Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Dumpster-Diving Grandma & My Miracle Because of Her

I came from a long line of non-wasters when it comes to food, but my grandmother- we call her Gragran- is the queen!! I remember Gragran standing over me when I was a little girl, telling me I was persnickety for not eating my piece of cake.  I didn't know what that meant, so I always ate what Gragran gave me for fear of being persnickety. 

Gragran is 94 years old now, and she is beautifully plump.  She barely has any gray hair and has an active, sharp mind.  I've received permission to share a story about our dear Gragran that I'm pretty sure my brothers and sisters don't know about yet.  Hahaha!  Oh it's time they heard, and I think anyone else would enjoy hearing about it too. 

When Gragran was in her early 80's, she had a dear friend, Eva, that she would spend a lot of time with. Eva was very small and petite, and she had a lot of goats and chickens on her property.  

Eva needed more food for her goats, so she had the great idea of going in the dumpsters behind the local grocery store to get scrap food for her goats.  These dumpsters were not small, so these two 80 yr. old women had to hoist and pull each other into the giant dumpster!!  Can you picture it?

After going in there a few times, they began to notice that the grocery store was throwing away some rather nice food, so they began to take it home for themselves to eat!  It wasn't for the goats anymore; they had discovered a daily feast!  Oh they gathered things like lettuce and took the outer layer off and cakes that were still in the boxes- just expired... all kinds of food!!  

Now, let me make it clear that Gragran had plenty of money to buy food; she was not starving.  She lived through the depression, so she just couldn't bare to see the food in the dumpster go to waste! 

We lived across the street from her; so after a while, Gragran decided the food was safe enough to bring over to our house for us to eat!  We had no clue where the food was from!  My mom says that when we would ask Gragran where she got all the cakes from, she would just smile and say, "Oh I have a very special place that I go!"  We happily ate- oblivious to it all.

Eventually the store manager noticed these grandmas diving the dumpsters; and instead of telling them to stop, he sweetly laid the "good" dumpster food by the back door.  The grocery store even began to leave food that wasn't quite expired because they knew the grandmas would be coming soon.

I have to stop and giggle right now thinking about my siblings finding out for the 1st time that while growing up, a good number of those yummy cakes from Gragran... were from the dumpster!

Now the reason I tell this story is because this no-waste attitude has been ingrained within me as well.  When you're feeding a small army of children every day, the wasted food adds up, so we simply don't waste. 

No, I do not go to dumpsters, but when we have dinner guests, which we do often, I make this official announcement: "You may eat all you want, but do not throw any food away.  Give yourself small portions to begin with or else your mama has to eat all your food too. We do not waste food in this house."  I give the parents a serious look and then smile and say, "EAT UP!!" 

Tonight I was only cooking for my own children, and so I was trying to use up all the extra food in the fridge.  I of course didn't want to waste any food!  I threw in a lot of random things:  broccoli, pasta, pepperoni, American cheese, Mexican cheese, cream of chicken soup, white cheddar popcorn salt, Italian herb seasoning, butter, spring peas etc. etc.  

Then, all of a sudden the thought ran through my mind: "I just made a gigantic bowl of food, and what if it doesn't taste good?  Because I don't waste food, we could be choking down this food for days!!  Oh No!!"  

As quickly as all those fears ran through my mind, I said the most sincere blessing on my mixture.  I asked God to please, please make it taste good to us.

Then, I gave my dinner clap and all the children came running in.  They got huge bowls of food for themselves, and I watched them...

THEY LOVED IT!!  They raved about it!!  They went back for seconds and thirds!!  Now I warn whoever is reading this to not try this mixture at home.  I'm pretty positive our family experienced a miracle tonight.

God definitely made that food taste good because he knew I wouldn't have thrown it away.  I'm so grateful HE made it taste good to us.  I honestly do talk to my Heavenly Father about everything throughout the day.  HE is my best friend. 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We are BETTER than we think we are!!!!

 Today at lunchtime, the kids and I weren't doing anything really special.  We were just chatting and telling stories when all of a sudden, 5 year old Mariah said, "Mommy, I'm so glad God sended me to a happy home."  

Right away I thought, "Really? I'm so glad she's not remembering all the mistakes I make!"  I gave her a huge hug!  When I pulled away she had the sweetest smile just frozen on her face.  I wanted to make our home the 
happiest home for her forever.

I pray often for the ability to change for the better, and sometimes I feel like my changes are coming way too slow.  I often say to the children, "Guys, I'm sorry.  I'm trying so hard to be a better mother."

Jackson, my 11 year old, hearing me say that so often, decided to take matters to a higher source.  On the 1st Sunday of every month, we fast for 2 meals and pray extra for a particular blessing we would like from our Heavenly Father.  I don't ask what the children are fasting for because that's personal between them and their Heavenly Father; but on the first fast of the New Year, Jackson wanted me to know for what purpose he had fasted. 

