FIVE DAYS. That’s how many are left before my and Mr Hot Stuff’s missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints begins. TEN DAYS. that’s how many are left before we fly to our new country to live and work for two years. The five day difference is because we have five days of training at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo. I consider the fact that we get to commute from our home to the MTC each day a huge blessing. It’s five days more that we get to sleep in a familiar bed and see some of our grandchildren.
In our church, before someone leaves on a mission, it’s tradition for them to speak during the worship service at church one Sunday. Our turn to speak was this past Sunday. Afterward we had an open-house with food for friends and family to stop by and say goodbye. It was so good to see so many people come to hear us speak and come by the house to wish us well!
It’s hard to leave everything behind. Packing away my art supplies and leaving behind the stories I’ve worked on has been an unexpectedly emotional experience. In fact, I haven’t been able to pack my suitcases without squirrling away a few markers and watercolors. I have a dear friend who is a writer ,who introduced me once to the idea of writing the first line of a story every day, and because I don’t know if I will have time to do much writing outside of our work and this blog, I’m thinking that’s a practice that might help save my creative sanity. I could potentially end up with 730 new first lines of story ideas when we eventually come back. That would be a treasure trove!
We bought new laptops to take with us. It’s always fun to get new toys, but mine seems to have a problem with the Wi-Fi module and it won’t connect to the internet. It feels a lot like going back 1990, before the internet was really a common thing for us. Anyway, Mr Hot Stuff is scrambling to figure out how to get it fixed for me. I have to say, it’s a little weird to me that he’s having to find someone who is more expert than he is at computer doctoring. That’s such an unusual occurrence, that I’m a little mind-blown, lol. Fortunately, he actually knows someone like that. Hopefully they can work a miracle so I have a fully functional computer before we have to fly out.
I hope to post to this blog on a weekly basis while we are serving our mission, however I know that sometimes plans don’t go as expected. (See the paragraph above.) I had planned to do some tinkering with the layout of the blog this week, but that’s not happening without my laptop, so I will try to get it done before too long. In the meantime, please be patient if your reading/viewing experience is less than optimal.
Now for an important note: Mr Hot Stuff and I will be name-tag wearing missionary representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That means that while we do our best to represent the Savior, Jesus Christ, we will still be human, with human shortcomings. We (and I, on this blog) also do not speak for the church as a whole, or make any claims to perfectly represent church policy or doctrine. Of course we do our best, but please leave a space for grace in these things. There may be policies, practices, or doctrine that we don’t fully understand and will be unable to explain, but we love God and the beautiful good that has come into our lives by following the teachings of this church. It’s similar to how Mr Hot Stuff does not always understand me and is unable to explain the things I do, yet he still loves me and stays with me, and I with him.
I am posting here below the talk I gave in church last Sunday as part of our farewell. It’s about the miracles God sends into our lives.
We have been called to be executive secretaries to the Caribbean Area Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will be living in the Dominican Republic and serving for two years. One of our daughters and her family will care for our home while we are gone.
I pray that God will use my words today to communicate to your hearts, exactly what each of you needs to hear at this time, all the while acknowledging that the Lord was reminding me of important things for me, while I prepared this talk.
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.Moses 7 :18
I have long felt that building Zion on the earth is the most important work I could be doing, and that the place for me to focus that work is in my own family. So why, you might ask, am I leaving them, my children and grandchildren, at a time when things in the world seem to be in such a precarious situation? Why leave when my grandchildren are so young and I may miss opportunities to develop a close relationship with them?
I feel a debt of gratitude to the Lord for the magnificent blessings he has already given our family. Each of my children served a mission, and everytime, I heard about the great blessing the senior couples were to the faith, and hope, and well-being of my children on their missions. How I would love to pass those blessings forward to other missionaries!
I’ve been thinking about miracles a lot lately. It’s no wonder; I ask for them all the time. I ask for healing for sick loved ones. I ask for blessings of educational and economic growth for family members. I pray for my grandchildren to set strong anchors of testimony in the grace and power of Jesus Christ. I pray for loved ones to overcome the pressures of addiction. I ask for miracles of endurance to get through long nights of uncertainty. I ask for miracles of hope and wisdom when it seems impossible to know the way forward.
I have thought about what it would be like to see the glory of God leading in a pillar of smoke by day and a fire by night. I’ve wondered if I’d ever see the miracle of a sea parting, or a mountain moving, or a lame person walking again, or a blind person given sight. And you know what? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever see any of those “big” miracles – the showy ones – that leave you in a place where you absolutely can’t deny that God was involved. But someone reminded me that our faith can’t be in the miracle, but in the Savior who sends it.
One thing I’ve noticed is that in order to have a miracle – either big magnificent ones, or the small ones that are easy to overlook – you generally first find yourself in a situation you didn’t want or expect to be in.
I’m certain the Children of Israel would have preferred an easy transition from slavery to respected citizens of Egypt. Fleeing from Pharaoh’s army and finding themselves backed up against the Red Sea wasn’t on their list of things they were planning to do that week. They didn’t know beforehand what God had planned for their escape. We read over and over in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the reminder of the great miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea. But what if the greater miracle was actually convincing all the Children of Israel to follow a shepherd into the desert? What if the miracle was that they were so quickly separated from their physical past that it would be impossible to go back, and not that God gave them a shortcut away from Pharaoh’s army? God, in parting the sea, gave them the miracle of starting fresh. It was probably a miracle they didn’t think they wanted.
