It’s no secret I’m not a baker (proof here and here). Sure, I make cookies with my kids, but if I have to bake something for someone over 12 years old and it has to taste good AND look good AND be packaged in something other than a paper plate and a ziplock bag, I’m panicked. I’m not crafty either. That’s why Christmas neighbor gifts stress me to the max. Some years they don’t get done, and I know that’s ok. But there are some years when I KNOW I need to make a few visits and spread some love. 

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This is one of those years. Especially with the #LightTheWorld campaign, I knew our family needed to make a special effort to visit some neighbors. I asked my kids to pray individually and listen for one name of someone who was lonely and could use a visit. They each came up with a different name and carefully colored cards for them. As they worked, I cleaned the kitchen and tried to think of SOMETHING to bake. We were out of eggs, low on butter, and I had nothing (sprinkles? candy canes? red and green m&ms?) to make it look Christmasy. After 20 minutes of scouring Pinterest for answers and self esteem, I knew how this would end. We would never make it out the front door. 

I realized the treats were holding me back from the visiting. I was making it too hard. Lonely people like treats, but they need people. Could we possibly make visits without treats or a gift…at Christmastime? 

That seemed weird. But my mantra lately has been “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Going empty handed wasn’t perfect, but was good. Just go, Whitney. Just go. 

I decided that instead, we could sing a song. That would be our gift. Tell me to frost a cookie and I’m stressed; but tell me to gather my kids around the piano and teach harmony parts and arrange songs– and I’m in. THAT excites me. THAT is work I can do. THAT is a gift I can give. So we bundled up and headed out. My kids were mortified to be going without treats (one even said- and I quote- “I HATE being a singing family!!”) 

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At the first house (of a darling, sprightly 90 year old widow), I explained that we wanted to sing her a song– that this was our gift, along with a handmade card. Admittedly, I did feel dumb not handing a plate of cookies or a clever dollar store item with a cute poem. But THIS WAS ALL I HAD TO GIVE this year. She was (of course) delighted and spent a few moments telling us the story behind the delicate blue blanket draped over her rocking chair. 

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We continued on our way, visiting each home my children prayed about, and they ended up loving it (like I knew they would). I’m not a fudge connoisseur or a sewing pro. These are not my gifts. But I can still make visits and offer a gift I DO have. 

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It reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas songs: 

What can I give Him
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would give a lamb
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
What can I give Him?
Give Him my heart. 

But today, I rewrote the song as follows:

What can I give Him?
Lame as I am?
If I were a baker,
I would give some flan
If I were a crafter,
I’d hot glue all day long
But I am just a singer
So I will give a song. 

*takes a bow*

Jesus meets us where we are. He accepts our imperfect offerings. And so do the widows, the lonely, and the sad. Wishing you a happy season of lighting the world and loving your neighbors, even if you go perfectly empty handed.

 

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Check out our best selling Christmas album, “All is Bright: A Mercy River Christmas“!

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On May 16th we’re asking everyone to go see the movie, “The Abolitionists”– a hidden-camera-documentary about child trafficking. And here’s a disclaimer:

We’re terrified to see this movie.

Abolitionists

Those who know Brooke know she’s a happy-ending kind of a gal. She has the Pride and Prejudice Blu-Ray on repeat- and we’re 99.9% positive this movie will not be light, fun, or happy to watch. Soni gets easily overwhelmed about the scary things in the world. And somedays Whitney would like to run to the mountains with her kids and lock them inside and pretend like sad things aren’t happening.

But that isn’t possible, nor is it right.

A few months ago, we sat down with Tim Ballard and learned of his organization, Operation Underground Railroad. Tim calls himself a modern day “abolitionist,” rescuing children from the horrors of sex slavery. This is something very sad to think about…but after hearing the truth we’ll never be the same. Here are a few things we learned:

–There are 27 million slaves in the world today. That’s more slaves than in the 300 years of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade combined. 2 million of these are children.
–Human trafficking is the third most lucrative crime in the world and it is the fastest-growing international crime.
–Every 30 seconds a child is sold into the sex trade. The average price to rent a child for the night is $300– $1000 if the child is a virgin. The average age of a trafficked child is 13.
–There are over 100,000 children in the United States who are being trafficked. This is happening right under our noses and it is a direct result of pornography.

This information is very difficult to hear. But the bottom line is this: We’re Christians. Surely none of us want to stand before God and tell him we turned away from hard things we saw or heard. We don’t want to be the Levite or the priest who “passed by on the other side” of someone who needed help (Luke 10). Especially a child.

