Sunday, December 29, 2013

10 Christmas Miracles

Nights in Bethlehem

This Christmas season was beautiful… we spent two different nights in costume celebrating Christ's birth- one for the stake and one for the ward.  I already wrote about these nights in previous posts, but they truly brought the spirit of Christ into our hearts.

Anonymous Generosity

On Thursday before Christmas, the Bishop asked Abe to come meet with him.  Our Bishop handed him a gift card to Target with the message that a generous member of the ward wanted our family to receive this gift for Christmas.  My heart was filled with gratitude as I pondered the things I could still buy for the children.  Then… of course I began to wonder who would be so loving and generous toward our family… lots of wonderful people came to my mind… and that's the point, right?  Receiving gifts anonymously makes us see Christ's goodness in everyone around us.

Selfless Giving from the Heart

On the Friday before Christmas, I still had a list of some things I knew the kids wanted/needed for Christmas.  I prayed about how to get it for them with the money we had left.  Jordan really wanted a scout uniform.  I prayed about how to get that for him, and the thought came to me to call a sweet family in our ward who had older sons.  She, a single mother with her own financial struggles, offered to pass her sons' shirts down to Jordan for free.  I knew that she could use the money for her 5 children for Christmas, so we met in the middle.  I paid her a small amount, and she gave us more than we bargained for… 2 scout shirts, 2 scout kerchiefs, and scout shorts.

After talking to her, I called the scout leader to ask her if she had any extra scout books.  The scout leader said that a young man had quietly approached her several weeks back wanting to give Jordan his book when he saw that Jordan was reaching of age to join the scouts…. that young man was the son of the same single mother who gave us the scout clothes.  I cried as I called this single mother back to tell her how much both she and her son had blessed our family… separately and selflessly.  She said she tried to raise her children that way.  She was doing a GREAT job.

This family didn't stop there… this woman's daughter decided to give a nice selection of her toy pets to Mariah for Christmas.  She wrapped her best pets and gave them to Mariah on Sunday.  ALL three of our younger children pulled the small pets out with great excitement.  (The only thing Mariah had been requesting for Christmas was toy pets/animals.)

This would be this sweet family's first Christmas without their father and mother together; and instead of dwelling on their disappointments, this family chose to give what they had to give.  Our hearts were deeply touched at their selfless hearts.  They shared the love of Christ.

Sunday Santa

On Sunday after church, I had sent all the children out to the car.  By the time I arrived, the children were already squealing with excitement shouting, "Santa visited us!!"  On our car sat 6 wrapped presents… one for each child.  Each gifted had their own name imprinted on top with a message of love from "Santa." Again I wondered who would take the time to shop for each of our children individually with so much love.  Our hearts were filled with the love of Christ.

Love in the Nursing Home

Dressed in Santa hats and red, some friends joined us on Monday night as we visited a local nursing home.  We sang Christmas carols accompanied by the children's trumpets, bells, guitars, and violins.  My favorite part was when the residents boisterously joined in singing the carols with us.  They gave us kisses and hugs afterward.  Three-year old Juliana approached each resident to say Merry Christmas.  She also very generously stuck out her hand for them to kiss it. :-)  Tyson said another lady pulled him down in a chair right next to him and spoke in Portuguese with all kinds of animation.  Tyson sweetly nodded his head to all that she told him.

As I spoke with each resident, one lady especially touched my heart.  She was hunched over and seemed distressed.  I stroked her arm and spoke to her.  I could hardly see her face because she was hunched over so far.  Drool fell from her mouth, but her hand was extended.  I finally reached out and held her hand… the moment I touched her hand, her whole body relaxed so much that she looked as if she were going to sleep.  I don't know why I waited so long to hold her hand; but as I held it, the feeling that rushed through into my heart was priceless… it was Christ's love.

Sister Missionaries Serving Valiantly

On Tuesday afternoon, Christmas Eve day, the sister missionaries and another sister from the ward asked if they could come caroling to our home.  There happened to be 4 of our children's neighborhood football buddies over at our house.  Once the sister missionaries began singing, these tough football players looked over at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, "Wow!  That's really beautiful." After the missionaries finished singing, they shared a sweet message about Christ.  Guess what?  Three of those four football buddies came to church with us today… I KNOW they felt Christ's love in their hearts.

The sisters asked if there were any neighbors to whom they could sing.  Without hesitation, Jackson said they needed to visit our neighbor across the street.  (Our neighbor had been crying that her children were far away this Christmas.)  I accompanied them and crossed the street.  There was a repair van in their driveway.  We waved to the man and woman working and rang the doorbell.  As the sisters began to sing, tears rolled down her face.  She hugged me so tightly thanking me for sending them over.  I looked over and one of the workers was standing off to the side of her van recording the Christmas carol on her phone.  We motioned her over and teary-eyed hugs were shared amongst all of us.  Jesus Christ's love filled our hearts... helping us to forget our troubles for just a moment.  (Those sister missionaries took the time to return to our neighbor's house on Christmas day to sing more songs of Christ… touching her heart once again.)

Santa's Helper… Jesus' Helper

After we gave our goodbyes to our neighbor and the lovely lady doing repairs on her house, we crossed the street to see a stranger carrying 6 big Christmas gift bags and a big turkey in his hands.  He wore a santa hat and very seriously asked my husband if his name was Abe.  My husband affirmed that he was.  Then Santa's helper set the bags down, handed Abe the turkey, turned around, and walked away without saying another word.  I crossed the street more quickly and shouted out:  "Thank you!!  Who are you?  We're so grateful!!"  He didn't answer… he didn't even turn around.  Then I shouted again, "Merry Christmas!!"  to which he turned around, waved with a smile, turned back around, and continued to walk.  The gifts brought to our family couldn't have been more perfect… On Christmas day those gifts from the anonymous givers were treated with extra special gratitude in our hearts.  Santa had come twice even before Christmas.  We always teach our children that Santa is Jesus' helper.  It's the spirit of giving.  It's the spirit of Jesus' love for all of us.

Caroling Guided by God

Tuesday night, Christmas Eve, a sister from church accompanied our family as we caroled to more families nearby.  We arrived at people's doorsteps with a balloon flower, chocolate chip cookies, and a bunch of us belting out Christmas carols with a guitar and trumpet included.  We were received with loving hugs and occasional gifts!  We visited 8 families.

Let me tell you about 2 of those visits:

We decided to go to one of the homes of our boys' football buddies.  The two boys were all alone on Christmas eve in their home.  Another one of the boys (a 9-year old) was with them.  His parents were also gone for the night.  I wish you could have seen those three boys jumping up and down at our Christmas carols.  They went back inside; but when we turned our van around, they burst out their door again waving vigorously.  The day after Christmas, I met these boys' mother.  She, a single mother, had to work until late on Christmas Eve in order to pay the bills.  Her birthday was on Christmas day, and her only gift was that balloon flower.  Such a simple little gift meant so much to her.  These boys have spent the last several days at our house while their mother works.  They came to our house this morning ready to go to church an hour early!!  My heart was definitely filled with Christ's love at church as I looked down our row of 9 children dressed in their Sunday best.

The other visit was to a woman whom I had just met at the park the day before.  She and her husband and 2 kids were visiting from New York for the holidays.  They were staying with her husband's aunt and uncle.  We had hit it off, so we exchanged phone numbers.  I had this thought to go visit their family as well.  Then I had this other thought… "She's going to think you're stalking her if you ask her for her address as well!!"  I decided to chance it.   She gave me the address, and we sang our carols at their home.  Her in-laws welcomed us very generously.  They gave each of our children a special gift from Disney World.  We exchanged big hugs and felt grateful to develop our new friendship even more.

Later that night, this new friend sent me a text.  She said that our visit with Christmas carols was the best part of their Christmas.  She further explained that they were needing something more spiritual in their Christmas because her in-laws, as wonderful as they are, are not Christians.  All they needed was a little Christmas cheer from Christians singing of our dear, Savior's birth.  God is definitely in charge!

