Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Children's Invitation of Love

It's really late here, and the Easter Bunny just visited all of the children.  :-)  I love the excitement of the holidays, but I also feel a strong desire to ensure that Easter does not lose its true meaning in the hustle of the excitement.

This morning (Saturday) we were racing around the house trying to get ready for their Easter egg hunt.    I kept getting the feeling that we needed to read some scriptures about Easter before we left, but our children were running everywhere so excitedly that it seemed impossible.  The thought continued to weigh on my mind until I finally just plopped myself down in the middle of the family room and called all the children in.  Some children were half-dressed, some had half-eaten pancakes in their mouths, and others had drooping diapers.

I didn't care; we put everything else on pause right at that moment, and we sat in a circle to discuss the Easter season and Christ's great love for us.  I explained to the children that there are many people that don't believe that Christ ever existed or that He will even come again.  I explained that some people don't believe that faith in God is even necessary.

As I shared my testimony and read scriptures to the children about the need to have faith in Jesus, Tyson spoke up.  Feeling overwhelmed with the Spirit, he asked if he could invite our neighbors to church for Easter Sunday.  I told him he could and praised him for his beautiful desire.  Then Tyson rubbed his eyes really hard trying to fight back his tears that were trying to escape and said, "Can we go over and invite them after we get home from the Easter egg hunt?"  He paused only a moment and continued.  "Actually... Can we go over there right now and invite them to church tomorrow?"  Mariah chimed in, "...and to dinner?"  I of course agreed to let them go.

All thoughts of the Easter egg hunt had left them, and only their excitement to share this love that was in their hearts remained.  In just a few moments 4 of our 6 children were dressed and ready.  They ran over to our neighbor's house to invite them to church and to dinner for Easter Sunday; I stayed home with the babies.

Because our neighbors have family members that live close by, they very graciously turned the children down.  Tyson, unwavering in his courage, suggested they come to church with him another week, and they said they thought they could.  Tonight I visited those same neighbors, and they shared with me how touched they were that the children came over with such a sweet invitation.  I made sure that our neighbors understood that the children's invitation came from the pure love they felt for them.

Oh the miracle of conversion!!  Once my children's little souls felt the Spirit from our quick, impromptu scripture study, they felt a strong desire to share what they felt with someone else... and they couldn't wait another minute!  Watching my children be moved to immediate action because of what they felt, deepened my own conversion.  It's beautiful to realize that a testimony that is already so strong can grow/convert even stronger when the Holy Ghost is teaching.

The children's desire to invite reminded me of Paul in the Bible and Enos and Alma in the Book of Mormon.  They all had major conversions and then became great missionaries- having felt a desire to share what was in their hearts just as Tyson and my other children felt today.  It is a true principle... once we are truly converted, we feel a desire to share that conversion with others.

Although everyone is sleeping in my house right now- due to wake in a few hours to their morning Easter baskets, I feel very much awake putting in words the great love Jesus has for me (and you).  I'm so grateful for how forgiving He is- how patient He is- how understanding He is- and how perfect He is.  It's amazing how His love can make me feel so strong yet so weak at the very same time.  Jesus truly is the epitome of Love.  I'm grateful that I do believe and have faith in the truth that Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, died on the cross, and 3 days later rose again.  He lives!!  My Great Redeemer Lives!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jordan's Cup of Love and Sacrifice

We don't buy juice very often in our house; and when we do, we ration it very carefully.  The reason being that we would literally go through a gallon a day if we gave the children free reign.  They love it that much!

Today, we had a 2 qt. container of the good kind of orange juice that's not from concentrate.  Jordan is by far my biggest fruit and juice lover, but strangely he hadn't had any juice yet.  He asked me this afternoon if he could have some.  Seeing I could use it as leverage, I told him he could have some after he finished his chores.  When he finished, he came to me again requesting the special orange juice.  I told him to go ahead a get a cup of it and bring me one too at the same time.

A few minutes later, Jordan came to me with 2 cups- a blue one and a clear one.  The blue one was filled three quarters full, and the clear one was empty with only a few drops.  His eyes were a little red with tears brimming the edges as he handed me the blue cup that was three quarters full.  All he said was, "Here Mommy."  I thanked him and then looked closer at him... I said, "Jordan, did you get any juice?"

He said, "No, I poured some in my cup first and noticed there was only a tiny bit left, so I poured my cup of juice into your cup.  Then Tyson came and wanted juice, so I offered the last bit to him."  I could see that Jordan was very sad and holding back the tears- trembling a bit.  Realizing he didn't even save any for himself, I quickly gave him my cup of juice.

I couldn't believe what I was witnessing.  This little 7 year old boy and his selflessness- to give up what he wanted most so that he could make others happy.  After I gave him my cup of juice, he quickly worried about me and said, "... but Mommy, you didn't get any either."  I assured him that it was OK and gave him a tender hug.  My heart was so touched by this precious little soul.

I think I'll always have a vivid image in my mind of my sweet little boy standing before me with 2 cups in his hands... Those two cups symbolized great love; it had to be love that caused him to perform such a selfless, Christlike act.

As I wrote this story of Jordan, I thought I was finished writing... but then I felt a strong prompting to change the words in my story from "glass" to "cup."  I didn't know why it mattered, but I felt very strongly to go back to my writing to change it.  I even felt a little silly editing such a minor word.

The moment I made the changes, the Spirit rushed over me, and I began to cry realizing the significance of the word "cup" in this Easter season.   Jordan gave up his cup so that I could receive happiness.  Although a small sacrifice, this cup symbolized my child's great love and willingness to sacrifice.  Christ's cup is a symbol of the absolute greatest love and the absolute greatest sacrifice of all.

It would have been on the Thursday before Christ's death and resurrection when Jesus held the Last Supper with his apostles.  Today is Thursday.   Jesus introduced the sacrament and spoke of his sacrifice to come.

Luke 22:20 "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."

Matthew 26:27 "And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it."

Mark 14:23-24"And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them: and they all drank of it.  And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

And then, on that Thursday night, the greatest of all suffering took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Bleeding from every pour, the pain became almost unbearable.

Matthew 26:39  And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:  nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

I feel like Christ himself reminded me tonight of HIS sacrifice.  I feel like HE himself guided me to change a simple word that would rush my soul with so much love and gratitude to HIM.  Tears continue to flow knowing that Jesus Christ loves us enough to remind us that HE partook of that cup so that we may be saved.

"Mediocrity Will Never Do"

I am writing this morning instead of last night because FEAR completely disabled me.  Fear of what?  I couldn't identify my emotions right away... all I knew was that I felt empty.  I spent a wonderful weekend deciding I would reach higher, elevate my goals, do something about my greatest desires and dreams, and live for them.

I am a mother, and I love every second of my life as a mother.  That's why I home-school my children!  I have a passion for them and their future.  I believe that in my motherhood, I can use my talents and gifts to inspire my children to reach their highest goals.  As I write, I watch them have a desire to write.  As I serve, I watch them have a desire to serve.  As I push myself physically in sports, I watch them push themselves physically in sports; and as I teach my passion for Christ, they too display a passion for Christ.

I am a mother, and as a mother, I have a responsibility to teach my children not to fear... to reach for what they really want.  I insisted for years that I didn't need anything else in my life because being a mother is all I really wanted my entire life.  I live for my children!!!  Because of my love for children, my mother created and sold thousands of a beautiful cornhusk doll entitled, "Rachel's Child."  It is of a mother swinging a child around in the air just as I would do.

Reaching higher includes using my talents to teach and uplift my children.  I understand that many of my talents were given to me for the purpose of creating a more beautiful home spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I continue to remember that being a wife and a mother exceeds in importance.  They are my treasures in heaven.  However, God needs women of strength... of influence... in every aspect of life!!  I am coming to realize that God is capable of expanding our influence if we choose to let HIM direct our paths.  

