On the second Monday in June, my gang gathered for our weekly Family Home Evening (FHE). Members of our church try to set aside Monday nights for spiritual discussions, activities, games and coordinating our busy calendars for the week.
(No matter your faith, I highly recommend setting aside one evening a week and creating your own “family night.” It works!)
Jadi (16) and Kason (11) had been assigned the FHE lesson, and together they’d decided we’d each make goals for the summer.
They handed everyone a pad of yellow sticky notes and invited us to write down a goal or two we hoped to accomplish before Labor Day. We didn’t share them aloud, though the good-natured giggling suggested no one was planning to solve any global conflict during summer vacation.
The evening was the usual mix of chaos, laughter and spiritual learning. And while we were successful in having FHE, the church won’t be sending any film crews to shoot a how-to video.
At the end of the short lesson, we folded up the notes, wrote our names on them and my son placed them in his mother’s old saddle soap tin.
Then, the tin disappeared and summer appeared.
The months since have included a few short family trips, late-night ice cream runs and plenty of memories. The keystone was saying goodbye to our oldest as she began her 18-month service in the Brazil Florianopolis Mission. She reported in mid-July and the family is still adjusting to the hole she created when she walked through airport security. We know it will soon be filled by the sweet spirit of missionary work.
On Labor Day, we gathered together again in the living room for FHE. It had been a challenging day with some unusually trying stress on our family. To make matters worse, for the first time, we hadn’t gotten our Monday email from our favorite missionary.
She’d just finished her first full week in her first area, and we checked our inboxes constantly. I have my email set to check every two minutes, but I rarely waited that long before clicking “Send and Receive.” Even the youngest asked repeatedly if anything had arrived.
Realizing Oakli’s day was coming to an end in Brazil, we resigned ourselves to not receiving a letter. As Monday is the day missionaries typically have the morning and afternoon off to take care of personal items like shopping, laundry and writing home, we stepped away from our computers and iPhones not knowing whether we’d hear from her until next week.
We’d heard about this from other families and now we were living it. We’d fallen victim to the dreaded “Missing Monday Email” syndrome.
After the typical family home evening opening of song, prayer and family council, which was longer than normal with school finally starting on Tuesday, my son produced the hidden tin. He pried it open, distributed the yellow notes and we opened them one by one.
I’d written three goals, and when my turn arrived, I was disappointed to reveal I’d come close on one, scratched the surface on another and completely failed on the third. There’s always next summer, I thought. The other members of the family had significantly more success.
We went around the room, smiled at the inside jokes and realized that our missing missionary’s yellow note hadn’t been read. In fact, we’d forgotten she was still home and had participated in that original June activity.
My wife opened the note and smiled. I noticed tears gathering in her eyes like welcome neighbors.
“Aw,” she choked. “This is sweet. We did get a letter from Oakli today.” After another moment, she slowly read:
Hello family! My goal is to be a missionary. Done!
So, since I’m not here to open these, hello! And I love you all. I hope your goals were accomplished.
Suddenly, those neighborly tears were arriving at my eyes, too. My wife took a quick opportunity to identify what a sweet miracle we’d experienced.
“Now this is a tender mercy,” she said. “Of all the Mondays for this to happen…”
Soon, both the evening and the blinds were closed and we prepared for the first day of school. Even though our hands returned to nightly routines, our minds were busy scribbling in our spiritual journals.
It could simply be a coincidence, I thought. After all, we’d just learned on social media that the day had been a national holiday in Brazil and some missionaries would have difficulty finding places to send email. Surely we’d hear something soon.
But could it be more? If the Savior can feed thousands, part seas, heal hearts and overcome death, can’t he also see that one day in September, a sticky, square piece of paper will bring peace?
Maybe it’s just dumb luck. But this grateful family chooses to believe. We have faith that if Heavenly Father can talk to his children across the globe over thousands of years through scriptures, prophets and private prayer, he can unfold tender mercies at a family home evening.
Thomas S. Monson once said, “I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives.”
We agree. And sometimes, those details come scribbled on sticky notes.
(Jason Wright is a New York Times bestselling author, columnist and speaker. Subscribe to his weekly columns, join him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. His latest book, The James Miracle, is available from Amazon and BN.)
Click here to subscribe and be the first read Jason’s weekly columns and other posts. You’ll also hear about exclusive contests, freebies and sneak peeks of new projects.
“Share” this week’s column on Facebook and you could win a free, autographed book. Each week, we pick one “Share” at random, and that reader receives an autographed copy of a Jason Wright novel. If your name is below, contact us to claim your prize.
Congrats to this week’s winner: Heather Porter