Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Purse Drama

Last Tuesday, I gathered my children to race out the door for Grandpa's surprise birthday party. "Grandpa" is the grandfather of our congregation at church. EVERYBODY loves him. He makes us laugh, tells wonderful stories, gives special little gifts to the children, and loves us so sweetly. He was completing his 85th year. My children were VERY excited to go to his party- they even dressed up like him!

I called to the children to get in the van while I ran to grab my purse out of my closet... it wasn't there. How could that be? I always put my purse in the same place. All the children began racing around the house looking for my purse.

I retraced my steps:

I taught seminary at the church that morning. My kids didn't have school that day, so I didn't even drive ANYWHERE else that day. I had so much work to do in the garden that I didn't even go upstairs the entire day. My house was clean, so I thought I should have been able to find my purse quickly. All of us looked in every possible place.

The only thing I could think was that it must have been at the church where I taught seminary. I carried little, sleeping Jayden into the church while Jackson carried my purse. Jackson said he remembered placing the purse on the table in the room where I taught at the church.

People were already beginning to arrive at the birthday party at the church where I thought my purse could possibly be, so I called two different families to go look in the seminary room. Neither of them found my purse. They said they searched the entire room.

I was very worried. My purse had my credit cards, bank cards, license, money... EVERYTHING. I needed my purse to buy groceries while we were out. We live 30 minutes away from the church and the grocery store.

Since my friends couldn't find it at the church, I knew it had to be in my house. I prayed over and over again for God's divine help.

Seven-year old Mariah stopped me and said, "I know what you need to do. You need to be calm and then pray again."

I smiled at her and told her she was right (even though I had been praying, and I felt like I was really trying to be calm enough to listen to the Spirit).

I took her advice and knelt down right there and offered up a calmer prayer. Up to that point, I wasn't ready to accept any other option other than staying in my house until my purse was found.

As I prayed I felt God tell me to just "go to the church anyway."

I didn't like that answer because everyone at the church had already been looking for it. It wasn't there, and I just wanted the inspiration to know where my purse was BEFORE I left. (It was a timely matter.)

On the way to the church I continued to ponder about my purse. I had another thought. I told Jackson, "I don't think you put my purse where you think you put it this morning."

We arrived at the church. The children rushed in to see Grandpa. They arrived wearing sweaters just like he wears to church, and they each had their own stick to represent Grandpa's cane.

Meanwhile I went straight to the seminary room. Yep... just like everyone had told me... my purse was not in there. I had a fleeting thought: There had been a TV in the seminary room. 

I planned on checking on that, but by the time I entered the gym to celebrate with Grandpa I had forgotten that fleeting thought. I became distracted.

Grandpa and I hugged. I made him a balloon hat and made balloons animals for the children.

I still had a heavy heart feeling worried about all that I had lost from my purse. People had checked the lost and found and the clerks office- they checked pretty much everywhere. I decided I would have to go to another room and make some phone calls to cancel all my cards in the next few minutes.

Less than two minutes later, Tyson walked up to me holding my purse!!  I squealed with excitement!!  Everyone around me did too because they had been feeling my worry.

Tyson had been praying to find my purse, and he said his eyes just stopped right at the television. It was the same television that had been in the seminary room... the one that God had brought to my attention, but I became distracted before I could act on that inspiration. My purse was sitting on the television stand all along... in the very room where we had been celebrating Grandpa's birthday!

Tyson had saved the day. My cute son couldn't stop smiling. I grabbed him and kissed him all over his face as I thanked him for listening to the Spirit.

A few things touched my heart about this experience:

*God told me to go to the church, and I had to obey even though I thought I had the better plan. (I didn't want to leave home until it was found or confirmed that it was found at the church.)

*I received that strong prompting to go to the church AFTER Mariah challenged me to pray with a calmer heart.

*God spoke to my heart that the purse was probably not where Jackson said it was during seminary. Therefore, it might be a little harder to see.

*God gave me a gentle, quick thought about the television that had been missing... but I became distracted and missed the further inspiration that would have brought me peace much sooner.

*Tyson continued to pray for inspiration and allowed his eyes to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. I could see the joy in his eyes knowing he had followed the promptings of the Spirit. I'm thankful the Spirit continued to find somebody with a listening heart.

*My purse was found just minutes before I was ready to cancel all my cards... I often see the miracles happen right at the last moment. I believe that sometimes God allows that to happen so that we have the opportunity to grow our faith in HIM. 

