Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Happens In Vegas...

Last night, I was walking down the Las Vegas Strip alone with just our 2 youngest children.  I held Jayden on my backpack and Juliana walked by my side.   The rest of the family was watching a show where no babies were allowed.  As I walked along, I felt spiritually attacked as I saw WAY more parts of people’s bodies than I ever wanted to see.

I prayed to God asking HIM to show me one of HIS miracles in the midst of all that I was witnessing.  Immediately, I noticed the friendliness of people more than I had before.  I even tried to be patient with the women in thongs and big feathers waving at Juliana.

SEVERAL women and men were scantily dressed waiting for a tip just for the “honor” of looking at their bodies, but the ones who bothered me the most were the scores of men and women passing out business cards with naked women on them. These cards end up all over the street, so it’s VERY difficult to even look on the ground without being accosted by pornography.  (However, the amount of cards on the street is slightly better than it used to be; in years passed, the cards blanketed the sidewalk in a certain section of town.)

Every time I’ve been to Las Vegas, the people who pass out these cards are the ones who make me the angriest. From my understanding, these cards are actually advertising prostitution under the legal premise of it being a “massage.” I try hard to just ignore these people because they make me so mad. In turn, they don’t usually even come near me because I have so many small children hanging on me.  They don’t try to sell anything to the people at that moment- they just hand out the cards hoping people will make the phone call to their “business.”

I was relieved to see a musician on the street playing clean music.  I stopped to listen and tipped him because I appreciated him trying to make an honest living. 

As I stopped to listen to this musician, one of these men who passed out the cards stood kind of close to us and kept waving, smiling, and winking at my little Juliana- he obviously thought she was beautiful.  My first thought towards him was, “At what point does the value of a woman change for you?  She’s adorable to you now but soon you’ll consider her as meat just as you do all these other women.”  I wondered again, “When does that change for you?”  I ignored his gestures at first and wanted him and his scum to leave us alone.  Then he came over and gave her an unopened can of soda. 

Being civil, I told him thank you; and in Spanish, I asked him where that drink was from.  He told me he bought it and wanted to give it to her because she looked thirsty.  Then he leaned down to kiss her on her cheek.  I pulled her away because I certainly was not going to let a stranger kiss my precious daughter… ESPECIALLY not THIS stranger!!

I asked him not to kiss her.  He sincerely apologized explaining that he had children too.  He pulled out his wallet to show me the picture of one of his children.  That disgusted me even more because I thought he should be setting a better example for them.  I reluctantly looked at the picture and felt embarrassed even talking to this man who was advertising such a crass thing- I didn’t want to be associated with “his kind.”

He further explained the reason he couldn’t stop looking at my daughter was because she looked like his wife.  As he showed me a picture of his wife, he began to tremble and to cry right there on the Las Vegas Strip.  His said his wife had died just 6 months ago.  I looked at the picture of his wife.  I couldn’t believe it!  Juliana really did actually look like his wife!  I could see the pain and sincerity in his face.  This man was not trying to get any money from me…. He was a real person with a real story behind why he ended up doing one of the ugliest jobs.  He was trying to find a way to support his family in a foreign country.
I explained to him that he didn’t need to do a job like this.  I told him that his wife’s spirit still lives on and would help him.

 I asked him if he would like to know a better way. 
He said he would. 

We had just spent the previous evening with our wonderful friends who live in Las Vegas, and the husband happened to be a Mormon Bishop.  I promised this stranger that our bishop friend would be calling him to help him find a better way to make it in this life.

For a moment, I was slightly embarrassed to be putting the name and phone number of a man advertising sexual massages (prostitution) into my phone, but that embarrassment only lasted a moment because I KNEW that THIS was the miracle God was showing me…

Less than 5 minutes after my prayer to see a miracle, this man showed up by daughter’s side. (By law, these men have to stay FAR away from even appearing as if they are trying to solicit to children.)

God could have helped me to see a miracle in any of the other friendly people walking along the street.  No… God wanted me to know that HE loved and is working in the lives of even the ones who seem to be the most lost.

What a BEAUTIFUL love I felt from our Savior!  We know well the story of the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned to death for her sins.  Christ defended not her sin… but her.  He was criticized for even associating with her; and in John 8:7, he simply stated, “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

I have no idea if this man will change his occupation.  I hope he does, but I have learned that everyone has a story... they are real people with a Heavenly Father and a Savior who love them.   I am not the one to judge a person’s circumstance… I have an opportunity to make better choices in my own life according to my own understanding and pray for forgiveness for my own sins.  I am also more confident in the love that God has for me.  No matter how many mistakes I make, HE is neither giving up on me nor my ability to become more like HIM.

I thank God for opening my eyes to the greater love and charity I still have the opportunity to foster within my own soul.  I thank God for HIS great love for ALL of HIS children.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nutter Butters

Our family is just finishing up our long trek from Michigan to Las Vegas!!

As we exited the interstate in beautiful Colorado yesterday, there was a couple on the corner with a sign that read, “Need Food and Gas.”  I always like to give whatever food I can scrounge up for people asking.  We were traveling, so we had lots of half-eaten bags of chips, etc.

I immediately dug in our food box to find something that would make them happy.   I grabbed the last of the Nutter Butters.   I LOVE Nutter Butters, and I thought those would be really special.  Then, Abe suggested we give them something more substantial as well.  I grabbed an unopened box of granola bars and handed those up to the man.  I felt good about giving them the food.  With a big smile on his face, the man said excitedly, “Thank you so much!  God bless you!”

