Sunday, April 5, 2015

the Accident // the Lord's Will // the Butterflies

My apologies for the few weeks that have passed without anyone updating this blog. Though if you keep reading, you'll understand why. The past weeks have been full of some very unexpected circumstances. I'll start from the beginning:

After sending that last email to my parents on March 9, my life continued normally. That Tuesday we had district meeting, and afterwards we did divisiones with the Hermanas downstairs. For awhile I had consistently felt that we needed to have our new apartment dedicated, (which means the Elders come and say a prayer so that there's a spirit of peace in the apartment). I didn't entirely understand why, but couldn't deny the consistent prompting and knew it would be a good thing to do. We had a meeting with the office Elders and our ward mission leader that Tuesday night, so I asked if afterwards they would come and dedicate our apartment.
The three of them went into our apartment and my companion and I waited outside the door. Since we lived on the third floor, the hallway outside our room had a gorgeous view of the Río Paraná and Paraguay. I knew the Elders wouldn't be long but while we waited, I walked over to the window to look at the moon and the stars. I regret that decision so. much. The view was gorgeous, and as the Elders left our apartment I turned around to thank them, stepped forward, and fell through the floor.

I remember the sensation and confusion of falling, the abrupt shock of hitting the floor on the second-story underneath me, and the numb realization of what had just happened. I remember in the shock of it all, the loudest and most important thing became my pained breathing. In, out. In, out. More than anything, I remember the sound of the Elders and my companion thundering 3-steps at a time down the stairs to me, and Elder Roberts' urgent, "Hermana, can you hear me??"
I replied that I could. I had landed sprawled out and twisted, chest down and one hip down, with my arms above my head. I couldn't feel my arms. Everything was numb.

On the second floor, looking up at where I fell from.

The third floor looking down. This is the nice hole I created. :)

The floor I had fallen through was wooden, and because the floor I had landed on was wooden as well, the Elders were immediately concerned that I would fall through the next floor. The missionaries asked if I could move, and I managed to push myself up and scoot over to lean against the wall. As neighbors and landladies gathered and watched and ran to get car keys, I sat there against the wall and asked the Elders for a blessing of health. They laid their hands on my head and prayed for me.

On the second floor, showing the distance I fell. I fell from where I'm pointing at to where that plank of wood is on the ground.

The car ride to the hospital was one of the longest of my life. I remember touching my left elbow and feeling that it was not right. My ribs ached, and I felt every bump in the road. Panicked and beginning to feel more pain, I entered into shock and began to shake. (I made the poor Elders turn off the air conditioning even though it was really hot :). I was so cold. I prayed over and over again, "Heavenly Father, please let me be okay. Just please let me be ok." I made it through that ride thanks to Elder Collins, who turned around in the front seat and made me talk to him to distract me. Though we were speaking English and she couldn't understand, the land lady with us in the car said, "Wow, there is such a spirit of peace and tranquility with you guys. You can tell you have a lot of faith."

I had to go back to the emergency room alone, and it was an act of God that I managed all of that alone, in shock, and in Spanish. They repeatedly asked me what hurt the most, and the answer was always, "my elbow and my ribs." I remember shaking and singing hymns to myself while the doctors treated others around me, as well as the distinct impression that I was not alone.

I was told that I had a broken elbow that needed surgery, that my ribs were not broken, and I was sent home with doctors orders for the surgery. That night I slept in the apartment of the sisters downstairs (there was no way I could make it up the stairs, and no one really wanted to go upstairs and see the hole again anyway). I am SO thankful for those sisters who nursed my wounds, iced my bruises, washed my hair, and loved me. I could hardly walk or move from the injuries all over my body, and they took such good care of me. My mission president was in Paraguay and dropped everything to arrive in Posadas the next afternoon.

My faithful and loving nurses (plus my companion, who's taking the picture :)
The best picture I have of my injuries. I had huge bruises on each knee, my left hip, my ribs, and my right arm and elbow. And obviously, my left elbow. :)
The Elders dropped me off at the apartment late Tuesday night, and then promptly went and bought me a kilo of Duomo ice cream. :)

Wednesday the office Elders and Assistants visited me (you become really popular when you fall through a floor), and then President and Hermana LaPierre came and took us to another doctor to get a professional opinion. But since we didn't have an appointment, we got scheduled for the next day. My companion and I packed a few things and stayed at the mission home until everything could get figured out.

