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When my boy Mark served an LDS mission…

When my boy Mark served an LDS mission…
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Hello there, dear readers. No new recipe today, rather a post of another kind for you all. Many of you are aware that my oldest son Mark left last February to serve an LDS mission in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a picture of my family dropping him off at the Provo MTC. That was a day for big dark sunglasses, I can tell you that. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud and more sad all in the same 24 hours. (Which equated to large amounts of emotion and severe tear spillage from my red rimmed eye balls).

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We’d spent the weeks prior to his leaving buying suits and ties, making fun memories as a family…

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…and attending the temple. They were some of the sweetest weeks I’ve ever spent as a mother. The day Mark went through the temple for the first time was beautiful beyond words. Our parents and many siblings were there with us. It was one of the best days of my life, truly.

mom and girls

My girls and I, the day of Mark’s farewell address.

Group of Friends at the Farewell_edited-1

Before LDS missionaries are sent out into the field, they give a talk during Sacrament Meeting (a church service). The meeting-house was packed with our dear friends, ward members and family.

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It felt like heaven, having everyone we love so much all in the same room.

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We spent the afternoon feeding everyone and just enjoying the wonderful day that it was.

my sistersMy wonderful sisters and brothers in law

And it was wonderful, every minute.

Mark Picture for the blog

During Mark’s farewell talk, he was very candid about the difficulties he has had in his life. From a very young age he has struggled with anxiety. His anxiety is super specific. It doesn’t come on due to worry about not doing well, or being enough, or doing enough. It creeps in and grabs a hold of him, only when he is away from home and family. Separation Anxiety, it is. We spent many long mornings when he was in elementary school coaxing him into the car to go to school, encouraging him and telling him that all would be well, praying with him and for him, helping him to work through the anxiety. Through his teenage years, scout camps and youth conferences were hard. Very hard. But it was something that he worked through. He was able to attend enough scout camps to qualify to receive his Eagle Scout (hooray!) and by his senior year in high school he had it pretty much managed and was able to attend camp that summer with no problem at all. He had no issues going to junior high or high school and enjoyed his teenage years quite a lot.

All young men in our church are asked to serve 2 year missions and can start applying to serve when they are 18 years old. Mark has always been very obedient and willing to do what is asked of him. Serving a mission was a sobering prospect for him, considering his level of anxiety at being away from home.  We knew it would be hard. Being away from home for a weekend is one thing. Serving a 2 year mission, with very little contact with family and friends is an entirely different animal. When Mark originally submitted his mission papers The Church (knowing of his situation) asked him to move away from home for 3 months, gain some experience at living away and submit his papers again. The Lord blessed us a lot during this time. Mark moved about an hour away from home and went to a semester of school at Weber State. He did very well, and though it was difficult for him to be away from home he gained some much-needed experience.

Mark met some wonderful people on his mission. His testimony of the gospel and of God’s love increased tremendously. But the anxiety was severe. Crushingly so. It was a pain that he carried with him constantly while he served. He had anxiety attacks and was further burdened with depression. After he had served for 2 months we got a phone call from his mission president informing us that Mark would be coming home, with an honorable release due to his medical condition. Anxiety and Depression.

On the day he came home, my husband, children and I all sat together and listened to Mark tell us as many details of his mission as he could recall. He was much changed, even though he’d only been gone for a couple of months.

That afternoon we sat together and watched the following video clip that had been released just days before. It brought us a lot of comfort!

My husband, Mark and I discussed how best to approach his early release. We were worried about how he would be received in our community and wanted to make the transition as easy as possible. Following the advice of a friend who experienced a similar situation, we let people know through our social media accounts that he was home. At the very least, we figured this would ease the blow and make it less awkward as he ran into people around town.

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I posted the above message to my personal Facebook page and Instagram account. Mark wanted to mention the reason for his release. He was brave, very brave in being willing to admit the reason and I was, and still am, so proud of him. “I don’t have anything to hide, Mom. We might as well call it what it is.” were his exact words. He’s a good kid. But I have to admit, I sat on my bed, staring at my phone for about 45 minutes before I actually pushed the submit button on that message. I crossed my fingers that he would be treated well by it.

