Dominican Republic Flag

Dominican Republic Flag

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pre-mission Trials

I have heard countless accounts of other people's experiences of trials in their faith and feelings of anxiety right before their missions. I, myself had felt little doubts in my mind over the past four months since getting my call. However, I guess I let pride get the better of me, because I told myself, "I'll be ready for Satan when the time comes. I won't let him get me down!"

Easier said than done.

Last Wednesday I was getting excited about leaving. I had only about 28 days left, so I started packing a few things in my room up so it would be easier for my little sister to move in once I left. Needless to say, my room was a mess and in no state to be slept in so I decided to sleep on the couch upstairs.
I usually don't sleep as soundly on the couch, and at around 4:30 on Thursday morning I woke up feeling down. Not just down, I felt like I was drowning in despair. My heart literally pained me at every beat. I felt tormented like I had never been before. My mind was wallowing in grief at past sins that I had committed and had THOUGHT that I had been forgiven for.

"Who are you to teach these people? You aren't worthy! What will your parents, your friends and fellow church members think of you when they find out that you failed as a missionary?"

These terrible thoughts swirled around in my mind, pulling me to new depths in my despair. I felt like Alma the Younger from the Book of Mormon... "I was in the darkest abyss... My soul was racked with eternal torment" (Mosiah 27:29).

Finally I posted on a Facebook page for sister missionaries about my troubles. I was literally bawling as I wrote the post. It was about 5:30 a.m. at this point, so I doubted that I would get any responses until hours later. Miraculously, I got several responses almost immediately.

Several sisters told of how Satan uses our past and already forgiven sins as a weapon against us. I had been called of the Lord. Everything would be fine.

These posts gave me temporary hope, but soon I was again swallowed by the same despair. I kept trying to force myself to think happy thoughts, but it felt like I had a pile of bricks on top of my faith. I prayed harder than I have ever done before.

This experience reminds me of Joseph Smith's experience with the Adversary when he prayed in the Sacred Grove... "I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such astonishing influence over me... Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction."

After calling upon God for some time, I decided to sit back and listen to my thoughts. Were they positive thoughts, or were they negative thoughts. This might seem easy in hindsight, but at the time my mind was foggy and I couldn't focus on much other than the present feeling.

As I let the thoughts come in, I realized a pattern. All my experiences in the temple, all my testimony-building opportunities, and my love for the gospel seemed distorted and faint. The night before I had felt good about all of this. I also noticed that my future seemed dark and negative... I had thoughts such as "I can't go on a mission... But if I don't go on a mission, what will I do? Everyone will judge me and hate me! I could never face them after this... I can't go to church... I'll just be alone."

Sounds silly, right? These were seriously the thoughts that were swirling my mind. Luckily I had the sense to ask myself, "Are these thoughts and feelings from God?" I remembered learning in church that nothing evil or bad comes from God. Even when Heavenly Father is prompting us to repent, He does so lovingly. We will have a hope to become better so that we can become more like him and live with him again.

I immediately decided that these feelings were of the Devil. Heavenly Father wouldn't want me to suffer a life of torment, even if I wasn't worthy to serve a mission. By now it was about 6:30 and I heard my siblings getting ready for school. After they left, I paced the house, waiting for my dad to get ready for work. I finally worked up the courage to ask for a Father's Blessing. I broke down crying again, saying that I was scared of serving a mission.

In my father's blessing I was told that Heavenly Father is pleased with my decision to serve a mission. He also counseled me to do as Bryant S. Hinckley told his son Gordon B. Hinckley as he was having a hard time on his mission, to "Forget yourself and go to work!"

I felt better afterwards, but at this point I was exhausted, having about 5 hours of sleep and having much of my energy drained from my experience. The rest of the day I spent reading my scriptures and Preach My Gospel. I had a restored sense of peace, but something was still nagging at me.

I decided to talk to my bishop on Sunday. I broke down crying when I recounted my tale. My bishop was very understanding and loving, assuring me that Satan is unhappy that I am doing good. The Devil is trying to prevent me from spreading Christ's Gospel. My bishop also told me that he truly believes that I am worthy to serve, which gave me so much peace.

The Devil is a COWARD. That's all there is to it. My lowest point was at 4:30 a.m. My mind wasn't functioning as it would have in the middle of the day. As soon as I had my father's blessing, my thoughts were restored and I realized how lame Satan really is. I am now ready to serve, even though Satan is still trying to tug on my heart with doubt. I want to prove Satan wrong. I am a daughter of God. I am a daughter of a King. I am a daughter of the One who will defeat the Devil, and I will live up to that title.

We are all entitled to this. DON'T LET SATAN GET YOU DOWN! EVERY MOMENT SPENT AWAY FROM THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS A WASTED MOMENT!!!!! Be valiant warriors against evil. Be as the Army of Helaman! We WILL bring the world His truth!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Outfits Outfits Outfits!