The Spirit of Giving

Christmas day was filled with beautiful giving.  Abe's parents and sister and brother-in-law sacrificed greatly and gave our children wonderful gifts.  The children had spent every penny of their birthday money on presents for each other.  My mother taped extra money onto each of the children's gifts, so that they wouldn't give away ALL their money.  Well… The Christmas spirit of giving just can't be stopped!  When Jackson found his money taped to his present, the first thing he said was, "Yeah!  Now I can buy gifts for others for Valentines Day!"  

Diapers and Pull-Ups

The day after Christmas, this sweet new friend from New York called me to offer us lots of diapers and pull-ups that she wouldn't be able to fit into her luggage.  Guess what the only thing I had forgotten to buy Jayden for Christmas???   ...PULL-UPS!  I was going to start him in pull-ups after Christmas. :-)

Of course the blessings and miracles from God continue even after Christmas because God never stops loving us and guiding us… I know that we all have discouraging thoughts at times… recognizing God's miracles reminds us that we have a perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, who understands every one of those painful moments.  HE wants us to open our hearts to HIM and give HIM all our discouragement, so that HE may carry those burdens instead of us.

Merry Christmas!!  May HIS love continue in your hearts...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Empowered by Christ! Merry Christmas!

On Wednesday, I had a very serious fast about our housing situation.  I know… I know… I should be grateful we even have a shelter over our heads… and I am grateful… VERY, VERY GRATEFUL.  However, I am ready to take care of my own space as a mother of our home no matter how small it may be.  I feel the Spirit guiding me to take this giant step despite our continued financial struggles.  I called my mother with the statement.  "It's ok.  You can tell me the truth.  I want to share with you what has been going on, and I want you to tell me if I'm spoiled."

As I poured my heart out to my mother, she listened.  I felt strengthened and empowered as she shared her life experiences.  As we spoke, I felt the courage to take that step into the darkness… to decide very firmly that we are leaving the security of living with Abe's parents by the first of the year.

As I cried through these decisions, my very dear friend happened to call me shortly after I spoke with my mother.  The last time I had spoken to this dear friend was about a month ago.  She had shared with me about how she resolved a serious problem by the power of fasting.  We don't talk too often, but at that time she advised me to fast.

I am severely hypoglycemic, so it's very difficult for me to do a proper fast.  (In fact, at one point during my fast on Wednesday I even collapsed in the middle of the floor with exhaustion, and the kids shook me awake because they thought I had died!)  It is absolutely no coincidence that this dear friend "happened" to call me back a month later on the very day I decided to finally endure through the shakes and weakness and migraines and do a proper fast.  Her phone call increased my courage.  I was feeling better… empowered… 

I was ready to make things happen!!

I spent the next two days working on the details of how to make this happen with our very limited money coming in.

Meanwhile, on Friday night, our family attended a beautiful "Night in Bethlehem" event at our church until very late at night.

Because of the beautiful Latin influence in our area, there was a dinner and dance AFTER the program, so it was a late night of partying at the church. :-)  We all loved it!

After the dance, I had to give a family of 5 a ride to their home- this added about 45 minutes on to our trip.  Abe was in a separate car and already at home.  I was with all the kids in the big van.  I drove home very tired.  I drove through an area that had cones on the side of the road.  There were no construction workers… just cones.  It didn't register in my head that this was a construction zone- therefore it was a lower speed limit.  I'm sure you can guess what's coming next...

I had only received 3 speeding tickets in my 20 years of driving… until we came to Florida…

Ever since I received one at the end of October, I have been setting my cruise control and obeying the speed limit signs better than I have in my entire life.  I honestly didn't realize the speed limit had dropped dramatically; but once I saw the 35 mph sign, I braked immediately.  Three seconds later, lights flashed.  The police officer spoke on a microphone telling me to pull over as if I was some serious criminal.  I was sick to my stomach.

How could this be?  All day long I drive very slow trying to be extra careful.  All the other cars speed past me.  This particular time I didn't notice the speed change, and I got ticketed.  The police officer was very nice, but I still cried because I felt like this would hinder our ability to move forward in getting our own place.

I drove VERY slowly the rest of the way home feeling so bad about myself.  I began to feel like there was something seriously wrong with my brain… that I wasn't capable of paying attention to the small details… like I couldn't do anything right.  I knew it was the adversary talking in my head.

As I drove, I noticed my gas tank was on empty.  I was planning on going to the gas station by our house on the way home, but I was so shook up from the ticket that I decided to pass it and go straight home.  I arrived in the early morning hours.  

The following morning, Abe and I went to that same gas station to fill up my tank.  As we drove up, crime scene tape covered most of the gas tanks and a large area extending from the gas tanks- only 2 or 3 pumps were left available.  There was an investigator looking at clothing and other items left on the ground within that taped off area.  When we questioned what happened, we were told there had been a shooting in the early morning hours.

"Wow!  Are you serious!?" I exclaimed to Abe.

I am grateful I was nowhere near the criminals when the conflict even started.  I only decided to go straight home without getting gas because I had received a traffic ticket.

God's ways are not my ways!

I had been perceiving the ticket as a way for Satan to try to discourage me from moving forward with courage… as a way to make me doubt myself.  While that definitely was part of my challenge and while I am grateful for the challenges that come my way because of the many things I "get" to learn, I am forever grateful my children and I are alive and were not involved with any stray bullets or even in the vicinity of the criminals involved in the shooting.

Over the last few days, my mother has sent me several text messages reminding me to be strong.  She even texted a picture of myself looking confident.

I believe God places many wonderful ideas into our minds to be successful.  I also believe that Satan sees that we are capable of that success, so he tries to doubt our ability to do anything right.  Interesting huh… because that is the way I felt… like I couldn't do anything right to get ahead.

God believes in us and we should also believe in us!!  

Even if we don't all have a fabulous mother sending text messages confirming our worth, when we take the time to ponder, God is sending those same messages to each of us… we just have to quiet ourselves down to listen for a moment.

I want to give a gift to Jesus… a promise to believe HIM when HE assures me that I can do all things in HIM.  

We are empowered by Christ's strength and power.   


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jordan's Baptism & Christmas Nativity

Yesterday morning we rushed to Jordan's baptism (picking up 3 neighbor kids on the way), raced back to our house for a special luncheon with guests who were celebrating his baptism with us (I had made lots of food the night before), returned to the church to set up for our big nativity performance by the primary children; and lastly, we drove straight to a late-night concert performed by Abe at a celebration for volunteers who help the homeless and needy.

This is how we arrived home late last night.  Four of the six children were sleeping… even Abe fell asleep the moment he put the car in park.

Leading up to this day was a week filled with some very special moments, miracles, and answered prayers.  Here are the highlights:

The Miracle Scriptures for Jordan's Baptism

When Jackson and Tyson were baptized, we bought them a nice, new set of scriptures with a case.  Altogether, each one cost us about $80.00.  Jordan's baptism was coming up, and I wondered how we would come up with the money to buy him a set as well.  Then, a few weeks ago, a brother came up to me after Sacrament meeting and said, "I was cleaning out my house, and I found some scriptures.  The thought came to me that maybe one of your kids would really appreciate them.  Would you like a nice set of scriptures? They are in a nice case too."

I said, "Yes! Yes!"  I hugged him right then and there and told him how we needed just exactly that for Jordan's baptism, but we couldn't afford to buy it.  The next week he brought them to church.  I couldn't believe it!  They were in a BLUE case!  Blue is Jordan's favorite color.  I felt that these scriptures were definitely hand-picked by God just for Jordan.

