Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Flying Home

Saturday was an eventful day for all of us.  

Savannah crammed a week's worth of stuff into 48 hours so that she could hurry and catch a flight home from SLC late Saturday afternoon.  She packed and cleaned her dorm room, said goodbye to her best friend and roommate, wrote a 6-page American Heritage paper and a14-page Anthropology paper, took three finals, moved all of her stuff into a friend's apartment for a week until she gets back and moves it all into a new dorm room for the spring/summer, and then took a bus to a train to her cousin's car to get to the airport two hours before her flight.  

In January, we didn't have an exact date when Savannah's finals would be over for the semester, so we got a stand-by ticket from Craig's brother.  Savannah has never flown non-rev before.  It's an ordeal for me when I've tried it in the past, and as grateful as we always are to fly for free, I almost never make it through a stand-by day in the airport without shedding a few tears of frustration.  It's an adventure to fly without a definite plan, so I tried to prepare Savannah to be flexible, patient, and willing to sleep in an airport.   

Savannah had two route options Saturday afternoon.  One from SLC to PHX to DAL.  One from SLC to DEN to DAL.  Both SLC flights left at close to the same time, but there were very few seats available on either flight and lots of wait-listed passengers.  Things weren't looking very hopeful.  She didn't make the DEN flight, but was able to get on the PHX flight.  And fortunately a cute couple from our ward was traveling back home from SLC on that same flight, so we all relaxed a little knowing that she was in good company, and said a quick prayer for tiny tender mercies.  While Savannah flew to PHX, Craig scrambled around on the SW website and tried to find another option in case the PHX to DAL flight didn't work out.  He found a flight from PHX to AUS that was wide open, but leaving very close to the time her SLC flight would arrive.  It would be really close, and Craig would have to drive 3 1/2 hours to AUS to get there in time to meet her flight, but the chances of getting on that one looked so much better than the PHX to DAL flight.  

Craig gathered a few necessities and left to drive to AUS while I stayed home and watched the website to track Savannah's PHX flight so that I could call her as soon as she landed and redirect her to the AUS flight.  An hour later, her flight landed, Savannah texted, and I gave her the details.  I told her to go to the first available and occupied SW counter, and tell the gate attendant what she was trying to do, and have them get her on whichever of the two flights she could make.  We stopped texting while she deplaned and I waited to hear from her.  


For 15 mintues.  

And I watched the website as the PHX to AUS flight went from "ON TIME" to "IN FLIGHT" status.  I said another prayer that she had gotten on that flight because the thought of my 18-yr old sleeping in the PHX airport was making me nauseous.  

And then a text finally came:

Craig was only about an hour south of Dallas so he turned around and drove straight to the airport, where he waited through a torrential thunder/lightning/hail storm for Savannah's flight to arrive.  The rain continued and Savannah's flight (along with all the others that flew into Love Field that night) had to fly around and wait to land until the clouds parted and the rain stopped.  Twenty minutes late, but who even cared at that point, her flight landed, people got off, and wet bags came down the carousel.  Craig was waiting at Baggage Claim to meet her.  
I don't think there's ever been a happier little Mouse or a more relieved Dad that things all worked out better than we hoped.  We thanked the cute couple from our ward who happened to be sitting just across the aisle from her on the second flight to DAL.  Craig drove straight to In-n-Out for a hamburger for a very hungry little traveler, and then drove home!  

Savannah had lots of great stories to tell about people at the desk who were waiting for her flight to land so she could hop on that PHX to DAL flight, and the flight attendant who said, "Oh, you must be Savannah!," and the cute grandpa sitting in the 2nd row of the plane who had been saving the seat next to him for someone wearing a BYU T-shirt, and how they talked the whole way to DAL and he had a carry-on full of PHX oranges that he shared with her.  How grateful I am for kind people who are available when I am not.  Because lately there are a lot of times when I'm not anymore.  

