Sunday, September 27, 2009

Scripture Study Breakthrough

I've been reading the scriptures in a way that really works for me and I wanted to share it.

I've always loved the scriptures – but I've often struggled to find methods of scripture study that really work for me. I've gone through periods where I've delved into the scriptures by topic, times where I've read different standard works from beginning to end and phases where I've just opened the scriptures and read whatever caught my eye. I've “feasted” on the scriptures at times (like when I was a missionary and had dedicated scripture study time each morning or when I used to ride the train to work and had a ½ hour to read during the commute) and I've “snacked” on the scriptures other times in my life (like when I had 5 preschoolers including two newborns and could barely keep my eyes open to read a verse or two every few days). But until lately, I never really hit on anything that consistently made me look forward to scripture reading.

As I talked to my friend April one day, the topic of scripture study came up. She talked about the scriptures with an excitement and animation that I hadn't seen before. Her deep love for the scriptures shown threw as she talked about how much she uses them to really guide her life. As I listened to April, I realized my relationship with the scriptures wasn't nearly as deep and meaningful as I'd like it to be. I asked her a little more about HOW she read the scriptures – realizing that my methods were pretty stale and that I needed to freshen things up a bit. April explained that she liked to read the scriptures looking for specific inspiration and answers the Lord wanted to give her that day. She said she was currently reading the Book of Mormon specifically looking for ways she could be a better mother. At first, her idea seemed a little weird to me. Other than that scripture about the mothers of the Stripling Warriors, were there any scriptures in the whole Book of Mormon about motherhood? April explained that she'd found that there's advice and answers for just about anything in the scriptures if you read them prayerfully and with an open mind.

We've all been told we should “liken the scriptures” unto ourselves, that we should seek out personal revelation through the words of God in the scriptures. But do we really search the scriptures for personal answers? As we deal with the daily dilemas of our lives, do we look in the “instruction book” of the scriptures as often as we should? When we do read the scriptures, do we just sort of plow on through, filling our daily quota of a number of minutes or a number of pages? Or do we earnestly look for the personalized messages the Lord wants to convey to us that day?

My little talk with April left me with a desire to truly fall in love with the scriptures. It caused me to shift my paradigm of scripture study and to strive to really use the scriptures as a conduit for the Lord's personal messages to me. I found that if I would kneel and pray before reading the scriptures, asking the Lord to tell me what He wanted to tell me that day as I read the scriptures, I was able to find a message from Him every day – yes EVERY DAY. I found that by reading until I got my message from the Lord for the day rather than reading a certain number of minutes or pages made my reading much less routine and much more meaningful. I also found that if I WROTE DOWN the little nudges and promptings I received in a little book that I keep with my scriptures, it helped to solidify what I was receiving.

Since adopting this new method of scriptures reading – pray, read until I find something, write it down – I feel so much more open to inspiration. Sometimes I find big answers to things that are on my mind as I read the scriptures. Sometimes I find simple reminders of things I know but haven't been conscientious about lately. Sometimes I find a pat on the back. Sometimes a find a great story that will help me explain something important to my children. Often I get a message that helps me see how I can be a better friend, sister, daughter or wife. And surprise, surprise, very often, I find messages about how to mother my children. The scriptures are actually full of advice and help for mothers - as well as advice that is tailored to every role we need help with in our lives!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You just never know...

...when my dear brother Jonah will show up. I came home from PTA last Thursday night and found this in my garage:

Jonah stopped by to "borrow our garage" so he could change the axle on his grease car. Most people stop at changing tires but Jo can go ahead and change all sorts of serious things in cars - most of which I've never even heard of. Jared and Isaac pitched in on the project and quickly found out that that car should be called a grease car whether it uses old vegetable oil for fuel or not - seriously dirty stuff! I wish you could see better in this photo how totally and completely BLACK these guys were.

Jo and Aja and kids have been with us for a few days now and we're drinking them in before they head up to Washington State to live there for a while. We miss having these guys as our neighbors and we're glad they won't be going quite as far as New Zealand for the next phase of their adventures!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Narrows

I've always wanted to do the Narrows in Zion National Park and I finally got my wish. Saturday before last, we decided spur-of-the-moment to to head up to Zion after Isaac's soccer game. We did one of our favorite easy hikes at the Temple of Shinawava and when we got to the end of the paved trail on a hot hot day, that cool cool water of the Virgin River looked very enticing and we decided to head on up the river and into the Narrows.

Everyone happened to be wearing old-ish shoes that could get wet and and ruined if need be and we were all up for an adventure. I read on a website that the Narrows hike is like walking on slimy bowling balls - and that proved to be a pretty accurate description. But once we found some cast-off walking sticks and got used to the challenging footing, we all did pretty well. The kids were pretty excited about the novelty of hiking in water (at least until their teeth were chattering uncontrollably - that's some COLD water) and we all loved the unique beauty of the river-carved and beautifully-colored walls of rock that surrounded us. Mostly the water was only up to our knees but there was one spot where it got up to my waist and the twins got to do a little swimming.
See Silas swimming?


