3.12.2013

The Homecoming - They're Back from Africa!!!


We don't really talk a whole lot about religion on our blog, mostly because we know that it can be a controversial topic and we like to keep things light around here. In no way does this mean that we're not religious (quite the opposite actually)...we just know and appreciate that each and every one of you worships and practices their own religious beliefs in different ways; and we greatly respect this.
That being said, today, I'm hoping that you'll allow me to veer a little off of our normal path, as I touch a bit on the topic of OUR religion and faith.

As I'm sure a lot of you have already gathered, either from where we live or the numerous Instagram pictures of us attending church meetings on Sundays... We are Mormons. 
Cason and I were both raised in the LDS church, and we actually locked eyes for the first time in a young single-adult meeting on a Sunday! Cason was the organ player (haha!) and me?... well, I was just making flirty eyes at him as I sat nervously next to my older brother.
Long story short, from the moment we met religion and our joint faith in God has been what has brought us closer as a couple, kept us happy & hopeful through hard times and provided us with the knowledge that we know what we're doing in life, at this moment, for our little family is the right thing.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Mormon religion, when a boy turns 18 or a girl turns 19, they can choose whether or not to go on a mission. Most of the Mormon church's 52,000 missionaries are around twenty years old, though many members also volunteer to serve missions after they've retired. Each person or couple who chooses to go on a mission pays their own way and puts off school, dating and work for 18 months to 2 years, in order to focus entirely on serving, teaching others about God and strengthening homes and families.

Cason served a Spanish speaking mission in Oakland California and the language, knowledge, selfless acts of service and experiences that he had in those two years before we were married, have blessed our family and relationship time and time again.
2 years ago Cason's younger brother Christopher (who we all call Paco... don't ask, ha!) left to serve a mission in South Africa. Then only a few months later, his parents decided to apply for a mission as well, and ironically were also called to Africa, but this time to a country called Namibia.

There are lots of sacrifices that you have to make when you're on a mission, but ultimately, I feel that the hardest, is not being able to see or talk to your family very often while you're gone. For this reason, we wrote a lot of emails and sent lots of letters, but it's just not the same when you can't see a person face to face, kiss or hug them.
You better believe that once I realized how hard this was, I had a new found respect for military wives, husbands and families who have to be without their loved ones for long periods of time while they're deployed, serving our country. (my heart goes out to you)

Even though we were so proud of Paco and Cason's parents for making the sacrifice to serve missions, we were all MORE than ready to have our Mom, Dad, brother, Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle back... I'm sure you can imagine the anticipation and excitement that we felt, knowing that they would ALL be returning home together, in March of this year.
Well, this last Sunday was the official homecoming day.

Although our returning missionaries' flight was delayed three hours, wild horses couldn't keep friends and family away from that Salt Lake City airport. We excitedly greeted each other with big hugs, butterflies in our bellies and homemade welcome home signs in our hands.
Grandma had sent some authentic African dresses to our girls a few months back, so we thought it only appropriate to wear those, to express to her how much we've enjoyed them.
:)

It was nearing midnight as their flight finally landed. All of the kids (old and young) waited patiently by the passenger exit to see the first glimpse of the smiley faces that we'd missed so tremendously the past two years.

Through tear-filled eyes I snapped these next few pictures. Words can't even describe how excited, happy and emotional the moment really was for all of us.

New babies were born, first teeth were lost and "big-girl/boy birthdays" were had, all while our missionaries were gone. It was absolutely wonderful to stand back and soak up all the kid chatter, story sharing, laughter, hugging, kissing and smiling that ensued for the next 30 minutes or so.
I don't think Cason's sweet, adorable little brother has ever smiled so big; and he was beyond thrilled to see  that his best friend, who had also just returned from a mission not long before, was there to welcome him home as well.

The overwhelming feeling of love, support and joy that filled that airport waiting area was indescribable. I couldn't help but take a million pictures, because I never wanted to forget it.

