Molly’s Missionary Message #10

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Hello everyone!

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I hope that you are having a great week! 

I am humbled everyday to be here on my mission. It is hard, without a doubt…

But so worth it in every way! 

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The highlight of the week- mail from friends and family!

This week has been full of hikes,

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Zone conference (Which is when a group of missionaries gather together to learn and spiritually uplift each other,) 

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And lots of time spent with my companion and the other sisters in my district. 

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Two favorite quotes that I often say to myself are, “God is good, always good,” and “God is in the details, of the details, of the details.” I testify that these quotes are true! I have seen it more and more each day of my mission.

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For example, today Sister Tolley (my companion) and I went to the store and a gentlemen paid for our groceries! My heart overflowed with gratitude! There are so many tender mercies that can be found each day, and I find it helpful to journal them each evening. By doing this I am able to reflect upon the day and see God’s hand on my life. 


A Spiritual Thought I’d like to share:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

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Every day of my mission holds great blessings, but some of the greatest blessings come from the hardest days, because those hard days open the way for more dependence upon heavenly help. 

I believe that God never gives us more than we can handle, but sometimes He allows enough weight to be put on our shoulders so we will end up on our knees, praying and looking heavenward for help. Hard things help us to turn towards our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the source of true comfort and strength. It is from Him that we have the strength to keep going day after day, despite hardships. He will comfort your heart when your worries consume you. He will bring you joy, even during times of trial when joy doesn’t seem like the most expected response. 

I testify that the atonement is for much more than just repentance. It is the acceptance of Christ in our lives. It is the willingness to be molded so as to fulfill our greatest potential. It is the acceptance that we are capable and worthy of such a gift. The atonement is the greatest act of love ever demonstrated, yet we hesitate to apply it to our daily lives. 

My previous companion used to say, “Use it. Don’t abuse it.” Use the gift of the atonement today, don’t let such a beautiful gift collect dust on the shelf. When we let such a gift go to waste, that is abusing it. 

My invitation for you is to use the atonement more fully everyday, starting today. I promise that as you do this, your testimony of the atonement will deepen and your relationship with Jesus Christ will become more real and personal.

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Photo update: 

– President Meredith, my mission president. (He is literally the best!)

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– I found a tree in Utah! They are harder to find in Utah than in Pennsylvania!

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– Hitting my two-month mark!

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– My amazing companion and I at the end of the waterfall hike. 

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– Me and sweet Sister Samuelson.

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With Love,

Sister McCleery

Be Not Weary

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This momma is feeling weary.

Like so many of you, I feel as though I am sprinting through quick sand. It has been a challenging few months at Patchwork Farm. Those that know us well have probably read between the lines of our summertime posts and have picked up on the strain and struggles we aren’t voicing.

Under normal circumstances the events that have unfolded in our life over the last 18 months would be enough to rock anyone’s world. Looking over the posts from Braden’s adoption day until today (adoptions, graduations, cross country college drop-offs, weddings, residential placements, lost jobs, new jobs, baby announcements, missionary farewells, etc., etc., etc…) , you can see that we have lived a dozen lives in the past 18 months. Each and every one of these major life moments is enough to rock one’s world, but pile them together, top it with a worldwide pandemic, and we find ourselves running on empty. These changes have challenged the family unit as a whole, but has been especially trying for those family members with a more disrupted past. Each change is a trigger and each challenging change leads to challenging behaviors…the compilation of which have left me feeling beat down and weary.

As I talk to friends who find themselves struggling with the unique challenges of living in a Covid world, regardless of what their personal challenges are…

– What school choice is best for my kids?

– When will I safely be able to visit my mother again?

– Is my best friend going to recover from Covid-19?

– Will my husband be able to safely get back to work?

– How am I going to manage working at home while schooling my children?

– Will the activities that feed my soul and bring me joy ever return?

…The feelings are the same.

It is the uncertainty about tomorrow, and the fear of things never getting better, that bring those feelings of weariness.

Whether we are talking about Covid-19 related challenges, or simply life challenges, it is the uncertainty of when the load will lift, or when the challenges will ease, that are the most wearing.

The burdens we find ourselves bearing (health challenges, relationship challenges, parenting challenges, financial challenges, etc.) can be likened to a boulder we are asked to push indefinitely,

Leaving us feeling much like Sisyphus.

