Memorial Day is our opportunity to honor those individuals who gave their life in the service of our country. It is a day to celebrate the freedom which has been paid for with blood. It is the day to remember that God alone leads this Nation and will continue to lead this Nation as we remember Him…or in the words of George Washington, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Today is my tribute to those who have “slipped the surly bonds of earth” and are now “dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings” (High Flight).
As we celebrate this weekend, it is worth remembering the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
Another speech worthy of our study is Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech given 23 March 1775. Somedays I worry that the passion, dedication, and patriotism demonstrated by Patrick Henry has gone from our country…then I visit one of our Military cemeteries and I see Patrick Henry’s commitment etched in stone on marker after marker.
At my 20th class reunion, they shared a video tribute to the thirteen classmates I went to school with. Today, I want to share my thoughts regarding these men who sacrificed all so I could raise my children in a free country.
One of these men I knew very well…David Weber. I’ll never forget the day he died…28 January 1994. Dave loved to fly and was sitting back seat of a tow plane when the pilot suffered a massive heart attack and sent the plane into a nose dive. Dave tried to recover the aircraft, but was not successful. I went to his funeral in Star Valley, Wyoming–met his brother who was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Eric Das. He was shot down over Iraq on 3 August 2003 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with his Weapons Officer, William Watkins (they were the 27th and 28th casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried in Arlington).
Ed Wooten. He never knew the impact he had on my life. Our interaction was but a few short weeks, but those few weeks changed the course of my life and solidified my commitment to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jonathan Scheer and I spent 6 weeks together in Basic Training and then a year together in our first Squadron, the Phantoms of 24. He died on 25 Feb 2004 when his A-10 crashed while on a training mission in Alaska.
I didn’t know Frank Bryant while we were at school, but his death was particularly poignant for me. He died 27 April 2011 at the hands of an Afghan in the middle of staff meeting at Kabul International Airport. Like Frank, I sat in many staff meetings in Afghanistan in that same area during my deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. I walked an through several Afghan National Army bases and was concerned at times for my safety. Perhaps I should have been even more concerned than I was.
Let us never forget the men who died to keep us free.
Furthermore, let us ever live with honor, courage, and love in their memory.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
In the summer of 2007, I returned to my family after living in Korea for a year. One of the tasks I had to do as I returned home was to go to Dallas, pick up the vehicle I had shipped from Korea, and then drive it to Colorado Springs. This wasn’t a particularly pretty vehicle, but it was a minivan and it was cheap (I bought it for $500). I flew down in the morning and planned on driving back the same day.
Everything went great—my flight was on-time and the van was ready for me. As soon as I picked it up, I stopped at Sears and got an oil change. I knew it had been a long time since the oil was changed and I wanted to have an uneventful drive back home. I started the drive home around lunchtime and in no time at all, was watching the miles roll by.
About an hour outside of Dallas, I stopped at Wal-Mart in Vernon, Texas and bought a big bag of Dorito’s and a bottle of Gatorade, then I jumped right back on the Interstate and kept driving. About 5 minutes later, for some reason, I glanced down at the gauges and saw that my temperature gauge was pegged on hot! I quickly swerved over to the exit and stopped on the side of the road. As I stopped, steam started pouring out from under the hood. Great!
I popped the hood and looked at the engine. [Perhaps this is a good time time to interject that I really have no idea how to fix cars, I know very little about the mechanics of a motor.] In my mind, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. I had no cell phone, I was 5 miles from the closest town, and I was in the middle of Texas!
As I was standing there, a truck pulling a trailer full of brush pulled up in front of me and stopped. Two guys got out of the truck and I thought, “Oh no, they’re here to kill me!” As they walked up to me one of them said, with a thick accent, “You broke down, man?” to which I replied that I was.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“I don’t know, my temperature gauge is pegged on hot and there’s steam everywhere.”
They poked their heads under the hood and started speaking Spanish really fast. I can speak some Spanish, but I don’t think I caught a single word they were saying.
“Eh man, it looks like your head gasket is blown.”
