God Bless America

I love America, I always have. I love everything that it stands for. I love the stories of bravery and incredible integrity of those men and women who made America something to be proud of. I love the stories of courage and sacrifice from men and women who understood what it meant to be free both in terms of rights as well as responsibilities. I loved the stories of people who believed that they could stand up against tyranny and succeed. Even when that tyranny came from their own king and country.

I didn’t always appreciate every aspect of it, I didn’t always know just what it meant to have the freedom of the press and just how important that right was. I never really understood the significance of certain laws and rights that I took for granted.

Then I volunteered to spend three months in Uganda, working to help bring jobs, education and better living conditions to single women there and I started to see. I started to gain a deeper understanding of what my country stands for and what those rights means. Mostly I gained an understanding for how important the system is that keeps these rights in check, the systems of law and order that made my world a safe, mostly predictable place to live.

When during that time in Uganda I met and married a Ugandan man, my world changed and my understanding changed with it. Gaining a better understanding of the protections and the rights that I had as  US Citizen, seeing by contrast what his were in his own country scared me. When I returned back to the United States I sobbed when my feet finally touched the ground and I felt a certain peace and security that I had always taken for granted. There is security in knowing that there are laws and rights and resources to go to when laws are broken or questioned. I’ve always felt protected by the system.

We knew when we married that it wouldn’t be easy to get a visa for Joseph. We knew it would probably mean being separated for a time. We did everything we knew to prepare for that and to make it as simple as possible. We crossed every T and dotted every I. I learned more about the immigration laws and system than I ever thought was possible. We were prepared to follow the path, and work through the red tape. We were prepared to utilize every resource at our disposal but we knew that in the end it would be hard. We looked forward with a sigh of sadness and with great excitement to the day that Joseph would leave his own beloved country and become a citizen of the United States. In his words he would be stars and stripes all the way.

When we applied to the United States Embassy in Kampala for a visitors visa so that Joseph could be with me when our baby is born, we were hopeful. The law says that since we had a pending spouse visa it wold be assumed that Joseph intended to stay in the US. That was understandable. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their wife and new-born baby.  We were informed that it would be up to us to prove during an interview that he intended to return. This could be proved by providing documentation showing strong ties to Uganda. Things like family, work, owning property etc. could be used as proof that he would return.

We went to work gathering documents, showing that Joseph owns a business in Uganda, in fact he had just renewed his business license for another year, we gathered documents showing that he was the president of a non-profit organization that provides help for the disabled, we had documents showing that he was contracted to do work for a company for two months following his return to Uganda, he had a speaking engagement scheduled for after his return, he had exams and a letter from a dean at the University stating as much, vouching for his character and recommending that Joseph be given a visa. His entire family is still in Uganda. We were hopeful because we had all the evidence that one could ask for. I sent a letter of invitation and bank statements showing that we could support him while he was here, and just to be sure my parents sent the same as well.

Joseph paid the $160 fee (this amount could easily have paid three months rent for us in Uganda) and excitedly boarded a taxi for the three-hour journey to Kampala to the embassy for his appointment. This visitors visa would give us a chance to spend 90 days together at the time when I would need him most, it would give him a chance to be there when his first-born child, enters this world. It would allow him to hold his new-born son before he is already walking.

His interview lasted all of about 1 min.

The letter denying him the chance to visit had been drafted before he even arrived. You were unable to provide sufficient evidence that you intend to return to Uganda at the end of your visit… was the reason he was given. He protested that he wasn’t given a chance to prove it and was sternly told to leave the embassy NOW! He was told that there could be no appeal, but that he was welcome to reapply if he wanted, he could pay the fee again and see if they would treat him fairly the next time.

As he left the woman’s office he encountered another man in the waiting room ready to fight because he too had been denied a chance to visit his wife who was delivering their child in a months time. He talked to him, calming him down and explaining that fighting would get him nothing. And they left the embassy.

Joseph’s first interaction with the United States government shook his faith in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. He had always seen America as an example to be followed. Democracy, liberty and Freedom as something to aspire to. Now he saw them as predators, stealing from innocent Ugandan civilians their hard-earned money and their hope. He saw them as a land without concern for right or laws.

