Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sister Power

After family prayer last night, Abe and I kissed the children and sent them to bed.  I went into each of their rooms to give them one final tuck.  As I entered the girls' room, I saw them kneeling in the middle of the room facing each other.  It was a precious moment to witness.

Mariah is 5 years old, and Juliana is 2 years old.  Mariah was teaching Juliana the words she needed to say for her personal prayers.  I said, "Mariah you are the best big sister in the world!  Thank you so much for teaching Juliana such wonderful things."

Mariah looked up with a smile that seemed like it would stay there forever.  She said, "This thought just came into my head to do it!"  Then she paused for a moment and continued, "...and Jesus is the one who put that thought there."

What an example to me!

Her sequence of obedience was absolutely perfect!

Jesus put a thought into Mariah's mind of a service that HE wanted done...

*She listened.
*She acted without hesitation upon hearing the direction.
*She acknowledged from whom that direction came.

I am a very busy person... most of us are!  However, the times when I actually do listen and act immediately, prayers are answered and miracles take place.  When we pause our busy bodies to listen, act, and acknowledge, God will make up the time we think is lost because we have allowed ourselves to become HIS hands.

It takes a lot of trust to believe that everything will turn out alright as we give more of our will to HIM...

Most service opportunities come to us without warning.  That is the greatest test- to be ready when we are called!

Jesus wanted Juliana to begin learning how to say her personal prayers.  Mariah was truly acting as one with Jesus... thus becoming a perfect instrument of obedience and service as she taught her sister.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Miraculous Ancestors

My hope in writing in my blog is three-fold:

...to give glory to God's almighty hand in all of our lives.

...to put in writing a piece of our lives for posterity.

...for others to feel God's love for them through my writing.

My mother recently finished my grandmother's book.  I have been reading it all week, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the stories lived and the stories told.   Now that I know so many of my grandmother's stories, she is even MORE beautiful to me.  I marvel at what she and her family have endured.  I find myself living with more gratitude as I better understand how my opportunities have come into my life.  Nothing was from luck... nothing was easy... God's hand was and is in ALL.

My great grandparents are immigrants from Europe.  My mind and heart are consumed with the stories of the hardships they endured and the lessons they learned in order to make a better life for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  I want to do even more to honor them.

In reading the stories, I have been pondering the talents and rich influence they brought to America... the recipes, basket making, clothing, carpentry, hard work ethic, and ingenuity.  My great-grandfather came to America first to prepare the way for his wife and oldest child.  My grandmother was born here in America after they arrived.

My miracle today is how my heart is changing in how I view my ancestors, my life, my opportunities, and my future.  There is a scripture in Malachi 4:6, it reads:

 "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..."
In our temples, we do a lot of work for the benefit of those who have passed on.  We are only allowed to submit the names of our own ancestors.  Some people have so many ancestors that they can not possibly do the work for all of them, so I always did their work for them when I went to the temple.  I had been attending the temple every week.  One night, I was thinking about my recent experiences in the temple... I had always felt peace and the love for God in the temple, but I wanted to feel more.  As I kneeled by my bed, I received a story in my mind... Maybe you could call it a vision of sorts.  (The Lord knows how simple my mind is so HE spoke to me as HE would to the mind of a child.)

This is what I saw in my mind:

I was a little girl reaching for some cookies.  The cookies were always there and easily accessible.  I enjoyed eating the cookies, and I was grateful to be eating them.  After a while, somebody took those cookies and put them so high that I couldn't even see them without getting a stool.  I was kind of put-out at first wondering why they would move the cookies so high and far away from me... What was the purpose?  I moved the stool, climbed up it, and peered over the ledge where the cookies were sitting.  To my surprise and utter delight, as I reached my higher perspective, I saw a sea of cookies!!!  There was so much more than the small plate that I had been eating from.  I recognized at that moment that whoever moved that plate of cookies, wanted me to work a little bit harder in order to see that there were greater things waiting.  

I interpreted those "greater things" as my need to search out my own ancestors.  I believe they are still living- just not on this earth.  Life doesn't not end with death- neither does learning.  I believe there are still many opportunities for learning after we die.  I believe there are hundreds of thousands of amazing people all over the world who will learn about Jesus when they enter the Spirit World after their death.  I also believe we can receive communication from our ancestors.

Shortly after I received that little "vision/story," I felt very strongly that I needed to do my genealogy.  I had no idea where to begin because I had never even had an interest in genealogy.  I called my friend who has a passion for it, and I said, "The Spirit is practically screaming at me to do my genealogy.  Can you teach me how to do it?"  Of course she was more than happy to help me.  I called my mother for a couple of days in a row to ask her for names and dates.  She kept telling me she was too busy, but she would help me later.  I figured I wouldn't hear from her for a while because she was deep into her project of creating her cookbook.  I was surprised to receive a phone call the next morning.  I'll paraphrase the story she told me:

My grandmother's sister, Aunt Kay, lived in Louisiana.  During one of the hurricanes, a tree fell on her house exactly where she was standing in her kitchen.  She was seriously injured and passed away a week later in the hospital from complications of that accident.  The paramedics came to her house after the storm; and as they took Aunt Kay out of her house, her only words were, "Call Nancy!"  -Nancy is my mother.  

It was more than a year after her death and for the few weeks leading up to my phone calls, my mother kept getting a very strong impression/message from Aunt Kay, "Do my work."  My mother didn't feel like it was an urgent message, so she said in her mind, "I'll do it after I'm done making this cookbook."  The impression continued to return.  I did not know that my mother was receiving this impression, but I felt a strong feeling to start doing genealogy immediately-which is why I had called my friend and my mother for help.  My mother gave me the dates, and I submitted them.  It was actually really easy.  

All of a sudden, my mother and I realized the urgency of the message.  The following week we would all be together:  my parents, my brother and sister and their spouses, and Abe and I would all be uniting from all over the country, and we'd be minutes from the temple!  This was a rare time that we would all be together so close to a temple.  As we brought the names and did the work for several of our ancestors, my experience in the temple was just what I had been searching for... the Spirit overwhelmed us all.  My mother and I were in tears knowing our hearts had been turned to our fathers as Malachi prophesied.  

Doing the genealogy before my trip to the temple took only a little effort (as moving the stool to reach the cookies did in my "vision/story"), but the results were indescribable as the miracle of Genealogy and the lives of my miraculous ancestors continue to unfold.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I feel compelled to write about a BEAUTIFUL experience that took place at the same time period as my previous post entitled, "My Gymnastics Miracle."

Let me start by explaining briefly that we were in a time of deep financial struggle.   Abe had to take a very low paying job at a call center, and I was scrambling for ways to make an extra dollar here and there.

I made the kids a lot of egg sandwiches with home-made bread because that was all I could afford.  Sometimes Abe's boss and co-workers at the call-center would buy cookies from me at a dollar a bag.  Abe was so cute to make a sign and walk up to each of his co-workers enticing them to buy my treats.

Once, Abe's boss bought 2 trays of cinnamon rolls from me for a team meeting at $20.00 a tray!!  That was a very happy day.  I hugged his boss the next time I saw him because I knew he was trying to help our family. :-)

...but that was only the beginning.  God had an even bigger miracle in store.

One afternoon, I was standing in the driveway watching the children as they played in the cul-de-sac.  As I stood there, a big car and another smaller car pulled up blocking our driveway.  They were obviously there to see us.  I recognized one of the drivers as someone I had met only once before.  He informed me that he was merely delivering something from an anonymous giver.   Both of the vehicles were filled to the brim with boxes!

