Recently, I expressed to a close friend how trialling this particular period of my life was. I told him some challenges I was facing and how I was feeling about those challenges. He then said to me that of course I was going through these challenges, because Satan doesn’t want me out there in the mission field. I had a light bulb moment (which lead me to writing these posts about my experiences).
Right from the confirmation I received at the April 2013 General Conference to serve a mission, the intensity of my preparation went from 0 to 100 really quick.
A Black Dog & A Smashed Car (July 2013)
As the title suggests, a black dog was involved and so was my wee green Nissan March. After a night of partying (we had gone to a 60th) and a day of exploring (we went to Whangarei for the day) and some fireworks to top it all off, we made our way back home from Maromaku, a small settlement north of Whangarei where one of my closest and most dearest friends is from (you can see the world through her eyes here). At 9 o’clock. At night. Hayley jumped in my car and her husband (soon to be fiancé at the time) Peter, was following behind us in their car.
As we drove along the Northern roads we chatted. We’ve never been short on conversation her and I (which is something I love). As we drove down a hill, approaching a bridge where the road widened afterwards, we jokingly discussed what she would do and how she would feel if Peter crashed and died on our way home (I know what you’re thinking – morbid much).
Just as we crossed the bridge I heard a bang and saw a black blur in the bottom right hand side of my windscreen. Before I knew it the car was spinning. I didn’t know what was going on or how I had even got to this point. I thought the tire had popped. That was the only explanation. The car spun from left to right. The rails on the opposite side of the road were so close I felt I could touch them. I realised that I was going to die. My mind was blank except for, “This is it. I’m going to die.” Reflexively my hands were turning the wheel. I hardly noticed. As we spun onto the left side of the road again I suddenly heard Hayley inhale sharply. In those few seconds I had completely forgotten she was there. We were so close to going off the cliff. I could see down the steep bank and into the green valley. I realised that I had to turn the wheel. I realised that if I didn’t turn, not only would I die but Hayley would too. I turned the wheel and we were on the opposite side of the road again. I seemed to be regaining control of the car. “Now brake,” were the words that came to my mind. “Why didn’t I think of that before?” I thought. How could I? My mind had been blank up until that point. I slowly braked until we were at a complete stop. Hayley told me to go onto the right side of the road as oncoming traffic could hit us at any time. When the car was safe and we were safe, I broke down. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. We almost died.
A huge black dog had collided with us. We didn’t see it coming at all because it was camouflaged in the dark of night and it also hit us on the side. The local police had tried to contact the owner but it seems it had none. We’ve always wondered where it came from. Or maybe, who sent it?
The front bumper of my car was smashed. We couldn’t drive it home. I was in utter despair. I had planned to sell it to move to Brisbane, get a job and get on my mission asap. Now those plans were out the door. It couldn’t get much worse than this.
Deep, Dark & All Alone (August 2013)
Yes. Yes it could get worse than that. The following month devastated me. I had no car and no job. I was emotionally unhinged from the crash. How was I going to serve a mission now? I felt helpless. Hopeless. I applied for jobs but had no success. I had to go on the benefit. I hated it. I hated relying on the government when so many people needed it more than myself. I hated the stigma attached to being on the benefit. Looking back it was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had.
Slowly it was getting harder to get out of bed every day. I stayed in my room most of the time and didn’t eat much. I applied for a few jobs online each day but that’s all I could manage to do. I felt lonely. I felt weird. I hated myself. I was embarrassed of the situation that I was in. I didn’t know what was wrong with me or why I felt like this. I’ve never felt such strong negative feelings about myself before. What was happening to me? I felt as though I was in a deep, dark ocean. Boats were near me and I would cry out for help but no one heard and no one came. I was alone. I felt that it was getting harder to stay afloat. I felt that I couldn’t keep swimming much longer. I tried not to think that I didn’t want to.
I may not have known what was happening, but Heavenly Father did. And He sent one of His sweet angels to rescue me because He couldn’t do it personally. Another close friend, Fusi, came back from America (you can read about her mission preparation experiences here). She knew that something was wrong. But instead of wondering why I was different, why I didn’t seem like myself, why I had changed, instead of just wondering, she helped me. She reached out and helped me. With her help I finally knew what was happening. I was depressed.
Once I realised that I had been going through depression I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Now that I knew what was going on I could move forward. And I started to. It wasn’t easy at all but my days didn’t seem so dark anymore. I was finally feeling more like myself again. With the help of angels (both seen and unseen) and the love of Jesus Christ and my Father I was finally able to emerge out of that deep, dark ocean.
We Think We Know Better (April 2014)
Life didn’t feel good, it felt great! I was working for an awesome charity and I got paid. My car was fixed. I was no longer in the depths of depression. What was even more exciting was the fact that my mum and cousins were being taught by the missionaries!
