Today in Sunday School the teacher asked us questions about HOW we know….. how do we KNOW that God is real…. that the Gospel we love in the Scriptures is TRUTH. That Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. That God truly LOVES us and knows us. She asked us to reflect on the “moments” when we felt something was true…. when a principle was taught…. and we PROVED it was true through some life experience…. and we embraced it, and were Changed by it.
One experience came to mind today.
In the Spring of 2005, I had just graduated with my associates degree, and was getting my classes in order to continue on and pursue my Bachelor degree in Business, and the costs were stacking up.
My Associates Degree was in Culinary Arts, which required long hours and early mornings and internships, and a lot of stress had finally ended and it kind of felt like I was finally able to be a mom to our 9 month old daughter. I am sure every degree has its good and bad points… but my husband was also pursuing his Bachelor of Fine Arts and was often under a lot of pressure to perform creatively and to put out a LOT of artwork in short periods of time, and maintain a B+ average or get kicked out of the program, and our daughter had acid reflux pretty bad and had cried for 8-12 hours of every day during this time also.
The above paragraph sets the stage for marital stress.
And it was there. No doubts. There were good days. But mostly we were just surviving. Accepting the others’ efforts as their best, and holding our tongues when things didn’t seem like they were the best efforts of the other….. and well, I was starting to feel alone. Alone in my school stress. Alone in my efforts to be a mother and full-time college student. Alone in my goals. Alone in my mind. I just felt that my husband and I weren’t connecting any more on a lot of things. We just didn’t have the time to sit and reconnect, and find common ground, and it was a bit rocky. We had good friends, and family nearby who helped us with babysitting and with dinner invites and we really were in a good situation for support.
And yet……. there was this disconnect.
And then there was CHURCH.
My husband had been asked to serve in the church in a position that needed him to be available around 6 hours on Sundays and on another day during the week for 3-4 hours.
I was asked to teach a class once a month. And I loved that position a lot! It was a blessing indeed.
However, there was one thing that the church asked me to do that I didn’t want to do.
It is called, Visiting Teaching.
The leadership of the Women’s organization called, The Relief Society, organizes the women into partnerships, and then assigns the partnerships certain women that they are to watch over, visit each month, pray for, and just be available to them if they have needs that arise that the church or a simple neighborly visit can assist them with.
But as a busy mom and stressed out student, and dealing with my rocky marriage, doing these visits with my assigned companion just seemed to NOT need a place on my list of “to-do’s”.
I had enough issues to deal with of my own, and I didn’t want to try to find a sitter (since I didn’t want to take my daughter who ALWAYS cried when we went anywhere strange), and it just was a negative spot in my mind. I even found excuses not to go several times.
But there was this one particular day that was REALLY bad.
I had a fULL plate. I had had an argument with my husband about money and about time, and my daughter had cried most of the day, and I was suppose to meet with my school advisor to finalize my classes to register the next day, and I was maxed out. Then my phone buzzed….. it was my Visiting Teaching companion. “Darn that woman and her faithfulness!” I thought. I remember thinking that!
Anyway, I answered, and she asked if I remembered that we were going to visit Angie and if I wanted to walk with her, since she had her daughter and was taking a stroller.
I had forgotten.
In my stress and personal anguish I had totally forgotten anything outside of myself.
I remember thinking, “Well, I’ll go— but I’ll just tell her after 15 minutes that I need to go, and won’t stay long.”
So I went. With my fussy baby in tow, and a bad attitude about my problems, thinking that I didn’t have time for this, and that I didn’t even know this woman, just remembered that she had spoken in church a few months ago and knew she was pregnant at the time, and had had her baby recently. I figured her life must be better than mine as we walked toward one of the more pricey apartment complexes and figured if they lived there, they MUST have more money than us and, in my pride filled mind that meant that they didn’t have problems.
Well, what awaited me at that apartment has changed my heart forever.