This would normally mean nothing to me…but it awoke a memory from nearly a year earlier. When I bought the van, Jack Stokes gave me a box and said something about the head gasket was probably going to need replaced. In that box was a new head gasket. It was sitting at home in Colorado Springs. I had thought of taking it with me on the trip, but I decided not to. The regret was settling in.
“What’s you gonna do, man?”
“I guess I’ll go back to town and get it fixed.”
“We got a cousin in town that has a shop, man. He can fix it for you if you want.”
“Ok, sounds good to me.”
“We got to go dump this brush. You start walking to town and we’ll pick you up on our way back to town.”
“Ok, thanks.” Those were the words that left my mouth, but the thought in my head was telling me this wasn’t going to end well. The trailer they were using for brush would easily haul a broken down van. As I crossed the bridge over the highway and headed back to town, I looked back at the van and said good bye. I was sure I would never see that van again.
About 30 minutes later, the same truck pulled over in front of me on the highway and the guys yelled, “Eh, hop in man!” What choice did I have? So I got into the truck with two perfect strangers. One of whom spoke no English at all. He was nice enough to sit in the back seat of the truck…right behind me. I just knew that he was going to knock me over the head or stick me with something. I kind of sat sideways so I could see both of the guys.
We drove back into town and all through the streets and ended up at a little auto shop. They both hopped out and started talking Spanish to someone. He came over and said, “So, you’re head gasket’s blown? I can fix that for you, man.”
“Sounds good” I said. “How much will it cost?”
Remember that I bought the van for $500. I was going to double my investment in this vehicle. I didn’t even know if that was a fair price or not…but what choice did I have?
“Alright, I’ll do it.”
“How you gonna get it here?”
“I guess I’ll call a tow truck.”
“That’ll be expensive. I’ve got a friend who’ll tow it here for you.”
“How much will he charge?”
“How much will you pay?”
“I’ve got $50 in my pocket.”
“Let me ask him.” He ambled to another guy and they talked. “He says he’ll do it.”
Now the tow driver came over and said “I’ve got my truck back at my house, hop in my car and we’ll go pick it up.”
So I got into a car with another perfect stranger and we started driving through town. He pulled up in front of a house in the middle of the not-so-nice neighborhood. Talk about a fish out of water—I felt so out of place! I’m not sure I could have spoken to or understood anyone around me.
He went up to the front door, started pounding on the door and yelling.
I was standing like a fool in his front yard.
He came back and said “My front door’s locked. I’ve got to go around back and get the keys to the truck. You stay here.”
What a stupid thing to say. Like I was going to go anywhere! Most of the houses had boards in the windows, there’s graffiti everywhere, broken down cars everywhere. The place looked like the ghetto. I didn’t want to be there, but I didn’t want to start walking off by myself even more. And so I stood there in his front yard while he disappeared.
“Great,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to die in the middle of Texas. I’m going to get beat up, robbed, and left for dead.”
In less than 5 minutes, the guy came out and said “Ok, let’s go” and walked to a 1990’s Ford Explorer! I was expecting a tow truck, or at least a truck! Not a little 2-door Ford Explorer that was almost 20 years old! What was I going to do? So I got in his truck.
We drove back out to my van and the fun started. He pulled out a chain and wrapped it around the ball of his truck. He tied it in a knot. No hooks, no clips…a knot. Then we went to my van. Guess what a 1994 Grand Caravan doesn’t have? Towing hooks. After we dorked around for a minute, we ended up wrapping the chain through the plastic grill and around the bumper.
He looked at me and asked “You know how to drive a car being towed?”
“Yes” I replied. “You’re the gas, I’m the brake.”
“Good, let’s go.”
“Keep is slow for me, ok?”
“No problem, man!”
We hit 60 on the highway.
We quickly returned to the shop and I turned over the keys to my van. I asked them when it would be ready and they told me tomorrow. About that time, another guy asked me, “Where you gonna sleep tonight?”
“I don’t know, I guess I’ll find a hotel.”
“We got two hotels in town. One’s kinda nice with a pool, and the other one’s not as nice.”
“I’ll take the nicer one.”
“Hop in my car and I’ll take you there. The manager’s a friend of mine, I’ll get you a good deal.”
