Dave got up extra early on the 27th to make one last big breakfast for everyone before we left for the airport (how sweet is that?).
By that time, bags were packed, suit was donned, and hundreds of hugs had been given…Max was ready.
He rolled out his suitcases and closed his bedroom door.  

I tried not to think of the finality of that door closing.

Loved those last minutes of “normalcy” there at home.

Claire had been working on sewing a special little bag for Max to put his pens and “extra things” in at the MTC and she presented it to him at breakfast.

And then we were out.

Before we got close to the gate where there was a crowd saying goodbye to other missionaries leaving at the same time, Dave pulled us aside in a quiet corner and we had a little “huddle” family prayer together.  It was one of my favorite moments wrapped together in each other’s arms with so much love and nerves and joy and gratitude all mixed up together, something I want to remember forever.  Such a special prayer from Dave.
More peace.
More love.
At security we got to hug and hang with Max’s volleyball friend who is going to the same mission and leaving at the same time.  
…as well as their great volleyball coach who showed up to bid them goodbye.

So sweet.

Elder Anderson (who is one of the twelve apostles in our church) also showed up…he had been in the desert for something or other and happened to be in the same flight. He shook all the missionary hands and wished them luck.  And he reminded Max that he will be tall in Taiwan 🙂

Kind of a fun airline travel companion.

Last family picture for a while…

 All the girls wanted their own pictures with their brother.

Claire was trying to measure herself against him to see how much she would grow by the time she sees him again.

 Hugs and more hugs, and a few tears too.

Dave and I were heading up (on a different airline) to take him to the MTC, but this was the last time the girls would see him.

I know this picture is blurry and not great quality.  I snagged it from part of a video I was taking.  But it’s my very favorite picture right now.

I love that you can see the excitement but also the love on Max’s face, and that the girls faces are buried in him.  Oh how they love that brother of theirs.

Finally he unwrapped himself from their embraces and was out.

Of course I had to snap pictures until he was gone.

I loved watching how excited he and this security guy were.

I think we all would have been emotional basket cases if Dave and I weren’t heading up with him.  Somehow we all felt like the separation seemed a little less stressed with it broken up how we did it. The girls dropped us off at the next terminal and headed to school, and we met up with Max again at the Salt Lake airport.
I was so worried about leaving the girls.  Boy this decision took some serious thought, but it was the best decision ever to go up with him.  The girls were so happy and well taken care of by friends and family for the quick time we were gone.  SO grateful for them.

We took Max to Hires to prove my old high-school-stomping-grounds still have the best burger ever.

(Max and I have had an on-going debate about this the last little while and although I’m still not sure I proved my Big-H was better than his Five Guys burger he tried to prove “the best” last week, I sure enjoyed trying to convince him:)  Nice face Dave 🙂

We drove up to my parent’s house to get some things Max had left there when he left BYU for Christmas and promptly got stuck in the driveway.

It was bad!

Luckily there was a car in the garage my parents had left (they are in Australia with some speaking engagements they had committed to over a year ago, far before they realized that would be when Max would be leaving…we have missed them so!).

We transferred all our stuff to the other car and raced over the mountains to Provo.

By that time we were quite late to get to the MTC but amazingly none of us were stressed.  We had the best drive in that car making our way through all that beauty.  We were all just in the best moods laughing and joking and advising just a little 🙂

 All the same, I think all our hearts were pumping pretty well when we pulled up to the MTC.  They had us pull all the way up since there weren’t many missionaries being dropped off right then (remember how late we were…).

As soon as we pulled in though the gate though, Max saw one of his friends from BYU who is also going on a mission and has been in the MTC for a few weeks.  He was one of the “hosts” welcoming the new missionaries.   At this point, Max rolled down his window all the way and leaned half his body out yelling “Elder __________!” (I can’t remember his name) with all the excitement you can imagine.

This kid saw Max and got equally excited.  He ran down the whole length of the driveway yelling, “I get to host this one!” to all the other “hosting” missionaries with a big smile on his face.  I wish I had taken a picture of the reunion of those great boys.

Instead, he took a picture of us and told us it was time to go.

Just like that.

So we gave one last hug…

…and obeyed that missionary who told us it was time.

We were all smiles right at that moment.  So excited for him and watching him walk off into the adventure of his life.

But when he turned around for one last wave, he did something that filled our hearts so much Dave and I both lost it.  Just a little symbol of love for us that is kind of an inside-family thing.

It was such a beautiful way to say goodbye that made our hearts swell more than ever for that boy of ours.