I had not anticipated the beautiful way people would love us on that day and have loved us since. We received loving messages of support and encouragement from friends, family, congregation members, community members, acquaintances, blog followers, and even strangers. Many people reached out to us who have experienced similar things extending love, support and advice. We were wrapped up in love. People have been so good to us. It has made all the difference in the world.

The Lord has blessed us in many, many ways through his mission and early release. Though he was only in Tennessee a short time, Mark was able to assist in teaching the gospel to many people. One, in particular who was baptized and confirmed the day before he left to come home.

Mark’s been blessed with a strong, sure testimony of the gospel. I was worried that his early release would diminish his love for Heavenly Father and commitment to the gospel, but it has had the opposite effect on him. The Lord strengthened him tremendously while serving and since he has been home, and for that I am so grateful.  He’s been home for 5 months now.  He spent the first 2 weeks at home with me, easing into things and wrapping his mind around the future. He is doing very well, has been working hard throughout the summer months  installing ceiling sprinklers (hard work is such a blessing!) and will be moving away from home this Saturday to live on campus at, and attend Weber State University. Crossing our fingers that all goes well for him there!

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Three of my kids laying sod this past summer at Bear Lake. 🙂

I suspect anxiety is something Mark will deal with from time to time throughout his life. That he was willing to answer the Lord’s call to serve a mission, knowing the particular sacrifice, struggle and challenge it would be for him, is something I always be grateful for.

My sister Alli sent me a text a few days after Mark arrived home that read…

“He hath made all things beautiful in His time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11

I have found it to be ever so true.



Post a comment!

37 Comments

  1. 1
    Sonia
    August 26, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Absolutely beautiful post Jamie! Glad I happened to click on it today! You are a gifted woman in so many ways. Such an admirable mother 🙂 Love you and Mark!

  2. 2
    Angie
    August 26, 2016 at 9:48 am

    So wonderful of you to share this! What a great family you have! I am sending my second son to the MTC this Wednesday. It’s two boys leaving within 9 month! It’s so hard as a mom to watch how they struggle. So many bittersweet mothering moments. Thank you for opening up your life and sharing! You are a great example of how we all should be when our kids our met with these issues!

  3. 3
    August 26, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Oh, Jamie, what a sweet post. Thank you for sharing! I wish I could give you and your son a huge hug (although your son would no doubt think I’m totally creepy). I can’t imagine the emotions you have all been through. I’m proud of your son and think he will be an inspiration for many.

  4. 4
    August 26, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Congratulations! He’ll be doing the most important job now!

  5. 5
    Linda
    August 26, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I saw your momma heart in your post. This is such a sweet story. I have a son who suffers with anxiety when family is not around. He is 10 and this is the first year he could attend VBS without me at the church. I do see him getting better but I know what it is like to have a child like this. That being said I went 6 hours away to college at 18 and it was horrible. It is tough to be away from family.

  6. 6
    Marilyn
    August 26, 2016 at 10:47 am

    This post touched me so deeply. Thank you for sharing your story. I think we in the church ought to be supportive of everyone’s situations when it comes to serving missions. None of us knows what goes on in another person’s life behind closed doors. I admire Mark for having the faith and courage to try to serve for 2 years. And I admire you and your husband for helping him to try to make that happen. I feel sure that the Lord is pleased with Mark’s efforts and I wish him the very best in his future. If he is progressing in the gospel then that is what really matters.

  7. 7
    Jeanne Ehrhart
    August 26, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Jamie – What a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes. We’re so happy to hear Mark is doing well. We love your family. Thanks for sharing!:)

  8. 8
    Margaret Matlock
    August 26, 2016 at 11:00 am

    My grandson came home early from his Mission in France for the same reason-anxiety and depression. I guess what I want to say is that he is much stronger now and is finishing college and married with a baby girl. Praying that all will go well with Mark.

  9. 9
    Dawn Zeigler
    August 26, 2016 at 11:14 am

    God bless Mark and your entire family! While I am not LDS, I have good friends who are and I know this can be very tough for your family. Remember there are many ways to share your faith. God has His plan for Mark. Hugs.

  10. 10
    Tabatha Priestley
    August 26, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Thank you for this post Jamie! Since I have a 17 year old junior son 2 years from a mission (you knew that). I have been wondering about Mark and an update. I love that video also. You are not alone! What a blessing you will be to many in sharing this–you already are for me! Your family’s strength and faith gives me hope for challenges my family may face as they grow and spread their wings. Thanks again!

