President and Sister Taylor will return to their home next month after serving in the Arizona Phoenix Mission for the last three years. They were able to visit all of the zones in the mission for one last conference – I am sure a bittersweet experience. I am grateful for the influence the Taylors have had on Nathan. He had a lot to say about his last meeting with them – “I think one of the most memorable parts of the week was a zone conference we had on Thursday. It was pretty much a transition into the start of the Griffins Presidency. President talked a lot about “substance vs. style”. It was interesting, he said that it is pretty much guaranteed that President Griffin will do some things differently and that there are things where he can add in his own style and some things that need to be done in a certain way. He just wants to make sure that President Griffin doesn’t hear “Well President Taylor did it THIS way..” for the first 6 months of his mission. Makes a lot of sense.” (as a side note, Sister Taylor described the lesson as “The SUBSTANCE are the rules we live by and the doctrine we teach. The STYLE is the way we do it.”) Sister Taylor talked a lot about weird/strange/peculiar. She says when she talks to returned missionaries families she always asks “how long were they weird for?” She said that weird is a good thing. That when in the scriptures it talks about a ‘peculiar people’ it is in a good way, like set apart or special. And she said they heard David A. Bednar say at a mission president training meeting to “Decide now to be weird”. It makes a lot of sense, if you live the gospel, you will definitely not fit the world’s norm. I thought it was cool. Then we got to take pictures with President and Sister Taylor. And there have been 3 times on my mission when we have been given permission to hug someone of the opposite sex and this was one of them. They said she always gives returning missionaries hugs so it is appropriate for this occasion. Anyways, it was a great conference.”
I have to admit that I have wondered -and worried a little – how weird Nathan is going to be when he comes home. But with that explanation I think I want him to be weird!
One last thought from Elder Wainwright: “So a few days ago we were going to get the mail and we stopped and talked to this girl and we asked if we could come by and say a prayer with her. She said she was fine with that so we went by the next day and talked to her a little bit, said a prayer and we are going to go back and start teaching her tomorrow. I was thinking, if we as missionaries can introduce our neighbors to the gospel than anyone can. Usually the white shirt and tie sends people running. I am super excited to be able to share the gospel with my neighbors someday in a more natural setting.”
I am not normally one of those people who thinks about Christmas in June, but lately my thoughts have gone to “It’s A Wonderful Life” (one of my favorite movies – ever). I think that the angel Clarence sums it all up when he said “No man is a failure who has friends.” Last Saturday I attended a bridal shower for a former neighbor and was so surprised when I realized that an hour and a half had passed by. I was too busy laughing and catching up with some dear friends to worry about all of the things I needed to get do. Isn’t that what life is about – making and keeping friends? I can tell that Nathan has made and I am sure will continue to make some lifelong friends. He is always sad to see one companion go but so happy with meeting a new one. His new companion is Elder Burgoyne, a young man from Pocatello, Idaho and in Nathan’s words is “really great, very positive and enthusiastic.” Looks like they will get along quite well.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but . . . I don’t always pick up messages on my home phone! I check the caller ID and if I don’t recognize the number I assume it is some credit call calling to tell me that this is my last chance to get something (like I don’t know that I will get another chance tomorrow). So when I picked up messages on Saturday I heard “This is the Arizona Phoenix Mission office (and at this point my heart about stopped). Elder Wainwright is quite well. We are calling to arrange his departure.” And so we learned that Nathan will be arriving home on August 26th in the afternoon. For the first 18 months of his mission, I knew exactly when transfer week was but I have kind of, shall we say, relaxed, a little in the last few months. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that I thought “oh, it must be transfer week.” Only one more transfer before he is released!
“Elder Leonhardt is getting transferred tomorrow though. That will be really sad, he has definitely been one of my favorites. I don’t know if I already told you about N… She is going to a motorcycle mechanics school and was dating a guy that is a member of the church. We have been teaching her and she wants to get baptized. Her boyfriend just wants to make sure she is really committed. We hope he doesn’t go a little overboard and expect her to know everything before she is baptized. She has the desire though, and it is fun teaching her. The other kind of cool thing that happened is that we saw this family moving stuff last night so we offered to help. They were just coming from San Bernardino. I told them I as born in Redlands but grew up in Utah. This guy loved the Utah Jazz. He went to school with Bryon Russell, so we talked about Michael Jordan’s push-off for a while. Very cool people. That is the one tough thing about the YSA, is that when we find cool families like that we have to hand them off to the family ward. But anyways, I am looking forward to this transfer. Sounds like exciting things going on at home! Congrats to Rachael for graduating! That isn’t as common down here as it is in Utah.”
If someone asked me what the highlight of my week was I am not sure what I would say. Even though there are moments in each day that make me smile or make me want to cry it is hard to pick one thing – or some weeks to even remember them. I am not sure what prompted Nathan to share his week’s highlight and the funny moment of the week but it has made me ponder. What if the phone call I had with my daughter today turns out to be the highlight of my week? Would I have enjoyed it even more than I did? Savor every moment? Hummm . . . Food for thought.
