Tag Archives: faith

Molly’s Missionary Message #10


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! 


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

This week has been full of hikes,


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


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


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.


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!)


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


– Hitting my two-month mark!


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


– Me and sweet Sister Samuelson.


With Love,

Sister McCleery

Be Not Weary



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.


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.


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


Molly’s Missionary Message #9


(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.
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!
While walking home from that service project they passed a farm with goats.
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.
Molly was beside herself. It made her day!!
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! 
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!
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!
My sweet companion waited and passed the time sending emails as I got my hair done.
Three hours later and ta-da!
One of the best parts of my week would be Sister Tolley.
She is such a sweetheart and everyday I learn something new from her.
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.
It has been really positive!
Shout out to her for being a awesome companion and friend on my mission!
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.
Sister McCleery

Molly’s Missionary Message #8



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,


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


 Buying ice cream and eating it from the container,


 Going on hikes,


Studying, seeking, praying, teaching,


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


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.


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


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!”

Molly’s Missionary Message #6


“God is in the details of the details of the details.”

Molly and her missionary companion, Sister Seal.

This week has been FULL of tender mercies and miracles from God…

The sister missionaries enjoy spending free time on temple grounds.


But before I jump into that, I am going to start with sharing some random moments of missionary life:

° On July 4th we met as a district to play sports and games at a park.


When we were playing ultimate frisbee I got a splinter in my foot. As I was about to get it out with a knife I sort of cut myself because it was a knife that I am not used to. One of the elders kindly helped me out with Band-Aids for the blood, and another helped get the splinter out of my foot. Don’t follow my example, kids!

This is what happens when you play ultimate frisbee barefoot. When I asked Molly why she playing without shoes, she explained that her shoes were slowing her down and she couldn’t let the boys win. Lesson learned!

° There are 45 new missionaries coming in the next week or so, which is crazy! These additions will bring many changes with missionary companionships, and there will be 4 new zones. (The mission locations are breaking into smaller areas because there are so many missionaries. Each companionship will have a smaller area to cover.)

The joy of Jesus Christ just radiates from these four sisters!

° Today we went shopping at Costco. It just wasn’t the same without the joy of free samples, but it’s understandable with life right now. We were walking around shopping when I noticed a lady struggling to bag a package of cooked chicken. My parents raised me to help when needed (Thank you parents!), so I walked over to help her out, not thinking much of it. As we were leaving Costco, that same sweet lady ran up to us and expressed her desire to pay for our groceries. She gave us some cash and I had to resist the urge to hug her right then and there. She was so kind, and in my eyes this was a tender mercy of kindness that meant the world to me!


God is a merciful and loving Father both in the big things but also the small things. For example, on Tuesday, the nine-year-old boy we have been teaching was baptized. So was his younger sister. Both were baptized by their father.

Baptism day for their young investigators.

I was humbled to watch the connection and love within this  family. I really felt the Spirit! (Their baptism occurred on the day I was celebrating my one month anniversary of being out in the field. What a perfect way to spend it!)


Another tender mercy came yesterday. I was having an off day and struggling a bit. God knew this. He blessed me with small sources of strength and comfort so I could continue to press on. This added strength came through a devotional on Sunday night called “Bears and Prayers.”


It was all about prayer and communication with God. It was a powerful devotional and it helped me to feel God’s love for me personally and individually.


I know God loves each of us and He truly is in the details of both the ups and the downs of our lives.

A visit to the Asian market for some fun international treats.

“He is in the details of the details of the details.”

Molly ended her day, on the 4th of July, by watching fireworks from the balcony of her apartment. A beautiful view of the valley!

I love you all!

Never forget, God is good. Always good!

Molly’s Missionary Message #4



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This week honestly has been quite bittersweet.

There have been some great “ups” like:

Sewing up the hole in my pants all by myself! (proud moment… haha),


Magic syrup…a seasoning we love to cook with daily. (No one knows what is in it, but it tastes like happiness!)


Visiting the temple grounds often during the week. (This is probably the greatest blessing!) Back at home the closest temple is a few hours away, so the blessing of having three temples in our mission area is the greatest joy!


Enjoying the beauty of Utah. The other day there was a stunning sunset. My two companions and I went outside and bonded over a photography shoot.