He said, "Mom, today I fasted that you would be a better mom."

I dropped what I was doing and exclaimed, with a bit of laughter, "Oh! No!  I'm so sorry Jackson!  Is it really that bad?  What do you want me to do better?"

He quickly stated, "No, no Mom- you're the best mom in the entire world!  I just always hear you saying that you want to be a better mom, so I decided to fast and pray for you."

Our precious children love us so deeply.  They want to show us that love the best way they can.  I believe we are also trying to show our children we love them in the best way we can.

I believe my Heavenly Father also wants us to know we're doing a good job.  Of course we must improve, but HE wants us to know that as long as we're giving it our all, HE will take care of the rest.  

My miracle is that HE helped me to understand today that way too often I let Satan lead me to believe that I am failing.  Our Heavenly Father sees greatness in us, and our children see greatness in us just as we see greatness in them. 

My miracle is also that God spoke through the mouths of babes that although there is a lot of room for improvement and daily repentance, I am doing better than I think I am.  Most of us are!!

God loves us so much!  I make more mistakes than I could ever list.  Seeing my children's pure love, sheds a little light into how great God's love is for us.  HIS focus is not on how bad we are; it is on how much HE loves us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

God's Tender Mercy in Ice Cream:)

Well, I told my husband about my miracle today, and he laughed (with love).  He doesn't know that I was actually serious about it!!  God knows me the best and how to communicate with me, so today he gave me love through ice cream. 

Yes, my miracle/tender mercy is about ice cream...  I LOVE ice cream!!  It is my very favorite food in the entire world.

My dad trained me this way.  Growing up, any time we weren't acting right, my dad would simply say, "OK, NO ICE CREAM!"  All of us immediately stopped misbehaving at the thought of not having ice cream.  He never even kept track.  We didn't even know when the next time would be that he would be buying it!  It didn't matter!  We were willing to obey for weeks because of the threat of not getting the ice cream!

My love for ice cream continued while serving as a missionary in Bolivia.  While in Bolivia for a year and a half, I spent about 6 months of that time in Sucre, and oh... my... goodness!!  In Sucre, Bolivia, they had the best home-made ice cream bars on almost every corner.  They were so refreshing and creamy!!!!  So.... I ate SEVERAL every day.  Maybe that's the reason I gained 20 pounds!!  Oh well- it was worth it.:)

I remember while at college, I had an extremely heart-breaking experience.  I cried and cried alone.  My dad called to see how I was doing.  I just cried some more.  With all the wisdom of a father he said, "Rachel, why don't you go get yourself some ice cream."  My first thought was, "He is so insensitive to what is really going on here!  Ice cream won't fix this!"  Well, I rethought it.  I actually felt some healing from my pain while sitting in the mountains, praying to God.... and eating my ice cream.

As much as I love ice cream, I have a real guilt complex now as a mother about spending money on something that isn't truly needful.  Every time I drive past a place that sells ice cream, I honestly have a wrestle in my mind weighing out the monetary need to emotional need ratio.  Our monetary need usually kicks in stronger than my emotional need for ice cream- only because I usually have all 6 kids with me- so an ice cream trip can get pretty pricey. 

It took me almost a year to try Steak-N-Shake, but I really wanted to try it because my boys had gone there on a special "date" with Dad.  They raved about the giant shake!

Today, I was feeling especially weighed down and facing some disappointment.  I drove past Steak-N-Shake,  and I remembered I had an $8.00 gift card to go there.  I passed it several times, as I spent a couple hours transporting kids to and from wrestling and play practice.   Eight dollars wasn't enough to buy ice cream for all of the kids, I had to push it out of my mind and be sensible.

Nope!  The urge to eat ice cream was winning!  I decided to wait until I had just the younger four with me; they deserved it for sitting so patiently in the car while their brothers went from activity to activity.  

As I sat in the drive-thru, my mouth began to water.  I knew I was getting myself a specialty shake, and I decided to get a specialty shake for them too because even though it was more expensive, I wanted them to know they had been true little champions.

When I went to pay for it, it was half the price!!  I told her I didn't think that was right.  She said, "Oh, I charged you the Happy Hour price by mistake.  Oh well, it's too late now!   We'll just give you the Happy-Hour price!!"  Yay!!!  I didn't even know they had a Happy Hour price!  I guess I had just missed it by 15 minutes, but they made me happy and gave it to me anyway!!!

My disappointment immediately lifted.  Not only did I not overspend our budget, but it also meant I could have another ice cream at Steak-N-Shake soon.:)

Does that mean I'm saying ice cream is the solution to all problems?  No, of course not.  I'm just grateful for nice people, and I'm especially grateful that God knows me so well that sometimes all it takes to lift my spirits is a great ice cream at a great price.  

