Caren McLane has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Community Health Education from BYU. She met her husband, Todd, her freshman year while at BYU. They are the parents of 5 children and live on a 4 acre “hobby farm” with chickens, cows, and dogs. She volunteers at the library and hospice and has blogged since 2014. Caren has served in a variety of callings in the Church and is currently serving as the Relief Society President in her Montana Ward.
Have you ever felt a glimmer of memory as you have had someone cross your path at just the right time? Or has it been clear to you that there have been times when you were placed in someone’s path with a specific “mission” from Heavenly Father? I choose to believe that there are times in our life that these “random” experiences are not really random and that we should be mindful of them both as leaders and individuals,
We May Not Always Understand the Purpose
Years ago, I had a college roommate whose brother visited often and became part of our apartment family. One roommate became especially good friends with him and, although nothing romantic ever came of their friendship, they enjoyed a comfortable, easy relationship during the time we all lived together. Over the years we lost touch with this guy and his sister. Now let us fast forward 27 years later when my old roommate (who had been closest to this guy) lost her husband of 20 years when he died suddenly of a heart attack.
As you can imagine, life became more than trying, even with so many loved ones rallying around her. But a year later, out of nowhere, she ran into this former roommate, an unexpected and sweet reunion after all these years of not even knowing they lived in the same town. Just a short while later this former roommate called my widowed friend to see if she’d be up for seeing her little brother who happened to still be single—just as friends, to catch up.
I was with her when she got the text, and her thoughts were all over the place. I encouraged her to go, they had been such good friends, it seemed perfect that he would come into her life out of nowhere at this junction. She reported back that she had a great time, they had picked up right where they left off, and it was as natural as always. Although they went out a few times after that, nothing more came of their interactions. She wrote, “but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t value to the experience. It was a lot of fun and an experience I enjoyed. I believe he was in my life then for a purpose even without it leading anywhere. I also think I might have been in his life for a purpose too. There are a lot of experiences I’ve had with people being in the right place at the right time according to God’s master plan. Friendships that have been in place for years but now are incredible supports, the exact bishopric we have had and how they have supported us, strong friendships each of our kids had to support them, etc.” We have talked tenderly about the many many friends and miracles and “coincidences” that have been evidence of God’s knowledge of and love for her little family at such a tender time.
I also love how she and my mom now live in the same town, just a few miles apart. My mom hailing from Scotland and my old roommate from Idaho. Because of our short time together nearly 30 years ago as roommates, these two women are in each other’s lives all these years later. My mom feels needed as she has helped with some of my friend’s projects and provides support and encouragement. Plus, I think my roommate enjoys having a mother figure nearby to lean on and to laugh with. It has just been a comfortable companionship at a time in their lives when they can each use a friend. I love it so much.
I can’t help but think of a close friend whose husband died several years ago. Her older kids were grown and gone, but she had one young teenaged son left at home. This son became such a support to her as they figured out how to navigate their new life alone together. She has told me what a comfort and blessing it was to have him with her throughout those tentative first years and how she feels he was meant to be there for her during that time. She feels that he had been born at just the right time to be where he needed to be for what would come.
I have another friend who feels the same way about her son. She was raped when she was 18 and almost gave him up for adoption. She says they kind of grew up together. It was such a struggle in the beginning with her schooling and being so young, but she managed and now he is her rock. He always said she was his, but now she says he is hers. He has been there for her through her divorce and moving out and whenever she has house or car issues or simply needs emotional support. He’s a big brother to her two other kids and has helped them all through this rough transition. As she was going through her divorce and couldn’t understand why, she remembers thinking of Esther. At one point it was so strong that she couldn’t deny God was trying to tell her something similar to the phrase, “for such a time as this” touched her heart powerfully. She finally understood. All these years later, this son who was born out of tragic circumstances had become her lifeline and support. I suppose we could say it is nothing more than coincidence. But maybe God used a difficult situation for good. Maybe he was meant to come into my friend’s life so as an adult, years later, he would be able to help her when she was left on her own without much other support.
