There are many tender mercies or little miracles to share that made the Open House experiences special for us. Here are some snippets:
THE MIRACLE: All of our boys held still and payed attention during the 12 minute video. Even Miles was transfixed - I felt the Spirit so powerfully, and even though their attention spans didn't hold up for pictures, they were reverent in the temple.
My little miracle: My skin cancer surgeon wasn't available until March 10th, so all of my Open House pictures are free of scabs and/or stitches on my face.
Tyson's little miracle: At the top of the stair case on the 4th floor of the temple, he looked down, and "just happened" to see his Primary teacher, Bro. Vandegraff standing at the bottom. They looked at each other in the swirling staircase at opposite ends and waved. It was a special moment for my son, and definitely not a coincidence.
The miracle: We got to see the temple constructed, and we have memories from this location of what it looked like over the years. What a blessing, and we love the reminder in the road sign - don't turn away from the temple.
The miracle: All the boys were able to wear their Gilbert Temple tie pins through the end of the open house before we lost one and broke another. :)
The miracle: That this day has finally come.
Another miracle happened as we were driving to the temple. Tyson asked me, "Mom, didn't we have to take off our shoes or something at that other temple open house that we went to?" I had to think long and hard before I realized he was recalling a memory from the Gila Valley Temple Open House, and I got a lump in my throat - he was such a little tyke at the time, I couldn't believe he could remember! We talked about how in the scriptures, people like Moses took off their shoes when they talked to God, because it was holy ground. We also talked about how the temple is a holy place, and that you should have reverence for God when you go there. For the open house, you don't have to take off your shoes, and they put shoe coverings on to help protect the carpets, but that it's still a special place. Within our conversation, we ended up talking about times that the kids have felt the Spirit. I asked Tyson if he had ever felt the Spirit and he said he wasn't sure. He thought that he just has a really good memory with the shoe memory at the other temple, and then we talked about how the Spirit calls to remembrance things that you need to remember at times that they will make a difference for you. Then I asked Emmett if he had felt the Spirit before and immediately he responded, "Yep!" I was so surprised, because he's only 4. When he explained where he felt it, he said, "At that church building that was already build-ed." I wanted to know if he felt good inside in Primary, or walking on the grounds, or something, and he said, "In that place where we take the Sacrament." I was so grateful for this day that we had the chance to go to the temple, because it gave us the chance to talk about significant moments in my kids' lives where they felt the Spirit, and it was important for us to recognize those and to help us be more spiritually minded as we entered the Gilbert Temple. It helped them with reverence and with focus, and it helped me to know more surely that every effort it takes is WORTH it to take your kids to church every Sunday, and to special places like the temple even if they are young, because they can feel the Spirit and know of God's love for them at an early age.
Diana's miracles: Throughout her entire tour, she kept saying in regards to the ushers, "I just don't get it. There are no ugly people here. You all must be taking beauty pills or something." She also loved it so much that she scheduled another tour of her own and took friends who she told HAD to see it for themselves MomMom was also cute, because she said that she was sad she wasn't able to see the Salt Lake Temple, but she was glad to go inside the Gilbert Temple, because "apparently, now I'm worthy."
The miracle: On this morning tour, Miles became transfixed on the large painting of Jesus Christ. He stared past the usher and pointed to the painting. Even as I walked, his eyes stayed on the picture. We felt the Spirit strongly, and the brother standing there said, "It looks like he knows Him better than we do." It was such a special moment and it really did grip my heart that this little person could pause amid all the commotion and people at the open house and FEEL the love of Jesus Christ. I do believe that these little children are CLOSE to the Lord.
The MIRACLE: Sometimes a little caution tape can make you feel closer to someone you love thousands of miles away, "Cuidado!" We love you, Taylor!
