Sunday, August 27, 2017

FAMILY LETTER 08.27.17

Dear Loved Ones,         

This week is a double-letter since I missed last week while we were camping.  The days before our camp out were spent on school and trip preparations. Monday the 14th was registration day and that night we went to Bozeman Costco and Target for school supplies. Tuesday the 15th James had a physical and Addie needed to spend some of her own cash on extra school clothes so we went to Bozeman again and looked in 5 stores before we found converse high tops (what?!).  Wednesday and Thursday we worked around the house and prepped food and supplies for our trip. We left here at 4pm Friday, stopped in Bozeman for dinner, and headed down to our cabin in Island Park. We got there around 8pm and had a cozy night playing Yahtzee and watching movies. Saturday we woke up and collected some rocks to paint and did some water colors and bike rides. Then we drove out to Big Spring to explore and went swimming at the dock. We came home and got dry and resumed activities like art and bike riding and dinner prepping. Addie took the boys on a bike ride to meet up with some of our Livingston friends who have a cabin down the road. They came back with some of those kids and we grilled brats and had a campfire (until they came and told us there was a fire ban—oops!).  I did write a letter last Sunday to one of our missionaries that captures our trip really well, so I will share a bit and go from there.

August 20th: “I am sitting outside amongst the pine trees watching the sunset over Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Island Park Idaho. We rented a cool “tiny house” cabin for the weekend and it has been so awesome. Sometimes it is nice to have a little forced togetherness with teenagers ;) It is so peaceful-- we have enjoyed walks, bike rides, river swimming and floating  (in perfectly clear spring water--so fascinating watching the fish and plants pass by), painting, writing, grilling, s'mores, singing, dancing, napping, and even a sacrament meeting this morning with about 400 other campers. It was great….
We had a very sweet family night just now.  We chose a new family theme for 2017-18 school year. We chose “We Can Do Hard Things” based on Elaine Dalton's 2010 conference talk, and then Richard gave each of the children a Father's blessing. The spirit was powerful and I am so grateful. My family of origin was not a stable one most of the time, so times like these are answers to fervent prayers I said as a youth, a missionary, and a young adult to please give me a partner who had a matching vision of a celestial family and would give his life to make it happen. I waited a long time, but my prayers were answered so fully, sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can't believe how good my husband is and how wonderful our life is. Of course we have had hard times and challenges, but they haven't come between us--they have bound us together and made us stronger. I painted a little sign for our home before we got married and it says, “Love is what you go through together. --Jeffrey R. Holland” and I know that it is true. I am feeling immensely blessed tonight...
The sunset [was brilliant over the pine trees tonight]. I'm listening to the Churchtastic music mix we made for you and it makes my heart overflow. I just peeled a tangerine for Ammon and I love that smell. All my senses are so happy right now. I am indeed glad that I live in this beautiful world Heavenly Father created for me. For us. And for my hubs and the beautiful people we made. Life is sweet."

The next morning we cleaned up our cabin and headed south to the path of totality in Rexburg, Idaho (about 40 miles from the cabin). From the time we pulled on to highway 20 everything was busy and magical. There was definitely excitement in the air, though I was not prepared at all for the awesomeness that was to follow. It is hard to put into words how truly awesome a total eclipse is, and I admit to be being a doubter—this whole trip was Rich’s idea. I am attaching an essay that captures many of my feelings at the experience. Aside from all the symbolism, I was amazed at how light everything was right up to the last sliver of sun, and I was kinda disturbed by how cold it got and how fast. It hit me how dependent we are on the sun. And then of course my mind formed an allegory for The Son. I was also shocked at the emotion we all felt. It was kind of primal and uncontrollable—everyone whooped and hollered when the sun disappeared and the corona blazed in a ring around the moon. But two minutes later when the sun reappeared, our kids simultaneously and spontaneously burst into song: “Here comes the sun/ Here comes the sun and I say/ It’s alright/ dadoodedadoodedadoodedadoodledoodle…” Pure delight. I’m so glad we went!