We drove away with tears streaming down our faces, hoping the smile radiating from his wouldn’t change as quickly as ours did!

Oh parenting sure tugs at heartstrings more than anything else I can imagine.

We had 24-hours in Utah so we utilized it well.  Dave took me to a movie to get both our minds off of the missing.

The only problem was that it was “Brooklyn,” which is a great and beautiful movie, which leaves a ton to discuss and dissect when it’s done (one of my favorite qualities of a good movie…part of it made me MAD which I loved discussing with Dave).

But the subject matter wasn’t the best for that moment in time.  It’s about a girl who leaves her family in Ireland to find a new life in Brooklyn, NY.  Not the best thing to watch after you drop off your son for a two-year stint so far away.

I just sat there with a few tears filling up my eyes.

Despite the subject matter (we’ll have to watch that again when we’re both a little more emotionally stable), we sure had a good time together up there.

Love this man more than I can say.

 We dropped in to see his sister and watch our nephew’s basketball game:

 So fun to snuggle them up a little bit.

Then we got to go out to eat on our own: a special date.  Things have been so busy/crazy lately I was so grateful for some time to just decompress and just BE.  Just the two of us.  It was a pretty great night.

The next morning Dave headed out for his other love:

(he’s been drooling over all that new snow in Utah for a while and has been dying to hit the slopes)

…While I met up with my Utah sister Saren and got to knit my heart with hers for a little while doing something we both adore: hiking.

(I know that once again we can point out that I’m not good at hiking gear, especially in the snow…

…luckily my sister sure is!)

She hikes with friends every week and was ready for me with my own “gripper” things for my shoes.

They were awesome.

We went up behind the beautiful Utah state capitol:

And hiked up “Ensign Peak.”

See that peak up there?  That’s it.

It was a kind of dry, cold and gorgeous hike.

It was pretty view from the top.  Especially if you just imagine that blanket of the infamous Utah inversion out of the picture.

Ensign Peak is where the pioneers hiked to scope out “this is the place” where they wanted to settle the Utah valley back in 1847.  Here’s more info.

Saren had the great idea that it would be a perfect spot to offer up a heartfelt prayer to Heaven for that boy we both love in the MTC, and also for our other children we hope we can guide and direct and love the way each of them need.

Yet another beautiful moment to cherish surrounding this mission experience.

Love following that great sister of mine through life.  She has led me in so many ways.

 I thought this building was so gorgeous as we drove away:

I think it may have been the old state capitol but I guess I need to brush up on my Utah history.

Saren treated me to a little late-birthday lunch after that.  It was the perfect food and the perfect conversation.

So very grateful for that sister of mine.
Then we went from this:

 To this:

And watch the sun set on quite an adventure.

This post cannot end without mention of serious kindness coming into us from every direction.  My phone was buzzing through the last whole week with messages of love and care for us all as we dropped that boy off.
They just kept coming and coming.  I felt so overwhelmed with all that kindness.  Every time a new message came in I would tear up again.  Then an email would come, then a phone call.  And more tears.  
Someone dropped this off at our doorstep the night before we left:

How thoughtful is that?
(there wasn’t a note…THANK YOU to whoever was kind enough to think of that!)

There were also treats and notes and fresh-baked bread, so much kindness spilling out from everywhere.

Someone sent this too:

Let’s get a better look at that…

So sweet and it had no note but the return address was “Simply Designed” which I think is HERE.  THANK YOU Simply Designed, we are so excited to have something documenting Max’s journey.

Our first four days look pretty measly on that big island of Taiwan, but I’m sure it will fill up before we know it.

How are people this nice?  Makes me want to be nicer and kinder in every way as I try to “strengthen the feeble knees” as all these kind people have done for our family.

So grateful for the love and genuine concern that has come from blog readers as well.  Many thanks and love to you!  Feeling so very blessed and thankful for people who reach outside of themselves and lift.  I hope all these examples will help Max “lift” as well as he works so serve and love the people of Taiwan.

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  1. Reading about Max entering the MTC reminded me so much of the day I entered (almost 4 years ago!) But he is going to the BEST mission in the world, and he will fall so in love with the people there. I know I did! I can't wait to read more about his adventures! Will you be posting his letters at all? I will have to go volunteer at the TRC in a few weeks and see if I see him 😊

  2. Such a sweet post, I have to admit I got a little teary eyed reading this one. The sweet faces of his sisters who you can tell are going to miss him. And My son and I are so close i could never imagine doing what you are doing, I could see the love in the pictures. Good luck to all of you and may the next two years fly by.

