Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting Home/Life at Home

Hey there, its just me again. This whole 3 part post thing is a bust, and I probably could have told you that when I told you I would be doing it. I was going to do one each Sunday but then last Sunday I was lazy and decided not to write because, well... I didn't feel like it. But, I decided I would give it a go today. (I wrote this intro exactly two months ago.... turns out I didn't give it a full go. But here I go again trying to make this thing happen.)

I was going to write a whole post about flying home, but because the 3 part post is now a 2 part post I will just write briefly about it. I had always looked forward to the moments that I would have way up in the sky flying home after my service had ended. I looked forward to the hours of pondering and reflecting what in the world had just happened. I assumed that the experience would truly be once in a lifetime. Well, it was once in a lifetime, because, well… I definitely won’t be making a plane ride home after two years as a proselyting missionary ever again. However, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be like. I guess I need to stop expecting certain events to be a certain way, but it just wasn’t quite like I thought it would be. I thought I would be extremely sentimental and in a deep stupor of thought for the entire thing. However, I hardly cried. Once I went through security in Lubbock I seemed to be in this odd inbetweener stage if emotion. I was so so sad to leave, but yet I was ready to just get home. So my sentimentality was numbed by my readiness to get home, and my readiness to get home was numbed by my sentimentality of leaving Texas. I did, however, really enjoy flying over the north part of my mission (which I never served in) and thinking about the great land that was part of the Texas Lubbock Mission. At first sight West Texas is just about the ugliest piece of land you could find, but over the course of time I started to find great beauty in it. I literally can’t get enough of looking out over the Caprock that Lubbock sits on and look at the sky expanding over the horizon. Ugh, so amazing. You’d have to see it to understand. Anyway, I don’t mean to make anyone jealous because they’ve never been to West Texas so I will go back to my plane ride. My ride from Denver to Boise hit me in the feels a little more than Lubbock to Denver. As I walked through the gate to get to the airplane I nearly broke down in tears, it hit me out of nowhere. I guess I realized that I was boarding my flight that would take me to my final destination. It was apparently very overwhelming for me. Once on the plane I met a few people behind me that were ministers…… I guess some things weren’t getting left behind in Texas. Ahhh, just like old times. I was well trained for this interaction after serving in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Tore it up. All you gotta do is be overly nice to them and thank them for their service and you’ve just won. Not that it’s a competition, but being a Mormon missionary automatically gets you put into a position to get “observed” real easily. Not like an unrighteous observation, but I always wanted to make super positive impressions on ecclesiastical leaders of other denomination because they noticed us and what we did more than others. If I could give them a positive impression of myself, they would have a positive impression on the church that I represented on my nametag, and we’d be one step closer to religious unity among the 7,000,000 different denominations among the people I served. Large task, but I think I did my part in trying to spread common appreciation and love. Anyway, that has nothing to do with my plane ride. There was another lady on our row that we talked to a little bit (we meaning another missionary and myself). She was very nice and she would make comments about how excited our families must be and how crazy our lives were about to get. None of the people around us were members of the church, and they didn’t know too much about us missionaries. So they were all very surprised to hear about the fact that we hadn’t seen our families for two years. So they all had an eye on us and our emotions knowing the circumstances. I felt a lot of love from them! Before I knew it we were in the Treasure Valley and making our descent. I noticed a nice large neighborhood and thought that it was a part of east Boise. As I looked closer I notices a couple landmarks that looked familiar, and then right as it went past my window I realized that it was Kuna!!!! Sure enough, we started making the turn to set ourselves up to land! Seeing Kuna got me freaking a bit. But then I got an aerial view of Boise…. HOLY COW. I hadn’t seen anything like that in years (literally)! I saw a city of trees (some of which were changing colors) and get this….. MOUNTAINS!!!!!! I honestly didn’t think they were real for like, the first week home. No way. Not real. Must be some sort of illusion or something. Bull. But sure enough, they are still there today so I must have been wrong. We landed and everyone around me was just basically staring at me, or so I felt. I walked off the plane and walking through the gate got everything going. Here I was, just minutes away from the big arrival. I was trying to hold back tears as long as possible. I decided to sit down on a bench and take minute to think and to pray. I remember sitting there with some tears in my eyes looking at everyone walking by. One of the ladies that I had talked to on the plane walked by and we made eye contact for a few seconds. She gave me a little smile and kept walking. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. I don’t know why, but that moment is still sharp in my mind. It’s one of those things that I will remember forever and cherish. I have a few of those small moments right there in my mind. Sometimes small simple interactions with people have the most lasting impression. Anyway, I said a little prayer and started my walk through the terminal to go see my family. Crazy stuff, man. I will leave that moment to your imagination. I won’t even try to talk about the reunion. I don’t know how to put that all into words. It was nice. Weird, but quite lovely.

I remember a moment on the drive home that will last with me forever as well. We were driving down Meridian Road after exiting the freeway, and I was looking over at the Kendall car dealership on the corner of Meridian and Overland and realizing that I was home and that I was ACTUALLY home. Up until then it was just like another transfer in my head. A very very different kind of transfer, but a transfer nonetheless. But I remember in that moment realizing that there would be no zone conference the next week, no morning sports the next morning, no knocking on doors that night, nothing. It was OVER. DONE. It hurt. Hurt real bad. But I just went on and was happy to be home, I guess. I remember driving through Kuna and feeling like I never left. I thought it would be weird to drive through my hometown, but it seemed just… regular, I guess. We stopped at Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant in Kuna for some grub on the way home, and we got our food and I remembered that it was weird to pray over your food in Idaho! In Texas you’d go out to eat and see people all over bowing their head and praying together before they ate. But guess what? You ain’t in Texas no more, Elder Ericson! Lame. I had the same experience getting home that I did driving through Kuna. I walked through the door into my house, and it felt like I had been their just a day or two previous. I was a little taken back. It all just makes me realize that my mission was really just a life of itself. It was two years long (which is quite some time for a 20 year old) yet it’s weird to think that it all happened. It was there and now it’s not. Sometimes I wonder if it even happened. I am a different person because of it and my life is much different now, but it’s like it never happened.

Probably the most emotional part of my day was later in the evening when I got released. I cried answering some questions from the stake presidency and as he released me, but the heavy hitter was the drive home. I cried for like 15 minutes straight after leaving that place. I just sat in the back seat of the car looking out the window with tears flowing. I was devastated to not be a missionary anymore. You don’t realize what it means to be a missionary when you first get called and set-apart, and then over the course of your mission you gain a gradual understanding of what it means. But since the growth of your understanding is directly parallel to your time spent as a missionary, you don’t really realize that you understand because it’s just normal life for you. But with my understanding, having the mantel taken away made me realize just how much I knew about what being a missionary was and how much I loved it. It was the worst. I didn’t want life to go on for a moment. I knew that life had so much in store for me and I was excited for that, but for a moment I wanted nothing more than to go back to my life of being a missionary. I still feel that way sometimes. When I think about what I could do as a missionary if I could go back and the life that I miss so much I sometimes wish life wouldn’t have moved on. But, I am thankful for the life I have now and all that I learned as a missionary that is helping me live a wonderful and amazing life now and for years to come!

So, I just took a two month break from this blog post. I guess I finally decided to finish what I started. What really has gotten me lately is when I hear about people keeping journals and I think to how awesome it is to go back and read my mission journals, but then thinking that I have no documentation of what life was like after my mission. So this in essence is my excuse for not writing in my journal. I would really love to be a good journal writer, but it just is so hard to do it, am I right? You know the struggle, I’m sure.

Anyway, I guess I’ll pick back up with this pup where I left off. I don’t really know where to start. It’s literally been two months since I last worked on this. So here we go…..

Life as a non-missionary has been great so far. The first few weeks after returning home were super wonderful. It is so wonderful to see people for the first time in seemingly forever and feeling their love and appreciation for your service. Every day seemingly I would see people and be greeted with a big hug and have such vibes of happiness sent my way. It very much so made me feel like a successful missionary. However, one problem was that I had the EXACT SAME conversation with every single person for like three weeks. “Oh my gosh!!! Reed (which was weird to be called Reed)!!!! So good to see you! How was your mission?”

“Oh man! It was the greatest thing ever!”

“How was Texas?”

“Oh man! It was the greatest thing ever!”

“How’s being home?

“Oh man! Its super weird and I hate the fact that I’m home half the time, but it truly is good to be home!”

--Awkward Silence--

“Well, it’s good to see ya, Reed! Welcome home!”

