Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Always Better

As promised, I am blogging about the why, how, and when of my upcoming mission to Oklahoma City. The funny thing is that I don't really have great answers about any of those three things. So... enjoy!

Ever since I was a young girl, I've wanted to go on a mission. Both of my parents served missions and I think I wanted to be just like them. In high school, my friends and I discussed the possibility of serving and again, I felt that desire to go. Only then, a mission had become my own desire - I wanted to share the happiness and peace I felt from the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Just two little sister missionaries :)
My senior year, I started attending a Mission Preparation class. My best friend, Courtney, and I would even put on our backpacks and ride our bikes to the church so we could feel more like missionaries.

After Austin's baptism - 3 happy happy people!
That same year, I watched my neighbor, Austin, learn about the gospel and get baptized. His testimony of the gospel was so strong and made me recognize how much it can bless other peoples' lives and completely transform them for the better. I love that kid! And I loved how happy the gospel made him. He used to shout out across the fence that separated our yards how many days left until he could get baptized. What a stud.

(He has a blog about his experiences in and out of the church that's powerful and honest. Here's a link if anyone wants to check it out - Prodigal Mormon)

Freshman year
After graduation, I headed to BYU and had a blast my freshman year! I met so many amazing people who taught me about the gospel and shared their testimony with me. Many of my friends left for missions after this year and I was always so jealous!

After Mihai's baptism
After my sophmore year in 2012, my life was changed when I went to Romania to volunteer in an orphanage. I learned about the importance of families and the strength and blessings that come from living the gospel. The members of The Church there are incredible! I met a young man, Mihai, during our time there who started learning about The Church. Mihai seemed to find so much happiness as he learned more about Jesus Christ and His plan for him. About a month before we left, Mihai decided to get baptized. I was lucky enough to sing at his baptism and it was so special. He was so happy after! My heart reminded me that day, again, of my desire to serve a mission.

When I returned home, I wanted that happiness I felt in Romania, from watching Mihai and loving those precious children, everyday for the rest of my life. I started thinking about preparing for a mission and the next May when I could start my application.

President Monson announcing the new missionary age requirements

On October 6, 2012, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced an age change for missionary service. Girls could now leave at age 19. I was soo excited! I was one of those girls that started planning to leave ASAP.  

Unfortunately, two days previous to the announcement, I started getting a headache, one that would stay another 22 months (and counting). I didn't know then that I was suffering from chronic occipital neuralgia. Because of my headaches, I was never able to start my application. My life for the last two years has consisted of many many doctors, medications, tests, pain, disappointments, confusion, and sadness. Through it all, I have watched many of my friends and others leave on missions. I tried to be happy for them, and I truly was, but it was also hard to know that I would probably not be able to go. At some point, I buried my desire to serve a mission because it was just easier that way.


Fortunately, the past two years have also been full of miracles and tender mercies from the Lord. Throughout everything, my family has been an incredible source of strength and support to me. They have encouraged me and comforted me. They have kept me laughing and looking at the positive. I am eternally grateful I get to be with them forever. I couldn't be where I am without them. And when I started thinking about a mission again, they were right there cheering me on.

I wanted them to let me wear this shirt in the OR. It didn't fly.

Another blessing has been discovering the source of my headaches. I had my occipital nerve decompression surgery in February. I didn't have the easiest time recovering, but slowly, I started getting better. 

Roommates of Stratford 304
While I was trying to get back to life and feel better, these girls were so supportive and encouraging and loving. Because of all the time I had to just sit and recover, I spent a lot of time having deep spiritual and gospel discussions with them. Many times, they would tell me about their missions and how much they loved them and loved the people they taught and met. I was sad that I would never get to go. But I enjoyed their stories and their testimonies. They strengthened me so much.

A couple of months ago, I was praying to have the right desires and really trying to humble myself to know the Lord's will for me. It was during this time that the desire, one I thought had died, came back like a present dropped on my lap. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but the desire to serve a mission came as an answer to my prayers and brought me great peace. Then I started thinking "Wait, I can't go on a mission!" After a long internal debate, I decided all the reasons TO go were way better than all the reasons NOT TO go. So I went forward with faith and started my papers for a mission, wondering how it would work out and if I would even be allowed with all my previous health challenges.

