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Coming Home: The Reunion

Sunday, April 12, 2015




Sooooooo......


Have I kept you hanging too long?? Gosh I feel like Chris Harrison about to host an episode of "The Women Tell All"  HAHAHA! Ok don't get your hopes up...it's not THAT dramatic:) 


......but either way......here goes nothing;).....


So I sat down on my first flight to Detroit, my stomach was in a total knot (partially because I had only three bites of a dry english muffin for breakfast that morning and mostly because my life was about to be turned upside down)  and I remember wanting to do nothing more than to curl up in a ball and pause time until I could process what was happening. 

Yea like that would EVER happen. 



Instead, I had to act like a totally composed adult, casually buckling in, glancing out the window, staring across the isle, checking the phone.......minus the checking the phone part......while inwardly I was starting to shut down. I was starting....just starting....to decide that for the next hour flight I would deal with the stress, strain, butterflies, confusion, 90mph-brain-processing, emotional rollercoaster, companion separation anxiety, nervousness, overwhelm, etc. by going into my comfort zone and shutting out the world around me by reading the scriptures, praying A TON, writing in my journal A TON, thinking A TON, and not talking to ANYONE

(((((BUBBLE MODE)))))


YES. I just wanted to be in my own bubble and deal with all the emotional chaos going in inside me by doing all the good things I knew how to do. Seemed like a good idea, right??

WRONG.


Just when I thought I'd figured out how to solve my stress-case of a self....the spirit spoke clearly to my mind, reminding me of a prompting I had received about a week prior in a mission meeting: "Sister Parker, IT ISN'T OVER TILL IT'S OVER. If you want to solve all these feelings you're feeling......if you want to cure your stress, your anxiety, your worry, your sadness, your sorrow, your uncertainty, your doubt, your nervousness.....do what you've been called to do. You've been called to share the gospel!! That calling never ends! Open your mouth! Use every minute you've been given! Until the last moment when you have to take that tag off, PROCLAIM. MY. GOSPEL!"

YES, I am sitting here, writing this post, with tears streaming down my face, remembering this moment!! AH!! It still gives me chills!! 

That prompting....that simple, sweet, yet EMPOWERING prompting breathed new air into me. I filled me with such incredible peace and hope. It calmed my fears about the future and assurance that my role as a missionary was ongoing. I was still hesitant, but I felt the strength of that witness and THAT was undeniable. It wasn't comfortable at first. I still wanted to curl up into my seat and cope with my problems solo style, but He knew me better than I knew myself so I trusted Him. 

I determined right then and there, to share the gospel with whoever I could on that flight. I even remember thinking, "45 min, huh....yep....well...Preach My Gospel says a lesson should rarely go over 45 minutes......PERFECT." hahaha! I know.....what a dork:) lol

Ok so here comes the drama.....

I no sooner committed to that prompting then I looked up, and saw an attractive tall dark and handsome guy (we're talking deep brown eyes, just-right Adam Levine scruff, and thick wavy hair kind of handsome) coming down the isle...


***OK PAUSE***

CLARIFICATION:  It's a well-known fact that being a missionary and trying to share the gospel with someone your same age of the opposite gender especially if they're even relatively attractive is for some reason ALWAYS RIDICULOUSLY harder than it should be. DON'T ASK. 

The Lord WOULD give me one of those "talk to everyone" kinda tests right after I committed to keep on preachin' till the end, now wouldn't He:) 

And of course....as SOON as I saw this guy....I got one of those "he's the one" feelings.......NO not one of THOSE feelings, girls:) the OTHER one of those feelings....like the ones that missionaries get when they see the "ones" that their suppose to talk to;)

Gosh.....who do you think I am??:hahaha! JK:)


Sure enough......he comes right over....checks the seat markers above the window and says, "Looks like we're sitting together!" And......that's how it all began. Before we'd even taken off, we'd established that he was traveling to NYC to visit his brother, but that they were both originally from Peru (gotta love them guys with accents:) , didn't grow up in a specific religion, but that they were raised by "spiritual parents." By the end of the flight, we'd had a lengthy conversation about the Plan of Salvation, read from Alma 40, Moroni 8, 2 Nephi 31, exchanged contact information, discussed multiple church pamphlets and he agreed to have a Book of Mormon delivered to him, and said he wanted me to send him "lots more on the path for happiness thing over email.....like links and stuff.I can think of a website or two that could help with that:)

In return, he even helped me get on board my next flight that had been redirected. 

