Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Pictures at Twitchells - Dec '09

Definitely our favorite picture.
He had to have known this was being taken, but he isn't being goofy.
It has to be the picture in his hand - and we LOVE the idea of
looking at the Savior as He is put on the tree.

We never thought our son would be the tall one!

This is Elder Nelson - Elder DeGraw's companion.

Of course, there has to be a goofy face in the lot - this being our son.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


We received a letter from Elder DeGraw's mission president about sending mail, especially at Christmas time.

From now on, please use the following addresses:

USPS (Letters and packages)

Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
Washington Everett Mission
P.O. Box 13390
Mill Creek WA 98082

UPS or FedEx (Large boxes)

Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
Washington Everett Mission
16124 35th Ave SE
Mill Creek WA 98012


You might notice that the differences are simply the different zip codes and not including both the PO Box and street address together. The actual mailing addresses haven't changed.

If anyone sends Christmas mail, please mark "Christmas" on your cards and letters and packages. They would like all Christmas mail to arrive by Dec 20 to ensure the missionaries receive their cards and packages on time. I apologize for not posting this info earlier.

I'm sure Elder DeGraw would love to hear from any of you, not only during the holidays. Thanks for your friendship; I know he continues to appreciate the love and support.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Photo Proof that He Lives and Laughs

Elder DeGraw and Elder Nelson
with the Ferguson Family
Marysville 5th Ward

Yup, he still can't bring himself to pose seriously for a picture! lol

But he sure looks good, doesn't he?!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Belated Updates

We apologize to everyone for going so long between updates. We will try to do better in the future:

1) Elder DeGraw still is in Marysville. He has gone through four transfers now, but he still is serving there and loving it.

2) He is continuing to be exposed to different perspectives - and it is strengthening his testimony of the core principles of the Gospel. He mentioned in one letter talking with someone who told them that we were created because "God was lonely and wanted someone to love Him, so the purpose of life is to love God - so that we can love Him forever and not be sent to Hell." He also says that he hopes the "rapture" is a mis-translation of "raptor" - but that sense of humor probably is Papa's fault.

3) He shared with us the adventures of a P-Day where his companion got beaten at raquetball by their Ward Mission Leader (73 years old). The WML started each game to 15 points down 0-14, and Elder Mose didn't win any games. We are assuming our non-athletic son didn't even try to beat him.

4) In the Marysville 5th Ward, Elder DeGraw's area includes an Indian Reservation - and he loves working there. He is seeing a side of life that has not been there in his own life thus far, and it is neat to hear his love for others in very difficult situations. He is growing in ways that simply would not be possible without being on a mission.

5) He was able to go to the temple in Seattle and see the sealing of a family his companion had taught and baptized. In his own words, it "blew our minds". We are glad he had that opportunity to FEEL what it's like to be sealed eternally.

6) With such limited funds, he is learning to budget - which, for all of you who know our son, gladdens out hearts tremendously! lol

7) His letters are addressed to us (his biological family), but in each one he mentions those whom he loves and for whom he prays regularly. If you are reading this, chances are you are one of those people, but, Ashton, he asks us always to make sure you know he loves you - as we do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Am Part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed

He asked that we post the following quote here:

"I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
The die has been cast; I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
My past is redeemed; my present makes sense; my future is secure. [He loves you, Ashton!]

I am finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees and colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions or popularity.
I don't have to be right, first, recognized, praised or rewarded.
I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience and labor with power.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, pander at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up or let up until I have stayed up, stored up and paid up for the cause of Christ.

I must give until I drop, preach all that I know and work until He stops me.
When He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.

My Banner Is Clear!"
(Henry B. Eyring)

The Spirit Whispered This to Me

From 8/28/09:

"I love teaching (one of his investigators). Last time was so cool. He started crying and said that something I said came word-for-word from a poem he wrote in high school! Yeah, weird to know that I'm not the one speaking in moments like that."

Again, he sends his love and thoughts to everyone - especially one person in particular.

Catching Up: Info from Multiple Letters

From 7/20/09:

A question to consider - "What kind of man do you want me to be when I get home?"

From 7/27/09 - 8/10/09 (some of the difficulties of missionary work):

1) "(One of the people we have been teaching) was gonna get baptized Saturday, but she got evicted Friday morning from her place - so we have to re-find her." [Papa's commentary: Learning to deal with the consequences of others' bad choices can be painful - especially when you come to love someone and want so badly to help bless their life.]

2) He was humbled by a young man who has had an incredibly difficult life but for whom the Gospel just "clicked" as he heard it for the first time. Now Elder DeGraw just has to help convince him to marry the mother of their children.

3) Another woman who had been working toward baptism disappeared to get away from an abusive boyfriend.

On the bright side, he baptized someone for the first time as a missionary about a month ago - a really neat experience!

