Love that knows no bounds…..

When I initially started thinking about what I wanted to say today I was stumped. Nothing seemed right. However, as I continued contemplating I began thinking about my parents and things that had happened when I was a child. Now, I am the 4th of 7 kids but I was the youngest for the first 6 years of my life. So, there was a marked difference from before my little brothers were born. One of these differences was the bedtime routine.

When I was the youngest there was just my three older siblings and I to put to bed (but my siblings are at least 4 years older than me so it was more of just putting me to bed). So, we would have family prayer and then my parents (usually my dad) would ask each of us kids two questions. It was always the same two questions. The conversation with each child would go something like this:

Dad: Who loves you?
Me: Mama and Daddy.
Dad: Who else?
Me: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
Dad: How long will we love you?
Me: Always and forever.

This conversation would take place 4 times each night. Now, the responses we gave were conditioned responses, so the words did not have much meaning to a child as small as I was. However, it was the repetitive, routine of this conversation that would stick with me throughout my life.

Once my little brothers were born this routine changed. My little brothers are twins, so putting them to bed took a lot longer and was much more of a process now, so the nightly Q&A stopped. However, I never forgot those words, and from time to time I would remember those questions and their answers, but still not really understand the significance of them.

I hit my teenage years and as happens sometimes, I hit a downward spiral. On one of my darkest days, I had hit rock bottom and tried to go 6 feet under. I was home and in tears and then my daddy came home and just held me while I cried. As he held me he too started crying (which is something I have seen him do less than 10 times in my life) and he said these words:

“Sister Elliott, who loves you? You know who loves you, right?”

“…pause…”

“Your mother and I do and we will love you always and forever. But there is someone who has loved you for far longer. Our Heavenly Father has loved you longer than you can comprehend and he will love you for far longer than you can imagine. You will always be my little girl in this life and in the life to come. But, you were a precious daughter of God before you were my daughter and will be forever….”

Of course, the confused, lost teenager that I was just started crying harder and the words, while they held meaning at that moment were ones that would fade away and would turn back into being words from childhood.

The night before I left for my mission my father gave me words of advice. As he spoke to me his eyes began tearing up and those tears began to fall when he said, “During those hard times there are two things I want you to remember:

Who loves you?

I responded (with tears in my eyes): Mama and Daddy

“Who else?”

I said: “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ”

He asked: “How long will we love you?”

I replied: “Always and forever”

 

Those words were some of the last words my father said to me before I got on the plane and left for my mission.  This time, the words have stuck. In the 4 1/2 months I have been on my mission I have had some pretty crazy things happen. I have had low points and high points. But, something I am always reminded of is that I am a Daughter of God. I am precious in His eyes and will be no matter what I do. I never want to disappoint my Father in Heaven because he knows what I am capable of and I cannot think of a worse feeling than meeting Him and realizing that I did not become the person He knew I was capable of becoming.

God loves us with a perfect love. He sees beyond our faults and our weaknesses, and our imperfections. His love is endless and knows no bounds. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to be a sacrifice for us so that we can return to live with Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved”  —John 3:16-17

I know that God lives. I know that He is my Father in Heaven. I know that He loves me more than I can comprehend. I know that He has a plan that will enable all of us to live with Him again. I know that my Saviour Jesus Christ is at the center of that plan. That through Christ and his sacrifice we can be made clean and whole. We can repent and change for the better, we can be healed of any pain or hurt. I know that this love is extended to all people everywhere. God is no respecter of persons. Race, age, gender, those things do not matter to Him. The one thing that matters is that I, you, and all of us are His children.

When it comes down to it, all the knowledge of men does not compare to this one simple truth:

We are children of God. We have a divine heritage with a potential to become like our Heavenly Father.

It is a wonder and a blessing to have this knowledge and have the opportunity to share it with the world.

I bear witness to these things in the name of my Lord and my Saviour, my elder brother, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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And so it begins….