So I got in a car (the 3rd time today) with another complete stranger and we drove off to some hotel. He went in and talked with the clerk in Spanish and told he’d gotten me a room. I checked in, went to my room and called Evonne. Then I tired to relax.
The next morning, I got up and called the shop and they said it wasn’t ready yet. Around noon, I got bored, so I started walking back to the shop. I don’t really recall how I knew where the shop was, but somehow I knew where to go. I’ll never forget as I was walking, I looked down a side street and saw a cowboy riding a horse down the street.
When I got to the shop, they told me they just finished. “$500” the man said. I handed him my credit card and he replied “Oh, no cards. Cash only.”
“Where am I supposed to get $500 cash?”
“There’s a bank just down the street.”
So I walked to the bank and maxed out my government travel card and my personal credit card and walked back to the shop. I handed over the cash, he gave me the key and I was back on the road. The van drove, but it drove terrible–the motor was rough. I was actually a bit afraid to even stop. It was about 3:00 pm by the time I start driving and I made it to the Colorado border before I had to stop. I was so tired, I curled up in the back seat of the van and slept for a few hours.
I finally pulled in my drive the next morning.
We kept that van for about six months, then it started having big issues. It seemed like one thing after another kept breaking, so I sold it for $250 to the Ford dealer.
What’s the lessons to be learned?
First, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. There are two examples of listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. 1) Had I followed the prompting I had to take the new head gasket with me, I wouldn’t have had to buy one. I still would have broken down. I still would have had to get the van repaired, but it would have been cheaper had I listened to the Spirit and brought the head gasket with me. 2) When I started walking from my hotel to the repair shop, I had a vague idea where to go, but had no directions, GPS, or map. I walked across town trusting I would find the shop.
If you want to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost then you need to live your life so that the Holy Ghost can be your Constant Companion. I didn’t consciously pray while I was stuck (although that would have been a very intelligent thing to do), but I was still prompted by the Holy Ghost. Each time I thought “what was I going to do?” I was being led by the Holy Ghost.
I am reminded of a scripture in John: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). This is a wonderful promise, but it comes with a warning. If we ignore the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the time will come when we longer feel those promptings. Nephi describes such a condition as being “past feeling” (1 Nephi 17:45).
Second, be prepared. I planned my trip to take one day: fly down, drive home. Easy peasey. I wasn’t ready to spend the night on the road. I didn’t have a phone. I had a single $50 bill in cash. I was naive in expecting everything to go smoothly. One of my favorite scriptures on being prepared is D&C 38:30, “…if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I think it is sufficiently obvious from the story that when things started to go wrong, I was afraid. My fear had it’s root in a lack of preparedness.
Third, people are good. I met five guys (two on the road, the tow driver, the mechanic, and the hotel-finder) who had nothing but good intentions. Sure, they wanted to make some money, but they weren’t out to cause me harm. I don’t recommend getting into cars with strangers, but in this case it worked out. I go back to the first lesson (listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost). Even through my fear, something told me it was going to work out.
A parable comes to mind “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? [or when saw we thee broken down on the road, and picked thee up]? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:37-40).
In this situation, I was the one who needed the help and these people helped. I was “one of the least” and these men didn’t hesitate to go out of their way to help me.
I must admit that I’m a bit ashamed by the thoughts I had at the time. I had pegged these people as thieves and robbers who wanted nothing more than to separate me from my possessions so they could steal them.
Faith is one of those “easy” topics to write about. There are thousands of scripture references and tons of resources on the Internet. Almost everyone has some understanding of faith—it’s the first principle of the gospel. Instead of talking about the usual scriptures (Ether 12, Hebrews 11, Alma 32:21, Matthew 14:22-33, 17:14-21) we hear when faith comes up, I thought I would share an experience I had in Afghanistan that brought me to an entirely new understanding of faith.
There was a time in Afghanistan when I was worried. Ok, I’ve always been a worrier. But in Afghanistan it seemed to get even worse. I wasn’t worried about my life—I wasn’t in any immediate danger of being injured or killed—rather, I was worried for my family. As I spent more time in Afghanistan, I became more and more worried.
