Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wisdom from a Farmer

A big financial stress just unexpectedly hit our family.  A few days ago, I felt inspired to make an inquiry via email at a blueberry farm to find out more details about possible, seasonal employment.

I never heard a response, so I figured that wasn't the direction I was supposed to go.  I inquired because I wanted God to know that I was absolutely willing to do anything HE asked of me.

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my children to come out of play practice, I received a return call from the manager of the blueberry farm.  After I asked a lot of questions, the farmer caught on to the fact that I must be rather new to this line of work.  He said, "You understand this is farm work, right?"  I assured him I understood and that I am a really hard worker.

He continued to politely answer my questions; but before he hung up the phone, he paused a moment.  Then, out of the blue, he began to express his great faith in God's love for me and my family.

This man knew absolutely nothing about me.  All he knew was that I needed to make some money.  He didn't know of the depth of the financial stresses that had just hit our family.  He didn't know how many children we have.  He didn't even know if I believed in God!

... yet he continued to share comforting words of God's great love for me and my family.  He told me God was watching out for us and would take care of us.

As he spoke, I became silent.

Tears rolled uncontrollably down my face as I listened.  I couldn't tell him how inspired he was during such a difficult time and how his words felt like a direct message from God.  My soul was so overcome that I couldn't speak anything at all to this man except for a quiet thank you.

I was so grateful for his encouraging words that I wanted to be more like him.  I asked myself if I could share my testimony of Christ even more boldly to those around me.  I thought, "Maybe if I pause for a moment, I too can be guided by the Holy Ghost to uplift someone in their time of need- even if I never know the good it will have done."  I'm thankful this man had the courage to speak his testimony to a complete stranger... to me... never to know of its impact.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Boldly Hugging!!

There is an elderly woman who has openly expressed her dislike of the fact that we chose to move into her neighborhood last year with all our children.  When I went to her door to let her know we would be happy to help her with any special needs, she stated that she did not want visitors... or any help.

We have attempted to do many things to show our love for her, and we could see her softening bit by bit... but we were still frightened if we ever had to go to her door.  Her adult son warned us not to do so as well.

A few weeks ago, I sent the children around to several neighbors with some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.   I had one bag left and told Tyson to very sweetly take some to this woman.  He was gone for quite a while, and I waited anxiously to hear how it went.

Tyson finally burst into the door grinning ear to ear with a bag of individual ice cream cups and another cute, little baggie of plastic spoons in his hands.  Not only did she like the bag of cookies, but she also gave us a treat in return!

We continued to wave to her and smile at her as the weeks passed.

Our trampoline is right in plain view of her window, and the children often go out there to read to each other.  I told the children that she was watching their behavior, and that they must set a good example.

Then, just a few days ago, I was returning from a long bike ride with the kids.  I looked across the street, and this woman was standing on her doorstep and motioning for me to come to her door.  I hesitated for a moment with fear.  I wondered what I had done wrong and didn't really want to hear it.

When I reached her doorstep, I discovered she wasn't angry with me at all.  On the contrary, she told me some jokes and made me rehearse those jokes back to her so that I would pass them on to the children correctly! :)

She actually told me how wonderful my children were!!  I wondered what had happened to cause this transformation in her perspective towards our family.

As we continued to chat, Jordan walked up her driveway.  She said, "Is he the one who gave me a hug?"

Jordan politely corrected her and said it was Tyson.  I didn't even know Tyson had hugged her!! What a brave little kid!

Today, this woman called me to her door again...

She told me another joke to pass on to the children and then invited me into her home and showed me pictures of her family!!  She went to her back room and brought out a book she had owned since 1958!!  It was a special book in perfect condition which contained all the legendary fairy tales and stories most of us grew up hearing. She said she had saved it all these years to give to someone who would actually read to her children.  I felt very honored to be receiving the book and thanked her for her kindness.

As I prepared to leave her house, Mariah walked up to her door this time.  I showed the special gift to Mariah, and then Mariah gave her a hug too!  This woman, my new friend, held on to Mariah for a very, very long time.

I don't know if I have ever seen somebody cherish a hug the way she cherished Mariah's hug.  Her arms seemed to melt around Mariah's little back.  As she pulled her arms back, she quietly said, "I don't get hugs anymore.  Nobody hugs me."  My heart melted as I considered the loneliness and perhaps anger I would feel in my life if I had nobody to hug me either.

I knew she really wanted the hugs from the innocent children, but I wrapped my arm around her as well.  I could not believe what I was experiencing.  This woman, who deliberately tried to push us away from her life, was actually hugging us.  I never would have guessed that she would have needed or have even wanted a hug!  I thank God for the innocence of children who love so boldly- with no inhibitions. :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

11 Children & the Sacrament

As I sat in church today, I looked down my row of many children...

Abe is still out of town; it was just me and 11 kids ages 16, 11, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, & 1.

Some of the children were mine, some were children we brought, and some were children who came without their parents.

We were sitting on the second row right in the center isle.  (I'll actually rethink that location next week.) I didn't want to draw any attention to us, so I was working hard to keep everyone reverent.  Baby Jayden drew the most attention.  He sported a big gash across his forehead and a recovering busted lip.  Jayden is a constant ball of energy which includes many mishaps.  He sees life as a constant party, and it is intense business trying to trick him into believing that sitting on my lap during church is where the party really is.

The sacramental prayers were said, and we partook of the bread and the water.  I busily made sure the babies didn't take a whole handful of bread or pour the water on someone's lap as I reminded the older ones to sit up with respect and not lean their heads on the pew in front of them.

