October 14, 2012

are you going?

I'm a little flighty. It's pretty obvious on my blog, just because I change my life plan every three days. I worry about my future and how everything will work out just so. For a while, I could see no path forward and I had to put my trust in the Lord that it would all work out.

Last week, the path was opened for me and I finally know (this time for real) what I am going to do with my life. I remember who I was two weeks ago. I was Laney Blau, the "nicest girl in the world" (a title my friends have given me), the valedictorian, the girl with a vision and a purpose in life. Two weeks later, I am the same, but so, so different.

I think this subtle transition in my life began like so many others. I was on my knees, my little notebook splayed before me with question after question listed. I don't know if you have noticed this, but I love to ask Heavenly Father a  ton of random questions that enter my mind (sometimes just to make sure he's really listening).

"Is BYUI a good educational option for me?" I asked with hesitation, making sure to phrase my question the right way. "How can I make a difference in someone else's life? What can I do to avoid the winter blues? Does Thomas S. Monson truly receive direction from thee?" I paused and muttered, almost as an after thought, "Should I go on a mission?" This question has been playing in my mind for years, but I couldn't find balance between my desire to get married and receive an education and have children and go on a mission. That part of my "life plan" has always been a tad cloudy, and I justified that cloudiness by telling myself I would know when I turned 21 (the age that women are allowed to go on LDS missions). I closed my prayer and continued to think about my questions throughout the coming week, especially pondering the ones about my future. After all, General Conference (an LDS conference held twice a year) was approaching and I wanted to make sure that I was prepared to be edified and uplifted.

General Conference will always be synonymous with home for me. When I was younger, General Conference weekend was craft mecca. I learned to make pot holders and to crochet during the talks given by the old men and, as long as I wouldn't talk, I didn't have to take a Sunday Afternoon nap. As I have gotten older, my focus has shifted slightly. I replaced yarn for paper and needle for pen and I began to listen to what the Lord wanted me to hear.

The past couple of Conference's, I have been blessed to drive up to Utah to see it in person. When I went in April, it was a trip to go up to Rexburg, Idaho to see the campus of BYU-I. This October, I really didn't have any purpose to drive out, but I longed to be in the Wasatch Range desperately. I knew that it was silly and irrational, but I begged my parents and my Heavenly Father to let me go. I rationalized that this session of Conference would give me the added strength to make it through the semester ... and if I could make it through the semester, I could make it through the year. If I could make it through the year, I could make it through my entire life. With some gentle pleading and little planning, I packed my suitcase with clothes and my mom and I were on our way.

The drive up was looooooong but beautiful. I thought about the trip I was making in less than twenty-four hours and compared it to the trip my ancestors had to take over months and months. I couldn't help but to be grateful for the sacrifice they made. I mean, there really isn't much to see in Wyoming, and I could imagine the difficult task of trudging along day by day.

We finally made it past the Utah state line. For future reference, while driving, you can not turn your head around without swerving. The northern area of Utah is gorgeous, but as I drove along I-15, I knew that we had reached God's country. I know why Moses went up into the mountains to talk to God ... it's because he's there. This feeling of awe reduced me to tears (it might have been a little delirium from lack of sleep as well).

There was still time to kill, so mom and I went to all the hottest joints in Provo and shopped until we dropped. We checked out BYU's campus (which was cray cray busy) and then headed back to our hotel. I had made some loose plans to hang out with friends, so I attempted to look super hot and then hunkered down with an AP text book, anxiously waiting for a call. It was fifteen minutes later that I realized that we were in UTAH -- my surrogate heaven -- and I was just waiting in a hotel room, alone. I was a little miffed, but recognized that I stunk at making plans and things would work out. Looking for a little adventure, I told my mom that we should go driving through the canyons and that I would make up plans as we went. I shot a text message to Heath asking what we were doing the next day (we were planning on meeting up and going to Conference together) and then said a little prayer pleading that it would all work out.

