Saturday, August 30, 2014

2 Birthday Videos & Sidenotes :-)


My Birthday Gift

It was my birthday last week and my husband's birthday was just a few days ago.  We were separated for our special days, so my adorable husband and his music group made a GREAT 40 second video for me.

I believe you should be able to just click on the link below to view it. :-)  It's from Facebook but made public, so I don't think you'll even need to login to your Facebook account.  ENJOY!!  It will DEFINITELY make you smile.  (We watched it about 100 times.)

After last week's football games, my in-laws surprised me with GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE!

And my wonderful neighbors… WOW!   Their kindness is a story for another day. :-)

That night my kids threw a late-night surprise party for me with just the kids upstairs in the toy room.  (Jayden was sleeping.) Unbeknownst to me, the kids had decorated the room earlier in the day while I was cleaning up and cooking.

This is the DJ's spot… 

 They blindfolded me and blasted my favorite music.  I entered the room, and then we jammed!!  After several wild songs, they sat me down on the couch while they read me sweet letters and sang special songs for me.  

Crazy, wonderful kids…

I forgot to add that my parents bought the little red wagon for my birthday and Abe's birthday for us to use on our beach trips.  

Several months ago I wrote about how badly I had been wanting one, and the Lord helped me to find a temporary solution… until now!!  Hooray!! I now have a real red wagon:-)

Abe's Birthday Gift

As a thank you for my wonderful birthday video, my children, my niece, and I made a minute and a half long video for my husband's birthday with instruments, dancing, and rapping.  It's a ton of fun to watch!  ENJOY! :-)

Just click on the link below to watch it:-)

Sidenotes & Updates

I'm trying really hard to get my life in order!

We spent 12 hours with football and cheerleading today- HONESTLY!

It's a new school year; and since I'm the teacher, we've been working really hard on an efficient after summer schedule.  Beyond our regular school subjects, that includes packing 7 kids into our van every morning at 5:30am for seminary, marching band until after midnight at times, a college course 25 minutes away, football, and of course beach time for my aspiring surfers. :-)

Our dear friend from Bolivia and my spunky niece returned last week- they wanted to rejoin our crazy crew for a little while longer!  (They had come with another cute, teenage friend of ours in the beginning of August.)

They are truly a joy to have here.  We all cried when our friend returned to Bolivia a few days ago.  (I still need to write about how he ended up at our house!!  TRULY AWESOME!)  We get to keep our niece until the middle of September.

My husband has only been home for 2 days since July 28th… and of course I was in South America before that… so I miss him… and I'm tired, but I keep praying about how to organize my time better.

I feel a need to return to writing with more depth, and I know the Lord will open a way very soon… until then I appreciate you checking in on me. :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mascara for Church

This may seem like a silly post to some, but it was DEFINITELY a test of my faith and a little, daily miracle in my life.

Last Sunday I was driving all the kids to church and doing my make-up at the stoplights along the way.

All of a sudden I realized my mascara was not in my make-up bag!  I looked at my face and grumbled. I remembered not putting it back into my bag when I was done with it the last time, but I couldn't remember where I had haphazardly placed it... where could it be??

I could have gone without any other portion of my make-up… but not my mascara!!

We live 30 minutes from the church, and we were already running late.  It would have taken too long to return to the house.  This was a dilemma… It was not life-threatening, but it was definitely a difficult choice for me.

I have always been taught not to buy things on Sunday unless it is an emergency.  One of those reasons for not buying things on Sunday is that when we do we cause others to work for us on the Lord's Sabbath day.  (To me, it felt like a true emergency to not have to go to church looking like a zombie. My eyelashes are pretty blonde, so when I don't have mascara people look at me strangely and as politely as possible express how "different" I look.  It never fails- everyone notices.  I was also functioning on 3 hours of sleep, so I needed all the help I could get from the make-up department.)

I studied my face for a moment and told my children, "Don't judge me guys, but I have to stop by the store to buy some mascara!"

Immediately my children started shouting from the back of our van, "No you don't Mom! You look beautiful just the way you are!!  Don't buy it!!  You don't need it!!"

I sat silently for a while longer while we drove… I looked in the mirror at my barren eyes… I smiled extra big to see if it would draw attention away from my eyes.  Nothing worked- I still looked like a zombie.  I honestly did not want all kinds of attention drawn to me for how "different" I looked.

I pondered some more about the things I had been taught, and I thought about my cute children in the back; I mustered up my courage and said a prayer.

I said, "Heavenly Father, this is hard, but I am NOT going to stop at the store to buy the mascara… but will you PLEASE make me look as good as you can without it?"

Immediately after I said that prayer I felt something poking me on my seat.  I reached underneath me, and my mascara was right there!  I had been sitting on it the whole time!!

Would God still have loved me and thought I was a wonderful daughter of HIS even if I would have decided to buy the mascara on Sunday?  OF COURSE!

Would my kids have eventually understood their mother's weakness and forgiven me?  OF COURSE!!

However, I can't deny the fact that I had been looking for my mascara in the car for about 15 minutes while I drove, and it wasn't until AFTER I promised God that I would make a better choice to not buy new mascara on Sunday that it "suddenly" appeared. :-)

Was that a miracle?  ABSOLUTELY!

