My Eye in the Storm

It’s snowing today, so as a matter of personal therapy, it seems like a good time to blog a little about the cruise. Warning: This post will include vacation photos mingled with deep thoughts. Proceed with caution.

So this right here…

is an actual satellite photo of Hurricane Paul. He came ashore in Cabo San Lucas the same day we were supposed to dock there. For obvious reasons, our ship itinerary took some detours, but still managed to get up close and personal with a Category 3 hurricane. (And by up close and personal, I really mean a mostly-safe distance, but still plenty too close for my own comfort.) Let’s just say that we spent a whole 24 hours in bed as to avoid being thrown back and forth while about 50% of the passengers and crew puked their guts out. Luckily, Matt and I never got sick, and if we closed our eyes and pretended we were in a baby cradle, it was actually quite relaxing.

I am NOT complaining though. It happened, and we survived, and the rest of the week was very lovely, and hello, it was a FREE prize vacation.  So I won’t dwell on the hurricane other than to say that (because I have a tendency to imagine every worst case scenario and all the possible outcomes … like me floating at sea in a life raft in a hurricane with 30 drunk, crazy people) the whole event made me quite reflective.

I am also a professional people watcher.  That’s a nicer term than gawker, which is what my mother always called it.  Anyway, there are plenty of people to observe on a ginormous cruise ship, and so I did. There is a reason that Americans have the reputation of being gluttonous and spoiled. I won’t list the poor behaviors I saw, but one example is impatiently waiting for the elevator to go down ONE flight of stairs in order to gorge one’s self at the all-you-can-eat Chocolate Buffet. Enough said. There were also people who were deeply good, like our sweet waiter who works six months at a time with no days off in order to support his wife and children back in the Philippines.

In summary:  Hurricane + People-watching + Lots of uninterrupted quiet time = New insights and some personal revelation for Stephanie

I’ll come back to that.  Let’s look at some photos, shall we?

This was my view for most of the trip (including the napping husband):

Our first stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which was tropical beauty mixed with a roadside landscape of houses and communities that reminded me so much of my mission days in Argentina.

We were accosted by a guy who threw reptiles on us and took our picture for “a tip.” That’s my fake smile, but the background is so pretty, huh?

Our taxi driver took us up into the jungle mountains to wander around at a resort area, and the scenery really was magnificent.

We also spent some time in the old colonial city center. I love to visit old cathedrals and city plazas, and there were both.

On the first day of the trip, they did a safety drill where everyone had to line up with life jackets and practice the emergency de-boarding procedures. Right next to us, there was a man who was already drunk and being rude to his family members. I watched with dismay for a while and then we were all released. That night at our first dinner seating, the host led us to our table, and guess who was seated there? I thought, Oh boy, this is going to be a long week (You share the table with the same guests the whole trip), but then they realized that we were supposed to be at table 411 instead of 311 and led us in another direction while Matt chuckled at the irony. We were seated in a booth with a nice-looking couple who we quickly learned were from Utah. Seriously? So I was relieved because we quickly fell into natural conversation and formed a friendship throughout the week.  Here they are with our rock-star waiter, too.

I’m leaving their names out on purpose so you don’t Google them and steal their children. I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate that. (And in my defense, lest you fear my reaction was as sheltered or narrow-minded as it seems, I could have been perfectly happy to share a week-long dinner table with people from any state or religion or race or creed or whatever, but “drunk” and “belligerent” are not my first choice for dinner companions.)

This is getting too long already. Do you care? Whatever, you know how to scroll and nod.

Next on the agenda: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico, two days post-hurricane (It was actually a tropical storm by the time it hit shore, but the locals said it was crazy).  We liked this place. Matt wants to go back and spend more time there some day with the kids.

That last photo shows our boat off in the distance. (Now you can see why this is good snow therapy.)