We presented the scriptures to Jordan today after sacrament meeting.  I pointed out the man in the chapel who had given him the scriptures.  Jordan's eyes grew big with gratitude.  He rubbed his hands across the case and said excitedly, "It's blue!  My favorite color!  How did he know to get me blue scriptures?"  (I knew that would be a special detail for him… God knew too.)  I'm grateful for this man who listened and followed that "thought."  I know that his "thought" was a revelation from God... which led to a miracle in the life of our sweet, 8-year old son celebrating his long-awaited baptism.

After pictures and our luncheon, it was time to race off to decorate the stage.  The stage turned out BEAUTIFUL… but only because God made it so.

Miracle of the Decorations and Costumes

As I pondered on the decorations, I knew I still needed a backdrop, and I also wanted some palm tree type leaves to lay around the manger.  

The Backdrop

Last year, Abe and I put on a nativity scene in Michigan using the teenagers and children of the stake.  I had sewn together some beautiful material with a big, gorgeous star in the middle for the backdrop.  I really wanted to use it again this year.  Almost all of our things are in storage, so I climbed on boxes all the way to the ceiling of our storage unit trying to find the box with the backdrop in it.  There was no possible way I would be able to reach even a third of the boxes because they were stacked so tight.  While I was there, I had a few other things on my mind that I wanted to get for the kids.  

Mariah and Juliana wanted their horses and dolls.  I wanted Jayden to have some toys.  Jordan wanted his special bean bag chair.  Tyson and Jackson wanted their "special things" boxes, and of course I really wanted this backdrop.  We cheered as I pulled out each treasure that they had been missing.  After searching for an hour, I finally climbed out of the storage unit feeling grateful that all the children found the boxes they wanted.  I bowed my head in prayer one last time asking God to PLEASE help me to find the backdrop.  I knew HE had helped my children get all of their special toys.  I wondered:  "Why wasn't HE just showing me where the backdrop was?  It would make the program look so much nicer if I had it." 

That night I went to the church to meet with a piano student.  We walked into the room, and there was a sister with a huge, GORGEOUS backdrop.  Drawn on it was the silhouette of 3 Wise men on camels following the star.  (The sister was from a congregation that met at a different time, but I knew her.)  I asked her if it would be alright to use their backdrop for our Christmas program.  She said yes!!!  I was so excited!  I told her about my backdrop and how I had prayed to find it.  

Her backdrop was 100 times better than mine was.  I sure was glad God didn't allow me to find my backdrop.  He helped me to find the right backdrop.  God ALWAYS answers our prayers, hopes, and righteous desires much better than we can on our own.  

The Leaves

The next day, I was driving home through our subdivision looking at all the beautiful leaves on people's trees wondering where I could gather a nice bundle to decorate our scenery.  As I drove, I screeched to a sudden halt.

Right in the middle of the street in my lane… right in front of my car… there was a nice bundle of leaves piled up nicely.  They had been nicely cut- they weren't just torn off.  They looked EXACTLY like what I had pictured in my mind to decorate the manger.  I couldn't believe it!  I pulled over immediately and thanked God as I put them into my van.  I had no doubt those leaves were placed there for me.  They hadn't even been run over yet!!  They really were there waiting for me to pick them up!  I knew it, and I knew I had no need to worry about the success of this nativity program because God was definitely showing me HIS hand.

The Costumes

I knew God's hand was leading me and guiding me, but I didn't understand the extent of the strength HE was lending me until I endured my most sleepless night… and still felt strong.

Thursday night, I stayed up the entire night trying to get my sewing machine to stop tangling when I did my zig-zags on the angel costumes.  I worked so hard and kept praying to God asking Him why it was so difficult.  It was a sad, sad sight to hear my family waking up for the next day knowing that I hadn't even gone to sleep yet!  

On Friday, I had promised to take the kids on a special field trip.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I pressed forward… I took them on their special outing and then came home to help a sweet, young girl prepare for her guitar duet with Jordan.  

That night, this girl's parent sent me a text thanking me for the time I spent helping her daughter.  She thanked me for having such a big smile on my face.   Then it hit me.  Jesus had lightened my load!  I still had to put in the hours.  I still had to face the frustrations with the sewing machine.  I still had to think through the details… but Jesus strengthened me and made me more alert beyond my own capabilities to smile and enjoy the moments with the children as I worked.  That certainly wasn't my doing!!  None of it is!!  I recognize that I am nothing without the miracles God provides in my daily life.

The Nativity Program

Decorating and costumes were important, but we had about 40 little sheep, shepherds, angels, Joseph, Mary, wise men, 7 little scripture readers, and 9 little musicians to coordinate.  Those 9 musicians played guitars, violins, a cello, a trumpet, a flute, bells, and piano.  I practiced separately with all the instrumentalists, but we only had one practice last Sunday to coordinate all the children together… and it was chaotic to say the least.  I knew the Holy Ghost had inspired me to do this, so I said a lot of prayers about how to fix the chaos and coordinate the scriptures, songs, acting, instruments, and curtains without having time to hold another practice. (Our presidency was only called to our positions a couple of weeks before.)

I prayed and prayed about how to prepare for this program… then the ideas came rushing in.  I made giant posters for every job possible.  I placed those posters at their starting points, so that every character could reference their own poster over and over again.  I made extra copies of music and scriptures.  I assigned a couple of grown men (one of them being my husband) to keep the wild sheep and wise men in line.  God took my ideas and blessed them.  

I had done a ton of background work to try to foresee any possible problems.  I played out each detail in my mind.  When you're working with 50- 60 children, I knew other surprises would come…. 

The Bishop approached me and told me we needed to start the program right at that moment.  It was already 6:00pm.  I looked at him and said, "Listen Bishop, only 2 teachers showed up, I'm missing 2 of my speakers, and 'Mary' just got sick!  My in-laws aren't even here yet, so I don't have anyone to watch the baby.  Please, please give me a couple more minutes!"  The bishop and I started grabbing teenagers to stand in for the missing people… then… just as I had hoped, everybody else showed up and got into place just in time.  They read their posters, I threw an angel tunic over their heads, and we were ready to go!!

I recruited Abe as the head shepherd leading the little sheep across the stage.  He was perfect… all crouched down low.  Oh I wish I could have taken pictures!  They were adorable.  Somebody surprised me and dressed my little Juliana into a sheep's outfit. (She is only in nursery.)  Her big, fluffy, yellow dress was stuffed inside the costume with her, so she looked like a very pudgy sheep waddling across the stage with Abe.  The sister missionaries threatened to take a bite out of her because she was so cute. :-) 

The primary president's husband (who had literally just gotten off the airplane from Ecuador 2 hours before) agreed to be one of the 3 Wise Men… to keep the other 2 Wise Men in line- that was a huge help!  As one of the children read the scripture in Matthew that says, "and fell down and worshipped him."  One of the Wise Men took it seriously and sprawled himself across the stage.  The head Wise Man gently lifted him up and the program continued beautifully.  The children sang sweetly, and the instrumentalists felt joy as they used their talents to glorify God.  

Jordan's baptism and his scriptures, the backdrop, the leaves, the lightening of the load, and the coordinating of events were all grand miracles to me.  Every time I see God's hand in my life, my faith in HIM increases and my relationship with HIM deepens.  We can fully trust that HE is managing all the details of our lives.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chaos to Perfection: God is in Charge

So…. Friday night, Tyson had a choir concert at the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.  The next morning, both Tyson and Jackson had a jazz band concert at that same tree but for the parade celebration.  Also that day I would be doing balloon animals at a big corporate party.  I was told they were connected with Disney (Disney characters and their families).  They would be paying me VERY well.  I had done balloons at my son's school, and somebody saw me there and referred them to me saying that I would do a great job.  How grateful I was!!!

My day started with the parade.

I was awakened Saturday morning at 6:30am by my boys' band director saying that he realized he needed the boys to also bring their bell kit to play at the parade.

I read my scriptures and said my prayers, and then I woke up the children.

