I was doing alright until this morning when I put the lock on my last suitcase and it hit me: I don't really want to come home at all. I slept with my tag on last night, because, you know, не хочется прощаться.
Thank you so much for sticking with me the past 18 months. Thank you for letters, emails, packages, notes. Thank you for prayers. Thank you for remembering me. I'll see you all this Sunday, I suppose.
This past week has been incredible and terrible and full. I got to say goodbye to almost every person I've loved in Ukraine, mostly in person. I don't think I've ever felt more love (or more loved) than I have this past week. Due to a small (or not so small) miracle, I even had the chance to see several of my favorites from Chernigov and Zhytomyr. I spent two wonderful days in Voskrecensky saying goodbye to everyone I love there. I went to a funeral while I was there and sang "God be with you till we meet again" in Ukrainian and felt like I was living "the other side of heaven" and felt like my heart was being squeezed through a juicer. I went to the Kyiv temple one last time.
I don't really know how to wrap this all up. There aren't words. I haven't figured it all out. In some ways, I can't believe the past 18 months have been real. I pinch myself. I have learned so much. I have loved so many people. I have been so happy. It has truly been the best journey of my life.
I say almost daily "on my mission I have learned [blank]." That prayers are answered. That kindness helps people change. That no smile or hug is wasted. That you can love anyone. That all people are basically good and are basically trying. That it is good to be thankful. That fasting works. That He sends us the people, circumstances, and experiences we need. That saying goodbye hurts, but it's a good kind of hurt. That miracles are real. That the Spirit really leads us. That the Lord is in the small things. That working hard and setting goals brings joy. That gratitude brings joy. That repentance brings joy. That people can change. That I can change. The list is long.
But if I had to narrow it down to the single most important thing I learned on my mission, I think it would probably be how to be happy.This has been the happiest time of my life. I've learned to give up what I want and do what He wants. Before my mission, I understood this just a little bit, but over the past 18 months I have seen again and again and again how beautifully it works in my life. There have been many moments which required sacrifice and "jumping off the high dive," exercising faith to do something I didn't want to do. But time after time it held true that His way was better, and what I got at the end was so much more than what I had before. It is my testimony that there's no happier or more peaceful way to live than following the Savior. When we do that, and truly have the Spirit as our constant companion, the world becomes brighter and we take on a whole new light. It's beautiful in the most simple and pure way.
I can't say how much I love my mission. But I will forever be grateful for the past 18 months.
Со всей любовью,
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