Sometimes I need reinforcements to get things through to my kids.
I love that sometimes other people can reach with ease the innermost parts of their hearts I’ve been hitting my head against the wall trying to do.  I think it’s that way with most children.  Sure, as parents we are the ones who’s influence can have the most heavy impact on our children.  I hear myself echoing through my house embodied in my children’s voices for better or for worse!
But oh I love how those around me can say or do a little something, maybe it’s even exactly how I do or say it, and it’s like they saw it or heard it for the first time.
Take something from one of Max’s letters a couple months ago for instance.  He spilled out some beautiful thoughts about a quote my sister Saydi had sent him:
Happiness?  It is an illusion to think that more comfort brings more happiness.
Happiness comes of the capacity 
to feel deeply, 
to enjoy simply, 
to think freely, 
to risk life, 
to be needed.
–Storm Jameson

Love that quote.

It’s one we memorized growing up, and we all know it by heart.
I have had my kids memorize it too.  
But somehow when my sister sent it to Max it actually came to life, which helped me “feel deeply” myself 🙂 
Another example happened when our kids were learning to ski all those years ago.  Dave had worked his guts out to teach them a thing or two and couldn’t for the life of him get them going down that bunny hill.  Finally on a ski trip with his siblings he turned our kids over to them (and they turned their kids over to Dave), and it was like magic because within an hour those kids could ski.
Well, I brought in some reinforcements for my kids this last week.  It was to help them get stars in their eyes about the possibility of studying in Jerusalem at some point in their lives.
After my freshman year at Boston University I was lucky enough to do a semester abroad in Jerusalem.

BYU has a pretty amazing study center over there that I had set my sights on.  I was transferring to BYU and figured that would be a great transition.

Little did I know how much more than just a “transition help” I would get.
Man alive, did that place ever take over a huge chunk of my heart!  
We studied the Old and New Testament and explored that city until we knew it like the back of our hands.
We took endless long bus rides to every “Tel” you can imagine which led to great bonding with all the other kids on those adventures.

Eventually the people I met there, and ended up rooming with, led me to their friends back at BYU.  And through all those associations I met a tall, handsome guy with irresistible dimples and a dry wit who I ended up marrying:)

Yes, that Holy Land will always be pretty big part of who I am.  It’s where a little seed of desire to serve a mission started, and where my faith in Jesus Christ grew exponentially.

So naturally I want my children to have a similar experience.  Oh how they would love it over there!

I’ve told them all kinds of things about Jerusalem.  We’ve poured over pictures and each religious holiday brings me to tell stories of things we did and learned there.  I’ve told them how amazing study abroad over there would be and encouraged them to plan that into their future somehow.

So when some family friends’ daughters got back recently from studying over there I figured we better get her over here for some “Jerusalem study abroad reinforcement.”

One of the daughters had to get back to college pretty quickly after her return, but the other one was waiting to head out on her mission and was more than happy to come share her Jerusalem experiences for Family Home Evening last week.

I pulled out the pictures my brother gave me for Christmas years ago after his own study abroad, and my Jerusalem pottery to make it slightly festive…

…and we gathered while Olivia told us all kinds of things about her amazing experience over there.

Our neighbors came over too along with Olivia’s family and boy, it was amazing how she kept all those kids mesmerized for almost an hour with stories.

By the time everyone left the mission was accomplished: they all had stars in their eyes about Jerusalem.  We FaceTimed the whole thing with Elle so she’s pretty excited about it too.

Who knows if this study abroad dealio will really happen… I mean, I know the requirements are totally different from when I went and I don’t know that all my kids will go to BYU in the first place, but I’m so glad they know it’s an option out there…along with a million other wonderful things they can do with their lives.

I’m so grateful for the little reinforcements that help parenting in so many ways.

Now on to figure out someone who can inspire them about how fun practicing the piano can be.


