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.