I believe God had fun leading me there!  I believe HE is doing special little tender mercies for us all day to add a little joy to our lives.  HE knew to speak the language of ice cream to me to let me know that I was HIS little champion just as I wanted my little ones to know that they were my little champions.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Miracle of Nauvoo: I Found My Voice!

                               Our Family as Pioneers in Nauvoo:)

The regular children's music leader stayed home with sick children this past Sunday, so I had the opportunity to do singing time with all of the beautiful children at church.  Oh I had so much fun!  They sang with pure joy in their faces and voices.  I sang louder and louder, and they did too!!   We giggled together and sang praises together.  I was overjoyed that my voice was actually letting me sing with them without straining at all.  The quality of my voice comes and goes, but it is definitely improving from what it used to be.  As I sang, I was reminded of my precious Nauvoo miracle from this Summer.

Our family was chosen to go to Nauvoo, IL at the end of July to be a part of the Nauvoo Pageant for 2 weeks.  The 1st week we were in charge of teaching the guests how to play the pioneer games before the show, and we sang on stage only at the finale.  The 2nd week, we had the opportunity to be in the entire show-singing, dancing, and performing as a family!  Even our baby was in my arms as I danced on stage!  We dressed in pioneer clothes the entire time and shared our testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ, with all who would listen.  Our entire family was thrilled for this opportunity and tried hard to prepare ourselves both spiritually and physically.

The Bishop of our church gave each member of our family a blessing before we left and a "setting apart" to serve as official representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Each blessing was very special.  My children said they felt a warm burning in their hearts while receiving their blessings.  Then he got to mine....

In my blessing, he said I would sing in the Nauvoo Pageant.  I was shocked!!  I hadn't sang in 3 years, and my voice was worse than it had ever been!

Me? Sing? I had damaged my voice while teaching gymnastics to 75 children out of my home and coaching basketball.  Along with homeschooling my 6 children and speaking all day long, my voice was continually strained, and it never got a chance to heal.

I hadn't been able to sing to my children on their birthdays, in church, or at bedtime for years.  When we had our Family Home Evenings, which is a special time for us to sing, learn, and play together as a family, I could only smile while all the others sang.  I missed singing with them so much.   I wanted this miracle so badly; but I had been raspy for so long, I didn't know how it would be possible.

Worried about my continually raspy voice, my ENT took a biopsy on my vocal chords to check for cancer, and he also did a surgical procedure to remove some pretty large growths at the same time.  My sister had died of cancer in the general area, so I was worried.   The test results returned. There was no cancer present, but my vocal chords were very damaged from the surgery.  I couldn't speak a word for several days and only with a lot of strain and weakness after that.

After such a recent surgery so traumatizing to my vocal chords, I couldn't believe my Bishop was saying that I would sing again so soon.

I told a couple of people when we arrived at Nauvoo about my promise to be able to sing; but up to that point, I could hardly squeak out a note.  The whole 1st week passed, and we were on our way to our official dress rehearsal to perform in front of an actual audience.  One of the people I had talked to about my Bishop's blessing asked me if I had been able to sing yet.  Disappointed, I told her I still couldn't sing, but that I would continue to mouth the words while everyone else sang.  I missed pouring my heart out in voice, but I tried to still be positive.

We went on stage just as we had rehearsed, and I couldn't believe it!!  I started to sing, and my voice broke through clearly.  I was singing!!!  Was that really me?  Was that really my voice?  I looked over at my husband who was also singing beside me.  I smiled the biggest, cheesiest smile in the world; he just smiled back just as cheesy.  I thought he heard me, and that he was just as overjoyed as I was.  Apparently, because everyone was singing so loud around us, he couldn't hear my voice, he just thought I was giving him the signal to smile more.:):)  So there we were, the two pioneers with the biggest smiles on stage, but only I knew why my smile was extra exuberant.

After the show, I was still in awe.  Had I really just sang?  Did I imagine it?  Would the gift go away once I left the stage?  I found a quiet spot outside backstage.  My children were chatting with each other and had their chairs in a circle a few feet away from me.  I quietly began to sing my favorite children's song, "I am a Child of God."  I hadn't been able to sing that song in 3 years, and I was actually singing it.  My children, who had been praying constantly for my voice to return, stopped chatting immediately.   So sweetly and quickly they turned to me and said, "Mommy, you're voice is so beautiful.  You're singing!!!!"

Then, they all rushed over to me and hugged me.  They had waited for this moment just as I had waited.

