Last week, a friend of mine, and a fellow missionary mama herself (for a 2nd time ;-)) handed me a book called 101 Surivial Tips for Missionary Moms by Mary Yoachum and illustrated by Cheri Cox Johnson. My friend handed it to me and said "You are already doing them". This was so comforting to hear - because 101 is a pretty big number :-) and I am the kind of person who needs to do all 101 ;-)
Anyway, I came home that day and devoured every page and in my head I was quietly ticking off things that I was already doing - and grateful that I have had groups like Missionary Mommas, and Missionary Mamas, Dominican Republic Missionary Moms, and my Dominican Republic MM Email group who have helped me. If I didn't - this book would have been devastatingly new to me!
What I liked is that first of all the author dedicated this book to her three sons who had served or about to serve - so it was great that it was written by someone who "knew" what it was like to be a missionary mama. Secondly, since its publication, a lot of support systems are provided via facebook, email and Skype which I am sure would have been in the top 101 had we been using them a couple of decades ago.... Here are my top five (5):
TIP ONE: Say "Cheese"
Yoachum suggests that taking a variety of pictures of our missionaries before and after they leave and having them put around the house - brings us closer to them. I have seen pre-missionary shots that have been taken professionally and they are stunning - and something I wanted to do but ran out of time (and to be honest funds!) to do this. As a result many of the photos that I have either have me or my husband missing because we would be taking he photo... So it something I wish I had done - and a lesson learnt! Now my boys have been out 5 months, I prefer to see their most recent photos dotted around the house - I feel closer to them by seeing their beautiful faces! This is one of my favourites because it was taken a few hours before he wrote home on his last PDay - just hours separated this photo and me!! It made my day!
TIP TWO: Priesthood Power
Yoachum encourages people to get a blessing after your missionary has left. I believe in the power of the priesthood and we took care of this before the boys left. The morning the boys flew out, my husband (and Bishop) gave each son a father's blessing which were both individual and specific to that son. Our missionary sons then each their parents a missionary blessing. It was beautiful - and never a prouder mother was I in that moment. All I can remember of mine was that my son blessed me that I would always know that I am loved and supported - and he said it two times - so in that moment I knew I was going to be okay....... eventually ;-)
TIP THREE: Gift Wrap
I have blogged about this - but thought it is still a great idea. I send packages to the boys at least once a fortnight if not weekly. It is costing an arm and a leg - but love to hear them talking about things that they have received, especially our letters, cards and other resources. Yoachum suggests that we decorate the outside of the envelops and packages, use stickers, notes, quotes, etc to brighten up their day. I have done this and loved it.... I also take a photo of Mr and I - and add that in so it is the first thing that the boys see. You can imagine how touched I was to see these same photos in prominent positions on their study desks some months later. I hope by seeing us they are strengthened and can feel the love we have for them in our faces. I also make cards with photos with family and friends on them - this last card had some friends holding notes to the boys - and for one son, I got a photo taken with his close friends and added those - anything to feel of our love and support for them.
TIP FOUR: Language Lesson
A tip that I am going to work on is learning Spanish. The boys are getting better at it every week - and the more they get better - the less Mr and I have a chance to speak with them.... so this is definitely a MUST for me!! A great tip. In the meantime, I am getting church magazines in Spanish sent to the boys while they are serving. I've sent the last conference talks to them in English, and marked a number of them with my thoughts from talks that I have taught from, spoken on, and listened to others speak and teach with. I have done this to give my sons a break from their language studies... especially as they didn't have a command of Spanish when during the last Conference.....but the rest will be in Spanish..... Added to this tip, Yoachum also suggests asking the boys to write a message in Spanish and when I got it - try and figure it out (without google translate) - and get them to reply - wish me luck :-)
TIP FIVE: Tickle his funny bone
I am a wannabe amateur comedian, so my sons have been raised by a crazy person who finds humour in many things - so when I see something funny/quirky I send it to the boys. I was a bit scared to do this as first because I didn't to be the reason my sons were distracted - so I sent them something little to try and make them smile. They commented on those things and one son has asked me to keep sending them... and it again it keeps us connected somehow... So I keep my eye open for funny PG rated pictures or stories - and they are more difficult that you would think to find or not that easy to come by - so I just end up telling them my own stories. Added to this, in the questions I send for them to answer on their PDay, I always ask them every week is to share with me a funny experience. I have loved hearing their funny experiences - and they have, and I can tell you, some of their little stories have made this old lady laugh out loud ;-)
Well, that's five tips, and plenty more where those come from - but like my friend said - you are probably doing a lot of them - so keep going. Keep up your efforts. I have heard that missionaries get letters all the time in their first 6 months and then they don't get much, if any.....so let's keep it up missionary mams... I know that any mail will light up the world of that missionary for a time....
Well, I better get going - sending a package tomorrow and need some beauty sleep to get a great 'selfie' to add to his package.
What survival tips do you have?