Before everyone arrived, we asked our missionaries what they wanted most in the world to eat, that they didn't have in Africa. Paco replied with: "Oatmeal" and Cason's Mom said: "A big ol' soft sugar cookie." So, that's what we got! A 12 inch wide and about an inch thick cream cheese frosting topped, sugar cookie.
:)

I have to say that it's been so fun seeing and hearing how much Africa has effected each and every one of our awesome missionaries, but Cason's Mom takes the cake... err, the cookie?
:)
I'd like to introduce everyone to, "The Cow Lady Dress"
I love this so much! Especially worn by my MIL. hee hee
 From what I understand, this dress comes from a group of people called the Herero, who are proud cattle farmers that measure their wealth in cattle. The importance of cattle to these people is even evident in the Herero womens' dresses. The traditional dress is derived from a Victorian style and consists of an enormous crinoline worn over several petticoats, along with a horn shaped hat (said to represent the horns of a cow) made from rolled cloth.
Cason's Mom definitely rocked hers out!

To share a little of the fun with us, she also brought back each of the big girls an Oshiwambo dress to model for our families. It was an awesome gift, and quite honestly, SUPER comfy!
As you can see, we even attempted to tie my sister in laws baby to her back with a blanket, just like the ladies do in Namibia. (he looks thrilled, no? ha!)

Cason and I dream of being able to travel the world someday to meet all sorts of interesting people, and hopefully, our desire to do so will come to pass once our kids are all grown up... but for now, we cherish the opportunity to hear and see, through stories and photos from our families adventures, the fascinating differences in culture and way of living that others from around the world have to offer.
I'm so grateful for my religion and faith in God. For me, it's enriched my life and blessed my immediate and extended family beyond measure. That being said, I'm also grateful for the crazy-awesome amount of diversity that humankind has to offer.
What an incredible world we live in! What an amazing time to live in it!
My heart literally spills over with joy and appreciation every time I get to share a little of OUR life and family with you through our blog; and in return, I feel so lucky to learn something new about some of YOU too, through emails and comments.
Thanks for being accepting of who we are and what we believe, thanks for reading along on our crazy journey through life, and most of all, regardless of religion, political stance, sex or race... thanks for just being YOU! That's what we love the most.
~ xo 

102 comments:

  1. I love reading this stuff. You're amazing.... this post brought the tears. I'm so happy for you and your family. Reunited.

    PS... you rocked that Oshiwambo dress! You're looking quite petite these days!

    #possiblegirlcrush ;)

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  2. Enjoyed reading about your exciting welcome home gathering. It almost made me cry seeing the pure joy on everyones faces. God and Family are the greatest things in life.

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  3. This post gave me the chills!! Seeing the look on your mother in law's face as she's about to greet your family...priceless. Thank you for sharing their journey with us.

    PS. You look freakin' amazing!!!!!

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  4. I shed a few tears myself reading that post. Precious! Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I love that you share so much of your life with us. You are a wonderful family and they are all blessed to have you eagerly waiting at the airport welcoming them home!

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  6. I love reunions. How sweet to all finally be together again! Those pictures are priceless! I'm sure you'll all be soaking up just being able to be all together at once. I'm always amazed at the sacrifice it takes to leave ones family for such a long time- like a mission or servicemen. What great people to sacrifice so much for such a good cause!

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  7. That is so awesome! My cousin has been to africa on missions what a wonderful family you have thank you for sharing with us I myself am assemblies of God but I think its so awesome that your family chose to go do missions
    God bless you and ur family I cant wait to read your nxt post
    Brittany morton

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  8. I live in Gauteng, South-Africa! Just so glad that they are all safe back home and you all can enjoy and love each other as it should be with family, close and together :-) The photos you took are beautiful!

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  9. Holy crap his mom looks like she is 20! What a cutie!! What a beautiful moment for your family. What a blessing to be reunited!

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  10. What a beautiful post. So beautifully written and your photos? Let's just say, there might be something in my eye and a tissue might be required ;) Family reunions are the best and thanks for sharing yours with us xox

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  11. Thanks for sharing your sweet story. It brightened my morning.

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  12. Such beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing the love!

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  13. Beautiful pictures of a loving family, something rare and precious these days. It is such a blessing to serve, but there are sacrifices aren't there? Prayers for your family for a time of renewed intimate moments together sharing and loving each other on a regular basis. Blessings to you all, Linda

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  14. Thanks for sharing your faith today :)

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  15. My cousin is getting ready to go to France on a Mission. So exciting!