Liza's one tough little hiker - didn't complain once, even when she
almost got swept away when she tried to cross at a deep, fast part of the river.

See how narrow it gets? Nothing like those beautiful red walls stretching up
and making the sky small up above! See Oliver and Liza getting a cold at this point?
Nothing a few jumping jacks can't fix - Jared had them doing aerobics
to warm them up and they got lots of encouraging comments from hikers passing by.
It's so cool to look up and see those rocks almost coming together

What a fun day!

Wow, that's a gorgeous place! We only went a couple miles up into the Narrows so we'll have to do the whole 16 miles one of these days. But not for a while. Oliver told me about 20 times during the last shivering part of the hike, "next time, wets stay on the path and not walk in this cold water anymore, ok?" All the kids are such good hikers and it's so fun to have them all big enough that we can enjoy some great adventures with them!

As we were leaving the park after our hike, the lighting was gorgeous - everything really came to life and took on extra beauty in that evening light. Here's my favorite shot at the end of the day:

Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC for Tal and Anita's Wedding

What a trip we had! My brother Tal married the fabulous Anita this last Tuesday in the Manhattan Temple in New York City (the place where they met and where so many of their friends are - plus it was the half-way point between SLC where my parents are and Switzerland where Anita's family lives).

The travel distance and nature of the wedding festivities led to everyone leaving their kids at home and we could all barely contain our excitement at being able to enjoy an adults-only weekend of fun in the Big Apple - a city we all love dearly (many of us have lived there - starting with my dad who served his mission there - and all of us have spent significant time there over the years).

Here are the highlights of the trip:
  • We wandered through endlessly interesting (and wonderfully distinct) neighborhoods where the architecture and people-watching and street entertainment was better than what you get at most fine museums and shows.
  • We ate fabulous food in picturesque spots - from beautiful fancy restaurants to lip-smacking bagel or falafel joints.
  • We rode subways and buses and walked and walked and walked - always so much to see and experience even when in transit.
  • We saw what is now one of my all-time favorite Broadway shows - In the Heights - and enjoyed the excitement of Times Square at midnight.
  • We went running in Central Park
  • We checked out some of my favorite art at the Met.
  • Jared, Saydi's husband Jeff and my brother Jonah "geeked out" over all the cool airplanes and equipment on an old aircraft carrier made into a museum - the USS Intrepid.
  • We had a fancy brunch with Jared's sister Michelle who was in town with some friends and got to meet up with one of Jared's best friends from his MIT fraternity and his family.
  • We celebrated with just Anita's family the night before the wedding - lovely dinner in a garden near the place Tal's been living for the last while - really enjoyed getting to know her wonderful parents and siblings.
  • We talked and laughed together until late at night at the great accommodations my brother Noah and his wife Kristi (who live in the city) set up for us (a whole brownstone belonging to some of their friends who were out of town).
My photographer siblings have way more - and way better - photos than I do - but here are some of the highlights of our wanderings around NYC from my little point-and-shoot:

After seeing "In the Heights"

Times Square - all four sisters reunited!
It's been so long since we've all been here together.
Jackson Pollock at the Met - had to take this for the kids -
we studied his work in our little art class
The roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - cool organic sculpture, city skyline, and Saydi

Washington Square in Greenwich Village - art, music, great food, interesting people all around
on the USS Intrepid

taking the bus to the wedding

By far the biggest and best part of the trip was Tal and Anita's wedding day (which was also me and Jared's 11th wedding anniversary). We enjoyed a truly perfect wedding day with Tal and Anita complete with the sweet solemnity of their temple ceremony, photos in Central Park with ideal weather and lovely backdrops, and a classy ring ceremony and reception. Anita looked truly gorgeous in a wedding gown that seemed to be made for her and with Tal's height (and good looks) and Anita's beauty along with an enterage of photographers (I've got a lot of siblings whose "third arm" is their fancy big black camera), we ended up with a lot of tourists wondering out loud who this famous couple was.

At this lovely restaurant in Brooklyn, Tal and Anita treated us to a beautiful evening including a great mixture of scripture readings, music, poetry, amazing food, laughs over photos of them growing up, and heart-felt toasts from such a diversity of friends and relatives. It was wonderful to be with loved ones and to get to know Anita better through her wonderful family and her devoted friends. I'm so grateful to have Anita as a new sister!

How many wedding photos at the temple have taxis and buses in them? Truly unique.

Walking from the Temple to Central Park
All the Eyres - even without all the grandkids, we're still a pretty big group!

If you want to see some of the great photos caught by some of the more professional photographers at the wedding, here are Eva's photos (Eva's our Bulgarian "sister" - I just had to bring her back from my mission with me - and an amazing photographer). I'll link to Shawni, Saydi and Josh's stuff when they post theirs. With 4 professional photographers who know and love them, I think Tal and Anita will have the most beautifully documented wedding ever!

