So we had yet another good week. But it having been my 21st birthday this week, I figured that I would do one of those reflection birthday emails for those milestones in my life, like I’ve done on a couple of other occasions.
Twenty-one years sure goes by fast. Time tends to speed up as life goes on, doesn’t it? Elder Wheelwright and I were walking down a street last night, and I mentioned to him that I would never have thought a year ago that I would be where I was right then. It was especially true for him, he hadn’t even received his mission call yet! A year ago, I was green in the mission field, still learning the ropes. Now, I’m leading, but still learning as I lead. A year ago, President Skelton’s release was far in the horizon. Now, he’s home, and we have a new mission president. A year ago, I had 22 months left on my mission. Now I only have 10 months left, and I treasure each moment more and more, because it will be gone, all too soon, and I’ll be in the next phase of my life.
A mission teaches you many things, lessons learned and experiences gained. It’s been the best and worst time of my life. There are days that I feel just euphoric, then there are days when I wonder why I’m here, when I doubt. But, what I have to learn is that I have a loving Father in Heaven who has a plan for me, and He really does want me to be happy. There is so much that I have to deal with in my life, but that’s the thing. Heavenly Father teaches us through experiences that will strengthen us. There is a quote that I absolutely love, it reads:
“Missionaries may not wake up each morning bursting with joy, but they are out the door on time anyway. “Hard” isn’t negative when you are a missionary. Why? Because when your feet hurt and you’re really hungry and the dogs are especially vicious and you are surprised to discover that you are happy anyway, you accept that gift of joy as a blessing from your Heavenly Father, thanking you for doing His work” (Barbara Workman, “The Quest for Joy,” Ensign, Jul 2005, 50–54).
Life has its twists and turns, but we can always be secure and confident in the fact that Heavenly Father has a hand in our lives, and He is there, ready to lead and guide us if we will but obey His commandments. It is sad to see a person blame God for everything that goes wrong. What they don’t realize is that there is a purpose for all things. Faith and hope are inextricable tied in with the level of happiness in our lives, the faith that the things I believe in and the values I hold fast to are true, and the hope that I have a loving Heavenly Father who knows me, and has a way prepared for me, His son.
It says in Preach My Gospel, the Church’s Missionary guide, that "God's whole purpose – His work and His glory – is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan to accomplish His purpose. We understood and accepted this plan before we came to earth. In the scriptures God's plan is called a merciful plan, the plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is central to God's plan. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father's purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and eternal life."
I’ve just been listening to a recording of a choral piece that I did in high school. The thing is, memories from years past just seem like they happened a few days, or weeks, or months ago. I am so grateful for the time that I have had on this Earth thus far. When I was born, there was a high chance that I wouldn’t live, but through miracles, I have been blessed to be able to live a relatively uncomplicated life. Through the years, there have been so many wonderful blessings that I have had. I have two parents who love me, who care for me, and just want the best for my life. What more could I ask for? I have Aunts and Uncles and friends who watch out for me. Friends, teachers, Church leaders have helped me along, provided the laughter and fun, the diversity that makes life the fun that it is.
So, what do I have to look forward to? I have these next few months of my mission to find the people who Heavenly Father wants me to find. I have to stay obedient and faithful, so that the Lord can place His prepared children in the path of a prepared servant, and experience the happiness as I see people change for the better, for eternal happiness. Then, I move back to college, to look up acquaintances a and friends again, to study and improve myself, to graduate and find a job, and somewhere in that time frame, to find a lovely woman who would have me as a spouse (don’t worry Mom and Dad, all in due time). It’s exciting to think about all life has to offer, and it’ll come along as I tread along that path called life!
I thought it appropriate to attach my 18th birthday email, because it really continues to reflect my feelings of times gone by, and it is still very much applicable. Of course, you also get to see the changes in time! I wrote this in Buffalo, New York. Life is funny huh?
So. It's been 18 years. It is such a thrilling thought that I'm now a legal adult. But, it's scary too. Where did those 18 years go? It seems like I was in 1st grade just yesterday. I can remember my teachers... my friends, all now from a distant past. As I reflect on the years gone by, all the things I have done, it's a wonder, the number people I have met, the lives that have passed mine, whether intimately, or just a breath of the wind. 18 years ago, I almost died. I'm grateful that my heart problem was corrected, and that I am alive today. Each day is a gift.
