Tag Archives: coronavirus

A Covid-19 Graduation Celebration

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This has been the weirdest graduation year…EVER!

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And it is doubly disappointing, as we have 2 graduating seniors.

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Due to Covid-19, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, like so many high schools across the nation, have opted for an alternative graduation ceremony rather than risk the possible spread of sickness. I certainly agree with their call but it is disappointing for Rusty and Braden who imagined their graduation from high school would look very different from how it looks now.

As Rusty’s senior shirt expresses, “Worst. Ending. Ever!”

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Gracie and Molly’s graduation from 21st Century Cyber Charter School looked quite different. For their ceremonies we traveled out east to Downingtown with friends, so that the girls could enjoy the festivities in person. We stayed at a hotel, they attended prom, and we enjoyed watching them walk across the stage with their high school friends.

Gracie’s graduation day:  https://ktmccleery.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/graduation-day/

Molly’s graduation day:  https://ktmccleery.wordpress.com/2019/06/10/mollys-graduation-day/

For Rusty and Braden there will be no trip, no prom, no graduation celebration with friends from school. All of our traditional graduation experiences are on hold, so I have spent the last month trying to come up with an idea of how we can celebrate their achievements and make them feel loved in a world where graduation parties are unsafe, restaurants are closed, and vacations are on hold.

This is what we came up with…

Memorial Day was our graduation celebration day for the boys. Their actual graduation ceremony will take place on June 11th on YouTube…the world we are living in is SO BIZARRE…but we wanted to celebrate the boys’ graduation from high school before Molly left for her mission on June 2nd, so Monday offered the perfect opportunity!

Our day was split into two parts. First we planned an outing for the morning, and then ended our celebration with a fun dinner at home. There was so little open on Memorial Day that it took some searching to find something we could do for their special day. We finally landed on Wagon Trails drive-thru animal safari.

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This was our first time visiting this local attraction, located 45 minutes away near Youngstown, Ohio. Wagon Trails Safari has been able to keep its doors open by making some adjustments to the experience they offer. Rather than having visitors board an open wagon and feed the roaming animals, they now have visitors remain in their car and drive through the park on their own. Guests are not allowed to feed the animals or get out of the car to walk through the petting zoo area of the safari, but the experience was still a lot of fun. It was nice to get out of the house, do something novel and unusual to celebrate the boys’ graduation, all while supporting a local business.

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We arrived, pulled up to a booth, and paid the admission fee. Our crew of eight were split into two cars so that everyone could have a window seat.

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Rusty and Tyler rode in Gracie and Zach’s car,

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And Molly and Braden rode with us.

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The animal park was split into enclosures where the animals freely roamed.

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Many species mingled with each other.

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Feeding troughs were placed near the road as to entice animals to hover close enough for guests to enjoy.

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It was a delight!

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Some of our favorite critters included the momma and baby pot belly pig,

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The herd of zebras,

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Goats, and elk, and deer…oh my!

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And of course, the bison.

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But the star of the safari were the ostriches!

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They did not recieve the social distancing memo!

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Standing as sentries along the road, they greeted each guest who approached, hoping that someone had treats stashed in their car. They were sorely disappointed and only let us pass once they realized we were contraband-free.

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These log-necked pick pockets were a delight!!

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It wasn’t the traditional senior celebration, but Wagon Trails offered us a great way to “make lemonade from lemons.”

Next Stop: home…for the second half of our graduation celebration!

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Since a graduation celebration with guests was an impossibility, and since restaurants are still “take-out” only, a meal out or a party with friends was impossible. Instead we celebrated at home with family.

The boys requested wings for their graduation celebration so after our animal safari Toby and I headed to Cranberry to pick up wings from Big Shot Bobs. We ordered a variety of flavors and when we returned home we had a veritable feast of meat!

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My big boys were in heaven!

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We gathered in the dining room to eat. It was already decorated for our celebration. The girls had helped me transition our dining room from the Disney décor leftover from our themed dinner night, to a graduation decorations for our two seniors.

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Following dinner we presented the boys with their graduation gifts. Typically our gift to the graduate is a trip or a personalized experience. As a family we definitely enjoy “doing” more than “having.” Unfortunately,  we are living in an uncertain world where so much is closed and travel plans must be written in pencil, so I racked my brain to come up with an alternative gift for the graduates. We didn’t want to just give them something or throw money at them. We wanted them to have something to look forward to…an experience that could be enjoyed. We decided to gift them each with a subscription box, personalized to their particular interests.

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We thought it was the best plan. It was doable, even with all that is going on in the world, and it would give them something to look forward to each month. Who doesn’t like getting a package in the mail?!

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With so many subscription boxes to pick from it was tough to chose. For Rusty we decided on a Disney World themed box in which he will receive a variety of theme park gifts and goodies each month. For Braden we subscribed to Loot Crate. His monthly package will include a mix of gaming gear. It was one of those “different but equal” gifts we strive for as parents when our children reach milestones simultaneously. I wanted them to feel equally loved while feeling loved in a way unique to their personalities and interests.

