I got married when I was twenty. Twenty years old seemed so mature. So wise. So ready for independence. So ready to start my own life and choose my own way. It seemed that way when I was the one who was twenty.
But now my daughter is twenty. And today we took her to the MTC (Missionary Training Center). And today twenty seems so very young.
Today, as I watched her walking away, I saw a five-year old girl. The little girl she was walking into kindergarten. Head tucked a little. Shy smile. Eager. Anxious. Trusting. Quietly walking away to start something new. Something so important for her growth.
But that day she came home to me. This time I won't see her again for eighteen months.
One day soon my son will go on a mission. He will leave for two years, to serve wherever the Lord calls him. I've been preparing for this his whole life. I wasn't prepared for my daughter to leave.
In the Mormon church, we are taught that every worthy young man should serve a mission. And every young man should spend his life working toward this goal, making himself ready. Young women are able to serve a mission if they feel so directed, but it isn't pushed the same way for them.
And none of my daughters ever expressed any interest in serving a mission. Until last November. My second daughter came to me and my husband, crying, saying she needed to go on a mission. It had not been in her plans either. She never had any intention of going. Until God asked her to.
And being the person she is, she said yes.
She is my most shy child. She is my most anxious child. My least independent child. But when God asked her to serve, she said yes.
I admire her. I am so proud of her. But, even though we dropped her off only five hours ago, I miss her terribly already.
Her mission will be eighteen months (for young men it's two years). In that eighteen months we will not see her. We will only talk to her on the phone (or Skype) on Mother's Day and Christmas. The rest of the time we will exchange letters the old fashioned way. And she will get to email one day a week.
We are giving her up for a year and a half. She is giving a year and a half of her life to leave her world behind and serve God exclusively.
She will teach others about the gospel and about God and Jesus Christ. She will tell them that they are loved and valuable. That they matter. That there is so much more to life than what the world has to offer. That there is so much more to each of us than just this life. She will perform many acts and hours of service. She will give and give and give.
And she will grow. She will learn to believe in herself and in her ability to do hard things. She will learn to reach out to God when things are difficult (partly because we won't be there for her). She will learn to lose herself in service. She will experience miracles. She will learn and grow in ways I can't yet imagine.
Our family will grow, too. We will be blessed through her service. We will learn from her letters and her experiences. We will grow in some ways just because she isn't here.
And, as a mother, I will learn a little more about God. He gave His Son. In a way I cannot ever understand, He offered His child for me. And for you. And for all mankind. This experience will give me a glimpse. As I offer my child to Him, I will gain a tiny bit of understanding. Like when I became a mother and learned a little about how He loves us. I will learn more about God as our Heavenly Father.
There will be so many wonderful things that happen in our lives because of her willingness to serve a mission. And it will get easier.
But right now, I just want to hold her in my arms. It hurts so much. Because a piece of my heart is gone and won't be back for eighteen months.