The Bell Stand

I gave the band director's message to Jackson and said, "Make sure you bring your bell stand with the bells."  He had his music stand slung on his shoulder and said he would.  I said, "That's great that you're bringing your music stand, but you also need to bring your bell stand."  Again Jackson said, "Ok."  About a half an hour later I said, "Jackson, do you have your bell stand?"  He said he did.  I asked him where it was.  He said it was in his backpack.   I looked at his backpack suspiciously and warily accepted his answer.

Time was quickly ticking by, and Jackson and Tyson had to leave for the parade to set up.  The little ones weren't quite ready yet.  Abe took the older boys, and I finished getting everybody else ready.   I was feeling quite anxious inside about doing this balloon party; I would be leaving right after my boys performed, and I didn't want anything to go wrong that would keep me from earning my full money's worth at this corporate event. I also wanted to have more opportunities to do a job like this in the area, so I wanted to fully impress them.

All my curly-headed kids lined up to get their hair brushed and conditioned while I ran through details in my head of how everything would pan out for the day.  Right then, Abe called and said that Jackson was casually chatting with him about the bell stand on their way to the parade.  He said, "I bet the band teacher has a bell stand."  Abe said, "Jackson!  You didn't bring your bell stand?  That's what your mother asked you about 5 times!"  (Apparently every time I said "bell stand" he was thinking "music stand.")  Tyson quickly chimed in and said, "I forgot my music too!"  The parade was 30 minutes away; they couldn't turn around.

Of course I got the phone call about the crucial items forgotten… DANGIT!!  I now had 5 minutes to get out the door instead of 30.  We all raced around like crazy people.  I wanted to look shiny and happy for the kids expecting a Christmasy, balloon lady… not a tired, haggard one!

We raced out the door as I hollered, "Grab some crackers!  Grab the bag!  Grab Jayden's shoes!  Out to the van!"

As we drove towards the parade, we approached a dollar store.  Jackson and Tyson had REALLY wanted to decorate their instruments, and all our Christmas decorations are in storage.  I decided I'd surprise them.  I would have time to race in to buy them little ribbons.  My plan was to drop off the items to Abe before I parked, so I was still ok on time.

The dollar store should have taken only 2 minutes, but I couldn't find the cashier.  I yelled out several times all throughout the store, "Hellllllooooo!!!!" Nobody else was there- she finally sauntered out of the back room and rang me up.  (I have no idea what she was doing so far away from the front of the store, but I smiled politely anyway trying to be civil.)

I jumped back into the car with all the little ones as I eyed my GPS.  I would still make it in time…I would drive right up to Abe to make the transfer.  …until I took a wrong turn and ended up at the block-aid to the parade!  There was no way to turn around now.  I had to park and make a run for it.  I could see the big Christmas tree about 5 blocks away.

Abe and I would be switching vehicles; and since I was parked so far away, I wouldn't be able to return to my van after the parade.  That meant I had to bring all my party gear, all the baby gear, my boys' bell stand (heavy and sturdy for a drum set), and 4 small children with me on my run to the Christmas tree.

Juliana only wanted to hold MY hand while we ran.  Jayden was on my back, and the other two were trailing behind me trying to carry heavy bags to help me out.  As we ran, Juliana stepped on my flip flop while I continued to rapidly run forward.  My flip flop ripped right out!  I tried to scoot my foot on top of my gimpy flip flop for about a half a block.  I finally gave up and ran barefoot through the streets.  We were a sight to behold.

We made it just in time!  I gave the boys their ribbons, music, and stands. I even helped them decorate their bell stand.  Seeing their sweet, innocent faces made me forgive them for their irresponsibility.  I did tell Jackson that I would be dying at the age of 80 instead of 90 now because of the added stress he gave me.

I sat for a moment and enjoyed their performance.  It truly was amazing!

Shoe Shopping & Driving

Before I left, I sat down with Abe to tell him where the van was.  I drew a map out for him with my finger on a piece of paper so he could visualize where he would be going.  He didn't seem to worry a bit.  I complained, "You're not even looking at my map!"  (He has NO problems with directions… I, on the other hand, am severely challenged in that area.)

Abe told me where his car was.  He told me to go straight down the street and the car would be on the right after the other block-aid.  (Just like Jackson had "music stand" in his head every time I said "bell stand,"when Abe said "straight down that street" I thought he meant "straight down the street where I had parked the night before at the choir concert.")

I raced off with one shoe on and one shoe off.  In my mind I wondered if I looked Chrismasy enough for the children I would be entertaining.  Then somebody shouted out from the street in a wowed voice, "Merry Christmas!"  "Great- I must have emitted the Christmas feel," I thought.  I waved, smiled, and kept running.  After I ran a couple of blocks- short on time might I add because I would have to buy new shoes on the way- I called Abe and said, "Did you say your car was on the right side?"  He answered, "Yes!  It's just straight down the street we were on."

"What?!" I exclaimed.  "You should have drawn me a map like I did for you!!"

Abe responded, "You mean you wanted me to draw a straight line for you?"  "Yes!  I needed the straight line!!!" I exclaimed.

I turned around, sprinted all the way back, and then ran down the correct street.  I jumped in his car and started to drive towards the party which was almost an hour away.  Because I'm directionally challenged, I had no idea how to make it out of the side streets without my GPS.  My GPS took me down every street that had block-aids for the parade.  I tried about 5 different streets!

The panic started to set in again… I HAD to be on time for this party!

Some young cadets were standing at the block-aids; they were of no help how to get me out.  In a desperate voice I said, "Please, somebody help me get out of here!"  Their superior finally pointed for me to go in the opposite direction I had been driving.  I finally cleared the parade and was on my way.

Since I'm severely hypoglycemic, I still needed to get a good protein meal in me before the 4 hour party, and I needed to buy some new shoes that matched what I was wearing!  I had a leeway of about 10 minutes to get all that done.  That would also include any traffic issues along the way.

I decided to take the toll road to save time.  Abe's driver's side window doesn't roll down; so at the toll booth, I had to reach through my back window to give the lady the money.  I gave her a $20 bill.  She slowly counted out each and every one dollar bill apologizing that she didn't have bigger bills.  I smiled; but underneath that smile, my panic was rising… precious minutes were ticking by.

I stopped to get food before the shoes in case I ran out of time and couldn't do both.  I decided I would need food for my brain before I would need shoes for the party.  I would get shoes once I was closer to my location.

I was just a few miles away from the party when I saw a Walgreens.  I ran in praying to find shoes quickly.  I did actually find some sandals immediately!  I got to the check-out.  Two lanes were in use.  One was struggling with a return and the other was just plain slow…. slower because I was in a hurry… because that's just the way things are.

The man in front of me bought his stuff and then said, "Oh sorry.  I don't have enough money.  Let me run out to my car real quick and get it."  I don't even know what came over me, but I said, "NO!  YOU CAN'T!  I DON'T HAVE TIME!"  He didn't even look alarmed at my response.  Thank goodness he had counted wrong- he actually had enough money, and he was done with his transaction.  Phew!  I honestly didn't have time to wait for him to go out to his car!

Then it was my turn… before the cashier would check me out, he felt like he needed to get his pennies out of its plastic roll.  I believe the cashier stood there for a full two minutes trying to get the pennies out.  He hit it on his register drawer, twisted it, and bent it in half, but nothing would get those pennies out.  I was agonizing inside knowing that my precious minutes were ticking by again.  Finally I said, "I'm sorry, but can you PLEASE do that AFTER you check me out.  I won't need pennies.  I'm in a HUGE hurry."  With no expression on his face, he shut his drawer and rang me up…. all in slow motion.

I sprinted out to the car in my new shoes.  I drove to the party and couldn't find it for several minutes.  I made several loops around the block.  I saw a cop car and tried to ask him where it was, but the cop was out of his car across the parking lot… no time.  I prayed for help as I made more loops.  Finally, I found the party hidden between several buildings and covered by a bunch of trees.