After the eclipse was mostly done, we drove into town and met my brother Michael and our friends Kurt and Debbie for lunch at CafĂ© Rio, then went over to Michael’s to spend some time with his cute family. I love Rexburg!  Rich headed south to spend a few days in SLC and see Depeche Mode. The kids and I headed out of town at 3:30 and got stuck in traffic near Ashton around 4pm. Little did we know, we would spend the next 4 hours driving up the hill to Island Park—41 miles in 4 hours. As soon as we passed Ponds Lodge, it was smooth sailing all the way home.  I was amazed at how good our kids were! Even after that torturous traffic jam, everyone was still in good spirits and agreed it was totally worth it. They are the coolest.

Tuesday 8/22 we spent the day preparing for school. Mostly we were at the middle school with James, practicing his locker combo and walking to classes. It’s hard to believe my “sweet baby James” is going to middle school with all those gnarly pubescent kids—but it’s happening and he seems pretty happy so far. James started school Wednesday, and the rest of the kids started Thursday. We woke up at 5:45 to get Addie to seminary, read scriptures, have breakfast, and drive kids to 3 schools. Richard got home from Utah about the same time the kids got home from school. It was a busy day and night, and so was Friday, but we survived back to school (including dental appointments, sports physicals, parent meetings, etc).

This weekend we enjoyed stake conference with Elder LeGrand Curtis. Rich and I went to the meeting Saturday night. I loved how he tied all the speakers’ messages together by explaining the First Presidency’s initiative to strengthen the faith of the members, which began back in 2012-ish. I think it is interesting and simple and so very cool that the answer to their prayers about how to increase faith was to Keep the Sabbath Holy (Exodus 31-as a SIGN of our relationship and commitment to God)—to prepare for and revere the sacrament (D&C 59-to keep ourselves UNSPOTTED from the world—yay that, I am so tired of The World!), and DELIGHT in the Sabbath (Isaiah 58)—a day to do things HIS way, not OUR way, and to strengthen the feeble knees, to lift up the hands that hang down, and to “find our families” as we spend time together on that holy day. If you stop and think about how powerful it is just to keep that one commandment “in totality”—we truly will keep ourselves unspotted. We will be clean, we will be rested, we will have discernment, we will keep our families united and happy, we will have personal revelation and increased closeness and trust in God…totally inspired direction on how to survive the last days of deception, distraction, and destruction. Personal purity and communion with God and companionship of the Spirit. His message today was along the same lines—encouraging us to be steadfast and immoveable in keeping covenants, nurturing testimony, partaking of the power of the Book of Mormon each day. All simple, doable things that have potent promises attached.

We enjoyed a quiet afternoon here as a family, Addie made us a creole dinner of gumbo and beignets—totally gourmet and DELICIOUS! We facetimed with Aunt Dana as she is riding out hurricane Harvey in Texas. We enjoyed a missionary fireside with siblings Terin Bowden (Texas Lubbock) and Will Bowden (Portugal Lisbon) tonight, and everyone went to sleep fairly early. I’m excited to get back in to the groove of the school year!

We hope all is well with you, our beloved friends and family. We have had some great times together lately and wish we could share them with you. We hope life is just as sweet for you and hope you know we love and miss you. Have a great week, keep in touch!

