Tuesday, June 25, 2013

home again home again jiggity jig...

It has been six weeks since we returned to 'our other life' and I cannot say the transition has been terribly smooth for me. Coming home to family was a wonderful experience-the adults have not changed significantly but the children....wow! It probably feels like a Rip Van Winkle moment-I fell asleep and they were all little and when I woke up to hug them, I needed to reach up for some and could actually carry on conversations with those who were babies when we left. The physical transition of being a senior couple returning from serving in a foreign land for 22 months was a cinch but the emotional and spiritual transition was a challenge. At least it was for me. 

As a missionary, our lives are very structured...we have a time to get up, things that we do routinely every morning and each day so full of plans that there is not much time for anything else. The country we served and the people we ministered to LOVED us and wanted us there. We were 'different'...we were 'the others'...we were needed and our talents were used. Coming home, everything was in limbo. No home, none of our 'things' that were familiar, no responsibility, no callings or stewardships, no routine that gave my spirit consistency of purpose. Who am I now? 

Before we left, we sold or gave away almost everything we owned in order to travel half way around the world and serve the Lord's children for two years. We became VERY unencumbered. Upon returning to 'our other life', we found ourselves really 'out of step' with the rest of the world. Our oldest son offered for us to live with them until we got our feet on the ground, found a place to live, got jobs if we chose to return to work, etc. and we really appreciate his generosity. However, returning to our former neighborhood [he bought the home we owned in Kaysville in 2003 when we moved to Omaha-we had lived here 11 years] we knew the lay of the land, the neighbors etc. The thing that we found, that really shouldn't have surprised me if I would have just thought it through, was that we were no longer part of the lives of these people, with the exception of our son and his family. The friends we had when we moved away in 2003 have gone on with their lives. Our son and his wife have friends and their own lives. We no longer 'fit in'. 

In addition to that, we no longer have the mantle of full-time missionaries and the spiritual help that responsibility gave to us and it was harder to get myself in sync with the Lord and His plans for us. The Holy Ghost was still there but it was much harder for me to hear. Too many distractions to the spirit and my routine. Consequently, I was out of step. I stumbled...I fell...I cried...I begged...I tried everything I knew to do to reclaim that missionary feeling and spirit and I was unable to call it back. My heart broke. I became very sullen and that is definitely NOT my personality. My family worried...they prayed...they tried to help but NOTHING would relieve my pain. I was in deep mourning...for my mission, for the spirit that so readily came to help me, sometimes without my even needing to ask, for my Filipino friends and the experiences that I had serving with them and I was also mourning the loss of my dear friend Kayleen. I had never lived in Utah without her. She was always there for me and me for her. When I was troubled in the past, she was my 'sounding board' and now, she was gone. So what did I do, you ask? I went to the temple. 

In our religion, we have church meetinghouses where we hold our Sunday services, weekly activities with the adults as well as the youth, and it belongs to the Lord. We have a totally 'lay' ministry so it is also our responsibility to keep the buildings clean and in good repair. We also have temples. They serve a totally different purpose and are not accessible to all members. In order to enter the temple, which is the literal 'House of the Lord', we must be worthy. All members and non-members alike are welcome and encouraged to attend the meetinghouse services but only members of our church who have passed a worthiness interview may enter the doors of the temple. The temple is the place where, in the past, I have received much personal revelation from my Father in Heaven and where I have felt His peace and presence. I needed that last week. I went to the temple. I stayed for hours and when I left, I had a new view on my life-I knew that He was really there and that He was in charge and had a plan...I just need to 'keep on keeping on' and soon I would know His plan for me. I smiled again...I laughed and I thanked Him for His loving embrace that brought me out of the funk that had surrounded me for weeks.

We still do not have a home...we do not have 'our stuff' from the storage facility in Omaha...we do not have jobs [and not sure we even want them] however, we DO have a plethora of priceless memories and friendships, we DO have a lifetime of joyful experiences that will sustain us for the rest of our earthly sojourn. The one question you might want to ask me at this point-'Knowing everything that you know now and the difficulty YOU have had coming home, would you have still decided to serve?' To that question I have one resounding answer:


There is NOTHING in this world that I would ever change about serving a mission-NOTHING!!! It was the most marvelous and priceless experience and has helped me personally to grow spiritually, helped me to better understand the Atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ, helped me to become more patient with myself and my companion but the most important thing-it has helped me, as a daughter of my Father in Heaven, to feel HIS influence in my life and to know, without a doubt, that I am really HIS daughter...that He really knows me personally and knows my sorrows and joys.