From 8/15/09:

He wrote of suddenly realizing how miserable it would be to live a life of trying to make others miserable. What a waste of energy and time. There are people who live FOR something and people who spend their lives living AGAINST something. He wants to live FOR goodness and joy and love.

In each letter, he asked us to make sure someone in particular knows he loves her. He really does.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Family Ties

Ok, I'm finally getting back to this lol. Sorry for being away.
Curtis is still enjoying Washington. He says that it's beautiful and he misses everyone deeply. He has recently bravely fought a spider to write to me lol. Apparently for Lunchbox's birthday, I gave the perfect birthday message so that made me feel happy =). For Mama and Papa, thank you for getting me through the bad advice that one married mormon girl gave me at American Dance Festival because Curtis was gonna give me advice and then he said that you guys covered it lol. Also, he said that he wants us to be like you two as well (and it made his day when I said that to him in a letter). Bike riding is still a challenge for him but he can ride it, just not in a straight line just yet.

By the way, when he sends me pictures, I'll put them on Facebook and I'll try to put them on here too.

For Mama, thank you for everything! Curtis put in the letter what you said about me and I felt so overwhelmed with warm emotions when I read it. I must say that ever since day one coming into the Degraw household, I have felt like family. I know that it will continue as well (also can't wait for it to become official hehe <3).

Curtis is meeting a lot of new and nice people to help and teach. There has been a person that has asked to be baptized and she is going to get Curtis a new tie for her baptism. The next day the same girl asked for Curtis to be the one to baptize her (this made me very proud of my man).

So that's it for the most part, because I'm sure you don't want me to bog you down with all of the mushy stuff that he sends me (even though I adore it and melt in my chair everytime I read it <3).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. - Isiah 43:1b The Message

Before moving out to the state of Washington, Curtis wrote me one more time. Before he left, he was asking people that were going out of the country how to say 'I love you' in various languages. He got Tagalog, Spanish, Cebuano, German, Latin, Slovakian, Danish, Malay, and Hawaiian.

One thing that someone spoke in one of his meetings was this: " It will be hard, but God will walk with us every step of the way, and those you left behind will be blessed for your service too." Everyday, I'm sure that he is thinking about everyone and misses them but at the same time, we all benefit from him going on his mission. I didn't realize it until now that in a way this is almost like when I went off to church trips in the summer for a week in middle school and high school. I loved going to those because when you are surrounded by people that just want to worship God through word, song, dance, and etc., it moves you. At the end of the week of these things, I always wanted to stay there because I felt such a close connection to God. For Curtis to be doing this for two years, he's creating an everlasting bond with God. One thing I always disliked was coming back to the "real world" because I fell back into my old ways of worshiping God instead of growing and keeping what I had learned from The Great Escape and Montreat. After realizing that this past week, I'm actually jealous in a way. Then I got to thinking even more (scary I know lol), maybe there's another reason why he has been called to do this, maybe God is trying to bring me back to him more by Curtis sharing his experience with me and helping me to finish my "new years resolution" of reading the whole bible and going to church more while I'm at school. One thing that I have always remembered from both The Great Escape and Montreat is that a theme one year was "called by name." We aren't just called upon by God, but God calls us by name to do his work. He has picked us specifically, individually, and by our name. Another thing is (oops, yea there's two things instead of one that I have remembered) what this one musician at The Great Escape said to us. He said basically that we aren't just children of God, we are princes and princesses. Each and everyone of us. I am God's princess and Curtis is God's prince.

Sorry for the tangent there but here's more about what Curtis wrote to me. Curtis is so excited to go to Washington but anxious about doing well. He also said the he might actually miss MTC (I know he will). He has learned so much from just being at the MTC like how to be bold but not overbearing, how to show people you really sincerely care about them, and examples of faith and God loves everyone.

Curtis found out that he his the 7th generation to be a missionary in his family and finds it cool to be able to do for someone else what someone did for my family way back in the day. He made it to Washington safely =). First day there, he was able to go to the bishop's house to meet him and see how the ward is up there. They grilled burgers for the missionaries and he met some of the young men getting ready to go on their missions, including the bishop's youngest son. Curtis's companion is straight out of high school so he said that this will be interesting lol.

As you can read, he is very excited to be in Washington and we all can only pray for wonderful things to happen.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Mail Address

Letters -
Washington Everett Mission
Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
PO Box 13390 Mill Creek, WA 98012-6199

Packages -
Washington Everett Mission
Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
16124 35th Ave. Southeast
Mill Creek, WA 98012-6199

I think I have this right. Papa gave it to me through text so I may have written it wrong because I'm bad at reading addresses through texts. When I get a letter, I'll let you know if it's correct or not or Papa or Mama can correct me when the get a chance ^_^.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Road Again...