Aaaaaannnnddddd after three weeks of nothing but that exact same conversation I lost all ability to talk to people. I spent two years learning to be a phenom at talking to people and it was gone just like that. Seriously, after I got over the period of having that conversation I literally had no idea how to talk to people like a normal person. Lol it was the worst! Talk about a punch to the gut going hero to zero (yes, I know that is the opposite of the saying). But after a while of extreme application of the Atonement, I learned how to talk to people again… at least I think I did. I guess time will tell. On a side note, I talked on the phone the other day to a couple old fellas that I visited a ton in one of my areas, and I felt like I was tearing that conversation up and being the best former missionary ever. For some reason I can’t do that with normal people, but with people that I met as a missionary I can still chat it up like nobodies business. I’ll get there… one day.

Another fun thing about those early days of being home was trying to apply the principles I learned as a missionary to normal life. I am extremely thankful for a mission president who taught us about missionary conduct in a way that helped us realize that we weren’t following rules, but we were implementing principles that could be applied to any life setting. While discussing the topic of mission rules/principles at a meeting once we talked about how we in the Texas Lubbock Mission didn’t follow any “mission rules” but rather we apply principles. A missionary said something that I have written on the front page of my missionary handbook, “Mission rules end when you go home. Principles never end.” So as I returned home from my mission, I wasn’t expected to live the same standard of the principles I was as a missionary, so I had to learn how to apply the same principles in a different way. It was a very interesting process, and one that I still go through day by day and often struggle with because, well, life is tough! It was very tough having no restrictions to anything and not having a companion to keep me accountable. At first it was somewhat easy, if there was something that wasn’t inviting of the Spirit, I didn’t do it. I was still very receptive, responsive, and sensitive to the Spirit so it was easy to make strong in the moment decision without hesitation. Plus, I didn’t really have any interest in a lot of the things that distract from the spirit. I hardly watched any television or really meddle with any media for a number of weeks. I just didn’t care to partake. TV shows and movies just didn’t have any appeal to me. Plus, all music seemed foreign to me so I didn’t really care to listen since I had no clue what any of the words were or who was singing. So, I just listened to the Christian stations! But over time I started getting accustomed to those things again. However, I had to practice applying the principles to these things. Sometimes I messed up. I wouldn’t make the right decision, so I would have to promise myself to do better the next time and learn from the decision. Now, I ain’t saying I was listening to some hood rat stuff or watching some sort of trash, but I was trying to do the best I could to stay close to the spirit so some decision that may seem to be perfectly fine were a little not so good for me. And as I am sitting here typing this I am realizing I need to repent! LOL I ain’t being a bad boy or anything but dang I could do better. Couldn’t we all!!!

I think one interesting thing that I learned in the soon months after getting home was what it meant to continually build my testimony. On my mission, everyday was seemingly a testimony building day. Even the days when I felt like I didn’t do much (which was all the time) I still felt satisfied knowing that I went out and did the work of the Lord all day and didn’t quit when it was 100 degrees outside on my bike and I was completely worn out physically, mentally, and didn’t have much spiritual drive because of the exhaustion. I’ll tell you what, those days when absolutely nothing happened for me and my companion except for putting 20 more miles on our bikes' odometers were some of the best days I ever had. If you want to feel like you are pleasing the Lord, go out and work your butt off on foot and bike all day and have nothing to report but zeros. That my friends always had me going to bed knowing that the Lord was pleased with me. I can still to this day very vividly remember carrying my bike up the stairs to my apartment completely and utterly cleaned out of energy and just having enough energy to put forward one more step to the next stair, and then one more, and then one more, all the way to the top when I would just collapse in my apartment, and then starting planning and marking down zeros down the line for the day. It’s the days like those that make my memory of my mission so amazing. Sure, the amazing experiences were nice, the people were incredible, everything was amazing, but those days are what make me think back and realize I was successful. Anyway, what was I talking about. Totally got off track there. So yeah, the whole testimony thing. When I got home all of a sudden each and every day wasn’t a testimony builder. And all of a sudden I was exposed to things that posed questions to my testimony. Not that anything ever derailed it in the slightest, but it posed question to it. I remember one time specifically that prophets and apostles were questioned. I went to the temple the next day and asked the Lord to please confirm to me that what I knew to be true was indeed correct. Sure enough, the big man upstairs pulled through and I walked out of the temple that day with as much confidence that the prophets and apostles on the earth today are men called of God and when they work as leaders of the church they are inspired in all they do. Their council is correct, their decisions on behalf of the church are the will of the Lord in the time they are made, and they will not lead me in any direction but towards God the Father and Jesus Christ. The temple was huge for me when I got home. I made it a goal of going every week until I went to school, and I definitely fell short of that goal, but I definitely surely went a lot. It was such a rock for me. It kept me strong and kept my new life in perspective with my eternal goals and was a big influence on helping me remember who I have the potential to become in this life and in the life to come, which helped me have strength day by day to do good and stay close to the principles that changed me on my mission. I am so incredibly thankful for the temple and the blessings that it has brought me! I have been greatly blessed by the knowledge it has brought me and the man it has helped me become!

