I am reading the best book right now.  (Aside from the Book of Mormon, which is awesome as always, but it’s kicking my trash trying to keep up!)  Anyway, I have to recommend this book called A Place for Us even though I’m only half-way through because it’s so beautifully written and makes me think on so many different levels.

So many themes running through this thing, but I’m especially loving the parts with descriptions of motherhood.  In talking about how the mother sees her children it says:

“She was stunned, and stunned again by them.  And her love for them.  How much had been lost?  How much had never made it into her memory?  Never made it into a photograph?  Let this moment make it, she prays.  Let each of them remember it too.”

That “moment” it was talking about was such a simple moment.  One where her three children were reading, leaning into one another at the library, tall shelves around them, “dust suspended in the afternoon light.”  And it made me want more than ever to cherish the “ordinary” moments with my children.

The feel of Lucy’s solid hand grasping for mine, holding it close when we walked to school the other day.  And this moment meaning more to me since that is a rare gesture for Lucy.  Her prayer last night, when we had just finished reading The Girl who Drank the Moon, (her for the second time), and how she spilled out gratitude to God that she got to read with her mother, bringing up Narnia books again, and wrapping her arm around me when she was done.  (Again, not something Lucy volunteers often.)

I want to remember that Claire is still goofy enough to lean over and tap me at church, and when I look over, her smile is blue, Extra gum smoothed carefully over her braces and teeth.  The glee filling her whole body after a great block in her last volleyball game of the season, stretching to join the jubilation of the other girls in a jumping huddle of excitement as the game was won.

The speedy “yes!” when I asked Grace if she wanted to meet me at a wedding reception place to check it out after school, and talking to her over a taco salad after that, about life and friends and worries and joys.  The billowy cloud watercolored with pink that she called us out to see the other night at sunset, and standing there together, a family (at least the at-home part) with eyes of wonder taking in God’s art.  Her smile jeweled with her dimples when we look at each other and know what the other is thinking.

The prayer huddles, the hugs, the kitchen talks, the family dinners, the stopping to look in each other’s eyes, the secret smiles of inside jokes…let those moments make it…and perhaps overcrowd the fighty, yelly, door-slamming ones.

Or maybe not.

Maybe all those moments mixed in together are the ones I hope they’ll remember to buoy them up when they’re walking to a college class one day, trying to figure out how to deal with their own teenagers, or just daydreaming of their childhood.

We had a lot of “moments” over Fall Break, moments I hope we all remember, but one stood out that I want to share as long as we’re talking about moments:

A little background: when kids turn twelve in our church they get to go to the temple for the first time.  They get to participate in work for those who have passed away.  And it is a pretty exciting thing that all of my kids have looked forward to.

Our temple here in the desert happened to close for maintenance for a month starting on October 1st, Lucy’s 12th birthday.  And although there are other temples we could drive to from here, we decided to go with Nana and Papa when we went to visit them over Fall Break.
The idea, actually, was to hit three different temples that week, one with Max and Abby and one with my parents and one with Dave’s parents since we were going to be driving all over creation.  But as always, I realized I was way overdoing it in the “can do” plans, (man, we did a LOT that week!) and I’m so glad it worked out that we only did one trip.  Because that trip was pretty precious to all of us, and I want it to stay as a little pearl of beauty in our fall break memory banks, not muddled up with other competing temple experiences.  
We were all wearing dresses borrowed from my sister-in-law the day before.  She had come to the rescue after I realized in horror we had forgotten our Sunday clothes (thank you Kristi!!). And for some reason, those clothes helped make the moment…all huddled together in the cold, those dresses mixed with our sandals and “nicest” tennis shoes, ready to go into that beautiful place.

These guys coming to join us:

(That boy is my cute nephew who is a freshman at BYU-Idaho.)

Lucy’s awe and excitement at being allowed to go into that holy place, her questions and awed reverence spilling out to the rest of us.

So there I was, in Kristi’s dress spiffed up with my pants underneath (it was too short), and white crocs the temple let me borrow, huddled next to Grace and Claire leaning over a little railing to watch Lucy get baptized, tears spilling out of all of us because it was so incredibly beautiful with Papa giving Lucy a kiss on the head each time she came out of the water, and not being able to control his voice from cracking with emotion.  One of the most strikingly powerful spirit-filled experiences I’ve had in a long time.  These things are perhaps more spiritually charged with Lucy because she thinks through spiritual things with her heart in a very uniquely beautiful way and I’m so lucky to be able to watch that as her mother.

I asked Lucy after we were done if she was worried at all in there and she said no, and explained that it was just kind of like her “national habitat” (meaning “natural habitat”) and that it was like riding a bike…once you’ve done it you just know how to do it from there on out.  And I think she was right.  She did great, and we basked in the fact that it was warm and comfortable this time around unlike the freezing cold “hot tub” in someone’s basement in China where she had her first baptism experience at eight (although that is also a beautiful moment I will never, ever forget…it is back HERE).