Love,
Jamie, Richard, and Family

***


photo by our friend Mitch McClellan in Rexburg
Thoughts on the Eclipse by Rob Eaton (from facebook)
I had read all the hype, and I had a hard time imagining there was any way a total solar eclipse could live up to so much promotion and praise. One account was so effusive that even my young nephew dismissed it by saying, “It had too many superlatives.” Surely nothing could be that good.
If I had not lived plop in the middle of the zone of totality in Rexburg, Idaho, I don’t know that I would have traveled far to see it. When I mentioned it to my brother a month ago, remarkably enough, he hadn’t even heard about it yet. But before I could even say anything about it, he said, “It seems like every eclipse that comes along is supposed to be the only time in the next 57 years you’ll be able to see something like it.” He hadn’t been that impressed with what he’d seen in the past, so he wasn’t interested in driving a couple of hours north to reach the zone of totality for this eclipse.
I don’t fault him. If I were him, I might well have looked at a map and figured, “I’ll just stay here and see 75% of the eclipse and get 75% of the benefits. Why go all that way just to see the sun all the way covered?”
But with solar eclipses, I learned vividly and personally today, there is a world of difference between even 98% of an eclipse and 100%. We watched with interest and amusement during the partial phases of the eclipse, but right up until a few moments before we witnessed the total eclipse, it seemed like not much more than a pleasant astronomical quirk visible only with special protective glasses.
But as the moon began to totally cover the sun and we witnessed the diamond ring and the corona visible only with a total solar eclipse, I was absolutely blown away. I thought I would remain calm, but I couldn’t keep the emotions I felt inside. And neither could most of the people around me. As one writer had predicted, it was as if it touched something deeply primal within us. No photograph or video I’ve seen of this spectacular phenomenon does justice to it. It is simply the most amazing thing I have ever seen.
Afterwards, my nephew volunteered to his mother: "Now I know why they used so many superlatives."Despite all the hype, we discovered a total solar eclipse had not been overrated.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, this experience has reminded me of three important lessons. First, heaven is not overhyped; eternal life will be worth every sacrifice we could possible make to partake of it.
In one of my otherwise favorite songs by Train, the singer asks of a friend returning from some kind of cosmic journey, “Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded and that heaven is overrated?” Just as my brother assumed a total eclipse had been oversold, much of the world today has come to believe heaven is not real or that it can’t be all that. They doubt the reality of an eternal existence with God so exquisite that Peter described it as becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). I believe that one day, everyone will be as convinced of the desirability of eternal life with God as those who witnessed the total eclipse today were of its stunning glory.
Second, I was reminded that there is a dramatic difference between the blessings that come from sort of following the gospel of Jesus Christ—being in the zone of partiality—and striving to following Him and His teachings with all our hearts—the zone of totality. One of the reasons my brother and I underestimated how rewarding the total eclipse would be is that we based our estimates on what we’d witnessed in prior partial eclipses. But a total eclipse isn’t just twice as beautiful as an eclipse where the moon covers half the son; it is exponentially better.
And so are the blessings that come from living in the zone of spiritual totality. I’m not talking about a place where we are perfect, and I’m certainly not talking about a condition we achieve through our own efforts alone. But I am referring to a state of mind and heart where we jump in with our whole souls, holding nothing back but relying on Christ to realize our divine potential. The blessings of spiritual coronas and diamond rings come not to those who merely go through the motions and occasional effort it takes to reach the zone of partiality; they come to those who yield their hearts and souls to God in the zone of spiritual totality.
Finally, now that I know what a rare and exquisite experience a total solar eclipse is, I regret terribly the fact that I didn’t try to persuade my brother and his family and all my siblings and children who lived elsewhere to join us. What a terrible waste it was to have a home located in the heart of the zone of totality with only 5 guests. I wish I’d been more like some of our neighbors, who had family members and friends stuffed into every bed and couch and spilling over onto their lawns.
For those of us who have lived the gospel of Jesus Christ enough to know just how exquisite its blessings are, there is a special responsibility to find ways to help others come to understand or even consider the possibility that it will be eternally worth the sacrifice to come to the zone of spiritual totality.

For me, in some small way, glimpsing the silvery brilliance of the corona today felt like a symbolic foreshadowing of what it might be like to dwell eternally in the presence of God—in a place with “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23). Even more than I will strive to persuade my loved ones and friends to go witness the next total solar eclipse visible in the United States in 2024, I feel inspired to do all I can to help others know that heaven is real and that moving to the zone of spiritual totality is eternally worth it. We cannot use enough superlatives to describe it.


Ten minutes to totality, chillin' in Sugar City Park. 8/21
Addie and Heidi
 
Ammon figuring out what the heck we are doing
A minute or two before totality

A minute or two before totality...SO AMAZING!
 ***
Niles playing ukelele 8/16
Mama and Addie ready for Yahtzee! 8/18

PANCAKES! 8/19
Hikin' at Big Spring 8/19
Hikin at Big Spring
Niles Mountain Biking 8/19
Checkin' our fish from the bridge at Big Spring


Addie at Big Spring 8/19


Niles 8/19...he would not remove that helmet!
Wading Girls 8/19

Ammon stuck his head in the river!

