In every mission call, there is a line that is generally skipped over. In the midst of all of the excitement surrounding where a missionary will go, it kind of just...disappears. A missionary's eyes are so intent on finding the words that tell them where they will spend the next eighteen to twenty four month of their life that they breeze over it. I, too, skipped line. I wanted to know three things from the call--where I was going, what language I was speaking, and when I was leaving. I basically ignored everything else. It wasn't til I came home early that I re-read my call and noticed the line:

"It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of eighteen months."

Three years ago today, I packed up two large suitcases and hopped into our family car to head down to Provo. It had been a crazy few days. Within five days, I took all of my finals, moved out of my dorm, gave a farewell, and packed up to head to Seattle. I was tired, but I was excited for the new adventure I anticipated ahead of me. 

My family and I had a "last lunch" at Olive Garden. I remember seeing two other families with boys dressed up in suits at the restaurant. We smiled politely and nervously at each other. After lunch, my family and I headed over to the Provo temple to get your typical "I'm going on a mission" pictures. I'll be honest, I just wanted the pictures to be done and to be walking into the MTC. 

When it finally came time for goodbyes, I didn't cry. I was a little choked up on nerves, but that was about it. I remember feeling awkward that I wasn't crying. I hugged my mom as she cried and assured her that the time would fly. "I'll be home next October!" I said optimistically. Finally, with all my luggage in tow and goodbyes said, I left my family at the curb and headed off onto my mission.

I anticipated a lot of things that day, three years ago. I anticipated a tough but rewarding experience. I anticipated coming home in October of 2014 to the SLC airport with all of my extended family waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me as I walked down them, triumphant and successful as a returned missionary. But three years ago today, I did not anticipate anything that would actually happen.

I've learned a lot about anticipation since that day. The number one thing that I've learned about anticipation is that it is not a solid thing. It is not set in stone, it is not guaranteed. Anticipation is a hope or an expectation, not a promise. And most of all, man's anticipation does not always align with God's will or plan.

My anticipations of my mission were pretty much all wrong. I thought I was going to do one thing and become one thing, but God had a different idea. It took a long time for me to accept His will. It took months for me to be able to actually mean it when I said, "I know that I'm supposed to be home and not on a mission." I was so stuck on my anticipations for so long that I failed to accept the reality of the plan that God had for me. 

While I didn't get my anticipated 18 month mission, I got a lot of things that are better. I was blessed with experiences that taught me not to judge people as harshly as I had previously. I gained a better understanding, love, and appreciation of the power of the priesthood as I have received countless blessings in the three years since I went to the MTC. My heart grew softer towards those mental illnesses and I was filled with empathy and love towards them. I learned how to appreciate moments of peace and stillness. I became more reliant on the Atonement and on the Savior. In short, I gained so much more out of my mission experience than I anticipated.

Sometimes, life doesn't go according to plan. In fact, in my life, it hardly ever goes according to my plan. But it goes according to God's plan, and that's what matters. Three years ago, I would never have guessed that I would be where I am today in this moment. I couldn't have foreseen all the trials, challenges, blessings, and miracles that would occur. My life hasn't turned out how I anticipated it would. But, it has turned out how God anticipated it would, and that's alright with me.


Give Yourself Some Credit

(Sorry for the month-long absence, folks. Hit a sort of writers block, but I'm back!)

The other week, I had an opportunity to go on a little road trip with my mom to St. George, UT. While we were driving, we got to talking about the challenges I've been facing with my mental illness. She said something that took me a little bit by surprise. She said "Rachel, you're doing a lot better than you think you are. You've come so far since November of 2013. I know you think you're not doing well at all, but you are. You need to recognize that and give yourself a little more credit."

So I've been thinking: maybe she's right. 

I have made progress and come so far. It's hard to see sometimes. And I am doing better than I think I am. Are you?
"The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you've come." -Anonymous

Let me answer that for you: You absolutely are doing better than you think you are. You've come much further than you think you have. You are accomplishing more than you think you are. I tend to preach this a lot, but every little thing you are doing to work through your challenges is progress. Are you giving yourself credit? If not, you should be. 

Congratulate yourself for getting out of bed. For some, that's one of the hardest things to accomplish. And if it's a challenge for you and you're working on it, good for you. You are amazing for the amount of effort you are putting in. Trust me, I know that it's difficult. 

Give yourself credit for trying to think more positively. When you're depressed, positive thoughts are the furthest thing from your mind. If you can muster up just one, you are succeeding. Recognize that and celebrate that.

Acknowledge good you are doing for people, whether it's through a donation, some cookies delivered to a friend, or the a smile given to a passing stranger. You probably don't realize how much those little things you do are changing the lives of those around you for the better. 

I'm not perfect. I have a lot of challenges and weaknesses that I'm trying to overcome. But I think that I get so caught up in what I want to overcome that I forget to give myself the credit I deserve for the progress I've made. I get down on myself for not being perfect instead of being motivated by my success, however small that success might be. I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to appreciate how far I've come. 

We've all still got miles to go and mountains to climb in our lives. There will be ups and downs, dead ends and construction. The road will be tough and treacherous at times. We have and will have obstacles to overcome. But every once in awhile, we need to slow down and take a look over our shoulders and see how far we've come.