They were both thrilled!

Next Thursday the boys will graduate from 21st Century Cyber Charter school.

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Their ceremony will be a YouTube Live event, and rather than walking across a stage, these photos of them wearing their cap and gowns will be flashed across the screen.

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It may not be the ending they envisioned but it will be a notable beginning to an exciting future. Congratulations, boys! You did it!

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Rusty and Braden’s Senior Photo Shoot

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Being the bizarre spring it has been, it isn’t surprising that tasks that I would normally be on top off have fallen to the wayside. One of those tasks being senior photos.

In past years, with my past seniors, we have coordinated our senior photos long before the final days of the senior school year, but in the midst of navigating a worldwide pandemic certain things have fallen to the wayside.

It wasn’t until I realized we needed to send out graduation announcements that I realized that we still needed to take some senior photos so that we could create the announcements.

This year we have two graduating seniors. Both Braden and Rusty will be graduating from 21st Century Cyber Charter School on June 11th. The school has opted for a virtual graduation. Rather than traveling to Downingtown, Pennsylvania, like we did for Grace and Molly’s graduation ceremonies, we will be watching Rusty and Braden graduate from high school in the comfort of our own living room. This brings mixed feelings as our excursion east to celebrate our kids’ academic achievements is always a highlight of the senior year, but the decision is a wise and prudent one.

The school, in an effort to celebrate their seniors from afar, sent yard signs to all the graduating seniors.

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For seniors across the world, the ending of their academic journey isn’t at all what they expected. We acknowledged this disappointment with some special gifts for our graduating seniors…

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Gifts they donned for their senior photo shoot.

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On two separate sunny spring days we took the boys out in the yard to capture some photos for their graduation announcements. Grace and Molly helped me out.

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I always find boy’s photo shoots to be more challenging than girls. They are less willing to get silly and it is more of a challenge catching their personalities on camera during a staged shoot. We found adding dogs to the mix helped capture their inner joy.

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It was a joy celebrating our two senior sons and we were able to get some great shots of our handsome sons, just in time to create their graduation announcements which will be sent out to all those family and friends that we won’t be able to celebrate with in person.

Rusty’s post-graduation plans include continuing at CCBC (where he was duel enrolled for his senior year) to pursue a degree in unmanned aerial vehicle piloting. He plans of becoming a drone pilot.

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Braden will be attending New Castle School of Trades in the fall as he pursues a degree in Automotive Technology.

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The future is bright for both our boys and we can’t wait to see what God has planned for them!

After a bit of a Detour…

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Detours are a natural part of life.

They serve an important purpose.

Sometimes those detours follow a roadblock, as God redirects us down a different path.

Sometimes detours come in the form of delays, as God buys time to prepare us for our next purpose.

Sometimes detours are there to lead us to people we need to meet or to places we need to visit.

Regardless of the “why” behind divine detours, there is always a purpose behind the pause.

That doesn’t mean a change in plans is easy. It certainly hasn’t been easy for Molly, but like every divine detour there are blessings that come from His change to our plans, and Molly’s situation is no different.

Last December Molly sent in her paperwork to become a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She waited with bated breath for news to come of where she would be assigned to labor for the Lord for the next 18 months. A process that typically would have taken a couple weeks dragged into a month and a half as she waited for her call to come. Road Blocks (or God Blocks) popped up as paperwork was misplaced and delays occurred. She had the opportunity to practice patience as she waited.

Finally, she received an email indicating that her news had arrived. Many loving friends and family weighed in on where they thought Molly would serve the Lord.

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She could have gone anywhere in the world.

She was called to Utah.

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At the time we had no idea what a blessing a domestic assignment in the states would be, and what divine purpose was in that six week delay.

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We had no idea a pandemic was on the doorstep.

She was given her date to arrive at the Missionary Training Center in Utah and airline tickets were purchased for Toby and I to fly her out. We were scheduled to fly out on March 28th.

On March 13th Grace, Molly and I drove out to Wooster, Ohio to have a girls weekend with my parents. That was the first day that the reality of the looming storm really hit. We enjoyed a day of shopping and lunch on Main St., but there was a tension in the air and you could feel the tides of life shifting. That was the last visit we had with family. After that weekend churches closed, schools shut down, and non-life-sustaining businesses were closed.

Then we received news that Molly would not be going to Provo, Utah for her missionary training. Instead, she and thousands of other new missionaries, would experience the MTC at home through the computer. For three weeks her days were spent attending classes, study sessions and devotionals in her bedroom,

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As the rest of the family (who were all at home as part of Pennsylvania’s Stay-at-Home order) tried to carve out some normalcy in other parts of the house.

I know it wasn’t the MTC experience Molly had dreamt of. Once again it was another detour off the path she had planned, but she handled it with grace and good spirits and was able to enjoy the unique blessing of being able to share her MTC experience with her family, firsthand.

When she reached the end of her training, she was detoured once again. Rather than arriving in Salt Lake City on April 21st to check into her mission, she was told to remain at home until travel was deemed safe. As the pandemic spread around the world, missionaries across the globe were being brought home before boarders closed. Like Molly, thousands of LDS missionaries were enduring their own personal detours as their mission plans changed. International missionaries were brought home to quarantine and then wait for a reassignment in the United States.

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Once again I saw God’s hand in those troublesome delays that were such a challenge for Molly at the start of her mission process, as they placed her where she needed to be prior to the events of the world unfolding.

Following her MTC online, she removed her nametag and waited once again, uncertain of how things would unfold. After another month of waiting news finally came. It has been deemed safe for Molly to travel and the Salt Lake City South mission is ready to receive her, so after five months of detours she is finally headed to her destination…

And she is thrilled.

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We have 12 days until she flies out on June 2nd and we are making the most of our remaining two weeks with her. Donning masks we headed to Walmart to purchase the final items on her packing list and we made a list of family fun we wanted to fit in with Molly before she leaves.

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We are still pretty shut down in out area of the country but a few things have opened up (like drive-in movies, parks, etc.) so we plan to make some memories before Molly flies the nest.

As happy as we are for Molly and the lucky people of Utah who will get our ray of sunshine for the next 16 months, (she will still return home at the same time despite the delay in her departure, thus her mission from 18 months to 16 months,) we are sad for our family. Molly will be missed SO VERY MUCH. It is going to be especially hard on my boys who struggle with being triggered by the loss of people they love. The good news, however, is that we will get to Skype with Molly once a week and exchange mail and emails which will hopefully make Molly’s time away easier on the boys.

To help cement the idea that she will return, I ordered a missionary countdown chart on Etsy. Tyler already helped me mark off the time that has passed during Molly’s mission days spent at home. It will be his job to add a dot each day so we can see the time pass in a tangible way.

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Here at Patchwork Farm we will be posting a weekly mission update with letters and photos Molly sends so that all of you can share in her experience.

This was the post she shared two days ago letting family and friends know her exciting news:

“I have an exciting update! I was called out into the field to finish up my mission. I will be in Salt Lake City South mission the first week of June! 

I am very humbled by God’s plan and will. When I first imagined my mission experience (and this year in general), it is a lot different than the present. It makes me reflect on how God works. 

It is like this: we are going about our lives, planning this certain route, thinking that it is the quickest way to our desired destination. We plan and prepare and find all the rest stops along the way. We pack fun road trip snacks and are all ready for the ride, then one day…  

God gives us a detour. 

This detour might not seem as fast. It may be a bit foggy at times, or maybe perhaps we feel we know best all together in our journey. 

I think I have learned this valuable life lesson by experiencing it: 

 I was feeling stubborn about the new direction God took me this year. In my mind I planned my missionary experience and new year step by step. (In a way I had my road trip snacks and details all set and ready to go,) but Heavenly Father knows better than me.  He sees the bigger picture. He knows the roads of life like the back of His hand and will be able to guide us in the best way. God’s way isn’t always easy though. We will experience bumps, hills, and waits just like any journey, but His way will bring the greatest blessings in the end. His path is where the greatest views will be witnessed, the most experience and learning gained, and will produce the most joyful adventure in the end. 

I am deeply humbled that God has given me recent experiences that I might not have picked for myself, but now I see the blessings flowing forth. I am thankful to be called out into the mission field and for the blessing of being able to have these past two months of waiting to progress and learn at home. I am thankful for the experiences that God gives me to humble me and teach me that His direction and detours are beautiful moments of progression in the journey. I am humbled that He hears my prayers and forgives me of my weaknesses. 

I would like to end my thoughts with a scripture verse I found that helps describe God’s great love and grace in our journeys of life, 

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”- Helaman 3:35 

As my mom has always taught me… God is good, always good!”

Detours are a part of life.

We can choose to mourn the change to our plans or we can delight in the journey. Molly has chosen the latter, and we are so proud of her choice.

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“May the Fourth be with you”

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Our second themed dinner took place on May 4th.

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Embracing our inner Jedi, we planned a “May the Fourth be with You” dinner.

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After a few hard days we were  in need of some light hearted fun. Grace and I took the lead for this family fun night since the boys were busy with school and Toby, Zach and Molly were back at work.

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The dinner preparations began with the menu. Relying on Pinterest for inspiration, we came up with an easy menu, using food already on hand, and molded it to our theme using catchy names.

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Once the menu was decided we started on decorations…

Grace used her artistic talents to turn leftover gold plates into C-3PO,

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And we rolled green napkins into lightsabers.

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We also created lightsabers for each guest using water cannons and duct tape. Our original plan was to have a water gun fight after dinner using the “lightsabers,” but cold temperatures and biting wind changed our minds. We decided to save that fun for another day.

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When the work crew was nearing home, Grace and I began getting dinner ready. By the time they walked through the door the Hans-burgers were grilled,

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The Yoda Soda was poured,

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And we were ready for our “May the Fourth be with You” party.

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Our efforts were appreciated and everyone enjoyed our Jedi dinner.