I couldn't believe God had just given me such a clear, perfect miracle!!  One moment I couldn't sing, and the next moment I could- just as our Bishop had promised.  I had even lost faith for just a moment that it would happen, but God blessed me anyway because HIS love for us is just that great.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Miracle of "Seeing" Hearts

Today I went to visit one of my children's instructors to ask her some questions.  After everything was squared away, I watched her for just a quick moment working at her desk.

I felt the strongest urge to tell her how amazing she was.  I pushed the thought away for a moment because... she was busy, she might think I was being insincere or trying too hard, or she might think I was gushy, silly, or odd.  

BUT... the thought persisted, so all in that quick moment I decided I would listen to the urge.   

I told her- in detail- all the reasons I thought she was fantastic!!  

She jumped out of her chair, came around her desk, and gave me the biggest hug!  She said, "That's exactly the person I'm trying to be!"

I feel so blessed that God gave me the words to speak to her at that moment.  

I don't think she was having an especially difficult day.  I think that in that moment, Heavenly Father just wanted her to know she was HIS fantastic daughter.  

I didn't even really realize it had come from God... it was just how I felt looking at her.

I think God gives us little windows to people's hearts if we're trying hard to see their beauty.  It takes my breath away a bit to think about the magnitude of his love in the details of our lives.

At age 18, I served as an EFY (Especially For Youth) counselor for teenagers.  I was the youngest counselor there, so I relied very heavily on prayer to know how to teach these youth that were pretty close to my own age. 

I remember that after one of the dances, one of my youth walked by.  I gave her a hug, looked at her, and said, "You have such a light in your eyes!!!"  She smiled and walked back to her dorm.  

Later, in tears, this young teen told me that she had asked her Heavenly Father in prayer if she had a light in her eyes because she wanted it so badly.  I of course knew nothing of her prayer or of her doubts.  She looked bright to me; so without even realizing that it was inspiration, I described her in the same way she had wanted to be seen in God's eyes.

I picture the people that love me the very most- they don't wait until I'm feeling low to tell me they love me.  They tell me all throughout each day.  I'm absolutely positive that our perfect Heavenly Father is trying to tell us all throughout each day how special and loved we are by HIM and by our Savior, Jesus Christ. I believe HE would use me even more to pass that message on if I  would make the effort more often to "see" people in the light of who they are becoming.

There are so many amazing people around us!!!  God sent everyone here to succeed-not to fail!  I feel a passion within me to help others believe in who they really are.  I know God wants us to BECOME who HE intended us to be.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jayden's Adoption Miracle

Today, our sweet Jayden was crying and ready for a nap, but I was not quite ready to sit and cuddle him because I was washing dishes and making lunch.  I just needed a few more moments, and then it would be my special "Jayden Time."

Right as I was calling everyone in for lunch, I heard Tyson singing in the background.  He was sweetly singing the words, "Everyone keep quiet.  When I stop singing this lullaby that means Jayden is asleep."  Tyson was rocking baby Jayden to sleep singing song after song.  Jayden was cuddled up in a ball on Tyson's lap, and all the other children were whispering around him.

As I pondered Tyson's act of kindness towards our baby, I began to remember all of the children doing simple acts of service for each other and especially for their baby brother.  So many times I had instead noticed their acts of craziness.  This felt so much better!!  

Mariah had invented all kinds of games with him, Jordan had rushed to his side every time he fell, Jackson strapped Jayden into his seatbelt and carried him around, and Juliana danced with him.  Little Jayden is truly a loved and adored child by everyone in the family.

As I prayed about today's miracle, I felt a burning that it was time to revisit all the emotion of Jayden's adoption miracle.

Abe and I felt very strongly that at least one of our children would come to us by way of adoption even before we ever had any biological children.  We parented 8 foster children and endured 5 failed adoptions.  My heart was being ripped apart, and I began to think that maybe I was mistaken.  Maybe it wasn't in God's plans for us to adopt.

Our last failed adoption was the hardest.  We spent 5 months texting and calling our birthmother every few days.  As a family, we drove 7 hours to meet her, eat with her, laugh with her, and immediately love her.  The children talked about and prayed for the baby and our birthmother several times each day.  Our hearts were deeply invested.  We had the word "Hope" all over our house.  

Then, the first Saturday in March of 2012, my heart told me that something was seriously wrong.  

The following evening, I received a phone call; and at the exact same time that our phone rang, our Bishop (who lived 25 minutes from our house) knocked on our front door.  

The phone call was from our birthmother’s caseworker.  I went to the laundry room to listen without any extra noise.  With my heart pounding, I heard the words that our birthmother had changed her mind.  She gave birth to her baby on Friday night, decided to parent him, and the baby was no longer ours. 

I dropped the phone and crumbled to the ground at Abe's feet from the devastation.  I had never in my life fallen from emotional pain.  I couldn’t speak-only wail.  As I looked up from my fallen position, our Bishop was right there ready to listen and to comfort both of us.  Abe stood strong only because he had to.  My only peace was that God must have known the pain we would feel because HE sent our spiritual leader to our home at the exact moment of our greatest sorrow. 

