2017 YEAR IN REVIEW

Dear Friends of Mitchell's Journey,

Here is a short video that summarizes some of our accomplishments in 2017. We've done so much more than what's described here, but this will give you an idea as to where we've been and where we're headed.

Thank you for being part of this journey. In the end, Mitchell's Journey is more than the story of a little boy who died; it's about 300,000 people discovering new ways to live and love more deeply. It's about acknowledging life's hardships and finding the faith and courage to take a brave step into the unknown.

THEY THAT MOURN

I dropped by to see little Mitch this morning and discovered 3 notes left at the base of his headstone, each bearing the hashtag #lighttheworld. I was so touched by the compassion of those anonymous souls who seemed to understand grief lasts as long as love lasts. These handwritten notes wished our family peace during this season. Peace ... that is to say rest from the ongoing labor of grief, is a beautiful gift.
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I think I’m beginning to understand the deeper meaning of the scriptural passage “Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.“ I have discovered a special kind of comfort and spiritual understanding that seems reserved for those deep mourning. Mourners aren’t blessed because they hurt, they are blessed because they can have access to a unique form of peace and comfort known only to those who mourn and seek spiritual relief.#mitchellsjourney

8 WAYS TO MAKE LASTING CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

How often do we look back on the holidays with a sense of nostalgia and a longing for warm memories?  Chances are your best memories come from spending time with the ones closest to you.  The truth is, sometimes we get so busy finding and wrapping presents, we forget to treasure the best gift of all - the gift of time and attention.  Here are 8 things you can do to make lasting Christmas memories with your family.
 

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READ CHRISTMAS BOOKS AS A FAMILY

With so many forms of entertainment these days, the magic of reading books would seem to be in jeopardy.  Yet there is more magic that comes from the words of a book than all the special effects on earth.

One of our favorite holiday traditions has been to read Christmas books and allow those touching stories to play out in the theater of our minds.

HERE ARE A FEW WE RECOMMEND:

 

WATCH HOME MOVIES & PULL OUT PHOTO ALBUMS

When I was a young child we used to watch our old 8 mm family films on Christmas Eve.  I remember sitting by a roaring fire in my Christmas pajamas while our family laughed at old, grainy footage of a time long gone.

By spending time as a family enjoying old memories, we were reminded that the best gifts we could ever hope for weren't under the Christmas tree, but sitting around it.   

Try to watch home videos as a family.

If you can prepare some old video footage or photos in advance, you will be surprised how much your children will enjoy seeing themselves when they were younger - or when you were a child.

 
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SECRET SANTA

You're never too old, or too young, to serve people in secret.  In fact, anonymous acts of service often bring a joy to your heart that lasts far longer than anything you can buy with money.

This Christmas try to do one or more of the following:

  • Search for a family who may be struggling and drop a box of gifts at their doorstep.
  • Find a way to pay a utility bill for someone in need.  
  • Leave a note in someone's mailbox with an observation about something you admire about them.

There are so many ways to serve others. The important part is doing something special for someone, unnoticed.

 
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LOCAL HOLIDAY PERFORMANCES

If available in your area, find local Christmas plays or performances to attend. High school plays, musical performances and other theatrical presentations are all ways to support your community. You can also search your city's listings to see if there are any special performances you might attend. As you invest your time enjoying various art forms for the holiday, you will find yourself being swept up in the best parts of the season.  

Some classics are:

  • The Christmas Story
  • The Nutcracker
  • A Christmas Carol
 
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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

During Mitchell's last Christmas, two separate families decided to give Mitch a 12 Days of Christmas surprise at our doorstep each night.  Little Mitch had so much fun learning about the new surprises.  Each gift was thoughtful and had a special meaning to our family.  

It wasn't just the gift that was special, it was the special care they took to be thoughtful that made it amazing for our family.  As you think of families you might serve in this way, take a close look at their family dynamic and try to give them gifts that celebrate their family and create bonds between them.

Read this essay about Mitch and Secret Santa:  http://mitchellsjourney.org/essays/2013/12/24/a-gift-twice

 
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CANDY MAKING AS A FAMILY

Make candy as a family!  You'll be surprised how fun it can be.  Don't worry about making a mess - just have fun doing it and let your kids express themselves.  Take photos while you're at it.  You'll thank yourself later.

If you don't do candy, make cookies - but experiment.  Try something you haven't done before. 

If you don't have kids, invite a neighbor family over to participate.  Or just do it yourself. 

Find someone special to share your candy creations with.

