My Whirlwind Romance Part VII ” This decision is easy”

It was Sunday and after church Joseph and I went to his uncle’s house. This was the house that Joseph grew up in.  As the boda boda pulled into the yard, and I saw the expanse of grass surrounded by tall trees, the little house at the center surrounded by out buildings, I could just imagine Joseph living and playing here as a child. It had a homey feel. It reminded me of Aunt Hannah’s place, where I had grown up working and playing in the big yard surrounded by trees and protected from the outside world. It was a place teaming with memories and it reeked of home and family. I loved it immediately. I think that day was the first time that I began to see myself married to him.

I didn’t really think about it then, but looking back I remember imagining our future together and somehow tying his life growing up in this home to mine and thinking in terms of we instead of I. I do remember being so in love with him that I couldn’t hardly see straight. We played with his nieces and nephews, visited with his uncle and aunts and cousins.  They all accepted me as part of the family and loved me so readily.

This pictures was taken that day under the large mango tree in Uncle's yard.

This pictures was taken that day under the large mango tree in Uncle’s yard.

Joseph’s brother and his wife and just had a new baby girl and I held her and sang her a song until she fell asleep and then I found the perfect spot in the crook of Joseph’s arm and she and I took a little nap together while his family, had a family meeting in Luganda.

The following week Joseph stopped to see me on his way to Kampala to visit with the mission president one last time before he left the mission. I had been thinking a lot about him, about our situation and about the growing feelings I had for him. We went for a walk and had a very “logical” conversation.

I reminded him that I would be leaving in about 6 weeks and that it was impossible for this relationship to go anywhere in that amount of time. If he was able to get a visa to come to the US for a visit we could potentially continue to date then and see what happened but we were kind of staring at a dead-end. I told him it just didn’t make sense for us to get serious about each other or really even continue seeing each other when it was all bound to end in six weeks time anyway.

I don’t know what I expected or even what I wanted because at that moment if he had suggested that we not see each other any more I would have been terribly upset. I simply was expressing to him the impossibility of our situation without really thinking about a conclusion or wanting him to come up with a solution.

He seemed a bit down when he left, I went to work at Musana and one of the women there taught me the Luganda word for I love you. I thought I could surprise Joseph by saying “Nkwagala Nyo” to him when I spoke to him next time over the phone.

That night Joseph stopped by again, this time on his way home from his visit to see President Jackson. I had been at Susan’s house (One of the Musana women) teaching her how to make crepes. I had brought Nutella and bananas and the hot crepes were just coming off the flat surface of the charcoal stove when Joseph arrived.

I met him at the door and excitedly dragged him in for something to eat. I was so excited to show him what I had made and to have him taste the delicious treat that I didn’t even notice his hesitancy. I pushed him into a chair and then sat on the arm of the chair, feeding him bites of crepes and purposely smearing chocolate on his face, so that I could clean it off when Susan wasn’t looking.

Finally it came time to go and Joseph said he would walk me home. When we walked outside it was dark, the stars where out in all their brilliance and the warm breeze made the evening perfect.

Let’s just sit here and talk a minute” Joseph said, he seemed hesitant to take me home, for the first time that night, I noticed that he seemed a little on edge. We sat on the edge of the porch, I hugged my knees to my chest and waited for him to say something.

“I had a good visit with President” he told me

“Oh what did he have to say”

Joseph talked for a while about this and that, about his calling, about other things that he had discussed with President Jackson, after a few minutes his conversation suddenly turned rather serious. He sighed a big heavy sigh and I came down off the porch and knelt in front of him. “Whats the matter?” I asked. He didn’t answer so I put my arms around his neck and just hugged him. He started talking then and I could feel his breath on my neck.

“I love you,” he told me and I promise you that I will take care of you. I will do whatever it takes to provide a good home for you. I promise to be a good husband and father and to love you always as I do now.”

My body started shaking uncontrollably.

He continued, President Jackson told me that this decision is really pretty easy and doesn’t take even six weeks. Either you are the girl for me and I am the guy for you or not. That’s the only decision we have to make. It’s as simple as that. I think he is right and I know you are the girl for me if you will just say you will marry me.

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t say yes and yet try as I might I couldn’t say no either. I thought of President Jackson’s council to me to follow as closely as I could what my heart would tell me. I tried to shut out all the thoughts, and the ideas buzzing like so many mosquitoes in my brain. I knew then what I had to do. I had to do what I had been doing with Joseph all along. I would take it one step at a time.

“I think…” I said, hesitating and trying to make sense of my own thoughts before I spoke them, “that its probably ok… for us to get engaged. I need to sleep on it, and I can’t say for sure that I can marry you but I think you are right and we have to take a step forward.”

Joseph hugged me so tight I couldn’t hardly breathe, not that I could have taken a breathe anyway at that point. My knees where still shaking, my legs felt like Jello and my head was spinning. Did I just agree to get engaged!

He walked me home and kissed me goodnight. It was so hard to let him go and I stood at the gate and watched him walk down the road toward the taxi until he turned and waved and then was gone.

By morning I knew the only possible answer to his question. I was going to marry Joseph. I thought of everything that had led me to this point. The craziness of the whole plan that had led me to Uganda. I remembered telling my friends back home that the Lord must have something wonderful in store for me there because I had never received such clear direction to do anything in my whole life.  I knew from the moment I saw the ad for an internship, that I was meant to go to Uganda. Now I knew why. I was terrified beyond words, I was happy, I was in shock. But my Joseph was finally going to REALLY be MY Joseph. My life started to fit together like pieces to a puzzle and a sense of peace over came me. I couldn’t wait to see Joseph to tell him the new word I had learned I couldn’t wait to say to him Nkwagala Nyo!

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My Whirlwind Romance Part VI “Riding off into the Sunset”

*Warning: This one gets a little romantic….if you can’t handle it you may want to stop now.

Joseph wanted to take me to meet his family.  It had been precisely two weeks since our first date. I was excited to meet them. He told me that he had never before taken a girl home and that they didn’t believe that he was about to now. As we rode in the taxi his mother and his sister each called him several times, not really convinced that he was actually coming nor that he was in fact bringing a girl with him.

The taxi ride was long but Joseph and I talked the whole way and a few hours flew by like minutes. We arrived in Kampala at Joseph’s aunt’s house where his Mother and Sister were currently staying.

This was NOT the day I met Joseph's mother. In fact it was taken on the day of our wedding.

This was NOT the day I met Joseph’s mother. In fact it was taken on the day of our wedding.

Joseph taught me the respectful greeting for his mother. We entered the little house to see Joseph’s mother sitting on the floor. She held out her hands to us with the biggest smile on her face. “Eladay Niabo” I said, surprising her with my limited knowledge of Luganda. We sat and soon Joseph’s sister Tinah entered the room.

Tinah, but also not from the day we first met.

Tinah, but also not from the day we first met.

Tinah had been assaulted and robbed in her home a few days before and the intruder had slashed her fingers with a machete. They were bandaged and broken.  She joined us and after awhile when Joseph asked if I would be ok if he left me with them for a few minutes I agreed. “Gende, Gende,” I told him shooing him away. “We have girl talk that you can’t be here for.” After he left Joseph’s mother got very real with me. “Do you love him?” she asked me rather pointedly. I assured her that I did. “Never before has he been interested in a girl like this she told me. When he first met you he called me and told me that he had just gone on a date with the woman of his dreams. Joseph wouldn’t say that unless its true, he has been looking for some time and has had many opportunities to marry and he has never found the right one. You must promise to marry him!”

I chocked a little on the dry cake that I was eating. I stammered, not sure what to say to this mother.

“When you get married,” I said, “the preacher says until death do you part. In my religion, we believe that marriage is much more than that. We believe that when you marry it is not only for time but for all eternity as well. Eternity is a very long time and deciding who I spend it with is a big decision. It’s not one that I can make after knowing someone for only two weeks.” I told her hoping she would understand.