  3. Thanks for sharing. This post brought back memories of Oct. 15, 2014 when we stood in front of that same old airplane hanging from the ceiling at Sky Harbor and took pictures before my son went through security and headed up to the MTC. The past 15 months have brought a happiness, joy and peace to my family I have never known before. I know it will be the same for you and your family. I look forward to reading more about his adventures at the MTC and in Taiwan.

  4. Oh that made me cry. Seriously…even though I am sure my beliefs are different from yours (which is ok!) your posts make me want to become Mormon 😉

  5. I am part of a power of moms learning circle in Marana, AZ and I have followed your blog for a long time. I never comment, but I love your ideas and great example! I have to comment because your posts as of late are especially timely and near to my heart. My youngest brother (#9 of 9) just left for his mission as well. He may have even been in the group of families that you saw saying good bye to their son, also boarding on the plane with Elder Anderson. Elder Pike will be serving in Moscow Russia and we cant wait to hear from him tomorrow! (as Wednesday is supposedly the day his group gets to write home) I sent a link to my mom of your last post with thoughts on having a son leave for two years. He is the 4th brother to serve a mission, but I am sure it doesnt get easier, and I know she still has the same feelings. I have 6 children of my own and the first three are boys who will all overlap missions. I hope I can snag that last wave picture like you have, PRICELESS. I can tell that boy loves you! and I LOVE the countdown card in the shape of his mission country. LOVE it. thanks for the peak into life of a missionary mom. (or the getting to and beginnings of it so far!)

  6. I helped greet missionaries on Wednesdays for 2 1/2 years, and it was a wonderful experience.
    Once the missionary is greeted by his host missionary, they head off to a building where they leave their luggage with the host, enter the building where they receive a packet with their first day information and name badge. Next a sister volunteer checks to see if the threads need to be clipped in the suit pocket to make room for the name badge. After that a sister puts the name badge in the pocket and sends them to the next table where they receive the all important food card that also lets them into their room.
    Next, they go to the tables where sisters officially check them in on a computer. All this happens very quickly. They head out the door to meet up with their host, head to the missionary's room and drop off the luggage. Lastly, they are in the classroom where they meet their companion and begin study.

    It could have changed in the last two years as the MTC staff is always looking at ways to improve the process, but what I liked was how quickly they got the missionary to the classroom. That usually helps the missionaries to get right into the work and not think too much about their goodbyes a few minutes earlier.

    I love being there and seeing the faces of the missionaries as they came in. Sometimes there were tears, other had the "deer in the headlights look," but mostly there were big grins, especially when they received their name badge. "I've been waiting for this!"

    My son was in the MTC for 11 weeks studying Mandarin Chinese before leaving for Taiwan. My daughter was a hall advisor across the street at the foreign language dorm, and I would babysit for her on Tuesday afternoons. I would look across the street and think, "my baby is in there somewhere and I can't see him!" He was the youngest of seven, and our 5th missionary, but it never gets easy to say goodbye for two years.

    When Jonathan came home two years later, two days before Christmas, he came down the airport elevator looking tired, but grown up and happy, which made this mother's heart swell with love and joy.

    Enjoy those emails that you will watch for each week! We made a blog where I posted his emails each week for his friends and family who were interested in his mission. Unknown to us, a young woman who went to high school with him, read those letters each week. Today, they are married with a 20 month old daughter!

    It's a great time for all of you.

  7. love all of you guys so much! we are pretty darn blessed when the hardest thing in front of us is also such a good good thing. and when there's an outpouring of love and support – wow! miss you and can't wait for you to come to england 😉

  8. Is it just me or are you in more pictures with your kids? If I am not wrong, don't forget your own advice of being in the picture as well!

    Do you know that you can send blog posts automatically to someone per e-mail? Probably yes. Have you considered sending yours to Max? That way he would always recieve the latest news and pictures and you can concentrate your private mails on more private matters.

  9. I'm all in tears after reading your last couple of posts. The very definition of bittersweet for sure. My oldest turns 17 in May and will probably be off on a mission next summer, so Watching you send Max off is near and dear to my heart. I cry just thinking about it now! I'll be a mess but also have faith I can have the same gift of peace you received! Love your blog and love your darling family!

