Monday, December 30, 2013

On the Move ... First Transfer!

December 30, 2013

Monday has quickly become our favorite day of the week as that is the day we get an email from Ethan! For his entire mission thus far, since he's been in Texas, his emails have arrived anywhere between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., so I have that in the back of my mind as I go throughout the day. It's always SO great to hear from him and hear how he's doing! And sometimes receive photos as well. So, today, when we hadn't heard from Ethan by about 2 p.m., that was curious. Then 3 p.m. passed, then 4 p.m. passed...moving a little past "curious" to "concerning" (to this mom, anyway). A little bit after 5 p.m., we finally heard from him! His companion had been pretty sick all day and Ethan was working with the mission office on getting him to the doctor, helping to take care of him, etc., thus the delay. (We hope all is going well!) In his email, Ethan shared the news that he's being transferred -- moving tomorrow, actually. He's going to be living and working in Flour Bluff, Texas, in the Corpus Christi area. It's about three hours from where he's been serving in McAllen since July 15th. He's been in the same area and ward for the past six months, and it will be difficult for him to leave the people he's come to love. This is part of the life of an LDS Missionary. New adventures and experiences await, and new people to love and serve! How fitting for the new year. He said he's really excited that he'll still be in a bike area: "YES -- bike areas are the best, I love them -- and it helps me not blow up from the food, ha-ha!" Lots of great cooks in the Texas McAllen Mission who are so kind to feed the missionaries!

Here's a map of where Elder Christiansen will be living and working now -- Flour Bluff is just south of the Naval Station:

Here's Ethan's letter, December 30, 2013 -- he's referring to our Christmas skype call (so awesome!); a visit after Christmas from our dear friends, the Biens, from West Lafayette; and the MIT: Mormon Invitational Tournament (basketball), that Andrew played in over the holidays:

December 30, 2013

Hey y’all!

Yea it was super awesome talking to y’all too! Sorry I'm on so late; Elder Merica has been super sick so I've been talking to Sister Maluenda all day getting him to the doctor and stuff. Also I got the call on Sunday morning and I am getting transferred up to Corpus Christi! I can't believe it. I've been about 10 minutes away from Mexico for six months, and now I’m going to almost the top of the mission! It was sad saying goodbye to all the members I have gotten close to, but it's just a part of the mission. My new area is called Flour Bluff and I heard it's on an island, but that might not be true. I have no idea. I’m excited though! Other than that nothing really too big has happened this week. We don't have a lot of time to email today. On New Year’s Eve we all come in at 6 p.m. and we are going to be watching either Mulan or Finding Nemo, so I’m way excited for that! Oh, and I saw that play at a pizza place were Auburn beat Alabama on the field goal attempt…what!?!...I couldn't believe what I was seeing, that was crazy! But it's all good. That's cool about the frijoles (ha-ha that's beans in Spanish and I’m talking about the Biens). That's cool about the MIT, too. I love you guys so much family!

Elder Christiansen

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Skype!

December 25, 2013

At 5:00 p.m. today, we were getting a very exciting Christmas gift -- our skype call with Elder Christiansen! Doug, Andrew and I had a wonderful day together and we all were so looking forward to 5 o'clock!

We tested the computer connection, skyped from our computers in different rooms, and set up the iPad to record the Skype. We tested where to sit so Ethan would be able to see all three of us, and we would be able to see him -- arranging chairs so we could fit in the height and width of the computer screen and still be able to record. Quite the logistical and technological situation!

We were "go for launch" at 4:30 p.m. and counting down. Elder Christiansen was going to be skyping from a church member's home. We had so many questions we wanted to ask him, and we were so looking forward to "seeing" him!

The ring, the connection, and there he was! We could see his face, sort of back-lit by a lamp in the room; he was skyping from the basement weight room, and we had 45 minutes to visit. There were three missionaries after Ethan waiting to use the computer to skype with their families, too.

After we got the lighting figured out on his end, we could see his face. He looked great!!!

