Friday, January 29, 2016

thoughts on having a son leave for two years

Max is safe and sound in the MTC.

We gave him one last hug and he walked away with a big, giant smile across his face and the winter sunlight slanting just so lighting him up from behind.

I can still hardly believe it.

It was a day with so much leading up to it that I don't quite know how to describe but I will try...soon.  In all the hoopla getting ready for that day I never posted the feelings I had written out a couple days before, so I will post them for now until I can get my bearings straight.  Here we go.
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Not only do I want to remember all the happenings I wrote about surrounding Max’s farewell (last post HERE), but I want to remember how I felt (and feel). 

How it feels to let a little group like this start to break up.

I have a newfound respect for families who go through this.  I cannot believe people do this!  did this for crying out loud!  I stepped out into the unknown and headed to Romania all those years ago. When people who aren't accustomed to how missions run have asked how in the world you go for so long without talking to your family and being in such a foreign place I have always just brushed it off like it's no big deal.  It made me grow in ways I never could have imagined and I was IN it.  Sure I was homesick and there were hard days.

Lots of them.

But I knew that was where I was supposed to be and I loved the whole experience, even the tough parts because they made the great parts even better.  

It's sure a lot different being on the other side doing the sending off.  Little did I know what my parents were going through when they had THREE out at the same time.  (My sister and I left the same day and my brother overlapped with us a little bit.) 

It's so interesting how much you can forget in hindsight.  I remember after giving birth to each of my babies how all the wonderment and joy so quickly canceled out all the pain and sickness and worry of the pregnancy.  Holding that little bundle of pure Heaven made me want to do it all over again right that second.  

Again and again.  (Dang I need to stop talking about it because that IWAN is strong I tell you!) 

It’s a miracle really how quickly the struggles and woes of most things in life can transform into sweetness and light if you let them. 

Leading up to this point I have wondered how much my aching heart thinking of letting Max leave will be replaced with something similar to the joy and wonderment I had with my newborn babies.  I have wondered if mothers who send children off into the mission field forget how difficult it is when time has a chance to heal some of the "missing."  

Last week I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it through this “letting him go” thing.  I’m telling you, we got through that farewell and all the family in town and all the party hoopla and it started to hit me like a ton of bricks that this boy was really leaving.  I had told myself over and over again that him going away to college would make it easy peasy to let him go on a mission. 

But I was WRONG. 

I felt like I was drowning.  I couldn’t breathe and I could not for the life of me stop crying.  Dave looked at me like I was a ticking time bomb.  I think he was actually pretty scared for me.

Now let's get one thing clear:  of course I wanted Max to go.  There’s nothing in the whole wide world I want him to do more right now, and I’m so proud of his decision and his determination and his preparation.  But it’s hard to loosen my Velcro grip on that kid and his eighteen years of childhood and let him free into adulthood.  

He's not leaving forever, but in a way, his childhood is.

Those eighteen years are “not nothing” as this post over HERE by Beverly Beckham so eloquently and beautifully validates.  They were filled with “I love you”s and “I’m so proud of you”s and victories and joys right along with lectures and feistiness (from me and him) and my personal favorite “I just wish you could love me just a little bit less” when we were extra worried about things or giving a little too much direction.  

There were the times when I got right in his face and poked my index finger right into his chest with all the frustration that could possibly erupt, the times I worried and prayed my guts out on my knees and in silent tears sliding down my cheeks blurring my daily duties.  There were the late, late nights staying up to talk about dates, white-knuckle car rides teaching him how to drive, volleyball elation (and deflation too), his secret handshakes with his sisters and their glowing eyes when he’s around, his good choices, and bad ones too.  The first steps he took with his big brown eyes smiling up at me, his always-messy room, his Harry Potter glasses and the way he wanted a forehead scar too.  There was the way the sun shone through his cap lighting up his smile at graduation, and watching his total joy over things as simple as a chocolate milkshake on a lunch date. 

Highs and lows for eighteen years. 

No, that is certainly not nothing. 

This last week a phrase from a poem keeps running through my head over and over and over again, I can't get it to stop:
“children grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow”
“babies don’t keep”

(the whole poem is over HERE)

And every time it popped into my brain tears started erupting.  It's true.  Babies don't keep.  I've learned to my sorrow.

