Thursday, August 6, 2015


Today is August 6. This whole week I've been nervous about today--nervous about how it would feel. I've wondered what today would've felt like if things were different. I imagine I would've woken up and thought, "It's been a year," and then gone on with regular missionary work.

I remember August 6, 2014 very clearly. Feelings of excitement and fear twisted together, and I wondered what exactly I was getting myself into. My family and I pulled into the MTC, my heart beating loudly and my eyes starting to fill with tears. I was so excited to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary, but the unknown was scary. That day was the beginning of some of the most difficult and rewarding times of my life.

 I never could've imagined things turning out quite the way they did. I never would've imagined getting hurt and coming home. I never would've imagined myself in physical therapy, sitting on a stationary bike with tears in my eyes, having flashbacks of that car hitting me and my bike slipping under me.

I am still healing. In pictures and even in person I look fine, and I am making progress, but I am still healing. I still have constant discomfort and pain, and we are learning to be patient and are trying new things. My doctor told me that I will be treated just like someone with fibromyalgia since my muscle pain is chronic and spreading to other areas. She also told me that having pain for so long can cause my brain to get into a habit of thinking that I'm in pain, even if my muscles aren't as tight as they were before.

 I am still learning why everything happened. This past year has been hard, and it has stretched me in ways I never thought I could be stretched. I get anxious when I walk by a busy street, worried one of the cars will hit me. I get anxious when I see bikers or think about biking. I have been meeting with a therapist to work through those things and also with my situational depression. One thing that helps is when I see lots of cars coming by or get on a stationary bike, I take a deep breath and remind myself that I'm safe. And doing that seems to help emotionally too, reminding myself that I'm ok, that everything is ok.

Things have been hard, but whenever I have let the Lord in, He has been there. And I am so grateful for my friends and family that have been there for me through all of this. One of my dear missionary friends, who entered the MTC the same day to me, sent me this in her email this past Monday:

" I know it is rough to be at the year mark and be there not here, and let me tell ya I miss you, but I know you are where you are supposed to be. I am going to wear your clothes on our year mark, so you can count on the fact that you are still marching into the field over here....besides I am gonna need some Zuster Thomas fire!...Have a super happy year mark! You are still in this group and a missionary (lifelong calling)! eat some stampoot and pannenkoeken and know that you are loved and your influence continues to touch my life and the lives of those here and at are a double missionary- two places at once! Love you dearly!"

The Sister Missionaries in my MTC group (Sister Robbins, who wrote the email, is the one on my right)

Today is August 6, and this morning I woke up and felt at peace--at peace with the fact that healing will take time, that my life isn't what I thought it would be.

Yesterday I started working in the temple. It was wonderful--even though it was a bit too much to do with the pain--I'm going to do half shifts for a little bit until I'm able to work a full shift. This past week I also started working in the Family History Center at my Church. I am learning ways to serve the Lord in different ways, and I am grateful for His hand in my life.

Today is August 6, and that's ok.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I've been going to physical therapy twice a week for a while now, and each time I go, I have the privilege of catching glimpses of other peoples' stories. I see patients come into physical therapy with one leg, others shaking all over, many limping. I do not have a cast and my pain isn't very visible, but it is there. However, seeing and talking with the patients that come into physical therapy helps me to be more grateful. I have two legs that work, two eyes that see, a heart that beats. There are so many patients that I see coming into the Clinic for much more serious problems than mine.

I think in many different aspects of our lives, we forget to be grateful. In a world where we are told that what we have is not enough, it can be difficult to feel content with what we have and who we are. As a missionary, I realized how little I really needed to be happy. I didn't have a smartphone, I never went on the internet except to email my family once a week--we used beat up maps and an old phone to get around and contact people. And it was one of the happiest times of my life.

Irene--a woman we taught in Zoetermeer. 

My progress is slow, but it is still progress. Looking back to when I first came home, even, I see a big change.

