By Kristie Young Fairbanks
A few short weeks ago, we made quite a special trip. I was nervous as I dressed in my Sunday best for the extraordinary occasion. My stomach flip-flopped as we traveled, my anxiety transforming into undeniable excitement.
Finally, we pulled into a sprawling L.D.S. church parking lot, wondering if we had charted the correct course. As I stood blinking in the brilliant sunlight, I spied a suited blur running towards me at full speed.
Before I had the chance to realize what was happening, that suited blur was lifting me off the ground in a much anticipated bear hug. I quickly recognized who was embracing me. I spied his curly strawberry-blonde hair and recognized his piercing joyful laughter.
The last two years melted away in a flood of emotion as I stood, warmly embracing my 21-year-old son. My mind gushed with tender memories and tears freely flowed as I peered into the eyes of my missionary son, whom I had not seen in 24 months.
He looked older, more mature. He had definitely filled out physically while serving a mission, but behind that masculine exterior, I recognized that twinkle in his eye, the one that melted this mother’s heart time and time again.
He had an aura about him that was palpable, one that shrouded him in confidence, strength, and wisdom. He sure looked like my son, but he was different somehow. He spoke with assurance, sincerity, and grace and seemed genuinely happy in his service.
He introduced us to the mission office staff and we marveled at his charisma and humble authority. They told us how much they appreciated and treasured our son as a worthy, hard-working missionary. I was stunned at their camaraderie and compassion for him.
Our son proudly wore his missionary name badge as we traveled around town and into the next. He introduced us to many beloved friends and fellow ward members. He took us to an apartment where he had lived, studied the Gospel, exercised, organized hundreds of lesson plans, received inspiration, and even learned how to strum a ukelele.
We visited the beloved farm house and accompanying trailer where he stayed for several transfers, touring the exquisite beauties of nature surrounding this idyllic homestead, discovering the chicken coop he’d mucked out a few months earlier.
We joyfully met a family he had baptized. I was humbled at the tender feelings of compassion my son shared with these special people. I heard tale after tale of tender teaching moments, growing spiritual experiences, and of his benevolent service rendered. I thought my heart would burst.
I had waited for this day for two long years. I had envisioned, time and time again, retrieving our missionary son on the final day of his service. We spent his glorious concluding day exactly as I had pictured, except for one thing…
I felt bittersweet about his mission homecoming. For so long, I’d been looking forward to finally bringing him home. He had served faithfully and honorably. But, as I stood gazing upon him, marveling at his transformation from boy to man, realizing what amazing works he had accomplished, knowing that his blessed time of service was drawing to a close, I felt selfish.
He wanted to continue as a missionary, but I wanted him home, mission accomplished.
We both learned an important lesson that fateful day, that timing is vital. There’s a time and a season for everything, especially for newly released missionaries and their mothers. We just have to discover the timetable that’s destined for each of us, for it will reveal our greatest life works yet.