Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mother's Day

This weekend I get to actually TALK to Brandon on the phone. So, ya, that's going to be fun. Except I keep thinking "what am I going to say??"

He sent some fun (and silly) pictures, so I'm putting those up. Also, we should be getting transfer information in the next email. So once we have that I can put up a more detailed blog post about what he's been up to.

But the pics tell something of a story:










Like, even though he's a servant of Christ spreading the gospel, he's still my crazy kid. :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Change in Pattern

Not sure how this will affect the blog, but Elder Chesley has decided to change his emails to once an exchange, which is every 6 weeks rather than every week. He'll still respond to every personal email, but the info we share on the blog will be more limited.

Ah, well. It's General Conference weekend. The coolest thing is that I know at the same time in another place Brandon is hearing the same message. :)

Here's a little from Elder Chesley's last email:

My transfer miracle is our investigator, George. He is an 84 retired gentleman who doesn't know he is 'progressing'. Our first lesson with him was him interrogating us, but he has come to church 3 times, attended someone else's baptism, and is in Alma. We found him through the previous missionaries. They went to see someone else, and George was living there. Now we are teaching him.

And, yes, he did laugh at me for not realizing I had videos from him to watch. Oh well. I still got to enjoy it. I'm excited to hear from him Monday, get his thoughts on Conference, and hear how he liked our box of goodies that we sent. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mom Post 1

I've been wondering how to do this, and I think the best way is for me to just do it. So, every once in a while, I can't even say it will be consistent--just when I'm moved to do so--I'm going to write a post to this blog that won't contain any updates. It's just going to be my ponderings. We're all learning through this process of having our young man serve a mission. Today has been a big day for our family, in a lot of little ways.

Monday, Brandon sent an email letting me know there was going to be that package with his key in it. The package arrived Tuesday, but it took me until today, when I put his blog post together, to realize the SD card was there for us to open up and watch the videos it held.

Yeah, I'm quick. Video messages from my missionary?!!!

The two I didn't post were 17 and 21 min long. The longer one was a reply to all the letters we'd sent him so far, and the other one was just for me. Sure, Bryan can look at it too and I'm sure he will when he gets a chance. So today I got to hide in my room and listen to my son in California for almost 18 whole minutes. And yes, at one point I actually thought, "Wow! I gave birth to that?!"

Trying to piece together how I feel about seeing how much he's matured is almost impossible, and I know my way around the English language fairly well. It's been such a short time, and yet he's really stretching. He's having a wonderful time, and he doesn't miss us--much. A tiny bit, but I can understand that. We're all he's ever known.

Bryan and I feel he's still in the "discovery" period of his mission. Some people have vacations that last longer than he's been out. He still has a long way to go yet. There will come days when he's home sick, and when he struggles to remember why he's there. But to see him glow, to see that light in him, to hear him say with such certainty that he knows he's where he needs to be--that was all so wonderful, so affirming, so very, very spiritual.

It's also interesting to see how the other kids are affected by watching him on video. Jeffrey was struck today by the fact that, if all goes as planned, he won't even see Brandon again for more than 4 years. The twins will both be eligible to leave for their missions before Brandon is set to return. I think that finally hit Jeffrey, and it hit hard. And then if Brandon follows through with his plan to join the military after his mission, he may be deployed somewhere when Jeffrey returns from his mission. It's impossible to say at this point.

I love this kid so much. I couldn't stop my fingers from tracing the outline of his face on the screen of my laptop. In my personal video, he responded to some pretty deep things we'd discussed via letters about family history and the plan of salvation. He wanted more information, and I gave it to him.

Brandon said one of the first things his mission president said when he got there was that we would be blessed by his decision to serve. He talked about how hard it had been to leave with my health being what it is, and getting the kids to and from school, and all the other little things we had going on. But he went, and those things are working out (maybe not the health thing so much yet, but the other stuff) and he's seeing that. Those are blessings.

It's also interesting to get counsel from your child about going to the temple and praying for guidance. There's a little bit of the feeling of having your own words repeated back to you, but also you see the genuine place of love that they come from. It's pretty darn cool. He's doing just what he needs to be doing.

Missionary Firebug? Kidding

I don't know how to say his, exactly. Elder Chesley was setting fires this week.
Pretty sure those pyromania urges are something we're supposed to be trying to overcome...