In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra. He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.

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Sometimes the trials of our life feel just that way…

Like an eternal punishment that we are forced to bear.

A heavy rock that we push upward, only to have it roll back over us when we make it to the top,

Forcing us to begin again.

But maybe instead of looking at the trials we bear as a punishment that we are sentenced to, we should look at at trials as opportunities for growth, as illustrated in the story below.

“Once upon a time, there was a man who was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.

Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man’s mind such as: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.” Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. He decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?” To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My child, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.

And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewed and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard.

Through opposition, you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.

Yet you haven’t moved the rock.

But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom.

This you have done.

I, my child, will now move the rock.”

When weariness overtakes me, and feelings of despair and discouragement leave me feeling like a failure, I must remember that I was not called to push this boulder to the top of the mountain. I was simply called to faithfully arise each day, and continue pushing forward, trusting that when God has finished the work He is doing through me and within me, He will lift that boulder from my path.

There is a purpose in the struggle.

It is through the challenging seasons of mortality that we have the opportunity to grow, improve, and strengthen muscles we would never ordinarily use…

And in the process become more Christlike.

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Let us not grow weary.

This too shall pass, and we will be all the better for it.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”    – Galatians 6:9

 

This and That- July edition

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Here’s the latest installment of “this and that” from Patchwork Farm…

I’m not sure what is in the water around here, but the corn stalks aren’t the only thing shooting up! Over the last few months Tyler has grown a half a foot. Seeing him day in and day out, I don’t always notice the change. It isn’t until he is standing next to someone who is done growing, that I see how much he has shot up…

Case in point: Grace.

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Just a few months ago they were tied for the title of shortest family member. Look at him now!

Poor Grace now holds the title for shortest family member. Grace may not be growing up, but she has begun growing out!

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Grace is now into her second trimester. At 14 weeks she is happily moving out of the fatigue and nausea into smoother seas. She is loving the feeling! The nausea has passed and the belly has begun to emerge! Over the course of a few weeks she went from a flat tummy to a noticeable baby bump, and it feels as though it happened overnight.

Doesn’t she look adorable?!

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We are also happy to report that another one of our adult children is gainfully employed. Braden has joined Rusty as a package handler at Fed Ex.

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It is hot, hard, back-breaking work but it pays almost double what they were making as ice cream scoopers at Handel’s. They work opposite shifts so their paths rarely pass these days. Braden works in the middle of the night from 3:30 am- 9:00ish and Rusty works 3:00 pm- 9:00ish. While one is working the other is sleeping, resulting in days passing between run-ins. Both are enjoying the work. They come home hot and sweaty but love FedEx and the paychecks!

Now news on son #4…

I got my first in-person visit with Ozzie this past Sunday. The residential facility where he has resided for the last 12 months, has finally given the go-ahead for family visits. This facility, where Ozzie is receiving in-patient therapeutic support for early childhood trauma, closed their doors and went into lockdown in March as Covid-19 numbers began to rise. Their primary goal was to protect the residents and so home visits and in-person family sessions were placed on hold until a few weeks ago when they decided to allow parents to visit. This was my first time seeing Oz in the flesh since February, and it was wonderful! We have been able to talk to Ozzie on the phone daily and over Zoom once a week, but that doesn’t compare to a face-to-face visit!

The residential facility recognizes the importance of maintaining strong family ties, but wanted to make sure visits could happen safely. For now, home visits still aren’t possible, as the risk of Covid-19 being carried back to the facility is too high, but we are finally allowed to drive up and see him there.

They are trying to make these visits as safe as possible with a limited number of parents allowed each week, temperature checks, mandatory masks, etc.

Ozzie and I had a wonderful afternoon. We spent our time playing board games and visiting. I brought up his favorite childhood game to play, at his request: Chutes and Ladders.

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It was wonderful getting to love on my son who I haven’t been able to see for so long. Ozzie is doing great. He is working hard to process through and work on overcoming the hurts done to him as a young child. The therapeutic work he is doing isn’t easy. It is horribly hard for him to face the demons that haunt his past, but he is courageously doing the work so that he can face his future with hope.