I hated being apart from my family—that was by far the worst part of being deployed. I hated to hear about the challenges and problems my family was facing here and being completely unable to do anything to help.
I tried praying and asking for blessings for my family, but my feeling of helplessness persisted. It seemed that there was nothing I could do to relieve myself of the anxiety I was feeling. I found myself getting very short with my colleagues. I smiled less and didn’t enjoy doing much of anything. I was getting pretty miserable. Finally, I decided I had to do something. I went to the scriptures to see if I could find some comfort in them. I read a bunch of scriptures and spent more time in the scriptures than I think I have ever done before. One of the last scriptures I came to was Doctrine and Covenants 67. This section really spoke to my heart. I was chastened and comforted at the same time.
Behold and hearken, O ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together, whose prayers I have heard, and whose hearts I know, and whose desires have come up before me.
Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.
Ye have endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto, there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason you did not receive. (Doctrine and Covenants 67:1-3 emphasis added)
These three verses described me perfectly. I had been praying for days for the same thing—for the same blessing for my family, yet I was filled with fear. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, but I was filled with fear. The Lord wouldn’t answer my prayers until I could overcome this fear that seemed to paralyze my heart and mind. I realized I was afraid and that blessings were held in check because of that fear. But what next? What I was afraid of—what was causing this fear?
Section 67 continues and verse 10 says “And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am–not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual” (emphasis added).
So I had to be stripped of jealousies and fears—then I would know that He is. So I went to the topical guide and read about fear. What was it? Why did I feel it? And most importantly, how did I rid myself of it? This led to a long list of scriptures: In particular was Matthew 8:23-27:
And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
A lack of faith caused the disciples to fear. I had heard this story many times, but I had never before made the connection between a lack of faith and being fearful. Christ was able to take away their fear by calming even the winds and seas. But could he rebuke the storms in my mind and cause a great calm for me as well?
This scripture and many others talked of fear and spoke to my heart. And then the final scripture. This wasn’t listed in the topical guide under “Fear.” It was in a cross reference from another scripture. I knew this scripture without even looking it up. I’ve had it marked in my scriptures for years. I went ahead and looked it up though, because it was referenced from the word “fear.” This was the final scripture I read on fear.
It was Helaman 5:12: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
This was my answer. I needed to build my foundation on Jesus Christ. The Rock. The One Sure Foundation. I was sitting in Afghanistan feeling sorry for myself and allowing Satan to pull me down to the depths of despair because I had forgotten what my faith was based on. I could overcome fear by building my foundation on the Rock.
Now the question was how to build my foundation on the Rock?
My testimony is the how I build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. How do I build a testimony? Through faith, hope, and belief. How do I increase my faith, hope, and belief? By fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and serving others. These are all Sunday School answers, but to me it was as if I was learning it for the very first time.
This was how I conquered fear. This was how I took control of my life and returned faith and hope to its proper place. To allow faith and hope to guide my efforts instead of allowing Satan to pull me down to the depths of depression and despair. I realized that even this didn’t make the world a perfect place, but if I could focus my efforts…my time…on things that were important to me, then there would be no room for fear in my life. If I understood what was happening around me and how I fit into the greater picture called life, then there would be no room for fear in my life.
So I placed my trust in him. I literally said to him “take my fear from me and I will trust in your promised blessings.” This was the beginning of a change in me. A rather dramatic change. I felt better since pondering this topic. My fear was gone and I was able to enjoy my family and what I was doing. I still didn’t like it Afghanistan, but I was there and it was what it was. I found I had more patience with those around me. When my youngest son went into the hospital, I felt much better—I knew that he would be taken care of and that everything would be ok. Such a difference from just a month before when I couldn’t think straight.
The more I pondered this process, the more I appreciated the wonderful blessing I had received. I felt like I had an increase in faith in Jesus Christ. It was if before this experience, I wasn’t really a believer that He would be there for us—that he looked out for us—that he loved us—that he wanted good things for us. Now I knew that he loved us and wanted to bless us with all the good things in life. The wonderful thing is that he blessed me. He blessed my family.
