Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them;
and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain,
and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. Jeremiah 16:16

Thursday, September 25, 2014

He's Alive!...and Well.

This is my district this morning at the Provo Temple. Love you.

Look at my boy with his very own tag and everything!

After a long wait, we finally got an email from our missionary!  Apparently his P-day had been changed again to Thursday.  It was a good thing that I was still checking my email as frequently as I did, because I got to actually reply back and for with him for a while, asking questions and getting answers practically like instant messaging.  I am feeling SO good right now, and that photo of Alex and his district at the temple just this morning just made me bawl.  I'm sure I'll get used to seeing him as a missionary, but not just yet.

Here is a compilation of his emails today:

Hi mom and family and friends. I love you all and miss you guys so much already. So my P-days are now on Thursdays because before I was staying at the West Campus but they are closing it down in the next month or so. So we got move to the Main Campus. We love the West one better because it is more relaxed and everyone there is going on a Spanish speaking mission, so every time you walk around people speak in Spanish.  That was so cool. So on the first day after you dropped me off I went and got all my books and my name tag and took a bus to West Campus. I was only there for a week. We moved yesterday so that's why no email yesterday sorry.  I have a great companion named Elder Lyons he is from Connecticut. He is awesome he helps me with my weakness and I help him with his. We don't like it at Main because we all sleep in the same room. At West we had 3 rooms an bathroom and a living room and a kitchen. It was sweet there. 
Well my daily schedule is wake up, get ready go to breakfast, then have personal and companion study for three hours, them personal fitness, then lunch, then either teach a investigator or a class, then dinner or class or the investigator, then a zone prayer, then we get ready for bed. So that is my day. Our branch is #17, with President Doman. He is awesome guy. He has a strong testimony. Well on Sundays we have sacrament with only our branch. We sing a song in Spanish, then we say a prayer, then do the sacrament, then he picks four people to gave a small talk in Spanish. Then he and his wife bore their testimony for us. Then we end with a song and a prayer. For the rest of the day we have meetings and interviews. Last Sunday we went to Main Campus for the redecation of the Temple. The prophet spoke and Eyring and Bedner it was so awesome. One good thing about the Main Campus is they have better food and more food then at West. Every Tuesday and Sunday we either have someone come or a apostle come and speak to us. On Sunday it was M. Russel Ballard. He spoke on missionary work and he said we are servants of the Lord.  I am having a great time here. Hey mom my companion is wondering if you can make him some of that awesome luggage tags he loves them. He says thanks. Hey mom when are you sending me my scrapbook? Thanks. Love you all. I miss you all!

Thanks for the box of goodies!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for all Dear Elder letters. Keep sending them & tell everyone about it. I love them. Have everyone send me one, all my bros and family.

We went to the temple this morning. At 7:10 we did a session. That picture was taken after. We go every Thursday in the morning. I got the packages two days latter but the were fine thanks a lot they were so good. Keep on sending me packages and Dear Elder please. I love them so much. Thanks.

The language is coming along. It is doing good. I am understanding a lot during class. I'm learning a lot. 

More awesome cinnamon rolls please and thank you. I will look for the package thanks. You are the best mom.  Everyone loves you for sending the cinnamon rolls.  Love you.

So, he is busy and happy and good.  He wants more cinnamon rolls delivered and he really seems to like getting those Dear Elder letters.

For anyone who doesn't know, you can send free daily mail to missionaries at the MTC by going to  First you have to register, and you have to have the elder's unit # and leaving date (both are on their address). You just type what you want to say there on the website, and they will print it off and hand deliver it to their mailbox every day around noon.  No envelopes, no stamps, no waiting.  Of course, it is all one way, but it is so easy to send off a quick note that you are thinking of him, and I know they love having something in their mailboxes everyday.  It is such a great service!  So if you want to send Alex a quick note, it appears that he really loves them.

The cinnamon rolls come from Shirley's Bakery in Provo.  They deliver fresh baked treats to the MTC every morning. FYI, the number is 801-375-8020 if you ever want to send a new missionary a great surprise.  Looks like I'll be calling them today myself.  How can I not, after getting so much appreciation from him and his fellow elders?  (What some parents will do to make their kids popular, geez!)