It is hard to believe we are almost into August. This has been the weirdest summer of my life. In some ways it feels as though I have been living the same 24 hours over and over again, and yet the weeks are flying by. We continue to try to make this unusual summer feel fun, with our themed daily activities. Here are some of our “Make-it Monday” crafts and “Taste-it Tuesday” recipes.

We have just recently discovered diamond painting and we are hooked! It is a cross between paint by number and 1980’s bedazzling. Each kit comes with a painting, colored gems that match symbols on the painting, and a tool that allows you to press the gems into place.

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For our first go at diamond painting Rusty picked a Pooh painting, Tyler went with Olaf, and I chose a tree made from a rainbow of colors.

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We all soon fell in love with the process, as we sat for hours at a time bedazzling our painting, one gem at a time.

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Even Tyler, who is not one to sit still and craft, loved it. We just left the diamond art out on the table and when he was bored he would return to it and work on a few more sections.

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The process was almost meditative, bringing those same feelings of creativity paired with contemplation, that coloring or assembling jigsaw puzzles offer.

And the finished products are beautiful!

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For “Make-it Monday” we have also had some fun playing with Shrinky Dinks…a crafting staple of my childhood!

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Together we created works of art on Shrinky Dink paper, only to bake them in the oven and watch them shrink to 1/3 the size and become 10x thicker.

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For our “Taste-it Tuesday” fun we pulled out the cotton candy machine I received as a gift  a few years ago.

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This was at Rusty’s request.

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My little home machine doesn’t even need cotton candy powder to make this spun sugar delight. All it takes are a few hard candies dropped into the machine when it is hot. The candies melt down and turn into spun sugar.

We gathered a variety of flavors and creatively mixed them together.

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We all had our favorites.

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My personal favorite was mixing a Werther’s caramel candy with a sour apple Jolly Rancher to create caramel apple flavored cotton candy…Yum!

On a different “Taste-it Tuesday,” we tried our hand at homemade perogies. Rusty was my sous chef, as we mixed the dough, cooked the filling, and pinched our perogies into shape.

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The filled dough was first boiled and then sautéed with onions in butter, to create a delicious dinner when topped with a dollop of sour cream.

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These are the lighter moments of the last few weeks. Currently, we don’t find ourselves in one of those “smooth sailing” seasons of life. To say life is challenging would be a gross understatement, but we are doing our best to carve out moments of joy, and embrace opportunities to find the fun in the midst of the fray.

Molly’s Missionary Message #9

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(Mom’s notes in red)

Hello everyone!

This week has been crazy! Some highs and a few lows, but a whole lot of miracles throughout! Right now Sister Tolley and I are spending a lot of time finding.
(When Molly uses the term “finding” she is referring to the process of seeking out and reaching out to others who might want to learn more about gospel of Jesus Christ)
As missionaries, we are still in quarantine and some days it can be hard, but over all there is so much great joy that can be found by reaching out to others with great love, personally growing closer to God, and being stretched every day to become a bit better than the day before. It is very humbling!
(Much of Molly’s week is spent in her apartment. Covid-19 limits the amount of public interaction the missionaries are allowed to have with others. The exceptions to that rule include weekly grocery shopping, daily exercise, service projects that can be done outside while social distancing, volunteering once a week at the Bishop’s Storehouse (a food pantry), and a once a week social activity with the other missionaries in her district.)
Here are some photos from those activities…
One day last week Molly and her companion, Sister Tolley, had the opportunity to serve their landlord by doing some yard work.
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Another day they were able to serve a woman from church by working in her garden. As a token of her gratitude for their service, she sent them home with lots of fresh veggies for their fridge!
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While walking home from that service project they passed a farm with goats.
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Anyone who knows Molly knows that goats are her all-time favorite animal. The owner was outside, and seeing Molly’s excitement, he invited her to step into the pen and feed them.
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Molly was beside herself. It made her day!!
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Every Wednesday Molly gets together with the other missionaries serving in her district. Together they share a meal and enjoy a fun activity together. Often those activities involve getting outside and enjoying the beauty of Utah! 
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One of the highlights of Molly’s week is always volunteering at the Bishop’s Storehouse. There she works with other volunteers sorting food, bagging vegetables, and filling grocery orders for those in need. This week she was on potato duty!
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Today was my p-day, I got my first perm, which was a fun adventure!
(P-day stands for preparation day. It is the day set aside for those serving full-time missions to care for their own personal needs. It is, in essence, their “day off.” This is the day Molly and her companion will do their grocery shopping, get a haircut, catch up on laundry, go hiking or do something fun in the area.)
I have always loved how my hair would look when I would I curl it, so I took the plunge and decided to perm it!
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My sweet companion waited and passed the time sending emails as I got my hair done.
Three hours later and ta-da!
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One of the best parts of my week would be Sister Tolley.
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She is such a sweetheart and everyday I learn something new from her.
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It is a great blessing to be able to motivate each other to work hard, have humor and joy in this work, experience adventures in cooking, and feel unified as companions.
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It has been really positive!
Shout out to her for being a awesome companion and friend on my mission!
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I don’t really have a whole lot to report for this week, but I am super excited for the days ahead.
It is always exciting to see what God has in store for us.
Love,
Sister McCleery

