Monday, March 16, 2015

The Old Testament: marathon complete

On February 27, 2015 I finished reading the Old Testament.  I began this journey about two years ago (taking breaks to study other materials intermittently), and it has been an uphill battle all the way.  In my copy, the Old Testament is 1184 pages long, and I read the last 526 pages in about 60 days.  I wrote this post, followed by this one.  The frustrations I posed in those posts aren't gone, but I have learned some things about the Bible, and about myself and my faith, as I've read.

When I got to Psalms, I was excited to enjoy the beautiful poetic language and faithful sentiments of the book.  But 150 chapters of roughly the same thing got tedious.  Proverbs follows directly after, and I jived way better with the life lessons that Solomon spells out.  After thinking about why I was able to enjoy one more than the other, I came to the conclusion that it was the culture of our church.  As Latter-day Saints, we are heavily focused on becoming more Christ-like, which means we constantly look for the lessons that life and God can teach us to change from our natural man selves into the Christ-centered person that He wants us to be.  I'm glad this is the case, but I feel like we don't do enough pure and simple praise to God, which is what Psalms is all about.  He is amazing, not because of what He does or can do for us, but because of what He is- an incredible, perfect Being.  I'm glad Psalms gave me a chance to ponder that.

And then a few books later came Isaiah.  It's sort of a running gag that Isaiah is difficult to read and understand.  "A missionary was walking down the street, when a shady man sticks a gun in his chest and says, 'give me your wallet.' When the missionary doesn't move fast enough, the man shoots him and runs.  The missionary gets up unharmed, and pulls the pocket Bible from his jacket.  The bullet had hit the book.  The missionary opens it up to see where the bullet stopped.  'Ah-ha, Isaiah,' he said.  'Nothing gets through Isaiah.'"

It's a terrible joke terribly told, but I couldn't resist.  Despite the stigma, I loved Isaiah.  The footnotes are amazing, and the chapter headings were invaluable. I'm excited to dive back into that book and really study it instead of speed read. 

Daniel is probably my favorite book.  There are several well known stories in that book, and no one does anything too crazy.  I was surprised at how many times unexpected things happened in the Old Testament.  Good guys doing bad things, people getting punished for things I didn't think were sins, people getting blessed even though they were jerks,

When I began this project of reading the Old Testament, I wanted to figure out what was so great about it, and why so many people across the world take such stock in it.  I have said that I believe in the Bible, but I felt hypocritical saying it, because I had never read it through completely.  Yes, I believed the truthfulness of the passages that people would quote on Sunday, or the applicable one's I would find in topical studies, but how could I say I believed in the Bible if I'd never experienced it as a whole? 

Now I can honestly say I have read the whole thing.  But as I read, the thought kept popping into my mind, "these stories are crazy!  How can I have a testimony in what is happening in this story?"But now that I've reached the end, and I can look at it as a whole, it's easier for me to swallow.  The stories in the Old Testament were from a time so different from now, and meant for a people so long ago, that I don't feel bad shrugging off a lot of the stuff I think is weird.  And for the hundreds of pages of prophesy telling of destruction of peoples and cities that have already happened, I try to glean the message behind it:  keep the commandments.

Reading the Bible has made me so much more thankful for other revelation handed down from God.  If I have a question and can't find my answer in the Bible, I have the Book of Mormon to look to, plus modern revelation from our current prophets.   And it's exciting to know that God will bless me with my own revelation to questions I have, and influence me with the Holy Ghost.

So the conclusion I draw from reading the Old Testament is: I believe it is of God.  I don't think there was a time that I read it and thought, God had no part in this.  There were definitely times where I thought, I don't understand how God has a part in this, but I always tried to puzzle it out.  And as a whole, I know the Bible has been so important to Christianity, and has been a building block in so much good in the world.  I would feel so lost if all I had was the Bible,and people's interpretations of it, but I'm glad that it's a part of my arsenal of scriptures.

