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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Max's farewell weekend

Max's missionary farewell was last weekend.  
That's when the getting-ready-to-leave missionary gives a talk at church and lots of people who love him (or her) come to support them and sort of send them off.

I already said a few things about it, but oh boy so much has happened in the last week and I want to remember all the details.  So I'm writing them now before they get all mixed up in the muddle of taking him to the MTC on Wednesday.  

I want to remember how he looked and how he sounded and his funny facial expressions.

I want to remember how the girls sang so beautifully, "I am a Child of God" in Chinese and how Claire, who was the star (she knows Chinese best), started throwing up with the stomach flu the night before but still stood up there anyway on Sunday, a little pale but with a huge smile on her face full of love for her brother.  And I probably will always have Lucy's face in my mind as she sang...so concentrated and loud above her more hesitant sisters.

And I want to remember how so much of the chapel was filled with family and dear friends.  They just kept coming.  And filling up my heart until it actually hurt with love and gratitude for all these people who have had a hand in raising this child of mine.

Max talked about BUILDING the kingdom of God and related it to building houses in Mexico (back here) as an analogy.  He went through all the steps of building that he feels are most important: learning, service and LOVE.  My face hurt from smiling by the time he was done (he talked for seventeen minutes...yes, that child of mine who would hardly say more than two words when he was a kid went on and on with story after story and did such a great job).

But let's back up for a minute to capture the whole weekend, because all the little details work into the whole feeling around it.  

My brother who's been living in Europe for eight months showed up first.  They have had some pretty amazing adventures and I wish they had a blog to explain them all, but let's just say it was pretty great to get them to ourselves for a couple days.

They came from California and brought my other brother's Sprinter van which was pretty fun to take to the gymnastics carpool right after they arrived. 
(don't worry, we weren't driving in that picture)

They came to watch Grace cheer...
 Claire was snuggled up their baby...
 They helped do all kinds of stuff at the house, including finally installing our kitchen light:
 ...yes we have lived here for almost two years...have I mentioned I'm a little indecisive?
Hooray!

We got to celebrate my brother Josh's birthday all together:
 Just the adults went to golf that night.

We hiked (back here)...

And then on Saturday Noah & Kristi and Saren & Jared arrived with all their kids just in time for a hot tub/polar plunge swim party:

...and a rousing game of "reverse charades."
My favorite game to watch :)


Where, you might ask, was the star of the weekend all this time?

Well, five of his best friends from BYU came down for he and his roommate's farewells (they were on the same day), and they pretty much made it the best weekend of Max's life ;)
This picture was from right before they left on their own hike.  Brayden and Max were good hosts (I think) and tried to give these great friends a good show of the desert.  They were in and out and amidst all the other people around we didn't get to talk and hang with them as much as we would have liked but they sure are great kids.  One of them is my college friend's son which makes us both SO happy that they are such good friends!

And then, just like that, it was time for that farewell.
...which I already talked about up at the top.  It was a beautiful meeting.

I wish I had a picture of all the friends there, but here are at least a couple:


And a portion of the family:

And dear family friends:

Since we missed most of my family at the church we snapped some pictures at home.

Here are Jonah and Aja and their five kids:
 Noah and Kristi and their five:
Saren and Jared and their five:

Some good boys:
 The cousins:
 The twelve-and-up cousins:

 The adults:
 ...and the siblings:
Four of us five up there have five kids and the oldest grandkids and words can't really express how much it meant to have them all here.

I didn't get a single picture of our pans and pans of dinner for this big crowd, but it was so fun to have everyone, including Max and his friends:

We had an open house that night.  Love that these good friends from Vegas came all the way to support Max:
Some other missionary moms:
(Moms of some of Max's really good friends.)

I didn't pull my camera out much but here's the tail end of the crowd:
...and the tail-end of the crepes:
 They were gone half-way through so we just kept pulling out more and more of whatever we could find...it was pretty funny by the end.
 Loved that the kids got to share all their cousins with friends.

 It was so fun to watch them all hang together and get to know each other.
 The next time we will all be together is probably for weddings.
Weird!

Love that all these adult aunts and uncles got to be better acquainted from both sides of the family:


 We have a cousin named Lyla on both sides of the family...finally got them together.
The two Bennets got together too and had a great time but I didn't snap a picture before the one not staying with us left.

After everyone not staying with us left (it was probably 10 or 10:30), the next party started.

And when Eyres are together that always includes making cookies.
I didn't get a great picture of the games, but we stayed up until almost 2:00am with just about everyone, kids included, playing all kinds of games (the name game, psychiatrist) and it was so awesome that we weren't even sad we did it when we all felt like we got hit by a truck and kids were whiney as could be the next morning.

 I had to snap a few pictures of how we set up the kitchen for the open house:

 We put facts all about Taiwan up everywhere along with pictures.





And with that, the weekend was over.  

The families packed up and headed out (except for Jo & Aja who just left yesterday...so glad we got to have them for a little longer!)

How grateful we are for the sacrifices everyone made to help us out on the big weekend...all the food that was brought, the gifts, the notes and the LOVE that we felt from so many.  

So thankful these cousins were able to make the trek to join us, and for the notes and texts and emails from everyone who couldn't come.



So grateful to be so fully enshrouded in family, especially right now.
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