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We ended the evening by watching the first three episodes of Star Wars: The Mandalorian on Disney+.

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A Dichotomy of Diversion

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It has been an interesting six weeks (to say the least)!

We have lived through an event that will be spoken of in the history books. Upon entering 2020 we had no idea that our world would be changed so drastically in such a short amount of time, as a pandemic swept across the landscape of the world. Like so many, I have found myself trying to wrap my mind around this sudden shift in reality, while trying to carve a new normal out of a situation that is anything but normal.

Through this shift in reality we, like so many others, have gone through a grieving process of sorts as we come to grips with life suddenly changing and so many aspects of what was once predictable, becoming uncertain. I have found myself glued to the news as numbers are updated and the newest closures and policy changes are announced. I find myself riding a wave of ever-changing emotions as I am carried high on the crest of gratitude and acceptance only to be dropped suddenly into a trough of fear and despair.

Our days are reflective of that dichotomy.

In the midst of our new normalcy (Toby home from work, school activities canceled, Grace and Zach living in the bus, Molly’s MTC experience moved to home, and a stay-at-home order issued for Pennsylvania) our days are a melded mix of light and dark.

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We’ve strived to establish routine and predictability in this new lifestyle, with periods of the day set aside for schoolwork, projects, chores, exercise and family fun.

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And from the quarantine that has been thrust upon us many great blessings have come.

It has been a joy getting more time with Toby, Grace, Zach and Molly who normally aren’t home this often.

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We have had the opportunity to work on projects that always seem to be put on the back burner in the midst of the more pressing, time-sensitive obligations.

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Family connections have deepened as more time has been set aside for working, praying and playing as a family.

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Life skills have been learned as the kids have worked side by side with Toby and I on family projects. Braden learned to change the car’s oil as he worked aside Toby. Planting a garden has become a family project and the kids are learning first hand the life lessons of sowing and reaping.

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We have found the extra time has allowed us to more easily prioritize the important over the urgent. This adjustment in our perspective and the blessings that have come from this forced stillness would not have happened had we not all been sent home to heal..

But there is a flip side to this story. In the midst of the light that has come forth during this trying time, there is still a darkness that hangs heavy in the air. With the increase in disruption to everyday life comes big emotions and big reactions to these new stressors. Many around the world find themselves grieving for the loss of a loved one to Covid-19.

Seniors are missing out on the milestones that commemorate their last 12 years of effort. (I have two seniors grieving.)  Many around the world  are counting the cans in the cabinet, wondering how much longer they will last. Others are carefully watching the dwindling dollars in their bank account, uncertain of how they will care for their families if they can’t get back to work. Feelings of loneliness plague those who are social-isolating at home, while those living in violent homes would give anything for the safety of being home alone rather than living in violence..

And in the midst of all this personal angst, there is an ongoing feud playing out online and in the news, as divisions between left and right grow wider and opinions grow stronger. Discord and judgement prevail and rather than humanity coming together in support of each other against a common enemy, we instead are seeing hatred, judgement and dismissiveness take precedent over compassion and connection.

Here is the reality, friends: We are all fighting hard to survive in this circumstance that has been thrust upon us. We are all grieving the loss of things we once enjoyed and mourning the life that once was, all while struggling to come to grips with the fact that life as it was has changed.

We all need to practice kindness with ourselves and each other. Everyone is struggling in their own way, as illustrated in the excerpt below:

WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT …

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“I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.” –Author unknown

I am watching this reality play out around me…

Even within my own home.

For some this forced stillness has been a great blessing, as family members have used this “time-out” to rest, renew, and refocus.

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For others it has been a living hell as the threat of loss triggers past trauma, and the absence of normal coping skills and therapeutic support brings increased anxiety and anger.

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For my children who have lived through the hell of being trapped at home in an abusive situation, the mandate forcing them to stay at home triggers insecurity. For my children who have known hunger, the dwindling amount of cans on the pantry shelf brings fears that hunger will come again. For my children who have known the loss of loved ones to death, the constant barage of daily death tolls brings great feelings of fear. For my children who find attachment and connection stifling, 24 hours a day of togetherness brings feelings of panic. Anger then boils over into destruction, and past hurts emerge as current hurting behaviors.

I have struggled to blog for the last two weeks as so many of these struggles have come to head. The dichotomy of quarantine life is hard for me to wrap my brain around so how do I speak my truth to others?

What has our time at home been like during this worldwide pandemic?

Well, to quote Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Over the next few blogs I will be posting pictures of some of our more positive pandemic moments of life. To those looking in from the outside, know that it is but one side of our reality. Like all of you, our life is an unusual dichotomy of positive and negative, happy and sad, hopefulness and hopelessness.

Our life is a rollercoaster of high peaks and devastating drops, as the stress of uncertainty and the grieving of what has been lost, becomes too much to manage.

A family game night is followed by a fist through the television set.

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A luau themed dinner comes on the heals of a visit by the police to calm a child in crisis.

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A hike on a Sunday afternoon is paired with a trip to the ER.