I parked the car still doing ok with time.  However, Abe's car has a problem.  When you take the key out, it continues to beep as if the key were still in.  You have to jiggle it- literally about 20 times- until the beeping stops or else the battery will die.  This time the beeping would not stop!  I jiggled it and prayed as hard as I could.  I contemplated just leaving it with the beeping.  Then I prayed harder deciding it would not be professional to have the people there jump start my car after my job was finished.  After several heart-felt prayers, the beeping finally subsided.  Phew!  I thanked God and ran up to the front of the party to announce that the "Balloon Lady" had arrived.  (I made it 2 minutes before it started.)  What a miracle after all that mess!

The Balloon Party

I immediately began tying balloons for the children who were beginning to arrive.  After working for a couple of hours I began to wonder where the people were who hired me.  I had never personally met them, but I knew their names.  Surely, they would come up and introduce themselves.  I continued to work.  I don't think I stopped twisting balloons for longer than a minute the entire time.

… but I continued to worry about not meeting the people who hired me.

Where were they?  What if I'm at the wrong party?  Why was I so stupid to not talk to them before I started?

It is Christmastime- there are parties everywhere on a Saturday afternoon!  What if everybody just assumed that "the other guy" hired me, so they didn't question my appearance at their Christmas party.   I began asking the children what their parents did for a living to find out if I was at the right party.  One said his mom worked in the office building… another said her dad was a fork-lift driver… I was REALLY beginning to worry.  NOBODY said they were a Disney character as I assumed they all were.  I stopped asking and began to wonder if they would still  pay me even though I was at the wrong party.

I noticed the party was coming to a close, and it hadn't been the 4 hours of work yet.  "Shoot… I AM at  the wrong party!" I thought.

It wasn't until I had worked 3 hours and 15 minutes straight that a man approached me and said, "I just wanted to personally thank you for all your work.  I have never seen the kids so happy at one of our parties before.  I would like to hire you again."  Then he said his name.  What a HUGE RELIEF!  I recognized his name!  That meant he was going to pay me!  Even better, the party was ending 45 minutes early, and I would still be paid for the full four hours.  That was a huge blessing because my hands were trembling from working so hard.

He gave me a paper to write down all my information, and I could hardly move my fingers to even write.  I didn't care.  I just thanked God that all had gone well.  Boy it didn't seem like it would at times!

I learned something about myself.  I tend to panic a little too easily.  I need to trust God more.  HE has never failed me.

It's in my genetics to be eccentric though.  My father always called my mother "Lucille Ball."  He said he lived in a constant Lucille Ball episode.

I'm silly… sometimes I imagine my sister (who died) or others up in heaven lovingly laugh at my frequent, unwarranted panics!

I did have one very big benefit on my side though….


Every time something went wrong, the thought came into my mind. "I'm so glad I read my scriptures today.  I'll be inspired to know what to do in THIS situation."  The scriptures give me the confidence that because I have invited God into my day, I know that HE is helping me through my craziest of circumstances.  Can  you imagine the panic I would have if I didn't have that confidence???  Wow!!  The scriptures and my constant prayers are truly my life-lines.  Oh- and the sandals… I have received more compliments on my quick-buy, cheap sandals than on any others I've ever owned- which is good because all my other shoes are in storage… somewhere. :-)

Oh the miracles...  It is no coincidence that despite the traffic, broken shoes, and miscommunication, I arrived at my destination just in time.  It is no coincidence that I received a high-paying balloon job even though I'm a newcomer to Orlando.  There are hundreds (probably even more) networking all over Orlando for balloon entertaining gigs. It is no coincidence that just a few weeks before Christmas, I received this balloon job, and I also have received a sudden piano teaching business with 9 piano students at a period of time when every penny that comes our way is so greatly needed.

It is no coincidence... because these are miracles in my life.  These are moments when God says to me, "It's ok that things seem to be going all wrong… I'm in charge, and it's all going to turn out just right… 

It's perfection actually… because GOD IS IN CHARGE!

Merry Christmas!

Opening My Ears...

A few days ago I was reading my Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi chapter 11. In 3 Nephi, it talks of the destruction that came to the people in the Americas at the time of Christ's death.  A short period of time after this destruction, (months maybe??) the people were gathered at the temple and heard God's voice.  They did not understand it at first.  In verse 5, the words, "And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were toward the sound thereof;"

I often feel like one of those Nephites… I'm trying really hard to open my ears to hear God's word, and sometimes it takes a lot of tries before I actually recognize the message HE is speaking to my heart.  I have to work to humble myself sufficiently to hear.  When I write, I feel God speaking more clearly to my calmed, quiet heart.  HE knows I'm ready to record the thoughts HE gives me for my life when I sit quietly and meditate.  Some of those thoughts remain private and never published.  

I've heard many times that we should put a pencil and piece of paper by our beds to write down the revelations God is trying to communicate to us.  That is usually when we're finally ready to open our ears.  My favorite quiet time is when I place my hands on the computer keys.  I feel a channel open and am grateful for the fog that lifts from my mind as I quietly type.  I pray for and am grateful for continued guidance for my life.  I have so much to learn.  

I will be writing again tonight… when I can breathe again.  There's too much to do to get ready for Sunday's big activities!  Sunday is a special day, and I'm in the primary presidency.  Somehow I became in charge of putting on a huge Christmas nativity… costumes, instruments, singing, and all! :-)  I've been sewing and organizing details all night.  I'll have to reassess my schedule on Saturdays…  Please come back again later tonight or Monday morning! :-)  God bless you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Thanksgiving was fabulous!  We spent the morning serving Thanksgiving dinner in a big parking lot and the afternoon in my in-laws' home with tons of food and tons of friends and family in attendance… the next day I came down with a fierce case of the stomach flu.

UGH!!  I spent the following couple of days on the couch and in the bathroom. (It wasn't easy dashing to the bathroom because I had thrown my back out as well a couple of days before that.)  Needless to say,  I had time to do nothing and think… I kept getting this feeling to write down my schedule.  I tried several times to write other experiences in my blog, but I couldn't post anything because my schedule kept returning to my mind.  I also had a hard time writing because when you are exhausted in the body, it's hard to feel strong in the spirit.

My children noticed I wasn't writing, and they were worried.  Jackson thought I had nothing to write, so he suggested that I just write in my blog about love.  That's always a good topic, right?  When they saw me typing out their daily schedule as my blog entry, they were a bit confused by my lack of inspirational words… "THAT'S YOUR BLOG?" They questioned me.

I KNOW EVERYBODY IS BUSY and EVERYBODY has a million and a half things to do.  I think this schedule was for me to see.  I used to have it all written out, but it changes so often that I hadn't updated it.  It certainly helps a ton to get this schedule out of my head and into actual words.

This schedule is very tentative because it does not include the 6 concerts coming up over the next 2 weeks or their busy schedule when they're involved in sports…. ay ay ay!

I've also been feeling VERY INSPIRED to focus a lot on music, so at all times our home has an instrument echoing through the halls.  Jackson announced that he is ready to play his drums in the streets of Orlando for money… that cute boy.  Abe has received some awesome contacts to further his music locally, and so have I.  We're praying for good things to continue to open up…

As I wrote this schedule down, I felt like I needed to make some additional changes in my life:

From now on, I will only be posting my stories on Sunday morning.  That means I'm only going to be writing once a week instead of my average 5 times a week.  I will be spending much of my Saturdays working on other writing projects as well as my weekly blog post.

Thank you for continuing to read my past posts and for continuing to read with me on Sunday mornings.  I love you and am eternally thankful for your support.  I have poured out my heart through this blog as we all continue to experience the joys and sorrows of life…. many of them together as strangers and close friends.  The constant??  God is in charge of it all and is creating miracles daily, so that we know HE is there.

I am so thankful that God is in charge of my life.  I don't always understand why things happen, and I certainly haven't learned the patience to figure it all out.  Even through my hard-headed stubbornness, HE continually guides me… and ALL OF US as our lives encounter new obstacles to conquer!