Faith and fear cannot coexist. One gives way to the other. The simple fact is we all need to constantly build faith and overcome sources of destructive disbelief. The Savior’s teaching comparing faith to a grain of mustard seed recognizes this reality (see Matthew 13:31-32). Consider it this way: our net usable faith is what we have left to exercise after we subtract our sources of doubt and disbelief. You might ask yourself this question: “Is my own net faith positive or negative?” If your faith exceeds your doubt and disbelief, the answer is likely positive. If you allow doubt and disbelief to control you, the answer might be negative.
President Hinckley taught in his book, Standing for Something: “faith cannot grow or be exercised in an environment of doubt…God doesn’t give more than we can handle, our problem is in our fears” (112).
And finally, the Savior taught in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I know that my relationship with the Savior will never be the same. I don’t pray for things the same way I have in the past. I now pray knowing that Father will answer. It may not be in the time or manner of my choosing or understanding, but He will answer! What a wonderful thing to know. I continued to pray every morning, night, and mealtime for my family while I was in Afghanistan. Specifically by name. Specifically by need. And those prayers were answered.
It all comes down to faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith that our Savior lives. Faith that our Savior will do everything He has promised. Faith that if I ask, He will answer. Maybe not when or how I want, but in the time and way that I need.
“The first step to finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to let His word–spoken by the mouth of His servants, the prophets–touch your heart. But it is not enough to merely let those words wash over you, as if they alone could transform you. We must do our part. Or as the Savior Himself said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15) In other words, hearing requires an active effort. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). It means taking seriously what is taught, considering it carefully, studying it our in our minds. As the prophet Enos learned, it means letting others’ testimonies of the gospel “[sink] deep into [our] heart[s].” (Enos 1:3)
We cannot always see the answers…we may know what we need and want, but cannot see how to get there. When President Packer was trying to move his family closer to church headquarters, he found he didn’t have the financial resources to cover the home they wanted to buy. He counseled with President Lee who told him to make the purchase. President Packer was still troubled and was hesitant. President Lee finally told him “you must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and perhaps a few steps into the darkness, and you will find that the light will appear and move ahead of you” (A Watchman on the Tower, 138).
Faith requires us to believe things that we cannot see…to trust that what Jesus Christ has said is true. So we need to press on.
It’s sometimes difficult to see the Hand of God in my life. Not because it’s not there, but because my eyes aren’t open. I have been blessed throughout my life to be continually guided by a loving Heavenly Father. I thought it appropriate to share the story of our move from Colorado to Illinois. When the process began, I didn’t expect to have it be a testimony-strengthing event. That is exactly what happened. Here is the story of our move along with my observations regarding faith, prayer, obedience, and active participation.
In September 2009 I decided it was time to focus on the needs of my family rather than the desires of my Air Force career. Accordingly, I told my chain of command, I wanted to remain in Colorado Springs as long as possible. They obliged with 6 years. Somewhere around the summer of 2012, I received notice to deploy. I would be leaving in the spring of 2013 for 6 months. While I didn’t want to leave my family, a deployment meant that I would be able to remain in Colorado Springs until I retired from the Air Force in 2015.
Then one day, I was told that my General was canceling my deployment and was going to force me to PCS. I guess he was tired of people staying in Colorado Springs longer than 4 years. In doing so, he was breaking several Air Force rules, not to mention being almost vindictive. Regardless of my pleas, the deployment was canceled and I was offered the chance to request my new assignment.
Having spent the past 2 years working with a particular unit in San Antonio, Texas, and the fact that the main Air Force hospital is in San Antonio, I put Texas down as my first choice. The next choices were: Scott AFB, IL, Hill AFB, Utah, Wright Patterson AFB, OH, plus two others I no longer remember. I fully expected to go to Texas. That was not to be…I got orders to Scott AFB. The worst part was the report date: 17 Dec 2012.
