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. 


video


(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.