“I think the highlight of this week was a specialized music training on Tuesday. I went because I am the zone pianist (no one else plays). But it was amazing. They had William Schwartz (aka William Joseph). President started by asking him to play something, and without saying a word he played some insane version of Battle Hymn if the Republic. It was really loud, really fast, and with a ton of notes. When he was done, President asked him to play the next one. It was a much simpler, quieter version of Come Thou Fount. Simpler, but still displaying quite a bit of talent – it was just spiritually powerful. President then contrasted the first song with a ‘look at me’ purpose to the other one with a purpose of bringing in the Spirit. That was the major theme of the meeting – having the focus be on the Spirit, not the performance. But by far the part the stuck out the most was a song he arranged for the funeral of his brother-in-law. It is a combination of God Be With You and He is Risen. But the song, combined with the story was just powerful. If you haven’t already, YouTube this guy. Funny experience of the week: I guess that would be turning down a 100$ steak dinner. And then explaining to a non-member that we can’t go because it is out of our area. People sure do think we are crazy. And then today at Winco there was a member we bumped into as we were leaving the store that tried to give us 2 100$ bills. We politely said no thank you, but that is sure hard when money is tight. Thank goodness it was after we left, because we already knew we had enough for food this week. That was a question mark going in haha.”
I have been interested in family history for the last several years. Even as a teenager (not that I ever admitted it!) I loved to hear the stories my parents would tell – of themselves, their parents, our family. . . When I was in Junior High I visited my great Grandma Anderson every week and heard even more stories. I was fascinated when I learned she attended the same high school (although at a different location) I did – only instead of arriving in a car, she came in a horse and buggy! Oh, I wish I had written down those stories!
In Nathan’s email this week, he mentioned on of the young ladies who was recently baptized has become interested in her family history and then goes on to say “Speaking of family history, we have been asked to fill out a little booklet called “My Family” by the end of the month. Would you be able to compile some information for me? I have all the names and dates I need, but stories about these people and pictures would be really helpful.”
So for all of you family members who might read this, if you have any pictures or stories send them my way!
We had a great visit via Skype with Nathan on Sunday! He reminded us that it was almost exactly two years ago that he received his mission call. In some ways it seems like it was yesterday and in other ways it was a very long time ago. As I have reflected on that summer these last few days what sticks out most in my mind is how I developed a new level of respect and understanding of Hannah in the Old Testament. Hannah, who was barren, promised the Lord that if He would bless her with a son then she would “lend him to the Lord for this life.” (1 Samuel 1:11). In a some small way I felt that I understood Hannah.
It was good to be able to carry on a conversation with Nathan. In some ways he is just like he has always been and in other ways very different. For example, I jokingly asked him if he wanted us to buy a BYU sports pass for the coming year. He has always been an avid BYU football/basketball fan so I was a little surprised when he replied “only if it doesn’t cost too much.” What? – I figured he would go without food in order to go to the games. Or when we asked what habits he was going to keep when he got back he told us that he wanted to get up at 6 am every morning. Alisa said “What? You sleep in until 11!” Nathan replied “not in 2 years.” He also told us about a shooting that happened at his apartment complex – not something a mom wants to hear; friends that he has made that he would like to keep – something a mom loves to hear; and that he would love to move to Arizona – hummm, that is a little difficult to hear but also wonderful that he loves his mission so much.
So 2 years later I guess I can say that I now understand what Hannah understood from the beginning: that although she gave Samuel to the Lord for this life, he would be always – for eternity – be her child and she would be his mother.
Last week Rachael and I met with a counselor from the college that she will be attending in the fall. Poor Rachael! The counselor explained that although the school has a policy that Freshmen and Sophomores must live on campus, she was confident that since we live within 30 miles Rachael could get a housing exemption – which meant she could live at home! Which considering that it is $11,000 a year to live on campus is a very good thing. On the way home Rachael said “Mom, don’t be offended but I really don’t want to live at home for the next two years.” Who’s offended? I would be worried if she wanted to live at home! But as I have thought about the school’s policy, I see the wisdom in determining where these young people live. There is food – I mean good health – in this rule. Seriously though, young adults heading off for college have a lot thrown at them all at once.
I was reminded of this visit when I read Nathan’s email this week: Quick funny story before I forget: We got a call from a missionary and he said that no one in their apartment has any money and they don’t have any food. Our cards don’t get filled up until the beginning of the month, which should be on Wednesday. Gotta love the avoidable kinda stuff like that, huh? We basically told them we can bring them some food that we have and told them to beg from their members. That may be the biggest lesson I have learned on my mission – don’t just call someone and dump a problem on them. If there is a problem then at least have a plan for what you are going to do.”