January 31, 2018 was a day I don’t ever want to forget.
And it’s so difficult to find the right words to express all my feelings about it.
In some ways it was as if time stood still for us for a couple days and we were in this different reality…our boy was coming home.  I got an airline check-in email that declared his flight would be boarding in less than 48 hours and my heart jumped.  We counted down those hours and Dave found a way to watch his flight digitally through satellite.  Yes, we are nerdy like that, and we just kept looking at each other with huge smiles.
The night before the big day we hunkered down to make some welcome home signs:

Kind of appropriate that our kitchen was decked out with our traditional “heart-attack” hearts for Valentine’s Day (more about that back HERE).

Max’s chart of what seemed like a gazillion dots (one for each day he was gone) had finally been filled up:

And then there we were: the day of his return.

(We had been changing that chalk number every day in anticipation.)

Elle arrived home on the red-eye that morning (hooray!), the girls went off to school and bounded back in time to freak out with excitement that we should be leaving.

En route to the airport we found out Max’s flight from LA was going to come in 20 minutes early, so we were glad we had been so giddy and were going to be there as early as we were.

I had asked my sister-in-law Kara to bring her camera…she’s an awesome photographer (check out her blog HERE), and I knew I’d be too excited to capture much with my camera.

And it was a good thing I asked her because it turns out Elle took my memory card out of my camera after I had double checked it was there and the battery was charged…I guess she was taking pictures of something else and didn’t realize I’d want it??

So when I tried to take a picture at the airport and all there was showing up was a black square that said “no card,” I was so glad Kara was there with her camera and her skills.  All of these next pictures are from her and I cannot ever thank her enough.  She captured moments we will treasure forever and ever.  Love you Kara!

Also, Grace’s friend Aubrey offered to come take a video months ago so we told her “sure!”  And her excitement to record that event lasted clear up until this day so she was there in the background capturing everything.  We didn’t want to make it a big, dramatic deal (even though it was!), but we knew although we wanted it recorded none of us wanted to worry about taking pictures. But you would hardly even know Aubrey was there and what she produced for us is something that we will cherish for the rest of our lives as well.  Nothing like being able to re-live such a precious moment in time over and over again…which we have.  Video in a minute…for now let’s just look at these pictures from Kara.

Gradually all the cousins showed up…

And we waited and waited in great anticipation, hearts all swollen up, tears filling our eyes every now and again when we imagined that boy walking out.

And THEN…we saw him.

Let’s just ignore me and how funny I look in that spotlight and bask in the expressions of those excited girls.

Oh boy…the moment we’d all been waiting for.  This is one of my favorite pictures (below) because just look at all those faces:

A lot of happiness right there…not sure how Dave and Elle kept their composure back there so well.

…because there he was right in front of us in flesh and blood.

I mentioned before that we had had a little family meeting and had determined I would get to have the first hug.  But that stinker Lucy snuck right in there before me and let’s just check out the joy on that face of hers about that little maneuver:

Aw, a face like that makes me pretty happy to give up that first hug.

Then it was my turn:

Now, let’s just say that no amount of words and pictures in the whole wide world could possibly explain how that hug felt.  So much leading up to that moment, so much worry, so much anticipation, so many fervent prayers sent up to Heaven, so much “missing,” so much gratitude all mixed up into one long-awaited hug of a mother and her son.

And then everyone joined in which somehow made that joy explode even more.

A family.

Whole and sure and encircled in so much love.

And then everyone was talking at once, laughing and smiling and feeling like we could fly if we wanted to.

Let’s watch the video clip of that family hug because it’s my favorite.

Welcome Home (shortened) from Aubrey Whitmore on Vimeo.

Oh I love it.  I love how Max is watching for Dave, and how Dave joins in and then that head rub at the end.

Love love.

More hugs.

Then we let him see all his cousins who had been waiting patiently…

…and aunts and uncles too.

Let’s just look at this face:

I know I’m biased but to me there’s a lot of light beaming from that good, tired (I don’t think he had slept in 36 hours and had some pretty long flights and layovers) handsome face.

Let’s check out this sibling hug when Max left two years ago:

…and then this week:

I love thinking of how much everyone has grown…in SO many different ways over the past two years.

