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. :-)  

Father's Day Part 1: Hero Papa!!

Jackson:  Papa plays fun games with us.  He taught us how to play chess.  He teaches us wonderful things about the gospel.  He knows church history really well.  Every time we come to see him, he gives us a big hug.  He's athletic.  He teaches me piano sometimes.  He is a hard worker.  Every time we visit him, he cleans our van.  He inspires me to love Jesus.  He always makes sure that everybody has what they need.  I love you Papa!

Tyson:  Papa is very active.  Every time we come to his house, he plays kickball with us.  I've never gone to his house and not had fun with him.  We play board games.  We watch TV together.  We roasted marshmallows together.  When I go to his house, he shows me more about the trumpet.  He goes on walks with me to the park.  Papa inspires me to be like him.  I want to be healthy like him when I grow up.  I love him soooo much!!

Jordan:  I love that Papa stays up for us no matter how late we come to his house.  He always helps us, and he plays kickball with us.  He's really nice, and he always plays games with us.  He reads stories about Joseph Smith to us.  He's always very funny.  He always helps us… he fixes the things we break.  I love Papa.  He inspires me to be a missionary.  Papa is awesome!

Mariah:  I love Papa because he plays good games with us like kickball and other board games.  I like to play chess with him.  He reads us stories.  The other reason why I love Papa is because he gives big hugs and kisses.  When we come, right away he runs outside, and he helps us bring our stuff in.  Papa inspires me to do amazing things like serving my mission great.  I love you soooo much!!

Juliana:  Ummm…. Jesus….  He loves Jesus.  He likes food.  He likes Cheetos.  I like to laugh with Papa (as she giggles hysterically trying to talk about him).  I love Papa!!!

Jayden:  Jayden loves Papa!  Papa makes him laugh a lot!

Abe:  Papa is amazing.  Here are a few reasons why:

He plays kickball like a teenager and he is 76.  We just played with him a couple of months ago and he was acting like he was playing in a little kid’s body: running, diving, sacrificing for the team.

He still plays the trumpet so well at his age too. He doesn’t practice, but he keeps his lips in prime shape, and remembers all the notes without any problems.

(Abe doesn't know this, but actually, my dad has just started playing in the symphony again!  In this picture, he's playing funny noises for all the grandchildren. :-))

He loves to play games! When we lived in Missouri, he would ask me daily if we could get together to play games that night. Usually we did, and it was always fun.

 He tells the most predictable, corny jokes, but his delivery is outstanding. Papa is a sweet man, with a happy heart.

He is the grape juice king. I have never seen anyone who loves, adores, promotes, and uses grape juice more frequently than papa.   Whether I am in a good or bad mood, or feeling healthy or under the weather, Papa informs me that simply drinking grape juice will make it all better. Then he will generally spend some time explaining to me why it would be so much better if I drank it.

All these things make up just part of the unique personality of John Anderson. He is  a super home teacher, dedicated husband, relentless missionary, and an awesome father-in-law, Dad and Grandpa! I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

My Turn:
I wanted to take the opportunity to write just a few thoughts and funny moments that have been running through my mind to add to my story about him in October.

*As Abe and the children mentioned, Papa likes Kickball.  A couple of months ago, we visited my parents in Missouri.  We all went outside to play kickball, and my dad divided up the teams so that all the little kids were with him against Abe and me and couple of the smaller kids.  We kept telling my dad that the teams didn't seem too evenly matched because Abe and I are pretty good at kickball… and young!  (My dad is 76, but you would never know it!!)

The game commenced, and my dad was on fire!  He ran the bases like a champ!  Then it was our turn to kick...

My parents have a huge front yard; but almost every time Abe kicked the ball, it went past their yard and well into the neighbor's yard.  My dad sprinted after that ball thinking he might still get Abe out before he ran around all the bases.  He was organizing the boys to get to the bases so they could get Abe out.  We just laughed and laughed and asked Dad if we could change the teams to make it more fair.  He refused.  My dad's most competitive player- Tyson- also suggested that maybe their team could get some more help.  My dad was determined to finish with the teams as they were and fight to the end.

They didn't win, but they played like champs!  My dad NEVER GIVES UP, and he was teaching my boys to do the same!!!  They learned to be true champions like Papa out there on the kickball field.

*Over 20 years ago, my oldest sister's husband used to work for my dad in his office in his garage.  Everyday they would take breaks to go play ping pong.  I'm sure my dad still has the exact numbers on this, but I believe my brother-in-law won about 1200 games and my dad won about 20.  Despite his losing record, he kept playing, kept tracking his rare wins, and he continued to declare that he was getting better!  My brother-in-law was sincerely surprised that my dad was the one who wanted to keep playing!  Most of us would have quit the game of ping pong after the first 20 losses!

I LOVE that determination in my father.  Who would have thought that at 76, his fighting, lively spirit wouldn't have died down even one iota.  Gosh my dad makes life a lot of fun!!  Most people his age are considered "elderly."  The word doesn't even make sense around my father.  He's fit and trim and full of life.

