Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jordan's Baptism & Christmas Nativity

Yesterday morning we rushed to Jordan's baptism (picking up 3 neighbor kids on the way), raced back to our house for a special luncheon with guests who were celebrating his baptism with us (I had made lots of food the night before), returned to the church to set up for our big nativity performance by the primary children; and lastly, we drove straight to a late-night concert performed by Abe at a celebration for volunteers who help the homeless and needy.

This is how we arrived home late last night.  Four of the six children were sleeping… even Abe fell asleep the moment he put the car in park.

Leading up to this day was a week filled with some very special moments, miracles, and answered prayers.  Here are the highlights:

The Miracle Scriptures for Jordan's Baptism

When Jackson and Tyson were baptized, we bought them a nice, new set of scriptures with a case.  Altogether, each one cost us about $80.00.  Jordan's baptism was coming up, and I wondered how we would come up with the money to buy him a set as well.  Then, a few weeks ago, a brother came up to me after Sacrament meeting and said, "I was cleaning out my house, and I found some scriptures.  The thought came to me that maybe one of your kids would really appreciate them.  Would you like a nice set of scriptures? They are in a nice case too."

I said, "Yes! Yes!"  I hugged him right then and there and told him how we needed just exactly that for Jordan's baptism, but we couldn't afford to buy it.  The next week he brought them to church.  I couldn't believe it!  They were in a BLUE case!  Blue is Jordan's favorite color.  I felt that these scriptures were definitely hand-picked by God just for Jordan.

We presented the scriptures to Jordan today after sacrament meeting.  I pointed out the man in the chapel who had given him the scriptures.  Jordan's eyes grew big with gratitude.  He rubbed his hands across the case and said excitedly, "It's blue!  My favorite color!  How did he know to get me blue scriptures?"  (I knew that would be a special detail for him… God knew too.)  I'm grateful for this man who listened and followed that "thought."  I know that his "thought" was a revelation from God... which led to a miracle in the life of our sweet, 8-year old son celebrating his long-awaited baptism.

After pictures and our luncheon, it was time to race off to decorate the stage.  The stage turned out BEAUTIFUL… but only because God made it so.

Miracle of the Decorations and Costumes

As I pondered on the decorations, I knew I still needed a backdrop, and I also wanted some palm tree type leaves to lay around the manger.  

The Backdrop

Last year, Abe and I put on a nativity scene in Michigan using the teenagers and children of the stake.  I had sewn together some beautiful material with a big, gorgeous star in the middle for the backdrop.  I really wanted to use it again this year.  Almost all of our things are in storage, so I climbed on boxes all the way to the ceiling of our storage unit trying to find the box with the backdrop in it.  There was no possible way I would be able to reach even a third of the boxes because they were stacked so tight.  While I was there, I had a few other things on my mind that I wanted to get for the kids.  

Mariah and Juliana wanted their horses and dolls.  I wanted Jayden to have some toys.  Jordan wanted his special bean bag chair.  Tyson and Jackson wanted their "special things" boxes, and of course I really wanted this backdrop.  We cheered as I pulled out each treasure that they had been missing.  After searching for an hour, I finally climbed out of the storage unit feeling grateful that all the children found the boxes they wanted.  I bowed my head in prayer one last time asking God to PLEASE help me to find the backdrop.  I knew HE had helped my children get all of their special toys.  I wondered:  "Why wasn't HE just showing me where the backdrop was?  It would make the program look so much nicer if I had it." 

That night I went to the church to meet with a piano student.  We walked into the room, and there was a sister with a huge, GORGEOUS backdrop.  Drawn on it was the silhouette of 3 Wise men on camels following the star.  (The sister was from a congregation that met at a different time, but I knew her.)  I asked her if it would be alright to use their backdrop for our Christmas program.  She said yes!!!  I was so excited!  I told her about my backdrop and how I had prayed to find it.  

Her backdrop was 100 times better than mine was.  I sure was glad God didn't allow me to find my backdrop.  He helped me to find the right backdrop.  God ALWAYS answers our prayers, hopes, and righteous desires much better than we can on our own.  

The Leaves

The next day, I was driving home through our subdivision looking at all the beautiful leaves on people's trees wondering where I could gather a nice bundle to decorate our scenery.  As I drove, I screeched to a sudden halt.

