Monday, October 10, 2011

How to (Not) Wait for a Missionary

Clay and I are a little bit spoiled

We get an extra anniversary that most couples do not get to celebrate

This anniversary was on October 7th

It was that day that this happened...

(Just between you and me, this was the minute I knew I was going to marry him)

I didn't talk much about my "waiting" experience on here
Mostly because I made a point to tell Clay that I was NOT waiting for him
Well, that plan went well didn't it?

A few people have asked me how I did it, and I've given a few (lame) answers
So as October 7th came and went I thought a lot about it and have decided to write this post!
So, for the curious...

How to (not) Wait for a Missionary

First off, we'll start with some statistics.
At any given time there are about 1400-1600 missionaries in the MTC
90% of these have girls writing them
Over the course of 2. Long. Years. The ranks are thinned a little bit
Only 3% of these lovely MG's (missionaries' girls) make it through the process
That's about 42 girls my friends
Now out of that group the ranks are once again thinned when it comes to the "time and all eternity" aspect
Now there have been no official studies (what the heck BYU scholars?!) but unofficially out of those 42 girls guess how many bag their eternal companions?


Daunting numbers for sure.
I often heard a joke (mostly from my uncles) that said that if you wanted to know if a girl would wait for you, all you had to do was walk around the Provo temple a couple of times and ask the Angel Moroni if she would wait. If he nodded you were good to go!

Now I don't tell you this stuff to discourage you, just to let you know that UNOFFICIALLY the odds are against you. And people find it necessary to let you know. Often.

Now, it is important to share a little bit of my "waiting" story

I will be the first to admit that I was one of those girls that laughed at the girls that pledged their undying love and devotion (at 18?!) for their high school sweetheart. I would NEVER be one of those girls. I was going to go to BYU with my besties, go to school, find some dashing RM and THEN live happily ever after.

Then this one came along...
(look how little he was. Official mission picture btw. No wonder moms cry when their boys leave on missions)

and Heavenly Father laughed at my plans, and decided to show my a glimpse of his.

I had every intention of making a clean break when Clay left on his mission
that's what everyone told me to do after all, but the opportunity never really presented itself, and every time I thought about it, it seemed like a terrible idea.

Soon the day came when I would be saying goodbye to him for 2 years.
I honestly didn't think I would cry. I am not an emotional person.

So there I was, the night before I was heading back down to Logan, 3 days before Clay went into the MTC, bawling my eyes out.
And it didn't stop the next day either.
That goodbye was in my top 3 worst days ever

The only thing that got me through was KNOWING that a mission was the right thing for him to do. That to become the person that he needed to be, he needed to commit 2 years of his life to his father in heaven. So, the first way to wait for a missionary is...

1. Have a testimony of missionary work
In the end, the person that it effects the most is your missionary. They leave boys and come back men.

Well, I cried and cried the ENTIRE way home, almost driving off the road multiple times (stupid swollen eyes). I probably scared a few people on the highway that day.
I arrived back at my apartment intending to go to my room, lock the door, and wallow in my sorrow for the next few weeks. My wonderful roommates however had a different idea.

They sat me down, and informed me that they would not allow me to be a crying, ridiculous mess for weeks on end.

I got 1 night to get my crying out.

They were prepared with cookie dough, ice cream, The Notebook, Pearl Harbor, and A Walk to Remember.

Good crap.

2. Have great friends
It was one of the worst/best nights ever. We all cried, and cried, and cried, and ate, and ate and ate, got very sick and cried and ate some more.
But an amazing thing happened the next morning

I got up and realized that my tear ducts were now tiny patches of dust and I couldn't cry anymore. I sat on my bed, took a deep breath and decided that crying wasn't going to solve anything. Clay was about to embark on a grand adventure (one I was EXTREMELY jealous of) and I had promised him 1 letter a week (if I wasn't otherwise engaged) and he would need something interesting to read about. I resolved right then and there that I wasn't going to put life on hold while Clay was out there living it.

3. Give them something interesting to read every week

I really do think this is one of the biggest factors to me making it 2 years. I still had a slight loathing for those "missionaries' girls" and the image they portrayed.
Yes I was technically one of them now, but I always pictured girls staying in on Friday nights, holding their missionary's picture, maybe lighting a few candles, penning a love, and tear soaked letter, spraying it with perfume, showering it with kisses and sending it off to a 19 year old in some part of the world who is most likely WAY to busy to deal with a girl that can't handle a little alone time.
Is that harsh? Probably. But that's how my brain works.

I started off slow.
I hit up a dozen or so different concerts.
I went ice climbing with my uncle and cousins
Ice skating
Made lobster
Took yoga
Decided photography was awesome enough to stay my major
& made some of my very best friends
You know, just the basics

On the weeks that were mostly just school and sleep I found ways to "embellish" stories.
and of course, I tried to keep up with Clay spiritually

4. Don't forget the little things
Those boys are sleeping, eating, and breathing the gospel. Try to keep up. Pray, Read your scripts, go to church and institute, and you should be just fine. Don't be hard on yourself or feel like you're falling behind. It's the little things that matter the most.
So, I had fun, and I did what I was supposed to. Weeks eventually turned into months and I still looked forward to that e-mail from the Philippines every single week. With luck, it might even have some pictures attached to it too!

