Friday, May 30, 2014

Hank's Circle of Love

Let me tell you a bit about my neighbor, Hank.

Hank will be 89-years old next week.  He has a full head of gorgeous, white hair.  His skin is tanned from working in his yard and from going on his daily walks.  He is very slender and his skin is thin and fragile from battling shingles over the past several years.  After several falls, he recently started using a walker to keep himself steady when he walks uneven areas in the road and sidewalk.  Every time we see him, he reminds us that he doesn't REALLY need the walker.  We assure him that we know he is strong enough to walk without it, but that it's just for his safety.

Hank's mind is active and alert.  He often tells us stories about his years playing professional baseball for the Cincinnati Reds.  We all adore him.  If we see him outside on our drive home, my children jump out of our van before we reach home, so they can go greet him.

Yesterday was Juliana's birthday.

In celebration of her, ALL the children were out running together and encouraging the young ones with
" The Winner's Circle."
(I wrote about their winner's circle earlier this month.)

Jayden ran a whole mile!

My children have continued to run every morning; and almost every time they run, Hank comes out to walk while they're out there.  Yesterday, Hank gave them all a pep talk about the importance of exercise and loving others.  Hank wishes he could still run, so he loves seeing the children achieving so much.  He believes in their potential and encourages them often.

Looking into my sweaty children's, faces, Hank reached into his pocket, handed me a wad of money and said, "I want to give you all the money I have with me so you can get these kids an ice cream."

He gave them over $50.00!!  I told him that was WAY too much for ice-cream, but he insisted we keep it.  As requested, I bought the children some ice cream bars yesterday with Hank's money… Ice-cream was EVERYWHERE, but it was YUMMY!!

The children put the rest of their money together with Hank's money to buy an inexpensive surfboard we found on Craig's List.  It was still in its original packaging like new!  What a blessing! The children had been wanting a surfboard ever since we moved here.  They had a BLAST last night trying to stand up on their new board.

After an evening of attempted surfing, I sent the kids to bed and made a detailed list to schedule out every hour of our time for the following day.  I awoke this morning feeling determined to move like the wind and accomplish EVERYTHING!

We started with scripture study and our morning run.

While we were outside, we saw Hank again walking down the street.  We all gently hugged him and told him how we used the money he had given the children.

Hank smiled broadly and told them he would support them in anything they needed for their sports.  He gave them another pep talk about the importance of what they were doing to stay strong for the rest of their lives.  He told them the potential he saw in them and how great they were.  After chatting for quite some time, he invited all of us to his house to show us pictures of his life.

It was a peaceful walk to his house.  His pace is a lot slower than we are used to.  We stayed in his pleasant home for quite a while looking at pictures of his wife who has passed on, pictures of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, his time in the marines, and his time as a professional baseball player.  I could feel Hank's joy as he shared memories of playing baseball with his father, as he shared stories of his time on the road as a professional player, and as he shared about how much he loves his family.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we learned about the life of this kind, gentle man.

After stopping to talk to a few other neighbors on the way back home, I groaned a bit to myself realizing it was now lunchtime, and I hadn't accomplished hardly anything I had planned on doing for the morning.  As defeat started to creep into my mind, the thought came very strongly, "…but you took time for people, and that is more important."

The thought was reassuring, but I still wanted to accomplish something tangible in my home!!  At lunchtime, I read to the children from President Hinckley's book, Stand A Little Taller.  Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I read today's message:

"One of the greatest challenges we face in our hurried, self-centered lives is to follow the counsel of the Master 'to do it unto one of the least of these my brethren.'  Take the time today to reach out, to help someone less fortunate, to strengthen and lift a brother or sister in need."

Knowing we were way off schedule and realizing the inspired message we had just received, Tyson exclaimed in disbelief, "Does that really say that in there?!?"  It sure did!! :-)

Hank has most definitely blessed our lives more than I believe we could ever bless his life.  He is such a peaceful, wonderful man.  However, we would not have known him had we decided we were too busy to stop and chat with him.  As Hank feels strengthened by the love the children give to him, he returns even more love.  That's just the way it works; we participate in a beautiful circle of love… "The Winner's Circle"… of LOVE"

The Winner's Circle of Love is what Christ's love is for us.  Christ's love encircles us around and around.  We try to keep up, but we can't.  That's ok.  I believe Jesus is just grateful we're in that circle with HIM.  I'm grateful HE has put kind, gentle people in our lives who emulate that encircling love.  Hank's kindness and love makes laps around us, but I believe Hank is grateful that we're in that circle with him.

So… we just keep running and feeling grateful for Hank's (encouraging) Circle of Love.  I believe God sent Hank into our lives.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Homeschooling Success!

For homeschool, we're doing a review of the things I have taught my children over the year.  In all honesty, I have been feeling VERY frustrated over the last few weeks wishing they had retained more than they had.  Even though they are all ahead of their grade levels for their respective ages, I couldn't believe how many questions they were missing!!  I wondered and asked God if I was doing the right thing for their education… or if I should quit homeschooling them...

On Sunday night, I checked on my children before I went to bed.  When I looked at the bottom bunk,  there lay Jackson and Jordan with their heads pressed together watching something on Jackson's Kindlefire.  Everyone else was asleep.  I peeked at what was on their screen; they were watching a video on the importance of being chaste and clean in their lives. They looked up at me and told me all the other uplifting videos they had been watching from the Mormon channel of videos.

The next morning, Jackson requested to give the Family Home Evening lesson that very night.  We arrived home too late from Memorial Day festivities, so we planned on listening to his lesson the following night.