After I passed the tray down, Jordan leaned over to tell me something.  I almost hushed him but decided to listen.  Jordan said, "Jayden is perfect right now."  Thinking he was referring to Jayden as being perfect because he's a baby, I said, "Yep!  He sure is!'

Jordan continued, "...and you are perfect right now too."  Already feeling the weight of every child's irreverence, I knew it would take a big, giant stretch for anyone's imagination to picture me anywhere even remotely close to a state of perfection.  I already felt like a million eyes were on our busy row.  I looked at him a bit strange, and he continued on in a whisper, "You just took the sacrament, so right now you're perfect."  (We believe we have the opportunity to renew our baptismal covenants every time we sincerely take the sacrament.)

Jordan is not even baptized yet; he turns 8 years old in October.  Just yesterday, I thought in my mind, "I remember my older boys showing signs of spiritual maturity as they neared their baptismal age of 8 years old.  I wonder if Jordan will do the same."

What a miracle that my little Jordan spoke of such an understanding of the sacrament and baptismal covenants less than a day after I had the question in my mind.  I always knew he would want to be baptized, but his ability to pay extra close attention to the covenant involved took his understanding to another level. Here he was reminding me of my baptismal covenants.

Immediately after he spoke his message, an enormous shift in my perspective took place; realization and remembrance of the purpose of the sacrament replaced my busy thoughts, and I felt hope and renewal!!

I physically sat up taller!  I didn't need to hold on to my mistakes of the past week.  I could release them to my Savior at that very moment; and with a bright future ahead of me, I could try even harder to be a tad closer to who my Savior intended me to be.  That physically strengthening shift of perspective was a miracle to me!

In the June 2010 Ensign, the visiting teaching message teaches a sweet message:

We Renew Our Baptismal Covenants through the Sacrament

“When we are baptized, we take upon ourselves the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Taking upon us His name is one of the most significant experiences we have in life. …
“Each week in sacrament meeting we promise to remember the atoning sacrifice of our Savior as we renew our baptismal covenant. We promise to do as the Savior did—to be obedient to the Father and always keep His commandments. The blessing we receive in return is to always have His Spirit to be with us.” 2

If I take the sacrament with the proper attitude and preparation, I am becoming whole and perfected in Christ.

I read an article from the January 1978 Ensign which better explained our weekly efforts towards our goal to be like Christ.  It is entitled, "The Sacrament and Covenant Making" by W. Cole Durham Jr.

"Once we begin to think of the sacrament as a time when we renew our covenants by bringing a renewed and ever-deeper offering of humility, action, and increasing commitment, we realize that learning to partake of the sacrament in the fullest sense requires far more than passive participation in the sacrament each Sunday. It is a task that reaches out and comprehends all aspects of our lives. That is not surprising. The covenants renewed by the sacrament ultimately demand that we render our “whole souls as an offering unto [Christ].” (Omni 1:26.)
But it can be an overwhelming prospect, until we realize that the sacrament itself is designed to carve up the process of perfection into manageable week-long segments. The task of learning to partake of the sacrament thus fuses with the challenge of perfection. It is a means that allows the Lord to take us by the hand, cleanse our souls, lighten our burdens, and lead us in his ways. In this sense, learning to partake becomes a matter of learning to respond through faith to the transforming power of the Lord’s atonement.
Conceived in this way, the sacrament becomes a dynamic process of covenant-making—of remembrance and recommitment that helps us in our upward struggle toward perfection. The process becomes a way of answering affirmatively the piercing question asked by Alma: “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26; italics added.) Speaking to precisely this issue, King Benjamin taught his people that it is through remembering God and showing steadfast commitment that we become capable of always feeling the redeeming love of which Alma spoke: “If ye have known of [God’s] goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceeding great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of [the atonement] which is to come. …"

I believe in the power of baptism, and I believe in the power of the sacrament and in remembering my Savior's infinite sacrifice and partnership made possible through baptism.  I believe in Christ.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Little Angel in the Night

Last night I had a horrible dream about some stresses that are already in my mind.  The dream actually caused me a lot of anxiety.  I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if it all actually happened!  I had to literally sit up to try to figure out what was reality and what was not.

You see... for people like me who feel things very deeply, it's a difficult process to let go of the emotion once it has entered our souls- even if it is just a dream!!  It's silly; I know!

My husband was out of town, and I was feeling so distressed from this awful dream that I could hardly sleep.  I tossed and turned from my anxiety.  Moments later, I heard the pitter patter of my little Juliana's feet.  I listened closely wondering where she was going.

She soon appeared by my side. She didn't speak a word; she just nestled next to me and hugged me.  Juliana Rain is the queen of cuddling and has always had such a calm, cleansing little spirit; she was the perfect one to soothe my soul.

I don't know why she came into my room at that very moment.  Juliana gets up early in the morning sometimes to cuddle, but it's VERY rare for her to get up during the night.  She felt like a little angel sent by God to soothe a mother's troubled heart.

In yesterday's post, I wrote about God helping me with my stress at the moment I needed it.  What I find touching is that our Heavenly Father continues to comfort and guide us along as we truly need it.  Although HE wants us to develop more faith in HIM, HE knows it's a process and helps nurture our ability to apply that faith in HIM.