God could have shown me the mascara right at my moment of panic and at times HE does, but the divine timing of finding my mascara just after I had prayed with faith was a beautiful moment for me… I felt God's presence and concern over my simple decisions.

I believe HE wanted me to know that I had made a good choice… and what a BONUS!!!  I didn't even have to endure the experience of going to church without the mascara like I promised HIM I would if need be.

My children were thrilled to experience the little miracle on the way to church, and I felt much happier I was able to set an example for them even though their faith is what strengthened me.  The Lord loves us and is ready to be a part of every last detail of our lives!!  This I KNOW to be true!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Video #1 from Bolivia

I am making two videos of the photos from our time in Bolivia.  This is more about the service portion. The other video will have more pictures from the excursions and time with the local youth.

My children loved all the pictures and want to go to Bolivia now with H.E.F.Y. :-)

Just click on the link, and you will be directed to the video.  It is 11 minutes long. Enjoy!!
(Sorry it took so long to share this Mom. :-))

Let me know if this link doesn't work for you.  You may have to go to an actual computer to view it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mariah's Precious Heart

With permission, I am sharing Mariah's journal entry… it is a miracle to me to be able to see a little piece into the heart of a precious 6-year old…   
(The translation is written below. :-))  
God bless you and have a beautiful day… Jesus loves you.

"Why I believe in Jesus is he is nice.
He does not lie or tease- he helps
you and teaches you stuff you never 
know.  He teaches you honesty and charity
and saves us and teaches us to pray 
and read the scriptures and go to 
church and the temple and I love 
to pray.  I love the scriptures.
I love everyone soooooooooooo
much even God and Jesus too and the 
Holy Ghost too and I'm soooooo
happy soooooooooooo happy he is 
my Savior.  Jesus is amazing-
soooo amazing.  I hope I'll see Him
some day and I'll always stay 

Monday, August 18, 2014

But… HE'S ONLY 12!!

Hello All!  I posted a story yesterday that was very dear to my heart.  I apologize to those of you who did not get a chance to read it… I decided it was too personal and dear to my heart to share so publicly.

I am still alive, and I am currently working on some pictures from Bolivia set to music!  I had some troubles last night getting it to upload, but I think I'm figuring it out now!  Thanks for your patience with me!

Today was a GREAT day!!  Let me tell you why!! :-)

For a long time Jackson has been telling me he wished he could attend seminary.  (Seminary is a scripture study class offered by our church for students in high school- but Jackson is only 12-years old.)  Along with his request to attend seminary, Jackson has also been telling me he wanted to do band at the public school again.

Every time I considered sending him to the middle school I felt a strong hesitation.  I wasn't sure what it was, but I had the feeling that there was another option for him.  I continued to ask him if he was sure about band at the public school.  I told him he had the option to further his musical education in the home.  He insisted he really wanted to do it, and I didn't know why I was feeling such a strong hesitation.

I felt like I needed to kneel down and have a deeply sincere prayer about where I should send him.  However, I kept putting that prayer to the side.  Because I have been so busy with life, I didn't take the time to deeply pray about that particular decision until last week!

Once I knelt down and offered up a serious prayer, all of a sudden a thought came to me to check the high school.  But… (I protested in my mind)… he's only 12… I can't have a child in high school!!

The thought returned to my mind several more times, so I made the phone call to the high school.  Within a day, Jackson had auditioned and received permission to participate in the marching band.  He would be on the drum-line and take an intense percussion class.  They practice every day, but on Thursdays they practice from 2pm-8:45pm!!  Jackson attended last Thursday and LOVED it.

I felt God's hand direct the entire process of enrolling Jackson.  There was a ton of paperwork involved and lots of logistics.  Every time I felt worried about how it would all come together, the thought came very strongly into my mind, "You don't need to stress about this.  This was all inspired by ME (God) to begin with."

The realization continued to return:  This wasn't my doing.  This was God's idea, and HE wants the best for us!!

We were excited all weekend about Jackson's opportunity to excel in music.  It wasn't until Sunday that I realized that since he was an official high school student, he would be allowed to attend seminary!!

This morning was his first day of seminary and of high school.  I had gone to sleep at 3am, but there Jackson was at my bedside at 5:15am this morning… ready to go and VERY excited.  Abe is still gone for a couple more weeks, so all 6 children and I loaded up into the van by 5:30am for our 30-minute drive to seminary!

I'm a night owl, so 5:15am comes VERY early to my body.  Needless to say, we're praying for strength around here!! :-)  It is soooo worth it though!  What a great day it was to see my son run into seminary this morning!  His whole body beamed with excitement!!

I know that God is working out the details in all of our lives… sometimes we just need to take a moment to ponder and pray about the small details in our lives in order to discover the wonderful life experiences God is willing to provide.

Last weekend I awoke to a wonderful aroma… WAFFLES!!  Jackson had two waffle makers running, so the whole family could eat. He even cleaned up the mess when he was done!!  Yep!  He's ready for high school and seminary. :-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Viva Bolivia!!!

My dear, dear readers…

Thank you so much for sharing your love with me.  I feel truly blessed.

