I’m so grateful for my little (big) miracle of overwhelming peace last week (last post).  Things have been great post-Max-drop-off.

Yes, we all miss that boy like nobody’s business but we’re all so excited for him, and for us and this adventure of being able to share this experience with him.  One night as Dave and I lay in bed I asked if he was ok.  He told me he thinks about him every minute.  He keeps getting ready to text him about something or call him quick and then remembers he can’t.  (You can only talk to missionaries on Mother’s Day and Christmas.  No skype, facetime, instagram, facebook.  Just letters emailed back and forth once a week.  I know it sounds crazy…and even more crazy now that I’m on the mothering side rather than the missionary side, but it’s so great to be able to focus on the work and forgetting yourself in serving others.)  We wonder what in the world he’s doing at every hour of the day and send prayers for him every single time we do.  We pray for his companion, for his leaders, for the other missionaries there.  
And always for the people in Taiwan we have fallen in love with before he even gets there (he will be in the Missionary Training Center which we refer to ast the MTC for nine weeks studying Chinese and learning all the ins and outs of missionary work).  
Personally I offer up silent gratitude every day that we aren’t bawling all day feeling that constricting sinking feeling I felt a couple days last week before my “miracle.”  
I’ve even been able to go in his bedroom without tearing up (it took me a long time to do that when he left for BYU).  It’s like I’m just fine…until I went in to clean out and organize the little piles he left.  It took maybe forty-five seconds until that sinking heart-constricting started and I decided I better wait a little bit for that.  
I thought I could write about the day he left right now but I realized I’m not quite ready for that either.  I’m really totally fine but I just have to be careful so let’s talk about a few things that happened before he left before we go to the actual drop-off (tomorrow is the goal).  
We have a tradition in our family (spurred by another family who has done this for years, and initialized by my sister-in-laws with their four boys who have already left), that we have something called “Pies & Ties” before a missionary leaves.  
That’s when we gather, have a little discussion to let all the cousins feel part of that boy leaving, and everyone brings pies to eat and ties to send off the missionary with.  (Since missionaries wear suits every day it’s kind of nice to have a whole slew of ties to switch things up a little 🙂
Dave did an awesome job with making up our own game of “Family Feud.”

He made up two teams representing each family and asked all kinds of questions.

Each person up in front got a chance to go up and try to get the best answers, but for some reason I only have pictures of these two.

The questions ranged from naming Max’s top five fast food restaurants to knowing any Chinese words to knowing where all Dave’s siblings and spouses served missions.

We read a letter of advice for Max from our current cousin who is out on a mission (in NYC), and got advice through the parents for the other three returned missionaries (who are at college and couldn’t join us).

Then Max had a chance to bear his testimony.

And then we had pies and Max opened his ties.

Sad to watch him say goodbye to all these cousins for two years.  
It will be fun to rein-act these pics in a couple years to see how much all these kids have grown and changed in that much time.

So much love from so many wonderful people.

Love that will carry him through that mission in so many ways.

Our neighbors (who we claim as family) came too for part of the night but the only one I caught a picture of was Taylor right after his volleyball practice.

So much else went into all the preparation.  
Oh boy.  
We had some serious quality time hanging out going through all his check-lists and picking up all the last odds and ends he would need for two years.
Lots of kids can get stuff in their missions if they need it…new shoes, new pants, etc.  But this kid with size fifteen shoes and legs that make him 6’7″ will have a rough time finding anything to fit him in Taiwan.
So we had to be pretty thorough.  
Here’s our work one morning trying to figure out all the books for him to bring while watching “The District” on the computer:
(The District is a show all about missionary work.  You can find it HERE if you want to check it out.  It’s pretty interesting.  And more about Dave’s hand-me-down mission books over HERE.)
We found a few of Dave’s old missionary name tags which we used to take some pics so we can get a cardboard cutout of Max to have handy when we need it while he’s gone (yes we’re nerdy that way…)
He was so excited to get his own name tag.  Makes me happy thinking about him wearing it in class right now.