As I wrote this story, "my little angel in the night" came up to me dressed like this.  :-)  Oh my sweet little angel.  I'm thankful for the many ways God sends us comfort and love.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Steps of Faith

We are facing a difficulty as a family right now, and I had been feeling a little bit defeated by the steps of faith we would need to take to try to resolve our problem.

I sat down and opened a spiritually-based magazine entitled the "Ensign."  The magazine I opened was from a few years back, and the story I opened to was one I had never read before.

As I read the title, I tilted my head back and thought, "Am I reading this right?"  The title of the story had the exact words of the struggle I was facing!  I couldn't believe it!

I read the article knowing God had guided me to it, and I took the advice within knowing God's hand was close by.  Having that knowledge of God's closeness is helping me greatly with the sacrifices we are needing to make in the pathway to our resolution.

I hold on tight to these small little miracles because by these small moments of recognizing God's hand, shall great things come to pass.  I believe it, and I put all my faith in that comforting thought!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two Little Cherubs

Yesterday evening, a member of our church congregation informed me that they drove by my house while 2 of my "cherubs" were standing on the hood of our van trying to fish onto the roof of the house!! (Tyson and Mariah being those "cherubs")

The day before that, I caught Tyson being a little too creative with Jayden, Jayden's toy car he rides in, a long strap, and a bike... need I say more?

The older my boys get, the more creative their "ideas" have become... which scares me to say the least.  I allow my children to express their independence and creativity, but I also work double-time trying to balance that out with safety!!

As I tucked my little Mariah into bed last night, she looked up at me and said, "Jesus feels my pain."

I told her she was right and asked her how she knew that.

Mariah responded, "During scripture study with Tyson.  He said that Jesus feels all my pain- like if I burn my finger on the stove- he feels that pain too."

With my heart swelling with love that my dear children were teaching each other so well, I quietly walked to Tyson's room and asked him if he had scripture study with Mariah earlier that day.

He gave the absolute sweetest smile and said, "Oh yeah...  While we were on the trampoline I was reading to her in Alma (of the Book of Mormon) about Jesus's sacrifice.  I told her Jesus suffered for all of our pains.  Then Mariah asked if he even suffered for the pain on her knee.  (She had fallen off her bike earlier that day.)  I told her HE even felt the pain on her knee."

My heart swelled, and I wrapped my arms around Tyson as tight as I could and thanked him for teaching his sister so well.

In light of Tyson's other rambunctious ideas, I was overjoyed to know he had carried out such a deeply spiritual idea as well.  Because their relationship was so sincere, Mariah listened closely to the message of Jesus that Tyson wanted to teach her.

One of my greatest prayers is for my children to be forever friends and always spiritually minded.  I spend most of my days listening to the tones my children speak to each other, and I try hard to halt any rough talk to each other in the moment it takes place.  It is definitely tiring sometimes, but I'm grateful that God allowed me to see that it is all worth it.

God gave me a beautiful tender mercy to know that my efforts for peace and spirituality are not in vain.  Moreover, none of our efforts are in vain when God is by our side magnifying those efforts. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Latter Day Pioneers!

We live in Michigan now; but about 7 years ago, we moved from Missouri to Eagle Mountain, Utah to a home that I had never before seen.  My husband, Abe, had bought it as an investment property, and we never planned on living in the home.

Shortly before moving there, we discovered fees had accrued because the backyard was unfinished.  Unfinished was an understatement!  It was a beautiful home, but the backyard was full of pokey weeds and sagebrush on rocky- hard, sloped soil.  In addition, lots of mice made this untouchable backyard their safe haven from humans.  Yuck!

We had a lot of work to do, and the homeowner’s association gave us only a few short weeks to get it done or else more fees would accrue.

We had 3 little boys at the time, and baby Jordan was usually strapped to my back as Abe and I cleared out the brush and shoveled rocks day after day after day…

One night a neighbor from across the street came to shovel with us until well after midnight!  They eventually became some of our best friends.  As we worked, a next- door neighbor lovingly called out her window periodically to see if we needed cookies or treats... we usually did! :-)

One day a whole family from down the street spontaneously showed up at our house with shovels.  They stood in our backyard and yelled out to us that they were there to shovel, so we better come out.  We laughed so hard with joy!  We donned our shoveling clothes and joined our happy helpers.  Of course our project would have been finished a lot sooner if we had the right machines, but we also wouldn’t have witnessed these amazing people!

Amongst the rocks and sagebrush, we also had a lot of displaced, giant boulders.  We absolutely needed an excavator for this job, but Abe would be out of town on the weekend we would need to use it. 

Still afraid to actually ask neighbors for help, I rented the excavator, asked a lot of questions at the rental facility, brought it home, and started maneuvering the boulders by myself!  That is some tricky business!!  I successfully moved a couple boulders across the yard, but I trembled with fear the entire way as the excavator rocked back and forth with the weight of the boulder! 

After witnessing my distressed look from her window, a neighbor called an expert a few streets away to assist me.  Thank goodness!  He showed up at our house and efficiently finished my boulder project in half the time it would have taken me.

The next day, even more neighbors showed up again to help us finish our yard.  I was in shock because these people hardly knew us!  I couldn’t believe they were serving in this way.  I still  have the hardest time asking people for help, but these wonderful saints didn’t wait for me to ask.  They just kept showing up! 

I was so excited about all the help that I forgot to eat.  As I struggled through my hypoglycemic fog and swirling brain, I shouted, “Oh my gosh! Where’s my baby!!??!!” 