The miracle: I had another tour scheduled with my friend, and because I was early and because Dale & Myrna's tour with Shea took a while to get started, I was able to hop in line with them after the movie and enjoy the temple with my Borden family before my tour with Lindsay made it inside the temple. When I was done with the family tour, my friend's movie was ending and I was able to hop back in line with them to finish out my reserved tour. Also, while we were in the temple, we had some wonderful conversations about what temples are for, and Shea brought up that her Grandpa has his temple work done for him, because her Grandma Judy gave permission to my father-in-law to do his brother's family work. It means a lot to us that Aunt Judy & Shea and her family are open to letting the family do temple work because it means so much to us to give Uncle Don the opportunity to accept or reject the temple work in the after-life.
Seriously Brielle is so cute!
On this tour, I was able to share the experience with friends, and also answer questions for some guests in line behind us. The two girls behind us were 7th Day Adventists, and they had many questions. One was writing an article about the temple, and the other was there for moral support and curiosity. They asked all kinds of questions, about choices & agency and where life leads us, and how we feel about others who may have made large mistakes, but who might receive the same blessings in the end, and if we thought temple work was really a fair thing to help others receive the blessings of the gospel if they weren't living it in this life. It was an interesting conversation, but because I know that WE ALL have many sins that Jesus wipes away, and because I know that the Lord knows everyone's hearts, I am not upset or worried about who is going to end up where in comparison to me and my choices. I am just trying to focus on what I need to do to follow the Lord, because that is a hard enough job. I know that the Lord will deal justly and fairly and as mercifully as He can on the judgement day and I am not jealous or envious or afraid of where anyone else will go in comparison to myself or in comparison to how long I had the gospel, even if they only had it for a short time. It's like the parable of the workers in the field to me, and what matters most to me is following the promises I've made with Heavenly Father.
The miracle: Lindsay was the one who sent me a reminder text the day that the reservation line opened for the open house. It was a 10 minute reminder. This tour with her was scheduled for a week into the open house, but if she hadn't reminded me, I wouldn't have been able to get tickets for a long time, because in only 30 minutes all the tours were reserved for the 1st weekend. Fortunately there was a standby line, and fortunately they opened up more reservations, but until people knew how it would work, a lot of people were apprehensive about just showing up to the temple for a tour, and I give Lindsay credit for helping me and some of my friends and family have better temple tour experiences since we didn't have to wait so long.
The miracle: Miles is the youngest of my children, but he got to go through the open house the most of all my kids. He went through the temple 5 times, and each time he was good. We still quote him on his first time through when he saw the baptismal font and pointed at the oxen, "Oooooohhhhh!" That was his favorite part. He is so cute and sweet, and I was happy I got to share these moments with him because my older boys have had more experiences watching the temple be built, it was fun for me to share this time with Miles as he was an easy baby to tag along on the tours. I don't know if he'll remember it, but it's never a bad thing to provide these experiences, just in case it leaves an impression for the better on your kids.
The miracle: We became tour guides for several people on this night. The group we were with was HUGE, because our ROCK STAR friends, Mike & Marinda invited like 14+ people. The way the group split up because of a baby who needed tending, we just happened to be there to take over the questions for the guests in the group at the front. I was most impressed by the questions of the 13 year old boy who came - he wasn't afraid to ask direct questions that he wanted to know, and whenever he would ask a question, others would listen, because they wanted to know, too, but were afraid to ask. He asked things like, "What are the rules you have to follow to come to the temple?", "Are you Christians?", "What is this room for?" "Do you believe in God and the trinity?"
I loved it - it was so good to see this young man ask questions with confidence. He actually inspired me by the way he approached the tour. I feel that if we were to all ask direct questions, and truly seek to know God's will for us in our lives, that we will all find a better definition of self & find our personal purpose so much sooner than if we don't jump to the nitty gritty questions that make us decide for ourselves what we believe and don't believe. I felt like he was demonstrating faith through his questions, if that makes sense - whoever this young man is going to turn out to be, is someone who searches out all the tough questions for himself, someone who ponders them, and someone who has a sure definition of who he wants to be, what he believes, and where he is going to go with his life. He seems like a person with direction, and I wish him the best in all of his endeavors, and I expect great things from him - I believe this particular young man will enact a substantial amount of good in the world around us.