We broke the news to our children, and they too just cried and cried.  Jackson, our oldest, came to our bed sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. Although we had never laid eyes on this baby, we loved him deeply.

After a couple of weeks of a constant, stabbing pain in my chest, I decided I needed to have a serious talk with God.  I had been praying nonstop, but this prayer was different.

On March 15, 2012, I entered my closet with the greatest anxiety in my chest.  I decided I would not leave the closet until I had received answers as to why we were inspired to adopt even though it seemed it would never happen.  I knelt in prayer and prayed out loud.

As I prayed and prayed and prayed in that closet, a strange thing happened.  PEACE began to rush over my body.  The anxiety was miraculously dissipating almost against my will.  I felt the undeniable peace.  I knew it was from God, but I pushed it away and stormed out of my closet. 

I didn’t want peace!!  I wanted answers!!!  After some time, I decided to accept the peace that my Heavenly Father was offering me. 

Through this all, we found out we needed to move to a different house because the house we loved would soon be sold.  My hope was hanging by a very thin thread.  So many people came with loving service.  Although their service eased so much of my pain, I still cried most of every day and kept to myself.

Abe never once lost hope.  He was a rock.  He was mighty!!!  He spoke with wisdom and patience. 

On April 9th, our caseworker came to our new home to renew our home study; I put the entire house together within a few days, but I felt like it was a waste of time because I doubted we would ever even use the new home study.

On the very next day, right before Jackson's band concert, we received a phone call from our caseworker.  Her voice was giddy.  This was the best part of her job!!!  She announced, “WE HAVE A BABY FOR YOU!!!”

I cried so hard the people around us thought someone had died.  I told her we would come right at that instant.  She said, “Oh no, come tomorrow morning. Get some rest and pack your bags!” 

How do I put into words the joy that rushed through my whole body?  We were about to meet our baby we had been waiting for.  This was the moment!!!  We danced! We cheered!  We hugged!  We cried!  We packed!!

The next day, April 11th, we met our baby boy Jayden.  We were only allowed to see him for a few hours at a time for the first couple of days to ease the transition process.  We returned to his wonderful foster mom’s house and stayed for much longer- until 1am!  We just couldn’t put him down.  We knew he was ours.

Through the transition process, we learned of both his foster mom's love and his birthmother's love.

Jayden’s angel birth mother held him close to her heart all through the night for his first 24 hours of life.  She loved him dearly but knew there was another home for him to go to that would give him what she wanted him to have…opportunities, acceptance, and love.

Jayden’s foster mom was also an angel who had loved him and held him nonstop through his first 4 weeks of life.  She was not paid a single penny for her service.  She did it because she wanted to give our precious baby a loving start. 

Jayden is our baby we had been looking for all these years.  We felt his little spirit connect with ours immediately.  We knew God was in charge.  Our daughter, Mariah, our 5 yr. old, said today that she thinks Jayden was in Heaven shouting, "Mommy, mommy!  Just wait for me!  I'm your baby!!"   

Among the many tender mercies that God gave me to confirm that Jayden is the one HE was saving for us, these are a couple of my favorites.

*The day I prayed mightily in my closet for answers but “only” received peace was the exact day that Jayden was born!!!  March 15th, 2012!  God knew our child had been born, so HE did answer my pleading heart.  He gave me the peace that all would be well.  HE knew so much more than I did at the time, but HE wanted me to trust HIM without knowing all the details.  My Savior wanted me to trust HIM, and HE even forgave me when I wasn't trusting enough.  Wow!  Our Savior's love is tremendous... nothing like it.

*God knows us all so well.  While we were waiting for our child (that we lost) to be born, I knew we would have to travel 7 hours and stay for a few weeks in another state waiting for paperwork.

He was due in April, but they were worried about an early delivery. I asked God this favor.  “I know our birth mother may deliver her baby early; and if she does, please know that I am more than willing to drop everything to get him.  He is the most important!  First of all, for his safety, I want him to stay in the womb a little longer.  But… also, if you could make it happen… could you please help him stay in her womb until after Jackson’s play?  We could leave Jackson here with friends, but he would really love to be with us.  And… if it’s not too much to ask… I’m Jordan’s basketball coach.  Could you wait until the season is over?  It’s OK if you can’t; it would just make it a lot easier.  And… I know this is really stretching it, but Jackson also has a band concert in April-that’s the final thing-I would love it if our baby could come after his band concert.  But I really would drop all of this if we needed to… just if you can.”  

That was my prayer to my Heavenly Father.  HE is so patient and understands  everything about us- even our quirky ways!!  It took me a couple of weeks to realize it, but HE answered that prayer- just with a different baby- our baby!!