I looked around the yard in a frantic sweep before a cute teenager shouted with laughter, “You’re holding him!”  I turned to my little Jordan and realized he was comfortably positioned on my hip the whole time.  Thank goodness not too many people heard me.  Wow!   I knew I needed a break and some food after that episode!

When it came time to lay the sod, even more neighbors than before showed up and started working all over our yard.  To me, it looked like a sea of people!

I think now about that experience, and I wonder if maybe that was the way the pioneers looked as they rebuilt their homes over and over again in Ohio, Missouri, Nauvoo, and finally in Utah… a sea of serving hands coming together in a common cause… and in a spirit of unity.  That unity and their faith in God must have been the only way they were able to endure the hardship of leaving their homes and starting over so many times. 

Today is Pioneer Day... the day we celebrate and show gratitude for the pioneers who faced so many trials as they walked all the way to Utah in search of religious freedom.

May God bless the pioneers of old, and may God bless the latter day pioneers across the world who valiantly stand strong in their beliefs and who lovingly work together to ease the burdens of their neighbors!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Conversion Stories

Young and old, our conversions are never over!  We hold tight to what we know to be true and allow God to convert us even more!  My older children recently shared their stories of their conversions with me.  The simplicity of their hearts and experiences brought me closer to my Savior, so I share them with you…

Jordan’s Testimony of Prayer (age 5):

 “I was in my room, and it was really dark.  I started feeling not good, and then I prayed to have a good feeling, and I felt good… and one night I kept thinking about what if the church isn’t true… and then I all of a sudden knew that the church is true.   The Holy Ghost told me.  It’s like I felt something saying that the church was true in my mind… and since that night, I haven’t thought that the church isn’t true in my whole life.” 

Tyson’s Testimony of the Temple (age 9)

In November, our baby Jayden was officially adopted into our family for time and for all eternity.  When I asked Tyson about his testimony of the gospel he said, “When I was being sealed to my brother, I could feel something warm around me.   That warm feeling was telling me the church was true.  I loved being in the room with the 2 mirrors where we could see our everlasting family.  I like the feeling of the Holy Ghost.” 

Jackson’s Testimony of the Scriptures (age 11):

“One night as I was reading (the scriptures) and praying in my bed, I decided to ask God if it was true… and I felt a tingling in my back.  I knew it was true... also every night I feel the Holy Ghost.” 

Mariah’s Testimony of Love and Babies (age 5):

 “I love how the love comes over me to watch the babies.  I’m so grateful that I’m a teacher to the babies.  My testimony is that Jesus loves me, and HE died on the cross for me.”

I believe there are defining moments in our lives when we know truth has entered our hearts.  I also believe God continues to give us moments throughout each day to nurture that testimony of truth within our hearts.

Staying Committed

As I began to read a story about a Mormon pioneer woman this morning who, despite her many trials, remained committed to the gospel throughout her life, the Spirit prompted me to read the story to my children instead.  I went downstairs and gathered them for story and discussion time.  As I read, we spent an extra long time discussing the principles of the gospel and the history of our church.  I talked to them about doubts or worries that they might have.  I talked to them about how to cultivate their testimonies and how to stay committed to their families and the gospel as children and as adults.   I even told them that they were quite young to be learning about the gospel with such depth, but I felt like their spirits were ready for it because they would be leaders in the Lord's kingdom.

The oldest boys had a lot of questions and seemed surprised by the challenging, hypothetical situations I presented to them about commitment within the gospel and within their future homes.  I asked them what they would do if days after they were married, their wife was in a terrible accident.  Would they stay committed to her even though that might mean a loss of hopes and dreams they once had?  They immediately explained the wonderful places they would take her in a wheel chair as they continued to stay committed.

This important knowledge I was trying to share was interspersed with cereal flying all over the carpet, the little girls rolling all over each other, and boys  periodically diving off the couch.  Eventually, my message was delivered, and we gathered in a circle on bended knee for family prayer... but not before the two youngest took one last opportunity to giggle and roll all over each other... which erupted into laughter from everyone.

We closed up our family study, and I went to the bathroom.  While in there for my moment of peace, I heard Jackson yelling my name throughout the house.  I kept responding, but he didn't hear me.  I felt a little frustrated, and responded even louder, "Jackson!  I'm in the bathroom!  What do you want?"

He tapped on the door, cracked it open, and quietly said, "I just wanted to tell you thank you... that was really fun."  Quite humbled by his sincerity I told all the children I would try harder to have longer, more meaningful scripture/gospel study times like that every day."

I tear up now as I realize the power of the Spirit on their young, impressionable minds and souls and am inspired by their eagerness to learn.  I honestly never want to miss another opportunity to start the day off feeding all of our souls with the more in-depth messages God puts into our hearts.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"HE was there."


Today, we took a temple trip to Detroit- 2 hours away.  We were very excited to go.  
Mariah and Juliana dressed themselves in pretty skirts in their excitement for "temple day."

We packed books, balls, food, drinks, and extra clothes for the baby.  On the way to the car, I realized I didn't have a temple recommend because it had been in my stolen wallet back in June!!  What a disappointment!

In our church, when we are ready to make deeper covenants and commitments to the Lord, we have an interview with our Bishop (who is our pastor of our congregation/ward) and then our Stake President (who is the president over several congregations/wards within the area).  Then we receive a recommend to enter the Lord's holy house which is our temple.

So, here I was without a recommend.  I was sad, but at least my husband would be able to go to the temple.  I decided I would wait outside the temple with the children and feel the peace of the temple on the grounds.