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  16. What a beautiful post - thank you for sharing with us!! I am of no particular faith, but just seeing what your faith can do for a family is really special. All of my family lives far away and so just seeing these airport shots really got the waterworks going cause I know how it feels to be reunited! I just love how you inspire me with every post, whether it be about design, holidays or your sweet family. :) Thank you!

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  17. Welcome home to the missionaries! And thank you for sharing that sweet homecoming story. I love homecomings - much more than farewells!! I have a granddaughter leaving for France in May and a grandson in Singapore, and have had three other grandsons serve round the world. I know the feelings you had for the homecoming! Also, love love love all the pictures!! Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

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  18. Bah!! Totally cryin'! Those pictures are beautiful.

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  19. Thank you for sharing these joyous photos....the self evident love that your family has for one another reaches out through the screen. My religion is different to yours and I live in a different country (England) but your posting shows that those of us who have loving families are truly blessed. God bless you all for all the good things you do.

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  20. what an awesome experience and fabulous home coming. Cudos to you and your family for living the life you love and believe in. And thank you for letting us celebrate such an intimate experience with you. :-)

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  21. So happy for you that your loved ones are home safe. What wonderful pictures of your reunion!

    About 30 years ago (!) I was studying abroad in Germany and I met two young men on their mission. They were incredibly nice and polite; I still always think of them when anyone mentions Mormons.

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  22. You captured great moments in those photos! I was teary eyed while reading this! I have a great respect for anyone who can go on missions like this. I also respect military wives and having to be away from loved ones for such a long time. I have been away from moy husband almost 3 months and my heartaches for him. Soon we will be reuniting!

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  23. Thanks for sharing your wonderful encounter with God's love. We are Catholic, and I am awe time and time again of God's love and our chance to experience. Your blog also shares this love with each one of us.

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  24. So happy for you guys that your family is back home! This post brought tears to my eyes! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  25. Thanks for making me tear up this morning! lol... loved this today and LOVE how strong you are in your faith. Im a GOD Fearing woman myself and this makes me love your blog even MORE!
    xo- Carrie

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  26. Such a fun read! Family is everything!

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  27. Beautiful story filled with love! thanks for sharing

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  28. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I'm so excited for my son to come home from his mission...(he still has 15 more months!)

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  29. Thanks for sharing this. I had a good cry! :-)

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  30. I loved this post!!! Had tears as I read it ~ enjoy having your family back! You are amazing & so loving & fun!

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  31. Oh my goodness! I normally don't post comments on your blog... but I couldn't pass this up! I cried reading about your family coming home from South Africa, mostly because my little brother is currently serving in South Africa too! Thank you for not only sharing with us things about your home, but the other parts of your life that make your house truly a home!

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  32. Oh my!!! I loved this post....brought tears to my eyes actually. My Dad and Step-mom are on a mission in Fiji right now and their homecoming is in October - we can't wait to see them!! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful, intimate, faith inspiring homecoming with us:):)

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  33. I'm all teary now just looking at the pictures of anticipation and reunion. What a sweet moment. Loved and TOTALLY agree with the quote about watching people reunite. Thank you for sharing!

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  34. Thanks for sharing Shelly! I lOVe the family ties! Such fun, tear pulling photos! You are one lucky girl, don't ever forget that!

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  35. What a great post! I love that you've shared your faith and family with us today :)

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  36. I always enjoy learning about the religious beliefs of others. Thank you very much for taking the time to explain something so close to your heart spiritually!

    I LOVE the pictures especially the one with Paco holding the kiddos upside down!

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  37. Welcome home!

    We've had lots of these moments over the years, but we are the ones always getting off the airplane. :D My husband is in the Air Force and he's served on four continents (North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa). He is getting ready to hit his fifth (South America) and he has to do this one without us. I told him he can squeeze in a sixth (Australia) with us, but there is NO way I'm doing the seventh (Antarctica)!

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  38. I can't imagine being gone and serving for 2 years! That's amazing!

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  39. Oh my goodness, I'm bawling as I type this. What a blessing this post has been!! Thank you for sharing. Love your blog, your creativity, and look forward to reading everyday about the Smith family. God Bless You.

