My name is LeeAnn Shaffer. I’m from California and I have been home from my mission exactly 39 days! I just counted to make sure. I served in the California, Rancho Cucamonga mission. August 15th, I stepped off an airplane into a very different world from the one I was accustomed to. A world of technology, education, friends, and men. 39 days seems like a sufficient amount of time to ‘adjust’, but while thinking about what to write about on this blog, I realized that the majority of my recent experiences all revolve around how difficult it has been for me to be…normal. As I sit here at my desk on a Friday night, rain beating down on the roof of my house, eating Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia out of the container with a spoon, bare with me as I try to get my thoughts out.
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once shared a heart warming story from his earlier years. Called to serve a mission in English, he wrote home to his dad a month or so later telling him that he thought it was too difficult. He felt that he would be more useful, back at home on the family farm. Thinking his father would support him in his decision, he was very surprised when he recieved the following letter in return from his father. In the letter to his son, he said, “‘Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’” President Hinckley took it upon himself from the moment on, to always put the needs of others before his own. And when one looks back on the life of this extraordinary man, one can plainly see just how true he really was to this motto.
So thoughout my mission, whenever I struggled, whenever I felt inadequate, my own father would send me those same words. “LeeAnn,” he would say, “I know you are tired of hearing this, but forget yourself.” It seems simple enough. And in my mission, if I put my mind to it, it was. All I needed to do was work hard. But since being home, it has been much more difficult to simply ‘forget myself’ and ‘go to work’. Everything I am doing seems less important, and I no longer feel like I am making a difference. I have to think about myself, and my problems, ALL THE TIME. And it kind of sucks, to be honest.
In an interview with LDS Living, BYU Professor of Psychology, Dr. Ed Gantt shares some insites on why missionaries tend to feel this way. He says, “Being a missionary often involves the sense that what one is doing from moment to moment, day to day has really profound eternal consequences, and that one is being counted on by the Lord to do the right thing all the time so that people’s lives can be changed and souls can be saved.”
So the real question is, what can we, as the awkward returned missionary population, do to continue to feel this way?
When I was released from my service as a full time missionary, my stake president shared with me 5 things and told me that if I applied these principals to my life every day, I would continue to feel that same joy that I felt (almost) every day for 18 months.
President Teuscher’s recipe for post mission success:
- Pray. Pray every day. Pray about everything. Pray for others. Don’t lose this important opportunity to connect with your Father in Heaven.
- Read. Don’t lose the habit of daily scripture study that you worked so hard to get! Reading the Book of Mormon every day will bring you peace and guidance in a time of your life when you need it the most.
- Serve. Always being praying and looking for opportunities to serve others. One of biggest parts of your like for 18 months or 2 years was helping others. Keep doing that! In little or big ways, making a difference in the lives of others makes all the difference in your own life.
- Teach. For me personally, it was by teaching others the Gospel that I came to love it so much more. By teaching others we are able to keep the Spirit with us, and we can continue to feel like we felt before. Teaching helps us to become more like the Savior. And when we read His teachings in the New Testament, it wasn’t anything crazy or extravagant. It was simple. And much of his teaching was by example.
- Obey. Obedience is KEY to having the Spirit with you. We no longer have a Missionary Handbook to guide our every move, but we do have agency. One of the best pieces of advice I recieved before coming home was to create my own mini missionary handbook. Set boundaries for yourself. Write yourself some guidelines that will help you to be the most successfull you when you get home. For example, something I’ve committed myself to do is finish all my homework before Sunday. This has helped me to be able to focus a lot more on my Savior on His day, instead of thinking about school.
Day 39. Wow. I still can’t believe I’ve come to this point. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to without all the wonderful tools I’ve been given to succeed. Life is crazy, but I know what I need to do.
Till next week,