Everything was packed in the van, all the children were in their seats, I was in the passenger seat, and the car was running... and we waited... and waited... and waited...  Abe wasn't coming out.  We had to be in Detroit by a certain time, and we were rapidly running out of time!

I returned to the house and found Abe frantically looking all over his desk for his recommend.  I said, "Abe, have you said a prayer?"  He said he had not.  I sat on the stairs and said a long prayer asking God to please help him to find his recommend.

I knew God already understood our situation, but I explained it to HIM anyway.  In my pleading prayer I said, "Heavenly Father, there aren't too many weekends that we can drive to the temple as a family, and I already can't go into the temple this time.  We're already packed.  Please... can at least one of us be able to bring the blessings of temple worship to our family and into our home? Will you please help Abe find his recommend?"

I finished my prayer and told Abe I was going back to the van to check on the kids.  I explained to the children that we had a problem finding Daddy's recommend.  I started to get out of the car to go help him look some more, and there was Abe locking up the house.  He had found his recommend!!  He climbed in the drivers seat, and I looked at him with a big smile and said, "Did you say a prayer?"

He assured me he did and that he found his recommend before I had reached the bottom of the stairs.  Jackson said he too had said a prayer seconds before Abe had walked out of the house.

I told Abe that God must have wanted him to make it to the temple today.  Abe wisely responded, "God wanted me to know HE was there." true true

Isn't that the whole reason HE gives us these "Daily Miracles" and "Tender Mercies?"

God wants us to know HE is there.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Abe's Courage

Almost three years ago we moved to Michigan for a new job.  It paid well, and it was a consistent pay check.  We were grateful to be able to pay off our debt, but the hours were horrible!  It was the norm for Abe to leave for work at 5:30 in the morning and not return until 1:30am.  Abe had to regularly drive across the entire southern portion of Michigan several times a week visiting kids in their homes.  He was a recruiter for a technical school.

Last spring, his job offered him a transfer position in Chicago- which was a coveted location because of the possibility to be closer to one of the main campuses.  The catch was that he would have to live in Chicago without us for 3-4 months.  He would not be allowed to visit us in Michigan, and we would only be allowed to visit him if his numbers were where the company wanted them.  

Abe turned down this offer and knew his superiors wondered about his loyalty to the company to turn down such a position.  He immediately began building on another business; and a few weeks later, he felt like it was time to quit his job and work full time in this other business.  This business would only offer a partial base pay and partial commission.  I felt uneasy about it all but supported Abe's decisions.  The support on my behalf for Abe to quit his job came but not easily because I love the security of a regular paycheck.

Yesterday, now months after Abe has been working this new job, I was lying on the couch and feeling a bit of anxiety over our current financial situation.  We still had food, gas, and were paying the bills, but I had a lot of questions about what would happen in the very near future.  Payments were not coming as we had hoped, and I began to pray intensely with worry.  I asked God for some direction and some understanding of our financial future.  I asked HIM very strongly for an answer.  

Right in the middle of my prayer, Abe called.  The timing of his phone call shocked me, and I was certain that because of my prayer he was calling with fantastic news that a check had finally come in.  Instead, Abe called to tell me that one of his co-workers from his old job had just been fired by the company.  His friend had no warning... in fact he was told by the company that they would only be assessing his current productivity over the next 60 days.  It had only been a few days; and because he had been hitting his numbers, he didn't see this coming at all.  Now... he had only a few short weeks to try to find other employment.  With no severance package, he and his family were facing a great deal of frustration, stress, and worry.

As I listened to Abe tell about his friend, the thought came very strongly to me that Abe would have been in the same situation had he not followed the Spirit in his efforts to find and build on a new occupation at the time that he did.  To me, it seemed like craziness to give up a well-paying job.  To Abe, he knew he was given the inspiration to righteously lead and financially care for his family, so he moved forward with courage.  He did something that did not seem like the smart choice by most, but he did it because he felt like that was what he should do at that time.

That phone call did 2 things for me:

1)  It gave me more confidence in my husband's decisions.

2)  It gave me more confidence in God's hand in our future as well.

I trust my husband as the head of our home, and I most certainly trust God as the ONE guiding my husband's righteous actions.  I thank God for answering my prayer and for helping me to see more clearly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jo Jo's Prayer & the "Wall of Death"

I just returned from a gorgeous, 2 night camping trip on Lake Michigan with several other women and our children... and no husbands- the no husband part was sad. :(

We had a special little miracle along the way because of my little JoJo's faith.

Our Miracle

On our drive to the campground, we saw the clouds darkening around us.  Jo Jo said, "Do we really have to drive through that wall of death?"

"I'm afraid so Jordan!" I answered.

As we entered the "wall of death," the rain pounded hard and lightning flashed around us.  My windshield wipers worked overtime to keep us on the road.  I could see a clearing off in the distance, so I was still hopeful for a sunny camping trip.

After only a couple of minutes of the storm, my windshield wiper snapped off and started to flail around the windshield providing absolutely no help from the "wall of death!"  We were driving on a country road.  I knew I needed to stop, but I could hardly even see where to stop. 

Still unable to see much of anything, I pulled into a driveway and sat in my car for a moment.

This windshield wiper had fallen off on a previous trip with Abe when we hit a rainstorm.  He had pulled over at a gas station to put it on and spent about 15 minutes trying to figure it out.  I remember sitting nice and dry in the passenger seat thinking how happy I was that I didn't have to try to figure that out because I do not have a good brain for fixing anything.  