Hunter, me,  and our favorite book (Th Book of Mormon, of course!)
Many times during the process, I freaked out and decided I wasn't going or worried about all the reasons I was going to fail. Or what I would leave behind. Even though there are many potential reasons not to go, I have felt a lot of peace about it. Something that really helped me solidify my decision was working as a counselor at Especially For Youth (EFY). Not only was it a blast to hang out with awesome teenagers and fellow counselors, I got to teach about the gospel like I would on a mission. Sharing things like why I know Joseph Smith was a prophet who restored Christ's church again on the earth and why I believe the Book of Mormon is true, made me so happy! The gospel is joy to me. It's why I am the way I am. Any happiness I have is because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and sharing that at EFY was a great experience.

My mission call finally came after about 4 weeks of waiting. I had been praying for somewhere in the US and hopefully English speaking, to eliminate stress that makes my headaches worse. So reading "Dear Sister Borup" and "Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission" and "English language" was a huge, huge answer to prayers! The fact that I even had a call in my hands was a miracle!

Once I had my call, it felt like everything started falling apart. I had heard that was common, but I wasn't truly prepared for it. I opened my call on a Monday and that Friday I was on the phone with my doctors in Houston discussing the possibility of a second surgery. My October 1st report date started slipping through my fingers faster than I could hold on to it. I started second guessing my decision to serve a mission at all. All the old fears and worries were coming back, a lot of them actually coming true. I didn't notice it at the time, but it was a classic pattern discussed by Elder Holland. In fact, I used this quote weekly with my EFY groups to describe how good things are often bookended with fear and challenges.
"With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you."

I knew that going on a mission was a good decision and the right one for me. My fears had just clouded that truth for a time. I'm grateful for good friends and family, for prayer, and for scriptures to turn to when I felt so confused and frustrated about the whole thing. Because, truly, this past month has felt like a whole year. I found out on my birthday that I would indeed need another surgery. Life certainly is good at making the journey interesting, eh?!

Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know if I'll eventually get on a mission (although that's still the plan) or if I'll have to come home early, or if I'll ever get my headaches fixed or if this upcoming surgery will help. Or if there's a completely different route for me. I straight up just do not know. But I have faith in someone who does. My Heavenly Father knows exactly what's best for me and I have to trust that if I do or don't get better when I do, that it is what's best for me. Going in for surgery tomorrow brings a lot of emotions. Today my doctor told me I may feel better in a couple days/weeks, or it might take a lot longer. Initially that scared and frustrated me. I don't want to wait. I want to go on a mission in October like planned. I was tempted to ask, "Why does this always have to be so hard? Why can't things just work out like I plan them?"

Temples reassure me that God loves us and has a plan for us

But if there's one thing that I've (supposedly) learned from my life thus far, it's that God's plan is always better. It's not always easier - in fact, that's rarely the case - but it is always better. And that is something I can have faith in.


  1. are loved by so many! I will hold a prayer in my heart for you as you undergo surgery and during your recovery. Oklahoma is waiting. Now if you've ever watched the musical "Oklahoma" . . . tomorrow is the day to go into surgery singing . . . "Oh it's a beautiful morning, oh it's a beautiful day. I've got a beautiful feeling, everythings going my way." Just LOVE that pic of you and Court. Think I'll send that one on to Katie! Love you Chelsea, Christie Lewis

  2. As always Chelsea, you are truly an inspiration. Your testimony, love for the Savior, and your love and desire to serve others is sincere and beautiful. You have already touched and blessed the lives of many through your efforts to share the gospel and serve. I have no doubt you will continue to do so in Oklahoma and wherever else the Lord leads you in life. I pray your surgery is successful and that you have a quick recovery. I am indeed grateful for the opportunity to know you and feel blessed to have your example in my life. With much love, Lisa Hughes

  3. You are amazing Chelsea. I loved reading your post. I have faith in you and in the Savior. You have great faith, keep it up!

  4. Chelsea, We will also be cheering for you! I'm with Christie on this one . . . go in singing, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and come out singing "everythings goin' my way"! The Lord has big plans for you! Just move forward with faith and regardless of where those plans lead it will be awesome! Love you! Heidi and Steve