Skip to main content


"How are you feeling about your son leaving soon?" has been my favorite question lately. My answer is kinda mixed. During July and August I was surprised and excited. Then on September 14 he flew to and from San Francisco by himself for a day. The purpose was a quick visit to the Finnish consulate for a visa. He had fantastic instructions to get from the airport to the BART to the consulate, but waiting for the interview took longer than planned. Leaving the consulate he had less than an hour until his flight was supposed to take off. That included a 32 minute tram ride, printing a boarding pass, airport security, etc. In all honesty, he should have missed that flight home. But he didn't. Call it a miracle or a test of faith, or whatever you want to call it. But for my boy who loves to be punctual, boarding a flight 7 minutes before take-off was pretty intense. Long story short, I think we all realized a few things that day. There are so.many.details I can't control, and I have to trust that God will watch over him, and he will learn and grow and become a better person in the process.

That day it hit me that he's leaving and going someplace really far away. Helsinki is much further than San Francisco. I can't protect him or help him or do anything for him except pray. I've struggled with the idea of letting him go. Is he ready? Have we taught him well enough? Can I really send him across the ocean to a place I've never seen?  

All through October I churned through memories of my own mission in Paraguay; I wrestled with my own faith and whether or not I really believe; I threw an email temper tantrum to my local church leaders. Finally, one morning late in October there was a feeling of peace that came into my heart. I realized I will be fine, and my son will be fine. But there were six weeks where I was in limbo. I spent six weeks praying and wondering and hoping and struggling. It's kind of awesome to finally feel settled and sure, confident that this next step is okay. (BTW I really believe. I recently wrote an essay called Things I Know which summarizes my faith and my conviction, and why I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Why do we do it?

Ultimately the answer is really simple. My son gets a chance to spend two years learning how to love. The main idea here is to learn to love God, and to love your neighbor.

My son gets to spend two years in practical application of this great commandment to love. He won't have to worry about money. He already saved $6K to contribute to his own expenses, and we'll cover the other half. He won't have to worry about school or a career; he won't have to worry about girls and dating. Basically he gets a time-out from all the tedious details. At a carefree time when many young adults become me-monsters, he has time and space to become less selfish.

In the Old Testament, the Lord instructed Moses to teach the children of Israel. Leviticus 19 has counsel to be holy, to keep the sabbath, to obey the commandments. v. 18 "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord." In verse 34 he reiterates, "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." 

My memories of the people of Paraguay include warmth and generosity. On hot days during the summer, we could always count on a stranger to give us a cold drink of water or tererea. They'd invite us to sit with them in the shade, literally welcoming us into their circle. Even when families had little money, they freely shared their food with us. I will always remember their generosity even in the face of great poverty. Having been a stranger in a strange land, those verses about loving your neighbor hit home differently.

This admonition to love your neighbor is repeated throughout the Old Testament. Some of my favorites:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-5 "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they might."
  • Deuteronomy 7:9 "Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations."
  • Micah 6:8 "...What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

In the New Testament, people asked this question: "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Matthew 22:36

1 Corinthians 13 is a beautiful text on love. The NIV 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 reads as follows: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Another fancy word for love is charity. The KJV 1 Corinthians 13:13 reinforces this truth: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

At the end of the day, at the end of this mortal journey, there's no actual stuff we take with us to heaven. The whole point is to become people who are filled with love. I hope my son begins this chapter of his life knowing how much we love him and how much his Heavenly Father loves him. I hope that as he works and waits on the Lord, his heart will grow and his capacity to love will increase. I hope that as he serves and teaches the people around him, he finds satisfaction and joy.

When we lead with love, we emulate the perfect example of Jesus Christ. "The gospel of Jesus Christ defines both your message and your purpose; that is, it provides both the "what" and the "why" of missionary work." (Preach My Gospel p. 5) I love this painting by Akiane Kramarik and I love that it's been one of my son's favorites as well.

So to return to my original question: "How are you feeling about your son leaving soon?" Well, I'm happy and sad, I'm glad for him to go and excited for the adventures he'll have. For now, I get to watch as a transformation begins. Tomorrow morning he begins Day 1 of online training at home, with a small cohort of students. In a few weeks, they'll all meet together in Provo, UT at the Missionary Training Center, right by BYU. They'll continue learning Finnish and learning to teach, and learning how to practice the first great commandments to love God and to love other people.


Popular posts from this blog

2021 Christmas Card

December 2021  Dear Friends and Family, We love you and and miss y'all that are far away in WA and UT and other places!! This year we skipped our tradition of sending a Thanksgiving card and opted for a virtual Christmas card instead. It saved a ton of stamps and envelopes, but I definitely miss the glitter and sparkle. We hope you can feel our love even through a simple email or blog post. One tradition we couldn't skip was our gratitude tree, where the little leaves are a list of blessings. We are so thankful for God's goodness and mercy every day. Here's the highlight reel:  Cade graduated, made lots of Domino's pizza, read probably a thousand books, and is currently living in Provo, UT as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's heading to Helsinki, Finland in January. We are so proud of him and his hard work, we miss him but are excited for his opportunity to learn and serve. Shad spent a zillion hours with Marcus Ban

How Controlling Are You?

