Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Light of Christ

The girls were downstairs watching a movie and I had gotten almost everything done that was on my resolution chart. Enos was on the computer working on special needs scouts stuff and he said, “Why don’t you get out of here.” I decided to go shopping. But before I made it to Walmart, I ended up at the cemetery. The sky promised a colorful and bright sunset and I wanted to be up high to get the best view. As I turned into the cemetery I heard a voice say something like, “The sunset is great, but what it lights up can be even better.” With that, I anticipated that the eastern mountains would be glowing with vivid autumn colors. At the top, I turned right, heading toward Josh’s spot. That’s when I saw it. The Jesus statue close to Josh’s marker was a brilliant white. The setting sun had shadowed the ground all around, but the statue being elevated caught the last of the light. I parked quickly and ran, pulling my cellphone out of my pocket to take a picture. Wow. After my spiritual bucket was full, I pulled away and as I drove back down the hill, I said to Josh, “You’re still with me, aren’t you?” In my mind’s eye, I saw him smile and I felt such sweet emotion. Hearing the little voice promising me something better than a sunset and seeing the Jesus Statue lit up was the highlight of my day.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Rainbow Smile


When I attended my Uncle Don's funeral I heard several relatives say that I looked just like my mom. Aunt Ruth told me that she always tries to be like my mom. I thought more about Mom that weekend, after being with extended family that I don't see often, including my dad who travelled down from Washington state. I found myself asking, "What would Mom think of me now?" It was with a self-defeated tone that I reflected on this. You see, I'm ashamed of myself. After getting our foster girls back, and after a surgery and some hormonal imbalances, I became a yeller. Sometimes, I would get so mad at their bad behavior that I would act badly. Somehow I justified my actions which opened the door to repeating them.  

I don't remember my mom yelling at me. I know at times I got the silent treatment but no anger-spurting, ugly yelling. Sunday night when I prayed, I was still thinking about my mom. I asked that she could, in spirit, help my brother, who I was concerned about. Then I went to bed.

Monday afternoon I paused from my chores because the girls asked me to step outside to see their concert. I sat on the bench and watched Lily playing a guitar (a plastic rake from their sandbox), our friend, Mateah, beating on her drums (two little step-up stools) and Natasha playing on her little electric kitty piano.  I was amused. Then I looked up. In the southern sky there was an amazing rainbow smile.  I don't know that I've ever seen one of these in my whole lifetime!


Whenever I see a rainbow, the words come to my mind from the song my mom picked for her funeral. (Click here to see a youtube video of it)  "I'll build you a rainbow, way up high above, send down a sunbeam, all plumb full of love, sprinkle down raindrops, teardrops of joy, I'll be happy in heaven, watching over my boy girl." That's what I sing when I see a rainbow. 



It later occurred to me what day it was. May 19th, my mom's birthday. 

Sitting there on the front porch, watching my little girls in their dress-up clothes performing for me, with the rainbow smile above their little heads, left me feeling different inside.

This morning I came across this scripture..."this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

The first thing that impressed me is 'forgetting those things which are behind me' (break out into singing Let It Go!)  Yelling is behind me. I also considered specific ways to 'reach forth' and 'press toward the mark'. Lastly, I thought of what my high calling is. Another song that my mom picked for her funeral is called "The Noblest Call" by Deanna Edwards.  It is worth your time to listen to this beautiful song.

(click here to listen to the song)

Something tells me that it wasn't a coincidence that the girls called me outside on my mom's birthday in time to see the rainbow smile.  Rainbows are fleeting, just like life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Angel Faces Smile

click here and you can return to this tab to read as you listen to my arrangement of "Be Still, My Soul".

Uncle Don, gentle and kind
This morning I laid in bed enjoying a few moments of quiet and solitude. I thought about being at Uncle Don's funeral yesterday. We love him and his family so very much. It was a sweet and sad day. Several extended family members that I don't see except at these life events, expressed compassion to me that came from remembering being together at Josh's funeral. To one sweet aunt, I shared pictures of our daughters and explained that they were gifts from Josh. There was empathy and joy in her eyes. To a cousin who I learned has a daughter that only spent four minutes in mortality, I acknowledged our shared grief and hope. I told him I wished I could take all the tender mercies that have come with our loss and put them in a little bottle that I could open and share in a moment's time. As life is, we're too busy to stop and talk about the important, eternal things.

Another cousin said she couldn't miss coming regardless of the long drive because she knew her parents would be there. They've passed away. I told her I understood and I mentioned Josh. She was caught off guard. She hadn't heard that our son passed away. I gave her a few details and looking into her motherly eyes, I felt the need to reassure her. I told her about a dream I had just that morning. I walked into a room and saw Josh and Cody tucked in a large bed. They looked up at me with boyish grins. They were probably 8 and 10 years old in the dream. It was a gift to see their smiling faces when I would feel of their absence while amongst other loved ones that day at a funeral.  
Me and my guys! 

After I reviewed this as I laid in bed this morning, I turned on the radio to hear the Sounds of Sunday. "Lead, Kindly Light" came on and it was a tender mercy because my mind went right to the final lyrics of the hymn. 

I asked Cody before he left for his mission which hymn he'd like me to arrange for him. He picked "Be Still, My Soul." As an interlude, I put the first two lines of "Lead, Kingly Light" and I ended the arrangement with the last two lines, "And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!"