His desire for me is happiness and He has put a plan in place for me to achieve that. He also has that plan for you. His wish is for each of us to follow His plan and return to Him when our earthly test is finished. This experience was part of MY test-for most senior couples, they won't have to pass this mission transition part but for me, this was critical for MY eternal salvation. For most, it is not difficult. For some, it is a little harder. For all, it is possible.

All of that said, I do need to share with you all my final post for this blog and have, with pictures, prepared a little 'show and tell' of our re-entry into our families lives. It has been such fun seeing the children and grandchildren and becoming 'Meemaw and Grandpa again'. Enjoy!!

Our plane landed and we made our way through the maze of the airport to be greeted by a glorious sight-FAMILY!!!

Our view from the top of the escalator

What a marvelous sight!
All were invited to Cristin's house [our oldest daughter] for visiting and eats. The yellow balloons were on her mailbox as well as on the stop signs all the way between our son's home and her home.

The banner they had at the airport-it was signed by all of the family.
Later that day, after a few hours to visit, I wanted to go visit our Emma, our little granddaughter who is buried in Kaysville. She died at the age of 8 months. Some of her cousins wanted to join me to bring balloons to that sweet little grave.

Last spring Rob and Chip embraced a new hobby-remote controlled airplanes! There is a back story to this-when Chip was a little fella, probably late elementary school, his dad bought him a remote controlled airplane for his birthday. Chip was SO excited-jumping up and down and wanting to fly it immediately. As fathers are prone to do, Randy wanted to 'show him' how to operate the new toy and as Chip was watching in awe, with excitement in his eyes, he watched as his dad drove it to soar high above them and then, inadvertently, brought it to a crashing halt 10 feet in front of Chip, nose down and literally strewn across the cul-de-sac. Tears were shed and he no longer had his birthday gift. 

Chip grew up, graduated from high school, then college, taught for a few years and at the age of almost 30 and the father of five children and one on the way, he decided to go to Law School.  It was a major accomplishment for him and Stephanie. We were so proud of him and his little family. When he graduated and received his J.D., his dad bought him a graduation gift-a very expensive remote controlled airplane! We all laughed, he thanked us and put it on a shelf-he had six small children at the time and his 'play time' was very limited..thus, he eventually sold it to a law school friend and went on with the more important things that were occupying his life. He needed to get a job, find a place to live, pass the bar, etc.


Both Chip and Rob purchased one, then two and now they each own three of differing sizes and capabilities. Living close to an open area is critical for this new adventure and the nearby school yard is the perfect place to 'play with their new toys'. 

Can you see the plane above his head? He has become very skilled at flying this baby.

Both he and Rob are very good at doing minor repairs if needed...a perfect male-bonding
activity for these men.
Chip, knowing Randy's 'fascination' with remote controlled airplanes [teehee] took him and wanted to share this new hobby with his dad. I was thrilled-up until now Randy has had NO hobbies and retirement was a worry for me. What would he do all day? Our middle son Todd came for Father's Day and the four men had fun playing 'little boys' together. Todd was a natural and although he had no previous experience with the airplanes, took to the sky and was on the way. For Father's Day, the three boys and their two sisters combined their money and gave their dad a remote controlled airplane of his own. HE WAS THRILLED AND SO SURPRISED!!!  He will have many fun hours flying with the boys I am sure.

His maiden voyage with his new toy

The 'Pit Crew'
There were two families not present at the airport when we arrived-Todd and his girls [who live in Kansas] and Kim and her family [who live in Texas]. Todd decided to come for Father's day and will be talked about later but Kim, who is expecting a little addition to their family any day now, was not able to travel so we flew out to see them on the 3rd of June.

 We found a 'water-logged' group of people!! They are ALL swimmers and the two oldest kids have joined a swim team
where they have both earned many ribbons and awards. Kim has volunteered to be a 'stroke judge' for the meets and it has definitely become a family affair. It was so fun for us to attend one of their meets as well as the daily practices. Living in Texas definitely looks good on this little family.

Our Texas Group!!

Elliott is 'looking the part' even if he is still too young to participate in team swimming.

That cute pregnant judge is my baby girl...

The cheering section

Seth in the backstroke event

Amelia 'getting ready' for her take off...

And mama Kim during the 'judge/coach/parent' event. She was cheered on by all for
her participation at 8 months pregnant.

