Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Happy April Fool's Day!  Elder Pope's mission is being extended by a month! 

Elder Pope's mission really is being extended by a month, but Happy April Fool's Day anyway!

With many things in life I find this bittersweet.  After resetting my expectation of suffocating him with hugs and kisses from sooner to later, I was able to appreciate what a rare opportunity staying a bit longer is for James.  The West Chicago, Illinois Mission is a new mission area with many young missionaries. Elder Pope currently has the distinction of being the most experienced missionary serving.  He is determined to leverage this for all the good he can before his 25 months come to a close. 

Meanwhile, some of you may remember that a year ago James and I agreed to a Book of Mormon reading challenge.  Yes, it's shamefully been a year since I last blogged.  Even more so, I was literally skunked in the reading challenge. Seriously?  All I can say is I think he had help.  ~LoL~  So, I clap my paws in congrats to the tortoise as I was distracted along the way...

Today is April 1st and spring is in the air!  James will be home on 30 April!  My heart and lungs are literally filled with love and laughter.  An added joy to this season is the return of James' sister, Anne, from her mission in Canada.  Anne arrives home 3 April ~ 2 days!  Our youngest, Michael, is awaiting a mission call as I write.  Our home will be a bustle of excitement this spring and summer as all three transition into the next phase of their lives.

In retrospect, James has been away two years and Anne for 18 months.  My perception of how this time passed, whether quickly or slowly, is a phenomenon that baffles me.  What I can say is that it's been a great two years walking this chosen path with two amazing young adults.  And, as time will tell, possibly "the best two years" for our missionaries.



Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's so on!

This is a public notification by James' Mom for all to witness.

It started innocently enough…

My sweet little son, Elder Pope, wrote me the kindest note last Monday about how happy I looked in the pictures I emailed him and how that really brings him joy.  (Seriously, is this my kid?  I love this missionary stuff.)  So, what mother wouldn't melt like butter?  I was literally on cloud nine.  All was right in the world.   

…And then he wrote, "So, I'm starting the Book of Mormon over again and I'm really bad at reading straight through it.  I need a challenge…think you can beat me?  ;)"


My state of euphoric joy was instantly replaced by the euphoria of COMPETITION.  That thrill of rivalry for supremacy, a prize, for honor!  
Do or Die!  Dog Eat Dog!  One-Upping!  Sport, Strive, Struggle!  
Go for the Gold!  

(…okay, okay, deep calming breaths.  Who does this kid think he is?)

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Me:  "I probably can given how much time I have compared to you.  Do you have a schedule in mind?" 
Elder Pope:  "Well, early morning for 2-3 hours then 1 hour at lunch and/or evening.  How about by the end of May?  Sound good? 
Me:  "What?  You have 5 hours a day?!!!!  Hmm, I think I just got in over my head!  …Okay, end of May.  You're on Elder!" 
Elder Pope:  "HAHAHAHA I DON'T HAVE FIVE HOURS!  I maybe have one if I'm lucky!  Those are just times when I might be able to read if I use my time right.  =]" 
Me:  "Oh, then this will be easier than I thought.  I'm going to figure out right now how many pages a day I need to read so I can whoop you by a week.  Goal set." 
Elder Pope:  "NO WAY!  IT'S SO ON!"

So, there you have it.  I am methodically working to crush my son while he labors diligently in the mission field.  I'm going to email James this picture of myself for motivation.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Happy One Year of Mission Service, James!

A year ago today, March 28, 2012, James entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, as a hopeful youth with nervous laughter of what lay ahead on this chosen path.  Today, a faithful and seasoned missionary, he fulfills his calling as a Missionary District Leader in Ankeny, Iowa and he loves it!

Pictured with family:  dear friends and returned missionaries Brack Mulliner, Eric Sackett and Taylor Stuart, as well as Brother Hanson, who conducted setting James apart as a Full Time Missionary on 27 March 2012.

You'd think writing a halfway post of James' one year in the mission field would be easy.  Yet, I've found myself struggling with how to capture a "year in review".  I'm almost overwhelmed with events, thoughts and emotions to filter through for a post that is meaningful and gives due justice to the significance of James' service.

I thought I'd (try to) keep it simple by summing up his and my perspectives at this halfway milestone.

James wrote this week,  "I've gone through probably the biggest change in the last 5 days than I ever thought possible.  I now see and know how to overcome my natural difficulties, or the natural man.  Please read Mosiah 3:19.  Amazing Mom!  As I go through this journey within the gospel I often giggle and smile from the same recurring thought of we never stop progressing in this life.  This gospel is always helping us do that and not only requires it from us but helps us know how.  Life has natural patterns, the Gospel helps us understand why."

From the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:19 reads, "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seethe fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

James shares comments and scripture messages like this pretty much every week.  He loves the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He loves people and loves doing service for people.  In a broader perspective, James has learned service is a far greater concept than good deeds.  Service is Selflessness, Love, Humility and Patience absent of Pridefulness.  Qualities that take most of us three to four (or more) decades to learn, appreciate and hopefully master!

As James' Mom, I've intimately travelled his chosen path with him.  Through his service I have received an education on Christ and find his teachings fill my heart with goodness on so many levels.  We all choose varying paths in life seeking happiness and fulfillment.  At the halfway point of James' mission, I have a renewed life perspective as well, which is James has chosen well to follow Christ's path. 

May the next year be as fun and fulfilling as the first Elder Pope!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sorry Elder, but…

It's too good not to share!