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  1. it sounds like a lot of pressure in that this is really over board way of conveying what you loved–your dreams came true!
    Don't get me wrong–this is not meant to be negative. Love your blog! But I think as parents you have to be a little more objective– I would think any child would feel very pressured given your post.
    "Mission accomplished" you better now pray they have "your similar experience" because if they don't–it can be a huge let down. The expectations of your experience have now been set extremely high! If I were a child, not sure I would see this as "an option".. But more of a let down for my parents if I decided not to go. But I'm not Mormon, so maybe this is where everyone goes??

    1. Anyone who has had the opportunity to study abroad tends to shout it from the rooftops. I'm not a Mormon, and didn't studying in Jerusalem, but spent many months in the south of France for a study abroad experience in college. And I suggest and push the experience on anyone who will listen. Travelling as a college student is ideal, both in being the "right" age, and also having a chance to see a different part of the world. My time in France was one of the best experiences of my life, and it sounds like Shawni feels the same about Jerusalem. It's understandable why she would want her children to experience something that brought her (and many of her siblings from the sound of it) an immense amount of joy.

      I got less of an impression that Shawni is pushing Jerusalem only, and more so the chance to study abroad and travel as a young adult (though she can correct me if I'm wrong), and using the example she has from her own experiences.

      Also- when you are writing a comment that is not meant to be negative, try not to use so many "air quotes", its comes off really passive aggressive.

    2. Well it wasn't meant to be passive aggressive at all–you shouldn't have made that comment yourself!! I have many children and not all of them are brave enough to study abroad, that's all. If you build it up as this unbeleivable experience, and it's not, it can be difficult. I also work in a major teaching hospital. We have had 2 study abroad kids that have been airlifted back to the states because of terrible situations-it happens. I'm sure Shawni's kids would do great!! They already have their China experience–I think my comment brought up a valid point. You don't have to reply for Shawni. Again, no insult was meant–

    3. Kris, the question about whether how much pressure to put on kids for experiences like this is a great one. (RHrad, thank you for your clarification…I agree, any study abroad experience is just such a great opportunity!)

      I was actually going to take a whole different route for this post and talk about just that: how much pressure to put on kids for certain things, because it's kind of a fascinating topic to me. But then I got tired 🙂 I've just been thinking about it a lot because of a conversation I had with these girls' parents. Maybe I should interview them here because basically they put huge pressure on their girls to go (they had both gone and loved it and wanted so much for them to have that same experience). It wasn't easy, but those girls think they have been given the best gift of the century to be able to have had that experience. They loved every second of it.

      I think as parents we obviously want the best for our children, and it's just human nature to make sure they are aware of opportunities out there that have had such a great impact on us. But at the same time, we need to be aware that there's not only one road to gain those great experiences. We've talked about that a whole bunch in our family. Can't wait to see the route these kids find!

    4. Something I wish I would have learned at a younger age is to learn to appreciate people's experiences without wanting them. I think this was a great opportunity for the girls in both aspects: an opportunity if they want it and an appreciation of they don't.
      I was the first in my family to attend a four year college and you bet I have talked my younger siblings ears off about what an amazing experience it is. But when the time comes I will make sure they (and eventually my own children, who are currently toddlers) know we each have our own path.
      One of the people I learned this from is Shawni, through her blog.

  2. I wanted to go to jerusalem so bad! It was closed exactly the amount of time i was there… I think my mom prayed it closes, we had spent a lot of time in the middle east and she was worried about safety. I hope your kids get a chance similar to yours. And now i just get exvited about going with my kids and husband someday.

  3. I wanted to go to jerusalem so bad! It was closed exactly the amount of time i was there… I think my mom prayed it closes, we had spent a lot of time in the middle east and she was worried about safety. I hope your kids get a chance similar to yours. And now i just get exvited about going with my kids and husband someday.