However it was not all about the water-we had fun playing games with the kids too..

Todd and the girls arrived by vehicle the evening we returned to Utah by plane. It was so good to see them and many fun times occurred. 

Cristins' boyfriends family has a cabin in the mountains and he made arrangements for us to have a mini-reunion with those who live close by. It was very kind of them to host our Father's Day weekend and we all had a grand time. The cabin was built in the 1940's and is what most of us picture in our minds when we think of a 'cabin in the woods'.  I think it could sleep at least 30 people and is located in the most peaceful little glen. A marvelous time!

Here are some fun random shots of our great little respite in our busy lives.

Todd being 'photo bombed' by KC, Michelle and Terry

Bruce, his daughter Sarah and Cristin having a little fun

On a bridge over a little creek

Group shot of all of the attendees from our family except KC...not sure why she missed
this shot

Some taking a hike

Rob grabbing a piece of nature

Investigating an old structure

Todd and his family

Jackson [Cristin's third son] with Randy and Cristin

Mama and her girl

Bruce and Nic playing a little horse shoes

A rousing game of volleyball with adults vs the kids

This is a random cousin shot that occurred the night after Todd's family arrived.
All in all, it was a great reunion with all of our family. We met Gavin, who was born when we were in the Philippines, we became reacquainted with Cameron and Elliott, who only knew us from SkyPe as they were babies when we left. The teenagers have all grown up so much and we had a marvelous time interacting with all of our family...except one. Jacob. He is Chip's oldest son and is studying at Columbia University in New York City. This summer, he is working an internship at a law practice and also took his Debate Team [that he coached this past year] to nationals in Alabama. He is one busy boy and we actually won't be reunited with him until Christmas. 

Being in the Philippines was a huge sacrifice for us but it was SO worth it. We made eternal friendships and those glorious saints have left their footprints on our hearts for eternity. I told you about the Gabaldon family many times and last month, I posted the pictures that were taken on the temple grounds the day after their family was eternally sealed. Well...here is the rest of the story!

Meet Shaner Gabaldon...she was born in June [I don't have the actual date/time/weight or any other specifics] and she is a beautiful little girl. Brother and Sister Gabaldon told us they wanted to name their baby after us but I had no idea they would use our family name-thought maybe Cheri or Randy but Shaner Gabaldon is what they chose. Not sure if they are nicknaming her or just calling her Shaner but her older sister [my Facebook friend] reports that she is healthy, happy and very content. Mama and baby are doing fine. I think a quilt will be in their future...

Within our first week back in the US, we attended the funeral of my dear friend Kayleen. She was talked about in my last post. Their family has a funeral tradition that I had only seen once before-at our granddaughter, Emma's funeral in 2003. This 'release' is an activity that I love and totally embrace-at the end of the graveside service, they release balloons into the heavens to signify the connection of heaven and earth. It is, to them and us, like sending little messages to their dearly departed and a physical reminder of the distance that now separates them.

I looked at these balloons as they drifted away and remembered the marvelous experiences I have had this past two years with the most glorious culture of people 16,000 miles away. There have been happy times, sad times, fun times, funny times, strange times, but most of all, wonderful times! I would not change one second of that time and will always remember them when I see balloons-they are far away from me but forever in my heart. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The beginning of the end...

Ever since I was a little girl, I have heard the saying 'all good things must come to an end' and I never could have imagined the impact that saying would have on my life. It was just a saying...a thought that someone had expressed at one time and it became a familiar by-word, meaning...all things must end. A few weeks ago, the most incredible experience of my life ended and one of the most precious friendships of my life passed through the veil of death. I wept...my heart broke...I accepted and I packed. 

Kayleen at our 'farewell' July 31, 2011
Over twenty years ago we moved into a little brick home in Kaysville, Utah next door to one of the most amazing women I have ever had the blessing to meet, Kayleen Scoville. We became fast friends and because of that friendship, my life will be forever changed. Over the past twenty years, we traveled together, walked together, laughed together, cried together, learned together, taught together and in short, we became inseparable friends. 

In the spring of 2004, she experienced a life-changing car accident. At first, it appeared to be just another fender bender but within a couple of years, it was apparent that it was a more serious event than the professionals had earlier thought. Because of a family propensity to Alzheimer's, the sideways impact of the accident brought on 'early onset Alzheimer's Disease' and on the 3rd of May, at the age of 62, it finally took it's toll on her earthly tabernacle. Because of the miracle of modern technology, I was with her and her sweet family at the time of her passing. Both Elder Shaner and I were to be involved in the final celebration of her marvelous life and on the following Friday, May 10th, our Philippine adventure ended as we headed home. A VERY bittersweet day for us. 