  10. Oh, Shawni. I've been reading your blog since early 2008 (I know, right??) and even though I've never met you all personally, I feel a tender sisterhood with you. You may remember me, I have one of your temple pictures hanging in my home, and did an "I Love Lucy" walk in Dallas years ago. I also have five children, just the opposite of yours. Four boys, one girl. My oldest will turn 18 in July, and will head out on his mission soon after that, and these posts are so precious, and heart wrenching, and overwhelming and encouraging all at the same time. I've said it before, but thank you for sharing your lives with us. Many prayers for Max, and for you all as well. Missionaries are the best! ����

  11. People are so nice because YOU are so nice! Oh boy this post was so beautiful!! Thank you for being such an inspirational family. Your blog posts always uplift me!

  12. I love this post. What an amazing family you have. I cried tears reading about this experience and seeing the precious photos of your loving family. It's funny, I was just thinking, "Isn't it going to be amazing to see how much Max and the girls will change in these 2 years." And then you posted Claire measuring herself to Max. It made me smile. 🙂 So glad Max had such a welcome as he arrived at the MTC. And his last wave "good-bye" to you and Dave, made me cry outloud. What a blessing that you and Dave could see him off and have that time together. Family is the best. The Gospel is such a blessing.
    Lisa in WA

  13. Such a beautiful post! I can see and feel the love so much! My boy is only 4, and I still get a little sad thinking I only have 14 more years with him in my home. I hope your heart continues to feel peace and love.

  14. Crying! Again! I am not a Mormon, so it's very difficult to understand all of it.. But man, I adore your family so much. I have been reading your blog since your trip to India and can't believe that the time for Max has been already up. Id love to read more about what is going to happen next, what exactly are they going to be doing there etc… Stay strong, Shawni!!!

  15. Goodness. Between this post and reading about charian's pregnancy, I've had a good cry today. What a touching display of love.

    Love your whole family.

  16. As I read your last two posts I was rocking my ten month old son for a nap. I'm surprised I didn't wake him up from my crying while reading. You've made me realize to cherish every moment of every day because they grow up so fast. I hope I can teach my son to be as loving, caring, kind, and everything else as good as your children are.

  17. I'm not Mormon but I am a mom and I'm crying those mom tears right along with you! I can't even imagine all you're feeling but I know you must be oh so proud of your boy! Love your blog. Thank you for sharing this special time with all of us.

  18. So great to see what we missed! Love that boy…and his family! We'll be home to take care of him at the MTC soon! We'll be making cookies with Zara and Dean while their parents are in Costa Rica and delivering them to the same-day service to the MTC from Foothill. Can't wait to join the fun when we get home on Saturday!

  19. I think this is my favorite post. It shows how much your family loves each other. I hope my husband and I are doing the same thing with our family.
    **This post also made me want to call my sister, and so I did!

  20. Beautiful post, Shawni. And I have been in your parents' driveway a few times, without snow. I can imagine how it would be IN snow! But I love their place.

  21. Beautiful post, Shawni. And I have been in your parents' driveway a few times, without snow. I can imagine how it would be IN snow! But I love their place.

  22. Well, you did bring me to tears, Shawni. I know it's hard – I couldn't and wouldn't go 2 years without seeing my son. No way.

    And I just have to say – it is hilarious that you were late to the MTC.

  23. Beautiful. Wow, I don't even know Max and my eyes were filled and brimming over the entire post. What good children you have raised. Thanks for this – makes me look ahead a few years to my own children embarking. Tough & The Best.

    1. My niece, Sister Menzie, is in the same zone too and I was getting on to email her a picture too, how funny. They all look happy as can be! Yay!! Shawnee you can send me your email too if you'd like: angellsworth {at} gmail.com

  24. What lovely friends & family you have. That picture you snagged from the video is perfect. Not just love in his eyes…but also pride. The card with Taiwan — inspired. Fantastic idea.

  25. This is such a sweet post. As a mother of 3 boys (and 1 girl) it touched my heart. They are still little 7, 4, and 2 but I pray this will be me someday! I loved this and my oldest (almost getting baptized enjoys looking at the pictures of your families adventures). Thanks for sharing!

  26. I appreciate you so much. Your blog is a very easy segway into discussing the gospel and the eventuality of our daughter(s)/son going on a mission with my non-member husband. He sees the tender mercies of our Heavenly Father and the beautiful blessings of His gospel. Thank you. You never know how much you influence others or their eternal happiness.
    Brooke from Oklahoma

  27. Oh Shawn, I am just feeling so lucky to have you as a big sister, traveling this road before me. You and Saren are really helping me see all the great and hard and soul deepening things I have to look forward to. Love you, and Max and those girls and dave for your willingness to do hard things and sacrifice. It's pretty remarkable to watch.

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