Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Research Miracle in Richmond

As I approach the finish line for my master's, I'm spending less time in class and more time buried in books and documents--a place I frankly love to be. When I narrowed my topic to poetry published in Richmond's Civil War newspapers, I knew I would need to spend a sizable chunk of time in Virginia.

And I was excited. Richmond, VA--here I come!
A week in the South? Yes!
Six days in a row in the gorgeous Library of Virginia? Yes!
 Eight hours every day to dive into microfilm and original documents? Yes!

It was hard. Much harder than I ever anticipated. In fact, after one day of researching, the sheer magnitude of my project swamped me. I wasn't finding what I needed--teeny, tiny needles in enormous haystacks--and sifting through it all was taking much, much longer than I had initially predicted. After one full day in the library, I had finished less than half of one newspaper--and I needed to look at . . . seventeen. How was I going to do this?

I called Brad in tears. Was this project even realistic? Could any single human do what I'd set my sights on? As much as I'd looked forward to this trip, I wasn't loving it. I didn't have time to see much of the historical city since the library was only open 9-5 and the sun sets around 5 in the winter.  I was discouraged.

But he gave me some great advice--go to sleep and things will look better in the morning.

So I took a shower then pulled out my scriptures to read before bed. I happened to be in 1 Nephi 3, since I'm following the Come, Follow Me assignments, and as I read the most famous of Nephi's words in verse 7, something new hit me. And hit me hard. "the Lord giveth no commandments . . . save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing that he commandeth them."

Wow. I wrote in the margin of my book, "Please prepare a way for me to accomplish my research." I articulated this same desire in my prayer, then went to bed.

The next morning I walked into the library, threaded the next microfilm on the reader, and that's when the really small but really big miracle happened. 

Suddenly the work thinned out. I could see the information I needed better. It began to make more sense to me.

And I knew in that moment that my prayer had been answered.

I had gone and done, and God prepared a way so I could accomplish my work.

Other small miracles happened along the way that week, including my keys not getting locked in my rental car and my flash drive with over 500 files of data not getting lost and the librarian showing me the scanner and granting me permission to scan the whole book (against library protocol), but the final miracle occurred in the last hour I was researching. The library isn't a very busy place (which astounded me, since it houses some of the coolest stuff ever and I'd wished I'd had more time to peruse their collection), and by the end of the week, all the librarians and archivists knew me by name. I approached the archivist in charge of inter-library material loans, asking what they had available to loan out of the final two papers I needed to search. Instead of me looking into it, Dave figured it all out for me. Copes of both papers (full collections) are available for inter-library loan--which means I will not have to plan another trip to Richmond, away from my family, in order to complete my data collection.

This all may not seem like much, but to me, it was everything. I knew the Lord's hand was in my study, in my experience, and in my life. I knew He was mindful of my struggle and what was important to me at the moment. It wasn't a big thing like buying a house or sending someone off to war, but it mattered to me--and thus mattered to Him.

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