The miracles: We met up with Uncle Warren for lunch before his temple tour. Julia's boyfriend is a recent convert and wanted to see the temple - we "just happened" to have perfect timing for lunch before their tour, and Uncle Warren sent me an encouraging note after this lunch with him. Also, at the restaurant, we ran into Tina, Caden, & Brian. Tina was able to be in the temple with her mom that day, which was a very special, once-in-a-life-time experience for them, and we could all feel the Spirit of the hearts that were being brought closer to God and family through this experience.
The miracle: It was a Friday night, we barely made it home in time from a crazy day to change our clothes & hop in the car - OUR FAMILY CHANGED CLOTHES & GOT IN THE CAR IN ABOUT 6 MINUTES...that is a MIRACLE!!!! We were unable to feed our children before our tour with Chad & Robin, and on the way over, we prayed that we would still have a good experience. We had to wait in the stand-by line for about 20 minutes, and our total tour time from start to finish was about 2 hours, because it was a busy night, but our prayers were answered & our kids were really good - they didn't start to get restless until we were outside after the tour. So we all headed to Chick-fil-a and life was great again when they had full bellies.
Another tender mercy associated with this tour is that these people have become dear friends to us, and we really love them.
The miracle: Devin and my boys act like & play around like brothers. It is good for all of them. We are so proud of Devin, because he is trying to make good choices no matter what life throws his way. He has even received the Arrow of Light award in cub-scouts - that is no small feat, and we love him so much!
The miracle: I haven't seen Najae for years, and we connected thru a facebook post. Her schedule and my schedule "just happened" to align perfectly for each of us to go on the last Monday of the open house. Najae knows the church is true and she is going to join someday - she loved the tour & got chills - she is going to come back. She brought her grandma, Bonnie, and we had a wonderful morning together.
This is what David, Mitch, & Chris call a "Wild Guys Night"
The miracle: On the last Thursday of the open house my neighbors Norm & Barb had a temple tour planned with me. We literally pulled in the parking lot and could not see an end to the line for the temple. My neighbors honked at me because they were going to leave and I "just happened" to see two parking spots TOGETHER despite the busiest day I'd ever seen at the temple. I pulled in and they pulled next to me and through our windows they told me, "Thanks, you've been so nice, but we are NOT staying."
I was like, "WHAT?!"
First of all, before they were invited to the open house, they had read about it and KNEW the dates by heart. Second of all, that was the ONLY day they could go, because they had been gone on vacation for a month before - it's not like we waited until the last second because we procrastinated - that was literally the first day they could go. I had found a sitter for my 4 year old, I rearranged preschool plans, I got my baby ready, I reserved everyone's tickets, and we were FEET away from the entrance. I had to show the temple to them myself - we couldn't be this close & leave.
Barb has recently had knee surgery, however, and truly could not stand in long lines, and they didn't have time to wait in line because they had appointments.
What do you think we did?
We went to the front of the line.
Oh yes, we did!
We skipped the movie because it was too far away and had too long of a line, and I found an usher on a golf-cart who I "just happened" to hear telling another usher, "I'm taking these ladies to a tour at the front of the line." I couldn't believe it and I told her, "That's where we need to go!"
In no time at all, we were at the handicap entrance, Barb got shoe coverings on her feet and on her cane, and I was able to give my neighbors the tour of a life-time. I told them everything they missed in the video, and we rode the elevators, and I showed them all the rooms, and gave them every fact I could ever think of. They LOVED it, and Norm told me, "That's one h*** of a temple!" It made me smile. Every time they'd look up at the ceiling, or see a new chandelier, or see the workmanship on the walls, Norm would say, "Look at that craftsmanship!" "This is INCREDIBLE."