Well… here's my schedule… (You may not even bother reading it because even my husband didn't take the time! ;-) That's ok.  I feel better now.)

Wake-up 5:00
Run 5:15-5:45
Shower & get ready 5:45-6:15
Read scriptures 6:15-6:45
Family scripture study & eat breakfast 6:45-7:15


Get children dressed and older boys out the door on bikes to bus stop 7:15-7:45
Teach Mariah piano 8:00-8:30
       *Jordan does math 
Teach Jordan piano 8:30-9:00 
       *Mariah does math
Teach Juliana & Jayden preschool 9:00-10:00 
       *Jordan & Mariah practice violin together (& finish math if need be)
Leave to pick up Tyson and Jackson from school 10:15-11:45
       *Jordan reads & Mariah reads to me while we sit outside the school
       *Jayden & Juliana run around & play in the grass
Lunch & Teach Tyson piano 11:45-12:45
Drive Tyson back to school for trumpet 12:50-1:30 
       *Jackson practices piano 12:45-1:45 
       *Jordan practices guitar 12:45-1:45
I practice the piano! 1:45-2:45
       *Jordan & Mariah do writing & Jackson does math & babies have nap/quiet time 1:45-2:45
Go outside with kids for gymnastics or playground 3:00-4:00
       *Tyson waits at school and does math & reading
       *Jackson leaves with grandmommy
Do chores & make dinner 4:00-6:00
       *Jackson & Tyson have percussion class 4:00-6:00
       *Kids have free time
Dinner 6:30
Family Home Evening 7:30
Gratitude journal & bed for all 9:30


Get children dressed and older boys out the door on bikes to bus stop 7:15-7:45
Teach Mariah piano 8:00-8:30
       *Jordan does math 
Teach Jordan piano 8:30-9:00 
       *Mariah does math
Teach Juliana & Jayden preschool 9:00-10:00 
       *Jordan & Mariah practice violin together (& finish math if need be)
Leave to pick up Tyson and Jackson from school 10:15-11:45
       *Jordan reads & Mariah reads to me while we sit outside the school 
       *Jayden & Juliana run around & play in the grass
Drop off Jordan & Mariah at school for VIOLIN class on the way home 
Teach Tyson piano & eat lunch 12:15-12:45
Leave to pick up Jordan & Mariah from violin & drop off Tyson at school for trumpet 12:45-1:25
        *Jackson practices drum set 12:45-1:45
I practice piano! 1:30-2:30
        *Jordan & Mariah write, Jackson does math, & babies have nap/quiet time
Go outside with kids for gymnastics or playground 3:00-4:00
       *Tyson waits at school and does math & reading-Jackson practices piano
Teach piano to 3 students 4:30-6:00
        *Older kids take care of younger kids outside & play with waiting piano students
Eat dinner 6:15-6:30
Take boys to scouts 6:30 
         *Boys stay later & play basketball at church
Gratitude journal & bed for all 9:30


Same as Monday morning except that we return home by 11:15
Lunch & Teach Tyson piano 11:15- 12:15
Drive Tyson to school for trumpet12:15-12:50
            *Jackson practices piano & Jordan practices guitar 12:15-1:15
            *Mariah plays
I practice piano 1:30-2:30
            *Jordan & Mariah write, Jackson does math, & babies have nap/quiet time
Go outside with kids for gymnastics or playground 3:00-4:00
            *Tyson waits at school and does math & reading
Do chores & make dinner 4:00-6:00
Teach piano to 1 student 6-6:30
Drive to church to teach piano to 2 more students while kids play sports w/Abe 7-8:30
Gratitude journal & bed for all 9:30


All of us bike to morning VIOLIN class for Jordan & Mariah 7:30-7:45
Play at playground and read with Jayden & Juliana 7:45-8:45
Bike home 8:50-9:10
Teach Mariah piano 9:30-10:00
       *Jordan does math
Teach Jordan piano 10:00-10:30
        *Mariah does math
Leave to pick up Tyson and Jackson from school 10:30-11:45
       *Jordan reads & Mariah reads to me while we sit outside the school for an hour
       *Jayden & Juliana run around & play in the grass
Drop off Jordan & Mariah at school for afternoon VIOLIN class on the way home 
Teach Tyson piano & eat lunch 12:15-12:45
Pick up Jordan & Mariah from violin & drop off Tyson at school for trumpet 12:45-1:25
       *Jackson practices drumset 12:45-1:45
I practice piano! 1:30-2:30
        *Jordan & Mariah write, Jackson does math, & babies have nap/quiet time
Go outside with kids for gymnastics or playground 3:00-4:00
       *Tyson waits at school and does math & reading-Jackson practices piano
Teach piano to 3 students 4:00-5:30
Take kids to advanced piano & theory class at our friend's house 6:00-7:00
Go home, eat dinner, fun family time, or monthly temple date
Gratitude journal & bed for all 9:30


MAKE-UP DAY & FREE STUDY DAY-with hand-written & typed reports- usually about animal science! :-)
Jackson & Tyson don't take the bus- they go with grandmommy 7:15
Leave to pick up Tyson and Jackson from school 10:15-11:45
       *Jordan reads & Mariah reads to me while we sit outside the school for an hour
       *Jayden & Juliana run around & play in the grass
Lunch 11:45-12:45
Drive Tyson back to school 12:50-1:30 (Soon Tyson will not be going to afternoon public school!!)
Tyson returns with grandmommy at 4:30
History class with grandaddy 4:30-5:30
Movie night


Chores and fun things! 
My time to write!!
Date Night!


Church and occasional dinner guests!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Piano Blessings: Pass It On...

Receiving Piano Lessons

I am not a very good piano player.   I always wished I could have received lessons as a child.  When I was on my mission there was such a great need for piano players in church, and I wanted so badly to help… but I didn't have the talent.  I decided my children would all learn so they could be of better service in their lives in that area.

My dad was a band teacher, and I play the flute.  In Utah I taught flute lessons, so I know how to teach music.  I took my boys to a piano teacher for lessons for a short while.  I watched and learned and realized that I could teach my boys on my own, so I have taught them piano for the past 3 1/2 years.  They are now excellent players and able to play hymns well enough to accompany choirs when they sing.  They continue to memorize hymns and learn new ones.  They are now beyond my knowledge and have just started taking more advanced lessons from Jordan and Mariah's violin teacher.  That beautiful woman is donating her limited time to bless our children's musical future because she was blessed as a young girl by others who helped her.  What a miracle to have her goodness in our lives!  As part of her lesson, she sits on her couch and lovingly talks about the theory of piano with them.  She's passing on her beautiful light!  Gosh I love her.  I feel the Holy Ghost when I am around her.

This morning I read this scripture:  3 Nephi 12:15-16 "Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel?  Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house: 16) Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

I thought about our dear piano/violin teacher who has served our family so selflessly.  What a beautiful example of a woman letting her light shine.  Her good works truly do glorify our Father in Heaven.  When we are able, I hope to pass on the goodness that she has shared with us…. and give light as she does.  I hope to pass it on...

Giving Piano Lessons

We have been getting to know a lovely family who is learning more about the gospel.  They have been meeting with the missionaries for a short while.  The mother heard my boys playing the hymns on the piano.  She asked me where they learned to play like that.  I told them that I taught them.  The mother asked me to teach her daughter piano lessons.  I agreed… a bit hesitantly... because I am not a talented piano player myself.  Her daughter liked the piano lessons so much that her mother referred two more little girls to my house for piano lessons!  Then the primary president at church asked me to teach her two daughters as well!

What a blessing!  I am now teaching piano to five little girls, and they're paying me- which in our financial hardship is a much needed blessing!! :-)  The girls are learning very well.  I have told them that as they become more proficient, I will have to send them on to a more advanced teacher… but that won't be for a while yet.