But I’m here to say that I got my own little miracle this week.  A miracle that came in and spread like a warm blanket with such a peace and love and calm that my heart was able to loosen.  Three things made all the difference to transform me from my “ticking-time-bomb” state.

1)  I was talking to a friend on the phone and she reminded me this is just the next stage of progression.  Kids are just spinning their wheels without next big steps to take.  This is a big one, and one that will change the trajectory of so many things in his life for good.  Of course I already knew it, but right there in that moment I was reminded so crystal clear how powerful this whole thing is.

I felt my heart loosening.

2)  I realized how utterly excited Max was to leave.  It hit me when I sat him down one day to get to the bottom of his grumpiness of late.  He explained he just wanted to BE there already.  He was ready.  He wanted to work.  He wanted to get there and get going.

Heart loosened even more.  Not only that, but excitement started to build.

And I believe this next one is very most important:

3) Dave gave me a blessing.  That was when I recognized the "miracle" the most.  The room filled up with love and beauty.  It was like love was seeping in heavier and more quickly than the worry could, and overtook it slowly and surely.

I'm not saying everything suddenly turned into butterflies and rainbows after that.

We are going to miss that kid like crazy.

But everything lightened up and I am so excited for him and the grand adventure that lies ahead.  I'm so excited for all he will learn.  I'm so excited for the great leaders he will have.  I'm so excited to see his growth and the growth of our family as we love and support him from afar.  I wrote about how much I loved watching my children "become" over HERE.  And these two years will help mold and grow him on the path to "become" who God wants him to be.

Now that's pretty exciting if you ask me.

Yes, babies grow up, I've learned to my sorrow.  And so do teenagers.

But oh boy the part of my heart that isn't broken into a thousand pieces is sure excited for the ride.

47 comments:

  1. It's hard sometimes to see in that moment of saying goodbye that this is His plan. You want to hold on to them forever. But knowing you have prepared him for this, and the excitement they have for this journey, that this is right. My husband felt such sadness when my son left. He didn't know how he could forsee not seeing and speaking to him everyday. Just those hugs and sweet "I love you's" everyday crushed him. But we see know, almost 4 years later, with his choices and his life decisions, that we did good! He did good! I'm so happy for you and your family! This is preparing you for the next step He has waiting for you. Go Max! Make us all proud!

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  2. It's hard sometimes to see in that moment of saying goodbye that this is His plan. You want to hold on to them forever. But knowing you have prepared him for this, and the excitement they have for this journey, that this is right. My husband felt such sadness when my son left. He didn't know how he could forsee not seeing and speaking to him everyday. Just those hugs and sweet "I love you's" everyday crushed him. But we see know, almost 4 years later, with his choices and his life decisions, that we did good! He did good! I'm so happy for you and your family! This is preparing you for the next step He has waiting for you. Go Max! Make us all proud!

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  3. Oh dear, this is beautifully written! I hope the "excited part" outweighs the "heartbroken part" soon.

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  4. i truly had no idea this intense experience existed for parents of departing missionaries. thanks for going first shawn so the rest of us sibs can be prepared! great things are ahead!! love you, been thinking of you lots.

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  5. I've been reading your blog for years! I'm a little sad that Max is leaving and I don't even know him! 😉
    I'm not a Morman, so I'm not familiar with missions, but do you not even get to visit during this time? And what about contact through texting, Skype, etc? I know that when our daughter was an exchange student in France for a year, it made it not so hard because we could text and we skyped with her once a month!

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    1. While missionaries are away they are able to receive and send emails once a week. On Mother's Day and Christmas they get to call home, and depending where they are, usually skype home instead of just call. They and their companion (missionaries always serve in at least pairs of two) have a cell phone strictly for use in the mission area to contact those they are teaching and working with. The general purpose of these things is to keep missionaries focused on the great work they are doing.

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  6. My son has been out on his mission for 6 months. The day he left was one of the hardest things I have done. But then you get those first few emails and they are happy, their testimonies are growing and you realize the growth they will experience on their mission they would not get anywhere else. Yes it is hard. I still miss him like crazy. He is in my constant thoughts and prayers. Each day gets a little easier as you watch them become the person their Heavenly wants them to be. Welcome to the Missionary Moms club!