Miracles happen when we choose to let God direct our paths in whatever aspect of life we choose.  Once we decide to believe in our dreams, Satan is going to try to stop that forward momentum, and he's good at discouraging us in a very personal way by exposing our greatest weaknesses.  I let his ugly influence into my heart last night, and I cried a lot.  I decided it was easier to not believe in anything... easier to just keep living my everyday life without hoping for more- because then I wouldn't ever be disappointed, right?  WRONG!!!

Jackson and Tyson both auditioned for a play this week.  They both wanted a part so badly.  They rehearsed more than I've ever seen kids rehearse!!  Tyson made the call-backs; Jackson did not.  It was hard for all of us to be super overjoyed for Tyson because at the same time we were sad with Jackson who was in tears.  I gave Jackson a great pep talk, and he soon recovered.  I would never encourage him to stop trying.  Jackson tells marvelous stories and puts on amazing plays for his brothers and sisters.  I would never encourage him to just keep his acting talents within the walls of the home.

I didn't see it for what it was last night... that I needed a pep talk.  I slept on the couch thinking that I would eventually feel the words come to me of what I needed to write.  They never came.  I woke up several times throughout the night to look at the blank computer screen... still nothing came.  Abe woke up and found me on the couch.  I cried again trying to identify what was happening to me.  He told me over and over again that I had fear.  I shut his wisdom down over and over again because I didn't think I had fear!!  I thought I was just being more realistic in my goals.  I rationalized that if I just live day to day doing my best, I will never feel disappointment for not achieving my higher goals.  I know that's not right- but I had already let fear enter my heart, so I was weak enough to believe any lie Satan was feeding my spirit.

I still couldn't shake the feeling this morning, so I decided to read the scriptures.  I honestly didn't feel inspired about the specific words I was reading... I thought I was just reading about wars, etc.  In reading, although the words weren't absorbing into my mind yet, I felt my spirit soften.  I felt my true self slowly returning... Just now, I returned to the place where I had read.  It's quite amazing because I honestly didn't notice these words before, but these are the words that were actually underlined in my scriptures:

"...according to the spirit which they listed to obey"  Of course!!  Which spirit am I deciding to obey?  ...the spirit that tells me to let go of dreams and accept mediocrity?... or the spirit that tells me to reach higher?

I remember President Hinkley gave an inspiring talk while I was in college encouraging us to reach higher:

“Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of 

something better.”  

After hearing these words from President Hinkley, I remember physically adjusting in my seat to sit taller, and I sit taller now remembering that God wants something better of us.  Let me clarify, "something higher," and "something better" does not mean the same for everyone.  It means believing in bettering ourselves whether in the home or out of the home, spiritually, physically, or emotionally.  Satan didn't tempt me to do really bad things, but he tempted me with the easiness of the way of believing in mediocrity.  After a pep talk from my husband and a pep talk from the scriptures, I decided to write.  

... but not until Abe made me watch my favorite video...

I cried again... believed again... and wrote what came into my heart.  I am always learning and always trying to remember to push away the discouraging spirit and do whatever it takes to BELIEVE and welcome the Holy Ghost who desires eternal happiness for all of God's children.  We have a choice as to who we will obey.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Babes

In celebration of Easter, Abe and I are reading to the children the verses in the Bible leading up to Christ's death and resurrection.  Last night we read in Matthew about Christ cleansing the temple.  After he cleansed it, the children cried, "Hosanna to the son of David."

Matthew 21:16 goes on to say, "And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?"  I explained to my children that many times children are filled with the Spirit and teach us great things.

By their pure understanding and simple perspectives, my children gave me huge smiles and outbursts of laughter today.  They also deeply touched my heart as I recognized how much I have yet to learn.

Jackson's Perspective- Age 11

Our house was a mess today!  We had clothes everywhere from our trip.  I used my keys to run out to the van to gather more suitcases; after I came in, I set my keys down somewhere amidst the disaster.  When it was time for Jackson to go to his drum lessons, I couldn't find my keys anywhere!

The sidewalks were cleared off, so I told him to hop on his bike and ride like the wind!!  He did with no hesitation.  It was three miles away, and he had a cell phone to call me when he arrived.  I prayed for his safety the entire time he was gone.  Abe left work a little early and picked him up after his lessons.

When Jackson arrived home I asked him if he was cold riding his bike in the 30 something degree temperatures.  His reply:  "...the hail made it worse."

"It was hailing?"  I exclaimed.  Oh I felt horrible!  When he left it wasn't hailing!!  I told him how sorry I was.

He said, "That's ok!  I had a lot of fun!  I made it like an adventure riding in the storm.  I kept saying my body is not 98 degrees anymore.  Now it's 97 degrees, and now it's probably like 86 degrees!"

I was amazed at his attitude.  He really did find fun doing something that could have been a very grouchy situation had I been thrown in it.

Jordan's Perspective- Age 7

Jordan returned from washing dishes and loading the dishwasher.  Instead of complaining about the big task he had been laboring on for quite some time, he very thoughtfully said, "If you ever see a dishwasher named 'Sunshine,' don't buy it!  What they're really saying is, 'WASH THE DISHES, SUNSHINE!!'"  I laughed so hard because he was right... our dishwasher really is quite crummy and useless, so we have to wash everything twice.  His humor in the situation brought great joy to the home.

Tyson's Perspective- Age 9

Tyson sat down at the computer late this morning and felt an urge to write the things of his heart.  Receiving absolutely no prodding from me, this is what he wrote:


"One day I woke up to a bright and shiny
day. It was snowing! What a surprise. We
had just got done with the winter and had
gone into the spring, and it was snowing.
We were all disappointed, but snow is
a miracle! It’s one of God’s creations.
Without snow we could not go sledding,
go Ice Skating, or go skiing. Snow can be
really fun.
In the Summer time I always hope it’s
the winter, and in the Winter I always
hope it’s the Summer. I think I’ll just be
grateful with whatever season it is. I am
grateful for all of God’s creations. I am
grateful for his love."

Hearing wise perspectives formulated in a child's mind gives me more courage to apply those perspectives in my life knowing they had to have come from God and "out of the mouth of Babes."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tan Sweater Miracle

Abe always laughs at how much I pack for trips, so last weekend I deliberately tried to pack just the bare minimum.  After I picked out all my clothes, a quick thought ran through my mind, "Pack that pretty, tan sweater.  You're going to need it."  It seemed kind of weird that I would need that sweater  because I already had all my clothes set out.  I almost didn't pack it; but because the thought was so specific, I threw it in anyway.

Friday and Saturday were wonderful days.  Sunday we went to church in Ohio where we knew nobody... except for a few fans of Abe's music group.  We were all sitting quietly listening to the service.  I was hugging baby Jayden tight.  My nose was stuffy from a cold, but I thought I smelled something odd.  I looked down and saw he had an explosion of his diaper all up his shirt and down his pants.  I quickly took him out and went to the mother's room.  As I stripped his clothes off, I was in shock realizing that he had exploded all down the front of my shirt too.  Wow!!

I wiped Jayden down, walked back into the chapel holding Jayden who was wearing nothing but a diaper, handed him off to Abe with his spare clothes, grabbed the keys, and headed for the van.  I didn't bring an extra dress, and I had no idea what would match with my bright red skirt.  As I walked out to the van, I decided I would probably need to just wear my coat and zip it up all the way.  I opened my suitcase, and my pretty, tan sweater was sitting on the top.  The sweater was so front and center at the top of my bag that I could have sworn it was singing too!!  :-)

I didn't know where the other bathrooms were, and I was anxious to get my saturated clothes off of me.  I quickly returned to the mother's room and changed into my sweater.   A sweet woman was in there and graciously turned the other way while I stripped down.  Then I returned to the chapel.  There were a few people laughing with love after witnessing first a naked baby (with a diaper) and next my change of apparel.  They knew!!... but they didn't know that I only had a decent change of apparel because I had listened to a small but specific prompting to pack the only sweater that would have matched this bright red skirt.