I often work for hours trying to solve a problem only to have Abe come home and solve the issue in moments, so I just don't even waste my time trying anymore!  I was worried because if it took Abe, the problem-solving master, 15 minutes to fix the windshield wiper... how long would it take me???

Well... here I was... stuck in lightning and a serious downpour.  I waited for a moment, mustered up some courage, and attempted the seemingly impossible.  Because I was honestly worried about the lightning, I tried to just hang my body out of the window, so that most of my body could stay inside the van.  That obviously wasn't going to work, so I sucked it up and did it right.  I ventured out into the storm.

In complete shock, I fixed it in about 30 seconds!!  I ran back into the van, and Jordan shouted out, "You did it!!  I said a prayer that you would be able to fix it!"  I shouted back, "Thank you so much!  I said a prayer too!  Your prayer helped!"

We drove on for about 5 more minutes, and the windshield wiper flew off again!  I very slowly found another driveway, got out of the car, and fixed the wiper again.  This time I pushed really hard on the attachment.  The moment I re-entered the car all the children shouted excitedly, "I said a prayer again that you could fix it!!!"  I assured them again that it was their prayers that gave Mommy the ability to fix the windshield wiper.

The windshield wiper stayed intact the rest of the way to the campground.  We felt blessed.  The storm cleared up, and the children and I promptly spent the rest of the evening splashing in the waters of Lake Michigan.  

I'm grateful that God's hand is in the resolution of the little problems that arise in our daily lives.  I'm also grateful for the faith and excitement the children have when experiencing God's miracles.

The following are pictures that I share purely for inspiration for you to come visit!!  Michigan is one of this nation's best hidden secrets!!  

We camped in the woods... 

...walked a short distance along picturesque trails... 

...which opened up to THIS!!

It felt like our own private beach... with a few friends. :-)

The children awoke early in the morning and explored the beach all day long...

 ...until the sun set.

We returned to camp and said a family prayer thanking God for HIS love and for our safety.... God is good.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Concussion & Sympathy Pains

My 3 oldest boys wrestled in a tournament this weekend.  Jackson started wrestling in January, but this was Tyson and Jordan's very first wrestling match of their lives.

My boys are not part of the wrestling clubs because most of their tournaments are on Sundays; and since we don't wrestle on Sundays, the boys were at a huge disadvantage for not having that experience.  They soon discovered that the majority of wrestlers at the summer tournaments were quite intense.  They wrestle all year long and even traveled from other states to come to this tournament.

This tournament was one of the few that would fall on a Saturday, so my boys really wanted a chance to compete!  They had been wrestling each other, working out with high schoolers, and training with Abe and the middle school coach.  They felt ready and psyched!

Tyson is 9 years old but had to wrestle a 12 year old!  His opponent had been wrestling for 4 years!

Jordan is 7 years old but had to wrestled a 10 year old!  His opponent had been wrestling for 6 years!

At such young ages, 3 years creates a big gap in ability and strength.

Both Tyson and Jordan wrestled from deep within their guts... they wrestled with passion and with drive.  They fought with all they had, but they had no idea how tough their opponents would be.  Tyson almost pinned his opponent once, but poor Tyson and Jordan were pinned 4 out of their 5 matches.  Both boys finished their matches with tears in their eyes.

These two boys took some time alone to ponder their defeats and returned begging for another chance.   Their loss was dramatic, but their drive to keep trying had not left them.

Jackson had the same drive; he also wrestled a kid older and more experienced than he was.

Jackson stepped onto the mat with confidence but faced a competitor like he had never seen before.  Jackson's opponent picked him up and threw him down on his head!  The referee looked extremely concerned at Jackson and asked him if he was ok.  Jackson lay there for a moment and then nodded his head.  Jackson rarely cries from pain; but with tears in his eyes, my brave little boy walked slowly to the middle of the mat to take more of a beating from his opponent.

Within a few seconds, the boy twisted Jackson's body and contorted it in such a way that his legs were over his head, and it looked as if Jackson's neck would snap.  He was pinned.

My heart broke for him, and Jackson came to me looking a bit dazed...

He said when the boy threw him down, he saw stars and blacked out for a few seconds.  He was still dizzy and nauseated, and only wanted to lie down and rest.  These were all clear signs for a mild concussion!

I prayed for my little Jackson while we waited for the medic to come.  At the same time that the medic performed tests on Jackson, my own head began to throb, and I felt more and more dizzy.  I felt like everything was closing in on me!!

I pushed my pains away and tried to only focus on Jackson.  The medic advised Jackson not to wrestle the rest of his matches.  He was definitely done for the day.

Abe drove us home; it was only an hour away.  I sat in the car and gave myself a deep neck rub.  I was trying to get my head ache to go away.  I couldn't believe my precious son was enduring a mild concussion, and I could hardly function because of my own head pain!  I ate lots of food and drank lots of water trying to fix what was happening to me.  Nothing helped.

After a few minutes on the road, I couldn't last any longer, I slumped into a deep sleep in the van.  I don't even know the last time I fell asleep in the van when it wasn't on a long trip across the country!  When we pulled in our driveway, Jackson was the only one who wasn't asleep!  How could that be?  How could he be doing so well... even better than the rest of us?

Once in the house, Abe placed his hands on Jackson's head and administered a sacred prayer called a priesthood blessing for Jackson's well-being.  I felt peace and gratitude knowing that God was with my husband and my little boy.

