the best 18 months of my life

18 months ago, i stepped off a plane at the st. george municipal airport "ready" to begin my new journey as a return missionary. i had recently had a very long day and was ecstatic to see my family after being away for 18 months. i greeted my family and then we drove home. we stayed up talking but it was really late so we all went to bed.

the next morning i woke up. i was in my bedroom at home, with no companion to speak of, and my days of being a full-time missionary were coming to a quick end as i would soon be getting released from my beloved calling. 

i specifically remember feeling as though my mission had just been a very vivid dream. if it weren't for the facebook friend requests, welcome home posts, messages, and posters all over my house i might have believed that it was all just a dream. i didn't want to believe that it was just a dream because i loved the people i had met, the places i had served, and the mission that i was called to. 

and then i panicked. i didn't want to be home. i didn't want to have to take off my name tag for good. i didn't want to be able to go anywhere i wanted by myself. i didn't want to start dating. i didn't want to go back to college. i didn't want to be released. i wished that i was back in missouri or illinois.

but before i knew it, i was in a car with my parents, on my way to report to my stake president and get released. we sat down in my stake president's living room and he asked me about my mission. i kept it together until he looked me in the eye and asked, "did you love the people?" my heart burst as my mind sped through my entire mission-- all the faces of the people i had come to love so dearly flashed before me. uncontrollable tears started spilling out of my eyes as i nodded and choked out, "yes." and again i wished i was back on my mission.

the next few months were difficult. i struggled with loneliness-- even when i was surrounded by people. dating was hard and almost non-existent. i jumped at every single opportunity to talk about my mission or the gospel. i went out with the sister missionaries as often as i could. i faked being happy. i felt like i had lost my purpose. i wished more than anything that i could be a missionary again.

then one week, one of my converts from my mission came to visit me in salt lake. we toured the city, drove to my hometown in nevada, i showed her and told her about all of the special things that the west had to offer. in that week, my perception of being home changed. and i actually felt happy.

i noticed that when i actually felt happy about being home, making friends was easier. talking to people wasn't a chore. and boys actually wanted to ask me on dates. 

i realized that i had countless opportunities in front of me. i realized that with some planning and preparation i could literally go anywhere i wanted to. i realized that school was necessary to help me get to where i needed to be later in life. i realized that it was necessary to put myself out there in order to meet the people that i needed to meet at that time. but most importantly, i realized that God still had a plan for me; a plan that included me being home mentally. for about four months i had been home physically, but my mentally, i was still in the mission field. and i had been miserable. 

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." [Ecclesiastes 3:1]

this scripture ran through my mind more times than i can count. i feel like it was Heavenly Father's way of reminding me that He had other things for me to do. i searched through my Patriarchal Blessing for my "new" purpose-- the purpose that God had given me many years ago. i felt a need for obedience and also to find out who I was. as a missionary, i had learned who Sister Leavitt was, but upon coming home i learned that i needed to find out who Sadie was.

i moved home and began adventuring. i saved money to take a big trip to hawaii to visit one of my best friends. i went on lots of little adventures to zion national park, kanarraville falls, california, utah, and so many other places. i met new friends and reconnected with old friends. i took classes online. i practiced old hobbies. i learned new hobbies. i threw myself into life. and i was happy. i felt good about who i was and where i was going. don't get me wrong, i had quite a few setbacks within this time. but something was different-- i felt like moving forward.

after 3 months of adventuring, working and taking classes online, i decided to transfer schools and go to class on a campus again. i began researching schools for the field i wanted to work in and started applying. i applied for isu and started the application for uvu but never finished it. but while i was in hawaii, i received acceptance letters from both isu and uvu. after a lot of prayers and finally just making a choice i decided to go to uvu. which leads me to parker.

parker and i met on our missions. i knew him for about 80% of the time that i was in missouri and illinois. i am incredibly grateful for the way and place that we met. however, we both needed to be home in order for our journey together to begin.

 a few days ago, parker and i were talking about how we felt as though we wouldn't have gotten married if we had dated soon after i came home because we both weren't ready for that. i always tell people that parker had to get his stuff together before we could start dating, but that's not true. I also needed to figure out who i was and where i wanted to go and what i wanted to become in this life. and i couldn't have done that without coming home mentally. coming home was one of the best decisions i have ever made. 

i'm grateful for my mission. i'm grateful for the experiences i had as a missionary. at that point it was the best 18 months of my life. but now, i'm grateful that i am home. i'm grateful that i've been blessed with a wonderful family. i'm grateful that i get to marry parker TOMORROW in the temple. i'm grateful for the blessings i've received as a return missionary. these last 18 months have been the best 18 months of my life... thus far. 

but as Sister Morgan always says, "the best is yet to come."

tips for the future missionary.

about a week ago, one of my really good friends left on her mission. right before she left, i gave her a journal with some tips for making her mission rock. i decided that they were good enough to share on here, so here you go. tips for making your mission rock! 