Friday, December 26, 2014

I achieved my goal!

I haven't written on my blog in two months, but after you read this post, I hope you'll understand why.  I was just writing in my journal, but I decided to post my entry here.  I hope you all had a Merry Christmas yesterday, and remember that Jesus Christ was the first gift to us.  If you have any questions about anything I wrote below, I would love to answer them!

December 26, 2014
I accepted a challenge from my Relief Society president (who was challenged in stake conference) to read the Book of Mormon by Christmas.  This was the weekend of October 25 and 26. I wondered if I would be able to accomplish my goal, because I also had a goal to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. I’m happy to say, I achieved both goals.
When I started reading the Book of Mormon, I had two things in mind.  I wanted a stronger testimony of the truthfulness of that book, and of God and the Gospel.  I have experienced this.  I gained new insights about the nature of God, and his love for me and all his children. 
I also asked Heavenly Father to bless me with a stronger testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet.  Joseph Smith is still not a passionate part of my testimony of the Gospel, but I’ve come to accept him as the prophet of the restoration.  I whole heartedly believe that the Book of Mormon is scripture handed down from God to his servants anciently.  I believe Joseph Smith’s account of receiving the plates and translating them.  I guess there are still things about Joseph Smith the man that I find rocky, but I have a testimony in Joseph Smith the Prophet. 
I also had an unexpected blessing from reading for half an hour a day.  In November, the only writing time I had consistently was nap time.  That was about two hours every day, which I had learned from the previous year’s NaNoWriMo experience is how long it takes to write my daily quota.  But I was determined to read, too.  I asked God to bless me for making the sacrifice of my time.  He truly did.  I was faster in writing, more creative than I’m sure I would have been. It was amazing that I met my writing goal without so much as a frenzied cram time at the end of the month.  With a toddler and a new baby, that is nothing short of miraculous.  I chalk it up to reading the scriptures every day before I wrote, and trusting God. 
I learned so much from reading the Book of Mormon so quickly.  The storyline flowed so well, and I was able to understand how the Jaredites fit into everything.  The numerous times the Nephites went through the pride cycle blew my mind.  Couldn’t they see the pattern, historically, and change their ways? But I saw so much of what they did in my own life, as well as the world around me.  It was scary.  I also saw how contentions within the Church can be such a detriment to the spiritual wellbeing of its members.  I learned that I must repent more often, more fervently.  I need to be more accepting of those around me, and learn to be more willing to serve. 
I have decided to repent and ask God’s forgiveness like I’m teaching Theo how to ask for mine.  When I pray, I will say,
I’m sorry for…
It was wrong because…
In the future I will…
Do you forgive me?
This is maybe the biggest lesson I came away with.  I desperately want Christ to accept me on the judgment day, and I want to do everything I can to be in good standing with him.  I know I’m not perfect, but he doesn’t expect that of me in this stage of my eternal life.  But he does want me to give him my heart and trust in him. 
It was cool seeing more similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Bible than I’ve ever seen.  They are very different, but I can better see now how one culture grew from the other. 
The way I studied the scriptures as I read was underlining the names and titles of the Godhead as I went along.  It was wonderful seeing all the references they make to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
There are so many powerful stories from the Book of Mormon.  So many people who’s faith was so strong, and who worked amazing miracles in their own and other’s lives.  But my favorite part was when Christ appeared to them.  I loved trying to imagine myself in his presence.  How incredible it must have been.  And his teachings are so simple, but powerful.  I know that if I follow those teachings, I will be happy.
I have a testimony of Jesus Christ, and his Atonement.  I have a testimony of his role in my life, and that if I repent and come to him, he will save me.  It is only through his mercy that I will be able to stand in front of God the Eternal Father with confidence, and not be ashamed.  I want that so badly, and I hope that I can do the things that will keep me in good standing with Christ.
I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Reading it helped me feel closer to my Heavenly Father.  I hope that I can pass down this love of the scriptures to my children, and teach them how to be faithful to the Lord.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Photo Dump, Anecdotes, Crazy October

October has been a crazy month for the Miller household. We had the wonderful delight of hosting Teri and Marie on the first week (which has already been blog documented), the Gully family the second week (which will be bogged here), and the third week I had a stomach bug (which will not be documented, but it still knocked a whole week out).  Now we have a week of Halloween activities to look forward to.

