Friday, January 17, 2014

Our Big, Happy News!! :-)

Fighting Depression

In all honesty I have been fighting depression a lot this fall.  I had to conquer the beast frequently by dropping to my knees and crying out to my Heavenly Father.  The Lord continued to show HIS hand by providing beautiful answers to so many prayers.  Seeing HIS hand in my life held me together when I was about to crumble completely. It was a real war inside my head!!  Just when I would conquer one battle of disappointment, another battle would present itself.

I felt powerless and without control over the situation.  I will never write the details of how we lost all our money, but our situation was instigated by the unethical practices of another.  That was a hard thing to swallow.  As I struggled through that pain, the thought continued to come into my mind, "It's ok.  Don't be angry.  This is where I wanted you anyway."  I had to remind myself of this over and over again because it felt as if life was being thrown at me instead of me taking the reins.  I felt as if I was hanging on to the tail of a long dragon, and the dragon was whipping me from side to side at the whims of his delight.  Sometimes I could even see that dragon in my mind, and I wanted to be set free.

In truth, when you listen to the adversary's influence that all is lost, you are in fact at the tail-end being whipped around.

On days when I wanted to crumble and go hide in a corner, I mustered up the courage to smile, to be joyful, and to try to make a difference.  My scriptures, deep love from my family, and many, many prayers were my iron rod.  I knew I could not let go of that iron rod that was guiding me through the very real mists of darkness trying to attack my brain!  I KNEW I was under attack, and I KNEW that I would push my way through it… but when???  In Elder Holland's October 2013 General Conference talk, "Like a Broken Vessel," he spoke about depression:

" At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was. In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “search[ed] … and contemplate[d] the darkest abyss” 3and persevered through it—not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

I have been tempted to believe it was a sign of weakness when depressing thoughts threatened to dominate my mind.  But when I pushed through those depressing thoughts with scriptures in hand, I felt stronger than ever before.  Each day was a strengthening moment when I decided to turn to the scriptures instead of wallowing in my disappointments and fears about our future.

I know that so many of you prayed for us, and I sob right now thinking about your beautiful hearts…taking the time to remember our little family in your prayers.  We were not starving.  We were not without shelter.  I just had a broken heart that was struggling to let go of things the way I wanted them to be.  The hard part was that I did not have unrighteous desires.  I wanted to have a home and money so we could have the means to touch other's lives.  Being molded in HIS hands, I learned how to help others the way God wanted me to.  It was God's ways… not mine.  God's ways have brought many miracles to our little neighborhood and to our ward and to our family.

A Push from God

In mid-December, I felt a very strong push in my heart and mind that it was time to change our situation, so I went full force trying to find our miracle.

My mother sent me a check with literal strings taped to it. Her instructions were that the check was not a gift.  It was only to be used to put a deposit down on a house.  (My mother is the greatest teacher the world has ever known!! - really!!)

I spent weeks searching for 2 bedroom homes.  I planned on stuffing all 6 children into one room, and Abe and I would be in another room.  I made inquiries on homes like this until a realtor finally told me that Florida law states that we had to have 4 bedrooms because of how many children we have.  I was slightly relieved because then I didn't feel greedy or guilty for looking for homes that were bigger and more desirable…it was the law!  

Once we started looking for 4-bedroom homes, we were looking at spending quite a bit more money unless we wanted to live in a very scary neighborhood.  We did find a couple of homes in a city about 45 minutes away.  The realtor sent the papers of our favorite home to my email.  Right when I was about to sign the papers, our friend rang the doorbell.  He was visiting from Tennessee!  I sent the realtor a text message saying we would have to wait until the morning to sign the papers.  

We spent several hours chatting with our friend.  Late that night, I went to print off the documents from my email, but I felt a very strong hesitation… I couldn't sign the papers.  We were waiting to hear about a possible job opportunity in Utah.  I thought maybe we needed to wait to hear back about that job.  We told the realtor that we would give him our decision by Friday.  By the following afternoon, somebody else had already snatched the home.  