I am so very grateful for those answered prayers and for the lessons I learned along the way.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Do We Walk Alone?

I have written a few things about last fall's struggles without the specifics… 

I felt very alone through these struggles because I wasn't able to openly talk about them. I prayed and read the scriptures in an effort to gain strength… but I still felt like I was hanging on by a thin thread… I often wanted to shrink away in a corner and not deal with the pains at hand. I expressed my hurt a couple of times to others, but it seemed like the ears that heard had not really heard me… so my hurt burned deeper.

After several months of reaching deeper for spiritual strength than I really wanted to, I felt the healing begin to take place. I was finally feeling as if I could confidently push away the hurts out of my mind and at least function. Right about that time, when I was feeling stronger, I received multiple phone calls, text messages, and emails from people from all walks of life asking me if I was ok. One sister from church, whom I don't even know, called me out of the blue. She said, "I was praying and felt the distinct impression that I needed to check on you and pray for you. Are you ok?" Another friend said she had felt a strong impression to pray for me for a long time… but on that particular day she felt it was time to reach out to me. Another friend from high school said she couldn't get me off her mind all morning. She just had to find out if everything was ok. Strangers sent me messages of love during this same time period over a couple of days. 

I thanked each of these wonderful people for reaching out with so much love, but I didn't understand why they had received that impression. I was actually doing ok… FINALLY! None of these people had anything in common… except that the Spirit had spoken to them. These messages were undeniably messages directly from God via these lovely souls.

I asked God why they hadn't spoken to me when I was at my lowest. Why didn't this influx of love come at a time when I felt like I wanted to crumble to pieces? I was receiving this influx of love… this absolute knowledge that God was sending me love… AFTER I was actually feeling better. 

Usually you hear stories about people reaching out during the deepest, darkest moments of sadness and hurt. Why now? This troubled me for a bit. I prayed about it a lot. 

A couple months passed and pure joy was returning to my soul as I continued to heal. I was moving in a very positive direction when out-of-the-blue I received a 2nd influx of love. Some were the same people and others were different, but it was a very obvious influx. I knew by the messages that I received. People said over and over again that they felt "inspired" to contact me. 

Again, I was confused. I was actually still doing ok. I'm ALWAYS grateful for messages of love. I just didn't know why there so many random messages in a 24 hour period. That very night, in the middle of the night, I received a very strong impression that there was something wrong again. Shortly after, my fears were confirmed and my sadness returned full force. Just a few short hours after God had sent this influx of love, I was in the midst of another deep trial. 

As I suffered the pains of this trial once again, I asked God why HE was sending such a wave of love right after and right before my deepest sorrows when I actually wanted the constant reassurance DURING the trial. I hadn't found the answer yet…

Soon after, Abe and I were asked to speak at a young single adult conference for the whole state of Florida. There would be several hundred young, single adults in attendance. Guess what the topic was? 

It was titled: "We Never Walk Alone" from a talk our prophet, President Monson, delivered in General Conference in October 2013.  

I cringed, I cried, and I refused to prepare this particular message because I felt like my experience had shown me otherwise. I had felt VERY alone DURING my trial, but I also knew I couldn't back out of this commitment, but how could I speak on not walking alone when I had felt very alone for so many months?  

I knelt down and offered up a very powerful prayer. I knew God had sent love my way, and I knew it was a very deliberate message. I mustered up every bit of courage and humility I had and began to read President Monson's talk again. All of a sudden it hit me very strongly:

A child who is learning to walk receives hugs and cheers and all kinds of encouragement the moment before his mother releases her fingers from his. The father, standing on the other side of that child, waits for him to take those few steps to him. Both the mother and father are there the entire time ready to catch the child and to keep that child from being harmed. The parents make sure that their child is not going to fall into a hole or face any trial that the child can't handle. They gently cheer the child on; but in order to learn, that child has to take those steps on his own. That child has to reach the other side by learning how to walk. The parents are there all along… just waiting… knowing this is a good experience for the child's growth. When the child reaches the father, what happens? Oh my goodness there is an eruption… a very obvious INFLUX of love and hugs and cheers. He did it!!  

As I thought about the timing of my eruption of cheers from God during my trials, they came before and after my deepest trials. My Heavenly Father was there all along, but HE had to let me work through the pain (under HIS watchful eye) in order for me to grow. 

