well this has been a very interesting 2 weeks. I arrived home 2 weeks ago tomorrow. the last couple days of my mission were very emotional, and i really didnt know what to think or do with myself. saying goodbye to everyone was so hard. all my old companions and my companion that i had just trained... it was hard! but finally i pulled myself away from the chapel at transfer meeting, and left with the other departing missionaries. i was happy to be able to visit a family i had worked heavily with , and become very close with whilst in forest lake (my second area). we had a nice visit and then we had to book it back to the mission home so we could have our exit interviews. I had a pleasant visit with some the missionaries that I had known and loved my entire mission, and then got called in for my exit interview. It was a wonderful interview, and President Langeland spoke very frankly, and he gave me some great advice. After the interviews were over, we had a big dinner that included the office couple and the AP's. It was an AMAZING dinner! SO good! and then we sat around and talked for a bit, and then we all gathered downstairs for a testimony meeting. We went around the room, and i could feel the power coming from each elder has he bore his testimony, told a joke, or relived a favorite memory with another brother. When it came time for me, I stood up and was immediately overcome with emotion. This was not my original intake of elders, yet they all welcomed me in, never once judged me for "going home early" and they all just acted as if i was one of them. I expressed my gratitude to them for that, and they just shook their heads as if it was a given. My Testimony has grown so much, and I bore it to them as best I could through my tears. We ended that testimony meeting with "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again." Its one of those songs that you think is so cliche your entire mission, and then you get to the end, and you mean every word of that Hymn to every brother standing in the room.
The rest of the night was spent getting all our stuff ready, making sure we weren't over the baggage weight, and then finally settling down in the basement, watching church movies, and finally falling asleep, though quite restlessly. When it was finally time to wake up, I rolled out of bed, and put my bedding away, and wandered upstairs for one last Australian breakfast. Crunchy Nut cereal with milk from a 3L bottle, that came from grain-fed cows. And toast. And then sister Langeland also made cinnamon rolls, so that part was actually pretty American, but none of us were complaining. After that, we had to get 17 missionaries through the shower, into their clothes, which was actually faster than expected.
Then, I got a call from the office, which was just telling me that my ecclesiastical endorsement had already gone through and I didn't need to worry about it. So that was a stress reliever. It had begun pouring rain just an hour before we were meant to leave, and didn't stop for us, so a tarp was purchased at Bunnings (something akin to Home Depot) and we got everything in the trailer, and the tarp fashioned just so that nothing could get wet. I had the good fortune of having all my stuff in the middle, so it didn't get wet. And with that, we were off to the airport to say goodbye to Australia, and Hello to the 13 hour plane ride home. It was a long plane ride. I watched Tangled. It was funny. Haha, anyway, so the real tension happened when we got into LA airport. I was told to take my stuff to the terminal, while everyone else got to re-check their bags right away. They were all going to Utah. So I lugged my stuff around until i finally found where i was supposed to check in, and the guys in front of me were being made to lighten their load, and pay an extra 30 bucks! i knew i was over the US weight limit, and i only had Australian money at that point. But as i got to the counter, the lady behind it, told me to put my stuff up, and i watched as the blinking numbers told her it was overweight, and not by just a little, and she just took off the scale, and put it on the conveyor belt, and handed me my boarding pass! I was shocked! The Lord takes care of his missionaries. So then I waited for another little while in my terminal, and then finally got on the little 747 that was going to take me home to Portland. This was where my nerves started to fall apart. I knew that as soon as i stepped off that air plane, that my mission was done. over. the thought was painful, and i wanted to make the plane stop, turn around, take me back to australia, but what about my family? Oh, how i missed them and loved them! yes, i would go home, just to see them again. that was worth it. but then i wanted to go right back out. no questions. Just as the plane was getting ready to land over this city that i loved, i realized something... i REALLY had to use the toilet! So I got off the plane, which was actually the first time i had ever disembarked straight onto the runway, and went straight to the toilet. i was very glad i took care of all that when i finally ascended those stairs. I kept following the signs, and eventually, I came out into the general Airport, and it seemed that all others from my flight had already come this way. But it seems that my family knew i was coming, no matter what, and there they were, so close, and yet so far away! I heard Anna Say it first- "Tayler!" Then everyone saw me. It all I could do to keep from breaking into a run, dropping everything, and getting over to them as quickly as possible. But I held onto my dignity and walked very quickly, up to them. THEN I dropped my stuff, and hugged my mom, and everyone, including the laptop that had Marissa and Cara on skype, and then Uncle craig and Aunt Helen and matthew. These were my people! i was HOME!!! i couldnt have been more happy. And then my mom asked if i wanted to go to Panda express. Then i realized i was so giddy, that i really had no desire for food whatsoever, so we went home. HOME!!! I remembered everything exactly how it was, outside, except Maui. She has gotten fat. Poor dog. I need to talk to Collin about putting her on a diet... anyway. I got the grand tour of the house, with all the new editions, and even had my own bed waiting, and made for me when i got downstairs, and to my delight, there she was. My drum set. oh, i would be whole again! and then i sat and talked to my family for the next couple hours, and then we finally did go out, and get My Panda Express. Talk about a party in my mouth! it was a great way to get ready for official release that came right after that. We drove to President campbell's home, where he invited me into his office, and talked to me for a bit, and then he told me to take my badge off. I went silent. It hurt more than i ever thought it could, and then, like a second dagger, he said, "the other one too" i hung my head, and reached inside my jacket, and took off the badge that was also on my shirt pocket. he then told me that i was formally released as a missionary for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was liberating, as well as depressing. I felt the mantle being lifted off my shoulders, but I so desperately wanted it to come back. I realized then that a mission was, as a good friend of mine once said, just like a roller coaster. It was so fun! and you wish you could go again, but you dont, cause if you do, you'll throw up. Ok its not totally like that, but its kinda accurate. anyway, after that, we drove home, i make a phone call to a special girl, which made my day, and then spent the rest of that night talking and celebrating with my family. All this was done on March 30, 2011. it was quite literally the longest day of my life. i was awake for a total of 35 hours. and it was Still all one day. But what a GREAT day! I am so glad to be home now, and to be able move on to the next stage of my life. that is, life itself!