Last weekend Dave and I got to go with Grace back to her mission stomping grounds:
Gosh, there is something about Texas, and we got to experience it with our Texas girl.
We packed our three days chock full of everything we possibly could.
We visited all her areas (four of them), visited the most incredible people who she adores (and who adore her right back), and also ate the best food.
Man oh man, Grace was more excited about this opportunity than I think I have ever seen anyone excited in my life! She planned out all our minutes and we hit it all.
Austin, Texas in Three Days
Loved landing in Austin, her body next to me just hardly able to contain the excitement, mixed with worry we wouldn’t make it in time to catch the end of institute at the University of Texas (they meet for class on Thursday evenings and then have a little dinner all together after).
But guess what: we did make it.
Drove through that gorgeous Texas sunset…
…and got there just in time to watch Grace get some crazy bear-hugs from all those students who love her, and leaders too.
You see, Grace got to serve on campus at the University of Texas for six months of her mission.
That’s one-third of her whole mission.
And she felt like the luckiest girl ever to have that opportunity.
There’s something about serving with kids your same age I think, and in the same stage of life you are in.
Loved that her little note was still up there on the bulletin board (above left).
We visited the state capitol:
…incredibly beloved by this girl:
And it lived up to the hype.
We thought about taking a little tour, but Grace already knew all kinds of amazing facts about that place, so we let her be our tour guide.
One fun fact: it is the biggest state capitol in all of the U.S.
Let’s take a look at some of the details:
All the governors of Texas lining those walls up there in the middle.
(See on the above left even the lights have stars on them?)
Do yourself a favor and google the Texas state capitol for more info. because I’m with Grace, it is pretty cool.
We took bird scooters all the way down South Congress…
…across the bridge and back across the other way to Grace’s other favorite spot in Austin: the public library.
And with good reason because it is SO COOL, filled with floating staircases and cool art installations and a rooftop patio with beautiful views.
Can’t forget the food…Grace took us to some delicious places including Texas BBQ (Terry Blacks with lines weaving in and out like we were waiting for a Disneyland ride and all kinds of yummy TexMex tacos:
The city skyline is so beautiful:
We went to Barton springs, an icy cold huge swimming lake/pool made from a spring right in the middle of the city, the skyline looming up as a backdrop. Grace was dying to get in so the two of us joined everyone else and gloried in that icy cool water in the midst of that muggy city. (Dave held out since we were in a rush).
Grace so so happy!
McKinney Falls state park was a little bit of a let-down after that, not much water flowing, but we did find blue bonnets and got to do a little mini-hike so it was worth it.
Probably one of my top two favorite things: meeting Grace’s beloved mission president.
Honestly, you could just feel the love from that man for Grace, for all the missionaries, for the beauty of the gospel. He took over an hour to sit and talk with us, answering all our rapid-fire questions about mission life and building Grace up so naturally and beautifully. His wife was out of town (helping a daughter who was getting married), but we felt so lucky we got to be with him!
Grace took us to H.E.B. which is a Texas grocery store Texans are extremely proud of.
Well, they are pretty much extremely proud of EVERYTHING and we loved being immersed in that Texas brand of pride. Maybe Buc-ee’s was the highlight of the trip for Grace.
That place is crazy!
Grace was giddy to show us the ropes there between our visits, and it lived up to the hype that it is a crazy place I tell you! Hundreds of gas pumps and you can buy literally anything in the world in that place I swear! Every kind of food from cotton candy to brisket sandwiches to swimsuits/tshirts/dishtowels, etc. with the famous Buc-ee seal all over them.
We went to two locations and we even got to meet “Buc-ee” at both spots. Can you even imagine??
I loved the city, but probably my very favorite thing was getting to visit the people who changed Grace’s life in so many ways.
Among the four areas Grace served in was a little Spanish branch in a military town and we listened, fascinated, to the stories of a couple of these families.
They just glowed with goodness.
And also with love for Grace.
And I will remember their stories for a very long time. Maybe some day I can share them (with their permission).
There is just nothing in the world like getting to meet people like that: people who have inspired your daughter in so many ways and loved and lifted her so much, and who she just loves so much right back.
We got to paddle board on Ladybird Lake. It was so beautiful and filled right up with hundreds of people with the same idea.
We paddled toward the skyline, away from the crowds and just took that perfect evening in, sun creating angel slides from the clouds, smooth ripples on the water, Dave and Grace paddling alongside me, it was magical.
