Saturday, March 29, 2014
A Heritage of Miracles!
So as you all know from previous blogs your dad is teaching Shane the discussions and he is SO CLOSE to baptism. Last week Shane had read, on my request, Alma 17-22. These are the chapters about Ammon, Aaron,Lamoni and his father's conversion. When next we met with Shane he asked why we don't continue to have such great miracles today. Your father was able to bear a powerful witness to him that miracles continue today, that we've had a lifetime of miracles just within our own family. Jim then found a marvelous talk by Elder Dallin Oaks on Miracles in the Ensign June 2001 that I would recommend you all read. It's powerful!
This got me thinking about some of the true miracles that have happened in our family, starting with my two grandmothers and continuing down through our children. These miracles are the outcome of faith, not the reason for our faith. Nevertheless they need to be recorded to glorify God and to show his tender mercies and his hand in our lives. We acknowledge Him and will praise His name forever.
Grandma Signe was born in a small village in Northern Sweden to a mother that was a member of the church and father who was not. Since her mom lived far from any branches of the church the missionaries would come see her about once a year to administer the sacrament to her. My Grandma Signe was born with an eye disease that caused her constant pain and blindness. Her mother said she was in so much pain that she had never slept through the night.
When Signe was about two years old the missionaries came to see her mom. Before they left her mom asked if they would give her little blind daughter a priesthood blessing, which they did.
That night Signe slept through the the night for the first time and in the morning when her mother came running in, concerned because she had been quiet all night, Signe reached out her little arms for her mommy and cried out her name; her sight restored.
That's not the end of the story. My Grandma immigrated to Salt Lake City in her mid-twenties. About 10 years later she was riding a city bus when an older gentleman came and sat by her. They started a conversation and the older man knew instantly that she was from Sweden. He asked her where she was from and when she told him he got a very surprised look on his face. "I know that village", he said, "I served my mission in Sweden and used to go visit Sister Jonsson there. She had a little blind girl that I gave a blessing to right before I left Sweden to come home. Would you happen to know her and what ever happened to her?" With JOY my Grandma Signe answered him, "That little girl was me!"
Thirty years later a missionary had the gift of knowing the outcome of a priesthood blessing given over 30 years before and my grandma was able to thank him for being the instrument of restoring her sight. Both the sight restored and the later meeting; truly a miracle!
I've written about my deep love for Grandma Nellie. I was SO BLESSED to grow up with her living right next door. She moved in next door when I was around 12 years old and became an active a part of my life from that time until she passed. She was a fabulous example of faithfulness and enduring to the end. She served as a Sunday school teacher of 14-year-olds until her eighties. She had a huge impact on the way I came to feel about myself and viewed being a strong woman. Along with my parents, she was my greatest fan!
My Grandma's family joined the church in Australia. My grandmother was born shortly thereafter. They immigrated to America when Nellie was still a baby. Her father became a architect and contractor who designed and built the San Bernardino Stake Center still in use today.
When Grandma was still a baby her older sisters took her for a walk in the carriage. Thinking it would be fun to watch the carriage roll down a hill, they let go. The carriage quickly got out of control and ended up hitting a tree. Grandma was hurt, but they never suspected that the force of the impact had dislocated her hip. It was only after Grandma became a woman with her one leg two inches shorter than the other that she started to have severe pain in her hip. Remarkably as a baby her little body had created a hip socket out of cartilage that had allowed her to grow up with full function and no pain.
By time I was old enough to recognize it, my grandma was dealing with pain everyday. As each year passed it became worse until, in her early 60's, she could stand it no longer. We've got to remember in those days there was no such thing as hip replacements. Grandma had only two options; fuse her hip straight so she would have to stand or lie flat or fuse her hip bent so she would have to stay in a wheel chair. Both were horrible options but the pain was so great she finally chose and set the day to leave to get her surgery down in Los Angeles.
Grandma had had many blessings over the years, but the night before she left she received her final blessing.
The next morning I heard laughing and yelling in our back pathway coming from Grandma's house. Surprised, I went outside and there was Grandma Nellie skipping, yes, skipping over to our house laughing without restraint. "It's gone! There's NO PAIN! It's gone!" And it WAS gone! For the rest of her life my Grandma never had pain in her hip again. She glorified God that day and everyday until she passed away at age 86, still free of hip pain. A miracle!
"Jim's Abraham/Isaac Miracles"
We all know what sacrifice was made when Jim joined the church; disowned by his family, kicked out of his house, siblings and friends turned their back on him. (It has all been forgiven and forgotten but at the time it was heart wrenching!)But because of Jim's total act of submissive faith and consecration, no matter the cost, the Lord opened His heavens and poured miracle after miracle upon Jim's life.
Because of being forced out of his home at 19 1/2 Jim had to get a job, go to school, and play football at the Junior college; Cuesta. It was a hard, lonely, poverty-filled year. Since Cuesta was only a 2 year school Jim worried about how he would pay to finish his schooling at another school. His head coach knew about Jim joining the mormon church and his family difficulties, saw his talent and wanted to help. Unbeknownst to Jim he sent film and a letter to BYU's football program praising Jim's talent not only as a player, but as an extraordinary leader and new member of the mormon church. Jim and I received scholarship offers to attend BYU a day a part. Mine was a partial scholarship, but Jim's paid for the rest of his education; a gift and an unsought miracle.