I have taught flute, gymnastics, spanish, and preschool classes, but I NEVER would have considered teaching piano to other children besides my own… unless God placed this opportunity right into my lap… which HE did.

This is definitely a miracle in my life… to be able to help with finances while staying in my home.

It is also a precious blessing for our family to be able to become closer to this wonderful family who is learning the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They came to our home for Family Home Evening on Monday with the missionaries.  Jackson shared a very inspired, spiritual thought from the scriptures, and the missionaries shared a very inspired lesson with all of us after that.  The influence of the Holy Ghost was powerful in our home that night.

This scripture spoke to my heart this morning, and I thought about this family:  3 Nephi 12:6 "And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost."  I feel the presence of the Holy Ghost when we are with this dear family.  Because of their hunger and thirst for righteousness as they search the things God wants for them in their lives, they are a great blessing and miracle in our lives.  I hope to always hunger and thirst for righteousness as they do and be an instrument in the Lord's hands as they have been to us.  I hope to pass it on...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Birthday Wishes: God's Perfect Timing

For Tyson's birthday last week, I wrote his birth story.  Even though Tyson was completely happy with his strawberry cake and favorite dinner with family and a few friends.  Tyson's greatest wishes were to go to a football game and to go deep sea fishing.  He had been talking about it for months.  I prayed to know how to make his day special because we couldn't afford either of those things.  His birthday passed, and Tyson never complained about not going deep sea fishing or watching a football game.  A surprise came… one week after his birthday!  

Our awesome neighbors gave us 5 free tickets to the big college rivalry football game here.  What a blessing!  The tickets were intended for Abe's parents and for me and Abe, but Abe's mom graciously sacrificed her ticket for all the Mills Boys to go together.  I also stayed home with the little ones.  It was a perfect day! The game instilled even more passion in their hearts that they want to play college ball like their daddy. Well… they actually want to play in the NFL!  Remember their faces! :-)  Tyson is number 89. :-)

  According to all the Mills Boys, the marching bands were amazing beyond words… they danced their formations, played awesome music, and flipped their instruments around between notes. This also motivated them to excel in their instrumental talents!

I must say… the Mills Boys are soooo cute!

Yesterday, the second part of Tyson's greatest wish was realized as well!  

There are several ponds with fish in the subdivision where we live, but we asked around and discovered a fabulous fishing location called Sebastion Inlet.  (It's where the expert high caliber fishers and surfers go.)  

The pier reached out into the deep sea to great depths without going out on an expensive ship.  It was perfect!  

It was a little chilly and very windy which created awesome waves on the outer coast.  Once we reached the outer pier, the kids were amazed watching experts pull out 100 lb fish! 

As the sun set, the Pelicans soared in from the skies and dove in for the fish every few seconds.  It was simply breathtaking to soak in the majesty of God's creations...

...and to feel HIS power within HIS creations as the waves pounded against the pier.

I believe that God expects us to work towards our righteous desires, and then HE opens the doors when those righteous desires are in accordance with HIS will.  I believe that God cares about the things that truly make our hearts happy.  I believe that God's timing may be longer than we want at times.  Despite that, I believe that HIS timing is absolutely perfect.  

I thank God for blessing our lives and fulfilling our righteous desires in such magnificent ways and perfect timing.  

Our perfect day even included a little mud/sand fight… They tried to get me, but I think I won. :-)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Divine Intervention

There is a sweet sister whom I hadn't seen at church for several weeks.  She is the sister I wrote about a few months ago in my blog post, "Familiar Face."  I kept thinking about her and wondering where she was.  The last several times I had called, her phone number didn't work, so I hadn't tried her phone number again to check on her for awhile.

Yesterday morning before church, I had a very strong impression that it was time to call her again, so I did.  For the first time, she answered!  After talking to her, I found out that her husband had been living in a hotel.  She went out of town with her kids to stay with family for several weeks because they didn't have a new home yet.  She and her children had just returned the day before and now the whole family was in the hotel room together… with no car… and still no home!  One of their cars was broken down, and the other one needed to be registered.

She was overjoyed that she would have a way to get to church!  I arrived and quickly helped dress the children and comb their hair; we made it to church JUST in time.  This lovely sister had a huge smile the entire time.  The phone number I had been using was to her old home, but now it was being transferred to her new cell phone.  Thank goodness I could finally reach her!

As we drove home from church, Abe asked her where she was going for Thanksgiving.  She smiled and said, "We're accepting invitations."  We are grateful to have this sweet family come to our home for Thanksgiving dinner.

A miracle can be defined as divine intervention.  Members of our bishopric at church asked how we knew this family was in need.  I told them it was the power of the Holy Ghost.  I'm grateful for divine intervention… I'm grateful for miracles… I am grateful for the guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost.  God truly does love ALL HIS CHILDREN.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Leaders, Bullies, & Defenders

My boys go to public school for 4 elective classes.  They are actually classified as home-schooled kids.  I have been driving back and forth so many times throughout the day for their varied classes that I was getting worn out. Since their grandmother is the crossing guard, she usually takes them with her at 7:15am even though their first class doesn't start until 8:45.  Sometimes I let them sleep in because they've had a late night.  On those days I wanted them to start taking the bus instead of me driving them again.

I put off allowing them on the bus for several days because the kids at the bus stop always looked so rough.  I saw them shoving each other around, so I worried about how my home-schooled kids would be treated.  Tyson would also be the youngest kid on the bus.

I finally let them go yesterday.  I wasn't sure if they would even know anybody, so I encouraged them to be friendly and get to know the other kids.

The Bus Ride

As my boys walked towards the huge mass of kids waiting, I prayed for them to have a good experience.  They seemed so small and so innocent.  I watched as the girls piled on one bus and as the boys piled on a different bus.  The bus drove away, and I waved wondering if my boys would be "too cool" to look back at their worried mother in the van waiting for them.  They weren't; I could see Jackson in the window waving back.

When I went to pick them up at 11:30, I asked the boys with anticipation how their bus ride went.

This is what happened according to Jackson and Tyson:

They walked on the bus, and a boy walked on with them and confidently made an announcement to the bus driver and all the other kids:  "These guys are new.  I'm going to let him sit by me (pointing at Tyson).  Does anybody have a seat where Jackson can sit?  A boy whom Jackson had played football with a couple of times spoke up and said, "He can sit by me!"  Both Jackson and Tyson told me how kind the kids were to include them in conversations and let them play with their video games.

Are you kidding me?  What a leader!  How mature, kind, courageous, and wonderful of that middle school boy to step outside of himself to make my boys feel welcomed and accepted.

The Band Class

Then, with just as much enthusiasm, my boys told me what happened in band class once they got to school:

A kid came up to Tyson and said, "Are you mental?" (Tyson says the kid's comment was unprovoked by him.)

Before Tyson could even answer, the biggest boy in the class stepped between them and got in the kid's face to defend Tyson.  (I've seen this boy who was defending Tyson at band concerts- he's huge with long hair.)   Tyson's defender said real loud, "You better watch how you talk to Tyson because that's Jackson's little brother!"

Then Tyson's defender chased the little bully all the way back to his seat.  Both Jackson and Tyson were telling me the story with the biggest grins on their faces.  How could they not grin?  It feels GREAT to have somebody on your side in the face of conflict.

I couldn't believe how my prayers were answered!  Not only were my boys fine on the bus, but the kids were kinder than I ever could have imagined.  …and not only was their experience on the bus better than I could have imagined, but God also gave them an AWESOME defender after the bus ride.

I had a good talk with my boys yesterday about using those leaders and defenders as examples for their lives.  I asked them to recognize how good they felt from the experiences and to be leaders and defenders for others as well.  See?  The answer to prayer continues… Not only did God give them the bus ride and the awesome defender, but HE also gave my boys valuable examples of leadership and courage so that they can be better servants of HIM in the future.  

