Just two months before my mission, my 16 year old brother, Bruce, was killed in a car accident. Leaving on my mission was very difficult. My family was still suffering so much. I even had a sister still in a full-body cast. I wanted to be with my family, but I didn't want to disappoint them, so I went.
It was very hard. I cried myself to sleep every night in the MTC, then continued to cry each night on my mission. I would quietly lie in bed with tears running down my cheeks, thinking of my brother and my family and literally aching with homesickness. I had lived a thousand miles away from my family for college, so the homesickness wasn't because I was a wimp, it was because of the horrible circumstances.
Some time after I arrived in Washington, we had a mission conference about an hour and a half from where we lived. It was early in the morning and I was driving with three other missionaries in the car. The rain was pouring down as it is prone to do in Washington. As missionaries, we had no music in the car. The other missionaries promptly fell asleep and I drove, enjoying the peace and quiet.
Up to this point in my life, my prayers had been in the predictable places--kneeling beside my bed, at the dinner table or quickly at my desk before a test. But this day was different.
As I drove, I began visiting with Heavenly Father much like Tevye would have. Of course, I didn't speak aloud, but I poured my heart out to Him as I drove. I told him of my sadness, my loneliness, my worries. I told him how much I wanted to endure and be a good missionary, but what a hard time I was having missing my family and feeling especially homesick for my brother. I talked with Heavenly Father for more than an hour, completely uninterrupted.
Shortly before we arrived at the conference, I realized I felt differently than I had since leaving my family. I was feeling peaceful, okay and even a little happy. I knew Heavenly Father loves me--I felt that love. I didn't feel lonely. I knew He was with me.
That was a turning point for me on my mission. I still experienced times when I'd think of my brother and would feel the wind knocked out of me like it had that first day on that lonely, gravel road. But then, I'd remember and feel Heavenly Father's love and I'd be okay.
Life has brought many other challenges over the years. Sometimes those challenges have felt overwhelming. But every time I've fervently prayed, talking things over with my Heavenly Father, I've felt His love and guidance in my life.
What a blessing to know He really is our father and that He knows about our worries, sadness, troubles and fears. I am so grateful for prayer and for knowing that no matter where I am in my relationship with Him, He is ready and waiting to hear from me.