Jason could hardly believe it when he received the request. He asked for clarification a few times, and of course volunteered me to provide lunch for him, an apostle. Thanks honey! Food is SO my thing, so that is just AWESOME.
We discussed the meeting. Jason was to assign prayers and a musical number and also keep the meeting an absolute secret. I told him it wasn't fair to ask someone to perform without them knowing it was for an apostle, so I volunteered. Part of me felt I had been preparing my whole life for an opportunity to sing for an apostle. I feel I express my testimony best through song, so it was a once in a lifetime honor. The other part of me was extremely concerned. In my past experience, in the presence of an apostle or the Prophet himself, I have felt a strong sense of the Spirit and sometimes that brings me to tears, making it difficult to sing.
I stressed for weeks about what I would make for "lunch." We would be eating directly after the meeting, around 10:30 AM. Lunch? I knew I would have no prep time as I had to keep everyone on schedule. I went to pinterest for ideas. At first I came up with making some sort of frittata or breakfast casserole in the crock pot. Having never TRIED that before, I knew there was a huge potential to fail. I then turned my thoughts towards PICNIC BRUNCH and started researching.
Finally I decided on jar meals. I chose two salads and infused water as the contents for my jars (even found some tops/straws for mason jars which were perfect). Yes, I made Elder Holland sip his lemon water with a blue and white striped straw...just keeping it real.
I lucked out with delicious produce options at my local grocery store (hard to find in January in the CITY) and put together some delicious meals. Since I had never done this before, I did a trial run plating jars--just to make sure it was enough food! Imagine I poured out the jars and a quarter of the plate was full!? I was able to prepare EVERYTHING the night before, so that the morning was that less stressful.
The day finally arrived with torrential downpours. Jason did his best to get his girls and all of the food I had prepared into the car without getting totally drenched. Jason was SOAKED to the bone...poor man. Due to the rain, our departure was a bit delayed, so when we arrived I did not have a MINUTE to set up the breakfast options I brought...I scrambled to try to make something look presentable and suddenly he was there.
We walked in and respectfully stood--the scene--Elder Holland and the mission president and his wife and Jason and me---and he told us to relax and have a seat. He then looked at me and said: Tell me your life story.
No, this is not an anxiety dream. An apostle actually looked at me and said that to me, as the first order of business. Fortunately I have rehearsed my life story a lot. I gave him a few bullet points in tears and then he moved on to the business of the upcoming meeting. When I mentioned the girls he told me to bring them in, so I went to fetch them.
The girls shook hands and helped themselves to the bagels that no one was eating, and then it was time to go. The girls and I went ahead so that we could be in our seats.
We all stood for his entrance and I wish I could have been up on the stand looking at the congregation as they realized what this meeting was all about. The girl who gave the opening prayer mentioned the "surprise guest" LOVE.
As my time to sing approached I felt emotional. I had been praying I would be able to get through it and convey my meaning. Usually when I am in a situation where I need to sing and also feel I need to cry, I try to think of things like ketchup, mustard, hotdogs ---some ridiculous mantra that invokes absolutely no emotion whatsoever. This time, though, I wanted to be in my body and present. I wanted to feel, but I also wanted to perform. I worked hard to find a balance, prayed, took some breaths, and found some strength. It was not without some difficult small moments, but overall I was happy with how it went. I tried to ignore hands wiping tears from eyes that I spied in the congregation, so that I could focus on my message.
After that the Mission Prez and his wife spoke and then Elder Holland spoke. He had just recently spoken at the funeral of the woman who wrote the lyrics to the hymn I chose: Where Can I Turn for Peace? Text by Emma Lou Thayne. He spoke about the context in which she wrote the hymn. I had no idea he had this connection or of the background of the hymn. It is my favorite hymn, so just hearing the history of it was really amazing for me. His sermon was wonderful and he referenced the song several times, I felt honored and included.
After the meeting we retreated and it was time for lunch. I asked him if we could take a quick photo and then started setting up while Jason and the mission couple went to get a few things in the car. It was just the two of us and he asked me a few follow up questions to my "life story". I felt he had listened to me and I felt that he cared. During his brief time with us, he gave specific compliments to the lunch and to my daughter's hairdo, and before he left expressed his love for us several times.
I never would have ever predicted such a day would happen in my life, and I will not soon forget. These men travel so much, and meet so many people, and live under exhausting circumstances, I feel so lucky to have had a small piece of his time and attention. A true highlight of our time here in NYC.