This months Inspiring Woman is my beautiful cousin LaRee! She has had a life full of miracles and surprises. I look up to her so much and hope that one day I can be the kind of mother she is. She loves so deeply and relies on the Lord with unshakable faith. Here is her story...
I grew up in Orem, Utah. After graduating from Orem High I attended my freshman year at Utah Valley University. That is where I met Travis, he had just returned from serving a mission in Santiago, Chile. We dated for almost a year before we were married and sealed right before I turned twenty years old. We have anything but a practical life.
I decided to get my cosmetology license in hopes of having a well paying job to put Travis through the remainder of his schooling. Plus, I have always loved doing hair and makeup. I graduated very quickly, and I had a job lined up after graduation at a Salon. I began to grow a clientele and was making a descent salary. One Sunday we attended a BYU devotional and we were both overwhelmed with a strong impression that we needed to start a family right away. We had the thought enter our minds that it might be hard for us to have children. Taking this very seriously we made it a priority. I got pregnant pretty quickly, easing our thoughts and concerns of infertility. Travis was busy with school and basketball. He started to stand out and get a lot of attention in the media his junior and senior years playing Basketball for BYU. His senior year he was invited to the Portsmouth invitational in St. Thomas. I was unable to attend because I had just given birth to our first son Ryder. He played really well and was named MVP of the tournament. He began getting lots of phone calls and letters from agents offering to represent him in the NBA draft of 2003. He was then drafted number 37 of the 2003 NBA draft to the Atlanta Hawks. We moved to Atlanta shortly after he had signed his NBA contract.
It was exciting to move to Atlanta. Our son Ryder had his first birthday there. I had never lived outside of Utah and was excited to have that amazing opportunity to experience living in the south of the United States. I was blown away by the charm and beauty that Atalanta had to offer. Beautiful estates with such mature over grown trees. It was breathtaking especially in the fall and spring. I had hard days being away from family and friends, but the most amazing thing about being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that you can find friends all over the world. One common thing brings us together is the perfect love of of our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. The gospel is an anchor that unites, bonds, builds, and strengthens friendships and relationships with those seeking to do his work, and improve their lives. No matter the circumstances His Gospel is an open invitation to all to come unto him, learn of Him and be made whole through His atonement. I'm so grateful for the Gospel and the blessing it has been in my life. It has been a secure anchor and shield when the winds have blown and storms have moved over me. In hard times I have always turned to the Lord and my burdens have been lightened and my loads have been made easier. I am so thankful for my Father in Heaven and his perfect love and that he is a merciful compassionate God. So compassionate, He gave his only begotten son, so that each one of us can be forgiven, comforted, and blessed by Jesus Christ's Atonement. I'm so grateful for my Savior and his perfect obedience to do the will of his Father. All of these miraculous events happened because of love.
Travis's contract came to an end. In negotiations his agent was able to get an outstanding offer from a team in Victoria, Spain. The offer was hard to turn down. We packed our bags and we headed on a flight to start a new adventure in Spain. It was a bit of a culture shock coming from Atlanta to beautiful Vitoria. The kisses on the cheeks were hard to get used to. Being American and coming from a family where we were not very affection, we value our personal space. The food was very different, the cars, buildings, shopping, siestas, fashion, and slower pace of life. When I first got there I was a bit arrogant, thinking that it was silly that they closed everything down in the middle of the day to nap or rest. As I lived there longer I began to see the beauty and grew a deep respect for their culture and tradition. It was nice that families could come home in the middle of the day from work or school to rest or spend time together. I also learned to appreciate the warm greeting of the two kisses on the cheeks. It was very kind and respectful and it broke walls down of coldness or insecurity instantly. After all, in my religion, kissing on the cheek was like going to first base... Just kidding!! But it is unusual to kiss a complete stranger where I come from.
My husband was very busy and rarely was able to attend church with me. It was challenging going with my 1 year old son and not speaking any Spanish. Luckily there was an Elder serving in that area. He was an angel. He is still the missionary who has left an everlasting impression on me. Elder Bateman would translate the meeting in English with a head set and microphone. All while playing the piano and blessing and passing the sacrament. Sometimes he even ended up giving a talk or conducting because people did not show up. A missionary on a mission to serve the Lord. People at church were very quiet and not as friendly as they were in Atlanta. But there was the kindest lady named Maria Jesus. She just smiled and kissed me on both of my cheeks and she adored Ryder. She always made me feel welcome. Her eyes shined like the sun, with the light of Christ.