After his announcement, he and his helper opened the doors to the vehicles and began unloading boxes and buckets of food storage and school supplies!!  They asked which way they should take them.  I was in complete and utter shock!!  I thought, "Which way?  Is this really happening?"

I was so overwhelmed by shock that all I remember is a commotion of excited neighbors jumping in to help.  It was so exciting!!  People were rushing up our driveway, through our garage, and into our kitchen, then running back for more.  I cried and cried and cried and expressed immense gratitude!  Abe's face was priceless when he came home to a bunch of friends and mere acquaintances carrying food into our house.  He too was overcome with gratitude.

... but we soon encountered a problem. 

Our cupboards and large food storage room were full, and they were bringing even more food into the house!  Of course that was the best "problem" ever!!!  As I excitedly made room for the food in other areas of the house, the scripture in Malachi flashed very clearly into my mind... "there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Malachi 3:10

 "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
Here I was trying to find room to receive this abundance of food just as the Lord had promised- I couldn't believe the faith that filled my heart!

We had always paid 10% of all that we had earned to tithing even when we had no extra money for anything else.  We had gone through months of financial hardship and this experience was important for us to understand the literal nature of God's promised blessings from paying tithing.  

I was told that the anonymous givers didn't know our family very well nor the severity of our financial situation.  They had prayed and pondered for quite some time about where all this food should go. They were planning on dividing it up among a few families; but in the end, they were guided to give our family all of the food.   

What an amazing, generous family who followed the promptings from our amazing, generous God!!

Our Lord is so generous in HIS promised blessings.  This temporal blessing of food answered both a spiritual and a physical need for our family.  It is not always in food/money that the blessings are poured out.  Many times those blessings are spiritual... maybe they come as increased love in the home or maybe in increased abilities to overcome weaknesses or addictions.  

I testify of the greatness of God's love for each of us.  I testify that our Savior is very aware of us.  He will pour out the blessings that we need in order to come closer to HIM.  Paying tithing is a very small price to pay to receive the blessings that HE promises to deliver.

Friday, April 26, 2013

My Gymnastics Miracle

In 2009, the economy was taking a hard hit.  We had 4 children and a teenage foster child.  Abe had been working as a loan officer- that profession was hit really hard by the economy.  He had to take a ridiculously low paying job working at a call center.  We always had food on the table, but we were worried about all of the unpaid bills piling up.

A Walmart was opening up near our house, and I went in to apply to work the night shift. I hadn't worked outside the home for 13 years- except for coaching gymnastics and making balloon animals.  They offered me a starter position.  I went to the person hiring and explained to him that our family really needed more money.  I reminded him that I had a college degree and would be a great asset to Walmart... he opened up a position for me as a customer service manager.

I was excited!!  I worked from 10pm- 6am, slept 2 hours at home, and then woke up to home-school the kids all day.  As manager at Walmart, I was supposed to be the one solving problems up front, but I was learning how to use the computers on 2 hours of sleep a night.  I was embarrassed because others had to help me solve the problems on the registers, and I was their superior!

I worked so hard in every other area because I had to compensate for all of my lack of knowledge on the registers.  When anyone needed anything at all, I sprinted across the store to get it for them right away.  Every night I had to gather the carts outside.  I SPRINTED across the parking lot at 4am gathering the carts.  People looked at me a bit oddly, but I wanted to earn my keep.  (By the way, I wish more people would put their own cart away!!)

By law, we had to take a lunch break (in the middle of the night).  I would set my alarm on my cell phone and slouch over on the lunch table for a short nap.  (It was never long enough).  I woke up and ran back in to the customers with a big smile on my face.

At home I was more than exhausted, but I tried really hard not to show it.  I remember one day I was reading the scriptures to the children, and I physically could not pronounce the words.  I felt like I had been drugged by something.  The children just stared at me wide-eyed as I attempted several times to read a verse to them... but the words just came out jumbled.  I knew there was a serious problem going on from my MAJOR lack of sleep!!

...but I couldn't quit.  I had to keep working!

After a few weeks of this, a dear friend of mine called and asked me to teach her daughter gymnastic lessons in my home.  I had taught gymnastics for years in high school, college, and even for a few months after I had children, but I didn't have any equipment at all.  I said yes anyway!  Then, I went to 3 of our neighbors to ask them if their children wanted to take a gymnastics class with this one little girl.  They all said yes!!  ....but I still didn't have any equipment.

I went to the bank to ask them for a VERY small loan, so I could buy at least some pads.  Because we were going through such a hard time financially, they turned me down.

I prayed about it and began to search my house.  I found an old piece of foam in the basement that we had used for moving.  I sewed a bunch of baby blankets together and made them like a pillow case over the foam.  That was our gymnastic's pad.

I taught my first class to my little group of neighborhood gymnasts.  We used our trampoline out back and that one little pad.  I made home-made cookies for the children to eat after class, and sometimes I made them balloon animals.  The kids LOVED it!!  Before I knew it, more children down the street asked if they could take my classes too.  Within the first month, I had 3 classes of gymnasts!  I didn't even advertise except to those first 3 neighbors, and I certainly did not have state-of-the-art equipment.  I was blown away.

I realized that my home was quickly turning into a gym, so I needed a balance beam.  I found some scrap 2 x 4's in my garage and some left-over carpet from a neighbor's house.  I sawed the wood, hammered it together, and stapled carpet around it to make a balance beam!!  It looked horrible; but once again, the kids loved it!  Another family that I hardly knew donated a giant gymnastics crash pad!

At this point, I was still working at Walmart all night long, home-schooling during the day, and coaching gymnastics in the evenings!!  After a month of this crazy schedule, I knew my body could not handle much more.  My home gymnastics business was growing enough for me to quit my job at Walmart.  I felt so guilty quitting because they had opened a position just for me.  On the other hand, I figured they would be happy to see me go because I was so inept at the registers.  To my surprise, I was told they would hire me back if I ever wanted to return.  I LOVE WALMART!! :-)

Over the next few months, more and more children signed up for gymnastics classes!  I had boys and girls ranging in ages 3-17!!  I had all sorts of payment methods...

*Most of the parents paid me cash.

*One parent had a big cheese mat (used for back walk-overs, etc).  She gave me that as a trade for lessons for her girls until the value of it was compensated.

*Another parent paid in the form of home-made salsa!!  Oh that was yummy.

*A father built a gymnastics bar in my backyard as a trade for his children receiving gymnastics until the value of that was compensated.

*Another father gave me rubber puzzle flooring for my unfinished basement as a trade for his kids to take gymnastics as well.

*Some teenagers mowed my lawn and did deep cleaning for me as a trade for gymnastics lessons.

*Another teenager became my assistant with the youngest gymnasts as a trade as well.

*And another parent did scrapbooking for me in order to include her daughters in my gymnastics classes.

By the time the fall came, I had so many kids signed up just from word of mouth that Abe had to help me coach after he got home from work, and I even hired another gymnast mother from the neighborhood to coach a couple of classes.

When the weather got too cold to do our warm-up exercises outside, I led a train of children running high-kneed from the basement to the main floor, around the couch, and to the upstairs.  We stretched together and then sent classes to the basement and to the main floor of our house!!

That fall, I got pregnant with little Juliana.  As I got physically larger, I needed Abe's help more and more with spotting the male and female teenage gymnasts. I had kids as tall as me!

