18 months. 24 months. 3, 6, 9 months. However long you served, we all come home at some point. (although I don't know much about coming home early, therefore don't have much advice for you. just know that for whatever reason you went home, I am grateful for your service. the church is grateful for your service. the Lord is grateful for you and your service.) Everyone has their own experiences with returning home from a mission. For some its easy…for some its hard.
I can't say I've had a unique experience with coming home. As the end of my mission quickly approached, it didn't feel real. I kept pretending it wasn't going to happen. And then the last transfer came. The last month. The last week. And finally, the last day. Next thing I knew I was on a plane headed home and would shortly be seeing my family and friends who I had missed so dearly for 18 months. I didn't want to come home. I longed to hug my mom and dad and tell them all about my experiences, but a huge selfish part of me wanted to stay. Missions are hard. Actually, my mission was the hardest thing I've ever done. But coming home was harder. I was going to miss being a missionary. I was going to miss the constant Spirit. I was going to miss being sheltered and not having to pay attention to the news, media, and pop culture. I was going to miss teaching. I was going to miss pretty much all of it.
Before I came home (using MyPlan, a great course for missionaries to do in the last transfer of their mission), I tried to loosely plan how I would be spending my days as a recently returned missionary. I thought I had it all together. Part of my plan was to have scripture study every morning for 30 minutes, and for an hour on Sundays. Another part was to attend the temple every two weeks. To be perfectly honest, I have not been following through with those plans. I thought it would be easy to make time. I thought, "I served a mission. I know how to set goals and make plans. I know that I can eliminate all distractions and keep the commandments as closely as possible." Much easier said than done. My scripture study and temple attendance are far from perfect. But something I've noticed is that I need to stop having extremely high expectations for myself. Sure, it would be great if I could say that I woke up early every morning and had a solid 30 minutes of scripture study, and that the temple workers know me by name because I come so often. But that is just not where I am right now. My whole mission, I taught people that they just needed to try, they just needed to do their best. Why don't I have that same expectation for myself? As missionaries we were not normal people. We were set to a much higher standard. We followed a rigorous daily schedule. We were on the Lord's errand. At home, we are still set to a higher standard, however, we are no longer set-apart missionaries. We do not have the same schedule and we have to do normal-people things. We were not expected to be perfect as missionaries and we are not expected to be perfect at home either.
"Start where you are. Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not 'more' of something–more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will 'make weak things become strong.' Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying. I learned in my life that we don't need to be 'more' of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord." -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (It Works Wonderfully!, October 2015)
I shared this quote many times on my mission. I would testify of God's love, and tell people that this applies to them personally. And it does. But I have to constantly remind myself that it applies to me personally, too. Just because I was a missionary doesn't change the fact that I will always have to continue to progress and improve. It doesn't mean there's going to be all highs and no lows. It's all a part of the journey.
It's been a little over two months since I came home. Sometimes I still introduce myself as "Sister Martinez". Sometimes I still think that I forgot to wear my name tag. And yes, I still carry my name tag with me everywhere. Returning from your mission is not easy, but I find comfort in knowing that I found happiness on my mission and I can find happiness at home.
The Lord loves His missionaries, but He loves all of His children. Each of us. Individually, and perfectly. Never forget the simple truths you testified of daily as a missionary.