{these are in no particular order... except the last one. it goes there.}

1. love every minute. even the hard minutes. trust me, there will be hard minutes. but if you will allow yourself to partake of the Atonement, those hard times will be some of your most treasured times because you will grow so. darn. much. = BUT = the moments that you will truly treasure/remember the most are the REALLY, really, r e a l l y amazing moments: when you invite someone to be baptized and they say yes. when you ask someone if they've read their scriptures and they say yes. when your investigator walks into church. when the seemingly grouchy less active lady smiles at you and welcomes you into her home. when you give away your first Book of Mormon. when you and your companion get along incredibly well. when someone gets baptized. when the dogs stop barking because you prayed for that (that's a true story. ask me about it later.). sometimes we have to know the bad before we can know the good; that's a part of life.
chelsey's baptism!!
t.j.'s baptism!! 
the martin family. = felix & shawna's baptism =
george's baptism & endowment one year later!!
2. teach everyone you meet. i once had an assistant say (something along these lines), "you're wearing a name tag, you don't need to introduce yourself. immediately start teaching." and trust me-- that intimidated me to no tomorrow. but i'll tell you what, giving those people an opportunity to feel the Spirit was a much better introduction than me trying to sell the gospel with a practiced and routine door approach. teach when you find, find when you teach. it's that simple. and protip: the members will trust you WAY faster if you'll apply this principle with them as well.

3. become good friends with the missionaries you serve with. some of my very best friends were other missionaries i served with. being friends with those missionaries made the work a lot more fun and it pushed me to be better. i can promise you that you will serve with amazing elders and sisters. learn from them and seek to be their friend. they will help you more than you know.
the sisters from my MTC district.
a sister p-day at the arch.
p-day at the arch.
one of my districts.
another district. please notice our socks...

4. rely on God. rely on God. rely on God. rely on God. you can't do missionary work without Him. so just don't try to. you'll only frustrate yourself.

5. when all else fails, teach of the Atonement or the Restoration. the Atonement is the "good news" of the gospel. so teach about it. without the Atonement, nothing and i repeat N O T H I N G else matters in this life. // and the restoration-- if that didn't happen then our church is the same thing as any other church. so preach it, kid! tell EVERYONE that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. because it. has. 

6. choose to learn from those you teach. i had the amazing opportunity to serve in the mid-west. let me tell you: those folks LOVE Jesus. their faith is impeccable. i learned so much about trusting in the Savior from those that i came in contact with. you will have opportunities to learn from those you teach and meet. so learn from them. "we seek for truth wherever we might find it." {president dieter f. uchtdorf}

7. pray for missionary experiences. i wish this had dawned on me like day one in the mission field, buuuuuut it didn't. missionaries need to pray for missionary experiences too. what do you say to the man in front of you at the grocery store on p-day? *shrug* i don't know. but you are told to open your mouth and talk to everyone. if you will pray and ask Heavenly Father to give you missionary experiences throughout the day, YOU WILL GET THEM. however, you must put in some effort. you're standing in line at the grocery store. that man probably won't run away. he's waiting in line too. so start up a conversation because that's a moment that Heavenly Father has given you. "every morning... missionaries should get on their knees and plead with the Lord to loosen their tongues and speak through them to the blessing of those they will be teaching. if they will do this, a new light will come into their lives. there will be greater enthusiasm for the work. they will come to know that in a very real sense, they are servants of the Lord speaking in His behalf. they will find a different response from those they teach. as they do so by the Spirit, their investigators will respond under the influence of the same Spirit." {president gordon b. hinckley; preach my gospel, chapter 4, emphasis added}

8. laugh every day. when you go to the mtc, they aren't trying to turn you into a missionary droid. you are still allowed to have fun. seriously, you're going to the mission field where you profess to have the key to happiness. if you aren't happy-- people can tell. so laugh. and laugh a lot. enjoy the work you are doing. be yourself. one of my mtc teachers told us that if we weren't being ourselves, then we weren't being the missionaries that God called us to be. and i fully agree with that. only here's the catch: seek to become a better version of yourself. you should be changing for the better. so let it happen. but enjoy the journey. "in all of living, have much fun and laughter. life is to be enjoyed not just endured." {president gordon b. hinckley; emphasis added}
car selfies. one of my faves.
light saber toothbrushes? yes, please.
mustache monday. it was a thing.
balloon hats from a member.
mustaches again, see? i told you it was a thing.
that one time where i hashtagged my entire email to president. and then he hashtagged me back.
selfies with the pres.

