My mother kept asking me to come home for Christmas (My family celebrates Christmas on January 7th). I finally decided to grant her the wish. We had a new couple come to serve in the office and they arrived on December 14th. So, I had spent some time training Sister Cates and felt that there is no reason for me to be there any longer.
The last few weeks have been crazy with me trying to pack and also do what needs to be done in the office. But, I finally feel comfortable about leaving.
For the first time I feel good about going home. I know that it is where Heavenly Father wants me to be at this time. Many have asked me what I plan to do when I return and my answer is, I don't know. I plan to spend time with my mother and my family and serve wherever I am needed. But, I am not making long-term plans yet.
It has been an amazing year. I don't know how else to describe it. I grew in ways that I didn't think were possible. I have felt the spirit stronger and more frequently and it has been great. My faith grew and my testimony grew.
My mission president released me on Saturday. He told me that it will be effective as soon as I am on Palestinian soil.
I left at 8:30 on Sunday and got to Jordan in the evening. It was hard to drag two big suitcases. I thought my arms are going to fall off. We passed over Palestine and I wished I could land there, I would have been home by now resting in my own bed. But, since Palestinians are not allowed to land in Tel-Aviv, I have to go to Jordan.
My district president told me to take off my badge once I get on the plane. I took my badge off and felt naked. Then when I got to Jordan and was looking for the bus to go to the hotel, the bus driver asked where I was going after I spend the night at the hotel. I said 'to Palestine'. The guy next to him looked at my badge and said 'no she's not going to Palestine'...That is when I realized that my coat badge was still on. I was wondering why everyone was staring at me. To avoid further questions as missionaries are not allowed in Jordan, I took it off.
The trip on the bridge was not as bad as I thought. I gave a lot of tips and so many helped me carry my suitcases. I made it home in 5 hours from Jordan. My friend asked: "if you had enough money, can you pay a taxi to take you all the way from Jordan?" Ya, you won't understand the bridge crossing until you actually cross it I guess. At one point on the way, we all get off the bus and leave all our bags on the bus. Then an Israeli soldier goes up on the bus and looks under all the seats. What is he looking for? People? We are all outside, bags? there is lots of them. Don't get it...
My mom was shocked. She looked at me not believing her eyes and said 'what are you doing here?' The surprise to my sisters did not work because I found out that I lost my drivers license and did not want to drive and surprise them. So, I called...They all thought it was the best Christmas gift I could have given them. Sheesh, now all those gifts I filled my suitcases with were useless!? I could have brought more clothes. I gave away 10 boxes and a suitcase full of stuff...But, really it was stuff that I wore for a whole year. I was so sick and tired of my clothes.
I was hit with reality as soon as I got home. Things are So different here. People are so different. I have been away for so long that I had forgotten. There are no trees, I miss the England grass and trees already...People here have so many challenges that others may not be aware of. And cars drive on the RIGHT side of the road. Oh my, I never thought driving on the right would be scary...But, I will adjust in a day or two =) Ok, I am going to get some sleep. I have not slept for two days...I'll write more another time...
My homecoming talk is on Saturday at 4:30 pm in the Bethlehem group...all are invited.
Here are some pictures I took the last few days in England.
Sunrise at the temple the day I left:
I realized I never took a picture with President and Sister Millar when I arrived. So, I had them go to the visitors' center and we took a picture together.
Sister Adams prepared a nice farewell dinner for us. It was nice to spend time with everyone.
We had a small gathering at the Visitors' center afterwards and had desert. Sister Walmsley and sister Stewart sang for us and it was amazing as usual. Everyone was crying (as the Carpenters and Sister Namutamba were leaving as well).
The Porters took us out to Charlie's Choice one last time. I had to take pictures there to remember the place.
The Adams took us out to the Thai lounge one last time as well. I had their dumplings as a starter and they were amazing!
At the Visitors' center with the nativity display...