Addie, Happy Camper 8/19


Henry's Fork float on Sunday 8/20

Boys Painting Sunday 8/20

Sillies after Family Night 8/20

After Family Night at the tiny cabin 8/20

Seesters at Cafe Rio after the eclipse 8/21


Cousins at Uncle Michael's house in Rexburg 8/21

Michael and Seeley waving good bye

Seeley and Addie 8/21


More Seesters! Emmalyn and Autumn 8/21
James heading out to school 8/23


SBJ in 6th Grade!
Middle School!
Niles and First Grade Orientation


Silly Ammon and Niles in Niles' locker 8/23

Niles- first day of first grade 8/24

Heidi- first day of 8th grade 8/24
Love our Lynners!

Addie at 6am heading into seminary on her first day of 10th grade 8/24

Sunday, August 13, 2017

FAMILY LETTER 08.13.17

Dear Loved Ones                                                                            

Another great week of summer has come and gone. It didn’t feel so much like the dog days this week—even though I usually hate August and we DID have to say goodbye to cousins and it was super smoky from wildfires—we did a lot of productive and fun things. Poor Addie worked like 45 hours!

On Monday I got up and did some laundry and the kids complained that there was no food and they were right—not even milk for cereal! So we cleaned out the fridge and loaded the dishwasher and went to the grocery store. Then we came home and washed and prepped our fruits and veg and had a nice assortment of fresh nutritious stuff to get us through the week. For family night we just watched Addie’s Trek video and a few other gospel messages on the MoChannel, then I spent the rest of the night editing the YM-YW Summer Recap video for mutual on Wednesday night (it was Rich’s project and he had all the photos collected and organized, I just did titles, transitions, and music). It turned out great thanks to beautiful photography and scenery.

Tuesday was our last hurrah with our California Melin cousins, so it was ranch day all day and we had a blast. The kids played in the water and the big kids swam in the river. We had sandwiches and fruit for lunch, and lots of playing until I had to take Addie in for work 4-9. I came in to town and made some chicken kebabs to grill for dinner and headed back out to the ranch. We had a BBQ of grilled veg and meat and rice followed by s’mores and playing with Uncle Jess’ drone. The little boys were filthy and exhausted—just the way they should be after playing hard all day! Simon and Niles are especially adorable together—they are just turning 6 and full of enthusiasm and adventure and still so sweet and adorable. They kinda melt my heart with their stick swords and grubby faces, defending the pirate ship treehouse and crashing their remote control monster trucks. ALL of the kids have a cousin buddy their same age except Lexi (8) and Ammon (3), but sweet little Lex loves to baby Ammon (and the ranch kitties), so it all works out perfectly! We will miss them!

Wednesday was laundry and chores in the morning, playdates with friends—Derric and Devon—in the afternoon. It was another day of high adventure—tramploline tricks and nerf gun wars and xbox and bikes and popsicles—and then a cub scout swimming activity. Later our whole family attended the youth activity—Camp video and awards night. The video was a big hit, and amazing Naomi Johnson, our camp director went the extra mile and gave out awards to all the campers and then they taught everyone to play Bunny Bunny and had yummy refreshments. It was super fun and the love in the room was THICK! What a great summer our youth have had!

Thursday was a promised play day after the kids helped finish all the laundry. So we went bowling, then played air hockey and video games, then ate lunch and went swimming. ALL THE FUN! We cut it short because I met my friend Vicki to talk about middle school and paint rocks and eat ice cream. After dinner I met poor Addie (who worked 12-9 every day except Wednesday) at the 9pm showing of “Dunkirk.” I am so grateful for our shared appreciation of dashing WWII soldiers and 40’s fashion ;)

Friday was yet another Chores-and-Pool day. We got lucky and saw so many friends there on Friday—all the little boys’ best pals—and they all had squirt guns, so there was a big long war and not even the moms were exempt! It was so fun, but it wore us out! I had cooked a pot roast and veg in the crock pot, but we just ate cereal and laid around. Then we decided to embarrass Adeline at work and get some gelato and enjoy live music downtown. It was pretty fun.

