I mentioned my friend Rachael in my last post. She and I met in 2006 when I entered the MTC in October to begin my training as a Missionary with Additional Assignment in Welfare. My companion was Hermana Pacini (aka Patch) and her comp was Hermana Wallin. We were trained all together for a whole week in welfare and how to teach welfare principles like food storage, basic reading and writing, gardening, budgeting, employment and more. After that first week we were separated for the rest of our training as she, Patch, and Wallin went to Beginning Spanish and I went to Intermediate. 9 weeks later we flew down to Ecuador together. She was serving in Guayaquil as a mission nurse and Patch, Wallin and I were assigned to Quito. A mishap with our tickets sent us to Guayaquil with her instead of to Quito. Her mission president, President Ridd, was a little shocked to get 6 missionaries instead of 2, but quickly bought us tickets back to Quito where our poor mission president, President Lara, was waiting for us.
Back 2001, when I was a sophomore at BYU, I enrolled in ceramics class to get back into playing with clay. After taking it for all 4 years in High School, I was missing it. My first day in class I met a neat lady named Leah. Her husband taught at BYU so she was able to take classes for free. She had a newborn baby at home and managed to squeeze the ceramics class in between caring for the newborn and her other children. She was sooo cool. I loved sitting by her and chatting as we worked on our projects. She was so friendly and down-to-earth; we became quick friends.
I mention these people because they exemplify a constant in my life: Heavenly Father never leaves us alone. When I flew home from our week long visit to Utah last October I was flying alone with my two children for the first time. On the way out to Utah we had Mom Reynolds to take Leah, but on the way back to Texas, a 3+ hour flight, I was on my own. We said our prayers that everything would go smoothly. I was a little nervous, but figured all in all, it's just 3 hours of my life. We would make it.
I sat down and got the kids settled down as other passengers filled in the seats around us. Because this was Delta we had assigned seating. As 2 ladies settled into their seats directly across the aisle from me, I did a double take. I blurted out, "Leah?!" and the younger lady looked at me. "Wait. Ceramics class. Sarah?" "Yeah!" It was my friend Leah who I hadn't seen since the semester ended 12 years before. Sitting next to me on a plane full of strangers flying to Houston. It was no coincidence. Heavenly Father knew I needed help and he sent an old friend my way. Leah and her mother took Seannie for part of the flight so I could take care of Leah when she needed me. They even helped me unload and walked with me all the way to the baggage claim and settled me in with my husband. Brad has become accustomed to my seemingly endless supply of friends and took it all in calmly. He was very relieved to know that the flight was painless and quite calm thanks to my friends. It was a joyful way to spend a flight, with the helping hand of a friend and catching up with someone I cared about. While I named my daughter after my father's mother, my friend Leah's influence in my life was another factor in choosing that name. It carries happy memories for me.
Many times I have seen those around me answer the prayers of my heart. They have offered aid, consolation and advice. There have been times when I was able to be an instrument in God's hands for these same purposes.
The first Sunday in March was a little hectic for my little family. Leah was sick with an ear infection so I stayed home with the kids while Brad went to church. We originally planned that he would come home after Sacrament meeting so I could attend a later Sacrament in our building. However, the Young Men president was ill and asked Brad to cover for him during their meetings. By the time Brad got home I only had time to attend the sacrament meeting of the singles branch in a nearby building. I knew a couple of the people, but sat in the back row, ready to duck out when the meeting finished.
As it was Fast Sunday, the members of the congregation shared their testimonies if they so desired. About halfway through the meeting as another person headed up, I suddenly recognized who it was. Rachael! I grinned at her when she spotted me in the crowd. She faltered mid-sentence then smiled and finished her sentence, "I know... Heavenly Father answers prayers." After the meeting was over we found each other and after a big hug she explained that this was her first Sunday in Texas. She had moved there from California that week to start work at a hospital nearby and didn't know a soul. That morning Rachael prayed to Heavenly Father that she would find a friend. And she did! What I had thought of as stumbling blocks earlier that day suddenly turned into blessings. My daughter's ear infection, our sick YM President, having to attend a singles branch (did I mention that was awkward?) all led to finding my friend. We had her over for dinner that evening and she has come over at least once a week since. Turns out, she's been the answer to a few of my prayers too. She's a great friend to me, terrific playmate with the kids, and helps motivate me in my goals.
After this encounter with Rachael, Brad urged me to write about the friends I find in odd places. I do tend to find friends everywhere we go and I feel that it's Heavenly Father reminding me, quietly and often, that He doesn't leave us alone. If we choose to withdraw, that's our choice to be alone, but if we step outside our comfort zone and look, we will find our friends, old and new, wherever we go.