I hope we will always remember that morning.  The morning where the temple loomed above us, scaffolding trying to fix something or other, the crisp air, fall colors gently sparkling from the trees, love swirling in and around us, a little knit group there in Idaho on that morning, but reaching it’s tentacles back to those ancestors who have gone before us.

Yes, I pray right along with that mother in the book I’m reading was praying for her own moments, “let that moment make it…let each of them remember it too.”

It’s interesting how “moments” are extra beautiful to the eye of the beholder who is truly looking.  I love how the book continues, “how many times has she [the mother] stood, as she’s standing now, and looked at her children as she is watching them now?  A way of seeing that magnifies her attention, deepens her love at the sight of them, and she notices them in a way she otherwise might not.  The way the sunlight goldens the profile of their faces…”

I think the beauty of the “moments” in our lives lies in what we care to really look at and notice.  Moments can pass us by quickly and be lost, never to be remembered when we’re distracted and frustrated, when we’re not paying attention.  We have to soften our hearts enough to let them in and to change us. The beauty comes when we stop long enough to examine.  To appreciate, to take it all in while spilling out our gratitude.  


  1. Shawni-I think you would love the book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis(The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman) which tells the historical fiction story of the love story and marriage of C. S. Lewis. So many great quotes and a wonderful story!

    1. If they were not at college they would be at work. Adult people of marriageable age are busy. I’ve been married almost 20 years and I never heard of parents doing the legwork alone in wedding planning.

    2. My mother in law checked out all the reception possibilities without me because the wedding and reception were going to be in a different state than were I was currently living, just like Max and Abbey. I wanted an opinion of someone who could check places out in person. I can imagine that I would feel very irresponsible if I ditched school or work to travel to another state just to check out a reception place when a friend or family member could do it. I am a relaxed person though. Honestly, I wanted my wedding to be nice, but really I didn't care too much as long as I got to marry my guy and the people I loved were there. Everyone has different expectations for their big day.

    3. This family seems to drive or fly from state to state regularly, whether in school or work.

      They can have all the help they want or do it all themselves. There will probably be many celebrations in more than one state.

    4. I do not mean to be rude…but I can't help but think why do you care what "this family" does? Who knows…maybe Max and Abbey asked her to check out a venue for them and maybe they didn't but WHO CARES? I find it so interesting that the whole message of Shawni's beautiful post (on moments in life) seemed to be missed because of being hung up on why Shawni did something.

  2. Never commented before – but I read your journey with your kids from Australia, as my kids are a few years younger than yours. I love the imagery of the scaffolding on the temple – like you and your family, you will scaffold young Lucy in faith and love. Thank you for sharing your family's stories with us

  3. I love that you said we have to have a soft heart to let them in. As I've been rereading the Book of Mormon I've noticed that everything good comes from having a soft heart. And this pulled at my heart strings. I'll often stop and try to "memorize the moment" – whatever it is. Taking the time to do that often cements those memories in my heart a little deeper. At least enough that I can hang on to it until I have a chance to write it down.

  4. I hope you never stop writing. You have inspired me so much with your beautiful outlook and insight on motherhood, family life, and the church. Thank you!

  5. That book is beautiful- the last section in the father's perspective was even more touching to me so get ready for lots of tears. Gorgeous writing that captures the hearts of families beautifully.

    1. Oh my goodness, I finished the other day and you're right, that last part was the most beautiful…which is hard to top the beauty of the rest of that book. It was, I think, one of my favorite books ever!

  6. I can totally understand why people might think it strange. I hope I can explain it a bit. We believe that every person past or present should have the opportunity to be baptized a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For lots of people that’s not possible. They could have died without ever hearing even the name of the church, or live in a time when the church was not on the earth. So we do baptisms for them.. however, we 100% believe that they have the choice in the afterlife to accept or decline. My parents were converts to the church when I was 8. My mum was a strong catholic, it was something that was very foreign to her but has become one of the biggest blessings for her to feel that she’s helping her ancestors have the choice. She talked to Her family who are not members and asked for their thoughts and permission and they all agreed that if it was something that was important to my mum and the deceased can choose then they were ok with it. In fact after a few years they used to give her names to go !

    1. Thank you, Heidi!

      To me, temple work is such a great way to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" as is invited in Malachi. Fills up my heart to think of that.

  7. This is such an incredibly beautiful heartfelt post! It helped lift me above the "clouds" of discouragement, worry and mundane and see the beautiful light-filled plan our Father has for our families. To be a mother is one of the highest, holiest things a woman can ever do. I am so honored and blessed to be a mother! Thank you for sharing these thoughts that we've all had but in such a beautiful way! – Sherri from Utah

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