It was so nice to have such a beautiful anniversary day all planned out for us so we could just go along and enjoy. We got to relive our own wedding through Tal and Anita's. Here we are, enjoying their day while remembering our own 11 years ago:

Lest this post come off as entirely and unrealistically exuberant, I do have to say that we had some serious logistical issues that caused more stress than we care to dwell on - messed up flights causing waiting time when we could least afford it, a cab driver who mysteriously couldn't find the airport until we found directions for him, a wonderful babysitter whose sister is dying of cancer and took a turn for the worse while we were gone causing a little scrambling for babysitting to cover the end of the trip, so many things turning out to be so expensive, the usual issues in trying to coordinate schedules with 20 other people who you really want to be with but who have a variety of different things they really want to do...But it really was a wonderful trip and I wish I could go back and do it all over again!

One Last Day at Bear Lake

Jonah and Aja's daughter Ana got baptized right on her birthday (August 29th) in Bear Lake and while that 7-hour drive was daunting, we just had to be there to enjoy this wonderful event and and say goodbye to Bear Lake for the year. There's nothing like a baptism in the lake - the calm beauty of the early morning lake colors, the Spirit that comes of being right in nature. We were so glad we made the trip.

Wrapped in the "comforter" that Ana's grandma gave her to help her understand the Holy Ghost

Here's our last Bear Lake sunset for the year

A big bonus of the trip was spending Sunday afternoon with some dear friends from Boston and enjoying great connections between adults and kids alike. The Ransoms and Topphams are such wonderful people and there's nothing like finding whole families of people that "click" so nicely with our whole family. We'll plan another get-together soon. Who would have ever guessed all those years ago in Boston when we knew these people as single people, then as young married couples, that we'd all somehow converge in Alpine Utah some day with 14 kids between us!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My New Haircut

So I got my hair cut - a lot - I had the hairdresser chop off maybe 8 inches or more and I sat there in that chair surrounded by hair and felt very pleased about the whole thing. Then I went and picked up the twins at preschool and was excited to see their reaction. They didn't notice - not right at first - and not ever! Even after I said "Hey guys, do you notice anything different about me?" and pointed at my hair, they just looked at me with puzzled expressions on their faces. Oh well! The big kids all noticed right when they walked in the door after school and Eliza was pleased as punch that she and I now have the same length of hair so we took this picture together (I need to take another one with her because I've mostly been styling it curly and Eliza thinks we're "totally twins" when my hair's curly now).

It has been heavenly to be able to take short showers and only have to spend about 30 seconds brushing out my hair after a shower. It has been so nice to run a little curling potion (or whatever this stuff is called) through my hair and let it dry and have it dry pretty nice most of the time. Why didn't I do this years ago?

Photo Album Magic

The other day the twins pulled out an old photo album and wanted to look at it with me. We looked at all these great photos of Ashton and Isaac when they were younger than the twins and photos of Eliza's birth. The twins were delighted to see their big brothers and sister as babies.

After school, the twins were excited to show this photo album to the big kids as well. As we sat snuggled together on the couch, looking at photo after photo of things like Ashton and Isaac playing super heroes together and laughing with brownies all over their faces and glowing as they met their new baby sister, there was a spirit of love and family togetherness and joy that was so strong. The big kids loved seeing their former selves as such little, cute babies and toddlers. The love and fun that shone through in so many of the photos seemed to seep out into our present life as I told them stories about the things they used to like to do together and how much I loved them back then and how very much I love them now.

After our little photo album session, the tone in our home was different all evening. I overheard Ashton and Isaac (who have been bugging each other and being rather mean to each other entirely too much lately) laughing and talking and playing together so nicely. I saw Eliza walk in on their play and heard them invite her to join in. Everyone seemed to be looking at each other a little differently - and remembering how much they really do enjoy each other's company.

That photo album and that 1/2 hour on the couch turned out to be magic.

Really looking at ourselves - as we were and as we are - can be so powerful in so many ways. I'm so grateful I took all those pictures and I'm going to pull out those photo albums more often!

Cascade Falls

Weekend before last we decided to get out of this heat and explore some new places. We went in the mountains above Cedar City - a gorgeous drive - and drank in the beauty and coolness of a new favorite spot called Cascade Falls. The views along the hike were breathtaking and it felt so good to need a sweatshirt!

After driving over an hour and having a hard time finding the trailhead we were looking for, we were pretty disappointed to find a "danger - trail closed" sign when we finally found the trail. But Jared went up ahead and found out that there was just a minor little wash-out in one spot of the trail so we forged on. The possibility of "danger" thoroughly thrilled the twins. Around every corner, they kept saying "is there danger here?" in these excited voices. We've definitely got some thrill-seekers in these little boys of ours!

We finished off the day by going to a pre-show at the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City (the kids aren't quite ready for a full show but the free "Greenshow" they do there each night with acrobats and singing and dancing was just the right thing for them). Oliver was particularly taken with the music and all the kids were delighted by the old English fare we sampled - jam tarts and meat pies - they were so excited about it. They also loved seeing the displays of costumes and photos from different Shakespeare plays and it was fun to teach them a bit about Shakespeare as I reached way back into my high school and college English days.

Beauty and culture always makes me happy. This was a great day. There's nothing like getting out and exploring new places and exposing the kids to exciting new things to make me fall in love with my family and the beauty and variety of the world all over again.


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