I returned home from Bolivia at around 2:30am on Saturday morning.

Abe left on Monday.  He will return for only 1 day in 2 weeks- to watch our children in a theatrical performance- and then he will leave again for 3 more weeks.  (I miss him greatly, but I know he's working hard to provide for our family.)

I received the great honor of giving a talk on Sunday about my experiences in Bolivia.  I sobbed as I shared the grand miracles the Lord placed in my path.  I want so badly to put them all in writing, but I feel I won't do them justice until my life settles down just a bit…  The experiences were spiritually strengthening, and I have to go to a deeply spiritual place to relive them and put them in writing.

I think I also need to adjust to my life again!! I was in such a different, fabulous world.

The experiences were also fun, challenging, and profoundly rewarding.  My wonderful nephew was one of the 19 youth I led on the trip.  What an amazing group of youth!!  Wow!!  I pray my children will be as greatly influential as this group of teenagers proved to be.

Tomorrow I have a couple AMAZING teenagers coming to stay with our family for a while, and I also have a DEAR, WONDERFUL family from Bolivia coming to stay with us shortly after!!!  It's such an exciting time!  I taught the father on my mission, and I cannot even contain myself I'm so overjoyed to have them in our home.  It doesn't seem real yet.

My children also start football and cheerleading this week!!  …THEY HAVE PRACTICE EVERY DAY!!

With so many exciting events while my husband is absent for such an extended period of time, I feel like I need to hold off on writing until around August 17th.  I promise I won't forget all that happened in Bolivia!!  I will write it all down, and I pray that the Lord will bless me with HIS Spirit as I write.  I took TONS of pictures too!!! :-)

My heart is very full… I cannot even describe my joy and peace.

I hope to return to a regular schedule of writing on August 17th or SOONER!!

Again… thank you for your friendships and for your love… God bless you

This is in Cochabamba… where I spent most of my mission.  Notice the temple under my left arm. :-)

These are the faces I am mourning right now.  I grew to love these children with all my heart.  I played with them and taught them every day.  Oh my heart aches.  How can my heart love them so deeply?

 They were my little helpers while I worked!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I'm Off to Bolivia!!!

Hello!!  Yes!  I am still alive! :-)  I've been busy taking care of details!

I am leaving in the morning to serve the people of Bolivia.  My nephew is going with me!!  I wrote about this wonderful opportunity last fall.  Here's the link:

Will you please, please keep the youth, their families, the people of Bolivia, and my family in your prayers?  Thank you!!

I'll be back July 25th, and I'll be giving a full report! :-)

God bless you all...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Edifying & Rejoicing Together!

Last night, my children and I went on a walk around the neighborhood so my 4 oldest children could sell raffle tickets and coupon books to offset their upcoming football/cheerleading expenses.  

In the recent past, I've written about our neighbor from down the street, Hank.  He is an x-professional baseball player with a heart of gold, and he just turned 89-years old a couple of weeks ago.  Last week we had left some birthday cards and a balloon in the shape of a baseball player with another neighbor to give to Hank when he would arrive home. 

When we arrived at Hank's house last night, I told the kids not to sell him anything because he had already given them so much in the past.  I told them we were there just to say hi to him.  

When the children knocked on Hank's door, he and his daughter greeted all of us with great excitement and invited us into their home.  

Hank and his daughter insisted on buying raffle tickets anyway, and then she pulled me aside and said that when Hank read his birthday cards from the kids, he said to her, 
"If I didn't have these kids in my life, I wouldn't have any friends."

I teared up, and so many emotions ran through my heart and mind when she told me that.

I felt sad that my children would be his only friends… I wondered:  How could they be?  He never seems sad or lonely.  In fact, he seems cheerful every time we see him!  I felt sad that I hadn't been a better friend!

At the same time, I felt deep gratitude for the times we had stopped to talk with Hank because I realized in that moment that it meant much more to him than I ever understood.

I continued to ponder on Hank…  Hank is very strong for his age, but his body is so much weaker than it used to be.  He doesn't move as fast, and he falls down a lot.  He has to rely on other adults to keep him safe.  His humility to accept assistance from others is remarkable.  

Just this morning I read in Proverbs 18:12, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility."  

Hank's humility is what makes him a man of great honor in all of our eyes. That's why we love him so much!

We stayed and chatted for over an hour!  I had a nice conversation with Hank's daughter about the plants in her yard, and I let the older boys have their time with Hank.  When we were about to leave, Hank and the boys excitedly told me bits and pieces of their conversation.  

I discovered that Hank had spent that time telling the children how great God is… how wonderful families are… how important it is to love their parents and their brothers and sisters… the power of love in the home… he told them that it is only because of his faith in God that he was able to play in the pros in baseball…  

As I listened to them, I had to fight back the tears.  I thanked Hank for taking the time to share such meaningful words with my children from a perspective and a wisdom that only he could impart.  All of us felt immense love and kindness just pouring from this fragile, dear man.  

Seeing the brightness in my children's eyes, I realized my children felt as if they could do and be anything when they listened to Hank, and then it hit me… 

I'm positive that sweet Hank has other people in his life who care about him and are his friends, but the children's innocence, love for God, and eagerness to learn from him gives him purpose and meaning in their friendship.  I believe he recognized that they saw the true Hank underneath his fragile body.  That's why their friendship is so significant to him and of course to my children.