So much has gone on, and I haven't had time to write about it.  So here is a dump of lots of cute pictures and stories.  I wonder if I'll ever catch up with the events, and be able to write about my thoughts.  The world may never know.

These little cuties were friends before they knew how to walk...

And here they are years later, still so cute and such good friends!

Of course, they are not as easily kept in place, now that they can jump off and run away, voicing their opinions on sitting still.  

We absolutely loved having the Gully ladies here. Leslie was a brave woman, and drove a six hour day with two adults and three kids under three in the car.  The second day, she did six hours with only her and her cuties.  I feel so honored that she would make that sacrifice to come visit us here in Ithaca!

We had such fun times together. It blew my mind to hear Ava so articulate and silly.  And it was great to meet Savannah, and share Ruby with them. It was party USA for four days!

We went to the Sciencenter, berry picking, and the park.  The Gullys ventured off to visit old friends.

Leslie and Ruby were instant friends.  Savannah is 11 months, Ruby is 2 months, and they were only a few pounds different in weight.  I think Leslie enjoyed snuggling this "stack of baby marshmallows," to use her own words.

I loved how relaxed it was, even with all the chaos of children running around.  It was like no time had passed at all since they were last in our presence. While I'm happy that the Gullys are grown ups with a house of their own, etc, I miss having them just upstairs to commiserate with and pawn off crying children.  It was great having her here to share in poopy diaper messes and have an extra adult around when one of us wanted to shower.

These kids got along famously together.  Theo loved having constant playmates. We loved having them here, and we miss them!!

The day after they left, we were pinch hitter babysitters for this little lady.  Miya is hilarious, and such a fun girl.  She didn't cry or fuss (even though it was her first babysitting experience), she didn't get into trouble, and she was so sweet to Ruby.

While Theo was off somewhere getting into trouble, Miya was busy "feeding" Ruby with our little play spoon and pot.  Miya has an American daddy, and a Chinese mommy, and they mostly speak Chinese at home.   There were times when I couldn't tell if she was just toddler babbling, or speaking Chinese. Either way, I couldn't understand her.  But I know she loves monkeys!

We finally got rid of Theo's pacifiers.  He only had them for naps, and I meant to get rid of them all-together in December.  But being pregnant, then having a newborn, I needed insurance to make sure Theo would sleep during the day, so that I could too.  But now that Ruby sleeps through the night, the need for insurance was gone.  So I cut the nubs off his "papass" and let him discover them.  He threw them away himself, and hasn't asked for them since.

However, nap time has been rough.  The second day, I put him in his room and shut the door like always.  Instead of screaming and crying, he started cleaning his room. He put all his stuffed animals in the bin, and would open the door a crack just to stick his hand out holding a toy.  He'd call for me until I came to get the toy so I could put it away in the living room, then close the door again.

When he was done cleaning, he decided to build a beautiful tower with his blocks.  That stinker never took a nap, but his room looked great.

He was eating his sandwich, and he stood by Ruby and said, "take mine picture, Mommy!  Get your cwamwa."

Sometimes he'll go next to Ruby and request a picture.  And could I ever say no?

Theo has taken to playing a trick on us.  When we go to unbuckle him from his car seat, he'll rest his head on the side and pretend to be "asleep."  Of course, after Corbin and I voice plenty of shock at his falling asleep, and talk of having to carry him to his bed, he looks up and screams as loud as he can with a huge smile on his face.  It usually wakes up his sleeping sister, but I find it totally worth how cute it is.

