Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mom's big love

My Mom has been a good example to me over the years.  My Mother made sure I knew she loved me.  That was one of her strengths: that not only did love me but was able to deduce how I felt love and she loved me in a way that I felt she loved me.  (Some other time maybe I'll have to blog about the difference between being loved and feeling loved).  I felt loved. 

It is certainly possible, since I am the youngest, that I benefitted from her experience with my siblings.  My Mom is good at loving other people, beyond the family, too.  Oh, don't get me wrong, she sometimes gets irritated, she sometimes says the wrong thing, she can be stubborn whether for good or ill, but if we look past those few occasions then I think we can easily see that her ability to love and care for others is one of her greatest strengths.  About four years ago she made a decision that would end up changing several people's lives, some of them drastically. 

I'll take credit for getting things started like this: my family had over the previous 3 years had a couple of foreign exchange students, one from Russia and another from Mexico.  We really enjoyed each of those young ladies and had positive experiences with few difficulties along the way.  So I suggested to my Mom that she consider having an exchange student.  I could tell the idea appealed to her but she was concerned that a young teenager (ages 16-18) wouldn't want to live with such an old person with no exciting teenagers to hang out with.  I think secretly she wondered if she could handle having a teenager to be responsible for again.  These two concerns were not so easily worked out because they were in her head and would take some actual time working with the student to get over.

She chose a young woman from Russia, she went by the American name of Anny despite her name being Anya.  She was popular in Russia, with a boyfriend, a brother and parents and grandparents that were all very close.  Anny of course knew nothing of the Gospel and my Mom had told her some about it prior to her coming, but needless to say it was hard to comprehend hearing it in English and she didn't understanding much of the impact it would have on her life. Mom told me later that she chose Anny because she had a feeling that she should choose her.

Anny came and soon was learning the various ways that the gospel impacts our lives on a daily basis.  Things such as modesty, daily observance of activities to turn our thoughts and hearts to Christ, several times weekly church attendance, and caring for others.  Despite the foreign situation both culturally, religiously and family, Anny adjusted.  Because my Mother loved her so easily and willingly Anny was able to adjust very smoothly and learn the lessons of "why" instead of just doing what she had to in a new place. 

Mom loved her and taught her, calmly (okay, the occasional frustration), and in as much detail as she needed.  As a matter-of-fact, Anny ended up getting just what she needed from an elderly lady and Mom had another opportunity to do just was God made her best at.  I think God using Mom this way helped her to realize that she still had value in this life. 

Over time Anny loved going to church, made friends with teens and adults alike.  Anny participated willingly in scripture reading and study in the home.  Anny attended not only Sunday services and Wednesday services but also early morning seminary services as well. 

As time was growing to an end, Anny expressed some interest in being baptized.  Mom and I felt like she needed to return home to her family and decide if baptism was what she wanted.  After all the church wasn't even available in her town.  It seemed to Mom that she would appreciate the same consideration if it was her child in a foreign country.  So Anny returned to Russia.  In a few months Annie returned back to Mom's to attend college locally and requested to be baptized.  I agreed to do that baptism for her. 

She was happy.  She loved the gospel because she had been loved by a master (if I got the benefit of my Mom's learning from my siblings then Anny got even more because of what my Mom had learned from me).  Anny decided she wanted to go to BYU and eventually was accepted there.  Anny embraced the gospel and the gospel embraced her.  Her family was supportive all along the way.

One big day for Mom was when Anny went to the DC temple to receive her endowment in preparation for getting married in the Portland temple.  Anny with her family from Russia, was here along with Dane and some ward members.  That was a big day for Mom. 

As you know, all good true stories must have multiple new beginnings, and this is true with my Mom and Anny's story.  Anny met Dane, who coincidentally has served a mission in Russia so he spoke the language that her parents know and can communicate well with them.  Anny and Dane were married in the Portland Temple last summer.  We traveled there and experienced the excitement along with them.  Dane's family is quite large with several children (I never was able to count them all but I am thinking 13).  So Anny is getting accustomed to such a large family when she had no experience with any family larger than two children in Russia.  Anny's family of her Mom and Dad and brother were able to come for her wedding. 

Dane's family loved her brother Anton who stayed for a couple months with Dane's family and joined the church.  Anny's parents understand the gospel more than ever and who knows that when the time is right and missionaries finally move into their town in Russia but...
Anton, Anny's Dad, Dane, Anny, Mom, Anny's Mom

Anny's family took to Mom and responded to her love as easily as did Anny.  They expressed appreciation and honored Mom during their stay here.  Anny's parents paid my Mom a huge complement when they said, "We raised her for sixteen years but you are the one who helped her become the person she is today."

This story continues on and hasn't stopped and I don't expect that it will.  You see, Anny has two families now, well I guess even three.  She has her parents and brother, my Mom and the rest of us, and now of course Dane's family as well.  So a Russian girl who had a desire to learn English well, ends up a die hard Mormon with American roots dug deep into both ends of the country and ever deeper in the gospel soil.

A Mom's love can work miracles.  My Mom's love has done so more than once.   


  1. aww this made me cry! i had never thought through how much impact anny's coming to America to be an exchange student had on the world...a handful of people's worlds in particular :) it was also really cool to hear a little of how grandma was thinking and feeling around this time :) and i didn't know that anny's brother got baptized!!! that is wonderful!!!! is he still living in the states here or what?? i think i've always been able to feel grandma's love when i'm around her or get a letter or note from her or whatnot. she is very good at loving :) i'm glad she's on facebook now! she and i are friends!!! :)

  2. Alena PonomarevaJuly 29, 2011 at 1:24 AM

    Hello! My name is Alena and I was an exchange student 2010-1011 and...I am from Russia! :) This story is just awesome-so kind and soo sweet! It remindsme about my host family A LOT! they were so nice and kind all the time, and now, i for sure can say that I have 2 families-my russian, and american one. I am sorry, but can u give me a huge favour? would u tell me Anny's last name or her link on fb! I really would like to talk with her..cause she might was from the same exchange programme as I am (FLEX)
    thank you :)

  3. Alena Ponomareva send an email to and I will send you Anny's email which she gave me permission to give you. -- Dallas


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