We have also enjoyed going on hikes. The mountains are breathtaking! They are one of the things that I adore about Utah, besides the great people and this mission.


There were also some low moments: My trio companion Sister Briones is getting a new companion in the next few days. It is sad that she will be moving out. I adore her. At least we will get to keep giving her rides when we need to say hello!


Another hard moment came this week when I received the sad news about my great grandmother’s passing… She was that amazing, firecracker, life-of-the-party person that I adore and will greatly miss!

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This week had its ups and downs, but in the end the good will always outweigh the bad. God is good and I know that He knows us personally and individually!

Alma 18:32 says,”Yea, and He looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart for by His hand were they all created from the beginning.”

I know God loves us. We are His children. He is aware of our ups and downs and is always with us… always! I love you all and so does our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ!

Here is a poem that I wrote and felt prompted to share:

“Miracles are God’s manifestation of His love in viewable form,
If we aren’t still and quiet, they can blend into the daily norm.
God places people in our path of life for a purpose and a reason,
Be humble and learn all you can, for that due personal season.

During this time on my mission, I have seen so many miracles each day,
I am so grateful and humbled… what more is there to truly say?
Everyday a challenge of some sort may push or stretch you,
But remember God loves you personally, and He sees the big picture too!

Today brought forth a miracle that fills me with the Spirit,
Our message is about Jesus Christ and we invite all to come and hear it.
We speak out of love for Jesus Christ and a true, deep passion,
Everyday we seek to walk in the shoes of Christ, which to the world is so out of fashion.

My invitation to you is to put action to your faith in some way or form this week,
For as we search and ask with a sincere desire, God will provide what we honestly seek.
Modern day revelation is true for this time and day,
I have received loving answers from the humble prayers I say.”

Sending big hugs your way!

– Sister McCleery


Molly’s Missionary Message #2



I have been here almost a week and I can’t believe how much I have learned and gained in these past few days.  


More than anything I am so humbled. Daily, I feel my faith grow and deepen.  This has come from personal scripture study, spiritual teaching experiences, and experiencing a more sincere relationship with God grow as I turn to Him throughout the day. 

If anyone was curious what my days are like as I serve in the Salt Lake City South mission during quarantine, here you go: 

At 6:30 I wake up! 

6:30-9:00 am is spent exercising, eating breakfast and planning out our day.  

9:00-10:00 am is when I have my own personal scripture study. This is my favorite time of day.  There is something so special about taking personal time to talk to and get to know Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. Every morning we receive a list of spiritual reading tasks to focus on which provides wonderful opportunities for learning!  

Throughout the day there are blocks of time that are set aside for specific tasks.  12:00 pm is lunch, 5:00-6:00 is dinner time, and 7:30- 9:00 is companion study. Companion study with my two awesome companions provides a fun opportunity to do role play practice, share what we learned, and review rules and goals.  

My day ends with bed at 10:30 pm. 

The open blocks of time between those regularly occurring activities are filled with teaching opportunities, reaching out to others via technology, and meeting with other missionaries. It is a full schedule but I enjoy it!  


One thing that I have learned this week is the realization that I need to rely upon Jesus Christ every moment of my day. I think I used to be more passive about this heavenly hotline, but on a mission, it is a life line!  

As I study His words, I see His words come to life. I feel His deep love and grace flow into every moment of my day. 

I need Him every day.  

He is my Savior and Redeemer.  

He is my life jacket and friend. 

 He is my brother and healer. 

 He is the master potter that lovingly molds me to become my best self.  

He is the living waters that keep me strong to endure spiritual trials.  

Christ is my joy and my peace.  

I bear testimony that He lives!  

He loves us and is always reaching out to us saying, “Come follow me.”  

I rejoice in the great blessing of having Christ in my life because I wouldn’t be who I am without Him.  