"Be Still My Soul/Lead Kindly Light"

Monday, May 12, 2014

Motherhood

Last week in Relief Society I mentioned giving birth to my children. The comment that followed left me feeling reprimanded for bringing up one of my motherhood blessings when there are others who haven't experienced what I have. Yesterday was Mother's Day; and there are plenty of people who have a hard time with that 'holiday' because of tender feelings.  


Everyone's motherhood journey begins the same; we are born to a mother. I love my mom and I'm grateful for her example of goodness. I wish I could remember more about her, I wish that I could talk to her, hug her, say thank you to her. But, cancer shut down her body and her spirit left us. I was twenty.  Mother's Day became bittersweet. I got married three years later and missed her like nothing else. The next four years I experienced the monthly cycle of hoping to be pregnant and then being disappointed. Four years. I waited and prayed. I watched as my friends and sister and sister-in-laws got pregnant. I worried. I cried. I pleaded. Finally, we were pregnant. I was thrilled. Ten weeks into it, I miscarried.

My body healed, but my spirit was wounded. In less than a year, we were pregnant again. I held my breath, figuratively, through the next nine months as my body swelled and hope and joy competed with my fear. He came a week early. I went natural. Why? Who knows? I didn't regret it though. I wanted to experience everything fully. I wanted to have my body say it was time. Time to push. The exhilaration matched the pain when I saw him for the first time. Although nursing was difficult for me at first as my skin cracked and bled and I had infections, it was worth hanging in there. I nursed Cody until I was pregnant with Josh. I nursed Josh and Nathan as long as they would let me. 


I was okay with Mother's Day again. At least until Josh died. You don't know how awful that is until it happens to you and you feel such compassion when you hear of it happening to someone else. It's been six years and the whole week before Mother's Day I am still weepy.  Having our first born, Cody, away on a mission is hard too, but at least he was able to send me flowers and we skyped!


In the spirit world Josh has helped me become a mother all over again. Instead of preparing the home with a nursery room, we were getting it ready for inspection and licensing. Instead of taking birthing classes, we took foster care training classes. There was a lot of anxiety and prayer. It didn't take nine months. It took almost four years to transition from being a foster mom to being an adoptive mom. It's not the same as being a birth mom. It was more laborious to adopt my three girls then it was to carry and give birth to my biological boys. Maybe when you adopt children as babies, it's different. But adopting foster children can be traumatic for the family. 


I'm not a perfect mom. I pray at night with regret. I start again in the morning. 'Look for the good. Be grateful. Don't be too hard on yourself.' That's my pep talk. Then I have magical motherhood moments. Giggles. Singing and Dancing. Holding hands and hugs. And tears. I came home from a date with Enos on Friday and Natasha started crying. I held her and asked, "What is wrong, what happened?"  She said through her sobs, "I just missed you so much. I wanted to be with you."  


I imagine those will be the words I will say to my mom and my son when I finally get the chance. The sorrow of separation is the bitter part of motherhood for me now. I believe in life after death and eternal relationships and the resurrection and because of Jesus Christ, sadness comes, but hope overcomes it.


In Relief Society last week, I wondered if the sister who made the comment would prefer to have given birth to her children instead of adopting them as babies IF she had to experience one of them passing away as a child. But before she concluded, she shared that it had been difficult but she is finally finding peace in accepting her motherhood journey even though it was void of the birthing experience. 

Joy and sorrow are integral parts of the motherhood journey. I will take mine over anyone else's only because I know it is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father.


Elder Cody sent me flowers for Mother's Day;
with Natasha, my littlest one.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Dog-gone it!


JOURNAL ENTRY of our first anniversary of Josh's passing, March 2009:

"Tuesday night Enos came to bed around 12:30.  I had been in our room, crying until my tear tank was empty.  It was a rougher night than I expected.  I think I got to sleep before 1 o'clock but then I woke up believing that I heard Nathan crying.  But as I laid there listening, there was no sound.  I decided to check on him anyway.  I’m glad I did. He was wide awake.  I climbed in bed with him and we talked and cried for an hour and a half. I tickled his back and we talked about memories of Josh.  One thing new I learned is that he and Josh used to play cell phone hide and seek.  They would text each other clues and they could only tell lies on 3 of the 5 clues.  :) 


Nate & Josh at California Adventure 2007
Survived Tower of Terror Together 2007
On the drive home from Disneyland 2007
(Journal Entry continues:) On Wednesday, Josh's day, we were hoping to buy a dog. Instead we visited Marilee and took home lots of dog hair. We learned about golden retrievers though.  I didn't care to have dogs all over me, with bad breath, heavy paws, and slobbery mouths, but this isn’t about me.  

We stopped at the cemetery and Cody and Nate flew kites.  I was an onlooker, smiling at their persistence and childlike enthusiasm. 
1st anniversary of Josh's passing, 2009
 One meaningful thing on our list for today was to finish reading the Book of Mormon.  We read the last verse together out loud.  I was fighting tears.  

Before we went to bed, we hooked up the camcorder and played back old home videos.  We watched the one where Josh was a newborn through his toddler years.  I can’t express the pain to see the baby I carried and gave birth to and nursed and held and loved and played with and taught and enjoyed all through the years and then not see him here where it feels like he belongs.  Sometimes it hits me so hard.  Where is Josh?  I just miss him.  I will never get tired of looking at pictures of him.