Max did a good job studying Chinese before he left.  

I can’t wait to hear about how the language is coming for him.

We still haven’t heard from him…Hoping today or tomorrow!

He finished up his last day of work:

He’s been so lucky to be able to work for Dave’s brother the last few weeks doing some solar lighting.

 I couldn’t help but sneak him away for a little lunch date…

Dave’s parents took him out on a special “last date” for dinner:

He took all his sisters out to lunch before he left.  I don’t have pics. of his dates with Elle and Grace but I joined him for the little girls and we brought this one to their school.

As you can tell, they were pretty delighted to have him there.

He wanted to go visit one of his old teachers he had in sixth grade who he loved, and who Claire is loving now.

We got stuff ready to stick a “surprise” first package in his luggage.  The girls wrote notes and I love them.

We had our last dinner together.

He chose our family favorite:  Chicken Tikka Masala.

(And yes, I made him wear an apron.)

And then it was probably my favorite part of the whole mission prep process.

Max got “set apart” as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

During dinner and while we waited for the Stake President and Bishop to arrive, Elle turned on some music and out spilled Ben Folds “The Luckiest.”

The minute it started swelling through the speaker tears sprang up in my eyes.

How is it that music can do that to you so fast?

It reminded me of my other song break-down I had concerning Max a few years ago when he turned sixteen back HERE.

But right there that night between dinner and an amazing blessing from our Stake President everything culminated.

I know these words are not really about a mother loving her boy, but that night, to me, they were.

I don’t get many things right the first time,
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns the stumbles,
And falls brought me here
And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face,
Now I see it every day
And I know
That I am, I am, I am, the luckiest

And then this:
I love you more then have
Ever found the way to say
To you
Spoke so clearly to me.  How can you ever find a way to say the love as deep as a mother has for her son?

And it wasn’t just that boy sitting there in a suit I felt so lucky to have.  I looked around at my girls with such a deep swell of love I could hardly bear it.  For my husband at my side through thick and thin who I love more deeply than anything.  For our leaders, for the scriptures that have led me through so many tough times.

My heart swelled with all that above, which was enveloped in pure love for the gospel of Jesus Christ that has changed our lives for the better in more ways than I can ever count.

And that my boy gets to go out and spread that love and the joy that comes with it.

Yes, right there with tears filling up my eyes surrounded by people I love most in the whole wide world I knew more than ever before that “I am, I am, I am the luckiest.”

We had a beautiful little meeting along with our church leaders, Dave’s parents and my brother Josh.  Dave and I got to bear our testimonies, some thoughts and words were shared by our leaders, and Max was given a special blessing to “set him apart” as a missionary.  When someone is set apart he starts living according to mission standards and I truly believe that when one is set apart (we are set apart of many different callings) he/she is blessed with a certain mantle of love and guidance particular to that calling.

After the blessing Max had the chance to bear his testimony.

I don’t know that I have ever heard a more heart-felt and tender proclamation of love and willingness to serve.  Tears were literally splashing out of his eyes and the room was so filled with love it was tangible.

Last hugs and goodbyes to my brother and Dave’s parents…

 One last back rub from his mother…

And then it was off to bed for us all before the early morning that awaited us in a few hours to get him to the airport.

I went to sleep so full of love for everything that had happened that evening, for all the mission prep we got to do together, and a sense of peace I haven’t had before.

Go listen to “The Luckiest” (HERE) if you want to cry for a minute and think about all the things that you are the luckiest about.

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  1. Saying a prayer that God will bless your Mama heart, and grant you peace! I can't imagine sending my boy away for two years. Hang in there! Glad you are still able to see all the blessings surrounding the situation even though its hard to let him go.