Then it hit me even further… They could feel his greatness as they listened to his words of wisdom because the Spirit of God was in their conversation, and they all felt that Spirit.  Even when the rest of us started to walk home, Jackson kind of lingered by Hank's side… almost as if a magnet was connecting him and keeping him there.

In the Doctrine and Covenants 50:21-22 it reads, 21 "Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?  22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together."

I know this to be true!  I recently wrote about several people whom we have come into contact with who have had the courage to deliver to us sweet messages of Jesus' love.  It happened again 2 nights ago!!  

The children and I were walking through Target when a man stopped and looked at us. I could tell he felt something because of the look of interest and wonderment on his face.  He was quiet for a moment and turned away a bit, and then I could tell he couldn't contain himself anymore.  He made eye contact with us and declared several times what a blessing our family was and then told the children to always trust Jesus.  

I was touched by this man who was "preaching by the Spirit of truth" in Target and by Hank declaring a humble message from God and about God.  My heart continues to be touched as I also ponder on the people I have written about in this past week because all these people, from all walks of life, were not afraid to share their faith in Jesus with a sweetness that I cannot quite describe… only that I know they were messages they were inspired to share.  

It is a joyful feeling that rushes through my heart when people bear pure testimony of Jesus with the Spirit of truth.

I believe that these many experiences in just this past week alone of strangers who felt our love for Jesus and spontaneously shared their love for Jesus is not a coincidence… it is a miracle… 

God knows what we need.  I believe God wanted me to feel that HE knows I am striving to be and striving to teach my children to be valiant disciples of Christ… for HE is our Lord, Savior, King, and our EVERYTHING.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Disciples of Christ

Last night the kids and I were driving home after a great birthday party with some dear friends in Orlando.  I needed some crackers and oatmeal at the store before Sunday, so we stopped by Walmart on the way home.  It was about 10:30 at night.  My 2 youngest children were sleeping in their car seats, so I sent Jackson and Tyson into the store with $7 in bills and $2 in change.  I figured that would be enough.

After about 20 minutes the boys came running out with their 2 boxes of crackers and 2 boxes of oatmeal and big grins on their faces.  

According to Jackson, this is what happened in the store:

"We were at the check-out, and we didn't have enough money for the items we were buying.   Tyson was about to go out to get some money from my mom, but a man behind us overheard us and asked, 'How much do you need?'  We said we only need like 3 or 4 dollars, but that we would go get it from our mom.  Then he said, 'Don't worry; I'll pay for it.'  He put $4 on the counter!  We both thanked him.  

Then we went back out to the car and told my mom about the nice man.  My mom wanted to thank him too and give him some money back.  When we saw him walking to his car, I ran the money over to him.  As I tried to give him the money he said, 'No, that's ok….  Jesus loves you.'  

It made me really happy that he said that Jesus loves me and that he was so kind.  It made me know that he was a spiritual man and that I want to be kind and put others before me."

I watched this generous man walk out of Walmart, and I saw that he was with his own son about the same age as my boys.  I couldn't help but ponder on the lifelong lesson of service this man also gave his own son in that moment of generosity.  

What a beautiful response that he also made sure my boys knew his gift was really a gift from JESUS! 

 Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Oh… it makes me cry right now thinking about how many wonderful people there are in the world trying so hard to be like Jesus.

I have another dear friend who touched me by her generosity because of Jesus' love.

A couple of months ago I went to her house for her daughter's birthday party.  While we were there, she offered to give me two AMAZING bunk beds that they didn't need anymore.  We gladly accepted them.  She and her boyfriend hooked a trailer onto my van and packed the beds up with some mattresses right then and there!  I know my friend and her boyfriend could have gotten some good money for these beds, so I've tried to pay for little things for her here and there as a thank you.

One bunk bed has a bed on the very top and a pullout bed on the very bottom with a cute little nook around the back of it with drawers and a desk all attached.  My children have loved using it for quiet, reading and school time, and we're also grateful to have a couple extra beds for visitors.  (We had lost our extra couch/pull-out bed that we brought from Michigan because mold formed on it while it sat in storage.)

The other bunk bed is made out of logs, and it matches our other log furniture perfectly.  
(Jackson and Tyson are actually sleeping in their beds for this picture. :-))

The bed with the nook didn't need box spring mattresses, but the log bed did need them.  We had one for the bottom bunk, but Jordan has been sleeping on his top bunk with just the mattress.  It's a little lumpy, but he loves his log bed.  However, when Jordan rolls over too far, the mattress squishes between the cross boards, and he goes rolling off the edge like a slide.  Several times, I've heard a loud thump in the middle of the night, and I have found Jordan sprawled out on the floor.  (It must not hurt him too badly because sometimes he doesn't even wake up from the fall!!)  

My friend didn't know we were needing a box spring for one of the beds; but last week, she sent me a random text to see if I needed one.  (She and her boyfriend do business trades and end up with lots of random treasures :-))  I told her Jordan would love it for his bed!  (Jordan was cheering with excitement to not fall out of his bed anymore. :-))  I sent her a text and told her I would add it to my tab.  

