Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Trek Kick-off Weekend

This last weekend was the kick-off for our ward's family trek, coming up this summer, for which Tyler and I are directors.  

The events started with sacrament meeting where we were asked to speak.  I am normally not at all concerned about speaking in church, very rarely get nervous and don't need a whole lot of time to prepare.  We have known we would be speaking in church for about 6 months on this topic and I don't know if it was the time I had to prepare but by the time Sunday arrived I was a basket case.  How could I possibly sum up my thoughts, feelings, inspiration and experiences in a 7 minute talk?  Turns out I cant, I took about 12 minutes and the meeting went over time but I am still thankful to report that it went well.  

Since I don't want to forget the things that I said, I am going to record my talk (most of it anyway) here.  You really don't have to read it, I just don't want to forget.  

"I have been asked to give a little insight into the Theme that has been chosen for our trek.  A good theme should encompass the vision, the purpose, the objective of the trek, basically we needed the sum of why we are going and all we want to accomplish in just a few words. 

The first time I mentioned our trek to a friend of mine she said, “I don’t need to go to Wyoming to feel the Spirit or gain a testimony.”  She is absolutely right, however, I am interested as I study the scriptures how often sacred events occur in a place apart from our every-day.  Perhaps this is because there are fewer distractions.  We have been taught that as we stand in Holy Places we create opportunities to feel the Spirit. I have experienced this in my own life as well.

Consider this:
Jesus did not need to go to the garden, Joseph did not need to go to the grove, Moses did not need to go to the mountain, and I don’t need to go to the cove.

Having once experienced that kind of intensity of spirit I can not wait to go back!

Contrasting Experiences in the Cove:
The first time we visited Martin’s Cove was with the Stake Youth last summer.  One of the most powerful parts of that experience for me was when we silently walked through Martin’s Cove.  The feelings and thoughts that I had there are deeply personal and very sacred.   I literally felt what the scriptures refer to as “a mighty change of heart.”  It was unexpected and profound.

When we returned for our leadership training a few months later I was eager to return to the cove.  I wanted to feel the intensity and clarity of Spirit that I had previously felt.  As we started down the path I was disappointed that the leaders around us were all talking, some about the football game, some about the weather.  I found myself too distracted to think clearly, completely unable to feel the spirit and, admittedly, irritated that my “moment” was being spoiled. 

I decided to stop.  We stood at the side of the trail and waited for the group to pass.  Quite suddenly as they moved ahead and we fell behind, the peace and focus of the Spirit felt as if it literally descended and I felt the comfortable weight of it.  We walked quietly and listened to the instruction of the Spirit as my thoughts, which had been so scattered and even fearful became clear.  I know that the theme for this trek was direct revelation from a loving Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost and that it holds meaning and power.

Faith – In Alma 32:21 we learn that faith is the hope for things which are not seen which are true.  Faith is confidence, kindled by the spirit, earned through obedience.  Faith is a principle of action and of power.  It is belief which develops our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, and which solidifies our commitment to the work.  Faith, steadfast and immovable, is the FOCUS of our trek. 

Family – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “When you have your own faith, you are prepared to bless your family.”  In the Proclamation to the World on Families we learn, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith.”  Heavenly Father gave us families as part of His eternal plan.  The pioneers understood the concept of family and made God and family their priority. Everything we do leading up to trek and while we are on the trek will be to strengthen our faith, and our families.  Strong, eternal Families are the GOAL of our trek.

Finally – we needed an action word.  The feelings that came to us as we walked through the cove were feelings of fortitude, of strength, of peace and clarity and focus.  In the cove all the distractions dissipated, like imperfections being removed so that pure spirit could be felt.  As we consider the example of the pioneers we see unwavering devotion, unbreakable determination.  They would not turn back, they would not give up, and they would not despair.  Their choice was purposeful; they were committed to creating eternal families.  How do we sum up all of that in one word? 

As a college student I was privileged to spend a semester living in Nauvoo Illinois.  As part of our studies we were required to spend time in each of the sites there.  One of my favorites was the blacksmith shop.  I was fascinated as I watched the senior missionaries as they worked at the forge.  If you’ve ever seen a forge you know that a bellows is used to create a fire that gets so hot it heats the metal until it glows red.  The metal is then removed and folded and beaten into the desired shape and then the metal is quickly cooled in water.  The process is repeated over and over and over to give increased strength to the metal and to remove impurities in the metal.  Picture with me the process:

“The smith at his forge, with hammer in hand, works through the ash and the heat
He fires the metal until it grows red, and then starts to fold and to beat.

With both brutal force and delicate care he works with a goal in view
Strengthening, forming, perfecting, creating is the work the skilled smith can do.

So God, with his children employs trial and heat, pressure and yes, even pain
To form and to strengthen, to purify faith that will stand through life’s wind, snow and rain.

With love and care and covenant’s fire, a testimony is burned in each heart
As we pay the price to be acquainted with God, forging becomes our art.

References to forging of faith and testimony can be found throughout ancient and modern scripture.  Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “As we look at the lives of the early Saints, we see that their covenants were the primary force in their lives.  We need to become so deeply converted to the gospel of Christ that the fire of the covenant will burn in our hearts like flame unquenchable.  And with that kind of faith we will do what is necessary to remain true and worthy.” 