That winter, I began watching two neighbor children as a daycare/preschool situation.  At the same time period, we had a special little 1 year old in our home through foster care.  His mother had asked us to adopt him, and we were in the middle of filing the paperwork when she changed her mind and took him back.  The same day she took him back, I had swarms of children entering my home for gymnastics lessons.  I didn't even have time to mourn the loss.

My emotions were running high from pregnancy, losing our one year old baby, worrying about my brother at war, and facing other devastating, familial struggles.

I'm not sure... but as I consider it now.  I believe the gymnastics classes and the need to wake up for the two daycare children kept me a sane mother for my own children as well.  I couldn't lie down and give up.  I couldn't cry in a corner for weeks.  I had to press forward.

Nobody really knew my heart's deepest pains... Nobody knew how badly I wanted to stay in bed all day and do nothing.  I was placed in a position to be the strong one, so I had a smile and big hugs for ALL the children every day.

I finally called my mother one day to tell her about some of my sadnesses.  Then I said, "Mom, I think I'm going through depression..."That was a very, very hard sentence to speak because I had always seen depression as a sign of weakness.  In that very moment of admitting my weakness,  my depression vanished.  I sob right now thinking about how my heart miraculously lifted in that instant of acknowledging my problems.  I feel like Christ allowed my mother to be HIS vessel of listening.  I left that phone call with energy and forgiveness in my heart that I had not had for months.

By March... less than one year from starting my business with one little girl, I had 75 children in my home weekly taking gymnastics classes.  Parents told me that their children were learning in leaps and bounds faster than any other gymnastics class they had ever taken.  I believe it was because the children all knew each other and were encouraging each other... maybe the cookies had something to do with it too... I taught with a LOT of love and energy.  In fact, my voice first began to go raspy during that time because I was cheering so much for all the children.

We put on a gymnastics/dance recital for the parents in March.  The kids were amazing!!  They were doing back-hand springs and back tucks by themselves!!  They wore costumes that I scrounged up for $10 or less a piece.  I served all kinds of desserts and made dvd's of the children doing all of their amazing tricks.

After the recital in March, I had to close my business because my pregnant belly was just getting too big!!  I still let the children come for free to use my "equipment."

My gymnastics business was a miracle on many levels...

*Financially, we were doing better.

*The neighborhood children were uniting.

*I was able to see the miracle of the bartering system because we traded our talents when the economy hit so many of us financially.

*It kept me from drowning in my sorrows.

I shared a couple of days ago the miracle of my mother's doll business.  Her example has led all of us- her children- to press forward in the face of adversity.  Just as she had angels and miracles along the way, I too had angels and miracles.

I'm not sure if my dear angel friend who decided to bring her one little daughter over and pay me $25.00 a month knows the miracles she brought to my life.  She continues to show me the depth of Christ's love through her actions in our friendship.

I thank God for giving me opportunities to acknowledge my weaknesses and then strengthening me enough to overcome those weaknesses.  Jesus Christ loves us so perfectly.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Almost There!

We were all on a little bit of the grouchy side yesterday...   

In the winter time, I know it's going to be cold and dark with not much sunshine here in Michigan.  I can deal with it because I have prepared my mind to accept that condition.  I even learn to enjoy the cold and the darkness.  We do snow sports; I wrap myself in extra cozy blankets while working on projects, and we are genuinely intrigued with how cold it can actually get.

...but once springtime hits; and we have a few beautiful days, I let my guard down a little bit.  My mind gets ready for the warmth.  I start to think about all of the hikes and days at the lakes we'll do as a family.  I even go outside for a few days with short sleeves on....then a storm hits!  It snows, and for several days it feels like winter again.  I lose my patience because I had already changed my frame of mind of what I was going to accept!  I was done accepting cold, dreary, dark days!  I only wanted the sunshine and warmth!!  

A similar frame of mind occurs when I go on long runs.  I can enjoy the run for several miles.  My legs hurt, but the pain feels good because I'm getting stronger... until the final mile.  It doesn't matter if I run 8 miles or 3 miles... for me, the last mile is excruciating.  Once I see the end, it's not hard anymore... it's just the final stretch before the end is in sight that's the most difficult.  

Abe and I ran a marathon together; and for about the last 4 miles, people kept yelling from the sidelines, "You're almost there!!  Just around the corner!!"  That was actually very disheartening for Abe because around each corner, we WEREN'T THERE!!

Right now, my daughter is learning to potty train.  She is almost there.  We have been having fun cheering for each of her successes.  Yesterday she did great the entire day.  We didn't cheer as much because I just expected her success now.  I thought, "Finally she's figuring it out!  We're almost there."  Then, right before bedtime... standing beside the toilet... looking straight at me... she peed all over the floor.  So close... yet seemingly so far away...

After thinking about the weather, the running, and the potty training, I realized that I have a problem with being so close... yet seemingly so far away...  with being "almost there."

It's kind of a confusing dynamic... I KNOW that it will be very warm in a few more weeks... I KNOW that my run is finished in only a few minutes... I KNOW that Juliana will figure out her potty training... It's just hard to maintain the perspective when I have let go of the joy in the journey.  

Recently, I forgot to enjoy the cold. I forgot to enjoy the beauty of the run.  I forgot to make potty-time joyful with the cheers.

The kids and I had forgotten that perspective yesterday as we moaned about the difficulty of the way.  They were struggling with school work, and I was struggling with what seemed like... everything.  

Jordan had our answer and gave us perspective.

Throughout the day, Jordan kept carrying around our scripture study book and saying over and over again, "Mommy, can we please have our family scripture study?"  A bit grouchy and not in the mood, I said, "Yes, Jordan... we will later.  I have a lot to do right now."  He kept persisting and persisting for quite some time saying, "NOW can we read the scriptures together?"  

Finally, I called the family in and we read... 

As we read the following verses in Mosiah, ALL of us just froze and looked at each other in amazement!  We KNEW we needed to change our perspective and accept God's help.

Mosiah 24:14-15 

 14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witness for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

I began to ponder about my life as a whole.  Why is it hard sometimes to keep motivated?  Why do I have to keep giving myself pep talks when my life is so wonderful?  Even though we are God's army and fighting with a passion for HIS work, the last days are filled with wickedness and deception, and sometimes I feel impatient with the dreariness of the fight.  Sometimes the wickedness in the world seems so never-ending, and I just want the happy sunshine and warmth of peace with Christ.  I KNOW that Christ will come... sometimes HIS coming is seemingly so far away.  What have I forgotten in those moments?  

In those moments, I have forgotten about the joy in the fight for righteousness because I got caught up with wishing the bad influences would just go away.  Sadly, the bad won't go away yet, but we are closer than we think!  We are blessed with the opportunity to find joy in that fight for Christ.  It's exciting!  The Lord will ease those burdens, strengthen us, and give us a pep talk in the scriptures when we forget and our hearts and minds get weak. 

We can remember to submit cheerfully and with patience to HIS will.  I woke up with a MUCH better attitude this morning... it's still cold and dreary... but not miserable!!  It's a GREAT day!!  God has given us great strength in our minds!!  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Miracle of the Dolls- My Mother's Story

My mother's story of faith, courage, hard work, and determination is inspiring to say the least.  I lived this story with her; and from my perspective as a little girl, she-was-amazing!!!  My parents moved from Utah with all five of us children.  Very shortly after, cancer took the life of one of my older sisters.  My parents lost so much financially and emotionally- they needed a miracle.