When did we get the phone call telling us about Jayden?  The phone call came after the play, after the basketball season, and during the band concert, but we were not to come until after the concert.  Our caseworker asked us to come the very next day which would be the exact timing I had asked for in my prayer!

LDS Family Services had been waiting for Jayden's birthfather's signature before they told us about him, and they miraculously got it just that day.  I feel like God helped that to happen in the timing that it did, so that He could show me that HIS hand was in it all along-even through the pain. 

Daily, God speaks more and more reasons as to why things had to happen this way-why we had to go through the pain of losing so much in order to receive what was meant to be- our dearest Jayden. I feel blessed that even though I thought I knew what was best at the time, God did what was right for our family.  Jayden is our sweetest, purest miracle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Unlikely Miracle at the Local Christian Store

Before I tell what happened at the store, I need to preface with what happened a few weeks ago.

It was Sunday, and Abe and I were finally relaxing when we got a phone call at 8:30pm from some missionaries.  They were asking us if we would help some strangers move in from a city an hour away...that night...around 10pm.  The missionaries knew hardly anything about them- just that they were outside packing their moving van and were in need, so they knew just the person to call... Abe.  

Abe called the man whose family was moving and convinced him to wait to unpack the moving van until the next morning, so that Abe would have time to get him more help.  The family could only do that if they could get someone to drive him back to their old home that night to get their baby and their other vehicle.  Abe arranged for several men and a bunch of missionaries to help the next morning, and then he offered to drive this stranger back to their old home that night.  

Abe drove this man he knew nothing about and would probably never see again an hour each way.  Abe arrived back at home at 2am and left for work the next morning by 5:30am.  He never once complained but served because that is what Jesus wanted him to do.

Now to tonight...  My 3 older boys (11, 9, & 7) ran a half-marathon (13.1 miles) a few months prior, in October, and I had promised that I would buy them each something special for their great accomplishment.  Tyson wanted to look for his gift at the Christian book store.  He chose something really special with a beautiful message about being strong for Jesus Christ.  

On our way to the check-out I noticed a pamphlet for sale.  It was an anti-mormon pamphlet teaching people how to stand up to the Mormons and why the teachings are so flawed.  Our family is Mormon- the correct name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I was immediately upset.

I went right up to the front desk and asked them why they had this pamphlet at their store.  I told them that tearing apart another religion does not show any bit of the Christianity that they are pretending to uphold.  I asked them if they had any other material against any other church.  They said that they did about the Jehovah Witnesses because they are considered a cult by the Christian community and with their Review Board.  I said, "Are we considered a cult to you?"  She said, "Well I'm not supposed to tell you my personal religious beliefs."  I then realized that this store did not want Mormons there; they thought we were a cult. 

I told them that there was a huge, gorgeous picture of Jesus Christ at the back of the store, and it is done by a Mormon.  They said, "Which one?"  I said, "I'm not going to tell you because you will just take it down.  We don't talk bad about your churches; we teach of Jesus Christ. Do you know the real name of our church?"  One worker said, "Yes... latter day saints?"  I said, "You missed it.  You missed the most important part."  Then she said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

There were no customers there, only two workers.  

I asked them both to come together because what I had to say was very important, and I wanted them both to hear it.  

I then began to shake and spoke with power from on high.  To the best of my knowledge, this is what I said with tears streaming down my face, 

"Because I will never be shopping here again, I need to speak to you both to tell you exactly what I do believe.  I need you to know of my testimony of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is my Savior.   I love HIM dearly.  HE is the same Jesus Christ that you worship.  HE died on the cross for us and even more HE suffered for all of our sins at the Garden of Gethsemane.  I want you to never forget what I am telling you because I want you to share this experience with all those you come in contact with that are speaking of my religion.  You have the opportunity to clarify with them that we believe in Jesus Christ.  I love HIM with all my heart, and I want everyone to know that HE is the center of our lives.  We have a picture of Jesus Christ in every one of our rooms... the kitchen, family room, and all of our bedrooms.  We came here to your store because it was a safe place to find uplifting messages about our Savior, and we are so hurt that you would sell things that tear us down.  There is no need for this here.  Please remember and know that we believe in Jesus Christ.  When people question my faith in Jesus Christ, it hurts me deeply."

Tyson was standing by my side, and he too shared his testimony of Jesus's sacrifice and his testimony of our church.  

The manager, with the most sincere look on her face said, "Thank you so much for sharing what you feel.  You spoke with a fire and conviction within that I just don't see... thank you."  She encouraged us to write to the corporate office to help make changes.  

