Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Errand of Angels

I hope all of you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! This morning I woke up to my oldest daughter whispering to her younger sister, “wake up.” Since my husband has been out of town doing military training, my oldest daughters have been planning and anticipating making me a special Mother’s Day surprise. They tiptoed down our stairs sometime around 6:30 this morning. You’d have thought it was Christmas had you heard their excited whispers. 

Soon after they came upstairs bearing their gifts on a cake pan. Every Mother’s Day they can remember they’d get up early to help Daniel make me a feast usually consisting of:  yogurt, fruit, and pancakes. Since Daniel wasn’t there to help, they treated me to muffins along with yogurt, applesauce, and juice. I enjoyed seeing my oldest daughter’s toothless grin as she watched me enjoy the fruit of their labor (this is also tradition). I eat while they sit and watch and smile. 

Here's the before picture of my surprise breakfast in all it's glory (ignore the poor quality...I took it with my iPod)

Besides their excitement, the best part of this “surprise” was that my own mom sacrificed in order to make it happen. See, the girls had told grandma about their plans. Knowing that they wouldn’t be able to make pancakes on their own, she helped provide those muffins. My mom was up in DC visiting for a week. While I was at a Dr. appointment with our toddler, and the only means of transportation, my mom walked a mile to the grocery store where she purchased those muffins, juice, and countless other items she couldn’t help pass up knowing we’d enjoy them (like a massive bag of candy, several, boxes of pastries, bagels, cream cheese and more). I seriously don’t know how she carried it all. Yet, she did. After she got back she helped the girls tuck the muffins in a bag marked, “No Peeking Mom!” and slipped them in the freezer. Last night they instructed me to pull that bag out to let it defrost overnight.

So when I ate my breakfast this morning, it was even more special knowing that my mom had sacrificed to make my own Mother’s Day surprise possible. Moms are awesome! I’m lucky to have a mom who’s willing to walk a mile and carry a load for me time and time again.

I’m also lucky to have so many other mother figures or “nurturers” in my life. I remember first really recognizing all these motherly figures/nurturers while serving a mission in South Korea. I was serving in Je Ju Island and had been there for some time. I remember waking up and having an upset stomach. At the time my companion was also somewhat annoyed with me. In her defense, I have to say it’s not easy living with a person 24/7. I’m not exaggerating either. Missionaries are always with their companions unless they are using the facilities (aka the restroom). While Je Ju is gorgeous (they say it’s Korea’s Hawaii, and I say it’s even better), we didn’t get as many opportunities to see and connect with other missionaries, and sometimes felt a little isolated. Needless to say being imperfect and all, my companion and I sometimes got annoyed with one another, and that morning she was pretty frustrated about something. 

We left to go do our weekly service at a local community center where the elderly would come and eat a free meal. I knew that my companion would soon get over whatever was bugging her and we’d likely talk about it after we’d worked and served the community for a couple of hours. Yet, as we passed out bowls, chopsticks, and spoons, my stomach tightened and began to really hurt. I remember not wanting to bother my companion because I knew she needed her space, but wondered if I should approach her and ask if we should go home. I didn’t know if my stomachache was a good enough reason to need to take a day off, but decided I wouldn’t bother my companion unless it got worse. In that moment I felt so utterly and completely alone. I still couldn’t quite comprehend the language, and while I loved the people, I wondered if I was even making a difference. I felt so insignificant and small. I said a silent prayer in my mind, letting Heavenly Father know how I felt and asking that I be comforted with a sense of peace. I remember as I prayed and ignored the pain in my stomach, I couldn’t help but think how in that moment all I really wanted was my mom. As a woman in her early twenties, I felt pretty lame admitting I wanted my mother’s comfort, but I voiced this thought in my prayer anyhow. I knew if anyone besides Heavenly Father was pushing for my health and success, it would be mom. I missed her.

 After my silent prayer was offered, I busied myself in the kitchen. After we’d gotten the rice bowls filled and hot soup had been served, one of the women must have noticed me holding my stomach and asked if I was feeling okay. I was surprised that she’d noticed anything but admitted that I was hurting. In a flash I had two women beside me practicing reflexology as they rubbed my hands. Another woman made a quick trip to the pharmacy to grab some medicine. The rest of the women hurried to make me rice soup that they claimed would help. My companion’s frustration had melted away and she also looked at me with concern and helped the women make a fuss over me.

 I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of love wash over me, and knew that God had heard my prayer and answered it in the most unexpected way. God didn't send my own mother, but there I was surrounded by the same nurturing love of a mother. I felt a little embarrassed with all the attention they were giving me. Yet, their service reassured me that Heavenly Father was aware of me. Even though I was one among billions He'd taken the time to inspire these earthly angels. I knew He had.  There act of service might have seemed small and unimportant in their eyes, but to me their simple acts of love enveloped me. Their service was specific to my needs and allowed me to have a glimpse at just how spectacular and wonderful these women were.

This week seemed to be a repeat of that experience. After my Grandma passed away, I was beyond disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to make it to her funeral. I was so upset when I knew I was going to miss it. I was close with my grandma. We’d spent the last three years living just a block away. Even when Daniel and I were dating we’d often go to visit Grandpa and Grandma and developed quite a bond. After Grandpa passed away, we saw Grandma even more as she decided to teach one of my daughter’s preschool to help out while Daniel was away doing officers training. She’d done so much for our little family, yet I wasn’t going to make it to the funeral. I was very down that whole day.

Then, yesterday out of nowhere (or, after my worried and helpless husband sent an e-mail out that I was unaware of), the kind words and gestures started to pour in. I feel like I’ve been whisked back to that table with a bowl of rice soup and countless nurturers surrounding and fussing over me. While I feel a little embarrassed getting so much attention and love, I just want you all to know that your thoughts and service have really touched me! Thank you! 

There are countless other experiences I’ve had where people have acted as God’s angels. Grandma did just that when she tended to my daughter and taught her. She also did this as she greeted my kids each Sunday with a massive hug and I love you. Those simple acts didn’t go unnoticed. I know there are times when we feel overwhelmed and wonder if we are really making a difference in others’ lives. I believe we usually are. I know my mom is grateful to my grandma, those women in Korea, and many of you who were here to help me when I was feeling low. I am also grateful to many of you who mourned with my Grandma and continued to love and serve her after we moved away especially since she was still mourning over the loss of Grandpa. Thank you for your thoughts, meals, and service to her. Thank you for letting your children stand in for mine as they gave Grandma a hug and said, “I love you!” It is comforting to know we never leave loved ones completely alone. It’s comforting to know that we are not alone.  

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