I remember in high school, I was working on a big watercolor painting of a poppy. I was working on the finishing touches to make sure it was just right. My art teacher kept coming by and telling me that I was done with my painting and that it looked great, but I kept telling her that I had something else to fix still. Finally, she said "Nikki, go to the other side of the room and close your eyes." A little surprised, I did as she said. Then she told me to open my eyes. I saw my art teacher holding up a beautiful and finished painting. That experience has taught me so many lessons, and one of them is to take the time to step back and appreciate what you do have instead of always focusing on our own imperfections which we know so well.

Friday, June 19, 2015


First off, as far as medical updates go, there isn't too much to report--there is slow and steady progress, which can test one's patience a bit, but it is definitely better than no progress. We are still looking at different treatments and I'm working on my exercises and using my TENS unit each day.

Enough is a funny word--my whole life I've wondered if I did enough. Did I study enough, practice enough, try hard enough? Am I doing enough now?

A thought came to mind the other night--when is anything that we ever do truly enough? Aren't we all imperfect? There is always something we could've done better, so how can we feel at peace with the things we have done?

I had an experience on my mission that helped me feel 'enough.' It was when I was on bedrest, and I felt pretty useless. I was supposed to be helping others come closer to God, something of eternal importance, and instead I was laying on a bed. I was praying one night about how I was feeling, and a thought came--I may never be fully satisfied with what I do, but I can be fully satisfied with what the Savior can do through me.

We will always find something about ourselves or what we've done that isn't enough. We see pictures in magazines and people around us that seem to be and do 'enough.' We too often compare our worst to others' best and come to the conclusion that we are just not enough. But who's opinion of us really matters? Your followers on instagram? Or maybe the One who created you, the One who knows everything about you and loves you no matter what.

We can and are made enough through Jesus Christ; that was the plan all along. God knew that we wouldn't be enough without Him--we are imperfect people trying to return Home to live with a perfect Being. We need to be saved--and wonderfully enough there is a Savior reaching His hands out to you right now. All you need to do is take His hand. Trust Him. Work with Him. Let yourself feel how much He loves you. With Him, you are enough.

Friday, June 12, 2015


This week I started using a TENS unit, which sends little pulses wherever I put the four little patches that connect to this nice little box. It feels like a tingly vibration--and the idea is that it helps retrain the muscles and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. Thus the title "a shock."

I think "shock" is a good word to describe a lot of the experiences I've had the past few months. I always knew that God had a specific plan for me in mind, but I have been suprised to find out the more recent parts of that plan.

I think we all are a bit shocked at different twists and turns that come into our lives. The thing is that without those twists and turns, we wouldn't learn and grow. And that's the whole point of this life--that's what I spent each day of my mission teaching people--that God has a plan for us, that trials are meant to help us learn and grow, and that He loves us and knows what's best, even if we can't understand the reasons behind the trials in our lives.

One tendency I have in trials (also just in general) is to feel guilty. In this case, I have struggled with feeling guilty that I couldn't get better faster. I felt guilty for not being able to work very much, for holding my companions back, and for going home--for not being strong enough. But looking back, all of this has helped make me stronger--not physically, but spiritually. It has brought me closer to Jesus Christ, who knows how each and every kind of pain feels. Every muscle spasm. Every headache. Every tinge of guilt. Every shock.

Friday, June 5, 2015


First of all, I want to give a big shoutout to my superwoman of a mother. She has come with me to just about all of my doctor appointments--she is, as many of you know, a wonderful human being. We all just want our moms when we are injured or sick, and I am grateful to be with her as I recover.

This week marks the second week of physical therapy. I was warned that it would get worse before it got better, and that's been true so far. We're working on muscles that haven't been working properly for about 5 months, so they're pretty sore. My physical therapist said that I "jammed up my left side pretty good," so we are focusing on my shoulder area on my left side as well as my neck and lower back.

The muscles we are focusing on right now aren't the "showy" muscles (muscles people usually see, i.e. six pack muslces). We're working on deeper stabilizing muscles.

Sometimes I wonder if we are focusing on our "showy" muscles--the things that others can see-- or our deeper stabilizing muscles--the things that truly matter. Are we focused on living a life that looks good or living a good life?