Right after we gave him the food, I had giver’s remorse for a moment…

Realizing I had just given away my most favorite treat on our journey, I wondered if the couple would even appreciate the Nutter Butters as much as I would have.  Remember- I LOVE Nutter Butters!  That wafery, peanut buttery goodness that’s not too rich and just sweet enough… mmm so good… perfect-but gone.  Was it ridiculous for me to wish for my Nutter Butters back- and especially if those treats were the only items of food this couple had to eat the whole day?  Absolutely!  …but I began to wonder if this couple’s intentions were real.  Did they REALLY need food and gas?  Did I give up my treats for nothing?

These thoughts came within a few selfish moments after I had been so eager and excited to give my most prized treat.   Abe stopped my selfishness in my tracks with the words, “God will bless you- no matter what- God will bless you.”  It didn’t matter if they did appreciate it!  I felt moved to give it, so I could trust that there must have been a reason.

All of a sudden, I remembered a different Nutter Butter surprise that happened just 9 days previously…

My children and I ran into a hair salon- which was inside a grocery store- to get my hair cut really fast.  Due to my lack of planning, we arrived at lunchtime, and the children were all hungry.   I began to give instructions to the oldest children to stick together and pick out some food in the grocery store to bring back for the younger ones.

Before I could even finish giving my instructions, the hair stylists went to the back room and brought out an unopened box of Nutter Butters for the children to eat!  With big hugs and lots of gratitude, the children ate the entire box of Nutter Butters.  I couldn’t believe this sweet hair stylist was generously feeding my family while I was getting my haircut!

Because of their service, I felt a strong desire to be a better, more loving woman.  When my opportunity arose to serve and give my favorite treat-the last of my own box of Nutter Butters- my spirit remembered and was very willing.
…but when my physical- more selfish self- tried to take over for a moment, I forgot charity and love.  I only thought about the wafery, peanut buttery taste that would have satisfied my taste buds in just the right way.
Abe was right… we are ALWAYS blessed by God when we give more and sacrifice selflessly for others. That doesn’t mean that God needed me to give away everything we had, but I received an opportunity to “pay forward” the exact item from 9 days previously.  

Knowing that my spirit was more aware of the best way to serve than my physical body was aware, makes me want to trust my spiritual self so much more…  How often do we second guess our impressions to serve in a unique way or to do something great through acts of service or sacrifice?  When we second guess those spiritual impressions, I believe we miss a lot of sweet opportunities.  Service and sacrifice teach us in the most beautiful way how to become an extension of Christ’s outstretched hand of love. 

The Nutter Butters are but a very small example in my life.   My goodness- they only cost 2-3 dollars, but now they represent so much more to me.  They represent the need to pay attention to my spiritual self and that sacrificing some of my own desires in an effort to serve others is never a waste- no matter what!

-because no matter what, God will bless you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

and the Champion is...

For the next 2 weeks we will be traveling as a family 1st to Las Vegas to celebrate my husband’s parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, and then to Missouri to be with my family for “Nanny Camp!” 

We have spent the last few days working hard to get everything ready for our big trip.  The kids had new sun glasses that they had paid for with their own money.  They were all very proud of them, and they all knew how good they looked with them on too… yep they’ve been struttin’ their stuff all day.  Jordan (Jo Jo) could hardly even speak when he had his on because he felt so cool, and Tyson is always a ham.

I found a special cloth that is used to clean sun glasses and decided that since they were all obsessed with their new glasses, I would give this cloth as a surprise gift to the champion worker of the day.  I had an idea who I thought the champion would be, but I decided to leave the decision up to my children.  I told them they would each have one vote.   I didn’t want any of them to feel bad knowing who voted for them, so I had them quietly whisper in my ear who they thought was the hardest worker.  The only rules were that they couldn’t vote for Mommy or Daddy, themselves, or the babies. 

Jordan’s vote was the first...

He leaned in and said, “Not me!”

I burst out with laughter because he had gotten into trouble a few times for not staying on task.  In all honesty I thought he was right- which is probably why I laughed so hard.  I told him to re-vote. 

Each child quietly cast their vote.  My mouth dropped open as the votes continued…

I made the announcement of the champion…

The championship of the hardest worker came to an exact tie- each child received exactly one vote from a different child.

My initial reaction was complete shock.  In my mind, it was obvious who was working the hardest; but as I considered the children’s votes, my mind was opened to the real truth of the matter.

They DID all work just as hard as each other- especially for their ages!  I realized that my perspective had been skewed by my expectations.  I had been focusing so much on the many things that WEREN’T getting done... concentrating on the moments when Tyson and Jordan decided to Karate chop each other or when Mariah and Juliana decided to dance around the family room while their bowls of Raisin Bran rained through the air.  With each lost minute, I was noticing the successes of the day less and less...

Amidst the chaotic moments,
Laundry was finished;
Dishes were done;
Floors were swept and mopped;
Rooms were cleaned;
Babies were being cared for and played with by one of their siblings almost the entire time;
Bags were packed, and everyone had eaten and showered.

Abe and I couldn’t have done it all in the allotted time without each of their contributions.

I believe that God planted it in my children’s hearts to teach me and remind me that they were ALL CHAMPIONS in the grueling packing process.  The fact that my children voted for each other touched my heart, but there was something else that touched my heart even deeper. 

It was God’s miraculous way of teaching me…

I had been praying intensely for the last two days to be able to focus on and accentuate only the positive things my children were doing.  In the stress of packing, I was failing miserably at only noticing the good things. 

My heart is deeply touched knowing that Jesus did not chastise or criticize me for failing in my goals.  My Savior, Jesus Christ, taught me how to achieve my goal in such a sweet and gentle way.  HE does everything perfectly, but HE does not look down on me for not having the capability of being perfect like HIM.  My Savior’s perfect love for me is humbling and inspiring.  I’m grateful for my miraculous moment of realization given to me as a gift of encouragement.  As I hold my perspective nearer to Christ’s, I am able to see the championships of each small moment and each small child… even I am a champion  for trying again tomorrow to be more like HIM.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jo Jo's Flip Flop Miracle

It's a big ordeal to keep all 6 kids in clothes that fit them for each season!!