*My dad LOVES scouting!!  He has helped so many young boys earn their Eagle scout award!  He helps lots of boys who don't have any support from home, and he helps them believe in themselves.  Just this past year, my father received the Silver Beaver Award in scouting.  This award cannot be sought after because it has to be awarded to you by a higher committee who submits your name after recognizing many years of sacrifice and service to the scouting program.  My father received the award at a special banquet held in another city.  He felt shy about receiving the award, but I was overjoyed that he was recognized for his years of service… as a hero to countless young boys in the scouting program.

*When I was a young girl, I used to travel with my dad all over the East coast for weeks at a time selling my mom's cornhusk dolls.  We slept in the van and washed up in gas station bathrooms.  I would go into the bathroom, wait until everyone else left, stick my head in the sink, squirt some hand soap into my hair, and wash away.  I would also bring a wash cloth into the bathroom to wash up the rest of my body.  We did stay in hotels too… just not every night. :-)  My dad kept me down-to-earth for sure!!  Those trips with my dad shaped who I am!  We had amazing talks about the gospel, and we played rhyming games and word games for hours.

*I always loved running.  I remember wanting to go on a run at nighttime when I was home from college.  I was used to doing that while I was away at college, and I felt safe in our small hometown.  My dad was worried about me, so he insisted on going with me.  At first I thought it was unnecessary, as I ran laps on the track for about an hour, I will never forget looking over at my dad thinking how much he loved me and would do anything for me.  I'm sure he had better things to do with his time, and I'm sure he probably wished I could have just gone running in the morning instead; but instead, he supported me and helped me achieve my crazy desires.  My father made me feel secure in his love for me.  I have never questioned that love.

There have been times in my life when I have felt undeserving of love and pretty rotten inside.  It is my father's testimony of Christ and his sensitivity to the Spirit that has brought peace and love deep into my heart when I've needed it the most.  I have never known a person to be as nonjudgmental as my father is.    He lives so righteously, yet he doesn't judge anybody else's choices in life.  He gives them the benefit of the doubt, and he goes to their aid over and over and over again.  His love continues to change me and inspire me… and all of us.

He is our hero… no doubt about it!  What a shining light he is in our lives!!  We are inspired to be better and to do better because of the way my father lives his life.  That makes him our hero.

I wrote a story about my father last October  entitled "John Anderson:  One of a Kind."

He is AMAZING and FUNNY and VERY LOVEABLE!!  Please, please read the link below on him… (I also have more pictures of my GREAT DAD included in that link.)

Below is the link to a recent story from Mother's Day about my dear mother… his sweet companion.  I love how my father looks at her.  It doesn't matter if she's angry or happy, my dad will turn to me and say, "Isn't she cute?" :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our Heroes

We all know the African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child."  I have felt the power of this truth deeper than ever before ever since my husband has had to travel so much over these past several months.  Abe has always traveled a lot and worked late hours throughout our entire marriage, but his current schedule is by far the most he's ever traveled.  We miss him a lot…

Amidst his travels, we have been blessed by many wonderful people.  I particularly want to honor 4 of our heroes today...

My Visiting Teacher

A visiting teacher is a woman who has been assigned to another woman within our congregation to help in time of need- offering spiritual, physical, or emotional support.  The hope is that every woman has the opportunity to be visit taught and also to be a visiting teacher to a few other women within the congregation.

About a week before Mother's Day, my dear, sweet visiting teacher sat me down and presented a huge bag full of really nice things to pamper myself.  I know I took too long opening each and every lipstick, lotion, and cream, but there were amazing things in there that I never even knew existed!  I was in awe that she had taken the time to make sure I felt appreciated and pampered while my husband was away.  My emotions got the best of me many times even after the gift opening was over.  I felt truly loved.

This same visiting teacher prepares activities for the young girls between ages 8-11 a couple times a month.  My little 6-year old, Mariah, saw the older girls doing wonderful crafts while she was waiting for my older boys to finish scouts.  I had just been feeling sad earlier that day that I hadn't had/made time to do more crafts with her.

I never spoke that concern out loud, but my dear, visiting teacher invited my little Mariah into her room to participate with the older girls.  I peeked into the room, and Mariah's little face was just beaming with joy.  That simple act of love and kindness made my dear friend the hero of the home.  She has become so special to us that even my 4-year old daughter, Juliana, named her favorite stuffed animal after her. :-)

Mariah has carefully displayed this special folder of art work on her dresser by her bed, so she can admire it on a daily basis.

This woman not only acted on the promptings she felt as a visiting teacher but also as a teacher to young girls.  She went above and beyond.  I thanked her for including my daughter, and she simply stated her great love for little Mariah.  She became our hero because of love...

Our Home Teacher

A home teacher is called to care for and watch over a couple different families in their congregation.  We've had home teachers whom we never even knew they existed… and then we've had home teachers who have truly magnified their callings… such as the one we have now.