I was so terrified I would have to go home. With only 3 weeks left in my mission, I felt I hadn't made it this far just to go home early. I cried and prayed for Heavenly Father to let me stay. Just three weeks. Three weeks!! Thursday was spent going in and out of doctors appointments. We found a surgeon, did some tests, and felt good about doing the surgery in Argentina. That was what I wanted to do.

My parents still didn't know about the accident (my choice) so that night I skyped them from my mission president's office and explained everything. I will never forget their faces as I told them I had an accident and broke my elbow. "How?!" "...I fell through the floor."

my poor mother

My mission president and I talked to them and they agreed to let me stay since that was what I wanted. But after our conversation ended, my president received new communication from Salt Lake that the doctors had looked at my x-rays again and recommended that I be sent home. My parents were informed, given the x-rays, and told that the decision was in their hands.

That was a hard night for me. I'm really not sure if I slept. I sat there propped up on the couch and cried and begged and pleaded with God to heal my elbow and let me stay. Please.
I learned something that night -- prayer is not the way we change the will of the Lord. It is how our hearts are changed to accept His will. What God wants is ultimately better than what I want, whether I understand it or not. His purposes are great and will be accomplished, even if it means I have to fall through a floor. Amidst my tears I was given peace. I was given the gift of accepting the will of the Lord. 

On Friday we waited until my parents responded that yes, they wanted me to come home. It broke their hearts having to tell me that, but I already knew. I skyped them again, and my plane ticket was bought. My loving, merciful, and compassionate mission president fulfilled my last request and arranged for me and my companion to go to Iguazu Falls the next day, like all the missionaries here do when they finish.

I had peace knowing that I had already given my all to the Lord. My last three weeks were not going to change anything. I was not trying to make up for lost time or satisfy my conscience. I had served faithfully and steadily, and I knew the Lord knew it. So if He said "enough", I could take it. But I needed to know that my offering, though imperfect, was acceptable to the Lord. That night I prayed and asked to be able to know if after all this time -- the tears, the sweat, the joy and the pain -- if He was happy with me.

And then I went to Iguazu. 
It was absolutely gorgeous, and I won't even attempt to describe it in words. 

me and my wonderful companion

But the most significant part for me was not the waterfalls. It was the butterflies. Those of you who have followed this blog know about the butterflies. (If not, read this and this). 

There were many in Iguazu, though I was expecting that. There are always butterflies in Iguazu. I was touched by their presence, and knew it had been an answer to my prayer. I thought that was it.

This one flew up and landed right on me. 

Until right at the end of our day, when we rounded the corner to Devil's Throat. This is the sight that greeted us:

It was as if it were snowing butterflies. Like from Snow White or something. I couldn't believe it. 

God loved me enough to send not only butterflies, but clouds of butterflies to reassure me of His love and His awareness of me and my broken elbow. It was a clear sign from Him that I could not deny or doubt. 

After a few more complications and a few more adventures (that's a whole different story...) I finally made it home. I've had my surgery, and will begin physical therapy in a few weeks. I still do not understand entirely why I needed to fall through that floor, but I have learned that faith means we don't need to understand everything perfectly. 

I will be forever grateful for the privilege I was given of being a missionary and coming closer to my Savior. The people of Argentina and Paraguay will forever hold a cherished place in my heart. They are my people. My mission was nothing I expected, and everything I needed. It was the hardest and the best thing. I came to know my Savior Jesus Christ and just how much I truly need Him. I know that this is His church again on the earth. I know our lives can be changed and bettered through Him. I know that He is the only way to an eternal family and true happiness. More than anything, I know He is aware of us. I know He watches over and loves us. He knows when we are worried, upset, pained, or troubled. He lets us experience those things so we can grow. But He is at our side in every moment -- His faithful love and care never go away. 
And along our twisting paths of life, He always sends us butterflies.

Hermana Rawlins