I pondered more about this experience.

*If I hadn't listened to the prompting to include the extra sweater, I probably wouldn't have even remembered that the prompting had come.

*God smoothed over an ugly (and stinky) situation because I listened to even the smallest of promptings.  My life's course wouldn't have been altered if I hadn't listened, but my heart was filled with love and just a bit more of an understanding of God's ways because I did listen.  That was definitely worth it!  How often do I miss those promptings that would make life just a tad more bearable?

*Because the Holy Ghost gave me a prompting about my sweater, I'm even more positive that HE is giving me promptings about the things of an eternal nature.  There are so many times that I wonder if my deeper concerns are being heard.  God hears every concern and is working even greater miracles in our lives than just a matching sweater.

*Looking decent was important to me... therefore, it was important to God.  Don't those who love us do  things for us that they themselves don't really care about, but they do it for us because they want us to be happy?  For example:  Abe doesn't really care about romantic movies, but he rents them for our important dates because that's what makes me happy.  Hmmm... I should probably slow down once in a while and watch more sports with Abe because that's what's important to him.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

12 Years of Marriage... Our Story

Today is our anniversary!!  Abe and I have been married for 12 beautiful, wonderful, challenging, and passionate years.  Abe is originally from Missouri, and I am originally from Missoura (pronounced with an Ozark twang) ... but our story is not that simple.  Tonight I write our story for us, for our children, for your enjoyment, and also for a piece of understanding in God's perfect timing for each of us.

My sweet husband performed this weekend at Time Out for Women.  It was a perfect start to our anniversary weekend.  His singing group is called Jericho Road.  They were preparing to sing "For the Love of a Woman" to an audience of 2,000+ women, and my husband called me up on stage and asked the audience for a standing ovation in celebration of our anniversary.

What a surprise!  I wasn't sure what to do as I looked out at all of the women standing for us.  All I could think was that I wished they could each receive their own standing ovation for the lives that they live. I blew a kiss to them and kissed my husband's cheek.  Someone in the audience yelled out, "Oh you can do better than that!... so we kissed on the lips too!!:):

Time Out For Women was in Indiana this weekend, and I left the conference with a heart full of love and inspiration. Before returning home, we planned on visiting some friends in Ohio.  While driving in Ohio, we passed a car with a hand-written sign inside the window that read, "Honk if you're Mormon."   Abe honked, and we all waved.

A couple of minutes later they passed us with an additional sign taped to their back window that read, "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!"  We all honked and waved vigorously.  What a fun surprise to see fellow Time Out For Women attendees.  At 1:00 pm today we went to church before visiting our friend.   Abe and I sent the children into the church first because we were cleaning up a few things in the van.  We entered the chapel and were surprised to see the children sitting with a woman as if they had known her forever.  We sat down beside her too, and she leaned over and said, "Happy Anniversary."  She had also been at Time Out For Women and recognized the children when they came in.  Because of my husband's announcement on stage, she remembered about our special day.

My experience on stage with my husband yesterday was significant to me because the first time I ever saw my husband was on the stage at my freshman orientation at BYU... long before Jericho Road ever started. :-)

How We Met

I had been waiting my whole life to go to BYU.  Honestly, my main excitement about BYU was all the good-looking boys I would meet who had good standards and loved God. I rarely dated through high school because not many of the boys in my school had values that I could trust.  I was holding out because my brothers and sister had told me all about the dating scene at the university, and I just knew it would be worth the wait.

It was!

I didn't think I would find the best looking guy of my life in the first week I was there... but I did!  Abe was on stage singing with a group called, "6 Trac," and I was a silly, 18 year old girl screaming like a life-long crazed fan.  I left behind all inhibitions (if I even had any to begin with:)) and rushed the stage; the security guard had to gently nudge us crazy freshman girls back from the stage.  I screamed so loud that I had a raspy voice for 3 weeks after that concert.  

Abe didn't know I existed, and I figured I'd never see him again.  In the meantime, I dated lots of other sort-of cute boys at BYU... after all, that was one of my main purposes of going there!

Five months later, I was sitting in my theater class when the actors from a play called, "Free At Last" came to  speak to our class about their experience.  I had some questions about the play; so after the question and answer period was over in the class, I approached one of the very handsome actors to question him a bit more.  He started to answer my questions and then wisely said, "Why don't we arrange another time to meet, so I can answer more of those questions for you."  I agreed, and this handsome actor claimed that as I walked away I gave one last look over my shoulder.  He said that look meant I was really "into him."

We met at our arranged time, and he really did answer my questions.  Then we parted... but not without a formal invitation to go on a date...TO THE TEMPLE!  What a first date!!  Only a really great man would have the courage to take a girl to the temple on a first date.  He also drove a beat-up car.  I concluded that only a humble man would drive a car like that.  I really started to like this man!

We had been dating for a few weeks when this handsome actor mentioned that he sang in a music group.  I looked closer at him.  At the time, his hair was grown out really long for his play.  I pictured him with shorter hair and singing on stage...  "OH MY GOSH!!"  I shouted out.  You're the same guy I was fanatical about at freshman orientation!!  He confirmed that he did perform at Freshman Orientation.... although he did not remember the crazy, screaming girl at the front of the stage.

I couldn't believe I had been dating the same guy all this time! Abe was my rock-star and my handsome actor?  No way!  I didn't even know my rock-star from Freshman Orientation attended BYU!  I just kept liking him more and more.

Our 1st Kiss

We spent LOTS of time together.  One evening we went to the gas station to get a soda.  Abe says that as he handed the soda to me, I brushed my fingers over his as I took the drink.  He claims he knew he was going to kiss me that night because of my finger brush.   (Please!! - Men hang onto any clue they can that we're interested in a kiss!!:-))

Because he was hoping for/counting on a kiss, he took me to a romantic spot.  Abe drove up the mountain to the base of a popular hike that leads up to a giant painted "Y" on the mountain.  We didn't hike; we just stood outside the car gazing at the city lights and holding hands.  Anytime you hold hands with a boy on a mountain looking over a city... the inevitable will happen.  Abe called it... we kissed.

We continued to date for several months into the Summer.  One day Abe said, "You know... my dad asked me if I thought you were someone I could marry."  I responded, "Oh really?  What did you say?"  Abe said, "I told him I thought you were someone that I could marry."  Of course I was honored, and I loved him with all my heart... but I was scared.  I called him up and broke up with him out of the blue shortly after.  Confused, Abe asked if we could still be friends.  I said, "No, that would just be too hard.  I can't ever see you again."  What???  Abe was so confused and chalked my crazy behavior up to me  being 18 years old.  He vowed never to date such a young girl again.

After I broke up with him I cried and cried!  As I prayed about it, I kept getting the feeling that he was the one I was supposed to marry... just not yet.  I was so sad that I had cut off all ties with him, and I began to be impatient with the Lord's timing.  I started to regret my decision and called Abe several times.  He responded very coldly claiming that he was just honoring my request  to not even be friends anymore.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I stalked him for a  bit.  I loved him, so I wanted to do nice things for him.  I didn't want him to know the nice gestures were from me  though.  I left his favorite treats, lotions, and magazine on his doorstep and ran.  He never knew it was from me. That didn't help; I still felt heartbroken wondering how to fix what I had done.

Reuniting after a Four Year Break-up...

Over the years we lost contact completely.  I dated several other boys whom I thought I loved, but Abe was always in the back of my mind. Many others asked me about marriage, and I ended things quickly with them as well.  I served a mission in Bolivia and even recounted stories to my companions of my true love named Abe.

After my mission, I had only been home in Missouri for a week, and my dad showed me an article in the BYU magazine featuring Abe.  My dad mentioned how much he liked Abe.  I reread the article several times- secretly searching the details to see if a wife was mentioned anywhere in the story.  Nothing was written about a wife... hmmm... thoughts were planted in my heart and mind.