After Jim's graduation from BYU he had great plans to travel the world with his best friend Bill Marre'. That is until he went to Southern California and heard Truman Madsen speak. He came home from Los Angeles and went immediately into our Bishop Andrus' office in San Luis Obispo, having an inkling what was going to happen. Bishop Andrus tentatively asked if Jim would be willing to fast with him about the decision to go serve a mission even though Jim had graduated from College and was 23 years old. He told Jim to go home, fast and pray about it and that Bishop would attend the temple fasting to receive what the Lord would have Jim do. When Jim came back two days later the Bishop shared the powerful answer he'd received in the temple that confirmed the same answer Jim had received that he was to go serve!
Now you need to understand in those days there was no church fund to assist missionaries and every mission had its own costs. Jim was called to England Central, a very expensive mission, and there was no one to help him pay for it. Once again Jim put it all on the alter. He sold everything he possessed except for one big item. The day before he was to leave and come up to enter the MTC he still hadn't sold his car, the biggest contributor to pay for his mission. Jim had bought a brand new green El Camino the year before. He'd saved for years to buy that car. He called it the Green Ram (name given by Steve Facer, another football player and dear friend) and that car was Jim's love. It also was what was going to pay for his mission.
The morning before he was to leave a cowgirl from Cal Poly came to look at the car. Jim prayed mightily that she would buy the car but when she saw the color she said she didn't like green and left. Jim was devastated. Once again he prayed, telling the Lord he needed a miracle to be able to go. It was only a few hours later that the girl returned stating, "I still don't like the color, but I like the car. I'll buy it." Jim left the next day for Utah, money in hand.
Because of the sacrifice required by Jim to go serve a mission his mission was filled with miracles. One in particular I want to share. Jim had a unique experience while he served as a Zone leader toward the end of his mission. He had been returned to the field after serving as A.P. for over a year. One day his mission president called him and asked if he would do him a favor. President Reeves' friend, Mark Swindeman, a wealthy businessman from Salt Lake City, had come to England for business and had brought his son, a 16-year-old boy who was struggling with his testimony. Brother Swindeman asked President if there was a missionary that could be trusted to take his son and let him experience the spirit of a mission. President called Elder Phillips who gladly took the boy. They spent 2 weeks together and had deep spiritual experiences that changed the boy's heart and life.
A couple days after the boy left Jim woke up and knelt before the Lord and announced that he was out of money. Because of leadership positions on his mission, Jim drove a car most his mission. Petrol was VERY expensive and it had used up more of his money than Jim had counted on. With several months left, Jim had run out of money. But Jim was not afraid. He truly KNEW the Lord would somehow provide. He got up off his knees and went to leave his flat when there was a knock on the door. There stood Brother Swindeman who announced that he had been on his way to the airport to fly back to the States when the Spirit told him to turn around, Elder Phillips needed him. He then asked Jim what he needed. When Jim told him his situation Brother Swindeman laughed and said he could remedy that. From that day until Jim came home he had more money than his whole mission. He never had to worry again. Jim has always testified that the Lord KNOWS his servants and answers their prayers. A Miracle!
"Jami's Protection Through the Night"
We were living in our very first home in Atascadero, California. Jami was not quite 2 years old and Ashlee was only around 3 weeks old. It was a Sunday afternoon when Jami started to run a fever and became very lethargic (very unlike her). Jim felt a strong impression to give her a priesthood blessing before putting her to bed, blessing her with safety through the night. The next morning she was worse and it sounded like she might have croup; her breathing was getting raspy. We called our pediatrician who practiced in San Luis Obispo, 20 minutes away and he told us whooping cough was going around and get her in right away. By that time it was quickly progressing, getting worse every minute so Jim jumped in his car and I followed with Ashlee in mine. Jim flew down the grade and by time I got to the doctor's office Dr. Tedone was in the middle of a examination. He declared,"This is a bad case of croup. She needs to be hospitalized. But before you take her let me just check one more thing. He looked down her throat and I saw his face turn pale. He looked at Jim and said, "Take her NOW. Don't wait for red lights. Just get her to the hospital NOW. I will have someone waiting at the door. GO!"
Jim grabbed Jami and raced to French hospital. There was a doctor waiting there who grabbed Jami, who had just stopped breathing, went around the corner and cut a hole in her throat to allow her to breath. Later we found out that Jami had epiglottitis. It's a very rare illness where a virus settles on the epiglottis in the back of the throat and causes it to swell, suffocating little children if not caught in time. Dr. Tedone asked us when her symptoms had started. When we told him she had gotten sick the night before he was very surprised. He told us that it usually is only a couple hours from onset to emergency and that Jami should have died in the night. We KNEW a daddy's blessing had protected her until we could get the help she needed. A Miracle!