Last October President Russell M Nelson quoted Boyd K. Packer as saying this: “We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out.”

President Nelson then said, “Today, let me add that we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world.”

As our friend Fiona Givens recently told us, “We need women who are not afraid of the dark.”

It’s not enough anymore to ignore the dark spaces, the problems, the wounded on the side of the road. We can’t pretend they’re not there. Nor can we be afraid. In order to fight the dark we have to face it. We have to organize, direct, teach, speak out, and lead. We have to be willing to educate ourselves and others and use our faith to make important things happen.

We want to be those kind of women.

Child trafficking is evil in its worst form– and short of learning karate and joining the #OURrescue jump team, it can be difficult to know how to help. But here’s what we CAN do:

1- See “The Abolitionists” Monday, May 16th (trailer). Most theaters are only giving this movie ONE chance. It must do well opening night so theaters will continue to play it and so it will spread. Click here to find one of the 480 participating theaters near you. It may be difficult to see, but I promise you will leave inspired and empowered. (Plus, 15% of your ticket price goes directly to rescuing children!)

2- If you can’t see the movie, buy tickets anyway and give them away. The goal on Monday is to sell seats so the theaters will continue playing the movie. More exposure of the movie = more people educated on the issue = more kids rescued.

3- Please spread the word! Post the trailer on social media and TELL people why you feel strongly about supporting the film. If there’s not a theater close enough to you, get others there Monday night so it WILL come to you. Direct people to this link to find theaters near them. http://www.fathomevents.com/event/the-abolitionists/buy

4- Donate to Our Underground Rescue here.

Fighting darkness takes time, energy, and resources. It’s not easy to figure out how to put filters on a computer, talk to our kids about pornography, or learn about child trafficking.

But this is the generation God put you in.

For some reason, He needed you here, at this time, in this place. These are the evils of our day, and we are His hands. We can be the faith driven women President Nelson is pleading for, anxiously engaged in good causes and fearlessly fighting the dark.

Do we WANT to see evidence of this kind of evil in the world? No. But will we face it? Yes.

Join us. This Monday night, choose to stop on the side of the road.

UPDATE: Our friend Sandra Turley posted these words on her IG and we thought it would be helpful here, coming from one who has seen a screening of the film: “Some of my girlfriends have said they simply can’t see this because they will cry too much…please listen up: yes, you will shed a tear, but the movie is not overly explicit nor is it too much to handle…the producers have done an extraordinary job to allow us to see and learn what needs to be done to save children across the world without showing us the images that would haunt our nightmares. But let us remember, children and adolescents are living the nightmare….Information is power and  we need to use our power to save children from sex slavery.”

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The three of us will be watching “The Abolitionists” at the following theaters. We’d love to see you if you are in one of these areas! If not, use this link to find which of the 480 theaters is near you. Remember, this is a ONE NIGHT event, pending it’s success! Let’s pack the theaters!

Brooke: Cinemark Tinseltown in Layton, 7:30
Soni: Cinemark Farmington Station Park, 7:30
Whitney: Edwards in Idaho Falls, 7:30pm (She’s driving 180 miles to see it! We double dog dare you to drive farther ;))

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  • James Dooley - We’ll see the 7:30 show on Monday, 16 May, at Tinseltown, Layton.ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey - And the Christian obsession with virginity is also feeding that higher price tag.

    And there are plenty of Christians engaging in the trade. Just like it happens under our noses, it happens with members of our communities.

    We dont need to fight trafficking out of religious obligation, but shared humanity. Use your cross as a rallying symbol if you must, but dont hand out free passes to church members because they show up once a week. If you want to seriously stop trafficking, start at home, in your community, with your own belief systems.ReplyCancel

    • Jenn - It not just a Christian thing. Muslims believe in the virgins in heaven waiting on them. Pagans believe in virginity and its purity. Most of man kind is obsessed with virginity. Some African nations paractice mutilating girls to keep virginity. The list goes on. The factor in this is not religion, it’s about standing up and doing something.ReplyCancel

  • charles fife - I would like to know more on how to stop thid dick crime against humanity!ReplyCancel

    • Susan Florence Ryland - This is horrific and the problem feels overwhelming!! What can a disability pensioner in Brisbane Australia contribute?ReplyCancel