Saturday was PROJECT DAY! Daddy’s team detailed the cars and mopped the garage (it took 7hours). My team cleaned, organized, and stocked the pantry, cleaned the kitchen, and made peach salsa to can. IT WAS/IS DIVINE! We were super tired after our work day, so Daddy took us to the Rib & Chop House where our whole family ate at the bar and cheered on the AZ Diamondbacks. The service and mood was great but the food was not. We are so sad. It has been our favorite place for 15 years, but the past year has been consistently disappointing. Bummer.  We will have to stick to the yummy food that Addie makes! When we got home we logged on to watch the webcast of the Tucson Temple Cultural Celebration.  We tried to log in on the desktop, the Roku, the iPad and my phone, but we ended up only being able to stream through my phone, then later the iPad. But it was excellent and we are so very excited that as of today, my hometown has its own temple! Hosanna!

I had a migrane late last night and in to this morning, so I sent the family off to church and slept in until the medicine finally worked. I had home church on BYUTV and watched a great address by Elder Stevenson from May 5, 2017 about Technology and Social Media taking the gospel to every nation, kindred tongue and people.  I gave myself time to ponder all the ways missionary work has been made easier by the internet, and especially smartphones and tablets and I blew my own mind.  I think about being a literature and history major, writing papers and checking out books almost every day BEFORE an online card catalog! Before PCs! Signing up to use the computer lab to type stuff up in WordPerfect! I think about the ways we did our work in my mission—the time and expense  of mailing media referrals, the time wasted on getting lost or missing appointments before  cell phones, the UNIVERSE of materials at our fingertips as we study and teach today compared to how we had to scavenge for materials and conversations with leaders to answer the questions our investigators and we ourselves came up with...it is DIZZYING to think how things have changed in 25 years and to witness the speed at which knowledge of Our Savior and His atonement can be made known to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And that is to say NOTHING about the effect on Family History and temple work.  I think we may be surprised at how soon “the Great Jehovah shall say ‘the work is done.’” I loved the prophecies about this tech that Elder Stevenson shared, especially this quote from President David O. McKay which captured the double –edged-sword nature of our technology:
In 1966 President David O. McKay prophesied scientific discoveries that “stagger the imagination” would make possible the preaching of the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people. And further: "Discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings, as to make man’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. … This age is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities”

It made my heart so full, thinking of all our loved ones working full time as missionaries or in the temple, and how efficient and focused their work has become. My heart is singing that ol’ beloved “hymn” by Jesus Jones: I was alive and I waited for it…Right here, right now, there is no other place I’d rather be/ Right here, right now watching the world wake up from history!

The other highlight of the day was seeing all the social media posts about the temple dedication today. So many sweet thoughts and testimonies and scriptures and images shared…can’t wait to attend my very own hometown House of the Lord, and I am so happy that like 80% of my LDS Tucson peeps have been called to work in the temple—how cool is that? Oh, happy day! We are excited for our last week of summer and our Island Park camping trip next weekend. It’s pretty cool that summer ends with a total eclipse. We hope you all have a great week and know that we love you!

Love,

Jamie, Rich, and Family

Clean Fridge full of snacks after Monday's project

Clean Fridge! Monday's Project

COUSINS! Summer, Adeline, TJay-Tues

COUSINS! Niles, Simon and Ammon- Tues

COUSINS! TJ, Summer, Matthew, Heidi, Daddy, James, Ammon- Tues


DRONE! Tues

COUSINS! Niles and Simon- Tues

YW-Wed

Heidi and Sister Johnson- YW- Wed

Fun Flier Downtown

FRIDAY NITE LIVE!- Heidi and Niles

FRIDAY NITE LIVE! Addie and Heidi

FRIDAY NITE LIVE!- Hard Workin' Adeline

FRIDAY NITE LIVE!- gelato kids

FRIDAY NITE LIVE! James and Rich

Salsa Prep- Sat

Clean Pantry- Sat

SALSA! Sat

A list of desirable qualities in a mate written by Adeline in YW today...
make a list, then go become those things!- so cute.
{Compare to my late 20s version: Righteous/Smitten/Ambitious/Vision}

Babies Change the World

This is a picture of me with Adeline on November 21, 2001, just after she was born in Utah. I am talking on the phone to my Grandpa in Ari...