We’d had Family Home Evening for about a month before I saw the missionaries right across from my aunty’s house. Previously I had been too scared (of what, I don’t know!) to teach my family about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I shared bits and bobs here and there when interest was shown but that was it. I knew that if I wanted any progress with my family I needed to invite the missionaries to come and teach them. A few days later I saw them! It was the answer to my prayers. I invited them over the following Monday and the lessons began.
That whole time my aunty had been out of Auckland visiting a friend. When she came back and found out that the missionaries had been coming around, she said that this had to stop. I was devastated. It was one of my most heart-breaking experiences. I asked God why this happened? My family were finally making progress and it was all so perfect. Didn’t He want them to be baptised? I thought I knew better than Him. I didn’t.
The missionaries invited mum and my cousins to attend Family Home Evening at another member’s home instead. Their faith was inspiring and strengthened me during a time where I lost hope and perspective. Although my cousins didn’t want to attend, mum did and she thrived. She made great friends and had been committed to baptism. It was infinitely better than anything I could have hoped for. I knew then that I was wrong to think that I knew what was best for mum or for my cousins. Heavenly Father was aware of their needs and He had a plan for her all along. I just couldn’t see it.
My Worst Self (August 2014)
In his talk entitled, “Who, When & Why We Marry”, (check it out, I strongly recommend it) John Bytheway identifies something called blind spots. He emphasises the importance of helping friends identify their blind spots as someone once did for him.
Many people have done that for me, whether they knew it or not. I want to touch on just one experience in particular that helped me identify a particular blind spot. I had met someone that I really felt connected to. We had gone on a few dates and were still getting to know one another. I hadn’t known him for very long at all. But what I knew about him already, I liked. His experiences were so similar to my own. I knew that he could understand what I had gone through and knew more than most people might, how it really felt.
In the week leading up to the final date that we went on I was so stressed. I was anxious about the upcoming date and all the things I had to do to prepare. I was worried about the reaction from some of the people we wanted to visit (we had planned to bake some muffins and give them to people who were homeless). I was worried about a family concern. I was worried about a hundred and one different other things that probably didn’t matter. A lot was going through my mind and I took that on our date.
We did have some pretty amazing experiences as we spoke, sat, connected and shared with our newly made friends that night. As the evening wore on, fatigue set in and despite those amazing experiences I was starting to lose my cool, becoming focused on the fact that he was texting while we were on the date. Although we hadn’t established any date etiquette before we had proceeded I unfairly assumed that he would know how rude texting would be. No longer wanting to hold back my biting words, I unkindly expressed my frustration to him. It seemed I no longer cared and selfishly thought about how I alone, was feeling.
Days after, even weeks I reflected on that moment time and time again with utter disgust. How could I be so unkind to him? I couldn’t forgive myself for treating him so badly. I showed him my worst self. When I finally ended my self-torture I thought about how when I feel hurt, I react, rather than respond. Que another light bulb moment.
That whole experience helped to identify one of my blind spots. A particularly important one as if left unaddressed it could negatively affect all of my future friendships and relationships. I knew I had to change and I knew I never wanted to hurt anyone like that again, especially not someone I would pledge my life and love to in the future.
A Bittersweet Goodbye (July 2015)
In November last year we found out that my Nan had lung cancer. It was predicted that she had only months to live. It could be many months or very few. The idea of her passing felt surreal and I couldn’t comprehend what the following months would involve.
Slowly Nan’s health declined. Every weekend my sister (follow her journey here) and I would spend it with Nan and Poppa. She taught me so much and helped to shape me into the woman I am today. Some of my most fondest memories are with and of my Nan. Each time I would visit her, she began to look worse and worse. Very soon she wasn’t able to walk on her own.
One night I stayed with her while she was in a care facility. In the early hours of the morning she woke me up and asked if I would help her to the bathroom. I had to lift her off the bed and then place her in her wheelchair, navigating her to the bathroom. Once there, I had to lift her up and place her on the toilet. Once she was ready we repeated our actions in reverse. When she was back in bed settled, we watched a little bit of television together waiting to fall asleep. I thought to myself how true love knows no bounds. When we love someone we will serve them in any way we can. In that experience with Nan I realised how important it was to marry someone who would do for me what I might not be able to do for myself one day because they loved me.
In her final days and especially those final hours we had some really sweet moments with her. My heart ached every time I thought about how she wouldn’t be there to see me off on my mission, nor would she be there at my wedding. It was even harder thinking about her not being there at the birth of my children or at any of their milestones. But how could I feel time was cheating my family when Heavenly Father had blessed us with her presence for 63 years already? He had given me 22 years with this woman which was more than most people have had with their own grandmothers.
Once Nan passed I slowly started to feel the loss of her physical presence. Each time the feeling would bring a heaviness to my heart. But the knowledge that I had about the Plan of Salvation became my balm of Gilead. I knew that I would see my Nan again and I would very soon have the opportunity to perform her work in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.