After what seemed to be the longest day ever, I found myself on my knees, head in hands, collapsed on the bedroom floor. I was so overwhelmed with work, school, family and church responsibilities that I felt almost numb. It had been six months since I had returned from a mission and the weight of adjusting home still felt heavy.
As I sat there, searching for a solution, my mind went to a place I had been so many times. Although I was low, I knew from experience that there was a source of strength I could tap into. I took the time to pray, catch my breath and wait for answers to the concerns that were bombarding me. In time, peace and strength came.
I think all of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves (literally or figuratively) “collapsed on the bedroom floor.” After returning home from a mission you might have a few days or months (or years!) of feeling this type of exhaustion. You may feel some discouragement from the weight of the huge change you’ve just made, from the weight of the choices that lie ahead, or from the loneliness of your new path.
Now, almost seven years later I think about that day. I think about the things that helped find success during this time of transition in my life. Whether you have just arrived home from a mission, or have been home for years, here are five concepts we can cling to when we are having a “head in hands sprawled out on the floor” kind of day:
1. Live like His Son
The last three lines of the Primary song “He Sent His Son” say, “What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say? Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.” When I hear these words, I always think, “Yes! Now we are getting somewhere!” To me, this song teaches that everything we do in our daily lives should lead to this one goal, “Live like His Son.” We, as daughters of our Heavenly Father, should heed this direction! It is such clear, simple direction and for us, a great way to refocus and make sure we are headed down the path the Lord would have us take.
When you feel discouraged, or need a pick-me-up, returning to this command can give you direction and help you evaluate your daily activities. Are you trying to live like His Son, or are you making it all too complicated? If so, what parts of your life need to be tweaked to make this direction your primary focus each day?
2. Find strength through Relief Society
Recently a female colleague who is not of our faith told me about a conference she attended in Salt Lake City where the majority of the attendees were female and Latter-day Saints. She said the dynamics were unlike anything she had seen in her whole life. A room full of women, all in competition with one another professionally, spent the whole week building one another up. She asked me over and over again how this was possible. My answer for her: Relief Society! These women were not just friends or business contacts, they were truly sisters.
You, sister, are part of the largest women’s organization in the world. You have women assigned to care for you, and you have a responsibility to care for others. Not every Relief Society is perfect, but the organization itself is. I have found my greatest friends, strength and some of my greatest joy in life through the relationships and service I have found in Relief Society. Cling to your sister friends as you make this challenging transition. Even when we are in a different phases of our lives, our Relief Society organization will provide close friends and support because of our singular purpose and motto we live by, “Charity never faileth.”
3. Hold onto the good from your mission
During the weeks after I returned from my mission, there were moments when I felt so awkward! In the first few months home I felt unattractive, out of touch with trends and so out of touch with my peer group. On my first date after I returned home I spent the whole date talking to my date’s Dad about genealogy! Yikes. I had been so focused on my missionary service for the time that I served, I felt like I had lost sight of other interests I used to have before I was a missionary.
One day, I expressed my insecurities to my brother, and he said, “No! Don’t change who you are; you’re so nice now!” His sweet words made me a lot less focused on others’ perception of who I was or had become and more focused on all of the good I had gained as a missionary.
You spent 18 months harnessing Christlike love for others and have brought that home with you! You also have brought home amazing study habits, communication skills and confidence. Don’t give up that softness, love, and kindness in exchange for qualities the world will tell you are more valuable. I promise, they aren’t!
4. Work, work, work
Remember how hard you worked as a missionary? That is one of the reasons that missionaries are so happy, because of their dedication to their cause. Upon returning, find a few activities to work hard at. If you are involved in school, do your best to succeed in your classes! Join an intermural team, gym, or exercise class and set goals to exercise a few times a week. If you find a job, do your best to be an awesome employee who is always on time, never drops the ball, and follows through on what you say you’ll do.
Hard work after your mission will bring you so much satisfaction. It will allow you to continue to progress in new areas of your life and it will help you create new connections socially, emotionally and spiritually.
5. When all else fails, drop to your knees
I hope that on those days when you are exhausted from hard work (or just simply exhausted because nothing seems to be working) that you will find yourself on your knees. Talk to Heavenly Father. There is so much we don’t know, but as we continue to progress into every new phase of life, we can know more strongly that God is there, and He listens to our prayers.
Talk to God—you are his daughter! I promise you He loves you He is listening, and when the time is right, He will direct you to follow the new path He has in mind for you, whether that’s to .
He answered my prayers a few days ago on my closet floor. I was filled with love, peace and enough energy to face the challenges I am trying to navigate. As you come home and make this transition to your new phase of life, God is still aware of you, He is proud of you and there is so much you have to look forward to!
These are tips that have come from the more than 200 returned sister missionaries who contributed their thoughts and insights to my book, Tell Me About it Sister: A Guide for Returned Sister Missionaries. Their counsel continues to inspire me, and I hope you have found something here that is helpful. Serving a mission is a great opportunity for growth. Making the transition home is another one, as we learn to preserve the great qualities we gained through our missions and translate them into a life of service and joy that will bless many.
Andrea Faulkner Williams is a blogger, marketer, wife, mother and returned sister missionary. She is also the author of Tell Me About It, Sister! A Guide for Returned Sister Missionaries. She lives with her husband and two babies in San Diego, CA. Join her and an army of returned sister missionaries at facebook.com/tellmeaboutitsister for stories of love, support and encouragement as you navigate your way home from your mission.