Hi!! I’m alive!

I feel like I have so much to say, but can’t figure out where to start. I’ve only been here 2 1/2 days and it already feels like several weeks. I’m sitting here in the computer lab in the main building on campus and you can hear a constant sort of pitter-patter/whir of keyboard keys being tapped and the occasional outburst of laughter and joking around between companions and friends. It’s a really peaceful, as well as, energized atmosphere. Both, at the same time, if you can fathom that. It’s the sound of a room full of missionaries writing to the people they love. That’s really special, when you think about it.
We don’t ever stop moving here at the MTC. We’re constantly going from class to a meal to class to a meeting to class to a meal to class… to class… to class… and then somewhere in there I use the bathroom (when I’m lucky) and then somewhere in there I sleep. I’ve done that two times, I believe, but to be honest it’s all running together. But that’s not all bad. It’s all great, actually, and I’m learning so much.I am currently in a trio companionship. So, there are three sisters in a companionship instead of the traditional two. My companions are Sister Liu, from Pittsburgh/Concord, California, not to be confused with Pennsylvania. She’s Tongan (and proud of it :D) and loves to make us laugh. My other companion is Sister Bolander. She is from Oak Harbor, Washington (State) and is just really great. I am loving watching them grow and I’m growing to love both of them so much.  [Both will be going to the St. George Visitors’ Center with Alicia.]My district, or “class group” is made up of several companionships. Nine, including ours. The rest of our district is made up of Elders. All of the Elders in our district are going to Australia. Half of them are going to Perth and half are going to Sydney. They’re a lot of fun and we are all helping each other learn and grow. Our teachers are so patient with us and extremely inspiring.

We’re learning a ton in our classes and we have the opportunity every day to meet and learn about new people. God’s love for all His children has become so real to me in just the last two days. He truly loves each and every one of us and knows us individually. He knows and loves my companions, the Elders in my district, my teachers, every single person that walks the halls of the MTC, and everyone beyond these walls. The whole world. EVERY SINGLE PERSON EVER. EVER. Seriously. So you, you right now that are reading this… He loves you. I promise that.The most important thing I have learned in my time here at the MTC is that my mission is not about me. My mission is about the people I meet. And the people I will meet. It is about God’s love for His children and the privilege I have to share the message of that love with everyone I meet. It’s not even my mission. It’s my Savior, Jesus Christ’s, mission. I’m just the vessel, the messenger. The message I’m sharing is greater than I can even comprehend, and I can only do my very, very best to do what I can to learn and grow enough to share it well, to share it with love, and to share it in every way possible.Well, I’m limited on time, so I’ll have to end this here. My district is doing a service project a little later today and I still have to go do laundry and things. Real life still happens here, even though it’s so much more. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here at this special place, at this special time, doing this immensely important and special thing. I know it is the best thing I could be doing with my time and it will be the most important thing I do in my life, to date. I know this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I know He loves me, and I love Him. AND I know He loves YOU.

I, also, LOVE YOU! Have a beautiful day and, if you get the chance, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you. Take care of yourselves and take care of the people you love!

Love,

Sister Hansen  (aliciah@myldsmail.net — email welcome)
Missionary Training Center address through 9/18/2013 (snail mail welcome, too!)
Sister Alicia Gayle Hansen
SEP18 UT-STG
2009 N 900 E Unit 103
Provo UT 84602

Forget Yourself and Go

When I received my call to serve as a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I knew it was what I needed to be doing. I knew it was just what my Father, my God, needed me to do. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt because of how reading those few sentences made me feel: happier than I can describe and anchored by a peace that cannot be put into words. I promised myself, as I moved forward from that day, that I would not get distracted. I promised that I wouldn’t waste a moment on the road of preparation that I found myself sprinting down. But that sprint turned into a run, and then a skip, and then a jog, and then a quick walk, until I found myself strolling.

I’m happy to say I never idled. Not really.

And speaking as someone who drives a car with standard transmission, I never stalled. Thank goodness.

But I’m looking at things now, as I approach my very last week of preparation, and I’m kicking myself a little. How did I lose momentum? How did I lose focus? How did I come to a point where my promise to myself crumbled, faded, and was ultimately broken?

Well, I’m not saying that all is lost. Hardly. I’m still going, and I’m going to be fine. Mostly because: Philippians 4:13. And because I’m choosing to forgive myself, brush off the dust that I let settle on my determination, and move on.