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A family drive might be just that, or it could just as easily be another frantic search for a runaway teen.

This is my reality.

We are surviving, just as you are.

We will get through this, but in the meantime let us all show a little more kindness and a little less judgement, for we are navigating this storm in different boats.

 

 

Molly’s Closing Thoughts

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Conversion is a Lifelong Quest: 

On Wednesday I was temporarily released as a missionary because of Covid-19, and the moment I took off my name tag, it stung. My name tag has come to mean so much to me because it testifies of my love for the Savior.  

I struggled at first but have since come to the understanding that it isn’t a name tag that should testify of my love for my Savior. It should be the daily choices I make and the effort I put into coming closer to Him. My relationship with Jesus Christ should not depend on a name tag, but should be evident through my heart. We each can wear Christ’s name upon our hearts. Jesus Christ showed His love through the greatest act of love itself-the atonement. Those prints on his hands and feet show the world his deep, abiding, and eternal love for all of us. When we write upon our hearts His name, and promise to follow Him every day, it shows our deep love for Him. 

This week I have been studying conversion. Is conversion a one-time event? Is it growth through time? Is it a cumulation of every day choices and desires?  

I believe conversion happens every moment we choose Christ.  

Every moment we choose to follow the path that Jesus Christ paved before us.  

Every moment we choose to write His name upon our hearts.  

“Conversion is not a one-time event, but a lifelong quest. It is the miraculous process by which we come unto Christ and become more like Him.”  

I love this quote because it testifies of the process, the time, the effort and the work it takes to achieve true conversion.  

I think one of the most beautiful things that I have gained from my MTC experience is a greater desire to choose this day and this moment- and every moment moving forward-to be converted unto Christ. There is no greater source of joy! 

I am grateful for this uncertain time because it has allowed me to cling tighter to our Savior. I am grateful for my Savior who can swallow up fear, pain and sorrow. He knows us. He knows our struggles. He knows our uncertainties. Through His atonement He can truly succor us. I know Jesus Christ lives and loves us personally. I know that great blessings come forth as we turn to Him. 

Deepest love,  

Sister McCleery 

 

Molly’s Last Day at the MTC

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Yesterday was Molly’s last day of missionary training. After three weeks of daily, online MTC classes, she bid farewell to her teachers and the other missionaries in her district. It wasn’t easy for Molly to remove the nametag that has become so precious to her these last few weeks,

And it wasn’t easy for her to say good-bye to the young men and women she has been studying with and growing with these last 21 days.

Eight hours a day together (even when it is all  through the computer) creates bonds that are hard to shake.

Their time together has been spent studying, learning, praying, practicing and even playing together. On Saturday night one of their MTC teachers hosted a virtual cooking class after the topic of favorite missionary meals came up in discussion. He shared that he often made Greek yogurt pizza as a missionary because it was an inexpensive meal. He offered to teach the rest of them through a Zoom cooking class.

On Saturday night Molly set up her phone in the kitchen and proceeded to make dinner with seven other missionaries, scattered across the country.

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It turns out the Greek yogurt was used to make the crust. Molly soon found out she miscalculated her yogurt to flour ratio,

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But Grace stepped in with a little water and helped salvage the dough.

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Soon the pizzas were baking and the finished product was delicious!

Just one more skill Molly learned during her time at the MTC!

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On Sunday we headed over to Buttermilk Falls for a hike.

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It was a bit disconcerting to venture out of the house after being isolated for so long, but Rusty needed to get some drone footage of Buttermilk Falls for a college assignment he had due. We decided to make the most of the errand and turn it into a family outing.

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We enjoyed a little hiking and exploring,

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While Rusty worked to capture the shots he needed for his assignment.

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Unfortunately, he didn’t take into consideration the breeze that would be coming off the falls, and soon found his drone stuck in a tree when a gust of wind blew it out of control.

Luckily, Toby and Rusty were able to rescue it and there was only minimal damage. One blade was broken and Toby’s forearm got a bit beat up by the spinning blades when he pulled it from the tree, but it could have been much worse!

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While the boys were working on the drone, the girls and I worked on Molly’s missionary photo shoot.

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This was originally scheduled for the end of March, before she left for Utah, but the worldwide pandemic squashed those plans. When Molly’s training got moved online, we forgot to move her photo shoot to another day on the calendar.

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Sunday offered the perfect opportunity to get some pictures of Sister McCleery!!

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As of today, Sister McCleery has been released as a missionary until it is safe for her to travel to Utah to serve her 18 month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This will be a hard transition for Molly. Like so many other missionaries who have been called home in the midst of Covid-19, she waits, uncertain of what is next and when that next phase will come,

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But like all of us who are navigating the uncertainty of this unusual time, Molly has been given the opportunity to exercise those spiritual muscles of faith, optimism, resilience, mindfulness, presence, positivity, and hope.

And all will be well!

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Easter at Patchwork Farm- Part 1

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Once again we find ourselves celebrating another holiday in unique ways under a unique set of circumstances. It was hard not getting together with extended family and enjoying our typical traditions, but our circumstances didn’t take away from the holiness of the day. Perhaps it even added to it.

