Called to serve…

From the time Hallie was little, she talked about going on a mission for our church. We were fully supportive of her desire, but we were also aware as she grew older that desire may change and we would support that as well.

As she started her senior year, she started the process of applying to colleges. Which is a good exercise in making decisions. She wasn’t entirely sure where she wanted to go to college and we kept reminding her she didn’t need to make any decisions yet, she was just collecting options. As she waited to hear admissions decisions, her desire to serve a mission grew.

I think as parents, our nerves grew. Missions are hard. She’s our oldest and only daughter. We wanted to support her the best we could but we needed her to have her own spiritual confirmation that a mission was right for her. She came to us before she heard back from any colleges that she had received her confirmation regarding a mission. And with that, she started to create a plan.

Hallie turns 19 in the fall and that is her eligibility to serve. She debated whether to do a summer semester of school, or even a fall semester but in the end she decided to defer college until after she returns from her mission.

She submitted her application to serve towards the end of May and we quickly realized she would receive her mission call the day we would leave for Lake Powell for our family vacation. She wanted to open her call on the boat at the lake and she had the will power to hold that piece of paper in her hand the entire drive there. At any given moment she could have opened that envelope and I wouldn’t have blamed her! But instead, our little family sat on a boat at sunset in her favorite place and shared the most beautiful and spiritual moment.

After everyone in our family made their predictions, with tears in her eyes, Hallie read her assignment to serve in the New York, Syracuse mission, English speaking. And immediately there was a peace that rushed over me – it’s the perfect mission for her. She didn’t really want to leave the country. She was willing to learn a language but was relieved when it was English. On top of that she really wanted to go to a church history site or temple visitor’s center. With Palmyra and the Sacred Grove in her mission – it is rich with history.

We immediately started looking up information about her mission. What cities it included. Who her mission leaders will be. What the average temperature is. (In case you’re wondering – she’s going to freeze – but that’s okay because she wanted something different than Arizona!) We were all so excited for her.

She shared the call with our Lake Powell group the next night. It was amazing how many of our friends had connections to upstate New York – and several have actually lived there (and confirmed just how cold winters can be). Even more fun was learning a family who personally knows her new mission leaders and spoke so highly of them. There are no coincidences and it was fun to hear so many connections within our small group of friends.

Just hours after we returned from our Powell trip, Hallie hosted a house full of her friends and family in Arizona (at least those in town) to announce her mission call.

I wish I could have snapped a large group picture but the house was overflowing and I was trying to talk to so many who showed up to support her – she really has so many amazing people in her life who have helped her along.

Most of her guy friends have also received their mission calls and are reporting this summer and its fun to have so much excitement and focus surrounding missions.

I’m really happy for her. If I think about the day she leaves, I get a little sad – so instead we focus on other things. 🙂

We focus on the truly unique and special girl she is and her desire to serve.

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I took Cannon to his Thursday night soccer tryout.

After a few minutes, I was joined on the sidelines by the dad of Cannon’s friend and teammate. We talked about the team, made predictions for new players and dissected the new coaching staff. He was so passionate about soccer and I loved his energy and effort to make the team better.

Two days later I received a text sharing some heartbreaking news: Just 24 hours after chatting with him on the sidelines, at 39-years-old he had suffered a traumatic stroke and his prognosis was grim but we were hopeful he could fight his way out of it.

We joined them in prayer for a miracle.

Cannon played with their son multiple times.

There were local restaurants donating their proceeds.

There was not a day that went by where we didn’t get an update and we continued our prayers.

Unfortunately, two weeks later he passed away leaving a wife and three young children behind.

And I was still shocked to know I was talking with him just hours before his stroke and he was so full of life – how did it turn so bad so fast?!

Days later, Steve and Cannon attended a “FUNeral” in his honor and our community showed up. I’ve heard so many people say, “I want my funeral to be a party!” and then a somber church service is planned. But not this time. His wife said this is what his funeral would have been like if he could have planned it himself and she delivered a beautiful memorial in their backyard full of his favorite things.

I wish everyone could have met this special, creative and vivacious man – but his FUNeral gives you a pretty good idea of who he was and just how many people he touched. And I can’t speak highly of him without acknowledging a beautiful, creative and supportive wife who truly sought to honor her husband the best she could.

We will miss him on the sidelines. And we will miss his stories and laughter. Its hard to believe we’re starting another soccer season without him sitting next to us and it makes me sad most for his son – we will be cheering for him a little louder this year.

If you want to learn more about Brandon – he was the owner and creative genius behind LetterCraft – here’s a couple articles prior to his death: here and here

And several news articles ended up picking up the story on his funeral: FUNeral New York Post Article

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Funny Comment…

We were on a walk when out of the blue Briggs said, “If I were to rearrange the alphabet I would put U and I together.” I looked down at him and he was just grinning at me. I couldn’t help but laugh.

I’m not sure which one of his brothers taught him that exceptional pick-up line but that is just one of the many benefits of being the younger brother. 🙂

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4th of July…

When I was younger and my mom let me decorate my room – you want to know what I chose? Red, white and blue – stars and stripes! It is no surprise I love 4th of July, everything red, white and blue.

We spent the 4th up in Idaho with my family and it was an eventful day. We started the day out on the golf course – we are not a golfing family, but my kids sure enjoy putting.

We spent the rest of the day at my brother’s house and there is never a shortage of things to do.

The kids went riding. They played in the pond and made up all sorts of games. They caught fish. They had air soft wars. They ran around with their cousins and had the best time. 4th of July is always magical because it’s always an adventure.

We went to the local fireworks show – something we’ve always admired from my brother’s property but have never attended. This year was our year and we were so impressed with the small town show – totally worth it.

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Lake Powell again…part 2…

Because there are always too many pictures and memories to fit into a single post!

I love this place. I love these people. I love these memories forever cataloged in my mind and heart.

It used to be our “elementary age” picture was the biggest group of kids. It’s getting smaller every year.

Junior high and high school kids.

Graduates and beyond. We have two newbies to the group this year and we’re missing two who are serving missions in London, England and Lisbon, Portugal. Next year we’ll have the missionary home from England but we’ll have two more serving in addition to the one in Lisbon. We figure from here on out we’ll always be missing someone serving a mission and it’s likely we’ll be adding someone new every year!

We spent every night gathered together (all 46 of us!) for a nightly devotional and its always a favorite memory. This year, I enjoyed the last evening when one of the families took the lead on the discussion and shared the recent serious health struggles they’ve been through with their teenage boy. We were made aware of these struggles two months prior and at the time we joined together in prayers and a special fast. But to hear their experiences and the miracles and mercies they witnessed was tender and it made for an emotional evening.

This is a powerful and strengthening group of friends and I’m grateful for this annual vacation to reconnect on a different level.

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