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  40. This post made me cry and blow my nose - and I don't even know you or your family! I don't like missing anyone either, it's so sad but so happy when you do see them. I guess the lesson is never to take anyone for granted. While I wipe my eyes and honk my nose some more...

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  41. These pictures brought tears to my eyes! Such a wonderful thing to see! Enjoy making up for lost time!

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  42. REmembering our sons' homecomings, my parents-in-law's, and the wonder of all being sisters and brothers in this beautiful world our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ made for us. thanks for reminding us all. Love you Shelly and fam!

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  43. I'm wiping the tears away (meaning off my face, off my hands, off the bed because that is where the laptop sits). I'm such a sympathetic crier, but I also know the joy you've experience with your missionaries returning home. Beautiful post. I think you've explained everything just right, and I'm glad you shared.

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  44. the expressions on your parents faces were beautiful. Glad you were able to have such a wonderful homecoming.

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  45. Reunions always make me a little teary. Just to get a good cry I'll watch those video montages of soldiers running into the arms of their parents, spouses, girlfriends, sibling and the best their children. Your post made me teary too. The last time I came through the SCL airport there was a family waiting for their missionary to come down the escalators. I LOVE IT. Is your quote from Love Actually, cause they have an awesome airport reunion scene that I love too.

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  46. Thanks, for sharing your families homecoming. You seem to be very close, the pictures you shared really told a heart warming story.

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  47. That's so awesome! I'm sure everyone is so happy to be home!! BUT can I PLEASE get that huge sugar cookie! OMG! I just drooled on myself. haha

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  48. There are tears in my eyes as I write this...they're the happy kind...what a wonderful, wonderful blessing to have family together again! Hugs...LOTS of hugs...all around! xo, Kimberly

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  49. Hi Shelly,
    While I was reading your post I thought, that's exactly how I feel when my Hubs is on tour! Then BAM you said it! Thanks for the shout out to the family that stays behind! <3 I love the way you tell a story, it's so personal and real and I can see why your one of the most popular bloggers out there! I am so happy that your family is home, and you little lady are just too cute!

    ~Laurie @ Vin'yet Etc.

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  50. What a beautiful moment for your family. Your joy is palpable through the pictures. :)

    -- An atheist Jew

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  51. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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  52. This post has me in tears. I am a loyal reader but I don't comment as much as I should. I just love your blog, your attitude, your family, etc... You are a HUGE inspiration! Each post I read makes me like you more and more. You have such a wonderful spirit!

    Ginger

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  53. Thank you for sharing this very special family moment. I also teared up as I was reading this. The Spirit was definitely in this moment. How wonderful!! It made me envision the hugs & shouts of joy & welcome that we will receive from our loved ones in the next life as well....a perfect homecoming indeed! Enjoy having those 3 back, close to home!

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  54. What a wonderful experience and how happy you must all be to have them home. Blessings.

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  55. I cried reading through this post and looking at the pictures. Thank you so much for sharing! It is a great reminder of the truly selfless way people give back to the world and an even better reminder of how much we love our families.

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  56. Welcome home to your family! What a special homecoming it must have been.

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  57. Um Cason's mom looks like she's barely old enough to have kids! Awesome post. So fun when missionaries come home.

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  58. That makes my heart happy. My husband's parents return the end of June. They have been gone for 3 years to Mexico! We are eagerly anticipating their return!

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  59. I loved reading this and I don't even know your family, but I've experienced missionaries coming home so I know how you're feeling. Your joyful reunion brought tears to my eyes!!!

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  60. Yay!! So glad that you guys get your family back home :) Love that they got to go over to Africa to serve - that's so cool!! My bishop's son went to South Africa a few years back and he loved everything about it. Yay for missionaries!

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  61. Nothing better than greeting a missionary! We had one come home last summer and Dan's sister is in Russia right now. So exciting, but I agree, it's SO great to see them home again!

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  62. Thanks for sharing in such a warm and welcoming and inclusive way. This reader appreciates it very much.

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  63. Such a sweet homecoming. Love all the pictures.