Over the next week or so, I talked to another man on the phone quite a few times.  He even flew all the way to Missouri from Texas to see my homecoming talk.  One night he asked me on the phone if there was anyone I felt like I had made a mistake with in my dating years.  I told him there was a guy named Abe that I would like to tell him sorry for the way I broke up with him.  I explained that he was a great guy, and I ended things abruptly with no real explanation.  He encouraged me to formally apologize to him.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time period, Abe's life-long friend was trying to help him with the dating scene. He said, "What about Rachel?  She was a nice girl."  Abe said he hadn't heard from me in years, and the last thing he'd heard about me was that I was on a mission.  Neither of us did anything at that time, but the reminders of each other were preparing us for what would come next.

Anxious to return to the dating scene of BYU, I left for Utah after being home from my mission for less than 2 weeks.  Within the first week of being there, I ran into Abe!!  He had recently graduated from BYU, so I didn't expect to see him there!  We gave each other a big hug and arranged to get together... to just talk.

My plan was to tell him how sorry I was for the way I ended things 4 years previously.  He wanted to apologize for being so cold-hearted when I tried to reach out to him after that.  I had assumed that his coldness meant that our relationship never meant much to him, but in actuality, he was merely protecting himself from the whims of a young 18 year old girl.

After our apologies, Abe invited me to some activities... just to be nice since I was fresh off my mission.  I guess he was determined not to put too much into me in the beginning until he knew he could trust me.  We went through a McDonald's drive-thru, and he made me pay for my own burger!!  I was not impressed, but I think the Spirit must have helped me to see the intentions of his heart.

As we quickly grew closer and closer to each other again, I told myself before one of our dates that if we kissed again, I knew I would marry him!  I couldn't play games anymore!

When we did kiss again, the reassurance came strong and clear that he was my one and only.

An Awkward Yet Rewarding Visit

Soon after, Abe invited me to his house in Missouri for a graduation party that his parents and cousins were throwing for him.  Even though he really wanted me to go, neither of us could pay for my plane ticket.

However, the man that encouraged me to apologize to Abe had still been calling me.  This man was very wealthy and wanted to date me.  In his efforts to show me he really loved me too, he encouraged me to find out for sure how I felt about Abe.  He offered to pay for me to fly to Missouri with Abe.  It may sound cruel that I would accept money from one man to pay for a plane ticket to go to Missouri with a different man... but that's what I did because I had no other choice!   I was in the pursuit of my future husband!!

The day before we left on our trip to meet Abe's parents, Abe thought that we shouldn't date exclusively for a little while.  I was devastated and cried all night long. Even though he had just broken my heart, Abe still wanted me to go with him to Missouri the next day.  I guess he knew our step back wouldn't be a permanent situation. Well I felt very awkward!!  I had to go to my x-boyfriend's house, sleep at his house, meet his parents and cousins all on the tab of another man.  Weird but true.  I decided I wouldn't act weird though; instead, I concentrated on showing love to Abe's family.

While in his home, I watched Abe lay his head on his mom's lap with such tenderness and sweetness, I knew he would always treat me with that same tenderness and sweetness if he were to be my husband.  I decided I needed to let Abe know how much I really loved him and that I was ready to fight for our relationship.  Maybe I needed to be in that awkward situation to value the man that God was placing in my life.  Each of these strong reassurances from God later proved to be necessary in order to strengthen me as we faced many hurdles in our courtship.

On the plane ride home, Abe reached over and held my hand again.  I didn't want to move my hand even a centimeter because everything felt completely right with our hands entwined once again.  My heart pumped rapidly because I knew there was no turning back... Abe was mine.

The Proposal

It took Abe several more months for him to actually propose.   During those several months I made sure he was well aware of my ring size... just in case.  Alright, I admit it.  My roommates and I made a sign with my ring size and posted it on our wall.  I knew Abe and I were supposed to get married, and I didn't want to wait any longer.

Abe says he also knew, but he just had to save up money for the ring.  Twelve days before Christmas, Abe gave me symbolic presents for each day.  On Christmas Eve, as Abe and I busily wrapped Christmas gifts together at his parents' house, he suddenly turned on the CD player.

Abe had written me a song and recorded a piano back-up in a studio before arriving to his parents house.  He sang to his previously recorded track the most beautiful song entitled:   "Accept Me As I Am."  He then held both my hands and asked me to marry him giving me my culminating gifts of his twelve days of Christmas... one ring and one song .

It was a sacred time of tears, kisses, hugs, and a huge "YES."

I thank God for my dear husband of twelve years.  These years have by no means been perfect.  We are far from perfect, but I'm grateful for a man who puts God first and loves me despite my insecurities and weaknesses.  He honestly never tells me about my weaknesses; he just patiently trusts me that I'm trying to be better.  Abe's patience and trust make me want to be better... so I keep trying.  He loves who I am now and sees the potential in what I can do and who I can become.

Thank you for being my forever love.  I love you with all of my heart.

Our Story Continues... 

Friday, March 22, 2013

HE Can Fix It!!!

My husband sings/speaks several times a year at a conference called Time Out For Women.  He always comes back feeling so uplifted after spending his weekends with a couple thousand women and several amazing performers whose main goal is to uplift all those in the room.  Meanwhile... I'm home mopping floors and washing dishes feeling a twinge of jealousy at times .  I am, however, so honestly grateful for his amazing opportunities- even though it's called Time Out for WOMEN!!

... but this weekend I'm here too at Time Out For Women!!  It is pretty close to our home, so we all came together.  My parents came too- all the way from Missouri.  My mother is attending the conference with me while my father stays in the hotel to watch all 6 kids. 

It started today with several problems and blessings:

*After dropping Abe off at the venue, I went to the hotel and encountered a reservation issue** all fixed with better, discounted rooms and free breakfast vouchers for our inconvenience.

*My son dropped a glass jar of Salsa all over the lobby floor before we ever even got to our room.  The Salsa was in a bag with all of our other food; so red, chunky fluid and glass were all over the bread, apples, fig-newtons, and the lobby floor**all fixed with millions of paper towels and wet wipes... meanwhile proving to myself that I can keep my cool under ridiculous circumstances- even if I have to take several deep breaths to calm myself.   

*I had parking problems with our huge van right in the middle of downtown Indianapolis.  Realizing I couldn't enter the parking garage because my van was too tall, I tried to back out.  A lady in the car behind me yelled out  insisting that I could still fit and to keep trying. (She just didn't want to have to back up.)  I yelled back, "Are you sure? Because I really don't think I'll fit"  "Yes!  You're good!" She insisted.  Well... after I hit the over-head bar, I finally convinced the line of cars behind me to back up so I could pull out of the parking garage**all fixed because a police officer directed me to a hidden parking location at more than half the price.

*We were almost late because of our parking struggles**all fixed by an opportunity for my mother and I to run while holding hands through the streets of Indianapolis.  How often do I get to do that?  When the traffic light was about to change, I had fun clomping in my high heels while pulling my mom as fast as we could go.  What a memory hearing my mom yell, "I'm leaping and bounding like a gazelle!!  I have acid reflux from being a gazelle!!"...cute 72 year old gazelle... I was laughing so hard!

*I didn't have time to eat, so my blood-sugar was low** all fixed by 3/4ths of a Snickers bar left on my chair when I returned from the bathroom at the conference.  My mom was going to eat half of it but remembered she doesn't like Snickers.  Bonus!!  I got 3/4ths of it instead.  She didn't even know I needed the sugar and protein.

