Two weeks ago I headed to the post office to send off our last written letter to our boy over in Taiwan.
As I walked out of that place, extra international stamps still in hand, I had such an overwhelming feeling of peace and relief that we’re finally going to get that boy home…but also strangely mixed in was a little smidgen of holding on.  Because what a grand journey this has been!  For him, for our family, for his love and understanding of his Savior, for his love of the gospel and what it does for him in his life.
I look at this picture we took right before he left and I wonder about that boy who seems to have become a man while he was away.

It is overwhelming to think of all that has happened in two years.

He has changed I’m sure.  I mean, we all change in two years living in relatively unchanging environments.  His has changed drastically.

He has learned a new language.  He went from all-day classes in the MTC trying to learn Chinese:

With this awesome companion:

To a welcome to Taiwan (where he realized I’m sure right on arrival that he didn’t know nearly as much Chinese as he thought he did!):

He has been fully immersed in a different culture, where he got to meet all kinds of new friends…

…and companions…

Who have changed his life for the better.

And has beautifully learned that Chinese language.

He’s gone from being scared to death to talk to strangers to talking to everyone he meets.

This trusty bike has taken him all over creation…

…has broken and been fixed and been broken again…and finally quit for good last week.

(he had to borrow a bike for his last week).

He’s learned ping-pong from experts 🙂

Has had all kinds of haircuts, from this one to having his companions cut his hair to just going ahead and cutting it himself sometimes.

He started out with this great mission president duo:

And ended with this one:

(who we got to meet when they were visiting here in the desert before they left for Taiwan…more about that back HERE.)  He has been influenced in so many ways by these outstanding couples who have taken him so fully under their wings.

And I think it’s safe to say he has made good use of his shoes:

He has also studied the scriptures and gospel doctrine daily and fervently for two whole years.  His perspective on so many things will be so interesting and SO fun to see!

He has brought us more joy than we could imagine every time we’ve been able to talk to him.

And we have learned and grown right along with him in so many ways.
His missionary service has been a beautiful thing for our family and we are so grateful.
And I love how relationships can grow so much just through letters like these :
But most importantly, he has been able to share the light he is carrying, his testimony of God and Jesus Christ, to so many.  
Whether people were baptized or not, how grateful I am that he was able to share his happiness and love with everyone he met.
And now, after all those letters and worrying and praying and rejoicing and pleading with God to help those who want to hear his message to be receptive to the light he is trying to bring, here we are TWO DAYS before that boy arrives home.
In some ways we’re limping along like we’re at the end of a marathon, wondering if there really is a real boy at the finish line.  It almost seems too good to be true that he’s actually going to be HERE.
But I got this email to prove it 🙂
How will he be different?  How will he be the same?  What can I do to help him transition from that life to this…two different worlds.

I’ve been asking for advice from every returned-missionary mom I know.  It is difficult to come home and have that missionary focus have to be split in so many different ways.  I know there are lots of moms out there who have done this reunion before.  I’d love any advice you can send my way.

He wrote a “final letter” last week and I’m going to include a few excerpts that I don’t think he’d mind me sharing…
Well this is the last week of my mission.
Crazy to think how fast time has flown by. I have learned a lot throughout my mission, one of the biggest things being it really has been the best 2 years. I have been stretched in ways I have never been stretched before, and tested and tried again and again, but God allows these trials to happen to strengthen his children. It has been the best 2 years because of the growth these trials have brought. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to serve the Lord as a full time missionary and give Him everything I’ve got.