In the stillness of being home and having a quieter, more reflective Easter, we were able to focus on the glory of Easter Sunday. There, in the midst of the sacrifices we have found thrust upon us during this unusual and trying time, we were all the more appreciative of that great sacrifice made on our behalf.

He died so that we may live.

All Glory and Praise to our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ!

Easter preparations began on Friday with egg dying,

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And on Saturday, as family recipes were pulled out and food preparation began.

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Our meal wasn’t completely traditional, as our side dishes were chosen based on what we had in the freezer and pantry. I did, however have all the necessities on hand for the key components of an Easter dinner, so we didn’t have to make a trip to the store. A ham was pulled from the freezer. The dough was mixed for Mom’s homemade rolls. Pineapple dressing, sour cream potatoes and ambrosia salad were all prepared the day before, so as to make Sunday dinner a breeze.

On Saturday we also added a new recipe to the mix, one that is a favorite family tradition in Zach’s family: resurrection rolls!

I was first introduced to resurrection rolls when I served in primary with Sherrie and she would bring them in for the children every Easter. I loved the concept and message behind them, and they were delicious as well!

Zach’s one wish for our Easter celebration, since he wasn’t able to be with his family for Easter, was that we incorporate this beloved Tame tradition into our holiday celebration. On Saturday we gathered the family together and Zach taught us how to make resurrection rolls. It was a project everyone enjoyed!

First we laid down our dough.

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Next we topped it with a little butter and cinnamon/sugar.

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Then we placed a marshmallow in the center of the dough.

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Finally the dough was wrapped around the marshmallow and placed in a pan to bake.

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It was a fun baking project and an effective object lesson.

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The marshmallow represents the body of the Savior that was placed in the tomb. As the rolls bake, the marshmallows within melt, so that when you bite into the baked resurrection rolls, you will find the inside hollow…

Representing the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

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It was a joy getting to share in one of Zach’s Easter traditions.

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On Saturday Grace and I also decorated the dinning room for Easter dinner. Since our dining room is also currently serving as our greenhouse, we decided to embrace the mess and make it all part of the look.

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We went with a “Mr. McGregor’s Garden” theme for our Easter table, using decorations we found around the house.

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A month ago, when we had our girls’ weekend at the Homestead, my mom gave me Peter Rabbit plates and napkins as part of my Easter surprise. These paper products served as the jumping off point for our décor.

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A center piece was added,

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And my cabbage serving dishes were set out.

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Grace and I made place cards for each family member. I wrote out the names and Grace added the artwork.

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We were quite pleased with the finished look!

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After a full day of Easter preparations, we were ready to welcome in the Sabbath day.

As a special Easter treat, my parents had sent us a check to order take out one evening and gift me with a night off from cooking. We decided to use our Easter gift on Saturday night. After a full day in the kitchen preparing our Easter dinner, I was thrilled at the prospect of not having to make supper. We decided to use our Easter gift to buy wings.

The kids were all very excited. This was the first take-out meal we have had since the stay-at-home order was issued.

We ordered from Big Shot Bob’s House of Wings in Ellwood City. We ordered a variety of flavors and then Grace and Zach picked up our order on their way back from getting the mail from their apartment.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner!

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It was such a fun treat, and such a generous Easter gift from my parents! Thank you Mom and Dad!!

When everyone was full, fat and sassy we headed to bed. Tomorrow was a big day!

Our Sabbath day began with Easter service, but rather than donning our Easter bonnets for Easter service at our local chapel, we got dolled up for church in the living room. Grace was in charge of our lesson this week and she spoke about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ with the following analogy:

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She laid out eight candy bars on the table. Each was tagged with a different price. She then handed each of us a bag of pennies. Each bag contained a different amount of change. We were then told the rules of the game.

  1. We could only use the coins she gave us to purchase the candy.
  2. We couldn’t pool our money or borrow coins from one another.
  3. We couldn’t share our candy with anyone else.

We were then set free to do our shopping. As we dug into our bags of pennies we soon discovered that none of us had enough money to purchase any of the candy bars on the table. We all found ourselves short of the price that needed paid.

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As we considered our options, we soon reached the conclusion that there was no way for us to pay the price needed to get our reward. It was then that Grace pointed out the fact that none of us had thought to ask her for the difference owed. She pulled out a bag of pennies and asked if anyone needed to borrow the difference, thus thrusting the reward within reach, despite our shortcomings.

She likened the lesson to the atonement of Jesus Christ. She drew the comparison between our own inability to gain eternal reward to our need for a Savior who can make up the difference between what we have to offer and the price that must be paid.

Like Gracie’s example, salvation can’t be bargained. The price is set and must be paid in full, and none on earth can pay the price by themselves. We all must call on Jesus Christ to make up the difference. He has paid the price for each of us, and because of His great sacrifice we all have the ability to enjoy a reward we don’t deserve.

She then shared the story of Handle’s Messiah to further illustrate her point, by sharing the following video:

It was a beautiful lesson and a perfect start to our Easter Sunday!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Easter at Patchwork Farm.