This was her beautiful response via text:

"Lol, tab, u silly.  Just paying it forward for all those who have helped me!  We are blessed cuz we bless each other- that's the beauty of the brother and sisterhood we enjoy in our lives!  It really does bring so much joy."

Wasn't that beautifully put?  She's absolutely right.  There is truly a great brotherhood and sisterhood when we generously bring Christ's love to those around us.  That love is what changes us.  That love is what inspires us.  That love is what makes this world a better place… 

Jesus loves you… Jesus loves me… Jesus loves everyone- even those who do not yet know HIM.  I am grateful for the disciples of Christ whom we encounter all over this beautiful world, and I'm grateful they choose to spread Jesus' pure love. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Miracles Within My Heart

I awoke feeling just a bit discouraged today.  I had several concerns and worries weighing on my mind.  I climbed out of bed and immediately knelt down to pray with all my heart.

As I was hunched over in prayer asking God for HIS guidance, my little Jayden walked into my bedroom, wiggled under my folded arms, and laid his head on my lap.  I know God was in his tender, sweet innocence.

I continued to pray as I stroked his little back, then I stood up from my prayers and realized I needed even more strengthening.  I took my scriptures outside and found a quiet spot to read.  As I turned through my book and looked at my many bookmarks placed in different spots throughout my scriptures, I wondered where the Lord wanted me to do my morning study.

I felt inspired to read in our Doctrine and Covenants (which is modern day revelation given by our prophets).  As I began to read, my mind was elsewhere.  After a couple minutes of this, a very strong thought came into my mind to read more slowly and to linger for a moment where I was.

I reread the verses I had already covered and felt the Spirit rush over my body.  I couldn't believe it!  The words were exact answers to my prayers.  The words within these scriptures even expressed understanding of my worries, understanding of the answers I had already received in past weeks, and direct guidance to my dilemma at hand.

Last Saturday night, the night before Abe left on another business trip, I had been really sick.  Abe anointed my head with oil and administered a priesthood blessing of healing.  During that blessing, I had a hard time even focusing on all the words he was speaking because I was so groggy.  All of a sudden, my mind felt awakened for one very profound sentence.  It was so profound and so personal that I haven't even asked Abe if he remembered saying it.  I knew it was an important message from God because of the way my mind became alerted, and I played the words over and over again into my mind as I fell asleep.

A couple of days ago in my scripture study and again this morning, that same message I had received from my priesthood blessing was reiterated in the words I was reading.  They weren't the exact words, but the impression and the message was the exact same.

The first time I read those verses, I didn't think they had much significance in my life, but the second time… as I lingered and pondered… the depths of God's words spoke plainly and clearly into my heart and mind.  I immediately took out my pen and began underlining the passages in the scriptures.

…and right on cue, as I was feeling inspired, little Jayden found me, and once again lifted my arms so he could snuggle into my lap.  I asked him if he was my special little buddy, and he nodded his head assuring me that he was.  (I believe little children are especially guided by the Spirit to give extra love just at the right moment.)

I am always in awe at the direct guidance by the workings of the Spirit as I read God's word- whether it be in the Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, or modern day General Conference talks from our prophet and apostles. The power of The Holy Ghost never ceases to amaze me… because it speaks divine messages directly to my heart.

I feel renewed and ready to face this beautiful life with a deeper knowledge and understanding that God wants all of us to receive direct communication and direct guidance from HIM… on a DAILY basis!  What a blessing and absolute miracle the Word of God is in my life!!!

…and what an absolute miracle little children are in my life as well. 
Matthew 19:14   14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, June 23, 2014

We Are Christians!!!

I'm sorry I haven't written for over a week!  Yikes!!  It's been busy!!

This past week, my husband and I volunteered all day at cub scout camp… except for Wednesday and Thursday.  On those days, we drove about 4 hours to perform at and speak at a Girls Camp near Fort Lauderdale.  Abe gave a concert on Wednesday night, and both of us spoke to the girls on Thursday morning.  We left our 3 older boys at scout camp, and our little, 6-year old Mariah sang 2 solos at Girls Camp.

Oh those girls at camp were amazing!!  They screamed and cheered for little Mariah- making her feel like a true star.  After she sang and the cheers started, I saw something change in Mariah's eyes… I'm certain she was thinking, "I could get used to this."  :-)

Mariah signed her autograph on the girls' arms and in their books.  Those girls were just as kind to us and to EVERYONE around them as they were to little Mariah.  I felt love just bursting from them.  They were energetic and cheered for each other for every talent that was shared.  It felt like Zion…sharing love and encouragement so freely.

On our way home from Girls Camp, we realized our rear brakes were bad. :(  I called a brake store near our home and told them we would be arriving in a few hours.  The manager said he would wait for us.  Traffic slowed us down in the Orlando area, so we called again to see if they were still able to wait.  The manager told us to keep coming because he wanted us to be safe with good brakes.

We arrived at 4:20 and closing time was 5:00, but it would take until after closing time to finish the job. We were grateful for his kindness and patience!

As we waited, I told the manager we had 3 boys at scout camp, and we had just returned from Girls Camp.  He said, "What was the camp for?"