Utah traffic stinks. It took us a good hour to get to the canyon, and all the while I was waiting to hear back from Heath. Finally, at the base of the mountain, we were able to talk. I sighed in relief and although not much planning was going on, I wasn't worried ... until we got into the canyon and I lost reception. I prayed and prayed that something would help AT&T's signal to reach me, because this was happening tomorrow! I couldn't see a way for it to work out unless I talked to Heath at that very moment. I was a little anxious, to say the least.

Anywho, I'm rambling. To save you the anticipation, it all worked out. We drove up and down the beautiful canyon, went to Deseret Book (where I met a nice girl who helped me to think less of my plight), and made it to our hotel. I was emotionally exhausted and, in our little hotel bathroom, I fell down on my knees in prayer. I felt so anxious and down on myself. I had made plans with so many friends that had all fallen through. I wasn't so sure that I was going to go to BYU-I. I looked forward to conference with zealous worry. If I can make it to tomorrow morning, I can make it through this trip.

In the morning, I still felt anxiety and worry. This wasn't the relaxing trip I had hoped for at all. We didn't have tickets for the morning, but my mom felt like we needed to try and get into the Conference Center. From Lehi to Salt Lake, I worried about how the day would turn out. I thought about the questions I had asked, what seemed like eons ago, and I felt a gentle warmth of hope that poked through the anxiety. Through all of my fear and insecurity, I felt confident that it would all work out and that this trip could still be fantastic.

Downtown Salt Lake, for those of you who haven't been there, is a pretty happening place. There is always some event or market being held and it has a very contained, bustley feeling to it. This Saturday morning was no different. In fact, as we were driving I couldn't help but notice how incredibly busy it was. I had never seen it like this before and it didn't bode well for our chances of getting into the Center.

As I suspected, Temple Square was insanely busy. We began to wait in the standby line ... and there we waited, and waited, and waited. I passed the time by snapping pictures of the temple to put on Instagram that I just knew someone would like. The nice older missionaries directed the line into the Tabernacle where we were to wait until they knew how many seats were available. I felt my spirits sinking, recognizing that we weren't going to make it in. I read a little bit of "Heaven is Here," a book I picked up from Deseret Book the night before, to pass the time. Stephanie's story tugged at my heartstrings and I gained such a perspective from the few chapters I read waiting in the Tabernacle. I chatted a bit with the girl who sat next to me and learned about her life, which also helped me to feel normal again. Finally, the session had begun ... and, unknowingly to me, my life had begun as well.

The opening song began and I felt the spirit, but only faintly. Thomas S. Monson was the first speaker, as always, and I listened for the announcement of new temples and the usual call for more missionary work. I've noticed that this first talk is usually formulaic  and I began to zone out. Temples in Tuscon and Peru ... check. Missionary service ... I felt my heart perk up at the mention of missionary work. He was talking about 18 year old missionaries, but my brain thought that surely he had made a mistake. Everyone knows that Mormon missions begin at 19 for boys and 21 for girls ... but I soon found that it was no mistake. "All worthy 18 year-old males who have graduated high school ..." At that moment, one hundred names of my friends flitted through my head; I was so excited for them! Before President Monson had finished explaining the boy age change, I had texted Heath, "Are you going??" Then President Monson began talking about the Sister Missionaries. I must have had three concurrent heart attacks. This wasn't real ... it couldn't be!

When President Monson announced the change in age for girls, I felt such a joy in my heart that I had never felt before. I felt the desire to be gone already. I wanted so badly in that instant to be serving the Lord on a mission. I thought back to my list of questions and I started bawling. This was an answer to my prayer that I had asked only after I had asked everything else. Elder Cook began speaking, but I wasn't really paying attention. My mind was reorganizing priorities and was preparing to drop everything I had planned. I knew that going on a mission when I was 19 would alter the course I had planned for my life indefinitely, but I also knew that it would put me on the path that I needed to be on. It was incredible to see how everything in my life suddenly came together ... just so. It didn't matter anymore where I was going to college. If I was going on a mission, I'd have plenty of time to think and decide. It didn't matter who I was going to marry, because my mission would come first and I would have time to decide that as well. I had received my answer ... If I would leave my worldly life for 18 short months, everything I desired would fall into place.