Here are 17 Recipes you can try.

 
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PLAY IN THE SNOW

Seriously.  Play.  In the snow.  

  • Make snow caves.  
  • Build jumps for sleighs.  
  • When you go sledding, bring hot chocolate with you. There are new vacuum-sealed thermoses (Yeti & Takeya) that can keep hot chocolate piping hot for 12 hours.
  • If you can, bring a Bluetooth speaker and play Christmas music in the background.  It really adds to the experience.
  • Be sure to take photos of your snow play, too.

 

 

For Mitchell's last Christmas, we made a special effort to play in the snow - and looking back, we're so glad we did. 

If you live in a warm climate, just play outside!

 
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REMEMBER

With all of the fun and exciting ways to celebrate Christmas, remembering the reason for the holiday in the first place is the most important thing of all.  Take time to connect to the spiritual aspects of Christmas and the Savior's sacrifice.  

There is nothing wrong with the commercial aspects of Christmas, like Santa & sleigh bells, just remember the reason for the season.  

 


 
 
 

5 THINGS MY SON TAUGHT ME ABOUT GIVING

 “Daddy, wook at dis” little Mitch said with enthusiasm.  He just discovered a leaf covered in a fresh blanket of snow. In his young mind, he thought he discovered the only remaining leaf on earth – for the rest had disappeared in a wintry wonderland.   

My little boy didn’t have much time to live – only a few years, in fact.  He was diagnosed with a fatal disease – so my wife and I learned, in a hurry, the value of time and that each moment was a gift beyond price.  So, when my little boy handed me this leaf as if he found a treasure beyond measure, my heart melted, and I was reminded of 5 valuable lessons about the gifts of giving.

Start with the Heart

It wasn’t the leaf that was special, but instead because it came from the heart.  Most often, the sweetest gifts in life are felt with the heart, not with our hands.  A smile, a gentle compliment, or the recognition of a positive change are sometimes the sweetest gifts we’ll ever give or receive.  When we share our hearts with others, our own heart enlarges.  A simple, snow-covered-leaf held gently by a tiny hand became a beautiful gift.

 Little Things Are Big Things

Isn’t it interesting that when we forget the little things in life, we begin having big problems?  The little things make or break relationships, bank accounts, and personal well-being.  At the same time, the little things have the potential to make beautiful outcomes.   Often, it isn’t the big gifts that make a difference, but instead the accumulation of little ones.  I’m not talking about earrings and other things – but instead the gentle acts of kindness that keep our relationships healthy and strong.

A Thoughtful Gift is a Gift Twice

Little Mitch taught me the most meaningful gifts aren’t really about the thing itself, but instead the meaning or intent behind it.  A thoughtful gift is really an evidence of our affection; a way of saying “I understand you” or “I care.”  A thoughtful gift is a gift twice.

When You Give, You Get

There is a heavenly paradox that when you give to others, you always seem to get.  The sweetest memories in life often come from the times were losing ourselves in the service of others.  I could tell by the look on my sweet son’s face when he handed me this leaf; he got more out of giving than he got from keeping.

Moments Over Material Things

Perhaps the greatest thing I learned from the life and death of my son is that moments are far more valuable than material things.  I’d give everything I own away for just one more day.  Yet, when I think back on my time with my son, those moments that mattered are gifts I can hold near to my heart.  This photo is one such moment.

This holiday, as we think of giving gifts to each other, we have an opportunity to make this Christmas extra special.  Yes, there are gifts sitting patiently under the warm glow of our Christmas trees, but perhaps the greatest gift we can give our loved ones is a chance to step outside our routine and experience the joys and gift of giving to others.  We can make memories, which are the most beautiful gifts of all, by finding ways to serve others.

Join Mitchell’s Journey this holiday season to discover the beautiful Gift of Giving. Attached to this article is a free program that will schedule a seven-day task list into a calendar.  This tool will give you prompts and ideas on ways to love and serve others. As you give back to others, you will find your holidays enriched, and you'll have experiences to last a lifetime. I promise. 

This is your chance to let your light shine and give to others.

 

 
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IN THE QUIET OF NIGHT

When I was a young boy, I remember waking up at night only to find my mother or father gently opening my bedroom door to check on me. Sometimes, more often than not, they’d linger a moment as I’d drift back to sleep. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I began to understand why they’d linger. I found myself doing the same thing with my children, especially when they were young. I’d look upon my children with so much love in my heart I thought my tender heart would explode.