What a gentleman:)


By the time I got onto my next flight to New Hampshire, I realized just how completely happy I was. My previous feelings of anxiety, sadness, and even fatigue were completely gone. I was content, filled with energy, and enlivened knowing that I was still fully engaged in the work of the Lord. I sat down in my seat and waited, feeling like a kid on christmas morning waiting for my next "present" to come sit down next to me:)


Turns out, I couldn't have asked for a better seat mate. Sean and I talked the entire 2 hour flight!! We talked sports, his life in the military, his work, school, family, his growing up years in CHICAGO (coincidence?? i think not:), his hobbies, my mission, his world travels, foreign affairs, and then of course, it all came down to our common interest in religion. I'm pretty sure I had my Book of Mormon cracked out before the first half hour was up and we were talking about his kids, how we could help them through the stories found in the Book of Mormon, and what it was that meant the most to him in this life. 

I found myself on that loud, noisy, nauseating flight, feeling a rush of the spirit as Sean opened up to me about the struggles he's facing and the questions he has in regards to families, religion, and his search for more spiritual knowledge. With my testimony just BURNING in my heart, I was able to open the pages of the Book of Mormon--a book I have come to love with all my heart--and I was able to answer those questions, to bless his life, and to give him direction and in some small way perhaps some of the peace that he was looking for. 

Sean and I kept talking for the rest of the flight until about fifteen minutes before we were about to land. We'd discussed quite a few topics and I'd let him sorta guide the conversation and we'd been all over in the scriptures as I'd tried my best to answer his questions one after the other using passages from the Book of Mormon. 


>>>>And then came the PROMPTING of all PROMPTINGS<<<<<


"INVITE HIM TO YOUR HOME FOR DINNER"



I DISTINCTLY remember getting that prompting, glancing out the window, smiling to myself, and thinking, "Oh, Mom is going to love this one" but inwardly I knew that it was exactly what needed to happen and I couldn't wait to ask him! (plus I knew my rockstar-of-a-member-missionary-mom well enough to know that she'd catch onto the idea fast enough:) 

YES, I know it sounds UBER sketchy and YES, I DON'T recommend EVER doing it unless the spirit directs you to do it, but I can't tell you how excited I was for the spirit to give me this chance of a LIFETIME!!!! 


Sure enough, Sean readily accepted and I was GIDDY with excitement to introduce my newest investigator to my family as I walked off that plane!! Not every missionary gets to do THAT!! And it was INCREDIBLE!! 



OK.....so bear with me as I try to describe what it's like to come down that escalator and into the arms of family after 18 long months of being away from them. I first saw them huddled together holding signs and balloons and a just remember feeling happy and numb and almost like it was a dream. 

It didn't really hit me until I really saw my mom running towards me and then when she wrapped me in a hug......all those tears....all those tears I'd cried, wanted to cry, waited to cry.....I cried in her arms and it felt SO good. 

There really is NOTHING like hugging your mom. Especially after being away for 18 months. That's a hug I envisioned in my mind over and over and over again in my mind for the past year and a half and it was every bit as sweet and beautiful and amazing as I knew it would be!! Gosh....it's making me bawl here all over again just thinking about it!! hahaha!

Dad came running in late, because he had to park the car, and AS SOON as I saw him running through that terminal, I couldn't run fast enough to wrap my arms around his neck!! Gosh...there I go again.....crying over my laptop like it was a grave!! haha! Man, those moments will forever be the sweetest!! You can't replace reunions like that! A daddy and his daughter being reunited after a full-time mission!!

And then, of course, I hugged every sibling, cried hugging each one, cried more, laughed more, and then I introduced SEAN to them!!! And right then and there, I proposed the idea of bringing him home:) 


Hope you're glad to have me back, family:) hahaha! 