Then, the worker that made the comment about the cults, with a softened heart said, "Well, when we moved here, nobody-not even from our church- came to help us, but a bunch of Mormons showed up."  I then told her about my husband helping a family move when nobody came to help.  I shared how he did it just because even though he was tired, he knew that's what Jesus would want him to do.  

The worker looked at me strangely and said, "Is your husband a missionary?"  I said, "No."  A little hesitant, she said, "Is he black and a singer?"  I said, "Yes!"  Then she said, "We are the family your husband helped that night."  She proceeded to tell me the whole story of how they were praying that he would continue to wait for them at their house as they were running almost an hour late, and that they were so grateful for his service.  She came around the counter and gave me the biggest hug.

Can you believe the miracles?  Out of the thousands of people in Kalamazoo, I would have the opportunity to bear testimony to the same family that my husband had recently served.  I would have the opportunity to bear testimony so strong that the Spirit confirmed to the ladies working that night that there was a fire with which I spoke.  I would have the opportunity to proclaim my love for my Savior so strong that it weakens me still at this moment.

The other miracle... my sweet son Tyson... As we walked out of the store, he began to cry because he couldn't believe people thought that we were a cult-that people who sold such beautiful things of Christ could think such negative things about us.  I told him that God had given him a gift tonight.  God allowed Tyson to bear testimony so that he could be strengthened within.  God is preparing this young man to be stalwart in HIS Kingdom.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr Day

What a beautiful day this is for our family.  My husband is black, and I am white, so we have many talks with our 6 beautiful children about their heritage and who they are.  Our oldest said today, "If it wasn't for Martin Luther King Jr, I wouldn't be alive!"  I'm assuming he was referring to the fact that it would have been much more difficult for my husband and I to be married 50 years ago when acceptance was so much more difficult than it is now.  I'm grateful for Martin Luther King Jr's bravery to stand and believe in change for the better.  I am so grateful for the powerful, eloquent, honest, and wise way in which Martin Luther King Jr lived and lead the people.  He continues to lead us today with his legacy. My husband stood before our children tonight and re-inacted his speech.  We were all moved by his words once again.   

Miracle at the Ski Slopes

I took all 6 children snow skiing today during the worst winter storm of the year.  We were all bundled up very well.  Jackson (11yrs.), Tyson (9yrs.), Jordan (7yrs.), and Mariah (5yrs.) all skied for several hours.  It was their first time on the bigger hill and going on the actual lift, so I wanted to stay around for a while to make sure they had their buddy system down and were safely going up and down the slope.  

Juliana (2yrs.) and Jayden (10 months) stayed in the stroller cuddled up for almost 2 hours, but right about the same moment they both started to cry hard.  I held them both in my arms, pushed the double jogger stroller with bags and a cooler and tried to rush to the lodge.  I was feeling like the worst mother in the world having 2 crying children out in the cold.  They had been happy for so long, I didn't realize how miserable they were becoming.

When we entered the lodge, their crying increased because their little hands and toes had to warm up.  For little children, that sensation is horrible.  They cried so hard!  I took their gloves, socks, and boots off and just rubbed their bare hands and feet with my bare hands.

Oh they just cried and cried, and I couldn't console them.  I had never had a hard time consoling them.  Feeling so sad and helpless for them, I said a prayer that they would be calmed.  Within moments they BOTH fell asleep on my lap at the same time!!!!  That has NEVER happened before with any of my children-to fall asleep at the same time within a minute of each other.

I sat on the bench for a long time just watching them and cuddling them both.  I was in complete awe of God's kindness and tender mercy for them and for me.  God put them to sleep and calmed their cries so quickly.  I felt like He knew I was trying so hard to be a good mother, so He stepped in when I needed help the most.


God continued to help us even after our miracle in the lodge.  When we went out to the parking lot to our big E350 van, it was in deep snow.  I tried over and over to get it out.  After several prayers, a man drove by in a heavy duty truck, I called out to him for help, and he quickly returned with a tow chain and pulled us out with no problem!  

God so lovingly answered our prayers and continued to stay with us all the way home as well.  Anytime we came to an extra scary area on the snow-packed back roads, I called out to the children to say a prayer in their hearts.  We arrived safely to the warmth of our home feeling very loved by our Heavenly Father for staying with us all through the day. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Miracle of Being Different: Jackson's Story

My 11 year old son is camping outside right now in a tent at a frigid temperature of 36 degrees and dropping.  His birthday was last week, and he found out on Wednesday that he was old enough to go this campout with the older boys.  I couldn't believe how excited he was to go!!  It's freezing!!!!!!  I'm cold in my house right now with a sweatshirt on writing this. He didn't show one bit of worry, doubt, or concern to camp in the dark woods in the dead of winter.