Totally kidding. They were helping a member with a controlled burn. This was a service project.

But the best part was when my little nerd showed true for the next picture.

I'm going to include his caption, word for word.



This one looks like a scene from Lord of the Rings after a huge fight.

Here's what he said in his email:

Week 6 was a blast.

The highlight of this week was Thursday's Zone Conference!!!!!! Basically, we received a lot of instruction from our mission president. It was long, but a very spiritually uplifting experience.

We as missionaries have been encouraged to do some personal family history, which personally, I am excited about doing.

last monday was a burn day. so we as a district got to help a man at Canyon Ranch to burn piles of wood and trees. It was HOT.

For the last several weeks, he's sent me 3 or 4 emails a week. There's the group email everyone gets, then some general housekeeping emails. One of the ones I got read more like a secret agent assignment than an email from a missionary to his mom. Or maybe that's my overactive imagination at work again. I'll let you decide:

Dear Agent 93:
This assignment, should you choose to accept it, goes as follows:  I am sending you some items with specific instructions. I am sending said items today and you should get them later this week.

SD card. On there I have 3 pictures and 3 videos. Copy the videos and send back the SD card. I need that back. Watch the videos, they say who they are to.

I sent my key to my safe. Please open it and remove my (specific item), then close it and lock it and send back the key and (specific item). Please send back the SD card as well.

I thank you for helping me.
I guess I have my assignment. Better get on that. :) Happy Easter!

EDIT: I'm including a brief video of Elder Chesley helping with the burn. It's pretty amazing to see how much he's changed in just 2 months away from home (well, I can see anyway lol).
video
 

Monday, March 14, 2016

According to Plan

We have this conversation with our kids a lot. Plan A is the plan that you have right out of the gate. That's the plan you formulate at the beginning. Well, life has a funny way of happening while you're making other plans. So we have Plan B. C. D. E. F...

You get the idea.

Brandon's emails this week are all pretty much about the same thing: his big sister and her husband are having a baby girl. They did a gender reveal party Sunday afternoon in Phoenix, and video taped it. We were part of the party via Skype, but (as happens) our video feed froze seconds before the big reveal. But I was able to share this video with Brandon via email this morning:

video
He's pretty excited. Evidently, he prayed for a niece. Which is pretty funny, because years and years ago, a little blond girl looked up at me and said, "I want a baby brother." We encouraged her to pray, and when that baby was born and we called her, we asked, "What did you pray for?" She'd gotten her baby brother (Brandon, in case you weren't sure). And now that baby brother, grown into a fine young man, prayed for her little baby to be a girl, and she is. I think it's safe to say they've come full circle.

We got a little bad news this week, too. Brandon asked for some more clothes, which I found on sale and excitedly shipped to him right away (they arrived Thursday to his doorstep via UPS). However, in his emails today he mentioned nothing about receiving them, and said he hadn't gotten any packages. I want to believe he's being a poorly communicative 18 yr old and is not equating a package shipped from JC Penney with a package shipped from home--because they aren't the same thing. But, as you know, I can't contact him directly beyond letters and the once-a-week email so it's really hard to get a straight, clear answer. I'm going to send a letter out in the morning, and probably follow up with UPS later in the week. But it's hard not to grumble and gripe a bit about the dishonesty of the world today. I mean, it's not like 3 short sleeve white dress shirts and 2 pr of dress slacks are so exciting for someone to just steal off a doorstep. Ugh. You'd think they'd at least put them back once they realized how boring the plunder turned out to be. :(

Hopefully, we'll have better news to report next week.

Monday, March 7, 2016

March On

As I sit here to type out this week's update, I realize a funny thing: while I received four emails from Brandon today and the twins got a letter from him, I have surprisingly little to share.

It's all good, though.

First, we talked a bit about food. I mentioned in my last post that he's gained 15 lbs in the last month. Naturally, I asked him what he's been eating. His answer was pleasing, and a little surprising (but not very). We haven't always been able to exercise true healthy eating habits, but we do talk a lot about eating well and what sorts of foods should make up the majority of one's diet. It's not a perfect approach, but it's better by degrees than what came before.