We have been a part of dinner parties or had dinner parties at our house for the past 4 nights.  After last night's gathering, we were all exhausted.  Abe would be leaving at 3:30 the following morning for another trip, and he still needed to pack and wash clothes.  We were feeling like an official Family Home Evening would need to be pushed to the back burner again.  However, Jackson begged to hold Family Home Evening, so he and Jordan could share their message with us.

It was 9:30 at night.  I felt foolish for turning down Jackson and Jordan's requests to teach a lesson to the family.  We all "let go" of the unimportant things and sat on the couch as a family.

Jordan and Jackson shared the following videos with us:

"Leave the Party"

"Dare to Stand Alone"

After each video, they asked all of us how the videos made us feel and what we learned from them.  Then they proceeded to explain the importance of standing for what's right in every aspect of our lives.

I was in awe at the maturity of my 8 and 12-year old sons as they spoke about the gospel.  As I sat there my heart was deeply touched… then it hit me!  I was not failing them!  These boys understood the gospel on a deeper level than I ever did at their age.  Yes!  I greatly value their scholastic education; but to me, their spiritual education takes precedence over all else.

We spend LOTS of time every morning talking about and reading the teachings of Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful the Lord showed me (at the persistence of my children) that I was not failing them at what mattered most.  Their testimonies, love, and passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ matter to me WAY more than a few missed math questions.  I thank God for inspiring my young boys' hearts to share their spiritual maturity with our family.  Their lesson encouraged my heart greatly!

That encouragement was a miracle to me.  God answered my prayer by helping me to see the success of their spiritual education.  The thought came to me that I should work harder to teach math and their other subjects with the same Spirit of God that's present as I teach HIS gospel…

I believe the Spirit filled Jordan's heart from teaching and bearing testimony to the family, and a miracle took place within his heart as well:

Last night, I found him sleeping soundly on the floor between all the children's bedrooms.  He's getting quite heavy, so I dragged him back into his room.  This morning I asked 8-year old Jordan if he even knew he was sleeping in the hallway.

He knew he had been.  He said, "I wanted to make sure that Jackson, Tyson, Jayden, Mariah, and Juliana were safe.  I just wanted to be nicer to everybody."

I'm grateful for the tender moments when God gives us a glimpse of the fruits of our labors.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

"The Priesthood Man"

Abe came back into town yesterday afternoon after performing in a concert in Virginia Beach.  On our way home from the airport, he asked me on a date for that night.  Feeling giddy, I announced to the children that I had a date!

Our date turned out PERFECT!

We went to a little restaurant right on the beach.  It was a quiet area with not much traffic or commercialism.  There were only about 8 other people at the restaurant, so we were the ONLY ones to sit outside on the upper deck.

From where we were, we could feel the breeze from the ocean, and we could hear and see the waves crashing.  As I sat there I commented that I was grateful it wasn't too cold.  Abe laughed because he had been thinking how grateful he was that it wasn't too hot!  We've had weather in the 90's here. :-)

Abe has always hated the heat, and I have always LOVED it.  His body is just naturally hotter than the average person- Lol- speaking about his bodily heat. :-)  (Although, I would have to admit he is pretty hot in the other manner of speaking as well! :-)) I have watched steam literally rise from his head during chilly evening performances with his singing group.

Abe has also always hated running, and I have always LOVED it.  Running in the heat and sweating as if I'm on a Gatorade commercial is one of my favorite things to do!  So.. running with my husband is one of my most favorite ways to bond.

One of our runs a couple of weeks ago was particularly special:  We ran on the beach and before leaving the sand, we jumped into the water for a quick swim before putting our shoes back on to run home.  It was AMAZING!

Today as we prepared for our run, I walked outside and felt excited as the heat soaked into my skin; I looked over at Abe and saw him mustering up the courage to face the heat.  All of a sudden the sacrifice he was making hit me deeply, and I felt a lump well up in my throat.  My sweet husband was running in the heat just to bond with me!!!

We had only run a block, and I told him I was trying not to cry because I could feel his love for me.  He gave a loving laugh and said, "You just now got it?"  I told him he was my hero.  He questioned me:  "How am I your hero?"  I responded, "…because you give your all to make me happy."

What a man!  He is trying so hard to make everyone happy on his short visits home that he even ran at noon in Florida's sweltering, upper 90's, heat today… with no complaints and seeking no recognition.

Today, after making me happy as can be, he quickly packed up his bags to take our 3 oldest boys on a Father/Sons Campout.  Our boys were ecstatic to be going with their father on this special outing.

Abe tries so hard to be the man God wants him to be, and I don't always recognize the sacrifices he makes to ensure our happiness.  He's doing a beautiful job, and I'm grateful for his sacrifices on our behalf.  I thank God today for helping me to recognize more fully my husband's greatness as the priesthood holder of our home.

As I pondered on his responsibilities in our home, my thoughts turned to a General Conference talk I read from April 2014's Priesthood Session.  It is entitled
 "The Priesthood Man."

In that talk, First Counselor in the First Presidency of our church, President Henry B. Eyring said: 

"Each of you will be a model of a priesthood man whether you want to be or not.  You became a lighted candle when you accepted the priesthood.  The Lord put you on the candlestick to light the way for everyone who surrounds you…. You can be a great model, an average one, or a bad model…  Those who have been my models of great priesthood holders do not easily recognize that they possess heroic qualities.  In fact, they seem to have difficulty seeing those things that I so much admire in them."

Abe is our hero, and I feel so grateful for his heroic acts of love.  Abe is also a great "model of a priesthood man" to all of us… and especially to our 4 young boys who are learning what it means to be "The Priesthood Man." I trust that God will continue to send miracles into our lives because of the way my husband honors his duties as a husband, as a father, as a child of God, and as "The Priesthood Man" of our home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

God's Army of Angels

Last week I asked Abe if he wanted to bike to the kids' wrestling practice instead of driving. (It's 25-miles round trip.)  Being the supportive husband that he is, he agreed to it.