On Thursday I made it to the temple.  While in the Celestial room, I wanted so much to have a spiritual experience where I could see Josh as he is now or know what he is doing specifically.  I waited and hoped but nothing miraculous happened.  I felt discouraged but then in my mind I heard four little words, “I love you, Mom.” 

On Friday I found a dog online, a three year old golden retriever male, just like Marilee’s Timber.  There wasn’t a picture posted yet, but after I made a call, I felt strongly that this was our dog."


Bringing Brody Home
Cody & Brody
Master & Mutt :)

Friends Forever

Every year since, we have taken off work and school on Josh's day and have made new family memories. Adding Brody to our family has done wonders for Enos and the boys. Brody doesn't do much for me, but it's not about me.

Imagine receiving three foster daughters into your home who were missing their puppies so much.  At their biological dad's house, they each had their own chihuahua. Often at visits, the dad would bring the puppies for the girls to play with. So, one day I told them that I understood that if we adopted them, we would need to get them a puppy. After the adoption, I acknowledged it was time to 'bite the bullet'. I started praying to find the best one for the girls, just as I had prayed to find the right dog for the boys five years ago. One morning as I again began typing 'chihuahua' into the search for dogs on KSL classifieds, the spirit told me not to. So I didn't. I just scanned down through all dogs recently listed. There was Oreo listed as a chiweenie.  I'm still not a dog lover. But then again, it's not about me. 

Karina & Oreo

Liliana & Oreo


Natasha & Oreo

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I told Enos

It took me almost 5 months to confide in Enos that it sounded like we were going to be parents to a baby girl. We were 44 years old at the time.

Journal Entry, March 5, 2009

"On Thursday, I had my fingerprints done for foster care. Enos and I had our first foster care class. On the upside, the teacher is excellent.  On the downside, he did his best to scare everyone away from foster care so only the serious/brave at heart were left.  I left questioning myself.  I cried that night after telling Enos about me hearing a voice last year that I assumed was Josh’s say, “I’m going to give you a baby girl.” (more details here) Enos was so okay with everything and I was an emotional mess.  Enos would welcome any children into our home and love and take care of them like he does us.  He is an amazing person."



{If you continue following my posts, you'll see that he wasn't okay with a lot of things. So often I wished that Enos would be the one having the 'tender mercies' that pointed to the conclusion that Josh was doing what he said he would do and that Natasha was indeed the baby girl he promised me. But, there were times that I threw my hands up in the air and told Heavenly Father that I was done; it was too hard. Maybe I needed the tender mercies more than Enos because I am not as patient and compassionate as he is.}

On Saturday (April 26, 2014), while in the Celestial room of the temple, Enos and I were waiting to be escorted into the sealing room. He said, "Aren't we too old for this?"  (Now we are 49 years old!) I asked him if he remembered how 'okay' he was five years ago when I told him what Josh had said. He didn't remember. He ended with saying, "Well, I guess there's no going back now." He was smiling, kind of.


Enos reading Bible Stories to Natasha & Lily, Easter Sunday 2014



Monday, April 28, 2014

What to know, what to be, and what to do...



Ogden Utah Temple
An excerpt from my Tender Mercies Journal, 
dated February 22, 2009:

"I lingered in the Celestial room until there were only a few patrons left and it was more reverent. I bowed my head and prayed. I told Heavenly Father that I just wanted to give Him an opportunity to communicate to me anything that He wanted me to know, to be, or to do. Before I had a chance to close my prayer, I heard this instruction: 'Go stand by that mirror.' 


I got up, unsure of what was to transpire and walked over to the mirror I had been directed to. It wasn't a framed mirror on the wall ~ it was a mirror panel, probably 3-4 feet wide that ran from floor to ceiling. I purposely avoided looking directly into the mirror as I didn't want anyone to think I had stopped to admire my own reflection. I stood there a moment, waiting, feeling a little awkward, until I was directed, "Look." I faced the mirror and looked. To my surprise there was the 'eternal reflection effect' just like in the sealing rooms. I had never noticed before that there was an identical mirror on the opposite wall. But it wasn't just me reflected in the mirrors. There was a pattern, thin lines and curves, gold in color, that repeated itself all the way to the tall ceiling. As I considered this chainlike pattern, I heard "Know that you are sealed as a family, an eternal family." As my eyes followed the double loops going up, I thought of my ancestors. I also thought of Josh. Then I heard, "Be grateful for Priesthood power." 


The double loops, upon later contemplation, made me think of arms, arms that cradle a baby.


On my way home, I replayed the experience in my mind. That's when I realized that Heavenly Father had answered my prayer as to what he wanted me to know and to be. I wondered if there was something He wanted me to do. My understanding was that He wanted me to be prepared to share this experience. Interestly, I got a call in the evening from a sister in the ward who is working to come back to church activity. Without any prompting from me, she said that she wanted to get to the temple ~ not only had her husband passed away, but she has children in heaven. I then shared with her my experience from the temple and told her that I believed in her ~ that she will make it, even though she is struggling now. I promised her it will be worth it.


I wrote this in my tender mercies journal because it was another witness that comforts me when I think about Josh and miss him. I do miss him so much."


This experience happened about a month after I had prayed about whether or not to believe it was real, that Josh was going to give me a baby girl. Saturday, that 'baby girl', now 4, and her 6 & 7 year old sisters were sealed to Enos and I in the Brigham City Temple. 