Last week I showed a friend of mine the following pictures of Jackson doing our late night family dance party…

Jackson's only DJ experience is jamming at our family dance parties, but he takes it seriously.  He sets up the speakers and makes a play list.  He even gets his DJ seat decked out with special blankets. :-)

A couple of days later, my friend's husband, who is our home teacher and also a DJ on the side, called me to invite Jackson on a DJ job.  We were so excited!!  I kept reminding Jackson to play it cool!!!  :-) 

I'm sure it wasn't easy for our home teacher to take a child with him on a DJ trip… let alone somebody else's child!!  He has 4 children of his own!  As helpful and kind as Jackson is, it takes extra work and energy to instruct a 12-year old the ways of the business.  It's soooo much easier to just do your job without having to train a young kid along the way!

As I expressed my gratitude to him, he reminded me that he was our home teacher… doing his duty.  What a blessing and inspiration his fulfillment of his calling is to our family!  What a life-changing moment for Jackson… he was given a chance at the real deal!!

Young Mens Leaders

Last weekend, two young men leaders planned an amazing trip to NASA Space Museum!  None of us had ever been there, but we've been wanting to go for quite some time… especially for Jackson's sake.  These two leaders took out almost their entire day to plan this amazing trip for the young men ages 12-18 of our church.

(His leaders didn't know this, but Jackson has loved space since a little child.  In fact, we took him to an evening show of the planetarium at BYU with a bunch of college students when he was only 8-years old, and he raised his hand and answered almost every question about the constellations.)  

When the young men returned from their excursion to NASA, I couldn't believe it.  Only two boys had shown up for the activity.  I felt badly for the leaders, and I hoped they understood how much we appreciated their sacrifices.  I hoped they understood how much Jackson loved that trip.  Jackson and I thanked them over and over again, but it didn't seem like enough.  

As I drove home, I pondered a bit more about these two leaders.  As I thanked God for their sacrifices, I began to cry as I realized that the two boys who did go to the activity had fathers who were gone for long periods of time for their work.  The other young man's father had just left for 3 months!  

The Spirit spoke very strongly to my heart that these leaders were playing very important roles in shaping these two young men while their fathers are away.  I cried as I later thanked them again for magnifying their callings and their duties to the young men's program.  I told Abe about the impression I received about their influence while he's away.  He too felt great gratitude for such righteous priesthood holders serving our young, impressionable priesthood holder of a mere 12 years. 

Our Surfing Hero

Last week I wrote about how Hank from "Hank's Circle of Love" gave the children money when he saw them running, but I didn't write about why my children were extra motivated to spend the money on a surf board.

About 2 weeks ago, my children were watching a video about a surfer who chose to go to seminary instead of his surf team.  Because of his righteous choices, things fell into place, and he was able to compete.  He won the Junior National Championships.  My children love the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they love watching surfers.  In their minds, this young man, named Sean Kimball, was as cool as they come. 

(Click on the link below if you want to watch the story that inspired my young boys.  It's definitely worth the watch!)

My boys have watched the above video more times than I even know.  In fact, they watched it again today.  They have gone surfing almost every day since they received the surf board.  They're super motivated to finish their daily chores, so they can get to the beach.  They're passionate about it!  On Monday night, I posted these two pictures of Tyson and Jordan surfing, and I briefly explained on my Facebook post that there was a young man who inspired them because of his choice to follow God even before his passion of surfing.

I didn't mention anything about his religion; but on Tuesday afternoon, a new friend of mine from when I traveled to Utah for my HEFY training in April asked if I was referring to the teenager who chose seminary over surfing.  I said it was the same story!

She said he was her zone leader on her mission!! I couldn't believe it!  Would I actually have the opportunity to thank my kids' hero for his positive, righteous influence on my children?!?!  How WONDERFUL that would be!!

My friend connected us, and I sent him a Facebook message.  I thanked him and asked him if my children could possibly send him a thank you card for being such a GREAT inspiration in their lives.  I sent the message feeling a bit nervous and very hopeful for a response.

I took the kids to the beach; and when we returned, I quickly checked my Facebook messages.  I squealed to all the kids:  "Come down here!  Quick!  Get out of the shower! Look who just messaged you!!"  Oh you should have heard their excitement!  Their eyes were huge!  Their mouths were dropped wide open!!  We were all squealing, and I was fighting the tears.  Their hero had written them a personal message!!  They just kept exclaiming, "I can't believe it!!!"

This amazing man, who is now a return missionary and pursuing professional opportunities as a surfer, understood that God has placed him in a position of influence.  He not only took the time to answer my Facebook message, but he also "Friended" me on Facebook and commented on the boys' surfing picture.  They were ecstatic that their righteous, surfing hero had complimented them on their very own surfing picture.

… and the BEST PART… he offered to Skype with my kids this Saturday morning!!

I believe in miracles.  I believe there are no coincidences.  I believe God is speaking to the hearts and souls of all of us to be a righteous influence on others' lives, and the miracles come when we are willing  listen… to act… to fulfill our callings… to fulfill our duties… to be heroes...

We have felt miraculous love, miraculous support, and miraculous, life-altering moments because God spoke to others' hearts, and they listened.  Those are the true heroes… those who listen to God's message and act on it.

I thank God for sending so many heroes our way to strengthen us and remind us that HE is ALWAYS watching out for the details of our lives.  God is so good to us all… HE is our greatest hero.

Over the next few days, I look forward to writing about three more heroes:  my father-in-law, my father, and my husband.