      • Kendra - Susan, non of us can do what these brave heroes are doing, but we can support them in their mission! Donate, spread the word about their organization, share articles and stories about their work, petition your local movie theaters to bring this documentary to your community. Become educated on how this heinous industry operates, and do what you can to educate others. You can do all of this from the comfort and safety of your home. You can also help educate others on the porn industry, and how the images produced are a direct result of slavery. Regardless of what people believe about workers in the porn industry, the vast majority of them are drug addicted runaways, who are manipulated and coerced into selling their bodies to feed the addictions of others. These addictions lead to even more human trafficking. Porn is not a victimless habit. It relies and thrives on slavery. Educate yourself, then warn your neighbors. Knowledge is the best weapon against this most heinous evil. God bless you in your efforts!ReplyCancel

  • Jana Danzer - Be the person that changes comes someones day today with a smileReplyCancel

  • Zach Speck - Thank ya’ll so much for sharing this. Like the gentleman in the trailer said, “Good people don’t know how vast this problem is.” I knew that child prostitution was a problem, but had no idea that it was this big of a problem.

    Justice will come and will repay everyone according to their acts – whether they be good or bad. Rest assured.

    I will do my best to raise awareness and do what I can to help stop this. Again, thank ya’ll for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Laura Hodges - What a great cause. Let’s each do what we can. Additionally, stand up for women and children’s rights and privacy and take a stand against those corporations who’s policies endanger women and children. Namely Target with their corporate bathroom policy!ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - I wish I had known sooner and if there it’s another showing I’ll buy a ticket and encourages others to go…I’ll fight for these things…I’m already very aware of the truth of this world…but due to very personal experiences with my own sexual assaults and my daughter’s and my PTSD I’ll not attend personally… Please remember there are those more personally aware of this world’s evil and bear the scars of it on their very souls. They will fight but be patient if it’s hard for them….ReplyCancel

  • Anne Riggs - Is there any way I could buy a copy of this movie?ReplyCancel

    • Jmi - Anne, check with your local Anti-Sex Trafficking organizations, they should be able to arrange for another showing. I was able to see it in the Hawaii State Capital theater hosted by the Hawaii State Anti-Trafficking Coalition and Ho’ola Na’Pua (http://hoolanapua.org/).ReplyCancel

  • Michelle F Busath - My prayers for all people affected by these horrible truths. May we all be directed, through inspiration from a Loving Heavenly Father, to learn how we can stop this great evil and bring our Women and Children back into a loving, safe and healing environment.ReplyCancel

If you’re a mom, chances are good you don’t see a lot of “silent nights” during the holidays.

After all, YOU are the one responsible for creating most of the magic. There are parties, dinners, concerts, presents, food, neighbor gifts, Christmas cards…not to mention the normal demands of sports, recitals, homework, sick kids, and laundry. You’re up later than usual to get it all done, when what you really want to do is eat fudge, watch the Hallmark channel, and feel jolly.

But, can I be super honest? Some years all I feel is numb.  

Numb from the busyness. And sad–even a little guilty– that I don’t really “feel” Christmas (other than feeling “rage” because my Amazon Prime package took 3 days to arrive, or feeling “panicked” because I can’t find the Lego set I strategically hid 5 weeks ago).

We’re so worried about everyone else around us soaking in the spirit of Christ- but what about US? Do we let Christmas “act upon” us and miss an important connection? Do we just expect that Christmas will bring the feelings we long for? Just like every other part of the holidays, these moments (often) need to be CREATED. Because of a busy December schedule, we need to intentionally act  and create space for ourselves to have worshipful, reflective moments. 

As a semi-expert of Christmas cray cray, I’d like to share a personal suggestion for reclaiming your connection to Christ- your inner peace- during the holiday season. Your own “silent night,” if you will.

Reclaiming Your

 

The magic of Christmas is often tied to traditions, which include our family or friends. Which ALSO includes running to the store, organizing schedules, baking extra treats, and coordinating chaos. Oftentimes traditions- although joyful and/or necessary- are draining for the one orchestrating it all (raise your hand *here*).

But what if you create a tradition just for YOU? Something that fills your bucket. Something that doesn’t include other schedules or uncooperative kids. There are no parties, no extra baking, no surfing Pinterest for ideas. This tradition is just yours. Something that you know will bring you peace and help you reflect when you need it most.

I discovered the power of a personal tradition a few years ago, during a particularly busy Christmas season. It was two days before Christmas and I realized I hadn’t really felt at peace that entire month. So that night I sent everyone to bed (including my husband) and I grabbed my favorite Christmas book and a hot chocolate, and I curled up by my tree and read. That night became so special to me, completely changing the way I felt that season. I decided to repeat it each year. No matter how busy or chaotic the holidays get, I know I’ll get my time. Come Christmas Eve-Eve, I know I’ll have MY MOMENT to ponder, feel, reflect, and cry by the tree. It’s one of my favorite parts about Christmas. My own tradition.

