Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 5, 2010--She's BACK!!!!!!!!!!

Sister Denson arrived safely back to her "home away from home" with three new Elders. President Hale, his sweet wife, and the APs welcomed them at the airport.

Back "home" with the Hales.
From Mom:
As many/most of you know, we've had the amazing blessing of having Sister Denson home for the past six weeks (one full transfer). Happily/Sadly, that came to an end today as we dropped her off at the airport for her flight back "home" to the Great Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission. As I write this (at 3:30pm Mountain time), she has arrived in the loving arms of her mission family who are SOOOOOO excited to have her back with them!!

There aren't words to describe what this experience has been like for our family. How many parents get to have their missionary in their home (or any missionary for that matter) 24/7 for six weeks? How many parents get to have that type of Spirit in their home? How many parents get to see their own missionary in action for six weeks? While she has wanted nothing more than to be in Florida with the Hales and her fellow missionaries proselyting and helping others to come unto Christ, she has done a different sort of missionary work while she's been here. She has done a GREAT work in Layton, Utah and will now continue her great work in South Florida!

I've asked her to write her "story" several times. For whatever reason, she hasn't wanted to do that. Maybe the emotions have been too close to the surface. She did promise, that at some point in the future, she would write it in an email. Not exactly what I wanted but it will have to do. In the meantime, I have created my own journal on my blog of some of our experiences. I've copied and pasted them here to fill in this six week gap. Stay tuned for the "real Sister Denson emails" to begin again next Monday!! I can't wait!!!!!!!!!

From Mom's blog:

The past few weeks have been quite an amazing journey here at the Denson house. I want to "journal" it so I can remember the emotions, experiences, and blessings we've received as time goes on. Hang in there with me...if you choose...this could be long! 

Thursday, August 12, was a normal "Thursday-before-school-starts" kind of day. I was puttering around the house, feeling sad that my summer days were numbered. The phone rang and when I checked caller-ID, I was a bit surprised to see "Mission Office" lit up. I answered and heard, "Sister Denson? This is Sister Welch from the Ft. Lauderdale Mission." Uh-oh...what's up with my missionary? Sister Welch stated Sammi had some knots in her back and neck and wondered if she could buy a backpack with the school sales going on to see if it would help. Well...we have NUMEROUS backpacks around here and I told her I'd just ship one of the ones we have laying around. If that didn't work, no problem, she could get another one. I quickly gathered a few things together (because you can't just send ONE thing in a missionary box!!). One item was a print-out of the email our sweet friend, Amanda Potter, had sent to Sammi and I explaining their move to Cedar City. I felt impressed that it was NOT a good idea for Sammi to be sitting in the middle of the public library reading the saddest news she could have received and bawling her eyes out in front of everyone. I added my own little tid-bit to it and headed to the post office. (She later said that when she read the letter on Saturday night, she was hurting so badly from her back and as soon as she saw the subject line, she knew was was coming. She bawled, just like I expected, but it was in the privacy of her apartment with her companion.)

Monday mornings are always the highlight of my week as I wait, somewhat impatiently,  for "Email Monday." Most days, Sammi and I "chat" back and forth via email which carries me through to the next week. This Monday was the same as any other...I watch for that first email to come through indicating she's there. I was also feeling quite sad because as soon as I was finished with the emails, Bob and I were heading to Cedar City to take a trailer down for the Potter's. I was a bit weepy and knew the email with Sammi was going to be hard for that reason. 

The chats seemed to be a bit few and far between, however. Finally, I got the "President's email" which is her weekly update to President Hale. (To get the full effect of what I read, check it out on Sammi's blog.) As I read and got to the final picture, I couldn't believe what was happening! What four days previously had been conveyed as "knots in her neck and back" was now "excruciating pain," "cancelled appointments," "stayed home all day," and "only relief comes from laying on the floor with ice." I quickly shot back a reply asking "What the HECK??" She replied the email told it all but that she was feeling better that day (thanks to a priesthood blessing from the Elders) and that she'd report more next week. As a Mom, I was ready to hop on the first flight to Florida to see her for myself...not an option. After a few more minutes, we signed off and headed to the next part of our sad day.

Tuesday, my last day of summer vacation, I received another call from Sister Welch. I don't remember much more of the call other than, "Pain is much, much worse," "sending her to an orthopedic surgeon," and, when I asked what in the world was going on...her reply was, "it's nothing to worry about." ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? You don't say all those phrases in one sentence and then tell a mother thousands of miles away it's nothing to worry about!!!! Still, what else could I do but wait? Sammi had the information to schedule an appointment...all I could do was pray things would be OK. 