A Fiesta!

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On Friday we shuffled off to Mexico for our third international dinner of the summer. This week we decided on a Mexican theme for our family dinner night. This one was a fun one to pull off, as I had plenty of décor on hand to make the transformation fun.

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We did indulge in a few purchases to make the evening more authentic, including a taco piñata,

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And  Mexican candies (purchased from Amazon) to fill it with.

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On Friday, Grace helped me decorate the dinning room and stuff the piñata in preparation for our dinner on Saturday.

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Grace also made a stop at a local gas station that sells Mexican Coke, where she purchased a bottle for each of us.

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On Saturday evening the preparations for dinner were in full swing. Our menu was simple but delicious!

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We has sheet pan nachos and fresh fruit sprinkled with tajin.

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It was so yummy!

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Even the dogs got into the action, sporting their own sombreros…

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After dinner we moved to the living room where Toby had set up the piñata. The kids took turns taking swings at it. They were each blindfolded and spun until sufficiently dizzy,

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While Toby worked to keep the piñata just out of reach.

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A couple good hits by the boys, and a final punch by Tyler, led to a shower of Mexican treats.

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The treats were divvied up and we all enjoyed taste testing these unique candies that all seemed to be accompanied by a bit of a kick!

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Our final treat of the evening was mock- fried ice cream. This tasty dessert was made by rolling scoops of vanilla ice cream in crushed Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal, frozen, and then topped with caramel and chocolate syrup.

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We enjoyed our mock-Mexican desserts while watching Nacho Libre!

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It was a fun night of “international travel,” south of the border.

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Ole’!

Happy “Gotcha Day” Tyler!

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Yesterday marked the seven year anniversary since Tyler officially and legally became a McCleery! I remember with great fondness that special day when we went from being the parents of three to the parents of four.

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He was a wee little thing…only six-years-old at the time.

It was a joyous day, one that marked the conclusion of a year marked with great highs and lows, but also marked the start of our journey to being a family of eight. In the years following Tyler’s adoption day, God led us to adopt twice more. He brought Ozzie into our family in 2014 and Braden (Tyler’s biological brother) in 2019.

These are my remembrances of that special day, as personally penned seven years ago, on the evening of Tyler’s adoption day:

There are certain moments in my mothering journey that are ingrained in my memory forever. Moments when time stands still, when I am completely present and aware of the magnitude of the blessings, moments that will stay with me forever and will be replayed and enjoyed as I reflect on them years from now.. Yesterday was one of those days.

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As I sit here in the darkness of the night I have the joy of reflecting on the day. With the births of each of my children, my favorite part of the day was the night after giving birth. After the sun went down, and everyone went home, and I was left alone in the hospital room with my new child. My heart would overflow with gratitude and relief that it was done and all was well. All the worries about what could go wrong were set aside as the enormity of the miracle was laid before me. Tonight I find myself feeling those same emotions. Labor is over, the worries about everything that could have gone wrong were unfounded, and I am humbled by the miracle God has laid before me. Tyler is mine. It is done. I feel the weight of worry lifted from my shoulders and my heart overfloweth.

Today couldn’t have gone any better. I saw God’s hand in this beautiful day from beginning to end. Our scheduled court time was 1:30 but we were told to arrive at 1:00. Mimi Joy followed us down to Pittsburgh where we met my parents, my grandma, and my sister and her kids for the ceremony. It was so special to have the people most important to us join us on our special day and it was with great love that they traveled from New York, Michigan and Ohio to join us.