Since I knew he hadn't been riding his bike as much as we had been, I rode the bike with the trailer attachment while he rode my women's bike.  On the way there, Mariah got a flat tire.  No problem, I sent Abe and my older boys ahead of us so they would make it to wrestling practice in time.  The hole in Mariah's tire wasn't leaking fast, so Mariah and I stopped every once in a while to refill her tire with air.  Once we arrived at the school, Abe took the tube off Mariah's bike and patched it up.

After wrestling practice, I was looking forward to a relaxing ride home as a family.  I mentioned in a previous post that on the way back we passed an alligator on the edge of the sidewalk.  We survived that encounter and crossed the bridge which took us over the Intra-Atlantic Coastway.  Once we reached the beach with 7 miles to go, I looked back and Abe was stopped.  Jordan's chain had been popping off, so I figured Abe had stopped to help Jordan.

A few minutes passed, and Abe called to tell me that the bike he was riding-my bike (the best bike we own)- was broken beyond repair.  I didn't believe him until I saw it…

I felt so sad.  The whole mechanism on the back wheel completely broke off!  My bike was destroyed , and our plans were crushed.  

Negative thoughts began to rush into my mind:  We were planning on taking a trail through the woods on the way home for some added discovery and enjoyment as a family- now we couldn't.  We wouldn't even be saving gas money because we would have to drive all the way back to pick up Abe and my broken bike!  This also meant we wouldn't be doing family bike rides with Abe anymore for quite some time.  (Abe wasn't as heart-broken about this aspect as I was.)  

I really hate it when plans don't go the way I want them to- especially when I envision them being so good for family bonding!  As we stood on the side of the road trying to decide who would stay and who would bike home the remaining 7 miles, my eyes were drawn to a woman walking up the sidewalk holding a potted plant in one arm.  She walked with so much confidence right towards us that I figured she was coming to help us in some way.

She greeted us warmly complimenting our large family.  I confessed we were a bit disheartened because we had a broken bike.  She put the pot down, immediately grabbed my hands, and started praying.  At first we didn't realize she was praying because her eyes were open.  She called down the powers of God to bless our family.  After we all gave our "Amens," she gave me a huge hug and kissed me on the cheek.  Then she went to each of my 6 children and kissed them too!!!  She went to Abe and hugged him warmly.  As she walked away she reminded us that the devil wants to take our joy away, and that God has a purpose in all that we do.  

Just this morning I read a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley:  "There must be purpose in our lives.  We are here to accomplish something, to bless society with our talents and our learning.  There can be fun, yes.  But there must be recognition of the fact that life is serious, that the risks are great, but that we can overcome them if we will discipline ourselves and seek the unfailing strength of the Lord." 

Our entire encounter with this beautiful woman only lasted a couple of minutes, but she left us in awe.  

How did she know we LOVE PRAYERS? much so that her prayer became the most perfect solution to cast out the negative thoughts!  How did she know we LOVE HUGS AND KISSES? much so that we all felt filled with joy at her loving gestures!  How did she have enough love in HER heart to kiss a bunch of sweaty faces that were strangers to her?  Her faith strengthened ours.  What an angel she was!!!

We decided to leave Jackson and Abe with Jordan's bike and my women's bike on the side of the road.  I continued on home with the rest of the children.  Jackson and Abe would be playing on the beach for the next hour and a half while we biked home.  Tyson, Jordan, and Mariah thought it was a little unfair that they would miss out on beach time with Daddy.  

I saw it in a different light:  How wonderful it was that Abe would have an hour and a half alone with Jackson- his oldest child!  How rare is that?!?  

Jackson later said they wrestled together, talked on the beach, and put their feet in the water.  He said it was an awesome time with him and that it was really special for him.

I was beginning to see the good from the broken bike.

Meanwhile, we had biked about 20 miles with about 4 miles to go, and Mariah really had to use the restroom.  I sent Mariah into a restaurant on the edge of the beach with her older brothers while I stayed outside with Juliana and Jayden.  About 5 minutes later, the children returned with Italian ice pops to share!!  A woman in the restaurant fell in love with my kids and couldn't help but give them a sweet treat for their ride home.  They didn't even tell her they were riding 25 MILES!!  I was so surprised that there was a 2nd woman/earthly angel giving our family so much love on our journey home!  Her kindness lifted all of our hearts when our bodies were physically exhausted.  

Just like anybody else, I encounter thoughtless and rude people.  I, of course, encounter setbacks and disappointments.  However, I am so grateful to see that God has an army of earthly angels conveniently placed all along our paths to lift us up.  

Every time a sad thought about my broken bike and broken plans started to creep back into my mind on our long ride home, thoughts of that woman with the plant and the woman with the Italian ice pops reminded me that God was mindful of our journey.  Those moments allowed me to let go of my "perfect" plans and go with the journey that God was directing.  HIS journey is better and much more enriching to our souls!!  

I pray that I can be an earthly angel in God's army, so I can help somebody else on their journey home.

That "journey home" being our Heavenly Home.  This life is that journey. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

More Protein

Last week Abe and I were getting ready for the day, and out of the blue he said, "We really need more protein."  I told him I would LOVE to buy more of the protein he likes... when we have enough money. :-)  I told him that for the time being, we would have to continue with lots of eggs.  (We bought 15 dozen eggs last time we went shopping. :-))

Later that day, we did errands together.  I sent Abe to the grocery store while I made a return at a store right next to it.  When I entered the grocery store where Abe and the kids were shopping, I saw them entering through the "Employees Only" door with the store manager.

