The time was drawing near. I would soon be heading back to America after spending 15 months in Uganda. What made it even sweeter was – after multiple visa denials – my husband would be traveling with me too. An answer to prayers made by many. I honestly thought this long-awaited day would never come.
Naturally, I didn’t know what to expect landing back on American soil, so I asked other missionaries and expats what it’s like heading home after living in Uganda. The responses I received varied and included the following:
- You will be overwhelmed at the grocery store
- Getting on the highway will terrify you. Take your time before driving.
- Friendships will have changed.
- You’ll be ready to come back to Uganda.
- Everything is expensive.
- You’ll gain the furlough 15.
I definitely felt overwhelmed at the grocery store. Overwhelmed with joy at all the ice cream selections presented to me. It is true everything does seem more expensive. The more you eat with friends, the more your already skinny wallet shrinks. But I can look back on my time in the states and confidently say, “I gave it all I got!”
Being away from family and friends sure has a way of making you appreciate every moment that’s given to you. The Lord gave me the word ‘Live’ for 2018 and my theme song to accompany this word is “I Lived” by OneRepublic.
“Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places and things that I did. Yeah with every broken bone, I swear I lived.” This song is my anthem for this year sans the broken bone part.
So, I took the word ‘Live’ and ran with it during my time in the United States. I strategically planned my visit to cover a lot of celebrations like my niece’s birthday, mother’s day, father’s day, my sister’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday, and my mother’s birthday. All in an attempt to create memories, savor every second and maximize each moment.
My time back in the US was not only beautiful but better than I could have ever imagined. Here’s how I lived life to the fullest (and maybe you can too without having to leave the country first).
Make good on promises
People that keep their word are the ones you want to keep around. I decided I wanted to be a woman of my word too. Back when I was a teenager, before my brain was fully formed mind you, I promised my best friend we would get matching tattoos. Well, she’s never forgotten that promise and this summer was my, “It’s now or never moment.” So, after asking everybody at the tattoo parlor with metal bars on the door how much pain I was going to be in, I sucked it up and got stung with a needle repeatedly.
Break the law
By break the law, I mean I allowed my 13-year-old niece to drive in the high school parking lot. With her booster seat in place, we went over all the driving basics. I would get nervous and raise my voice as I directed her. Serenity would freak out and slam on the breaks. This pattern continued.
Honestly, we were having a blast until I decided to become self-reflective. Taking my eyes off the road, I looked at Serenity. How is it possible that this once 2.14-ounce fragile baby girl has turned into a beautiful, young woman? And I cried. Serenity, already accustomed to her teary-eyed aunt, stopped the car and pulled out the tissues. There’s no parenting book that can prepare you for these moments where childhood is slipping away and adulthood is fast approaching.
Surround yourself with positive people
All that I’m after is a life full of laughter. And people who share that same goal as me. Some of my favorite nights were spent with Lori and Jeff. There’s something about being around them that just makes your heart feel at home. We could be visiting a winery, watching a movie on the big screen in the backyard, taking a dip in the pool, riding in a biker gang, painting my toenails or even taking a candle-lit bubble bath. Yup. You read that right.
I love to be around people, but I equally need alone time. Well, bouncing around from house to house meant there was no way for me to find the proper alone time to recharge. One night when I wasn’t feeling well, thanks to those Texas allergies, Jeff and Lori made a candle-lit bubble bath for me and left me alone at home for the night. I needed this night.
If you want to learn how to love people, take a page out of the Beggs’ book. They continue to teach me every day.
From, birth to birthdays my time was full of celebrating. I missed births of babies while I was away, but Heidi made it just in time for me to meet her.
My family got together and threw a surprise party for the best mom in the world. She sacrifices for her children without a second thought and I was grateful we could do something for her.
Yes, I missed milestones being away, but God gave me memories in abundance on this trip. Wouldn’t it be great if we created a culture of celebration each day?
Travel took us from Illinois to Washington D.C to Oklahoma and then to Florida. My husband loves American history, so we toured every dead person’s house we could find. I made spontaneous trips to Oklahoma just to meet a friend halfway.
Going to Disney World was the cherry on top of the travel sundae. I would literally eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of my life if it meant I got to see this big, beautiful world.
Focus on family
My heart’s desire was for my husband to meet all my family, play Chicken Track with my grandpa Foat, and listen to Grandpa Bingo’s war stories. Right before my eyes, I saw God fulfill this desire. I can’t accurately describe what I felt watching my husband get beat by my grandpa at a game of pool or see him patiently play a game of checkers with my grandpa as he continually tried to play Ashiram’s pieces instead of his own.
Even though my nephew would reply. “I don’t love you!” every time I told him I loved him. Any time he asked to have a ‘spend the night over’ I caved. When we weren’t preoccupied picking on each other, I did teach him to make coffee in our hotel bathroom (trying to leave a legacy while I can) and we did go to get ice cream solo. Other than those rare miraculous moments, he hated me. You might think I’m overexaggerating but when I told him I was going back to Africa, he clapped his hands.
Because my sister is a teacher that allowed us plenty of time to die at the gym. I’m not sure if this is one of my favorite memories, but getting Chipotle after our intense workouts was my motivation.
My time in the US was bliss. I tried to say, ‘Yes’ to whatever opportunity came my way. My perspective was dramatically different because my mind was always asking, “When will I get to have this opportunity again?” I constantly looked at life through this lens while in the states. As I headed back to Uganda, I could say with confidence I LIVED.