That night, our home teachers, one of whom is also our Dr., came to visit. I showed Scott and Carl the email and accompanying pictures. Carl said she needed to see a General Practioner or a Physical Therapist, and NOT an orthopedic surgeon. He was convinced, looking at her pictures, that she had been carrying a bag that was too heavy and it was causing distress in her back. A few visits to the Physical Therapist and she should be fine. He also asked a list of questions, which we didn't have the answers to, and told me to get with the mission president to find the answers. OK...I could do that. It was too late to call so Bob and I crafted an email and sent it off that night.

Earlier in the evening, I was at my wits end with worry about Sammi and the situation. I found the number of a member in Boynton Beach where she was serving and called her. I needed a "Mom" to go look at her and give me the details! (Up to this point, no one had seen her...it was all handled through telephone calls!! ARGH!!) Sister Papenfuss was AMAZING!! She completely understood and dropped everything and headed to the Sisters' apartment. While she was there, she called me so I could relay questions to Sammi and get a few answers. At one point, I asked how she was feeling right then. She said she didn't want to tell me because she didn't want me to worry. Sweet but... I assured her NOT knowing was MUCH, MUCH worse than knowing!! My imagination was working overtime! She finally admitted she hurt pretty badly. I wanted to give her a hug so bad I couldn't stand it!!

At 6:45 the next morning, just as I was starting to get ready to head to school, I got a phone call from President Hale. He said he'd read the email and appreciated Carl's input but wanted to go straight to the top to figure out the problem and get it taken care of immediately! He's not a man to argue with so...he told me her appointment was for 2:00 that afternoon and he'd have someone call me with the results. I headed off to the first day of contract week at school. Needless to say, my mind and heart were in Florida!!

A while later, I got another call from Sister Welch saying President Hale had forwarded my email to her and that she'd called Sammi to tell her to cancel the Dr. appointment. WHAT??!! Are you kidding me??? It was about five minutes before she was supposed to be there and now she'd cancelled it? I told her I'd talked to President earlier in the morning and he'd INSISTED she go see the Dr. Sister Welch was confused but agreed to call Sammi right back and see if she could still make the appointment. (I later found out they were sitting in the parking lot when Sister Welch called the first time ready to go in for the visit. She was so frustrated but obedient and cancelled it and headed home. By the time they got the call to go back, they were home and couldn't get back in to the Dr. until the following day. She just cried because she was so frustrated and hurt so badly! Communication!!!!!!!!!!!) I got an email from President later in the afternoon apologizing for the confusion and assured me Sammi would be in the Dr. office on Thursday.

After some frustrating calls to the office staff regarding insurance, copays, etc., Sammi finally saw the Dr. He called me a short time later and explained she had a touch of scoliosis, had strained her back pretty severely, and needed a steroid (Prednisone), an anti-inflammatory, and to rest. Then he proceeded to ask about this ridiculous concept that she couldn't talk to me. I tried to explain but to no avail...he said it was the strangest thing he'd ever heard and was completely surprised that I "bought into it." 

After a few minutes, I got another phone call from President Hale. You know something's up when your daughter's Mission President starts the conversation with, "Do you have a few minutes we can chat?" AHHHHH!!!!!! Scary!!!!!!! Long story short...the Dr. hadn't given me all his recommendations...in addition to what he told me, he was prescribing Physical Therapy three times a week for four to six weeks. President Hale indicated the Mission Department in Salt Lake would not, under any circumstances, approve that because it takes too much time out of a missionary's work schedule. He said if things didn't improve in the next few days, we'd have to talk about sending her home. My first response was "NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can't do that to her!!!!" I was stunned...like someone had slugged me in the stomach! He mentioned that transfers were the following week and if we had to send her home, that would be the target. After talking to him, I called Bob and was completely beside myself. We talked with Carl and our Bishop later that night who were also really upset. Carl was convinced all it would take was a few visits to the P/T and she'd be OK. After talking with them, I called President Hale again and asked more questions, received more answers, and definitely got better/more clarification. The trip home would be TEMPORARY!!!!!!! She would come here for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation and return to the mission as soon as possible. We thought it was him that was pushing for the "vacation" but found out it was Salt Lake. We felt much better about things and relayed that information to Carl and Bishop Chandler. 