For Curtis's birthday, I sent a box that he could keep my letters in, white cheddar popcorn (because that's our favorite), cookies, and a nerds rope (to make up for the time I didn't really let him have any of mine lol). He responded by saying he loved the present. He left the MTC, even though he thought it was amazing the whole entire time, on 14th at about 5 am so he's officially at his Washington residence now and if you want to send anything to him it should go to the Everett address.

I'm trying to make this so that it's an update for everyone and not all about me but I can't help this one part ^_^. He said that his insomnia was acting up lately and he's glad that he has an extra pillow to hold in his arms while he sleeps because I'm the only cure for his inability to sleep (it gets better, or at least to me it does). He's never had a problem sleeping next to me unless it was because he didn't want to fall asleep and he misses falling asleep with me in his arms and waking up with me being the first thing he feels and sees. Yes, it's true. I love this kid ^_^.

I couldn't help that hehe. He misses WoW like crazy because he's always asking about my character and he met a sister missionary that's going to South Carolina so I might be meeting/ talking to her.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Mormon Times presents a letter to the editor from Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw

So what I'm (Ashton) hoping to do with this is basically give people updates about how Curtis is doing =) and this is what has to say about how things are going right now:

He's very excited about the MTC since there is so much going on. They are keeping him very busy while he is there. In just a week, he feels that he has learned so much and grown more in those days than he has in forever. The coolest part is that no matter where he goes he feels this overwhelming calm and that he is exactly where he needs to be.
He has met many people as in this one Elder is going to the Philippines and has to learn their language. This phrase goes out to Lunchbox or Hutto or anyone else (spelled phonetically) "Mug luglug Ko-Kineemo" which means "I will destroy you" lol (I'm sure he was talking about destroying things on WoW or something of the sort hehe).

(If you think you have it hard schedule wise check out Curtis's)
6:30 Wake Up/ Prep for the day
7:00 Breakfast
7:30 Service Project (Cleaning a building)
8:45 Personal Study/ Prep (Change out of service clothes into a suit)
9:15 Class
11:30 Lunch
12:15 Gym/ Exercise
1:00 Shower/ Change
1:30 Class
3:00 Large Group Meeting
4:30 Dinner
5:15 Missionary Determined Time (MDT)
- He does choir so this takes up an hour of MDT
6:15 MDT (after choir)
6:45 Weekly Devotional (Inspirational Message by someone)
8:00 District Meeting
9:00 Planning Session with companion and daily review
9:30 Prep for bed/ Personal Study/ Companion Study
10:30 Lights out

so that schedule is just for his busy days.
Apparently they are treating him well there because he said that the food is great, better than WU. He's finally learning planning and organization skills lol there. Also he's learning to listen for God and finding him in life. They aren't making him learn how to ride a bike yet (but I'm sure it's in the works hehe... hopefully ^_^). He says he is taking lots of picture. So no worries, I'll post some of those on here when I receive them.

He misses everone and I'm sure he thought about all of us on his birthday!

Monday, June 29, 2009


The information for Elder DeGraw's mailbox # at the MTC that we initially received was changed. Here is the CORRECT info:

Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw

MTC Mailbox # 255

Washington Everett
2005 N 900 E

Provo, UT 84604-1793

We received our first letter from him on Sat. (Yay!!) It was written the night before he entered the MTC, so there really isn't anything to share yet. However, he abbreviated the name of the mission in the return address on the envelope:

WA - EVR 0714

... so I'm sure if you want to abbreviate it that way, it will still get to him. :D

I know he'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Ryan entered the MTC this morning! My sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew brought him. They called afterward so I'd know he had officially arrived. I immediately called Ray, told the other kids, and put it on Facebook and my blog.

Here is his address for the next little while:

Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw

MTC Mailbox # 294-0823

Washington Everett Mission

2005 N 900 E

Provo, UT 84604-1793

Using the complete address will facilitate delivery so he gets letters and packages more quickly.
I know he'd love to hear from any of you!

Also, for information's sake: No phone calls or visits are allowed. No hand deliveries are accepted for the missionaries. (Not a problem for most of us, since we aren't in hand delivery proximity!) Mail must come via USPS or commercial delivery services. No pizzas, fast foods, items needing refrigeration, or anything that is perishable.

Cookies, brownies, candy, etc are not only permitted, but thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated!! I've never heard of any missionary who didn't get excited about treats being sent in a package!! They frequently share with their companion or others.

Elder DeGraw/Elder Ryan will be very busy with initial training and classes. He will be able to write once a week - so don't be worried if it takes a little while to hear from him, especially at first. We will keep this blog updated with his news and experiences as he shares them!

Mrmn's mission has officially started!

