First, my special visitor and previous companion, Mary Ann, came to visit us at what used to be HER CA home as well. We had such fun! We started off at the LA temple, then westward, HO! toward the evening beach and Santa Monica Pier, where we met up with a crazy human shrimp outside Bubba Gump's Shrimp House. It was awesome to spend some nostalgic time together once again. Though the Shrimp had NO IDEA what a celebratory evening it was!
The days during her visit were full and fun, packed with visits, special friends, and WAY too much good food! We visited with past convert friends and past and present missionary friends. And as usual, because everyone wanted a piece of Sister Thurgood, I had the privilege of being a secondary recipient, since I was her ride everywhere! Lucky for me!
We went to Arcadia to meet up with past missionaries at a Chinese dessert restaurant. We each ordered a different dessert and tasted each one. Using primarily Chinese utensils. Chopsticks. Can I just say, "Extreme Cultural Cuisine Experience?!"
But only a couple of hours later, we were sitting in Winson's home for Chinese HotPot dinner. You have a flavored broth on a hot plate in the middle of the table, which is brewing at a soft, rolling boil. Into the pot goes all kinds of meat, exotic vegetables and herbs, and you begin fishing out what you want to eat. With chopsticks. Chinese eating utensils. And then you eat it. With chopsticks. And at least pretend to know how to do it. Sister Martin was such a good sport. She finally ended up mostly stabbing her pieces of food in order to eat anything.
We also spent some fun time with present missionaries, like Elder Huang, now an AP to the President. He and Mary Ann were special friends while he served as a new missionary in Alhambra.
|Mary Ann and Elder Huang|
And ever and always, the food, and food, and more food. The missionaries all love Mary Ann, or Sister Thurgood, as they remember her. We also invited our friendly neighbors, Jesus and Jazmin Carmona from next door. They love her and miss her too. Because she came, life instantly became a special holiday for everyone.
That very Sunday provided two rich blessings. The first was one of the major motivators that brought Mary Ann back to California. It was the baby blessing of Jason and Thelma Yu's baby boy, Jalen. Mary Ann was a large part of their coming into the church in the first place. So this was a reward of significant magnitude, as she saw this newly converted young couple bless their new baby in Sacrament Meeting.
|Me, Thelma, Jalen, and Jason Yu|
Mary Ann, others, and I thoroughly enjoyed the little time we had for a weekend before it was suddenly over, leaving us with sweet, new memories and renewed friendship. A friendship that will span our lives, long after missions are over and have become weaved into our life tapestry. It was an amazing, energizing visit.
I have received some lovely physical remembrances lately. One of my cute associates at DI whom I work with weekly came in recently. Her name is Eddy. She is from El Salvador, and grew up in a time during war there. Many parents were afraid to send their children to school, because it was so dangerous in El Salvador during that time. This resulted in her only receiving minimal education. She is unsure of sentence structure or grammar, in general. She is now taking English classes to learn this, even though she already has a wonderful command of English, and she is nearly my age. We've been doing significant work both on job search skills and on English homework assignments. She makes jewelry and brought me a couple of beautiful keepsakes.
On November 11, 2015 flowers came to my door from the Mascaro's, the new employment missionary couple in our complex, and also from Sister Martin. I'm not sure how they all found out about the significance of the day. It was one of those tender times I was keeping to myself, and they somehow learned of its relevance. Their compassion and kindness was overwhelming in that important moment.
|Sister Martin's sweet remembrance|
|Mascaro's kind gift|
As November 15 drew nearer, I felt stronger with each day that I needed the physical support and embrace of my family. Almost on a whim, I booked a flight home for the weekend. Three important activities would happen while I was there: Family Thanksgiving on Sunday; RJ's ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood; 7th anniversary of Arlyn's death. I knew it was the right thing when I randomly looked at my little advent calendar at the Center one day, just looking at November 15th absently while on the phone. Each day posts an event in church history that transpired on that day. On this particular Nov. 15 of 1845 this is what it said: "Eliza R. Snow's poem, which later became the hymn "O My Father" was published in the Times and Seasons." Normally, this wouldn't really be an extraordinary event in church history, but to me, because of this significant day it fell on, it meant everything. I stopped short on the phone and stared at the entry on the calendar, knowing clearly I needed to go home for that day. It would be fast, but worth it. Was it ever! It included drinking water from the tap and seeing stars in the night sky. And every minute was packed to overflowing.
Ruthe picked me up from the airport, so I got to spend the first hours with her. Each person I was with was so important to me. I spent Saturday with almost every one of the children's families, even if only for a little while. A fun, rewarding, memorable evening with dinner as adults was great!
What a bunch of goofies!! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO great to be together!
Sunday, November 15 was special in so many ways. It began with a morning walk with AJ and Austin. Our conversation was one of those sweet, tender, once-in-a-great-while types. We all felt rejuvenated and a greater sense of closeness from our time spent together.
I felt blessed to attend RJ's priesthood ordination. It's completely humbling to realize the power that is bestowed on these young men by worthy fathers like Russ who, themselves, are powerful priesthood men.
|Two great priesthood men, RJ and Russ Bundy. Handsome and extremely cool people.|
Also, it was equally humbling to be in a room where so many of the people I love are participants in this ordinance. Great men in my life...
|Austin, Trever, AJ, Great Grandpa Walker, RJ, Russ, Kevin Elder, Bishop Clawson, Grandpa Mike Elder|
And then even more sweetness...
|Ashton, Nana, Bentley, Sadie|
We enjoyed the rest of Sunday afternoon in Thanksgiving mode, celebrating at the Mantua Retreat, while also honoring Arlyn on this special day. I feel he certainly was there.
|Emily, Michelle, Jaimie, Stephanie|
And event organizers...
and wonderful mothers...
and stalwart women...
and amazing individuals.
|Jaimie, Rachael, and Alex|
|Brent and Baby Petunia (Chloe), Trever and Blaze|
Large and Small
Another valuable component of this day was the presence of supportive, loving, ready parents. What a blessing to have them share these important moments of my life.
|Dad Walker and AJ|
|Mom Walker, Austin, and Kylie|
GIGANTIC spirits and love for their Nana. They are nothing short of Better Than The Best.
I remember now why I miss them so much. And I don't just mean the monstrous group bear hug we all shared together when it was time to go. It's all the smiles, colored pictures and homemade gifts made for me, the news about their lives they willingly share, their running into my arms when they see me, their desire to sit by me, hug me, laugh with me, be with me.
And it's for them that I decided to make a temporary home in a faraway place, away from all those most important and dear things. It would take something pretty important to drag me away from all those things that reside in the deepest recesses of my heart.
So...wait...am I on a mission? YES I AM! Yet, these are the times on my mission that rejuvenate me and set me firmer on the mission path to become a better, stronger, and more dedicated missionary.