Another thing was helped me a ton was the Sabbath day! My goodness, I never knew how great the Sabbath was until it was a completely different day than the other six! I realized that on my mission everyday was basically the Sabbath in a real world sense. Sundays were good and all, but when I got home the other six days weren’t spend studying and teaching the gospel and weren’t spent doing nothing but the work of the Lord. All of a sudden I had six days that were testing me and trying me, and by the time Sunday rolled around I was definitely in need of an influx of the Holy Spirit! I just loved being able to go to church, take the sacrament and have a different experience with the sacrament than I had as a missionary, sit and listen to the lessons and take in the good word, and then walk out of the church doors feeling refreshed and ready to take the week head on. And then I had the rest of the day of course, and by the end of the day I would be locked and loaded and ready to go! I definitely grew a much strengthened testimony of the Sabbath in the months soon after I got home. On my mission I had more of a doctrinal/logical testimony, but it was able to be turned into a much more experience based testimony!

My oh my, I don’t know what to talk about next. I have a few other things I think I could talk about but I ain’t sure if they belong here.

I guess I will leave y’all with just one more experience I’ve had recently. It all starts in San Angelo, TX in November 2015. I received a heartbreaking transfer assignment to leave Odessa, TX and go to San Angelo. I was definitely excited to go to San Angelo as I had heard lots of great things about it. But Odessa was just so great and there were a few things that I was just really heartbroken to leave. However, I saddled up and rode on down to San Angelo. On the drive down to San Angelo I was told that there was a man in my area with quite the story. He had been married to a member of the church for 50+ years but had never gotten baptized. However, just recently before I got there he had accepted his first baptismal date EVER. So I was pretty excited. Well, turns out this man was just flat out difficult. He just couldn’t feel the spirit for the life of him. Nothing worked for this guy. I read the longest teaching record I ever saw on my mission for this man that was filled with highly spiritual experiences for all the people involves except for him! I soon found the same thing happening. My goodness. In the words of his wife, “HE’S A MULE!!! And you know what other word I could have used in place of ‘mule’!” Well, his baptism date was approaching and we sure as heck knew it wasn’t happening then. So we bumped that unit back to the 19th of December. That date just naturally turned into the 26th of December since his family was planning on being there for Christmas. You know, gotta take the two for one when you can, right? Well, that came and went. NOTHING. For a long time we spent our time over there trying to help him get his “answer”. Let me tell ya, that route had us all running in circles for years. It wasn’t ever going to happen! So basically we just tried to pressure him into getting baptized so that he could receive a witness that what he did was good after receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not gonna lie, the whole “pressure him” thing kinda worked. And in our defense we didn’t intentionally pressure him, it just kinda happened one day! It was all backed by scripture so it’s all good. After getting him all nice and pressured we were one day sitting there and were talking to Mac about what we should do going forward to help him since he sure as heck wasn’t getting any answers anytime soon. We were talking about The Book of Mormon and how that was going for him. He was reading it every day but wasn’t getting tons out of it. So, I had the idea to just come over and read with him and not worry about anything else besides just helping his understand what he was reading and apply it. So, we went that route. I remember sitting there and discussing his baptismal date with him as well one day and thinking, “man, he needs to do this himself”. So, I told ol’ Mac that he should choose his own baptismal date this time around. He had his mind made up two days later that it would be January 23rd. Fair enough. About two weeks prior to the 23rd we were having our chat with Mac about the whole ordeal, and I remember exactly him saying, “Well, I guess I need to get baptized…”. And just to say this, that wasn’t a brain blower for us. Mac said garbage like that all the time and then just say, “but I need answers.” So here we are, Elder Andrus, Mac’s wife Carolyn, and myself just chillin’ waiting for his follow up line. But after a few seconds Mac was still just sitting there looking at his iPad. So now we were starting to get a little anxious. A few more seconds. Nothin’. A few more seconds go by and by now I don’t think there was a heartbeat in the room minus Mac’s. I don’t know how long of a time went by before Mac looks up at us all and goes, “I guess…..”. It’s safe to say that there was definitely a few minutes of clarifying work done after his famous, “I guess….”. Hahaha typical Mac! Well, January 23rd rolled around and Mac was indeed baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with a while chapel packed with people there to witness the grand event. Well, a year went by and it was the time for Mac and Carolyn to be sealed for eternity in the Lord’s house. I had the profound opportunity and pleasure to attend the ceremonies for Mac receiving his endowment and the two of them getting sealed in the Lubbock, Texas temple. It was kinda funny keeping an eye on Mac during the endowment ceremony because I knew just how confused the man was at the whole thing, just as we all are our first time! It definitely kept a smile on my face. When I walked into the Celestial Room ol’ Mac was standing right there and came right up to me and thanked me for helping him get there. I asked him how he felt, and he said that he felt good before we had a little laugh about him being rather confused at that point in time. Anyway, we then all made our way to the sealing room. My goodness, being a witness to Mac and Carolyn being sealed was incredible. Just incredible. It was definitely a bit different of an experience than most sealings, as the two of them have been married for over 50 years. It was really cool because the whole focus of the ceremony was specifically on the sealing, and nothing to do with their civil marriage. I guess that was the first sealing I've been to, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I assume it had a different feel than sealings usually do. After the ceremony they stood at the head of the room and we all walked by and hugged them and whatnot on the way out. Being able to look into Mac’s eyes and have him thank me sincerely for helping him be there that day was one of the greatest moments of my life. There was an 82 year old man (give or take a year) standing there after having just been FINALLY sealed to his wife of 50+ years, making Carolyn’s 50+ year dream come true. Knowing that I had a part in that process was extremely humbling as a missionary, and then once again extremely humbling when the whole sheebang was capped off that day with their sealing. I told Mac that all two years of extremely hard work were worth it if the only thing I got out of it was to be there with them that day. I know that there will be something tying us together closely in the eternities. They aren’t just a family that I had the pleasure of helping, they are eternally connected to me and will be part of my eternal family forever.