*I didn't get to see Abe much because he was performing for the teenagers tonight.  He won't even be staying in the same hotel as us tonight because he needs to be closer to the venue for his early morning mic check**Fixed!  We left my mom in the lobby while Abe and I went to get the car together... just the two of us.  We chatted uninterrupted and held hands while we walked!  We passed a bar on the way that was playing the music so loud we could hear it outside!  Abe and I danced together on the sidewalk as crazy as we wanted to.  It reminded me of our younger days. 

*I came back to the hotel room to the news that Jayden had thrown up 4 times!!  My dad pointed out each location where he had thrown up.  He had cleaned it all up and didn't even complain; he was just surprised Jayden had so much food in his tummy to keep throwing up!  I felt sorry for my dad as we told him that tomorrow we would be gone longer than he expected.  He thought we would be done by noon.  Oops!**fixed by the realization that my dad is a true champion!  Not only was he not worn out from so many hours in a little room with 6 kids, he had a hard time telling the kids goodnight, so he kept them up even later by reading more stories to them!  What a great time for the kids to bond to their "Papa" who lives so far away.

*By mistake, I erased my notes off my cell phone that I had taken down during the conference tonight.  I wanted to quote some of the amazing things they shared** fixed by the opportunity to apply what the Spirit prompted me in my heart instead of purely reiterating all of their exact quotes.  I was given an opportunity to look at my life from an uplifted perspective... as blessings not problems.

The theme for Time Out For Women is "Higher."  Talents and testimonies were shared tonight that made me want to reach higher, let go of fear, and to remember to live a full life of striving for and achieving dreams. 

There is one quote I would like to pass on.  John Bytheway shared it from a lady that shared it with him.  I think her name is Diana.  She said:
"From now on I'm not going to tell God how big my problems are... I'm going to tell my problems how big my God is!!" 

I realized all my problems today were not really problems at all... they were just opportunities for God to turn all things for our good to show me that HE FIXES ALL!

Just a Moment of My Time

I hesitate to write this experience because I hope it comes across the right way.  After my internal debate, I decided that I learned too much from this experience to not share it.

Last Summer, I made a surprise visit to a dear friend who lives out of state.  I was in the area, and I hadn't seen her in a year and a half.  I knocked on her door, and she was so shocked!!  We embraced extra tight knowing our friendship and our connection was forever.  I felt overjoyed to see her because her influence had been invaluable to me over the years.  She had advised and comforted me through trials in ways that nobody else could have at that time in my life.

Just today, nine months later, I received a letter from her.  It said, "It's been a long time, but I wanted to thank you for stopping by last Summer... I felt like you were an angel sent straight to my door exactly when I needed a hug and encouragement to keep going.  God bless you for being my angel that day."

I couldn't believe it!  I didn't know she was struggling.  I didn't know that my visit meant anything extra special that particular day.  I didn't do anything great, but I thank Heavenly Father that HE let me be at the right place at the right time.

I had a very strong thought after I read this letter, and this is why I shared this experience:

That visit to my dear friend only took a moment.  I may have never known how much it meant to her.  I didn't even know for nine months!  How much good could I do if I made more simple, quick visits, phone calls, or letters.  Could I have more opportunities to help encourage another?  I would like to be an instrument in the Lord's hands more often, and I thank HIM for the opportunity to know what that brief visit meant to my dear friend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Family Shuttle Miracle

Tonight I took my 2 older boys to scouts while I went for a run at the YMCA.  I usually run with all 6 kids.  Jayden and Juliana hang out in the double jogger while Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, and Mariah run their own laps.  Tonight was unique; Abe kept the 4 youngest children at home while I ran alone.  That hardly ever happens!  In fact, because of his work schedule, I honestly cannot even think of the last time that Abe has been able to stay home with the kids while I go completely alone.

The time alone was great because I had an especially discouraging day today with home-schooling.  I love to home-school my children, but today I was ready to quit.  This only happens about once a year.  The kids weren't extra naughty.  Jackson had even received a trophy today for being the most outstanding 6th grade wrestler, and Jordan was grasping math skills like a champ through our AdaptedMind program.

I suffered a debilitating migrane all night the night before, and I think that maybe I was just worn out.

While I ran around the track, I thought about all of my frustrations.  I ran faster and faster dispelling my discouraging thoughts.  I left feeling much better, and as I drove back to pick up my kids from scouts, I said a prayer asking God to help me to know how best to teach my children.  I had been doing a lot of pondering about their spiritual gifts and their natural talents; I wanted to know best how to bring those out in them.  My prayer continued until I arrived to pick up my boys.

Upon arriving, a brother from church approached me in the parking lot and asked if I could take some of his kids home because their suburban wouldn't start.  I of course said yes and told him I could take him, his wife, and all 6 of their kids.  I had room for them all because I just "happened" to have left most of mine with my husband.  He was so grateful for the ride because it was getting late, and his kids needed to get home for school the next day.  I was so happy for the opportunity to serve in a small way.  I was even happier to realize that God was mindful of this family even before I left my house when I decided to leave the kids with Abe.  What a sweet miracle that I had room for such a large family.  We filled 11 out of the 12 seats. :-)  We even had car-seats in place for the extra young ones.

...but then the miracle continued.  The father sat up front while the mother tended to the children in the back.  We had about a 15 minute drive together, and during that drive our conversation turned to why certain people have a hard time problem-solving.  The insights he shared were EXACTLY what I needed to hear.  They applied perfectly to the struggles I was having with home-schooling.  Some of his insights helped me to see that I was on the right track, and his other insights helped me to see what changes I could make.  As he spoke, I told him that those were the exact same things I had just prayed about.  He smiled big and simply said, "That's cool!"

For a mother who had just endured a migrane and her annual thoughts to quit home-schooling, it was more than cool that he shared exactly what I needed to hear... it was a miracle.  I thank God for the way HE is able to answer so many prayers in just one small act.  Is there any doubt that God sees and hears each of our worries and concerns?  Not for me!  HE is infinitely aware of each and every one of us.  My heart is filled with love having felt HIS love tonight.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mariah's Miracle of Healing

Today's miracle is simple, yet the simplicity of the miracle and the sincerity of my daughter's faith are what touched me deeper than anything I've felt in a long time.

Mariah, my 5 yr. old, had been complaining of a tummy-ache all afternoon, but I did not think it was too serious until she told me she felt really cold as well.  I immediately sent her to bed.  Right at that same time, lots of little children poured in our front door.  Every other week, the youth and children in the area come to our house to sing praises; it's called Sunday Singers.  I felt bad that I couldn't go cuddle Mariah right then; but it was close to impossible since I was responsible for all the rambunctious children in the basement.

After everyone left, Mariah came out of her room.  She had been sleeping and had a high fever.  Even though she wasn't coughing, I massaged vapor rub on her chest and back because she thought it would make her feel better.  I kept an eye on her through the night, and I hoped and prayed it wouldn't turn into anything more serious.  She looked so weak.

This morning, Mariah and Juliana were the first ones I saw.  They came to me holding hands.  Their sisterhood couldn't be any sweeter.  We all hugged each other, and then Mariah got real close to my face smiling like an angel.  I was overjoyed to feel that her fever seemed to be gone!

With our faces still close to each other and in her sweetest, most tender voice, Mariah said, "Mommy, when I went to bed last night I asked Jesus to help me to feel better.  Then I woke up, and I told Jesus thank you for making me feel better!"

We had the most tender hug for the longest time.  Jesus heard Mariah's perfect plea for help.  I could feel that Mariah knew she had just experienced a miracle... a miracle of love and a miracle of healing.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Feeling Fat and Pretty

Thursday night we ate at a buffet to celebrate Jackson and Tyson's closing night performances of their big musical at the Civic.  It was family night, so they served several special desserts for the kids.  I ate them all... and the ones my 2 year old couldn't eat as well.  I was in heaven eating unlimited food and desserts with no cooking and no clean-up!!