What I am saying is that these weeks, right before I leave, have been the toughest. Nothing tragic has happened to me (for which I am counting my blessings, I promise). No one in my family or circle of friends has gotten seriously ill, seriously in trouble, or been any kind of unkind, discouraging, or hurtful. These are all things that I have read or heard accounts of from other women my age preparing to leave. However, my eleventh hour balls and chains have been of my own making.

When I first spoke to my Bishop about wanting to serve a mission, the interview was, of course, filled with lots of smiling, nervous laughter (on my part) and encouragement (on his part as well as His part). But it was also filled with some important counsel. I took it seriously, but I don’t think I understood it. My Bishop told me, essentially, that this decision to serve made me a target. Lucifer/Satan/the devil/the adversary/whatever did not want me doing this great thing. No, sir. And he was going to do whatever he could to stop me. He was going to distract me. As I listened to my Bishop warn me of that, I thought: Sure, of course. He’ll probably try and get me with media choices and whatnot, right?

Well, yes.

But what I never expected was how tailored to me the distractions were. How most of the time it was direct distraction. Just distraction, plain and simple, that was the worst. It was just me spending my time in ways that weren’t particularly bad. Certainly not evil in any respect. But only good, and definitely not the best. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about this in his October 2007 General Conference address. He said:

“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”

I read a blog post from a sister missionary who had to return home early from her mission for medical reasons. She gave a plethora of advice to women who are considering serving or preparing to serve.  One particular piece of advice was about preparation. She said, “Spiritual preparation is SO much more important than physical preparation.” She went on to describe how she spent way too much time concerned about the physical things she needed to take with her: clothing, personal items, etc. And that she wished that she had spent more time in the scriptures, on her knees, with her family, and with her mind on missionary work in general. I read that and realized I was guilty of the same thing.

Now, I’m not saying that the physical stuff isn’t important. It’s essential to make sure you are going to have what you need on your mission. But it is also good to focus on the best preparation: spiritual preparation. Amongst all of the good things we could do in the months and weeks before a mission, there are undeniably better things and some of the best things that we should be focusing on most. It is good to want to make sure you have the skirts and shirts and what-have-you items that you need on your mission. It is marginally good to see to it that you make a trip to your favorite handful of restaurants at home before you leave them for a year and a half. It is good, no argument, to spend as much time with friends as possible before you are also without them for a year and half (or two years, if you’re an elder). The list could go on. But suffice it to say, that while these are good things and shouldn’t necessarily be cut out of the mission preparation diet, the most important things—scripture study, studying mission materials, temple attendance, service, etc.—should be attended to first. What’s that quote that everybody mentions when they’re too busy or something? That quote about priorities? Oh, you know, that quote from a PROPHET.

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.” – Ezra Taft Benson, The Great Commandment–Love the Lord

And there you have it.

Also, this:

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Overall, I have to say this: I dropped the ball. But the ball didn’t roll very far and I have two hands at the end of two arms attached to two shoulders that sprout from a frame containing a heart that I intend to “seal… for the courts above.” Those hands can pick up that ball and carry it as far as it needs to be carried. Because these past few weeks have been hard, hard in that I have had to fight for focus. But things are hardest when they are worth the most. I believe that. And I know that serving a mission is absolutely what I need to do. It is what the Lord needs me doing, and He knows better than I, inexplicably, what I need. I’m trusting in Him and I know that… well, Philippians 4:13. He’s going to help me carry the ball.

So for anyone reading this who is preparing for a mission, preparing for anything, really, or who just needed a call to better prioritizing, I implore you: Put God first. Let the spiritual things in your life take precedence, priority. Choose to fill your life and your days with the things that are best first and then fill in the gaps (which probably won’t exist, honestly) with the things that are good. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it. In this next week as I continue my preparation, I’m going to strive to practice what I preach and mold my priorities accordingly. There are great blessings in sacrifice, and I believe that a sacrifice of time absolutely counts. I also believe that, in the end, more often than not you find that what felt like a sacrifice at the time, really wasn’t one after all.

“I promise you that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley, Words of the Prophet: Forget Yourself and Go

I love you all. I love this gospel. And I love my Savior.

Happy everything,
Sister Hansen