Life is like Mario Kart. In the early levels, you're driving through Moo Moo Meadows and the grass is green and there's cows and fields and it's lovely. There's an occasional banana peel that gets tossed in the path, and sometimes the cows walk in the road so you try not to hit them. But overall the driving is pretty mellow.  Then later after you've unlocked other levels, there's stuff like Bowser's Castle. It's a maze with lava on both sides of the path, there's fire and brimstone all around, there's stone columns that try to smash you at random intervals. Just to know where to go and how to steer and stay on the path is complicated. Some stages of life are like Moo Moo Meadows. The details are easy-peasy and you just keep moving right along. And then there are years like Bowser's Castle where it's pretty intense and you pray a lot because the fire around you is pretty hot and you're trying not to fall in the lava pit.  During years

Happy Fall Y'all

Over the past year I've noticed a lot of fun and interesting things about Texas.  Call it culture shock or assimilation, but here's an outsider's view of my new home. Obviously I like saying "y'all," and I find it quite handy. From the vocabulary to the climate, from the school traditions to the local hotspots, I'm enjoying this new land even if I poke a little fun at some of the quirks. One of my favorite things about Texas is the people.  They are  nice.  The general default mode is to show kindness, warmth and hospitality. People go out of their way to help each other. I've seen this over and over again. The foundation of this town is built on people who are genuinely decent and friendly.  Language:  I love the west Texas drawl (or is it east Texas?).   At the elementary school, the sweet secretary lady is the nicest. When my son delivered something to his sister one day, she said, "Thank you baby," in a motherly, sweet way.

Twenty + One Month

You know how life gets kinda messy sometimes? My version of messy looks like this: Four kids including a teenager learning to drive; a kindergartner learning to get herself ready in the morning; a senior learning about adulting; a middle schooler learning to ride her bike to electives every other day, a mortgage husband's career VIRTUAL PLUS church service pandemic, civil unrest, election year my own personal need for friends and connection even when my schedule looks like a revolving door Our big anniversary was last month and we were lucky enough to celebrate together this past weekend. We managed to sneak away for 24 hours. First I need to give credit where credit is due. There was a very generous friend who volunteered to parent the children during our 'Nelson marriage offsite.' And there was a generous benefactor who donated Marriott points to spring for the fancy room. I won't mention either party by name, but thanks to their generosity we had a great time. I'

Be There at the Crossroads

  Last week I was looking through an old box, searching for letters that Norm and I wrote to each other before we got married. I didn't find the letters but instead found an old journal from 1987. Look below and see my handwriting when I was a ten year old girl living in San Diego. We’d just moved there from Grand Junction, and I talked about missing our cat, about making new friends, going to Disneyland with my dad and my brother. It was really fun to read through this old journal. I'm glad I wrote that stuff down!  In the middle of these memories from 1987, I was also searching for a quote about mothers and their great influence on their kids. And the quote was something like “be there at the crossroads” when your children are coming and going. Turns out that the quote I was searching for also came from the late 80's. A brilliant church leader and prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, talked to the women and spent time encouraging and reminding us why motherhood is impor

Companions - Notes on Home MTC

November 18, 2021 Most people know that missionaries run around in pairs. Some of my neighbors have seen this version of a companionship lately. Let me explain. During Covid, the church did a pivot and changed the missionary training experience from in-person to virtual. During this process they realized there were a few cool benefits that were worth continuing even after the pandemic. So the new version of missionary training begins  at home  with an Elder or Sister doing full-time training with a companion online. Then they transition to  in person  after a few weeks.  My oldest son began on November 8 with training at home. When they are in class or working together, they are meeting and making friends with other missionaries in their district. My son's cohort has four young women and four other young men, for a total of nine kids all going to Finland in January. BUT when they're not actively working or studying together,  I'm his companion . All of the places I'd no

Hair and random thoughts from a Brunette

Recently I've thought quite seriously about doing this to my hair. It might be so fun to have purple/blue highlights! I never dyed my hair in high school or college. Then when I was 37 the first few grey hairs appeared, ironically enough while I was pregnant. I've spent the last handful of years adding lots of blonde highlights.  Now my hair has a respectable amount of silver. It's kind of annoying. I'm learning to say farewell to being a brunette, because that young girl with the dark hair has grown up. Last month for Christmas, one of my favorite gifts that I GAVE to my little daughter was kinda fun. I spent like 20+ minutes at Target deliberating on which Barbies to buy. Finally I chose this group of friends for their amazing variety in hair!!  And I love each for different reasons. The dogwalking blonde is fun because my daughter really wishes we had a dog. The other three have accessories to be an astronomer, a teacher, etc. Ultimately, each Barbie is different fro

What's the deal with Mormons and the temple?

I have a handful of neighbors and relatives who have asked with genuine curiosity, "What's the deal with Mormons and the temple?" Well, I'm glad y'all asked. Here's your big chance. First, a word about the name of the church. It's not the church of Mormon. It's the church of Jesus Christ. We follow his teachings and we try to be like him. We pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus. He stands as our great Mediator and Redeemer. He is the reason we go to church. Mormon is the name of a great Native American writer, warrior and prophet. He's the man who wrote down the history of his people. What did he write on? How did he make a record that would last hundreds of years? Papyrus? no, he used tools and etched his words into a gold alloy. The records were heavy. If you ever want to read a fascinating history with tons of war chapters, drama, and life lessons, y'all need to check out  The Book of Mormon . It stands with the Bible as another test

Gratitude Attitude

Gratitude Attitude Maybe the best part about fall is the harvest. This golden season makes me happy.  The trees seem more beautiful than ever this year.  I'm thankful for a hundred little things.  One song from a cassette tape in my childhood recently played in my memory.  I have no idea who wrote it or where to find it again.  But I love the words: Having a gratitude attitude shows appreciation.  So with a gratitude attitude win in every situation. My kids often hear me say, “Will you be grateful or greedy?” and then they groan and roll their eyes.  For example, if I offer my daughter five M&M's, will she choose to say thanks, or to negotiate for more?  In the case of M&M's, I totally understand.  But how often do we do that in life?  Do I accept the gifts I've been given with a gracious heart, or do I consistently want more?  What is enough?  (I'll save the essay on "enough" for another day.) A few weeks ago, the  Tabernacle