My boys grow like weeds, and my girls...

...well, when it comes to the girls, I have a problem:  I keep thinking they are my little baby dolls, so I am tempted to buy every cute tutu and hair bow I see.  I have to swallow my pride and remember to budget properly.  We are not wealthy enough for me to buy everything that I fall in love with, so I spend a lot of time comparing prices and telling myself, "No, Rachel.  It's not necessary."

I just returned from the cutest 2nd hand store today and was able to outfit all my children in nice summer clothes and get all the gifts for Juliana's upcoming birthday for a great price.

Last week, I spent about 40 minutes trying on different flip flops on the boys in one store.  I took so long because I wanted them to have the cooler looking flip flops that seemed to last longer, but I was debating whether the price was worth the extra money multiplied by 3 boys.  While we shopped for new flip flops, Jordan's old flip flops actually broke!  As we walked out of the store, he had to scoot his foot on top of his shoe to keep it in one piece.

After leaving the 1st store, I decided to check the 2nd-hand store.  Surprisingly, they were just as expensive as the brand new ones.

Finally, with a prayer in my heart, I decided that I only really needed a pair of flip flops for Jordan (Jo Jo) because his didn't even function!  Buying for the other boys was actually me just being a little bit prideful again.  They would be just fine in what they had, and the extra money really needed to go to other more important things.

On the way home, I noticed a garage sale sign.

I stopped by, and I found 1 pair of brand new flip flops that were just perfect for my Jo Jo.  They only cost 50 CENTS!!

If I had bought the other "cooler" flip flops for my boys, I'm sure we would have found a way to pay for the rest of our bills... but I'm even more positive that because I made a sacrifice on the "coolness factor" God blessed me to find the best deal ever.

I believe God blessed us with a miracle by showing me where the cheaper, more practical flip flops were being sold.  Not only did I save a lot of money, but I also learned how sweet and tender our Heavenly Father is to watch over us and guide us even when we're about to make silly mistakes.

Besides, who needs the "cooler" flip flops when you look this good?  :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Announcement

There is something that I want to do...

I've wanted to do it for a very long time...

My heart and dear people around me have told me to do it for several years now, but I never felt confident enough to even attempt it...

Actually, I don't really feel confident enough right at this moment to move forward on this decision... but I'm moving forward somehow...

...because every time I consider this idea, my heart beats heavier, my hands tremble, and I feel deep emotions well up within me.  From past experience, this is the Spirit confirming a decision that I have made.

Over the last few days, I've gone back and forth between the powerful feelings of the Spirit and the powerful feelings of self doubt.

Although both are powerful, only one is encouraging.  I am fighting the negativity in my mind so that I may give God full reign over my soul and my life.

I'm trying to be brave...


I have decided to write a book!

Yes... there... It's in writing...  I can now be held accountable.

... I'm not even sure where to begin or where it will lead me.

I'm praying for God's hand to guide me in this process because it's bigger than anything I feel capable of at this moment.

Last week Mariah said, "Mommy!  I haven't wet my bed for a REALLY long time... It's a MIRACLE!!"

I just smiled at her and said, "Good job."  In my mind, it wasn't really a miracle... she was just getting older and learning how to have better control.

I guess she noticed the look on my face and said, "-but Mommy... it really is a miracle!!!"

I thought about this and realized some things:

Mariah tries so hard to be grown up, and she has been working at this goal for a very long time!

*For her, at her young age of 5 years, this was a big deal.  To try to master this skill on her own, she needed God's help.   Who am I to judge what a miracle is in her life?  

*For me, at my "old" age of 35 years, this is a big deal.  To try to write a book while continuing in my other duties and passions of motherhood, I need God's help.  Who am I to judge what miracles God can produce in my simple life?

I'm taking a step into the dark, but...


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Believe in the Goodness of Humanity

I traveled this weekend to Seattle, Washington with baby Jayden to speak at a women's conference on Miracles!!!

I left all the other children in Michigan with Abe.  This was my first time to travel with only one child, and it was quite special to give so much one on one time with my little sweetheart.  (I would like to do that with each of the children.)

The following are the miracles and blessings that touched my heart greatly.  There was a reoccurring theme with each of these marvelous experiences throughout my travels...


On my trip, so many people rushed to carry my bags, kindly opened the way for me to enter through large crowds, and selflessly gave me their seats.  Multiple people served so quickly proving that it was in their immediate nature to serve.  Believing in the goodness of humanity of strangers did wonders for my soul.  I have looked at everyone with more of a positive heart than I thought possible.  People are generally really good!!

Reuniting With My Cousin

I have a WONDERFUL distant cousin in Washington who happens to live close to where I was speaking.  We have only met once, and that was 8 years ago.  My family didn't even know she existed until then.  We had the beautiful opportunity to spend Friday afternoon together walking on trails and finding sand dollars and shells at the beach.  What a blessing to unite with family!  I learned so much from her.  She took a day off work, made us lunch, and drove us for hours with her baby around the vicinity of Seattle.  It didn't matter that our relationship as cousins was a distant one... we are cousins, and she was willing to sacrifice greatly to build that relationship.  I love her kind heart.

Some of God's Greatest Beauties

I also took some time to walk in the woods alone with Jayden.  I prayed out loud thanking God for HIS beauties.  I couldn't believe how full my heart felt as I quietly admired the beauty of nature.  I felt grateful that other inspired humans made valiant efforts to preserve this breathtaking piece of land.