These are the luggage tags he was referring to.  I wanted to make him something fun, but not too crafty or fru-fru since he is, you know, a guy. (No stamps or Cricut this time.)  So I just found some fun missionary memes and one for his mission on Pinterest and printed them off.  Then printed off his home address and mission address, and put them into luggage tags that are made for a heat laminators that I got at Staples.  I already had the laminator.  Easy, colorful, and durable (and manly).  I guess I'll now be making a set for his comp.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mail!:The First Day

It is tuesday afternoon, and that means Alex has been in the MTC for nearly a week.  And up until now I hadn't heard a thing from him.  I thought his P-day might be Monday, and so I was anxiously checking my email all day long.  Nothing.  I was just so anxious to hear from him! None of my boys or my hubby was too worried about it. "He's fine," or  "He's busy." But I've been DYING to hear something! I guess moms are just weird that way.

But today I found a letter from him in the mailbox!  I am one happy momma.

It was short, but I am so grateful he found the time to write it on his first day.

Here is what it says:

Dear Family, 

The first day was SO overwhelming!  First I had to check in, and then I had to take a bus to the West campus.  Then they rushed us over to our room and then to our class.  Right when I got there the teacher started to speak Spanish.  Then we had an orientation.  Then we had some experiences of a missionary.  Then we met as a zone a did a tour. Now I am unpacking.  We were so busy today!

My companion is Elder Lyons.  He is from Connecticut.  He is also going to the same mission.  I'm leaving the MTC on October 27th.  I share an apartment with 5 others, who are all going to Mexico, but different parts.  

I really miss you guys a lot!  I love all of you.


P.S. My P-day is Wednesday.  This Sunday I am going to the dedication of the Ogden Temple.  That will be so much fun.  

Miss you all.  Love you.

Yay.  Can't wait for his email tomorrow!

Monday, September 22, 2014

MTC or Bust

So my parents and I drove this kid up to the MTC.  I know it is easier to just send him to the airport, but we really wanted to take this time to visit some temples, spend a bit more time together, and drop him off personally at the MTC to see what the hubbub is all about.

Monday we drove up to St. George and spent the night there.  We took that opportunity to make sure Alex had everything he needed, mark all of his stuff with his name, and repack it in a manner that made more sense than his method of throw-it-all-in-and-hope-for-the-best.  To me it is unbelievable that someone can pack everything they will need for two whole years into a couple of suitcases!

Temple #1 - Our tour of temples began with the St. George temple early Tuesday morning.  Unfortunately we were all dressed up with nowhere to go because when we got there we were informed that the St. George temple was closed for a month for cleaning.  Huge bummer!

 So we took a few pics and hit the road.  This is Utah after all, there are other temples to be visited somewhere, right?

Any road trip through Utah requires a stop for squeaky cheese and ice cream in Beaver, does it not?

We finally made it to Provo and checked into our hotel, then made our way to temple #2 on our tour - Mt. Timpanogos temple.  I remember visiting this temple during it's open house way back when we were picking up my sister from her mission.  Alex was a little baby then.  Now we were finally back to attend a session this time. It was huge and the gigantic parking lot was full on a Tuesday night.  It made me feel so good to see the work moving along like this and so many people giving of their time to serve.

It was a beautiful temple!  What a great experience we had inside!

After a very late dinner at IHOP, we went beck to the hotel to get some sleep before the big day.

Then it was Wednesday - the day.  The date that had been burning in our minds since Alex had opened that white envelope way back in June.  September 17.  The day he would start his mission.

Alex wanted to start his day at the temple, so we chose temple #3- the Draper Temple this time.  It was very different, but equally lovely, set in a very nice neighborhood up on a hillside.

We had a great experience there.  People just seemed to know that Alex was entering the MTC that day, and he received greeting and congratulations from many strangers.  We saw another girl who was going into the MTC that afternoon as well.  She was going to the Netherlands.  How wonderful that these young people choose to spend their last few hours serving in the temple!

The Draper temple has wonderful views of the whole Salt Lake valley, and several other temple spires can be seen.  Just lovely.

Temple #4- the new Provo City Center Temple.  OK, so we didn't technically attend it, but it is cool and exciting, so I'm counting it.  My parents are extra excited about this new temple that is being constructed in the burned out remains of the old Provo Tabernacle because they actually got engaged right there in the Provo Tabernacle parking lot.  It was already sacred ground to them, so they think making it a temple is entirely appropriate.

For his last meal (it sounds like he is on death row or something!) Alex wisely chose In N' Out, like any good Californian should. 

 His check-in time at the MTC was 1:45, so we made our way over to the park that sits right between the MTC and the Provo Temple, temple #5.  This is apparently the place where everybody goes to wait for their time and say their goodbyes.  There were small groups of people everywhere, and in the center of each group was either a young man in a suit and tie, or a young lady in a dress, that was the center of everyone's attention, having their picture taken, etc.  So it was with us.  For the next 45 minutes, this boy was the center of my whole world!

