Monday, December 30, 2013

Some ends and some beginnings

It is 4 a.m.  The world is still sleeping, it is dark outside and there is white snow covering the earth, and trees.  I am sitting in our quiet, dark kitchen in a sweatshirt, sweat pants, hat, long socks and a blanket trying to fight off the bitter cold that has become so foreign to my body.  My fingers haven't gotten warm since I landed in the Salt Lake City airport three days ago.  Everything around me is still - but my thoughts wander to a small city off the coast of Bagasbas beach; a world away from where I am now that is wide awake. The people there are in the late part of the afternoon. I think of them and my heart swells a little bit with love.


The past few days have been a blur of smiling and hugging, feelings of joy and excitement from seeing family and friends; those individuals whom I have been so distant from for so long. But there are other feelings; there is the loss and the pain that I feel from losing others that I love so much.  I keep looking at the tall ceilings of our home or the three soft pillows on my bed wondering if it was all real.  Did I really live in the Philippines? Everything here is so different from the world I left behind: hot showers, the electricity doesn't randomly go out, I am not a giant, and doing the wash takes only moments.  It seems that nearly everything has changed.

Last Friday morning I placed all of my things in my Mission Presidents car and they drove me to the small one room airport.  They hugged me, shook my hand and wished me luck.  I boarded the small plane and took my seat feeling slightly alone heading for a city (Manila) which I knew nothing about but I felt a little grateful that at least this time I could speak the language.  We fastened our seat belts and listened to the flight attendant instruct us in Tagalog about the flying safety procedures.  It was as though only a few months ago I was on that same plane flying into Naga. Staring out the small oval window I looked down at the miles and miles of green rice fields and hills of coconut trees. I remember wondering about the people that lived in the midst of all that green, their lives and their stories.  I remember hoping they would be accepting of a tall blond Sister who spoke very little of their language but who was going to try to love them and to serve them.  As the airplane moved higher into the air I watched the fields and the trees and the people with their stories who now I did love very much grow smaller and smaller.  I put my face into my hands and let the tears run freely.

It has truly felt like Christmas seeing friends and loved ones again.  I don't seem to be able to hug my parents enough, and I also can seem to put enough layers of clothing on. It's freezing.  Everything seems the same in some ways, but in others, it is completely different.  Time is funny that way I guess.  As I lay in bed this morning I thought about this new world I am in now. I was running the same questions over and over in my mind of how to find balance; how to merge my two worlds.  How do I keep the memories and the feelings of Naga alive and real in my memory? How do I strive to feel the Gift of the Holy Ghost directing me every day now that the name tag and the perfectly planned schedules are gone? And where do I go from here?

In Bruce C. Hafen's book. "The Broken Heart" he quotes Anne Lindbergh in saying, "I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. if suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers.  To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."

So I guess that would be the secret. That is the formula. I must continue to place myself in situations that are not comfortable, that push me, remaining open and vulnerable.  One point, this dear miss Lindbergh did not mention though is that in order for this formula to be truly successful and to answer my concerns I must be vulnerable as I submit to small bits of guidance from my Father in Heaven.  This makes perfect sense because that is what a mission is, a 24/7 experience miles away from the comfort zone.  And as we pray and study the scriptures and serve and love, we find fulfillment and joy; placing ourselves in the refining fire over and over again.  It is easy to write about doing this but much harder to do.  Even only being home for a few days I can see how easy it could be to just slip back into life, as if nothing had happened.  So now the challenge will be to continue to push myself out of that comfort zone; staying vulnerable and fighting the urge of ease... the urge to slip back into the world and go with the crowd. It will take discipline and determination to continue to seek out my Father in Heaven and do his will.  These are the ways I will always remember and how the memories will stay vivid.

My heart is truly full of gratitude this week as we celebrate the life of our Savior.  I am grateful for the gospel that leads us in the direction of becoming more like Him.  and I will forever be grateful for the 18 months of my life that I was able to learn of my Savior and to share his warmth and light.  Merry Christmas and Happy 2014!

              Its good to be home.

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