More than I Deserve

Sorry the update this week is a few days late…given the circumstances this might be the last of these weekly emails and I was feeling pressure to make it a good one, but it’s still a little bit difficult for my brain to focus long enough to write. So this is a pretty inadequate summary of the latest happenings, how I’m feeling, and what’s ahead, but I wanted to make sure anyone who was concerned knew the latest, and I’ll just use the old standby ‘car accident’ excuse as the reason for the inadequacy J

Anyway, as most of you know, I think, I’ve been released as a missionary and am back at home to rest and take some time to get back to 100%. It’s not that there is really anything to worry about, it’s just fatigue and other pretty minor stuff (typical of things like this) which wouldn’t have allowed me to do the full-time missionary thing. I would have been slowing things down and not able to contribute the way that is needed, plus it’s apparently just good practice to take some ‘rest’ time after these things. The plan is to ‘rest’ and once I feel back to 100%, we will figure out what’s next. That could mean going back to Ohio, or it might mean staying here and having my four months as a missionary be it.

It’s been a weird couple weeks to say the least, but the theme for those few weeks (and really the four month of being a missionary, the last year, even beyond) has been that I’ve received more blessings of all sorts than I deserve.

Though I don’t remember the accident or much of what happened for the following two weeks (March 2nd is the first day I really remember), what I do know about that time is that I received more love and support (especially in the form of prayers) than I ever could have thought possible. The total volume of people who were aware of me and concerned, despite the fact that most hadn’t and probably wouldn’t ever meet me, frankly just blows me away. I started to list out specific people here and what they did for me but had to stop because my memory of that period of time is iffy enough that I’m sure I would forget too many. But the point is, I’m in awe and so grateful to all of you.

As far as how I feel about being released and what might be next…there’s a lot that I probably haven’t processed yet, and I imagine that it’s going to be pretty difficult when I do, but the very first thing I remember after the accident (no idea when this was or where I was) was just knowing that things were going to change, and that it was all going to be fine. I have no idea what that means exactly, but I believe it.

If it means not going back to Ohio I will be sad because there are people there that mean a lot to me. But really, despite the fact that missions are HARD, it was privilege to get to do that, even if it was just for four months. It was a privilege I didn’t deserve, being late to the game at 27 and for all kinds of other reasons, but I am really grateful to have been given the chance.

I don’t know how to define a missionary experience as ‘successful’ but I would think it ought to be related to how much a missionary helped people. In that sense I don’t know if my four months could be counted as ‘successful’. But no missionaries go and come back without being helped themselves, and while I wouldn’t call that ‘success’ per se because the purpose of a mission isn’t to help the missionary, I would call it an incredible blessing and if missions were evaluated based on how much they changed the lives of the missionary, I think the impact of mine on me would be too astronomical to measure on any kind of scale.

It was a privilege to be a missionary, to meet the people I met, and learn and grow and change as a result, and while the last couple weeks aren’t exactly what I would have planned, it’s been a privilege to be on the receiving end of so much love. I don’t know what’s next but I know it’s all going to work out fine because ‘I know in whom I have trusted’ (2 Ne. 4).

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#Blessed

Well…I think I say this every week but this week it’s really, really, really true…..I don’t know what to say.

I guess to start out, for anyone who hasn’t been getting whatever updates my parents have been providing, I’m doing fine and Sister M is doing well too.

For anyone who doesn’t know – I was in a serious accident two weeks ago now, though what little I know about that I’ve been told by others. Since my last regular p-day (which feels like it was only three days ago) what I remember is having a lovely dinner with the Green family, then waking up after feeling like I’d definitely slept longer than I should have and finding that I was living in an apartment in Kirtland with my mom…weird (now my dad has switched her places). I have some pretty vague memories of a few people coming to see me when I was stuck in this bed (must have been at the hospital) and being quizzed repeatedly about the month and year, as well as being asked who the president was and what the name of the hospital was (which I found really frustrating because I’m not from here, so how was I supposed to know hospital names?!). That’s about the extent of what I remember until a few days ago. And a few days ago I realized I’d suddenly become incredibly popular!

Well it’s not quite true. What I have discovered, or rather re-discovered, is that I am extremely blessed to know a lot of incredible people. The support and love (specifically what sounds like a LOT of prayer and fasting) that has been shown to me and my family has been amazing. I am so grateful for it all, though I feel a little bad that people have gone to so much trouble and I was sleeping through everything without a care in the world. Friends and family from home praying makes sense to me, they didn’t know exactly how I was doing and their lives might actually have been worse off had something happened to me (well maybe at least a little bit….they would have had the inconvenience of attending a funeral). But others….people here in Ohio who I’ve not known for long and frankly who I haven’t really gotten to know all that well and definitely haven’t helped as much as I should….their support, especially the members of the Perry Ward here, has been so incredible and meant so much. I’ve heard about the man in the Ward who, for some reason, was called first after the accident and had to come identify us, he is one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met, then various members of the Ward along with some other leaders around who came to the hospital and stayed all night till my dad was able to come. And the Ward even put together an entire book of letters from people in the Ward, apparently they passed out papers that had "Favorite thing about Sister West" written at the top and a LOT more people filled them out than I think probably should have. But it was such a treat to receive the book. The people here are incredible and I really do feel like it’s a privilege to have had the opportunity to be assigned here, not just to Ohio, but to Madison and Geneva, and the Perry Ward specifically. Then there are the other people who I’ve never even met, and who know nothing about me beyond the fact that I’m a missionary, who have sent notes and fasted and prayed for us. It’s been a humbling and amazing experience to say the least.