Friday night was Jayden's birthday.  I made my home-made pizza loaded with every tasty topping you could imagine including extra, extra cheese of course.  I don't mean to brag, but it turned out just right.  I had no choice but to stuff myself with it!!  I also made a double-layered devils food cake with home-made berry sauce and tons of whipped topping.  Mmm-mmm good!  It was a last-minute creation, and I devoured a ton of that too.

Saturday was Jordan's end of class theater performance.  It was only appropriate to celebrate with more food!  We ate M&M ice cream cakes.  I bought 2 of them to insure that we could eat as much as we wanted!   So I did... I ate as much as I wanted.  

Sunday (today) our Sunday Singers group of youth and children came to our house.  My mom always taught me that it's not a party unless there's lots of food, so we had lots of food!  This time we had brownies, green pistachio cookies, and ice cream bars.  I tried some of each... just to make sure they tasted alright. :-)  Oh yeah... I forgot to mention that a young girl at church delivered our Girl Scout cookies today.  I ate half a box of Thin Mints on the way home from church... I really did.  Don't worry- I bought plenty of boxes for the children to eat some too. :-)

Tonight, I was kneeling down with Abe and all the kids ready for family prayer when I realized it hurt to kneel down.  I could hardly breathe in my jeans- I had to unbutton them.  As I did, I moaned about how fat I was.  My legs were even tight in my jeans!  I wondered how that happened so quickly!

I wasn't fishing for compliments, but immediately Tyson said, "Mom you're not fat at all!!  In fact you look like you weigh 70 lbs!  That's 5 lbs less than me!!"  I laughed at his efforts to make me feel better about my bulging body.  Jordan sat on my lap, squeezed me as tight as he could and said, "You're not fat at all! You're pretty!"  I honestly thought it was strange that they didn't see that my legs were 5 times their size.  Abe quieted the children down for Jackson to say the family prayer.  He gave thanks in his prayer; and at the very end said, "and Heavenly Father please help mommy to feel pretty."  

That shocked me!  He prayed for me to feel pretty?  How sweet!  At first I thought he didn't need to pray for something like that... for me to feel pretty.  I was just having a "fat" day after days of gorging myself.  Even so, the scripture in 1Samuel 16:7 came quickly into my mind:  "...for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

I realized my children were looking on my heart.  They didn't care about bulging pants, and they didn't like to hear their mother tear herself down.  

My children melted my heart, and Jackson's prayer was answered.  Even though my body is in great need of a boot camp and a cleanse from sugar, I feel pretty anyway because of Jackson's prayer!!   God made us all "pretty," and the children see it with the clearest of eyes.   

Miracle of Clarity on the Basketball Court

Abe and I have 6 children, but we're also watching 4 more children this weekend until Sunday night.  Yes... that makes 10 children!!  My in-laws left this afternoon, so we actually had 14 people in our little house last night.  It's a party in this house for sure!!! :-)

Today, we attended a theater performance, and the older children attended some theater classes and workshops.  We also visited the children's museum in between the classes.  After our little trips and eating and cleaning, Abe and I took all 10 children to the YMCA to play basketball.  We had enough people for 2 teams!!  The kids were playing great!!  They were all passing and shooting so nicely.

The girls played part of the time, and the other part of the time they ran on the track that circled the basketball courts.  Juliana, age 2, bear crawled, shook her behind, and twirled for 5 laps around the track.  Worried, I called out to a couple using the track and asked if she was in their way.  They smiled and said, "Oh no!  She's amusing us.  We like watching her."

I turned my attention back to the boys on the court.  I was surprised to see Tyson on the ground with his face contorted in pain, while Jordan stared at him in utter shock.  Apparently, Tyson had dribbled down for a lay-up, and in a panic, Jordan lunged onto his back causing Tyson's legs to buckle!  Tyson did a face-plant on the ground and was not happy that his little brother just took him out.  The other children stood on the court waiting quietly while Abe disciplined Jordan speaking firmly but not yelling.  Right while he was scolding him, the man on the track came straight towards us.

He had a serious look on his face, so I looked around for the 3 little girls.  I thought, "Oh my gosh, he's mad about something.  What are my kids doing wrong?"  It seemed to me like the walk towards us lasted forever because I had so many worries running through my head as he walked.  Once he finally reached us, he suddenly smiled very broadly, patted Abe on the back, and said, "You're doing a fantastic job getting all these kids to play so well together.  Keep up the great work."

Abe and I looked at each other like, "Really?  Did he just see what happened?"

Oh I'm sure he saw the tackle, but I believe that this man had been looking at the overall picture.  As he circled the courts, he had been watching how great ALL these kids had been playing the entire time.  Maybe he saw that little 7 yr. old Jordan was just playing extra aggressive to keep up with the bigger boys... he wasn't trying to hurt anyone.  While it's important to curb bad behavior, it's also important to see the behavior from the broader perspective.  Yes, Jordan needed to repent for his actions, but his mistake didn't discount all the good he had done for the last hour as he played with the sportsmanship of a champion.  He had some big boys to compete against, and he was still the best dribbler out there!

I sat on the bleachers holding our baby for quite some time feeling that the Holy Ghost had sent this man to teach me something deeper.  I knew I would need to ponder on this more later.

It wasn't until tonight that my mind was opened... the miracle of clarity!!

God knows that I identify a lot with sports, so he helped me to "see" his love through basketball.

Nobody would know but God how hard I am on myself each night.  I tear myself apart for each mistake I make.  I worry about every single thing I've said and done.  It wears me out feeling like such a failure and a loser each night because of my mistakes.  I keep promising to start over and do it right the next day.

I realized tonight that just as that man was watching Jordan's entire basketball game, God is watching my entire game of life.  He's taking into consideration my weaknesses and my knowledge, and He's not focusing on my missed shots or when I lose the ball.  He simply coaches me into better decisions.   

I have been putting so much pressure on myself to be the best mother and wife that I literally erase all my points off the score board every time I mess up.  I want a perfect game, but God is not requiring a perfect game of me.  I need to repent daily, but repentance does not equate with loser.  Repentance means letting go of the sin and keeping the good in my life.  It's really quite beautiful... to erase the bad and keep the good.  THAT means I can keep tallying up my good points day to day.  Repentance is not erasing my points; repentance is erasing my opponent's points!!  I had that confused!  I thought I had to keep starting over.  God wanted me to just continue...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Jayden's Birthday

While I was in Missouri, a life-long friend and I were talking about our personal beliefs of life after death.  Both of us believed that we continue to live after we die, and we agreed that we go to a happier place where Jesus is.  Throughout our conversation, we used the term, "Going home," as a happier way of referring to death.  I asked her, "Do you believe that we lived with God before we were born?"  She wasn't sure what she believed about that... she said she had never even thought about it before.  I told her that I believe we did live with God before we came to Earth... that is why we say we are "Going home" when we pass away.  "Home" is where we started out, so our spirits yearn to return to that beautiful place where we used to live.  Aside from being taught this principle all my life, I explained to her that one of the many reasons I believed this so strongly is because of our dear baby Jayden.  

Before Jayden was ever even born, I knew he was in Heaven waiting to come to our home.  I didn't know when he would be coming or even at what age we would find each other, but I felt a very strong drive to continue in the route of adoption.  I believe Jayden was helping that drive... considering his strong personality, I believe he was not going to let me lose hope!!  The adoption process was very heart-wrenching, but every second of it was worth it!!  

Even as a teenager, I wrote in my journal that I felt like I would adopt.  Nobody in my family had adopted, but I married a man with 4 adopted siblings and 1 biological sibling.  He also had the same desire and drive in his heart.  Did Jayden exist in Heaven before he came to our home?  Absolutely!!  He, as well as our biological children, were meant to come to our home to become a forever family... so we can continue as a family even after we die.  God knew that Jayden's journey to us would be more difficult than the others', so I believe that is why I was given such a strong drive to know that he was waiting.  Yes!  We have the opportunity to live with God after we die, but we also had the opportunity to live with HIM before we came to Earth.