The following are my mother's words from an article in the "The Ozarks Mountaineer" in 1984.  Guess what the name of the article was?  THE MIRACLE OF THE DOLLS!!  In reading her story, I believe you will be inspired, uplifted, amazed, and motivated!  My mother taught me by example that I can do anything I want to do!!  I pray that you will feel the same belief in yourself as you read…

Her Start... 1980

“Several years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in a big debt from business ventures and illnesses.  We did not want to go bankrupt so we told the many banks and people that we would pay them all back some way and as much as we could, as fast as we could.  Each month we tried to satisfy the many creditors with the money, but there was very little to live on, and it kept getting smaller and smaller.  For months there was only five or ten dollars left for food each week.  Then my mother reminded me that I could make cornhusk dolls.  She had done it and sold them many years ago and she had taught me how to make them.  But in the past few years we had only made them for gifts.

She encouraged me to make at least ten and try to sell them.  She had to twist my arm, because it was not the thing I was in the mood to do.  I had to make something for my family to eat out of nothing every day.  But with my first ten dolls for sale at $4 each, we headed for Silver Dollar City [in Branson, MO].  On the way, mother encouraged me to stop at a shop.  The owner quietly inspected the dolls on her counter for a while and my heart pounded.  Then she set two aside.  I thought to myself, "Oh, I'll bet she will buy those two and that will be $8 for groceries."  I was so happy! Then she put her arms around the eight remaining dolls and said, "I'll take these!"  My heart leaped! That was my first sale, and I was overjoyed.  That was the biggest $32 I ever saw!  We continued to Silver Dollar City and they bought the remaining two and sent me home with an order for 10 more.  That is how it all began.  

They sold quickly and I received orders for more and more.  I was so grateful to the Lord for the sales, and so grateful that I could do something to buy extra food.  Sales increased and I said to myself that if it would be at all possible, I would never turn down an order for a doll.  If the Lord was kind enough to get us the sales, I would do all I could to make the dolls.  I did not realize how hard that was going to be, but I would work long hours into the night to fill orders.  I cried over the paperwork that was so hard to keep straight.  My mother and husband and children and friends began to help.  Mother helped make heads, sleeves, and other items ahead for me.  The family helped sort husk into the right size for the right job.  They spent hours gathering and making the items which the dolls hold in their hands.  Friends helped with paperwork and purchasing materials needed.  Seeing the potential, a retired couple, Max and Billie Peterson, worked for over a year without pay to help this little business get on its feet.  Soon we were all involved in boxing, shipping, dying, and every aspect of the creation of the dolls.

People wondered how I could make so many dolls.  My family and friends had everything ready at my fingertips.  I only had to sit in one spot, and everything I needed was within my reach.  I would move my hands as fast as I could for eight hours, then nap for one or two, and work for another four to eight hours.  The family was very good to learn to do homemaking chores on their own.  They maintained well-balanced meals and kept a tidy home.  John was now teaching school, so his help was limited, but he took the children to and from the many activities they needed to attend.

The house became filled, every room, with doll makings, the half-done dolls, and finished dolls.  Someone would go to take a bath and discover the tub was filled to the brim with cornhusk in bleach water.  One would go to get a drink of punch from the refrigerator only to find it labeled "dye."  It was not stew brewing on the stove but a huge vat of husk dying.  When answering the phone, a child would say, "Mother can not come to the phone; she and grandmother are dying in the kitchen."  There became one narrow alleyway from the bedroom door to the bed.  The family room was the workshop and the living room was the sorting and the storage area, with narrow alleyways for walking.  

War Eagle Art Fair

War Eagle was a turning point for us in our financial crisis.  At our first War Eagle Fair in October 1982, we were prepared with as many dolls as I could possibly finish.  I only had two hours sleep the night before, but we went to work to get our booth decorated with some material we had purchased for fifteen cents per yard and some scrap wood.  Dear friends helped me decide how to decorate and at the awards assembly I was overjoyed to be awarded "Best of Show."  I was so thrilled just to be in this wonderful show, and during the first three hours, we were nearly sold out.  A strange thing happened also.  Since we sold so many so fast, I thought I would look at my watch to see how late in the day it was.  It actually felt like it was near four o'clock and since the show would end at five o'clock, I was anticipating seeing my watch say three or four o'clock.  To the surprise of us all, it was only 11:45 am. Our bodies were saying one thing, yet it was not even noon.

What a strange feeling it was, like being out of time and space.  We continued to sell all day and only had a few left to sell for the next day.  So, at five o’clock we all hurried home, which was one and a half hours away and finished the half-done dolls we had left at home.  The doll cannot be finished the same day the body is made, so there were plenty of partly-done dolls at home.  We all worked all night long, never sleeping one wink.  The children, of course, dropped off like flies at 3am, 4am, and 5am.  I remember Mikel, age nine then, coming up to me and asking a question so slowly and just staring, I had to send him to bed.  Seven in the morning came all too soon for those of us still awake, rushing as fast as we were still able.  John drove us back to War Eagle, still no sleep for him, while we all slept in the van.  But I was really beyond tired and too excited to sleep much of the way, anticipating this new day.  Back at the show, the same thing happened the second day.  The dolls were going fast.  There was a sea of faces in front of our booth.  I thanked the Lord.

Julie, my teenage daughter, and I worked as fast as we could as we sat on two stools facing each other, passing the dolls between us to finish more of the dolls which we were unable to finish during the night.  We looked up now and then to smile at the customers to show our gratitude, but we worked continually as fast as we could all day long, while our friends and my husband sold the dolls and the boys boxed them.  By five o’clock Saturday evening several of us realized we had had only two hours sleep since Wednesday night, but we were so thankful for a successful show.  The money earned at the show helped us to pay a man who had lent my husband money and now was about to lose his property unless he could get some money.  The whole show was a miracle to me.


We recently bought a building a few miles away in Verona, MO, as a workshop where we now go to work on the dolls, so the home is "home" once again.  Even though we are not in the home a great deal, it is a place to rest from doll creation.  Although I have made thousands of dolls, each one is still a joy to see as it comes alive.  I thank the Lord that I can work at something I love doing so much.  I am sure it has become almost an obsession.  In addition to buying extra food and items for the family, the little dolls have paid many of the debts.  

The dolls are a unique cornhusk doll made with love and made to express love in someone's home.  They do not leave my hands until they speak.  They need to say something with their bodies before I let them out into the world.  The mother must say, "I love my baby."  The cookie lady must say, "Would you like to have a cookie?'  They are designed to remind the owner of something special.  For example, the cookie lady reminds me to keep my cookie jar filled.  The baker reminds me to bake a pie from the blackberries I picked last summer.  The flower girl reminds me to take time out to just enjoy the simple things and beauties of life."

My Memories

People at the art fairs would ask to touch and hug my mother because they had been so moved by her art.

Through the years, my mother's doll business brought the attention of many prominent people throughout the country.  Hillary Clinton appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and displayed her six favorite Christmas ornaments- my mother's little cornhusk angel was one of those!  Hillary Clinton also featured my mother's dolls in the Family Circle Magazine.

Barbara Bush went to a big store in Illinois, and the only thing she bought in the entire store was one of my mother's dolls.  The store manager called my mother right away.  Everyone was so excited!!  President George Bush visited our small town growing up; and at the assembly, the city's most prized gift to him was another one of my mother's dolls.

I remember seeing a map of the world on the wall of my mother's doll shop with pins of where they were being sold... the pins covered the map!!  Those years were exhausting and difficult for her but also very rewarding.