Enos & Natasha, Nathan & Liliana, Me & Karina

















Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Gift of Music

April 27, 2014

When I saw that stake conference was to be on Josh's birthday, I immediately thought of what hymn to have sung when the congregation stood.  "Rejoice, the Lord is King!"  It is a hymn that Josh gave to me (click here to read about the experience).  I found myself wondering as conference got closer if it was right for me to be self-indulgent; perhaps there was a better hymn for stake conference. I googled stake conference hymns and the first website I clicked on listed the music program for a stake conference and the first hymn listed for their conference was "Rejoice, the Lord is King!"  That blew me away and convinced me that it was okay to have us sing Josh's hymn on his birthday.


Josh was excited that I made ice cream cakes for his 11th birthday party.
This morning a string quartet accompanied the congregation as my friend, Sandy, and I joined in playing a 4-hand piano arrangement that I wrote that almost spanned all 88 keys on the piano! Josh gave me the hymn to arrange the week of my birthday five years ago. Today, I was thinking, "Right back atcha buddy!"

As I drove away from stake conference, the first song on the radio (Sounds of Sunday) was a tender mercy in itself. I don't know what it is called, but it ended with the words, "I'll send my love from the other side."  It was like getting a hug from Josh.

We're heading up to the cemetery. The girls want to leave a gift for Josh. Karina is writing a little note for him and putting it in an easter egg. Liliana is picking him a tulip. I asked Natasha what gift she could give him and she offered sweetly, "I could sing for him." 






*Update: Well, Lily chose a daffodil instead of a tulip because she said that Josh is a boy and probably wouldn't want a pink flower. The solo Natasha sang with all her heart was "This could be the start of something new, It feels so right to be here with you..." And Nathan came too. He brought Josh's viola and amazed me by playing a few songs by ear, even "Hey, There Delilah." That's a song I was teaching Josh on the guitar before he passed away. It's been a good day.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kaleb

My blog suffered a drought from Dec 2011 until this spring. But there were still tender mercies raining down on me, washing away sorrow and giving bloom to hope and joy. Many of the little miracles, especially the ones that let me know Josh was near, had to do with our foster daughters who were still in state custody. I wasn't allowed to share much information or pictures. Now, that I've started adding posts again, I had to go back and read previous ones. I realized that I needed to follow up on one that I posted after my first Mother's Day without Josh.  

I just did a search in my journal for "Kaleb". With Josh gone, we don't see his friends much, but we tried to stay in touch with Kaleb particularly because of a dream I had. (click here to read about it) Little did I know that our small efforts would bring me one of my most memorable tender mercy with Josh.


Josh's friend, Kaleb
March 28, 2010: "Kaleb came to church with us for a 2nd week in a row. As a bonus, he and Rachel and Brian also joined us for dinner, a "Speak it Not" game and dessert. They left with a full belly and a smile on their faces."

April 8, 2010: "We brought Kaleb and Levi with us (to the BHS production of Les Mis) and they seemed impressed with it and grateful that we would include them. Good kids.

June 5, 2010: "On Saturday, Cody picked up Kaleb and we loaded up the kayaks and some snacks. Brian Jasper and his parents joined us on the water as well and it was a beautiful, sunny day."

June 6, 2010 "After Sacrament meeting I asked Kaleb if he were working toward getting the Priesthood.  He said he’d like to have it but didn’t know what to do.  I asked if he’d like to sit down with the Bishop and put together a game plan.  He said, “Sure.”  They did and on my solitary walk home, I felt that emotion that’s bigger than my heart.  If we don’t help Kaleb get to the temple, I would feel that I’ve failed Josh.  Kaleb joined us for dinner."

Jan 26, 2011: "Enos took Kaleb out to dinner on Wednesday night.  We got a late night call from Kaleb where he was worried about some things so Enos was good enough to give him a good visit. We’re hoping to get him going to church."

July 5, 2011: "The Priests went kayaking Tuesday night.  Enos told me later that Kaleb talked about his working to get the priesthood.  Kaleb had said, “Deanne’s dream is coming true.”