That is the OBJECTIVE of our trek; that the “fire of the covenant which we make in the House of the Lord, [will] burn in our hearts, like flame unquenchable.”  (Brigham Young)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “We all must have a conviction burning in our hearts that this is the work of God and that it requires the best we can give.  We must have faith in this work – faith in what all believers are called to do, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Father in Heaven.  We need to conform our will to Theirs and then make that will rock-ribbed and pioneer strong.”

Brothers and Sisters, it is my testimony that our Heavenly Father expects us to give all our energy and attention to making and keeping sacred covenants that will seal our families through the eternities.  He loves us and I love him, and I know that He will help us in “Forging Families of Faith”.  

Anyway, that is the talk I gave.  Tyler's talk was also amazing but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't love me for recording it here so I wont.  I am always amazed at the power with which he speaks.  

Then Sunday night we had our kick-off fireside.  We started with a little paperwork and then moved into a series of short readings, done in first person, written by handcart pioneers.  All those participating were dressed as pioneers and read their parts beautifully.  One young woman sand a capella the first phrase of "Come, Come Ye Saints".  Two young men, brothers told the story of Joseph and James Kirkwood and my little Ksenya held her little sister Darla as she told about a young girl who lost her parents both in the same day and then picked up her little sister and pressed on.  We finished with an amazing cello/piano number "If You could Hie to Kolob" which was simply breathtaking.  I was so thankful and relieved that the day went so well and that so many people were willing to help. 

I feel like the movie 17 miracles is happening again for our ward.  There have been so many miracles in the making of trek already and I am thankful to be a part of it.  My sister made the observation the other day (as she swooped in like an angel and helped me to sew aprons for my girls) that this is a huge investment of time and resources.  Then she asked, "So what is the pay-off?"  I was a little taken back by the question as I hadn't considered it in that light before.  When I thought about it I realized that the pay-off is increased faith, both for myself and for my family (and by extension our ward family), and a strengthening of our family.  Those two things are worth all the time and money I can possibly invest.  

Fur Baby

For Christmas, Grandma and Papa Horse brought us the fox fur hat that Daddy brought home from Russia.  Grandma wrote a neat note about it for the kids to read and then we all got to try it on.  Darla was so stinking cute in this furry hat.  With the Olympics being hosted in Russia this year I have asked Tyler a lot of questions about his time there as a missionary.  He said that while he was there he didn't really feel homesick, but he missed America.  I thought that was pretty interesting.
I am so thankful for our country.  Even though I think it's royally messed up right now and a lot of our leaders have lost touch with what has historically made us a great nation, I am still so extremely thankful for the rights and privileges that I enjoy here.  Paramount is our freedom to worship according to our own conscience and the freedom to parent in the way that we see fit.  I wouldn't live anywhere else on earth . . . . yet :)

Random January

January was full of random, everyday family fun.  I tried to document some of it and here's what I found on my camera at the end of the month.
Ksenya decided she needed to tie up every child in our family.  Thankfully we have a lot of bandanas that work perfectly for the task.  You can't really see them, but they're all lined up, tied hand and foot (and mostly gagged).  She enjoyed this so much and surprisingly so did all of the other children.  Who knew.
 For Christmas Ayvri made Brigham a "fort in a bag".  Basically we just sewed a whole bunch of old sheets together into one huge fabric canopy.  Daddy decided to help with set-up and created a fort that filled our whole living room.  We all climbed inside and had a fun time (until Brigham made a smell that shouldn't be shared and we had to evacuate).  Fun times, coolest Daddy ever.
 We did a lot of reading.  Surprisingly we have about $22 in fines racked up at the public library, all from movies, not from books.  Mom decided we aren't checking out library movies anymore, but about 20 books a week keeps us interested and so far (fingers crossed) the little wonder doesn't destroy the library's books.
We had a fun weekend visit from some of our cousins.  Cooper, Grady and Tayton all came for a fun filled playdate.  It's so fun to have pairs with their cousins, each of them have a cousin in this family that is really close (within months, weeks and for a couple of them, days) to their own birthday.  What good sweet boys!  We even went to church with them and they were little angels.
My boys decided to create an alternative bedtime wardrobe.  I'm always amazed when they can take simple instructions like, "Go get your pj's on" and complete the task so very differently than I anticipate.  They think they are pretty funny too.  Good thing that underwear on their heads is clean!
For Daddy minute Ayvri taught Daddy one of her new favorite things.  He is such a good sport and turns out "Daddy's even better at that than you are Mommy".  Figures that this little blondie has her Daddy wrapped around her finger.  What a sweet girl.
And finally, this is what it looks like when we brush our teeth.  Yes, all 6 of the kids share this teeny tiny bathroom and have learned to get creative about getting things done.  Usually there's one standing on the sink, but in this case can you count all six heads?  I'm standing in the shower, since I know you were wondering.  This is the epitome of family togetherness.

And that, dear friends is our January in a nutshell.  Oh - and pinewood derby, but I don't have pictures of that since my sweet sister hasn't sent them to me yet and I was that awesome Mom who forgot to bring her camera.

