On the second Monday in June, my gang gathered for our weekly family home evening. My 16- and 11-year-olds had been assigned the lesson, and together they'd decided we’d each make goals for the summer.
They handed everyone a pad of 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 family home evening, 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 family home evening. It had been a challenging day with some unusually trying stress. 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 her preparation day had come to an end in Brazil, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would not get a letter that day. 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 and distributed the yellow notes. 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, laughed 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 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.
In October 2012, President Thomas S. Monson said this in a general conference address: “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.