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.