Talks & Lessons: How the Lord Has Guided Our Path

This was written by Colin and given as a Sacrament Meeting talk on July 28th, 2012. It not only serves as a detailed explanation of our reasons for moving to the Seattle area, but also as a condensed form of our family’s history.

Those of you who know [the bishopric member who assigned me to give this talk] well, know that he has the talent of being able to speak about any subject for a long time. Those of you who know me well, know that I prefer to say things precisely the very first time, with zero elaboration. It will not be shocking to you at all, then, to know that he thought he was doing me a favor by allowing me to choose any subject I wanted and speak for 20 minutes. To him, that may be a favor. To me, it adds an extra struggle, during which I attempt to decide which subject I want to pretend to be an expert in for twenty long minutes.

I’ll tell you what I did. I decided to talk about something I am an expert in, and something I thought would be appropriate, given the timing of this talk. I would like to share the story of my family and see if I can help you visualize how the Lord has guided our path. However, if it looks like I am not going to fill the time, I’ll invite my family up so Jake and Joey can sign “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock”, while we sing.

Jeannie and I have been married [to each other] twice. The first time we were married was before our first date. We even have grandchildren. It’s not as weird as it sounds, though, so let me explain. We were part of the Seattle Institute Chorale at the Seattle Institute of Religion, adjacent to the University of Washington, where we were both students. The Chorale was one of very few travelling groups associated with the church. It may have been the only one outside of the Wasatch front. As such, our choir director, Bro. Niles Salmond, took great care in ensuring that every member of the choir was included both socially and spiritually as part of the group. To do so, he would group us together into families. A mother and father were designated, and they had certain roles they had to fill, paying special attention to the unity of their children and family while preparing to go on tour, and while we were touring.

Jeannie was initially married to some other guy, but he soon got engaged for real, which disqualified him to be a tour husband and father. I was the late-comer and was chosen to fill the husband vacancy. We went on tour and we worked really well together. Our final night of tour was a Sunday fireside in Issaquah, WA, almost back to our starting point in Seattle. That night was a particularly spiritual experience for both of us. I can remember staying in my seat up on the stand after the performance, just soaking in the experience. Jeannie must have done the same thing, because we both ended up leaving the chapel together. We were almost the last ones out. When we were right in front of the exit, we paused to join the conversation our choir director was having with a member of the ward [church congregation] along with his young daughter. During the conversation, the young girl asked Jeannie and I if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. We looked at each other and smiled.

Interestingly, I wasn’t as thick at that moment as I have been at other times. I am usually pretty slow to pick up on these kinds of non-verbal cues. I believe the usual sluggish pace of a man’s brain during these kinds of interactions is probably due to some gene on the Y chromosome. Instead, in that fraction of a second, through Jeannie’s eyes, I saw serious thought going on. She was pondering what the girl had said and it seemed she wasn’t opposed to the idea. I wasn’t either. I attribute that superior-to-the-normal-male perception to the spirit.

If that wasn’t enough, my next action was truly inspired. And I mean the revelation kind of inspiration. We sat down together on the bus in the last empty row. As we sat there, quietly pondering our experiences over the previous two hours. I distinctly heard a voice tell me to hold her hand. And let me tell you, I didn’t inch my hand over slowly next to hers and wait for our fingers to brush together. Hoping she would be doing the same thing. [I see a few of you have done that before.] I immediately took her hand, and held it firmly. That has to be the fastest I have ever responded to a spiritual prompting. It was like when Laman and Lemuel were asked by their father to go back, once again, to Jerusalem with the purpose of inviting Ishmael, with all of his pretty daughters, to join them in the wilderness. They didn’t complain, they were probably on the camel even before Nephi heard the message. As I sat there, holding Jeannie’s hand and looking in her eyes, I knew that we would be married. But I didn’t tell her then. I was smart enough to wait at least a week. OK, it was 4 days, but who’s counting.

I was born a skeptic. We all know of some guy or girl who claimed to have revelation about their eternal companion. Only to have their supposed eternal companion get a very different message. Because I’m a skeptic, I worried about being that guy. But, again, my words and actions were guided. When I told Jeannie what I felt, it didn’t frighten her away. Even though we had barely been friends for a month. Even though we hadn’t even been on our first date. She felt the same peace and knowledge that I had felt. We were engaged 6 months later, and married before the next choir tour. We served as grandparents on tour for 3 more years before the next chapter of our life took us away.