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  7. My heart goes out to you. We are all sharing your heartache and joy. It's so hard when they come at the same time!

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  8. The day he went into the MTC I thought about you all day and had a lump in my throat as I watched my only son.. who's 8!..I know the time is going to fly by. He's only left me for 1 night his whole life. .how can I do 2 years ... but like you said you would want him there.. serving the Lord, growing and having experiences he couldn't have anywhere else. ... oh why can't they stay little for a long time!!!

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  9. My son has been out for a year.... the anticipation of how awful it will be to let them go is far worse than the actual thing.... I miss him like crazy his birthday I had a melt down (he didn't) but I can tell you one thing, the experience as a missionary mom is one of the best I have ever had. To sit back and watch as you can literally see Gods hand shaping them into the man he needs to be is amazing... Every companion my son has had teaches him something new about himself or about how he should be, each person he teaches too. My son is happier than he has ever been in his life and as a mom it is the greatest to witness that. When you skype on mothers day it will make it the best mothers day you've ever had... it helps you to appreciate those tiny things. I feel so incredibly grateful everyday for the church giving my son this opportunity. A few years ago you said you wanted your kids to be global kids probably not the exact words, but I loved it and have since tried to get my own children to see the world and love all the people and places in it... what better way to really make your children "Global" than to be out serving the lord... you can do this... This first week is the hardest I promise....

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  10. Hang in there and as soon as those letters start coming in you will be filled with Love and pride. Hopefully, we will get to hear about some of his adventures to. Maybe you can give us all the link to his blog or at least post snippets her on your blog. I have been reading my friends son's blog who is serving in Berlin and always walk away from those couple of minutes spent reading so uplifted. Hugs from Atlanta!

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  11. What beautiful writing! I'm so sorry that this was so hard! And even sorrier that we weren't there to help you! We couldn't even communicate much, mostly without wifi. But it looks as though you survived with flying colors! And as you said "Hard is good! "

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  12. Oh boy. Reliving this. We sent our oldest, our son, out in August to Uruguay. The only way I can describe it is miserable joy. That day was the happiest sad I've ever been. It does get easier for sure, but your heart aches just a little all the time. You will live for Monday's, and pictures of him will feel like oxygen.
    Welcome to the best/worst club in the church!
    Ps. Love your blog. Every time I read it I'm sad I stopped writing on mine.

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  13. My son has been out 5 months, so I can honestly say I know EXACTLY how you feel. I remember thinking the same thing... "I can't believe we do this!" Wow, the day my son left I felt shell-shocked. Non-stop tears. But, like you, I wanted him to go and knew it was what he was supposed to do. He is serving in England, not exactly a "high-baptizing" mission, and guess what! Tomorrow he is baptizing a family of 4! He is bringing a family into the gospel! He loves his mission and has never been happier. Hang in there. Time passes... slowly but surely.

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  14. Shawni- Thank you for sharing and keeping it real. I needed this post and appreciate all you do. Your family has been in my prayers. Max is going to be a fine missionary and we are excited for him. Love to your sweet family.

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  15. Shawni! You can never stop blogging! I learn so much from you. My oldest is almost 11 and it is so nice to read your blog and be reminded to relish in the everyday. I am so excited for Max. He will do great! (It is totally strange, but I feel so invested in your family. Your blog has made me laugh and cry on multiple occasions - sometimes both at once!). Good luck to you all! The next 2 years will fly!

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  16. As you didn't blog yesterday, I kept being reminded why. He will be such an excellent missionary! Your family will be so blessed for having a missionary! :)

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  17. I completely understand. Its such a hard thing to see your child go and such a good thing they are going to do!

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  18. My mom had her last baby while I was on my mission -- I say you go for it, Shawni! :) Good luck to Max and comfort and perspective to you.

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    1. My mom also had my youngest sibling while my brother was serving;)

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  19. My oldest daughter and son are 4 and 3. If my daughter decides to serve, they will leave at the same time. I sat here reading your post while they played at my feet (ironically, they were singing i hope they call me on a mission) and I had tears streaming down my face. I can already feel how fast this time will go! Just thought i'd share a quote i love..."missionary mom: a mother who lets go of her child for a time so that other mothers can have their's forever."

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    1. If you daughter decides to serve AND IF your son decides to serve.

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  20. My kids are little still but my mother heart reaches out to yours! Tears with you, my internet friend.

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  21. Shawni, I'm on my second missionary son, and you said it perfectly. And lots of people have asked me, does it get any easier? In my case, no, it doesn't. Which is crazy considering that #1 grew amazingly on his mission and it was a total joy to watch, even though some days I missed him so much and just wanted one hug! #2 has been out 6 months, but he also has type 1 diabetes. I REALLY thought I couldn't send him out, but I did it, and he had the same huge smile on his face and is doing better than ever health-wise, plus he loves his mission and wouldn't dream of coming home early. The moral of the story is, it's hard, but it's SO SO SO worth it!! In my experience,don't let yourself think "TWO YEARS!" because your brain just can't comprehend it. Take it a day, sometimes an hour or a minute at at time, and before long the time will be flying like you wouldn't believe.

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  22. I love that poem. My aunt cross-stitched it for my mom when we were babies. I have it now above the changing table in my baby's (he's 2...not a baby much longer...). This post was written beautifully. Wishing you all the best!

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  23. So beautifully written. Thank you for reminding me to cherish every second I have with my children. Wishing you all love and comfort.

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  24. I purposely read your blog today hoping for this post. Beautiful writing. My oldest has been serving a mission for a while now and I'm amazed at how this has all felt to me. I got the BEST advice from a friend the day my son spoke in church before he left. She said, "DON'T spend your time counting down until he comes home." It was interesting because just that Sunday morning in the shower I had thought, "I need a hair cut. I wonder how many times I'll get my hair cut before Dallin comes home." Her advice was God sent! She said she counted down every month with her oldest son and then started doing it with her second son too when the thought came to her to quit wishing away his mission. She didn't want him anywhere else. She enjoyed his letters and growth so much more once she quit counting. I have so enjoyed my boy's emails and letters. Me not counting down has helped my other children too. I love what Dallin has learned! I'm so excited to see how he's grown over two years. But for now I just enjoy each part of it and the little whole in my heart has been filled with love for those he shares with us. I think you will feel that too.

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  25. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=V9VoLCO-d6U
    I played the above song (The Circle Game) on repeat and sobbed my eyes out when my son left on his mission (he's home and married for three months now and that brought on a whole other slew of curiously unexpected emotions) I realized that C.S. Lewis was right, it's all part of the deal. This is all part of what it feels like to love our children and I'll greedily take it. Hang in there. I found that when I broke it down to four general conferences (those come around so wonderfully frequently) instead of two years, it felt much more doable. And it will be like childbirth when he steps off that plane. You'll say,"Did that seriously just happen?" You've loved him with your whole heart, so it makes sense your whole heart will ache but you are in for another beautiful ride with him.

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  26. Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts.

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  27. "He's not leaving forever, but in a way, his childhood is." This is what gets me. I cried my eyes out reading this post. Such a joy and such a heartache at the same time. It really is an amazing thing. What a comfort to know how excited Max is to be a missionary and wanting to get out there and serve. He will do great work. I loved Emily's comment when she said "pictures of him will feel like oxygen." Love is an incredible thing.
    Lisa

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  28. You did it! The hardest part is over! Sure, there will be those moments when little reminders of him will set you off. But for the most part, you are done with the hardest part of all! That's a pretty big milestone! Thank you for writing about it like you have. I sent two off and felt exactly the same way you did!

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  29. I have 2 boys: ages 4 and 21 months. I have read your blog for the past 4 years and find (especially today) that you offer good reminders of how quickly these "little years" (and their stressors) pass. I am Catholic and will not send my sons out on a mission for 2 years, so I can only imaging how your feel. You talk a lot about how Max will grow in the next 2 years, but I can't help but be excited to read and follow along as YOU grow too over the next 2 years. That oldest child of yours turned you into a mother and will continue to allow your mothering heart to grow and love in ways it has not yet loved (absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?!). Try to remember that these next 2 years can be pretty amazing for you too!!

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  30. I felt like I was feeling all those emotions you explained while reading this. Although my kids are still little my Mama heart goes out to you right now! I can't wait to hear about his adventures you share with us!

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  31. I felt like I was feeling all those emotions you explained while reading this. Although my kids are still little my Mama heart goes out to you right now! I can't wait to hear about his adventures you share with us!

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  32. My heart is so happy and sad for you. I am so excited to hear about his adventures and yours too! A lady in my ward just mentioned she was sad to see her daughters mission end because of the sweet spirit her service brought into their home. I tucked that sentiment away for when I am doing this! Just keep thinking Mothers Day is just around the corner!!!

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  33. Such a beautiful post, Shawni! Sending much love xoxo

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  34. Love this writing! Beautiful revelation of your deepest feelings! I'm soooo sad that we missed all this but every word and photo makes me feel closer to what happened! From here on...it just gets better and better!! You're going to love your new, deeper relationship with Max. He is astonishing! And so are you!

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  35. Shawni,
    ( I'm an occasional blog follower love & learn from your post & I just had to comment on this one) Your beautiful post brought back all those emotions of sending a missionary off for me. We have sent two sons on missions and will hopefully be sending our youngest in a year/year 1/2. I remember with our first missionary thinking I have seen missionaries come and go but until you send one you have no idea how hard it is. One day leading up to sending our #2 son off on his mission I had been reading The Living Christ and was over whelmed with the thought and feeling that my sending our son off into the mission field was similar in a very finite way to how our Heavenly Father sent his son to earth for us. This gave me a greater love, appreciation for our/my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. The greatest of sacrifice, gift, love! When our first son left it was back in the days when you just didn't drop of at the MTC curb but they had a little meeting inside and you then said your good byes (curb drop of probably easier) Mission Pres wife spoke and she said "this is all about LOVE the love for Heavenly Father the love your missionary will have for the people he serves, the love you have for him and will have for those that will love him...." that comforted me. It is all about love! As his letters start rolling in you will start to fill that love grow and when his mission comes to a end you will miss those letters filled with tender, sweet, sometimes hard life change experiences. I love this quote its so true:
    "There are others whose lives are blessed when a missionary serves, such as the members of his family who...support him, pray for him, and try to live worthy of him."
    Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley
    Looking forward to you sharing Max experiences and know you will bless the lives of all your followers as you share a little of him with us. I'll thank you in advance.
    Best, Kathy Mc

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  36. Shawni, you always fill my heart. I was at a meeting with Elaine S Dalton today and she discussed that this is the moment, this is the time for us and the youth to arise and shine. Your role as his mother will always be, but for this moment, his moment to arise, he gets to share the fruit of your labor and his with the people of Taiwan. It's a perfect circle of love. Bless your mother heart.

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  37. Shawni:

    Max, you, and your family are giving a wonderful--the most wonderful gift to future generations! He will be guided as a missionary to find those that are prepared to hear the beautiful message of peace, love, and guidance. Many will remember Max, now and likely through eternity for his sacrifice and sharing of this marvelous gift (the message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an in-depth understanding of his matchless grace and love). My littlest brother got off his mission the day Max went out. Thank you for your hope-filled words and understandings. You bless the lives of so many too! :D
    Melanie

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  38. It was harder than I ever could have imagined sending my sister off on her mission! SO HARD. The absolute best thing ever is getting a letter for the first time, and getting to talk to them on the phone when they're in the airport, and getting to skype them on Christmas. My sister has only been gone for three months, but it has blessed me to see how much she's grown and how much she's loving it. I'm excited for you guys, and if you want to, you should totally share Max's letters on here, I want to read them!

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  39. Shawni, this is just beautiful. I'm so glad you've always gone before me, preparing me for what is to come. You throw your heart into motherhood with so much grace and honesty and I feel like it has and will continue to shape the way I look at my mothering. Thanks shaws. I love you.

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  40. Shawni, my children are 21, wo, and 11. Thank u for giving me permission to still feel like the mommy I am even when my children are older. I am not ready to shut the door and have them be my "adult children" yet. They are still children, needing direction and guidance, and, through you, I feel validation. Love your blog

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