I read the talk from President Monson again. This time I believed his words when he said:

"You will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you."

I thanked the Lord for teaching me. As I spoke to the single adults I gave them an object lesson. On the way to the event, I felt inspired to ask our children to sing the song they had performed at a talent show only a month previously. This would be an even larger audience, and they didn't have time to run through it again. The prompting came to me for them to sing, so I knew the Lord would bless them. 

What happens when somebody is about to take the stage and perform? We cheer and give them a huge round of applause. (We give them an influx of love and encouragement.)

Then, they are required to walk out onto that stage and perform on their own. When my young children stood in front of the large audience, I couldn't sing for them. I sat in front of them and smiled at them and prayed for them, but I couldn't do it for them. They had to sing their song.

When a performance is finished, what happens? Of course we give them another huge round of applause. We may even give some whistles and extra shouts. 

When my children finished their performance, they received a standing ovation. Tears streamed down the faces of many in attendance. The biggest cheers come before and after the performance.

We hear the stories of people performing and, unable to finish, the crowd joins in and sings with them. People also often tell their stories of when they suffered greatly through trials and then received much needed relief just in time to save the day.

We rarely hear about the stories when we felt as though we were alone and needed intervention, but the help we thought we needed did not come. 

I testify that we are NOT alone even when we are not receiving the help we THINK we need. God IS beside us ready to keep us safe from those things that would harm us greatly. HE is merely allowing us to stretch and to grow in ways that only that particular experience will allow. HE allows the difficulty of the way because HE knows we are capable… and HE is there ready to give us the greatest influx of love when we come out conquerors in these spiritual battles we all face. I imagine we received a grand influx of that same love before we came to earth.

I shared this experience with the young single adults of Florida, and afterward, there was a line of young men and young women who expressed gratitude because they too now understand that they are ABSOLUTELY not alone. Our challenge is to watch for the moments when God allows us to hear and to feel the moments of love and encouragement that HE is offering along the way… to watch for the influx of love when we have conquered a small obstacle… when we have finished act 1 or act 2 of our grand performance here on earth… for we are on the stage right now giving our best performance… and we do it for HIM. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Miracles at a Bar

First of all… I'm sorry I haven't written for so long. We have had so many visitors and events for the children I haven't had any time at all. I am making a list of all the things I still want to write about. When will I ever catch up??? :-) I'll just keep trying. :-)

Miracles at a Bar in Jacksonville

Abe is teaching voice lessons to a young girl who was performing at a big competition in Jacksonville last weekend. She asked Jackson to be her drummer. What an experience for these two 13-year olds. They were the youngest performers at the event, and there was some VERY impressive talent there.

There was so much traffic at the competition that we all had to carry all the pieces to Jackson's drum set for almost 4 blocks (without Abe's strong arms because he was out of town).

When we arrived at the first venue, a nut was missing off Jackson's cymbals and the pedal was broken on his hi-hat cymbals. We didn't know what was wrong, but it seemed as if a part was missing. Neither would function properly without those missing parts.

All my children prayed for help, and several of us began retracing our steps back to the van to see if we could find any shiny pieces that could possibly be the parts we were missing.

I found a random nut lying on the sidewalk. I picked it up knowing it wasn't the exact piece that he was missing, but I was hopeful it might help fix something somehow. When I returned to the venue where Jackson was trying so hard to put his pieces together, we were all overjoyed to discover that the random nut fit the cymbal!! What are the chances that it would be an exact fit?!? I knew God had HIS hand in that for sure.

The other, more serious problem was the foot pedal for the hi-hat…

I approached the owner of the establishment for help. We didn't want Jackson to miss this opportunity, and we didn't want his singer to be without her backup drummer. The owner happened to also be a drummer and very generously loaned us his hi-hat foot pedal stand for our first show. We were so grateful for the temporary solution, but I was still worried about Jackson's next show which would be at a different venue. I was also worried about the shows over the following days. (This competition lasted several days.)

Nobody I asked seemed to know the problem with the stand nor the solution.

I sat off to the side and prayed over Jackson's hi-hat stand- pleading for God's help. I asked God to help me figure out how to fix the problem. I said, "Heavenly Father, you helped us to buy this drum set because of thy miracles. Please help us to be able to use it for these very important shows."