We have a pool noodle that was cut into thirds that we use as swords.  They're a much better alternative to the wooden sword he would play with before.  Corbin, Theo and I each had one, and we were pummeling Theo.  As he was screaming and laughing, he paused and said, "I love you guys," and got back into the fray. 

We went to a play group at the Tot Spot, where there are riding toys and climbing structures.  A little boy was pulling around this wagon.  Theo took the liberty of filling the little caboose with balls, then jumped in while it was still moving.  The little boy pulling didn't even slow down.  Theo somehow got several little boys and a mommy to take turns pulling him.  What a love.

This week we had a Visiting Teaching dinner, and it was wonderful to meet with lots of the lovely ladies from Church. I love getting together with these fine women, talking about Jesus Christ and sharing the glow of the Spirit.  The food wasn't bad either.  And I always love an opportunity to take a break from being Mom.  Granted, Ruby was there, but the only time I was holding her was while I fed her.

I'll never get over this Y bum!  Fourth BYU baby!

Theo likes to wake up at 6 for some reason, and it feels like the middle of the night because it's still so dark.  He's usually in a bad mood too, because he's still tired. But one thing works ever time- Scooby Doo cereal.  It's a cereal that is litterally called Scooby Doo Cereal, which is pretty much Kix shaped like dog bones.  Theo LOVES it.  And he insists on eating it out of a bowl like a doggie does, pictured above.

Flimming Plool = swimming pool
Blue Fish Blue Fish I Love You= One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Big Bad Full= Big Bad Wolf
Mickey Clubhouse Clubhouse= Mickey Mouse (He took the name of the show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to mean that his name was Mickey Clubhouse. We tried to clerify that it was Mickey Mouse, and the show was Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  So now he calls him Mickey Clubhouse Clubhouse, because he knows there are three words to be said)

We had a play date at our house with Bekah and Baby E.  He and Ruby are officially BFF.

Look at this beautiful baby socialization.  We were dying of cuteness. 

 Transition time!!! Theo moved out of his crib/toddler bed and into a big boy bed!  Well, it's only a bed frame with a foam mat until we get a real mattress, but it's a start!  He was so excited about his Spiderman sheets!  I was worried he would be sad about Ruby moving into the crib, so I was going to wait a while to convert it back into a crib and put her in.  But Theo was so excited to share a room with her! We fixed it all up and Ruby slept in it only a couple days after Theo's first night in the big boy bed.  I'm so glad he loves his baby so much.

Bonus pics of Grandma Teri's visit

Friday, October 03, 2014

Lots going on

Theo won this wonderful new poster as a prize for pooping in the potty!  Too bad none of the other prizes seem to incentivize well enough.  He may grow out of the new Superman jammies before he earns them.

Here Ruby is playing with her friends at a MOMs club playgroup meeting.  But since there were no friends for Theo to play with, we ditched and went to the park.  I'm trying to get more involved with MOMs club. I want to make more friends in the community, and have a wider variety of activities to join in on.  This Sunday I'm joining some ladies to learn how to make sugar flowers, which will go on a real wedding cake!

Theo decided he wanted to start sleeping on a pillow, and he chose a pink heart-shaped one.  That rash looking thing is a stain from the pillow, and he has matching stains in his hair.  He may be pink for days!  So now he has a brand new pillow of his own, and a Spiderman sheet set to go with it... if he ever earns it by going on the potty!

Thanks Christine for this adorable onesie! All aspects of it are true, and what a happy baby she is!

Last Sunday, Corbin blessed Ruby, and it was so special.  We're so blessed to have that special little spirit in our home, and I'm thankful the guidance I get from the Gospel in how to raise happy, good children.

We were so glad that Corbin's mom, Teri could be with us.  She was here from Saturday to Thursday, and we had lots of fun.  We took her to Palmyra to see the sights.  She got to have many early playdates with Theo when he would wake up before the crack of dawn.

