I'm home from church today because I'm not feeling well, but I'd really wanted to share my testimony since it is Fast Sunday. And then I realized, I still can! I can share with you all. So bear with me, this is going to be long.
Summer has all but flown this year. Several small trips, many not part of our original plans, have brought fun and laughter to our family. And many have brought some valuable lessons. So I'm going to break it down by trip:
1) Always be willing to serve with a smile. Ben got a pretty nasty case of bronchitis midway through this summer, which was scary because he's still little. Really, bronchitis is always scary. He woke Jonathan up coughing and struggling for breath at 6am and after a little while to see if he improved, we knew we needed to get him to a doctor. No parent wants to have to wake up all the children for a trip to the hospital, especially when you have no idea how long the visit will take. I hate calling people early in the morning, especially that early, because I know how much I love my sleep. But I remembered that a sister in our ward had recently moved two doors down and had told us, "Anytime you need a sitter, let my girls know." Feeling terrible because I knew I was probably about to wake her up, I called Kate. She answered and I explained the problem. "Not a problem. I'll wake Rebecca up and send her right over." By 6:45, Rebecca was at my house with a bright smile and ready to help my older two while we took Ben to Garden City. When we finally arrived back home, we offered to pay her and she refused. "I'm happy to help you out." I could have kissed her. Having been a babysitter, I know a long day of watching kiddos can be tough. But she did it with a smile, helping my children with their chores, keeping them calm and happy while we took care of Ben's need. Gail and Gary couldn't stop talking about how awesome their new friend Rebecca was. Her service meant the world to us.
2) It's okay to get help, even if you don't think you need it. One of our trips to Derby was a surprise for my parents. Eliza needed some help with the organization projects she had planned while my parents and youngest brother were at a family reunion and since we had time, we decided to help out. We spent our days clearing out and cleaning and had a great time doing it. Something my mom and mom-in-law have both said is, "It's always easier to clean someone else's house." And you know what? It's so true! I polished silver, dusted shelves, wiped counters and tables while my husband tackled the garage and my children helped put away the little things. On the night we had planned on being our last in the area, we decided to celebrate all the work we'd gotten done by going to Village Inn. I had been working hard, admittedly probably a little too hard in my condition, and had not been drinking water and snacking like I normally do. I felt fine until we got to the restaurant. And then it happened. I passed out. Each time I came to, I tried desperately to make it to the bathroom because I knew what would come next and each time I fizzled out again. Thankfully my sister was there to break my fall and the staff at Village Inn were amazing. Two were helping take care of me while another helped get my children seated. When I finally came around enough to get to the bathroom, my sister walked in with me while the waitress waited outside the door and let me know EMTs were on their way. Great, I thought, they're going to make a big fuss because I'm pregnant and all I need to do is sit down, cool off, and eat. Sure enough, the fire department arrived first and asked what happened. I explained and they asked, "Do you want to go to the hospital?"
"Oh, I'd really rather not if I can avoid it. I think I'm just a little overheated and hungry. I'm sure once I get something to eat and sit down for a while, I'll be just fine."
"Well, ma'am, because you're pregnant, the EMTs will probably want to take you in, just to be safe. But we'll see what they say."
They arrived next and you got it, into the ambulance I went and to the hospital. I'll admit, it grated my nerves at first. I knew what the problem was. I knew I was fine and that my baby was fine. Then a tiny voice said, "Just let them help you." So I swallowed my pride and had a great conversation with one of the EMTs, who it turns out graduated with me from Derby High, all the way to the hospital. Despite my blood pressure being low enough I shouldn't have been coherent, I was able to keep talking and laughing. Jonathan met me at the hospital and I was poked and prodded, got blood tests done, and had to repeat the same information for the nurse, the med student, and the doctor. All for them to tell me, "You probably had this episode because you were hungry and overheated. But make sure you tell your OB as soon as you can."
Yep, that's what I told you.
But at the same time, as Jonathan and I drove back to my parents' house, I was grateful for the help we'd received. Jonathan told me how the staff at Village Inn had made sure our children got dinner while I was being taken care of and how the manager had covered their meals. Everyone who worked with me was kind and compassionate, because nothing makes me feel dumber than creating a scene. I have all the sympathy in the world when it happens to someone else, but when it's me? Come on, Jess, get a grip! And despite my bravado of saying I knew I was fine and knew Baby was fine, it was so reassuring to hear that little heartbeat. Getting help, even though I was so certain I didn't need it, was a blessing.
3) God is watching over us. The next trip to my parents' house was one I'd planned. Jonathan was going to be in Denver for a teaching conference and rather than spend the week with just my kiddos for company, I decided they would do well with some Grammy and PaPa time. Plus it would give me some time to wrap up a writing project that was fast approaching its deadline. So the day of our trip, we gave Daddy hugs and kissed, piled into our van, and drove to Derby. The drive went smooth without a single hitch. We spent the next day and a half playing and having fun. Then as I was working on my story, I said goodbye to my dad who was heading out to work, only to have him come right back inside. "You don't plan on going anywhere today, do you?" he asked.