I’ve always loved the combination of sunshine and wind. It just feels so relaxing and warm, so I loved being on deck on the sailing ship. There wasn’t much deck space available at the front of the boat, but I made it my mission to find a spot where I could stare off into the great beyond ahead of us. I finally did find a spot atop of a fake boulder on the mini-golf course. It was perfect, and no one was there in the early morning hours, so I would go up there and do my morning “devotional,” and watch the sun coming up, and enjoy the strong breeze and natural beauty, and think about my life and my testimony and all that stuff.  When I told Matt about some of my thoughts one morning, he teased me about my Mount St. Mini-Golf, so that’s what we called it the rest of the week.  Here are some of the things I learned at Mt. St. Mini-Golf.  I realize they are random and disconnected, but that’s how revelation usually comes for me anyway.

  • When people are given so much, they often forget what matters most, and they use their prosperity to buy their way out of the kinds of experiences they were meant to have. I need to be careful to not avoid or shirk the responsibilities God has given me, even when other options seem easy or comfortable.
  • Vacations are so nice, and I promise I enjoyed every minute, but my children are what God wants me to do with my life. The break was refreshing, but my heart told me where I really belong.
  • As I stared off into the horizon, I was thinking of Elder Holland’s most recent conference talk as well as many other related gospel references. I had the clear thought that God doesn’t want cruisers; He wants fishermen. We have a work to do, and it’s not a lazy, relaxing meander through life. It’s the up-at-dawn and work-til-dusk kind of life as fishers of men. And that kind of life will make us happy.
  • I have always loved the scripture in Moses 6:62-63, which teaches that all things in, on, above, beneath the earth testify of Christ. I loved looking at my unfamiliar ocean and beach surroundings and finding the symbolism. There were so many things about wind and sun and boats and waves and even storms that teach great lessons about the role of the Savior in our lives. The hymns, “Master, the Tempest is Raging,” and “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me,” and “Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy,” and “Lead, Kindly Light” all came to mind. I just felt so blessed to have that kind of direction and love available to me in life, no matter what storms may come.
  • Oh, I’m coming back later to add this one more. A lady we spoke to was upset with the cruise line because they changed around the itinerary. I kept thinking, But there was a hurricane! It made me realize how often we might get upset with our Heavenly Father or the prophets for changing our plans unexpectedly or not meeting our own expectations when, in reality, they see dangers ahead that we don’t know about.  Just enjoy the ride and trust the Captain.

Well, that’s definitely more than you ever wanted to know about my vacation. Thanks again to those who voted and helped us win this break. It was much needed, and sufficiently refueling to get back to “my Father’s business” here at home. There truly is no place like home. But I’m thinking I might need to pick up my home and put it somewhere not snowing.

General Conference Photo Contest– Vote for Your Favorite

One of the (many, many) cool things about General Conference is how it gathers a family all together for something that really matters.  And any kind of successful family gathering requires one really important ingredient– an intentional mother.

I love these photos because they witness that there are mothers who have prepared the way for their children to hear and experience the word of God from living prophets.  And they’ve done it in way that build lasting memories.  This is the kind of influence that Sister Julie Beck is always talking about:  mothers who know, lionesses at the gate, disciples of watchcare and ministering– it’s all there in the small efforts we make to bring our families to Christ.

So, the contest.  Here are the Honorable Mentions.  Thank you so much to everyone who sent me photos.  I loved looking at all of them. Click on any of the photos to see them larger.

Carrie.  Watching from his tent with a Lego temple.

Amy. Reaching for treats when they hear the keywords.

Cheryl.  All prepared and ready to roll.

Crystal M.  Basking in the words of the prophet.

Brooke.  Her children painted on canvas during one session.  So cool.

Kimberly.  Baby loves the prophet.

The FINALISTS.

Please vote for your favorite.  You’re welcome to write in another if your favorites were different from mine.  The winner will receive Hilary Weeks’ book, Believe in What You’re Doing.

Lara.  Concentrating on the task at hand.  A beautiful image.

Diane. Sustaining the Lord’s Annointed.  Over donuts.  I love it.Amanda. A session-long’s effort to create a prophetic masterpiece.  Isn’t that a great First Presidency?Vote here:

Poll will close at midnight on Friday night.  The winner will be featured on Sunday’s GCBC post.  :)

General Conference Trivia Contest and Photo Contest

Good heavens, this has been a busy week on the blog.  After all this conference hooplah is over (I love it), I might crawl under a rock for a while.  Send chocolate.

