Miracle Stories:  Finding a Needle in a Haystack

We were having dinner a few years ago with my husband’s mission president, and his wife. At one point I asked her what they did to build their children’s belief in God. She told me, “We called everything fun we did family home evening, so family home evening was never a chore to get through. We also told our miracle stories often so they would go deep into our children’s hearts and they would remember how we got through hard times with the strength of the Lord helping us.” 

Miracle stories are a subset of family stories, that I posted about last week here. If family stories are the gold standard to teach our children our family narrative and who they belong to, miracle stories are the guideposts back to heaven. With my belief that families can be together forever, even after death, miracle stories can remind my children that God is always waiting to help us not be afraid, to move forward and to strengthen us to be brave when things are really, really difficult. My children are grown and gone so I have missed the boat on them growing up with our miracle stories. Upon reflection, I decided to write down the miracle stories we have witnessed in our life and put them in a loose-leaf binder that I can have laying around. My book of family miracle stories will be a work in progress that I can remind my children of and begin  to tell my grandchildren. Here is one of my miracle stories, where I was helped when things seemed overwhelming and hopeless:

In 2011, we were at LAX coming in from an international flight. My airport outlier, my husband, who has 10,000 hours plus of experience with airports, had to fly somewhere else at the end of our trip. Because he is so good at navigating the airport, I become one of the teenagers and enjoy the ride, happy to be directed to wherever my guide tells me to go.

Suddenly I had 3 kids and 7 pieces of luggage to keep track of, by myself. With the expert gone, I squared my shoulders and we started gathering the checked luggage off the baggage conveyor and found each piece one by one. The last one to be found was mine. The problem was it looked like 98% of the other luggage in the room filled with hundreds of people with their multiples of luggage. There was no ribbon or distinguishing feature on it at all. The conveyor belt went around and round. I could hear Craig’s voice in my head, “You need to get in the passport line in order to make your next flight”. I kept scanning  the conveyor belt in vain for my small bag that held precious mementos of our trip plus valuable things of mine. I felt panicked when I couldn’t see the my luggage. I started saying urgent , silent prayers for Heavenly Father’s help. The time constraint, the sameness of what I was looking for wherever I looked—small black bags—increased my fervent prayers. Through my praying, I felt myself focusing on the instructions I was getting, and the panic subsiding. I clearly realized that I would never see my bag again if I didn’t find it in the next twenty minutes . I was able to get going and act.

I got the children in the passport line with their luggage so they could hold our place . The thought came to me to start looking on people’s carts as they were waiting in the passport line. I would never have done that on my own, it wouldn’t have occurred to me, and it’s very pushy. I have never thought to do that in an airport, look through other people’s carts, while they are holding onto the carts!

Two lines, one for Americans, one for international passengers. Which line? I felt directed to one and started looking intently at each cart. My bag had  a small Eiffel Tower, 2×2 inches,  stamped on the front. I kept praying for help and looked at the first cart…no, bags were too big. The second cart had my identical bag with the Eiffel tower stamp. Brazenly I said, “I have lost my bag. That looks like mine. Is that my bag?” all the while grabbing and looking at the ticket on it. The people were taken aback and said, “No, No!” There was one the same size stacked behind it. I said, “How about that one?” Another Eiffel tower bag. They looked puzzled and I said, “Do you mind if I look?” And I opened it and it was MY BAG!! It was on someone’s cart tucked behind another bag! In a huge room full of people and luggage. I went back to my children rejoicing and they couldn’t believe it. The sheer incredulity of the impossibleness of so many pieces of luggage coupled with a time limit blew us all away. I told them with the Lord’s help and my fervent prayers I was directed to do the impossible and find my small, black bag in a haystack of bags. I told Craig later about it, because of course it was a hard thing, without him there. It trumped all of his airport experiences. He yelled, “NO WAY!”

The next week I bought the brightest, reddest piece of luggage for my next trip.

“Our lives are so complex that we need some way to make sense of it all. ” said Dr. Jonathan Adler, a psychology professor, at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts. “When we construct a narrative, it allows us to hold on to the important parts, filter out the trivial, and find a meaningful pattern in it all.”

In this miracle story, remembering the panic I felt, my urgent prayers given at every obstacle and the soothing Holy Ghost calming and directing me, has helped me move forward toward other miracle stories in my life. This pattern is one that I am trying to teach my children, so they can see why I believe, and why it is worth it to me to stay connected to God. It means we don’t have to be an expert in every hard thing we take on, because we have a Helper, a Guide in the Holy Ghost who can help us through the challenging maze that life can be.

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