….On my mission, my belief in Jesus Christ has made its way from my head to my heart. I can better understand because as a missionary complete reliance on Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father is crucial and necessary. I have learned that Jesus Christ can actually pick me up, dust me off, and get me back on track, because of his Atonement….
…Like King Benjamin [in the Book of Mormon] once said,”if ye should serve him with your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants”. There is no way to repay our Father in Heaven, our human state makes it impossible. But He asks for one thing from us. He does not want our money, our time, or our possessions. He wants US! He wants our will and agency. He wants our heart and soul. It’s the only thing that is truly ours to give. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so simple. It has helped me understand the most important things, and the strongest foundation to build my life upon. Throughout the course of my mission, the roots of my testimony have been nourished and strengthened daily, and I wouldn’t trade the things I have learned and the experiences I have had for the world. The direction of my life has changed, now the road ahead of me is always uphill. I am extremely thankful for the guidance and support from my family, mission leaders, and my Heavenly Father.
Love you all and see you soon.

How I love him.  I love all that I have learned these past two years and that I will get to learn so much more from him when he comes home.  I even love that he missed the school semester (which I had been so worried about before) so that we’ll get to have him to ourselves a little longer.

His last letter that just came in last night:

We cannot wait.  Have I mentioned that?  We are giddy.  I just hope we don’t hyperventilate waiting for him to walk out of that terminal on Wednesday 🙂

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  1. so excited for you! i got a lil teary myself reading his final email, your recap and the letter from his MP. WOW. 2 years already! My son has been out 8mos. Enjoy the moment hugging your boy on Wednesday (sheesh I'm crying just thinking about that in May 2019).

  2. I'm so excited for you guys! I miss seeing Max in all of your family pictures! (Poor me- ha!) I'm preparing now to send my oldest on his mission. Your posts are so helpful and I love the testimony you share along with him. Prayers for a safe return and a great homecoming!

  3. I cam home from my mission a year ago in September. Encourage Max to go to the temple as much as he can! Or better yet, go with him! It really is the best place to be during all the confusion of being a "regular" person again. I love love loved being able to go places alone again, but it still felt weird. I remember going to see a speaker with a friend and feeling so strange about being out fast 9:30! Just give him the space he wants and don't expect him to be exactly the same as when he left, because he won't be, and that's ok!

  4. My son got home about 6 months ago. He literally came home with the clothes he was wearing, and slippers. He left everything in Brazil. Luckily I had a couple pairs of shorts and t shirts for him because he was a little overwhelmed to shop right away. We took it easy, laid low, and let him lead us as far as tv, music, getting a phone and jumping back into the “real” world. I just wanted to sit and listen to his stories and stare at him. :). Enjoy that first hug and the stories and testimony you’ll hear for the next week or two. I love the random stories my son would remember and share. Thank you for sharing your life in your blog. It’s inspiring.

  5. This made me tear up a bit! I'm so happy for you guys to get him home. I have no tips for you ha! But gleaning all the mom-knowledge I can from you each time I read a post. Have the happiest week!!

  6. Be willing to help him in anyway you can to achieve his new goals going forward (whether that be exercising, diligent scripture study, better planning, or new ways to keep the Sabbath Day holy, etc) Having someone who is willing to support the new you and the changes you want to make and the habits you want to continue is crucial. Return missionaries have enough people expecting them to be their old selves, they need people willing to accept and encourage their new selves. This principle made such a difference to me and my husband as we came home from our missions.

    Don’t overwhelm him either. He’s already overwhelmed.

  7. This brought tears to my eyes as my son leaves the end of march to serve in the state of Washington. My emotions are all over the place but I love reading his letter and how he's grown!

  8. So happy for you and your family! Being on the receiving end of having your missionary come home is the greatest day! I had a friend who's daughter had come home tell me, while my daughter was still out serving, don't expect her to be totally different from the daughter you sent out. She'll be the same person she's always been. I thought that was a weird comment but it was so true! While they grow so much spiritually and their testimony is so deep (that most likely will be the biggest change you'll notice) they are that same child you sent out with all of the crazy things they do. The other thing I noticed is its challenging parenting an adult…one who has lived out in the world for 18 months-2 years on their own and then comes home to live under your roof. When our daughter came home, we still had younger children who had a curfew and there were family rules that needed to be kept. I found it a bit hard to know when to ease those rules a bit for her but still expect her to tell me where she was going and to be home at an agreed upon time. Our daughter lived at home while going to college so this might not be an issue if Max moves away. But we figured it out along the way and you will too! Once a missionary comes home, your family is never quite the same again…meaning they often move away to college, busy working, etc. and your little family you had a pretty good finger on is no more but it is so exciting and fulfilling to see them branch out, learn new things, and shine their light for others. Max will do great things! Enjoy your day Wednesday! You're going to love it!!

