Dear Ukraine, please take care of my baby girl…

Becca and me just before she entered MTC

Becca and me just before she entered MTC

It’s happy.  It’s sad.  It’s good and it’s bad.  It’s up.  It’s down.  For the child it’s amazingly wonderful and exciting and character defining.  For a mama.  Well.  My head tells me it’s all those great things.  My heart screams out that it just isn’t fair.  An LDS mission.  Two years for a boy.  18 months for a girl.  Once we drop them off either at the MTC in Provo, Utah, or the airport to go to an MTC in another country, we don’t have any contact with them other than a weekly email, and a phone call on Christmas Day and Mother’s Day.

So why do we do it?  Why do they do it?  

Because there is nothing more character building and life defining than serving God 24/7 for a dedicated period of time.  All day every day, they are concerned with only one thing… spreading the Gospel news to anyone who wants to hear it.  We pay for the mission, so they don’t need to earn money.  They have one day a week to take care of life things like laundry and shopping and cleaning.  It’s quite an experience.  Our Becca is our third missionary.  And once our son (first one to go) returned, I believe the rest of our children decided to serve.  Because our kiddos feel the joy that a returned missionary brings home.   Oddly enough,  our missionaries don’t want to come home.  The joy and sweat and hard work of a mission becomes part of them.  Their love for God and the people they serve brings so much happiness that they just want to stay forever.  Coming home is harder than leaving, if you can believe it.  So the spirit of that permeates a family in a very unique way.  It’s quite wonderful.  As far as my mother heart goes, though, it’s something I will never get used to.  It’s hard.  Really hard.  Sending a duckling to a strange land with a strange language and a strange culture, with no opportunity to talk with them and hear their voice… I hate that part of it.  But I can’t deny that the spirit of missionary work settles on a family like nothing else does.  Life is blessed, even if difficult trials arise.  There is a peace and a protection that we feel that is hard to explain.  There is something else.  Something big.  At least for a mama.  At least for me…

Letters…

It is the only time in their lives that we write letters consistently and often.  Letters are different than conversations.  We get to know each other on a level like never before.  We share spiritual experiences and deep thoughts way more than in daily conversation.   We become friends in a unique way.  And that. that. THAT is a rare treasure.  I do this thing with myself.  I have for years.  I hide handwritten letters that I receive from them.  In books.  In scriptures.  In drawers.  Everywhere.  And then I find them.  It’s like getting birthday presents over and over again.  I loooooove this!  Here are a few I’ve found just in the last couple of weeks as I have been diving into my printed scriptures to study some specific topics (as opposed to digital scriptures that aren’t nearly as heavy to lift for an injured neck :)).

letter from Katie as she left on her mission

letter from Katie as she left on her mission

letter from Joseph while on his mission

letter from Joseph while on his mission

letter from Becca from the Provo MTC

letter from Becca from the Provo MTC

So this is my story of how our experience with our sweet Becca went, as we sent her on her way to the Provo MTC on August 3, 2016.

She’ll leave for Ukraine on October 3, 2016, two weeks from today as I write this.  Right next to the front line war with Russia.  Really.  This is where we try not to question God, because she didn’t choose it, He did.  And this is where we, instead of succumbing to the temptation to send her with a gas mask, soldier helmet, and map to all bomb shelters… give her back to the God that loaned her to us, and ask Him to watch over her.

And then we panic.  Just a little. But I digress…

The night before they leave, they are given a blessing by our Stake President (leader over our area).  They generally come to our home.  So.  Our kids, their spouses and grand kids were all here, and had helped her finish up packing, and stay for her Setting Apart for her mission.  The Stake President and Bishop (leader over a smaller area) showed up and we all headed to the front room.  Apparently, Becca stayed in the basement, and Katie heard her whispering up the stairs for her to come down to her.  So Katie headed down, thinking that she needed help with a skirt or blouse or something.  When Katie got down there, Becca looked at her, with large and terrified eyes, and, while shaking her hands in front of her body, said,

“I’m sort of freaking out right now…” 

and she was almost in tears… (this experience can be overwhelming to them as they take on the responsibility of being a missionary full time.  Once they are set apart, they get to put on their missionary tag and start following missionary rules, like bedtime and wake up hours and staying with a companion, which is a sibling or friend until they report to the MTC… this is when it gets real).  Well, Katie was taken so off guard that she just started laughing.  And Becca was so surprised at being laughed at that she was immediately fine!  Our Katie (a returned missionary herself, and married now) spent the night with her that night so she wouldn’t be alone, which was very needed, and very emotional, as they spent her last night home together.  Surprisingly, as they tell it, they slept very well.  Me not so much.  I’m getting off track again, sorry…

The next day she was scheduled to report at 1:30 pm.  We drove three cars down (half hour drive) to get us all and the luggage there.  We took our little fam bam out to eat and then had been advised to park across the street from the MTC, at the Provo Temple, to take pictures.  Because the way it goes is, you drive your missionary and their luggage through the gate, are directed where to pull up at the curb, you park, get out to see about a hundred missionaries standing on the sidewalk to welcome you (okay. no.  they are really there to speed things along and encourage you to get out and fast).  So we did.  We took our pictures and then realized that three cars through the gate was probably too much.  Probably.  So we put the three year old grandson in the car seat in my Honda Pilot, with Grandma Carol (Dave’s mom), our Becca, me, Dave (has been dubbed “poppy” in this family), and luggage.  The rest of them opted to walk down the hill to greet her at the curb and say final good-byes.

