I have long taken the scriptural counsel to live in thanksgiving daily, so I am thankful for many things, but most of all, I am thankful for my family. It is hard for me to imagine a time when I wasn't married to my husband and didn't have these five children, three who are now adults. I'm still trying to absorb that reality.
When I was a young mother, mothers who were further along the path of raising children told me to make the most of the years I have with my children because the years would pass quickly. I had a hard time believing that because sometimes, honestly, the days felt pretty long as I tried to meet everyone's needs, changing diapers, preparing meals, cleaning and providing comfort. Even so, the years have flown.
As I write this, my second daughter is more than a year into her 18-month mission trip for our church (we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as Mormons). She is in the Finland Helsinki Mission and has served in Kuopio, Helsinki, Lappeenranta (along the Russian border) and now a town less than 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. I smiled when I received a photo of her this past week covered in snow after a long bicycle ride across the city where she serves. After all, she could barely stand the cold before she left and now she embraces life in the wintry north with a smile on her face as she shares her deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His Great Plan of Happiness.
And now, as hard as it is to believe, my third daughter (who loves cold weather!) leaves in a little over a month for six weeks in Ghana and then on to her mission trip in Madagascar. We are so excited for her.
Friends have asked me how I'll stand having two daughters gone at the same time, incommunicado except for weekly emails and bi-annual Skype sessions (at Christmas and on Mother's Day), and the answer is how can I not? After all, while our lives have not been perfect, as a family we have experienced such enormous joy overall as we have sought to keep Christ at the center of our lives, that I want for my daughters to be able to share with others what they have learned about finding happiness.
I miss my daughter in Finland and will soon miss my other daughter when she goes to Africa, but I am so thankful for all the years I've had with them, for the opportunities they have now, and for the many years of being a family ahead, whether my children are near or far. I am thankful for the knowledge that families really can be together forever. On the good days and the more challenging days, this is the family for me. I am blessed.