Accepted and Loved

I arrived at the home of the woman who requested that I come to Seattle.  She was full of love for everyone.  We chatted about life while she made a big dinner for several of us who were staying in her home.  Right then, Jayden threw up... all over her kitchen floor and me.  I thought, "She's going to wish she never invited us here.  We're a problem."  To my surprise, she didn't even look one bit stressed at the giant mess in her spotless kitchen during the makings of a big meal- instead she gave me a "throw-up hug" reassuring me that this was just a better way to get to know ALL the parts of my life.   She loved ALL of me... that felt good to know that I didn't need to try to be somebody who I wasn't.

Soap in the Toilet Miracle

Because we were on East Coast Time Zone, Jayden was wide awake at 5am.  I went to the bathroom as quietly as I could.  Before I could close the lid down, Jayden threw a brand new, big bar of soap into the toilet!  I quickly thrust my hand into the toilet, but it slipped upwards into the neck of the toilet. Feeling completely embarrassed and truly wearing out my welcome, I prayed for help to get the soap out.   My hand was just slightly too big to grasp the soap and pull it down.  I tried to stab it with my pen.  Nothing worked!!  One guest, who I had not yet met, entered the bathroom at 5:30am.  I thought, "Oh no, she's going to have a serious problem when she tries to flush the toilet."  I hesitantly knocked on the door, but I didn't want her to have a problem in there.  ...when she opened it, I wondered who she was!  I hadn't seen this house guest yet!  I said, "Ummm... I'm really sorry- but you can't use that toilet."  She responded a bit panicked, "But I've been waiting to use the bathroom for the last hour!!"  I told her what my son had done.  Then I asked this stranger, "Well, is it #1?  You might be ok if it's just #1."  (This was a awkward conversation to be having with a complete stranger.)  She said it was just #1, and I gave her the go-ahead on the toilet.   As the morning continued, I instilled panic on the other house guests who had not received the message that I had ruined the toilet.  They thought they had clogged the toilet- what an embarrassment for them as well!   Once everyone was awake, I had to break the news to the family that I had ruined their toilet with a bar of soap.  The man of the house informed me that just a few days prior, he felt inspired to buy an interesting tool that could bend upwards and had a hook on it.  At the time, he didn't know why he was buying it, but boy was I glad he followed that inspiration!  He reached into the toilet, hooked it, and pulled it right out.  Phew!  What a relief!  This brother never once looked irritated at the extra job I had given him on an already busy morning.  He displayed the patience of humanity.

Dancing Queens

Right before I was to speak to the women, a group of older women and younger women put their hats on sideways, got up, and danced synchronized movements to a rap song.  I was backstage laughing so hard that I was crying.  I had been feeling nervous because my bio was not quite as impressive as the other speakers. Abe sent me a text message right before I started that said, "God will speak through you."  God spoke to me through their dances that HE was using me... just the way I was... to speak HIS message.   Our family LOVES to dance!  We have crazy dance parties in our family room often.  My husband is a professional performer, so he dances very similar to these on stage all the time.  What else could have calmed my nerves and reassured me more than to watch these sisters dance their hearts out... Mills' Family style. :-) These women freed themselves from inhibitions.  Because they chose to live with joy, many others were blessed by their courage and joy.

United In Service

After I spoke at the women's conference, I was eating lunch with the sisters when Jayden choked on a chip.  I turned him upside down and patted his back.  The chip came up... but so did everything else!  I couldn't believe how quickly the sisters jumped to action.  One wiped my toes, another stripped Jayden down, yet another fetched my suitcase for my change of clothes, and another sister went on a search for rags.  Before I knew it, Jayden and I were both wiped down, in new clothes, and peacefully eating our lunch again.  These sister demonstrated quick, loving, selfless, service.  The power of women serving with a united purpose was remarkable.

Reuniting with a Dear Friend

After speaking at the women's conference, I had a very special opportunity to reunite with one of my best friends from college.  We hadn't seen each other for several years.  We visited the city; I stayed at her house, and we reminisced and laughed for hours.  I was reminded of the importance of holding on to lifelong friendships.  God rekindled our deep friendship to enrich and encourage each other just when we needed it the most.  I believe that God puts special people into our lives on a continual basis to do just that.

Inspired Meetings

On my flight home, I met a woman who I learned from in every aspect of life!!  She taught me spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally... she had solid advice for many of the things I had been concerned about.  I felt such a connection to her from the beginning, and I knew God had his hand in our meeting to lift us both.  I look forward to continuing in that friendship. 

Strangers Serving Strangers

On my way home, my flight was delayed and then cancelled...  I was stuck in Minneapolis, and my luggage is still there... 2 days later!  Minneapolis Airport is 2 miles long!  There was a man from Spain who had just broken 2 of his fingers, yet he carried Jayden's car seat (along with his own luggage) all the way to my gate before he went in an opposite direction to his own gate.  Several other men took the time play with and distract Jayden while I gathered my things.  Another man offered to pay for Jayden's milk from the vending machine when I didn't have enough small change to get it.  It cost $4.50!!  A sweet woman spent some time patiently teaching me how to use my smart phone as a boarding pass because we were being diverted the following day.  A couple fought for me and with me to get a hotel room when our airlines refused to give me one.  Despite the highly disappointing circumstances, I felt uplifted to be the recipient of so much service at the hands of so many strangers.

Humanity's Worst Inspires Humanity's Best to Step Forward

Lest you think I only encounter the good humans, be not confused!!  I met a few pretty mean individuals too!!  Holding her nose in a dramatic pinch, one lady informed me that I had ruined her whole experience (loud enough for half of the plane to hear) because Jayden pooped his diaper.  I will not focus on this woman because out of the worst of these came the kindest of humanity choosing to stand up for me and my baby and treat us with great love.  If we accept it, God places the greatness of humanity in our path to make up for the cruddy side.  I could very easily focus on those negative people since they left me in tears; but truly, the good was outweighing the bad everywhere I went!!

