Hello, brothers and sisters! For my second to last email, I would like to do my best to help all potential missionaries who will read this by telling you what I've learned since I've put on the badge :)
1. You don't have to have that one companion you hate. It's possible to love all of them. At the beginning of my mission I set a goal to love all of them, and I'm grateful I did because it has influenced my entire mission. Not all of my companionships have been easy, but I wouldn't sacrifice the friendships I've forged for any personal comfort.
2. It's better to err on the side of "too" obedient than "not enough". The Spirit of the Law is never justification for obedience. If anything, it is motivation to step it up.
3. This isn't EFY. Leave your flirt in the car when you step onto the MTC campus, and don't look to others to feed you. Once you put on that tag, you are spiritually self-sufficient.
4. Don't bring your whole closet. If you're serving in the states, bring stuff for the season you're in and then have your mom send you the rest. You'll thank me later. Also, only bring things you can wash and wear out and reuse and throw away, because someday you're going to hate half of the wardrobe you brought with you. #sistermissionaryprobs As a sidenote, beware of Mary Janes...only buy $80 shoes if you plan on being buried in them because they will last longer than you. I brought like ten pairs of cheap shoes and I've loved it. It's kind of satisfying to wear out a pear of ugly old shoes, to be completely honest :) Satisfaction.
5. Turn off that "picky eater" switch - eat fruit now, learn to love it later. When you are in charge of your own diet, it's important to know that there's a reason your mom wanted you to eat bananas and apples instead of rice krispie treats...you either gotta find a favorite fruit or a favorite laxative. And you can't be picky when kindhearted members give you food...even if there's cockroaches in your coolaide and alligator in your sausage (and just for the record, I loved alligator...so you never know what you'll like).
6. Keep a journal however you please. You don't need to fill three hardback notebooks to be satisfied. My planners and my pictures are my journal. There is a good friend of mine who has a giant calendar that she writes something in each day. Whatever you want to do, make sure you like it and you'll keep up on it. Catchup is impossible and it can't be a chore.
7. No one likes a grumpy Mormon - the choice is yours. Optimism on a doorstep is all up to you. BE HAPPY.
8. It only takes 20 seconds of insane courage to turn an awkward moment into a missionary opportunity. Missionaries thrive in uncomfortable situations because you don't learn anything in your comfort zone, and talking to strangers is a lot easier when you apply #7.
9. Have a nightly inventory with the Lord. This will put your spiritual progression into high gear! In your nightly prayers, reflect on who you were this morning and think, "Am I closer to being who God wants me to be than I was this morning?" My answers have varied from "no" to "oh my gosh, yes" to (my personal favorite) "I'm not sure, but I tried my hardest."
10. Preach My Gospel - learn it, live it, love it, teach it. I didn't understand how often you use that manual. "How often do you use it, Sister Rogers?" EVERY FREAKING DAY. I wish I had cracked it open before I left and read at least the first chapter.
11. 10:30 is a sacred time. As soon as you recognize that late nights will be waiting for you at the end of 18/24 months, you'll learn to appreciate early bedtime.
12. 6:30 is a sacred time. Sleeping in is also something you sacrifice for the Mantle. Figure out a workout plan you're excited about, get up, pray, and get to work. People die in bed and so does ambition. This is something I've struggled with my whole mission, but I feel a difference when I apply this.
13. Grownups do their dishes. You can't bring your mom with you (although we all wish we could). Do your dishes, fold your laundry, make your bed, brush your teeth. Remember that you represent the Lord, the Church, your family, and yourself. Deodorant is a must-have for disciples of Christ.
14. Write your family every week. They are your spiritual anchor - rely on them and testify as often as you can.
15. Don't count down. Your time is short out here, and if you count down you'll wear yourself out. You know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That's how you get through those long days/weeks/months when you feel like the work is dead in your area and your companion is driving you insane. Take it an hour at a time, and focus all your energy into whatever the task is at hand.
I have loved my mission - all of it. I remember that I had hard days, but I don't remember why. I know this is where I needed to be and I'm doing what God wants me to. I have been so blessed. Honestly I panic when I think about taking off my tag, but I know that God is just transferring me to a knew area and my mission won't end next week.
I testify that this is the Truth.
I love you all :)