Even writing about this a few days later, the whole experience still feels pretty miraculous.  And once again, we are all amazed the charmed life this girl leads.  We are so grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves all of us, and who pours out blessings in unexpectedly large and small ways.  And we're SUPER grateful that Savannah is home for a whole week!   

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Scripture Power

My amazing friend, Jeanette taught Relief Society today on the Power of the Word.

I had no idea until she finished teaching, how much I needed this lesson.  I've been trying for weeks to have consistent confidence with a challenging new calling, to have a plan and a preparation process that works, and to be able to deliver an articulate and meaningful lesson reflective of the work that has gone into it.  So far, in the last four months of teaching, I have felt that way about only TWO of my lessons.  There are definitely good things about them each week, but I can't ever manage to get everything right.  There always seems to be something lacking every week.  Maybe that's just because I'm a perfectionist, or because I'm impossibly critical of myself, or because my knowledge of the scriptures is pretty inadequate...or maybe I'm exactly right about my evaluation of my teaching and there's something else I can do. 

I came home from Church today and instead of dissecting another one of my hopelessly flawed lessons, I decided to re-read the RS lesson Jeanette taught.  

Here's what I read...
The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.” 
"Immerse yourselves in the scriptures.  Search them diligently.  Feast upon the words of Christ.  Learn the doctrine.  Master the principles that are found therein.  There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling." 
"When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow.
"...but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." - Joshua 1:8 
And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.”  - Matt 1:37
"Feast upon the words of Christ, for the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” - Nephi 32:3

Do I need a stronger testimony? a fortified family? greater understanding of the Savior? to know my purpose each day? free flowing personal revelation? better discernment? more confidence in my calling? more surety in the whisperings that I hear? greater joy in my life?  

Yep.  I totally do.  

My personal scripture study has been inconsistent lately and mostly revolves around preparing for a lesson every other Sunday.  I have felt for awhile that I've needed to get back into a regular, more purposeful habit of reading and studying the scriptures on my own, and not just with my family in the mornings.  And it turns out, there are tons of blessings that I'm totally missing out on because I've become casual with this critical piece of the puzzle.  So, after Jeanette's wonderful lesson and after reading a few other great words about the power of personal scripture study, I've decided to make a more intentional effort and make my personal relationship with the scriptures as big a priority as prayer and temple attendance have become for me.

This quote is from an amazing blog post I read recently...
"I realized I can’t afford to neglect my time in the scriptures. I can’t risk being a voice to my children, my friends, or the Relief Society sisters I teach, if I am not partaking regularly of God’s word. Time with the word of the Lord is its own system of checks and balances for me. It’s how the Lord rights me, keeps me on course."
Scripture study sort of takes on a whole new meaning after reading those wise and wonderful words.  If we think of the scriptures as a gift from Heavenly Father, a guidebook, a manual for mortality, how can we even consider venturing outside of our homes and responsibly interacting with the world, or attempting to reflect a little light, without first arming ourselves with the power of the scriptures?  

I'm so grateful for Jeanette's inspired lesson, for President Ezra Taft Benson's inspiring words, and for  a Sunday that has turned into a feast instead of a snack. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"The Sabbath is a Delight"

Last week, during General Conference, Craig and I were in separate places but listening to the same talks, and we both felt moved by one in particular, The Sabbath is a Delight by Elder Russell M. Nelson.  Typically, on Sunday nights after dinner, we re-read a Conference talk with the kids as part of our Family Home Evening.  This week as we discussed which one we wanted to read as a family, both of us felt drawn to this talk.  

Sundays aren't completely holy in our home.  We DO get up and go to church.  There IS good music playing in the mornings.  We DON'T participate in activities that require us to work or spend money.  But aside from that, from the time we walk in the door after church our life looks a whole lot like the life we live throughout the rest of the week.  

"How can you ensure that your behavior on the Sabbath will lead to joy and rejoicing?  In addition to your going to church, partaking of the sacrament, and being diligent in your specific call to serve, what other activities would help to make the Sabbath a delight for you?  What sign will you give to the Lord to show your love for Him?"