Right in the middle of the street in my lane… right in front of my car… there was a nice bundle of leaves piled up nicely.  They had been nicely cut- they weren't just torn off.  They looked EXACTLY like what I had pictured in my mind to decorate the manger.  I couldn't believe it!  I pulled over immediately and thanked God as I put them into my van.  I had no doubt those leaves were placed there for me.  They hadn't even been run over yet!!  They really were there waiting for me to pick them up!  I knew it, and I knew I had no need to worry about the success of this nativity program because God was definitely showing me HIS hand.

The Costumes

I knew God's hand was leading me and guiding me, but I didn't understand the extent of the strength HE was lending me until I endured my most sleepless night… and still felt strong.

Thursday night, I stayed up the entire night trying to get my sewing machine to stop tangling when I did my zig-zags on the angel costumes.  I worked so hard and kept praying to God asking Him why it was so difficult.  It was a sad, sad sight to hear my family waking up for the next day knowing that I hadn't even gone to sleep yet!  

On Friday, I had promised to take the kids on a special field trip.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I pressed forward… I took them on their special outing and then came home to help a sweet, young girl prepare for her guitar duet with Jordan.  

That night, this girl's parent sent me a text thanking me for the time I spent helping her daughter.  She thanked me for having such a big smile on my face.   Then it hit me.  Jesus had lightened my load!  I still had to put in the hours.  I still had to face the frustrations with the sewing machine.  I still had to think through the details… but Jesus strengthened me and made me more alert beyond my own capabilities to smile and enjoy the moments with the children as I worked.  That certainly wasn't my doing!!  None of it is!!  I recognize that I am nothing without the miracles God provides in my daily life.

The Nativity Program

Decorating and costumes were important, but we had about 40 little sheep, shepherds, angels, Joseph, Mary, wise men, 7 little scripture readers, and 9 little musicians to coordinate.  Those 9 musicians played guitars, violins, a cello, a trumpet, a flute, bells, and piano.  I practiced separately with all the instrumentalists, but we only had one practice last Sunday to coordinate all the children together… and it was chaotic to say the least.  I knew the Holy Ghost had inspired me to do this, so I said a lot of prayers about how to fix the chaos and coordinate the scriptures, songs, acting, instruments, and curtains without having time to hold another practice. (Our presidency was only called to our positions a couple of weeks before.)

I prayed and prayed about how to prepare for this program… then the ideas came rushing in.  I made giant posters for every job possible.  I placed those posters at their starting points, so that every character could reference their own poster over and over again.  I made extra copies of music and scriptures.  I assigned a couple of grown men (one of them being my husband) to keep the wild sheep and wise men in line.  God took my ideas and blessed them.  

I had done a ton of background work to try to foresee any possible problems.  I played out each detail in my mind.  When you're working with 50- 60 children, I knew other surprises would come…. 

The Bishop approached me and told me we needed to start the program right at that moment.  It was already 6:00pm.  I looked at him and said, "Listen Bishop, only 2 teachers showed up, I'm missing 2 of my speakers, and 'Mary' just got sick!  My in-laws aren't even here yet, so I don't have anyone to watch the baby.  Please, please give me a couple more minutes!"  The bishop and I started grabbing teenagers to stand in for the missing people… then… just as I had hoped, everybody else showed up and got into place just in time.  They read their posters, I threw an angel tunic over their heads, and we were ready to go!!

I recruited Abe as the head shepherd leading the little sheep across the stage.  He was perfect… all crouched down low.  Oh I wish I could have taken pictures!  They were adorable.  Somebody surprised me and dressed my little Juliana into a sheep's outfit. (She is only in nursery.)  Her big, fluffy, yellow dress was stuffed inside the costume with her, so she looked like a very pudgy sheep waddling across the stage with Abe.  The sister missionaries threatened to take a bite out of her because she was so cute. :-) 

The primary president's husband (who had literally just gotten off the airplane from Ecuador 2 hours before) agreed to be one of the 3 Wise Men… to keep the other 2 Wise Men in line- that was a huge help!  As one of the children read the scripture in Matthew that says, "and fell down and worshipped him."  One of the Wise Men took it seriously and sprawled himself across the stage.  The head Wise Man gently lifted him up and the program continued beautifully.  The children sang sweetly, and the instrumentalists felt joy as they used their talents to glorify God.  

Jordan's baptism and his scriptures, the backdrop, the leaves, the lightening of the load, and the coordinating of events were all grand miracles to me.  Every time I see God's hand in my life, my faith in HIM increases and my relationship with HIM deepens.  We can fully trust that HE is managing all the details of our lives.