We went to watch the emergence of the bats on Congress Bridge, something Austin is famous for. All these kayaker’s were waiting too:
We stood on that bridge with hundreds of other bat-waiters and finally they started streaming out…an estimated 750,000 to one million of them, just blurs we could make out against the reflection of the moon and city lights in the river.
(I’ll put that video on my Instagram story today.)
On our last day Grace gave us a mini tour of the UT campus before church at the institute building.
Church with the cutest kids, some she taught, others who taught her.
We also went to church in another area where Grace served filled with more incredible people:
We drove all the way to another little town where Grace got to serve…a very tiny and old one with most of the buildings for sale or closed up.
Here is main street:
We got to see the building on main street where they met for church:
(And wished we could have gotten there in time for that church service as well and to see all the people Grace loves there.)
But we did get to see the dog shelter where Grace volunteered and hear about all her other volunteer opportunities there (food bank on the right).
As we drove back to the airport we all just marveled that Grace got to be in those four so very different areas surrounded by some of the best people in the world and marveled that that mission, Austin, Texas, was such a perfect match for our girl.
Missions are so incredible.
It’s so interesting that she got called to Uruguay, yet THIS.
This right here was a match made in Heaven 😉
We are now Texas lovers forever!
Visiting our other missionary’s mission
(we got to visit Max’s mission shortly after he returned as well, which also led to visiting some of Dave’s mission, also in Taiwan)
An Adventure In Taiwan (part 1)
Part two of our Taiwan adventure
THE END OF MAX’S ISLAND AND A “DOUBLE DAY” ON TO ELLE’S
(not sure why that’s all caps)
This made me tear up bc at the same time you were touring Grace’s mission we were in Hungary touring our son’s mission. People keep asking our family about the trip and none of us can even describe the experience. Like you, it was the people who blew us away. Meeting the people he loved so much and witnessing the way they loved him…can’t describe it. Loved hearing you put words to the experience. ❤️
Oh I’m so glad you got to go. There is NOTHING like it in the whole wide world! I added the posts from when we went to go visit Max’s mission as well…such a beautiful reward for letting them leave!!
Grace glows! She does!!! She glows beauty & goodness & it is amazing!!! So happy you got to visit the great state of Texas!!! Love that it’s a part of her heart forever. ❤️
It really is incorporated very fully into her heart. And I am biased but I sure agree about that glow!
Was it hard to serve around guys her own age and not develop feelings for them? I know as missionaries they are not allowed to date, but they are still human. Does that happen much?
Good question, I’m sure, since they are human, there are things that happen, but I do think that for the most part missionaries are pretty focused on the mission while they’re gone. Maybe some meet people they’re interested in, but they can wait until the mission is over to pursue if they’re super interested. Two missionaries from Dave’s mission got married after the mission. They were just good friends, but fell in love when they were back home.
I think this trip was special for you and your husband because you got to see the positive results of what you sowed in the past. You both have invested so much love, attention and caring towards your children, and it must be thrilling to be able to savor the outcome of it: knowing that they have become good people and that they are good elements in the world.
You and David deserve much praise for giving so much of yourselves in the process :).
I apologize if there are mistakes, I’m not a native speaker.
Aw thank you so much Catharina! I love what my friend said when her daughter returned from a mission around the same time Grace did: “what I messed up [in parenting] over the first eighteen years, God made up for in 18 months.” Ha! I’m sure we messed up on so much as we raised Grace, but luckily she made good choices and worked hard and she has become such a beautiful young woman. I know, biased again:)
Missions have such a power to be such an incredible learning ground for kids to build a solid foundation. It’s pretty incredible!
Your friend’s words were pure wisdom. It’s so good to know God is here for us and our families, to fulfill the cracks, to mend us, to guide us…
Thank you for your answer.
Have a great day!
It’s neat your daughter got to volunteer in such different areas! One of the best public universities in the US, and also rural areas with non-English speakers must have taught her a lot about how people from different walks of life live. What an enriching experience.
I live in Austin, and I saw Grace a few times at one of our church buildings. She really does glow! I noticed it each time I saw her. I’m glad she had such a wonderful experience here in Texas and that you enjoyed your trip here, too.
i need travel to texas , very beatifull country
She served in our Stake! I kept looking for her, but never got to run into her. We’re grateful for her service!