Now I am here to tell you that having 10 days to finalize two years worth of experiences, friendships, responsibilities and STUFF is a HUGE task! That being said, it was probably a true blessing in disguise. We were so incredibly busy and without the help of the marvelous sisters in the Cabatuan Branch, we would have never gotten ourselves ready. The week was spent packing and shipping boxes then we visited the members, our dear friends, for a final time in their homes to read scriptures, have prayer and to have our final hugs. Being in the Philippines for almost two years and being a 'sentimental saver', we really had the stuff to sort through but one week and seven boxes shipped later, we were ready to rumble.

To try to list the blessings we experienced in the Philippines would take a lifetime. Serving in the most beautiful country with the most amazing culture of people has been such a tremendous blessing for us both personally and spiritually. Many hours were spent during that two years working with members, investigators, inactive members and that was one part of the work that we truly loved. There were three individual families that we worked with, and that you have all heard about in the past, that I would love to tell you about today.

Upon arriving in 2011, President Carlos assigned us to the Roxas District and within our first week in the Philippines, we were introduced to Elders Naylor and Lucernas. They were the Zone Leaders in that district and became our 'training' Elders. We had NO idea what we were doing and they quickly had us involved and busy. 
Family #1------
A few weeks earlier they had begun teaching a widow named Sister Nenita Ulep. Her teenage son had been baptized earlier that spring as well as a married son and daughter. We immediately became involved in her discussions. If you are a longtime follower of this blog you will remember my post about breaking her chair and crashing to the floor of her home-one of my finer moments. We have remained close to her, getting hugs whenever we can. That teenage son became Elder Ulep last year and is currently serving in the Davao Mission.

Family #2------
The Diaz Family were also in the Zone Leaders area and we became involved in trying to help them become an eternal family, a goal the mother and children had for many years. We held Family Home Evenings, lessons, dinners, etc. at their home, always trying to touch their father's heart and encourage him to give up his 'issues' and join his family in church activity. Many men have problems with needing to work on the Sabbath Day and he was no exception. Working on the Sabbath is sometimes a necessity but oft times, it is just an excuse. NOT working on the Sabbath is a true act of faith-it has been proven time and time again that if we will just have the faith to follow the Lord and keep his commandments, blessings will pour down on us and we will be eternally blessed. The Diaz family wanted those blessings but the father just didn't have the faith.

Family #3-----------
The last year of our mission, you all know we were in charge of the apartments for the missionaries. That job was a huge responsibility and we absolutely LOVED it-the interaction with the young missionaries, the shopping and finding the best deals for the supplies that would be needed, meeting and negotiating with the great landlords, and having the opportunity to see all the different parts of this beautiful mission. What a great experience. Anyway...

While hunting for a new and upgraded apartment for the sister missionaries in Roxas, we became acquainted with Sister Gabaldon. She had an apartment that she really wanted us to rent and as we met with her and saw it, we realized that it would be a great blessing for the sisters to live in this awesome home-we rented it on the spot! The Zone Leaders were the ones to tell us about this apartment because they knew Sister Gabaldon by name-she was an inactive member of their branch! We met with her and realized that she was a caring and wonderful woman, just temporarily 'off track'. As we left, Elder Shaner, the bold man that he had become, said..'Sister...we understand you are an inactive member of our church. Why?'  She blushed and hesitated. 'Come back, sister. WE need you and YOU need us!!'

Well....she went home and talked to her family. Her husband, her teenage daughter and son and her little guy all agreed to accompany her to church the following Sunday because she was scared and didn't want to go alone. She told them if they didn't like it they would never have to go again. THEY ALL LOVED IT!!! The family started the discussions [which we were involved in again] and about 6 months later they were all baptized. She is now our District Relief Society President and he is a counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency of their branch.

WWEELLLLLL...........our 'payday' of our mission was on May 9th, the day before we left our mission, when they all went to the Manila Temple and were sealed as families. We wished we could have been there that day but because of previous commitments and the flight schedule of departing flights from Cauayan City, we were not there. However, we did meet them all on the temple grounds the following afternoon and had pictures taken before they started the van ride back to Roxas. 

