Why I Didn't Serve a Mission

This is mainly for young or semi-young people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, so if it confuses my other readers, I'm sorry :) I just felt prompted to write this today for some reason.

This blog post also features pictures from Manchester where my dad (the one I only knew for 3 years) served a bit of his mission in.

There's quite a bit of pressure on young men and young women in the church to serve a mission. Ever since we were kids, we've looked up to the missionaries in our wards, and if we were girls, our mothers or grandmothers probably told us that the missionaries were men we were one day going to marry.

Unless my family's just weird.... but anyway!

There seems to be a misconception that missions simply aren't for some people. That some of us just weren't meant to be missionaries.

And yes, you're right. Serving a mission definitely isn't for you!

When I was few years younger and prepared for my mission, I felt like I needed to serve a mission because everyone else were. But don't get me wrong, I was really excited about it!

I imagined all the blessings I'd get and all the things I'd learn, all the mission references I'd get to say during every future talk I'd ever give, how proud my parents would be, the strangers I would meet, the new places I would see, the language I'd learn, and oh all the stories I'd get to tell people after my mission!

I also felt like I had to go because if I didn't, boys wouldn't like me and I'd never get married (but that's another issue for another time, ugh).

My mission was the only thing I talked about, the only thing I thought about, the only thing that was certain in my future, and every time something was difficult, I clung to the thought of myself with that shiny black badge and dressed modestly in a pretty calf-length dress. It was my lifeline when life let me down.

That dream got me through high school, but it was all about me and not about the service itself, which is why I'm super happy that I didn't serve a mission when I turned 19.

When I was almost about to send in my mission papers, I also got into university, which was a surprise since I hadn't really tried that hard in my entrance exams (I'm from Finland and you have to apply to minimum two universities after high school for money reasons & getting into certain universities is really hard, so if you get in you have to go or you might lose your chance forever).

The pretty, perfect, dreamy mission image in my mind begun to crack.

I prayed about the whole university vs. mission ordeal for months, even after I already had started my studies, and each time, I got the answer to not go on a mission yet. 

An answer to a prayer had never made me so disappointed before. I couldn't believe what I was feeling. I couldn't believe that it was a no.

All my friends were serving missions or getting married, and there I was, trying to change God's opinion and make Him tell me that I needed to serve a mission. Not in a few months. Not in a few years. I wanted it to happen now!

Time passed. Disappointment turned into anger and resentment, and all the while I was studying hard and isolating myself from other people because I felt so lost and confused. Until one day I realized I was going to parties twice a week, missing church activities, hanging out with boys who didn't really follow church standards, and drifting further and further away from what I had once dreamed my life to be. 

Sometimes people at church would ask me, "So, you're not on a mission yet?" and I would shrug and try to explain, but then I'd go home and cry into a pillow.

I was angry with God, my testimony was hanging on a thread, and I struggled with my purpose. I felt like a fraud and I thought the solution would be to stop going to church altogether. I wanted to numb all those feelings and give up.

God clearly wanted nothing to do with me, since I clearly wasn't good enough to go on a mission.

Praying so hard and not hearing what you want to hear is such a lonely place to be.

Then I moved wards because I moved away from my family's house, and immediately got a calling to teach kids in nursery.

Not going to lie, I wanted to turn it down. I wanted to be able to stay home from church sometimes without anybody noticing, which would be pretty easy in a new ward. But with a calling? Nope.

Yet something made me accept it, and now I don't care why I said yes, because I'm so happy that I did. That calling was the most incredible blessing ever!

Teaching the babies in nursery helped me get back to the gospel basics and build up my testimony again. In the end, it wasn't really me teaching them, but the 2-year-olds teaching me.

God knew I needed to start again from the very simple basics and build up my faith like a child. Remembering that I am a child of God, remembering that families can be together forever, remembering to be like Jesus, remembering that I, too, can feel my Savior's love.

Oh, I miss those amazing kids. They will probably forget all the discussions and wonderful moments of love and calm that we had in our little circle on the floor. But I will never.

And because I wasn't on a mission, I got to help the people I loved back home. When they were struggling with hardships, I got to be near them and love them. Hugs and kisses and cards and songs. Long walks or long consoling conversations on the phone.

