Sunday, May 22, 2011

after all WE can do

Tonight I attended a fireside by Brad Wilcox. I remember him from my EFY days and he is a great speaker! Actually, while I was there this evening I kind of felt like I was back at EFY attending a lecture by him and I loved it! EFY speakers talk to a sea of youth for about 40 minutes at a time. So, they always start with interesting/funny stories and have this amazing talent to keep your attention as they talk about an aspect of the gospel. In many ways, they bring the topic alive for you or help you understand it/think about it in ways you never have before.

Tonight was no exception.

The topic of his remarks centered on the scripture in 2 Nephi 25:23. "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."

He focused solely on the last phrase "After All we can do."

I know I have never really understood this phrase and have always thought that I just need to work, and work, and work some more before I even have a chance at returning to live with my Heavenly Father again. I think there is this fear that I'll miss the mark by 2 points or something because I didn't really do "ALL" that I could. And, gosh, even I know if that is true, at this point in my life, I KNOW I wouldn't be getting into heaven because I've definitely not done ALL I could up to this point! But, it's still a thought I've pondered because... don't we all need to continuously "Put our shoulder to the wheel and push along"?!!!

Anyway, this talk was obviously meant for me. Throughout his remarks, he gave some great examples of how it's the Savior who has offered us the opportunity to "TOGETHER" (the Savior and I walking together hand in hand) be saved. He gave this one example... a mother pays a piano teacher to teach her child. The child can't pay the mother back in money, and the teacher can't play for the child, but the child can learn from the teacher and practice in order to "pay" the mother back by gaining talent in the beautiful musical instrument. She doesn't expect absolute perfection in her child, but she wants him/her to practice, try their best, and use the help the piano teacher provides. That's the way it is for us. The Lord isn't asking us to just be mediocre and slack off because the Savior will do it all on his own... or to be absolutely perfect on our own. But, through the grace that the Savior has given us, he has provided the way that we can return to our Heavenly Father TOGETHER. First we must try our best to become all we can "be"... and then TOGETHER (the Savior and I) will be saved after all WE (The Savior and I) can do.

Ha, he did a much better job explaining it than I ever could. There's a reason why I am not an EFY speaker! But, at least it makes sense to me and that bring me peace of mind!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ireland - March 2011

I've come to accept the fact that my original plan to blog about my AMAZING trip to Ireland just isn't going to happen. This has taken a back seat to more pressing issues, but I still would like to post some of the beautiful pictures and give a brief summary... so here goes.

I landed in Dublin and immediately set off for adventure! The idea was to see as much as we could in the short week-long trip! I came prepared with raingear since that is the typical weather for this season... but was pleasantly surprised as the week progressed :)

However, when we landed it was cloudy. We had taken the overnight flight and I was exhausted, but we set off to our first stop - Malahide Castle. And, as we walked along the path to the castle the SUN came out! Or, really, a brief glimpse of it. I was excited none the less.
Malahide Castle
Then, off to Skerries Mills. It's a unique collection of two windmills and a watermill with an associated mill pond, and wetlands. The mills were used for grinding corn: wheat oats and barley - wind power complementing water power, particularly in times of drought dating back to 1538. And, they still work! We got a private tour because there were no other visitors there! (One of the benefits of visiting in the off-season!)
Windmill #2
After this, we were spent. And, after having spent lots of time getting lost, we decided to just go to our hotel and find dinner before dark. Sunday was bound to be another adventure!
Sunday - We checked out early and set off for Newgrange. It's a Megalithic Passage Tomb that was built around 3200 B.C.. In the picture it's the large dome structure in the back top left hand corner. This picture is from the museum for it. The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 meter long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years!
Next we went to the Hills of Tara. A large area containing ancient monuments, and a former sacred site for kingship rituals. But, also, really just an incredible amount of small "hills". Almost like bunny slopes for a young skier to learn on!
St. Peter's Church was located on the grounds as well and had an old graveyard associated with it.
Final tourist stop for the day was Clonmacnoise. This was one of the places I really wanted to visit because I had read about so much of its history. It was created between 545 and 548A.D. The monastery's location helped it become a major center of learning, religion, craftsmanship, and trade by the 9th century. It was visited by many scholars from all over Europe and many of the High Kings of Tara were buried here.

This was also my first introduction to a "High Cross" or "Standing Cross". It is a free-standing Christian cross made of stone and richly decorated with symbolism. They often feature a stone ring around the intersection forming a Celtic cross.

After touring the ruins of the monastery (so cool!!), we headed to our hotel located in a "city" right on the River Shannon where I had my first and last "pub" experience (there really is one on ever corner... or more) and was sad to find out that "Subway" restaurants in Ireland don't offer the same footlong deals that they do in America!

Monday - The sun is OUT! Wahoo. A beautiful day!
Off to Galway

So, Saturday we started out in Dublin (eastern Ireland) and by Monday morning we are all the way on the western side of Ireland in Galway (a college town on the water). Very pretty. Sadly many of the museums we wanted to see were closed... because they always are closed on Mondays, but we walked around town.
I thought this sign was funny.
But, made a good point.
And, yep. Thought this sign was a little unnecessary... isn't that obvious?
A colorful row of homes right on the water.
So pretty!
After Galway, we set off for our drive through the Burren, an Irish word meaning "great rock"... and in a minute you'll see why it's given that title!