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  64. This was such a beautifully written post. I too feel so blessed that my husband was able to serve a mission before we met. I truly know his service has blessed our lives so much and I'm so grateful for the gospel in our lives. I definitely felt the spirit while reading your post and had tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your homecoming experience with us.

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  65. This was such a beautifully written post. I too feel so blessed that my husband was able to serve a mission before we met. I truly know his service has blessed our lives so much and I'm so grateful for the gospel in our lives. I definitely felt the spirit while reading your post and had tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your homecoming experience with us.

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  66. oh girl! I cried, and I don't even 'know' you all...
    I live in California while the rest of my family lives in Alberta.
    We are way to far apart, and there is NOTHING absolutely nothing like standing in the airport waiting for them to walk out, or for me to walk in to the Calgary airport and see the seniors in their white cowboy hats welcome me home. (now I'm crying again..lol)
    and there is nothing, too, like returning missionaries... my heart goes out to them as they try to fit back in to American culture, after they have seen so much sadness in some of those countries I know it can be hard...
    so happy your family is home, sweet home!!
    xo

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  67. Gah. I'm so jealous you have them home! My mom just left to Tonga in January, and I kinda wanna die every day... ;P

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  68. What a wonderful post! I have tears rolling down my eyes. I especially love that Jonathan Foer quote - to see people reunited after a long time is so tender, to think of how excited and happy they are to see their loved ones. What a fun reunion for an amazing family!

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  69. Lovely post! I have a difficult time reconciling with religion, but each to their own & you are truly an inspiration to me. So I'll count you as one of my blessings from above - whoever sent you knew what they were doing :-) x

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  70. What a beautiful post. Personally I struggle reconciling with religions, however I do count you as one of my blessings in life. I look forward to your posts very much. So, I thank whoever sent you x

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  71. There is nothing like that look of joy and relief and excitement all in one as they come off of that plane. And I love that homecoming quote. I cry EVERY time I see soldiers, missionaries, etc. reunited with the families they've missed for so long. So happy for you and your family.

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  72. I loved hearing your story and more about your religion. I love how you are strong in your faith but don't force it on others :)

    I know the feeling well of being reunited with loved ones...we moved away from our homeland of New Zealand following the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and now live in Australia. Last March my parents came to visit our new home, and we hadn't seen them for 9 months...alot had happened in that time. The feeling as I saw their plane land, knew they were on it, and I was about to lay eyes on them for the first time in a long time, was so awesome! I am about to experience that again in May as they are coming for another visit...so excited!

    I am so happy for you that your family came back safely xx
    Karen

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  73. Wow I felt all the love there too... I didn't realise you were Morman (like so many blogs I read). Someone just sent me, from the old US of A to Australia, the Book of Morman. I'm sorta shocked I didn't realise there was other Christian religious texts, I'm not sure how I didn't know. But I feel honoured to be learning. Thanks for sharing such a lovely post.

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  74. I love this post! I got home 12 years ago from a mission to Argentina and the look on your MIL's face was mine! I loved serving a mi

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  75. What a beautiful post. I love reunions. I'm one of those military wives you spoke of. The deployments were hard but the reunions were so bitter sweet. Your pictures are precious and you will cherish them for many years to come. I have three that were taken by my father as my sons and I were running down the dock to reunite with my husband. I love them. I love the one of your mother-in-law as she is about to be greeted by all of her family. My oldest wants to be a pastor and would love to go on a mission trip. I'll have to share your post with him. Thank you for sharing.

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  76. I cried! (:
    I LOVE being a Mormon as well.

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  77. You look so great!!! You're my inspiration as I start my weight loss journey :)

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  78. Great post..beautifully written. Happy for ALL your family!

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  79. Beautiful, just beautiful. I have a special place in my heart for Mormon missionaries. I grew up with them visiting us in Scotland - never pressuring us to join the Church, but always popping around to say hi (my mum served lots of cookies and milk) I think she always worried about them being homesick. I then spend my teenage years participating in the youth club until my life took me in a different direction around the age of 18. I made great friends and adopted great values, which I continue to live by today. I was always heartbroken when a missionary's time was up and he returned home, but even after all these years, after reading this post it made me realise that as much as we always missed them, we were honoured to have that time with them that their family so graciously gave to us. Thanks for the great trip down memory lane.