She accepted my answer and we continued our visit. “What is Joseph like when he is angry” I asked her being just as direct with her as she was with me.

She thought carefully about her answer.

“He is very quiet, and when he gets that way you have to ask him what is wrong and show him that you care so that he will tell you what is bothering him.” She told me.

That sounded like the Joseph I knew. So far I wasn’t uncovering much on him that he hadn’t already told me himself.

Joseph’s other sister,

Asha, (this totally doesn't do this beautiful girl justice.

Asha, (this totally doesn’t do this beautiful girl justice.

Asha joined us, She was very friendly, beautiful and sweet. She sat next to me and held my hand and insisted that I call her Mulamu (sister-in-law)

Both girls giggled when I obliged them and gladly called them Mulamu Tinah and Mulamu Asha.

When it came time for us to leave all three of them walked us back to the taxi. They said goodbye with big hugs and we promised to come visit them again. “Marry my son.” His mother told me as she hugged me goodbye. “I always knew he would one day marry a white woman and move away from us. He was never meant for Uganda.”

I had to agree with her on one point. Joseph did not belong in Uganda.

We rode the taxi back to JInja and then we took a boda boda to Sister Gertrude’s house where I would be spending the night.

It was dark when we got back to JInja and as we flagged down a boda driver I decided that I was going to try riding as the Ugandan women did. Side saddle with both legs on the same side of the motorcycle. I got on and with Joseph behind me it was easy to keep my balance. One hand rested on each of his legs and I turned to talk to him. It was easier to see his face as we rode this way and I decided that the Ugandan women had a good thing going.

I only had to turn my head a little to be able to talk to him, as I did he playfully stuck his tongue out at me and instead of pulling away as I am sure he expected I would I leaned toward him. I had learned a thing or two about teasing from my brothers and I knew better than to give him what he expected. He also must have known a thing or two as well because his response wasn’t what I expected either. He kissed me, long and hard as the world flew passed us. I forgot about the boda driver, about everything except the two of us.  Finally fearing that we would both lose our balance and fall off the motorcycle we stopped. I giggled a little as I looked at him, feeling a little sheepish. I had no idea who might have seen us.  But with the stars twinkling over head, and the cool night air racing passed us. I felt like the moment was everything I had dreamed of as a child and more, and I didn’t care.

Why I am Grateful for Challenges

1450150_10152040021336584_15891125_nYesterday I left work just as the sun was going down.  With the daylight savings time it gets darker earlier and I wasn’t used to it seeming so late when I leave work. As I drove I was listening to my sisters piano music and humming along. I put my hand on my stomach where the slightly noticeable baby bump now sits and waited hoping to feel something move. I felt so happy.

I remember another day, very similar circumstances. It was exactly one year ago. We had just turned our clocks back then too. And as I left class at UVU I wasn’t prepared for the cold wind and the darkness already settling in on campus. I walked to my car feeling more alone than ever just knowing I was going home to an empty apartment and a cold bed.

My roommate and best friend had just gotten married, it seemed all my friends had gotten married and left me behind. I ached with loneliness. I remember wondering how I was going to survive the winter without drowning in the cold darkness.

I went home and pulled up facebook. There, bright as day for all the world to see was a picture of Ryan, my ex boyfriend who I was still so in love with that I couldn’t breathe at the thought of him. He was with a girl and he was engaged.

My stomach heaved and the room started to spin. The hurt and betrayal that I felt left me helpless in my agony. I thought I would never be happy again. After all I had given him, all that we had experienced in our two years together and he was capable of walking off without looking back and marrying a girl he had only known a few months. I thought of the last time that I had seen him just a few months before. He had held me in his arms for hours and promised me that he would stay in touch, that he would give me a little warning before he started to date someone so that I could get used to the idea of him having a girl friend. We had promised we would not let our friendship die just because the relationship had.

Anger formed a tight ball in my throat and then as it dissolved I started to cry. I sobbed for hours until the sun started coming up and morning was fast approaching and I knew somehow I had to face the day…

Funny how much can happen in a year. As I drove I marveled at the peace and happiness I was feeling.  I marveled at the contrast of how I felt on that day and how I felt now. I had just received a phone call from an immigration attorney. We had discussed our case looking for every possible way to speed up the agonizingly slow process of bringing my husband to the United States. At the end of the conversation we had no solutions. The estimated time of more than a year seemed to be the only way to get through the system.

I thought of Joseph, the feel of his arms when he hugs me, I thought of how much I wanted to just look into his eyes and to see his smile when it wasn’t fuzzy and contorted by the poor internet connection. I thought of our baby, and of the approaching day that I will give birth…possibly without him here. I tried to think of who I could ask to be with me at that time if he doesn’t make it and my mind came up blank. I JUST WANT JOSEPH! And yet, I feel peaceful. I feel happy. I can hum along with the music and I even feel joy. I wondered why and then the answers poured in so fast I couldn’t hardly contain them.

Joseph loves me, infinitely, eternally, and passionately. He is so committed to me, to our marriage and family, and to the gospel that it almost frightens me. Somehow I found a man who was everything that I ever wanted, and miraculously he wanted me too. And in finding that kind of love the loneliness not only faded, but the memory of it faded also. All those years since I was a 16-year-old girl watching my sisters and my best friends get married and wishing it was me, through the long lonely days and nights during the interminable 16 years that followed seemed but an instant, now that I had found him.

The heartache, disappointment, despair and betrayal from past relationships faded into the background and all I feel, all I know, is that every second of it all was worth it because it brought me to Joseph.

I used to tell my roommate that all I needed to be happy was a ring on my finger a marriage certificate on my wall and a baby in my stomach. Now I have all three, but I have something else too. I have a good man who leaves me speechless with his kindness. And most importantly I have a KNOWLEDGE that God has a plan and he is working it. He hasn’t forgotten me and he WILL and HAS blessed me.

So if Joseph doesn’t make it in time for the birth of our first child. I will take a deep breath, I may shed a few tears, but I’m going to be alright because I know that any sorrow that I feel now can be made up so quickly and so fully that even the memory of it fades into the background. This time that we spend apart, even if it’s a year or more, won’t be so hard because even 9,000 miles away with an ocean between us I know that I have a husband, who is faithful, and devoted. I know that since he isn’t here with me I have a Heavenly Father who I know will step in and fill the void. So we are going to be ok and that’s why I can smile, I can sing, I can listen to our babies heartbeat for the first time and feel only joy.

But I wonder if I could feel such peace, if I could have such trust in Heavenly Father, if I could have such love for Joseph if I hadn’t experienced something else first. What if I hadn’t loved someone who could not or would not commit to me? Would Joseph’s devotion mean as much? What if I hadn’t felt loss, anger and heartache in relationships before? Would the happiness I feel now be as poignant? If I hadn’t struggled and pleaded with Heavenly Father for so many years wondering in moments of weakness if he had forgotten me, would I still marvel at the beauty of his well crafted and perfectly executed plan when it unfolded before me and would I have learned a meaningful lesson about trusting him with every detail of my life?

I think not. I think everything happens for a reason, and I KNOW that nothing can hinder Heavenly Father’s perfect plan for me. If Joseph needs to be here for the birth of our first child, he will be and the how doesn’t even matter. US immigration is not so powerful that God can’t touch it and make things happen according to his will. And if Joseph doesn’t make it…

Well it wouldn’t be the first time that I longed for something that I didn’t get or had to wait for and I am confident that in future days I will look back with gratitude at all that we learned from the experience and marvel at how our Father knew what was best for us. I know he loves me. I am his daughter, and as I carry this child inside me that often recited phrase is coming to have much deeper meaning.