My Final Surprise

Only a couple of hours before I would board my airplane, my friend took me to the most beautiful waterfall I could  have imagined.  We drove around a corner, parked our car, walked up a small path, and there it was.  Mist rose all the way to the top lightly wetting our skin.  There were only about 5-10 people there, and I was reminded of the beauties that God has in store for us. 

What a miraculous weekend in beautiful Seattle.  We are spiritual beings, and there are spiritual experiences around almost every corner of life.  God has HIS hand in the lives of HIS children from all walks of life.  HE is showing us HIS influence through them and through HIS Earthly creations.  IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LIFE.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lawn Mowers Following Christ

Yesterday as I struggled to mow our lawn with a mower that literally stopped every 1-3 minutes, I pondered about the beautiful lawn mowing service we received by kind, Christlike souls in both Utah and here in Michigan...

Last summer, there was a week when neither Abe nor I had absolutely no time to get to the lawn.  Abe was working 15 hour days, and our newborn's catnaps were never long enough for me to mow the lawn.  As we left for church, I felt badly that we would be leaving our lawn looking so messy yet another day.

To our surprise, as we drove into our driveway, we found our lawn looking tidy and perfectly mown!!  We were shocked!  We had only lived in this house for a couple of months, so we had no idea who would even show us that kind of service!  After a few days, we discovered that it was our next door neighbor.  He said he enjoyed doing it, so he did it!!  He made it seem as simple as that; but as we've gotten to know this beautiful couple, we have further learned of their beautiful love that they have for God.  I believe it was that love that moved him to serve a neighbor he hardly knew.

A few years ago, when we lived in Utah, we had a home teacher who seemed to always come to our rescue at the exact time we needed him too.

Most male members of our church are called as home teachers.  They are assigned a few families to visit, strengthen, and teach at least once a month.  They are the ones we should feel comfortable enough to call first when we have a need.  I am forever grateful that this particular man and his son took to heart their calling to serve our family.  They served us as true representatives of Christ.

This home teacher served us multiple times... transporting manure was probably the ugliest of his jobs to serve the Mills' family, but the most inspired was at a time when Abe was out of town.  I was especially nauseated from pregnancy, and some of the children had stomach viruses.  We lived in an HOA, and we had to keep our lawn tidy.

Our grass couldn't go another day before it needed to be mowed.  It was on my mind the whole day knowing that it needed to be done, but my day just was not going the way I had planned...

At one point, Jordan ran to the toilet to throw up-  I was proud of him for making it to the toilet... but he didn't know the lid was still down!  You can imagine the mess!  I remember lifting the lid after his first upchuck, and then patted his back as he continued to lose everything else from his poor tummy.  Because I was constantly nauseated myself, I began throwing up into the sink adjacent to the toilet at the same time as Jordan.

As we threw up in unison, the thought came to me: "There is no way I can do anything else today."

Right at that very moment, I heard a couple of lawn mowers start up... It was our home teacher and his son!  They, on their own freewill and obviously inspired by the Holy Ghost,  came to mow our lawn!

Our lot was the biggest one in the whole subdivision, so it was no small gesture to come and do that service.  Not only did they take their calling to serve our family seriously, but the timeliness of their lawn motors revving up couldn't have come at a more perfect moment... my weakest moment of sickness and exhaustion.

I have told this home teacher that he still holds the trophy in our hearts as being the best home teacher we've ever had.  Yes, he served us at miraculous moments; but he and his son also visited our home faithfully each month to teach us sweet lessons of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

... and our neighbors hold a pretty big trophy in our hearts for being so full of the love of Christ.  We love them dearly for sharing that love with us.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Woman's Great Love

Abe was out of town, and I took all the children to Jackson's swim meet for 4 hours.  It was a great meet, but an excruciating, stabbing pain in my stomach caused me to not be able to focus well on anything.

Jayden, as cute as he was, wanted desperately to jump into the pool.  It was a constant struggle for hours to hold him back from the temptation right in front of his eyes.  As I walked around with him, a woman, who I had only barely met, motioned to me to ask if she could hold Juliana. I nodded my approval, and I watched as she played with and amused both of my girls for a couple of hours!  I had been feeling bad for not being able to give more attention to them because of my pain in my stomach and because the constant attention I had to give to baby Jayden.

This woman did not even know my need.  She didn't serve me to be a hero.  She was simply being who God wanted her to be... a woman of great love.  With her beautiful, shining spirit, she stepped out of her comfort zone and asked to give love to another woman's children.  I was and still am touched.

I didn't even talk to her more than a couple of words the entire evening because I was chasing Jayden so much.  I don't even know her name; but when it was time to leave, we couldn't help but embrace each other.  She didn't know how deeply she had served and taught me, but we both knew that a deep bond had taken place.

I thank God for the miracle of the beautiful people HE sends in our direction to touch lives in ways that only Heaven's Power could have directed them to do.  I thank God for this woman's great love.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Weak Can Become Strong!

A few days ago, I was talking to a mother in the foyer of an auditorium during a play.  She had a beautiful, special, little girl who endured multiple seizures after her birth.  The seizures affected her development greatly.  The doctors gave her the prognosis that she would not walk or communicate at all for several years.  I watched this mother's joy as her sweet daughter- just a little over a year old- was already surpassing the doctor's prognosis by communicating the word, "Mama."  The mother is in a stage right now where she believes with all of her heart that miracles can take place- that her daughter can do much more than the doctors once believed- but at the same time, she wonders what the future holds for her precious daughter.

I bore my testimony to her of the power of God to turn weaknesses into strengths.