Honestly, I never know where to start with these things, so I guess I should start at the beginning…. When I chose to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

 

Growing up I heard stories from my mother about when she served her mission in France. I loved hearing her stories but never seriously considered serving a mission. Traditionally, the age women could serve a mission was 21, so I had a while to make up my mind. However, that changed in October 2012, when the historic announcement was made that the age was lowered for when young men and women could serve missions. For young women, the age was lowered from 21 to 19. At the time I was almost 20 1/2, right in between. When the announcement was made I actually was on a study abroad program in the Kingdom of Jordan, so I was able to postpone thinking about what the implications of the age change had for me until I returned to the states. However it was at the back of my mind.

My mother told me that shortly after the age change had occured, people started asking her when I was going to put in my mission papers. When I heard this I was so angry and outraged. In my mind I was thinking, “How dare these people automatically assume that I even want to serve a mission? How dare they try to predict and determine what I want to do with my life?” Obviously, serving a mission was not an idea on the table at the time and my heart was hardened so that it would not be for some time.

I returned to BYU in January 2013. I had two roommates, both of whom were freshman (and I was finishing up my junior year). One of them, Robin, and I became particularly close. Robin was so excited to serve a mission. She didn’t turn 19 until September, but she had already made up her mind to serve. She would light up every time she talked about going. I on the other hand would shut down, and do what I could to change the subject.

Well, my life had become stagnant. I was losing interest in my classes, which is something I had once loved. I was bored and it was a trial to study, I had to force myself to do my homework and to go to work, I functioned that semester through sheer will power. I was taking three religion classes, which I think helped to give me the strength to make it through the semester. I also had a calling in my ward that required me to go to several meetings and leadership trainings. These things were not connected at all, and yet one thing kept coming up. Missionary work.

I was constantly being pounded with phrases like “Serving a mission” or “When you serve a mission”, people in classes would bring up serving a mission, or even in the material, and none of my classes were missionary oriented, would bring up missionary work. After some time I was kneeling in prayer and finally took the hint. I asked my Father in Heaven if serving a mission is what He wanted me to do with my life. The answer I received was not one of an overwhelming affirmation, but it was rather a neutral feeling. Ultimately, the choice was mine, God wasn’t going to tell me what to do one way or the other.

So, I went back to studying, going to classes, doing homework, trying to have a social life, but things kept coming back to this overwhelming question of what I should do. I was nearing the age of 21 and one of my friends in particular (who had already served a mission) would ask me a lot about whether or not I had decided (I had told him of my dilema and he never pushed, just listened and made suggestions). By this time, it was March and I needed to decide if I was going to look for housing for the Fall or get a deferrment and hold my place at school.

I finally broke down and read in my scriptures and then I pulled out a blessing I had received and had not read in a long time. In it, it specifically mentions being a “Missionary in the Kingdom”. I had my answer. I got back down on my knees and told the Lord that I was ready to do what he wished of me, I was ready to put my life on hold to serve Him. That time I received a feeling of comfort, and in the back of my mind the thought came, “Sister Elliott, you have known all along what you were supposed to do, you have known since you were almost 14 years old. You just fought it, and I am glad and proud that you have stopped fighting”.

So, with that choice, my plans completely changed. I only had 1 year of school left before I would graduate with my bachelor’s degree….yeah, that got put on hold. I went home for the summer and worked. I filled out all the paperwork, had the appropriate interviews, had my picture taken (that actually was the hardest thing for me to do and for about a month was the only thing stopping me from putting in my papers…..I really don’t like pictures that much 🙂 and finally subitted my papers. Two weeks later on October 31st 2013 I received an envelope in the mail. Enclosed was a letter that said “Dear Sister Elliott, you have been called to serve as a Missionary in the Florida Jacksonville Mission….”

And with that, my future was decided. I entered the Missionary Training Center on February 5th, 2014 and arrived in Jacksonville, Florida on February 18th. That was almost 4 months ago. At the beginning I had my doubts as to whether or not this is truly what I should be doing, and if this is where I am supposed to be. But, I now know that all the things that happened transpired to get me to this point and this place.

Like Jesus Christ, I am going about my Heavenly Father’s business, spreading the Gospel to all who will listen, and building the Kingdom of God on the Earth. And I wouldn’t trade this time for anything in the world.