Man, how I miss that smile already!  He looks so sharp in his crisp new suit.  The next time I see him, I'm sure that suit will look a bit, well, dingy. At least I hope so!

Alex was enjoying teasing his grandparents, right to the very end.

Their first grandchild is going on a mission.  They are so proud.

He is lucky to be so close to them.

Spending a last few moments with my baby boy.  Just yesterday, I swear, I was holding this tiny baby in my arms, amazed that the Lord trusted me enough to hand over His precious son to me to raise. I promised the Lord I would do the best I could.  Now the time had come, like it did with Hannah of old, to bring that son to the door of the temple, quite literally, and offer him up to serve the Lord.  This sweet boy was God's gift to me, and now he was my gift back to the Lord.

A few last words to everyone before going in.

And, last, but not least, a final phone call to his dad, who had a few more words of wisdom for him.
OK, Dad.  I will.  Love you too.

Back in the car for the very short drive across the street, and a quick hug across the seat for grandpa at the stoplight.

No, he is not excited at all.  Poor grandma.

We pull in and the guy directing traffic tell us, "Pull all the way forward.  You have exactly 2 1/2 minutes."  That's it?  NO!

It was like a well-oiled machine.  Hundreds of missionaries are dropped off every single Wednesday in the period of just 2 hours, with the As,Bs,and Cs starting at noon.  (Having a last name near the end of the alphabet usually means we are last for everything, but in this case it meant I got to keep my kid another hour and a half longer than folks at the beginning of the alphabet, so I'm not complaining.)  There were missionaries all lined up along the curb ready to greet the newbies, help them with their luggage, and show them the ropes.  There were also adults directing traffic and supervising everything.  Everyone was super happy (except for the bawling parents, of course) and there was such a great spirit there!  So much joy and excitement!  I wanted to leave my kid there.

Your 2 1/2 minutes starts now!  
Get the luggage out.  Don't forget anything. 

Meet your host missionary - a great young man heading to Hong Kong.

 Get in those last hugs.  Pose for the camera!

My baby!  I really think I did a good job of holding it together - until that moment!  Oh man!

The picture above right is out of focus, unfortunately, but I think it says it all.  He was SO excited and I was SO, well, afflicted!

  THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what it is like to drop your kid off at the MTC. 
 Just like ripping off a band-aid.

That's it!

Before you know it your kid is swept into the MTC with all his luggage and a smile plastered onto his face, and you are left a blubbering hot mess, driving away from the curb so some other mom can pull up to the curb and have her heart torn out of her in the next 2 1/2 minutes.

I was saved by this amazing woman.  Cathleen and I were best buds during our newlywed days back in San Diego.  We were pregnant with our first sons at the same time, and now those sons are both missionaries.  Her son just left the MTC for S. Korea a few weeks ago, so she knows exactly what I was going through.  She met me just a few minutes after dropping Alex off.  She whisked me away and knew exactly what to do to make me feel better.  No, it wasn't mani-pedi's or a trip to the mall, or even to drown my sorrows in fro-yo.  Instead, she brought me to a local bakery that delivers to the MTC and I ordered a box of sweet rolls for my missionary to share in the morning, then to the dollar store where I packed up a care package of silly blue items.  She even brought the box.  Then we ran off to a local mailbox place that she discovered makes daily deliveries to the MTC, any size, any weight for just $2!  When we walked in the store, they were just leaving to make that day's deliveries, so I quickly scribbled a note and threw it inside that said, "I was so BLUE when I dropped you off that I had to make you this package.  Love you!"  He had his package before I even left town!

I felt so much better by the time we were done, and we had a great time catching up as we ran around and did it all. I'm so grateful for a friend who was inspired to know exactly what I needed at that moment.  Sometimes it doesn't take much to turn a smile upside down.  Thank you, Cathleen!

So now, the boy is in the MTC, and we are all home getting on with our busy lives.  We miss him like crazy, and can't wait to get that first email from him.  Hopefully today!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saying Goodbye

After months and months of waiting, the time had finally come. It was time to make this kid an elder, say our goodbyes and send him off to serve the Lord. 

Saturday night was his "Adios" farewell party, (click on link to that fabulous fiesta here),where about 100 guests came to wish Alex off!  We were so grateful for everyone who came to support our boys, and to all those who gave so generously to either help with the party or financially for his mission or otherwise.  We feel truly blessed to have such supportive friends and loved ones!