(This manager has ALWAYS been super sweet to us when we go to the store.  One time, several weeks ago, Mariah pulled the cart over on top of herself and cracked a bunch of eggs on the floor of the store.  The manager not only helped us clean up the mess, but he brought a Snickers bar to her to make her feel better about her accident.  On our other visits he has often handed my children little bags of cookies.)  

I quickly caught up to them and asked what was going on.  The manager was busy giving them lettuce and spinach for free that was going to be expired the following day.  Abe said the manager just offered it to them when he saw them buying a bag of spinach.  I was so excited!  We make spinach shakes every morning!!  

Then, he asked if we would like some meat.  My mouth dropped open.  He said he could sell us the meat for half the price.  I told him we had just talked about needing more protein that very morning but that it was very expensive.  He had a big cart full of meat for us to choose from.  I didn't know where to begin.  Finally, Abe, the manager, and I grabbed some chicken wings, beef pot roast, roast beef, and sliced turkey and put it into the cart.

When we went to the check-out.  The manager rang us up.  We had bought a few other items that were not a part of the sale.  I looked at the receipt thinking surely it should have cost us much, much more for our cart FULL of food.  I then realized the manager did not charge us a single penny for over $100.00 worth of meat!  That just doesn't happen… except that it did!!

I was amazed.  Abe was amazed.  He had just been asking for more protein that very morning.  I know God heard my hard-working husband's desires and had HIS hands in this grand blessing.  We are so grateful for this kind manager who treats every customer like family.  He later told us that he has the freedom to choose families to bless in that way.  What a blessing his act of service was in our lives!!  

My sweet husband now has MORE PROTEIN!! :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Juliana's Angels

After writing yesterday about Jordan's scare in the ocean, I had a REALLY long prayer last night asking God to protect my children according to HIS will.  (Abe even thought I had fallen asleep praying!!)  This morning I rolled out of bed to pray again for my children's safety.  I asked God for guidance throughout the day.

Little 3-year old Juliana awoke ready to conquer the world!!  Ever since the week before Mother's Day my boys have been waking up early on their own to go running.  Over time, Mariah joined in on the runs.  Eventually, ALL the children have been included in the morning run.  Jackson and Tyson have been taking turns pushing the double jogger stroller with the little ones strapped inside.

This morning, however, Juliana decided to RUN instead.  The older children came back inside telling me how fast she was running!  She ran a mile and a quarter and was thrilled beyond words.  She immediately lifted her legs to show off her "bulging" leg muscles.

Shortly after their run, a big rain storm hit.  There was no lightning, so Juliana and Jayden danced in the rain and splashed in the mud.  Oh my goodness you should have heard their giggles and their pure delight!!

Lol!  I'm not sure why both my kids have their shirts on inside out! :-)

After they frolicked in the rain, we held family scripture study and family prayer outside since Juliana and Jayden were covered in mud and wet grass.

After prayer, Tyson helped Juliana take a warm shower.  By mistake, Tyson closed the glass door to the shower when he was finished.  When Juliana tried to open the glass door, she couldn't do it because it was off the track.  Abe ran upstairs and gently lifted the door back onto the track.  As he did so, the entire glass door shattered on top of Juliana!!  She was standing in the middle of the glass!!!

You can see to the left of the picture where her two little feet had been standing.

I ran upstairs to find Juliana and Abe at the sink…with a lot of blood and a lot of tears!!

Juliana had so much broken glass all over her body!  She couldn't walk because her feet were covered in glass.  I struggled for a bit to find a place to carry her where I wouldn't press more broken glass into her body.  I couldn't hug her or hold her against me.  I carried her underneath her armpits all the way downstairs to my shower.  I gently washed the blood and broken glass off her body.

She began to calm down, and I pressed the wash cloth over her entire body asking her where it hurt.  To my surprise, she did not have one single cut on her entire body, and I could see no blood!!  All the blood had been from Abe's hands!!  I would have expected a few cuts on Abe, but I also would have expected some gashes on Juliana knowing how severe the crash was.  The minor abrasions remained on Abe, but Juliana's skin was in PERFECT condition.

How is it that she was STANDING IN THE MIDDLE of the broken glass… it had shattered all around her and all over her… but no cuts??  Having watched the glass shatter, Abe was shocked and grateful that Juliana's face was ok.  We would have never imagined that every inch of her was ok!!

I know EXACTLY what happened.  Not a SINGLE scratch or cut????  I know that Angels gave her a protective shield over her entire body.  I don't pretend to know how, but I know it happened!!  I KNOW it, and I FEEL the truthfulness of that as I write it.

I  believe Juliana was filled with the Spirit of God the entire morning.  She had gone on her first "real" run with the older kids, and she had danced in the rain like a little angel.  I had said two, very fervent prayers pleading for my children's safety the night before and that morning, and I believe God's Angels had been with her the entire morning.  I believe God sent HIS Angels to protect every inch of her skin in the shower today… as an answer to my prayers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Saving Jordan

Our family held our weekly "Family Home Evening" last night, and we decided to go to the beach for our activity.

The moment we arrived we noticed the waves were HUGE!!  I had never seen them so big on our beach.  We had also never seen so many crabs!! 

 The crabs were running all over the sand.  The children LOVED capturing them and studying their behaviors.  

As Abe jumped into the waves with the children, I said a silent prayer that we would be protected in the waters.  The children are strong swimmers, and they knew to stay close to the shore in front of the waves. 

After Abe's turn swimming with the children, I took a turn.  I had just been tackled to the ground by a big wave, and I looked over to see Jordan floating away BEHIND the crest of the waves.  He did not look like he had the situation under control, so I swam vigorously towards him to bring him back.  Before I could reach him, several waves came and threw Jordan back to shore again.