Jackson seemed to be functioning fairly well, so we sent  him to bed; I promised to check on him through the night.  We kissed all the children goodnight, and I wondered why my head was still throbbing so intensely.

I finally realized what was happening to me.  It wasn't my lack of food or sleep... I was feeling pain for Jackson.   Does that sound strange?  It might to someone who has never experienced such a thing, but it was real!

I believe God gave me a gift to be able to feel emotions very, very deeply.  I had felt sympathy pains before, but I couldn't believe how strong they came this time.

With the ability to feel deeply, comes a responsibility to learn how to release those feelings and pains to our Master of Compassion, Jesus Christ.

In my pondering, my eyes and my heart opened to the powerful, almighty ability of our God and Savior to feel everyone's pains!!  It's real!!  Our Savior really did and does love us so immensely, deeply, and powerfully that HE knows each of our pains... very, very personally.  HE is waiting for us to release those pains to HIM... whether they be pains from heartache and sadness or pains from sin... HE FEELS IT!!  In the Garden of Gethsemane, HIS taking of pain on our behalf was greater than anything I could ever imagine.

What a miracle to me to be given the gift of feeling the physical pains of my son.  What a miracle to me to have the priesthood power of healing dwell within the walls of our home.  What a miracle to me to have children who do not lose their drive to fight even when they're beaten down.  ...and what a miracle to all of us to have a Savior who loves us, hears us, and understands every bit of us so completely and so perfectly.  I love my Savior, Jesus Christ with all my heart.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Journey to Africa

My sweet companion from my mission in Bolivia introduced me to this beautiful video about the miracles taking place in Africa.

As I watched this 5 minute video, I felt prompted to write the things of my heart... of how I reached Africa 12 years ago.  Not too many promptings have been as strong and definitive as the one that led me there.

When I filled out my application to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I made a strong request to serve in Africa.  I did, however, make it clear that I would serve with all my heart wherever the Lord wanted me to go.

I did not receive my LDS mission call to Africa; I was called to Bolivia.  Through many spiritual experiences, I knew that Bolivia was where I was supposed to be, and my heart is forever connected to my beautiful Bolivian brothers and sisters.

Only a few weeks after returning from my mission, I started back to school at BYU in Provo, UT in June.  In the fall, I had a class where I submitted stories for the news station.  My assignment was to cover the city of Springville.

Springville is a small, quiet town, so I had to get very creative to find newsworthy stories.  One day, after much thought, I had an idea to cover a story on the history of a controversial building at the base of a mountain in that area.  I parked my car a few miles away from the building with the plan to knock on a random door to interview a local resident.  It was kind of scary to knock on a stranger's door, so I decided to say a prayer before I chose the first house.

After my prayer, I started my car and began to drive very, very slowly.  I distinctly remember passing a house and putting on my break as if to turn into their driveway, but the spirit said, "No.  Not this one- keep going." I continued driving.  After I passed a couple more houses, I felt the Spirit tell me to stop.   I felt the prompting very clearly, so I stopped.

I slowly walked up to the door.  As I knocked,  I all of a sudden doubted myself and felt very awkward.  A woman answered, and I stammered over my words a bit trying to explain my idea for a news story.  I was genuinely surprised when this sweet woman actually let me in!  I walked through her front door and immediately noticed a whole display of beautiful, African statues.  I spoke to her for a few minutes about the "controversial building," but I couldn't stop thinking about the statues.  Finally, I had to ask her about them.

She was more than happy to tell me about her humanitarian-aid efforts to Africa through a group called "Reach the Children."  At the time, she and her husband were the presidents, and their committee had been praying to find a videographer to document their work.  Then she paused and gave me a very interesting look.  She said, "You don't do video work, do you?"

I quickly and excitedly said, "YES!  Of course I do!  That IS what I do!  My professional video equipment is in the car right now!!"

Within the next few days it was decided and finalized!  In just a few short months, I would be serving in Africa for 3 whole weeks!!  "Reach the Children" would be paying my way, and I would be producing a video for them in return.

It was such a surreal feeling... Was I really going?  Was this amazing dream really coming true?

About a month after meeting this wonderful woman, my wonderful boyfriend proposed to me (who is now my husband.)  :-)

Abe was also my dream come true, and I didn't want to prolong my marriage to him one bit.  Our wedding date was scheduled just 10 days after my projected arrival home from Africa.  As we furthered our wedding plans, I began to feel like I was getting in over my head.  I thought I might be too stressed trying to coordinate getting married and going to Africa within a week and a half of each other.

My stomach turned knots as I called this woman and told her I would not be able to go to Africa, but that another amazingly, talented student would gladly take my place and produce an even better video than I could.

She would not have it.  She very firmly said, "I'm sorry.  We don't want anyone else.  YOU are the one who is supposed to go to Africa... YOU HAVE TO GO!"

I was shocked by her response.  I didn't see myself as being essential to the success of any project.  At the same time, I knew she was right... I needed to be in Africa.

I am forever grateful that this dear woman recognized the answer to her prayer and wouldn't back down when my fears tried to overpower me.  I can't even imagine the regret I would have felt for the rest of my life had I not partaken of the amazing miracle that God placed so flawlessly in my path.

Someday soon I will write about the miracles that I experienced while there, but tonight I feel inspired to write about how strongly the Holy Ghost directed me to the right people at just the right time.

Both this woman and I felt God's hand in our meeting, and I am strengthened in remembering that there are powerful, uplifting, and amazing experiences awaiting all of us if we maintain the courage to move forward when God calls.