We convened a family council and put forth a couple of options:
everyone move before Christmas
everyone move right after Christmas
Dad move alone after Christmas (and the family join when school was over)
write a formal complaint with Congress regarding the move
The votes were split. My oldest son wanted to write Congress, my oldest daughter and Mom wanted me to move alone, I wanted everyone to move. So, I talked with my new boss and asked him if he would extend my report date until after Christmas. Actually, in talking with him after the fact, I guess I kind of told him what to do. In his words, I told him I was either going to report in January for good, or I was going to report on 17 December then sign out on leave until January. He told me that he thought was gutsy…telling my new boss what was going to happen (I guess I never really asked).
The new boss agreed to a later report date and everything was set. I was going it alone and the family would join me in the summer. I started formulating great plans in my mind about all of the things I was going to accomplish while I was alone. Funny how we have great intentions that so rarely play out the way we see them in our mind.
Just after the New Year, I started out for Illinois with my truck and U-Haul full stuff and Daisy (the dog). We had a good trip out…discovered some neat places:
I was feely pretty crummy about moving. I didn’t understand why this General felt like he so ruled over the masses that he could just up end my family for no good reason. I was pretty bitter. Then I stopped at the Independence Visitors Center. I like it there and try to stop every chance I get.
The Sister Missionaries took me on a tour and I was humbled. When we got to the replica cabin, they played the audio and I realized that the pioneers were happy. In all of their suffering and trials, they were happy! Here were a people who had given up most of their worldly possessions, left the land of their birth, and were traveling to a mountain desert they had never seen…all on the words of a prophet and the prompting of the Spirit.
And they were happy!
Who was I to be so bitter and miserable? Who was I to complain about some minuscule general in the Air Force? I knew that Heavenly Father had moved us to each assignment for a specific purpose. I knew that my career had always been guided by his hand, not the hand of the Air Force. The Air Force was simply the means to an end for my Father. I had forgotten that. In Independence I resolved to be happy. I resolved to stop complaining about the Air Force and instead, try to discover what the Lord had in store for me and my family in Illinois. I left the visitor center with a new outlook.
I arrived in Illinois around dinner time on a Thursday. After I checked into billeting, I decided I was going to drive to the church just to see where it was and see who I could meet. I got there around 6:45 or so and met someone who told me it was high council meeting night and that if I stuck around, there was a realtor on the high council. I met him and we chatted, but it didn’t feel right. Just as the meeting was starting (and I was leaving) I met a brother. He seemed interested in me and my situation.
The next day I went to work and checked in at work. Sometime around lunch, the section commander tracked me down and passed a message to call Major Smith. It was odd and I didn’t put two together that this was the same person I met the night before. I ended up not being able to chat with him until Saturday.
Daisy and I were out driving looking at neighborhoods when I finally got ahold of Br Smith. He told me that he and his wife felt they needed to offer me a place to stay until the family arrived. They had a room in their basement with a small kitchen. They also had 4 kids, a dog and a cat. We agreed that I would come to dinner on Sunday with the dog and see how things went.
The next day after church, Daisy and I went over to the Smith’s for dinner. The dog and I had a discussion in the car. All I really told Daisy was that under no circumstance was she to pee in their house. We got there and everyone said hi. Daisy walked around a bit, then she went into their front room…and peed. Great, I thought. To Sister Smith’s credit, all she said was “John, go get the carpet cleaner.” Then she handed it to me and said, here you go.
Dinner went well and we agreed that I would move in. What a blessing to have a place to stay so quickly. Over the next six months, I joined them in family scriptures and dinner nearly every night. They really accepted me as part of their family.
The real work though, was just beginning…finding a house. My realtor, Nikki, and I went out and looked at homes. I found one pretty quick that I liked. 5 bedrooms, walk out basement, good size yard. It was a foreclosure and it needed work: a new kitchen, new flooring, painting, etc. The price was right, ~$150k and it had been on the market nearly a year with no movement. I made an offer. I was really surprised when my realtor called me and told me that someone else had made an offer the same day and the seller went went with their offer.
I shrugged and moved on. Later, I found another house we liked: 5 bedrooms, walk out basement, 1 acre, a little more country, foreclosure on the market for a year with no movement, ~250k. I made an offer. I was a little more surprised this time when Nikki called me and told me someone else had made an offer the same day and the seller took their offer.