See this picture?

He’s had a captive audience ever since he got back.

Those sisters cannot get enough of him.  It’s tough for them to go to school and go to lessons…they don’t ever want to leave his side.

Let’s be honest, it’s tough for us parents too.  We just can’t get enough.

So much more to tell about having that boy back, but for now this full video Grace’s friend Aubrey made helps at least tell the airport part.

Welcome Home Elder Pothier from Aubrey Whitmore on Vimeo.

Pure happiness right there. 

Mixed all in with so much gratitude and wonder.


  1. I. Am. Bawling!! The love just oozes out of the screen when you watch that video! Your family is so full of love.

    I’m curious, how has Max reacted to, been affected by, or adjusted to the changes that are occurring with Lucy’s situation?

  2. I am crying.
    Both the pictures and the video capture so much.

    Btw you do not look funny, but overjoyed. Very pretty actually. And the ad there is funny "live happier".

  3. So much beauty and love there! Your face and your eyes! I've a son and I can only image how you felt while waiting and when you finally saw him, who is so beautiful and … tall! You have a wonderful family.

  4. I AM BAWLING. When Grace grabs you and Claire's face. Oh man! So so so happy for you all. I hope you're loving every moment of the normal again, simple things like him being there when you wake up or coming home from a drive. So so happy

  5. I'm pretty sure I watched the video about 10x!!!! Tearing up more and more! The joy on everyone's faces is so heart warming!! I'm so glad you've got your family altogether under one roof again!! Does it get any better than that?! ❤️

  6. Shawni! You are not funny, you are so beautiful! Max's homecoming was so emotional, I watched your video full in tears! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  7. Shawni! Thank you for sharing such a personal time! You look glowing with excitement to be able to hold Max! Your family is so awesome! They are always at everything! So glad you could all be together! It brought happy tears to my eyes to see such joy in all your faces! I am sure Max will go on to do many wonderful things in his life! Blessings to all!

  8. Oh my! The video made me cried ! I don't belong to the church so I don't know how it feels to receive a missionary back home but I can feel the love and excitement by reading/seeing this

  9. I cried. Like I was a mess lol
    Will any of your girls go on a mission? My 18 year old will go to the Amazon for 5 weeks on a mission trip. Just going 2-3 weeks without seeing her in the flesh hurts. Y'all are amazing.

  10. Oh man. Way too pregnant to have watched that video!! Beautiful and special and wonderful!! Your smile as soon as you saw him melted my whole heart. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  11. The happiest post you have ever posted!
    And my heart was so full of angst and sadness today…but this post full of pictures and video emotion just did my soul so much good.
    I am SO HAPPY for your reunion.

  12. Beautiful!!! Such love was shown in all those pictures and videos, what a precious gift in that and to have your son and brother back in the family. Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Around 1:28 is your family hug, everyone full of joy and I could not help but notice the live happier sign. I thought that was very cool.

  14. Awww! I'm sitting here crying with so much happiness for you. I love a good missionary homecoming, looking forward to my own in just over 2 years! You look beautiful and beaming with happiness and pride and love for that boy/man of yours! Thank you for sharing, this speaks volumes of family love!

  15. Happiest post! I love everything about it. Love the pictures and video. Welcome home max! Love how much love abides in your family. This is my favorite post!

  16. Both videos are good, but that last video was awesome! Had me in tears, and it takes a lot to make me cry. Great song to go along with it. Glad your son is home safe and sound. 🙂

  17. priceless! talk about pure J O Y !! my oldest of six children has started mission papers. this mamma is not ready for this!

  18. I don't think there are any words in the human language to adequately describe the feelings of this beautiful reunion! I LOVE that you had others there to capture this moment. The video is BEAUTIFUL–so beautiful! And the photos capture so much joy and happiness. It's a far cry from when my daughter returned. We positioned ourselves where we thought she would have to be exiting the terminal towards baggage claim and we waited, and waited, and waited–only to turn around and see her standing by herself at baggage claim to pick up her luggage. She entered from the opposite side! It was an epic homecoming failure. So sad for this mama. BUT I LOVE that you and your family had such a WONDERFUL reunion and it was all captured so beautifully.
    I can't help but think this is how wonderfully joyous it will be when we finish our mission on earth and return to our heavenly home. Pure joy!
    Love your family.
    Thank you for sharing. I love happy cries! 🙂

  19. I love everyone's reaction to seeing Max come home. The last picture with everyone in it got confusing because I was looking and looking for Lucy. Finally found her behind a sign. I think she held it right up to her face, but I found her cane and her shirt. 🙂 So happy for you guys.