I quickly ran out of the water to ask Jordan what had happened.
With the greatest excitement Jordan exclaimed, 
"Jesus helped me get back to shore!!!"

In Jordan's words, this is what happened:

"I saw you [Mommy] pointing at me and telling me to come towards you.  I was feeling scared and weak because I couldn't make it back to shore because the waves weren't crashing and carrying me.  Then Jesus made a wave that was just about to crash, so it carried me forward a bit.  Then a second wave came and carried me to shore."

I am very grateful my son was safe in the ocean yesterday.  I understand that there are ALL kinds of dangers in the ocean- which is why I pray every time we go.  I also understand there are ALL kinds of dangers EVERYWHERE we go!!  On Monday we went on a family bike ride, and we saw a 4 foot alligator sitting on the edge of the sidewalk where we were riding!!  Someone had seen the alligator, so they warned us before we arrived.  That warning prepared us to stay on our bikes and KEEP RIDING!!

We take safety precautions to physically and spiritually protect ourselves from the dangers around us.  However, we often find ourselves weak or scared, and it is a miraculous feeling to know that it is Jesus who is carrying us forward.  I know the waves were sent by Jesus to carry Jordan forward at his weakest moment.  He felt and knew without a doubt that it was Heaven's power that saved him.  

I also know that Jesus sends waves of strength to carry us forward every single day at the moment we need them most… those are the Daily Miracles I write about, and I'm eternally grateful for them!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bleach in the Eye

Last Thursday we were all cleaning the house.  Tyson was sent to the toilets with the bleach spray.  Jackson  came up behind up and yelled at him to playfully scare him.  In his shock, with bleach spray in hand, Tyson turned around and reflexively shoved the bottle towards Jackson's face.  Somehow the tip of the spray bottle went straight into the center of Jackson's eyeball.

I was downstairs working, and all I heard was a blood curdling scream.  Jackson came running down the stairs yelling, "I have bleach in my eye!!!!"  His eye was beat red.  I immediately put his face under the sink and started washing his eyeball.

Jackson has a tendency to panic greatly!!

Abe saw his panic and took my cleansing to another level.  He ripped Jackson from my grasps and carried our 12-year old son like a baby all the way to the bathtub.  Jackson screamed the whole way while is arms and legs flailed all over the place.  Abe pressed Jackson's body against the bottom of the bathtub VERY FIRMLY and pried his eye open.  Jackson couldn't move a muscle while I poured cup after cup of water over his opened eyeball.  After his initial screaming and still in severe pain, Jackson  yelled, "I NEED A BLESSING!!!  WE NEED TO SAY A PRAYER!!!"

We took a break from flushing his eye with water, and Abe placed his hands on Jackson's head and gave him a Priesthood blessing of healing.   (How grateful I was that Abe was home to give him one!!)  In his blessing, Jackson was told many beautiful things.  Among them were the opportunities for Jackson to learn not to panic.  Also, he was told that he would feel better shortly.  That promise was a very important one as panic for a complete healing continued to threaten our peace over the next several hours.  

We consulted with a pharmacist and bought eye drops. We also continued to do the routine of holding Jackson down for a thorough eye cleansing several more times.  Every time we had to hold Jackson down to keep him from panicking as the water rushed over his eyeball.  Each time Jackson was learning more and more self-control.

Jackson's eye continued to burn the entire day and into the evening.  He didn't feel strong enough to go to wrestling practice that evening, but he had a tournament the following day, and he was determined to compete.

At one point Thursday evening, Jackson asked for another Priesthood blessing.  He reported that everything out of his injured eye appeared to be of a different, brighter, odd coloring.  I taught him that this was his opportunity to put faith in the Priesthood blessing he already received.  Jackson was promised that he would heal, so he needed to trust that promise from God.  At that moment, Jackson and I knelt in prayer to ask God to help me to be directed to know EXACTLY what to do to continue Jackson's healing.  I did some more reading on the internet and felt peace about our plan of action.  I knew he would be healed.

We continued the cleansing and eye drops.  We also kept an eye patch on his eye to allow it to stay protected until we left for his wrestling match the following day… and we continued to pray.

Friday evening came.  His eye was feeling significantly better, and we removed the eye patch for good.  Jackson wrestled like a champ!  I don't know if I have ever seen him wrestle with such vigor!!  He was actually growling at his opponent!  Anytime his opponent had him on his back, I yelled out, "BLEACH JACKSON!!"  That kicked him into gear, and he twisted out as fast as he could.

During Jackson's final match, he kneed himself in his eye… HIS INJURED, BLEACH EYE!!!!  Oh he looked so pitiful.  His whole eye ball and even all around the eye was beat red.  A red blood clot formed in the white part of his eye, and Jackson staggered for a while in pain.  The ref asked if he needed a break.  He was CLEARLY injured.  We kept cheering for him to continue strong.  Jackson re-entered the center of the mat, got into a determined stance, and continued wrestling with one eye shut.

This was the moment when he took the words from his Priesthood blessing to heart.  He chose not to panic.  Instead… he PINNED HIS OPPONENT!!!  Several parents came up to me to tell me they were watching that match.  One parent from another team had tears in her eyes as she spoke of Jackson's courage to keep wrestling even though he was hurt so badly.  She said, "Most of the kids here run off crying, but he kept going!!!  I was so impressed!!"

These are the miracles that God showed me from this experience:

*When Jackson was severely injured from the bleach, he knew to whom he needed to turn.  He yelled for a Priesthood blessing and prayers amidst his greatest moment of pain.

*Abe had been gone for 3 weeks.  What a blessing that he was there to give him that blessing!!