So, Brandon--who does not care for salad or fish--has been eating lots of salad and fish. :) This is something we've been warning our kids about since they started thinking they could get picky about food. When they are on their mission and being fed by the ward they serve, they can't be picky about what they are fed. They have to eat what they're given. (then we found out the twins had food allergies, but that's a whole different blog for another day)

It's wonderful to see your words as a parent come full circle: The most 'fun' thing I have had, is the fish tacos. It's weird, but everyone out here eats normal food, or extremely healthy food. I have had a lot of salad since I have been here.

Last night, I had fresh Alaskan Salmon, like "caught the day before", fresh. Bro. Mackay [Mack- ee] (who looks, and sounds, and has a sense of humor like Armie Hammer, but not as tall) brought it over to the Judds (ward mission leader), and told us it was "alive and swimming the day before". It tasted wonderful, but had that fish texture.

So, yeah. Food.
 
That kid of mine. How he's grown in just a month. Fish tacos? I couldn't have gotten him to try a fish taco if I'd bribed him!
Another beautiful thing that has come from Brandon's experience is that he's sharing what he's learning with his younger brothers. Jeffrey and Daniel will be eligible to put in their mission papers in LESS THAN A YEAR. I didn't intrude in full on the letter Brandon sent to his brothers, but part of it included a gentle admonition about preparation--based on what Brandon's tendency toward procrastination taught him. This is the kind of thing that warms a mother's heart. It's one thing to be backed up by your spouse when teaching your children. It's another to have a child go out ahead of his siblings and turn back and relate tips and guidance to those siblings to help ease their way.

Naturally, it's up to them whether or not they choose to listen. That is the way of agency.

Brandon's information email is short. He expresses his love for all of us, and also his thanks for the prayers that we wing toward heaven on his behalf. It may just be me, but I sense that he's starting to more keenly recognize the separation he's experienced from his home and family, and that he's truly out doing the work. Not on his own, because a servant of the Lord is never alone, but without all the familial anchors that have secured him since infancy. 

What is fascinating, is his continued interest in his personal family history. Something that was only a moderate fancy has turned into a deepening quest. Which means lots of writing for me and his dad, but hey--I am, at least, used to that.

I will leave you with these words from our favorite missionary:
After pondering this past week the fact that I have been out here for over a month, I have come to the conclusion that I am needed in this glorious land for a reason. I hope and pray that I will find that reason.

I have also decided to, every week, personally write one of you, either by mail or by e-mail, to make this experience even more enjoyable.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A MONTH Out

This week's email was brief, again, but that's okay. It's also very, very Brandon. :)

First, the picture he sent. For those of you who know him, you know Brandon has always been fascinated with law enforcement. So this will come as no surprise to you.

P.S. This HWY Patrolman made my day. :)

Being 18, it doesn't quite occur to Elder Chesley to tell us what the patrolman did that made his day, but you know, that's not the point really.

The point, to me anyway, is that it's Brandon, and it's a police man, and to me that says that while some things change in huge, epic ways, other things stay remarkably constant. Never changing. Always the same.

Like the things that speak to his heart.

Elder Chesley's email can, at first, be looked at as kind of a downer. Here's what he says:

This past week was a little slow, in relation to the work. All of our teaching appointments did not work out, not everyone answered their doors, but we did have some people that told us to come by this week, so that is good news.

If you've been a missionary, served with a missionary, or sent out a missionary, you know that's how it is. A lot of the time the plans you make fall through, and you have to make new plans. A large part of your day is spent on plan B, C, D...X...you get the idea. This is something (I guess in a good way) his childhood with us has well prepared him for.

But, you notice at the end he focuses on the positive. This is the message of the Atonement. There is ALWAYS time to turn things around. It is NEVER too late.

This next part made me laugh:

 I found out that I be a little more careful how I eat, which is kinda hard seeing as the members are fattening us up for something. But its working. I have gained 15 lbs since I left home! Which for me is a lot, seeing as I have been 135-140 for the past 3 years. So, yeah. I need to change a few things.
 
Bear in mind my son is 6 feet tall. 140 lbs?! While, obviously, it's a bad idea that he gains 15 lbs a month while on his mission, it's totally fine that he fills out some. We even left him some room in his suits for it.

He leaves us with some inspirational words:

The members out here are wonderful. They are so welcoming and very supportive, which was one of my biggest concerns.