In a fun turn of events, Teri's sister also spent a couple days here.  We all took a turn through Cornell and saw the sights.  We're so glad they could come as the leaves are turning.  We're lucky people to have great family!!

Look at this lady of mystery.  She's so full of intrigue.

Today Theo and I decided to get out Ruby's special mat and dangle her toys.  Once she was laid down, he wanted to squeeze in beside her.  He grabbed her arm and helped her wiggle the toys. He gave her kisses and showed her how fun the toys could really be.

Then he showed his real love by getting his blankie and laying it on her, then snuggling under it with her. This boy loves his little sister.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Recent Adventures

The Relief Society had an opening social doing go carts, and it was awesome!  I wish we did sweet activities like this more often.  I was having nostalgic flashbacks to Fiesta Village.  My face and hands were frozen at the end of my second round- totally worth it!

This is an older picture, but look at this cute family!

I've been experimenting with hair and makeup styles.  I love getting my hair as high as it can go!

The other day, we were looking for one of Theo's baby dolls, and I suggested we look in my room.  After we walked back there, looked, and couldn't find it, Theo said, "ah well.  Good thinkin', Mommy."  That makes me feel good as a Mommy, knowing that I've at least taught him that phrase.

Ruby was six weeks old when I took these pictures.  Are six week old babies usually so strong?   I don't know, but I love it!

We went raspberry picking last week, and I'm pretty sure it's my new favorite thing. We might have to go again when Grandma Teri comes!

We sure live in a beautiful place.

Theo, Ruby and I might not be the most efficient team, but we got a bunch of good berries.

I had to feed Ruby while we were there, and there's nothing better to occupy a boy than a huge mud puddle. 

Want to use this picture as your wallpaper? I am.

Don't worry, he didn't eat a wild animal. We had a great time painting.

Isn't she a dream? I love snuggling a sleepy baby.

When Theo woke up from his nap, the first thing he did was start grabbing for Ruby. I just thought he wanted her to get her off me, but I realized he wanted to hold her.  So I laid her across his lap, and he stroked her face with his blankie and said she was beautiful.  What a sweet brother!

I sure love my family.  Recently, I was getting ready in the bathroom, and Theo came in saying, "Where's my daddy?" Not a usual phrase he uses, since he knows Daddy is usually at school.  So I looked down and saw he was asking on his little Lightning McQueen's behalf after his big Lightning McQueen bath toy.  When he pulled out the bath toy, the two cars hugged and said, "Mmm, Daddy! I love you, Dadddy!" I think we are raising a very warm boy, and that also makes me feel good as a mommy.

One of my favorite things he says is "lass more." That's his version of "last one." So imagine Theo, in his sing-songy voice, with one more Cheerio in his bowl, saying "lass more!" It's pretty darn cute.

One day, Theo chose a bow for Ruby, and obviously he had to choose one for himself, too.

I think it was a couple weeks ago, we were having dinner and Theo was running around not eating.  Corbin jokingly said he would cry and scream like Theo does if he didn't take this bite. Eventually, Corbin did some silly crying and screaming, not unlike what he does often when they play.  But something about it freaked Theo out.  He froze, then started whimpering. Corbin picked him up for a snuggle, and Theo sat back and screamed a primal scream, like his appendix had chosen that moment to burst.

Eventually Corbin got him to calm down, walking him around and playing with toys. But he would still give Corbin a mistrusting look every now and again.  The worst part about it all was the look on Corbin's face, heartbreak. My two boys are so tender sometimes. That part, I love.

And don't worry, Theo was completely over it by the next day. He sure loves his daddy.

Our lovely neighbors let us borrow this fun car until it gets cold.  Theo doesn't quite get how to drive it, but he sure loves sitting in it.

"I wearing makeup."

"Wingardium leviosa!"  (it's really a laser pointer, Theo is like a cat with his love for the dot)