I think that we all should do ourselves a favor and stop worrying so much about what our "showy muscles" may look like, and instead, focus on our "core". Focus on what matters most. I love this quote from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (a leader from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):

Thursday, May 28, 2015


 No one wants them, but we all get them. We've all scratched our knees, bruised our legs, bit our tongues and stubbed our toes. Wounds come in many forms, and no matter what kind you face, you need healing.

I started physical therapy on Tuesday, and it's been good so far. I will be meeting with the physical therapist twice a week for the next while. The physical therapist is confident that I will be able to get back to normal after some time.

We all have wounds, whether the eye can see them or not. Whether it be a broken arm or heart, wounds are wounds. And they need healing.

A quote that I love:

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." - Rumi

No matter the wound, the Light is the real healer. That Light is love, hope, joy, peace--it is Jesus Christ. No matter the wound, He knows how it feels. And at times, wounds are the best way for us to receive the Light. They refine us and can bring us closer to Him.

We all have wounds. I saw that so much during my time on my mission. And helping others receive Light in their lives was (and is) a beautiful privilege. We never suffer alone. There is no wound or pain that He has not already experienced. So look to Him. Look to the Light. Let your wounds and pain turn into something beautiful.

There has been so much light that has entered my life through my wounds. Relationships have been strengthened, miracles have been seen. Here are some pictures of some of the people who brought light to me during the past few months.

My sister Heather had beautiful baby Jane on May 19 (baby therapy works magic)

 Familie Schiltz

 Elder Childs and Elder Nye
 President and Sister Robinson
 Sister Van der Scheer
 Sister Whittington
 Sister Begazo
 Sister Young

 Elder Childs and Elder Lyman
 Sister Johanson

 Elder Ames and Sister Faa
Sister Fleming
 Sister Fredrickson
 Sister Adams
Sister Fredrickson and Sister Robbins
 Sister Faa
 Sister Huber
 Veronica, Dharma and Rens Kaaijk
 Wouter and Suzanne
 Sister Uljee

Lucie and her family

 Zuster Westland, Elder Ames, Wouter, Elder Frisby, Rens Kaaijk
Broeder Rhaman van Eeden, Ashil and Rukshar

The true soure of Light.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Doctor Appointments and Cookies

It's been about a week since I returned home, and since then I have had a few appointments--I said earlier that I would be meeting with a physical therapist this week--we actually met with doctors from the physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurology so that they could evaluate my head and neck symptoms and come up with a treatment plan. The plan now is to start the actual physical therapy in about a week and a half.

For now, the doctors are focusing on my muscle spasms and after that settles down, they will see what concussion symptoms need to be addressed. I am really looking forward to getting started with physical therapy.

Now, I want to talk about cookies (bear with all connects I promise). For those of you who know me well, you know that I love to bake--especially cookies. I like baking because I always know that if I put a certain amount of butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, etc. together and bake it for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, I will get cookies. I have a recipe with exact measurements, the tempurature to set the oven on, the amount of time to put on the timer--and it always works out if you do it right (hint: don't melt the butter).

I have always been a recipe kind of person--I have always liked knowing exactly what was going to happen and having a plan for how I was going to do it.

When I got my concussion and had to stay in, there were times when I just needed to do something other than lay down so I wouldn't go totally crazy, even if I felt sick doing it. My sweet companion would hand me ingredients I needed as I sat in a chair in the kitchen with a bowl and electric mixer in my hands. And I started to experiment. My companion was my guinea pig for the creations I made. Even though I had no idea how I was going to make what I wanted, I added a little bit of this, then a little bit of that until it looked and tasted right. It was simple, and I couldn't do it very often, but it was something that helped me through that time.

Sometimes in life, we don't have a recipe. Things happen that we weren't expecting. I didn't expect getting hit by that car, or slipping on that ice. I didn't expect to come home when I did--it wasn't part of the recipe I thought I was using. But I'm realizing and trusting that the Lord has something a lot better in mind for me.

The Lord knows us. He loves us. He has a plan for us. We just need to trust Him. He doesn't want us to feel lost or alone, but to reach for His hand. He doesn't leave us alone in our trials--He'll carry us through them.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Time for Healing

As many of you know, I recently came back home for health reasons. I thought I'd tell you all what led up to me coming back.