*In his blessing, he was told the Lord wanted him to learn not to panic.  Jackson was given the opportunity to display that lack of panic during his wrestling match.  In fact, not only did he NOT panic, he was praised for the strength and courage with which he acted.

*The Lord's timing for relief was a bit longer than Jackson wanted it to be.  However, that timing gave Jackson the opportunity to remain faithful for the promised blessing… which DID COME!!  Jackson's eye is completely better and with no pain.

It is a miracle to me to see the way the Lord works in our lives.  The lessons HE teaches us… the comfort and guidance HE gives us… and the desire for us to achieve our greatest happiness all testify of HIS GREAT LOVE for each one of us.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fancy Nancy: Happy Mother's Day

Before I go any further, you must know why I call my mother "Fancy Nancy."  I'm quite positive the popular children's book, "Fancy Nancy," was inspired by my mother!!  She loves everything fancy!!  Even when she is preparing a meal for herself, she places her food on her plate in just the right way so that the colors of the food on her plate look artistic.  My mother always loved beautiful, fancy things like fairies and ice skaters… When I was in high school, my mother made her own set of fairy wings and danced around the house like a fairy- just for fun.  I laughed so hard and adored her free spirit.  I am excited to share with you a few more reasons why we love my mom…  Here's FANCY NANCY!!

Abe: Nanny is a do-it-yourself woman. She knows something about most everything; from construction and entrepreneurship, to gardening and cooking. She is a pool specialist and an amazing artist. In addition to knowing a lot, she is constantly sharing and teaching what she knows to others. 

Every year she does Nanny Camp for all of her kids and grandkids who can come. It is quite the event! Usually, it lasts a week or two. She always remembers the little details to make it memorable for everyone. She is a very organized person. I always enjoy being around her. Thanks for being a great Mom, Nanny! I love you!

Jackson:  "I love Nanny because she's really creative, and she's very talented.  She's a very good artist.  She gives me great hugs, and she is very beautiful.  She has a nice smile, and she does fun things for us like taking us to a castle and the YMCA.  She's a great cook.  She takes time to appreciate things.  Nanny makes sure that nobody is left out.  She is great with kids, and she is a hard worker.  She's very sweet.  She lets us swim in her pool… a lot, and she gives everybody a big hug when she sees us. I love Nanny a lot."

Tyson:  "I love Nanny because she's always loving, and she's always trying to find kind things to do.  She makes sure everyone gets a turn.  She's an awesome cooker.  I love her because she's my grandma.  She does a good job taking care of the babies.  I like going to Nanny Camp and visiting her.  She always wants to make sure we have a fun time when we come to her house.  She has an amazing garden.  I like cooking with her.  I like it when she takes me fishing.  I love her soooo much."  

Jordan:  "When we always come to 'Nanny Camp' she always teaches me how to cook, and we always go out and water the garden together.  She cheers for us when we play kickball in her front yard.  Nanny teaches me how to paint, and she always writes me letters.  She is always excited when we are going to come, and she likes going swimming with us.  She's really fun, and she's nice.  I like it when we go out to feed the squirrels and the birds in her backyard, and I like her cooking.  I love Nanny!!!"

Mariah:  "I love Nanny because she helps me cook with her, and she does fun things with me.  She plays board games with me.  She lets me feed the birds with her, and she gives us hugs and kisses.  I like her food… actually I LOVE her food.  She takes us to the park, and she takes good care of us.  I love you soooooooo much Nanny!!"

Juliana:  "I like her because she loves Jesus.  She's 2 stars like Gragran.  Nanny has good food.  She's not afraid of spiders.  I like her painted toes.  I love Nanny!!"

Jayden:  Jayden adores his Nanny.  Like the other children, he loves to cook with Nanny.  In fact, he loves to do anything he can with Nanny!!

The children always talk about "Nanny Camp."  I wrote about "Nanny Camp" last summer.  Here is the link to that amazing, annual event:

My Turn:  How do I even begin to write about my dear mother.  I remember feeling such great excitement in college when my friends would meet her.  They ALL loved her and always said to me, "After meeting your mom, now I understand YOU so much better!"  (We were both a bit eccentric.)  That was the greatest compliment ever:  to be compared to my mother.  It is still my dream to become like my mother.  I can't catch up though because she keeps getting better, learning more, and inspiring me more!!

It is because of my mother's support that I continue to write in my blog.  Every single time I write she gives me specific feedback on my insights and writing.  She encourages me and teaches me in many ways that nobody else can!!

It's Like Magic:  All my life… even now… whenever ANYONE goes to her house for a visit, (even unannounced) she "magically" pulls out an amazing, homemade treat.  The guests always look shocked, and I just smile because I already know she has special powers.  None of us really know how she does it… we just accept the fact that she's quite incredible.  She is frequently compared to Martha Stewart, Mary Poppins, Betty Crocker, and June Cleaver. :-)

Skills:  My mother wanted an alarm system in our house.  She climbed up into the attic and installed one!!  She now has it rigged so that she is alerted anytime anyone comes up her driveway!!  Another time, I remember she wanted a beautiful arched lattice beside her pool, so she cut a picture out of a magazine and built it!!!  What!?!?  How?!?  Everything in her house is labeled and organized… even down to a random screw.  It is sized and placed in the correct compartment.  My mom even has her storage room alphabetized from A-Z, so she can find things quickly.    Last spring I wrote about my mother's doll business… ummm simply amazing.  Here's the link to that story:

Miracle of the Scriptures:  When I lived at home, every morning my mother used to wake up extra early to prepare a very special, candlelit breakfast before school.  At that candlelit breakfast, she read the scriptures to me.  She even made a huge board with raised, textured mountains, so I could visualize the stories as she told them.  One particular morning, she felt inspired to read longer than usual because the scripture stories were especially enthralling to us.  Because we stayed a little longer reading instead of racing off to school, we smelled smoke from the basement as we were about to leave.  We discovered that our dryer was on fire!!  Within minutes the whole basement was filled with smoke!!!  The firefighters came and put the fire out, but we had extensive smoke damage in the basement.  I am certain that had my mother not followed the prompting to read longer in the scriptures, our entire house would have been greatly damaged… it could have possibly even burned down!!  Her love for the scriptures and how she valued them has definitely strengthened my testimony.

