Four Years

I am coming to learn that sometimes it’s the things we don’t plan on in life that bring us the greatest joy. Four years ago today I returned home from serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I served the majority of my mission as a visitors’ center missionary in Nauvoo, Illinois, and for about six months in the middle of my mission, I served in Denver, Colorado. Growing up I never had a strong desire to serve a mission. I admired those who chose to serve as missionaries, but it wasn’t until I turned 20 that I really thought about serving. It took me a solid year to make this decision.

I am a planner, and as I was planning out future goals as my 20-year-old self, nothing seemed quite right. Then one day the thought came to me that perhaps I should serve a mission. I pushed the thought aside because I had never planned on serving, but I could not deny the pure peace that filled my heart when I had this thought. As I kept planning and praying about my future, the same thought kept coming back to me. So eventually I made the decision to go, and I am eternally grateful I did.

I learned so much about my relationship with God and the true purpose of this life during this time. While serving in Nauvoo, I learned the stories of the Mormon pioneers who lived there. It was through them that I began to learn that sometimes the things we don’t plan on in life bring us the greatest joy. I don’t think any of the pioneers who lived in Nauvoo envisioned their lives would turn out the way they did.   I’ve learned that perhaps part of the reason so much joy is learned through the unexpected experiences in life is that while these experiences may be hard, we can know through faith they were meant just for us (since we wouldn’t innately choose to experience  them).

Two gravestones of my ancestors who lived in Nauvoo in the 1840’s. This was one of my most favorite spots in Nauvoo.

The picture above is taken in one of my most favorite spots in Nauvoo – the pioneer cemetery. To me, this is the second most sacred spot in Nauvoo (the first would be the temple) because this is where the pioneers would really have to make peace with God and trust that He had a plan for their lives and their family members’ lives here on earth and after.

The graves of those above are Joel Scovil, Lucy Scovil, Mary Scovil, and Martha Scovil. Lucy is my 4th great grandmother. Her son Joel became very sick in Nauvoo and died at the age of 14. Mary and Martha are twin daughters of Lucy Scovil. After giving birth to these twins Lucy died, and within 10 days the twin daughters died as well. This left my 4th great grandfather Lucius a widower and a single father to the other children, including my 3rd great grandmother. It was just a few short months after the death of Lucy and the twins that Lucius and his family (as well as all the Nauvoo pioneers) needed to leave Nauvoo due to persecution and head west. Shortly after leaving Nauvoo, Lucius was asked by the prophet Brigham Young to serve as a missionary in England. Lucius believed that Brigham Young was a prophet of God and left his children in the care of other family members to go to England to serve the Lord as a missionary.  I honestly can’t imagine the heartache Lucius must have felt. His example of faith still blesses my life today. I hope I can be as brave and faithful as he was. To me, that seems so overwhelming.

One of the greatest blessings that occurred in the Scovil family’s life is that just a few short months before Lucy died, they were sealed in the temple. This meant that even after death, they would be a family eternally. I think the greatest joy possible is to know that we can be with our families forever. That is why temples are so important to the Mormon faith, for it it there we are sealed as families for eternity. I am grateful to know families are forever.

A Fallen Tree and the Tender Mercy I Missed

A couple Fridays ago, a great tender mercy (a.k.a. blessing or miracle) occurred in my life. On this particular day, as I was driving to work, I made a conscious decision to park a little bit further from the metro than I typically do. I was participating in a walking challenge at work and wanted to get as many steps as possible. All week long I had parked in this one particular spot. However, on this morning, there was a dad and his son standing on the side of the road right where I wanted to park. They were waiting for the school bus. Consequently, I decided to park somewhere different.

That afternoon as I walked up the hill to get to my car, I noticed a portion of the street was blocked off. This portion happened to be right where I was originally planning to park on this particular morning. As I got closer, I realized this portion of the street was closed due to a fallen down tree. Had I parked where I had originally planned, my car would have been damaged by a fallen branch. What a tender mercy! Had I arrived even just a few minutes later or earlier on that morning, the father and his son wouldn’t have been standing on the side of the road, and I would have parked in that specific spot. I called my mom and told her what happened and offered a silent prayer of gratitude on my way home.

The next morning as I was getting ready, I realized two tender mercies had occurred the day prior. The first being that my car was not damaged. The second, and perhaps the even greater tender mercy that I had overlooked, was that I got to see the fallen down tree. Had the clean-up crew removed the tree before I arrived, would the first tender mercy still have occurred? Yes. But would I have known about it? No. As I thought about this experience, it made me wonder how many times tender mercies occur that I don’t see. I was reminded to have faith and to believe in miracles. I love this short video that reminds me that the Lord’s tender mercies are real and are all-encompassing.

Missing Denver

This afternoon while I was at work listening to Pandora and sending out emails to conference speakers, my mind just started thinking about Denver, and my heart started missing that place. I don’t really know what triggered it, but for about an hour this afternoon I really missed Denver. I lived in Denver for about 6 months when I was 22. I was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center with about 20 other missionaries. In the middle of my mission, I was sent to the Colorado Denver South Mission to experience missionary life away from a visitors’ center. The experience was eye-opening for many reasons. I spent four and a half of those six months serving in inner-city Denver. I learned so much being in an environment that was so foreign to me.

In Denver I had a lot of time to think. As I walked through the beautiful, brisk Colorado air, my mind would often be pondering the purpose of life, faith, hope, integrity, consecration, service, etc. I learned much during these quiet times. It was this time of year that I prepared to leave for Denver. Perhaps it was the first glimpse of fall air we had today that reminded me of this time. In Denver I really learned that life is beautiful when you put others first and allow God to work miracles in your life.

Denver Colorado LDS Temple at Christmas
Some of my favorite people in Denver.