I told him it was just for girls.  He responded, "Yes… but what was it for?"

I said, "It was for our church."

Questioning further, he asked,"What church?"

I answered "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

Pressing even further, he asked, "Which one?"

I was surprised by his continued questioning, so I asked, "Are you Mormon?"

He responded with the biggest smile, "No… but we're both Christians, and I just wondered where you worshipped God."

Oh my heart was so happy to hear him recognize that simple truth… WE ARE CHRISTIANS!!

(My belief in Jesus Christ is so deep and so profound… I understand that many don't agree/understand the doctrines I believe in, but it baffles me when some fellow Christians try to tell me I do not believe in Jesus Christ… is it really their place to make that judgment?  Jesus knows that I know that HE is my Savior who lived a perfect life, suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, died on the cross willingly, and rose again on the third day, so that I may have an opportunity to be forgiven of my sins and return to live with HIM some day.)

I didn't know if the manager understood how often people try to tell me I don't believe in Jesus Christ, and I didn't tell him; I only thanked him for his words.

This wonderful manager then told me where he attended church, and I told him how our hope was to strengthen the girls' faith in God while at their Girls Camp.

Abe walked into the lobby and joined the conversation.  Not knowing my thoughts about people's hurtful comments, the manager said to both Abe and me, "I want to apologize on behalf of my brothers and sisters who say and do things that are not very nice to members of your religion."

Wow!!  He did know and understand!!  Without even realizing it, all of a sudden tears were streaming effortlessly down my face.  I was so touched by his words!!

He could have quickly changed the subject like some do when the topic of religion comes up; instead, he embraced it and shared God's love.  Isn't that what Jesus would do?  What a wonderful, Christian man!!

It was that same love of which he spoke that made the Girls Camp so joyful.

Before we left, we bought some food for the poor mechanic staying after hours to fix our van, and we exchanged numbers with the manager.  He said, "If there's ever a time when you feel like you want to get together to praise God, call me."

I admired this man.  He was taking the opportunity to praise God and uplift others in an auto mechanic repair shop… of all places.

Can we bring God's light to others anytime and in any place?  Sure we can!!!  I'm grateful for this man's open heart to see and feel the love we shared for Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is love, and the manager's actions spoke that love.  The girls from Fort Lauderdale…roughing it in the woods... also shared Jesus' pure love.  It's a beautiful, Christian life when we remember God's LOVE!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Part 3: Hero Daddy!!

Jackson:  Daddy helps
me out when I have struggles by telling me suggestions and giving me tips.  He helps me with sports.  He teaches us about football in the backyard.  He gives us pep talks.  He's really humble.  He encourages us a lot.  Whenever he comes home, he's always happy to see us, and it's good to have somebody who has the Melchizedek priesthood in the house.  He helps us with scouts.  He's very spiritual.  He doesn't have any doubts in his mind about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Daddy inspires me to be humble and to be righteous and to be strong.  I love Daddy!!

Tyson:  He's the best dad in the world.  He plays football with me.  He wrestles with me.  He jumps on the trampoline with me.  If I'm sad, he finds out what's wrong, and then he helps me out with it.  He goes on campouts with me.  He makes sure I don't do anything that's not safe.  He holds the priesthood, and that's very special because he can give me blessings.  He gives me blessings when I start the school year, and he was able to baptize me because he had the priesthood.  He inspired me to wrestle and play football.  He played football in college, so I want to play in college.  He inspires me because he has the priesthood.  He makes me want to try new things because he tries new things.  I love him soooo much!

Jordan:  What I like about Daddy is that he always helps me, and he always likes to be with me.  He's always excited, and he always helps people.  He's so loving and kind, and he has the priesthood.  He always is being very nice. He is always having fun with us.  I love that Daddy always wants me to try new things, and he's always helping me with all the sports I play like wrestling.  He's very funny.  He has good ideas- he like makes up games.  He inspires me to do nice stuff and be a nice person.  I love Daddy sooo much!!

Mariah:  I love Daddy because he plays fun games with us like Monopoly Empire.  I love it when he gives us big kisses and hugs.  I like it that he's strong in the gospel.  I love how he helps do all we need like if we fall down, he helps us up. He inspires me to be an amazing person.  He's strong.  Once we were on the way back from the beach, and I forgot my shoes.  He carried me all the way back.  I love him sooooo much.

Juliana:  Daddy loves me.  Daddy loves Mommy.  Daddy loves Jesus.

Jayden:  "Daddy and Jesus"  When Abe came home Thursday night after his 2 week trip, we were all hiding from him for a long time… very quietly.  Jayden kept quiet until he actually saw Abe, and then he yelled out, "I want to say 'HI DADDY!!!'"  Running and hugging Daddy is his favorite thing to do, and he couldn't contain himself anymore.

On 4th of July, we're all running a 5k.  Mariah has been training with me; but on Friday, she ran with Abe to help him get ready for the race… 

On the return, Mariah was doing a cute little hand motion to Abe to try to encourage him to finish his 3 miles strong.  She was in HEAVEN running beside Daddy!! Abe doesn't like to run, but he LOVES to do what the family does… so here he is pushing himself to his limits for the sake of bonding time with the family!!