Elder Pope shared with me last September a little poem he penned.  He actually asked me not to post it on the blog, which I respected up until now.  I decided today it's too good not to share.  We hope you like it.

Forgive me, James?  Love, Mom

Never forsake those who live and sigh;
Their hands may hang helplessly low.
For those of us who know a way,
Never bend, never sway.
Together we stand, firmly we pray;
Today is the day, there is always a way.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Dear Elder, Merry Christmas!

A blog by Elder Pope's mom.

It's been eight months since I last hugged James.  Aside from time served in Korea and a deployment to Qatar, this is the first holiday season we won't snuggle in to watch a favorite movie, decorate the tree and play card games together.  We missed James at our Thanksgiving meal, although his younger brother, Mike, did a nice job eating for both of them!  In spite of his absence, I couldn't be happier, nor more thankful.

James' Arlington, Virginia Bishop told me many blessings would come from James' service as a missionary.  It didn't take eight months to realize the truth in his words.  Starting with the fact that James has written me a letter every week that he has been away.  That's 37 letters, and some weeks he sent more than one.  Even more remarkable is the substance of James' letters home.  This is where the blessings are found.  

From his letter today, "Well, Christmas is fast approaching and I'm learning so much, such as this mission is the best gift I could have right now in my life."  "This mission is the greatest thing for me.  There have been some very important moments here and if I had never come I would have missed them all.  What a brilliant gift a mother could ever give to her son, that of a mission where he can learn to live with more Joy in his life."  Elder Pope's biggest concern is that he won't have given enough to his mission in two years time.

For those who aren't familiar, a missionary spends 13 hours a day for two years actively working to invite others unto Christ.  They have about 8 hours one day a week for personal time to write letters home and do chores, such as grocery shopping, laundry and errands.  The rest of their time is spent in personal and group scripture study, preparing themselves to teach, teaching the Gospel, managing a busy schedule, setting goals, and doing service for anyone in need.  With the exception of special occasions or for work related activities, they do not watch TV or movies or make personal phone calls.  No dating, no napping, no "hanging out" with buds.  These young men selflessly dedicate two years of their lives serving someone they love and believe in:  Jesus Christ.  And we all benefit.   

The growth in James through this service in the last eight months is remarkable in itself, let alone the many ways in which he has influenced me personally for the better.  The quality of his character and selflessness shine through as I read his letters home and make me thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings it has brought my family.

For the first time in my life, I feel the true meaning of Christmas.  
Merry Christmas, Elder Pope!

p.s. I didn't say Missionaries don't have fun.  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Days of Pondering....

Elder Pope recently read a talk by Elder J. R. Holland in which he included a story about Mark Twain and the Mississippi River that made a tremendous impact on Elder Pope.   A few days later, Elder Pope found himself walking along the locks and dams on the banks of the Mississippi, and as he watched boats go by on the river, he found his thoughts returning to the talk recently read.

In his words
"I pondered very deep as I watched the boats go by; longing to know what it would be like."

Here is a link to Elder Holland's talk:  http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=868 

Elder Pope went on to say:

I know the Gospel is true.  I believe there are lessons we can learn from the great experiences of a man (Mark Twain) who literally rebelled against his time; who refused to take the morbid view that had been place before him.  He turned his life into a never ending adventure!  I believe he was on a journey of trying to find the true meaning of life and where we can truly have an everlasting joy.
We watched the power of the Mississippi go by the other night, with pilots working to control the boats up and down the river.  I was struck by the thought of how many boats may someday run out of gas, or will wear out and fall apart, or be lost to the power of the river.  However, if properly maintained and taken care of right, and not allowed to become run down or over weighted with useless things, these same boats will continue to float and will arrive at their predetermined destination.
 We don't have to adventure across the world anymore to seek a truth of why we are here.   Be the pilot in your life, and learn to listen to your Best Mate.   The Spirit of God will always guide us through trial and tribulation.   It is up to us to prepare ourselves and open our hearts with the intent to listen and act.  Pilot your life with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and trust that as you press forward and enter the locks of life, you will not be helplessly thrown downstream.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Missionary Service: A Right Choice

Recently James' sister, Anne, entered the missionary training center.  She will serve a mission in Montreal, Canada starting in December (Brrr!).  Both Anne and James' emails home this week shared messages of love for their mission work and positive changes within themselves as a result.  They both echo what many missionaries before have shared:  they chose right when they chose to serve a mission.  

Posting a few tidbits from Elder Pope's last message.  It was tough paring it down, it was chock full of good stuff!  From Elder Pope:

…more and more I am thankful for all that I have and have been blessed with.  This life is so funny.  You just don't get it until you're thrown into it.  Life here is great though!  My comp and I have grown so much; we just finished a transfer and have realized that we have changed so much for the better.  
I can see I have come a long ways since I first got here.  I look at how much I went through to get to where I am today and I can now say I made a very good choice.  Probably the best one I could have made at this point in my life.  A mission is a must.  Thank you so much for helping me to be out here.  I couldn't do it without all of you.   
My companion said a few things to me.  He thinks I'll be an architect of some kind and that I'll be a leader throughout the mission.  That I'll meet my wife while I'm hiking in Glacier National Park, haha, oh brother!  Funny guy, man I love him.  Reflecting on all the missionaries who taught me I feel wayyyyy bad for them!  I must have felt sooo close, but I just took foreverrrrr.  They all shaped me in different ways!  So thankful for being able to meet them!…  
With Love, Elder Pope