I miss the youth that I once had. Sure, most people would consider me young, with years ahead to conquer. But, through my eyes, I see the young me, the innocence that radiated from my eyes, a young little one, free from the cares and troubles of the world, and just living each day with the knowledge that I would be protected by my parents, never having to worry about the horrors of the world, just playing comfortably in my own little bubble.
Now though, I'm 18, ready to finish up my last year of high school, then throwing myself into the depths of the unknown. I can only hope and pray that I will always have God to lead and guide me, with his infinite knowledge and wisdom, along with my family and friends, who I have always been able to trust and rely on.
Friends. Wow, I have always been blessed with many people in my life, but I would have to say that a large number would be considered my acquaintances. Just this year, a wise teacher of mine said that if a person can have but one friend, then he or she is truly blessed. I have been abundantly blessed, because I can confidently say that I have a few friends. To my beloved friends: I have no need to name you, because you know who you are. You are the ones who have helped me through the years. With your constant support and encouragement, I have become more than I could ever be, you have provided me with a shoulder when I needed one to cry on, you have heard my raves and rants, just listening. Some of you have taught me by example, never needing to tell me what to do, but rather, just showing me the way, guiding me with your actions. You are the ones who have been honest with me, not trying to please me with some compliment that isn't true, but rather, telling me the truth and holding on to me in the times that I have needed the support. You are the ones who believe in me, trust me, and are always willing to forgive. You, as my friends, are also my heroes and for that, I thank you.
Another set of people that have taught me though the years are of course, my teachers. I am thankful that I have had teachers in my life who have influenced me to study hard, to advance academically. They have provided me with inspiration to work hard and excel at what I do. Their examples have been my guiding light. My seminary teachers have given me the spiritual guidance and helped me to stay on the straight and narrow path, gently placing my hand on the iron rod. Without seminary , I doubt that I would have as strong a testimony in the Church than I do today. Thank you cannot express how grateful I am to the both of you.
It has been said that if you can't stand for something, then you'll fall for everything. The one thing that I have always tried to stand for is my religion. You all know I'm LDS, otherwise known as a Mormon, and it has played a significant part in my life. I have followed it as much as I have been able to. There are times where I have fallen away, but thankfully, I have been able to pull myself back in. Over the years, I have gotten many questions and criticisms because I am Mormon. Many people tell me that it's baloney, and that I shouldn't conform to something that restricts me from so much. That has always got me thinking. But, I have always reminded myself that even if it isn't true, the Church teaches me to be a good person, obedient to the laws of society. The Church has taught me to love my family, and to follow a certain set of standards that have helped me to be a better person. In the news, I read, I watch about the sufferings that are going around us in the world. So many people are still the victims of war and famine, young children are killed without reason. Divorces are common and our society seems to be lowering its moral standards each day. That is why I am thankful that I have the Church to guide and give me strength, allowing me to keep standards that I have been taught and which I hold dear to me.
Lastly, to the two people who I love the most, my parents. I love them both so much because they have been my guides throughout the years. They have lead my each step of the way, holding on to me firmly, and always picking me up whenever I have fallen. I get into arguments with them constantly, and there are times where I think I hate them, but then I realize that they are only doing it for my own good, and are looking out for me. I can never thank them enough for the sacrifices that they have made for me. Thanks Mom and Dad.
I have no idea what lies ahead for me, but I hope that I will be able to chase my dreams, and as the years go on, have a family that I can love and cherish. It is "with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self" that I will take my next step into the world. I pray that I will always have faith in myself, because that's what counts. I have learnt that there are only two things in life that really matters, family and friends. I hope that I will never be too busy to smell each rose that passes. To all of you, thank you for being a part of my life, each of you, one way or another, have helped mold me into who I am today. In Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, the last stanza says...
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I can only hope that I will take the road that makes the right difference, and that I will have all of you with me on my journey.
Elder Ee Chien Chua
"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend."
- Albert Camus