He clasped hands with the others at "The Winner's Circle."  Everybody was proud of Daddy!!

We knew a storm was coming in later in the day on Saturday, so we all went to the beach at 7am for a swim.  The children were anxious to show Abe their new tricks.  

…and then Abe tried.  The children wrote a lot about how much they love that Abe is willing to try new things.  All 6 children watched in awe as Abe tried… and tried… and tried again… The fact that he tried to do the things that they loved made him their hero.

 Jayden's Hero

Tyson's Hero

Mariah and Juliana's Hero

Jackson's Hero

Jordan's Hero

My Hero

My Turn:  Abe is our hero because he gives all he has to make a beautiful life for our children and for me.  We all know that we could not have the beautiful life we have without his many sacrifices, his passionate heart, and his desire to do what's right.  He encourages me to do and to be who God intended me to be.   I don't think there was ever a time when I told Abe about a passion or desire of mine when he told me not to do it.  He always says, "Do it!!"  

That is also what he does for our children.  They know they can do and be anything in this beautiful life!  They know their father believes in them!!  He is their coach.  He is their mentor.  He is their friend.  He is their comedian.  He is their spiritual strength.  He is their friend.  He is their leader.  He is their father.  He is their hero.  

Like his father and his father-in-law, his sense of duty to God and his family is paramount in his life, and I feel blessed to be on this journey of parenting with him by my side. 

Father's Day Part 2: Hero Grandaddy!!

Jackson:  Grandaddy is the best.  Grandaddy is very strong in the Spirit.  Grandaddy is very energetic.  He is strong, and he's very nice.  He sacrifices for us.  He gives us wonderful stuff and gifts.  He's very sweet, and he teaches us wonderful history lessons.  He makes the history lessons fun.  He knows a lot about scripture stories.  He watches us wrestle sometimes, and he will do almost anything for us.  When I was 5-years old, a kid was picking on me at the playground at the school, and Grandaddy came and said, "Don't mess with my grandson!"  It made me feel good that Grandaddy was watching over me.  Grandaddy inspires me to be strong in the gospel.  I love you Grandaddy!!  You are awesome!!

Tyson:  Grandaddy watches TV with me.  He's a very spiritual man.  He teaches me a lot about history.  He helps me with my schoolwork when I come to his house.  He makes sure I'm always okay.  Like if I'm not feeling well, he helps me get into the bed; and if I need something, he'll go and get it.  He makes sure that I finish doing a job if I'm doing one.  He makes me hotdogs.  Sometimes he takes me to his garden; I like going with him because I like to be around him.  Grandaddy inspires me to be wise.  I love Grandaddy so much.

Jordan:  Grandaddy is awesome!  I like that he always gives us history lessons.  I like that he volunteers to patrol the neighborhood.  I like it because he keeps things safe.  I like that whenever he visits, he plays games with us.  When he visits us, he goes to our wrestling matches.  I like that he has a big backyard that we can play sports in.  I like that he has a great testimony, and I like that he's the stake executive secretary because he's very strong in the church.  Grandaddy inspires me to be a leader in the church.  I love Grandaddy!!

Mariah:  Grandaddy is awesome!  Grandaddy helps us when we need help, and he's really nice with us.    And he lets us do things that he doesn't do.  Like if we want to go swim somewhere and he doesn't want to, he'll still take us there.  Like if we accidentally make a mess, he asks us to just clean it up just a little bit, so it could be a little cleaner.  We don't have to do too much work, so we can have more time with him.  Grandaddy inspires me to be healthy like him.  I love you soooo much.

Juliana:  Grandaddy loves Jesus.  I like riding on Grandaddy (his shoulders).  I give big hugs and kisses.  I love Grandaddy.

Jayden:  Every time we talk about Grandaddy, Jayden gets a HUGE smile.  You should see his excitement when Grandaddy walks in the door.

Abe:  I could tell stories about my Dad all day.  He is an amazing man and has done many amazing things. He has also done many small and simple things, which have helped shape me.  These memories I share will focus on a few of those things.

This is a conversation that would take place in our home several times a year.

Kids: What would you like for Christmas, Dad
Dad: Whirled Peas
Kids: huh?
Dad: World Peace. All I want is World Peace.
Kids: Come on, dad! You can’t use that again.
Dad: You asked me what I wanted. And all I want is World Peace.

I swear, you could never get him to answer anything different.

My love of The St. Louis Baseball Cardinals was inspired by the several visits My Dad and I took to Busch Stadium.  The live games were always special.  I remember going down by the Mississippi River front and watching, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Jose Oquendo, Terry Pendelton, Tommy Herr, Jack Clark, and many more play.   In fact, Dad helped my love for all sports grow. He was a big factor in which sports I watched and played growing up. He was even my football coach in little league, and he was a good one. All the guys loved him, and he would let us try to tackle him after practice. I can still picture a bunch of little 8 year olds bouncing off my dad as he ran without pads or helmets to a touch down almost every time. We loved it!    

