This was a piece I wrote about two and a half years ago. I have come to love this little “memoir”.
Jason and I and a few other ward members were asked to come to primary and share a little about our missions. We were told to bring something from our missions to show the kids. Of course, Oregon isn’t exciting or exotic, it’s like Utah…only flatter…but greener and I love it! Anyway, I found a pair of my mission shoes, the only ones I saved from my 18 months of service. It was a selection of desperation, I couldn’t find my name-tag or anything else of consequence. As I sat and listened to the others share their experiences and as I saw what they brought to show the Primary, the idea of my mission shoes became very lame to me. How could I compete with a Mexican hammock and a piece of the Berlin Wall? (Which was Jason’s by the way. It’s very cool.) It was my turn to talk. I thanked my lucky stars that this was Jr. Primary first and that I could think of something interesting to say in Sr.Primary.
I talked about how Oregon is part of the US and that the culture is the same…same foods, same language, you catch my drift. Then I showed them my shoes. Now, these shoes are the most ugly, tattered, holy shoes I have ever seen. I bought them in McMinnville, 9 months into my mission, and I faithfully wore them for the last 9 months. On the top they look like they need a good polish and cleaning, but when you flip them over you can see a hole in the bottom of the left one, big enough for my finger to poke through, and on both shoes, the heels are worn down almost to meet the leather. On the outside edge of each shoe the leather has broken away from the sole so that the little toe on each of my feet could flop out. They laughed at my shoes. I did too because they really are a piece of work. I started talking about everywhere those shoes had been…all of the miles of walking, tracting and service. I talked about our Father’s children that my companions and I found while I was wearing those shoes. Suddenly those old stinky shoes didn’t seem so ugly anymore. Suddenly they became something beautiful to me. They became a symbol of what I accomplished 14 years ago. All of the feelings of gratitude and love and joy and charity rushed back to me and seemed to be wrapped up in these ugly brown bundles in my hands. I could suddenly recall walking down farm roads in Northern California in the heat of summer and of being welcomed into the carpeted living rooms of our investigators. I am supposing I can remember those things vividly because the hole in the bottom of my shoe allowed me to feel texture and temperature.
Of course, I cry when I think of it and I cried freely during primary today. I can’t believe the joy that I feel from those 18 months. I fought it so hard before I left…I was scared that life would pass me by while I was gone and that everything would be different when I returned home. I didn’t want to leave my family and friends and those I loved and now, well, I would never trade it for anything in the world. It is priceless and beautiful and it grows in importance to me every day.
One of my friends told me that it was hard to leave everyone when he left for his mission but that it was even harder for him to leave his mission behind to come home and it was true! I sobbed on the plane home.
Anyway, this trip down memory lane for me also made me wonder if someday I wouldn’t have the same feelings about Motherhood and being a wife for that matter. What kind of neat little package will I have to show when this mission is through? Will it be my robe that I sometimes clean house in that has the bleach spots on it from scrubbing the sinks and the tub? Will it be my favorite pink shirt that has stains here and there from preparing dinner without an apron? What about my hands—If I show how dry and weathered they are from everything they do throughout the days, weeks, months and years that they served?
Maybe the evidence of my mission will simply be the 4 souls I helped to bring into this world who are good people, who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and who contribute what they can to make this world a better place. It could be that the lives of these little people will stand as a testament to the kind of mother and father they had…even to the way their parents lived and loved and taught. Yes, I think that’s it.
Even though this was written some time ago, it still rings true. Every bit of it. I still cherish those shoes and what they have come to represent to me.
1. 3 days of celebrating our country. THIS is what summer is.
2. My new little laptop. Hello Mac!
3. Friends both far and near.
4. Gorgeous, temperate weather.
5. Being able to appreciate time and not wish it away.