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

  • Good news -- Ethan hasn't been really homesick: "I've been too busy!" 
  • He loves riding his bike every day, and kicks off his morning with 75 push-ups.
  • The night before, at Christmas Eve dinner at the Bishop's house, he ate a tiny but powerfully hot pepper and within seconds he was sweating, crying, nose running, gasping, and gulping down water! The only relief came from rushing outside and throwing up in the yard. Good times, I'm sure! (This was actually the first thing he told us while we were trying to get the light adjusted so we could see him. Hilarious!)
  • He loves the wonderful Mexican food, even likes salad now, and also was glad he hadn't been served soup that's made from the face and intestines of a cow.
  • He absolutely loves the people he's met -- so warm and friendly.
  • He's learned the importance of setting goals to help get things accomplished. Wonderful!
  • He loves his mission president, Presidente Maluenda, and appreciates that he always tells the missionaries to enjoy every moment of their missions.
  • Playing basketball is his favorite activity after all the chores are done on "P-day" (preparation day -- grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the apartment, etc. -- oh, and writing to family and friends). :)
  • He is so thankful and happy to be serving a mission, and recommends everyone read something out of the Book of Mormon every day -- "I'm blown away by how much power that book has."
  • He is thankful for the many friends who have written to him!
  • He ended our call by sharing his feelings about Jesus Christ, and his testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ -- all in Spanish. It was beautiful! We couldn't understand a thing, but could feel his spirit and sincerity. It was lovely. 

Favorite Christmas gift for our whole family! I haven't gone back to watch the recording yet -- giving the actual conversation time to wander around in my memory first. I'll watch it sometime between now and Mother's Day, when we get to skype again. Can't wait!! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

We received these photos of Elder Christiansen today, out and about in McAllen, Texas. Absolutely love the rainbow! We were so happy to see him and the rainbow was a special bonus. One of these photos just might be on the Christmas card this year! :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween in Donna

November 4, 2013

Hola Familia & Amigos!

How’s everyone doing? It’s been another awesome month to be a missionary in the great TMM (Texas McAllen Mission)!! I on my third transfer, my second companion, and I’ve been in Donna, TX for three-and-a-half months! I’m doing my individual and companion study in pure Spanish now, so the language is starting to click, I guess. It was 70 degrees a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t believe how FREEZING cold I was, I’m so used to it being 95! Oh, and I LOVE Mexican food!!

All throughout General Conference,* I couldn’t help but think about how much I love the church and how it helps me learn and grow. When President Monson announced we had reached 15 million members and over 80,000 missionaries, I couldn’t help but feel proud to be a part of this work. It was amazing. I love his prophetic call to all of us, missionary or member, saying, “The time is now" for us to work together. Remember to pray, especially if you’re having a hard time. He is waiting to help us; we just need to ask. I love you all!

Con Amor,
Ethan Christiansen

*Note from me: General Conference is a held twice a year, in April and October, and broadcast throughout the world. It's an opportunity to hear talks and instruction from Church leaders.

Elder Christiansen and Elder Merica,
(Ethan's second companion in Donna, TX).
Elder Merica and Elder Christiansen at the Church
Halloween Party. Nice carving skills!
Elder Christiansen with some of his fellow missionaries.

Monday, September 30, 2013

September Memories ... and Amazing Scenery!

September 30, 2013

Hola Familia & Amigos!

It’s been another awesome month to be a missionary in the great TMM (Texas McAllen Mission)!! It’s been raining cats and dogs just about every day so I’m pretty much always wet – either rained on while we ride our bikes, splashed riding through puddles, or drenched in sweat because it’s still hot! After 17 days, it finally stopped raining and I’m excited about that. And really excited for General Conference next week – it’s like Super Bowl Sunday for missionaries!

We were able to baptize a wonderful lady named Kassy and it was amazing to see the strong spiritual confirmation she had about the Gospel. She has had so many trials but has continued to persevere. The Spirit was so strong at her baptism and I was so happy for her! (And I didn’t fall in the font and we only had to do the baptism once, so it was really awesome!)

I had my first spill on my bike – during a bad thunderstorm, my foot slipped on the pedals, I tried to brake and flipped up and over the handlebars with my bike landing in the puddle next to me (good thing I was already soaking wet). I was so blessed and thankful because there weren’t any cars nearby, and I only ended up with a small cut on my hand and it’s almost healed.