During the chaos of the season, I look forward to that peaceful, private time. I know it’s coming, and that helps fuel me through the month.

Your personal tradition might look different than mine. You might gather special Christmas songs, stick them on a playlist, and go for a bundled walk. You might jump in the car and take a solitary drive as you listen to the Christmas story or a devotional. Maybe there’s a certain movie, or book that you know will bring the spirit. This is just about you and Jesus. Find what brings you peace, and stick with that tradition each year.

Creating a personal “come to Jesus” tradition for yourself will GREATLY enhance the peace of your Christmas season. We could all use less chaos and more inner stillness as we run around like frantic elves.  Try to intentionally create space for few more reflective, quiet moments. Even if your “silent nights” are few and far between.

(As a tribute to mothers who often don’t see many (but desperately need more) silent nights, we created this music video. Moms, in the words of Elder Holland, “You are doing better than you think you are!” Enjoy!  xo)

Check out our new Christmas album, “All is Bright”,
Available on iTunes: http://apple.co/1lx2C7E
Amazon http://amzn.to/1PCsFH9
DeseretBook http://bit.ly/1NFz0vp

Get your Christmas Concert tickets here!
Salt Lake City, Dec. 11th: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/mercy-river-8648902467?s=48492233
Sandy, Dec. 12th: https://sandy.utah.gov/government/community-events/christmas-concerts.html

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  • Brittany - Oh Brooke!! This is so beautiful and just what I needed after spending the night up with a sick Preschooler. Thank you. <3ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - Can I ask what was she making with the oranges and cinnamon sticks in the video about 3 minutes in? That looked so great! Lovely song ladies! <3ReplyCancel

Blog Post ImageMany of you know my family and I have been praying to get pregnant for a few years. That prayer was answered this past February. We were of course over the moon about the news, but my due date came fairly close to a Time Out for Women event in Phoenix (which we had been scheduled  for several months before the positive pregnancy test). Nevertheless, I trusted in the Lord’s timing. He knew my schedule. He knew I wanted to attend that event. As the event drew closer I often asked the Lord if I should go or stay home. My answer was never clear, so I decided to just move ahead. “I’m going to Phoenix,” I would tell Him, but then always added, “But PLEASE stop me if it’s not safe for my baby.”

The Tuesday morning before our Phoenix event I woke up with some pain in my abdomen. I tried to brush it off but as I hurried my kids out the door for school it continued to get worse. My doctor advised me to head to the hospital to be monitored.

Truth be told, I was a little bugged.

With the Phoenix event on Saturday and my nice, scheduled C-section the week after, my to-do list was rather long. My house was a disaster, my hospital bags were not packed. My 4 year old was still in PJs, and I was in my usual morning attire of sweats.

As I lay on the hospital bed the pains began to get worse. The nurses were initially baffled, and concluded I had been overdoing it and maybe torn some ligaments, which sort of increased my antsy-ness to get out of there. After 2 hours they were about to send me home, but decided to wait a little longer to get the OK from my doctor.

I was alone in the room, hoping the Tylenol I just took would kick in and release me from this inconvenience. But then I started getting worse. The pain was starting to take my breath away. After 2 extremely painful episodes the head L&D nurse came in and told me they would be doing the C section that day. I started sobbing. But my list! My ridiculous, unimportant list of things to do! And what about Phoenix? How would Whitney and Soni perform without me? I worried over the insane amount of work they would have to do to adjust because of the position I was putting them in. I quickly (and tearfully) called my husband to tell him we would be having a baby that day and to hurry to the hospital. My doctor was finishing up a delivery at another hospital but would come as soon as he could. The nurse spoke calmly–assuring me that they would both make it, and this was a happy time! (“Yes it is,” I sobbed.) As she was prepping me for an IV I had another spasm of pain, far worse than anything else I had experienced. And at the same time, my baby’s heart rate dropped.

This inspired nurse stopped what she was doing, grabbed the baby’s heart monitor, and then started calling for the other nurses. She started to give orders, then turned to me and said, “We need to get her out now. I’m so sorry, your husband won’t make it.” The following 5 minutes were a blur. Here and there I would catch phrases like, “Her uterus has completely ruptured,” and, “We’re losing the baby.” Being strapped to a bed as they ran me down the hall, all I could do was pray out loud. “Please Heavenly Father. Please help my baby.” Repeated over and over.

