This whole process of putting my papers in and receiving a call has often been surreal to me. There are times when I think about receiving my call, and heading out for a year and half, and think, “Is this real? Am I really getting the chance to do this?” I oftentimes can’t believe that it’s all happening, and so fast (okay – relatively fast, in comparison to the rest of my life). In high school and when I began college, I thought that I could never serve a mission because of my ankles. I wanted to, but never saw it as a possibility. Instead I channeled my energies solely into school and institute. How little did I realize that, even though I wasn’t consciously preparing, I was very much being prepared by the Lord.
I felt like I was caught up in a whirlwind when I decided after President Monson’s historic announcement that I was going to serve. I told my Institute teacher, and he simply smiled and said, “I know. ” My housemates weren’t as surprised as I thought they would be – they smiled, hugged, and said, “we knew.” My bishop greeted me as I waited outside his office for my first interview with, “I knew I would see you soon, Sister Redner.” Some of my best friends smiled, rolled their eyes and shook their heads and informed me, “we all knew.” I called my dad, expecting a huge surprise for him (and perhaps a little resistance) that I was serving, and all he said was, “I know” (that was followed with a, “Do you think I’m stupid?”).
Essentially, everyone knew before I did that I would be serving.
I was sitting in sacrament meeting today, excited that it was testimony meeting. I love testimony meeting, especially at my home ward. I rarely get up to bear my testimony because I’m too caught up in learning from the testimonies of others. I was surprised when one of the young women came up at the beginning of the meeting and handed me a note.
You prepare at a singles ward to be called upon to bear your testimony in the case of a lull, especially when your bishop is the Institute teacher and you’ve known him for 3 years as your favorite teacher. It’s not uncommon for a bishop of a singles ward to request a member to come up and bear their testimony.
I wasn’t prepared, however, to receive a note admonishing me that it wasn’t okay to sit alone, and that after I bore my testimony, I was to sit with this sister’s family (she didn’t realize I was sitting with someone – they had just come late). Note the after I bore my testimony. It made me laugh, and I realized that I needed to thank my ward and tell them some things I know. Because I tried to keep it short, unfortunately some things got left out, and I thought I could share a few more of them here on APG.
Let it be known that I am gifted with belief, not the gift of knowing absolutely. So when I know something, I know.
As I reflect on the past few months, and look forward to the next few years, I know some things.
I know that the Lord knows the deepest and most important reason that drives me to serve a full-time mission. A few months ago, I was struggling with not knowing where I would be called, and very selfishly decided that there would be places that I surely did not want to go (read: anywhere that had more Mormons than non-Mormons). I was a bit of a wreck, enough to warrant my dear friend to call over Charlie and Jacob to give me a blessing of comfort. In part of that blessing, I was told that the Lord knows that I want to serve as a way of beginning to repay Him for giving me the gift of the Gospel. That my service was a way of saying ‘thank you.’ I had never confided that to anyone, and to hear Charlie be the mouthpiece of the Lord for a few minutes and tell me that He knew meant the world. Knowing that He knows is so very important to me.
I know that a mission is what I am supposed to be doing. People ask me often, why are you stopping your schooling? Because I know that this is the time in my life that I need to serve. I have had this confirmation time and again, beginning the hour after President Monson’s announcement. I knew then, sitting on the front steps of my house in tears, that I would serve before the end of November.
I know that my call is not arbitrary, that it is not a lottery. I know that where I am called is where I am needed, and where I need to be. I know that this work is bigger than me, and that I am meant to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands and do His will, not necessarily my own.
I know that this Gospel is a gospel of families. That families can be together forever, and that family doesn’t just include those whose blood you share. It includes the family of the ward, stake, and of the Church as a whole.
I know that through prayer you can speak with God, and receive counsel and comfort, and at times correction.
I know that our Father and His Son know each of our names, and each of our hearts. This dispensation opened with a name, and that tells us that if God knew the name of a boy in New York, He knows each of our names.
I know that we have living prophets on the earth today, and that President Monson, his counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and all other general authorities in the Church are blessed to receive revelation for the Church, and that they cannot and will not guide us away from the Lord.
I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain the word of God, as do General Conference addresses.
I know that my Savior loves each of us, individually, and that He wants nothing else than for us to return home to Him and live with Him for eternity with our families.
I am so very thankful for the opportunity to share my testimony. I often learn things about myself and about my Father in Heaven by bearing it, and having the opportunity to listen and learn from the testimonies of others helps strengthen my own. I know that my Father has a plan for me, and I can hardly wait to know what that plan is.