July 17, 2011: "We did make it home (from California) by noon and to church by one.  Kaleb had his grandparents and uncle & aunt’s family there from his mom’s side, plus his dad, Larry, came.  I was so happy to see their support for him.  There were too many of us to fit in the Bishop’s office so we went in the High Counselor’s room.  Enos had Keaton and Cody join in the circle, besides the Melchizedec Priesthood holders.  Kaleb’s uncle ordained him.  As he was asking Kaleb for his middle name, I bowed my head and asked Heavenly Father again that in the prayer, Kaleb would know of Heavenly Father’s love for him and would have no doubt that he was doing the right thing.  My prayer ended as the ordination began, but I didn’t hear it.  Josh entered the room.  My eyes remained closed but I felt him, his full presence with me, like I’ve only felt once before since he passed.  Just as when it happened on our front porch at Christmas time, it was unexpected.  I hadn’t prayed for that blessing; I hadn’t even entertained the possibility.  He was just there.  And like before, it overwhelmed me.  I don’t know how else to describe it except powerful and pure.  I found myself struggling to quiet the sobs as tears streamed down both cheeks.  I heard Kaleb’s uncle finish the prayer, catching a sentence or two, just enough to know that he was a man of the gospel and I felt a reassurance that the prayer I had sent heavenward just before his uncle’s prayer began, was answered.  As Kaleb shook hands and received hugs from those around the circle, I did my best to discreetly compose myself.  I wasn’t planning to tell anyone what I just experienced; I didn’t want it to be about me or Josh.  I didn’t want to distract attention away from Kaleb and his moment.  Kaleb’s grandma, who sat to the left of me, turned and looked at my face and just like ‘a light bulb went on’, her countenance changed and she said, “Your son was here.”  She and I didn’t know each other but she told me that Kaleb has talked about my family and she gave me a hug.  I appreciated that she understood the sacredness of what had just happened to me.  Later that night, I knelt and said my prayer.  I reviewed with Heavenly Father my experience at Kaleb’s ordination and I felt the confirmation that I was seeking.  Then, I just felt amazed that I’ve been so blessed.  I had held all of this quietly in my heart for the last seven hours, often smiling to myself as I thought, “he came.”  I wondered about telling Enos.  I understand why he and Cody didn’t have the same experience; they were in the circle and it would have disrupted the ordination.  There is no way you can feel the full presence of the spirit of someone you love and have longed for and not cry when he comes, especially when it is unexpected and you feel unprepared for so much emotion.  Enos came to bed and asked, “What did Kaleb’s grandma say to you?”  I told him, “she said, ‘your son was here’”.  Then I shared everything with him.  His response was, “You need to tell Kaleb.”  Yes, I expect I do.  I imagine Josh was there for Kaleb, even though it was me that gets to tell him about it.  I’ll probably give Kaleb another letter, like when I shared the dream where Josh communicated to me on a Mother’s day morning.  Yes, I think my dream is coming true.  I expected nothing less."

Oct. 23, 2011 "Kaleb came home with Enos after doing sacrament for the shut-ins and had dinner with us. He also stayed for home teachers. He's just been assigned to go out home teaching with Bro. Bryner."


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In My Daughter's Eyes


Josh said, "I'm going to give you a baby girl" in October of 2008.  (click here to read about that) It was on my mind a lot one day in January of 2009 and that night I felt impressed to pray about what had happened.

Journal Entry: Jan. 18th, 2009

A few days ago, I finally prayed about the ‘message’ I got from Josh, expecting to have that uncomfortable feeling from the spirit, letting me discern that it was just my imagination, but I just felt peace.  I asked Heavenly Father to let me know.  The very next day, I went out to get the mail and there were the February church magazines.  I thumbed through the Ensign.  There was an eight page focus on adoption.  Personal stories by a birth mother, a birth father, a ‘birth’ grandparent, and from someone that had been adopted as a baby.  As I read every word, I felt that wave of emotion again that I couldn’t explain away.  The Friend magazine also had a story about a couple that adopted a baby girl.  Was it just coincidence?

Friday morning we met with Dan, from Utah Foster Care Foundation.  We have forms to fill out and are signed up for classes that will be held Tues and Thurs evenings throughout March.  After he left, I found myself so excited.  I know that we’re in for challenges, heartaches, and sacrifices, but this is Heavenly Father’s plan for us and he knows and loves us and I have to conclude that there will be great joy as well.

The bishop told me this morning in church that he was extending a call to a sister in a week to replace me as Relief Society president.  I am okay with that.  I already feel like the Lord has extended a new call to me.  (click here to read about it) Prepare Every Needful Thing. You are going to be foster parents and someday, add to your eternal family through adoption.  Josh will be an active participant.  That fills my heart with tender emotion.

I asked in my personal prayer last night if I should believe what I perceived that Josh told me.  You see, last night at a ‘new neighbor’ get-together at the Tobin’s, I got to hold our new neighbor’s baby, Lillie.  As much as I adored her and enjoyed her smiles, I was caught up in the almost unbelievable thought of being a mom at my age to such a little creature.  During my prayer, I was told not to worry about believing, but to start hoping. 

This morning on the front page of the newspaper was an article encouraging families here in Weber County to consider fostering children.  Enos made a comment that after all this publicity; people are going to think we’re just following the crowd when they see us with foster children. 'We’re not following the crowd', I thought, 'we’re following the Lord.'

I haven’t mentioned a word about the baby stuff to anybody, not even Enos.  I’ve considered it; of sharing especially with Enos but when I thought about it, I heard, “Treasure these things up in your heart.”  I decided to wait.

Journal Entry: Jan. 29, 2009

It’s not a calendar-catch-up-session, I just wanted to record what happened this morning.  When I woke up (to Enos’ alarm) I laid there quietly thinking about the possibility of adopting a baby girl.  Enos turned on the radio as he got out of bed (which he never does) and the next song that came on was “In My Daughter’s Eyes”.  I was doing all I could to hold in the emotion as I heard words like, miracle and ‘sent to rescue me’.  Someday I’ll share this with Enos but he left the room before the song was finished and I shut the radio off and knelt to pray.  The one thing new that I received during that prayer was, “There are many people working on this for you.”  I told Heavenly Father that I was humbled by that and I asked Him to thank them for me.

Four years later this song was an answer to another prayer, and it was given to me in a most remarkable way. But, I'm trying to stay on a chronological path, so that will be a story for another day. 




(I couldn't get it to upload except as an mp4 file, so you lose resolution if you go full-screen ~ sorry).





