessed to have found this out because I will obviously be doing a lot of studying over the next year and a half, and I now have glasses that help my eyes relax when I study and they lessen the headaches and sleepiness. While I do feel very lucky and relieved to have found this out, I have also been having a hard time not being frustrated and upset. It was really hard for me to lose interest in school, which I had always loved. I thought that I was just bored with school, but now I realize there was more to it.
It has been really hard for me to let go of the person I could have been had I figured this out sooner. I could have been the straight A student with amazing test scores. I could have been a lot less disappointing to my parents. I could have been better, but I wasn’t.
As I reflected on this situation I considered the fact that maybe, had I not had this issue, I would not have ended up going to BYU. And if I hadn’t gone to BYU, I more than likely wouldn’t be going on a mission.
I realized that sometimes we have to sacrifice or give up the person we want to be or thought we should be in order to become the person the Lord needs us to be.
Elder Neal Maxwell stated in a talk called “Swallowed Up in The Will of the Father”
The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
Let me tell you I know it can be really hard to really give our will to the Lord. It can be so hard to give up that person who we think we should be. I know for me personally that a lot of times I will think of if I just had this I would be happy or if I was this way I would be happy but Elder Maxwell reminds us in this talk that:
only by aligning our wills with God’s is full happiness to be found.

I would like to urge you all to think about whether you’re really giving your will to the Lord and striving to become the person he needs you to be because that is the way to find true happiness. Obviously I didn’t plan to go to BYU or serve a mission, but I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been because I’ve given up my will in order to do what the Lord needs me to.
Another statement made by Elder Maxwell in this talk is that
we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality.”
This really struck me because so many people ask me “Well are you going to come back a whole new person?” In many ways, I will change, but there are also many ways I will stay the same. I know that God gave me my quirks, my strengths, and even my weaknesses for specific reasons. The Lord gave us each different quirks, strengths, and weaknesses for specific reasons. I know that the Lord loves us for each one of our quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. So when people ask me if I am going to change on the mission, my answer is yes and no. While I know I will have to give up certain parts of me, I know that I won’t have to sacrifice my Hannah-ness, or the things that make me, me. I know the same is true for you all.

Another question I get a lot is “why are you serving a mission?” And for a while I couldn’t explain it because it’s hard to explain the feeling of the Spirit. It is hard to tell my non-Mormon friends and family that I prayed to my Heavenly Father and was prompted by the Spirit to turn in my papers and serve a mission. If I did try to say that the usual response was but “why does it have to be so extreme? Why do you have to give up so much?”
And in preparing this talk I found a talk that answered the question of why I want to serve a mission. Elder Harold G. Hillam gave a talk called Sacrifice In the Service and the service he spoke on was missionary work.
It states:
Why have these great missionaries and others like them been willing to sacrifice the comforts of home, family, loved ones, and sweethearts to answer the call to serve? It’s because they have a testimony of Jesus Christ. And when they know Him there is no bed too short or too hard, no climate too hot or too cold, no food too different or language so strange that they are unwilling to serve Him. No sacrifice is too great to serve the Master, who sacrificed His all to provide the way for His brothers and sisters to return home to their Heavenly Father.

I am serving a mission and sacrificing this portion of my life because I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and the Sacrifice that He made for all of us.
I know with all of my heart that I am meant to be serving this mission and that mission calls are inspired. I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the people of the Dominican Republic.

I want you all to know that each and every one of you is loved. I don’t think that people come into our lives by coincidence, and I am so grateful to have been in this ward. I would like to thank my family, friends, and those of you who have helped me through this journey. I know that Heavenly Father has blessed me by bringing each of you into my life. It was not by chance. It was because He knew that I needed your strength and support. I appreciate the love you guys have given me and the sacrifices that you guys have made that have blessed my life. 

I know that this church is true. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us all for who we really are. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that it was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God. And I know that as we continue to make the sacrifices that the Lord asks of us we will be blessed.
This I leave with you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. 

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