9. become a local. follow the mission rules, but take in the culture of where you are serving. when you do this, you are better able to love and serve the people you are around. missouri/illinois is my second home. make this happen with your mission too. integrate yourself into the specific area you are serving in; the wards you serve in; the districts and zones you are in; your mission; your companionship. make it all yours. open up space in your heart and watch your love grow. and then be so torn when it's time to go home. also. try all of the weird food-- that makes for excellent stories later on.
trying balot.
squirrel, frog legs, and wild turkey breast.
... white castle...

10. be obedient. be exactly obedient. nuff said. but really. be obedient. "obedience brings blessings, but strict obedience brings miracles." {every missionary that's ever served. i'm pretty sure of it.}

11. work hard. play hard. die hard. i had the opportunity to serve my mission while my cousin was serving his. as the time drew near for him to go home, we started ending each of our emails with this. in mission lingo "dying" means going home. we decided that working hard for the first 21/15 months of your mission and then being lazy for the last three was really stupid so we decided that we were going to "die hard" and basically work our hinders off the last three months of our missions. this choice and little motto changed the way i did missionary work. i thought about it often. go out there and kill it. as a missionary you will be tired. you'll be more tired than you've ever been in your entire life. but you'll also be more happy than you've ever been in your entire life. so work hard. play hard-- be yourself and love it. and then you can die hard.

planning on the roof of our apartment.
that ONE time i won a chess match.
fhe activity - boxcar drive in movie. 
the drive in movie. 

fort night. 
fyi: baby goats cry.

zone conference.
more car selfies.

dying hard. my last picture as a missionary with my mission president and his wife.

other little tidbits of awesome:
- write in your journal every night. you think you'll remember, but spoiler alert: you don't. so write down people's names. first and last. (i taped pictures right into my journal. and actually, that became a trend because it was way cool... sooooo... try that too. ;))
- remember that over 15 million people are praying DAILY for your success. YOU are "the missionaries" and that means you have a fan club of 15 million+. go you. annnnd the primary kids pray for you, i'm like 98% sure God has a special tune in device for their little prayers, so if that doesn't boost you up, i don't know what will.
- study preach my gospel like it's going out of style.
- DON'T load and start your washing machine and then leave.
- when the road on the GPS stops. you stop. or this happens:

- be obedient.
- follow the Spirit.
- trust your mission president & mission leadership
- don't pet dead armadillos on the side of the road-- they carry leprosy, so just take a picture:
- take district pictures. these are some of my favorite photos from my mission. they're classic.

seriously kids, love your mission. there are thousands of returned missionaries that would give anything to trade you places.
other missionary posts:
waiting on a missionary. part one. part two. part three.
my grand adventure.
called to serve.
a part of history.

my grand adventure

sister sadie leavitt, 
you have hereby been called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. you have been assigned to labor in the Missouri St. Louis Mission. 

two years ago, (january 2, 2013) i started my journey as a missionary. i could never imagine the struggle, the growth, the blessings, the joy, the disconnection, the love, the awkwardness, the stretching, the contentment, the worry, the learning, the teaching, the leisure, the closeness, the frustration, or the peace that came with my special calling. i was naive. i had grown up in a bubble. i thought i knew what struggle was. i thought i knew what the Atonement was. i thought i knew what the Gospel was. i thought i knew what poverty was. i thought i knew so much...

i didn't know. 

after i ripped off the band-aid and headed into the doors of the mtc, i walked down a hall, into a room where i was asked a bunch of questions and my black name tag was pinned to my dress. i wasn't sadie anymore. for the next 18 months my name would be sister leavitt-- a girl i didn't know. i was led into my classroom where i met my teacher, companion, and district. the people i would spend the next three weeks with. 

i learned SO much at the mtc. i loved every bit of the mtc. except the food. i cried the sunday before we left for st. louis. but all good things must come to an end and the best things had to start. after our three weeks were over, we said goodbye to half of our district and headed to missouri to become "real missionaries." 

over the next 17 months i had 11 more companions; 2 mission presidents; 6 areas; met hundreds of people that didn't want to hear about the gospel; met 12 people that did; made tons of new friends in other missionaries, members, investigators, and converts; went to tons of meetings; read tons of gospel related material trying to learn more about the principles of the gospel; and grew into sister leavitt. 