Friday evening, President Hale arranged a phone call from Sammi so we could talk with her, get all the details of the situation, get our "gut parent feelings" about her condition, and help make a determination for the best course of action. It was WONDERFUL to talk to her and hear the whole story. Bottom line, we all felt that we needed to do whatever would speed up her recovery and get her back to work the quickest possible way. We relayed that information to President Hale and he decided she would stay with members over the weekend with strict instructions to rest, relax, and do whatever she could to make her back feel better. By Sunday night when he called her for an update, her back was even worse and they decided he would begin the paperwork process to get her home as soon as possible. We were stunned!! As much as we wanted to see her,  we never imagined this would be part of the plan! He agreed he would call the Missionary Dept. on Monday morning and then call Bob by mid-morning and let him know the plan. (Monday would also be my first day back to school...I wasn't sure how I was going to function when my head was in Florida!)

By 7:55am, President Hale had called Bob with the details: Sammi would fly out on American Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale around 10:00 on Tuesday; she'd have a layover in Dallas/Ft. Worth to give her a chance to get up, walk around, lay down if she needed, and head out on the last leg of the journey. She'd arrive here about 4:40pm. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!! It was SHOCKING to know that within a few hours, she'd be here for us to take care of...as a full-time, set apart missionary! As much as I wanted to hug her and take care of her, I wasn't sure I was really ready for it! Ready or not...here she came!

My principal was and is absolutely amazing through all of this. Ironically, he's a Bishop, his son came home from his mission for surgery and returned four weeks later, his daughter had just started her mission papers and he couldn't wait for Sammi to talk to her about missionary service, etc. He told me, very clearly, to take whatever time I needed, whenever I needed it to be here to take care of Sammi and enjoy her time with us. AMAZING!!!!! So, with that loving support, I went to school on Monday and took the rest of the week off! (Along with half day the following Monday and all day Tuesday because I was sick...I think too much stress.)

We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I was able to get an "Assistance Pass" from the airline so I could meet her at the gate. We didn't know what condition she would be in so I wanted to be there to help if needed. Bob and Maddi made me wait until about 4:10 before they'd let me go through security. The waiting was killing me! I made it through and went up to wait...again! As I saw the plane roll into the gate, the butterflies were unbelievable! It was strange to be that nervous to see my daughter after 13 months and two days. I honestly didn't know what to expect other than I was so excited to get my hands on her and hug her...carefully, of course. :) I had my camera in hand...ready to snap that first shot of her as she came down the ramp.

Another mom and I waited, somewhat impatiently for our daughters to come off the plane. Hers was 11 years old and traveling alone from Ft. Lauderdale. It seemed like they had to be the last ones off the plane! As I saw Sammi come around the corner, my heart literally broke. Her head was down, her face was red, eyes puffy from crying...completely heart-breaking. I put my camera away and opened my arms. She walked into them and we just cried together. I kept telling her I was so sorry but got no response. A sweet member who sat next to her had carried her bag off the plane and set it down behind us without saying anything. Finally, we started walking down the concorse. I thought maybe her back was hurting...it wasn't...just her heart. She wouldn't look at me, wouldn't talk, just walked. As we rounded the top of the escalator, I could see Maddi, Mallorie, and Bob waiting at the bottom. Maddi caught sight of us and jumped up and down, then stopped immediately. She had seen the look on Sammi's face. Sammi walked into everyone's arms, crying. It was AWFUL!! As we picked up her luggage, walked to the car, drove home, we tried to make small talk. She wouldn't have anything to do with it. I sat in the back seat on the way home watching her in the rearview mirror and my hear broke! She cried the whole way home. My thoughts: "This is going to be the longest four weeks of our lives!!"

As we pulled into the driveway and got out of the car, she fell apart. Bob and I assured her there wasn't any shame in coming home; she knew that. She just said she wasn't ready to see us, be here, and wanted, more than anything, to still be in Florida. We assured her that's what we wanted as well.

Throughout the day and the drive home, two of Sammi's former companions, Sister Karli Olson (came home in January) and Sister Meryl Call (came home in July) had been texting me. They had tried to get together to "hang out" ever since Meryl came home and just couldn't make it work. Miraculously, they were together, in Layton that very day. Coincidence? We don't think so...Heavenly Father sent these two angels to us at the perfect time! As we stood in the driveway, I presented the idea that the girls wanted to come see her but only if she wanted them to. It took her a minute and then she said, "I think I'd like that." A few minutes later, after the welcome home from the doggies, Sister Olson and Sister Call brought a bit of Ft. Lauderdale to Layton.