I have been stressing about how many outfits to bring on my mission. The call packet says 8-10 outfits, but I am worried that I will get really bored with what I'm wearing and that the clothes will wear out too quickly. I've decided that I will get a few skirts that will go with (at least) two shirts to add variety.
I've gotten mostly white and beige colors because light colors will help me keep cool. White goes with almost anything, so I could wear it with any of my skirts.
I also got a tan linen skirt that will go with almost any of my shirts.

Here are a few of the combinations I came up with!
 I know... it's a lot of white! I got different styles of white shirts to add variety.

 Neutral colored skirts are the best!

Navy Blue will go with most colors as well. :)
I'm also planning on adding a few scarfs and belts to the mix, plus a few cardigans. Hopefully I'll be set for a few weeks at least before I have to reuse an outfit!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mission Preparations...

As soon as I received my call, I immediately began planning and preparing, even though I had 4 months until I left. The first thing I did was research the area I would be serving in.

The Dominican Republic is really close to the equator, so it doesn't have much of a season change. Yep, that means that I'm going to be in 80-90 degree weather for 18 months!

So I began researching clothes that I would need to survive in the heat and humidity. (I have lived in Mississippi and Tennessee all my life so I am used to heat and humidity, but not all year round!)

I was most worried about shoes. I won't have a bike or car during my mission, so I would need comfortable walking shoes that would last. (I also wanted cute shoes!)

I still have some shopping to do, but this is what I have come up with so far...

Luckily my mission president doesn't require us to wear nylons. Basically we need comfortable, attractive, closed-toed shoes for tracting and Sunday wear. I chose Bear Trap brand leather sandals for tracting because they would provide some breathing and would work well in rainy weather (It rains a LOT in the DR!).
The black shoes are probably going to be my dressy/Sunday shoes. They are comfortable, but I'm not sure if they will hold up being used for 8 miles a day!
The leather buckle shoes I have had for a while and they are really comfortable to walk in. I don't know what brand they are (the logo has rubbed off). They are really sturdy so I think they should last at least a few months.

Dresses and Skirts are another big one. May I say just two words? ELASTIC WAIST.
Chances are that your weight will fluctuate, especially during your first months. My friends have told me stories of either their companions or themselves have gained/lost 15 pounds depending on the food and the amount of exercise they got in.
While it's good to try to save money, make sure you have good material and styles depending on the amount of time you spend walking or riding a bike. I will be walking, so I tried to find light colored, light weight skirts that breathed easily.
Here are some of the skirts I have found so far...
The first skirt is from Belk. I found it on the clearance rack and liked the different designs and colors on it. It is really light and breathes easily, especially when there is a little breeze. The second skirt I got at the Habitat ReStore consignment shop for $1. It's light weight and has a tropical flare. The third I got at another consignment shop, also for $1. It's a light color and flares out so that it breathes easily. The fourth is also from Belk on the clearance rack. It is linen, which is WONDERFUL in hot/humid weather. Not to mention that it's a light color and is long enough!
As for shirts, I am trying to keep it simple. White or cream colors go with almost anything. I'm trying to buy shirts with higher necks so I don't have to worry about layering too much.
I've only gotten one dress, simply because dresses are harder to add variety and they take up a little more space. I got this dress at a consignment shop for $2. It's one of my favorites because it is modest and very feminine... not to mention cheap! It's very breathable and light colored also.
I'm still shopping for more things, so I will update as I get them! So much to do... So little time!

A Life-Changing Decision...

It was a long road for me to decide to go on a mission. When I heard President Thomas S. Monson announce the age change for recommendation for missionary service, my first thought was "I am so going on a mission when I turn 19!"

All my friends were ecstatic, and several left on their missions over the next year, leaving me with hardly any friends in my ward. This made me even more desperate to get on a mission so I wouldn't be missing out.

Around September of 2013 I decided that I should at least put off my mission and focus on my schooling. Well, after one of my closest friends left on her mission to Utah, I went through a really hard time with school and work. I won't go into too much detail, but I was taking 16 credits at my community college and working at a daycare program. My boss tended to bully me, which caused great anxiety in me throughout the day. It didn't take long for me to feel torn down in everything. I was attending the young single adult branch in my stake, which was fun, but I longed for something familiar. I felt thrown into everything, drowning in my numerous responsibilities.

Throughout the fall semester of 2013 I had been preparing to audition for the Young Performing Missionaries in Nauvoo, Illinois. Ever since I was a child, I had watched the YPMs perform fiddling, dancing, and acting on stage in a form of missionary work. When I was 9, I began taking violin/fiddle lessons because I wanted to play "Orange Blossom Special" like the YPMs.