My oldest son, Jackson, was born with a severe heart condition which required major surgery, lots of faith and prayers, and lots of trauma to his poor little body and spirit.

I often read this scripture to Jackson:

Ether 12:27
 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their   weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

At age 3, Jackson attended special classes to aid his language and social interaction skills.  For years , I had to teach him the basics of how to respond with a yes or no to simple questions and how to respond to people when they were sad or hurt.  Nothing came automatically; it had to be taught and deliberately demonstrated.  After attempting to talk to him, people often expressed their hope that he would talk to them too.  I also hoped the day would come.

Last night we were watching the kids' football game, and a young, married man approached me and said, "Jackson is the most humble boy I have ever met."  He shared with me how kind and compassionate Jackson was with both his scout instructor and the other kids at a recent activity.  He said that Jackson was great to congratulate and encourage the other kids on their achievements.  My heart was touched to know that what was once such a great weakness of social interaction  has actually become his greatest strength... but it came because of his humility in the process.

A few years ago, we made our first annual visit to our new cardiologist here in Michigan.  The lab technician hadn't read the notes on Jackson yet, but specifically commented to me about how advanced Jackson was in his language skills.  I just smiled and thanked him.  About 15 minutes later, the technician came out of the room in shock.  He said, "Wait a minute... I just got done reading his report. It says here that he had delays in his language??  That's amazing!"  I just smiled again and told him how grateful I was for God's help in making that one of his strengths.

This Friday both Jackson and Tyson will be doing something very special with the Kalamazoo Youth Civic Theater program.

This program is ranked number 3 in the nation.  In order to keep such a fantastic program running, they rely on the big donors in the community.  Every year the Civic has a special dinner to thank these donors.  This is the first year that they decided to ask a few of the students to give a speech about their experience with the Civic.  The director asked both Jackson and Tyson to give speeches at this special dinner as the youngest representatives of the program.

Once again, God was allowing me to see that this great weakness was becoming one of his greatest strengths.

When I was a little girl, I was told these stories about Heber J. Grant, the 7th president of our church.  He lived from 1856-1945.  His strong determination to turn his weaknesses into strengths has made him a great hero of mine ever since.

I gathered some of the details of his life from under

Lesson 22: Heber J. Grant—Man of Determination,” The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, 105

*Heber J. Grant was one of the worst players on his baseball team, so he spent hours and hours throwing the baseball until he made the baseball team that won the championship in California, Colorado, and Wyoming.

*Then, Heber J. Grant was made fun of for his horrible handwriting being told that it looked like "hen tracks." He spent so many hours practicing his penmanship, that he eventually became proficient enough to be offered a position to work as a penman in San Francisco.

*My favorite story about Heber J. Grant was his determination to learn how to sing. In this link below, the story of Heber J. Grant learning how to sing is told in even more humorous detail.

As I pondered further upon the miracle of both my son and Heber J. Grant's accomplishments, God opened my mind and heart to the many things that I could possibly accomplish if I would humble myself and apply my faith.  It's a comfort to believe that my thousands of weaknesses can become strengthened.  I’ll start with one at a time believing and knowing that I CAN DO HARD THINGS!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Mother's Day Bike Adventure: Delirious, Stranded, and Blessed!!

In my previous post, I wrote about my excitement to go on an adventurous bicycle ride with Abe and all 6 kids.  It would be 35 miles one way; and although it would be a challenge, this was what I really wanted to do as a family for Mother's Day.

On our way to the trail head, the rain came down hard, and the weather was very chilly... in the 40's.  We were leaving 3 hours later than when we wanted.  I kept telling the children that we could get really cold and wet if we still went.  I asked them over and over again if they still wanted to go; they assured me that they did.  I told them to pray with all the faith they had because the weather was looking pretty severe.

When we arrived at the trailhead, there were a few people who were finishing up a fund-raiser.  The man in charge looked at me and said, "I have to warn you... there is some ugly weather coming in."  I said, "I know, but there's no lightning, right?"  He said, "No, but let me check again."

He pulled out his phone and looked closer at the screen.  He looked up at me and said, "Wow!  That's strange.  It looks like the storm must have turned up north!"  It was still drizzling at this point, but I was so grateful that the bigger storm miraculously made a turn!

I put Juliana on the seat behind me and Jayden in the cart trailing me.  In the cart, I also carried gatorades, sleeping bags, extra clothes for rain, food, and emergency kits.  I had at least 100 lbs in tow.

Abe borrowed a friend's bike... it was a Cruiser- just a little fyi:  A Cruiser is not the kind of bike you want to take on a 35 mile bike ride!  What a special memory Mariah will always have riding behind her daddy for an entire day.  Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, and Mariah carried their own backpacks of extra clothes and a few of their own waters and snacks.  Their bags were heavy and bulky... but they were on an adventure and acting very, very brave.

Before we left, the man gave us some parting advice:

"An adventure isn't an adventure if you know how it's going to turn out in the end, so...


I love adventures, but my first thought was, "I pretty much know how this trip is going to turn out in the end because we have everything all planned out."

Oh the surprises and miracles that would await us!

We got on our bikes prepared for the worst.  Our first surprise/miracle was that the rain completely stopped just as we were getting ready to leave!!

We started down the trail, and I couldn't stop talking about the beauty surrounding us.

After riding for only about 15 minutes, it got even better... 

The clouds actually opened up to blue skies!!  I yelled out, "Blue skies?  Guys!!  Are you kidding?  Do you see those blue skies?"  The blue skies were actually reflecting off the water!  Blue skies were definitely not in the forecast!!  We knew this was surely a message and a miracle from God that HE was with us. That knowledge of God's presence would prove to be a CRUCIAL source for our faith in our upcoming trials.

