first letter from the field

Oct 6, 2015 by

Monday is Blythe’s P-Day, which means Preparation Day. It is the one day a week that missionaries can do laundry, buy groceries, check email, send letters, etc. She arrived in California on Tuesday and yesterday we received our first letter from her since she arrived in California. She sounds so happy! Our hearts are full with gratitude that she is doing well adjusting to missionary life and is working hard serving the Lord. Also, we chuckled a little at this letter as she has apparently adopted a new word, “chill,” as we have never heard her say this word as frequently as she does in this letter.

My first week has been awesome! I have literally felt no doubt or nervousness since that first day. I am serving in the Live Oak Canyon Ward, Rancho Santa Marguerite Stake, in a city called Trabuco Canyon.

My companion is Sister Shumway from Dallas, TX. She sort of reminds me of Alicia Horran. She’s awesome and nice. She has a quieter personality and she helps people feel comfortable. Everyone I’ve talked to says she’s an awesome missionary and from what I’ve seen they’re right. She not pushy, not nit-picky, but is able to stay focused and engaged in the work in an orderly manner. It’s nice because there’s barely even a “trainer/trainee” feel to our relationship. She is able to teach me and guide me through the training without making me feel like a student. She’s even said that she feels like she’s just with another missionary. I am so grateful that she is able to teach me well and still be equals and friends.

President Orgill is as awesome as everyone says, or more. You can totally tell he worked in Hawaii. He’s so kind and relaxed and concerned for your welfare. That first day we met with him and got all our paper work done and all the other stuff to get us started in the mission and had food and a little orientation. Then they gave us our bedding, we grabbed our pillow and they had us go take a nap. They had us spread out and lay on the pews in the chapel (which I thought was pretty funny). We got to sleep for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. That was the best! I think I mentioned this on Tuesday, but we’d all gotten about two hours of sleep the night before and by bedtime we were going to have been up for 21ish hours. Transfer meeting was awesome! When President Orgill started it off he says “Aloha” and everyone says “Aloha” back. They had everyone already present sing “Called to Serve” and had all the new missionaries walk in while they were singing and sit on the stand. President Orgill introduced us all. Then he announced who would be training who, and they’d run up and hug and they’d run down and hug. Some people brought some really funny presents for their trainees, such as an “It’s a boy” balloon and a duck and a turtle (not real, of course). Then he announced all the changes of companionships and every time he’d say one everyone would be like “Ah, Oh” and the new companions would run to each other and bear hug each other. It was awesome. One elder who is over 6 1/2 feet tall was put with a companion who is shorter than me (to co-train a new missionary who was perfectly in between their heights) so when he ran up to hug, he “ACCIDENTALLY” went to throw his arms around his companion, missed and went over his head, then was all like “Oops!” then hugged him for real. It was hilarious!

The first night we had dinner with the Ward mission leader and his wife (who are awesome) and a new convert, at this yummy taco place up the canyon. The next day we had a half P-day just to get anything we needed until Monday rolled around and did member visits to some of the coolest ward members. They’re way chill and fun to be around and with one lady we talked all about our favorite books and how yummy Thai food is. :) I like her a lot! Everyone so far has been awesome. That night we had a dinner appointment with a less active woman who married a very nice muslim man, so their sons name is way cool. It’s Shaffiq. Their house was super fancy, not huge, but everything was expensive, with a view of the valley, a fancy pool in the back and a yard for entertaining. She puts on big parties all the time. She was still pretty chill about it though.

Our area is pretty much this one long road going from this canyon, through the city and almost to the biggest gated communities in the world (where some famous person used to live apparently). There are two gated communities in our area and they’re a pain to work around. We can’t contact or tract. They would have to come talk to us first. We do have passes for them though, because ward members live there. Thursday we went down the length of our area and left info about General Conference for all the less actives. Only 4ish answered the door and one invited us in, but we left notes for them. Then we went contacting in an apartment complex which thankfully is not gated. We talked to several people who could be potential investigators. Sister Shumway says that’s the most success she’s seen her entire mission. She’s been out 4 months. By the way, one elder who was assigned a new trainee only got through 6 weeks of his twelve week training before he was assigned to train!. We are ward sharing with a companionship of elders, which works really well with getting to all the less actives. I love the zone and district. Everyone is fun and chill, with only the occasional socially awkward one. I don’t see them every day, but I did see them Thursday (a surprise party for an awesome elder from Tonga), Friday (zone/district kickoff meeting), Saturday (for Conference) and Sunday (for Conference). Haha! We all watched conference at the stake center together and on Saturday and had an impromptu potluck between sessions, it was totally awesome.