President and Sister Clark
posterity picture.
while i was still a young kid missionary in my very first area.
one of my most favorite mission pictures of all time.
the departing missionaries the day i went home.
President and Sister Morgan
being a missionary has definitely been my favorite calling thus far. i felt God's love more as a missionary than i ever have in my entire life. i learned to recognize the millions of tender mercies God gives each of us every day. i learned the importance of covenants. i learned how to truly repent. i learned to love. i learned how to do my own laundry. i learned to listen. i learned how to recognize the Spirit's subtle promptings. i prayed more earnestly than ever before. i learned the importance of leaders. i learned to love change. i saw myself change. i saw other people change. i witnessed conversion. 

i love the gospel of Jesus Christ. i know Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. i know Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of God and that we have a living prophet today-- President Thomas S. Monson. i know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. i know that prayers are answered. i love my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

needless to say, my mission was life changing for me. there isn't a day that i don't think about it in some way. coming home was one of the hardest but best things i've ever had to do. i had to leave the identity i grown to know and love to become a girl i didn't know anymore-- sadie. it has taken a while for me to figure out who the new sadie is (heck, i'm still figuring it out...). but i wouldn't trade my experiences for the world. i am truly grateful for the opportunity i had to be a missionary. but--
the best is yet to come.


hey. i know, i've been slaaaaacking. at least in the blog world. in the instagram world, i am on top of things. (check it. sadieleigh13)

here are a few pictures of my recent happenings. i am SO incredibly grateful for everything that i've been able to do and be a part of in the last few days, weeks, months, and even years!

^^ i am so grateful for my W O N D E R F U L family. each of them have helped me soooooo much in my life and i am so grateful that i get to call them mine. ^^

^^ this was such a special experience. not just george's experience, but the experience of wearing that little black name-tag. that experience has changed my life forever. i wouldn't trade it for the world. ^^

^^ i got to see sister oberfield!!! i am so grateful that our paths crossed as missionaries. she is one of my very best friends. #bce ^^

^^ these folks are so incredible. think what you want, but i had the best mission president(s) in the world. hands down.^^

^^ these girls. when i saw brookie (the one in the green) she smiled SOOOOO big and gave me the happiest of hugs. that was when i knew that missionary work truly changes lives. even two year old lives. ^^

^^ i got to see the martins!! i love this family. they are incredible examples of faith and endurance. i have learned so many things from them. and i am grateful for their friendship and love! ^^

today in church, i heard a wonderful quote that i want to share and end with:
"i am grateful that we don't have to be perfect to receive blessings, because i am not perfect, but i do feel very blessed." -- Nancy Leavitt

After All We Can Do

After All We Can Do”
Robbie Pierce

I had been in that hole for a very long time--
In the dark and the damp, in the cold and the slime.
The shaft was above me; I saw it quite clear,
But there's no way I ever could reach it from here.
I could not remember the world way up there,
So I lost every hope and gave in to despair.

I knew nothing but darkness, the floor, and the wall.
Then from off in the distance I heard someone call:
Get up! Get ready! There's nothing the matter!
Take rocks and take sticks and build up a fine ladder!”
This was a thought that had not crossed my mind,
But I started to stack all the stones I could find.

When I ran out of stones, then old sticks were my goal,
For some way or another I'd climb from that hole.
I soon had a ladder that stood very tall,
And I thought, “I'll soon leave this place once and for all!”
I climbed up my ladder, a difficult chore,
For from lifting those boulders, my shoulders were sore.

I climbed up the ladder, but soon had to stop,
For my ladder stopped short, some ten feet from the top.
I went back down my ladder and felt all around,
But there were no more boulders nor sticks to be found.
I sat down in the darkness and started to cry.
I'd done all I could do and I gave my best try.

But in spite of my work, in this hole I must die.
And all I could do was to sit and think, “Why?”
Was my ladder too short? Was my hole much too deep?
Then from way up on high came a voice: “Do not weep.”
And then faith, hope, and love entered into my chest.
As the Voice calmly told me that I'd done my best.

He said, “You have worked hard, and your labor's been rough,
But the ladder you've built is at last tall enough.
So do not despair, there is reason to hope,
Just climb up your ladder; I'll throw down my rope.”
I climbed up my ladder, then climbed up the cord.
When I got to the top of it, there stood the Lord.

I've never been happier, my struggle was done.
I blinked in the brightness that came from the Son.
I fell to the gound as His feet I did kiss.
I cried, “Lord, can I ever repay Thee for this?”
He looked all about. There were holes in the ground.
They had people inside, and were seen all around.

There were thousands of holes that were damp, dark, and deep.
Then the Lord looked at me, and He said, “Feed my sheep.”
And He went on His way to save other lost souls,
So I got right to work, calling down to the holes:
Get up! Get ready! There is nothing the matter!
Take rocks, and take sticks, and build up a fine ladder!”

It now was my calling to spread the good word,
The most glorious message that man ever heard:
That there's One who is coming to save one and all,
And we need to be ready when He gives the call.
He'll pull us all out of the holes that we're in
And save all our souls from cold death and from sin.

So do not lose faith; there is reason to hope:

Just climb up your ladder; He'll throw down His rope.