After only 5 miles, 7 year old Jordan saw a sign that read, "28 miles."  He shouted excitedly, "We're almost there!  We've gone 28 miles!"  I hated to break the news to him that we had more than 28 miles to go!!

The Wind Storm

We were traveling at a decent speed until the path opened up to farm land right at the moment when a wind storm hit.  I couldn't believe how hard I had to push to barely even move a few feet.

We were laughing hysterically at how difficult it was to bike.  I heard everyone yelling, "What's happening to us?"  It was such a strange feeling to not be able to move.

Tyson yelled out, "The wind is defeating me!!"

Jackson shouted wildly, "What is this?  Kansas or something?"

I hardly had any energy to encourage them.  I had to stand and put all of my weight on each peddle to barely move forward.  I was concentrating so hard on moving my 100lb trailer that I didn't see poor Jordan.

I finally looked back, and this is how I found him...

The wind had completely blown him over!  He had rolled over trying to stand up again with his heavy backpack.  I couldn't stop laughing!  We took a 5 minute break after the wind storm to eat some snacks and to recharge all of our poor bodies.

Songs, Prayers, and Animals

After riding for a few hours, I looked over at Abe and said, "You're not smiling very much."  (Mind you, he never wanted to do this bike ride in the first place- he was there to lovingly support his wife.)  

Taking my comment well, my cute husband started to sing his heart out; and in turn, his bicycle tandem partner, Mariah, sang her heart out too.  They sang songs from musicals, and Abe taught her some Elvis songs.  They sang boisterously for several miles!!  

As they sang, I went ahead and traveled alone for a while... I began to pray and to thank God for such a beautiful adventure.  As I took that alone time to talk to God and feel his peace, the pain in my legs went away.  The thought came strongly to me:  "Even though everyone was tired, all would be ok... there were great lessons to be learned and felt."

After my time of pondering with God, I raced ahead to check on the boys... A few miles previously they had been moaning about their backs and legs that were in pain.  I said, "Boys, are you tired?"  They replied, "No, but did you know that if a cheetah runs more than 200 meters, it could die?"  

I couldn't help but laugh.  My family was doing just fine... singing, praying, and talking about animals.  The babies were AMAZING!!  They just talked jibberish and hummed most of the way.  I traded their positions after a while and put Jayden in the seat behind me.  I felt like the angels were by their sides because they were so happy... hour after hour after hour!


At around mile 25 or so, we all started to get really tired again.  We had been biking on rough terrain with heavy bags for over 4 hours.  

Out of the blue, an old lady with doingy butterflies bouncing off her hat, drove down our bike path in a small motorized vehicle.  She drove straight toward us, and Jackson rode his bike straight toward her.  We all yelled at the top of our lungs, "JACKSON!!!!  GET OUT OF THE WAY!!"  He quickly swerved away at the last second.  I said, "Jackson, what were you doing?  Why didn't you move?"  He just kept saying, "There aren't supposed to be motorized vehicles on this path!"  I think he was just REALLY delirious and had entered another world of thought.

Soon after, I watched Jordan turn his wheels off the path and ride straight into the woods!  I was weak from laughing.  We all yelled again, "JORDAN!!!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? "  Once again, I think delirium was the cause.

We decided to take a short snack, drink, and... a potty break- Mariah was taught the ways of the forest by her mother. :-)  As we pressed forward, Tyson informed me that his peddle had broken off about a mile previously.  He had been riding on only the rod that protrudes! I don't know how, but he said he didn't notice he had lost it until about a mile too late.  I felt so bad for him. 

Exhausted, we saw a hill coming up.  I yelled up to the kids, "I CAN DO HARD THINGS!!!"  They yelled back, "I CAN DO HARD THINGS!!"  We repeated this over and over again until we made it to the top of the hill.


As we continued on, we were energized by the beauty of the sun setting and shadowy forests.

We had brought two head lamps, but the extra batteries were left in the car.  I was the only one with the head lamp that worked.  Abe was the caboose and reminded the children often:  "Keep your eyes on Mommy's light."

We were getting so close, and everyone anxiously anticipated each announcement of a mile conquered.  "How many more miles?" was a question I heard at this point about every 5 minutes.  We had already seen one set of beady, glowing eyes in the woods.  We assumed it was a deer, but we pressed forward a little faster anyway.

I called the lady at our campground to tell her that I thought we were about 3 miles away.

From our conversation earlier that day, I was told that the campsite was at the end of the trail off Blue Star Highway.  She told me I couldn't miss it.  I was told there would be a sign pointing the way to go.  She said it was 2/10ths of a mile off the trail at the end.

After we road our bikes another 3 miles and under a highway, I decided to call the campsite again.  It was now 10:20pm.  I told her where we were, and she said nonchalantly, "Oh you passed us 5 miles ago."  

There was no way we could all ride another 5 miles!  We thought we were done!  Our bodies ached, and we were exhausted.  We wouldn't arrive until 11:30 if we were to go back to the campground!  The kids started to cry, and I told them how sorry I was.  Jordan comforted me assuring me that it wasn't my fault.

The only way to the nearest hotels would be to ride along the highway.  That would be entirely too dangerous, so that was not an option either.

Abe took over, put the head lamp on, and led us through a muddy passageway to get to the edge of the highway.  He called hotels and taxi services trying to find a shuttle.  Nobody had anything that could transport all 8 of us with our bikes!!  

Then, with tears dripping out of his little eyes, Tyson said, "Mommy, this isn't a miracle." 

Oh my heart broke to hear him say this; but at the same time, hearing his perspective, I knew that this was exactly where we needed to be.  If everything had gone exactly as planned, there would not have been an opportunity to teach my children that God is still taking care of us even when it seems like everything is going wrong.  

