Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016--A Year of Miracles

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For Doug and me, 2016 can be summed up in one word: MIRACLES! Yes, we believe in miracles.

As 2015 ended with a wonderful Christmas season filled with celebration, laughs, hugs, joy, tears, music, food, traditions, wonder, and mostly love for and from our collective 15 children and 27 grandchildren

Christmas lunch with five of our fifteen darling daughters.
we looked forward with some trepidation, but mostly with great excitement to whatever 2016 would bring. Little did we know what was in store.

In October 2015 we had submitted our application to go on a mission for the LDS Church. We were willing to go anywhere in the world, but with Doug having served a mission as a young man in the French East mission  50+ years previously, we thought it would be amazing and wonderful to go to France. Our hopes were dashed, however, in late October when we received an email from the current mission president in the France Paris mission that the mission had the maximum number of senior couples serving, with more coming in the spring, and that we would not be able to serve in that mission. Also, because of still some puzzling circumstances and events, we learned of another mission we would not be serving in. So we could cross two places off our list of possibilities. What we did know is that six of our friends from our congregation who were being called as missionaries were called to Colorado, Washington state, and California. With all that information, we concluded we would probably be called to Wyoming or Idaho.

So on January 22, 2017, the mailman brought the envelope, we called our families and we invited them to join us at Doug's office in person or by Skype or telephone as we opened our call. Imagine our surprise when we read:

(for the actual opening, check out the video on the January 2016 post on this blog)

I do believe being called to France was a miracle. And then actually being able to go with things settled at home, involved many, many miracles.

Our call packet included SO many pages of instruction and information. We had already filled out the medical part but it asked again about up-to-date testing for routine prevention. I had had a mammogram six months before and so had said on my medical form that all my testing was up to date, which it was.  However, I found myself thinking, "a mammogram now would be covered, since I have new insurance and I won't be able to have one for another year and a half, so I guess I'll go ahead and just have one now." I couldn't have told you at that moment that that thought was inspired. But, as it turned out, it probably saved my life and I believe having that thought and making that decision was another miracle.

See original imageEverything had been fine with the mammogram six months earlier so I had no fear at all about getting "the phone call." But in March, while at the "Happiest Place on Earth" with Doug and all his high school students on a band and orchestra tour, I got "the call." No problem--just a misreading or need for further testing, I figured. When we got back home I went for an ultrasound. Hmmm. "Looks like we need to do a biopsy tomorrow." Then the results: "Karen, I'm sorry to tell you that you have breast cancer." Unbelievable. So I called my favorite surgeon who had saved my life and my dignity five years ago when I had a perforated bowel, and scheduled a double mastectomy for the next Tuesday. Thankfully, the surgery went well, they were able to remove all the cancer (it had just barely broken through the milk duct into the surrounding tissue), and also discovered that it wasn't in the lymph nodes. I went home on Thursday feeling very healthy and very blessed. Sunday was Easter and I went to Church--no pain pills, no bad effects, no radiation, no chemotherapy, no cancer.
Penelope, bunny, and I are ready for Church just five days after my bilateral mastectomy.
 It was all truly a miracle and I will be forever grateful. We had to report the new information to Missionary Medical and I was a little nervous about that (I didn't want to tell them). A few days later I got a phone call saying that we could go ahead and leave for France on time. (I found out after we were in France that the protocol for someone in my situation was to allow them to go on a mission but that the assignment should be changed to a mission in the United States--I figure Idaho or Wyoming was calling to me, but was so grateful that France won!)

Next came preparing to leave the house and Doug's business. Both were major concerns. Through a series of ups and downs, we were able to rent the house to a wonderful, clean, caring, responsible couple and also find a solution for Doug's business travel agency due to a chance meeting between two old friends at a funeral and a subsequent call to Doug, who was on the ski slopes. No need for details but we felt the Lord's loving hands in these details and many others as we prepared to leave in June.

My Mom suffered from Alzheimer's Disease for nine years and it was so hard to think of leaving her. Although she didn't know me or seem to know that I was there with her, I KNEW and I didn't know how I could leave her--it was such a hard decision. But I knew my sisters would take care of things and going on a mission was the right thing to do. Thankfully, our prayers were answered and Dad came and took her home just a little more than two weeks before our mission. Another wonderful miracle and great blessing for all of us--especially Mom.

Now that we are here in France, we have witnessed daily miracles--some big and others small, but so important. I've wrestled for the past six months with what to include on my blog as far as things that are spiritual, sacred, and meaningful to me and to Doug. It's a hard thing. I want to share, but realize that some things are not meant to be shared. I know there are people who don't understand my belief in miracles. That's okay. I know what I know is true for me--I know my heart and I know my truth. So, without a lot of detail, I want to share just a few everyday experiences that are miracles to us in the office and to me and Doug personally:
  • A missionary called to say they have someone interested in learning more but their native language is Armenian. They wondered if we knew how to find Armenian-speaking missionaries she could Skype with. We didn't. Just then, four missionaries came in the office for some obscure purpose and heard our discussion. One of them said, "My friend just arrived in the Arcadia, CA mission and is assigned to speak Armenian" (which happens to be the only Armenian-speaking mission in the United States). What a coincidence! NOT!
  • The gift of tongues is real--whether it's computer commands, Excel, or French. Remarkable.
  • So often thoughts pop in our minds that save the day--be it work that needs to be done, a problem that needs to be solved, or a word, gesture, or hug that needs to be given. Out of the blue but critically important.
  • I received an email from a woman that started, "I know this is a long shot and probably impossible, but I wonder if you could help me find two young women who were riding the bus in Luxembourg and spoke to me." She explained how she has been having some severe trials lately and wasn't interested in their message but when they asked if they could pray for her, for some reason she said, "Yes." She said no one had ever prayed for her before and she quit praying herself years ago. She wanted to thank them and tell them how much it meant to her and she was trying to find them--it was very important to her. Somehow her search led to my inbox. A long shot or impossible? Not at all--we only have one companionship in Luxembourg and they are sisters.
  • Doug and I both recently fell and each broke a rib--but we are okay. I fell walking around a cathedral at night in the dark as I stepped off into space, not knowing there was a step there. Major face plant on my right cheek.
    Doug fell UP the stairs a few weeks later and damaged his rib and his pride severely. BUT, it could have been so much worse for both of us. We feel so blessed.
  • The greatest miracles we see are the changes in people's lives as they develop a relationship with Jesus Christ and embrace His Gospel. The worth of souls is, indeed, great in the sight of God.
And so the miracles continue--year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, and moment by moment. And we are so incredibly grateful to be recipients and witnesses to these wonders and loving hugs from our Father.
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