Sunday, April 20, 2014

The beginning




 I have an itch to start at the beginning, to somehow connect the dots from there to here. But, then again, I'm not sure where our journey to adopt began because I believe we lived before we were born. In heaven, we had relationships; we had desires, dreams, and perhaps, we made promises.


Our last day with our 12-year-old son, Josh, was on Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008.  We had a Japanese student staying with us, and my husband, Enos, decided to have us go outside to take pictures. If you look up 'josh' in the dictionary you'll find the definition, "to tease good-naturedly".  Can you guess from looking at the pictures, which one is Josh? 
 {The rest of us were just trying to keep our eyes open against the glare of the sun, but Josh was having fun.} 

Josh went to sleep that night and never woke up. He died from a seizure.  Maybe down the road I'll be able to describe that day for others; right now I'll just say that it oscillated between being horrifying to being holy. 

About seven months later, I was alone in the kitchen washing dishes when I heard, "I'm going to give you a baby girl." Instantly I replied, "I never asked for a baby girl!" I waited for his reply but I was left alone with my own frantic thoughts.  Why? What was he thinking? Nathan, our youngest, was almost eleven.  A baby, now, at my age?!  I couldn't sleep that night. I didn't tell Enos, not for months, nor did I write about it in my journal. Because I wasn't ready to have it validated, I didn't even pray about it for a long time.

Fostering to adopt had vaguely been in our family plan since Nate was in diapers. One day I had read in the paper about a Child of the Week, a boy, who needed a family. The spirit overcame me and tears flooded my eyes and I just knew. But, because the newspaper picture was of a boy (maybe 9 years old), I assumed that it would be a boy that would come into our home and become a part of our eternal family. But a baby girl! It took a long time for me to accept the gift Josh had offered me. On our foster-to-adopt forms in March of 2010, we put that we were willing to take one child up to the age of 10. The first call that came was for three sisters, ages 3, 2 and a baby. A baby girl.  Sometimes I wonder if Josh would have said more that night in October of 2008 if I had just kept my mouth shut, or if I had been gracious and humble, like Mary who said, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." Would he have told me that this beautiful baby girl had two sisters that I would also come to love as my own children? 


 At about halfway through our foster-to-adopt journey, after seeing more downs than ups, I heard Josh say, "Don't you trust me?"  I tried; I did, and when I felt to waver, I prayed that the Lord would give me something.  It always came. That is the thread that connects the dots between there and here in our journey to complete our family: the tender mercies. 

I'm staying up late this night before Easter to publish this post right now because I wanted to remind myself and others that you don't know what will happen tomorrow. Smile, hold a hand, say thank you and I'm sorry. Give a hug, play a game together, sing a song, pray together. And if something terrible happens, something as painful as waking up and finding that someone you love with all your heart is no longer with you. know that Because of Him, there is no such thing as the end.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S3TI4bYerU

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ask and ye shall receive

Today was general conference. With extended family here as well as our bishop, Enos gave our newly adopted daughters their name blessings. It was wonderful!  It made me remember an experience that kept us on the path to complete our family. One that I wanted to share.

 As I was saying my personal prayer one night at the end of September 2011, I remembered a question our home teacher had asked. After presenting the message on preparing for General Conference, he had asked if Enos or I could share an experience where we had prayed for an answer or for direction and then received it through listening to the conference talks. We had nothing. So, as I knelt in prayer, I thought, “Why not?” 

Yareli's Birthday Party 2011
Karina's Birthday 2011
The girls had been back living with their biological dad for four months now.  We were able to visit the girls at least monthly, even celebrating their birthdays with them.  I had assumed the DCFS case was closed.  Now what?  Do we go back to fostering?  What if we were fostering other children and the girls came back into the system and they didn’t call us?  Although I missed the girls, I had enjoyed a summer of personal freedom.  Did I want to dedicate myself to fostering children again?  Did the Lord expect me to?  I was feeling a little old for being a mom to little children. I wasn’t sure I could talk Enos into being a foster dad again even if the Lord could talk me into it. 

I shared all this in a long prayer.  “Heavenly Father,” I asked, “Wilt thou let me know through the leaders of thy church if foster care is the path you want me to take?”  I trusted He would.  This was Thursday night.

Friday night, preceding conference, when I continued in my personal scripture studying, there was a verse that brought a spiritual surge to me.  “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) I underlined it and pondered on it for some time, feeling like the spirit was saying this verse was speaking to me about our journey to adopt through foster care. Saturday morning during conference, Pres. Uchtdorf quoted the same verse in his talk titled, “You Matter to Him.”  The same impression came when I heard him say it as when I read it the night before.

Saturday afternoon Elder Neil L. Andersen gave a talk titled, “Children”.  Here are a few quotes that I took notice of:
       From a blog written by a Christian woman,  “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.” (Rachel Jankovic, “Motherhood Is a Calling (and Where Your Children Rank),” July 14, 2011, desiringgod.org.)

      Elder Anderson shared the story of Becky & President J. Scott Dorius of the Peru Lima West Mission. 
“We waited, gained perspective, and learned patience. After 25 years of marriage, a miracle baby came into our lives. We adopted two-year-old Nicole and then newborn Nikolai. Strangers now compliment us on our beautiful grandchildren. We laugh and say, ‘They are our children. We have lived our lives backwards.’”