As we approached the door, my companion had sensed that I had a bad attitude I think, because she paused and said, “I know this is not the best time for you. But I appreciate you coming along with me! I think Angie really will appreciate us taking time to see her today.”
At that moment, I felt something. I knew that I didn’t know something. And as we opened the door, after hearing Angie call to come in…. The first thing I saw by the door was a big blue bag with a white medical cross on it. And I knew. I knew that something medical was going on in this house, and I immediately felt my pride and grumpiness leave me as we came around the corner and I saw the hospital bed. The IV post, and the multiple cords and bags and machines and a tiny newborn baby on the floor, on a blanket just squirming quietly. Then I saw Angie.
She was sitting in a large recliner in the corner of the dim room, her head with a cover on, and an IV attached to her, and a pale face with bags under the eyes. Angie was 26, (4 years older than I at the time) and was dying of cancer. She had no family around. She had just had a baby after a very trying pregnancy, her husband was working and going to school, and she was here. At home. Struggling for happiness, for a reason, for love, for understanding.
As I took in the scene, it still brings tears to my eyes, at how selfish I had been for MONTHS.
I noticed that my companion had brought her blender and frozen fruit in the bottom of her stroller, and she proceeded to make Angie a fruit smoothie while I chit chatted with Angie and got to know her better. I was extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. She was dying and I had been complaining about problems of the living just moments before. Miraculously, my daughter was quiet, and played nicely on the floor while I scooped up the tiny newborn baby from the floor and held him. He was a little cold, and Angie said “Thank you” to me for giving him some time to be held….
She didn’t have the strength to do more than the absolute necessities. Diaper changes and feeding. If she held her baby too long, she would tire out. And her assigned home health nurses came and went throughout the day, and hadn’t been there much today. She was SO GRATEFUL for me. I could feel her genuine gratitude for my arms, and my ability to hold her precious son. She expressed such happiness at our ability to come and see her, and how she had been looking forward to it all day.
I had to turn toward the window as tears came to my eyes and a feeling gripped my heart severely. At that moment, I knew. I KNEW that not only had God known this moment was going to happen, but he had provided me with this experience to get back on track. He had provided me a glimpse into someone else’s struggles, to see my struggle in a new perspective. He had provided me with my companion who was willing to prod me along to go on visits. To forgive my selfish behavior.
I remembered Angie’s words, over and over, “I am so glad you two could come! I’m sure its hard to take the time. But i appreciate this so much! I have been looking forward to your visit all day.”
My first thought when she said that was, “I wasn’t. I had forgotten, and when I was reminded, I was wallowing in my own self pity and situation. And worse, I had judged Angie’s situation by the house she lived in!”
I had some repenting to do.
I had some reconnecting to do.
I had had a CHANGE OF HEART.
Someone else’s struggle had changed my life forever within a visit that was no longer than 45 minutes. My whole life changed in that moment.
I knew that God knew me. He knew I needed to have some perspective.
And He knew that Angie needed me. I was humbled and honored and saved that day.
After I went home, I was changed. My husband could tell, and from that day on, things were different. Our struggles were not that bad in my mind anymore, and I had confidence that we would make it through. We had our health. We had each other. We had food in our cupboards. We had the ability to get our degree’s and finish school. We had a daughter that we could care for with strength and vitality day and night (as best we could). I started taking measures to improve our marriage, even if it was just me at the start. But it happened. It did improve. And all of our struggles improved, and eventually were solved. 🙂
God knows you. God knows me. And He wants HAPPINESS and ABUNDANCE for each of us.
God will give us the experiences we need to change, if we will accept the opportunity, accept the pain that comes with humble pie and seeing our struggles put into perspective…. realizing that we DO have choices to change. We CAN find joy in the journey. We CAN change and one thing that helps me think about this is this quote, “If you are avoiding the pain of change, you are also avoiding the JOY that will come because of it.”
God is good.