So, now we wait. we contemplate leaving America to find another country that will allow our little family to be together while we wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn in our favor. I console myself by knowing that I am not alone in this. How many soldiers wives, give birth alone, in the early days of our church how many missionaries left their wives pregnant and sick to go on missions only to return to a two-year old child and a wife stronger for having had to do so much on her own.

I tell myself these things and yet those women can also tell themselves that their husbands are doing it for a cause. For freedom, for liberty of our country and others, for the eternal welfare of a soul. I get to do it because someone had a bad day, or decided that they didn’t want to do an actual interview, and no one thought it was worth doing anything about. So when I am tired and sick, lying in bed alone aching for someone to rub my feet or help me up to go to the bathroom yet again, when I am lying in that bed holding my first child, my newborn son in my arms and marveling at the beauty of it all and the miracle of life I can console myself in the fact that my husband is 9000 miles away because someone didn’t want to take time to look at some papers and it will make me feel so much better.

I still love America. It will always be my home. I still sing our National Anthem and my eyes still fill with tears at the heartfelt passionate lyrics

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

In fact if anything I love her more. Because I see how fragile America is and how quickly all that was fought for can be lost. And I will pray that God WILL Bless America because she is my home that I love and she needs all the prayers she can get.

The_Prayer_at_Valley_Forge_by_Arnold_Friberg

 

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A response to YSA Man

I read an article today from the Deseret News website. It was from Ask Angela and it was an LDS man writing in about his complaint that LDS girls all have too high of expectations. He wrote “I have always wanted to marry a Latter-day Saint woman. But after being in the dating game for eight-plus years and well over 1,000 dates, I’m about ready to throw in the towel! LDS women are told constantly that they are princesses, and to an extent that’s true, but it’s going to all of your heads and you’re expecting these men and these dates and these engagements that are only found in fairy tales! I’m not Prince Charming. I’m a real man, and I’d like to find a Latter-day Saint woman who understands that and isn’t expecting me to be this perfect and unrealistic guy. How can I get these LDS ladies to stop going after something that doesn’t exist?”

Boy its a good thing that I am not Angela because I would have had a thing or two to say to this man. And yet when I finished the article, despite the fact that his letter hadn’t been addressed to me I still wanted to put my two cents in, so here is the reply that I would have sent to him had I been Angela. BTW, Angela gave a good response, perhaps a little kinder than I would have been…

Dear YSA Man (I use the term man here loosely as I have no evidence that this letter is actually being addressed to a man and not a boy.)

Let me start by asking a question. Is there a chance that just maybe the fault is not on the part of the LDS women in general and more on the fact that you obviously are looking for and dating the same type of woman over and over again, perhaps when you are looking for a mindless twit, thats what you find. Because I promise you, the good ones are out there…in droves…with so much to offer…waiting for someone to rise up enough to see who they are.

Like you I had been in the YSA scene for too many years. at least as many as you have been. And since I am an LDS woman I hope I can give you a little in sight into what at least some of us are thinking.

Just as you suggested I was told on multiple occasions, by multiple people that maybe I was being too picky. And that maybe thats why at 32 years old I was still single. Maybe I can show you what I saw.

I saw dozens if not hundreds of girls who desperately wanted to get married, who were doing everything they could to better themselves, they put extensive effort into their physical appearance, consistently attended FHE groups, institute and activities in an effort to “put themselves out there.” They developed their talents and spent the time that they were “waiting” for their “prince charming” bettering themselves through school and career. As a result many of them had masters degrees and Phds, graduated at the top of their class from BYU Law school, had great careers, made far more money than they needed to support themselves, these are girls that loved the Lord and devoted their life to living the standards that they professed to believe. These girls were beautiful, fit, active women.

And I saw weeks turn into months without these girls going on dates. Maybe the occasional date here or there but nothing very encouraging. I saw them baking cookies for undeserving boys who were just playing the field, inviting boys over for dinner, and trying to find a sense of satisfaction in  their lives without a relationship and many of them succeeded. I saw the braver among them ask guys out themselves in an effort to make sure they were “doing their part”

I also saw other girls, show up to church dressed as immodestly as they could get and still be somewhat appropriate for church, girls who behaved a bit like “princesses” who couldn’t be bothered with attending FHE because it might cut into her time shopping for expensive clothes, I saw girls who maybe had testimonies, but if they did were careful not to let it show, and these girls went on multiple dates a week.

I attended ward temple nights with 20 other girls and three guys, I attended FHE when only girls showed up even though there were equal numbers of guys and girls in the group.

And I had many conversations with both guys and girls about life and about dating. I heard a lot of things from guys, some of them were good men, that I had respect for, and others were guys I thought were good guys that I soon lost respect for.

Some of them talked about how they didn’t know what the problem was, they were dating, they were trying to do the things they were supposed to be doing, they were trying to look beyond just the physical appearance and find a woman who would be the kind of wife they wanted. And it showed in the girls they dated, they dated all kinds, not only the skinny blond floozy Mormon girls, and they developed relationships beyond just romantic ones, they had girls who were friends that they didn’t feel the need to flirt and be obnoxious with.

I saw guys who had legitimately had their hearts broken, but instead of picking up the pieces and moving on they allowed it to devastate them to the point that they were too broken and afraid to move ahead.

I saw guys who saw only a pretty face and a sexy body, I saw guys with an addiction to porn, I saw guys who sat at home and played video games. I saw guys who couldn’t be bothered with home teaching and all that stuff. And I saw guys who made a joke out of their inability to commit.

I saw (and continue to see) guys who flaunt their opposition to the counsel to get married and move forward with their lives, and I saw men who self righteously looked down on those who were “destroying the family and God’s plan of marriage” while all along feeling content to stay single well into their 30’s while good women mourn the fact that they may never get the opportunity to have children.

Thats what I saw, let me tell you what I wanted. I wanted a man who would love me, who would be faithful to me, who would treat me like the daughter of God that I was. I wanted a man who would commit to me and to our family, I wanted a man who was willing to stand up and be a leader. I wanted to have a family, I wanted to love and support my husband in reaching all of his dreams, I wanted to treat him like the son of God that he is. I never wanted a perfect husband, (he would have been impossible to live with, with all of my imperfections) but I did want a man who WANTED to be perfect. Who wouldn’t complain that I wanted him to change, because of course I want him to change! Thats why we are here after all! And I hope he wants me to change as well.

My list didn’t say anything about his having served a mission, or making a certain amount of money, having a certain calling or looking a certain way. It didn’t exclude men who had been divorced, were struggling with depression, had other problems or difficulties they faced in their lives, it didn’t exclude imperfect people.

I watched my friends, marry men who did have porn problems, who didn’t have jobs, who hadn’t served missions and who weren’t nearly as handsome as the pretty girls they married. I watched them put their husbands through school. And they did it because they found men who loved them, who committed to them, and who wanted to change. And they believed in them.

fortunately I didn’t listen to those who told me to “stop going after something that doesn’t exist” and I found what I was looking for. Or better yet, he found me, because yes that is in fact what “real men” do.

So pardon me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy for you in your little pity party of “no body wants me because I am not prince charming, they all just want to change me and won’t accept me for who I am”

Try to stop focusing on “who I am” and start thinking more about who you could be and I bet the girls will start flocking to your door. Just be aware, you might have to turn your video games off long enough to open it!

sincerely,

A Latter-day Saint Princess

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A wonderful guy, who I actually went on several dates with, sent this to me after we had a conversation on this same topic.

My Whirlwind Romance Part X My Wedding Day! “Its not over, its just the beginning”

When I decided to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a long hard year making that decision. On the day of my baptism as the meeting ended, I stood at the bottom of the stairs in the chapel, my hair still wet from the font and I shook hands with one of the most influential people in my life. “Well, I did it. It’s over I said.” Brother B looked at me with something in his eyes, I saw happiness, I saw that he was proud of me, I saw support and tenderness, and I could swear I saw a glint of humor. Was he laughing at my stupidity? Smiling at my naivete, or just smirking with the knowledge that he knew something that I didn’t?

“Vilate he said, It’s not over, it’s just beginning.”

I planned my whole wedding down to the tiniest detail when I was about 10 years old. Sure my opinions and desires changed over the years, but I kept it updated I was prepared at any given moment to put on the wedding of my dreams in about two weeks flat. I had everything primed and ready, like dominoes all set so that when the time came all I would have to do is push that first one and things would fly into motion.

That wasn’t because I wanted to plan my wedding in two weeks. It was just because I was so excited for it that I couldn’t help but do everything to prepare that could possibly be done before you’ve actually met the man of your dreams. That and that I’m a planner. I just enjoy the whole process.

So when Joseph and I decided to change our plans and get married before I left Uganda, I felt I was up for the challenge. It actually meant that I would be planning the wedding in two weeks, but I was ready. Since the wedding would be taking place in Uganda it meant some minor (cough, cough sputter) changes to my plans but nothing I wasn’t prepared to handle.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Joseph’s family. they had ideas, they had traditions, and they had culture that COULDN’T be messed with. Normally I am the kind of person that when I am told that I “shouldn’t or can’t” do something…well thats the first thing I am going to attempt to do. And I usually succeed… or fail depending on how you look at it.

Before I had a chance to say “boo” they had taken the whole affair into their hands, and the wedding was planned.

We had tents set up in Uncle’s yard, there were tables and chairs with embroidered cloths, there were ribbons and decorations. There was food prepared, and the word was spread. Literally before I hardly knew what had happened the whole thing was planned.

It was a little hard, seeing it all taken out of my hands, and I wanted to protest, and did a couple of times, but realized that by this time I needed to just let it go.

As the plans progressed Joseph begged me to be sure. He sensed my hesitation and fear at the step we were about to take. “Vilate, he told me one day, my family is starting to travel in from all over Uganda to be here for our wedding in just a few days, if you are going to change your mind, please do it now.”

I didn’t know what to say, I felt good about progressing I felt good about the steps we were taking, I knew I loved Joseph, but I still didn’t “know” that it was the right thing for me. We met with the new Mission President and begged for counsel. “The only person who can answer your questions is the Lord,” President Chatfield told us. You need to take it to him and that’s all I can tell you.

He left and Joseph and I knelt, he took both of my hands in his and we prayed. As we did, I felt like a little girl again, listening to the deepening tones of my dad’s reverent voice as he prayed. I felt so loved and protected and like I could face anything that could come my way. I felt trust and love for Joseph like I had always felt for my dad. I thought about having children with him and how I felt confident that my children would look up to him with love and respect the way I had with my own father, and I knew that I would trust and respect him and support him in that role as well.

I felt peace completely surround me. And then I thought. I am getting married in two days to a man I have known for a matter of weeks! A man who no one in my family and none of my friends had ever met, I was marrying him in Uganda, in a strange country, completely alone and with out support. I was marrying a black man! In spite of how I had always felt and what I had believed about them. I was marrying a man much younger than I was, from an entirely different background and culture. Even his first language was different from mine. I had every reason to be panicked. I had every reason to feel overwhelmed and lost. But I didn’t. I felt loved, protected, secure, and filled with peace. I knew those feelings could only come at a time like this, so powerfully as to over come all other feelings, from one source. It was the final answer that I needed. The Lord approved, he was here in this very room helping me at this moment. And I knew everything would be ok.

When Joseph finished the prayer I looked into his eyes hugged him and told him that I was ok. I knew we were making the right decision and that I was not going to back out.

The day before the wedding I only saw Joseph for a few minutes in the afternoon. He took a break from setting up tents and chairs and making arrangements to come be with me for an hour or so. When we first started dating Joseph and I had set a couple of firm rules for ourselves to help us to make sure that we kept the standards that we believed in regards to physical intimacy being saved for marriage.

Some of these rules were that we would never kiss lying down, we would save passionate kissing and necking for after marriage and we would never spend the night together in the same home by ourselves. It was so nice to be approaching our marriage the following day knowing that we had stayed true to our convictions and had kept the rules that we made for ourselves. We had told no one of these rules and there was no one to judge if we broke them, but we knew and it felt good.

That afternoon as we spent our last few moments together still “limited” by these rules and yet aware that our marriage the following day would change everything, we spoke to each other with loving words and I felt that my heart would burst with Love for him. I had no desire to do anything that would damage the special feeling that “waiting” had created between us. We held each other, talked of our plans for the future, and savored these final moments together as single people.

Later that night, Joseph’s sister Tinah met me at the hotel where we would be spending the night. She brought, my wedding dress with her, and all was set.

The following day after a much-needed and incredibly enjoyable hot shower, Melissa, my only friend from the states who was there came and did my hair for me. I went to a salon and got my nails done and then waited patiently for the car to arrive to pick me up. I had warned everyone that my wedding would start on time! When the time came for the car to arrive to pick me and my brides maids up to take us to the church I was ready and waiting. No car showed up and the minutes ticked away.

Finally I gathered my full skirts in my hand and told Tinah, “Im leaving. If I have to take a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) to the church I will but I am going to the church right now!” Tinah was frantic, you can’t do that she told me!

“Watch me I said cause I’m doing it.”

She tried to call Joseph as I headed down the hallway squeezing my dress between the narrow doorways.

When I reached the curb the car was just pulling up. We piled into the car, and headed to the church. The page-boy and flower girl, Joseph’s niece and nephew sat on either side of me. They were enthralled with the idea of having a new white “mother.” In Uganda the children refer the their aunts and uncles as mother and father. So I was now Mommy Vilate (although when the children said it, it sounded a lot more like Mommy Violent, and I hoped it wasn’t a prediction of the kind of mother I would be!) 1148794_10151529135790658_775137388_n

They wanted to touch my hair and my skin, they sat quietly and shyly next to me. We arrived at the church about the time the wedding was supposed to start and I was like a crazy woman trying to get in to the chapel to make sure things happened just the way I wanted. Life rarely happens the way we want, you would think I would have figured that out by now and quit trying to control every little detail, but for some reason I wasn’t willing to just sit back and let this day happen. I wanted it to happen the way I wanted it to be. DSCF1427

Joseph and I met in the hallway, My veil was over my face and through it he looked fuzzy and white. And oh so handsome in his dark suit and yellow tie. His eyes glowed in appreciation as he looked at me and he didn’t need to say anything, his eyes said it all. We posed for a few pictures together and then went to the chapel for the wedding. DSCF1431

Every seat in the chapel was full, and some were even standing, but I didn’t notice. I was frantically trying to get my family on skype and get things ready so that we could start. I was way too excited that my wedding day had finally arrived to be shy or nervous.

JInja Chapel, where Joseph and I were married.

JInja Chapel, where Joseph and I were married.

I finally got my family on skype and after a quick wave to their sleepy faces (it was 3 AM their time) the ceremony started. They started by singing a song that had always been a sore spot with me. And was especially so on this day.

trying to get my family on skype

trying to get my family on skype

Families Can Be Together Forever

I sat there trying not to think about my mom and my sisters watching silently over skype as I took this step. I tried not to think of the spiritual, temporal and physical separation as what I was doing further widened the gap between my family and I. I tried not to think of my own father who I loved so dearly, not even able to be there on this most important day for me. It didn’t work and before I knew it I was sobbing and gasping for breath in my fitted dress. My whole body was shaking uncontrollably.

Finally the song ended and the branch president spoke for a few minutes. When he finished he asked Joseph and I to stand, we stood facing each other and holding hands. Joseph’s head was down and I longed to see his eyes. I wanted to see if he was still sure, I wanted to see the love that I knew would be reflected there. He didn’t look at me. As the Branch President spoke I leaned down a little trying to catch his eye. It worked for a second, just long enough for me to see that he was really nervous.

When it came time for him to say Yes, he did and when it was my turn I said it, wishing it was a longer word, or that there was some way to capture the significance of the moment. Then, it was done we were married, Joseph kissed me for the first time as his wife and we headed for the door with his family and friends yelling and shrieking behind us in the unique way that women in Uganda celebrate the marriages of their loved ones. DSCF1438

As we stood outside the church taking photos with friends and family, I couldn’t stop smiling, the peace and contentment that I had felt in the last few days leading up to this day remained and was intensified by the contentment of knowing that I was finally married. I didn’t feel a rush to get through the reception, I didn’t feel anxiety about anything. All I felt was utter and complete contentment in that moment. Joseph squeezed my hand and I wondered if I would ever again need to see any face besides his.

Joseph's family

Joseph’s family

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When the pictures finished we moved on to the reception. DSCF3281As the day progressed there were moments of surprise when something didn’t happen the way we wanted it to, there were moments of frustration where too many people were telling us what to do, where to stand, where to look, too many hands were pulling, hugging, fixing this or that. Music was playing to loudly and too long And for a few seconds I thought I would scream. Then the moment would pass and the contentment would flood in again and I would remember that it was my wedding day, a day that would never come again, a day I had waited 32 long years for. DSCF3288

This cycle of feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and being so in love and reveling in the joy and the beauty of the day continued. As Joseph and I sat front and center at a table beautifully decorated for us, surrounded by hundreds of people who had come to celebrate with us, I felt that life couldn’t get any better, and as my head pounded with the noise and the craziness of the day as the hours wore on I turned to Joseph, “I can’t do this, anymore” I told him. DSCF3297 DSCF3341

“You have to deal with it, its as simple as that” he answered, smiling yet again as someone else hugged us and someone else pulled on our arms trying to tell us that we need to speak, or take a picture, or accept a gift.

we had out first dance together

we had out first dance together

we said a few words to our guests

we said a few words to our guests

and we cut the cake

and we cut the cake

Finally I had truly had enough, The music was pounding in my head and all around me and my large personal space bubble had been invaded one too many times. I wanted to scream and run away from it all. Someone was yelling in our ears, trying to be heard over the music, telling us what to do and someone else was contradicting them in the other ear. I gathered my skirts in my hands and walked as fast as I could toward the road, leaving Joseph and everyone else behind.

I didn’t know what I planned to do when I got out of the yard and to the road, I just knew that I couldn’t take one more minute. Joseph ran up behind me, shouting for someone to bring the car. He seemed angry with me. We are going right now he told me. We got in the car with three of Joseph’s friends and drove out of the yard. Just as we were pulling out on to the road I remembered that my clothes, everything except my wedding dress was in a suitcase with Tinah. Joseph, we have to go back, I said, I need my suitcase. Again he seemed upset but drove back. I tried to get out of the car to go get it. Joseph told me to stay put and he would get it for me. I couldn’t very well tell him in front of his friends that I needed Tinah’s help to help me out of my dress and into something more romantic underneath for our wedding night. And Joseph wasn’t listening besides. “Would you just stay here!” His voice was harsh and angry sounding, something I had never heard from him before.

I was mad that his friends were in the car with us, mad that the reception had ended the way it had and madder still that my husband had been gruff with me.

I sat on my side of the car with my dress piled around me. Ignoring Joseph and his friends as they talked. They unloaded our gifts at our apartment and then took us back to the hotel where we would spend the night. We unloaded our things and they left. I sat on the bed furious and near tears.

Joseph came into the room after seeing the boys off. His smile back on his face and his eyes happy as though nothing had happened. He walked to me and put his arms around me. I pushed him away. He was not going to pretend that nothing had happened!

Before I knew what was even happening I was seated on one side of the bed and Joseph on the other, our backs were to each other and the gulf between us seemed unbreachable. I looked around to see if there was a tree near the window, thinking ironically of the scene from 7 brides for 7 brothers where Millie dooms her new husband to sleep in the tree on the night of their wedding. Is that how this night was going to end?

I felt stuck and I didn’t know who to even blame! Technically the only thing Joseph had really done to make me angry was to get a little short with me. The only thing that anyone else had done to make me angry was to try to make my wedding day perfect. I didn’t know why I was so mad and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wanted things to be good between Joseph and I but I felt like just ignoring how I was feeling would just put a band-aid over the issue.

I closed my eyes and said a little prayer. Father, I prayed, I feel like this is my fault. Can you show me how to fix it?

“You can start by getting on the same side of the bed.” The thought came clearly to my mind and should have been a no brainer. Joseph, I said, meekly. Will you come sit by me?

He did, his head down and tears brimming in his eyes. “I wanted this day to be perfect for you, I worked so hard to make it perfect, but I failed.”

I couldn’t lie and tell him that it had been perfect. I was too honest a person for that and he would see right through me and it would mean nothing. I sat silently for a few minutes. I thought again of another story, this time from a book instead of a movie. In the work and the glory, shortly after a young couple marries, the husband is feeling dejected because he sees the conditions his wife is living in and feels that he is putting her through too much. She sees what her complaining has done and fixes it by finding things to be grateful for and the two end up laughing over their own difficulties. It gave me an idea.

“I loved seeing your face when I first walked into the church” I told him. “And I loved that I got to make my own wedding cake, I loved that there was some African culture and tradition in our wedding as we walked through the little arbor decorated with ribbon and flowers and cut the ribbon that symbolized the official beginning of our wedding reception.” What did you like best? I asked DSCF3287 DSCF3290

He looked at me a little confused. ” I liked when the Casperson’s gave us a picture of the Joburg temple and the letter confirming the dates of our sealing” DSCF3338

“Oh and I loved when your mother told me that I was her daughter now!” I said, the feeling of making a game out of this catching on.

We layed back on the bed looking up at the ceiling and recounting our favorite parts of the day. Soon we were laughing and it didn’t feel fake anymore to pretend that everything was alright. It was in fact truly alright. Whatever petty things had left me feeling disgruntled about the day were gone. I turned to Joseph, as far as I see it there are only three things that needed to happen today to make it perfect, I said. You and I need to have made covenants with each other, you need to be happy and I need to be happy. As long as those three things happen, this day is a success in my opinion. So the first one happened. And I’m happy, so how about you? I asked, “Are you happy”

“I am” he smiled then you succeeded, you made our wedding day, perfect. I told him, meaning every word.

He kissed me and bridged the final steps in the huge gulf that had separated us just moments before.

And so my whirlwind romance turned into a marriage. A marriage that would see, difficult times, a few arguments here and there, a baby sooner than anyone could have expected, and a separation that would only increase our love for each other.  Who knows what still lies in store for us. Because just as Brother B had told me years before, this is not the end, it is only the beginning! DSCF3325

MY Whirlwind Romance part IX “I won’t leave her”

Leaving Rwanda wasn’t nearly as easy as it had been to get in. You see Rwanda, in an effort to encourage tourism, doesn’t charge a fee for a visa. So when I entered, I simply had to get my passport stamped. Uganda’s policy is different. They require a $50 fee and since every penny I had was stolen I had no way to pay the fee.

We stood pleading with the immigration official, explaining our situation to no avail. You simply can not enter Uganda without paying the fee, he told me. I am sorry for what happened to you but we can make no exceptions. “What should we do then?” We asked, desperate for an answer out of this impossible situation.

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He turned to Joseph, “since you are African you don’t have to pay, you can go. Leave her here and you go get the money to pay her fee.” The idea was unthinkable, it would take him two days at best to get back to Uganda, get the money and get back to me. In the meantime I was in a no man’s land between borders. I had no way to get back to the city and no place to stay if I did make it back, I had no money and nothing to eat. It was simply out of the question. “I will not leave her” Joseph said adamantly.

“Then find someone else here who will give you the money” the immigration official said callously before moving on to the next person in line.

We decided to try the bus driver, we found him loading passengers back on the bus, they were getting ready to leave and we literally had minutes to figure this out. We explained the situation to him and asked him to loan us the money until we got back to Uganda. We can pay you as soon as we get there we assured him.

He refused.

We approached the conductor on the bus (this is as assistant of sorts to the driver) We asked him and he also refused. You will not pay he said, people always say they will pay and then when we get them back they leave and never bring me the money. “I will leave something with you, I promised, something that I will have to come back for. When we give you the money you can give it back to us.”

He thought about this for a minute. What will you give he asked. I searched through my belongings looking for something that would do and my eyes rested on the shiny new engagement ring on my finger…

I hesitated, I will give you my ring, I told him.

“No” It came out in perfect unison from both Joseph and the Conductor. I was a little relived.

“My camera, then” I said suddenly remembering that I had a camera that might be worth something to him. He agreed, took my camera and gave us the money. We were the last people back on the bus. My heart was beating and I felt like crying.

Also not my picture although it is an actual picture on the bus route that we traveled from Kigali back to Uganda

Also not my picture although it is an actual picture on the bus route that we traveled from Kigali back to Uganda

As we drove a sales man stood up and began putting on something of a show advertising his healing products with magical capabilities. He spoke fluently in five or six languages, none of which I could understand. Finally he turned to me and asked in English, “do you understand what I am saying,” I shook my head.

Do you speak any language besides english?

I admitted that I didn’t

He had a playful smile on his face, and I knew I was about to be the butt of one of his jokes. See that man sitting next to you? He asked, “say to him Nkwagala” he told me. (that word means I love you in Luganda) I laughed to myself. I may not know Luganda, but I knew that word. People around us were watching and snickering to see if I was going to fall for his joke.

I turned to Joseph and took his face in both hands, Nkwagala Nyo I said, adding emphasis on the Nyo (very much) I said it with my sweetest sappiest, love-sick voice I could, so that everyone would know that yes, I knew what that word was and yes I DID very much love him and the joke was on the salesman. The bus erupted in laughter.

“If you want to see what love looks like, look at these two,” he told the passengers.

We arrived home just in time for fast sunday and we decided that our fast would be devoted to Joseph getting a visa so that we could have our planned wedding in the Salt Lake Temple in Oct.

All day we went without food and prayed for our request. By evening as I went to bed, I felt so uneasy that I couldn’t sleep. I got up and started researching the visa process. Everything I read terrified me. People who had been separated for years as they waited for a visa, reports of complications and difficulties in obtaining a visa. The feelings that I had as I stood at the border being told that Joseph would have to leave me, and feeling so loved and reassured as he refused. We had found a way and we would do it again. But I knew one thing…I couldn’t leave him either.

I finally fell into a restless sleep and woke with one thought on my mind. Call the man who left you his number in the taxi several weeks ago. I had met a man who was a government official. He had given me his number and told me to contact him if I needed anything during my stay. I didn’t know what he could do to help but I called him.

Turns out he was just a few minutes away from where I lived passing through on his way to Jinja and he agreed to stop and talk to me. He did and I explained my situation. Just marry him here and then wait together for the visa he told me. You can wait here until he gets it and then you don’t have to leave him.

It would mean marrying outside of the temple, it would mean marrying without any member of my family present and no friends of mine would be there. It would mean giving up on all the dreams and plans I had for my wedding. But it would mean that I wouldn’t have to leave him. It was the only option. I thought it over all day and that night when Joseph came to Lugazi to see me I sat him down.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think we need to change our plans” I told him. His face looked weary, hesitant and slightly scared at what I was going to say next. His normally smiling face was serious.

I paused, for dramatic effect and swallowed hard, knowing that what I was about to say was going to make him so happy.

“I don’t think we should get married in October,” I told him. ” I think we should get married here, at the end of this month!”

He looked at me as though he wasn’t sure he had heard me right. I explained my thought process to him, but before I could even finish he had crushed me in a bear hug. Joseph normally has a radiant smile, but his smile that day was like something I had never seen before! We talked about our changed plans, it felt good, it felt peaceful, I knew it was fast but it didn’t feel fast. It felt right.

Heaven and Earth…Not so very different.

Last night I dreamed that I was in love, the man I was in love with and I were not married but we were expecting a baby. One day he decided that he didn’t want me anymore and he left. About the same time something went wrong with the pregnancy and I miscarried. I felt as though I had lost everything all at once.

In my dream I was sitting at a picnic table talking with my sister Miriam, and I said something that stuck with me long after I woke up. “I think Heaven will be a lot like here, only the things we love so much will never end.”

I thought and thought about that. And I think its true. If you read the scriptures they are filled with references of promised magnificent blessings. We are promised eternal glory and blessings beyond our imagination in heaven.

As I woke and lay in my bed feeling my baby move, realizing that I am married to a man that I love deeply, I thought that there is nothing I want, except to be able to live together as a family, to grow and progress eternally. Thats the only heaven I need.

September 17th 2013 at the Johannesburg temple.

September 17th 2013 at the Johannesburg temple.

I thought about the feelings that I have for my baby boy and I saw my Heavenly Father in such a different light. I saw the savior as his son in such a different way. I thought of the atonement that was made not only in my behalf but also so that my baby in spite of his imperfections can have the chance for eternity, I thought of those renewed relationships as I leave this life and walk into those loving arms. And it all made perfect sense.

I don’t know what I imagined heaven to be…sitting around on golden pillows being waited on while I eat grapes off a golden platter. I don’t know what blessings I imagined that I was hoping for. I think that life here probably isn’t so different from there just more so. More love, more family, more happiness, more contentment, more work, more satisfaction in the reward. I think Heaven will be great. Jesus-embracing