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When we arrived, we went through security and then took the elevator up to the 9th floor. Tyler was quieter than usual and I could tell he was nervous. As we walked into the auditorium where we would wait with all the other families adopting that day, we were greeted with a sign that read, “Happy Adoption Day!” ..my tears began. The reality that we made it, that we were in the home stretch, hit me.

When I walked into the waiting room I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer joy that filled the room. The room was full of families and children that were there to finalize their adoptions. The atmosphere was one of celebration.

It was soon time for us to head to the courtroom. The entire family came in. Toby and I sat in front of the judge with Tyler on Toby’s lap, while everyone else sat behind us. The judge introduced himself and welcomed us. He was wonderful. He joked with the kids and put us all at ease. He also told us that he personally knew the joy of adoption day because he had adopted his child. The hearing itself consisted of a series of questions that we had to answer and then a series of questions that the social worker had to answer. Within minutes we heard the judge declare, “From this day forth Tyler will now be known as Tyler Jacob McCleery.” Even now I find the tears falling as I think back on the emotions I felt at that moment. He was ours…finally ours.

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As I sit here and reflect on this adoption journey I am amazed at the difference a year makes. Last year at this time we didn’t even know Tyler existed and here we are today with a son. It feels like he has always been ours. We have witnessed first hand  God’s goodness as He laid the foundation for this day over the course of many years. He put upon our hearts the desire to adopt 10 years ago and from that moment on He provided opportunities to grow and prepare for this moment so that when the time was right, and we were ready, our son would be placed in our arms. It was a long “pregnancy” and a long “labor,” but the blessing of watching God’s miracles along the way made it a journey of joy. When I started this blog.. soon after Tyler was placed in our home.. it was so you could walk beside us as we navigated this unknown terrain called adoption. We are grateful for all the prayers you have prayed on our behalf, for the words of encouragement that always came when they were most needed, and the support we received from so many. It is with great joy that were share this day with you. God is Good!

In our family, we celebrate the anniversary of each adopted child’s “birth” into our family much as we would an actual birthday. We call it their “Gotcha Day,” and for the anniversary of their adoption they get to chose a fun, family activity for us to do to commemorate their special day. Tyler had a very specific idea in mind for his “Gotcha Day.” He wanted to go canoeing/kayaking. Since we don’t own canoes or kayaks, I needed to find a facility that rented them. Normally this would have been an easy task, as we are surrounded by rivers and lakes in Western Pennsylvania, but I soon discovered that many of the places that rents boats, were shut down due to Covid-19.

After a little research and a few calls and texts to friends, I discovered that Racoon Creek State Park had a rental facility that was still open and serving the public. On Friday we drove down to Racoon State Park for a day of boating. It was a smaller “Gotcha Day” gathering than usual due to so many family members being out of the house, but that didn’t damper the experience for Tyler. He was excited to get on the water and was thrilled to have Rusty join him!

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Happy “Gotcha Day,” Tyler! We are so glad you are our son!!

 

Molly’s Missionary Message #8

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Hello!! 

This week has been FULL of new changes and adventures! 

Last Tuesday was transfer day. It is crazy that I am going into my second transfer already! This transfer was full of changes. One of the biggest changes was that I got a new, reassigned companion who served in Chile for 9 months! Sister Tolley is the sweetest thing and has been a huge blessing to me! (I will be helping her adjust to this area and she will continue training me, because I have still so much to learn!) In the end we are learning together and I feel that, because of it, we are all the more unified as companions and friends. We also moved into a new apartment and have a new p-day, which has switched from Monday to Wednesday. Although all of these changes have taken a day or two to get used to, they have also brought new experiences and opportunities!

Sister Tolley and I spend a decent amount of time in quarantine because of Covid-19, but we are trying to find the blessings and God’s hand in each day. Our day to day events consist of: 

Cooking meals,

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 Trying to get into the habit of running in the morning,

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 Buying ice cream and eating it from the container,

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 Going on hikes,

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Studying, seeking, praying, teaching,

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 And all in all, just trying to keep ourselves busy!

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We are seeking to work very hard everyday to be a blessing to others and use our time in a way that is pleasing in the sight of God.

