Marla rolled onto her back and looked through the stretching pine branches above her at the feathery clouds. She breathed deeply of the mountain air and tried to capture the sounds, and the smells all at the same time.
“Come on, Marla,” her father called as he began pulling tent stakes out of the ground. “Time to pack up.”
“How come camping trips never last long enough?” his daughter asked.
“I’ve always wondered that myself,” Dad replied, “but they do end and I need your help.”
“Just five more minutes?” Marla pleaded. “I want to be able to remember it all winter long.”
Dad stopped his packing and looked up to where Marla stared. “You should soon be helping your mother with the dishes,” he reminded her.
“Please,” Marla asked again.
“Well, all right, if I may join you for a minute.”
“Sure,” Marla agreed and moved to one side of the blanket to make room.
“What do you see up there?” her father asked as he lay down beside her.
“Pine trees with stickly green needles, a blue sky with white clouds and singing birds swooping through it all,” Marla answered, sighing.
“It’s a miracle,” Dad said.
“What do you mean?” Marla looked at her father.
“Well, look around us. It’s all part of a big plan. Everything functions separately, yet works together to make a whole big universe.”
Marla thought about that as she watched clouds floating like ships in the blue sky. Finally she spoke, “Yes, I guess it is a kind of miracle. A great miracle, really. But it all happens so quietly around us that we usually forget how miraculous the plan is.”
Marla felt as though her mind would burst with so many beautiful thoughts and sights and sounds being experienced at once.
“What do you think the greatest miracle in the world is?” Dad asked.
“That’s easy,” Marla answered, “the sky. Look how it goes on and on forever, always changing. Today it’s blue, but some days it’s white or gray. Snow and rain fall from it and at night the stars are suspended in it.”
“But is it Heavenly Father’s greatest miracle?” Dad asked.
Marla thought for a minute. “I don’t know.”
“Well, our five minutes have passed. You think about it while we pack, and when you have an answer, let’s talk about it again.”
“All right,” Marla agreed, helping Dad fold the blankets.
Soon they were back home and settled, but Marla didn’t forget what she and Dad had talked about on their camping trip. As she walked to and from school each day she watched for miracles. Everything seemed like a miracle. Even cars and airplanes were man-made miracles. But she couldn’t decide what the greatest miracle was.
Then one day she noticed that the leaves were changing colors on the trees. She was so excited that she could hardly wait to tell Dad. Hurriedly she ran the rest of the way home.
“Mother! Mother! I know what the greatest miracle is,” she cried, rushing into the kitchen. “Where’s Dad? I want to see if I’ve guessed right.”
“He’s in the backyard,” Mother answered.
Marla dropped her books down on the table. “I’ve been looking for three weeks, but now I’ve got it, and I’m going to tell Dad.”
“Calm down,” Mother cautioned, “or he won’t be able to understand a word you say!”
“I know what the greatest miracle is,” Marla declared without even waiting for Dad to say hello. “It’s the seasons, isn’t it—the way the leaves change colors and then the snows and then the way everything comes to life again? That’s the greatest miracle.”
Dad smiled. “That is a great miracle, probably one of the greater miracles, but I don’t think it’s the greatest,” he said.
“But there are so many miracles!” Marla protested.
Dad gave Marla a hug. “I’m proud of you for still thinking about miracles. You keep looking and you’ll find the right answer,” he assured her.
Now Marla was more determined than ever. She was curious to know what could possibly be a greater miracle than the sky or the seasons. So the next Saturday she looked extra hard.
“Don’t bother me, Snowy,” she said to her cat as it brushed her legs for attention. “I’m looking for a great miracle.” But as she spoke, she noticed that Snowy wasn’t trying to play. The cat darted across the patio and into the window well so Marla followed her. “Oh, my goodness, Snowy!” she exclaimed, dropping to her knees to look more closely at what she saw. “You have some brand new kittens! They must have been born last night.”
Marla watched with a quiet kind of excitement as Snowy licked and fed her kittens.
“Five little kittens and all of them just like you,” Marla whispered as one furry ball tried to open its eyes.
Just then Dad came out of the house. “Look!” Marla whispered. “I know this must be it.”
Dad leaned over the window well and peered in, smiling.
“Birth,” he said, “is part of the miracle. But there’s another very important part.”
“But what can be more miraculous than new life? I remember when little Jason was born. One day we didn’t have a Jason and the next day we did. That has to be the miracle.”
“It is, it really is,” Dad said. “But the other part of the miracle is even greater. And you are getting very, very close to it.”
“How close?” Marla asked.
“Very close!” Dad answered, smiling.
Marla’s face drew into a questioning frown, then suddenly eased into a wide smile. “I know!” she exclaimed. “Not only are we born but we’ll go on living forever—all of us will.”
“Yes,” Dad agreed, “but now can you guess what the rest of the miracle is?”
“I think I know,” Marla said, her eyes sparkling with wonder at her discovery of the rest of the greatest of all miracles. “We are Heavenly Father’s spirit children. Is that it?”
“That’s it!” Dad said, hugging Marla close to him. “And just as you and Jason are our earthly children, we are His heavenly ones. You once lived with Him like you do with you mother and me now, and together we can all live with Him again. That is the greatest miracle of all.”
Marla felt very satisfied and happy. It had been exciting to discover what the greatest miracle is, but at the same time she had a strange feeling that she had really known about it all along.