And I shouldn't have been surprised AT ALL when my parents both jumped right on the idea, and said, "Well if you don't have plans for lunch, why don't you just come home for lunch with us right now? And if you have more time later when you're in NH you can come again for dinner?"

Yea, basically I have the coolest member missionary family EVER.


Soooooo.....we loaded up into our MASSIVE 15-passenger van (gotta live it...gotta love it...this is home:) ......while Sean hopped in his rental car and followed us home....just like that:). Once we were home we enjoyed a meal together and then we had an AMAZING gospel discussion with Sean that eventually lead to an opportunity for me to teach the Restoration lesson one last time as a full-time missionary. 

I can't even express what that meant to me. To be able to teach that lesson--that lesson that I've taught SO many times--but that has SUCH a place in my heart, in the presence of my family, with someone that I just met, because I had the courage to endure to the end, to follow a prompting, and to finish strong, and to do the work I was given to do......AH!!! That is an experience--a blessing--I will FOREVER be grateful that the Lord gave me!! 

Sean eventually agreed to have a Book of Mormon delivered to him at his home in Indiana and I found out just yesterday that it's been officially delivered to him! He and I are still in close contact and we have discussion about gospel principles often. My Dad also gave him a For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet before he left our house that day and he and his wife are now using it to help their kids. I truly believe this is the beginning of something miraculous for Sean. Whether or not that's conversion, I believe that Sean's life will forever be changed because of that short flight from Detroit to New Hampshire. 

Open your mouth. Share the Gospel. Follow Promptings. Get out of your comfort zone. 

IT's NOT OVER TILL IT'S OVER!!!

We're all called to this work and it's for LIFE!!! 




........Coming up next........


> Removing the tag (my poor laptop's gonna get a watering) 

> What I Wish I Would've Known Before Coming Home (if any of you want to submit specific questions i can answer those here as well if that's helpful.....mom's of soon-to-be-RM's that includes you too:)

> The Home Coming Talk




The first hug 

excuse my face.....idk what it's doing:) hahah

REUNITED<3




The guy i brought home... SEAN!! :) 




Coming Home: The Final Days

Monday, April 6, 2015

(I'm going to transition this blog into my personal blog since my other blog--www.witnessinginwindycity.blogspot.com--has been more of my personal blog for the past year and a half, so bear with me while I overlap for a bit:)




I swore I wasn't going to be that RM that finished her mission, flew home, and then went MIA, leaving all her blog readers wondering if she ever made it out alive. 

Aaaaaand.....yet.....here I am. 


>>>AWKWARD<<< 


Good news is I am alive. That's miracle #1. 

Miracle #2 is that I'm actually getting this post up before the end of my first transfer home... virtual high 5 please:) 



Ok....where do I even start?? 

Leaving the mission was one of the hardest, sweetest, most spiritual, difficult, rewarding, heartbreaking things I've ever done. 

Those last couple weeks were TOUGH.....like up-until-the-last-day kind of tough. I passed out not once, not twice...but three times the morning of my last P-day and they were all pretty severe soooooo...my champ of a comp called for reinforcements....gotta love them EMT's:

Basically.....I wrote my last email to President and home from a hopsital bed, hooked up to a million wires, waiting for blood work results, and for a freakishly large IV bag to quit dripping. 


I had the distinct impression the week before when I was writing president that that last week was going to be tough. Funny how the spirit is always right. That week was hard and that ER trip seemed to be the icing on the cake. BUT, yet, through it all, I had the assuring feeling that the Lord knew what He was doing. I guess I would have felt like a fish out of water if that week hadn't been hard:) So when that prompting came, I remember praying, "Alright then. Thy will be done. Let's do this." 

Aaaaaaand....we did. Aaaaaand it was tough....we had investigators cancel appointments on us faster than Simon cuts auditioners off of X-factor.... but we managed, with a lot of prayer, to fill our days with service, visits, and most importantly, the SPIRIT. 