Anyway, this is the third post in the last 24 hours.  And frankly, it’s all fantastic stuff, so don’t miss week one of General Conference book club or the chance to participate in a General Conference blog-share.  Today however (This is the last thing, I promise), Lesa from Notes About Music and I are hosting a general conference trivia contest.

GENERAL CONFERENCE TRIVIA CONTEST

It is kind of a long list of questions, but I hope you have fun doing it.  Send me your answers via email at dd.stephanie@gmail.com.  Submit your answers by Wednesday night at midnight.  Winners will be announced on Thursday.  All the high-scorers will be placed in a drawing to win one of these two prizes (So, two winners).:

An 8×10 temple print by Brighter Side Art and this Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD


Clickety-Click right here to get the trivia questions.

And finally, the GENERAL CONFERENCE PHOTO CONTEST!

Here are some photos of my family during general conference.  Please do not click on the photo of me wearing my pajamas.  (You’re totally not going to obey me, are you?)

If you took a photo of your family or children watching/participating in conference, email it to me at dd.stephanie@gmail.com.  I will post them all and select a handful of favorites to go up for a vote.  The winner of the photo contest will receive the book Believe in what you’re doing…  by Hilary Weeks.

Submit your photo by Tuesday night at midnight, then all photos and finalists will be posted some time Wednesday for voting.  Please put the word PHOTO in the subject line of your email.

General Conference Contests

In addition to all the warm fuzzies and innumerable blessings that you’ll receive for watching General Conference, here are a couple other incentives.  Lesa from Notes About Music and I are hosting a general conference trivia contest.

GENERAL CONFERENCE TRIVIA CONTEST

We will post the questions on Monday morning and see who was really paying attention.  You’ll type up your answers and email them to me at dd.stephanie@gmail.com.  All the high-scorers will be placed in a drawing to win one of these two prizes (So, two winners).:

This 8×10 temple print by Brighter Side Art

and a Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD

(I don’t know if it will actually be this very CD, but definitely a MoTab CD.  This prize will be donated by the generous Lesa.)

Also, one more contest:

GENERAL CONFERENCE PHOTO CONTEST Continue reading

Picture perfect

We have our winners.  Thanks for all your participation and voting.  Even with 13 entries, these 4 photos garnered more than 50% of the total vote.  The following photos were elected as the best representation of this quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard:

“Recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction.”

3rd place, Helen, with 12% of the total vote:

Helen said:  “It’s my mum and my sister just after my sister went through the temple before her mission.  She is now serving a nursing mission in Panama.” I have a soft spot in my heart for women who serve missions (especially Spanish-speaking ones) and moms who help them get there.  I admit it, standing with my children on the steps of the temple will be a moment of ultimate satisfaction.

Tied for 2nd place, with 14% of the total vote each,

Liana:

Liana said about this photo: “The picture doesn’t do the mess justice, but you get the general idea, and yes, those are packing peanuts.” Personally, my favorite part about this photo is the printed quote in the quarter.  It’s evidence of a mom trying to do good and play many roles, only to be thwarted by her children.  Oh, how I get it.

Charlotte:

Charlotte explained that this photo respresented “satisfaction and joy moments” to her.  I couldn’t agree more.  When we see our children showing love and tenderness, especially to each other, we can’t help but think we must be doing something right.

The 1st place winner, with 20% of the votes,

Velda:

When Velda submitted her photo, she said, This one’s my favorite.” Well, it’s obviously our favorite too, Velda.  It embodies both the joy and exhaustion of motherhood in one beautiful image.

Thank you to everyone who participated.  All 13 of the photos together were a beautiful testimony of the ups and downs of motherhood, with an underlying theme of joy.  Every single one received several votes and was meaningful to others.  I loved seeing them all and recognizing how much in common we mothers share– in our feelings, in our experiences, and in our mission.

If you’re a winner, please send me an email with your address and I’ll send you (or deliver if you’re close) a small prize.  You’re all welcome to steal that beautiful trophy at the top of this post and display it proudly on your own blog.  Let me know if you need help with some html code to do that, and I’ll try to figure it out.  Velda will have a place of honor on my sidebar for a season.

Happy Monday to all, and here’s to a week of joyful mothering.