I have a ton of pictures for you, but somehow I forgot my cord this morning so you’ll have to wait another week. :( Just FYI, the picture that the nice lady from the airport sent you was not my MTC companion. That’s Sister Hollenbeck, a roommate and district member. I have so much more to say, but this will do for now. I love it here, I love the people and the area. My companion is awesome!

Oh! I saw the temple last night after a music fireside, and it’s pink granite, not white! I have more to say about it, but I’ll wait till I go in. I don’t get to go in every week, but every other transfer. :(

Brother King says he comes down here a lot and I want my violin. Maybe he could bring it to the mission office? I think there might have been something else I needed you to send, but I forgot. If you send my violin it would be great if it was with a person if you can. I don’t want it to get hurt. Also, could you put a humidifier in it?

Love you so much!
Sister Blythe W.

P.S. Tell Madi that I saw Dawson and Elder Arave (I forgot his first name.) Tell Emily I saw Logan, her dance partner. (At the MTC)

P.P.S. It’s not too much hotter down here, but the sun is more intense, and there’s just so much more of it.

P.P.P.S. The roads going through the canyons are about as wide as pasta noodles and as winding. Would be a total death trap with ice.


P.P.P.P.P.S. Keziah, there are sooooooo many palm trees. :)

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Sep 26, 2015 by


Wednesday, September 16 was the big day we have been looking forward to for the past many months. Before that day came we had to have purchased a gazillion things, packed it all up, had her set apart by our Stake President, had her final dates with her siblings, parents, and grandparents, said all of our goodbyes, and emptied out her room so Annesley could move in. Most of those things happened…but not all of them.

The last few days before she left were full of lasts. Last date with each of her siblings. Last date with Madi, her best friend. Lunch with her grandparents. Last movie night with us a family. Last time playing her favorite music on our piano. Last time taking a llllooooonnnnngggg shower. There were also lots of firsts. First time packing suitcases instead of duffle bags. First time being set apart as a full-time missionary. First time sharing her testimony of Christ as a missionary. First time being gone from us for more than a few days.

That last week there were so many things that still needed to be purchased. A blazer, a robe (never actually found one that would work!), scripture marking pencils, nail care set, sewing kit, shampoo and conditioner, highlighters, a navy blue cardigan, static guard, SD card, a curling iron, skirt hangers, a watch, luggage tags, and a gazillion other little things. Some angels in disguise came to our rescue and sent us money or sent stuff via Amazon Prime so we could get all those last minute things. My heart wells up with tears of joy every time I think about the help we have been given to get her out the door. A year ago when all this started in earnest, I remember saying, “I have no idea how we will be able to pay for her mission, much less get her all the stuff she needs to serve.” and my mom said, “Well, you need to trust. As she works hard saving money, God will help all of you to be able to do this. If a mission is where God wants her to be, He will be in the details.” And she was right. He has been with us and has sent many hands and hearts to help. Thank you to each of you who have blessed us with love, encouragement, and money – you are being God’s hands.

The Friday before we started packing in earnest and tried to figure out the best way to first, make everything fit, and second, make it most efficient for use. Since she will be flying to California, she had to abide by the airplane rules of a 50 lb. weight limit and nothing larger than 62 dimensional inches. And if she would have been flying straight to California, that would have been pretty easy-peasy. BUT she has a two week stay at the Missionary Training Center, MTC for short, before she flies out. And she hates packing. So I decided it would work best for her if we could make everything she would need for the two weeks at the MTC fit into one suitcase and everything else fit into the other two bags. Kat came over for several hours on Sunday helping us figure things out. It was pretty hilarious for her super organized packing brain to be in the same room with our scatterbrained non-packing brains – good thing she has a heart of gold and was able to be patient with us. We didn’t successfully get anything packed, but we got most of the stuff ready to be packed. We also figured out lots of things that wouldn’t work.

Monday morning Blythe left to spend the day with her grandparents and running last minute errands and I utilized the time to get the packing thing completely figured out with no interference from her or anyone else. I watched a few packing videos online and got to work implementing all my brainstorming ideas that had come in the night while I tossed and turned. As the morning progressed, it appeared my brilliant one MTC bag would work! I was able to get her MTC bag packed with everything she would need for two weeks and get everything else to fit in the other two bags. Throughout that day I packed and unpacked everything several times, weighed, adjusted, weighed some more. Then our neighbor came over who is about to leave on her mission and wanted some ideas from us (as if we know what we are doing!), so nearly everything got unpacked again. By this time, I was a pro. I quickly got it all packed back up and ready to go. And I went to bed that night feeling pretty darn accomplished. Then I realized I still hadn’t solved the shampoo and conditioner problem, made her a rice pack, made copies of her mission call, found some hair serum, found a robe, packed her last minute odd and ends, etc. Tuesday was spent finishing up all those last minute details and Blythe and Keziah went on a date to see “Once I Was A Beehive” and then late that night Kat came over again and helped us finish up the last of the packing using all her mad packing skills to solve the last few challenges. She also made Blythe an adorable rice bag since I never got to it…superhero is all I can say about Miss Kat. When all was loaded, her two checked bags weighed in at 47 and 48 lbs and we were ready to walk out the door!