Now what?!?  I honestly cannot count how many hours I spent investigating homes online… looking at schools, neighborhoods, proximity to Walmart and the church… nothing felt right.  The more we were willing to spend on a home, the more picky I became with the type and location of home we would be renting.  I was scared to look at nicer homes because I didn't want to be foolishly looking above our means.

Abe and I went to visit several homes.  Lots of them had lakes in the backyard, and I knew that would be a very serious hazard for our little Jayden.  Several had no yards; and with 6 children being home-schooled, I knew we needed space for them to run outside.  Several of the homes required too much money upfront.  Others required verification of our income which was difficult to prove with all of our side jobs… balloons, singing, piano, internet ventures etc. I began to lose hope, and I began to feel foolish for even thinking we could do this already… yet I was so desperate to have a home again, and I felt the push from God.

Becoming of One Heart Again

Throughout this struggle, I began to resent Abe for not providing us a home.  Through prayer and true miracles, both of our hearts softened.  I understood more of his pain, and he more fully understood mine.  A greater level of peace within our hearts was restored.  We were no longer in survival mode in our marriage.  We were fully appreciating our differences and fully validating and understanding each other's concerns.  That was an important step in order for the Lord's great miracles to be realized in our lives.  

A couple of days ago I read in 4th Nephi in the Book of Mormon.  The people were feeling complete peace and oneness in the land.  Because of that peace 4 Nephi 1:5 says, "And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus… and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus."

Finding a Home… Would it Work?

Feeling greater hope and peace in our marriage, we decided to look once again for a home.  This time when I went on one of the rental websites, Daytona Beach popped up.  I kept rewriting the website so that Orlando would pop up instead.  Twice I returned to the computer and Daytona Beach popped up again.  Daytona Beach was over an hour away.  We had been looking in a 45 mile radius from Orlando feeling no peace about anything we found.  Just for fun, I decided to check what was in the area KNOWING that's not where we would end up.  

Shocked, I saw a BEAUTIFUL house with 5 bedrooms that was at a great price.  (I secretly wanted 5 bedrooms for "other" reasons that I knew Abe wasn't ready to consider yet.)  We also saw another BEAUTIFUL house with 4 bedrooms.  Both homes were well-maintained in clean and safe neighborhoods.  Both were in a city north of Daytona Beach.  This would be at least an hour and a half drive away from our in-law's home where we had been staying.  

They were both literally a block away from the ocean on one side and a block and a half away from a beautiful river and wildlife preserve on the other side.  Beautiful hikes through the woods bordered this river.  

It seemed too good to be true.  My heart and soul are connected to nature and water.  It would be my ultimate dream!!  It could never happen…  How could it?  How could things be going my way?  I felt like I had complained too much and didn't deserve to have what I really wanted.  

Visiting the Home

Abe and I decided we had to visit the homes just to mark them off our lists.  I was concerned about wasting gas on the hour and a half drive merely to check something off our list.  Abe insisted it would make us feel better to check it out.  I called the realtors of both homes to find out more information.  The realtor of the home I loved the most had just moved to Florida from Michigan!  She was so sweet and so wonderful- I felt connected to her immediately.  We chatted about our Michigan memories, and I scheduled a viewing for the next day- which was last Friday.  I also scheduled a viewing of the other home with 4 bedrooms.

That night I felt scared.  

Several thoughts ran through my mind:  How in the world could we ever afford this home?  Is this foolish?  Is God going to help us to make ends meet?  Is this what God wants?  I want it so badly- am I forcing this to happen?

I let go of all my worries and lay in bed peacefully thinking….

All of a sudden a very clear proposal came to my mind of a plan that would give us time to make the payments.  I felt in my heart that I would need to ask the realtor of both beautiful homes if they would accept this plan.  I told Abe about the plan that came into my mind, and I told him it felt like it came from God.  At first he had a hard time following what I was even explaining.  Then he raised his eyebrows doubting either one would accept such an offer.  I told him that God gave it to me, so I had a good feeling about it.

