There are things about our childhood that we never forget, even if we try. For me, the thing I remember most is the way my father would call for me. When I was very little I realized that, while other parents would call out their child’s name to get their attention, my father would instead whistle a unique melody. (I’m a terrible whistler, but it went something like this….)
As a little girl this was quite embarrassing. When it was time to come home after an afternoon of playing outside, my dad would stick his head out the kitchen window and whistle, very loudly, to let me know it was time to come home. I would run indoors and angrily ask,
Why don’t you call for me like a normal parent? Don’t you know people only whistle to cats and dogs? I’m not a pet. I’m your daughter.
He would then look at me and say,
Kitzia, my call is unique. When you hear it, you know you are to stop whatever you are doing, leave whoever you are with, and answer my call. You may think my whistle is silly, but because of it’s uniqueness, You will never confuse my call for another’s and you will never question your duty to answer.
Over the next few years, my father literally hardwired this into me.
The last summer I spent in California before moving abroad, dad and I were invited to a friend’s beach party. That night, while the adults sat around the fire talking, the youth decided to play a game of American football. After a few minutes of throwing around the ball they decided it would be more fun to “go for a walk” which was code for, go where there was no adult supervision. As the crowd began moving away I hesitated, not sure of what was the right thing to do… this wasn’t exactly what you would call a group of righteous teenagers… but I was young, and they were older and cooler, and as I turned my back to follow the crowd… I heard it. Crystal clear. The whistle.
I stood there for a few seconds unsure of what to do. I couldn’t see my father from where I was standing. I could only make out dark shadows against the flames of the fire, yet I had the distinct feeling that, though I could not see him, he could definitely see me. A few thoughts crossed my mind. Maybe I could pretend I hadn’t hear anything. Nevertheless, before I had too much time to think, I did what I had been hardwired to do. I stopped what I was doing. I left who I was with, and I answered the call.
That night, as we drove home, my dad turned to me and asked,
Do you know how wild horses are trained?
I had no clue.
They must first be broken. Not in spirit, but in will. The horse’s will needs to be made subject to the master’s will. To test whether the horse will follow its master or not, it is put under a most arduous test.
He is taken outside and tied to a post or a tree and he is made to thirst and hunger for a period of time. Then he is set loose. Food is placed on one side of him, and on the opposite side, his master will stand. As the horse begins making his way towards the object of his desire, the food and the drink, his master will call, and the horse must choose between the two.
Tonight you were set loose and like the horse you found yourself in the middle. The choice wasn’t between food and your master, it was a little more meaningful than that. On one side stood something that appealed to you, but which you knew, deep down inside, was not for you. And on the other side stood the safety of listening to your father’s counsel, and to the still small voice which said, “do not follow”
I’ll never forget the look in his eyes that night. It was the look of a proud father.
I left home a few weeks after that and it wasn’t until years later that I began to fully comprehend the magnitude and depth of the lesson my father had tried to teach me that night. I understand it now… and that lesson is what I would like to share with you today. It also happens to be the answer to how I decided to serve a full-time mission.
It’s quite simple, actually. As far back as I can remember, my father worked very hard to give me a very special gift. This gift was of having trained ears. Ears that would know how to listen and recognize the master’s call. Mathew chapter 11 verse 15 says,
He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
I thought long and hard on how to describe what it was like for me… deciding to put my life aside for 18 months and become a full-time missionary. You see, I was never one of those people who’s always known, “I’m going to serve a mission one day!”. In fact… 6 months ago, had you told me I would now be preparing to serve a mission, I probably would have laughed at you. Yet here I am.
As I thought about this, the lyrics to one of my favorite songs come to my mind. I’d like to share it with you because I feel it describes the last 6 months of my life very accurately. Ironically, the song is titled “the Call” by Regina Spektor and it goes a little like this:
It started out as a feeling,
Which then turned into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought,
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
Until it was a battle cry.
Deciding to go on a mission was not an easy thing for me. I had an especially hard time accepting His timing. I did not understand why he was asking this of me now, especially when I had just taken the decision to finally return home to be with my family for a time.
I had a job lined up. A really good job. I was planning on applying for a graduate program at BYU. I had plans. I had things I wanted to do…and a mission wasn’t part of those plans. And of course, I also had fears. Lots of them. But it seemed like the harder I tried to push the mission thoughts out of my mind, the louder and louder those thoughts became. I had no other choice than to ask, with a sincere heart, if a mission was what the lord wanted for me.
And He answered. Of course.
And I knew what I felt was from God. And I knew that he knew that I knew. There was no going back at this point. I knew it was true for it burned within my heart… and then the fear left. Two things then came into my mind. First, one of my favorite scriptures, which over the years has turned into my life motto. It can be found in Proverbs chapter 3, verse 5-6
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
The second was a quote I’d once heard at a fireside. A ship is safe in Harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. I thought about all the people in the scriptures who had to leave the security and comfort of their safe harbors, put aside their own personal desires and plans in order to accept a unique call handed to them by the Lord.
I realized then and there that, however nice it would be to go ahead with the plans that I had made for myself, it was not the right thing to do. Had I done that, I would have not only put aside my father’s teachings, both earthly and Heavenly, but I would have only be leaning unto my own understanding.
I believe with all my heart that my Father in heaven has something else planned for me. Apparently, he has other oceans he wants me to navigate. And I’m more than okay with that because in the end, things tend to go much better when I let him direct my paths. And if that path leads to the England, London South Mission, then so be it! I’ll gladly follow.
And with all that said, I’d like to leave you with one final thought; the lyrics of the first verse of one of my very favorite hymns,
It may not be on the mountain’s height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice
He calls to paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I’ll go where You want me to go.