My mother’s doll business continued to grow; and after 10 years of intense work, she sold her business and retired off of that money.  The blessings continued; for several years after she sold the business, my father continued to buy the dolls from the new owners and sold them at art fairs all over the East Coast.  My brothers and I grew up accompanying him on those trips.  Wow!!  I learned a lot from those experiences... but that's another story! :-)

This woman... my dear mother... was born in the East.  She called herself a Yankee.  When she moved to the west, she was chosen to ride in Salt Lake City's big parade on a float behind our church president, David O. McKay.  The float was entitled, "Girl of the Golden West."  Years later, with my father and all of their five children, they moved to Southern Missouri, and her talents soon represented the Ozarks; travel brochures in both Missouri and Arkansas featured my mother's dolls.

A woman like this blooms wherever she is planted because of her faith and courage.  I'm so very proud to call her mother for she has helped me to believe in my capabilities just as her mother taught her to believe in her capabilities.  

God puts greatness in each of us and guides us to those who will help bring that greatness out of us.  There were many angels placed in my mother's path to success.  God will give us those earthly angels if we are willing to move forward with the faith and courage similar to my mother's.

God bless you in your journey!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tyson's Gratitude



I was training to run 8 miles.

Today I had to run 5 miles.

When I got started I thought it would be easy.

After running 2 miles I got really tired. I had a

side ache, and my legs were worn out.

I told my mom I was too tired to finish. My

mom said we should say what we’re thankful

for. I liked to play that game. It helped me

feel better.

We played the game for the rest of the way.

After the run I felt really good.

I am grateful for all the things we can be

grateful for.

Monday, April 22, 2013

God of Order

Amazing progress has taken place in my primary class!

Yesterday I had 13 children in my class, and they were all amazing!!  I usually have 10 children every week, and almost all of them come prepared with their scriptures in hand.

When I started teaching the class, there were about 4 children that thought it was acceptable to sit under the table, stand on their chairs, lie on the floor, or stretch out horizontally across the chairs.  They also thought it was acceptable to shout during class.

Some of the children have conditions that make it very difficult for them to sit still, but I believe that they are capable of doing more!!  Aren't we all?  My miracle is simple... it's the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost.  The influence of the Holy Ghost on our hearts has a much more powerful effect of joy than all the games and wild play could ever do.

After the first Sunday I taught, one of the children complained to his father:  "My teacher won't let me sleep during class."

I took that as a compliment. :-)

Each week I instantly corrected this behavior of children crawling under chairs and laying sideways, and each week the children improved.

In the beginning of our improvements, a child complained to her mother that she didn't want to go to primary because she couldn't play.  Since then, that child has discovered the joy in actually learning the gospel; her mother reported that now her child does all she can to make sure she's there.

The children's change in behavior is NOT because of how great I am!!  I really would like to prepare more fun activities and more creative hand-outs if I could find the time.  I believe that the children are enjoying the class because the chaos has been removed, and they have discovered the beauty of the influence of the Holy Ghost upon their hearts.  I teach with lots of expression, love, and passion to keep their attention, and I expect a higher level of respect and order in the classroom... because our God is a God of order.  When we allow chaos, the Spirit has no opportunity to bear testimony to the hearts of the children.

Recently, one of the children said to his family, "I love Sister Mills; she really preaches the Word!"  His family laughed and told me the story.  I was so grateful that the chaos was gone long enough for this child to feel the Word reach his heart.  Some of the children still have to work very hard to do what I expect of them, but their hard work rewards themselves and the entire class.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ with all my heart.  I have a passion for the truths being taught to the children.  I want them to be prepared to go forward through their lives with the greatest faith of all.  I love my class, and I love knowing their future is bright as they learn to calm their little souls long enough to enjoy the greatest Teacher of their souls... the Holy Ghost.

At the end of class yesterday, I had all 13 children raise their hands in a promise to themselves that they would hold on to the Iron Rod on good days and on bad days.  The Iron Rod represents the Word of God.  The Holy Ghost touched their souls, and they promised to never let go.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fighting Doubt and Fear

I had a really rough day yesterday for many reasons- both physically and emotionally.  I woke up feeling an overall discouragement.  I even told my husband that I felt like my body and spirit were under attack.

It seemed like everything that would be hard for me to handle... happened.   Each experience weakened my body and spirit even more on a day that I already felt discouraged.  I felt so weak that I laid down for a moment and didn't wake for a couple of hours!  When I did wake, I still felt very weak and discouraged.

Later that night our family watched the movie, "Life of Pi."  We loved it!

The movie is about a man telling of his journeys as a teenager stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean.  During that movie, many words stuck with me.  I even dreamed about this quote:

  1. Adult Pi Patel: "Faith is a house with many rooms."
  2. Writer: "But no room for doubt?"
  3. Adult Pi Patel: "Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested."

Yesterday morning I wondered why I had to keep fighting discouragement and doubt after I've felt the lack thereof so intensely before- I have felt such intense joy and hope!!  The answer came to me in that movie.  My faith is a living thing!!!  I'm growing it!!!  I'm fighting for it daily!  That's the nature of this life.  The doubt is not the sin... quitting the fight against the doubt is.

While looking up these words in order to quote them exactly from the movie, I also read quotes from the book that touched my heart.  This one hit home to what I was feeling.  Like I said, I felt like I was under a very personal attack by the adversary.

"I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” 
― Yann MartelLife of Pi

It's true! The adversary has no decency!  My weakest spots were on wide display yesterday- it felt like someone was taking a scrub pad on my open wounds and weaknesses.

The lack of faith and hope is like giving up the fight to an ugly cancer spreading rapidly and creating more wounds.  As we identify and fight our fear and doubt with faith, love, and hope, our wounds begin to close.  The healing is a rush of beauty that is not earthly... it is a miracle that opens our minds and hearts to the mysteries of heaven.  

“I was giving up. I would have given up - if a voice hadn't made itself heard in my heart. The voice said "I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen everyday. I will put in all the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen.” 
― Yann MartelLife of Pi

Forgive me for quoting this movie/book so much, but it spoke to me in the exact way that I needed to be lifted.  Because of this, I began to think about the power of media... 

On this day when every bit of influence made a difference on my weak soul, I am grateful that I was selective about what I fed my spirit and that through prayer God guided that selection.  What would have happened if we watched something even slightly inappropriate? 

Then I thought about my children.  The thought came loud and clear... "What if they have a day when their souls are weak?" I must be vigilant about what influences feed their souls. The adversary is trying hard to defeat us, but God is forever present.

"Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when he seemed indifferent to my suffering, he was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, he gave me rest. Then he gave me a sign to continue my journey."  ~Life of Pi

Friday, April 19, 2013

Trickle-down Effect

Yesterday each of my children took their turns expressing their frustrations in an unhealthy way...

Some of them had to redo schoolwork- that's always a frustration.

Some were frustrated because nobody was listening to them.

... and others were frustrated at their amount of school work.

Despite their frustrating moments, they still cleaned the whole house, did their school work, practiced their instruments, and even played in the rain on the trampoline.

We decided to finish the day off with a dance party!!  We danced our hearts out for a few minutes.  Then Tyson (mistakenly) stomped on Jordan's foot.  Jordan rolled around howling with pain.  I ignored him for a moment because I figured he was just being dramatic...  Finally, I went to check on him.  The moment I said, "Are you Ok?"  He stopped crying and was better.  Grrrr... I hate drama.

After that he ran after Tyson and jumped on him for stomping on his foot.  Then I became frustrated that our dance party wasn't happy anymore, so I turned off the music and scolded everyone.  I told them to come kneel down for prayer; we were all going to bed.

