Friday, April 25, 2014

Elder Graham

Mason enjoys dinner with a family in Texas

Elder Graham (right) with his mission president, John Pingree (center) and companion Elder Chandler
My dreams have come true!!! Years of piano lessons are put to good use as Mason helps during a mission conference

Elder Graham with Sharolyn, a lovely woman who Mason taught and helped to baptize in February.
It is so tender to me to see the love she has for my son. 

Mason's current companion, Elder Armacost

Elder Mason Graham left the Spruces on August 14, 2014 to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this writing he has served one third of his total 24 month mission. Time flies for us and stands still at the same time as we read about Mason's life as a missionary in his weekly emails home. Mason is growing up in so many ways, and yet he is still himself. He still loves comics though he does not read them on his mission. He makes calzones, one of his two specialities (omelets are his other). He struggles to get up right on time each morning. And his letters are lengthy epistles with words like "magnanimous" that sound more like Charles Dickens than any contemporary college kid. He is reaching up to Heaven to become more of his true self; he cares about other people. He has a conviction that Jesus Christ is real and that because of Him we can be forgiven of our sins when we repent. He is leading in unique ways and having surprising experiences. This is what it means to be a mormon missionary. When you represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and commit to invite others to come unto Christ your perspective and your daily life revolve around that commitment. And as you continue to experience the mission you become more; more loving, more dedicated, more eager to share and more interested in the welfare of others than in your own life. 

Right now Mason is being challenged in surprising ways. With few people who want to hear his message and a companion who requires some special help and support, our Elder's time is centered around seeking those who would hear and helping his companion and friend to adjust to mission life and feel confident that the rigors of the daily schedule will not be too difficult for him. This new companion is teaching Mason lessons that are unique and invaluable. In our modern scripture we often quote a verse that says "if it so be that ye should labor all your days and bring but one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father".  We interpret this to mean that even if all your time and effort only brings one person closer to Christ the value of that soul is eternal and precious and we will feel the great joy that God feels when one of His own comes home. We often don't recognize that that 'one' could be anyone; and for Mason perhaps that one is his companion and new friend.

Being a 'missionary mom' is still being a mom.  I pray for my child daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I think of what he is doing, how he is getting along, if he is growing and maturing, if he is helping others, how he spends his time and if he thinks of home. I send long emails on Monday (Mason writes home once each week on Monday mid-day) and sometimes I send little packages in the mail or letters with an old fashioned stamp.  I eagerly talk about him when people ask about how he is doing. I feel proud and worried and happy and sad. Joy and sorrow. Worry and peace. All the feelings a mother has still come even though I have placed my son in God's hand quite literally and have given him (of course, he chose to give himself! But I let him go, didn't I) away like Hannah at the temple gate. Though I have not likely raised a Samuel, I have handed my firstborn back to the Lord who gave Him to me. 

And sometimes I miss him terribly. 

But most days I feel peace. And pride. And joy. And love. And gratitude.
I'm glad I am a missionary mom. I'm happy to have a missionary for a son.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Madi this Month

Madi's poster photo for her Student Body Office Election, one more thing swirling in Madi's life right now

Monday night our family went to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at the Junior High. As Dorothy went flying through the tornado watching her life pass by her I thought of Madi’s month. She has been picked up by some crazy turn of events and dropped back down into a bit of a new reality…this girl is not in Kansas any more.

The past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind for Madi. She turned 14 just 4 weeks ago. A week later we were on our way to Newport Beach for a fun spring break with Madi’s buddy Sophie along for the trip. 2 weeks after the break Madi hopped in a golf cart with her friends and went on a fun joy ride that ended with the cart overturned and Madi out cold on the pavement. A trip to the ER confirmed a concussion (she was struggling to remember her middle name, couldn’t remember her class schedule and had a hard time recalling her age as well). The trauma of the experience was almost as challenging as the injury(she was sitting backwards on the cart and had no warning to brace for the accident, she was shaken awake by her friends only to see that one of the girls was under the cart and the other was covered in a bloody road rash…pretty traumatic for a tender heart like Madi).Now, 10 days after the accident, Madi is back to full days at school but still not back to her competition soccer team or her iPod (much to her chagrin). Her beautiful mind got knocked pretty good.