Learning a bit about “Making do”

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Life has thrust us into a simpler existence…

An existence that moves at a slower pace, promotes stillness and self-reflection. Life has transitioned away from the frantic pace of keeping up to a slow crawl that promotes mindfulness and presence. The tragedy that is unfolding around us has left mankind readjusting their pace and their trajectory, as we all get use to a new kind of “normal,” but crisis and chaos have the power to birth a better way of being.

One of the blessings I have seen born out of the challenges of today, is a new way of navigating life. No longer driven by speed and ease, we find ourselves navigating by new standards. Even in this short season of quarantine I see in myself a greater consciousness of how finite things are. It has changed the way I live, the choices we make, the care we give, and the things we value. Gone are the days when everything was expendable and replaceable. We are all now looking at our environment through eyes of cautious conservation, and old adages like this one, are becoming our guiding principle:

use it up

Haircuts at Home

After weeks of the boys getting shaggier and shaggier, and barber shops shut down around the state, we decided to take matters into our own hands. The impromptu front porch barber shop was born out of a request by Grace who asked if I could give her bangs. She was looking for a change and decided bangs were just the thing she needed to give her a lift.

When Braden heard that Grace was getting her hair cut, he quickly requested that he be added the list. Rusty also chimed in that he was in need of a haircut and Tyler, who had no interest in getting his hair cut, was added to the queue despite his protests.

We started with the boys. Toby ran the clippers and I worked with scissors.

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Rusty’s cut was nice and easy, as he just wanted his hair buzzed.

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Braden and Tyler chose to buzz the sides and keep the top long, with just some trimming to get those curls under control.

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This was my first attempt at recreating the cuts they usually get at Great Clips, but I was quite proud of the finished results. Not bad for a pandemic haircut!

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When the boys were all trimmed up and looking more like young men than cavemen, Grace took her place in the hot seat so I could give her the bangs she was requesting. She was tickled pink with the finished look:

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Making Masks

Our dining room has slowly transformed into a greenhouse for the garden seedlings and a sewing center for making masks.

Last Friday Grace, Molly and I sat down to make plans for sewing masks, following  Governor Wolf’s announcement that all Pennsylvanian’s should be wearing masks when out in public. We spent time online researching different patterns and then went searching through the house for needed supplies. Our plan was to set up an assembly line in the dinning room and use the down time between General Conference sessions over the weekend to sew masks for family and to donate to others.

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I was in charge of the scissors and took on the task of cutting out the pieces for the masks.

Molly took her place at the ironing board, ironing and pinning the pieces I gave her before they were handed over to Gracie to be sewn together.

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Working together we were able to sew mask after mask while visiting and enjoying each other’s company.

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The finished results were modeled by these two (not so) eager models:

Prepping the Garden

Never has the necessity for garden felt as pressing for our family as it does this year. With so much uncertainty in the world the push to prep our garden, with the goal of growing fresh vegetables at home, has driven us to reassess our gardens. The last few summers have been so busy that our gardens have been sorely neglected.  Busyness certainly isn’t an issue at the moment so we have been focusing on getting our gardens ready for planting,

Part of that process includes some new raised beds.

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This is a project Braden and Toby have been working on together.

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As a result, Braden has been learning some new skills while also being a big help for Toby.

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Making our own Fun

It has been a blessing to be forced to slow down and focus on the important rather than the urgent. Having the time to just be present with my family has been the greatest gift that has come out of this challenging time. Daily family walks, meals at the table with the entire family present, pockets of playfulness and unscheduled discovery have been great  gifts.

The other day, as we were working in the yard, the kids came across a pile of unopened geodes that we brought home from our Kentucky houseboat trip a few years ago. We lugged them home with plans to break them open at home but they ended up in a forgotten pile of rubble at the corner of the yard.

Once rediscovered, yardwork was put on hold, hammers were gathered and we enjoyed an impromptu science lesson on the front walk.

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The kids took turns breaking open the geodes to discover the beauty hidden within very ordinary looking stones…

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Enjoying the experience with childlike wonder.

Getting Ready for Bees

Toby has been kept busy with many a project around the house. Not only is he using this time at home to work his way down the list of repairs that have needed done, but he has also taken on some new projects as we focus on increased self-sustainability at Patchwork Farm.

One of those projects has been to build a second beehive.

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In May he will be picking up the bees he ordered from a local farmer, so for now he is getting their digs all set before they move in.

Cleaning out the Deep Freezer

We have also been accomplishing many cleaning and organization tasks around the house. We have dedicated a couple hours each day to work on cleaning out and organizing those areas of the house that tend to be overlooked. We have been working on cleaning out and organizing the basement. As part of that project we have been cleaning out the deep freezer and getting rid of the food that has expired.

Harley, our pot belly pig has been the greatest benefactor of our efforts…

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Although the dogs and cats have reaped the rewards as well!!

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The other day Molly took a tub of expired cool whip out to Harley, making him the happiest pig to ever walk the earth!