Deepest of love, 

Sister McCleery 



Sister McCleery- Week 1 at the MTC

This week was a monumental one for Miss Molly…I mean, Sister McCleery.
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On Wednesday she logged onto her first class at the Missionary Training Center. Rather than attend the MTC in person,  she and all the other missionaries who are scheduled to do their training in Provo, Utah during this time, are now part of online classes.
Her name tag arrived in the mail on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning she emerged from her bedroom as Sister McCleery.
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Her schedule is quite rigorous with 6-8 hours a day spent online, learning, training, and attending devotionals. This is in addition to the time she has set aside in her schedule for personal scripture study and the companion scripture study that she does online with her assigned companion.
She is still able to join the family for meals and during her down time and breaks. It has been a joy watching her MTC experience firsthand and getting to hear about her experiences and the insight she’s gained that day as we gather together each evening for family devotionals.
The biggest challenge has probably been creating an environment of stillness and quiet reflection for Molly to learn in, with seven other people (and many noisy animals) running amuck.
The dogs have especially enjoyed hanging out with Molly at her own personal MTC.
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The other day Olive had to be banished from Molly’s room when she insisted on bring her noisiest squeaky toy into Molly’s room and making a whole lot of noise while Molly was trying to answer questions in class.
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But overall we are navigating this unique situation well. Molly’s faithfulness and service continues to bless our family and we are grateful she is home and safe during this uncertain season. Here are some thoughts she shared with us this week:
I don’t know if I can really put into words all the emotions I am feeling. With all the changes in the world right now I have learned to take my mission step by step and day by day. I am doing the MTC online and had my first class yesterday.
I was assigned and introduced to my companion, Sister Graham, who is the sweetest person ever! I am so excited to learn and teach beside her! I am in a district with two other sets of missionaries. Everyone is very kind and my first class was quite enjoyable.
I could really feel the Spirit during our zone conference as well. We talked about the importance of the work and the blessings of the mission. It takes sacrifice, and it is hard, but the growth and gifts that come forth are endless!
I am also very grateful for being able to do my MTC experience online. The experience has allowed me to spend some more time with my family and share my MTC experience with them. I have learned that this experience is humbling and sacred whether you do it online or in person. You can feel the Spirit testify of that.
This week, as I was reading my scriptures, the Holy Ghost taught me using a metaphor which touched my heart. In the scriptures it often talks about a hardened heart. This made me think of everyday objects that could relate.
A hardened heart is like dry clay. When we are not willing to listen to what God has to say to us, our hearts become hardened, and just like clay, it becomes challenging to work with. Eventually it becomes unable to be molded. It just crumbles. But Jesus Christ, the master potter, doesn’t give up easily on us. We can choose to have a soft heart, one that is willing to listen and to obey what it is He is asking us to do. We can have a heart that desires to serve and to trust in God even during the hard times. That willingness is like adding water to dry clay. As we work with it, it becomes moldable. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can use us to fulfill His work and our purpose here on earth. They have the ability to mold us into strong, beautiful and reliable pottery.
Be like soft clay. Have a soft and open heart. Allow Jesus Christ to mold you into something better than you ever thought you could be. You need not fear. He is in control.
“Trust in The Lord with all Thy heart, and lean not unto Thy own understanding. In all Thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct Thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Love, Sister McCleery

It went by in a FLASH!


It is hard to believe it has been a little over a year since Braden moved in, and a mere seven months since he became our son. In so many ways it feels like he has been a part of our family forever and I can’t imagine life without him. It makes me sick to think of what could have been had we let fear, rather than faith, guide us in the decision to say “yes.”

Fear of what could go wrong hijacked our thoughts when we first received the call asking us if we would consider opening our home and hearts to a 17-year-old boy…Tyler’s biological brother. There were so many reasons to be nervous, so many unknowns, so many shared horror stories that we found ourselves paralyzed by the anxiety of the unknown. We didn’t realize it at the time but what should have scared us was the consideration of all that we would miss by saying “no.”

Luckily we were blessed with a social worker that didn’t accept our knee jerk reaction, driven by ignorance and fear, and instead supported us as we navigated our way through our questions and concerns.

She didn’t give up on us and neither did God, who had plans that were bigger than our own agenda and blueprint for our life. He heard our concerns and answered them with His truth, spoken with compassion and love…

Giving us the opportunity to be part of something so much bigger and better than ourselves.

That isn’t to say that the journey from a year ago to today was easy, smooth or without trials and triggers. It isn’t easy growing a family, and with the addition of another child comes growing pains. Adoption is hard but there is something humbling and divine  about getting to participate in something so heavenly orchestrated.

