We've covered all the bases. In July 2011, we were called to serve two missions, and at that time 2 1/2 years seemed like a very, very long time to be away from our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our home, and the life we knew. With a fair amount of anxiety, we left home plate and we ran the bases, and now we're back where we started again, feeling the thrill of a finishing the challenge, having done the best we could. Could we have done more? Of course. Are there things we could have done better? Absolutely. But did we serve with all our heart, might, mind and strength? Yes. It's an exhilarating feeling to look back now, with love and gratitude, on all the amazing experiences we had. God has been so good to us these past 2 1/2 years. Having hoped our service would somehow begin to "repay" Him for all He had previously blessed us with, we are now only further in His debt.
We LOVED both of our missions! It was one of the best decisions we ever made to get out of ourselves and let God direct us to go where He wanted us to go. We felt His guidance. It's a habit we hope to continue for the rest of our lives, because we've experienced the joy that it brings to anyone who will trust Him and serve Him.
In many ways, our hearts are still in the United Kingdom. Not a day goes by that we don't think about all the people and places in England that we love. We catch ourselves wondering what is going on the the Visitors' Centre throughout the day. Sometimes we even find that we have to remind ourselves that we're in the U.S.A. It still surprises us once in awhile. When we watched Downton Abbey this week on TV (a luxury we occasionally indulged while we were on our mission) it seemed really weird not to be sitting in England where the drama takes place. We lived just twenty minutes away from the train depot and steam locomotive that are used in the filming.
Although a part of us hasn't arrived home yet, we've already been home three weeks now, and we are LOVING being home again. Everything we cherish about our family and our home seems sweeter after our absence. We aren't taking anything for granted. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for every little thing. It's a joy to spend time with our family. It's a joy to move back into our house (though we've found we don't need half the stuff that's in it after all). It's a joy to be able to pick up the phone and call an old friend without wondering what the time difference is and dialing 25 numbers to get an oversees rate on the call. It's a joy to know where to find products we're familiar with in the grocery and/or drug store. It's a joy to find out that we can still drive on the right side of the street (I was afraid of that adjustment) though we have to consciously think which side of the car to climb into. And it's a joy to be able to talk to our daughters any old time we want to!
We are still adjusting, trying to create the next chapter of our lives. It may take some time. In the spirit of several previous posts, I would like to offer some advice about returning home from a senior mission. Here are some of the things we've learned so far about L.A.M. (or Life After Missions):
#1 - Part of our hearts haven't come home with us. We still care about the people we learned to love so much and we think about them every.single.day. Luckily, technology works in the opposite direction. Those same connections that helped you keep in touch with family during your mission will help you keep in touch with new friends after your mission.
#2 - Things here have changed. There are a lot of physical changes all around us. Even though everything is familiar, nothing is the same. It's another full and complete international move, though not nearly as stressful as starting over again. Re-entering the world at home is much easier than finding your way away around your mission field when you first arrived. Time moved on without us and we are just working to catch up. People have changed, too. Two years makes a big difference in the appearance of others (which makes us wonder how much older we look). Children have changed the most. We find ourselves searching for some familiar feature that will identify them on their much taller frames. Exciting!
#3 - It's time to de-junk. It's quite common for returned senior missionaries to discover they don't need nearly as many belongings as they thought they did. A lot of what we left behind is still in boxes and will stay there for a few more weeks until we sort through and give/throw a lot of it away. If we didn't need it for 2 1/2 years, we probably don't need it now. A fresh start in an organized house is a good thing!! We plan to have a big garage sale in the spring and sell or give away what we no longer need. There's no doubt it will take that long to go through all our stuff and sort it.
#4 - It's easy to over plan when you first arrive home. So many people to see. So many things to do -- like doctors' appointments, driver's license renewals, setting up insurance, and changing, fixing and updating things you own. After a whirlwind homecoming week, we both came down with bad colds. Time to consciously slow down a little. Too bad we didn't figure that out before our bodies called it quits :)
#5 - Our most important focus is on the people we love. The projects may have to wait. Good advice anytime.
#6 - Friends and family are precious! We really cherish every moment we have with them right now. Even if you think you already appreciated your blessings, they will mean even more when you come home from a mission. We aren't taking anything for granted now. We feel so much love and appreciation.
#7 - There are only a few things that are really important in life. To have the knowledge and perspective that the gospel of Jesus Christ gives about what is really important is a blessing beyond measure. It is a source of peace and strength, no matter what happens to you in life. Our understanding of truth, commitment to our Savior, and love for Him has grown so rich and deep as we have served. We will continue to serve, for that is how we learn to know Him better.
#8 - It's time for another goal planning session. As we flew home, somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, we took some time to talk about what is really most important to us and what we want to accomplish as we head into this next chapter of our lives. We've learned firsthand that when we set goals together and write them down, we tend to accomplish most of them, even if we misplace the paper we wrote on. We've been known to find a list of goals ten or more years later and marvel at the way we had already accomplished them just because they were commitments we had made to ourselves, each other, and to God.
#9 - All that time that went so slowly on our mission seems like a bleep on the radar screen now. It makes us realize that we must consciously live each and every day - in day-tight compartments. Good days come and go. So do bad days. Concentrating on the day at hand is the only way to get the most out of it. One thing is always certain: This, too, shall pass.
#10 - We get to keep everything we learned and experienced while we were gone. All those people, places and experiences that we were a part of have changed us. We are not the same people we were when we left. The memories are ours to keep, and they'll go with us wherever we go from now on. The same is true for the people, places and experiences that lie ahead. It's wonderful to look back, but we also look forward to the future.
President Gordon B. Hinckley summed it up for us several years ago. Oh, how we miss him! He could sure put things in perspective. He spent a lot of time in England, too - but he was referring to life in general when he quoted Jenkin Lloyd Jones: "Life is like an old time rail journey... delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally with beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."
Thank you, Lord! ~ Don and Pat ~
|Our growing family - January 2014|