New Pets

We have two new additions to our family farm.  These happy owls live in the tree in our backyard.  One of them has a black eye (see on the right?) and is pretty freaky looking but they are friendly and don't scare easily.  The arrive each afternoon around 4:00 and leave in the morning around 6-7.  They make lovely hooting noises and when they swoop down to catch something they leave an impressive shadow.  They really are beautiful birds and as long as they don't try to eat my chickens I'm happy to have them around killing the mice.  Even better than cats, they stick around and I don't have to feed them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sweet Chubby Face

I love this face - and the attitude and personality that it came with.  What a little diva.  She might not be the baby of the family, but she certainly rules our roost.  We love our little Darlin'

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Silly Fun

This blanket is my "hug".  It was a gift from Aunt Darla and it is a highly sought after thing in our house.  The kids are constantly trying to sneak my hug and on this particular morning the three littlest got ahold of it and decided that it was big enough to share.  So here are my babies - enjoying a hug from Aunt Darla :)
It snowed a beautiful - 8-10 inches and we couldn't pass up the opportunity.  We stayed home from school to play in the snow and build.  The little people didn't last very long but the bigger kids and the Mommy had several hours of much needed physical fun in the white dust.
They are so cute all bundled up like snow babies.

 Here is our upside-down snowman.  I laughed every time I drove into our yard and saw the boots heading for the sky.  Of course, as it melted it got a little sad and looked like it had crashed head first to the ground in a terrible sky-diving accident, but it was a lot of fun.
These three sillies really enjoy their mornings together.  I'm not sure how the girls will cope when Brig goes to school but he is definitely ready to go.  The girls don't know how lucky they are to have a good big brother who puts up with them all the time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When Darla Goes to Bed

When Darla Goes to Bed
 When little Darla goes to bed we seem to heave a sigh,
At last my facebook may be read and all the toys put by,
Now may we settle down and hear the things the others say
A lovely sense of calm seems near when Darla's tucked away.

When Darla's up and on her feet the home's at her command,
For one so innocent and sweet she rules with tyrant hand.
If I have something to relate of what's been done and said,
I find it always best to wait till Darla goes to bed.
Now should I sit me down to read or lie me down to rest,
She'll keep at me until I heed her latest strange request.
And have I several tasks to do by which I earn our bread
I never hope to see them through till Darla goes to bed.

Ah well, this roguish little lass too soon will older grow;
Too soon these days of joy will pass and calm be ours to know.
So let her romp and let her shout - the coming years I dread
When we shall sit alone, without a child to put to bed.

--Edward A Guest, "When Janet Goes to Bed"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Seven Years of Sunshine

Sweet Ayvri Belle - I remember that first day I met you.  You were so perfect and pink and soft and I smiled as I held you and cuddled you and talked to you for hours that day.
I remember a year later - you were so smart, and silly and sweet and you loved to read and I smiled as I held you and read to you and you told me stories in words only I understood.

 I remember a year after that, you were wiggly and giggly and a big huge tease and I smiled as I sat with you and we painted your nails and you jabbered.
 I remember our next year together - you decided you didn't always agree with me, but you still made me smile as you pushed to make your own decisions and showed me that you could do big girl things.
I remember the next year, all girl and pink and purple and frills and the big sister who took care of the babies and was my best little helper around the house and I smiled as I watched you hold your baby sister and tell her stories.
I remember how careful you became that next year, how you wanted to do everything that I did and how you wanted to so badly to learn everything you could.  I smiled as you asked a million questions and expected real answers.

I remember the next year as I put you on the bus and cried.  I remember as you came home and delighted in showing me everything you could do, but still loved playing with your baby dolls and combing their hair and I smiled as you still wanted me to hold you and tell you stories and put my hand on your face.
 Seven years later and I still smile every time I look at you, every time you laugh out loud, every time you want me to hold you.  So much joy, so much sunshine and so much love you have brought to us.  Happy Birthday baby girl - never get too big to let me hold you and tell you how amazing you are.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

I was terrible about documenting the holiday this year, this is about the only picture I got.  Some of the highlights were: Ksenya got violin lessons - she is so excited!  Ayvri got her ears pierced.  She has waited so long and when they did it she just giggled.  What a sweetheart.  Brigham made Leisl a flannel board and the boys got nerf guns which they love.  Daddy surprised Mommy with a tower full of new makeup (a major sweet splurge) and Mommy surprised Daddy with a few pairs of jeans for his much needed down time.  In all it was a super fun happy holiday and we are spoiled and blessed beyond words . . . again.  We also built a thing for our wall that has pictures of the Savior and His many different names.  It was sweet to learn more about all of His names and what they mean.  Next year?  We'll be building a manger to fill with "service straw".

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Very Violin

Ksenya had her first concert for Advanced Orchestra.  She did so amazingly well!  I am super impressed at how hard she has been working and practicing. 
She organized her own private fund raiser and raised all the money for her trip to California in April.  She is such a responsible little person and really determined to do her best on this.  Love her beautiful self.  I want to be like Ksenya when I grow up!