I reminded Tyson that God showed us blue skies when we started our journey to let us know that HE was watching us and taking care of us.  I taught him that this was the perfect opportunity for him to put his faith in God, and I encouraged him to keep watching for God's miracles. 

It was cold.  It was late.  It was dark.  Coyotes howled in the distance. We didn't know anybody close by.  We had been on the trail now for over 6 hours, and here we were standing on the side of the highway trying to come up with a solution... but we knew that God was with us, and we would find a way.


 One of our apostles, Elder David A. Bednar, said this in the October, 2007 issue of the Friend magazine:

"One of the primary purposes of mortality is to learn- to gain knowledge and intelligence.  Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 states, 'The glory of God is intelligence.' ...The real value of learning is that it enables you in any situation to be resourceful- to figure out what to do when you have no idea what to do!"

The best thing we knew how to do at this point was to pray.  We gathered together as a family, and Abe gave the most beautiful prayer for our family.  

I suggested that we call someone from our church.  Our church has a website ( which gives us the local leaders' phone numbers.  We did not even know the leaders here, but we called anyway.  We're a worldwide family in Christ ready to help each other- members or not.  

Abe called the 2nd counselor to the Branch President.  His wife answered a little warily- we were calling after 11pm after all.  Abe explained our problem, and they promised to come right away to rescue us.  

As we waited, I felt an overwhelming love for my champion, Abe.

I was overjoyed to know that help was coming.

Happy little Jackson never complained about anything.

Sweet little Tyson's tender heart was trying to find his hope again.

Tough little Jordan rode his bike like a champ and was completely exhausted.

Beautiful little Mariah laid down to rest while we waited.  She smiled knowing that help was coming.

Cute little Juliana- so cozy in the cart- had no stress in the world.

...and precious little Jayden slept ever so soundly- oblivious to the happenings around him.

After about only 15 more minutes, we saw the happiest sight!  Two cars- after the hundreds- pulled over to the side of the highway.  The counselor, his son, and his son's friend came to help us.  The kids and I went with the counselor, and Abe traveled with the 2 teenage boys in their car to return to get a suburban for our bikes.  

When the kids and I entered the hotel, the manager passed out treats and drinks to all of my children and informed us we would have a free, hot, big, all-you-can-eat breakfast in the morning... that was MUCH better than our campground had to offer!  She had lowered the price of our room to be only 5 more dollars than our cabin would have cost.

Jayden, Juliana, and Mariah literally bounced around the hotel room with excitement while the older boys collapsed on the beds and floor.  Abe returned shortly after with all of the bikes and the rest of our luggage, and by around 1:30am we all finally got to sleep.  

The Miracles Continued at Church

I lay in bed Saturday night and mulled over all the options of how to get ourselves home the next day.  I knew the kids were too exhausted to make the now 37 mile bike trip back home from the hotel after such a late and extended trip. Tyson's pedal was gone, and their bodies needed more sleep.  I told Abe I could ride back by myself and get the van.  It didn't think it would be as hard on the return without the trailer.  He refused that idea.  I considered calling friends with big vans who we could pay to come pick us up... but we didn't want to bother them on Mother's Day.

Finally, I told God that I was having a hard time asking for more help because I was the one who caused this mess.  I asked HIM to help us solve our problem again.  I was awakened the very next morning with a phone call from the 2nd Counselor offering a solution.  He had been in a meeting already that morning with other church leaders.  He wanted to take us all to church that morning and then take Abe to our van in Kalamazoo after Sacrament meeting.  He insisted on helping and offered with so much love in his voice that I couldn't help but humble myself and accept his help.  

We ate our wonderful, hot breakfast and all went to church in our sweatsuits.  We tried to be inconspicuous in the back, but the Branch President welcomed us and asked Abe to stand.  Because of Stake Conference the week before, it was testimony meeting. 

Jackson, Jordan, and Mariah all walked to the front of the church in their sweats to bear their testimonies.  Then, I felt the Spirit speak deep within my heart, and I knew that I, too, needed to stand and bear my testimony.  

I apologized for my attire and watched the reassuring smiles from several members letting me know that they were just glad we were there no matter what we looked like.  I cried as I shared the miracles from God.

During the Sunday school class, a brother made a comment that he knew we were supposed to miss our turn to the campground.  He proceeded to say that there was a particular family that needed to hear our testimonies that day.  They were learning about the church, and this was the 1st Sunday they had come in almost 2 months.  Then, with all the faith in the world, this brother approached me privately and said, "When I said that this family was supposed to hear your testimonies, I felt the Spirit very strong, so I know it's true."  

Then, the wife and children of the 2nd Counselor told me how valuable of an experience it was for their teenager and his friend to have that opportunity to serve.  The friend, who does not go to church, kept asking the counselor, "Now, how did they get your phone number?  Who are these people?"  These boys followed the perfect example of charity that this father set as he served complete strangers in the middle of the night.   And the counselor's son??  Well, he is leaving to be a missionary in Chile in only 2 short months.  He will serve his Savior well.

Amazing Lessons Learned!!

On the way home, I asked each of the children what they learned from the experience:

*Jordan said, "I learned to just keep going and never quit!!  Call the church!  Even when you're stuck in a tiger's cage, call the church!"

*Tyson said, "I learned that God has his hands in everything, and I learned to keep going no matter what."

*Jackson said, "I learned to not mess with mother nature."

*Mariah said, "I learned to keep going; and even though I hurt, I can keep going."  

Would these children have learned these lessons so deeply if all had gone as planned?  Absolutely not.  Was the extra exhaustion worth the opportunity that we had to exercise more faith?  Most definitely.  

I have learned and accepted that more often than not, things do not go as planned, but we can count on the fact that God is ALWAYS working miracles in our lives.  HE sees the grander picture.