Elder Anderson also shared this scripture:
      “And [Jesus] took a child … in his arms [and] said …“Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth … him that sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37) And he concluded with, “What a wonderful blessing we have to receive sons and daughters of God into our home.  Let us humbly and prayerfully seek to understand and accept God’s commandments, reverently listening for the voice of His Holy Spirit.  Families are central to God’s eternal plan. I testify of the great blessing of children and of the happiness they will bring us in this life and in the eternities, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
It seemed Elder Anderson did a masterful job answering my concerns about my need for me-time (Children is why God gave us time) and about being too old to be a mother of young children (just ask the Dorius family). 

Interestingly, it didn’t end with General Conference.  Enos and I attended the Salt Lake City temple the next morning (Monday) as a friend of ours was getting married.  As the couple knelt at the altar, Elder Marvin K. Jensen, who was a friend of the bride’s family and acting as the sealer, paused briefly, and said, “Sometimes we add to our families through fostering and adopting children.”  He probably didn't know who he was supposed to say that for, and hopefully this young couple didn't stress too much about the possibility of having to adopt because they wouldn't be able to conceive (they have since had a beautiful baby girl.) 
  
The very next day, (Tuesday) I saw on caller ID that our Resource Family Consultant was calling.  I did not pick up.  I had decided when the girls returned home that I would give us at least 6 months before accepting another placement, if we even continued doing foster care.  Nathan was home and overheard the message.  There was a nine year old boy that needed a foster family.  Nate insisted that I call and get all the details.  So, I did. 
Christian and I, 2011
I shared the information with Enos when he came home from work.  I didn’t think he would even consider accepting, but he did.  We were pressured to make a decision in ten minutes. After Enos and Nate said yes, I knelt by my bed alone in my room.  I told Heavenly Father that it felt like we were supposed to accept Christian into our home. As I asked for a confirmation from the spirit, a conversation replayed in my mind. Within the first few months of having the girls in our home a little over a year previous to this, Kairna (having just turned 4) said something that implied that she thought I was a 'career' foster mom. I told her that they were our first foster children and would probably be our last (it had been an extremely difficult first few months with the girls.)   Karina responded, "But Mama Deanne, you have to foster again!"  I asked her why. She said, "because Heavenly Father wants you to." This stunned me because although I had taught them to pray, I had not explained to them how Heavenly Father had guided me to be a foster mom in the first place.  I asked Karina, "Why does Heavenly Father want me to foster children again?"  Her answer sank deep in my heart and returned to me as I prayed about accepting Christian into our home.  "Because," Karina said, "He wants you to be happy."  I had my answer. 

Having Christian kept us licenced to foster children. Amazingly, he was able to be reunified with his bio-mom in six and a half months. Then, we got the call asking if we would take the girls again.

How grateful I am that a dedicated Home Teacher gave the lesson and issued a challenge. General Conference is a conduit for personal revelation. God is so good to listen to our prayers and he has the power to answer them.  He loves us.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

A New Name

This is a copy of the talk I gave yesterday in church:

Brother Butters called this morning and said that when he had to find a replacement for someone who was sick today, my name just popped into his head.  A week and a half ago I was reflecting on the many miracles that have happened on our adoption journey and I asked Heavenly Father if I could have a chance to share with my ward family some of these tender mercies.  So here I am and I have no one to blame but myself. 

Joshua at University of Virginia

Our twelve year old son, Joshua, who passed away six years ago, has helped to complete our family. I've had a hard time this morning trying to figure out what I could share in ten minutes, because I’ve kept a log on the computer separate from my personal journal of the tender mercies I have received specific to this journey and it is over 28,000 words long.

 Over four years ago, I was looking at an empty wall in our game room and I thought, “I’ll just save room there for pictures of our future foster children.” But, my train of thought was interrupted with one word, “Natasha.”  I wondered if a Natasha would come into our home and if we would adopt her. Not too long after that, I felt an impression to look up the meaning behind the name, which I did. I knew a Natasha. She was Josh’s age and lived across the street from us until we moved here. She continued to come to our house weekly for piano lessons.  I asked her if she knew the meaning of her name. She didn’t and I shared it with her. 

We got our first call to foster and it wasn’t a Natasha, and it wasn’t one child, as we had expected. Three little sisters needed a family. 

               
         Meeting Yareli for the first time.
    
Meeting Liliana & Karina.

When I prayed for direction, the Lord answered in a powerful way that we were to accept this baby and her 2 and 3 year old sisters into our home.  Thus began the roller coaster ride.

Fast forward three and a half years to last November. Our therapist talked to the girls individually about adoption, focusing on preparing them for their last name to change to Cummings. Apparently, she also told them that some adoptive kids choose to change their middle names and even occasionally their first names. When Karina came out from her visit, she told me that she wanted "LaNae" to be her new first name. I was stunned. I responded that I liked Karina and never planned to change her name. I also expressed surprise that she remembered that LaNae was my middle name as it has only come up in conversation maybe two times in the three and a half years she has known me.


Lily followed suit and declared that she wanted a first new name. "Really," I said, "and what name do you want?" She said, "May." I asked, "Where did you get May?" She replied, "From Pokemon." Again, I was stunned. Pokemon? It made me think of Josh, I had a flashback to a big box of Pokemon toys. Josh was ready to donate his well-used collection to another family in our neighborhood. It was me that was having a hard time with that. Josh was Ash for Halloween; his birthday parties included Pokemon ball pinatas and matching cakes. He had collected the cards and played with the toys like they were his best friends. When I carried the box out to the car, I felt like I was letting go of his childhood before I was ready. May. The girl from Pokemon. Did Josh have some influence over this choice? Nathan had put on Pokemon shows for the girls, but only a few times over several years.