  11. 11
    Jamie
    August 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for sharing this. Warmed my heart (and filled my eyes to overflow). Good on him and you and your community for all handling this so well. Hugs to you.

  12. 12
    Selena
    August 26, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Jamie, thanks for sharing this story about Mark. He is a great kid. I suffered from anxiety and depression a few years ago and is a difficult thing to go through.

  13. 13
    August 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful message. I have been reading your blog for years. You and your family are an inspiration. Big hugs to you and your wonderful son!

  14. 14
    Melissa
    August 26, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story. I know it will strengthen many others. Even for those who have not dealt with this particular challenge, I am touched and taught by it. Blessings to you and your son! Good luck sending him off to school.

  15. 15
    Jen P
    August 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and beautiful message. Your courage and the courage your son has is inspiring. So happy to read he is doing well and overcoming such a difficult situation with his faith in tact. Inspiring! Best of luck as he heads to school.

  16. 16
    Sandra
    August 26, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Your son is an amazing young man to face his illness head on. I think God is working through Mark to bring attention and awareness to a serious problem that affects many many young people. His honesty and openness will make it easier for the next young person in his situation to seek out the help they need. God bless Mark, you and your whole family.

    • 17
      Joanne
      August 26, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      You, your son and family are very strong to share this so openly. Reading this and the comments that followed tells me he mission is to help himself and in doing that, he will help others. Keep his Faith and strength in the love of God and Mark will succeed in many wonderful ways.

  17. 18
    Kimm C
    August 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    What a beautiful, sweet story by an amazing mom about an equally amazing young man. Thank you for sharing this message with us. Mark will be in my prayers as he continues on with what will be another great chapter in his life.

  18. 19
    Erin R.
    August 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    He did it! He served his mission! Please congratulate him for me. What an accomplishment.

    Also, I don’t mean to be disingenuous by saying that. People understand that finishing a mission because of an illness is not the same thing as leaving because he screwed up, made a mistake in going, did something bad, couldn’t hack it, lost his faith, etc., etc., etc. He is quite correct in that he has nothing to hide, and I think he and his family have handled the situation in exactly the right way. He has only my admiration for serving as he did.

  19. 20
    Mary Ehrhart
    August 26, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    I know his story will help many, many, people!! Thank you for sharing it. You are so brave to put this out there and we love your guts! Mark is a wonderful young man and will have a wonderful life.

  20. 21
    Amy
    August 26, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post. I have a 16 year old that is preparing for a mission and I think it was good advice to have Mark live away from home before leaving on his mission. I am starting to feel that at least a semester of school before my son’s mission will be good for him.

  21. 22
    Halceyn Fobert
    August 26, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I am so proud of Mark for trying… And he will be blessed and so will all the people he has and will come in contact with. I love your family… …. Ms. H

  22. 23
    Lindsay
    August 26, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Jamie,
    I know we don’t know each other, but my heart truly feels for your son. I personally deal with depression and my husband has generalized anxiety. Our hearts have been broken and rebuilt many times recently, and we’ve both come to learn there is no shame in asking for help with these matters. There is also nothing wrong with coming home early, not that Mark needs reassurance from a total stranger. But…I’m personally very familiar with both struggles, as well as have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I live in Herriman, so if you or your son want a pair of listening ears, I’d be more than happy to help. I wish your family all the best.

  23. 24
    Jamie
    August 26, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    I wish I understood this condition 10 years ago when my son went on a mission and returned home from the exact same situation. It wasn’t until he came home and had him get some counseling that I finally understood what was happening to him. He is now married with 4 beautiful children and is currently serving in the bishopric. There is life after this for our men. Your son did serve a mission…my son served a mission…they served for as along as they could and they did their best and that is enough to the Lord. Prayers to Mark and let him know he is not alone in this situation.

  24. 25
    Kathleen
    August 26, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    I forgot to tell you and put my name on the above….see above ….I have been receiving your emails for a long time…but never took the time to read them (sorry). For “some reason” I clicked on your email tonight and read. Now I know why I did. The Lords tender mercies…..