I told you that story not only to introduce you to the beginnings of our family, but also to illustrate a point. The point is that some things are too important to leave to chance, and that is when our Heavenly Father steps in and guides us in the right direction. I still could have messed things up if I wanted to, or if I wasn’t spiritually prepared at the time. But, instead, I became a case study in how the Spirit uses the well-known pattern of commitment to move us forward. I was prepared spiritually. I had just spent four days in intense spiritual communion, and two hours at my peak spiritual operating capacity. I was also prepared mentally. The girl in the chapel had just planted an idea in my head. Hollywood would call this inception, psychologists would call it priming. The invitation came almost immediately: I was invited to hold Jeannie’s hand, and at the moment I did so, I was invited to consider the much bigger picture of eternity. The follow-up may not have been necessary, but it did occur. Again I was inspired, by the spirit, to share my broader views with Jeannie. She had been prepared also. She was not put off by my strange admission that I knew we were going to be married.

Before we got married, we were aware of the possibility that we could not have children of our own. The fact didn’t bug either of us too much. In fact, it led us to the discussion of adoption. We both agreed that it was an option we would look into when the time came. But, frankly, neither of us were in too big of a hurry. We liked each other so much, that neither of us wanted to change our family dynamic. A number of years went by and we had both applied to about 6 or 7 graduate schools in 3 cities that we thought we would enjoy. Jeannie was accepted to one school in Boston, one school in New York, and one school in Chicago. I was accepted into two schools in Chicago and none in the other cities. It was clear that we would be going to Chicago, even though it was probably the lowest on the list of the three. While we were there, we were again guided through the same model of commitment. We sat through a very spiritual presentation about adoption and LDS Family Services, presented by a friend of ours. We were inspired to move forward with adoption. In this case, the follow-up was necessary. We dragged our feet. We had lost our motivation and were not proceeding with the paperwork and other bureaucratic steps that needed to be completed. For this reason, I feel, we were sent to Chicago. The counselor at LDS Family Services was not one to let people drift through the process. He was on top of our case from the very beginning. One day he received an email about a young woman in Oregon who was looking for some specific traits in the adoptive parents for her unborn son. He asked us to write a letter, even though we hadn’t finished our other paperwork. Even though we weren’t, technically, ready to take that step. We wrote a letter, and the woman chose us to take Warren. From then, it was a flurry to get through the paperwork and bureaucracy before Warren was born so that we could be there to take him home from the hospital.

It happened again when we were finished with graduate school. I was blessed to find a good job in Goleta, even interviewing long-distance from Chicago. This is the part you are more familiar with, but maybe I can fill in some of the details. When we came out, we were about ready to start the process over with LDS Family Services. We did so, but there was a new option. Angels is a local organization that many of you are already aware of. It was founded the year we moved here by Meichelle Arntz of the Mesa Vista ward. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to provide bonding opportunities for infants and toddlers in the foster-care system. We knew about it, but were scared of falling in love with a child and having to send the child back to his or her birth family. It just seemed like it had very high emotional risk. After watching the Rays and the Jepsons have good experiences, however, we were moved to consider the option. We prayed about it, and felt secure going forward.

While we attended classes, the Angels staff were caring for a medically fragile baby girl while her respite care family was ill. As soon as we finished the classes, Meichelle called us up and asked if we would be willing to take this baby into our home. She explained the seriousness of her medical conditions and what it would likely mean for her and our future. Madeline’s medical conditions don’t seem so serious just looking at her. But I assure you she is alive today due to advanced medicine and science, and the care of angels, both seen and unseen.

When Maddie was about to turn 2, we were ready to go back to Angels and help another child. Jeannie told Meichelle that we would be ready when Maddie was 2, and that we would even take twins if they were available. I thought that was crazy talk. I mean, who would willingly choose twins. Especially with a 4-year-old and a medically-complex toddler. Not to worry, though. Twins are rare, and they had never had twins come through the system. What are the odds that twins would be available when we were ready to take another child. Obviously, Jeannie was a bit more open to spiritual guidance than I was at the time.

Jacob and Joseph joined our home on December 7th, 2010, two days after Maddie’s birthday. They were sealed to our family on March 30th of this year. These children were meant to be in our family. And Heavenly Father saw that it was important enough to guide us in the process. He prompted us to move to this town and paved the way for it to happen. He prepared us spiritually. He invited us to take some difficult life steps. And he followed up to make sure everything went according to plan.