The moment we entered the city of our destination, my heart began to pound very heavily in my chest.  I wanted to squeal with excitement.  I told Abe I couldn't be trusted with my emotions.  This was my dream spot, and I wouldn't be able to differentiate between my heart and the Holy Ghost.

Then the thought came to me:  "What if the Holy Ghost put these desires into my heart? What if God is so great at orchestrating our lives that HE is using our desires to place us where HE wants us to fulfill HIS purposes."

I continued to ponder as we viewed both homes. I asked both realtors about the proposal I had received during the night.

Just as I assumed, the realtor of the 4 bedroom home wouldn't do it.  HOWEVER, the realtor of the home I really loved the most understood my proposal and accepted it without even thinking twice about it.  That was my answer!  I knew we could do it… somehow!!  I even committed to tying balloons in the streets to make it work.  It just felt right.  

Violin Miracles!!  Truly, Truly Beautiful People

On Tuesday before seeing this home on-line, I decided to ask my children's violin teacher what my children would have to do if we lived out of the school district.  Sadly she said Jordan would have to give his violin back, but Mariah could keep hers… then she hesitated… she said Mariah could keep hers because she had been paying for Mariah's rental fee for her!!  I burst into tears.  I had no idea!  I thought Mariah was borrowing hers from the school district just like Jordan.  I'm certain this absolutely amazing woman watched Mariah carry her tiny violin with her into class several times a week feeling grateful in her heart that Mariah was having the opportunity to learn.  Oh I just couldn't even stop crying.  I still can't!!  Her heart is beyond beautiful!! In fact, every time I see her I cry again.

I went to scouts that night with emotions very close to the surface.  When I arrived, a sister walked up to me and handed me ANOTHER violin.  She said that she and her daughter had held a Family Home Evening the night before to decide who should receive her violin which was now too small for her daughter.  They both decided that our family should have it.  She had NO IDEA that we would possibly be giving up our violins to move away.  She had NO IDEA that I had just been talking to this other sister about the violins that very day.  She heard a prompting and followed it!!  I cried so hard when she gave us the violin.  We both cried and hugged.  The gift of music is indescribable.  It's a gift of opportunity and of richness.  She was in a hurry to get home, so I still haven't had the opportunity to tell her how significant her gift is.  How significant it is that the very day I realized that we might have to give up the violins, was the very day we would be offered one to have permanently.

It felt as if all would be well if we had to move further away than we planned, but both Abe and I still worried about his job…

The Job

I wrote in a previous blog about a very intense fast I performed a few weeks ago.  I wrote about the strong impressions I received to move forward with finding a home after having that fast.  Shortly after that blog post, Abe was laid off from his job indefinitely, Abe's car broke down, and on Sunday baby Jayden had to go to the emergency room for stitches.

Ummmm…. that was NOT what I expected… laid off?  No car?  Hospital bills?  We had lots of side incomes, and granted… this job wasn't providing a good income, but we were grateful for every dollar.

I wrote in my blog about how strengthened I felt from my fast, but I assumed that nothing else came from my fast at that particular time.  Well… that's just because I didn't recognize it!!

On the very day that I devoted my fast to finding a new house, Abe was doing an interview and was hired!  He even told me (very casually) that he was hired.  Since it was only commission-based and he had been "hired" by several companies this fall which were only commission-based, I dismissed this job in my mind along with the others.

It took about a week of hearing Abe talk about upcoming shows and training for his job that it hit me. Wait a minute!  Abe!  You got a real job- and you got it the same day of my fast!!  I was beginning to realize that being laid off from his other job allowed Abe to search for and find a job with greater opportunity.  