After we read this talk together, we decided to each eliminate something that was not necessarily bringing joy to our Sabbath day, and also to replace it with something that would draw us closer to the Savior.  

Every week...well, every day, really...I scribble down notes and thoughts in my journal.  I carry it with me everywhere.  On some days, especially at church, there is so much that I'm inspired to do because of the things I hear.  I write it all down, including things I want to do during the week, notes I want to write to people, things I need to take pictures of, books I need to read.  And too often, that's where they stay.  Great ideas and inspiration that is left un-acted upon.  I'm pretty sure that's not what the Lord intends when He whispers those things to me.  

So, today, as we begin our tiny steps toward making our Sabbath days more holy, I decided to re-read my journal notes from the week and act on a few of those things I wrote down.  How immensely fulfilling to actually complete a few things in there...on the very day that I was inspired to write them!  I don't even need to put them on my To Do list for the week because they're already done.  There has also been a change in my Gospel Doctrine team which means I will be teaching for the next two weeks.  What a challenge!  And what an awesome way to be compelled to read my lesson in advance instead of taking a week off like I usually do.  It's not a terrible thing to be constantly planning a weighty Gospel Doctrine lesson.  Days off aren't always beneficial for me.  Hopefully the early start and the consistency of lesson preparation for the next few weeks will lead to better lessons!  I could certainly use that.  

Elder Nelson's talk last week was a tiny invitation that both Craig and I heard and decided to accept.  I'm sure we won't be perfect at it immediately, but as we make small efforts to change and move toward Him, I know there will be significant blessings.   I love Conference and the opportunity it brings to make changes, refine habits, and move to higher ground.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Because He Lives

We watched this video last week in Gospel Doctrine and I loved it so much that I want to watch it a million times and share it with the whole world.  

I love Easter.  I love the Savior.  I love what He did for us then and what He continues to do for us today.  Every day.  Every hour.  I love that He is within reach all the time if we will just look for Him.    

Have a wonderful and happy Easter Sunday!  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Desert Ruins

Of course I absolutely took advantage of unscheduled days and lots of time to drag the kids on some hunts for desert ruins.  They were pretty patient about it, I got some great shots, and I bought them ice cream after every expedition, so I think everyone was happy.  

This one Craig found on our way out to Arizona, somewhere in the middle of west Texas.  I probably wouldn't have taken the time to stop because I couldn't see it very well from the road, but after 20 years, my husband knows when "no" actually means "yes" and he turned the car around and pulled over.  And this place was so awesome that we all got out and wandered around.  

It's the old Kent School house built in 1892 which housed the children of the 61 people who lived in the town.  It closed officially in 1961 and sits here abandoned and dignified as it slowly crumbles apart.  

This is the view from behind the school.  

...and from the inside.

And this is what we found in the basement.  Yep, we wandered into the basement, and yes it was absolutely so cool.  

There were plenty of other really awesome abandoned houses and barns that we saw throughout Arizona.

And this is Mission San Xavier.  There is a mission school and home and this magnificent cathedral which has been here since the late 1700s.  (Sorry about the crooked pictures.  I took these with my phone.)

We took a very brief tour of the cathedral with a guide, and then wandered around on our own to take pictures of the details on this spectacular building.  I could have stayed in there a lot longer.  I loved getting a few glimpses of the history of Arizona.  I was overwhelmed at the end of the week at how much we had been able to fit in, and how much we learned.  I'm pretty sure this was the most educational and lofty vacation we've ever taken the kids on.  

Oh, and there were these guys, too.  They're not exactly ruins, but they were old and seasoned and we spotted them in Tombstone, which is kind of a collection of old historic ruins...in a touristy sort of way.  They had so much character standing there together talking that I couldn't resist taking a picture of them.  

Arizona was so much fun and so inspiring.  And what a great opportunity we had to tag along with Craig and explore places that we would never see without him.  I would absolutely go back there again anytime.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Desert Landscapes

I know, Spring Break has been over forever, but I was nesting the first week and then fasting the second, and now it's time to finally wrap up the details of our amazing trip to Arizona.