Through the years, the complexity of our future has become clear to us. Both Jeannie and I have a mentally-disabled sibling. Jeannie is one of two children, and I am the oldest remaining child, and most established of 5. There is a very high possibility that we will be adding 2 adult dependents to our household within a very small number of years. On top of that, Madeline will certainly need more specialized medical attention, possibly including additional open-heart surgeries. Almost every year that we have lived here, we have gone through a process of:

  1. realizing that we can’t, logically, make it work
  2. deciding that the right thing to do would be to move
  3. lamenting that fact because we love this ward family
  4. praying about it
  5. receiving a revelation that we should stay a little bit longer, and
  6. celebrating because we get to stay.

This year it was different. We knew that it was time to ask again after Jake and Joey’s adoption was finalized. We went through the same process. We fasted. We went to the temple. The logical answer is to move. What’s more, the logic is even stronger in favor of moving because we are now concerned about Jeannie’s aging parents. This time, our prayer and supplication led us to decide that we would leave Goleta, at the latest when our lease was up in November of next year. We planned to find a location where we can afford to buy a home with property and prepare a second home for Jeannie’s parents.

Two days after our fast, the new CTO of my company was visiting the office and announced that they are opening a new office in the Seattle area. Once again the same pattern is emerging: His announcement was a priming event, the inception of an idea. We were already spiritually prepared due to fasting and much prayer. We hadn’t made the decision to move yet, but were actively debating the pros and cons of living in Goleta vs. anywhere else. I texted Jeannie during the meeting, and she thought I should talk to Larry, the CTO. Larry and I met for breakfast the next morning and he invited me to interview for the job. I scheduled a trip to Seattle a week later. Before I left, Jeannie and I finalized our discussion and came to the conclusion, again, that it was time to move. This time the spirit confirmed our decision. This was one of those moments where our hearts and minds did battle. We knew, now, with spiritual and logical knowledge what we were supposed to do. The Lord had even paved the way by showing us the possible opportunity to transfer within my company. But it was against the desires of our heart to leave Goleta.

We went forward, trusting the revelation we both received (separately, I might add). I went to the interview and was given every possible advantage one could hope for in a set of technical interviews. They offered me the position immediately, and I was ready to accept, having verified with Jeannie that morning that she was willing to go forward with it.

We were prepared and invited. We acted on the invitation, even though we are even still saddened to do so. And, oh how Heavenly Father has followed up. I called Dave Field to find out how we can get out of our lease. We still have a year left. He gave me his advice, which was very helpful, but not very promising. We prayed that our land-lady’s heart would be softened. I contacted her, and she decided to end the lease early herself.

We started looking for apartments that could fit our large family. I spent half a day calling about apartments between my new office and the place we will be looking to live permanently. Nobody had large enough apartments available. Finally, Jeannie sent me an email about an apartment that she “felt right” about. I called and they had one apartment coming available on the day we planned to move out of our house here. We could reserve it by getting them $200. However, they wouldn’t accept a credit card over the phone. I was worried that if I tried to put a check in the mail, someone else would reserve the apartment before us. I explored a few options to expedite a check, but none of them would have been sufficient on a Friday afternoon. My best option was to call our friends, who live 45 minutes away, when traffic is at its best, and ask them to brave rush hour and get them some money before the office closed. Another blessing was already in the works. Our good friend had taken the day off and they left their children with a babysitter and were spending the day in the temple, 10 miles away from the apartment. Without a second thought, they changed their dinner plans and drove to our new apartment to pay the deposit.

It is clear to me that Heavenly Father is again guiding us along a path that He has chosen. The pattern is clear. He has prepared us and invited us through revelation. He is following up, confirming our faith to stick with this decision by removing all obstacles from the path. I don’t know what He has planned for us to do once we get there, but we have enough faith to go.

Believe me when I say we are heartbroken to leave. Mostly I have been asked if I will miss the weather. Weather is not difficult for me to say goodbye to, but people are. And we have established many relationships with good people here. We must travel the path laid before us, but we will miss you, dear friends.

I bear my testimony that God continues to guide our path. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

4 thoughts on “Talks & Lessons: How the Lord Has Guided Our Path”

  1. Beautifully written! Very powerful! It is clearly obvious you are where you are supposed to be! I admire your example of being ready to listen to the promptings of the spirit when they are given.

  2. That was a great talk! I was especially interested to read about how you guys got together! No better proof than that of what a faithful couple you are. I love how you can look back and see the Lord’s hand in your life. And I also love that we got to be a tiny part of many of these big events in your life- I pray that we’ll get to be a tiny part of many more!
    love you!

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