  25. 26
    Julie
    August 26, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    A beautiful tribute to a great young man. It is so well written and will be a strength to many. We love your family and are so grateful for your faithful examples.

  26. 27
    Kathy
    August 27, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Bless all of your hearts Jamie! I’m sure your son knows he is not alone in this. But he is so brave and valiant and obedient. He has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Tell him to hold his head high and continue serving the Lord. Thank you so much for sharing.

  27. 28
    Stephanie
    August 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you for your transparency in sharing your son’s story. He seems like a true and strong young man and he is very brave. Prayers for him! I am blessed to read this post today as my middle son is struggling with anxiety right now too. Not separation, but the pressures of his senior year, deciding on colleges, and meeting some athletic goals. It’s good to know many kids share the same difficulties, yet work through them and persevere.

  28. 29
    Yvonne Pennington
    August 27, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Your son was in our ward when he came on his mission to Tennessee. He is a wonderful young man and we missed him when he left. He was a great missionary and I know he will be a great missionary for the rest of his life. It was so good to hear that he is doing well.
    He told me his mother had a blog but I never asked him what it was called. I have looked at your blog so many times for recipe ideas. You do an amazing job.

    • 30
      Jamie
      August 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Yvonne,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. Mark loved being in your ward. Thank you for taking such good care of him while he was there.
      Much love,
      ~Jamie

  29. 31
    Pat
    August 28, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Bless Mark for making the effort to go on his mission. He tried and that is what is important. We have an apartment and have had missionary’s in it for a few years. There have been a few that were sent home for medical reasons. You could see their strong testimony and how hard they tried. It has blessed us in our lives and increased our testimony to see them grow stronger in the gospel. Give Mark our love.

  30. 32
    Candy
    August 28, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I am sure as a mom it wasn’t easy to write. Please let Mark and your family know this is more prevalent than you are aware. We house LDS Missionaries (Elders) and have seen this occurrence frequently, so Mark Is not alone. He gave it his best shot, he should continue to be proud of who he is and his accomplishments. On another note, thanks for this wonderful site and sharing your talents. Many of us are the benefactors.

  31. 33
    Jill
    August 29, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    My youngest “bonus” son came home after serving for 3 months. We were also afraid of how he would be treated. If there was any judgment, he didn’t feel it. He’s a wonderful young man. He will be marrying his best friend in the new Provo Tabernacle temple next month. I am so thankful for tender mercies. Jamie, you are such an inspiration to so many!

  32. 34
    Pat Gillis
    August 31, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    What a beautiful human being you and your husband have raised. He is a very strong young man to recognize his weaknesses and do his best to deal with them. Thank God he spoke the truth and didn’t try to hide it and make things worse for himself. He was away for two months and I’m sure every day was a struggle, but, he did really good. He will be a very good family man, I’m sure. God Bless

  33. 35
    Sharon
    September 14, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    This post hit close to home with me! My son left on June 1st to the Tampa Florida mission and he came home from anxiety and depression on August 19th of this year. It was a very emotional time for me! I got teary reading your post! I still get teary thinking about it and sort of mourning what could have been if he maybe didn’t get such a strict mission or if he didn’t start off with such strict controlling companions but I keep reminding myself that everything happens for a reason and maybe one day I will understand. My girls and I wrote a similar Facebook post and just like you the outpouring of love and support was amazing! Just like your son, my son grew so much in the few months he was gone and he is doing so good and is happy with his decision to come home. He had the desire to serve and he gave it his all, might, mind and strength for as long as he could and I couldn’t be prouder of him for that! Our sons served honorable, successful missions and I know the Lord is pleased that they were willing and gave what they were able, just as I am and I am sure you are too! Thanks for sharing!

    • 36
      Jamie
      September 15, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Sharon,
      So happy to hear your son is doing well! 🙂 I have to admit that I still get teary about it on occasion as well. It takes a bit of time to wrap your mind around, doesn’t it. Thanks so much for your comment.
      Best to you and your family!
      Love,
      ~Jamie

  34. 37
    Meg
    May 12, 2017 at 2:25 am

    LDS Missions seem cruel and inappropriate to me. Having said that, the real mission in this young man’s journey has been the manner in which his community welcomed him home. While I am critical of the structure of the LDS church, I am in awe of the way its non-hierarchical members treat each other.

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