  20. That was sooo sweet! What a family reunion! Tears of pure joy! Loved seeing the faces of the people in the background, especially the man that works at the airport standing by the trash can.

  21. Such a happy post! I couldn't help, but tear up just from the photos and the video had me crying. I am so happy for your family. Fills my hear with joy.

  22. I have loved watching look on your face from 1:00 to 1:01 in the second video. The difference when you see your boy is so touching, especially for a mom of a 1 year old boy. It pulled at my heart strings and I loved it so much! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Such a beautiful post!

    I'm not LDS and really never knew any Mormons well until attending graduate school in Utah. But as an adult, I've grown to have such respect for Mormon Missionaries. For one to give up his or her life for that length of time, to share his or her faith is something to be admired. More should be willing to make such a choice. And I make sure and share that with Missionaries whenever I see them (last time it was in the middle of a Chipotle in Fort Worth, TX). But I must admit I'd never given much thought to the sacrifice that the family of a Missionary makes. Watching your family's journey through this blog has been a beautiful thing. And those photos and videos made me cry! To know the sacrifice you made makes the reunion so much more wonderful. Thank you for your willingness to share it with all of us. 🙂

  24. I am not LDS, but these pictures, videos, and words brought me to tears. It is the closet thing I've seen to what I believe my reunion with my mom will be like in Heaven someday. Nothing compares to a mother's deep, pure love of her children. Thank you for sharing such a personal moment with us, Shawni!

  25. Oh what beautiful pictures and videos of a happy joyous reunion of a missionary coming home having served with honor, to his loving family! What a treasure to have to look back on! Thank you for sharing!

  26. Wow, wiping tears right now. My son was in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor. He was on a nuclear submarine and because of different deployments and underways had not been home for almost two years. My husband was the number one salesman for his region in his company and the reward for that accomplishment was a ten day trip to Hawaii with other winners. We hoped to see our son while we were there, something he could not guarantee or know and they were underway somewhere in the world when we landed in Maui for the events. There was a big awards dinner the second night we were there and a cocktail party on the beach. We had not heard from Andy and this mom was hurting when walking towards me in his dress whites was my son. I know exactly what you were feeling when you saw Max. I thought my heart was going to explode. Does not matter how old or tall or grown up our boys get does it. That hug on that beach, I will hold it close all of my life and thank you for this video. Brought all those feels back from eleven years ago. Enjoy those beautiful kids.

  27. Oh a momma's heart! I remember this so well when my oldest son came home. It had me in tears reminiscing. I don't think there's a moment on earth like this other than giving birth to them. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful family moment.

  28. I’ve been waiting for this moment 2 years! I cried and cried watching the video. Shawni, you and Dave have raised a beautiful human – he beams with light! I can’t wait to hear the post part – how he has changed and so on. Thank you for sharing with us!

  29. this post is 1 million percent ADORABLE! And makes me so so so very looking forward to sending my boys off for missions just so they can come home and we can all experience this joy. Go Elder Pothier! So happy he is back with you all!

  30. Oh Shawni, I could watch that video again & again forever. I have tears streaming down my face (and I don't even know your family!). So much love & joy & beauty captured. I have four young kiddos & I can just imagine the pure gratitude & relief & aching goodness pouring out of your mama heart. Much love to your whole family! May you all be able to savor these days & your sweet Max, who in just two years looks like he's grown so much! xoxoxo

  31. This was so beautiful. I love Max's wingspan is long enough that he can hold all of you in his arms at the same time! Just beautiful. You are awesome!

  32. Such sweet moments…thanks for sharing with all of us!!

    On a side note, would you ever consider doing a "house tour" post? We are just starting the process of building a house and I love your style so much. Some pictures of your other rooms (bathrooms, laundry, office etc) would be amazing!