Sunday was Alex' farewell talk during sacrament meeting.  What a wonderful meeting it was! We were so pleased that Alex' grandma and uncle were asked to give the prayers, and Dennis was asked to give a wonderful talk on service.  Then Nathan, Derek, and Dylan sang a beautiful rendition of "Called to Serve."  It turned out so well!  I was one proud and happy momma even before my missionary spoke!  Thanks Shari Thatcher for accompanying them and all your help with the number.

Finally, we got to hear from our missionary.  Alex spoke about what it means to have a "change of heart," and how his mission will be to help others to do that.  He did a good job, and we are so grateful for all the people who came out to support him.  (And it was really nice to have a full chapel again for the first time since the ward divided.)

The closing hymn was purposefully chosen by Sharon Stevens to rip my heart out, I think.  When they started singing "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again," I couldn't hold back the tears anymore.  Neither could Alex.  I tried not to look at him and he tried not to look at me, but it was no use.  It was not pretty.  Man, how I am gonna miss that kid!

Afterwards we snapped a few photos in front of the church.  Alex looks so sharp in his new blue suit!

Pics with his cousin Kimberly.

With Uncle Marty, Aunt Cheryl and what is left of their big clan - just Will. (They also have 2 missionaries out right now!)  Notice Marty doing the "Grandpa Ralph photo handshake."

More uncles, aunts, and cousin, Adam.

The big guy, "El Guapo", Brother Bruner, was grabbed for a picture, and the other Alex, Alex Winder, who was just coming from a board of review.

After church we had a big spread of sandwiches and leftover food from the fiesta.  
It was a small gathering of just family, and by family I mean almost 50 people.

Saying goodbye to Aunt Lisa and the Macavinta family.

After everyone had left, it was time to get down to business - making this kid a missionary.  On the drive to the church we were graced with a beautiful sunset!  The rays spread out into the sky.  To me it was a beautiful love note from my Father in Heaven reminding me that he is there and watching over us, especially his missionaries.

Luke was having a hard time letting go.

We all met with President Morris and President Verduzco.  They asked my parents, and Alex' parents to each share a piece of advice with Alex, then they set him apart as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It was official!  Alex was now Elder VanBuskirk - a real missionary!

Our last family picture for a long time.
Then with each of his brothers,

Grandma and Grandpa Signs

I know he had been set apart as an elder, but moms still get kissing privileges.

Alex could not have a more loving and supportive dad!  Dennis was FULL of great missionary advice for Alex, trying to cram as much wisdom as he could into him before he left.

We happened to have Alex' and Nate's friend, Donovan, spending the weekend with us.  He is not a member, and I'm sure it was very interesting for him to witness all of the goings-on of sending a missionary out.  Poor guy.  We Mormon's don't really all cry this much all the time, I promise.  We were glad he was with us.

Afterwards we went home and had a very special family testimony meeting together.  Then, at my request, Alex gave me a priesthood blessing of comfort, his very first one.  It was perfect and exactly what I needed.

Morning came all too soon, and morning meant saying goodbye.

We knelt down together as a family to pray for the very last time in a long time.  What a moment! I had a hard time closing my eyes as I wanted to just memorize that sweet picture of the 8 of us kneeling, holding hands, and supplicating our Lord together forever!

But time waits for no-one, especially the time of early morning seminary!
Last hugs with the twins and dad.

Then a bit later with the littles as they left for school.

This was NOT easy!  I tear up just looking at these pictures.  These little guys are going to change SO much while Alex is away and 2 years is an eternity to an 8 year old - its a full quarter of his life!

Nate had a morning dentist appointment that I had to take him to before we left, so he got to be the last to say goodbye.  This was the hardest goodbye, I think.  These two are best friends and the first friends each other has ever known.  Nathan will be leaving himself on a mission in a year, so they will not see each other for 3 years.  It was an emotional goodbye.

We had some time before we drove off, so I went into my room to finish packing.  Alex was in his room with Sparkey, I figured he was just relaxing.  But when we were leaving I ran back into the boys' rooms to get something I say that Alex had written each of his brothers a personal letter and taped them to their beds.  I didn't read them, of course, but I was touched by his sweet gesture to them, that he would spend his very last hour at home doing that for them.  I hope they will keep and treasure those letters.

With that, we loaded up my parents' car and drove away.  Alex will never return, at least not to this house.