Sunday, January 21, 2018

Ministering to the one: How President Monson followed the spirit to bless a young newly-wedded girl

When I received the news of the passing of President Thomas S. Monson I felt such a range of emotions. He was gone, the leader that had been our prophet for a decade and an apostle for half a century.  A true servant of the Lord, he was at all times on the Lord’s errand. I can hear the sweet tenderness in his voice as he told stories to teach us about gospel principles, and the conviction with which he testified of God and Jesus Christ. 
His love and devotion to his dear wife Francis is inspiring; what a sweet reunion they surely had as President Monson passed through the veil to be reunited once more with his eternal companion. 

I His ministry was so far reaching (traveling throughout the world to share The Lord’s word) yet he was known and loved for ministering to the one. I couldn’t help but reflect on the day that he ministered to me personally and how much it would mean to me, a young married LDS girl living far from home.  

Derek and I were married shortly after my return from my mission to Russia. And less than a year after our marriage we moved to San Diego where Derek would pursue a PHD at UC Sand Diego and I would begin a Master’s degree from San Diego State. Those were happy times. We had no money but we had each other. Moving away for school was a sweet adventure but because Derek was so busy with school and his calling, I longed for a friend. Being so fresh off of a mission, I had a strong desire to share the gospel with those around me. We were given many opportunities to share the gospel, some of them well received and others not so much. I was missing my parents and siblings as I tried to learn to become a good wife to my new sweet husband. I didn’t want to admit that being far from home had made me feel a little lonely. 

I began serving in the San Diego Temple as a receptionist. This calling brought me great joy. One day there was an announcement that President Monson of the first Presidency would be speaking at a special fireside for temple workers and their spouses. I was so very excited to listen to a servant of God and maybe even get a chance to meet him! As we pulled up the the large double-Chapel stake center in Vista, California, I realized just how many people would be attending his talk. We had to park quite far away and hike over to the church before entering and finding a seat. As we entered the building we both realized that we would not be sitting anywhere near where President Monson would be speaking. In a very small and crowded overflow room we listened to President Monson speak fondly of his days living is San Diego in the Navy.  After his message, I asked Derek if I could try to catch a glimpse of President Monson in the main chapel. He agreed and waited patiently for me in the foyer. As I approached the stand I saw a mob of people, not in an orderly line as you sometimes see when waiting to greet a special visitor, but more like a crowd of fans huddled around a stage during a rock-concert. How was this mayhem ever going to lead to my interacting with President Monson? Not knowing what else to do I joined the mob in hopes that I could at least make eye contact with President Monson before he left the chapel. He reached out his hand and began shaking the many outreached hands. There was no order it it, it almost reminded me of a crowd of people huddled around the Savior with His disciples trying to shield him from the chaos. 


Suddenly President Monson reached out his and and shook mine! I was lucky enough to shake his hand! What a treasure I had received! I couldn’t understand why this sweet experience was leaving me a little empty. I realized what a gift it had been to have touched President Monson’s hand but because of the chaotic situation he had not made eye-contact with me. Silly as it seems, I did not feel I had truly met this giant of a man without having an actual moment with him face to face. I tried to feel grateful for the gift I had received and not to feel bad for what had been lacking. 
In the tenderness of that moment I imagine I may have said a prayer that went something like this: “Heavenly Father, I am so blessed that I was able to be here this evening and that I was able to have this moment of standing here in this place where thy servant stands and that I was able to be a part of this adoring group that could feel thy love through this humble servant. How I would long for him to see me, that I would feel known of him and of Thee.....” After lingering there a few more moments President Monson stopped what he was doing and took a single Moment to look up from what was certainly an overwhelming crowd. As he paused he turned his face toward me and gave me his warm signature smile we all love. The spirit testified to me of God’s love for even the lowliest person that he would inspire His servant take a moment from his busy life to acknowledge one so insignificant in the world!

I know with out doubt that Thomas Spencer Monson was a true prophet of God and that he wore himself out in doing God’s will and being on his errand. He witnessed to me that day to the truth of the words he so often spoke: “Never let a job to be done be more important than a person to be loved.” People. People are God’s work and glory, and so it was for President Monson. He always ministered to people. Or in my case to one person, for one moment, a moment I shall never forget for my mortal life. May we all live close to the spirit as did President Monson so that we too can be on the Lord's errand if ever we are called be.

