Oct 30, 2013
When I drop my kids off at Seminary I go running or walking in the park next to the Stake Center. It's cool, then, and I can read while I walk or have conversations in my head or go over story ideas or compose or just plain talk to God.
There are several people there who are regulars and I wave and say 'hi' as we pass. One of them is a Ukrainian Grandma named Valya. I know her name because I've been stalking her for months. Not in a creepy way, but she interests me. She walks every single day whether it's blisteringly hot or achingly cold. In a skirt. She's got to be pushing eighty. And she walks fast.
I stopped once to ask her where she came from. Then I told her my son was in Russia on a mission. She clapped her hands and hugged me. "Ah! Good! Good!" she crowed in her broken English.
I thought that was the end of things with her--that she'd forget what I said and we'd just be waving buddies. Now and then I'd stop and tell her something about him, though. I told her when it snowed on him in September and that he loved it there where he was in Siberia ('cause it wasn't winter yet). He loves the people.
One day she was walking with her other Russian friend and a little American lady. I ran up and said 'hi' and she turned to her black friend and said, "Her son is on a mission in Russia."
You could have knocked me over with a paper clip. She remembered! Not only that but she hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks. The hug-fest began in earnest.
Since then I've helped hook them up when they were separated, walked short distances with them, and even changed my route to meet up with them.
You see, I have an ulterior motive. I want to have Valya ready for my son to baptize when he gets home from his mission. The thought of that possibility makes me squirm in my seat.
I took off on my run today with a continuing conversation with God in my head. I ran past Valya in her little black skirt as she cruised around the corner towards me, that huge grin on her wrinkled-prune face. And then I started thinking about her and praying for a missionary experience.
I argued in my head that I didn't know if she was ready yet. And then it occurred to me that if she wasn't and I still broached the subject, there was no harm done. It's not like we were bosom buddies and she'd key my car or something. No fear. Stop being such a wuss.
I saw her up ahead and she'd changed directions as she does when she's trying to hook up with her other granny friend. So then the ideas started to form in my head and burgeoned into a full-fledged working plan. If Heavenly Father felt she was ready, He would make it so I would catch up with her and let the light break over her life. It was a great plan, especially since I was running and she wasn't. I was sure to catch up to her. How could I not?
I'd tell her that God must love her because He sent me to her side. She would give me that jack-o-lantern grin of hers and we would launch into an amazingly cool talk about religion and she would embrace all I had to tell her. It would be great.
I sped up going around the turn.
She was walking incredibly fast. Eighty-something? Please.
I sped up more and seemed to be gaining on her.
I could see that the sun was just about to break over the mountains, and would just as I got to her side. How poetic! Both lights would illuminate her world at once.
Now I was running full out, the adrenalin pounding through my veins.
"I'm going to do this!" I thought. "I'm going to be a torch-bearer. There's no good reason to stay my hand because it's a gift."
Now it was the Spirit pounding through my blood as well as adrenalin. I felt great--alive and pumping with the truth.
Valya's form coalesced just as the sun's rays burst over the mountains, filling the sky with light.
I opened my mouth to call her name.
From out of the sun glare stepped...her friend.
Valya linked arms with her and turned to go back towards me.
All I could do was smile and wave as I halfheartedly ran past them.
What just happened?
I felt like someone sneaked up and popped my balloon. I couldn't have turned around with her. It would have been too obvious. I was at the end of my run and out of time. I had kids to get to school. I stood there for a few seconds trying to get my bearings.
The let-down was tremendous. "Why?" I asked God. "This was happening."
"She wasn't ready. And I don't want you to wreck this. You can't cavalierly blow it off as a 'try'. She's special. There'll be time," He said.
I wiped my eyes and picked up
my pace again, my feet pounding the turf of the walkway. I thought about how hard it had been to psych myself up for the venture. It was funny, really, how deflated I felt now.
Someday she'll open her arms and heart. And then I'll give her that gift. But not today.