This is where it started to get funny…

As we approached the gate, we were flagged down by an elderly lady with a vest who asked us if we had a Sister Missionary or an Elder (guy missionaries are called elders).  Just as she was putting the designated sticky note on our windshield, we get a desperate call from Katie.

KATIE:  “MOM!  You have to drive back around and pick us up!  They won’t let us through the gate unless we’re in a car!”
ME:   “Uh, dunno if they’ll let us, it’s crazy in here!”
KATIE:  “YOU HAVE TO! Just tell them you need to drive around.  PLEEEEEAAAASE.”

So we ask, and they let us.  Mind you.  The following people needed to pile in the back end of my Pilot, on top of the luggage… Joseph, his wife Kelsey, their baby Hudson, Katie, her husband Ashton, and our youngest, Nathan.  In case you weren’t counting just there, that’s FIVE ADULTS AND A BABY that had to fit in a space that had no space.  Traffic was moving so quickly (the MTC is efficient if nothing else), that there was no way to stop and load them in unless they crossed the street back towards the Temple where we could pull over, pile them in, do a U-turn, and commence the process again of entering the gate at the MTC.  If you are doubting that this actually worked, take a look… (click on a pic if you wanna see ’em larger)

And so there we were.  Driving BACK through the gate where the cute lady was and if you think she wasn’t smiling big enough before, lemme tell ya, she was pretty amused.  We drove up to our designated curb spot (designated for only 3 minutes) and parked and started getting out of the car.  and getting out of the car.  and getting out of the car.  I don’t think we have any pictures of the hundred missionary faces standing on the sidewalk watching this circus (think of circus clown car… they just keep getting out of the car… yeah that was us), but from some of the comments I heard they maybe hadn’t seen anything like it before.  Then it was time, time to let her go.  Just like that.  Time to say good-bye.  Time to watch her walk away with her suitcase, not to see her again for 10 years.  Okay 18 months, but to a mama heart it feels like 10 years. Every time.  I’d done this before. I had prepared myself for it.  But how can one really prepare for this?  I was brave.  I was stalwart.  I was determined to be strong for her.  I held back the tears.  Mostly.

But inside I was falling apart all over again.

Again.  Third missionary.  And then I tell myself, “she’s leaving. just leaving. not dying.”  And suddenly I’m grateful for that.  Something to make me brave again.

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Sure enough.  Three minutes went by as we hugged as fast as we could, each one.  The poor little grand babies so confused, not really understanding what was happening.  In fact our little three year old, who knows sign language better than english, when he sees an airplane now, he starts frantically saying and signing, “oh yeah, airplane!  becca go mission, airplane! she coming tomorrow?”  Three minutes, and those hundred missionaries start telling us to move along, there’s plenty of cars behind us.  Five minutes, they tell us again.  Eight minutes, they tell us again more urgently, but still kindly.  Although this time there was a sister missionary who grabbed our Becca’s arm to guide her along.  And that was that.  Rip off the bandaid.  Quick and painless.  Nope.  Just quick.

...and off she goes...

…and off she goes…

Just last week, after a few weeks in the MTC and loving every day of her life, she was the sister missionary taking the arm of the new timid sister, guiding her away from her family with her suitcase, all smiles and encouragement, because… because our Becca knew just how happy this new sister would be in about a few hours of busyness and happy and missionary living.

In less than two years, we will send our last child on a mission.  One more.  Heaven help my mother heart.  And I’ll do it happily.  Because it’ll be the “best two years” of his life too!  And he is already counting down the months until he goes.  It’s pretty great :).

And so it is with us Mormons.  We do this.  We raise our children the best we know  how in a world full of crazy and terror and unknowns, teaching them to love the God who loaned them to us parents for a short time.  Teaching them the Gospel that guides our lives.  …And then they do.  They love the God who becomes the center of their lives.  And they choose to love Him first.  Even before loving us.  And many choose to follow Him and Him alone for that designated time, loving the people they serve, the country and the culture, wherever it may take them.  Loving their missionary work more than life itself.  And so we parents do this.  We give them back to the God who loaned them to us.  Knowing He will watch over them, and watch over us, wherever life may take us.  And because there are kiddos like this in the world… our fears for the future are reduced somewhat.  And the crazy world full of terror and war and pornography and awful things left and right, well.  That world better watch out.  Cuz our Righteous Warriors are coming for you.  And in the end we know who wins.  The Savior leads this army of kids.  And because He wins, we all win in the end.

And what could be better than that?

our little fam bam

our little fam bam

 

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