Friday, April 25, 2014

An Awfully Proud Mama

This is our oldest daughter, Jessica.  And today she graduated from Brigham Young University.

Attending her commencement and convocation exercises was amazing.  I can't even begin to describe my pride in her achievements and in the incredible young woman she is.

We don't have much money.  We live paycheck to paycheck and always have.  At times of job loss we've been on food stamps and church assistance.  My husband and I both attended some college, but neither of us finished our degrees.

Jessica loves learning.  She's so smart and works hard.  She always wanted to go to college and I've known for most of her life that we couldn't afford to send her.  I remember telling her that if she wanted to go to college, she'd need a scholarship or would have to work her way through.  Turns out she needed both.

She earned a full-tuition scholarship for four years through good grades and test scores.  Some of her abilities are genetic, to be sure.  She's a quick learner and has been blessed with a mind that works the way the school systems are set up to test.  But she also had to put forth a lot of effort.  She had to sacrifice things she wanted, which sometimes meant her social life.  But she did it.

But there was still the cost of books.  And for a time there was the cost of living away from home.  And there was the expense of her trip to Russia to teach English to young children for four months.  She paid for these things herself almost in entirety.

For the first two years of her schooling she worked a 4:00am job as a custodian.  For the next year she worked a 6:00am job as a custodian.  And near the end she finally got her dream job - doing custodial work in the evening.  (Just kidding about that being her dream job, but the timing sure was better.)  All of this to pay for her books and other things she needed, because we couldn't.  And she worked these jobs while carrying a full-time load of classes.

Everyone has their own path in life.  Not everyone will go to college, nor should they.  I don't think success is measured by whether or not a person has a degree or how much money they earn.  I don't think a person will be happier just because they have a bachelor's degree.

But what I do think will make a person happier and what does constitute success is an ability to have a dream, to want something with all their heart, and to have the drive to make it happen.

These last two days I got to see my daughter realize a dream of hers that she's worked so hard for almost all her life.  And it was an absolutely amazing experience!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sending My Daughter on a Mormon Mission

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.