I have never been more terrified. With no time for epidurals or spinal blocks, the only option was to be put under. The thought of being alone and not knowing if she would be OK or not was almost too much.

IMG_8651The next thing I knew I was waking up in a room with my husband, parents, and sister. Our baby had made it, and was doing great. Over the next few days I would hear multiple stories–similar experiences with much more heartbreaking outcomes. Babies losing lives, even mothers losing lives. Nurses and doctors were constantly reminding me that my baby and I were both miracles. By the time we were able to finally bring her home from the NICU she had earned the nickname “the miracle baby.” And as I write this post she is happily snoring in the swing next to me.

I’ve thought about the many prayers I said during this entire experience, and the one that sticks out the most is my plea to, “Stop me if it’s not safe for my baby.” The answer to that prayer came in the form of pain. A literal physical pain that would take me to the hospital, putting me in the right spot at the right time. It most definitely stopped me from going to the Phoenix event, but even more it kept my baby safe. Had that rupture happened anywhere but the hospital we would have lost her.

IMG_8664I was reminded that oftentimes the Lord use our pain to answer our prayers. He uses the pain (what we don’t want) to put us in the right place to be blessed (what we DO want). More than ever, I understand the lyrics from our song Blessings:

What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near? What if trials of this life- the rain, the storm, the darkest nights- are your mercies in disguise?

(To purchase Blessings, click here.)

How grateful I am for a wise Heavenly Father who loves me enough to answer my prayers- even when it hurts a little.

 

Check out our new Christmas album, “All is Bright”,
Available on iTunes: http://apple.co/1lx2C7E
Amazon http://amzn.to/1PCsFH9
DeseretBook http://bit.ly/1NFz0vp

Get your Christmas Concert tickets here!
Salt Lake City, Dec. 11th: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/mercy-river-8648902467?s=48492233
Sandy, Dec. 12th: https://sandy.utah.gov/government/community-events/christmas-concerts.html

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  • Janell - I’ve loved following your story, and praying for you in your pregnancy! Reading this brought so many feelings of love and gratitude that our Heavenly Father loves us sooo much! Beautiful girl!ReplyCancel

  • Debrah - I love your song blessings… I had 9 miscarriages between my daughter and my baby there were times I was mad at the lord. But when I was finally able to conceive and carry my baby I was grateful.. I quickly realized why the lord had put me thru those miscarriages as we learned after my baby was born he had a heart defect that required surgery at 9 days old… So now when I listen to your song blessing I cry cause I know he needed me to wait til my kids were old enough to handle my special babyReplyCancel

  • Judy Cook - so very happy for you and the beautiful little miracle baby! How blessed we are for having a Father in Heaven who blesses us in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your story and for the beautiful music you share with all of us!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - What a beautiful and precious moment taught at such turbulent times. I’m so grateful that she is here! I’m so grateful that you are safe too. You and that sweet baby girl have been watched over with such love. I love the song Blessings too. All of this made me weep. <3ReplyCancel

  • Diane - Thank you for sharing your story. As I read it, my little one is also in the swing nearby, a miracle daughter also born following a uterine rupture just weeks ago. I, too, have been told multiple times how lucky we both are. I have always loved the song Blessings, but when I heard it the first time after coming home from the hospital, I wept for a whole new reason. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - I am so grateful that you and your sweet li’l girl are safe. Praise Heavenly Father for His tender mercies! 🙂
    “Blessings” is one of my favourite songs. I actually didn’t know you guys had a version. Will check that out for sure! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Pauli Cagle - Thanks for sharing your sweet story. I’m so glam that all turned out well and I sure hope that someday I will get to meet this sweet little one of yours.ReplyCancel

  • Lydia Michael - I am so happy that you and your beautiful angel were where you were supposed to be. I was at the Phoenix TOFW and Mercy River did a great job performing. We missed you though and thankful that you were blessed by our Father in Heaven. Congratulations!

    Love your music and singing by the way!ReplyCancel

  • Rayna Haws - Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story! Just four and a half months ago I had a very similar experience where my uterus ruptured and I had an emergency c-section. I had a nurse that listened to the holy ghost and saved our lives. My baby and I are both home and doing great now, but it is such a miracle that we are both alive and doing well. There were so many tender mercies that happened that allowed both my baby and I to be alive and well and be here on this earth. I love how the Lord answers prayers in ways that are significant to us. Thank you again for sharing your story. I am so grateful that you and your precious angel are doing well!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Rogers - In 1973, we lost my only sister, and her sweet baby boy, to her uterus rupturing. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I am so thankful that all is well with you and your sweet little one!ReplyCancel