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  80. Four months ago my husband and I traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa to bring home our two little ones that we adopted. They are beautiful people, their dresses are similar to your photos. Enjoy your family being home!

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  81. Four months ago my husband and I traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring home our little ones that we were adopting. They have a rich culture with beautiful people, their dress is similar to your photos. Enjoy your family being home!

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  82. I love hearing more about your faith and more importantly I love getting to know the woman behind the lens more! Your story was touching. Thanks for sharing!

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  83. So emotional reading this, there really is nothing better than welcoming missionaries home at the airport. My little brother gets back in December, this got me excited! Grateful for God & family today :)

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  84. Oh Shelley! I am bawling. Our family is sending both sets of grandparents off to serve the Lord and our son is filling out missionary paper work now to serve this summer. I already looking forward to them returning and they haven't left. Ugh...it's going to be a long 2 years but I am looking forward to the blessing that will be there for our family.

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  85. Oh my goodness. What a beautiful post, Shelley. My son is about to emigrate to the USA, to be with his girlfriend (soon to be wife!!) and I'm reminded about how lovely it will be to collect them at the airport when they come to the UK to visit. His GF was brought up Mormon (she doesn't practice - is that the correct term?) but her Mom has obviously instilled a lot of the faith in her because she is the most wonderful girl I could have ever imagined for my son. Enjoy your Homecoming, Smith family. :-D Jude.x

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  86. This post is my favorite! What a wonderful church we belong to! I loved seeing everyone's faces (especially your MIL). Waiting at the airport for a missionary is so exciting. It takes me back 6 years to when I was at that same airport waiting for my missionary to come home after two LONG years. Being away from loved ones is so hard, and now that my sweetheart is on a different kind of mission, I'm SO grateful for our wonderful gospel and knowing that he, our baby boy and I will be together as a whole family again someday (hopefully sooner rather than later :) ). Thanks for posting this!

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  88. That is so great! Welcome home to your sweet happy family!

    And can I just tell you that I smiled seeing one of your daughters in her gingerbread jammies...because our youngest daughter was wearing the exact same jammies last night... St Patrick's Day, what? ;)

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  89. I've never commented before but felt like this was the time to break the silence :) I'm a South african living in Namibia !!So crazy to see all the traditional clothing that pops up here regularly on an american blog :) most people don't even know Namibia exists. Glad your family made it home safe and hopefully they enjoyed their stay in this wonderful (albeit SUPER HOT right now) country.

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  90. I love this! My oldest two children just left on their missions last month and my parents have been serving for almost a year, so my emotions are a little raw. Seeing your reunion made me happy (and teary).

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  91. Very touching! My BFF is Mormon, and I am catholic. I love the differences, and quite honestly, its not a factor at all in our life long friendship! Such heart warming pictures!! <3

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  92. What a beautiful family - full of love for each other.

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  93. What a beautiful family -- full of love for each other!

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  94. I was teary too! What a wonderful reunion! And you DO look fabulous!

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  95. What a beautiful post! I have tears of joy for you and your family. :) May your days ahead continue to be blessed and full of joy.

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  96. This is such a great story!! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!! What a great opportunity to be able to serve a mission. My husband and I plan on serving ourselves when we are older and our kids are grown and we have seen many of our loved ones go into the mission field and come back stronger, more loving, better people. There is nothing like learning to live like Christ did and truly living selflessly. Thanks again for the GREAT post!!!

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  97. I am so glad you posted this. My inlaws are in Cameroon, Africa serving a mission. How cool is that? Well I am glad that they are all home safe. It was quite the life changing experience I am sure, some of the things they(my inlaws) tell us blows our minds. We feel like we are watching and hearing a National Geographic movie. We are so blessed to live in America. Good post thanks for sharing. And I love you white kitchen good job you and your hubby are s fun together.

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  98. I am in tears right now, happy tears, thank you for sharing your story. I never knew about the missions, I think it's wonderful. Your MIL could be Laura Linney's stand in any day. What a beautiful family you have!

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  99. What a happy reunion! We love missionaries!

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  100. My parents just got called to Ghana--so this was fun to read! How amazing to serve at the same time as their son!!

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