I remember years ago feeling like getting in contact with a friend from college. We had been close friends and as couples had done so many dinners and outings together. Out of the blue I started writing to her, just trying to pick up where we had left off, wanting to be in touch again. I had no idea anything was going on, but I learned of her marriage struggles, what her kids were up to, her eventual divorce and remarriage. We kept in touch during those rocky years and she shared many tender feelings with me, but we got out of the habit once she remarried. I wonder if it’s because it was only for a specific time she needed a friend who wasn’t in her family or close circle of friends, just a sounding board far away, just for a little while. My love for her has never waned, I think about her now and then and wonder how she is, grateful that our paths crossed again for that time.
I remember my hospital experience having a node removed the week before my mastectomy. It was obviously a tender time for us, we were apprehensive about the unknowns, and our emotions were all over the place. Imagine my surprise and delight when my “pink lady” was none other than my sweet neighbor we’d lived next to for seven years. Her daughter had had breast cancer, the kids played in the yards together, we visited with each other often, she was safe and nurturing. I just couldn’t believe—out of all the volunteers at the hospital—she happened to be there on that particular day assigned to me. I think I may have cried, it was such a comfort to see her and to have her with me.
I feel so strongly that another good friend was meant to be in my life. I talk about her all the time. Almost twenty years ago we were new to the area and to being parents, and we had no family for hundreds of miles. We had a tiny budget for a house and were so discouraged after looking at the kinds of houses we’d be able to afford. Until we looked at the paper for one last one. Exactly our price. But it was so ugly. We dismissed it until we had no more options. But the minute we walked in, we knew this house was for us. It felt completely perfect: just the area we hoped to live in, fireplace, big yard, and enough room for us to grow a little. We were in contract that very afternoon. I had no idea that a lady I’d be assigned to visit lived just a block away. And that she’d become my second mother.
Over the years she helped us raise our kids; she and her husband have become their third set of grandparents. We’ve gone on trips together, talked for hours on our living room couches and on the phone, gone on walks together, celebrated birthdays and holidays together, and have cried and laughed together countless times. She is one of my dearest friends and such a blessing to our family. And she’s told me how much it’s meant to her to have our kids in her life and how I’m like the daughter she never had. We have talked many times about the coincidence of our moving in next to her, how perfect it is to have our lives intertwined. We tear up when we talk about it, so grateful to have each other, amazed at how God seems to have orchestrated our lives.
Right Where You Are Supposed to Be
I cannot pretend to understand why I’m here or what I’m supposed to be doing, but I believe we’re all where we are for a reason. Both in leadership capacities and as individuals, we are here for a reason.
Moving here twenty years ago was a step in the dark for us. We really had no confirmation or strong feeling that this was the right place for us; we just made our decision and have tried to make the best of it. It wasn’t until about 10 or 15 years into our life here that I heard in my mind in a quiet moment, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.”
None of us fully utilize the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings a ‘coincidence.’ This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by ‘coincidence’ but…‘divine design’” In a BYU Devotional, Neal A. Maxwell further validates this point when he said:
“He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like. And this will require us to accept with all our hearts—particularly your generation—the truth that there is divine design in each of our lives and that you have rendezvous to keep, individually and collectively.”
Additionally, Thomas S. Monson once shared with Joseph B. Wirthlin the following:
“There is a guiding hand above all things. Often when things happen, it’s not by accident. One day, when we look back at the seeming coincidences of our lives, we will realize that perhaps they weren’t so coincidental at all.”
As we consider our life’s experiences, maybe we need to be patient. Let’s see how it all plays out. We just cannot tell in our finite understanding and vision why things are the way they are, why we’re here at this junction, why others are in our lives, what the purpose of our trials will turn out to be. But as we settle into it all, as we go about life with our eyes and hearts open trying to do good in whatever circles we’re in, we may find ourselves in someone’s life as an answer, as a blessing, as a comfort. Likewise, we can acknowledge the good others are doing for us by being in our lives at this particular time.
I know it is a stretch for some, but I believe that we’re infinitely cherished by a loving Father who is aware of each sparrow that falls and who numbers the hairs on our heads. I choose to believe that we’re in each other’s lives not randomly, but because we are so deeply loved by Him and he sends us people to help us feel His love.