Now the emotional side of all of this is a whole different story. From about the time my dad left on the 3rd clear through to the 14th, I was a grumpy mama bear. Deep sadness entered my soul and no matter how I tried to reason it away, it would not leave. The thought of our family being forever changed by Blythe’s leaving was so overwhelmingly painful. The realization that my phase of mothering my little children in my home was ending and a new phase beginning hit me as a gale force wind and I needed to grieve the ending before I could welcome the beginning. I was easily irritated, then frustrated with myself for spending these last precious days with my girlie in such an unpleasant state of being, then sad all over again. We were all trying so hard to be loving and to savor these moments together and yet I was miserable at the thought of her leaving. And then on the 14th as I folded her laundry, God reached out and gave me a gift. He wrapped me up in his love for her and filled me with gratitude that I have a daughter who loves Jesus so much she is willing to go and share His message of redemption and happiness with complete strangers.

Late Tuesday night, Blythe was set apart as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The six of us plus Richard’s parents attended this special blessing and it was a beautiful, sacred experience to feel the Spirit so strongly and to hear powerful blessings pronounced upon my daughter’s head.

Wednesday morning we left bright and early to make the 4 hour drive to Provo. My heart was full of joy. Full of happiness. It was quite miraculous to experience so much joy when for the past many days I had been mired in grief. The rain poured down all day and at times we could barely see the road, but we were able to get to Provo with just enough time to take her to lunch at our favorite place, The Old Spaghetti Factory. We didn’t know if we would be able to do that or not, but I was able to squirrel away enough pennies to make it happen, so it was super fun to surprise her with one last fun outing – may the delicious Spinach Tortellini fill her up with our love for her for the next 18 months. Then we had just few minutes to get up to the Provo temple to take the obligatory temple fountain picture. We still needed to pack her makeup and hair stuff she had used that morning into her suitcase, so we sent the 4 kiddos up to take pictures while Richard and I made sure everything was completely ready in her bags.

At this point, everyone was still laughing and smiling. We were about 6 minutes from dropping her off and everyone was super happy and taking silly pictures.








Then the moment came. We entered the MTC parking lot and came to the drop-off line. We were quickly directed to our drop-off spot and started unloading her things.


Her face changed from one of silliness to soberness.


I was filled from head to toe with peace. Indescribable warmth and joy and glorious peace filled me and I knew we were in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. God wrapped me up in His peace. What a feeling! I have heard other people describe this peace when a loved one has died or some other tragic thing has happened, but I have never experienced such a powerful feeling of tenderness from my Father in Heaven. I think He knew I needed this extra measure of comfort. The amazing thing is, it is still with me.


Then Keziah jumped out of the suburban and gave her big sister the hug of a lifetime…so much tenderness and love in that hug.






Then Annesley jumped out and ran into Blythe’s arms.


Fisher couldn’t bring himself to get out, so Blythe went over and gave him a tearful hug goodbye.


And then with courage, faith, and determination, she walked away into her new life as a missionary. So proud of her! I always said I would have served a mission if I hadn’t been married beforehand, but seeing how much courage it takes, boy howdy, I don’t know if I would have actually had enough.


And this is what our faces looked like as we drove away – lots of tears and sadness. Somehow, I didn’t cry. My joy at that moment was too great for tears and as I had been crying for weeks, it was time for me to bask in the truth of John’s wise words.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

3 John 1:4







None of the kids wanted to do anything fun on our way home. They were all full of sadness and deep thoughts. We tried to go to Scheel’s to ride the Ferris Wheel thinking that would cheer the kiddos up, but the ride was closed for maintenance. We went and visited Jessica for a bit, but even seeing our dear friends didn’t cheer the kids up. Then we stopped at Tami’s where she fed us a delicious dinner of Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Such a beautiful day!

My heart is full of joy and I am so grateful to have had the privilege of raising this daughter who loves goodness and puts God first in her life. She is my hero!

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Sep 16, 2015 by

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Sister Blythe W. is serving a mission in the California Irvine Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will serve from September 16, 2015 to March 2017.