We kept looking. I found another house we liked: 5 bedrooms, foreclosure, no work needed, ~$200k. I made an offer. I was really surprised when Nikki told me someone made an offer to lease it the same day and the seller took the lease offer.
And we kept looking. Found another house…same thing only this time, it was rented before I made an offer.
At this point, months had gone by, nearly 5 months and I had nothing to show for it except lots and lots of visits with my realtor. She was surprised because it was a buyers market right now. The market was flooded with homes, especially in the price range I was looking.
Around this time I decided I needed more guidance. I emailed the stake president, explained the situation to him, and asked him where he needed my family to live. I got no response from him (his clerk said his house was for sale). I took this as the answer “it doesn’t matter to me where you live.”
Then I found the perfect dream home. Built in 1865, 3 acres, beautiful. It didn’t really have enough bedrooms—one of the kids would have to live in an exterior office, but we loved it. It had just come on the market. ~$200. Nikki told me there were other bidders so I needed to make my bid appealing. Evonne and I agreed we wanted to offer $17,000 over asking price (we were willing to pay out of pocket the difference between the appraised value and the purchase price). I told Nikki we wanted that house…period. Well, you can guess what happened, the seller took another offer.
Now I was sitting about 1 month from when the family was going to show up. We had sold our house in Colorado…it was on the market for 24 hours, 9 showings, 3 offers, all over asking price. I went home for Easter and came back with a new prayer in my heart.
I essentially told the Lord that I had done everything I could to find a house. I was diligent in my search. I made offers. I prayed and fasted. I asked the Stake President. I told the Lord “you obviously have a plan for me. You moved me here, you got my house in Colorado sold in a day. Please show me the house I need to purchase for my family.”
Nikki and I went out one last time to look at houses—today was the day I had to have a house or my family would have no where to go when they arrived. We looked at the first house. It was a lot more than I wanted to pay, but I told Nikki I would make an offer. She said, let me show you one more house, just down the road. It wasn’t on the market, but the owner had indicated an interest in selling. We looked and I loved it. Plenty of bedrooms, no updates needed. Fenced yard, flat driveway, pond, an acre, quiet neighborhood. It was perfect. Nikki told me they what they wanted. I told her that was too much. She said make an offer-because it wasn’t listed, I couldn’t offend them with a low offer. So I offered $50,000 less than what I knew they wanted. We dickered back and forth and the seller finally said “a house in the neighborhood just sold for $xx, surely our house is as nice as that one.” I agreed and offered that amount. They took it. Then I told the mortgage broker I had to close in 3 weeks. He told me it was going to be next to impossible, but he’d try. Turns out we closed a day earlier than we planned.
I went out to Colorado just before Memorial Day to pack out the house and get the family here. The packers packed on Monday and Tuesday, loaded the truck on Thursday. We closed on our Colorado house Thursday and drove out of town to Utah on Friday. Spent the weekend in Utah, then the youngest son, the (3) dogs, (2) birds and I drove to Illinois. Got here on Wednesday, closed on Thursday, and they delivered our house hold goods on Friday. They finished unloading the truck at 1230 and my wife and the other kids showed up at 1300 hrs. It was perfect.
The house is wonderful. The neighborhood is great. We love it here. I don’t fully understand why the Lord was so specific in where we live. He has always guided our moves, but never to my knowledge has he been so direct in the specific house in which we live. I’m grateful for this house and I’m grateful to a Father in Heaven who guides my life.
Fast forward 2 months to July 2013…the Air Force announced an early retirement option for selected personnel. I was one given the choice. Had I been deployed, that choice would not have been available. It was only because I had moved that I was permitted to submit my package to retire early.
And so it was that on 1 Nov 2013, I officially retired from the Air Force. By the 11th of that same month, I had a job as a defense contractor in St Louis.
This experience showed me that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. He knows me and my family. He knows our needs and desires. He will do amazing things (by the world’s standard) to get us where he needs us to be.
We must show faith. We must trust in him. We must pray and fast and be doing. It isn’t enough to ask him for things, we must ask, then do everything we can to make things happen. He’ll let us know if we’re going down the wrong path if we are listening to the spirit.