Wow!  I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for answering our prayers beyond what we even ask.  I'm grateful I can ask HIM for help with any worry in my life.  HE is listening to all our prayers and answers those prayers in the most perfect way which will bless our lives the very most.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

We Love Burger King!

About a month and a half ago, I went to Burger King for a quick lunch because we ran out of time to drive home again between the children's classes at the school.  Burger King gave us our food, and I thought they had forgotten to include some of the burgers.   I immediately went inside to tell  the manager about my problem.  While I waited in my car, I discovered that everything actually was accounted for… one of the burgers was tucked under Jayden's carseat, and the other ones were underneath the fries.  Embarrassed, I quickly went back inside to tell them how sorry I was.

Burger King gave me the extra burgers anyway!  The kids were all so happy to have extra food!  (My boys would eat 3 burgers each if I let them.)  I went away thinking how nice they were to accommodate me even though I was in the wrong.

Halloween was a couple of weeks after that, and one of the homes we visited gave all the children coupons to receive a free Frosty.

I don't like to go to fast food restaurants; but a couple of weeks after Halloween, we were far away from the house again longer than expected.  I was getting shaky, and my brain was becoming quite foggy.   I'm severely hypoglycemic, and I really needed protein in my bloodstream.

I thought in my mind, "I want to go back to Burger King because they were so awesome before.   I have these Frosty coupons.  That will be a great treat for the kids!"

I went through the drive-thru and ordered 5 Jr. Frosties and a value burger for everyone.  One of the kids had lost their coupon, so I planned on paying for one of the extra Frosties.  (Jayden could share a Frosty with one of the older kids.)

I ordered the Frosties at the Burger King drive-thru and told them I had coupons for the Frosties.  The manager said, "OK.  We'll deal with the coupons when you get up here."

As I handed him the coupons I looked closer at what was in my hand.  In my foggy, hypoglycemic state it took me a minute to figure out what I was doing… I looked over at the sign of where I was…

WHAT WAS I THINKING???  I said, "Oh my gosh!  These are Frosty coupons for Wendy's, and I'm at Burger King!  I am so sorry.  I didn't even realize what I was doing."

The manager just laughed and said, "That's ok.  We're going to honor them anyway because you could just decide to take your coupons over to Wendy's, and we want to keep you here!"

We were all so excited.  The kids cheered from the backseat when they realized what was going on.

Not only did the Burger King manager give me four cups of ice cream with the four Wendy's Frosty coupons I gave him, but he surprised me and ordered a total of 6 ice creams for our family at no extra charge!!!

I thanked him and thanked him and thanked him!  He said he was glad he could make us so happy.  The kids were so excited that the next time the manager opened his window to give us the rest of our food they all shouted out in unison, "WE LOVE BURGER KING!!!"

I believe that was just what the manager wanted to hear.  He wanted to make sure we would come back, and of course we will!

So why am I sharing this story?  Well… of course I'm always amazed at the good people of the world.

I am also amazed at the love God has for us.  I believe God had his hand in that whole funny scenario!

In those little moments of joy and recognizing people's goodness, I think of God.  I think of God because I believe that HE and HIS angels enjoy spreading pieces of laughter and joy to lift our hearts. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1 Year Anniversary Today!

Abe and I were married in the St. Louis Temple for all eternity.  Because we were married in the temple, all our biological children are automatically sealed to us for all of eternity.  Jayden came to us a different way…. Jayden was born from my heart.  It is true!  He was in my heart since I was a little girl.  The adoption finalization through the courts had just taken place, so we were now able to take him to the temple.

Exactly one year ago today, our entire family went to the St. Louis, MO Temple to have our precious baby Jayden sealed to us forever.  Normally, our other children would have to wait until they were older to enter the temple; but since they were given the opportunity to be present for the sealing, our children had been preparing for this day for quite some time.

We made the 6-hour drive as a family from Michigan to St. Louis, Missouri on the morning of November 20th.  We arrived in the early afternoon- just in time for the sealing ceremony.  Abe's parents, my parents, and several other close friends were there with us.  We arrived with all our white clothing in our bags, and we were ready for this big moment we had been anticipating for such a long time.  My parents accompanied my children into the dressing room and helped them get dressed into their white clothes.  When Abe and I entered the dressing room, I could feel the excitement in the air.  The temple workers had given each of the children a packet for them to write their feelings about their experiences.  The children looked like the purest of angels dressed in all white.

I cannot express in words the feelings of love that ran through my heart as Abe and I knelt at the altar knowing that in moments Jayden's adoption would be sealed for the eternities.  We had been praying to find him for so long.  My mother brought our baby Jayden to us and placed his hand on ours.  After the sacred ceremony, the rest of our children came up around the altar as well and learned about the significance of an eternal family on a level they will never forget.

I asked each member of our family (who can talk) to share their feelings and memories from the temple.

Their words touched my heart deeply.

Abe's Memories

I felt like it was a beautiful time to be with all of our family in the temple.  What a great opportunity it was for our young kids to go to the temple.  And now how much greater of a testimony they have of the temples because of their experience.  When I was in the temple, it was just a really nice, calm and peaceful feeling.  I was grateful that a really important piece was being added to our family.  I think Jayden is a miracle.  Every day he's just always so happy.

Jackson's Memories

I prepared to go to the temple by studying the scriptures and going over how I need to act in the temple and how special it is.  I remember when we got sealed, I felt the Spirit.  It was like there was a tingling around me.  I could feel the Holy Ghost right by me.  It was really great that Jayden finally was going to be with us forever no matter what and that he's our brother.  I like how energetic and joyful Jayden is.  He smiles a lot.   I feel that it's really awesome that he's my brother forever.  My favorite part of the temple was when we kneeled down together around the altar.  I liked that part because that was when we were all together as one family.

Tyson's Memories

Well… I really loved the mirror room because I saw my family for eternity and eternity and eternity.  I also liked walking around and looking at the temple.  I felt the Spirit everywhere I was.  The Spirit felt awesome.  I liked all the pictures of Jesus I saw.  The people there were nice too.  I couldn't wait to go to the temple, so I was excited to be there.  I did a lot of things such as getting baptized to prepare to go into the temple.  It made me happy knowing that little baby Jayden was sealed to us forever and ever.  Jayden is one of my number 1 pals; he's my bro.  He makes me happy in everything he does.  He touches my heart and others' hearts too.  He teaches his sisters and is always nice to them. I know the temple is the house of God because I prayed about it, and the Spirit has told me it is true.  I always feel the Holy Spirit when I'm at the temple.  Even when I'm not inside, I feel the Holy Spirit.   I feel so close to God when I'm near the temple.

Jordan's Memories

I prepared to go to the temple by trying to be really good.  I had an interview with the Bishop before we went.   I felt really good, and I felt the Holy Spirit in the temple.  Before I went into the mirror room, I was getting dressed in the dressing room.  Then we went through all these other rooms, and then we went into the mirror room.  When I was in the mirror room, I knew that we would have an eternal family.  When we stood in the middle of the room looking at the mirrors, I felt really, really, really good.  I knew that Jayden was sealed to us.

Mariah's Memories

I remember that Jayden got sealed to our family, and I remember that Jackson felt the Holy Spirit guiding him.  I felt something around me keeping Jayden in our family for all the eternities.  I remember that we had to dress up in nice, white clothes so that we don't make the temple dirty.  We wear white clothes because it helps us remember all the angels in heaven.  I feel happy that Jayden gets to stay in our family.  Even when I die, he's still with me.  I love Jayden so much because he's cute.  He's a good brother, and he loves to do funny things.

"My Mommy"

My little Jayden, born of my heart, has a little game he plays.  He wraps his arms around me as tight as he can, looks around at everyone else, makes sure they're listening, and then says really loud, "MY MOMMY!!"  I then squeeze him back really tight and say, "MY JAYDEN!!" We love our dear little Jayden.  All of our children are miracles in our lives… Jayden is definitely no exception!  What a miracle he is!  We all thank God Jayden is ours forever!!