When they realized they had no food or water, the Children of Israel thought that the manna, and the water flowing from the rock were the miracles God sent. And they were. But the miracle they forgot to look for was the one where God was teaching them to turn to Him for the help they needed. They didn’t realize that God was offering them the miracle of entering into a personal relationship with Him.
When I was a baby, my family was on a long road trip when I came down with a high fever. My parents were very worried about me, so my dad pulled off to the side of the road and gave me a priesthood blessing, and immediately afterward my fever went away. While I don’t have clear memories of this family miracle, the family story told about it planted a seed in my heart that opened my mind and eyes to other miracles in my life since then, and to an understanding of God’s awareness of me, and I consider those to be the greater miracles. Would my parents have willingly said, “Why, yes, we want to take a long road trip with a seriously ill baby! Sign us up!” Not likely, but God – He takes the long view.
The more I thought about this topic of miracles, the more questions came into my mind. I’m going to share those questions pretty much in the way they came to me early one morning.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
Have you ever had a dog that ran away? We had one that was expert at it. Every time he ran away our family would gather together and pray for the miracle that we would find him. We lived on a busy street and always feared that he would be hit by a car and killed. We did always manage to find him, but what if the real miracle God sent wasn’t the miracle we were asking for, or wasn’t the miracle we saw on the surface? What if we were blessed to find our run away dog at the pound, but the greater miracle was that we had a situation that brought our family together in prayer and we each had a chance to learn better that we can always trust God – that He hears our prayers and will give us good gifts?
7 ¶ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:Matthew 7: 7-11
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a [snake]?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
What about the times when the thing we are given doesn’t feel like much of a miracle? Sometimes I have felt like God handed me a stone. Or a snake.
The thing about trusting God to send the right miracle is that, even if/when I feel I’ve been handed a rock or a snake, I need to make the best decisions I can – to live my life – knowing that I am in His hands – and trusting that he will always give me the very best gifts for the moment that I’m in.
Maybe the miracle God is sending at this moment is the chance to learn to think critically and make decisions for myself.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7
What if that’s the miracle, even though the one I or you prayed for was to know the right decision? What if the miracle is that God gave us the ability to make a good choice?
What if David’s miracle wasn’t that he killed Goliath, as much as it was that his sheep were attacked by a lion and a bear, and that he had learned early on the importance of practicing the skills he needed for the job he was given, and of doing that job the best he could, and that he could trust God to help him when he needed it?
What if we feel lost, or betrayed, or overwhelmed, or confused? Is there a way we can learn that even in those moments we can trust that God is giving us a good gift?
Once, when we were living in China, and having an extremely hard time, I felt like I’d been handed a snake. Someone reminded me of the scripture that says, D&C 122:7 “…And now my son, know that all these [troubles] shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good…” The words didn’t feel particularly comforting at the time, but now I look back and see that we were in the middle of several miracles that God was setting up for our future. God was using even the cruelty of some other people to create strength and skills in our family members that have been as important as David learning how to use a sling to throw a rock exactly where he wanted it to go, at the speed necessary to do the job.
In the October 2020 General Conference of the church, President Russell M Nelson said:
Now, my dear brothers and sisters, it takes both faith and courage to let God prevail…. It takes consistent, daily effort to develop personal habits to study the gospel, to learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and to seek and respond to personal revelation….Let God Prevail
And what is the Lord willing to do for Israel? The Lord has pledged that He will “fight [our] battles, and [our] children’s battles, and our children’s children’s [battles] … to the third and fourth generation”!
As you study your scriptures… I encourage you to make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel. I think you will be astounded! Ponder these promises. Talk about them with your family and friends. Then live and watch for these promises to be fulfilled in your own life.
…As you choose to let God prevail in your lives, you will experience for yourselves that our God is “a God of miracles.” As a people, we are His covenant children, and we will be called by His name.
By President Russell M. Nelson
Last conference, President Nelson also encouraged us to seek and expect miracles. He said:
Moroni assured us that “God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.” Every book of scripture demonstrates how willing the Lord is to intervene in the lives of those who believe in Him. He parted the Red Sea for Moses, helped Nephi retrieve the brass plates, and restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Each of these miracles took time and may not have been exactly what those individuals originally requested from the Lord.Russell M Nelson, The Power of Spiritual Momentum, April 2022
In the same way, the Lord will bless you with miracles if you believe in Him, “doubting nothing.” Do the spiritual work to seek miracles. Prayerfully ask God to help you exercise that kind of faith. I promise that you can experience for yourself that Jesus Christ “giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” Few things will accelerate your spiritual momentum more than realizing the Lord is helping you to move a mountain in your life.
I pray that we will each accept into our lives the opportunities to let God prevail. To trust that in every moment He is giving us the very best gifts He can. To trust that we can turn to Him in our extremities and He will comfort us and lead us to the path that will bring us back to Him. I pray that each of my family members will come to know for themselves that, no matter what trials we are in the middle of, we can turn to God. That we can trust that if we are given miracles that look differently than we expect, they are the miracles that will bring us greater gifts in the long run. And when life feels just too hard, when the miracles are at the stage where they feel like you have been handed a snake, I will cry with you, and pray with you for God’s best gifts, and hope that someday we will all be able to see how God has worked the hard, awful things for our good, because that is how we become of one heart.
For the Lord calls his people Zion, because they are of one heart and one mind, and dwell in righteousness; and there are no poor among them.Moses 7:18 slightly adjusted by me
And Zion, brothers and sisters, will be our second greatest miracle. Please remember, our faith must not be in the miracle, but in Jesus Christ, who has given us the greatest miracle of all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our miracle worker, amen.