The more I tried to fix it, the more I began to feel a bit frustrated that I wasn't receiving any answers from God. As we began to set up for the next venue, which happened to be in a bar, I watched the sound technician racing around connecting wires and cords. I was afraid to ask him for help with our hi-hat stand and foot pedal because he looked so busy… but we truly were desperate.

The sound technician looked at it for 2 seconds and immediately knew the problem: the spring inside was broken, and we would need to buy a new one. A moan began to escape my mouth when he interrupted me and said, "BUT I think I have an extra one that Jackson can have."  He ran to the back and pulled out a really nice, hi-hat foot-pedal and stand. It was of a MUCH higher quality than the one we owned. These nice hi-hat foot pedal stands are VERY expensive!! I couldn't believe he even had an extra of exactly what we needed, and I couldn't believe he was GIVING it to us.

I cried and both Jackson and I thanked him over and over again. He opened his arms and gave us hugs.

I told him I had been praying for a solution but never imagined such a beautiful one.

As we stood in the bar where Jackson would be performing his second show and with people beginning to come in, this kind-hearted sound technician took the time to talk with us about God. He said that lots of people had helped him as a young musician, so he was happy to pass that on. He bore firm testimony that there are no coincidences in this life and that God blesses us with beautiful miracles in our lives at times when we think all is going wrong. What an AWESOME GUY!! Jackson really enjoyed working with him.

I couldn't stop thinking about this experience all week:

I had prayed for God to help me FIX the situation. I actually became a little bit frustrated with God because I felt as if HE wasn't answering my prayers in the way that I thought was best. After I saw the whole picture, I was quite humbled to realize that not only was God answering my prayers, but HE was answering them far better than I had imagined.

The hi-hat stand we now had was far better than anything we could have imagined owning or fixing, and the conversation that Jackson and I had with the sound technician was priceless… It was a moment to remember forever… a moment to forever inspire my young musician.

I am learning to accept and TRUST that God's ways are much better than my ways… and I am grateful for the times when I am able to see that so clearly.

Jackson's 2nd Venue

Jackson's 3rd Venue

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Inspired Gift

My dear friend from Bolivia, Maria Luisa, arrived to our home Tuesday morning at 2:30am. Abe arrived the following morning 1:30am. It has been WONDERFUL to be together.

Maria Luisa has the sweetest, most grateful heart. The following morning, we were racing between activities and all I could gather was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. You should have seen her joy at eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the first time! She has been washing dishes, cleaning my floors, helping me with my garden, and of course loving and teaching my children.  She is such a joy- not because she's doing so many chores around the house- but because she gives so much sincere, gushy love.

The morning after she arrived, I was standing in my kitchen looking at a picture of the Orlando temple, and I said in my heart: "I really wish I had a picture of the Cochabamba, Bolivia temple."

I had the beautiful opportunity to finish my mission just a couple of weeks after the Bolivia temple was dedicated. I helped at the dedication and open house and saw and heard many miracles pertaining to this temple. It was a place that was very dear to my heart.

That night, Maria Luisa opened up her suitcase and brought out several gorgeous, wonderful gifts from Bolivia for each member of our family. She even brought gifts for my parents and for Abe's parents. Her generosity overwhelmed us.

Then she presented a gift that was wrapped. I opened it up and saw the most beautiful representation of the Cochabamba, Bolivia temple made out of wood. The greatest warmth spread through my entire body and tears just poured from my eyes! I can't even express in words how strong the Spirit was throughout my entire body. I had never seen such beautiful workmanship. Maria Luisa's son found it in Bolivia and knew it would mean so much to me even though he is not a member of my church. I had never seen one like it in all my time there!

Maria Luisa's husband was baptized because of that temple. He worked as an engineer on the temple and saw the perfection that was required for even the smallest details that nobody else would have even  known about. As he worked within the walls of the Cochabamba, Bolivia temple, he felt and knew that he was helping to build the Lord's House.

This beautiful representation was a gift from my precious Bolivian family who knew how much I love the temple, and it was also a gift from God.

What a tender mercy from the Lord to know and speak to all of our hearts so perfectly.

God knew I would be receiving that gift. HE put the desire to own a picture of the Cochabamba, Bolivia temple very strongly into my heart just a few hours prior to receiving it. I believe HE did that, so that I would know that this was a gift orchestrated by HIM… a gift that HE had guided my friends to find… a gift that would not only touch my heart but theirs as well.