Who knew the desert was this beautiful??  I've been to Arizona before, but I don't recall ever really noticing the scenery.  The kids and I had a lot of time to explore the desert, and we were all happily amazed at all the different varieties of cacti, the vastness of the desert forest, and at the life that exists among all these prickly things.  

On the night we arrived in Tucson, we drove into the Tahono O'odam Indian Reservation on our way to Kitt Peak Observatory.  This is the view from about halfway up the mountain.  

On our second day, I took the kids through Saguaro National Forest and to the Sonora Desert Museum, which is less like a museum and way more like a desert zoo...and we loved it!

And on our way home, Craig and the kids toured Biosphere 2 while I stayed out on the cafe patio and enjoyed the wisteria and the desert mountain breeze.  

We all concluded that Arizona is a pretty perfect place to be in the spring.  The weather was perfect for our entire trip and we absolutely loved seeing scenery that it SO very different from anything we've ever seen before.  Isn't the earth such an amazing place to live?? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An Extra Hour

I was supposed to walk this morning with some friends.  But exactly four minutes before our scheduled meeting time, the sky opened up and it started pouring.  As much as I enjoy that daily ritual with them, I wasn't sad to have to stay inside today.  Any excuse to procrastinate getting dressed is great with me!

Tomorrow the girls and I leave for a long weekend in Salt Lake.  I don't like getting ready for trips anyway...as I'm sure you already know...but this one is making me especially anxious.  Originally I was supposed to go to Utah alone to spend Conference weekend with Savannah, but Craig and I both felt like the other girls should also have the opportunity to tour BYU, see their sister, and attend Conference.  A girls weekend with my three daughters sounds like a great opportunity that I would look forward to, doesn't it?  Well, yes, unless two of those daughters have never really gotten along.  Sharing a small car, a hotel room, one bathroom, and a lot of togetherness for five whole days with two strong personalities who haven't seen each other in three months could be surprisingly wonderful or it could be potentially disastrous.  It's the "potentially disastrous" part that has kept me up at night.  Why does rehearsing disaster come so easily at 4:00am?

Without a walk this morning, I had an extra hour that I hadn't planned on.  I could have used that time for laundry or packing, or just to be ready earlier for whatever this day has to bring.  But instead, I picked up this book on my nightstand...

The print is large.  There are lots of graphics.  It was a quick read.  But holy cow!  The amount of stuff contained in this little book!  
Do you know what it is to doubt?  Have you ever felt afraid?  Unequal to the task, inexperienced, not good enough, destined to fail?  Are you familiar with the great storms of life?  Have you ever approached the Lord soaking wet and windblown?   
In those sinking moments, you must remember what happened to Peter:  "Immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him." (Matt 14:31) 
Don't let doubt keep you from your potential.  When the Lord extends an invitation to act, He will not lead you into a situation that will destroy you.  He will reach your reaching.  He will be there to make sure you don't drown.  As the storm rages around you, He will whisper words that instill confidence, "With me you are bigger than this.  Trust me.  Focus on me.  I know your potential."  
And He will calm the wind.  
Well, if He can calm the winds and the raging sea, He can surely calm two competitive sisters, right?  

I still can't see anything but the potential disaster when I rehearse this weekend in my mind.   But I know for sure that I wasn't delusional when the thought occurred to me to bring the girls on this trip, nor was Craig when he agreed that it was a great idea and bought two more tickets.  I know for sure that it is a righteous desire to want your children to be friends. I know for sure that we will be in places where the Spirit will also be this weekend.  And I know that the Lord has not set me up for disaster.  He has set all of us up for success.  And therefore we are entitled to His help.  

So, for the next 24 hours, at least, I'm going to stop rehearsing this weekend in my head and just start packing for it.  

And, it has stopped raining, so I'm also going to go for a walk with my friends.  

What an unexpected blessing to have an extra hour in my day, to have that book appear right when I had time to read it, and to have it speak peace to my anxious heart.