We had been in Spain for 2 years with no luck of getting pregnant for the second time. We decided to see a fertility specialist. We soon learned that we had infertility issues. It came as a shock because we were able to get pregnant so quickly with her first child, we almost didn't believe the news. Our first son Ryder was a complete medical miracle. We then realized the only way to have more children would be with fertility treatments. We began the process of in vitro fertilization immediately. It was a horrible experience, I was given the wrong injections several times that caused hyper stimulation. I ended up in the hospital with complications and difficulty breathing. It was very scary. Travis was out of the country playing in Russia and was not given permission to fly home to take care of Ryder and I. Luckily Travis' sister Heather was able to come to the rescue with a phone calls notice and she was there the next day to care for Ryder. I am so thankful for her and her sacrifice. To make this long story short the IvF was unsuccessful. My dearest friend I made in Vitoria named Teresa was always serving me and helping me. Maybe it was out of pity or perhaps she was an answer to all of my prayers. Although she wasn't the same religion as I, we had similar values and characteristics. To this day, I love her like a sister. I'm so thankful for her friendship. She is beautiful in every way. I am so grateful to have met her in a time of life when I needed a friend so desperately. After Trav's contract was up in Vitoria we returned to Utah and tried another Ivf full cycle in LA. It was successful! We packed up, and set out on a new basketball journey to Moscow, Russia. Shortly after we arrived I had a miscarriage. Starting all over with a new country, apartment, language, culture and life I really struggled with the miscarriage on top of all of the uncertain things in life. I did not have a friend in literally thousands and thousands of miles. My husband was traveling 2-3 times a week out of Russia. He was gone 6 -8 hrs a day in the car to get to his practices twice a day. He sacrificed living closer to his practices for me and our family so that we could move in an expat community. He was sometime in the car 2 hrs each way. He is so unselfish and thoughtful, I love my husband.
I was utterly alone. There were times where I thought if I did not have Ryder I would have died of a broken heart. Ryder was my side kick, my buddy, best friend, and he was the sweetest child. I was so thankful for him and that God had given him to me before we took off on the basketball adventures. One night after Ryder had gone to bed, I began to search the scriptures with tears streaming down my face and with words of my prayer crying out of my heart and mouth. I pleaded with my Father in Heaven for an answer, or at least a reason for my suffering. I asked for peace and comfort. I even asked if He cared or was he even aware of me? I came across Mathew 11:28-30. I was overcome with a tremendous feeling of peace and comfort. I had a very strong impression that I was there to do some work and help His children in Russia. I also felt a strong feeling of love and that he was aware of me and wanted me to not weep or feel sorry for myself. My trial was small and it was not going to be forever. I was prompted through the Holy Ghost to begin searching the statistics of orphaned children and statistics of children with special needs in Russia. Earlier that day I had seen an episode of Oprah where kids were being sold into slavery in Africa for 20 dollars. It haunted me. 5 year olds were sold to work for fisherman. They were sent to retrieve nets out of the ocean and many of them could not swim. They would get caught in the nets and drown. The masters would just go replace them with another child sold by their parents for 20 dollars. It still haunts me even writing about it. It hurts my soul to think of this. But it also moved me and it still does today. I went into action with a crazy idea to start a children's foundation to help children around the world. I would start right there in Moscow, Russia and hopefully be able to help in other parts of the world.
My husband and I always had a desire to adopt so we began to fill the adoption papers out when Ryder was four. As we were just about to mail them off I found out that I was pregnant. No fertility treatment just an answered prayer and a miracle from our loving Father in Heaven. It's crazy how the Lord works. He refines us, He sometimes has to test and try us so we can be the instrument or tool He needs to build up His kingdom. I'm so humbled by His perfect plan of happiness. It is real and I testify of it. I know our Father in Heaven loves each one of us and Christ lives. He atoned for our sins and he is the prince of peace. The atonement is real and it is powerful, it's miraculous. I have seen it change lives, comfort the heartbroken, and soften the hardest of hearts and allow forgiveness and mercy to take place. It is beautiful and glorious.
Shortly After my pregnancy my husband's Achilles ruptured during a game, we were sent home to Utah for an emergency surgery. While we were home we were approached by a nice gentleman named Eric. He worked for nature sunshine. He mentioned that his company was looking for a foundation to sponsor and they wanted the foundation to be doing work in Russia. It was a perfect match and they became our founding sponsor. We know it was another miracle and a stepping stone to help the children in Russia. We returned to Russia with funding and began to do humanitarian work with the funds from Natures Sunshine. We lived in Moscow Russia for 4 years. It was amazing and beautiful. I love the people and culture. I'm truly blessed for the experiences I had and people I met there. Because of the foundation a sweet little boy named Artem with liver failure was able to get a liver transplant and is healthy and happy. The impact of the foundation today.
In no way do I want to take credit for the impact. I truly believe it has been Heavenly Father's work and my husband and I were instruments and tools that helped the miracles take place.
Since starting the the foundation we have been blessed with 2 more healthy boys and a beautiful daughter through adoption. We have four beautiful children who are miracles and gifts from God. I love being a mother and a wife, I love my husband with all of my heart, and I love my kids deeply. I am so blessed and I count my blessing daily. I truly see the blessings through the growth of overcoming obstacles and challenges. With the Lord all things are possible.
When you have promptings don't stay in neutral get moving into action and be an instrument and you will allow miracles to take place!!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, LaRee. You are truly inspirational. Love you!