Our adoption journey with Braden has taught me to trust God’s plan and timing, even when it runs counter to our own plans for life.

When we said yes to adopting a 17-year-old boy I was overwhelmed by the task ahead of me and felt the pressure of time against me, wondering what difference we could make in Braden’s life with only a year of childhood left before he was legally an adult. I had experienced the long, arduous journey of attachment with both Tyler and Ozzie and knew how long and hard the road to attachment was. Could we make a difference in a year?  Would we even be able to scratch the surface of attachment after all the loss he has lived through and all the walls of protection he has had to build for self preservation?

Luckily, my Lord is bigger than my logic and He has proved time and time again that He is a God of miracles. He can move mountains, He can heal hearts. And he can grow families, regardless of the worldly obstacles that seem unmovable in reaching that goal.

It has only been a year but this sweet boy has my heart. How grateful I am that God didn’t let fear drive our decision. I can’t imagine our life or our family without him…

This week we celebrated his 18th birthday!


Braden’s birthday celebration was split between two days. This was due to a special request he had for his birthday. He wanted to visit a haunted house!

Knowing that most haunted houses would be shut down by the first weekend in November, we made plans to celebrate his birthday a week early so as to grant his birthday request. On the Saturday before his birthday we made plans to visit a haunted house as a family, but first we met up with Grace and Zach for dinner!


Braden wanted wings for his birthday dinner so we met at a local wing joint that boasts 100 different wing flavors.


Everyone ordered a dozen wings of their chosen flavor and then we enjoyed a buffet of tastes as we passed the different wing flavors around the table so everyone could try one of each flavor.


It was a delicious pre-birthday dinner!


When dinner was complete Grace and Zach opted to bow out rather than join us at Freddy’s Haunts.


Braden was very excited to visit this haunted house.


He had never been to a haunted house before and was excited to experience the thrill of fright as we navigated our way through the haunted halls of this local fear factory. We also happened to be visiting on their “black-out weekend” when an already spooky experience gets amped up by the absence of lights.


Each group is given a single glow stick to guide them through the darkness.

Forming a human chain and holding tightly to the family member ahead of us, Braden led us through a maze of dark hallways as spooks jumped out and stalked us for the hour and a half it took us to find our way out.

It was a creepy as you might imagine…

And Braden loved it!

The following Wednesday…on Braden’s actual birthday…we celebrated his 18th birthday.


His birthday theme was built around his favorite superhero: The Flash!


Many of his gifts reflected this theme, including gifts from Mimi Joy,


And his gift from Rusty:


He loved the love put into his special day and the gifts that were so thoughtfully chosen by friends and family.


His gift from Mom and Dad was the BMX bike he’s been wishing for.


Happy birthday, son. We can hardly believe you are 18…

This year has gone by in a FLASH!


How blessed we feel to call you our son!


A Visit to Old Nauvoo


On our journey westward, our first stop was Nauvoo, Illinois.


“As the Latter-day Saints fled Missouri during the winter of 1838–1839, having been threatened by the governor of that state with extermination, they crossed into Illinois and settled in a swampy area along the Mississippi River that they named Nauvoo. Over the next few years, an estimated 16,000 Latter-day Saints took up residence in the city and its surrounding communities. It became one of the largest cities in Illinois at the time and an important commercial center on the upper Mississippi.

Many in the surrounding communities continued to harass the Latter-day Saints, and on 27 June 1844, a painted mob shot to death Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Despite the rapidly escalating tension in the area, the Latter-day Saints continued at great sacrifice to complete a temple in the city, even while they prepared for a mass exodus to the West. Between February and September 1846, most of the Latter-day Saints took up their march to the West, leaving their homes, their city, and their temple to the hands of those who had not built and the hearts of those who did not care.

Today Nauvoo is a significant historic district, with many of the buildings in the original townsite rebuilt or restored and open for the public to visit.”

This was Braden’s first time to Nauvoo and I couldn’t wait to share with him this quaint corner of Illinois.


Nauvoo has a feeling much like historic Williamsburg, with historic and recreated buildings from the 1840’s.

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The sister missionaries and senior missionaries demonstrate life from the 1840’s through hands-on activities in each shop.