The rest of the talks in that session were amazing. My favorite quote from it was, "I'm a Mormon. I know it, I live it, and I LOVE it!" I found time during the session to look back on my life, and I was so grateful that I had been preparing for my mission far longer than I knew I would actually go on one. The sadness that had plagued the first few days of my weekend was lifted with this announcement as I latched onto the ray of hope provided for me. "I can be on a mission in 14 months! Oh my gosh!" As we went to lunch in between sessions, I could hear several girls on the phone with their parents and it was awesome to hear each girl affirming her desire to leave on a mission. I felt that each of us who were affected by the change would be such a force for good! I could see each of us entering the mission field and changing lives and I was so happy! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints really is directed by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He knows who I am and wants me to be happy ... he wants everyone to be happy, and that's why he has asked me to share. I feel such a new sense of purpose and relief and it's an incredible thing!

Saturday Afternoon I was able to meet up with Heath and Connor, as well as Connor's mom and sister. It was a little trickier to get together than I had anticipated, but the wait was worth it. We finally spotted them and got into the huge line that was outside the Center. Conversation was pretty much focused around the morning's announcement ... probably because Heath turns 18 this December and he was already diligently trying to set up an appointment with his Bishop. Unfortunately, the Conference Center was packed again, and we were actually turned away, even though we had tickets! We slowly made our way to the Joseph Smith Building, where they were projecting the conference in their meeting rooms. Once again, each of the talks were incredibly uplifting. I felt like they were crafted especially for me and that everything was going to be okay. I looked over every few talks at Heath and Connor and I felt such comfort, despite the fact that each of our futures were going to be changed forever. It's going to be okay, I heard over and over again, it's going to be okay

After dinner, Heath, Connor, and I wandered around the mall. I finally learned what parkour is ... and that all Mormon girls look the same. Soon, it was time for the guys to head off to Priesthood session. Outside of Deseret Book, I hugged each of them and wondered when we would ever see each other again. I thought about how grateful I was for the gospel and how it had helped me to meet such wonderful people. Really, when I think about it now, my mind is blown! Hundreds of people that I consider to be my good friends ...  I would have never met them if it hadn't been for the gospel!

Those small moments  seemed to last a blissful life time, but the rest of my stay in Utah was not meant to be the same. For "Ladies Night," my mom and I were able to see every temple in the Wasatch Range. Sunday morning, we went to Conference in the Tabernacle. In the afternoon, we were finally in the Conference Center! There, I was able to see my trek brother Ben and his family, which was such a pleasant surprise. When Thomas S. Monson walked into the room, I could feel the spirit testify to me that he was a prophet of God. I have never felt so strongly about something in my life, but at that moment, I knew. I am so glad that he is able to receive inspiration from the Lord about the path that I need to take.

As soon as we had gotten to Utah, we were on our way home. A period of less that 200 hours had shifted the direction of my life permanently. I learned the secrets of happiness and the skill of decision making. I had gained a testimony of the Prophet. I was full of so much love and enthusiasm that I felt like I was going to burst. Just two weeks ago I was wondering what I was going to do with my life. I was happy and plodding along, but I wanted direction. Now, I know what I am going to do and I know who I want to be. I want to be a missionary! I am going to be a missionary now! I have no fears or doubts in my mind. I only wonder ... are you going?


  1. Wow. Laney you are such a great example of a righteous daughter of God. You're going to be such a great missionary!! I miss seeing you- but it was super fun to get to see you at Youth Conference again and hear your Dad speak in one of the classes.

  2. Laney, I love it!!! I'm so happy for you! I can't think of a better preparation for life that I personally could have had then my mission! I love to hear how young ladies have responded! It sends chills through me to think of the future generations of powerful men and women return missionaries leading the church and raising children!! So amazing! I was emotionally right with you on temple square! It's one of my favorite places and the spirit there at conference time is so powerful! Being in the conference center is a magnificent feeling when the prophet walks in, isn't it!
    So happy for you! You are awesome!!



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