I returned home from my mission to the California Anaheim Mission on October 31, 2017. I served a full 18 months (and even some extra with the way transfers worked out). It was the best experience of my life, but also the hardest. During my mission, I truly learned that I needed to rely on the Savior. And not only that I needed to, but also how to do that. Before I left on my mission, I had a decent amount of faith, but that wasn’t enough for the next 18 months. But my loving Heavenly Father will always provide for me, one of His beloved children. I had companions, MTC teachers, members, nonmembers, and lots of other people that taught me so many things during my time in Southern California. Without the help of so many wonderful people, as well as the unmeasurable help from the Savior, I would not have survived the past 18 months.
There will definitely be a post (or two, or three, or ten) about my mission, but I wanted to focus this one on being released and coming home. I mean the title of this post is “Finally Home.”
As most of you know, I’m the only member in my family. My mom came to pick me up from my mission in Southern California, and due to the circumstances, my stake president agreed to release me over the phone. I was released as a full time missionary on October 31, 2017, as I sat in the mission office with my former companion, Sister Cottle, and her new companion, Sister Smith. I called my stake president, and we spoke. He talked about the youth of the stake and the way they looked up to me. He talked about the example I still needed to be for everyone around me. But mostly, he talked about how proud of me he was. He told me that he would always be there for me, and to remember who I was. We talked a lot about remembering the experiences I had. How could I ever forget?
After I hung up that phone, there were so many emotions. Sister Cottle gave me a hug and then lovingly took my name tag off for me. I cried. A LOT! I had a really hard time understanding what to do now that this chapter of my life was closing. Sister Cottle and Sister Smith had missionary work and service to do, so they took off and left me alone in the mission office with the mission office staff. It wasn’t that weird because I wasn’t totally alone, but there was a part of me that was missing for sure. But even in that moment where I felt more alone than I had for the last 18 months, I knew I wasn’t alone. My Savior, my best friend, my brother, was right there. He won’t leave me alone. He is always there for me.
My mom arrived at the mission office about an hour later. She was so excited to see me, and I was definitely excited to see her, too, but everything felt a little numb that morning. I introduced her to the senior couples that worked in the mission office. I had come to love those senior couples so much in the past 18 months. We got my stuff in the car and headed to my great aunts house where we would be staying for the next week.
There are lots of things I could say about what we did that week, and where we went (I’ll probably write a post about that later), but the most important thing about that week was the way I felt. I felt the need to talk to everyone that I met on the street. (Seriously though, we walked to lunch from the house one day and I stopped and talked to everyone. My mom probably thought I was crazy.) I felt like I needed to be a good example. I felt like I needed to be wholesome. I still felt like Sister Johnson. I think I will always feel like Sister Johnson. And I can always, and will always, strive to be Sister Johnson. I think that’s the best part of coming home. A part of you never really does.
P.S. I know that nobody was actually following this blog because I never published it or told anyone about it… But! I wanted to apologize to anyone who goes back and reads things like, “I’m going to leave this blog in the hands of my mother or someone while I serve my mission to keep you updated!” That OBVIOUSLY didn’t happen, because I haven’t posted something to my blog in over 18 months. I will see if I can add my emails home to this blog if I can be technologically savvy enough to do that. (: