Tuesday, March 8, 2016

missionary miracles (and an update on Max)

Last Sunday we had a pretty sweet little missionary miracle happen at church.  And there was another big one last week.  And others sprinkled in every week.  When I stop to recognize them, there are little miracles every day.  But before I talk about them I need to update about Max a little bit.

There is so much in my heart about Max. 

He's been gone for almost 6 weeks.

Three more to go in the MTC.

It's hard to know how to capture how this boy is learning and growing right now, how we can tell his heart and spirit are shifting and changing.  

And how we are learning and growing back at home too.

It's so interesting to me how as a mother you can go from some serious anxiety about letting a child go to such an incredible peace.  

Honestly.  

I know that sounds crazy weird, but ever since my first little batch of miracles back HERE, all the heart-racing craziness just vanished and we are soaking in this experience.  And although I will probably always have that pang of pure "missing" in my heart when I walk past his bedroom or see a picture of him or drive past some restaurant he was head-over-heels in love with (that boy gets excited about food), the "missing" is accompanied by such love and peace and joy.  

Oh sure, it's good times right now.  He's in the MTC surrounded by amazing support and spiritual upliftment on every side.  There are surely hard times and frustration to come on both sides of this adventure.  Two years is a long journey.  But when he is so incredibly happy it's hard to get too fussed up about him being gone.

Missionaries have one p-day (preparation day) per week when they can write home and do laundry, shop for groceries, take a nap, etc.  In the MTC Max's p-day is on Wednesdays.  

It's funny how that day has become like gold to us.  We count down the days.  "Only four more days!" "Only two!" and on Tuesdays we all say "we get to hear from Max tomorrow!" with stars in our eyes.  He has written home every week which we are so grateful for...but we sure wish he would give more details! (never been much of a detail guy but still!)  We wait all week for info, and then we get four sentences.  But they are pretty happy sentences so we'll take them! ;)  Here's one from week two:

"I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY IN MY LIFE!!! I love this place so much. The spirit is so strong and I am learning so much everyday. I am starting to feel pretty comfortable in class with the Chinese so that's good haha!

I love seeing progression. I feel like its so satisfying to watch, and I've seen so much of it this week in myself and my district! I hate being uncomfortable but I've grown to love it the past couple weeks because its that feeling of progression and I know that feeling is making me a better missionary."

I mean, can you get better than that first sentence?  

Sometimes he writes hand-written letters and sticks them in the mail.

How can a piece of paper be THAT precious?  But my heart jumps and we get so excited.

The letter he sent a couple weeks ago was pretty great with more details.  I love that he is still goofy Max, but he is maturing and growing in such a cool way.  I love when he articulates his feelings.  It is a pretty powerful blessing to our family to learn along with him.  I love having a missionary!!

Ok, so on with the miracles.

Max hasn't sent many pictures home, but one of the miracles is that with modern technology we can be so connected.  It's like there is a network of people out there connecting missionaries and their moms.  I love how small technology makes the world seem.  Although I started a facebook account years and years ago I never go on there...and I keep meaning to try to figure it all out because I know there's lots of missionary connections there too.

We got this picture from a family we randomly met on the beach in Hawaii:

I got this picture in two different angles from other moms:
THANK YOU!!!  LOVE it.

Other pictures people have sent:
This one is form a sweet girl who was in one of Max's classes at BYU and one of her friends is in Max's MTC district:
How sweet is that that she would take the time out to write to me!?  She just got her own mission call and I'm so excited for her!

And this one popped up on my phone on a Sunday...one of Max's best friends ran into him on a Sunday walk at the temple.
(There have been a few other Sunday ones and I love them.  This last Sunday we got one from my niece that I haven't downloaded yet...loved it Allie!)

Through technology Max's missionary companion's mom and I have "met" and I love her and her family without even meeting them.  And I love their son because Max loves him.  In his first letter he wrote: "My companion is way cool, super funny, super smart and spiritual."  And right then and there I was just so happy.  It makes such a huge difference to have a companion you love.  Here's a picture his mom forwarded to me last week:
Makes my heart happy.  And makes me so grateful for the family who raised him to be such a perfect companion for Max.  I know he is learning a lot from him and looks up to him a lot (although not necessarily in height:)

Last week we got a pretty awesome email from our branch president from when we lived in China (who was pretty awesome btw, as you will note when you read his email).  He's back in the states now and we had no idea he worked a little bit with missionaries at the MTC but we got this surprise email:

Dave -

Today while volunteering at the MTC to help Mandarin speaking missionaries practice their lessons, I was shocked and elated to have "Elder Bao" [Max...that's his Chinese name] and his companion "Elder Shen" sit with me and discuss the blessings of the spirit in our lives - all in Mandarin.  Max is doing GREAT - happy, healthy and cheery. I was literally brought to tears (although he didn't see it) at how God allows these little miracles - a very timely and uplifting thing for me. His language is strong, his ability to teach the gospel is powerful, and he has a clear testimony of the gospel. You should be very very proud of him and know that he is doing fine and progressing well. Thanks for raising such an amazing son and allowing us to have had a small window into the lives of your family. Please know of our love for you all. Please say hi to all the girls in your life (you are WAAAY outnumbered now) and pass our good wishes along.

Cheers.

Dave forwarded that email to his mom, who wrote back to our Branch President, who was, at that moment, in a meeting hearing about all the wonderful things she and Dave's dad have done up at BYU-Idaho.  Man alive, the miracles just keep coming.

Ok, so on Sunday sitting there in our pew Dave whispered to me with big huge surprised eyes, "Max's new mission president is on the stand."  I looked up and sure enough, there sat Elder Teh.  I told about our other total miracle with him back HERE that spoke to me about how much God is in the details.

We were all so excited.  We had no idea whether he knew Max would be in his mission or not...we didn't know why he was in our ward, but we were pretty excited with the thought of possibly meeting him and letting him know after church.

So it was testimony meeting (the first Sunday of the month when everyone has a chance to share their thoughts about Jesus Christ and how they feel about Him and the gospel).  My kids don't generally get up to share their testimonies, but Claire and Lucy both felt like they really wanted to get up there (that is unrelated to Elder Teh, but it happened to be the same day and I wish I could have recorded them...they were beautifully said and made me tear up).  It was a beautiful meeting all together.  So many people shared such wonderful sentiments.  

Elder Teh stood up at the end.  

He shared that he was in town for some meetings and it was a rare chance that he got to pick any ward to attend (on Sundays when he travels he is usually assigned to a particular meeting).  He shared that he had a friend who lived in town and thought of going to church with him, but then thought, "why don't I go meet the family of one of my future missionaries?" and then proceeded to talk about how he knew Max was going to be in his mission and how even though he hadn't met him yet, he already loved him.  Then he went on to share some beautiful sentiments about Jesus Christ and the gospel but at that point they were mixed into gobledy-gook in my brain because I couldn't think about anything else other than the fact that we were witnessing a little miracle right there sitting in our church pew.

Now, our excitement may sound dramatic, but those who have missionaries out serving can truly appreciate how much that made our whole family tear up.  We just sat there mesmerized and in awe.  We got to meet Max's future mission president and his wonderful wife: the people who will shepherd him through such a hugely important time of his life. Words on a blog cannot accurately describe how surreal it was to get to go give them hugs after the meeting closed and find out all kinds of information about how they got called (he is a member of the "70" in our church and those leaders don't generally get called as mission presidents so it was pretty cool to hear how that all worked out), how excited they are to serve, how they found out Max was in their mission, how they love the Lord.  
And all the time listening and talking my heart felt like it was going to burst right out of my chest.

Here we are all together (except for Lucy who insisted that going to her church class was extremely important right at that moment):
Do they not look like the most kind and wonderful people to guide your son for almost two years of his life?  They shine.

How grateful I am that God is truly in the details.

Not just surrounding missions, but in everything in life.  He's there in the trials (as I went on to teach my Young Women lesson on the Atonement), He's there for the joys.  He's there when we're lonely.  He's there when we are in the depths of sorrow.  "His hand is stretched out still."  Always.  If we remember to ask for it to guide us though.  And sometimes even when we don't.

So grateful to recognize His hand in the mission miracles so far.  And in the ordinary days that lie ahead.  How I hope we will continue to recognize them along the way every day.

One person sharing their thoughts in church yesterday told a story about how this lady was checking her and her sisters through the California border one day and kept saying "God is Good."  I agree, God is Good.  And I'm so grateful for His hand in our lives.

28 comments:

  1. It's so wonderful to feel the energy in this post! Elder Teh came to our stake conference in Vegas last year and I was amazed how such a poised, gentle man could deliver such a powerful message.
    Nothing is a coincidence. Max is about to spend two years soaking up Elder Teh's wisdom and example. What growth awaits him.

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  2. I know Sister Clawson in your pictures! Sister Clawson's Dad, served his mission with my husband in Taipei! A small world indeed! 😊

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  3. what a neat story...or should i say a miraculous story! glad that max is doing well and is happy in the mtc. xo

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  4. Wow. I am not religious at all (I was brought up as a Jehovah's Witness and have since made the decision to have no religion in my life), but even I was brought to tears by these 'miracles'. You are SO good at writing. You manage to articulate feelings I can't even put together in my own head, never mind writing it down. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. The girl you referred to saying she just got her mission papers....I believe it may be a friend of mine's daughter. The chances r slim, but the timing and location is perfect. Madelyn?

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  6. The girl you referred to saying she just got her mission papers....I believe it may be a friend of mine's daughter. The chances r slim, but the timing and location is perfect. Madelyn?

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  7. It must be so great to get any glimpse of Max in those great pics!! I'm confused how some missionaries are able to send pics home regularly if Max cannot? Or are they sending them on their p-days?

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    1. I was wondering the same thing.

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    2. Good question. They're all sending them on their p-days. I'm unsure why Max isn't sending more...I could give him the benefit of the doubt and think maybe he doesn't have the right cord to connect his camera but realistically I think he just gets distracted and doesn't think about how much we want to see them! So glad that others are good at sending stuff! Hopefully he'll improve in the "sharing more details" category!

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  8. It must be so great to get any glimpse of Max in those great pics!! I'm confused how some missionaries are able to send pics home regularly if Max cannot? Or are they sending them on their p-days?

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  9. Wow! What an incredible series of miracles! I think Heavenly Father loves to surprise us His children with little things like that. I love that you bear testimony that He is in the little things, because He totally is. :)

    Chaun from www.hiccupsandpastries.com

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  10. I love hearing these stories. I agree, they do shine! I too am a missionary Mom. My son entered the MTC in December and is now serving in Tahiti. We got a random photo from someone vacationing in Tahiti. They saw the missionaries and knew their parents would love a photo of their missionaries. They got my email address from our son and sent it to me. Totally made my day!

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  11. That's a day you won't ever forget! The Claytons were singing the Tehs praises when we talked to them last night. They were with them recently and are so excited for Max to experience their superb leadership. He is in for an incredible experience! Just love it!

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  12. Indeed blessings! So happy for your family!

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  13. Maybe Max is just used to you taking care of the photography. :):) From what I've seen with my daughter (she was in Max's zone, but left for Taipei yesterday!) and nephews who are serving/recently served missions, sisters generally share more pics (and info) than elders. My friend's son's emails are about 5 sentences long..short and to the point! It's definitely a treat to be able to share pics with other mission moms so easily now. Best wishes to Max and for many more tender mercies while he's serving his mission!

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    1. I think you're right! Max has never been a huge writer...which makes the gems he sends all the better. It's so fun to read sister missionary emails because you're right, way more info.

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    2. But honestly, even though Max's are sometimes short, I adore every word.

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  14. Maybe Max is sending pictures to other missionary moms of their kids also on his p day?

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  15. I think that one of the greatest gifts we are given is the ability to care for each other, and these miracles are evidence of that at work in your life.

    You said, "...If we remember to ask for it to guide us though. And sometimes even when we don't." - and I just wanted to comment that I might change the last sentence to "especially when we don't". In my life it has been those times when I forget to ask, that I begin to feel hopeless or alone, that I am given sign after sign until I (finally!) remember to open my eyes and see the evidence all around me that I was surrounded by His love all along.

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    1. That's so funny you'd say that because when I re-read this post after publishing I thought the exact same thing.
      xoxo

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  16. I loved this! My oldest son is leaving for his mission in Denver at the end of the month (if his visa comes through). We have a new seenior missionary couple in our ward, the Gormleys - and it turns out that elder Gormley served as Stake president in the area our son will be serving. He has been able to tell him lots of details about the area and the members and the church there. The Lord really is in the details. :-)

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  17. I loved this! My oldest son is leaving for his mission in Denver at the end of the month (if his visa comes through). We have a new seenior missionary couple in our ward, the Gormleys - and it turns out that elder Gormley served as Stake president in the area our son will be serving. He has been able to tell him lots of details about the area and the members and the church there. The Lord really is in the details. :-)

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  18. Coincidences are not miracles. The Bible says that after the death of the 12 apostles he would not be using miracles via humans on earth any more. Luck, good luck? Yes. Miracles? Not so much.

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  19. I loved this Shawni and felt the spirit strongly as I read it! It's going to be fun as a reader to hear all abut Max's mission!!!

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  20. What you call "miracles" us Jews call "Jewish Geography." When you're active in a small community you're going to run into lots of friends of friends etc. Since I believe God lives in the connection people make with each other I guess you could say that God is in Jewish Geography. In anny case, is sure if fun. Is that similar to your idea that "heavenly father" is having folks visit you and send emails to you to bring you comfort? maybe?

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