Farewell Talk

Well, it turns out, I don’t get a farewell talk! Which is not the traditional way to leave for your mission, but I’m not the traditional missionary! So, I thought I would do my “farewell” via blog.

If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would be going on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I would have asked you “what church?? I’ve never even heard of them.” If you would have told me 2 years ago, I would have laughed and said “the Mormon church? Yeah RIGHT. Like that’s ever gonna happen.” And if you would’ve told me a year ago, I would have said “you’re crazy, I don’t have enough faith for that.” But I would’ve been wrong.

I joined the church in December of 2014. December 10 to be exact. And I will have been a member for 16 months and 3 days when I leave to go on my mission. I haven’t even been a member of the church for 18 months, and I’m going to commit the next 18 months to serving the Church and serving the Lord!? I haven’t been a member for very long, but I know without a doubt that going on a mission will bless my life in so many more ways than I could ever imagine.

On December 20, 2015, I was at family dinner with Caleb’s family like we went to every Sunday night since I started going to church. But this time, his grandmother felt the need to talk to me, so she pulled me aside. She asked me if I had ever thought about going on a mission. I told her that the thought had crossed my mind, but I had pretty much ruled it out as impossible and that was that. She told me to think about it again, and to know that if I did decide to go, that everything would work out, she was sure of it.

I went back to my house that night and Caleb was with me. I remember crying hysterically saying that it was impossible, and there was just no way it was going to work out. Caleb (he seriously is the most patient, perfect man, I love him!) listened to me sob for no reason and assured me that no matter what I decided to do, everything would work out. He told me that it’s not impossible and like grandma said, if I want to go and decide that it’s the right plan for me, the Lord will make everything work out. He left and went home and I laid in bed and sobbed some more. I don’t know why this was such a shock to me, the thought had crossed my mind before, but when I thought about my dogs and leaving my family, I just completely ruled it out. It seemed impossible. I have three dogs, and a cat. Where are they going to live for 18 months? Who is going to watch another person’s animals for 18 months? What am I going to do about my job? I just got there and I want to keep that job! It was just impossible, and way too much for my brain to think about. As always, when my life seems to be falling apart, or my heart is just hurting too much to comprehend things, or I need a little help, I got down on my knees and prayed. I didn’t say much about the mission idea, just for Him to help heal my heart. I felt a little better, so I texted my dear friend Christina, who I’ve looked up to ever since I started going to Church. If there was one person that would be able to calm me down about this, it was Christina. So I texted her, at midnight, and told her that I was a little freaked out but just that I would talk to her more tomorrow. Well about 30 seconds after putting my phone down from finishing that text message, it starts ringing. Christina is calling me. I answered and the first thing I said was “why are you still awake!? I hope I didn’t wake you up, I said I would talk to you about it tomorrow!” She said “No, you didn’t wake me up, I haven’t gone to bed yet, and you’re more important.” (I love her, too. Almost as much as Caleb.) So we talked. And we talked. And we talked. I think we talked for about an hour. And she said a prayer over the phone and specifically asked Heavenly Father for guidance for me in knowing whether or not I should go on a mission or not. I jokingly said, “I never get direct answers, just an eh, yeah you could do that.” (Don’t ever say that, it’s like a challenge, I think.) Anyways, we hung up. We went to sleep.

The next day was Monday, December 21. I went to work like usual. I got off work at 5 and was supposed to go straight to the store to pick up white elephant gifts for our ward Christmas party, but I totally forgot. Caleb came over and we were watching Netflix or something. I for some reason asked him at about 6:30 if he still wanted to go to our ward Christmas party that started at 7. (He was shocked, because I was never the one who wanted to go to FHE, he always had to drag me there.) And he said yes. So we got ready, and we went. First we had dinner, and hung out for a bit, and then we started the white elephant game. Caleb and I hadn’t brought any gifts so we were staying out of the game while they were setting up. Christina came over and said that a couple of people had brought a couple of extra gifts so we should join in the game. We did and started unwrapping gifts. The first gift I unwrapped was a little clay sculpture of Mary and Baby Jesus in a Manger. It was beautiful, but since it was such a beautiful present, it got stolen very quickly. To be honest, I don’t even remember what the second gift I unwrapped was, just that I was disappointed that someone stole my cute sculpture. At the end of the game, there were still 4 or 5 presents in the middle of the circle, so everyone got the option of keeping their gift, or trading for an unopened gift in the middle. I chose to get one of the unopened presents, as it couldn’t possibly get any worse than it already was. (Maybe at that point I had a big box of car parts??) Anyways. I went to the middle and something told me to grab a certain package. It was cute and looked like it would be a great gift. AND MAN, IT WAS.