I did not encourage the girls' desire to change their first name. I had secretly considered changing Yareli's name because it was difficult for people to say and to remember. For over a year, Yareli often asked me to pretend to be her mom and she would be my daughter, Rosie. I thought about changing her name to Rose. I did remember hearing the voice that said, "Natasha" over four years ago, but I didn't think Yareli would like it if I told her that I was going to change her name to Natasha.

But this is what happened. Liliana was with me in the car as we headed to pick up Yareli at preschool. I was telling Liliana that May seems more like a middle name and that if she didn’t want Liliana as a first name, there were so many beautiful names out there to choose from. She said, “Yeah, like…” and she made up a name out of nonsense syllables. I said, “You just made up that name.”  She said, “Well, what about…” and she threw out another one, and I responded, “Now you’re just being silly.” A minute later she said, “What about Natasha?”  “Where did you get Natasha?” I asked. She said, “I made it up.”  I asked, “Do you know a Natasha at school?”  “No,” she insisted, “I just made up the name in my mind.”  I felt the spirit zing from my head down to my toes. Josh whispered to her. I knew it. I said, “Lily, do you want Natasha as your first name?” She said, “No, I want you to call me May, but Karina or Yareli can have Natasha for their name.” 

Princess Natasha, 4
As of yet, Yareli had not talked about wanting a new name.  After she got in the car, Lily said, “Yareli, I made up a new name and it is beautiful and you can have it if you want. It's Natasha." I held my breath and all she said in answer was, "Will you start the song over and turn up the music?”  End of subject, I thought, but then about three minutes later I heard, “My new name is going to be Natasha.” Yareli spoke firmly. I didn’t answer, I just prayed, “Heavenly Father, if this is what I think it is, all I ask is that you commit her; I’m not going to encourage or discourage this.”  Yareli repeated, “My new name is going to be Natasha.”  I didn’t really call her Natasha until in February when she put her hand on her hip and said, “If you keep calling me Yareli instead of Natasha, then I’m going to call you Mama Deanne instead of Mom.” Lesson learned. Natasha’s preschool teacher said to me one day in February, “I can’t believe how committed Natasha is to her new name. Not only has she told all her friends, but she has been telling their parents to call her Natasha.”  Heavenly Father answered my prayer.

Last month I asked her how she knew Natasha was to be her new name, wondering if she would say she heard a voice in her head like I did a long time ago; she replied in her sweet, matter-of-fact voice, “I didn’t learn it from you; I just know’d it.”

Liliana May & Karina LaNae
We felt like Karina and Liliana have established their identity with their names, having already gone to elementary school and were able to convince them that their new choice of names would become their middle names. I have since looked up the meaning of the name May and learned that it is the pet name for "Margret" (click here to read about her)and "Mary". These are the two grandmas that our boys grew up with and they are both in the spirit world now with Josh.

  Although I was frustrated with having two girls wanting to change their first names when I wasn't feeling good about it, I now see that if the older two sisters hadn't been talking about changing their first names, Natasha probably wouldn't have wanted her new name.


Now the amazing part. From the computer I learned over four years ago that Natasha comes from Natalia which means birthday in reference to Jesus’ birth. Traditionally girls born around Christmas time were named Natasha. I looked back in my journal to see when Natasha chose her new name. It was the Thursday before Christmas. It gets even better. We were told by the judge in September to expect adoption to be nine months to a year out. Amazingly, both biological parents dropped their appeals in January and we were able to adopt on what was supposed to just be a ‘review of appeals’ court date.  Because we have family coming up to watch General Conference with us this Sunday (as is our tradition) we decided to have Enos give each of the girls their Name Blessings on that day.  We came to realize that General Conference is on April 6th, Jesus Birthday, as was revealed by the prophet, Joseph Smith. There was a reason that I was impressed to look up the meaning of “Natasha” over four years ago.  The Lord knew that in time, it would be a witness of the workings of His Hands and of the helping hands of our son, Josh.

Nathan is holding pictures of Cody (serving a mission in MN) and Josh (serving in the Spirit World)

We adopted last week and took a trip both celebrating the adoption and interestingly, the last day of our trip was Josh’s day, the day he entered the spirit world.  We look forward to having the girls sealed to us in the temple on Saturday, April 26th and Josh’s birthday is the next day, Sunday April 27th.  Everything has come together. It has been a difficult road but every time I have prayed for divine help or manifestations for comfort and strength, there have been little miracles, little tender mercies. They testify of God’s love and His goodness.  They testify of the importance of families in God’s plan.  Karina, Liliana, and Natasha will join Cody, Joshua and Nathan in being with Enos and I in the covenant, on the path to exaltation. I pray we will live worthy of such marvelous blessings. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tasha Godfrey
Natasha Godfrey
***After Sacrament meeting, Brother Butters thought I’d find it interesting that the gal I replaced as a speaker today was named Natasha. I told him I didn’t know we had a Natasha in our ward.  He said that she is new and is a single girl in college who is a runner.  Guess who that made me think of….Natasha Godfrey.  It just seemed to be an interesting amen to my conclusion that Josh had chosen that name to honor his beautiful friend, Natasha.