You know those cool Frank Sinatra Gentlemen’s only clubs? I want a Missionary Mama club. Instead of liquor, there will be chocolate. Instead of dancing girls, there will be honesty. Because, I have discovered that we are a dishonest bunch, we Mormons … we really are.
When someone asks me how my son is doing, I instantly start calculating: “Where is this person spiritually? How close were they to my son?”
Then I answer according to the calculations results:
- Someone who knows my son in passing and is spiritually seasoned (A nice way of saying that they don’t openly own their spiritual struggles, instead they try to focus on lifting others.), will receive: “Oh, he’s doing great. You know those first couple of months of a mission can be tough, but he’s handling it well.”
- Someone who knows my son in passing and is spiritually struggling, will hear: “He’s doing so much good and just loves serving!”
- Someone who is close to my son and is spiritually seasoned, will get: “He’s doing really well, struggling with some stuff, but he’ll get through it.”
These are all variations of the truth, but not the whole unvarnished truth. You want the truth?
He IS doing well. He is struggling with homesickness, but focusing on serving others, so it doesn’t overwhelm him. He has some companionship issues right now because he overheard his companion bad-mouthing him to other people and it hurt. This companion has also shown a lot of immaturity and selfishness in other ways. However, our son is striving to try to learn, love, and work with this companion. Our missionary is trying to focus on the things he needs to change about himself. His brave struggle against self-centeredness is probably the most inspiring part of his mission thus far.
When someone asks me how I’m doing with my son gone, the calculations begin again: “Where is this person spiritually? How much do I trust this person?”
Again, the answers will all be a variation of the truth, based upon the calculations results:
- Is this someone who spiritually struggles and who I do not trust? They will hear: “Oh, I am doing great! The blessings of having a missionary are amazing!”
- Is this someone who is spiritually seasoned and who I do not trust … Sad to say, there are those in leadership positions, who fool themselves into thinking that their calling entitles them to someone’s trust. However, their inability to see their own weakness and foibles causes people around this type of person to shrink back and carefully watch our words around these individuals. Whenever I interact with someone whose spirituality is a veneer and whose compassion stretches only as far as their calling, my response is: “I am doing great! How is your family?” (Because 9 times out of 10, they really don’t care about how I am doing, rather, they only want the opportunity to make themselves look better. So, I give them the chance to brag.)
- Is this someone who is spiritually mature and who I do trust? Then the response will usually be, “How did you get through this? It’s rough!” And I listen to their counsel, because they have trod the road I am on. Their counsel has been amazing!
“Keep your non-member friends close. My friends who are not members were the most compassionate and kind to me while my sons served their missions.”
“One moment at a time. Keep busy.”
“Scripture study and prayer. LOTS of priesthood blessings.”
- Is this someone who is spiritually struggling and who I trust? They get the unvarnished truth. Because we NEED more honesty in our church! Less trying to impress each other with how put-together we are … sometimes, it feels like going to church is a competition to see who has it the most together. The truth is, the beauty of the Atonement is that we are NOT put-together. We are NOT whole. And that is OKAY! Because where we fall short, the Lord, our Savior lifts us, stretches us, and makes more of our lives and our weak efforts than we EVER could on our own. Let’s celebrate the dark places of our lives where we see the Lord’s hand, instead of burying it, in fear that someone will judge us.
Honestly, 72 days into his mission? I’m getting through. I still cry almost daily, not a constant stream of tears—more like a surprise punch-in-the-gut moment of suddenly missing my son like crazy and just wishing to have one hug, for one moment.
Today, I read something that resonated with how I’m feeling. I’ve changed the wording to better fit my own experience:
Our son has been on his mission for 72 days. He has completed 1/12 of his mission.
I have been missing him more than usual, his absence from our family, from me, feels like I cannot take a full breath. Like I’ll start to and can’t because I remember he is not here. It has been 72 days of not really breathing.
I do not want him home. I do not want him any other place than where he is but … I can’t breathe. Not fully anyway.
I see the incredible man he is becoming, as he learns to put himself to the background and focus on others. I see the strength of spirit as our son counsels his sisters to pray and he reaches out in love to them. What a wonderful blessing to see this young man, so full of promise, begin to fulfill the promise of his youth.
Our family is being blessed! We have already experienced financial blessings beyond our expectation. Even greater has been the increased spirituality of our home. There have been difficulties … yet, there is a strength of knowing that everything is in the Lord’s hands that prevails over every day’s struggles.
So, this Missionary Mama Club … more than the chocolate, I need a space where I can be unvarnished in my warring emotions. I WANT him on his mission, yet I desperately want his arms around me in a hug. I see the blessings, yet the pain of sacrificing him seems overwhelming at times. It is a confusing, emotional place to be.
… and we need soft blankets in the club too. So we can wrap them around each other and just hold each other as we rejoice together through our tears.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.