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You would have thought he had died and gone to heaven.

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His grunts of joy and enthusiastic consumption of that sweet treat made us all smile with delight.

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Oh, how we love our silly pig!

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A New Chicken Yard

The chickens have also benefited from Toby’s increased time at home during this season of quarantine. We moved the new chicks into the old chicken coop and needed to rehome the older hens to a different area of the farm. We decided to use the frame of the old, torn trampoline, along with materials found around the farm, to build a new chicken house and chicken yard outside.

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Once the area was set up and secure, Toby and Rusty moved the old chickens to their new digs, so as to make space for the 13 new chicks.

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It was an ingenious solution that made use of what we had on hand.

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It has been a great blessing to revert back to a place where ingenuity and creativity are needed. Out of daily needs (that can’t be met in traditional ways) come solutions that are even better than the “typical” and “easy” ways things were done before.

I appreciate the skills my kids are learning as a result of a situation beyond our control, and we all find ourselves exercising the muscles of thriftiness, problem solving, making do, gratitude, and contentment.

It is a step back towards a simpler way of living,

And that is the blessing that has been born of the tragedy that is unfolding around us.

God is good.

Always good.

 

 

 

 

 

Sister McCleery- Week 2 at the MTC

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Here are Molly’s thoughts from this week:

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Every day is a new adventure.

Hundreds of emotions are felt in a period of 24 hours.

My understanding of what I thought I understood as a kid, has grown deeper and stronger than ever before!

My love for my Savior has been edified in ways that are so special and sacred to me.

This week has been filled to the brim with a very busy schedule…two 3-hour classes daily, workshops with a hundred or more missionaries in my same position, and daily scripture study- both independent and with my companion.
I wake up at 6:30am and devote the next two hours to studying and growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I begin with a prayer which is key to a good study session. I have been amazed at what the Holy Ghost will guide me to read, learn, or the thoughts that pop into my head which make an impact on my heart and soul.
 I have been blessed with a great district too.
 I. Love. Them. 
They are the people that help me to not feel as alone on this uncertain journey. They are the people that make me laugh after staring at a screen for hours. They are the people that teach me so much through their bright testimonies. 
I also love my teachers! I am thankful for their willingness to serve and teach, and the hours of effort they put into what they do. 
This week was also my 20th birthday.
This was a different kind of birthday than any I have ever had before. In addition to being quarantined in my house, my day was packed with a busy MTC training schedule. I spent most of my birthday in my bedroom doing online learning, but had many wonderful experiences that made me feel so very loved on my birthday. The birthday wishes I received meant the world to me, my sister brought me lunch (which is so simple but made me swell with love that she checked up on me.) The birthday gifts were all so generous, I had my favorite foods and I got to spend time with my family in small snippets through the day which meant the world to me!! 
This week I have learned a lot about faith, humility and grace.
As some of you may or may not have heard, due to the worldwide pandemic, all missionaries training in the MTC will be released from their calling at the conclusion of their training and then will be given the choice of either waiting at home until their assigned location is ready and safe for more missionaries to arrive,  or they can choose to wait up to 12 to 18 months to start their mission.
When I received this news I felt nothing but anxiety and stress. Then came emotions of sadness over the change in what I expected. I struggled with doubts like,  “can I handle this?” and worries that I wouldn’t make the right decision. There were many evenings where I was just overwhelmed and frustrated with life itself. When I was going through all this I was very critical of myself for doubting at all. Shouldn’t a missionary’s faith be greater than her fear? Shouldn’t a missionary go forth in all things and never fear? 
At the beginning of this year I decided to work on the virtue of humility. I prayer for experiences that would build humility. God has answered that prayer through this unique missionary experience. 
Over the past few days I have done a LOT of praying, a lot of relying upon God, a lot of reading the scriptures and a lot of letting go.
Every moment is a gift: good or bad, easy or hard. I have come to know that God called me to His work for THIS TIME. He has given me personal revelation and personal answers that bring me strength and peace.
I know that God loves me and is walking with me EVERY step of the way.
I need not fear because God is not a God of fear.
Daily I give my day to Him and allow Him to guide me.
My mission isn’t about me at all.
 I will go forth with courage and in faith.
I will try to be humble and teachable.
 I will remember that it is okay to be human and to experience moments like I’ve had this week, but I also need to remember that at the end of the day, EVERY DAY, God lives!
He will give us grace to endure and do all that He asks of us.
I come before Him knowing that I am scared, broken, imperfect and uncertain of what the future may hold for my mission and my life,  but He will give me grace, and His grace is sufficient!
I testify of the reality of God because He testified that reality TO ME. I have walked a humbling journey this week. It has not been easy but it has blessed me in profound ways. Know you are not alone. God is and always will be there for you. I pray that my experience and testimony might be a source of peace and comfort to you no matter your circumstance, for God is walking your journey with you and at times may even be carrying you!
(As me and my roomate from BYUI would always say to each other) 
I love you and Jesus loves you, 
Much love!
Sister McCleery