Well, now was the time for me to audition! I prepared amidst my crazy schedule and sent in my audition video. I began making plans to take exams early for when I reported to Nauvoo on May 2, 2014. (Remember that date!)

Two weeks later was finals at school. I felt confident in most of them, but my biology lab seemed really hard and I felt that I didn't do well. After the final, I couldn't find my keys. I was already in a bad mood from work and my final, so I was in a pretty foul mood. I get home and check my email to find an email that says "YPM auditions." Excited, I open it.

I didn't make it in.

That was the last straw. I cried. I cried hard. The next few weeks were really rocky in terms of my testimony. There were a couple of weeks where I literally had to drag myself to church. One week I actually went for a drive in the mountains instead of going to church.

The next Sunday, January 5, 2014, I was thinking about skipping again. My church didn't start until 1pm so I was just sitting around the house while my family went to the homeward. I was listening to my iPod when the song "O Give Me Back My Prophet Dear" by Rob Gardner came on. I had listened to that song several times before, but for some reason it reawakened the Spirit inside of me that I thought I had lost. I went to church, and during sacrament meeting I was praying to Heavenly Father, asking him what I could do to become a strong Daughter of God. Three words entered my mind almost instantly.

Serve a mission.

I was surprised, but I felt a peace about it. I didn't say anything to my friends or family, but that night I went on to YouTube and watched a video of Sisters and Elders opening their mission calls to various places in the world. It got me excited! Before I knew what I was doing I was on my online missionary recommendation, which luckily my bishop had set up a few months before when I was still wanting to serve. I filled out most of my information that I could do by myself, running up to my mom's room to ask (very nonchalantly) where my grandfather served. She gave me a strange look but answered.

The next day I couldn't keep it in any longer! I texted my mom this: (And yes, I use my mom's first name in my phone.)
So we went through with everything, with very minor difficulties with medical information. My stake president sent my application to Salt Lake around the middle of April. I was so anxious over the next couple of weeks, waiting to know where I would be spending 18 months of my life.  
The last week of April my dad told me that he talked to the stake president and that my call had been assigned. It would be here within the next week!
Monday came. Nothing. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday... Nothing. On Friday I came home from school and had the feeling that it was going to come that day. I told myself that it was probably just my wishful thinking, but the words, "No! It's coming today!" came into my mind immediately.
I told my mom, but she only said, "It might!"
So I sat by the window, reading Jacob 5 (The chapter about the olive tree). About 30 minutes before I had to leave for work, the mailman came up the road... S O   S L O W L Y!
I saw a large envelope go into our mailbox, and I screamed "MOM! IT'S HERE!" And I ran outside. Mom was freaking out almost as much I me, and waited on the porch while I pulled it out.
Surely enough, the envelope said, "Sister Krislee Nicole Twiner." I literally danced back to the house and immediately texted, called and facebooked everyone I could think of. We decided to open it that night.

Work had NEVER gone so slowly before, even though I only worked for 2 hours that day. The longest part was waiting the remaining 2 hours for everyone to come. Mom had hidden the envelope so I wouldn't peek. (I was kind of worried that she would have a peek herself!)

Over 20 people came and I had my aunt and grandparents on the phone. We had a fun time guessing where I was going... Most people either guessed the United Kingdom or Utah: somewhere where I would "fit in" with my blonde hair a fair skin.

We went into the back yard and I opened it...

Dear Sister Twiner,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the
Everyone, including myself, was completely shocked! Me... Serving a mission in the Caribbean... Is there a misprint?  I'm supposed to be going to England or Salt Lake! The mission that I had really wanted to go to was the Scotland-Ireland mission, and I was preparing myself to be disappointed, but as soon I read the Dominican Republic, I KNEW that that was where I needed to be. I was going to learn Spanish. I was going to be in the hot sun year round, constantly layering sunscreen on myself.
But I knew that there was no other place for me to serve the Lord.
I'm not going to be serving a place, I'm going to be serving children of our Heavenly Father. It doesn't matter if I'm serving in Iowa, Utah, England, Japan, or the Dominican Republic. We are called to proclaim the restored gospel to ALL his children, no matter their race or background.
Remember that date that I asked you to remember? (May 2, 2014) That was the day that the YPMs were meeting in Nauvoo. Well, that door was closed and another one opened. I got my mission call on May 2, 2014. I simply wasn't meant to serve in Nauvoo that summer. I was called to something different.
Now it is August 10, 2014 and I leave for my mission in exactly 1 month! I am beyond excited, scared, nervous, blessed... the list goes on! I have never had so many emotions whirling inside me at one time! But I still know that this is what Heavenly Father wants me to do, even though Satan has definitely upped his game. I know that it will be hard, but I am also so excited to discover what there is to be learned in serving the Lord in this capacity.