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a heart full of love before she leaves

Sep 14, 2015 by

a heart full of love before she leaves

Having our girlie leave for her mission is hard. Really hard. My emotions have been all over the map in the past couple of weeks and I have been grumpy more often than not. But today my heart has swelled up with gratitude. As I put her clothes in the washer today to clean for probably the last time, the past 19 years of memories swept across my mind’s eye and I started weeping with joy that I have been privileged to be this special girl’s mama. I am so grateful to have her for our daughter. I am grateful she is worthy and able to serve a mission. I am grateful she loves God. I am grateful she believes in and relies on the atonement of Jesus Christ. I am grateful she chooses good, uplifting, life-giving pursuits. I am grateful she loves and creates beautiful music. I am grateful her soul is drawn to stories of courage, sacrifice, liberty, and love. I am so grateful for the thousands of hours we have spent learning, reading, and discovering together. I am grateful, oh, so grateful for this precious time I have had her in my home.

Blythe in field

Further up and Further In! It is time to grow ever closer to her Father and Savior, to learn to truly love her fellow man in her heart AND her actions, and to do hard things. I am so excited for her!

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six days

Sep 10, 2015 by

Six days left with my girlie. It is hard to believe we are at this point and she is about to walk out of our home and embark on her adventure of serving the Lord as a missionary preaching the gospel and loving and serving the people of California.

I want to savor these last few days with her, but the truth is I am grumpy and overwhelmed at how much we still have to get done. I’m not that much fun to be with right now – every day I tell myself I am going to be cheerful and kind and helpful and every day this week I have failed. Every day I pray for help, pleading with God to help me have a soft heart and kind words and even with His help, the grumpiness comes out.

Part of me is grieving. This is the loss of our family unit as we know it. I know the next phase of life is going to be wonderful in its own way, but I am still grieving the loss of this time, this sacred time I have had to be a homeschooling mother of four precious souls. Earlier in this mission process, I mistakenly thought we wouldn’t really miss her, that since she has been working so much the past year and not in our home for many hours each day, we would be fine without her. But I was wrong. My heart is aching with pain at the thought of her being gone from our home. Giant alligator tears pour out of me every single day. Our family is changing. Forever. It will never be the same again. And while I am so, so excited for her and for the future, I am also deeply sad.

Part of me is worried…is she really ready? Will she be able to handle all that is thrown at her in the next 18 months? Have I failed her by not teaching her better? Will she get along with her companions? Will she turn to God? Will she thrive?

Part of me is overwhelmed. We still have so much to do, to buy, to find in our home, and to figure out how to make do with what we have. I think getting a missionary out the door is an expensive, stressful experience for everyone who does it. I think it has been a bit more challenging for us…but I could be totally wrong on that since I have no idea what it has been like for anyone else.

Challenge #1

We have a small and quite limited budget and we haven’t spent much of that budget on Blythe’s wardrobe for the past several years. She has survived just fine with hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, and the occasional super cute outfit bought by her grandma. But when we inspected her existing clothing options, none of it was mission appropriate, especially for the wealthy, professional area of California she is serving. Her clothes were faded, worn-out, looked like something a fourteen year old would wear, or were simply unattractive. She needed all new clothes, not just dresses and skirts and blouses, but everything. Her only pajamas were heavy, warm fleece, which is not quite what she will need in sunny California. Her exercise clothes were men’s basketball shorts which were once again not long enough to cover her knees while both standing and sitting, a mission requirement. Her robe was falling apart and not long enough to meet mission standards, her jeans were too tight, her bras were lacking in the support department, and her shoes were filthy, holey, and stinky. So she needed new everything. Quite the task to completely outfit her for her new life.

Challenge #2

Blythe has never lived on her own, so she didn’t have any of her own stuff. We all share clothes, curling irons, straighteners, makeup, hairspray, socks, etc. We have had to get all of that stuff for her. Well, to be honest, we still have to purchase some of it and some of it I am just sending with her from my things and will have to live without for awhile until I can afford to replace those items.

Challenge #3

Another budgeting challenge is that we have been getting her ready for her mission during the four months of the year that Richard doesn’t get paid from his regular job and we have to live off of savings and the small check he gets from his part-time job. There isn’t room for extras in our budget, so anything we have bought for her has to come out of our grocery budget and anything she has bought (which is the vast majority of the purchases) has had to be bought as she has earned the money. She didn’t go into this with a huge nest egg of money, so she has had to work hard earning the money she needs to outfit herself and to save a big chunk to pay towards the $400 monthly fee required of missionaries. So, she wasn’t able to just go out and purchase what she needed as she needed to earn a little, shop a little, earn some more, shop some more. I think if we could have just had a week of big shopping days, we could have kicked this out of the park back in June. For the things we are purchasing, we spent everything we could back in June and then have had to wait until now to get the rest of her things because we chose to take our annual camping trip in August. We survived on eggs for the entire month of August so we could save grocery money to buy items on her supply list and throw her an Ice Cream Fest the day of her farewell. This little bit at a time approach is working, but it is harder than just having a big list and checking it off. It’s all good and I am proud of her for working so hard to earn the money she needs, it’s just that our lack of ability to help much has complicated things.

