Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Sending Your Daughter on a Mission. (the secret feelings of a mother)


 

I had a wonderful conversation with one of  my Elder's friends' mom the other day and it made me think for the tenth or so time, I need to write this blog post. 
   
True confession: I didn't want my daughter to serve a mission. 

The moment President Monson made the age change announcement, I knew she would want to go. I had paused the feed because my sleepy teenage son was still upstairs, and the age change for 18 year old men to universally have the choice to serve was big news for him! He came down and we started it again and I noticed a couple text messages from Sherry who was watching conference in her BYU apartment with roommates.

"MOM AND DAD, CAN I GO ON A MISSION?"

My heart sank. My sweet girl, who brings me so much joy with her daily phone calls, zest for life and her example, gone for 18 months? I couldn't fathom it. It was hard enough sending my boys, but at least I had 18 years to prepare for it and was used to the idea. It was bad enough that she was going to school 800 miles away! OK it was probably good because after high school she was more than ready to not have her parents, specifically her mother, telling her what to do anymore. Don't worry, she made awesome choices on her own without our counsel. This is a key, by the way.

Trust that your daughter is being led by the Spirit.

I encouraged her to question her prompting. She came home for Christmas and I made it clear that she didn't "need to go," it was a choice, she was already such an amazing person that she didn't have to serve a mission to reach her potential. She dated a couple of wonderful young men but she really felt led to finish her papers, prepare for the temple, and go. The Lord gave extra insurance by calling her to the mission where a young man who at that time was very special to her was already serving. (It was an inspired change to add the question "do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend serving a mission and where" to the Missionary Application but fortunately/unfortunately that was after she had filled her papers). So she wasn't tempted to stay home and prepare for marriage. She knew that young man would arrive home 7 months before her and she was likely giving her future plans with him up but she was willing to make that sacrifice to serve God.

Alpine German-speaking Mission: Southern Germany, eastern Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and a bit of Sud Tyrol in Northern Italy.

How wonderful it is to have children that are an example to us, all four of mine humble me greatly in their walk with Christ. Sherry held strong and joyfully accepted her mission call after being really shocked at her assignment (she actually had some promptings about it and I reassured her it would not happen--oops). Elder Bednar spoke at her Stake Conference two days after she received her Mission Call, and the words he spoke rang true to her heart that she was assigned to HER mission and it was no coincidence that Elder Bednar had served in the same mission area! Tender mercies of the Lord.

I am so grateful my daughter was more in tune with the Spirit than I was.

I was secretly hoping that she would still stay home until about the last month before she left. It took that long--7 months--for me to get on board with the idea. I was still sad though because she is just so missable! She really is one of those people who brings joy, her mission president's wife and several others have said "Sherry is sunshine" because she brings so much happiness to those around her. She is one of the happiest people you will ever meet! Oh how I would miss talking to her, listening to her problems, listening to her sing! (She sings a lot like Julie Andrews, btw, perfect for this "Sound of Music Mission"). But as we know, trials and sacrifices are growth opportunities for ourselves. We had a couple of tender mercies taking her to the MTC: our car overheated so I was distracted when we said goodbye. And our son Mike returned from his mission the next day and we were granted permission to see Sherry in the MTC, so we got to see her after she wasn't nervous anymore and say goodbye again. It was awesome. (They did interview her first to make sure it wouldn't be a distraction to her, and it wasn't).


What has it been like for me as a mother of a sister missionary? INCREDIBLE.

Sherry was always a spiritual giant that even her friends a couple years older said they looked up to. When she was 16 she gave an incredible talk in our Stake Priesthood Meeting that is still remembered. She has always been organized, as a sophomore in high school she took over the job of a senior as the ASB Secretary. She earned 12 Varsity Letters in four different activities, and spent lunches with special needs children in high school, and had a statewide leadership position to boot. She earned an academic scholarship to BYU and thrived academically and socially, not shirking the harder required classes but relishing them.  But the growth, refinement, spirituality, organizational skills, selflessness, intelligence, diligence, and obedience she has learned in the 18 month condensed experience of serving a mission overshadows all of her prior accomplishments. I think she has added at least a decade of wisdom in this year and a half.

She has become fluent in a second language.
She has learned to put others before herself, always.
She learned the Lord has a sense of humor.
She has learned to love unconditionally.
She understands more deeply the individual worth of God's children and that He knows and loves them personally.
She has learned she can do very very very difficult things.
She has learned to lead.
She re-learned to play the piano better than ever by making a promise to herself never to say no when she was asked to help out musically on her mission.
She honed her ability to teach by the Spirit.
She has gained a deep testimony of the power of prayer by exercising her prayer muscles.
She learned she could get up every single morning at 6:30am or earlier for a year and a half.
She learned the example she set in high school was noticed by other students and teachers.
She has learned to follow.
She has learned to share her talents when it would be easier to keep quiet.
She gained a testimony of exact obedience.
She learned to love 5 other countries as her own.
She learned she loves having a companion.
She has learned to lovingly serve the other sisters and the Elders and the senior missionaries.
She learned she can live with someone else 24/7 and not have it annoy her.
She has learned teamwork.
She has learned to trust in the Lord's timing and perfect knowledge of all things.
She has learned to work well with young men her age and also with adult church leaders.
She has developed more perseverance. 
She has learned to listen to the Spirit, even more.
She learned how to participate in leadership counsel meetings.
She has learned she can keep going and doing the Lord's work amidst heartbreak of all types.
She has learned to give 100% fearlessly.
She has made life long friends.
She has amazing places to go back to visit.
She found out she should stick with her college major and refined her career goals.
She found that working with children brings her great joy. 
She has learned about the culture of her forefathers and foremothers.
She has people in her life from all over the world dear to her heart forever.
She became much more fearless.
She (and I) learned so much about the blessings of sacrifice.

I'm sure we will add to this list.






 


I am so grateful for each letter home, each photo,  that has shown me again and again that I was wrong to discourage her from taking a year and a half of her life and giving it up to the Lord. As she says, it is the best decision she has ever made. I am so glad she didn't listen to her mom and she did what she knew was right for herself. After all, isn't that what we hope our children will become, capable of making the best choice, independent of us? I have grown so much through sharing this experience with her.

As a special Mom bonus, the mothers of missionaries she has served with have become dear friends as we have leaned on one another and helped each other through Facebook this 18 plus months (I joined before she left).

So Mom, encourage your daughter to follow her prompting and serve God. I promise, as the Lord always does, your sacrifice will be repaid in blessings unmeasured.

Love, Sister Henry's mom

My kids love to write, too--
Great reflection by Sister Henry on her mission here
Our third missionary, Elder Spencer Henry's blog is here




Sunday, August 10, 2014

First Look and Bridals/Groomals

Shavonne's family found Alisha Shaw at One Memory at a Time Photography  based in the St. George area. All of these are her work.  (What you don't see in these is the thunderstorm and rain that had us all hiding under trees for a while!) She was a lot of fun for Mike and Shavonne to work with, they both had a great experience--and neither are very fond of photos, unfortunately for all of us, because they are quite photogenic: