Monday, January 13, 2014

Mission Accomplished

There's No Place Like Home, There's No Place Like Home... but where is home???  We wondered off and on while we lived in the U.K. how we would adapt to returning to the U.S. after being away so long. To live away from home for 2 1/2 years means that your new home becomes home, and your old home isn't anymore. It didn't take a week to build our second nest in England (see Aug. 1, 2011 and Jan. 23, 2012 blog posts), but build it we did and we settled ourselves in and wrapped our hearts around the whole United Kingdom.We were comfortable and content in our new life. Though we were excited to return and see our old friends and family in Utah, in the end it was really hard to let go of the people and places in England that we have learned to love so much.

Looking back, I am convinced that it was harder to come home than it was to leave on our mission! We always knew that, God willing, we would be with our kids and grandkids again, but now we have a whole new group of people who we love dearly and we don't know if or when we will ever see them again. For many weeks before we left England, it felt like part of our hearts were being ripped out. It was rough!

I shouldn't have worried! Texts, Skype, emails, Instagram and Facebook to the rescue! We are already finding that leaving England doesn't mean that we have to leave those we love after all. All those technological advances we relied on in England will work just as well when we're home as they did with our friends and family while we were gone. And now our lives are filled with many more people to love. What an amazing blessing it is to live in the 21st Century!!!

Now we are home! It seems like a dream! During our mission, especially during the first few months, I looked forward to the end and how it would be to go home to our family, but when the end actually came, it was surreal - like we were watching it on an old newsreel in a theater. It happened soooooo fast! It is true that a mission starts out slow, but every day of a mission goes a little faster, until at the end it seems that everytime you blink it's a new day.

Heathrow Airport

After our "Why I Believe" fireside on Sunday night, the Adams and the Horsleys were kind enough to drive us to our hotel near Heathrow Airport. Our flight Monday morning, January 6th, was so early that we didn't want them to have to get up at 3 a.m. to get us there. Turns out, we could have taken our time. Our flight was cancelled! After spending 6 hours in the airport Monday morning listening to updates, we were informed that our flight was cancelled due to a malfunction in the plane's weather radar system. We were rebooked to fly out the next day. Actually, I thought United Airlines handled the whole experience really, really well. We were all given rooms in the Radisson Hotel nearby, with vouchers for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning. Coaches were hired to take us back and forth with our luggage. (This was definitely not a good flight to take with 6 pieces of luggage and 2 backpacks between us, but oh well....) I have to say that we were completely exhausted and really needed another good night's sleep before taking off for home, so it turned out to be a bonus for us!

Leaving London in the rain...


Tuesday morning, January 7th, we finally flew out of London and arrived at Dulles outside Washington, D.C. just before noon.  It was FABULOUS to walk off the plane and see Amy standing there! We drove with her past our old stomping grounds from our first mission - the Centreville Stake Center, the apartment where we lived, George Mason University, and into Washington, D.C.  After a stop at their new apartment in Alexandria, she took us with her to pick up Colin at Andrews AFB, then we drove back to Alexandria to meet Corby, Suzanne and Megan Campbell for dinner. Such fun!! So much to talk about in so little time!

Wednesday afternoon, January 8th, Amy dropped us off at Reagan National for the final leg of our trip. We joined three tall, handsome young elders returning home to Salt Lake on the same flight.  All of us were trying to come to terms with the reality that our missions were ending and real life was about to begin again. Such mixed feelings of sadness, anticipation and excitement!

When we arrived in Salt Lake, one of the flight attendants made an announcement welcoming us back home after 2 1/2 years out of the country. (Thanks, Iain!) Iain (Jenn's husband) was waiting for us as we stepped off the plane into the jetway. Hugs and smiles all around! It helped our anxiety level to walk the long distance from the plane to the baggage claim area with him! And then we were there at the top of the escaltor where we have watched so many returning missionaries before us descend to their families. It was a great moment!!!  I thought I would sob, but all I could do was grin! We were just so happy to see everybody standing there waiting for us!

They made us cross their finish line and there were posters and balloons everywhere and hugs all around. A moment in time that we will always remember!

Love, love, love this family (+Amy and Colin).

When I was in my 20's, I made a little handwritten sign that read, "This, too, shall pass."  I posted on the fridge and it stayed there for several years. At the time, I was struggling with infertility and it would be many years before that pain was healed, but the day eventually did come and even though it truly seemed at times that the struggle would never end, it did.

Everything eventually passes.

We LOVE being home again. We LOVED both of our missions! It was one of the best decisions we ever made to get out of ourselves and spend our time serving God and serving others, though I'm not gonna lie. There were days when it was too hard, we were too tired, or too overwhelmed, or too sick, or too homesick to appreciate the blessings at the moment. In the balance, though, all those hard times combined with all the joyous times made for a spectacular experience! Missionary work is a front row seat to daily miracles. Miracles for us, for our family, for other missionaries, and for the honest seekers of truth we met and came to love so much. We loved sitting on the front row and watching it all unfold.

Don and I are so grateful to God for the opportunity to serve two missions. There were times when our health would not have permitted it and we wondered if we would ever be able to fulfill the desire we had had since we were a young married couple, but after much patience and great blessings, we were able to go. It has been a gift from God to be able to serve, and we give God all the credit. It's a curious thing to watch what happens when you try to give something to God. You think you are serving to give something back to Him and show your appreciation for all He has given you - but then He blesses you even more. You can never get even with God!                                                    ~Pat~

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