  2. Oh my goodness! Didn't know about the only two times a year contact. I'm already gearing up for college (in two years) and thinking about how I need to insist they text me at least once a day so I know they are alive 😉 I am sure it is a great opportunity for Max although not sure I could handle it as a mom! Thanks for sharing…it's interesting to learn and read about different religions, traditions, etc. that we don't experience too much of here in the Midwest 😉

  3. What a great family tradition–pies and ties. Sounds like a lot of fun.
    What a sweet boy you have and what a great missionary he is. I teared up at the letters he got from his sister's and when you told of the setting apart experience. Your family is a wonderful example to the world– of love and of family. Thoughts and prayers are with you all. Can't wait to read about the first letter home. Lisa

  4. So I'm sitting in a library reading this post with a bottle of chocolate milk next to me, and tears are coming down as chug my milk. Oh what people must be wondering. 😉 Such a sweet post. I can't wait for when my babies grow up to their missions. But then again, I think I can wait just a little bit longer. 🙂 Thanks for sharing such tender feelings! I've never met your boy, but I'm looking forward to hearing about his experiences as you feel fit to share 🙂

    Chaun from http://www.hiccupsandpastries.com

  5. I am sitting her snuggling my six week old son, and I can't even imagine how you did it. You are an inspiration! I have been following your blog for a few years now and I am so glad I found it. I have learned so much from you and your family.
    I have a question for you, as you look back at Max growing up what do you think YOU did to make sure he wanted to serve a mission and to make sure that he was as ready as he could be? I have three little men (5, 3 and 6 weeks) and sometimes thinking of getting these boys ready to be missionaries is overwhelming. What can I do now to make sure we are all prepared for this great adventure that is in store for us?

  6. Oh your Missionary Max posts have me all sort of blubbering over here! What a great kid, you must be so proud! I'll be sure to bring the whole box of kleenex to my computer tomorrow for the send off post.

  7. I've read your blog for awhile, and never commented. You are a wonderful mother, and I am always inspired by you. I sent my first missionary off 7 LONG months ago. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It's miserable joy. I read that you were going to get a cardboard cut out of Max, and wanted to show you what we do. Shindigz.com had fan faces. We take our 'fake jake' everywhere we go. We print out pictures monthly and send them off to him. He loves showing the people in Brazil, and it helps my heart to feel like we are including him. It's been fun to come up with creative pictures. you can see more on instagram on fake_a_jake if you want. Just a thought for you. Good luck. It gets a little easier when you read their emails and see the growth. It's amazing!

  8. Thank you for sharing these experiences. I have one son who is about to turn 6 and I know the years are going to fly by and before I know it I will be sending him on his mission. You write so beautifully that it gives me peace and faith to know when I get to that point that it can be a wonderful experience for all. Thank you so much again for sharing your heart with us 😊

  9. We are a year and a half behind you and I'm kind of living this with you- the past year or two, knowing what I should expect when this same thing happens with our family over the next year (several years). I like how someone commented above, referring to this as "miserable joy". Raising these children from birth (and usually pregnancy), seeing them through those years that will never end- diapers, nursing, strollers, sippie cups, going on little sleep. And before I knew it my husband and I were running out the door when ever we could, on spur-of-the-moment dates, leaving the older 2 to watch the younger 3. I just don't know what to think of it but grateful you are sharing what you're experiencing.

  10. I've been reading your thoughts for a while and I find it so cool how bloggers feel connected to each other without even meeting each other!
    My five year baptism anniversary was just a couple of days ago and it has been the biggest blessing. The missionaries found us by simply knocking on our door. I'm so thankful for those missionaries who took 2 years from their lives and it's fun to still keep in touch with them here and there!!
    Max will be a wonderful missionary and he will bless and touch many people's lives.

    Love your family & sending prayers for all of you <3

  11. I was just crying the whole time reading it. I just can't imagine sending my boy away for 2 years. Hang in there mama, boys are just so so special.

  12. What an amazing send-off! Great tradition! Loved every picture and every bit of sweetness! You are an amazing writer Shawni! Your grandchildren (Max's kids especially will love reading this and seeing this! How I wish we had all our family's farewells so well documented! Bless the blogging world!

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