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I love the quote by President Russell M. Nelson (our prophet) “The Lord loves effort!” This quote has been a good reminder because being a missionary during this crazy time has resulted in moments of feeling drained and discouraged, but as I weigh these moments against all of the blessings we have received in return, it is well worth it! 

I am so thankful for the challenges and trials that we experience daily because it brings into contrast the light and love of God, making it shine all the brighter! God never gives us more than we can handle. 

God is good- Always good!

Sending hugs and much love,

Sister McCleery

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A Poem written by Sister Molly McCleery:

“The trials I’m given, are they meant to crush me?

My perspective is so very limited to what I understand and see.

But yet I stand firm to the truth that God is my loving Father.

Why do I let fear and doubts seep in to add to personal bother?

Trials may seem heavy to bear, yet they’ll never be more than you can handle,

They are opportunities to grow your faith, adding like the guidance of a candle.

At times our burdens are just heavy enough to get us to our knees,

For this will open doors, because you now have the keys.

God anxiously waits for our acceptance to His hand that reaches out,

Once we do, then everything seems a bit better, resulting in a joyful shout!

If God wants us to have joy, why are there trials in the first place?

Now this can be addressed by breaking it down to the foundation base.

I believe this time on earth is an opportunity for growth and learning,

Where we experience opposition and practice the art of discerning.

I have turned more towards Christ in dark times, for I desire a source of light.

In Him I find comfort and strength, for He is my eyes of sight.

 I’m grateful that through Him I don’t need to feel alone, even for a day.

Because I know Jesus Christ can help us feel more than perhaps just “okay.”

Every time we fall down and feel that we are done,

Remember the love that is testified through God’s only begotten son!

He can and will lift you and clean you up,

Christ’s love and healing is like an overflowing cup.

This is one of the most amazing and humbling experiences to endeavor,

For that is He loves you, today, tomorrow and always, even to forever!”

Rusty Propellers

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This summer marks Rusty’s third semester of college, as he pursues a degree in UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) piloting. His dream is to become a drone pilot, and it is a dream he has been working hard on achieving for the last 14 months.

He began his pursuit of this goal at the start of his senior year when he decided to duel enroll in our local community college while finishing up his senior year at 21st Century Cyber Charter School. He loves the program, his instructors, and fellow UAV students.

Currently, due to Covid-19, all his courses are online. This has been an effortless transition for Rusty, whose entire 12 years of schooling was accomplished through a cyber venue.

This summer Rusty is taking a photography/videography class as part of his degree requirements. He has really enjoyed it. In addition to learning the art of cinematography, he is also learning the business side of drone piloting…

Including creating a logo for his business and a choosing a name. Here is his design:

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Rusty has three large projects due this summer where he’s be asked to capture drone footage that could be used by a business for advertising purposes. Rusty took advantage of our weeklong camping trip to capture footage of Fox Den Acres Campground. Using that footage, he created a video highlighting the amenities of the campground.

I was so impressed with his finished project, I couldn’t resist sharing!

Rusty still has another year of schooling, and hasn’t yet decided on what career path he wants to pursue in the field of drone piloting. Just from Rusty’s particular program graduates have gone on to pursue careers with the forestry department where drones are used to monitor forest fires, the department of transportation where drones are used to do bridge inspections, and Hollywood where drones are used to capture aerial footage for major motion pictures. The possibilities are endless! It is exciting to consider where this degree might take Rusty.

In the meantime, Rusty is excited to once again be gainfully employed! In March, the ice cream shop where both Rusty and Braden worked shut down due to Covid-19. Last month they received news that it was closed for good and would not be reopening. That led to a search for employment. Last week Rusty began his new job with FedEx, as a package handler.

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His job is to pull packages off a continuously moving conveyor belt and fill FedEx trucks with those boxes. It is hard work (he moves 600-800 boxes a shift.) It is hot work (the temperatures in the warehouse match the temperatures outside.) It is non-stop work (with barely a moment to catch your breath between streams of packages coming down the line.) but according to Rusty, it is fun work. It is a job that plays to his strengths. It is a real life game of Tetris. All those years of Lego building, puzzle solving, and video gaming has paid off. On day one he was already receiving praise from the manager for his packing skills. He also loves the fact that this job pays $6.00/ MORE an hour than he made scooping ice cream. It is a win win!

So, there you go…

The latest news on our gentle giant.