Sometimes, people are put into your life at exactly the right time and place. Only a loving Heavenly Father could have orchestrated such a tender mercy on Sister Denson's behalf. As soon as the girls/Sisters walked into the house, Sammi's attitude and countenance changed. They giggled, reminisced, and enjoyed each others' company. It was PERFECT!!

After dinner and visiting, we had the opportunity to visit with our dear Bishop Chandler and his counselor, Brother McBride. We heard wonderful stories and felt of their spirit as they visited with Sister Denson. Later, we were told both men told their wives and the other counselor that they were amazed at the Spirit that was in our home as they visited with Sammi; that they felt they were on sacred ground. What an amazing thing for a parent to hear! We were so excited and proud! We completely agreed!!!

At bedtime, I found Maddi in Sammi's room giggling and talking. It was just as it should be. Our home was full once again and all was well. What a blessing!

One thing Sammi shared with us Tuesday evening (August 24) was that she had asked the APs for a blessing of comfort before she left Plantation/Ft. Lauderdale. In the blessing, the Elder indicated Heavenly Father was pleased with her service, that the heavens were smiling down on her, and that Heavenly Father had need of her elsewhere at this time. WOW!!!!! As parents, Bob and I couldn't believe it! What could possibly be more important at home than her serving in Florida as a missionary? It was frightening!

On Wednesday, we met with Carl (our physician) at 8:30 and by 8:50, we were next door at the Physical Therapist's office. After an extensive exam, Chad (the P/T) determined Sammi had one leg 1/2" shorter than the other and then her pelvis was twisted which made it 1" shorter overall. That curved her lower spine to the right. Then, she carried her heavy bag on her left shoulder which curved it back to the left. The combination of the two, combined with riding a bike, walking a lot, stress of worrying about not being able to work, etc., made the muscles in her back completely freeze up. There was no way to relieve the situation without extensive physical therapy which included massage, electrical stimulation, and a lot of exercises. Chad planned out therapy three times a week with exercises to do at home on the "off days." Sammi was willing to do whatever it took to get better and back to Florida ASAP!

Initially, Sammi didn't want anyone to know she was home. She didn't want it posted on Facebook, blogs, didn't want to go to Sacrament Meeting, etc. After talking with President Hale, who said, "No...that's not the way we do it. Missioanries go to Church and partake of the Sacrament," and Bishop Chandler who said, "She's a member of the Layton 37th Ward. We pray for miracles here and we get them!" it was determined we would keep the news to a minimum but had to let some people know. After all, we would need "Sister-Sitters" for when Maddi had to go to school and I had to go to work. I sent out an email to our Relief Society Sisters who responded in true "Layton 37th Ward" fashion: an outpouring of love and support, prayers, and offers to help in any way we needed. It was amazing!! Our sweet neighbor, Trisha, loaned us her bikes so Sammi could ride them to help build up her endurance. (That was fun to ride a bike again...I felt like I was learning it all over again. Thank heavens Maddi's home to go the distance with her!)

Over the past three weeks, we have had many amazing blessings from having a full-time missionary in our home.

  1. We've had the spirit there more than we could ever imagine.

  2. We've seen Sammi as a "missionary" as she talked with my principal, Dave Birch, his wife, Krista, and their sweet daughter, Savannah, who has begun her mission papers. Sammi talked to them about her experiences, shared scriptures, etc. It was an unbelievable experience to see her "in action." She also shared her testimony of missionary service with our friends Brandi and Bronson Reeder.

  3. We've seen Maddi have her best friend back to share things with and enjoy spending time with her.

  4. We've had our "Sammi" back full of confidence and life. Prior to her mission, she was a lot of fun but this "new and improved, self-confident Sammi" is so much fun to be around!

  5. We have seen her with former "Ft. Lauderdale" missionaries and recent converts (saw them at Temple Square one Sunday evening). So fun to spend time as a family doing wonderful things we should be doing all the time!

It's been GREAT!! We know, without a doubt, there's a reason she's here at this time. She shared with us that she had many dreams, early in her mission, that she came home, with her badge on, spent a bit of time, and then went back to Florida. We believe that was the Lord's way of preparing her for this "vacation in Utah" (as President Hale calls it).

They really do love each other!!

Beautiful girls!!