On November 28th, while biking to an appointment, I was hit by a car. The woman who hit me wasn't paying attention and forgot to check for bikers. My bike was "taco-ed," and I was left with some scratches along with whiplash. The woman who hit me was very sweet and helped pay for a new bike.

 On December 26, while biking across a bridge, I hit a patch of black ice and fell--I don't remember the fall, but my companion still cringes when she thinks of it. I hit my head and got pretty bruised up. The concussion was a lot more serious than we initially thought, and I was on bed rest for about two weeks. 

My view while on bedrest

  After trying to get back into work, my symptoms were getting worse--I had to go to the ER a couple of times and each time they wouldn't see me. After much effort and time we finally got an appointment, a CT scan and MRI scan that told us there was no permanent damage. With time, some symptoms got better, others not. 

 It was a daily struggle to work with the pain--we tried to find solutions to ease the pain and to figure out its source. For almost 5 months I did my best to work with the pain, but I was never able to work a full day (the amount of time I could work became less over time)--me and my companion did our best to use what time we could work the most effectively, and we saw many miracles. But the pain wasn't lessening-- the mission medical team suggested that I could have severe whiplash, which I got in both accidents. Treatment would include physical therapy, which wasn't available for me there. My mission president, along with the mission medical team, suggested that I return home to receive treatment.

I feel so blessed to live in Rochester, MN, where we have such an incredible hospital--the Mayo Clinic. I had an appointment my first day home, and the doctor told us that I have severe whiplash and lingering concussion symptoms. She said, "You really got your bell rung." The main source of all the pain comes from intense muscle spasms in my neck, which is from the whip lash. I will be starting physical therapy this coming week, and I am looking forward to feeling some relief from the pain. 

I am so grateful for the time and experiences I have had while serving as a missionary--my experiences have helped me realize just how much I love serving the Lord and His children. Thank you all for your love, support and prayers as I go through this time of healing.

Lead Kindly Light

 Familie Schiltz (They have us over for dinner every Sunday)
 Zuster Faa!
 Zuster Johanson
 Zuster Goodman
 Zuster Hanny
 A good chunk of our MTC group
 Typical Elder selfie
 Elder Nye and Elder Childs (the zone leaders in Antwerpen)
 Elder Ames and Zuster Faa (we served in Zoetermeer together)
Zuster Fleming!


 Zuster Nuyens
 Broeder Nuyens
Zuster Whittington, Elder Childs, Elder Nye

Hey everybody!

This will be a quick email, but I just wanted to share some thoughts about this past week and coming home. It's been a big emotional rollercoaster, but Heavenly Father has helped me feel an inner peace. I trust Him, His timing and His plan.

 We had a great lesson with Nathalie about the word of wisdom--she has already slowed her smoking way down (before we even committed her to) and is so excited to be baptized.

On Friday, we had MLC (mission leader council--the zone leaders and sister training leaders throughout the whole mission meet at the mission home). I was so excited to discuss how we can improve the mission, and I wanted to go and put all of our plans into action. But I knew I couldn't. That was hard, but then this question came to mind--don't I want to leave loving missionary work with all of my heart, wanting to go out and do all I can? Anyways, after the general council, the sister training leaders went upstairs to meet with Sister Robinson--she had me bear my testimony at the end, and it was a special moment. I have made so many dear dear friends on my mission, and I am so grateful.

Sunday was a special day--I love this ward so much--the people are great...a little nuts...but wonderful and so kind. The opening song was "Lead Kindly Light" which has a special place in my heart. My first Sunday at BYU, when I was missing home and feeling lonely, that song was sung in my first sacrament meeting there. It brought such comfort and peace. My last Sunday at BYU, it was sung as well. My first Sunday in the MTC--Lead Kindly Light. And then again yesterday. I felt such comfort and peace. The Bishop asked me to bear my testimony, and I spoke about Lead Kindly Light. Heavenly Father will always guide us. He can see the big picture, and always wants what is best for us. Even though it breaks my heart to leave, I know that Heavenly Father has a plan, and that the Savior knows of my struggles, hopes and pain.

I love you all, and I love being a missionary. Even without a nametag on, I will continue to serve the Lord however I can.

Zuster Thomas