Treasure Week 2020

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The third week of June always presents a unique challenge as we strive to celebrate Toby’s trifecta of holidays in the grand way he deserves. During that week he is celebrated for being a father, a husband, and a son, with Father’s Day, our anniversary and his birthday landing within days of each other on the calendar. We work hard to celebrate each of those special days fully and individually. This year I was looking for something extra special for his Father’s Day gift. It has been a bummer of a year, with a lot of unforeseen changes and a lot of challenging detours. Trips have been canceled, kids have launched, and some of those that are still at home have put us through the ringer. I knew this Father’s Day was going to be extra challenging for Toby without Molly and Grace at home to temper the tone in our home with their sunshine. It has been a hard, hard few months at home. I knew that Toby was not going to receive the show of love, gratitude and appreciation he deserves as a father, so I felt compelled to come up with something extra special. With Rusty’s help we pulled off an amazing Father’s Day surprise for a man that deserves the world!

One of Toby’s favorite hobbies is metal detecting. It is a hobby he took up as a kid with his father. Eight years ago he joined the Beaver County Metal Detecting Club and since then has enjoyed his monthly meetings and frequent hunts with friends that share a common passion. For Toby, this hobby combines his love for treasure hunting with coin collecting.

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As I was searching for local hunts that could serve as his Father’s Day gift from the kids and I, I stumbled across Treasure Week. This week-long hunt was being held an hour away at Fox Den Campground in New Stanton. As soon as I stumbled across the registration form online, I knew it would be a perfect gift for Toby. Each day offered 3- 4 seeded hunts with a different theme each day. In between hunts there were opportunities to socialize, activities for the kids, and family fun each evening.

We decided to secretly register Toby and then turn that week of camping into our summer vacation. I booked a campsite at the campground where the hunt was being held and on Father’s Day we surprised him with his gift.

Last Friday we packed up the car and headed to the hunt. Braden declined to join the family on our camping trip and left to spend another week at his Pap’s house, so it was just Tyler and Rusty with us for the week.

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We arrived and began setting up camp. We finished getting the tent set up and the car unloaded, just before the first thunderstorm of the weekend hit.

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The downpour outside altered our dinner plans. Our foil packet dinners were postponed for the following night as we enjoyed a meal of Sheetz-to-Go while playing board games in the relative comfort of the tent.

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The following day was the start of Treasure Week. Toby received a schedule for the week, with the themes of each day’s hunts laid out. The only day that had to be switched up was “Canada Day” on day one, as our coin hunters from the north continue to remain trapped behind a border that is closed.

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The hunts were offered each day at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00, with some specialty hunts thrown in between.

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There were about 50 participants at Treasure Week, with ages ranging from teens to 80+. Most, however were retirees. Toby was a youngin’ in this crowd. Because of the median age of participants, most remained diligent in the use of masks and social distancing, making this a fun (and safe) week of vacationing.

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Luckily, metal detecting is a pastime that lends itself well to social distancing…

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As perfectly expressed by this t-shirt we bought Toby:

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After each hunt Toby would lay out his treasure finds and count up his “booty.” Silver dimes are one of the most common finds in seeded hunts, and one of the coins Toby enjoys collecting most, as each pre-1965 dime has a current worth of $1.50.

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Tuesday’s  theme was the Civil War. These hunts were run by the relic hunters from Virginia and Texas who focus their efforts on historic relics rather than coins. For the Civil War relic hunt, the ground was seeded with historic relics instead of silver. This resulted in an especially cool hunting experience for those like Toby who typically hunt coins. Toby walked away from that hunt with 19 Civil War bullets, one uniform button and a J hook.

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Treasure week also offered free hunts for amateurs, kids and teens. These hunts were geared toward beginners. Tyler didn’t want to participate, but Rusty chose to sign up for the amateur hunt.

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Each amateur hunter was allowed a “coach” on the field to help them. Toby was Rusty’s treasure hunting coach.

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He had great success. He found a handful of coins and some tokens, which won him a collection bag, a shovel, and a coin pricing book.

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In between hunts we kept busy with the fun the campground offered.

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Tyler spent most of his time at the lake that sat across the road from our tent. He spent hours and hours fishing for bluegills and bass.

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In the hot afternoons we would head over to the pool to cool off. The week offered high temperatures in the 90’s, making the campground pool a lifesaver!