Nothing got in the way that God couldn't fix because it wasn't just my dream... it was HIS plan and HIS dream too.

God knew how Africa and her people would change me.  Among many other lessons, Africa enriched my perspective to better teach my children about this beautiful journey of life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Power of Prayer!!

Last week, we received news that our very good friend was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his pancreas and kidney.  He has only been married a couple of years and is a father to a precious baby boy.  Our hearts ached with theirs.

Such devastating news opened our eyes to how suddenly things can change for any of us.  Abe told him we would be praying for him; and in good humor said, "Let me warn you though:  When the kids pray for you, they're serious about praying.  They'll pray for you before we eat, in the morning, and at night... they're still praying for a lady who died three years ago!  They do a GOOD job at praying man."

As Abe promised, we have been praying several times a day for the past week for our dear friend.

Today, we received a text from our friend saying that all is well!  THERE IS NO CANCER!"  He then wrote to Abe, "Thanks for the prayers.  I've got a strong testimony of prayer even though I'm inactive."

His term "inactive" refers to the fact that he is not currently attending church.  I am grateful this friend of ours knows of God's love for him no matter where he is on his path to HIM.  God loves us profoundly and wants us to know of that abundant love.

ALL is in the Lord's timing, and we will continue to pray for our friend... maybe for the next three years! :-)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Clean and Orderly

Yesterday afternoon I couldn't stand it any longer...

I HAD to deep clean the kids' rooms.  Oh- my- goodness.  I honestly thought they had been putting things away properly when I sent them to clean their rooms!  All kinds of things were shoved in corners and in the wrong drawers.  Ugh...

I was pretty patient most of the time, but when I found one of Jayden's dirty, wet diapers in one of the older boys' drawers, I had to give my lecture about the importance and prudence of doing things right the first time.  Abe joined in on the lecture, and our clean-up session quickly became our  Monday night "Family Home Evening" lesson/activity.

Our home is never spotless, but it is usually pretty clean.  I take a box or two of old clothes or toys to Goodwill several times a year.  I do, however, have a hard time giving away things of sentimental value... and things that others have graciously sacrificed to give to us.

As I went through the children's clothes last night, I realized they have WAY too many clothes.  I never had clothes that cute growing up, so it is hard for me to get rid of the kids' clothes... in case they "need" them.  As I sorted, I pictured so many other little children benefitting from the nice clothes, and I felt the Spirit strongly encourage me to donate more of the cute clothes than I had originally planned.

We were able to gather a MOUNTAIN of clothes to donate to charity... my next project is to sort through the clothes that are being passed down to younger siblings!!

As a family, we organized until late into the night.  We all breathed a big sigh of relief as we looked around at the tidy closets and dressers.  We gathered for family night prayer, and Abe offered the prayer.  I felt the Spirit really strong again as he asked that the children would recognize the importance of cleanliness.  He also asked that the Spirit be able to dwell more in our home because of that cleanliness.

We sent the children to bed and did a little work on the computer.  When Abe and I went upstairs to our bedroom, we discovered some letters that had been delivered to our bedside mailboxes! :-)

A couple of years ago, Tyson started a tradition of writing letters and secretly delivering them to our bedsides- everybody else followed suit and wrote letters to each other.  Nobody had taken the time to write any letters to each other for the past several months, so Abe and I were surprised to find these sweet notes after such an intense and tiring organizing and cleaning session.

As I looked at the letters, a thought came to me... because of the cleanliness, their love and the Spirit was stronger in their hearts- just as Abe had requested in our family prayer.  

Each of their letters gave us GREAT joy.

I am the caped hero crawling on the burning building to save the people from the menacing giant.  

Abe ran such a mighty touchdown that he left a trail of football players all down the field!

Jordan's letter was "anonymous"so he addressed it to Brother and Sister Mills... "From:  mail"  Abe and I also got a big laugh looking at the man(Daddy) with the big hair singing, "Afro Power."

...and sweet Mariah woke up this morning with a desire to leave a note in our mailbox as well.  It's a drawing of her, Juliana, and Jayden playing happily together.  

I learned 2 things from this deep-cleaning experience:

1)  God gives us wonderful things.  We don't have to give up all that we have- there are things that we need, things that we're using and saving for good use, and some things that truly have sentimental value, but I believe that I have been guilty of hoarding some "things" in an effort to show gratitude to God for giving them to me.  I didn't want to ever seem ungrateful by getting rid of them.  I believe that in being good stewards of money and other "things," we are actually showing more gratitude to God by wisely giving to others in need.

As I write this, I am realizing that I should take another clean sweep through my things and reassess if there is more to donate- I'm working on "letting go."  It's a process!! :-)

2)  When our home is not so cluttered, the Spirit can work in our home much more freely.  I saw that first-hand when precious letters showed up at my bedside simply because their hearts felt happy!!

In comparing our homes to our sacred temples, Elder Gary E. Stevenson shared this experience in  the April, 2009 General Conference:

"Recently, in a stake conference, all present were invited by the visiting authority, Elder Glen Jenson, an Area Seventy, to take a virtual tour of their homes using their spiritual eyes. I would like to invite each of you to do this also. Wherever your home may be and whatever its configuration, the application of eternal gospel principles within its walls is universal. Let’s begin. Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. What do you see, and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention? That concludes our tour. Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some “home improvement”—hopefully not an 'extreme home makeover.'”

I believe this principle to be true... our homes should be like temples.  That is the goal I hope to achieve... VERY SOON! :-)