I love Norm & Barb, they are fantastic neighbors, they are always sweet to me and Mitch, and we learn a lot from them. I am so glad they came with us to share the experience. They thanked me after and offered to pay for the tickets in case I had purchased them, but IT WAS FREE, and being a personal tour guide with a girl who won't take no for an answer was just a bonus! (And yes, they made it to their appointment in time, too.)
I texted my most awesome cousin, Tiff, and told her if she came to the open house with her family, that I would meet them down there and bring them cookies. Well, they already had tix for Friday, VALENTINE'S DAY - the day before it ended. I didn't know what time their tour was or anything, and life was so crazy that I forgot about my promise until Friday afternoon. I didn't make heart shaped sugar cookies like I had planned, but guess what? There "just happened" to be cookie dough in the freezer. I got a text from Tiff, who was just joking and said, "Brandon wants to know if our cookies are ready, yet." I was making cookies at my mom's house, and they were on the 202 headed to the temple. I pulled out the cookies from the oven & had a Valentine's candy bag made up, and tried to meet them at the temple around the time I thought they'd be arriving. WOULD YOU BELIEVE that as I pulled onto Greenfield Road into the turn lane, I looked in the rear view mirror AND THEY WERE BEHIND ME? Like immediately behind my van! They followed me and I guided them past the full parking lot, on over to the other "secret" premium parking side that most people didn't try to park on - that way they didn't have to park in the dirt lot half a mile away with all their millions of children, and I was able to deliver them their treats as promised, give them a hug, be their photographer, and send them on their way. IT WAS AMAZING! I was shocked at how it was SO MEANT TO BE! I love all of her kids - they are always so nice to me, and I wish I could remember all of their names all the time, but I mix some of their names up, but what is awesome is that they are family I love and adore and cherish, and the good Lord let me see them that day before they went on their way. It was so perfectly perfect!
This was taken on the very last day of the open house.
The first miracle is that I met my friend Lauren, and her friend Danielle BECAUSE of Story Time at Barnes & Noble. We were total strangers who met by trying to provide out of the house experiences for ourselves & our kids, and in the process have now become dear friends. Another miracle is that Danielle is expecting a baby and she has tried FOR YEARS, and it has been a long & difficult process. I am so happy for her!
The miracles: The Disneyland-sized-line to get into the chapel was a 2-3 hour wait and it wrapped around the building and utility room and by port-a-potties - it was CRAZY!!! I went earlier than our planned time, but only 30 to 40 minutes, so my efforts to get dressed and leave my house early didn't really help much. :( When my friends got there, I was amazed that Lauren & Danielle weren't deterred by the long lines and that they were happy to stay and chat with me and still go through. The line seemed to speed up and slow down. After about 1 1/2 hours, I walked to the ticketed line, and I found our family friends, Jamie & Brad Porter and their kids & parents. Guess who "JUST HAPPENED" to have extra space on their reserved tour? I'm telling you it was AWESOME! I ran back to get my friends, and we joined the faster-moving line to fill up those empty spaces in their reserved tour. Lauren told me, "See! It always works out the way it's supposed to in the end." We got right in, because that line moved fast and they were towards the front of it. We sat in the chapel, talked about everything from if Mormons can had facial hair to worthiness requirements for temple recommends, and had a fantastic temple tour! Throughout the tour, I explained the significance of families in God's eternal plan for His children. I also shared some personal feelings I've had in the temple about feeling close to my family who has passed on, and that I know the family is meant to help us learn & grow in this life so that we can return to God's presence together. They really enjoyed the Celestial Room & we all wanted to stay in it longer. As we left the temple, we had a sister missionary take this picture of us. She "JUST HAPPENED" to be from a teeny tiny town in Washington that Lauren had lived in, I believe. Also, as we walked through the gardens, Lauren noticed that some of the flowers were poppies and she said, "Poppies are my grandpa's favorite flower. How fitting!" We could all see the blessings in the small things. I wondered if those poppies were placed in the garden specifically so that my friend could feel close to her grandfather that day. God is definitely in the details of our lives, and I was uplifted by my friends because of their optimism and their ability to recognize the blessings in the small things that others could call coincidences, but we know that the Lord loves all His children and that it's in the seemingly small things that He speaks to us.