I’m loving my mission it is so amazing – teaching people, finding people, and just working hard and trying our best. It feels like I just got here and I can’t believe I’ve been in Donna, TX for two months! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I promise y’all that this is the Lord’s work and we are truly led by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father loves us more than we can even comprehend. And He has told us that if we love Him in return, we will keep His commandments. That is how we show our Heavenly Father that we love Him. We are truly led by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of Him we have all that we have, and the best part is that we can grow and change and repent to become more and more like Him. How cool is that?!?!

Remember to pray, especially if you’re having a hard time. He is waiting to help us, we just need to ask. I love you all.

Con Amor,
Elder Christiansen

 I love what Elder Christiansen wrote about this picture:
"This is the view from our apartment at 6:45-ish in the morning.
There is nothing prettier than a big ol' Texas sky!"

Scenery in Donna, TX

Elder Christiansen, blue tie and big smile, with fellow
missionaries at a training meeting, above and below.

Monday, September 2, 2013

First Baptisim ... Fourth Time's a Charm

Elder Christiansen was able to baptize someone into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What an awesome experience!

September 2, 2013

Hola Familia & Amigos,

It’s been another awesome month to be a missionary in South Texas! It is starting to cool off – it got down to a chilly 88 the other day. The hottest it’s been so far is 110! It’s good though because people give us water everywhere we go, which gives us a chance to talk to them about the Gospel.

I was able to baptize someone last week and it was AWESOME!!!! It was my first baptism and I’ll never forget it! Her name is Paris and she’s 8 years old – her aunt and grandma are members of the Church so that’s how we started teaching her. It was such a great feeling to see her following Jesus Christ, and so humbling to be part of her baptism.

I’ll also never forget it because it was soooo funny! Here’s why: I was at the top of the font ready to go in, took one step, slipped and fell down four stairs into the water, grabbing onto the railing for dear life. The noise and echo were so loud, water splashed all over the walls of the font, I was soaking wet, and my foot was killing me. Thankfully, the doors to the font were closed, so Paris was the only one who saw this, but I turned to her and she looked so scared her face was almost white. She gently walked into the font, the doors opened, and we were ready. I baptized her with her full name, or so I thought. Her grandma then called from the audience that, no, that’s not her full name, so we did the baptism for the 2nd time, with her real full name, and her toe came out of the water. So, we did the baptism the 3rd time, and I didn’t dunk her all the way (that was my bad), and then on the 4th time, I got it right. And y’all – the feeling I got after I baptized her for the final time was unbelievable! The Spirit was so strong it was amazing!! So yeah, basically, the first time I ever baptized anyone, I slipped and fell into the font and had to do it 4 times, but it was totally worth it!!

We are planning the Perez family’s baptism for early this month and I’m excited. They are a super cool famila – the dad has been in and out of jail and was in the drug cartels and gangs for a long time, but quit a few years ago because he realized it was destroying his life. It’s been amazing to see them change – they are awesome!

We see miracles every day and there’s no better feeling than having the Spirit in our lives! As we are obedient to the commandments that the Lord has given us, He blesses us in ways that we can't even imagine. There is no other alternative to finding that kind of happiness and joy. My mission is great, I can't imagine doing anything else! I love you all.

Con amor,
Elder Christiansen

Monday, August 5, 2013

First Apartment ... and Honoring Elder Walker and Elder Strong

August 5, 2013

Hola Familia!

I’ve been in Texas for 3 weeks and it’s awesome! I’m serving in the North Donna area of McAllen; it’s very poverty-stricken. My companion in Elder Sanchez from Mexico, and his old high school is now the Mexico MTC. On my first day here with Elder S. I had the opportunity to give 3 blessings all in Spanish. Holy cow, I didn’t even know what I was saying but I felt really good, and that is the Spirit, so I know that what I was saying was good. The second day, we had a lesson at a member’s house with one of her friends, it was going really well – Elder Sanchez is a HOSS missionary – and he kind of looked at me and I felt super prompted by the Spirit and then I asked the lady we were teaching if she would change her life and be baptized, and she said YES! It was awesome! We are still teaching her and hope to set a date soon. Also my first week we taught someone in a drug cartel and that was a cool experience, too. We hope he’ll come to church soon.