I learned that in the quiet of night, even during those dark struggles of the soul, we must trust our Father and step into the unknown; for in matters of faith, that is the price. That is the toll.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

As far back as I can remember, Mitch wanted Natalie and me to tuck him in at night. That little ritual of pulling the covers up to his chin and kissing his sweet face is something I’ll always remember with a heart of gratitude. Natalie had a special way of tucking the sides of his blanket under his body on both sides, and Mitch loved the feeling of being snuggled. Soon he’d fall fast asleep. Without realizing it, I’d find myself wandering back into his room to check on him, and my other children. I’d crack the door open only to spill some warm light into a moonlit room. There, I’d see my babies fast asleep. Sometimes, I’d think how curious it was that just a few years earlier before they were born, I was totally and completely content to live without them. But now that I had them, I couldn’t imagine a life without them.

I’ve experienced all manner of loss, and nothing cuts so deep as to lose a child.

When Mitch was home on hospice, my regular prayer routine became more focused and more heartfelt. Somewhere, in the quiet of night, by my son’s bed or on the edge of mine, I wept to my Father praying for deliverance. In my suffering, I grew closer to my Father. Even still, never did night seem so dark as when my son was slipping away. I discovered that when God doesn’t deliver us from our sorrows, He will deliver us through them. I also learned, in the quiet of night, a valuable lesson about dark times and how we can begin to discern light – the kind of light that kindles faith.

Just recently, I had a conversation with a father who was undergoing a tremendous hardship. In a private message on Facebook, he asked me, “Do you believe in angels?”

I responded, “Yes, I do believe in angels and that they walk among us, unseen. Sometimes, if we're quiet and listening, we can feel their presence. Sometimes.”

I continued, “We had some profound moments with Mitch [when] he passed away. As Mitch was in the process of dying, he slept a lot [and we agonized that we were losing him before we lost him]. Natalie and I were in a state of deep despair and couldn't feel as easily what others felt. Some people dropped gifts or notes at our door, not knowing what was happening in our home the last few days. They would leave our house and send us a text saying things like, ‘I'm not sure what's happening at your home, but I felt something I've never felt before. It felt like I was walking through a crowd of angels.’”

I believe, despite how dark the world felt at the time, we were surrounded by a host of heavenly angels, bearing us up when we were so tired and so weak. In fact, I don’t think it … I know it. I know it for reasons I will not describe – for some things are too sacred to share.

I’ve come to learn over the last few years something Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” I’ve grown to appreciate that phrase, “When it is dark enough …” You see, sometimes it isn’t dark enough for us to see those heavenly blessings, that present themselves like little stars. And if we learn to look, our spiritual eyes will begin to see tender mercies that are meant for you and me.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing new stories about Mitch and how I learned to see the light, even through what seemed impenetrable darkness. I learned that in the quiet of night, even during those dark struggles of the soul, we must trust our Father and step into the unknown; for in matters of faith, that is the price. That is the toll.

2017 GIFT & BLANKET DRIVE

2017 GIFT & BLANKET DRIVE
For those who are interested in helping Mitchell's Journey lift the hearts of children this holiday season, we're holding our 5th annual Gift & Blanket drive and will be donating all contributions to Shriners Hospital, the same hospital that cared for Mitch and many other children with DMD. This time of year can feel cold and scary, especially if you're a sick child in a hospital. So, we want to help children feel loved in the same way Mitch felt loved.

The second image in this post is the card we attach to every gift and blanket - so families who receive your donation know it comes from a generous heart (you) who was touched by little Mitch.

Please send packages by December 20th to:

5526 West 13400 South #102
Herriman, UT 84096

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

I just love Christmas ... I love everything about it. I remember when I first bought this little USB Christmas tree ... Mitch thought it was so cool and he loved to come to the office and see it aglow on my desk. The screen saver (behind the tree) is close to my heart because it reminds me of Mitchell's love of sunsets, cozy atmospheres and his romantic view of the holidays. To him, he looked forward to giving gifts to others then snuggling up in a warm and cozy home with the people he loved. That's all I want to do anymore: give and love.

I thought I lost this tree a year ago, but Natalie recently found it buried under other Christmas decorations. Today, when I look at this little tree I think of Mitch and the beautiful gift he was and remains in my life. Despite the heartache that comes and goes like an evening tide, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Though painful, I wouldn't trade the gift of Mitch for anything.

I just hope one night I can see my son in my dreams so I can tell him how much he mattered to me and how very much I love him.