The Galbaldon Family

The Diaz Family

Sister Ulep with President Munoz and his daughter Alyssa
The entire group of Roxas saints.
If you will look at the picture above, you will see [minus us] the group that traveled overnight, 12 hours in an unairconditioned ten passenger van to attend the Manila Temple [there were actually four more who were not here yet for the picture]. These people are so faithful-I know many saints in the wards in the US who have a twenty minute car ride to their local temple and never find the time for the Lord...shame on us!!

Before they took off, we took them all to KFC [the Filipino FAVORITE American restaurant] for some dinner and fellowship. We love these people-they are the finest in the Lord's kingdom. Faithful...humble...caring...loving...willing to do just about anything to help further the work of the Lord. They are missed terribly!

In my almost 65 years I have done many hard things. Growing up in the 50's and 60's was such a different life-I watch my children and their children now and they have their struggles also. They are very different than the struggles we faced but they are struggles none the less. I am grateful that two precious friends, Kathie and Bill, were brave and bold enough to share this beautiful gospel with us. Our lives are forever changed because they loved us enough. This past two years our lives have been forever changed again by the experiences and blessings we have received by serving our Father in Heaven in the most glorious country in the world, with the most clever and humble culture of people that were ever created.  Leaving our little Mallig Branch was one of the hardest things we had to do. I read a saying one time that is so apropos here..."Some people come into our lives and quickly go...some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, EVER the same."

We love you, our precious friends, and our lives will never be the same as we cherish the times we spent with you, our brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our precious Mallig Branch

                      and we bid you adieu and God speed...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Only in the Philippines!!

You have all seen my 'Only in the Philippines' posts before and know the reasoning behind them but if you are a first time follower to this blog, I will quickly recap the background to these fun pictures.

Being raised a mid-western girl and never having visited abroad much in my life, I have found myself truly intrigued with this glorious country. Living in this tropical environment among some of the Lord's choicest children, in a country racked with poverty, sickness, and sometime untimely death [as you have read about in this blog in the past], it has been such a great learning experience for me-I have never had the experience of visiting a Third World Country before and to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about this adventure. Having my 'best friend' at my side, we just packed our bags and came with faith. Isn't faith how each of us commonly live our lives? If you knew 'back then' the things you know now, would you have made the same choices? Probably not and that is why faith in the Savior and His plan is so essential to our successful earthly tests. That said, this country is definitely an experience in faith for me and I have LOVED every minute of my interactions with these wonderful people.

Our mission is coming to a close and I want to share one last 'Only in the Philippines' post...enjoy!

This is a true 'free loader'...the motorcycle is apparently out of gas and is
freeloading a ride with a trycie

They use vinyl banners for everything, including advertising of new
health care options outside of local hospitals and if there
is a breeze, never fear-the banner is properly weighted down with
a water bottle full of dirt!  Clever people...

One of my favorite things here is seeing the people taking a break/nap in
their hammocks. We see them hanging in trees, under porches, inside their
homes dangling from the rafters, or sometimes even on the move-this
fella is having a little snooze as he travels down the road.

This hot tropical climate encourages frequent swims in the nearby rivers
and streams-here an entire family is cooling off before returning to their
daily chores.

I have told you how incredibly clever these folks are-they can build or fix ANYTHING!!!
This young man needed a toy and built this whirlygig push toy from empty
soup cans, a piece of bamboo and a lot of imagination. The helicopter blades
actually turn as he pushes it along.
We live in a small town called Cabatuan and every Monday morning, the entire staff of city workers gather at 8:00 a.m. for a flag raising ceremony, the singing of the national anthem and a reverent moment of silent prayer. The entire city stops for that 20 minutes and all workers are required to attend. Policemen stop all traffic on the highway in front of the city offices and respect is shown for their country. What would happen in our country if we still had that kind of respect and love of country?

My bi-weekly shopping trip to the Palengke brings me such great produce-and this
little trip cost me about $8 US currency...

And we all share the roads with the cows...notice how the locals just are not at
all surprised or affected?

Elder Shaner's 'twins' I have never seen this before coming to the Philippines. In
America these must be 'culled out'
As we begin to wind down our time in this glorious country, we are sad to be leaving such a beautiful Garden of Eden setting. Everyday brings such beautiful scenery and experiences. Our adjustment was not long upon arriving but we know our adjustment in returning to our home country will be much more difficult. We will miss these wonderful people-they are so happy, humble, and such a great example of the Lord's ability to help people 'bloom where they are planted'. They do not know any different and revel in the great lives they have been given-wish more of their attitudes would rub off on me!