One experience I often think of is what I have come to call My Mission Decision. (I don't know if I've told this story on this blog before. If I have, I apologize.) I grew up in a very missionary-minded family. Both of my parents served full-time missions. I had 6 brothers. We talked (and sang) about missions a lot as we grew up. I spent my child and teen years planning to serve as well. For the majority of them, I thought I would get to go at 19 like my brothers. Then I learned that the age for sisters to go was 21. (Imagine the emotions for me when the age for sisters was changed to 19 two years ago.) Age 2 put me one semester away from finishing my undergraduate college education, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to take a break to serve 18 months. But I could put my papers in, and I had spent a lifetime planning on serving.
I did a lot of pondering and praying about this choice. Each decision I made was some form of leaving to serve a mission--whether the end of the summer, or the end of the semester, or something else. I wanted to know If the decisions I was making were a good ones. But every time I had made a decision, I felt so unsettled in my mind and in my emotions. I found I couldn't concentrate on anything. I also found myself being quite anxious over all kinds of things. In the Doctrine and Covenants section 9 verse 8-9, we read:
My anxiety and lack of focus was my stupor of thought. The Spirit was letting me know whatever the decision I had just made, it was not the best one for me at that time. After a few of these stupors following decisions, I finally made a decision that did not involved me serving anytime in the near future. And I was filled immediately with peace, calm, and reassurance. I knew that the Spirit was telling me this was the best decision. The one that would bring me the greatest happiness as well as put me where I needed to be for what the Lord had in mind.
Within two months, I was in the first month of my last semester--which included two literature classes. (That means a TON of work.) I was baby-sitting my two brand new nieces when their parents' school and work schedules needed me to help out. I was helping to unite many new and old ward members through our sports activities. I was called into the Relief Society presidency. Drained from the previous year's non-stop school, work, and trials and then doubling those with the new semester, I fell victim to a nervous breakdown early on--which very likely could have occurred near the beginning of a mission if I'd left right away and not given myself sufficient time to heal.
Instead, I found myself in a situation where I was serving in a ward where I was known and cared for, and I also had family nearby to help take care of me. I had purpose in a calling in which I was immediately able to serve without having to work through my unfortunate personality and social anxieties. (A mission would have taken a few months to work through those.) And when I emotionally collapsed, I was surrounded by support and comfort. I may have found those while on a mission, but I wouldn't have been much use for what I was supposed to be there for.
The Lord knew best and He used the Spirit to guide me in my decision that would put me where I needed to be at that time. I had to do my part. I had to ponder out what to do. I had to make my own decision. And when I went to the Lord with that decision, I had to be worthy enough to be in tune with the Spirit so that I recognized what its promptings were telling me.