PS: I have not used them, but a local company called offers homemade cookies and such, as well as printing out an emailed letter and delivering it to the MTC, pretty much same-day service. Many people have recommended this company. I am going to check it out, and thought I'd mention it in case any of you want to do so, as well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Figuratively Tapped on the Shoulder

The following quote was shared in a comment on my (Papa's) blog. I am posting it here as a tribute to Elder DeGraw's choice to serve a mission:

"To every man, there comes in his lifetime, that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents; What a tragedy if that moment should find him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour." -- Sir Winston Churchill

I believe "his finest hour" in his entire life is yet to come - and I hope it will include a very special young woman whom Mama and I love dearly for her willingness to support our son in this decision, but I also believe making the decision to serve this mission constitutes "his finest hour" thus far. I think his friends and "adopted family" have a great argument that he has had many "fine hours" up to this point, and I don't mean to diminsh ANY of the things he has done for others prior to his mission, but this is a major commitment that is not "natural" to him (that he had to view as a "chance offered" in order to do) - and it is that "tapping on the shoulder" by someone other than his friends and family (I believe, by God Himself) that I believe fits this quote so well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In the Beginning...

Ryan - a.k.a. Curtis, Mrmn, Citrus, etc - was set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, June 21. We will share some of the advice Ryan was given at that time in an upcoming post.

[Hmm, I think I'll let Papa explain the definitions of terms some of you might not know... I could try, but y'all honestly don't want me to sort out the muddle in my mind after such a busy day, weekend, week, and month...] (With that introduction, this is Papa. To avoid confusion, I will add all my comments in parentheses and write them in italics, in the grand tradition of S. Morgenstern. If you don't understand that reference, you haven't truly lived.)

(Being "set apart" means, in practical terms, to be given a particular responsibility through an official ordinance. In theory, it means to be removed from normal life in some way and "set apart" from that normalcy. When someone is set apart as a Sunday School teacher, for example, that person steps outside their normal life for an hour each week and teaches a class. When a missionary is set apart, that person steps outside their normal life for two years and focuses on living the life Jesus lived for the three years of His mortal ministry - teaching and serving others without distraction or other responsibilities.)

Being set apart marks the official beginning of Ryan serving as a missionary, although his missionary service of two years starts when he enters the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on Wed June 24. Missionaries are called Elders or Sisters, depending on gender. (Lunchbox, just for you, to be obvious and obnoxious, as Elder DeGraw would want me to be, the "Sisters" are the women. *grin*)

Elder DeGraw, or Elder Ryan (or Elder Mrmn or Citrus or whatever your preference is), flew out of Cincinnati today, Mon June 22. He arrived safely in Salt Lake City, where he was met by my brother-in-law, niece, and nephew. He will stay with them in Orem until Wed morning, when they will take him to the MTC.

I know his decision to serve a mission is hard for some of his friends to understand completely. Please set your skepticism aside as you are able, and don't doubt that RYAN made this choice to serve. He was not forced, coerced, or brainwashed. He has many compelling reasons NOT to serve. Believe me, if HE didn't want to do this, he WOULDN'T be!

(Mama is a bit emotional about this point, so please understand. There are so many misconceptions about missions - and really Mormons in general - that it's hard sometimes to just sit back and hear the stupid stuff that gets said. It's not a reflection on any of you, necessarily.)

Know that God will watch over him. That doesn't mean that he will not have challenges (He certainly will. My mission, in many ways, was the hardest things I've done - including attending Harvard while married and working full-time, but it was the most rewarding things I'd ever done. Marrying Mama changed that, but that's for a different post on a different blog.), but he is doing a good work. I know God blesses our best efforts to do good. (no matter what they are or in what context they are offered by anyone - Brett made a profound statement Sunday before Ryan was set apart. He mentioned, in essence, that a way to honor Ryan's effort to be the best person he could be and do the most good he could do would be to do the same thing in whatever way is possible in your own lives. It might not be a full-time mission for a church, but it can be something - even if only a more concerted, intentional effort.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Story So Far...

I will be serving as a missionary in the Washington (state, not DC) Everett Mission for 2 years starting on June 24th, 2009.

For the first 3 weeks I will be in Provo at:
Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
Provo MTC
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604

After the first 3 weeks, until I know my actual address, letters can be sent to the mission office here:
Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
Washington Everett Mission
PO Box 13390
Mill Creek, WA 98012

And packages can be sent to this address:
Elder Curtis Ryan DeGraw
Washington Everett Mission
16124 35th Ave SE
Mill Creek, WA 98012

Transfers happen every 6 weeks so my address could change between different 6 week periods, although not everyone transfers every time so I may end up in the same place for a long time.

I am also not 100% sure if I will have email access where I am (some Mission Presidents allow it, some regulate it more, some prefer not to have it so until I get there I won't be sure) so old-school letters would be the most effective no matter where I am but if I do end up in an area with email then you can send me those at: