What gift will He have for you?

It was possibly the hardest day of my life up to this point. I sat in the Celestial room of the temple pouring my heart out to God. (For those of you who may not know what this is or have never been there let me give a brief description. A temple is house that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints build for GOd. We believe that it is literally a home for him on earth. Because of this and because we believe that not only does he reside there but it is in this place that he provides a way for us to bless the lives of many others it is made as perfectly and as beautifully as we can make it. The Celestial room is the most special place in the whole temple and is a place that represents the ultimate heaven for us. ) This room, this special place inside a house dedicated to God usually brought such peace but this day I couldn’t seem to stop the tears.

I sat in the furthest corner I could find my head down my face shielded by my hair falling over my shoulders and I sobbed. My head was pounding from the intensity of the emotion, my hands were full of tissues all but dissolved from the abundance of tears. I felt HIs presence there, I felt peace in the room but my heart ached so much I had a hard time allowing it to penetrate. When I felt that I had my tears a little under control I moved to a couch nearer the center of the room. I looked up into the gleaming chandelier above me that seemed to reach down from heaven almost touching the huge bouquet of flowers of the earth sitting on the table below. I felt my Fathers presence and I knew my tears mattered to him. I spoke to him silently. Father, I know you are here, I know you love me, I feel your spiritual hug, but today I just need physical arms, I need flesh and bones, I need a hug!

Celestial-Room-Mexico-City-Mexico-Temple-752x440I lowered my head, looking at the ball of tissues in my hand, I took a deep breathe determined to pull myself together. A pair of white slippers walked into view, a white dress floating above slender white ankles. They stopped in front of me. I looked up into the eyes of a girl I barely knew.  She had been in my ward but had left a couple weeks earlier to serve a mission. She smiled at me. “I thought I knew you” she said.

“I thought you were on your mission?” I asked.

“I am but I am still at the Missionary training center across the street and today is our temple day. Its so nice to see a familiar face” she said as she sat down next to me. “How are you doing?”

Her question was sincere. My answer was not. “I’m ok.” I said not very convincingly.

“Can I give you a hug?”She asked.

The tears rushed forth again as I saw the Lord fulfill my request within a matter of seconds. I hugged her probably harder and longer than she was expecting. I’ll never know if she knew that she had been the Lords arms for me that day. I’ve never seen her since then but she taught me something very important.

The Lord has no limits. He loves us deeply, he counts every tear we cry and when he can’t physically put arms around us he sends others to do the job. When he can’t physically feed us he sends others with food. And when he can’t literally teach us he sends others with a message for us.

This weekend is General Conference. It is a time when LDS church leaders who have been praying for months about what message the Father would have them relay to us will speak to us of the impressions and answers they feel are the most urgent for us to hear. What will they say? What questions do you have? What will you hear?

I promise you that if you have a question or a request such as I had that day in the Celestial room. The Lord will respond to you this weekend during conference. Ask, wait, listen, and you will hear his answer. Whoever you are, where ever you sit He is there he is listening to you and he will answer you.

For me as I drag my heavily pregnant body through the day I will be listening for a message of encouragement for moms who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in the day to day struggle of raising toddlers. I will be listening for messages of how to navigate the struggles that come with marriage, I will be listening for advice on how to find balance in my life and peace in my heart. I will be trying to draw more strength from Him and less from the world around me. 21752026_1968995749988057_3585119812092829969_n

What are your questions? If you care to share leave me some comments. We can listen together!

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My Year of Miracles: A review of my tenth year as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

10 years! I remember it like it was yesterday; the day I got baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I felt so lost and out-of-place I wondered if I would make it through the week. I felt strongly that I had made the right decision…but boy was it going to mean big changes for me; many of which there was no way to be prepared for.

Since that day each year on the anniversary of that day I spend some time alone, thinking, pondering and reviewing my choice, my commitment, and the consequences of that choice, be they good or bad. Every year I look back filled with gratitude, sometimes sadness, but always in awe of what has transpired since that time and most especially in the most recent year.

This year more than any other year I see so clearly how that choice I made ten years ago continues to grow in its impact in my life. Almost every single decision I made this year…and I made some big ones, was in a large way influenced by my decision to join this church.

So here is a year in review:

May 2013

I arrived in Uganda just 1 day before my 9th anniversary as a member of the LDS church. That first week was hard. Really hard. It took some getting used to, it was fun, it was an adventure, it was eye-opening to see a way of life so different from my own. That month I learned to live without so many things. I ate strange foods and even insects (check out the video!)

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This was my bed.

I went way to long without showers because of a lack of water, met so many new friends, learned to sleep in spite of the lizards crawling on the walls, and the mice and rats fighting over food remnants in our kitchen. I used pit latrines, carried water in a jerry can, was smothered in love and dirty hand prints by dozens of children who all wanted to hold my hand and have a piece of my attention. I felt completely overwhelmed by all of it. Especially the stifling heat. Oh and I didn’t know it then but I met someone who would change my life forever. It was a good month!

After adding a few of my things and scrubbing vigorously!

After adding a few of my things and scrubbing vigorously!

June 2013

I agreed to go on a date with Joseph Ssempala. That date colored the rest of my month. I saw him or talked to him every day after that. When he told me he loved me after just a few weeks I responded by teaching him a new phraze…”take a chill pill.” fortunately he isn’t one to give up easily and while he did give me the little space that I needed, he continued to make me feel like the most amazing woman alive. He showed me so many things and we had some amazing adventures that month. I realized I was falling in love in a strange country with a strange and wonderful man who took my breath away. It was a great month!!