We are on bikes and I don’t think I’ve ever done a harder workout in my life than those first two days – nothing at Ensworth or working out with my friends at BYU can compare. I’m sore all the time, it’s SOOOO hot here, I completely sweat through my shirt every day, and I’m sunburned to a crisp so when I take off my watch it looks like I’m wearing a white wristband. I’ve been chased by a dog every single day, and nearly bitten, so I’ve mastered the sprint technique to get away and if that doesn’t work, then I swerve into the dog a little bit to get it to move away. Haha – it’s all good!

Something really humbling and special to share: About 18 months ago two missionaries in my area were killed by a drunk driver while they were riding their bikes: Elder Walker and Elder Strong. We taught someone this week who was last taught by them and it was a really humbling experience. I later talked to a member who told me that one of these Elders said the day before he died: “I will always be a missionary.” And he is. EVERYONE here knows Elder Walker and Elder Strong, whether in the Church or the community. These missionaries are definitely still working down here.

There are people who are prepared to receive the gospel; we just need to give them that opportunity. It is such a blessing and an honor to talk to people about the gospel and how they can turn their lives around. Member work is HUGE! When we have members at our lessons with investigators, they are much more receptive to our message.

I’m so happy, I don’t see how this isn’t the Lord’s work. I bike around all day in 100-plus heat being chased by dogs, still not really knowing the language, and always sweating, but I absolutely love it! Heavenly Father has His hand in this work and I’ve seen miracles every day. I hope everyone is doing well and if not, say a sincere prayer for help. He is always listening!

Con Amor (with love),
Elder Christiansen

First apartment, looking into kitchen.
Ethan's desk is in the foreground.
Elder Christiansen at his desk in his apartment. What a face!

Trying on a suit left by a previous missionary -- it mostly fits!

Missionaries in Donna, TX gathering around a white-painted
bike, honoring and remembering the lives and service of
Elder Walker and Elder Strong, missionaries who were
killed by a drunk driver 18 months prior. This group
met to sing hymns and express gratitude for these elders.
Elder Christiansen is second from right, beside a local member.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Arrival in Texas! First Companion

Monday, July 15, 2013 -- A Big Day!

Andrew left for Boy Scout camp, Doug was in New Orleans on business and I was home -- yet in our different locations, each so aware that THIS was the day Ethan would be leaving the MTC and flying to Texas to begin his work there. So exciting!

I dropped Andrew off at 7 a.m. at REI in Brentwood to meet up with his Scout Troop, then went on about my day. I had heard other missionary moms say they had received a phone call from their missionaries from the airport on departure day, but Ethan hadn't said anything so we weren't sure. Kind of hoping, but not expecting it, so we weren't disappointed if it didn't happen. I had a couple of meetings that day, laundry...a regular Monday. At 10 a.m., the phone rang and as soon as I said "hello," I heard Ethan say, "Mama?" It was the most beautiful sound and word! The last time we had been able to speak was on June 5 when we dropped him off at the MTC, so this was very special. We had such a fun chat. He was in the Dallas airport on his way to McAllen. His group left the MTC that morning at 2:30 a.m. for the Salt Lake City airport. He was with 20 other missionaries going to McAllen with him, as well as the missionaries going to Japan and the Caribbean Islands. The MTC gave each missionary a phone card to call home en route, and Ethan wanted to surprise us. So fun! We chatted for a while, then he hung up and tried Doug on his cell (in a meeting so couldn't pick up), and tried to call Andrew on his cell (no reception at Scout Camp). I texted Doug with a heads-up and he slipped out of his meeting and called back the number on his phone, a pay phone in the Dallas airport, was able to reach Ethan and have a great chat as well! (There were swarms of missionaries all around the pay phones!) 

While Ethan had only slept about two hours the night before -- up late packing, saying goodbye to friends still in the MTC, etc. -- he sounded so happy. He was excited about the next part of the journey. It was, indeed, a big day!

The 21 missionaries who arrived in McAllen, Texas on
July 15, 2013. President and Sister Maluenda are
in the center, and the group is in front of the Texas
McAllen Mission Home, where the Maluendas live.
Elder Christiansen is on the front row, second from left. 

Elder Christiansen on Day 1 in McAllen, with President and
Sister Maluenda. The Maluendas are in charge of the 180+
missionaries who serve in the Texas McAllen Mission.
Every mission worldwide is similarly led
by a Mission President/Couple.

Ethan's first companion and trainer, Elder Sanchez, from Mexico.