This mom has been in a mild state of panic ever since Madi’s accident. The concern I have felt for her welfare has been a weight on my shoulders and the subject of wrestles dreams. Her independence and her determination haven’t helped my state of mind…finding her with a phone in her hand (bright lights and little text aren’t good for concussions) or finding her playing tag int the back yard with her siblings have caused me to swallow loud yelps of ‘STOP!’ and settle instead of a concerned ‘Madi!?’ Competing feelings of joy that she feels up to chasing her little sister and worry that she will fall and re-injure herself have raced up and down inside me, tying me in knots as I try to show patience and be encouraging. 

Thinking about how to help Madi face the justifiable fear that is now more a part of her as a result of this scare has been another quandary. Madi is independent. Madi is not super talkative with her mom. Madi wants to bury things down deep instead of processing them and pushing them into their proper place. My prayers have been fervent and my desire for her welfare so big, like a mama bear standing up to her full height to swat away danger…only the danger I stand up to face for her is unseen and intangible to me. It exists only within my darling, witty, wonderful, compassionate quirky teen. Because I can’t fix it, I pray for her to feel promptings to know how she can reach out or reach up to repair those little places within which have been torn or traumatized. 

Madi’s concussion will heal. We have been assured of this and we see her marked improvement as time continues to pass. Madi’s wit and energy are returning. She is lingering at the piano bench, diving into new music and using her precious and amazing mind to think and to create. She will return to herself soon. Her legs will run the soccer field. Her thumbs will wildly text or instagram, she will be all of Madi again. 

And I hope as she comes back to herself she will have taken the opportunity along the way to reach up to heaven for help. To test the things we have taught; that she will never be left comfortless, that there is one who understands exactly how she feels both physically and emotionally. I hope she will cast her burden of fear at the feet of one who will gladly take it and carry it for her. And if she will experiment on the words we have spoken to her and our family again and again from before she was even with us, I know she will be o.k.
I’m learning, as the mom of kids who are growing and going forward in life, that I have less I can control and more I must trust. As I pray for Madi to reach toward heaven for help and comfort I am exerting my own faith in the things I’ve taught her. I can’t of myself fix the things that have gone wrong, so I practice the things that I believe will bring her help and peace. I’m learning I have to get out of the way of the greater lessons that are waiting for my children to learn. And as they stumble, both literally like Madi or in other less physical ways, I have to trust in that very process of regret, repentance, and renewal that I have preached. They are practicing the lessons they learned as they sat at my knee where I could shelter and protect them. 

This is harder parenting. Being the mother of little ones was exhausting physically and emotionally. But the teens; the mothering of teens is like the refiner’s fire. It’s uncomfortable. It’s spiritually exhausting more than physically tiring. Its work of a different nature; the kind that requires stillness and listening and trusting - not my children trusting me, but me trusting in God and all I’ve taught my children. 

Madi was the one who got her bell rung, but my head is spinning with mothering her. I feel unsteady on my feet, find it hard to remember my lines and feel uncertain of the words to speak and how they will sound coming from my lips. Its been like this for a while. I’ve mothered my oldest out of the nest, and my emotions were so jumbled and confused that I could not write them here. I'm still sorting them out. Just like it was with their arrival in my life, as my children each reach teen age times I feel I’m learning how to be a "new mom", how to mother them  as they grow into themselves. My balance feels off, and I feel that strange duo personality of one who is confident that being a mother is what she is and one who doesn’t know what on earth she is doing. 

As Madi grows into her health and into her grown up self, I hope I can grow into a greater measure of the mother I am as time marches on. I hope as I reach up and ask for help and beg the Lord to help my kids that I too will come to my mothering self. That I’ll know my way again - or at least feel confident that I can find the right way to help my children continue to go and grow and become. Like Madi’s recovery, I have had to take things away from my life and purposefully and steadily learn what to put back in and when to introduce the ‘extra’s’ that could stall my return to the confidence of my motherhood. And as I hope for  Madi’, I hope I too will reach up and become more in my mothering with the help of Heaven.