  4. This morning I was praying. I'm asking the Lord to show me if I should take my 13 year old daughter on a mission trip to Nicaragua. I'm asking for clear answers. And then I sat down and read your post 😊

  5. Shawni, I studied abroad in Jerusalem and loved every minute of it. From the time I arrived home it was my dream that my future children would have that same experience. it is truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that cannot be replicated in any way. My oldest son returned home from his mission feeling like he needed to get on with school. We encouraged him to go to Jerusalem but left it up to him. Last winter semester he enrolled in a Hebrew class and I told him if he was taking Hebrew he should definitely go to Jerusalem. Next thing I knew he was applying for the program and on his way. He is there right now and it is the best thing ever. I was afraid I had talked it up so much that it would be a let down but it is better than even he expected. I'm jealous every day of the amazing experiences he is having. It is my hope that all six of my kids will go.

  6. I am afraid to go to that part of the world. But it would be an AMAZING experience to walk where Jesus walked and see all of the places mentioned in the scriptures. I have a cousin who was able to have that experience and she absolutely loved it.

  7. My dad visited and multiple brothers went to byu Jeru and as a little girl those little seeds were planted but I didn't catch the "travel bug" until college and now experiencing and appreciating the world in any form possible is one of my greatest life passions! I remember at byu landing an incredible "job" to nanny for my brother's family who just got a job in India! Dream come true- paid to help my sis in law and kids who I adore and experience a new country! Plans were set. but.. as friends began to ask my summer plans I kept having this nagging unsettled feeling that India was just not the right course. Finally I a bit nervously began to pray about it and pour out my soul to God. I knew deep inside that I was to give this dream up and stay in.. Provo out of all places. But I learned to trust once again that the Lord knows the intricacies on our life and has the complete wisdom and encompassing love. That summer I ended up continuing a friendship that a year later turned into marriage. For various personal reasons I understand why for those few crucial months I needed to give up India for something far greater. And.. happy ending.. I got to travel to byu jersueam study abroad (another divine intervention and miracle story) right before we got engaged – which my now husband comletely supported. And he watched 3 of our babies while I had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to London and Ireland and France. The Lord amazes me and no matter what trials our children go through.. planting all these amazing seeds and opportunities in their hearts coupled with leading them to Christ and their true Father for guidance is the greatest thing we could do! I have full confidence that you do this beautifully and triumphantly. Their hearts are so full to the brim with good and beautiful things .. it'll be thrilling to watch these children of ours someday emerge out of their crystalis surrounded by all our love and parenting and crazies and "seeds" and to become whom the Lord meant for them to uniquely and beautifully be. I love the metaphor of your mom's last chapter of "I didn't plan to be a witch"! I looked strongly into buying a ticket to hear josh's farewell talk- wish I could have and would have loved to share travel adventures for your fhe :). Now for piano – that's a continual adventure isnt it?! Reworking motherhood over and over again. I love finding piano songs that excite them. Wouldn't it be fun to have an amazing concert pianist come inspire for a fhe? Haha! Much love towards you and your dear family! And yes Jerusalem has changed my life is forever ways… I actually appreciate the experience more since returning. I pull from my Jeru and traveling experiences ALL the time in my mothering, my callings, and everything!

    1. And yes as an above commenter said – traveling abroad in whatever form – has been the very BEST part of my whole college experience! Oh my stars! And sometimes those experiences were hard too… like when I did a humanitarian trip to Guatemala with other LDS students. The good and the hard – it's all beautiful. So many great options out there and I have no doubt that each of your children will find their own amazing path!!

  8. I still have the sweet, tiny Christmas ornaments made of olive wood that you gave to me from your trip. Do you remember giving those to our great group of VA girl friends? I get nostalgic every year when I hang them 🙂

  9. So funny to read this post tonight…I just spent the weekend looking at old slides from when my family lived in Jerusalem nearly 40 years ago. My dad was stationed there as a Marine and my younger sister was born there. I was too young to remember anything but my mom tells incredible stories and shares beautiful memories of her years spent there. Incidentally, we have the same pottery! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  10. I loved reading this post… I went in 1998 and through associations after from friends there, I also met my husband. If I hadn't gone to Jerusalem I wouldn't have met him. This place was a Zion experience, carved in my heart forever. It was fun to see we have almost the same pictures 🙂 Love those 4 months I got to live there too. Thanks for sharing your love for such a physical witness of all we're blessed with today! 🙂

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