Challenge #4

Between her work schedule and my body’s limited ability to shop for very long, it has been difficult for us to go shopping together. Endless phone calls, sending pictures back and forth, buying things and then returning them when one or both of us vetoes an item has been our life for the past 4 months.

Challenge #5

Blythe has many strengths, but getting stuff done in a timely or orderly fashion is not one of them. I really do wonder if I will be sane by next week as the packing and room cleaning jobs have been put off till the very last minute. I am much the same way and must have driven my mother absolutely bonkers with my procrastinating ways. Being the one waiting on the procrastinator is about the most frustrating experience ever and is playing a huge part in my grumpiness.

Somehow we will get it all done…or maybe we won’t and she will end up in California without the things she needs and will figure out a way to survive without them. Today is clean the room and make the list of anything we still need to beg, borrow, or buy. In the meantime, I will be singing hymns and trying to remember to smile and laugh and enjoy this girlie I love so much.

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opening the call!

May 5, 2015 by

opening the call!

Blythe’s mission call arrived on Monday, May 4th, which is an odd day since they usually come on Thursdays or Fridays. We weren’t expecting it to be in the mail that day and when I sent Fisher to the mailbox in between math and reading, I wondered, but didn’t really think it would be there. When he walked in the house and said in his deadpan voice, “Blythie’s mission call came,” I didn’t believe him.

But he was right!

She was hurriedly getting ready for work and quickly called her friends and grandparents to see if she could get everyone here that night for an “opening party.”

Around 9:20 p.m. many of our dear friends started pouring in and my heart filled up with gratitude for the love we are surrounded with. Ward members, former Young Women leaders, Richard’s parents, Amy and Sheri’s families, the other Sherry, Jada, and about forty of Blythe’s (and our’s – we love these youth!) friends all squished into our home.


Getting ready to open the big white envelope.


Starting to read. We had seven family members on various phones and are holding them all around her hoping they could all hear.


People cheering with excitement as she read the letter.


Here is the link to the video of her reading her letter. I can’t get it to display here, so you’ll have to click the link and watch it yourself.


Love that hug at the end!

If you didn’t watch the video, she has been called to the California Irvine Mission! She reports to the Prove MTC on September 16 which is wonderful because she could have left as early as August 12 and we are really grateful for the extra month she has to work to earn money for her mission.

Here is what we know so far about her mission. It is tinsy…looks like about 10-15 miles wide and 20-30 miles long. It has great weather in the 60s to low 80s year round and the area is hilly, humid, and beautiful. From what we can find online, the area has a high percentage of Asians (40+%) and is safe, busy, and densely populated (3 million).

The California Irvine Mission is a relatively small mission with great weather and great people. The mission is filled with affluent people who are willing to speak with missionaries about the gospel. Southern Californians are generally professional people with a large majority of people who are successful in their jobs. However, there are many people in this mission who are middle- to lower-class.

Missionaries stay active in the Irvine Mission. The Newport Beach California Temple is now included in the mission boundaries. The temple was dedicated by Gordon B. Hinckley in 2005. There are many active members who are strong in the gospel and willing to help missionaries with whatever they can. Members frequently like to have missionaries over to their homes.

Taken from Mission Home.

We are so excited for her and so, so grateful for the journey we are embarking on.

Now we start the process of outfitting her with everything she will need in sunny, Southern California. She is such a hot-blooded person, her priority is to find some nice, breathable clothing that will work well with the humidity!

Miss Annes is super excited about this whole process, but she is also needing some extra snuggles and nurturing. She knows this is good and wants Blythe to share the message of Jesus Christ’s gospel, but she doesn’t really want her sister to leave. I keep finding her squished up against me or Blythe or Richard.


All of us in the midst of the excitement. Yes, Richard’s eyes are closed and Fisher isn’t looking at the camera, but hey, it’s a better pic than the ones we often get when we are actually trying to have a family photo taken.


Afterwords we stayed up super late (it was already late when we started the whole shebang!) and read everything we could find about the Irvine area, poured over her call packet, and talked and talked and talked. Such a special night!

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