"Well, I had planned to do some shopping today."
"Mom will be driving you right?"
"Dad, I've got my car. I was planning to drive."
"Let me rephrase that. Mom will be driving you, right?"
A sinking feeling settled in my stomach. "Why?"
"Because you've got a flat tire."
"What? Which one?" Panic hit me big time. I choose to be cash only and I certainly hadn't brought enough cash for a new tire.
Dad could see my panic and said, "Don't worry about it. Let's go look at the tire. Maybe it just needs to be reinflated." So we go out and look at the tire. And it was a horrifying sight. The tire was run down clear to the wire threads on the inside in places. As Dad and I looked at it we both had the exact same thought which Dad voiced, "How on earth did this not explode on your way out here? This should never have survived the four hour drive from Plains to Derby in the kind of heat we're having."
"Extremely, overly-diligent guardian angels?"
"Yeah, something like that. Okay, let me get changed into clothes I can get dirty in and I'll go over to the tire shop and get a new tire for your van. Has this tire given you any problems?"
"Well, it had a slow leak, but other than that it seemed fine."
"I'm looking at your other tires."
I knew better than to argue with Dad. He looked at the others. Two were just fine and I remembered that Jonathan had gotten two new tires just the year before. The other tire was going bald.
"How are you, financially?"
I about cried. "I don't have money with me for tires, Dad. I only use cash because I know I overspend if I have a card. We're tight right now, but I'm sure we could figure something out. I just don't have Jonathan here with me to pay now."
Like a good father, Dad wrapped his arms around me and said, "It'll be fine. I can get the tires. Don't worry about it. I'll get this tire off and go get a new one. Then we'll put that on and take your van in to replace the bald tire. It's going to be fine." So he got changed into tee-shirt and jeans, took my old tire off the van, called into work to let them know he was definitely going to be late, and then drove to get my new tire. But the whole time, I couldn't stop thinking about the wire threads I saw. How had that tire stayed together? And I knew the answer. God was watching out for me. He knows that I'm pregnant and there are three small children in that car with me almost every time I drive. He knows the small highway we drive doesn't get a ton of traffic and there are long stretches between towns. He knows I don't currently have the strength to change a tire on my own. Willpower, yes. Knowledge, yes. Strength, no. He knows my needs and He knows yours. He knew I needed to be able to get to my destination before that tire gave out and He miraculously held it together when by all accounts, it should have blown to smithereens on the highway.
4) The temple is a refuge from the storm. This summer our Elliott reunion was in Nauvoo, Illinois. For those in the LDS church, the name is familiar, but for those who aren't I'll give a little background. Nauvoo was one of the settlements the early members of the church built before the migration to Utah. It was a thriving, bustling town with farms, cute little houses, schools, and a temple. The temple was destroyed after the pioneers left, but has been rebuilt. While in Nauvoo, my husband and I wanted to be able to go to the temple. We decided to take turns rather than go together, based on what needed to be done that day for the reunion. I got the first turn and drove to the temple, so thrilled to be going again. I had names from my family to take through and I just could not wait. The week we were in Nauvoo was beastly hot with heat indices between 111 and 117. I spent each day struggling with the heat and high humidity. Somehow I was able to push through to enjoy the activities, but inside I was melting! When I arrived at the temple, I walked through the oppressive atmosphere and as soon as I stepped inside the doors, I was wrapped in cool, refreshing air. But it wasn't just the air conditioning that enveloped me. It was the peace and calm of the temple. There's a special spirit in the places our ancestors have walked and met. Nauvoo is no different and the temple, while not the original structure, still carries that sweet feeling of familiarity and love. I got the family names printed out and went up to the changing room, reveling in the sweet calm I felt. I felt close to those who had gone before me. Worries and tension I had been carrying about various projects and issues in my life melted away into blissful peace. The temple gave me refuge. It gave me peace. It gave my mind clarity to see solutions to some of my problems and to let go of others. I received the gentle reminder that I was God's daughter and that He loved me. It was a special experience and I was almost sad to leave when my session was done. But that spirit I felt there, I carried with me. Suddenly, the heat didn't seem so intense. The humidity didn't seem quite so oppressive. Peace was in my soul and joy in my heart.
It has been a long time since I posted in this blog, and hopefully I can get back into regularly writing here. But I felt the need to say how blessed I am. Our Heavenly Father knows and loves each of us. I know many are facing challenges and may feel abandoned, but I promise you He is watching over you. Your experiences may be vastly different from my own, but God loves you and is watching you. He is blessing you, perhaps in ways you cannot now recognize. Not everything gets a simple answer. But He is there. He loves you. He hears you. And I know as we listen, He speaks to us in ways only we feel and understand. Listen for His voice in your life. And watch for the little miracles and blessings He gives.
What are Love Notes?
When I was a high school freshman attending LDS seminary, my teacher taught us at the beginning of the year to pay close attention to scriptures and passages that stood out to us. "These," she said, "are God's love notes just for you."