One of the children knelt down and angrily punched the couch. I explained to the children that they are teaching their crazy behavior to each other.  I told them it starts with the oldest and moves right down the line- trickling down to each child.  Right then, Juliana (who is only 2 and never has any clue what we're talking about) walked over to the couch, punched it, and knelt down for prayer just as her older brother had done.

We couldn't help but laugh because it proved my point.  As I was teaching the children that the behavior is passed down the line starting with the oldest, a thought came into my mind, "Maybe it started with you... "  I responded to myself, "No... that couldn't be it.  I'm the parent.  They only learn the good behaviors I demonstrate.  I have a right to scold and show my frustration a little bit so that they actually listen to me."  Of course the thought returned again, and the scripture in Matthew 7:3 came loud and clear into my mind:

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

Hmmm....  I hate to admit that maybe I was at the top of the waterfall that was trickling down to each of the children.  The dance party was going great.  I could have disciplined only the children involved, but I took the party away from everyone. :(  I believe that was an unhealthy act of frustration that I displayed, but I didn't want to admit it right away.

It took a moment; but as we knelt in prayer, I tried hard to push away my own frustrations and asked the children (Abe was still at work) to talk about their favorite parts of the day.

As we spoke of our happiness, our frustrations melted away, and we were happy again!!  That felt like a very healthy response to frustration!  With happy hearts returning, we decided we would finish our dance party the following night instead.

I hate being so imperfect... I really do!!!  I had to accept that God was not saying: "Rachel you're a failure!  Look at your own self!"  I believe HE was telling me there is room for improvement, and there's still time to teach better behavior and better responses in future frustrating situations.

I'm grateful that even when we're frustrated, the Holy Ghost, who has been sent to us to guide us, doesn't just run away because we're not holy.  The Holy Ghost will continue to try to teach us better behavior; we just have to work harder to listen.

Boston Marathon

I feel driven to express that my heart aches for the tragic happenings in the Boston area.  We continue to pray for all those in the area including Abe's sister who lives there.  As hate continues to grow and fester in people's hearts, I pray that love will overpower that hate- especially in our families.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Wave of Peace

A couple of days ago, we had to make a difficult decision and Mariah didn't like where our conversation was going.  It was becoming a strong possibility that we would have to give our dog away.  We hadn't decided for sure yet, but 5 year old Mariah was heart-broken.

Mariah LOVES her dog; his name is Buddy.  He's half chihuahua and half terrier.  They call his mix a chiuahuat.  Mariah has trained Buddy since he was a puppy to know that she is in charge.  She pulls him around with pride and kisses him on the lips (yuck).

This is Mariah at age 2 with little Buddy and her brothers.

Mariah loves ALL dogs.  Even when she was only 3 years old, she would sob in front of the TV as she watched the movie Benji.  We own several of the sequels to Benji, and she still cries every time the dog is taken away.  Now... her own dog was possibly being sent away.

We knelt down for family nighttime prayer.  We tried to calm her down, but she just wailed with pain.  Her body was slumped over and her head tilted back while she cried in agony over her dog.  We knew she was truly devastated at the thought of losing Buddy.   We hugged her and said our family prayer.  We told her we weren't sure yet what we were going to do, but she needed to calm down and go to sleep because we would talk about it more in the morning.

She was quiet for a moment and started to walk to bed.  Then she stopped, turned around, and burst into tears again exclaiming, "I don't know how to calm myself down!!"

My heart broke for her.  I took her in my arms, held her tight, and whispered a very, very slow and calm prayer into her ear.  I said only one sentence at a time and paused for a little while between each sentence.  I could feel her trembling, anxious body relax in my tight hold as I continued to ask God to help calm her down.  It was a precious moment to hold her tiny body as the Lord's peace literally melted her anxiety away.  I felt the peace!  It was like a wave moving from her head down.  I could feel God's power working in her soul.

The prayer wasn't very long, but it was slow, thoughtful, and patient.  By the end of the prayer, Mariah had stopped crying.  Her face no longer showed anxiety, and she peacefully walked to her bed.

I believe that our Heavenly Father would like to calm our worries and assure us that everything is ok; but sometimes in our anxiety over the stressful situation, we don't allow the peace to enter our soul.  Sometimes we pray with deep intensity but don't take a moment between our pleadings to allow the wave of peace to even begin.  It takes work on our part to block the stress so we can allow the peace that is trying to squeeze and permeate through those thick and heavy emotions.

When we lost a baby through a failed adoption last year.  I didn't want to feel peace.  I wanted to feel pain because feeling the pain validated my anger.  A dear friend came to my house during my suffering.  She suggested that I lay my head on her lap... I felt very silly.  I didn't want to lay my head on her lap- that was for children.  I didn't want to even talk to anyone because I liked feeling angry in a weird way.  I finally humbled myself and crumbled in her arms.  I laid my head on her lap and sobbed.  She didn't say a word.  I just cried.... and as I cried, the wave of peace entered my body, and I fell asleep.

As children we trust God very willingly.  As adults we've experienced years of pain... we feel silly trusting like a child... and many times we don't trust the process anymore, so we push that instinct away.  Last night as Abe and I read our scriptures together, this is the message he felt inspired to share:

Matthew 18: 1-4 "(1)At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (2) And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, (3) And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  (4) Whosever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

The wave of peace comes as a miracle from God as we allow ourselves to become as a little child and trust.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Miracle of Healing in God's Time

Yesterday, our family planned on going on a memorial run for those affected by the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon.  We have been praying for those involved.

As we were getting ready to leave for the event, baby Jayden started crying in periodic shrieks as if sharp pain kept stabbing him.  Every time we touched his left hand or arm, he screamed harder.  I placed a cracker right in front of his left hand, but he awkwardly reached with his right hand to get the cracker.  I tried chocolate chips.... he barely pinched the chocolate chip between his two fingers; but before he could bring it to his mouth, the chocolate chip just dropped to the ground!

I was so worried for him.  I thought that possibly his arm was just asleep from his nap.  He had been awake for about 20 minutes, but I massaged his arm anyway just in case.  That didn't help; I couldn't figure it out.  He hadn't fallen anywhere.  Nobody grabbed his arm... nothing.  The kids and I examined his arm.  Nothing seemed to be out of the socket.  We noticed a little turquoise bruised looking spot on his forearm.  We thought maybe that was it???

I began calling the nearby urgent cares hoping it wasn't broken.  My husband recently switched jobs, and our new insurance wouldn't kick in until May 1st.  Now we were going to have an urgent care visit with no insurance!  We didn't have a choice; he was obviously hurt.

I knelt down and hugged Jayden tight in my arms as I prayed with great earnest for him to be better.  He continued to show signs of pain.  His left arm was completely limp.  I called Abe and told him that we needed to go to the urgent care, but I wanted him to look at Jayden first before we left.  Everybody was ready to go.  As we waited for Abe, Jayden still didn't show any signs of improvement.

Abe arrived...

I placed Jayden in his arms...

and Jayden lifted BOTH of his own arms and wrapped them around Abe's neck giving him the biggest hug!!

What??  I gave him a cracker, and he grabbed it with his previously limp arm and started to eat it.  I took his shirt off to show Abe the little bruise where we thought the source of the pain might have been... the turquoise spot was gone.  Jayden even started to do his happy baby jabber!

The children had witnessed baby Jayden's pain, and they had witnessed the little spot too.  They couldn't believe the change in him either.  Abe only saw a healthy, happy baby Jayden.  The children kept telling him how much he was hurting just moments before.