    1. Just curious, do you really have a curfew for your daughter who went on a mission?

      Surely by that age they should be able to come & go when they want to.

    2. I lived at home during college/grad school. I would hope there would not be different rules for RMs versus other adults. I sort of had a curfew. Because I lived with others they would want to know if something happened to me if I didn’t come home on time, unless I arranged to sleep over at someone’s house and wouldn’t be expected home. I would want to know if my parents were not coming home or later than usual if they went out cause I would also worry. Cell phones were not big yet back then. Maybe it would be different now? It’s common curtesy. No asking permission to go here and there. It was more like preparation for living with a spouse. You let one another know where you are going and when you will be home. Call if you will be late. My parents home was not a free hostel.

    3. Yes, Julie… we did. It was often later than her siblings curfew because she was older and she was fine with having a curfew. She would let us know if she was going to be later than that. You also have to remember that there is a curfew on a mission. Most missionaries have to be home by 9:30-10pm. It's not like they have free reign of when they come home at night…so a curfew like midnight is not that big of a deal once they get home.

      I also completely agree with kms. As a Mom, you worry if your kids have not come home when they're supposed to be. I'd rather have a call or text that they're going to be late than to wait and worry without knowing. To me it's a part of living at home.
      Even now, I have daughters that each have moved an hour+ away from home and when they come over for a visit, then leave to drive back to their home they always send me a quick text once they've got home letting me know they made it home. I appreciate that they will do that. And no…I don't meddle in their everyday lives or their daily comings and goings but if they are traveling long distances, going out of town, etc., they usually give me a heads up of when they are leaving and when they'll be back home. I do the same when I am going to be out of town. It just works for us.

    4. Funny, I also call or text my mom after visit to her cause I’m over and hour and a half away. She wants to know I got home and no accident. When my 90 year old gram moved back in with my mom and mom would take the train to visit me, she would have to call gram to let her know she got to my house. And she is in her 60’s! We pass each other our flight information to one another as well.

      My father was a police officer. Knowing when I’m coming home was a safety issue. I shudder to think what would happen if he suddenly heard someone unexpectedly coming into the house at 1:30am not realizing it was me with a gun in the home. Even without a gun I imagine it could scare people briefly into thinking someone broke into the house hearing someone unexpectedly moving about the house at an odd hour. This is a much easier age to keep contact with cell phones. I remember my parents always checking that I had ID, money and change for a pay phone on me. It was starting to get hard to find pay phones at the time.

  9. As a mom of two RMs and one who is serving now, don't jump back into "mom mode." He's an adult now and has been taking care of his own life very capably for the past two years. I was very careful to let him continue to be an adult. Enjoy him being home while you can because they aren't home for very long, whether it's school or job or going to the YSA ward. Enjoy the homecoming!!

  10. Yay, my birthday happens to be Wednesday, I will be thinking about you and your family. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of years, following your posts about Max's mission. My heart aches for my 22 yr old son who decided not to serve a mission. Oh how I wanted to be a missionary mom and have those experiences. I will have to wait for a grandchild now. Thanks for sharing so much of your life and family Shawnee, you should be proud of all your kids, you have done a great job. Have fun on Wednesday, can't wait to read about it and see the pictures.

  11. “There are moments in your life when you can remember with almost alarmingly clarity the breathing of the people with you, the shimmering of the air as words are spoken.” (Adrienne Clarkson)
    Enjoy your moment Shawni!
    Jenn G

  12. Happy Wednesday, Shawni and family! I am so excited for you! I was crying while reading this post. You are such a loving mother. Wishing you all the best!

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