Friday, December 22, 2017

“Faith in God includes faith in His timing”- Neal A. Maxwell


Have you ever made a perfect plan for how you knew your life should go? What happened? How often in our lives do things go as planned?  
Planning is an essential part of living. I once heard that dreaming is a form of planning. We need to dream. We need to plan. We also need to understand that there are times when God respectfully takes our plans and alters them. This can be painful and confusing. What we don’t always understand is that God’s version of the plan is perfect, and leads us down the exact path we were meant to be on. 

Our job is to recognize His hand in all things so we can have confidence in the way things are going. As I write this I realize that I’ve still got a long way to go in my own personal journey of recognizing and embracing God’s version of what my path should be, but I sure am grateful to know that the grand navigator has a perfect knowledge of my preferred destination.
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Planning is an essential part of living. I once heard that dreaming is a form of planning. We need to dream. We need to plan. We also need to understand that there are times when God respectfully takes our plans and alters them. This can be painful and confusing. What we don’t always understand is that God’s version of the plan is perfect, and leads us down the exact path we were meant to be on.  Our job is to recognize His hand in all things so we can have confidence in the way things are going. As I write this I realize that I’ve still got a long way to go in my own personal journey of recognizing and embracing God’s version of what my path should be, but I sure am grateful to know that the grand navigator has a perfect knowledge of my preferred destination.

For many years I’ve been decorating weddings at various venues. I love taking an ordinary space and making it into something extraordinary. A couple of years ago Derek suggested that our family should open up our own wedding venue to use my love of decorating and also to give our many children an opportunity to work. While driving home from Canada we talked about our dream and how we would pull it off. After the trip was over Derek likely forgot about our conversation but I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. 
The next year and a half was was much occupied with bearing and nurturing the twins. After they turned a year old I revisited our dream of opening a wedding venue. I was expecting Benjamin but decided to search for a possible location until he was born at which time I would be able to focus on him.
After months of researching real estate trends and prices per square foot both for renting and buying local properties I felt confidence in making an offer on a lovely little building. My offer was denied because the land was tied into a larger piece of very valuable real estate that they didn’t want to separate. I went on in my search and had many more failed attempts at securing a building.  
Just before I was to have Benjamin there was a beautiful lot I was trying to buy to build our venue on. The property wasn’t zoned as commercial and the process to switch it over was quite involved and costly and wasn’t a sure bet. 
After praying about it I felt like I just needed to focus on having the baby. Then when Benjamin was only 3 weeks old my sister Becky came in town and while she was in town we saw a property that I immediately knew I would want for our wedding venue. 
The fact that I would finally find the right venue when I had a 3-week old baby made no sense to me. In order to secure the property we had to commit to it or lose it. It broke my heart to take on the pressure of starting a new business when all I wanted to do was to focus on and love my last baby. Also, how in the world would I find the time or energy to do all I needed to do while being up at night with a newborn? Each time I faced doubt about these issues I reminded myself of the hundreds of prayers we had offered asking for guidance for our family business dreams. 
If we had faith enough to ask for heavens help in getting a place, we needed to have faith that God’s timing for the project was also par of His plan. I received a blessing that promised I would have the stamina to do what was required of me for my family and for the business and miraculously I did! In extreme cases we worked past midnight and came home to a baby that needed to be fed for his late-night feeding. 
Working alongside my boys was pure magic to me. At home there is so much noise and so many big and small needs that need to be met that I feel like I just go into survival mode and try to feed the mouths and put out all the fires. But when I would take one or two boys over with me to work then instantly all that noise was gone and it was just us working together for something good. 
 

They learned how to use a chopsaw, a gigsaw, and a nail gun as we put up shiplap and a pallet wall. Together we measure, painted, nailed and unpacked furniture. It was sweet to see how we transformed that space into something beautiful but the sweetest transformation that took place was not seen with the eye. It happened inside us as we could feel less contention and more love working toward a common goal. 