Being there for them made me see that I wasn't really as lost as I'd thought I'd been.

And then there was that incident when my brain went all berserk last winter, and if that would have happened while I was serving a mission, I would've definitely been sent home and not allowed to return.

Piece by piece, day by day, I begun to see exactly why God had told me to not serve a mission when I had so badly wanted to.

I realized that if I was ever going to serve (which I still might, after I graduate), I would have to do it for the right reasons.

If I was going to serve a mission, I would serve for the sake of blessing others and helping them come nearer to Christ and find the meaning of their life (like I had! ironically by not going on a mission).

If you're thinking about serving or not serving, trust God and pray and please listen to what He wants, and not what you want. 

Don't be selfish. Both deciding to not serve, or deciding to serve could be selfish decisions, depending on your reasoning. I was selfish and went astray, and I don't recommend it.

God knows your needs, and more importantly He knows the needs of the people around you.

And if you're feeling the pressure of other people around you to serve a mission, remember that they can't receive revelation that concerns your life. You have to make your own decisions.

In the end, serving a mission isn't for you. It's for all those lives you touch and the hearts you bring closer to Christ.

And on top of that, I think it's wrong for people to pressure young members of the church to go on their missions as soon as they turn 18 or 19. We've all got our own journey and have got to trust in God's timing. 

I hope to serve a mission some day. But for the time being, I'll try my best to be a missionary at heart every day of my life. Being a good example, serving in the temple, doing good, loving and being kind and strengthening my fellow humans.

You, like me, might need a few years to grow as a person before your mission so that you can be a better missionary. Or maybe God wants you to grow as a person on your mission. Maybe you have another purpose completely. 

So.. Why?

Only God knows. 

And for me, at this moment in time, that's all I need to know.

And as a last little bit of inspiration, watch this beautiful scene from one of my favorite movies ever, the absolute masterpiece of an animation which is The Prince of Egypt, and remember to always look at your life through Heaven's Eyes, because our imperfect human eyes are sometimes very bad at seeing our true potential! You're often a lot better than you think you are. 🌼

Lifesaving Links for Nanowrimo

Happy Nanowrimo everybody!

Spooktober is now over and Nanowrimo is here, which means that a bunch of us writers are sitting locked in our bedrooms with our laptops or gathering in coffee shops to write our novels. It's a glorious time!

But if you've ever done Nanowrimo before, you know that it isn't all rainbows and butterflies. After a couple days, writing 1667 words a day can become a real struggle.

Fear not! There are lots of tools to keep us on track!

Don't let the word counts slip, you guys. You want to get ahead on your writing so that when you get into the middle of Nanowrimo when everything tends to turn into a chaos in your life, you've got something to fall back on.

Here are my favorite links for Nanowrimo that have saved my daily word count numerous times throughout the years:

Write or Die is a word sprint software that forces you to write under pressure, with a clock counting down the seconds until the time is up. I always use the free version because it's free, and it's really good.

Fantasy Name Generators has fantasy character names, realistic character names, place names, historical names, planet names... it's got all the inspiration you need when you suddenly need a new name for something or someone.

Thesaurus is THE website for finding appropriate synonyms for your character's body language or for describing your world. Just try typing in "sand" and you'll see how many words you get.

Pandora Journey is a youtube channel featuring lots of epic inspirational music that I always turn to if my creative juices are drying out. I just lie on my bed with my eyes closed, or take a walk outside, with the music in my ears and instantly have epicness and magic flowing around in my brain. I also really recommend Two Steps From Hell. Gorgeous music makes a gorgeous story.

Jami Gold's Worksheets are amazing for structuring your novel or finding inspiration for what could possibly happen next.

Ilys is a website kind of similar to Write or Die. It allows you to write without editing at all, because you can only see the latest letter you've typed in. I haven't used this one a lot yet, but it's a super fun tool for those days when you just keep overthinking your story. There's no time for that during Nanowrimo!

And a bonus for my fellow non-English-speaking writers out there who are writing in English, I know you all know this, but google translate is really helpful for finding the right word for that thing you're not sure what it's called :D

I write English just fine, but when you want to write quickly and not have to think too much, I love being able to just translate things (and I do it all the time!) :)

Hope you get lots of writing done this weekend!!

xx Em xx