Yes...they make their parents so proud! :)

Sister Denson and her companions: Sister Denson Jr. and Sister Denson Sr.

The "girls"...so proud of all of them!

Taking time off to spend with Sammi has been a great experience! My principal has been AMAZING through all of this and has supported me 120%. Last Tuesday, September 14, I took the day off to go to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple with Sammi and Keydi Gwynn. Keydi moved from West Jordan to Boca Raton, FL about the same time Sammi arrived there. Keydi was unbelievable in taking care of the Sister Missionaries...feeding them, driving them around, nursing them back health, etc. She found me on Facebook and would snap candid shots of Sammi and post them for me. It was GREAT!

The same week Sammi came home, Keydi and her family moved back to South Jordan. We met up with her at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, went to an endowment session, and then to lunch. It was a lot of fun to meet her and hear stories about their adventures in Boca Raton.

Keydi Gwynn and Sister Denson in front of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.

Great friends!

The sun was SOOO bright against the beautiful light-colored Temple.

It was an AMAZING view looking east toward the mountains.
This coming week...the Salt Lake Temple with Sammi and Nique Wakefield! Can't wait!!


On Thursday, Sammi and I took a wonderful young sister from our ward to the Salt Lake Temple. Nique is one of the most amazing young women I have ever met! She was baptized five days after her 18th birthday and lost everything for joining the church. As she began to gain it back, the promptings came to serve a mission. She debated back and forth and finally submitted her papers. She received her call to the California San Francisco/Oakland Spanish-speaking mission and will leave on November 17. We're so excited for her...she's going to be a WONDERFUL missionary!

We met Sammi's former companion, Sister Meryl Call, at the Temple. I took the girls to lunch in the cafeteria (fun experience and yummy food!) then to the 2:00 session. On Saturday, Sammi and I watched the church-produced movie, The Mountain of the Lord which details the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. It is such an amazing story of faith, perseverance, and the blessings of patience and long-suffering. Sitting in the Temple and looking at the beauty was such a blessing. Sitting next to three faithful daughters of God was even more amazing!

Afterward, we had to take the traditional pictures. I'm so grateful for these girls allowing me to spend the afternoon with them and feeling of their spirit!

Sister Call, Sister Denson, and Sister Wakefield

Mom and Sister Denson

Sister Denson and soon-to-be Sister Wakefield

Sister Meryl Call and Sister Sammi Denson

As our final Temple trip while Sammi has been home was to the Draper Temple. We invited our sweet friend, Heidi Fitzgerald, to go with us. Heidi has been such a blessing in our lives as a friend, neighbor, Relief Society President, and "other Mom" to Sammi. We had a great time at the Temple followed by lunch at Winger's and a bit of shopping. What a great blessing to live among so many Temples!!


We had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Saturday Morning session of General Conference. We were so excited to have secured six tickets from our Stake Presidency and Bishop. It's so amazing to be in the same room as the Prophet, Quorum of the Twelve, and other leaders of the Church.

 The Conference Center prior to the session. It's BEAUTIFUL!!

 Three-fourths of the family...
Bob, Michelle, Kenzi, Zack, Maddi, and Sister Denson
We missed Mal and Tom!

 Sister Call (Meryl) was one of Sammi's companions in Boca Raton. They became "BFFs" while they served in the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission. Meryl came home in July. It's been so much fun for them to spend time together and text constantly while Sammi's been home. They're really going to miss each other but it's only for four more months...

 Meryl and her cute boyfriend, Ryan Farr.

 While we were hanging out on the Deseret Book Plaza after conference, we saw Alex Boye (an AMAZING singer!!) walking around. Just had to take a picture with him. He was excited to meet a Sister Missionary...he told her to get back to Florida and find some black people to baptize...we need more blacks in the Church!)

 Sister Denson needed a picture with the famous author, Jason Wright. Of course, he had to be "arms length"... LOVE the look on her face!

 Jason's caption on this picture on Facebook: "Oh, Jason...You're so funny! Such a delight to meet you!"

 Such a great picture! It was fun for them to finally meet.

 Zack and Jason have a very "special" friendship.
(Check out the look on the guy's face behind Jason! hahaha)

Jericho Road performing on the Plaza. They still sound GREAT!

It was an amazing day! So much fun to watch Conference in person at the Conference Center, meet amazingly wonderful friends afterward, and do a little "star-gazing." PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Stay tuned for next week's "real" email!

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