19 September 2012

What I've Done During 20 Years of FHE

A dozen years ago we moved into a new ward and I was called to serve on the Relief Society Enrichment Committee. I attended the first meeting (held in my home so I could put my children to bed and attend the meeting) and found out that one of my duties was publicity for the activities--I was supposed to make posters and flyers advertising our activities. I think I said something like "Well, I'll do my best, I'm not very artistic." The committee laughed and expressed their faith in me. As the days went by I was astonished to be the recipient of ideas flooding my mind. I know they came from the Lord because I had very little artistic ability or flair for crafting. The posters and flyers were wonderful and I got many compliments, but I gave credit where it was due, the Lord inspired me and I just put it together.
Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.                          The Family: A Proclamation to the World
In our callings as Father and Mother we are entitled to inspiration regarding our stewardship of home and family including Family Home Evening. Before you look online for someone else's inspiration, listen to the still small voice and learn to recognize the ideas flooding your mind because they will be tailor made for your circumstances and come at just the right time.

I've never identified with the remarks about FHE being the only arguments that begin and end with prayer. We didn't experience that in our home. Yes there were times when the Spirit fled and we had to work hard to get it back, but I don't recall (correct me if I'm wrong, chuns) ending an evening without the Spirit. The most important aspect of FHE is that it be consistently held, regularly, ongoingly, despite difficulties. As Winston Churchill said "Never, never, never, never give up." And as Elder Bednar said

Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer. They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development. What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.
Sister Bednar and I thought helping our sons understand the content of a particular lesson or a specific scripture was the ultimate outcome. But such a result does not occur each time we study or pray or learn together. The consistency of our intent and work was perhaps the greatest lesson—a lesson we did not fully appreciate at the time.
So here are some of the practices we have used over the years to make FHE part of our lives.

First I like to choose a theme for the year. The youth have a Mutual theme for the year and I figured that having a theme would give us a focus and a way to structure our lesson planning. We've used the Articles of Faith, the Primary annual theme, My Gospel Standards, the Scout Law, Standing for Something by President Hinckley, Commandments, and Modern Prophets; as well there have been years when we just chose lessons randomly because I didn't come up with a good theme.

I put together a chart so we could rotate assignments. This didn't work exactly like I wanted, because few bothered to check their assignments, but I kept it up so that we'd be reminded to be responsible.

One of the things we wanted our children to learn in FHE was how to conduct a meeting in a dignified manner, and all that went into being prepared to conduct. I made a "conducting sheet" and the person in charge was supposed to fill it out for their week. I had to help lots, but they eventually got the idea. I kept these sheets in a three ring binder divided by month.

Another thing I did was to put up signs all over the house on Monday to remind everyone to attend.

We bought an oak two drawer file specifically to house all our FHE materials. For years we used this as an end table in our living room, where we conducted our FHE's. Now it is used as a pedestal for our computer desk, still accessible to our living room. In the top drawer are the hanging files of church art work, supplies, and topic folders; in the bottom drawer is everything that won't fit in the top, too big, bulky or whatever.

It is only the last two years that we haven't had a piano (which is a sob story for another time) but until two years ago I played the music for our FHE's and I've always said that I play just good enough for that and nothing else. My family is very forgiving of my poor playing, for which I'm grateful. Anyway, we now use the Hymns on CD which makes us sound much better. I truly believe that music is one of the best invitations to the Spirit and we can't go wrong using it, no matter how poor we think we sound. After the Lord said "A song of the heart is a prayer unto me" not a song of the voice!

Those are some of the mechanics, the physical elements to our FHE; now I'd like to share a spiritual element.

For many years we homeschooled our children so I knew what they were doing and what they were learning and could observe their personal interactions daily. I watched and tailored our lessons to what their needs were (we had lots of lessons about manners and kindness!). Now that we only have two at home and they are both at public school I have to use more power of discernment to understand what they need, but it's just a matter of being prayerful and listening to the Spirit. What I find to be just amazing is how well what is in the church magazines fits with what our family needs. And really, no matter what our theme has been over the years I've found great stories, crafts, talks, and articles in The Friend, The New Era and the Ensign every month. These are resources no home should be without.

My testimony of FHE has deepened over time, and while we aren't perfect (is anybody?) the effort to be consistent has paid dividends through the years as blessings multiply and our family has strong bonds of love forged link by link in each Family Home Evening we held.

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