Story of Support:  When I was 14 and starting my freshman year in high school, my mother advised me to walk through the halls of the school as if I was the president of the school.  She told me to hold my head high and walk with confidence keeping my shoulders back.  She told me to smile and greet everyone I saw.  I tried that!!  At the end of my Junior year of high school, I actually ran for Student Body President.  On the day of the big election, my mother had to leave early in the morning and travel to Kansas City.  My father was out of town too.  I cry now thinking about how much faith she sent up to Heaven on my behalf… she told me that she went to my school grounds before anyone else arrived and blessed them and me with all the energy of her soul.  The election was extremely close!!  The student body voted, and it was a tie between another boy and me.  On their second vote to break the tie, I won by only 5 votes.   Funny thing is… in middle school I ran for offices but was never once elected. After I took my mother's advice and walked with confidence, I became Freshman class vice-president, sophomore student council member, Junior class president, and my Senior year I served as the Student Body President.  I thank my mother and of course my Heavenly Father for those opportunities of leadership and growth.

My Wrestling Mama:  My brother was an EXCELLENT wrestler in high school.  We spent many hours on the weekends going to his tournaments.  One night, my mom and I decided to do a wrestling match!!  I was 13-years old, so that means my mom was probably around 50-years old!  She put on a leotard and tights.  It was hilarious to watch my mom flex and get hyped before our big match.  I laughed so hard I could hardly wrestle her!!  I don't remember who won or how long our match went on.  I know my brother and dad were our coaches, and I vividly remember thinking my mom was the coolest, most fun, craziest mom ever!!!

Broken Spanish:  I apologize for this slightly risqué story… but it MUST be in writing!!  My mother came to Bolivia to pick me up after my mission.  We toured Bolivia and Peru for several weeks.  While we were in Bolivia, we ate dinner at a family's home in La Paz.  I did not even know them very well, but they prepared a marvelous dinner for us.  My mother, being the most amazing connoisseur  of good food wanted to compliment them for such a fine meal… In her broken Spanish, she wanted to tell them that the food they cooked for us was so good she was going to write about it in her journal.  INSTEAD she said that the food was so good she was going to write about it on her xxxxx (bodily part).  Everybody stopped eating and looked at her with the strangest faces.  I said, "No! No! No!  She didn't mean that!  I laughed so hard that I fell out of my chair and couldn't even speak.  We have laughed about that for years!!!  Btw:  That trip was AWESOME in every way!!  We went river rafting in a raft which deflated in the middle of the river!  We went canoeing in a canoe with a leak… and threatened to sink us with caymans nearby.  We visited "Monkey Island" and had monkeys literally jumping on our heads and all over our shoulders.  We explored Machu Picchu and took naps in hammocks in the Peruvian jungles.  Wow!!

Testimony Meeting:  One summer many years ago, there were many of  us visiting our parents for a family reunion.  It happened to be that my sister, sister-in-law, and I were all pregnant at the same time.  My mother, feeling so overcome with love for her children and her growing family decided to stand up in church and bear her testimony about this fantastic event.  She said, "I have 3 children making babies right here in this very room!!!"  All of us girls looked at each other with big eyes and tried hard to stifle our laughter.  Many in the congregation began to snicker.  An older man in front of me turned around and said, "Geez, I figured if you were making babies back there I would have heard something."  Oh we laughed so hard!!!!!  My mom had no clue what she had said.  She just sweetly smiled and continued to share her beautiful testimony.  We often call her "Lucille Ball."

Oh, of course I could go on and on about the many amazing ways my mother has inspired me, made me laugh, and shown me love.  How could I ever write them all down?  I just hope my mother knows that I am trying to be like her, and I'm trying to apply the teachings she continually shares with me.  I feel blessed to have such a great example to follow.  Happy Mother's Day Mom!!  You are always in "The Winner's Circle" of our hearts.  We're here in Florida lifting our arms in the air in honor of YOU!!  I love you.

She adores her grandchildren!!

She actually cooked a hog for us!!

My silly brother stuck these potatoes in her waist and pockets.  She was so busy bustling around the kitchen cooking for everyone she didn't take the time to take them out!!! Lol! 

THIS is what ALL the children LOVE to do with Nanny!!!  COOK!!!  She makes them feel like the most brilliant cooks that ever existed.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Grandest Grandmommy: Happy Mother's Day

Abe: My mom was always the coolest mom at all the school events. She was involved, and all of my friends loved her. She is also very generous and has a happy, friendly disposition. She has carried on the tradition of her father by taking people into her home when they need it. Just recently I had some friends who needed a place to stay while they were in Orlando, and they stayed with my parents while they were visiting. It would have been enough for them to offer a place to stay, but mom (and dad) went the extra mile to make them feel comfortable and welcome.  This has been a regular occurrence since I can remember, and especially since they moved to Florida!

I always remember my mom being involved at the school and in the community. To this day, she holds a leadership position in the HOA and works as a crossing guard at the junior high. All this, while being the Stake Relief Society President. Most of these are things which I have observed her doing for others, which has had an effect on my own life. She has also dedicated countless hours to helping me and my family. She has always been encouraging and supportive. Her work is never done. Thanks for living a life of service, Mom!! I love you!