Signing the Papers & Miraculous Details

We recognized that God was definitely guiding us.  On Monday, we decided to take a huge and seemingly foolish step into the dark.  We filled out the application for the home and mailed the application fee.    Next, we requested the lease.  It took a couple of days for them to write up the lease under the terms we had requested.  We signed it, and the realtor signed it today (Thursday)!!  Move-in date is this coming Tuesday!!!  Yikes!!!  We are so excited!!  We feel so good about it… but we also know there is so much for us to do to make it work.  

Abe worked his first official day on Tuesday of this week.  We were praying so hard to know if this job would be the one to get us through this transition.  As of Thursday, he was the top salesman for the past two days at the show!  You don't know the joy in my heart to know that he is excelling!!   We are all praising God. 

Abe and I united ourselves once again to promise to work together on our other business ventures. 

This very week when we are moving forward on complete faith, an unexpected check was deposited into our bank from a concert Abe did a couple of months ago.  I believe it is not a coincidence that we received that check on the very week that we signed the papers on a house.

In the beginning of December, a lady, who is now a friend of mine, approached me about hosting business shows at big conventions.  It pays very well, and I hoped to be called.  Just a couple of days ago Abe's dad asked me if I had been contacted about hosting any business shows.  I told him no.  I thought those opportunities for money were gone.  

Once we sent in our application on the home, I received two potential hosting jobs!!  Are you kidding? Once again, I believe the timing is crucial because it's as if God saw us apply our faith and then opened the windows of blessings to reassure our worried hearts that all would be well. 

Missionary Transfer

I have had a deep concern about our sweet neighbors who have been coming to church.  I love them so very much.  I want them to know that my love for them and my desire for them to continue in their quest for truth is of the upmost sincerity.  I have been praying so intently for them.  

Yesterday, one of my sweet readers left a comment on my blog reminding me "these missionaries were called to serve at this time in your area."  It's true!!  There are 4 sets of missionaries serving in our congregation.  Two are teaching one neighbor and two others are teaching another neighbor.  They couldn't be more perfectly called at the right time.

One set of these missionaries is a new set of Spanish-speaking sister missionaries.  I had the honor to give these sisters a ride to their new apartment.  Before I drove them to their new apartment, my children and I attended their huge transfer meeting.  

The chapel was full of missionaries waiting to hear about where they would be serving next.   As I sat in the foyer, I heard a missionary talking over the pulpit about his transfer.  As he spoke, the thought came into my mind, "Your friends are in my hands.  You're just on a missionary transfer."  

I felt so much peace hearing that perspective in my mind.  I didn't feel like I was abandoning my dear friends; God will place others in their path, and we will continue loving them.  When we lived in Utah I had asked God to allow our family to serve a mission somehow.  My prayers have been answered!  Our family is on a missionary transfer. 

Long Story Short Version :-)

*I pushed through months of a hovering temptation to melt into depression.  The ONLY reason I was able to stomp it out each day was because of increased scripture study, messages of strength from my mother, patience from my husband, my children's unwavering faith, and heartfelt prayers from you and by me. 

*Abe is working an unlikely job that came during an intense fast, and he's excelling!!!  Hooray!

*We found our dream house.  It still doesn't seem real because the house is EXACTLY what I've always wanted… We're moving to a 5 bedroom home right between the ocean and the river- both only a block or two away!!!  There are sidewalks for miles and miles, so we can ride our bikes all over the place.  There are trails and national parks all within bike riding distance.

*The miracles of violins, jobs, and friends came when Abe and I fasted, united, and applied our faith.

*God's timing was paramount… When God tells you it's time, IT'S TIME!! My "time" was about 5 months ago, but HE opens the doors to create marvelous miracles when we patiently push through the struggle and wait on HIS timing.

Thank you!!

I can't thank you enough for your prayers- your words of encouragement- your love.  I know that just because we're moving to our beach home (my dream home), does not mean that all our struggles will disappear.  Not so… that's definitely not what was intended for this life.  I do feel I have grown a bit.  More than anything, I have grown in my testimony of Jesus' great, magnificent love for us.  HE is busy orchestrating the details of our lives.