I unwrapped the package and inside, there was a Book of Mormon, and the missionary pamphlets (If you don’t know what these are, they are pamphlets that the church gives missionaries to hand out to people who want to learn more about the church, they are such a great tool!) tied together, with a sticky note taped to the front of it, with the words “Missionary Kit” written on it. I looked down at this present that I had opened and was so shocked, I was speechless. Caleb and Christina being the GREAT friends they are burst out laughing and laughter is contagious so pretty soon, I was laughing to the point of tears. This was my neon light answer. My direct answer. How much more obvious does it get? (See, I’m telling you, don’t ask for an answer and then say you never get any direct answers. Sometimes He’ll smack you in the face with the Book of Mormon. Literally.) Like THIS is what I was hearing. That was my Heavenly Father telling me to go, and that everything would be okay.

Since we were at a ward party, and I was looking into getting my patriarchal blessing anyways, I asked President Dalton if I could set up a time to meet with him. We set it up for the upcoming Sunday and while at that interview, I asked him what I needed to get done in order to start working on my papers. We did my first interview that same day and I started working on my papers that night. I had everything done that night besides linking pictures to my papers and all of my medical and dental stuff. It has been a super short process. Most people take months to decide for sure if they are going, and to fill out their paperwork and send it in. I decided I was going on a mission at that ward Christmas party, and had my medical and dental done, and my paperwork turned in within two months, and most of that was strictly waiting for medical paperwork to be done for me and updating my immunization record (because as if going on a mission isn’t scary enough, they want to make sure that you have all your shots too, so you have to get lots of shots).

I turned in my papers mid February. Caleb left to go on his mission on February 23, 2016, and I opened my call on March 8,2016. I am going to the California Anaheim Mission, English speaking, reporting to the Provo MTC on April 13, 2016!

Even just since I have opened my call, I can already feel the love the Savior has for me for giving 18 months of my life to serve. He is with me daily and I am so grateful for His love and support and guidance. I am not by any means going to say that it has been the easiest road and that it’s all been butterflies and rainbows, but I KNOW without a doubt that the Lord will bless me and look after me in all the things I do on my mission. I know that He will bless my family (even my furry children) while I am gone. I know that this is the BEST choice that I could be making in regards to my future. Going to school would be good, getting married and starting a family would be better, but this is the BEST thing I could be doing. I know that the Lord will look after me and protect me. I know that He will help me to overcome hardships and adversity. I know that He will help me to become whole and that where I fall short, He will step in and build me up and help me to grow into the best person I could ever want to be. He helps me to see the things that I need to improve on, and to help me see the world with new eyes. I know that He blesses me with things that feel like hardships now, but will turn into some of the biggest blessings later. I know that Jesus Christ died for us, that He died so that we may live forever with our Heavenly Father again. I know that He listens to every prayerful heart, that He is always there, if we will just get on our knees and talk to Him. Caleb said something in one of his letters that I absolutely love! He said “Always remember, you stand tallest on your knees.” It is true. We stand the tallest when we are on our knees, talking with our Father in Heaven. He will lift us up and make us better than we can ever imagine. I know that my Heavenly Father listens to me, and knows me by name, and loves me. Just as much as He loves each and every one of you reading this. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Shopping!

Oh my goodness, I loved shopping this weekend. I mainly hate shopping most of the time because I rarely like the way outfits look on me and I have no fashion sense. But this weekend, my boyfriend’s mom and sisters and cousin took me shopping to buy mission clothes and oh my gosh it was so much fun!

We went to the DI there (seriously, I love thrift store shopping) and we spent three hours there trying things on and narrowing down the MANY options we had. When we got there we all spread out and everyone just picked things they thought would be good, and then we used a table and chairs there (we took over the whole store practically) and narrowed it down to “yes I want to try that on” or “no I think it’s ugly and I don’t even want to try it on at all” and then I tried everything on. I seriously think I was in the dressing room for an hour and a half consistently trying things on. It was insane. As I tried things on, I mainly was checking sizes and if I absolutely hated it or wasn’t sure I liked the style or it was too big/small, I got rid of it. Then we went back to the table and narrowed it down some more into particular things I liked, and things that matched a lot of things, versus things that only matched one particular skirt or whatever. I spent $176 and got MOST of the things I needed. Like seriously about 80%.