Speaking of the spirit, L. TOM PERRY CAME TO ADDRESS US!!! Talk about a spiritual fire hose. And oh my gosh, it was amazing!!! The whole time he was talking I felt like I was on the edge of my seat. Everything he said is what I've been preaching my entire mission..... that creativity is crucial in missionary work!! Yea and get this....this is a direct quote, "I'm disappointed with the number of hours you're spending tracting. That's as outdated as I was as a full time missionary!--if you can't think of anything else more creative to do you're not being inspired!" 

YES. 

Yes yes yes. This is what I've been waiting to hear (and putting into practice) my whole mission. Then he said, "Get CREATIVE!!!" Oh. my. gosh. I have a new favorite apostle! Haha! Seriously, he was such a joy to listen to....and...turns out, he served his mission here as well! 

He mentioned, "I send my favorites to Chicago!" What a gem:) Basically, that meeting was one of the most precious meetings of my mission and not surprisingly, it was exactly what I needed to hear before I head home to become a MEMBER MISSIONARY!!! 

Psyched

I have a lot more notes from his talk, but I'll probably put them up in a different post with more thoughts later....so stay posted:) 

Finally, those last few days of the mission were difficult, but it's called enduring to the END for a reason. So I endured:) Towards the end of the week (specifically the night before transfers) I remember getting on my knees and begging the Lord to accept my offering of this mission. I begged Him to confirm to me that this mission was pleasing in His sight and that I had done well. I wanted to know that I had completed my work here and had finished all that I needed to do in the time I'd been given to serve. 

The thoughts of doubt and self-judgment weighed heavily on me over the next day as we drove to transfer meeting. I wondered if I had done everything I was meany to do as a missionary, if I had done my best....if I had given my all. I was nervous about the future, wondering about the next chapter of my life, how I would "adjust" back to "normal" life, confused about my purpose in this next stage, and completely torn between my love of the mission and my love of the good things next to come. 


We finally sang our mission song, Hope of Israel, at the close of the meeting, and tears streamed down my face as all of us--"Zion's Army"--shot up to stand and fist punched the air during the last verse as we sang, "Hope of Israel, rise in might, with the sword of truth and might!" 

I have stood with Zion's Army. I've fought with the Hope of Israel for the past 18 months. We have risen in might. We have fought for Zion. We have fought against sin, and we have conquered. 

I could barely sing those words as the thoughts of resigning from the ranks of that army of valiant youth began to sink in. It is hard to walk off that field.....SO hard. And it hit me as we stood on the stand, singing that song one last time, just how sweet this experience has been

It hit me again as I then said goodbye with many tears to the companions I've come to love with all my heart. They have become--literally--sisters to me and how I LOVE those girls!! 

We were then whisked away into vans and shuttled to the temple where we attended an endowment session, even though I can't say how much we absorbed--I'm pretty sure all of our thoughts were a million miles away. 

However, as we were sitting there, I offered up a silent prayer, begging Heavenly Father to again witness to me that my mission was acceptable to Him. The clear prompting came, "When you get to the Celestial Room, open up the scriptures, and I will answer you." 


My heart was filled. And sure enough, by the time we got to the Celestial Room, I couldn't get my hands on the scriptures fast enough. I flipped opened the scripture and my eyes immediately fell to the first sentence of Alma 39:17 which reads, "And now I will ease your mind somewhat on this subject." I wept. And then the clear prompting came to then flip to the doctrine and covenants. I did so and the pages fell open to D&C section 6. 

I began reading in verse 9 and continued reading, receiving clear instruction from the spirit that I have done the work I was sent to do, and not only that, but that my work as a missionary does not end here. That brought such peace and comfort to my heart. This is not the end. My test is not over.....it's just begun. This 18 months is my MTC for the rest of my life:) This is just the beginning of a lifetime of missionary work! 

YAY!! 

Then, I continued on to verses 22 and 23 which reads, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?" 

And I wept again! 

The Lord answered my prayers SO specifically and directly that my heart was FILLED and my mind was flooded with memories of those nights when I begged Him on my knees for answers to that same question and He gave it. Or those moments when I doubted and He responded to me by comforting me and assuring me that my work was worth it. 

