The Parable of the Shoes: Lessons Learned from a Missionary Mom

Today I lose one of my most cherished titles, "Missionary Mom".  A title I've had for 4 years, 1 month, 3 weeks and 1 day.  And the reason why I've had this title for so long is because my three oldest children were born in less than 3 years.

And they all served LDS missions.

To read more about an LDS mission, click here.  

My oldest left, September 19, 2012,

then my daughter left March 5, 2013,

and my second son left Nov. 5, 2014.

As I prepare to say goodbye to this title, and hello to my son after 2 years, I'd like to share this parable that came into my mind this morning.


Becoming a Missionary Mom is like purchasing a new pair of shoes.

 You've been looking at these shoes in the window for a long time waiting for the day when you can buy them.  You long to wear these shoes; you imagine what life will be like with these shoes, and you hope you get to have these shoes for a long time--at least 18 months to 2 years.

Finally the day arrives when you can walk into the store and buy the shoes.  Everyone tells you how wonderful the shoes are, and you agree. You wear your shoes wherever you go, enjoying all the compliments and praise you get for the shoes.

But quickly, the shoes start to feel tight and uncomfortable.  You can't understand why.  They fit perfectly in the store, why are they bothering you now?

The next time you receive a compliment on your shoes, you confide that they actually are hurting your feet a little bit.  The person responds, "You should just be glad that you have shoes on at all."  You look down and realize that this person is barefoot and longs to wear shoes like yours.  You feel bad for complaining about your new, beautiful shoes.

One day you see a woman wearing the same shoes as you, except hers are worn-out and weathered.

"It looks like you've been wearing your shoes for a long time," you say.

"Oh yes, I love these shoes, I'll be sad when I have to take them off and store them in the closet, but it will be nice to wear some different shoes too." she replies.

"I know that one day I'll take off my shoes too, but that seems so far away.  I feel like I'm going to have to wear these shoes forever."

"Trust me," says the woman, "you'll be taking them off sooner than you think.  I feel like I just put these on yesterday."

"But they are so painful, and I don't feel like I can tell anyone because I should just be glad I get to wear these shoes."

The woman puts her hand on your shoulder. "Your shoes don't have to hurt, you just need to break them in."

"But how do I do that?"

"Let me share 5 things you can do so that these shoes will be comfortable for you to wear the next 2 years.

1. Stay present.  Don't count how many days you have owned the shoes, or focus on how many days until you can take them off.  This will distract you from enjoying today, a day you get to wear your shoes. Some parents have to take off their shoes much sooner than they expected, so consider each day with the shoes a gift.

Countdown calendars can be fun, but they can also make you miserable.  If you are feeling like time is dragging on or sad about your child on a mission, stop counting down for a week and see if it helps.  And don't remind the missionary how long they have or how long they've been out.  They need to focus on the work at hand. 

2. Don't worry about your missionary's shoes.  Your missionaries are going to have shoes that will hurt their feet and might even cause blisters or make them bleed.  That's okay.  Those are their shoes.  Your child has a Shoemaker, and it isn't you.

Don't freak out when you child goes through trials.  That's the point.  My kids had horrific experiences on their missions.  Of course I wanted to fly in and rescue them, but my missionaries have a Savior, and it isn't me. 

3. Document what it is like to wear your shoes.  Write your missionary each week and tell them what it is like to walk in your shoes.  Put a copy of those letters or emails in a special place because they are part your story, not just your missionary's story.

If you use Gmail or Outlook, you can create an email rule that will automatically label your emails to your missionary and archive them in a special folder. 

To find out how to create email rules, click here. 

4. Respect the rules.  Don't think you don't need to follow the instructions you got at the store when you purchased them.  You need to waterproof them.  You need to shine and buff them.  You are no different than any one else wearing these kind of shoes.  If you follow all the rules, it will not only help you break in your shoes, but also help your missionary break in his or her shoes too.  

Don't send your missionary extra money.  Don't talk to them on Mother's Day for 4 hours.  Don't send weekly packages.  Teach your missionary to follow their mission rules by being committed to keep them as well.  

5. Use your shoes.  Your missionary received a manual on how to care for shoes, you have a copy of that manual too.  Read it.  Find out how your missionary is using his or her shoes, and try to do the same over here.  Even though you are separated from your missionary, you'll feel like you are right next door.

Study Preach My Gospel as part of your scripture study.  Share the gospel with strangers and friends.  You may not have a black name tag, but you are a missionary too.  

"Thanks for the tips," you say.

"No problem," she says.

You look down at her feet and see her shoes are more worn out than you had initially noticed.  One sole has duct tape on the bottom.  "Why does your shoe have duct tape on it?" you ask.

"Oh that's from when I found out my son had a sore on his leg that got infected.  Someone cut out the infected tissue using a knife in his living room.  When I found out, I was so upset, I broke the bottom of my shoe."

"Why are your shoelaces different colors?"

"I found out that my daughter was living in a place infested with rats and my son's place had maggots crawling out of the carpet.  I kept taking off and putting on my shoe trying to decide whether to fly down there to bring them back home.  I untied my shoe so many times, the shoelace broke."

"I didn't see all those spots on your shoes until now.  What are those?"

"Those are tears.  I have cried both tears of sorrow and tears of joy.  But for some reason the joyful tears are the ones that seem to leave a permanent mark."

As the woman walks away, you look down at your own shiny, new shoes.  They don't seem quite so tight anymore.