Then we grabbed a quick lunch at Panda Express (yum!) and then back to shopping we went! We stopped at DownEast next and seriously I would buy the entire store if I could afford it. I LOVE the clothes from there. They are adorable! But I bought a ton of cute things there and some necklaces and stuff. Then we went to Famous Footwear (and I always thought of them as sneakers… I didn’t even really realize they had fancy shoes) and I found TONS of cute shoes! I ended up with 5 pairs of them! And they match my dresses and skirts amazingly! It was awesome and I loved it. I’m normally the last person that wants to be the center of attention but it was fun for the day.

It was also really awesome to spend the day with people in Caleb’s family. I don’t always get to hang out with them and feel super comfortable being around everyone but it was a lovely day and I had a ton of fun. Plus, they helped with expenses which is a huge blessing. MISSIONS ARE EXPENSIVE. And not just the missions itself. The preparation with doctor’s visits, and dentists, and clothes, and various miscellaneous items, it racks up fast.

Overall, it was an amazing weekend. I had a blast, I felt productive, and I bonded with Caleb’s family some more.

I am so so thankful for my missionary, and his amazing family that take care of me so well. I don’t know where I would be without them and  my own family. They are both family to me, and regardless of what happens with Caleb and I, I will always think of his family as my own family. I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who loves me and will take care of me, no matter what. I’m thankful for Jesus Christ, who atoned for my sins, and took the weight of my burdens off of my shoulders and placed them on his own. I’m thankful for Joseph Smith, who prayed with a sincere heart and founded the true church of Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for the prophets and their amazing grace, and inspirational words of wisdom. I am so thankful to be a part of this church, and to have a joy and a peace that I have never felt before. I am blessed beyond belief, and I couldn’t be more excited to go share that peace with the people of California.

I have a testimony that is growing stronger each and every day. I know this church is true. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. I know that through Jesus Christ, all things are possible. I know that the Holy Ghost guides and directs us each and every day, through all of our decisions if we let him. And I know that the Heavenly Father will always be there to pick up the pieces if we ignore the Holy Ghost and go down the wrong path. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

(p.s. tomorrow is Monday which means it’s P day, which means, I GET AN EMAIL FROM MY MISSIONARY!!) 🙂

Acceptance Letter

I didn’t even know that was a thing. Okay, maybe I was slightly aware because of Caleb last year, but I wasn’t really paying attention, I was more in shock as to the fact that my boyfriend was leaving for two years. Anyways, the first thing they ask you to do is write an acceptance letter. But I suck at writing. I searched the internet for ideas, and then I prayed for help to say the things on my mind. And I’m actually thrilled with the way it turned out.

 

Dear Brethren,

 

I humbly and gratefully accept my call to serve in the California Anaheim mission, leaving April 13. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of California and am looking forward to the priceless lessons I will learn, and memories I will make over the next 18 months. It is a huge blessing and honor to represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the mission field. I am thrilled for the experience and cannot wait to teach the gospel to as many people as will listen. Being a recent convert, I feel a special calling to go and spread the love and gospel like the missionaries and close friends did for me. I will go and lovingly serve the people of California as a servant of the Lord. Thank you,

 

Sister Briana Johnson

I know that I had a hard time figuring out what to say so if anyone needs any ideas, here you go! Don’t plagiarize but you can use an idea of what I said!

I am so incredibly excited to go and serve the people of California and I cannot wait to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands. Even with the panic of realizing that I only have 31 days left, I am more excited than panicked (and for someone with anxiety about everything, that says something).

GAH! So excited!

Roll Call

My name is Briana Summer Johnson, but everyone calls me Summer. I absolutely suck at writing, so if you’re looking for an eloquently written blog post, you should move on to the next one.

I am a Mormon. I didn’t grow up in the church. I was born to awesome parents who are not members of the church, nor do they have any intention of being members. I am 20 years old, and I have been a member of the church for just over a year. Oh yeah, and I’m going on a mission. I turned in my papers in February and just got my call back. I have 35 days left before I am being dropped off at the Provo MTC. I’m going to the California Anaheim Mission and I’m leaving on April 13, 2016. I don’t really know why I’m creating this blog. We’ll say I’m following the spirit. I got this idea of “Sincerely, Sister Johnson” and I loved it and wanted a blog…so here we are! I figure that if you’ve stuck around in reading this far, I’ll tell you a little about myself.