Joseph and I on our first date.

Joseph and I on our first date.

July 2013

After traveling to Rwanda and having some crazy adventures there. I accepted a proposal of marriage from the man of my dreams and after only dating just two days shy of a month. Joseph and I began planning our wedding. At first we planned for the wedding to take place in October. But it wasn’t long before we realized that, that plan wasn’t going to work and we moved the date up to the 27th of July. It gave us two crazy weeks to plan for the day I had waited my whole life for. It was nothing like I had imagined but all the important elements where there with the exception of the attendance of family and friends. I was head over heels in love with the man I was marrying, I wore a beautiful white dress, and the end result was that I found myself a married woman and so blissfully content that nothing else mattered. What can I say, it was a phenomenal month!!!DSCF1436

August 2013

As July turned to August I learned many new skills. Like how to shower outside with a bucket of cold water, how to cook on a charcoal stove, and how to have an argument and still stay friends with your new husband. I planted a garden, created a home, met some wonderful new neighbors and took a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive! What more can I say…My joy was complete and it was the month of my dreams.

September 2013

September came with its own challenges and joys. I learned that morning sickness is NOTHING like being car sick but just in the mornings like I used to think it would be. I ate less and threw up more than I would have dreamed was possible. I spent most of my day resting and trying to help my body create another human being! I started teaching piano lessons, getting more involved at church, and just tried to survive being really sick. I also got to travel to South Africa where my new husband and I went through a very special ceremony where we were sealed together for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. One of the most sacred and special moments of my life was when this man who I love so much took my hand and led me through this process that would bind us together for eternity. Eternity wouldn’t be long enough for me. It was a legion…wait for it….dary month!  (a little How I Met Your Mother reference for those of you that love Neil Patrick Harris).

October 2013

With the blush of spring and the warmth of summer past, October saw me traveling home alone. I needed to eat and rest and get strong for the baby growing inside me. I needed my family and I needed to be back in America. I would come, work on getting Joseph a visa, finish up my last two semesters of school and prepare for our coming baby. It was a long and lonely month.

November 2013

I turned 32 this month and being married took the sting out of being another year older, the day passed and aside from having a wonderful Skype session with my husband I hardly noticed. I prayed for a mild winter, worked and waited and waited some more. I found an apartment for us to start our lives together in and my mother graciously helped me to furnish and make our little two bedroom apartment feel like a home.

December 2013

Began to realize that Joseph wouldn’t be coming as soon as we had imagined and tried to adjust to a new kind of loneliness. With Morning sickness easing up significantly and the second trimester under way I felt like a new woman and I couldn’t believe my growing body. We had an ultra sound and discovered that our baby was a boy. We agreed to name him Preston Joseph.

January 2014

Started my final semester of school!! A degree 8 years in the making finally looking like it was coming to an end. Began a new job at Cedar Fort planning events. Life began to settle into a routine.

February 2014

As I moved into the third trimester, things began to get a bit more difficult. Preston became heavier, my belly got tighter and I felt sure my skin was going to pop! The miracle that takes place in a pregnant woman’s body on a daily basis never ceases to amaze me! Our baby was moving and growing and I was experiencing sweet moments that I had only ever dreamed about. I never dreamed that I would feel them alone, and experience my first pregnancy in such a way but I learned some good lessons about love, communication, patience and not taking things for granted. I learned about disappointment as Joseph’s application for a visitors visa was denied and we continued to wait for his immigrant visa.

March 2014

After passing out at work, and showing significant signs of impending labor I went on bedrest to keep from having our baby prematurely. This month I learned about accepting help even when you want to do things yourself, about exchanging independence for kindness, about learning to let go of expectations and about trust as I had to realize that this baby was going to be born without Joseph being here. My entire pregnancy was going to come and go without Joseph getting to be a part of any of it. On the other hand my exhausted body was grateful for the rest and the time spent with family. It was a very long month.

And Finally April 2014

And now we have come full circle. With my baby 13 days over due I find myself sitting down to write this review of what might possibly be the most eventful year of my life so far. April was long and exhausting, Big changes in our family. Joseph still unsure of when he will be able to join me and the anticipation of the nearness of a new life have left me a bit of an emotional basket case. I cry almost daily for no good reason. I sit, I stand, I walk, and I lay down in an effort to find a position where something doesn’t hurt. Then I give up until 5 minutes later when I will try it all again.

I am eternally grateful for the child growing within me, for the husband that I trust, love, and adore with every part of my being, for a family who has carried me through this incredibly difficult time. But more than anything else I am grateful that I followed my heart, the direction that I felt from the spirit that day ten years ago. I am so grateful that because of what I know and love about the gospel of Jesus Christ, this year and everything I have experienced in it has been worth it. It has been so wonderful, hard and overwhelming. But I have grown and never once have I doubted that my Father has a plan for our little family, that he brought us together and he can keep us together if we draw close to him. I haven’t doubted that he loves us, that i am exactly where he wants me to be and that I can approach him in peace knowing that in spite of my imperfections he is proud of me and so willing to help me. I love my Lord, I love his church, I love my husband, my baby my family and my life. Every year so far has seen blessings and adventures. But this year, this year that marks a full decade in the church…This year was big…

this year was beyond description!!!

 

 

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.

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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 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.