He did always let me choose what I wanted to play, though. He never forced me. That is a tradition I have carried on with my kids. I remember for a brief time while I was about 11 years old, I dropped out of football to do acting.  I am sure, he was probably surprised by my choice, but he never tried to talk me into going back to football. Of course, I did go back a couple of years later, but he would always counsel with me and listen, before laying out what options he felt were available to me. Then, he would support me in my choices.

My dad is a history buff. I never heard a history lesson that was better than when he would tell me all the details from his own perspective.  He does the same thing with my sons now.

My Dad took me camping, even when he didn’t want to go. We went to scout camps, father and son camps, etc. My brother and I felt so cool when we would show up at the Father’s and Son’s campout with a bucket of Kentucky Fried and some biscuits, while everyone else was burning tin foil dinners in the fire.

I remember when my dad took me on a float trip down the Merrimac River in Missouri.  We stopped for a break and I asked my dad if I could get into the river and play in the water a little bit. The day was hot and the water was nice and cool. My dad said, “Sure, but don’t get carried away.” Years later, I assume he meant not to get out of hand, and to be careful in the river. Back then what he said took on a very literal meaning to me. As I played in the river, the current began to carry me down the river in my life vest. I remember calling out, “Dad! Dad! I’m getting carried away!” No problem. Dad jumped in and swam out to grab me. I was never in real danger, but I determined from that point on to never “get carried away” again.

My dad will tell you that he can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but he was always singing to us when we were growing up. Much of my love for music comes from him and my mom always having some sort of music playing.  My dad is the biggest Temptations fan around. He was always singing My Girl, usually to my sister or mom.

My dad by far is the best home teaching companion I have ever had. We would sometimes have 10 or 12 families when he was the Branch President in Massachusetts. We would visit every one of them.  He was always an example of service and loving people, in some cases despite what they felt about him.

Many times he would be up before everyone and go to bed after everyone. He showed me what it means to work hard and be responsible.  He was always getting us up and ready from prayer early in the morning, FHE, Seminary, you name it. Anything that could help us gain a better testimony, he was supporting it, encouraging it, and leading by example.

These are just a few things I am touching on about my dad that make him a hero to me. I could probably write a book about it. Now, that’s an idea.

Now that I am older and have a family, I can really appreciate even more all that my Dad has done to be such a good father. I pray that I can be half the father he has been to me. His sacrifices are great. His support is strong. And he is still here, encouraging...leading…loving.

My Turn:  Most of our children commented quite a bit about my father-in-law's ability to give great history lessons.  It is amazing how much history he knows!  My mother-in-law told me that when they were first dating, she got a book to reference historical facts while they were on the phone so that he would be impressed with her historical knowledge.  He fell for it, and he was impressed… but I happen to know he fell in love with her for a lot more reasons than her historical (or lack thereof) expertise. :-)

I am often impressed with Dad's great love for his wife.  I have heard him express sincere sadness when she's away on a trip.  After so many years of marriage, his yearning for her when she's away always touches my heart.

My father-in-law has also taught my kids some pretty fantastic karate lessons...

As a young child, Abe used to take karate from his dad… he was often reprimanded during class for not paying attention. :-)  Dad takes rules very seriously.  I'm especially grateful he is that way because he takes the rules/commandments of God just as seriously.  Because of that, he has raised a wonderful son who has developed an unshakeable testimony of Jesus Christ and HIS gospel.  I'm forever grateful that my children can look to the many men in their lives as true disciples of Christ.

Last year, my father-in-law wrote an entry in my blog about his conversion to Jesus Christ and to HIS gospel.  His story is inspiring.  Please click on the link below if you would like to read it.  What a man!  What a life!!

This second link is the original one I posted of a small piece of his conversion story.

There is something special about my father-in-law's sense of duty and service to God… My father-in-law serves in the temple every week.  He currently serves as the stake executive secretary, and he serves in the community as a patrol officer.  When we lived with my in-laws, we often presented them with activities that seemed more fun or more appealing, but he turned those opportunities down to fulfill his duties.  There were times when we knew he wasn't feeling well… but he still got up extra early in the morning to serve God, his community, and the people around him because his word meant so much more than anything else could.  As much as we wanted Dad to participate with us in the activities that seemed so much more fun, it means more to us that we have his legacy of a man who honors his word, his duties, and his service to God.

When we moved to Utah, my father-in-law made the long drive with us and helped us unpack.  When we moved to Michigan; again, he made the long drive with us.  When we moved to Florida, there he was unpacking all of our belongings once again.  Then, we moved again here in Florida, he was right there once again right by Abe's side… unpacking our entire house… without complaint.

We have so many wonderful pictures of my father-in-law/Dad with our children.  He truly loves his grandchildren.  I know that he has great desires for them to feel of his love… to feel of God's love through his love.  My father-in-law never knew his own father. He broke the cycle of absent fathers and chose to make better of his life.  He was the first to graduate from college from his family, and he has become a great leader and father not only to us but to many church families. Many who grow up in the type of circumstances that he did wouldn't have the drive, the will, the ability, and the faith to achieve and accomplish what he has and continues to accomplish.

My father-in-law is a man to be admired.  He is a hero in our home.  We love you!!

Below is the link to Grandaddy's dear wife from Mother's Day.  Click on it if you would like to read it.  She's his special, forever companion. :-)