Benjamin was such a sweetheart to come along and rest in his car seat while we worked. David made a website from scratch using html which he learned in school, Keller invented a more efficient way of installing shiplap using 2 ladders instead of one, Adelaide helped me to prepare the letters to hang outside and unpacked dozens of chiavari wedding chairs. Wes stayed up until 2:30 the week of the grand opening to assist me in final touches and Adam became a master of power tools at the age of 9. 

Now that our place is open I don’t know what will lie ahead in our journey. 
           

During this season as we celebrate the miracle of the birth of our Savior, I am reminded of a talk I heard about God planning millions of years ahead of time for a single star to shine down on the stable at Bethlehem on the very night of Christ's birth and that if God can orchestrate this detail so many years in advance then certainly the details of our lives are also very much a part of His grand plan.


Martin Luther said: "I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide." May we ever know Him and ever trust in His supreme guidance.l

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Darkness to light: feeling God's nearness

As I prepare to give birth to our sweet baby boy I have been trying find a way to say goodbye to the twins as the babies of our family. It has always been hard for me to make these transitions, but with two of them I find it to be even more emotional.  These little boys have had such a profound effect on our lives and although they will be ours forever they will very soon be sharing their place in the family with a new precious one.

 Life's transitions often bring pain but generally also provide overwhelming opportunities for growth. I think of the very important transition of helping a little one sleep through the night without assistance (nursing, comforting etc). Every parent faces this challenge with their baby at some point but with our twins we felt compelled to sleep train earlier than we had with our other babies out of sheer exhaustion and the need to care for 5 other children including older kids who kept us awake at night for other reasons.


  As parents we know that sleeping alone is going to be a skill that will bless the child (and the rest of the family!) with needed sleep, and subsequent growth that can only occur during intervals of quality sleep. We also know that in order to gain this new skill, the child must experience the feeling of total abandonment in order to recognize that he can truly make it on his own.                                        
What the child doesn't know is that during those moments when he feels the most abandoned and confused that the parent is really very near. Many nights I have waited outside my child's door just feet away as they cry in confussion, I lay there listening praying, sometimes weeping, pleading with the Lord to help my child to make it through the night without me.

As adults we continue to make painful but needed transitions. We finish school and move away from home, we get married and follow our spouse across the country to a new and unfamiliar place, we lose someone who is very dear to us, we feel inspired to do something that doesn't turn out as we envisioned.  These times can make us feel such loss and abandonment. Why is it that at these times we look for God and sometimes wonder where He is?
As the parent of all mankind, it is during our painful transitions when God is outside our doorway listening, waiting and asking the Lord to comfort us as we push through our own painful transistion in order that we might gain the new skill of greater  spiritual strength and maturity.
Since discovering that this baby would be a brother and not the sister that I was sure would come to us I have tried so hard to understand God's plan for me. I find myself asking Him: was the sister the baby I lost last Fall? Am I supposed to have another baby to actually get her here? Am I just spiritually off and not able to actually discern what Thy will is for me?
I have realized that perhaps I don't need to know the answer to these questions now. Perhaps I will not know them in this lifetime.  I do know that although I have felt intense pain over this lack of understanding that God has not at all abandoned me. I believe He is closer than ever waiting, listening and pleading with the Lord to give me strength as I grow the new skill to trust and follow and believe in His power to guide, lift and nurture our family to new heights.
In less than 24 hours our little town will witness total darkness during midday during a total eclipse of the sun. This miracle of total darkness to full light is not unlike the miracle we all experience when God through His great power can take us from full darkness to endless day as He heals our broken hearts and makes us even stronger than we ever knew we could be.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