I did not bring my journal so I cant give some "inspiring" words form the 1st book of Chesley, but instead I will share some actual inspiring words from our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.

"Dare to be Mormon. Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm. Dare to make it known"

I loved that as a youth, and I love it even more now. As a missionary, I hope to be seen as a representative of Jesus Christ, just as described in 3 Nephi 5:13.

I love you all, and I wish the best for you all. This week will be the best one yet.

-Elder Brandon Chesley

Thursday, February 25, 2016

February 22 Email

This week's message was short, and without pictures. Though Elder Chesley did purchase a new camera, so we should get more pictures soon. Honestly, I'm hoping he's too richly engaged in the work to worry so much about photos (even though I'd love to see his smiling face).

He did send this:

To be here in this wonderful mission is a great thing. I am learning so much and hope and pray that my investigators are learning as well.

I know I am where the Lord needs me and there is much work to do here.

I love you all. May the Lord bless you all in your lives. I pray for each one of you and I wish you all the best.

I would very much like to here from all of you and I will write again next week.

-Elder Brandon Chesley

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Settling In

Elder Chesley arrived in CA safe and sound (as reported last week), and has spent the last few days settling in to his new home. He requested letters rather than emails, since his online time is fairly limited, and--of course--packages are welcome. :)
I call this "never go to the Provo temple when it's missionary day"

Here's his address:
Elder Brandon Chesley
1700 Camino Olmo Apt. #G
Thousand Oaks CA 91320
 
In case any of you were concerned that he'd lose his particular brand of humor, here's a selection from the email he sent:
 
Hello Hello from the Ventura California Mission, the greatest mission on earth (or so they tell me).

I admit I had a 'squee' moment when I saw his name tag. :)
I am doing fantastic. There is so much work to be done and I am exited to get to it!
The trip from the MTC to the field was incredible. I got to fly over the Tooele valley, my old home, and also the grand canyon. My flights were from SLC to PHX to Santa Barbra. California is so beautiful this time of year.

My companion, also my trainer, Elder Peart, is a wonderful companion. He has been out 6 months. I am learning so much from him. The area I am serving in is called the Los Robles area (I think).
 
I will now share some "scripture" from my personal journal, The Book of Chesley. This is, The water bottle miracle.

20) Behold, I did Have an experience, yea, an experience of much learning, for as we concluded our lesson with George, I expressed unto my companion my desire for water. Therefore me maketh a plan to stop by the apartment to drinketh thereof. But behold, as we did journey, my companion was overcome with the spirit, that we should return unto an investigator of much potential before returning to the apartment.
21) And it came to pass that we did stop by, and behold, we did receive an answer, but to our disappointment, the person whom answered was not whom we were seeking. But behold, the grace of God was upon us, and she did offer us water, yea, even to quench our thirst.
His District at the MTC. Lots of eager young spirits happy to serve God.

 
 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Planted in the Field

I've heard quite a bit from my missionary in the last couple of weeks. :)

First, he emailed me from the MTC with his impressions and also a few boring housekeeping items. I'm going to share part of his email here:

Hi mom and Family.

I am having the best time here at the MTC. I have learned so much since I have been here. The spirit has never been with me more than I am here, except maybe the temple (of which I will go to today).

The food here (you are probably laughing right now) is amazing. My companion elder Holm is extraordinary, and we feel like brothers. My district is fantastic. We consist of 4 elders and 4 sisters. 320 missionaries came in last Wednesday. *Jan 27, 2016

I fly to Santa Barbara on February 8th with a 3 hour layover in Phoenix. I also get to ride the UTA FrontRunner to SLC International. 2 hours to PHX, 1-ish to SB. It will be a long day.
 
I have only met one person who I know I know, ya know? Zac Moon, Excelsior Academy, will serve in the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania mission, the same mission as my friend James Richens (Bond).

The MTC is like a college campus, and is part of BYU. Everything I need is right here. I could live here for the rest of my life, but, that is not an option.
Give my love to everyone there. I miss you all, but probably not as much as you miss me. Sorry.