Yes. Those ARE Girl Scouts selling cookies across the street from the temple. The miracle? There used to be protesters there. I'll take Girl Scouts any day!
Last, but not least, I got to take Jolly Old Saint Nicholas through the temple. We were invited to serve a temple shift again on Saturday, and we were happy to have the chance to "close-out" the open house. My mom watched our kids, because we spent all our money on the sitter for our Valentine's dates. And we had the time of our lives. Mitchell drove golf-carts, and I pushed wheel-chairs. I loved giving tours to people in wheel-chairs. This kind man NEVER told me his first name, but his last name really is Nicholas, and he is from California. I turned out to be the lucky one that night. He is an artist and truly appreciated all the original artwork in the temple. I also learned neat things from his daughter & wife. Apparently his daughter did shoe-coverings at the San Diego Temple Open House. I told them that I went to that open house as a kid, and I wonder if his daughter did my shoe-coverings. Maybe now I was returning the favor by taking them through our new temple. :) You never know. We had a delightful time, and I felt the Spirit that St. Nick carries with him - this sweet man also invited me back to California & said Mitch and I could have a place to stay there if we wanted - this man truly has a HEART OF GOLD if I've ever seen one!
After just 1 week of temple tours I made this post on facebook to my friends:
"I would just like to say that in the last week I have felt so uplifted & inspired. It has been such a pleasure to be able to share the Gilbert Temple with the community. I have been impressed with the way we've been treated by the other religious groups in the area - overall it has been a very positive experience. I've heard of large groups of Lutherans visiting the temple (as in 40+) - and our neighbor Trey went before we even had the chance to invite him. The Catholic priest over the closest parish by the temple voiced his support of us on the ABC15 special, and my Adopted/Catholic/Italian Grandmother Diana not only loved it, she's taking friends to show it to them herself. Yesterday I showed some friendly Seventh Day Adventists around the temple, and I have heard wonderful thoughts that a Jewish rabbi shared. I cannot adequately express what it means to us to have such kind acceptance and support as we share the most important parts of what we believe - that Jesus Christ is our Lord & Savior, and that he has provided a way for families to be united eternally. Everything about temple worship re-emphasizes to us, the importance of families and our responsibility to help each other return back to live in God's presence together. The craftsmanship & building of a temple also symbolizes for us that we want to give our very best to God in all that we do. With all of the inter-faith interaction, even though we may find differences in theology in our respective religions, I have felt so much camaraderie and unity this last week. I believe that one day the Lord will come to the earth again in His power & glory, that there will be ONE fold and ONE Shepherd, and we will all be in it together! I feel like this week I have felt a glimpse of how wonderful that day will be. Thank you so much to everyone who has come & who will come - thank you to everyone who has added to that feeling of love. It means so much!"
Participating in the Gilbert Temple Open House has changed my life - I have loved being like a missionary, and have loved having the opportunity to share what I believe with as many who want to know, and I have been uplifted by the faith shared by friends and family of both our own religion and of other religions and have felt closer to God because of it. This temple has been a blessing to all the people in the Valley of the Sun, and it is a tribute to the faithful lives of the early saints who settled Arizona and to the strength of everyone who has continued strong in the faith. I feel bad for everyone in Mesa and the surrounding areas who didn't get to participate with being IN the Cultural Celebration and preparing for the celebration, because they were a huge part of making this Gilbert Temple happen as well - truly, though, it was a major feat to include the youth of just our Gilbert Temple District (12,000 strong) - My! How the church has grown out here! All of these amazing experiences have endeared me to the Gilbert Temple, and have strengthened my faith in the value of God's Eternal Plan of Happiness, and I know that He loves all of His children and wants all of them to return home to heaven. I love that the temples are being taken to the people in the latter-days. It is a wonderful time we live in, and I am thankful for the truth and knowledge we do have. I always want to live TRUE TO THE FAITH!