God answered my prayer and my plea for Jayden's health.  The interesting thing is that Jayden's arm was healed in an instant, but it wasn't the instant I prayed for him... Jayden was healed in the exact moment before we were about to leave to take him to the urgent care.

Over the years, I have noticed that sometimes God waits until the last moment to show us the miracle.  I don't pretend to fully understand all of God's ways because HIS ways are so great and much mightier than my frail understanding.  However, I believe that HE sometimes waits to show us the miracle so that our faith is stretched and strengthened in HIM.

So many thoughts ran through my mind:  "Maybe we weren't supposed to go to the event... maybe God was trying to keep us home for some other reason... maybe HE just wanted to teach us again the power of prayer.... maybe there was something better for our family to do that evening...."

Since we were too late for the memorial run, we decided to go on a 6 mile family bike ride.  I had been waiting all winter to use my new bike trailer, but that wasn't part of God's plans for us either.  After only a mile and a half into the ride, the chain on my bike literally broke in two pieces, and Tyson's bike got a flat tire!  Who knows why all of that happened too.

There is only one thing I am absolutely certain of... my prayers were answered and Jayden was healed in a miraculous way.  I feel truly blessed for such a sweet miracle.  I will never forget the way I felt as I watched Jayden raise both of his arms in sheer joy around his daddy after having felt so much obvious pain just a moment before.

HE is God of miracles.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Great and Valuable Part of the Team!

Spring football started last night.  It was pouring rain, but we still had a blast!  Abe coached Jackson and Tyson's team, and Jordan played on a different team an hour later.

All the boys played awesome, but Jordan was the champion of his team.  He ran a pick 6 (which is an interception for a touchdown) and 2 more touchdowns after that.  He grabbed at least 20 flags off his opponents not letting the other team score even once.  I was cheering loudly "Go Jo Jo!! Go Jo Jo!! Gooooooo!!!!!!!"

There were only a small handful of parents watching the game because of the rain.  Abe and I spent time talking to most of the parents finding out about their kids, but I kept looking at one parent who stood off on the side.  She never smiled once; I kept wondering why she looked so sad and mad.  She kept calling her son over to talk to him and still never smiled; she only looked stern.  I had all kinds of ideas running through my mind as to why she may not be smiling.  I didn't really know why, but I couldn't stand it anymore.

I called over to her and said, "Hey!  Your son is doing great!  What's his name?"  She told me, and Abe made a few comments about some of his plays and how cute he was.  She responded, "Oh this is his first time ever playing."  We told her again how great he was doing.  He was sooo darn cute. :-)

The next time her son had the ball, the miracle happened!

He had run the ball before; but this time, his mother burst into a huge smile, clapped, and actually threw her head back with joy and laughter!!  She immediately looked over at us with the happiest look on her face.  We had connected!  We cheered  loudly for her son with her.  It was really quite amazing how big her smile was!   It was BEAUTIFUL!!

My heart was touched very deeply.  I turned to Abe and said, "Did you see that?  She's smiling... and laughing!!!"  I know it's not my job to make everyone smile, and some people may be highly irritated at my efforts!  ...but her smile taught me something about human nature.  I believe that most of us are just waiting to connect with others.  We're just waiting to feel a part of something.  After we talked to her, she had the reassurance that her son was a great member of the team no matter how much he knew about the way things are done on the field.  

I began to ponder about church... Maybe some people are wondering if they are really a valuable member or part of the church team... maybe they're new.... we're all still learning.  Sometimes people may come to church for the first time and have a stern look on their face.  It could be interpreted as them wanting to be left alone... but maybe their expression is actually one of just nervousness instead.   Even I have felt nervous at times and wondered if I'm valuable; and when others open their arms to me, it melts those feelings away.  It is quite possible that many of us just need a simple and sincere welcome, a smile, and reassuring words.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hold On To TRUTH!!

Yesterday was fast and testimony meeting.  Once a month (usually the first Sunday of the month) we fast for 2 meals or 24 hours.  We do this as a worldwide church.  The money that we do not use on food, we give to the Bishop of our congregation who then gives it to those who are in need.  We are encouraged to be generous with that donation.

On the same Sunday of that fast, we hold a testimony meeting.  In this meeting, anyone can walk up to the front of the congregation and bear their testimonies of the truths that they know in their hearts.

Yesterday, Jackson walked up and Jordan followed close behind.  Then five year old Mariah quickly walked up too.  Tyson looked over at me with a look as if to say, "Is it ok?"  I assured him it was, and he walked to the front as well. At the same time, 2 boys from another family also walked up to the front.  All 6 children sat on the stand waiting for their turn to speak.  None of them had prepared beforehand.  In fact the mother of the other two boys said one of her sons took courage to stand after seeing his buddies, my sons, walking to the front.

Usually a couple of my children stand to bear their testimonies during this special meeting; but as all 4 of my older children bore their testimonies, something touched my heart extra profoundly this time.

Jackson bore his testimony proclaiming his gratitude for Christ's sacrifice on the cross and HIS suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.   Jordan bore his testimony about the truthfulness of this church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and proclaimed that Joseph Smith is a true prophet.  Tyson bore his testimony about Jesus Christ's sacrifice and love for us and also proclaimed that Joseph Smith is a true prophet.  The 2 young boys from the other family also bore their beautiful testimonies.  I felt the Spirit as each one of these 5 boys bore their short yet sincere testimonies.

Mariah was the last of the children to speak.  Since she was the youngest to bear her testimony, I figured she would repeat much of what she had heard.  That was not so...

Mariah stood and bore her testimony about her love for the scriptures.  She talked longer and even paused for a while to think.  She talked about how good the scriptures made her feel.  I cried as she spoke. I thought she was done with her testimony, but then she leaned her little arms on the pulpit and stated her message again about how wonderful the scriptures are.

After bearing her testimony and being overwhelmed with the Spirit, Mariah sat and began to write in her journal during the rest of Sacrament meeting.   I'll interpret a few of her writings.

"I fel the Hot Gost" = I feel the Holy Ghost

"Good is Savir"= God is Savior

"I love you Good"=  I love you God

Now let me tell you why this was so significant and miraculous!!

On Friday, I was reading the scriptures and teaching the children about the history of Joseph Smith to the children at lunchtime when I unexpectedly felt a negative force in my mind that literally stopped me.  I was so taken back by the negativity that I immediately told the children that scripture study was over and quietly went somewhere else to pray.  The children had no idea why I stopped reading; they just figured it was time to move on with the day.

As I prayed and questioned the Lord about those strange feelings, I felt guided to read the scriptures again.  As I read again, peace overwhelmed me.  I knew that Satan had tried hard to attack the message I was sharing with my children.

I didn't fully understand why he had attacked me so hard on Friday until I pondered my children's testimonies.  I realized that God wanted me to hear the depth of the impact the word of God had left on their hearts.  Satan was fighting the teaching that was taking place in the home.

When the adversary attacked, I prayed harder to my Heavenly Father.  In turn, HE blessed me with overwhelming peace; and 2 days later, with the miracle of hearing, feeling, and seeing the effect of that scripture study.

One might think that these children couldn't possibly feel and understand the truthfulness of this gospel at such a young age.  Nobody prepped them, but they each stood with spiritual strength and maturity.  They stood accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Nobody can tell me there's not a spiritual war going on right now.  I pray that my family will be protected as I continue to move forward in those things that I know to be true.