Jim's first business, Beachcomber Bills, took him to Hawaii frequently. When Jami was a little over 3 and Ashlee was about 1 1/2 we took them to Hawaii, along with my mom who had never been. It was a fun trip. We not only saw Oahu but were able to spend a couple days on Kawai, the most beautiful island of them all.
This day we decided to go to the most beautiful beach in all of the Hawaiian Islands, the beach where they had filmed South Pacific. To our delight we found a small tide pool only a couple inches deep. As the waves would come in water would fill the pool and then slowly drain out until the next wave came in. It was a perfect place for the little girls to play in, enough water to keep them entertained but not enough to be dangerous. We went and sat about 20 feet up the beach from the tide pool where we could see the ocean and still watch the girls. My mom, Jim and I were in a deep conversation when all of the sudden Jim leaped up and literally flew down the beach to where Ashlee was floating face down in the water. A rogue big wave had come in, sending a large amount of water over the sand spit, knocking her over and was pulling her out to sea. He grabbed her just as she passed over the sand spit and brought her to me. By this time we were all in tears. Frantically I held her, listening for any choking or trouble breathing. Somehow Ashlee had known to hold her breath. She was only very frightened. Later Jim told us that as we were talking the Holy Ghost literally turned his head in the direction of the girls and he witnessed her fall face down in the water. Two more seconds and she would have been gone. In tears we thanked the Lord for the Holy Ghost and His gift of protection. We were truly humbled. Terrifying but once again a miracle!
"Ki's Burning on the Head"
While we were living in Mission Viejo Jim got a call from his family telling him that his dad has just been diagnosed with a spleen full of cancer that was the size of a football. Jim jumped in his car praying the whole way as he drove the 4 hours home. When he arrived he found that his dad was getting ready to go into surgery to remove the spleen. Jim asked if Ki and Ysabel would allow him to use his priesthood to give Ki a blessing, something he had prayed for the whole trip down. To his surprise they agreed. Jim quickly called our good friend Steve Facer to meet him at the hospital. Steve anointed and then Jim gave his father a blessing, prompted to promise that Ki would live to see his grandchildren grown.
When the doctors came out of surgery they were amazed. The cancer was totally contained in his spleen and miraculously they were able to cut out the spleen intact with all the cancer inside. It was so rare that doctors from Southern California drove up to witness it.
His dad made a full recovery of health and DID live to see his grandchildren all grown. Whenever Ki talked about his surgery he would look at Jim and ask, "Do you remember the burning on my head?" Then he'd smile. He knew that Jim knew that he knew it was a miracle! And it WAS!!!
"Elder Ballard and Our Son Tanner's Priesthood Healings"
When we lived in Centerville it was one of the most stressful times of Jim's business life. It was the last time Jim ever worked for and put his life and his choices in another person's hands. He was at the mercy of decisions made by others. It was the only time in our married life where we had big time financial restraints. I remember the first check he brought home after moving me to Centerville from my beloved Mission Viejo and I broke into tears. I said to him, "You moved me here for THAT??" For the 4 years we lived there we were constantly worried about money.
The financial worries and lack of any control played havoc on Jim's health. Jim had gotten a ulcer before we moved to Centerville but the scenario there in Utah was a perfect storm! His ulcer continued to get worse and worse until Jim was deathly ill. His weight plummeted down to Junior High weight. Every time he ate he would vomit it back up. He couldn't sleep because of the pain. It was truly a horrible situation.
It got bad enough that we finally made an appointment to go see a specialist, even though we couldn't afford it. The doctor did a scope and informed us that it looked like stomach cancer to him, but he would do a biopsy to confirm his suspicions. There was only one problem. We had to wait 7 days for the report because we had our appointment right before the 24th of July, a state holiday, so it took several days longer than normal.
I was a wreck, wondering how I was going to raise 5 VERY ACTIVE children alone and how I could survive a life without Jim in it. It was a very very long week.
When we went back to the Doctor he gave us the good news that it was NOT cancer, but a very large, very dangerous ulcer. His recommendation; to cut out half of Jim's stomach and then a 6 month recovery period. Jim looked at the doctor and simply said that was impossible. We couldn't survive without an income for 6 months! We left the doctor's office and the first thing Jim did was make a call to Elder Russell M. Ballard. He was the father-in-law to Jim's partner at the time; Brad Brower and a dear friend. Within a day Elder Ballard had us up to his home.
Elder Ballard gave Jim a powerful blessing and then gave him wise and prudent counsel. "Go home and do what you love." We left his house with a sense of peace and comfort. Then for the next 6 weeks Jim put himself on a milk and rice diet, eating nothing else. His ulcer healed. He followed Elder Ballard's counsel. We went back to California, eventually to San Luis Obispo and Jim has always done what he loves; build and run his own companies.
Jim has been able to manage his ulcer since that day, but has had to remain on stomach medicine. That is until he received a precious, beautiful and inspiring blessing for our mission from our son Tanner. One of the things that Tanner blessed his father with was health and the power and energy to do all that would be required of us. We've been here for two months and it's literally the first time in 35 years that Jim has NOT had to take any meds for his stomach. We know it's a direct miracle from our son's priesthood blessing combined with being blessed for our willingness to go serve once again in the English Isles.
(To be continued in Part 2)