5. Write fan-freaking-tastic letters
I got very good at writing letters. I knew who Clay was teaching, and who his companions were. I was happy when he was happy and of course I was always praying for him. I noticed that girls sometimes go to 1 of 2 extremes when it comes to letter writing...
1. The first train of thought is the letter I described earlier in this post. The depressed, frankly pathetic kind of letter. In my extensive (ha. Not) experience, these girls tend to write letters something like this:

Dear Eternal companion, teddy bear snookums (any sort of pet name will do),
-Insert another pet name here.

Yah, that was an exaggeration.


I don't read other girls letters. It's a federal offense after all.

So, what is wrong with this picture?
Besides the obnoxious all caps and exclamation points, it is dripping with nonsense that the poor boy does not need to hear. Yah you can say that you miss him, but holy cow control yourselves! There are lots of weeks when your boy might feel like coming home, don't give him a reason to! Your job is to encourage and make dang sure he knows that you are there for him, but not if he comes home for you.

2. School of thought #2 is a little more subtle but no less damaging
Dear Elder so and so,
How are you? So this week I went out with.............. he was way nice. (Insert detailed description of date here) Hope everything is going good with you.
-attention seeking jerk's name here

K, some letters to missionaries might have to start like this. The dreaded "Dear Elder." Personally, I think if you're writing a guy off, keep it short and sweet and apologize for breaking promises you made. I promise I'm not judging you for not making it. Stuff happens and sometimes Heavenly Father has different plans for us (obviously this is the case for me as well) but no need to rub dirt, salt, lemon juice, or shards of glass into the wound.
But this is besides the point.
If your missionary knows you at all, he knows when you are holding things back, and of course he doesn't want to hear about you going out with those marriage hungry RMs. (I'm looking at you BYUI) Sometimes girls do things like this to get a reaction out of their boy. Perhaps they are lonely and are trying to make their guy jealous? Perhaps they need to take a chill pill and stop thinking about themselves?
But that's just me.

A good letter has the perfect mix of reassurance, positivity, and empathy (as well as some personal adventures of your own) it takes practice but that's why you have 2 years right?
Well, throughout Clay's mission there were good times and bad times for both of us.

6. Never emotionally disconnect
Sometimes it seems easier to get through 2 years if you kind of turn off, but the real trick to hanging in for those boys is to grow together. Yah there are some times when you get a little lonely but come on, you are a strong independent woman right?
Now there is one key to waiting that some just don't come with

7. Don't be one of those girls that always needs a somebody
I came about this by accident. It's just never been my personality to always have a significant other. I promise, you can be by yourself. You will survive. If you need a boy at all times to feel good about yourself, maybe you need a hobby.

I recommend cooking.

Or maybe running

Either one is good

Work on yourself! Hang with friends, magnify your talents, have fun!
I think Vaughn J Featherstone puts it better then I do.
Got this talk from a friend of mine that is going to be part of the 1% in just 2 weeks!
Click HERE

8. Enjoy it!
MG's sometimes describe those 2 years as the hardest they've ever been through. If that is really the case, they're lives have been pretty dang peachy up to that point. You may not believe me but those 2 years can be some of the best the BOTH of you can have. You get to enjoy learning about the local cuisine wherever your missionary may be...
and laugh at their stories that go along with them
You get to smile at the happy moments, and cry at the sad. Together. Even though you're miles and miles apart.
Plus, how romantic can letter writing be?
It's so old fashioned and fantastic
9. Remember that it eventually does end
You blink and it's over
I know that any of you that may be in the process probably want to crawl through the computer and slap me. Go ahead and try, it wont help :)
Use the time that have been given to you wisely. You only get 2 years to love your independent self.
Then he shows up again...
and your lil independent self is no more.

And it is blissfully wonderful

and before you know it, perhaps you will join the privileged ranks of the 1%
(come party. We're making t-shirts)
and you will laugh at your cheesy letters back and forth to each other. (Yes you were that love struck teenager once. Thank heavens you grew up)
and when times get hard, you'll always remember a time when all you had was e-mails and be grateful that he is always there with you now
and you'll remember those 2 years fondly
and how they taught you what real love is
and count them as the beginning of your eternity

and that is something to celebrate



Laurel Rasmusen said...

This is the cutest post I have ever read. I love your story!

Anonymous said...

I shouldn't be surprised that among your million other creative talents, you are a very gifted writer. Loved it! You are hilarious and wonderful.

11 More Months said...

Bethany :) i loved your post haha i felt it was exactly for me (even though dont worry i am not one of those sappy girls) I hope i become one of those 14 girls that actually bag their missionary! And you're right it does go fast, only 10 more months for me! but who's counting right? I have definitely realized alot of the things you posted while i have been writing these letters to him. I working to be the exact girl (in like a spiritual/emotional/strong way) that adam is looking for. I'm really glad you wrote this post :)
thank you! -Tav

Aubrie said...

Bethany, you are fantastic! I love this post and will suggest it to any girl (or boy?) waiting for a missionary! You are Clay are so adorable!

Austin and Caitlin said...

Proud to be part of this percentage of people! :o) I will never forget the day we rode to Idaho Falls in the car together and talked about boys and missionaries. We need to get together now that we are both MG survivors.