I testify that we are on the winning side of that war... God's side.  Hold on to TRUTH!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Take Time for People"

Last night I went to the grocery store by myself.  I promised Abe I would hurry and be back with a movie for all of us to watch because I would be that fast shopping alone.

As I walked through the store, several times the thought came very strong to me, "Take time for people.  Look at them."

As I crouched down in one of the isles to assess the price on something, I heard some Spanish a little ways behind me.  I turned around to look at who was speaking and saw some friends- an older couple that I love so much.  I went over to say hi and planned on going on my way so I could return in time for my waiting family.  The thought returned again to "take time for people."

I said something in Spanish, but I must have said it wrong because they began to answer a different question.  That different question led into a discussion on a very important topic.

We stood in the aisle at the grocery store for over half an hour shedding tears.  I listened to their most amazing story of faith and strength as they endured their many trials.  I knew that God directed me there at that time when I could truly listen.  As they shared their story, I listened without judgment.  I knew I needed to hear their family's story of great courage.

That moment was a miracle and a testimony builder to me of Christ's great love for each of us.  He wants each of us to feel valued, important, and understood.

I have recently been feeling the pain of so many friends going through hard times and having their faith be challenged; I was grateful to be strengthened by this couple's firm testimonies of following truth despite the hurt they have experienced.  How many more stories need to be heard and told?

I'm so grateful that the Holy Ghost spoke to my heart to warn me of a coming experience that would strengthen both me and this dear couple.  God loves us and wants us to be strong... to hold on to our faith.  If we open our hearts, HE will provide the miracles necessary to strengthen us in the moments we need them most.

Friday, April 12, 2013

God's Word in the Big Storm

We haven't seen sunshine here in Michigan for several days now, so my children have been talking a lot about the BIG STORM.  I personally have never witnessed a day of storms like the one we encountered last summer.

It all started with me, our 6 children, and my niece and nephew... yes... it's true.  Because my husband had to work, it was just me and 8 kids.

We embarked on our long journey to drive from southwest Missouri all the way to Utah.  We had been excited for months to go on this trip, but we traveled only 45 minutes before we had to stop to get a flat tire fixed.  There we were in a car shop in Joplin, MO for several hours waiting for our tires to be set right.  It was a bit disheartening knowing I had wanted an early start in order to reach Denver, CO in good time that night.  At one point, a technician informed me that I had severe problems with the front axel as well, and he explained that it would be a significant cost and take the whole day to fix.  I was in literal shock for a few minutes until he returned to tell me that he had mistaken which vehicle was mine... ours was fine except for the flat tire!  Phew!!  Feeling that stress even for a few minutes put my nerves on edge a bit!!

After that encounter, I prayed harder for our safety.  I was feeling the weight of all these precious lives in my hands, and I began to question the prudence of taking this trip.  All of a sudden, I realized that we hadn't had our scripture study. There was only one other person in the waiting area, so we held our scripture study right then and there.  I read in the Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 58.

All of us were in awe as the following verses stood out in our hearts and minds:

Verse 10:  "Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength..."

Verse 11:  "Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him."

(I could feel the energy in my soul begin to swell!  I felt trapped in this lobby with no functioning vehicle, so deliverance was important!)

Verse 12:  "And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies..."

(At this point I said with passion to my 8 kids sitting in the lobby, "We are a small force!!!  We will take courage and conquer!"  Right then, the only other person in the lobby scanned the kids and said, "Ummm... I don't think your force is so small!!"  We laughed and felt renewed by the message given in the scriptures.  We were certain that those scriptures were meant for us to read at that very moment.)

Little did we know how important those words would be as our trip continued!  Our flat tire was only the beginning of our troubles!!

We were finally released.  They assured me that all was well with the vehicle, and we piled in the van again to head west.

As we drove, we noticed the sky darkening around us.  We were in Kansas, and it continued to darken more and more looking quite scary.  I had a very sick feeling in my stomach and turned on the radio to see what the weather conditions were.  Yes... there was a tornado warning in the area, and they named a town where it was worse with a possible sighting of a tornado.  They said the name of a small town.   I don't recall the name of the town now.  However, I do recall that right as they said the name of that town, we looked over at the sign on the road, and it was the exact town we were headed into at that very moment!!!!

I yelled out for the kids to pray!!  I handed the phone over to one of the older kids and told them to call Abe.  I didn't talk on the phone; it was storming too bad.  I had to use every bit of my concentration to drive.  They told him our situation, where we were, and to pray for us because we were going to drive as fast as we could to get out of there!  I wasn't about to get off the highway and enter the town!!  The darkest portion of the sky was north of the highway.

There was a strange energy in the van... it was exciting yet very real and life-threatening.  Again... We needed deliverance... and faith!!!  We passed the area of tornado watches but the storm was not yet over....

We drove through hail, horrible downpours of rain, winds, and segments of road where it seemed like we were entering nighttime.  The weather updates said the storms would continue for hours, but we were going in the right direction to escape the worst of it.  We could see clear skies in the distance, so we continued to drive and pray.

Just when we couldn't see any storms in our close proximity, Mariah needed to stop to go potty.  I had everyone pile out to go to the bathroom.  We were only in there for a few minutes!  By the time we came out, the winds were blowing so hard that we could hardly stand up straight.  There were lots of people at the gas station, and everyone started jumping in their cars to get out of there.  We did too!!!  We were not chasing the storm; we were running away!!  This one was a dust storm- no rain.  It was so strange.  The kids kept commenting on the swirly things on the side of the highway.

We drove away from that storm as well, and it was peaceful for a while.

At one point of our trip, we saw a golden eagle in the distance.  I thought, "Oh how majestic and graceful."  It was gorgeous, but it continued to come toward our windshield!!!  I thought, "Surely it will change it's course any second now!!!."  My niece in the front seat, the kids in the back, and I screamed at the top of our lungs as if we were in a horror movie!!  I put the breaks on hard- but not too hard or else our big 12 passenger van would have flipped.  Because we swerved a bit, the eagle flew upwards right at the last millisecond.  The eagle would have shattered the windshield!  We actually saw its wings span across the windshield!!  We couldn't believe its size!  We couldn't believe the miracle of our safety.

As nighttime approached, we drove through a different kind of storm.  We witnessed the most beautiful lightning storm of our lives.  There was no rain- just lightning.  I had always been told that the car is a safe place from lightning.  In my entire life of growing up in southern Missouri where thunderstorms rock the entire base of a home, I have never seen the sky light up like this!!  We were traveling in Colorado at that point.  It was amazing to watch!! Because the landscape was flat, it felt like we were in a light show under a dome.  I blasted the music, and the lights in the sky danced to it.  We later found out that those lightning storms were the cause of the devastating Colorado fires last summer.

The lightning storm died down as we drove our last 45 minutes into Denver, Colorado.  We were truly strengthened as the scriptures said we would be.  I made my phone calls to all those who were concerned about us and told them we were all well.  We checked into the hotel and "poured out our souls in prayer to God" giving gratitude for our safety, for the peace, for the strengthening of our faith, and for our deliverance.  

What a miracle that all 9 of us were safely sleeping in a quiet hotel... the storms were gone.

What a miracle that because we remembered to read the scriptures, we were able to receive the strength we most definitely needed through the literal storm just as God's words return to me throughout my spiritual storms.  Some storms take me by surprise, some I know are coming- so I try hard to get out of them as fast as possible, and yet others I am able to see the beauty/blessings within the storm.

...but in the end, we see the power of God in all.