I was born in Denver, Colorado in August of 1995. I don’t remember too much of Colorado because we moved when I was a little bitty baby. My dad works in the hospitality business and we move around a lot. After we left there, we moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands until I was about 3 years old. Then we went from place to place in South Carolina and Virginia until I was 15 years old. Growing up, we had horses and I got my first horse when I was 7 years old. Her name was Fancy and I absolutely love(d) her. We sold her when I outgrew her to an amazing family but to this day, anytime I think about her, I tear up. After we left Virginia, we moved to Montana to a ranch resort. I had never been west before and I LOVED Montana…for a while. When we decided to leave Montana, and move to Utah, all of my friends made fun of me because of the Mormons in Utah. They told me not to become some polygamist’s third wife and being that I knew nothing about Mormons, I was all nervous to meet them. I tried to avoid the Mormons at all costs, but it didn’t work too well. After I had lived in Utah for about a year and gotten past most of the crazy rumors about Mormons, I met Caleb. Caleb is my current boyfriend, who is out on his own mission right now in the Texas Houston South Mission. He’s the cutest redhead in Houston, just in case you see him. 😉 When I met Caleb, instantly, we clicked. It felt right. I had a weekend off (for once) and he was going up to a family reunion and invited me to come with him. I agreed and when we went up to the reunion, there was like 200 people there and I’m not even exaggerating. My whole entire family and extended family and in laws and their extended family is not even that big. I was overwhelmed. But I noticed that they all had this love for each other that I felt I was missing. I didn’t know what religion Caleb was, but I knew that his family had a peace and a joy that could only be coming from a religion and I was dying to know more.

I asked him on the drive home what religion he was and he shyly told me he was Mormon. I apologized for being blunt but said that I had no idea of what the Mormons believed and was curious if he could explain it to me a bit. He explained some of it and it started to make more sense. It was a fairly quick drive home, and my brain was overloaded with information, but the chemistry between Caleb and I was undeniable. We started “officially” dating later that week and he continually invited me to church with him every Sunday. I was usually working, but sometimes I came up with excuses as to why I couldn’t go that week. I kept remembering what my friends from Montana were telling me. I did some research on my own and found out that in fact, Mormons were not polygamists and that Sister Wives was not a reality. (A reality show that isn’t the reality?!?! What in the world?!?!) Then we went to another family reunion about a month later. At the family reunion, everyone was talking about Caleb going on a mission. I had no clue what that even meant, but everyone asked me how I would feel if he did. I said that I didn’t know enough about missions to give them an answer.

Eventually, after about 4 months of us dating and Caleb asking every weekend if I wanted to go to church with him, I finally gave in and went to church. And the feeling of peace and joy that I had that day…It’s indescribable. I don’t have the words to describe even a smidgen of what I was feeling. But I was hooked from then on. I went to church every Sunday after that (and have been to church every Sunday since). Eventually, Caleb asked me to take the missionary lessons. I reluctantly agreed (I didn’t understand why he couldn’t just teach me) and since that very first church meeting, it has been full speed ahead ever since. At the first meeting with the missionaries, we set a baptism date, that I upheld. I completely filled out every pamphlet with all of the additional study tips and questions in the back. The missionaries were impressed. I couldn’t get enough of the scriptures.

After I was baptized, Caleb received his mission call. Texas Houston South Mission, english speaking, leaving 38 days from the time he opened his call. That’s insane, I thought. There’s no way he can get everything done in time. How could he leave everything that he knows behind to serve the Lord for 2 years? I never in a million years thought I would be in the position I am right now. Caleb left on the day he was supposed to, and I threw myself into the gospel, and even though my best friend was gone and I could barely talk to him via letters, I was incredibly happy. The gospel is incredible.

Caleb ended up having issues and came home just two short weeks later. I was excited to see him, but confused. We fought a lot when he came home. He was home for about 10 months, when he turned in all of his stuff to head back out. At first, they said he would be leaving within the next two weeks and I panicked. HOW CAN HE LEAVE THAT FAST?? But I trusted in the Lord and figured that everything would work out the way that it was supposed to. Very soon after that, his grandmother approached me and told me that I should think about going on a mission. I thought, no way, that’s impossible, I could never serve a mission. Not only should I think about it, but if I decided to go, they would help me pay for it. I prayed about it and got a very clear answer that I will tell you about later. But a couple of months later, and here I am, getting ready to go off and preach the gospel for 18 months! I am so nervous but INCREDIBLY excited!!.