Tonight, I felt so grateful that although I was not there to see Jayden's birth, God allowed me to remember the day of his birth very vividly.  One year ago today, I had been anxiously praying for answers on how to find our child.  I wanted specific answers, but God gave me an overpowering peace that all would be well instead.  I did not know how it would all unfold, but I finally accepted that peace.  After so many years of waiting to come to Earth... Jayden had his turn.  He was born!!!  I'm grateful that God allowed me to feel overwhelming peace on the day of his birth... one year ago today.  What a special miracle Jayden is to our family.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY JAY!!

We all chanted, "Jayden! Jayden! Jayden... 
Eat it!!  Eat it!! Eat it... 
but he was not so sure about the fire and the big white fluffy lump on the table.

Strangely, our child who never hesitates to grab our food... required quite a bit of prodding for him to sample this chocolate mess in front of him.

Aha!!  Jayden liked it!!!  Can you tell? :-)

He's thinking, "Are you for real?  This is my dinner?"

So... darn... good....

Every last drop!

"All done!"  He's drunk with sugar...

...and HAPPY!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Scripture Power and Swimming in Jeans

Several years ago when our second child was under a year old, I remember moaning in my bed because our two boys were waking up.  It made me tired just thinking about the nonstop action I would soon be facing.  I decided to ask God to help me with my morning anxiety, and this is the thought that came very strongly into my mind:

"Rachel, you pay 10% tithing on everything you earn before you do anything else with your money.  You do that easily because you've seen miracles from paying your tithing first.  You know that God can do more with your money than you can on your own... so you show HIM faith in this principle by giving to HIM first.  Why aren't you showing him that HE comes first in your day?  If you read your scriptures before you do anything else, you are showing God that you trust HIM to do more with your time than you could do on your own... so show your faith in HIM by reading your scriptures first thing in the morning."

It was a very clear thought, and I could feel that it was a thought straight from God.

I had been reading my scriptures most every day, but I usually did my reading at nighttime.  It is by no means bad to read them at night.  It's better to read them than not!!  I just felt a very strong impression that this principle of taking time to read and ponder the things of God before I did anything else, even if for a moment, would help me to cope and use my time more wisely throughout my day.  I would be opening the door and inviting God to be a part of my life first thing in the morning.

I experimented with this idea, and God helped me to see the miracles immediately:  

When I started to do things that weren't really that important, I felt a gentle guidance to go in a different direction or to completely omit that particular activity altogether. I looked at my list at the end of the day and was shocked over and over again that I had accomplished so much.  When stress would begin to well up in my heart, I was quickly reminded that God was helping me with my day, so I could just let the stress go!! God was my constant guide because I had invited HIM in!

My thoughts were clearer.  Because I am quite scatter-brained by nature, God actually organized the "scatter" in my brain!!  We are all different, and I believe God strengthens whatever weaknesses we have... but we have to invite HIM in to do that.  Prayer is obviously an important aspect of my morning routine of scripture reading and pondering as well.

Eight years and 4 more children later, I continue to be amazed at what God does with my time!  Sometimes, however, it gets tricky because things jumble up my morning routine like a trip, a crying baby, a sickness, or sleeping in.

Recently, we all woke up very late for an important activity, and we were racing around the house feeling very stressed.  I saw all my children running past me getting ready- except for Jackson- my 11 year old.  I called out to him, "Jackson!!  What are you doing?  Where are you?  Why aren't you getting ready? We're in a huge hurry!!"  

He called back,  "Just a minute Mommy!  I'm reading my scriptures first." 

Wow!!  I had born my testimony to them over and over again about the power of reading their scriptures first thing in the morning.  Embarrassed for my lack of faith, I quickly sprinted to my room and read my scriptures.  It wasn't the best scripture study, but it was just enough to clear my mind and give me a better perspective on our day... I felt the stress begin to dissipate, and I returned to my "fast mode" of getting everyone out the door.    

This morning, I woke up to 3 children bouncing and giggling in my bed, so I didn't really have a quiet moment to lie there and ponder my scriptures.  I told myself I would read them later.  That later never came until late tonight; I could not figure out why I felt like I was walking in circles today.  I was so unproductive!!  Finally, I realized I hadn't invited God into my day.  I had just jumped into my morning!!

It's like going to the pool and jumping in with jeans on!  Sure, I can swim with my jeans on, but I'm way more effective when I take the time to properly prepare for my swim.  Putting on the swimsuit takes a little extra time, but it's so worth it once you're in the water!!

I know for a fact that if I would have pulled out my scriptures even while 3 little ones were climbing on me, my meager effort would have opened the door enough to show God that I'm doing the best I can to put HIM first.  In turn, HE would have gladly accepted my invitation and perfected my day.  Inviting God into my day first thing in the morning does not mean that my day runs perfectly, it just means that God is helping my day be what is perfect to HIM for my growth and greatest happiness.

Despite my continual mistakes, today I am recommitted!!  I have seen the effect of my lackadaisical attitude towards my morning scripture study... I like my life so much better when I've invited God into it at the beginning of the day through prayer and scripture study.  I will do better- no matter what comes my way to distract me!!  I didn't like "swimming in jeans" today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Miracle of Love

I am amazed at the love people give so freely!!  Today was a special day of love...

It all started when I went to the car shop to address an issue that I thought hadn't been done right.  I had received an oil change at this place before my trip last week and paid extra to have all my fluids topped off.  After only a short time driving, the fluid was gone, and I was stuck with a filmy windshield from the snow storm.  I was certain that this auto shop did not really top off my fluids like they said they did.  It was my first time doing business there, so I didn't have a history of trust with them.  

I went in today to approach them about it.  I was shocked when the man was extremely rude.  Even another customer looked at me with raised eyebrows at his behavior.  After carefully investigating the matter, it turned out that it wasn't their fault; it was the fault of the guys that replaced the windshield just an hour before I actually left on my trip.  I apologized for thinking that they had not been honest with me.  

After my apology, this man, who had acted so rudely moments before, immediately asked his workers to fix the problem.  It wasn't even their fault, but they spent about 10 minutes reconnecting the loose hose.  Then, the man brought me back into the lobby and literally spent about 25 minutes apologizing profusely for his behavior.

This man explained to me that when I had come into his shop the previous week, he had been so impressed with "my story" that he spent about 10 minutes talking about us to another customer in the lobby after we left.  I didn't know what "my story" was, but I continued to listen.  He said he couldn't believe my 8 children were so well behaved. (I only have 6, but it must have looked like 8!) He said he was worried about me driving alone with the kids, so he personally checked everything over to make sure it was all good for us.  He proceeded to tell me that he even went home and told his family about us because he thought we were such a special family!! 

As I quietly listened to him explain all of this to me, I smiled realizing that he had Christlike love for me and my family.  He must have been extra offended that I would doubt his integrity on his job after he had done it with such sincerity.  After his long apology and after fixing something he never even broke, he gave me a coupon for a free oil change!!   I told him I didn't need it, but he insisted!  His "rudeness" was a displaced way of showing me I was loved.  I accepted his apology, felt his love, and promised to return. 

*Later that afternoon, I felt loved again! My mother-in-law secretly slipped a King-Size Snickers bar into my hands, so my kids wouldn't see it and demand a piece of it.  I couldn't believe it!  What a thoughtful gesture for her to buy my favorite candy bar for no reason at all... except that she loved me. :-)  I'm embarrassed to say this, and I was embarrassed as it was actually happening... I honestly cried when she handed it to me!  She laughed so hard at my tears over the  Snickers.  Maybe it's an extra emotional day, but I felt so loved that the tears just came out of nowhere!  I thought about waiting a while to eat it, but I devoured every darn morsel of it while I waited for my boys at scouts.  As I went to throw away the wrapper, I noticed that it offered a suggestion on how to save some of it for later... What???  Who does that????  Who saves a Snickers?