Well, I’ll wrap it up there. If you’re still reading, props to you. I probably would’ve peaced out a few pages ago. But here you are, wasting your life away reading my make-up journal entry minus the tear splatters.

I just want to share my still growing testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his work here on the earth. I don’t get to share it nearly as much as I used to and I want to take any opportunity I get. I know that you and I have heavenly parents who have an incomprehensible love for us. Although it is hard to see, our Father’s plan is perfect and he is actively engaged with every second of our lives making his plan come to pass. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12) I know that our perfect Father’s perfect plan is all centered on and is in action because of his perfect son Jesus Christ and that our elder brother knows us perfectly because of his individual suffering for you and I. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:16) I know that he lives and will be our advocate with Father to overcome the demands of justice to allow us our promised eternal blessings. I know that the Lord has restored the fulness of his gospel on the earth today through a prophet. The restored gospel allows us freedom and gives us strength against the powers of the adversary. It cleanses you and me from sin, and it sheds light on the sometimes difficult to find truths in our world that we live in. I know that the Lord has worked through a continual line of prophets since the Prophet Joseph and continues working today through President Monson. Although imperfect in their day to day lives, the prophets and apostles are all men called of God and work under the Lord’s revelation to guide his children in these, the last days. Through my studies I have grown a profound love for the word, aka the scriptures. I love them, I love them, I love them. I know that The Book of Mormon is the key to coming to know the Lord better than by any other source. The teachings are profoundly correct and powerful, the stories are brought to life by the Spirit, and my soul is filled with light as I read the words on each page. I love the rest of the scriptures as well! I have found such truth and understanding throughout each book of scripture that the Lord has given us. I love the Lord, I love his gospel, I love his word, and I love his church!

God bless ya!

Btw... I don’t really have a plan for continued blog posts. I know I talked more about it at the beginning of this unit. I have some stuff I may get around to sharing at a later date. Not much more relating to my mission, but just life stuff.

I'M HOME!!!!!

Lubbock Temple with the McMunn's

Boise Temple after a rad sesh
I got to see Pres & Sis Heap in Lubbock!!!

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