    Thanks! Carrie

  33. Smiles and tears! So happy for you guys and absolutely loved getting to be a part of Max's return with the wonderful pictures and video. Thank you for letting us be a part of your family's life!

  34. So sweet, I loved all the photos and videos. Thank you for sharing your special reunion with all of us. My daughter is serving a mission in Spain 8 months down 10 more to go. Your welcome home signs were adorable by the way and I've been doing a heart attack in my kitchen for the past couple of years thanks to your idea.

  35. I'm so glad you had a video to share. Our oldest and only son is serving a mission and I can tear up pretty easily when picture the homecoming in 18 months. I so look forward to my big hug too, and will probably have his 4 sisters joining right after, too. So wonderful and worth what we go through in this experience and process. Love to you.

  36. It's so fun that we are all on here bawling our eyes out right along with you. I don't even know you guys personally, but I've followed your blog for years and have loved reading your missionary posts about him. I'm so happy for you that he is home. Your family is amazing. Like your sign said- BEST DAY EVER!

  37. I cried along with the rest of your blog readers. Thank you for sharing your life and this journey with us! You might be biased,:) but Max DOES radiate so much light and goodness. I've loved the parts of his letters you've shared with his testimony. Your whole family is full of light. I'm always uplifted reading your posts – thank you!

  38. I keep coming back to watch the video and crying at my desk. When your whole family runs up to Max and your smiles and hugs…this is how I picture the reunion from the other side. Thank you for sharing your family, you inspire me on so many levels!

  39. I had been checking for the pictures all weekend and then fell victim of the flu. Now I see it and I’m a crying mess, still sick but feel so much better after watching the video and those pictures. Thank you for sharing. What joy in those faces and especially on Max. So happy for your family!

  40. Not sure if it is because of how sleep deprived i am from taking care of 2 sick kiddos (up all night with crying babe.) But oh man so much crying on my part. Happy tears. So beautiful! ♡♡

  41. The photos had me crying first but the video…Oh my… I was bawling. My oldest son is the same age as Max I think (20) and he is away in college across the country so we only see him twice a year. I cant imagine not seeing him for 2 years. The joy of your whole family was so beautiful to see. And Grace's friend did a FABULOUS job. I am glad the rest of you were just in the moment.

  42. So so rad!!! 🙂 I've been reading your blog for about 7 years, a dear friend of mine found your blog some how and told me I would absolutely love it and she was right! You are an incredible writer/documenter (if that's even a word?) and all of your passion for that sweet family of yours oozes out of each post and sucks me in! You don't know me, but I heart you!

  43. With less just less than 2 months until my daughter gets home from her mission to Colorado, this was just what I needed to see today! Crying is cleansing, I always say. Ha. (I had to come up with some excuse since I cry a lot!) ha!
    We live in Germany and our second daughter, like Elle is at BYU-H, cannot make it back for her sister's return, which makes me very sad. We just are too far away, the flights are too long, she'd have to miss too much school. Anyway, sad, but happily they will see each other a few months later. In another post you talked about vacationing not as an entire family…and I can so relate!
    Any way, thanks for sharing

  44. Shawni, I'm so glad you included the "before" sibling hug picture. Max has always been a boy whose countenance shone with goodness, but now he radiates humility and holiness. Missions are life changing. I wish every young man and woman could have that refining, sanctifying experience.

    And I'm so happy for your family!!! Thank you for sharing this experience with all of us!

  45. Definitely shed a tear over that video! I have always been so impressed with the love your children have for each other and its totally shows that in this post. I do not have a family of my own yet, but was wondering what are some of the things you did when they were growing up to instill that love within all of them?

  46. I ugly cried thru the whole post !! I've always cried at mission homecoming… but as the time grows nearer for my son to leave… only a year and a half before he heads out … I get super emotional and both my husband and I just think how will we do this ? How will his sisters do this ? How can we be without our Dylan ?? But then I remember what he will be doing and I just have to trust and have faith tat heavenly father will help us through. The girl who did the video did fantastic !! I'm so glad your max is home and he returned with honor. What a blessing

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