Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To Serve or Not to Serve-The Twin Sister Missionary Question

My vivacious & fun  Michaela
Almost exactly 2 weeks after sending Michaela off on her mission to Germany with much fanfare and excitement, we sent Kiana (her twin sister) to Idaho for her sophomore year of college, with less fanfare but with just as much love, concern and gratitude for the choices that she has made. I've had a unique opportunity to mother two amazing, spiritually-mature, capable, grounded, and wonderful twin girls, one of which has chosen to serve a mission for her church and the other who has decided that a mission is not in her plans at this time.

My tenderhearted & cute Kiana
Although in our church all worthy young men are strongly encouraged to serve a full-time mission, young women are not under the same obligation. It is a completely voluntary decision. Granted, with the recent age change at which young women can serve missions, a much higher percentage of young women are now choosing to serve missions. And, naturally, it puts a little more pressure on all young women. Where it used to be that a young woman choosing to serve a mission was an exception to the rule, it’s now almost as if a worthy, active young woman not serving a mission is an exception to the rule. This pressure bothers many young women, but, really, it’s just a result of the numbers. If you’re at a party and talking to a group of 5 students and 4 of them tell you that they are majoring in engineering, you automatically ask the 5th student what his or her major is. You don’t intend to put pressure on him, it’s just that you now have information about 4 of the 5 group members and you want to fill the informational void about the fifth. And I agree that there are more tactful and less tactful ways to get that information. For example, I could ask “Are you majoring in engineering, too?” which puts a little more pressure on the individual than asking: “So, what are your plans?” Anyways, I could go on and on about tact and what to say and what not to say, but the fact remains that those young women not serving missions will get asked (and asked often) whether or not they are planning on serving a mission. And if your twin sister is has announced that she is serving a mission, then you get asked that question even more than most people…which brings me back to my sweet Kiana.

8 yr old soccer buddies
My twin girls are best friends, but they are also very, very different. In fact, of all my children, those two are probably the most different from each other than any of the others, but not in a ‘good and bad’ way; but rather they are different in a ‘good and good’ way. For example, they’re both smart, but have drastically different learning styles. They’re both strikingly beautiful in their own individual way. They both love fashion but have extremely different clothing preferences. They’re both social but have very different mannerisms and interact with others very differently. They’re both athletic, but excel at different sports in different ways. And they are both deeply spiritual, but differ in how publicly or privately they are comfortable expressing their spirituality. 

Both girls have given the decision to serve or not to serve much thought and prayer and both girls have received different answers to those prayers. And, as parents, we are equally proud of them. The fact that they both are actively seeking the Lord’s guidance in their lives is enough to make any parent happy. Yes, we are thrilled that Michaela is serving a mission…very, very thrilled. But that does not diminish the love, gratitude and respect that we have for Kiana and her decisions. She is a remarkable young woman with a heart of gold. She has high aspirations for her education and her future and she is working diligently to meet her goals. She is determined, thoughtful and has a resolute strength about her. Her sweet, calm, and caring maternal influence is such a blessing in our home. She touches many lives with her selfless, quiet service and when she’s gone, we all feel the void of her absence. Although, leaving on a 18 month mission naturally elicits more fanfare and attention than merely returning to college for your sophomore year, we sent her off to school yesterday with just as much love, joy, and hope for her success as her twin received 2 weeks ago. It was a quieter farewell, but no less heartfelt.

Photos by Jenny Brooke Photography
As I contemplated the difference between the two farewells  (Michaela’s farewell with all the family activities, the open house, speaking in church, the pictures and all the excitement and well-wishes compared to Kiana’s farewell which consisted of a few shopping trips to get some needed college items and some quiet family time) I was struck by Kiana’s selfless, composed, and almost regal demeanor. She has never once even hinted at feeling anything except joy and excitement for her sister’s upcoming mission. She has given Michaela her full support and love. There has been absolutely no jealousy, envy or complaining. When countless people have asked her over and over if she’s planning on a mission, her answer is always sweet and polite; never annoyed or exasperated. As I've observed my beautiful, poised, gracious Kiana this summer, my heart has swelled with pride at the wonderful young woman that she has become. I’m amazed at her growth, her composure and her maturity. And I’m excited to see what her future holds for her.  Similarly, when I think of my energetic and vibrant Michaela serving her mission with so much passion and enthusiasm for the Lord’s work, I am equally proud of and grateful for the young woman that she has become. They are each precious daughters of God with so much potential for good. They each love their Savior and understand the joy and peace that comes through following His will.  Although their paths are different, they are equally honorable and noble. I couldn't be more pleased with their choices and decisions—both for the missionary twin and for the college student twin. From the moment they were born, I knew that Heavenly Father had entrusted us with some very special spirits.  And words can’t express the joy and gratitude that I feel for the blessing and honor of being the mother of these two remarkable young women.  

My sweet twinners. (Photos by Jenny Brooke Photography)

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