But, first we drove through Kinvara to see the Dungaire Castle (picture above...
it is thought to be the most photographed castle in Ireland... and I aided in that thinking!) and I saw my first thatched roof cottage roof. It was only sitting 2 feet from the main road. I would be scared a drunk driver would drive right in my living room! But, I guess the stone wall would prevent that! Smart thinking to put it there!

Me sitting next to the Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara. It sits right in Galway Bay and it's a very pretty area.

We drove past this sign on our drive to The Burren. Ha. It made me think of Boston, MA being just around the corner! Boston would fit right in, in Ireland. It's got crazy street layouts that don't connect like you think they should!
However, this is a picture of the typical crazy signage we had to figure out in Ireland. No wonder we got lost so many times. A slight breeze from the wind could turn the sign in a different direction!!
Entering the Burren... you can tell by the ROCKS! It has a Karst topography, which is a landscape shaped by the dissolution of layers of soluble bedrock.

In 1651, Edmund Ludlow stated, "(Burren) is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him...... and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing."

So true! I also learned that many farmers would let their cows roam here during the winter months and saw herds of them as well!

Can you see the cattle at the top of the hill?

Looks like a storm was coming,
but we never had any rain!
Typical Ireland parking.
Totally would confuse me as to which side
of the road I was then driving on if I did this!
Poulnabrone Dolmen is a portal tomb in the Burren dating back to the Neolithic period, probably between 4200 BC to 2900 BC.
Temple Cronan, The Burren
A chapel built over a sacred spring, or "holy well"
Our final stop on the tour of The Burren was at the Kilmacdaugh Monastery. One of the significant features of this monastery is the slim 30 meter tall round tower! It's doorway is 7 meters above ground level!

The tall tower :)

We headed back to our hotel for dinner and some google mapping out our next day. (I highly recommend a GPS for anyone doing this in the future!)

Tuesday: We checked out of hotel to head south down to Cork, but stopped a few places along the way. First stop was the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. So Cool!

The Folk Park brings to life a 19th century village. Here are some of the highlights:
This was a servant or peasants house... where, yes, their livestock lived in the house with them!
The cooking area
Some nice dishes... in my opinion!
Yes, that is a bedroom up there! Space was tight! They had a rolling ladder that was moved to the side of the room when not needed. Sounds like a perfect way to torture a sibling or punish a child that wouldn't behave. Stick them up there and move the ladder!
The Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. Built in 1425 it was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendor and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times.
It even hosts medieval dinners for guests in the evening!
The inside dining hall.
I climbed all the way to the tippy-top!
It's a long way up some very narrow steps!

This was one of the houses in the village.
A pretty shade of blue, I thought!
The Rock of Cashel.
This is a tourist trap. It was expensive to get in to and not worth it at all! It is under renovation, but still. Very disappointing. Many of the things we saw for free were much cooler than this. The one great thing about it was the views from its grounds since it sits on a huge hill!

This is the Hore Abbey which was just below the Rock of Cashel. It was free to get in to and much cooler to walk through!

The rest of the day we continued our drive to Cork and to find our hotel. Ha, that was an adventure. And, I won't even mention how LOST we got trying to get back to our hotel after dinner. However, many, many Irish folks tried to help us find our way! One guy even walked over two blocks to meet us again to help us get on the right road. Ugh... an hour or so later we returned. It should have been an 8-10 min drive!

Wednesday: We set off for Skibbereen Heritage Center. This is a really cool museum about the Irish Potato Famine and does a great job of helping the guest understand life for the Irish people in that area in the 1840s. However, the other "gem" we found at this museum was their volunteer "Terri". She was absolutely LOVELY and so fun to talk to! And, she told us all the things we should stop and see on our drive over to the Cobh Heritage Center. All of the "gems" she told us to see were not in any tourist book! LOVE THAT!

The drive she took us on followed the coast. So, on this sunny day we were constantly in awe of the very pretty coastline and the small towns we saw along the way.

First stop: Drombeg Stone Circle
A.K.A. Ireland's Stone Henge
Amazing views as well
Standing between the male and female stone
and opposite the mid-point.
One of the pretty towns we drove through
So quaint and peaceful.
You would think no one lived there.
I just laughed every time I saw cars parked like this!
We spent the rest of the day at the Cobh Heritage Center and in Cobh.

Thursday: We had to make the long drive back to Dublin because we flew out early the next morning, but we stopped at a few places along the way! This was also one of my favorite's from the trip. Again, totally free to get in and walk around... and AMAZING views! Rock of Dunmase
I just LOVED the green and rolling hills!

And, then this is still me at the same place as the pictures above. Storms roll in quickly so we took the picture before it started pouring! We were so lucky with weather and never got caught in the rain when we were out and about.

The rest of Thursday we spent getting to our hotel by the Dublin airport and just enjoying one last evening in this beautiful country! I can't wait to go back!!!