All those memories and many more came flooding back into my mind and it was as if those few verses were being spoken to me by God himself!!! It was an experience I will NEVER forget!! It has been worth it! It IS acceptable to Him! 

He made that very clear to me that day in the temple and how grateful I was that day walking out of that Celestial Room for the blessing of heaven on earth--temples. It is there that God speaks to us--specifically and individually--about the real and deep problems and concerns that we face, and it is there that he speaks peace to our minds and comfort to our souls! AH!!! He is there and that day in the temple, I heard His voice in my heart! 



After the temple, we went to the mission home, had dinner (which consisted of each missionaries' requested dish....I KNOW....my mission president's wife is an ANGEL!:) and then we had an AMAZING evening together sharing testimonies, hearing from our mission president, his wife, the senior couples and then we got to have interviews and a blessing from President. 

AH!! I can't even express what that time with him meant to me! I don't think I've ever come to love a priesthood holder in my life more than President Woodbury. Every minute I get to spend with him leaves me wanting to be a better person. I got to sit there with him and visit with him, learn from him, cry with him, and pray with him one last time.....and that as well, is an experience I will never forget. 

He has changed my life forever and I will be forever grateful for him in my life! 

It was about 1am by the time we got to bed and with so many missionaries going home (there were 34 of us) any empty space in the entire mission home was taken up by fold-out mattresses and sleeping bags, so I opted for the luxury suite--a closet. Trust me....it WAS actually luxury....it was dark, secluded, and quite:).....hard to come by with 30+ people going to bed at all different times, lights still on everywhere, laughter, whispers, crying, showers running, footsteps going up and down stairs, and the occasional door slam. So yes....the closet suite was VERY appealing:

#livininstyle


 At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep, I had SO many thoughts running through my head. Trust me....it's the STRANGEST feeling in the world lying there, wondering if this is actually happening. I just felt numb while my mind was going 90 miles an hour. But before I knew it, I was out like a light and next thing I knew, my alarm was going off at 4 am. Then it was showering, getting ready, last minute packing, doing make up and hair with a hand held mirror in the living room because all the bathrooms were being used, prayers in the foyer with President and Sis Woodbury and then I GOT TO HUG PRESIDENT

I have waited 18 1/2 LONG MONTHS for that hug and it was OH SO SWEET!!!!!! 

That was probably the HARDEST goodbye of my mission. It RIPPED my heart out to leave him, not being able to even come close to expressing how much I have grow to love and admire him. It was SO hard to walk away, to get into that van, knowing that I would never again serve as a missionary in his mission. 

But luckily, they whisked us into the vans quickly and off we went to the airport while it was still dark. We got there, and said more goodbyes, got our luggage checked easily... 


(thank heavens.....because i seriously HATE TSA with a passion.......seriously....who would ever chose to work a job like that where you KNOW that people don't even like you and all you do all day is get people in trouble, pop people's bubbles, and take stuff from them?? I don't get it......ANWAYS......tangent.....;) 


And before I knew it, I was sitting on a plane, WITHOUT A COMPANION, and ready to bawl my eyes out looking at the Chicago skyline for the last time (yea that's kinda dramatic, but it's how you feel as a missionary) and feeling SO completely and utterly alone, confused, overwhelmed, nervous, excited, sad, anxious, and content.....ALL AT THE SAME TIME

If you think being a girl is emotional rough, try being a girl, a sister missionary, going home from a mission, AND at that time of the month..... 

>>>RECIPE for WRECK<<<



So while wallowing in my own self pity, and legitimately debating how I was going to kill the next hour-long plane ride, I got a VERY clear prompting that was about to change the rest of my journey home.... and far beyond..... 


But this post is already TOO long....soooooo....wait till the next post to find out what that prompting was, how I brought a guy home, and more juicy details of life as an oh-so-awkward RM:



**you can thank me later**



Stay posted for more coming soon!!!




This place has my <3!!!! always will....


pics of the last p-day.....ah.....good times....(sorry their blurry:/)


my comp is an ANGEL:)

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