Friday, July 22, 2011

Get On the Elevator

Have you ever been blessed with a miracle? I was blessed with one not long after we were baptized. When it happened I knew that absolutely, somehow, from another place not of this sphere, someone cared enough about me to actually step in.

I was then a student at Arizona State University working to complete my teaching degree. I was thankfully getting close to graduating. It had been a huge struggle in many ways for me to get this far. Larry was supporting our young family and paying for all my college expenses while still in his 20’s. I’m sure he never saw that one coming. We were ignorant of student loans and scholarships so we paid for everything ourselves. Later this turned out to be a blessing because we had no student debt, but at the time it was a burden for sure.

I supplemented our income with part time work while raising our kids and going to school. You might be wondering why we struggled so much along about now. Well, we had married very young but despite that I had always dreamed of going to college. Larry had dropped out of ASU as a senior when our second baby was on the way so that he could work full time to support us. There was really no choice in the matter, so we thought, the kids have to eat. But he stood beside me in my college dream and felt it would be a good investment in our future. So he sacrificed. I sacrificed. And sadly, sometimes our kids sacrificed too. Babysitters, hectic schedules, and fast food dinners were common around our house during my college years.

Well, it was around this same time that we joined the Church. I was learning line upon line about the importance of children and family. I began to see that time is short with our kids and that they and my husband shouldn’t have to give up so much for my dream. They should be my first priority. They were young….. only once. They needed a mom who was there for them. My husband might even need his wife. Maybe this wouldn’t work anymore. Especially this last semester, which was shaping up as a nightmare due to scheduling problems. I needed a few specific required classes to finish, and as I studied the new class schedule I realized that the courses I needed were at the most inconvenient times possible. They were spread out over the entire week, with early starts, long breaks between classes, and required labs at night. We lived an hour by freeway from the university so coming home and returning later in the day was not an option.

So, on the dreaded day of walk-through registration, with a heart full of doubts, I made arrangements for my kids and headed across the city to see what could be done.

As I drove to get on the freeway I passed our neighborhood elementary school and thought dejectedly about the new program that ASU was sponsoring there and in all the other schools in our district. It was an innovative teacher prep program where each university student was placed in a variety of classrooms before student teaching and graduation. Each future teacher had exposure to teaching science, math, English, art, and music, working with all age groups, in both special education and self contained classes. The mornings were spent in the classrooms and then ASU sent their own faculty to teach all the required university classes at the district offices in the afternoon. The day ended at 2:00. All this in our own local school district! Several months earlier when I first heard about this wonder I rushed over to the director’s office to sign up.

This would solve all my problems! No more 2 hour commute! No more night classes! I would be on the same schedule as my kids and be home for them when they walked in from school. No more babysitters! I could cook dinner for my husband! Maybe I could even clean the house! It was a miracle!

I started to explain all this excitedly to the program director when he stopped me with a “Whoa there,” and an upheld hand. He was really sorry but the program was full and there was a waiting list. He could put my name on it but there were lots of students ahead of me.

It’s hard to describe how deep my disappointment was even these many years later.

I’m ashamed to admit this but I went back to that poor man’s office twice again to literally beg him to make an exception in my case, explaining in detail my problems. He was patient and kind but gave me a firm, “Sorry, no,” each time.

So I merged our old car into freeway traffic and headed across the valley to the dreaded walk-through registration.

After a stress filled morning of long lines and class juggling I picked up my paperwork and headed over to the education building to sit in the outdoor courtyard to look closely at what my life would be like for the next few months. I sat on a bench, pulled out my calendar and began to fill the days with class times. After a while I stopped to take a look. I had classes 5 days a week making the 2 hour commute necessary Monday through Friday. Mondays and Wednesdays I wouldn’t get home until after 5:00. On Tuesday and Thursday there was a 9:00 lecture and a 3:00 lab which ended at 6:00. That meant leaving the house before the kids went to school and not getting home until way after 7:00. On those days Larry would need to pick up the kids after he finished work and make supper himself. I’d be gone from home almost all the time until semester’s end. I tried to imagine what this schedule would mean for my husband and children. What would their days be like?

As I stared at the calendar I knew. I also knew that I couldn’t ask my husband and children to live that way. I’d been learning line upon line about eternal families and I knew that the hectic life on that calendar was wrong for mine. More than an education was at stake here. I slowly put my papers in my bag and got up from the bench thinking with heavy heart as I did, “Well, Heavenly Father, I worked so hard. I’ve done everything I could possibly do these past few years to graduate from college. Now it has to be over.”

Then the miracle happened.

As I walked across the courtyard I passed the outdoor elevator. Somewhere from behind me or maybe it was at the back of my head I heard or maybe felt a voice that said, “Get on the elevator.” It startled me. I stopped walking and looked around. I was alone. I started walking to the car once more and there it was again, “Get on the elevator.” The words were not exactly heard but distinctly understood. It was the strangest thing I’d ever experienced.

I turned very slowly and went to the elevator, pushed the button and got on. The ed building was only 2 stories so I pushed “2.” As the doors closed I frantically asked myself….What’s going on?..... Why am I on this elevator?.... Where am I going? I thought about what was on the second floor. I knew that the office of the director I’d been pestering was just a few feet from the now opening doors. Then it dawned on me and I started to get really upset and began a heated argument with the “Voice/Feeling.”

“Are you kidding?? No way am I going to talk to that man again! He’ll think I’m stalking him and call campus security!! I’ll be making a complete fool of myself! Again…… “Get on the elevator.” “What are you talking about? I argued back. I’m ON the elevator already! The doors are open! And I’m NOT going in there no matter what you say!!” I almost shouted it out loud as I walked slowly to the director’s office.

The outer office door opened into a large foyer. There was a receptionist sitting at her desk against the far wall and 5 or 6 smaller offices along the sides. The director’s office was one of them and the door was open. He was at his desk. I stood in the middle of the foyer, about 20 feet away, turned to face him, but didn’t move forward an inch. I think I was poised for a quick getaway. He looked up from his work but didn’t say a word.

I stood stupidly for a few seconds and then blurted out, “Please let me in your program.”

He still didn’t say anything. He just stared at me. Then he picked up the phone and made a call. I couldn’t hear what was said. He hung up the phone, looked at me and said, “You’re in.” With those two words, life changed for our whole family.

When I look back after all these years my heart fills with gratitude. I think of some of the lessons that miracle taught this raggedy old convert. He IS our father. He knows us and our struggles. He loves us. After we’ve done all we can help will come. If we try to understand what’s right and do the right thing help will come. We are not alone.

Miracles happen.