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Historic Nauvoo consists of 30 different historic buildings in the village, the visitor’s center and the Nauvoo temple.

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What sets Nauvoo apart from other historical villages is the spirit felt there. I loved the education we acquired at each stop about what life would have been like in historic Nauvoo, but appreciated even more the spiritual messages and sweet testimonies born by our tour guides.

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Here are some of the favorite stops we made as we discovered Historic Nauvoo:

“Visit the Scovil Bakery to experience a baker’s lifestyle before the days of electric and gas ovens. See the baking equipment of the 1840s, original Temple Plates, and many other items used for baking during the Nauvoo period. The Scovil Bakery was one of several such establishments in Nauvoo in the 1840s.”

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Here we enjoyed a homemade gingersnap cookie!

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Next stop was the blacksmith shop:

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“Chauncey Webb, along with his father and brothers, owned and operated this blacksmith and wagon shop. This shop has been reconstructed on its original foundation. When you visit, you will learn how wagon wheels were constructed, and you will see a wagon, loaded with supplies, ready to cross the plains. Everyone who visits receives a “prairie diamond” ring, made from a horseshoe nail, to take home as a souvenir.”

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In addition to everyone receiving a “prairie diamond” ring, each family received a souvenir horseshoe.

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“Tour the Jonathan Browning Home and Gun Shop and learn about the humble beginnings of the worldwide Browning Arms Corporation. See authentic rifles, handguns, and shotguns from the early 1800s and their present-day counterparts. In this shop, you’ll see a fine display of firearms made by Jonathan and his descendants.”

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“Brickyard: Many early settlers lived for years in log cabins while they built their brick homes, only to enjoy them for a few short months before they left to begin their trek westward. By 1845, Nauvoo was home to seven brickyards, supplied by local red clay and kept busy producing bricks for the growing population.

The brickmaker will demonstrate how bricks were formed, dried and baked here in Old Nauvoo.”

As we left the brickyard we were given a souvenir Nauvoo brick to help us remember our visit. This was Rusty’s favorite stop of Historic Nauvoo.

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Stoddard Tin Shop: In this restored tin shop, see a demonstration of how Sylvester Stoddard used patterns to make a variety of essential household tin goods. Step into Charity Stoddard’s sitting room and gain insight into frontier life. Innovation was key.

Here we enjoyed the unexpected surprise of running into someone we knew. As we entered the tin shop, greeted by the sister missionaries, recognition came over us when we realized we knew one of the sister missionaries. It was Rebecca Doud, one of my 7th year campers from last year’s Girls Camp!

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What a small and wonderful world!

After touring many of the historic shops we headed over to the Family Living Center, an area geared toward children, where crafts and trades of the 1840’s are demonstrated. 

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The highlight here was getting to learn about how homemade bread is made and getting to sample the homemade bread!

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At 5:00 pm the shops of historic Nauvoo shut down, so for the remainder of our visit we visited the outdoor areas that were still open to the public.

We headed up the hill to walk around the grounds of the beautiful Nauvoo temple,

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And to see the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Memorial:

“Joseph and Hyrum Smith Memorial: Overlooking Historic Nauvoo and the Mississippi River, this statue commemorates the departure of Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, for Carthage on June 24, 1844. Not far from this location by the temple, Joseph turned to Hyrum and said, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.”

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Molly’s  favorite location in Historic Nauvoo was the women’s garden:

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We concluded our visit to Historic Nauvoo with the powerful and moving experience of walking the Trail of Hope down to the river where the people of Nauvoo crossed, driven from the town they loved into an unknown future.

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Trail of Hope: Stretching along the western leg of Parley Street are 30  markers with journal and letter quotes from Mormon pioneers preparing to leave Nauvoo. Read their words of hope, sadness, faith, and courage.

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As we walked the path, reading the plaques, we listened to the music of the Tabernacle Choir on Molly’s phone as they sang the words to “Come, Come Ye Saints.” It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience.

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Our visit ended with a visit to the final resting place of Joseph, Hyrum and Emma Smith. This was Braden’s favorite stop.

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It was an amazing day with my middle kids. What a delight it has been creating special memories with these three and sharing with Braden some of the experiences he missed out on, having not been our son when we took our cross-country road trip three years ago.

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May the adventures continue…

On the road again!