My Whirlwind Romance part V “The Wedding”

Since Joseph and I had decided that we were officially dating, I wanted to find out all I could about him. I didn’t want to be in a relationship if it was a dead end. So the following Wednesday I had agreed to help out with a choir practice in Jinja and Joseph and I agreed to meet up afterward. We sat on the lawn with a notebook and had a very honest talk. The search was still on for the true Joseph. I knew he couldn’t be as wonderful as I thought he was. I asked him straight out what he felt his biggest faults were and he told me, I told him mine also and we talked about what and how we felt we could deal with these. We talked about many other things as well as we sat under a tree on the church lawn. After awhile we noticed quite a group gathering for a wedding.

There were three couples arriving to be married and President Jackson, the Mission President would be performing the ceremony.  It would be a very simple ceremony that would turn Uganda tradition on its head, proving that weddings don’t have to be big expensive affairs that take a lot of money and planning.

We crowded into the chapel and as I watched the ceremony, with Joseph seated next to me I kept thinking to myself about what a wedding to him might be like.  As President Jackson spoke about the sacred commitment that these couples were about to make I looked at Joseph to find him already looking at me. We smiled surely thinking the same thing and he squeezed my hand.

A mass wedding in Uganda

A mass wedding in Uganda

The wedding was beautiful with all three couples standing in turn to make their covenants with each other and with God. One by one President Jackson made them kiss, not just once but until he felt that they had done it right! He wanted to see a real kiss that showed they were thinking more about their love for each other than their shyness at kissing in public. As the couples kissed awkwardly it looked as though they were trying their best to only touch lips and no other part of their body.

I whispered to Joseph. “We would have no problem with this, I think we could give them lessons,” He agreed with a huge smile just as the wedding ended. We stood around waiting for the couples to take pictures and to be greeted by all their friends. As we stood at the back of the chapel, President Jackson saw me standing there holding Joseph’s hand, your looking suddenly very happy he told me as he passed by. It was true, I was blissfully happy.

I could feel so many eyes on us and I knew that my holding hands in public with the second counselor in the district presidency was causing a bit of a stir. I wanted a minute alone with Joseph. We went for a little walk around the church. As we got to the backside of the building where no people were we stopped and enjoyed the privacy and the quiet, away from prying eyes.

After the wedding, we attended a dinner at Two Friends resort. The food was good and the couples looked so happy.  We were seated at the table almost directly across from President Jackson. As they were cutting the cake Joseph left the table to get us drinks and when he was away President Jackson came to my table looked me straight in the eye and said “I just want you to know, that man is everything you think he is. I haven’t met a better man and neither will you.”

I felt chills go through my body and I knew he was telling me the truth. I knew I had found in my Joseph everything that I had prayed for for so long. It scared me.

When Joseph returned President Jackson shook his hand and told us he would be performing two more weddings that following week. He asked if we would attend. We agreed and then with a little twinkle in his eye he said, “You know we could make it three!”

We both laughed, but later as Joseph was saying goodbye, a van full of missionaries and others from the wedding waiting to take me back to Lugazi, I considered for the first time what It might be not to have to say goodbye to him. He held me and we tried to ignore the eyes watching us. “You have to go, he whispered, they are waiting for you. “ I clung to him wanting more than the simple goodbye hug but knowing it wasn’t possible there with everybody watching, so I said goodbye and started the long drive back to Lugazi. The next morning my first thought upon waking up was, I could be marrying Joseph next week! The thought was surprisingly appealing.

The next day I met with President Jackson for a temple recommend interview. After seeing that here in Uganda a temple recommend wasn’t so much about the ability to GO to the temple but a sign of your WORTHINESS to attend the temple, I felt ashamed at having let mine expire just because I didn’t think I would be needing it in Uganda. President explained to me a bit about blacks and the gospel and about the church’s position on interracial marriage. We also talked at length about Joseph, about my relationship with him, about my fears and my concerns. He offered to give me a blessing. He gave me some very specific counsel and advice about things I should be doing and told me that no one could get this answer except me but that if I would listen very carefully and try my best to follow what my heart told me, it would not lead me astray.

President Jackson with a few members from the district.

President Jackson with a few members from the district.