So I was in a big van with a handful of missionaries, heading down a road lined with miles and miles of green forest, bursts of rainstorms beating us down one minute, sunny glare drying us off the next, when the drivers Elder and Sister Lefgren told me about cicada season.
Cicadas are insects that are born in the ground, where they live for seventeen years - seventeen! - as worm-things, absorbing nutrients from tree roots. After seventeen years, they emerge into the open and make the whole swampy South ring with their chirps in a thundering chorus of new beings! They spend a full six weeks of life mating and laying new eggs in the ground, then die. The next emerge after another 17-year cycle.
You may be wondering why I care. Why I continued to ponder this fun fact after we'd dropped off my dear MTC sisters bound for West Mississippi and Southern Arkansas. Well I first thought of all the dear elders I said goodbye to last Sunday night, in a flurry of repressed tears, handshakes, and promises to write and meet again after two years. They spent their first seventeen years absorbing, too. Then they all made the choice to come here, in their primest of times, to link up with a companion and spread the good tidings, that they might multiply the saints on the earth, to call forth all those who desire to come unto Christ. That considered, I guess I'm on the 21-year cycle. This is the prime of my life. And I'm spending it here. AND, you better believe I'm the happiest I could be about it! Of course, only after I got over the trembling nervousness I experienced the last day of the MTC, the internal apprehensive shaking that racked me like a fever.
Before I left the bubble of the MTC, however, a few noteworthy things happened that cured me of that awful trembling. First, our departing district performed a musical number in sacrament. It was my favorite hymn: Lead Kindly Light. They'd been reluctant to do a hymn they didn't know, but I bore them my testimony that the spirit would grace our meeting if we took the words of it to heart, and expressed it as a humble prayer: "The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead Thou me on." I know that has been my prayer throughout all thirteen days of this journey. The Spirit did attend our meeting, and my heart filled with gratitude for the faith of these missionaries that were making this 18 or 24 month sacrifice to assist in God's most noble work: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. With that as our goal as well, we would be led by the Lord's kindly light, and we would be given a way to do great things.
The next thing that happened, was that I recieved a priesthood blessing before we sisters departed Monday morning. Sunday night, Elder Cluff, Elder Warr, Elder Smith, Elder Welburn, Elder Constandse, and Elder Bulpitt stood around me and placed their hands on my head to give me a blessing of comfort, by the power of the Melchezidek priesthood, which they all hold. Elder Constandse administered it, and it was amazing. The Spirit engulfed me in it's comforting warmth, and my heart was filled with the love of my Heavenly Father. I was assured that He was proud of me, and that there was nothing better I could be doing with my life right now. The power of the priesthood is real, and it is beautiful. These young men are going to change so many lives, with a Spirit like that on their side.
Now that I'm here, I know even more that it is true. My trainer, Sister Haviland, and I are opening a new area in eastern Shreveport, Louisiana. The real work begins today. I'm so excited. I am nervous, a little, but as time goes on it dissipates more and more as I see the Lord's hand in every thing we do. Jesus Christ said "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; [...] I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you." [John 14:16,18]