Elder Christiansen and the other missionaries in his District,
at a meeting with the Ward Mission Leader (center, blue tie).
This is the smiling photo...

Now the serious...

And the silly! :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ethan in the MTC ... and at the Missionary Broadcast

June 12, 2013

We received Elder Christiansen's first letter today! He sounds like he's working hard and happy to be in the MTC! 

June 12, 2013

Hola Familia!
Well my first week en la CCM (in the MTC) has been amazing! I love it here, this place rocks! My companion's name is Elder Renshaw and he was the guy I met at Mr. Mac back at BYU how crazy is that?! We rock together though. It is so much fun, the Spirit is so strong here, it’s everywhere you go it is so awesome. It’s truly a miracle to see how involved Heavenly Father is in His work. It is extremely hard though, by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. You have to ask the Lord to help you whenever you can because it would be impossible to do this work all on your own.

I can already pray fluently and bear testimony in Spanish too! I’ve learned so much while I’ve been here, but man I still have a lot to learn. Pero esta bien (but "it's all good" -- this is my favorite Spanish phrase thus far). I hope you, Dad and Andrew are doing well I’m glad Andrew had fun in HH. I’ve seen a ton of people I know here, too, and they are always so nice. 

One important thing I have learned this week is that you truly have to love and have charity for those you teach otherwise you will have no success. I would like to invite all y'all to watch David A. Bednar's MTC Devotional from 2011 called the Character of Christ. It is the best talk I’ve ever heard and it has changed my heart. I love you guys all so much and I hope your lives are treating you well! If not, then go help someone else cause then you will be blessed!

Con Amor (with love),
Elder Christiansen 

Remember this guy? Ethan met Kason
Renshaw, also going to McAllen, TX,
while shopping for missionary supplies.
Guess who got paired up to be roommates and
companions during their six weeks in the MTC?!
Elder Christiansen and Elder Renshaw --
how cool is that? What an amazing
blessing for the two of them, and a tender mercy
for both of their moms! And I love how they are
standing in exactly the same position -- kind of
the "before" and "after" shot. Love it!

Elder Christiansen and his District at the MTC, above
and below, at the Provo Utah Temple. There's a great
organizational structure for missionaries: each is paired
in a companionship, there are several companionships that
make up a district, then a few districts make up a zone,
and then are several zones within a mission, -- like the
Texas, McAllen mission. Missionaries learn about this
organization and begin operating within this structure
from Day 1 at the MTC.

Elder Renshaw, leaning against Elder Christiansen's desk
in a classroom at the MTC. They even wear their suits to
study, getting in the routine of being a full-time missionary.

Elder Christiansen, Elder Renshaw, and Elder Jensen at the
Missionary Broadcast in the Marriott Center June 23.
Anyone who knows Ethan from school will
recognize the familiar pen behind his ear :) 

The LDS Church broadcast its annual training for new mission
 presidents, and invited all the missionaries at the Provo MTC
to attend. It was held in the Marriott Center, BYU's basketball
arena, and Elder Christiansen along with hundreds of other
missionaries were part of a choir that provided music for
the meeting. This is a photo Ethan took from his seat before
the broadcast started; he was behind the stage and you can
see the various video monitors on either side of the podium.

Screen shot of Elder Christiansen in the crowd at the broadcast.
Knowing he was there and would be singing in the choir, we were
glued to the screen watching it online. During one of the talks,
as the camera scanned the crowd, there he was!!!! We were so
excited and I was screaming and crying at once. He had been
in the MTC for 2 1/2 weeks -- it was so GOOD to see him!

You can see Ethan at the 4:15 mark in the broadcast video by clicking here.

July 3, 2013

Hola Familia!

I’ve been in the MTC for 4 weeks now and I am loving it! My companion, Elder Renshaw, and I were part of the largest group of missionaries to ever come into the MTC at once! The final count was about 940 of us on June 5th, the day we went in. We have also started having the Tuesday night devotionals in the Marriott Center at BYU because the auditorium at the MTC can’t hold everyone.

It has definitely been hard at the MTC but it has been amazing as well, the Spirit is very strong here and the Lord truly does protect and help out those who serve him whether we are full-time missionaries or not. We taught an “investigator” on the second full day we were here and it was kind of hard but as long as you prepare well and really try to show charity to those you teach, the Spirit just goes “beast mode,” it’s way awesome!