Frankly I don’t know why Sis. M and I survived. Everyone keeps talking about it being a miracle, and it sounds like the crash was bad enough that that might be the best term to use. But there are plenty of people who don’t have miracles in situations like this, and plenty of people who have problems far worse than this who need the support far more than we did, so I’m not sure why we got what we did. I’m sure it’s not because we’re missionaries, bad things happen to missionaries all the time, bad things happen to good people, better people than us I’m sure, all the time. So I don’t know why we have been blessed the way we have been. It doesn’t really make that much sense to me. I don’t know why things go the way they do, with stuff like this I always go back to my old favorite verse – 1 Nephi 11:17 – "I don’t understand a lot but I know God loves (ALL) his children."

Interestingly we were joking a few weeks ago that dying on your mission is probably a guaranteed ticket straight to the Celestial Kingdom. Well, the more we talked about it the more we agreed that it was a little more complicated than that. But we also agreed that if something did happen to us, the way our lives had gone thus far and specifically what we had learned on our missions, would make it pretty much fine if something happened to us. We agreed that if we could just help some people, even just one person (and we talked about a few specific people we really, really care about and were really, really wanting to help) it would totally be worth it. And then we threw in some comments about how our friends and families probably wouldn’t appreciate our deaths but they’d get over it.

Well…thankfully that’s not something anyone will have to deal with. Sis. M is making great progress and is out of the ICU. I’m feeling good, I just get tired for no apparent reason and still don’t quite feel mentally back to my normal self. Also, I’m unexplainably chatty, can’t seem to get myself to stop talking – my dad keeps telling me it’s hard to get a word in, even when I ask him a question, so that’s not good. Really hoping that isn’t a permanent issue. I also have a walker for walking….yes, like a 90 year-old. I try not to use it too much because I think walker design is kind of defective (those tennis balls you see on some really are necessary, which I think is completely ridiculous. How could people sell something that requires such a weird fix?). But I’ve been trying not to use it much, draws attention which there is already FAR too much of. Plus I feel pretty stable walking these days, but I guess I still make people nervous when I walk without it. On Wednesday I went down to the VIsitors’ Center to see the sisters who were going home (it was transfer day) and just to see some I hadn’t seen in awhile, and it seemed like every ten minutes someone came up to me and asked me if I was going to fall over and if I needed to sit down. I didn’t, but apparently I looked very unstable. Yesterday at church I refused to bring my walker in, and I thought I was doing a lot better, but after I bore my testimony (had no choice) several of the primary kids came up to me and asked me if it was safe for me to be walking because when I walked to the stand I looked like I was going to fall.

My back also will start to hurt when I’m laying down for too long, which makes sleeping at night a little tricky, so I had a brilliant idea….I bought myself a recliner! My mom thought it was a dumb decision and that my brain injury was making me do it, but I secretly have wanted one for awhile to stick in my bedroom at home (not on public display). Anyway, I bought one and have been sleeping in it so I can sleep more upright to help my back. No idea if my parents have posted a picture of it (posting pictures of people after they’ve been in an accident should be against the law – I’m guessing there are some terrible ones out there that I will ask you all to ignore or hide from your Instagram/Facebook feeds somehow). But I’ll post one of the recliner here – it’s red and it’s awesome! Just need to come up with a name for it.

Anyway, beyond that I have some random bruises which keep appearing and my arms are always sore if I do anything, especially attempt to dry my hair. None of these symptoms make any sense to me. I know I was in an accident, but I just can’t connect any of these things with being in a car accident, but luckily they’re all pretty minor. I’m very blessed and grateful to be in good health.

As for what’s next….I have a follow-up appointment with the brain doctor this week, after which President Brown and the missionary department will listen to the medical folks’ recommendation and hopefully make a decision about what’s next. Whether I will continue to be a missionary here or be released to restart a regular life, I don’t know. But I am confident that whatever is decided will be good. I am as confident as ever that God knows and loves me, and that whatever is next, I’ll be able to rely on Him for help with the difficulties that are inevitable with either. It will just be nice to be out of this limbo-state. Kind of still a missionary but without an assigned area or people to see, and with one’s parents….there is no definition of ‘normal’ which applies to this, not even the skewed sense of normal missionaries consider ‘normal’.

This is rambling, I know and I’m sorry – excuse is that I had a brain injury not too long ago (kind of nice to have an excuse for anything that no one can argue with).

I have so appreciated all the emails and letters from people these last two weeks (especially those who I hadn’t heard from in awhile!). Thank you all for the messages and the support! I feel like I’m falling pretty far into debt to a lot of you for the wonderful letters and the prayers and the fasting and I’m worried I won’t ever be able to repay it, but I will try!