-Elder Brandon Chesley
 
 Yesterday, obviously, was February 8--his travel day. Surprisingly, I was at the Dr yesterday morning and received a call from an 801 area code. Lo and behold, it was Elder Chesley calling from the SLC airport! Being a mom, I had to ask him if he'd gotten permission to call me. :) I was so unprepared to hear from him that I didn't have much to say--it was just good to hear his voice. I couldn't believe how  much he'd changed in just the TEN short days since he entered the MTC. He sounded so happy, too, which was good to hear. He said he'd try to call me again from PHX during their layover. I had to hand the phone off to my mom to talk to the Dr, so she got to talk to our favorite missionary too!
 
That afternoon I was home (briefly, between Dr appts for me and my daughter) when I got a call from a 602 area code. Now that I knew (kind of) what to expect, I answered it and Elder Chesley and I chatted a bit longer. Again we had a lull in the conversation, so he filled it by saying, "So, how was the MTC? Oh, Mom, the MTC was great!" and proceeded to give details. Again, I'm stunned by how much he had matured. This time he got to talk to his youngest sister before he had to go (eat and catch his flight). We received an email from the mission home that evening stating that he'd arrived and been received by President Felix and his wife, Sister Felix. 
 
So, he's there. Ready to go to work for the Lord. He's arrived in his mission field and is ready to serve. I'm so excited for him.
 
Yesterday, I found myself breaking out in tears for what seemed like no reason at all. It was kind of a high pain day for me, so I was feeling tender hearted anyway, and I imagine that contributed to my overall feelings. As I lay in bed last night, ready to fall asleep, I felt more tears form and slide down my cheeks (well, kind of toward my ears--you know, gravity and all). 
 
This (sending a missionary out) is an amazing, wonderful thing. I literally have no idea how it will continue to affect me. I'm just sort of taking these new things as they come.
 
Feeling the Lord's hand in our lives more than ever now. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Here We Go!

From my brother, Jim: "Brandon arrived at the MTC a few minutes early and they were very glad to see him and take him off my hands."

So it begins. Although I would have loved nothing more than to take him to UT and drop him off myself, my health currently prevents it and so giving my brother the opportunity to receive him, spend a day or so with him, and then drop him off at the MTC seemed a good option. I'm convinced that Elder Chesley serving his mission is a family event. All of us are invested to one degree or another--obviously some more than others. All of us will be affected by his service in one way or another.

There's a part of me that's completely at odds, though. I've spent over eighteen years with that kid, and going through the next two years without him will be tough. I keep feeling like there's something more I should be doing--someone to wait up for, someone to remind to do his chore, that kind of thing.

But Brandon said it to me best just before he left. "Mom, it's the law of the tithe. He's given me this time (his life so far on Earth), and I'm giving him my 10%."

That's deep, son. I love you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Farewell

Monday, Elder Chesley boarded a plane to Utah where he was received by my brother, Jim Rohan. Uncle Jim took charge of my son, and will deliver him to the MTC tomorrow (Wednesday).

Here are a couple of goodbye pictures.
With Grandma Rohan

With baby sister
Elder Chesley also received a very sweet father's blessing before leaving. That blessing was a great comfort to me, as his mother, particularly since I've never done this before--but expect to do it again and again.


Saying goodbye was not easy. We hugged a lot. And I cried. I'd spent a couple of days wondering when this was really going to hit me--that my first born son was leaving for TWO YEARS. Sure, he's gone on trips without me. But this is our first real separation. I've basically seen and/or heard this human for more than eighteen years, and now he's gone. I talked to him on the phone today, and he reminded me that he'll call me on Mothers' Day, which is less than 5 months from now. That's not such a big deal. (though I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to feel like a very big deal around the middle of April)

He's a good man. I've done the best I can to this point, and while I recognize my job isn't quite over yet, I know this is the first step on his journey and I can't go along for that. And that's okay. 

Day ONE

Day one actually starts tomorrow for Elder Chesley, as that's the day he's entering the MTC (missionary training center) in Provo, UT.

But this is the blog birthday, hence the title. :)

Elder Chesley gave a lovely talk Sunday, January 24, 2016 in his home ward in Duncan, Oklahoma. We took some pictures at the church after his talk. 
Pointing out his mission on the map
Funny story, we currently have a missionary serving in Duncan, OK who is from the California Ventura Mission where Elder Chesley will serve. It's like we did a missionary swap. I wonder how often that happens.

Token parent pic