*After I got home from scouts with my boys, I received love again tonight when I read a very thoughtful email from a friend.  It included a beautiful quote that uplifted me, educated me, and gave me hope.  She didn't have to take the time to do that; but because she did, I felt loved.

*And then the kicker... It was 11:00 pm, and one of my friends called me out of the blue singing an old song from the 80's, "I just called to say, 'I love you!'"  Can you hear the tune?  I was so surprised by her phone call that I burst into tears. My husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were all in the room looking at me strangely.  I'm sure they thought something terrible had happened- especially since I received such a late phone call, and I was crying!!  She explained, "I was going to send you an email, and then I thought, 'Oh what the heck- Why don't I just call her?'"  How brave of her!!  Do I even have to say it?  I felt loved.

People don't call me every day singing to me or give me surprise candy bars, but I believe that every day God is sending someone or something to show us that we are loved by HIM.  Because really, God is love.  I would even go as far as to say that HE is relentless in finding ways to show each and every one of us that love... even if we feel we're undeserving.  It's our job to recognize and find that love.  I believe it's also our job to listen to HIS gentle promptings so that we can deliver HIS love to others... opportunities are everywhere!  My mother sends me daily text messages of love, and my husband and children give me daily verbal and physical affirmations of their love.

Love works miracles in all of our hearts!!!  I want to give more!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Rest of my Father-In-Law's Conversion Story

I posted a piece of my father-in-law's story yesterday.  His name is Norris Mills.  My father-in-law's story of his true conversion of heart, mind, and body has given many of us the courage to increase our efforts to change for the better... to try to be more Christlike- no matter how hard it may be.  To know that no matter how long we may have lived with our bad habits... change is possible.

After yesterday's post, one of my sweet readers asked more questions about my father-in-law's conversion.  That inspired him to put his story in writing tonight for the first time ever.  I am forever grateful for her sincere questions!

My father-in-law stayed up much later than he wanted to as he wrote his story. I sat silently beside him- feeling complete gratitude for his sacrifice.   I couldn't help but wrap my arms around him as he stood up from the computer having finished his testimony.  I continue to feel grateful that so many of you will have the opportunity to hear his story, but I mostly feel grateful that our children will know their grandfather on a deeper, more spiritual level.  What a gift he has given us!  Thank you Dad!

In His Words...

"As a child, I was more associated with the Baptist Church than any other. My mother sent us children to Church most Sundays, and I remember enjoying the stories about Jesus. As I grew up, circumstances moved me away from religion. Although I have always had a longing for a relationship with God, things like the protests against Brown vs Board of Education, Emmitt Till lynching in Mississippi, and Rosa Parks getting kicked off the bus in Alabama, changed the way I felt about a lot of things- including religion.

Still, as a young man, I didn’t press it. I joined the Army and left my small part of the world and was exposed to other cultures and people. The way people treated each other soured me on religion, and I didn’t think about it for a while. Still, I would always get this longing for a relationship with God. I mostly ignored it and indulged myself in the ways of the world. While I was in the Army, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and I wanted to be a part of that. I listen to Martin Luther King and Malcom X. I read everything they wrote, and I leaned more toward the aggressive militant approach and thought long and hard about joining with the Nation of Islam. A few things that I didn’t agree with kept me from making that choice. Still, I would always get this longing for a relationship with God.

After the Army, I became interested in Martial Arts, and I joined a group that had a religious affiliation. I was still a militant and this group gave me opportunities to express that in an effort to affect change in our community. As with any long and hard struggle it can cause one to become bitter. To want to cause the same pain you have felt on those who you felt were responsible. It was then that I knew I could not
be associated with Christianity any longer. I was invited to attend a meeting by my Martial Arts associate, and I joined their Faith. The religion was another American founded faith called Fahamme. It was founded in the 1920s by Paul Nathaniel Johnson. The basic doctrine is that there is one God but several roads to him; each person has their way to God, and he sent his Prophets to direct them. Paul Nathaniel Johnson was the Prophet to the black race, and Fahamme was their path.

I was very happy in this Faith, and I rose to prominent positions of leadership in the Faith. When I married my wife, I insisted she convert. She tried it to please me but soon began to miss Christianity. She left and began to attend her Father’s Church.

I stayed on with my religion until there was a conflict among the leadership about how to go forward. There was a split, and I decided to leave. Those who left when I did, suggested we start another congregation. One of our complaints about Christianity was that throughout its history when there was conflict they started another denomination. So I decided to pray, and I asked God for the authority to start another congregation. I felt an answer to my prayer was to review Christianity again. I knew that was wrong, so I prayed again and the same feeling came again. So I tried it. I visited several denominations, and there was always something I didn't agree with. I even went to my Father-in-law’s Church- same problem as the others. I could feel the stress it was putting on our family, and I prayed harder.

Soon after, my wife was home on a day that wasn’t planned for her to be home, and the missionaries knocked on our door. That started the long process that ended in our baptism 11 months later.

What Rachel mentioned in yesterday's blog post is only one of many humps we overcame to finally reach that day. When the missionaries taught Carol that first discussion, they asked if they could come back when I was home. She said I don’t think you can, and they said, "Would you please ask him?" When I got home, she said, "The missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ were here, and they want to come back when you are here." I said, "You mean the Mormons?"

Because I was looking at different denominations of Christianity, I said, "Sure, they can come back." Then I said something that reminds me to be humble; I said, "Don’t worry, we will never join that Church!" That was 32 years ago. I knew a little about religion, and I was prepared to challenge them on their doctrine. When they came to the appointment, I started firing questions at them right away. They told me to wait until after they had shared their message, and then they would answer any question they could. As they presented their message, all my questions were answered.

Still, this was not enough. My mother-in-law was dying, and we had to put the missionaries off until we had some time. Our life was about our work and being with her. She passed away and that was a sad day for our family. We didn’t hear from them again, and we were okay with that. We found out later that the area had been closed until some more missionaries could come to the mission. When the new missionaries looked at their area book, they asked the members of the local ward if any of them knew us. It just happened that one of the ladies in Carol’s carpool was a member and always invited Carol to their women’s meeting. She and her husband invited us to have a message taught in their home, and we went.

We had all kinds of questions. It felt good, but we had to know: "Was it true?" The Priesthood came up. I asked why blacks couldn’t hold the Priesthood. They said they could. I said, "Since when?" Well it was two years earlier that they got the Priesthood. The logical next question which I asked was, "Why couldn’t they hold it before then?" They didn’t know, and the mission President said no one really knows, but there will be many willing to give you theory as facts.

So there we were- feeling good about what we were hearing about Jesus Christ and his love for us- and all these other issues were just hanging over our heads. We had attended several meetings and felt the spirit very strong, but there were no blacks in the congregation and the thing about the Priesthood was the elephant in the room. The missionaries were feeling that we should have progressed enough to make a decision about baptism, and we didn’t want to keep them coming if we were not going to be baptized. Before we could do that, we had to know if it was true so that once we made that decision- no one could drive us way.

This all lead up to the point Rachel mentioned in her previous post. Since that day, I have learned a lot of things and forgotten even more. When I reflect on why the Holy Ghost didn’t bear witness at the first prayer- it is because I needed to humble myself and become committed to Christ and rely totally on him for all things.

As I think of how things come and go, the one thing I can rely on is:  I know that Jesus is the Christ- the Son of the Living God, and He Lives. I know He suffered and died for us and rose on the third day that all might rise again. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ is His Church on the earth today- that it was restored by him through his Prophet Joseph Smith, and I know we have a living Prophet today even Thomas S. Monson. I know The Book of Mormon is the word of God, and its truthfulness testified to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. I am grateful to be a member of his Church, and I am truly blessed to have my wonderful eternal companion and family. I testify this is true beyond any doubt, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ Amen."