the number of the vessels was 8





                                 
Our babies turned one year in January.  As I reflect on all that has happened in our lives since they became a part of it I am filled with emotion. Even the idea that we could have chosen not to have another child (which became 2) is unthinkable to me now.  The depth to which our lives have been touched by these little people is almost impossible to describe.  I believe we are all better, happier and less selfish because of the sweetness their spirits have brought to our home.  It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also admit that this last year has pushed us physically, emotionally and spiritually in painful ways. There have been so many times when I wondered how I could be strong enough to do what was required to help my growing family to become all they could become with my limited abilities, many other times I felt strength come at times when I knew I was not doing this alone.  Truly God has sent heavenly and earthly angels to lift and bless our family when we have needed it the most. 
There was a time while on my mission in Russia, that I had felt that when I became I mother I would have 8 children and had shared this idea with Derek even before we were married.  This dream quickly faded as we married and had our first child and I realized my many, many weaknesses regarding parenting.  I struggled deeply with feelings of inadequacy, self doubt and discouragement that I would never be the kind of mother I had dreamed of being.  Derek lovingly encouraged me to keep trying and doing my best.  We had our first 3 babies within 3.5 years.  It was a crazy time!  I loved my boys so, so much but continued to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. I didn’t suddenly gain confidence in myself but in quiet ways I could feel myself becoming stronger and more capable of feeling joy in the journey of motherhood.  I remember having a very special moment during these difficult years when I distinctly understood that what I was doing for my children could not be done by anyone else.   I had left the classroom to spend my days changing diapers and cleaning toilets. For years I had wondered if anything that I was doing in my home from day to day made a difference. At that moment I knew that it made a world of difference to these little people in my care.  Students come and go but these little people would be mine forever.  Even in all my weaknesses, I was giving a gift to my children.  I was choosing to bring them into the world and doing all I could to help them grow to be the people God hoped them to become.  This was a sweet turning point.  
                                                          
More years went by and more sweet babies joined our family.  After each baby came I experienced a degree of the postpartum depression I had felt with my first baby, but I could feel my sense of purpose gently growing and strengthening me.  After we found out that baby #6 would actually be 6 and 7 we both remembered the experience I had as a missionary.                                                                                  
When I went to the ultrasound revealing the twins gender I had felt certain that one of the babies would be a sister for Adelaide. When the ultrasound tech told us we would have 2 little boys I immediately commented to Derek that we could possibly have one more baby meant to join our family.  I’m not sure that was the right moment to bring up the idea as we were just digesting the thought of having 6 sons.  I decided to keep this thought in my heart and think on it a while.  Not too long afterward my Sister Becky had a deeply spiritual experience in the temple during which she felt impressed to share with me that there may be a sister to join our family at some point.  I was so happy to hear her experience and knew that if I was meant to have another baby that Derek would also feel the same eventually and he did.
                                     
At my postpartum checkup after the twins I made a plan with my OBGYN about the best window for conceiving our last baby.  I was fast approaching my 40th birthday and knew that we needed to try for it sooner than later but the doctor reminded me that after a C-section I needed to allow at least 18 months between births.  When I started reading up on my odds of conceiving at my age I tried not to be discouraged.  I also realized that since Adelaide was a happy surprise, we had never successfully figured out how to conceive a girl. All our attempts at conception have resulted in boys. Despite all these odds I pushed forward with confidence.  When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed.  Less than 8 weeks later I lost the baby.  At this point I felt spiritual confusion and doubt.  I knew I was supposed to try for this last baby but was my age the reason for the miscarriage? Did God want me to keep trying or was all of it just meant to be a spiritual exercise? I had followed heart and done my best, was that enough?  Perhaps that little sister was only meant to be conceived and not ever born.  All these thoughts kept me from feeling the confidence I had once had at trying for one last baby.  
                            
One night I said a simple prayer explaining to God that I wanted one more baby but didn’t have the confidence or strength to move forward and that I didn’t know how.  God heard my simple prayer. On Christmas day, I discovered that I was pregnant again!  2016 was a truly remarkable year.  In one calendar year I had carried 4 babies! The twins were born in January, I became pregnant again in October and then again in early December.  Think of all those hormones, no wonder I’ve been so emotional! 

Tomorrow is our 20 week ultrasound and I find myself feeling excited and nervous.  I believe that Adelaide’s little sister could very well have been the baby that didn’t make it.  This helps me feel that no matter what we learn tomorrow we will win. The idea of having 7 sons is crazy but sweet and amazing and of course if it’s a girl we will also be thrilled.  If God can bring us to it, He will bring us through it!
Cast your vote and let us know what you think our baby will be!