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And, as is always the case when camping, a large portion of my day was spent preparing, serving and cleaning up meals cooked outside.

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In the evenings after dinner we would head over to the large pavilion that served as home base for Treasure Week. There we would enjoy the family activities scheduled for each evening. Some of the activities offered included bingo, a Civil War relic presentation, a Chinese auction and A  Night at the Races, with the proceeds of these events going to fund future hunts.

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Our nights would end with time spent around the fire as everyone enjoyed one last s’more or hobo pie before heading to bed.

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It was a good week away. It was healing to get away from the house and challenges of everyday life, and just escaping into nature for a bit. Toby had a wonderful week doing what he loves: digging in the dirt for dimes, and we enjoyed watching him have fun.

After a week of hunts Toby had quite the impressive haul of coins and prizes:

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This week away was a small token of the love and appreciation I feel for this giant among men. His countenance is humble and he asks for so little, but he is one who gives and gives some more. On a daily basis he sacrifices his own wants and own dreams to make life better for everyone he loves. He has taken on challenges others shy away from, for the sake of bettering the lives of those hurt by the cruelty and lack of care by men who don’t deserve the title of “father.” He forgives and forgives again the hurtful choices made by the hurt people in his life, knowing that the only way to break the cycle of abuse is to offer an example of unconditional love in the face of behaviors intended to test the love that is offered.

If anyone deserves to be celebrated as a father, it is Toby. In his quiet, unassuming, selfless way he is showing our sons what a real man looks like, and how a real father behaves.

It isn’t a lesson fully appreciated by all his kiddos at this point in their lives, but he continues to plug away, doing right, even when his efforts seem to be in vain.

As I watch Toby hunt a field for treasure, his method is strikingly similar to how he parents. It is calm, thoughtful, thorough, and patient.

While others hurry across the field, he calmly remains steady in his pace.

While others hunt those easily accessible coins just below the surface, he willingly invests time and effort seeking the treasure hidden deeper in the ground.

When the crowds start exiting the field, believing there is nothing left to find, Toby circle around once more looking for treasures missed by others.

He seeks to find the worth in what the world dismisses as trash, and patiently digs for the good stuff…the stuff that is buried deep.

He is a treasure finder, both in hobby and in life.

He has been blessed with the ability to find the intrinsic worth of a soul, even when it is buried deep beneath hurt, anger, trauma, and testing.

He doesn’t walk off the field when the hunt seems fruitless.

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He stays.

He hunts.

He hopes.

He digs….

Never, ever giving up.

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Molly’s Missionary Message #7

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This week was a bit of a rougher week.

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I found myself dealing with a lot of internal worries, but even with those struggles I saw good things come from the hard moments.

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I’ve noticed that I am being stretched by God right now, which never feels good in the moment, but is always appreciated later. I rejoice in trials because they honestly can be blessings in disguise. Sweet Sister Seal has been a huge support this week in lifting me up and helping me to stress less over the little things.
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Update: Transfers are a comin’! This week will bring a new district, a new companion and a new apartment. That’s a lot of “new” in a week!
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I am a bit overwhelmed by all the changes that this week will bring but am looking forward to the blessings that will accompany those changes.
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The biggest blessing in my life is God’s continuation of tender mercies.
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During district council this week I was assigned to share a miracle that happened from the week, and the first thing that came to mind is all the pink writing in my journal.
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I keep a daily journal. This is a habit I began almost 10 years ago. Since leaving on my mission I began the practice of recording the blessings of the day, and moments where I saw God’s hand in my life, in a different colored ink. I chose to start doing this so that the blessings of the day would stand out in contrast to the rest of my day.  Doing this lets me visually see how good God is and how present He is in my life.
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It has been so humbling to see how aware God is of me. Through those moments of good, He speaks to me, saying, “I love you. Keep going. You are doing great.”
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These moments come just when I need them most. It could be advice from my beautiful mother, a testimony-strengthening experience, or even a good talk given by another.
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I know God is with each of us individually and personally. He is aware of the lows and highs of our daily life. I know that God gives us tender mercies that may seem subtle, but each tender mercy shows how much love He has for us!
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I love you all so very much and am sending hugs your way!
God is good, always good!
Love,  Sister McCleery