Jackson is a special boy.  His birth story is quite miraculous.  I had been planning on doing a natural birth, but because we happened to have a nurse there that was someone I trusted, I decided to follow her advice and start the procedures to get an epidural.  Right after we started the procedures, Jackson's heart rate dropped dangerously low, and they couldn't raise it again.  Emergency c-section was the only option.  

I remember they wheeled me down the hall for surgery while the resident doctor ran beside me marking my stomach for the c-section-I found out later that this was his first c-section he'd ever done by himself!  I thought, "Oh my gosh, I can feel that!"  They paused for literally half a second while the anesthesiologist put the long, dangerous needle in my back, and then they were off again!! 

Upon entering the emergency room, the chaos begin!!  The anesthesiologist took charge.  He yelled at everyone, "Grab this!!  You don't have time to put on your gloves!  Just go!!"  Then, stroking my forehead, he turned to me and gently said, "It's ok; everything is going to be just fine."  He did this back and forth several times; I remember praying for all the angels to guide these doctor's hands because the tension was high in the room.   

The head doctor didn't show up until they were already pulling Jackson out!  The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck 4 times!!  With tears in their eyes, the doctors and anesthesiologist, turned to me and said, "Angels were here helping us today."

Jackson was born with his heart on the right (wrong) side of his body; it's called Dextro-cardia.  He also had holes in his heart (ASD, VSD).  At the time, the doctors believed that was the extent of the problem and that we should just pray for the holes to close on their own.  We were in and out of the emergency room and ambulances for all kinds of illnesses his first month of life, but the doctors still didn't know how severe his heart condition was.  They continued to attribute his condition to other problems.  

When they were about to send him home again after yet another emergency room visit, I had so much anxiety and felt so emotional that I knew something else needed to be done.  My husband gave Jackson a priesthood blessing, and then I told the doctor that I was not leaving that hospital until they checked his heart again.  They saw how serious I was and did yet another echocardiogram.  

This time the surgeon returned and said, "In my 20 years and thousands of hearts, I have never seen a heart like this."  Along with ASD, VSD, and Dextro-cardia, he also had transposition of the greater vessels and his heart was flipped over too!  The surgeon said there were also many other difficult conditions present that he couldn't even explain to other medical doctors.  Upon identifying the problem,  peace settled in my heart.  I knew we were on the road to fixing his problem.

At 14 months, Jackson had major open-heart surgery. He had been crawling around with oxygen tubes on and off up until that time and spent a lot of time with blue lips because his oxygen levels were not rising above 66% as he neared his time for surgery. 

Throughout all of this, Jackson had this beautiful little fighting spirit.  There were hundreds of people praying for him all over the country.  I knew that I could trust that God's will would be done because it wasn't just my faith; it was everyone's faith joined together for his miracle.   

I asked his surgeon if we could have a prayer with him.  He kindly agreed; and after the surgery, this amazing surgeon said, "I still don't understand exactly how his heart works, but it is fixed."  

"Just hours after Jackson's surgery, with wires and tubes hanging out of his chest and every drug imaginable to keep him sedated, he rolled over on all fours and tried to crawl off the bed in the ICU!!  His poor nurse, she practically dove across the room to catch him!

After the trauma of his surgery, he began to behave a little bit more reserved... a little different than other children.  As I watched him play, I prayed harder than ever to know if there was another condition he was facing, and these are the words that I felt God speak to my heart.  "There a lots of things unique about Jackson that others would want to label, but those pieces of him are uniquely put together so that he may do great things.  Just as his heart has never been seen before, Jackson's unique type of personality has never been seen before either."  

Continually worried for him, Abe and I of course gave him all the attention in the world!!  We have a beautiful relationship.  I homeschool him and send him to school for 2 classes each day. The teachers, coaches, principle, and school counselor have all told me how kind and well-manered he is.  His wrestling coach said he has never in his entire life met anyone so thankful and kind.  

Jackson was born with a beautiful spirit.  The way he responds to the worlds is very different.  He is beautiful for his differences.  He truly touches many hearts for his differences and his kindness.   

Miracle #1:  Jackson is alive!  He is strong and confident enough to have participated in 4 plays this year, danced in a recital, literally traveled the country, competed in 2 triathlons, ran cross country, played tackle football, did Karate, went snow skiing, RAN A HALF MARATHON (13.1 MILES), and joined a band playing percussion and piano with kids 2-3 years older than him after never having been to school since kindergarten, and now he's wrestling too! 

Miracle #2:  I can be different too!!  God made me unique to do something special because of my differences.  Watching Jackson walk out into the woods in the frigid air standing about 2 feet shorter than all the other kids made me realize that if this little guy can be brave in who he is, SO CAN WE ALL!!  Others have expectations for who they would like us to be, but God makes us more beautiful than we ever could have imagined only when we give in to who He created us to be.  I'm going to start praying more to find out who
God wants me to become.