Elder Renshaw and I were called as the new zone leaders, after being here a week-and-a-half, kind of weird but awesome though, it’s been so fun and a great opportunity to serve. The miracles I have seen are unreal they happen every single day it is amazing to see how much Heavenly Father cares about His work!

My Spanish is coming along well and I can talk to people pretty fluently...but like only about the gospel because that’s all we learn all day, so I am starting to learn how to ask for a haircut and other simple stuff like that so I can get around. Pero esta bien (it’s all good) is my favorite Spanish phrase so far!

We’ve been to the Provo Temple a couple of times for sessions, and today we got to clean the temple for about three hours, it was a lot of fun. I used a ladder and climbed up and got to clean the Angel Moroni! You could see the whole valley but it was pretty scary cause it was so high…ha-ha, nah, just kidding! I didn’t do that. We cleaned the lockers in the men’s locker room and wiped down the baseboards…ha-ha.

One final thing I want to share: I know that if we follow and obey the commandments the Lord has given us, he will bless us and turn us into people that we would have never become on our own, and that is because he truly does love and care about each and every one of us! If you have time, take 5 minutes one day and read over Alma 26:12 “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” I testify that this scripture is so true because I have seen it in my life and the lives of the elders I live with, and it is an amazing thing to see. I testify that with the Lord we truly can do all things. It is amazing how much He cares about his work and ALL of His children here on earth, not just the members of the church.

I love and miss you all but I am happy and healthy and living the life! I love serving Heavenly Father. I am already so grateful I choose to do this it is truly an amazing experience and I've just barely started!

Con Amor (with love),
Elder Christiansen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Going to the Missionary Training Center and The Power Walk!

June 4 & 5, 2013

The time had arrived for Ethan to leave for the Missionary Training Center. Ethan and Andrew said their goodbyes on June 2, then Andrew headed out for a week at the beach with his good buddies, one of whom has a beach house. Thankful for good friends, and such a great way for Andrew to transition into having Ethan gone on his mission.

So, it was now go time! The LDS Church operates 15 MTCs around the world, and Ethan was going to the one in Provo, Utah -- about a block from BYU where he had spent freshman year. Kind of a homecoming for him, but to an entirely new home. :) Doug took us to the airport, and I flew out with Ethan.

Sidenote: Our original leave date from Nashville was June 3, but due to mechanical problems with the plane and a canceled flight, we had to change to June 4, which meant Doug and I had one more night with Ethan at home -- special time. 

Saying goodbye to "Rove 2" --
proudly wearing a Texas sticker!

Ethan and Doug at the Nashville airport -- proud papa.

Last minute words of wisdom and smiles.
One more hug before boarding the plane, so sweet.
The photo is blurry because I'm crying while
taking it (and because I don't know how to
focus the camera on my iPhone!) :)

Waiting at the gate -- goofball Ethan!

Once we got to Salt Lake that evening, Ethan had the chance to see a few more family members:

Ethan with Uncle Scott Christiansen

Ethan with Uncle Grant Hedin, Cousin Ben Hedin
and his wife, Karli. Ben came to Nashville for
Ethan's Missionary Farewell Celebration
and Talk in Church.

The next day, Doug's parents and sister drove us to the MTC. It was a fun time with beautiful sunny weather -- the perfect day for Elder Christiansen to launch his missionary experience. Here we are saying our goodbyes in the driveway of Papa Clair 's and Grandma Joyce's house, because when you get to the MTC, you basically pull up at the curb and your missionary and his/her luggage hop out! You barely stop the car...jk...but it's a pretty quick process. So, there was more time in the driveway for hugs.

Ethan's grandparents: Clair and Joyce Christiansen.
Joyce was recovering from a recent back surgery
and was such a trooper to ride in the car with us.

Hugging Grandma Joyce, with her beautiful flowers in the background.

Hugging Papa Clair.