Jackson:  "Grandmommy gives us wonderful stuff like our basketball hoop, and she makes sure we're ok.  She's very active, and she takes us to wonderful places like the movies.  She takes the time to buy us gifts.  She's very sweet.  She teaches us about places and animals in Florida, and she's willing to sacrifice anything.  She looks younger than she is, and she does missionary work.  She does nice stuff for people even if she's tired.  She's very beautiful.  I love Grandmommy sooooo much!!"

Tyson:  "Grandmommy is very kind.  She lets us watch movies.  She takes good care of us when we visit her.  She does a good job securing the neighborhood and at the school where she's the crossing guard.  She makes yummy pie.  I like it when she takes us to the park.  I like it when she helps me with my school work when I come there.  I love her soooo much!!"

Jordan:  "Grandmommy is always preparing for when we come, and she's always fun with us.  She takes us to the park a lot.  She helps us when we're trying to do something and it isn't working.  I like when she always gives us stuff like shoes.  I like when we visit her because she's very nice.  When we go to this swimming pool, she always tells us about the ducks swimming in the pool when the pool is closed off.  She always tells us about alligators.  I love Grandmommy!!!"

Mariah:  "Grandmommy lets us watch movies.  I like it when she laughs because it's a beautiful laugh.  I love her because she hugs us, and because she's beautiful.  I like her because she takes good care of us, and she never stops watching us.  She's nice to us.  I love you sooooooooo much Grandmommy!"

Juliana:  "Grandmommy is with Grandaddy.  She loves Jesus.  Grandmommy takes me to the park.  I like her painted fingernails.  I love Grandmommy!!"

Jayden:  Jayden loves to hang with Grandmommy!!  They became fast buddies when she started slipping him treats.  He loves her big hugs. 

My Turn: My mom/mother-in-law is very, very special to my heart.  Something that shines forth in my mind is the support that she endlessly gives to our family.  Anytime we are in need, she is ready to help without any questions asked.  Actually, her heart and mind are open to see all those who are in need who are not even part of our family.  She watches people, feels their need, and then sacrifices her time and money to make them feel more comfortable.  Our family lived with my in-laws for 5 months… we left behind broken furniture and dirty walls from little handprints.  She never once grumbled about us disrupting their calm lifestyle.

I believe she has been at every single birthday of every member of our family this past year… even before we lived with them for a season!!  They make special efforts to attend baptisms, priesthood ordinations, and our children's musical, theatrical, and sporting events.

Most daughter-in-laws wonder what type of mother-in-law they will have.  When I first met her, I felt immediate acceptance.  She wrapped her arm around me and laughed her beautiful, hearty laugh to let me know I was a part of the family.  As we prepared for our wedding, she took me around to florists and cake decorators.  I had no clue about how to prepare for  a wedding!  I was just winging it, but I remember being in awe that she had arranged so many meetings with all the right people to make our wedding special.  She never told me what to do… she just provided the options and the means and let me decide how to make our wedding extra special… much more than it would have been on my own.

Funny Story:  One day we were sitting around a table with a Hispanic family.  A man was telling a story in Spanish.  It was a VERY funny story.  We all started laughing… my mother-in-law started to laugh too!!  In fact, she laughed harder than any of us!!  I remember my father-in-law and I turned to look at her.  Knowing she didn't speak Spanish, we asked her, "Did you understand what he was saying?"  Still laughing she said, "No!!!  …but I could tell it was really funny!!"   I ALWAYS loved that story because when I was learning Spanish I used to feel sad that I couldn't understand the funny stories being told.  She didn't feel sad… she let the Spirit fill her soul with joy, and she laughed her hearty laugh anyway.

Funny/Loving Story:  Last fall I often fought feelings of hopelessness because of our seemingly helpless financial situation.  I told Abe I was leaving for a while to go on a drive.  I wasn't running away.  It was late at night, but I just needed some time alone to think and get my mind straight.  Well… after about an hour and a half of my quiet time in my van crying and praying, a hand slapped hard against my windshield.  I looked over and my mother-in-law was standing outside my van!!!  She was laughing hysterically.  Confused as to why she was laughing so hard and how she ended up outside my window, I'm sure I looked at her with a strange expression on my face.  She climbed into my van and said, "I'm sorry for laughing, but I just knew I'd find you here!!  It was the first place I looked!"  I couldn't believe she had gone looking for me!  (I was in the Walmart parking lot… lol!  Where else would I go, right?)  She was worried about my safety being out too late at night and wanted to tell me how much she loved me.  I had been worried that they would judge me for taking a moment alone; but on the contrary, she wanted to give me more love and show understanding.  

After my in-laws' mission to Sri Lanka, they went to find a house in Florida.  They had only been there for 2 weeks when the Bishop called her to be the Relief Society President over the ward!!  They didn't even buy a house yet!!  He could immediately see that she was a woman of great testimony, love, and service.

Yep!!  She's a pretty special lady!!  Happy Mother's Day Mom!!!

My in-laws came all the way from Florida to Michigan to watch the kids in their theatrical performances.

My in-laws attend as many of our children's sporting events as they can.

My mother-in-law is always ready for a party!!!  She is a GREAT dancer!! :-)  This is at the "Blue Man Group" show with them last year. What a party! :-)

She's our Crossing guard champion!!  She has a separate uniform she wears to patrol the neighborhood in a security car. :-)

She's always ready to visit the sick and needy.  Even when we lived with her we were not aware of all the visits and donations she made to those who were in need until much, much later.

They make every birthday and every occasion so special!!  We all love her dearly.