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.|
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.|
|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.
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|
|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|
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.