Hugging Aunt Susan Williams (Doug's sister)
Hugging Mom

So...after all of that hugging, we were ready to hit the road. Ethan was supposed to be at the MTC at a certain time for drop off. But before we could leave, Ethan had one more thing to do...a promise he made to Doug and me...something he would do before going into the MTC. The Power Walk! I'm sure this is only funny to our family, but here's the backstory: When we dropped Ethan off for college the year before, after moving him into his dorm and getting him all settled, it was time for us to leave. We were outside the Wilkinson Center at BYU saying our goodbyes, hugging, and trying not to be too sad and totally lose it, when Ethan did the power walk for us as a way to send us all off laughing. It was hysterical and just the thing we all needed! This silly power walk came from some random commercial (I can't even remember which one), and Ethan would do it around the house sometimes, just messing around, and it always made us laugh! So, in the driveway before getting in the car, Ethan did the power walk. On the video below, you can hear Grandpa Clair joking "This will probably be the hardest thing he does all day." It was pretty funny and got everyone laughing before the 30-minute drive to the MTC.)

In the car, can't wait to get to the MTC!

We were assigned stop #12 at the curb. Elder Morgan from
Australia was Ethan's greeter and host for the day.
He met us at the car, helped unload Ethan's luggage,
I got out for one more quick hug, we snapped this photo,
and they were off! It was a very sweet few minutes,
no tears, just enthusiasm and excitement to get started.
Way to go Ethan for setting the tone!

Friday, May 31, 2013

It's a Small World ... Meeting Sam

It's a small world sometimes. We had the opportunity to reconnect with dear college friend Kathy Peterson, who lives in Salt Lake City and whose son, Sam, also was going to be serving in McAllen, Texas. On a short trip to Utah, we had the chance to get the future missionaries together -- what fun! What a special time -- especially for us moms -- to meet more missionaries going to McAllen. Hope these two might get to serve together in Texas. 

Sam Peterson and Ethan, future missionaries
in McAllen, Texas. They were excited to meet,
and both looking forward to their missions.
And Ethan's already looking up to Sam :) 

Ethan, Kathy Peterson, and Sam Peterson.

Stu, Kathy, and Sam Peterson

Kathy and me -- in Utah red! :) 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ethan's Missionary Farewell Speech ... and What Do Missionaries Do Anyway?

Each LDS missionary has the opportunity to speak in Church before heading off on his/her mission. It's another rite of passage in this missionary experience -- a chance for the congregation, family and friends to hear directly from the missionary and say farewell.

We were so excited and grateful to have many family members in town, and friends from Nashville and Ensworth attend Ethan's missionary farewell!

Ethan, me, Doug, & Andrew ready to head off to
church for Ethan's missionary farewell talk.

Ethan spoke about why he's choosing to serve a mission and his love for the Savior. I will never forget the part where he shared his testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, saying: "Brothers and Sisters, I know this Church is true. I don't think I know. I don't kind of know. I know know." It was a powerful witness from a young man so excited to serve Jesus Christ and the people in McAllen, Texas.

Here's more about what Ethan will be teaching.

And here's a great glimpse into what missionaries do.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Farewell Celebration with Family and Friends

May is always a special time of in the rhythm of our family -- we love graduation season and have attended and participated in numerous university commencements over a 25+ year career in higher education. Almost exactly a year ago -- May 2012 -- we had an open house celebrating Ethan's high school graduation from Ensworth School and his impending adventure to attend Brigham Young University as a new freshman. Good times!

The family at Ethan's graduation open house, May 2012.

At Ethan's graduation, Ensworth School, May 2012.

Fast forward one year, and another party -- this time to send Ethan off to McAllen, Texas with well wishes and fond farewell! We so appreciated the many family and friends who came to celebrate with Ethan, and share with him great advice, generous gifts to support and buoy him on his journey, and especially lots of love and encouragement.

We had little cards that said: "Sending love from Nashville ... to McAllen!" where friends could write a note or share some inspiration with Ethan.

The outpouring and variety of messages, favorite scriptures, encouragement, and words of love for Ethan was wonderful.

So far, we've sent Ethan a few cards at a time. He has a book where he can insert them and refer back often for continued messages from home.

Here are some photos from Ethan's missionary open house:

Andrew, so proud of his brother's decision to serve a mission!
Doug, our missionary, and Ethan's cousin Ben Hedin,
who came out from Salt Lake City for the weekend.

Ethan's Aunt Shannon Seare (Doug's sister), and Uncle Greg Seare,
also visiting from SLC for the weekend, along with their three wonderful kids.