29 September 2012

Whisperings of the Spirit and the Nineteen Year Training Program

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a frazzled mother of young children who was done in by the endless needs of her children and household. In her mind she thought "I wish my children would quit interrupting my work." And into her heart came the still small voice saying "Your children ARE your work," which changed the heart of the mother of young children by helping her to remember that she had chosen this work in the beginning.

I think it was about that time my husband and I were inspired with the idea of a "nineteen year training program." In other words, we had about nineteen years to teach and train our children to become self-sufficient (enough) adults to leave home.

Training has included dress and grooming, chores, finances, spirituality, morality, talents, service, work, education and culture. Whenever our patience is wearing thin we remind each other that this offending party child has not yet completed the training program so we should forgive and be more patient.

We have three adult children now, all living more or less successfully away from home. Two are faithful to the gospel, one struggles with worldliness. We love all of them. They are self-sufficient, loving, good natured, intelligent, serving, caring individuals. We have good relationships with all three. It is great to see the products of our "nineteen year training program."

Through the years I've had many "whisperings of the spirit" come into my heart to guide me and comfort me in my chosen profession. I once wrote in my journal that I hope that worth is calculated differently in heaven and that those who choose to be stay at home moms will be honored beyond all the other mothers who chose worldly honors and achievements. I'm mostly anonymous, no one other than my children asks for my advice and counsel, no one interviews me about my achievements or aspirations, and hardly anybody, outside of my family and closest friends will know or care when I die. Over the years, though, I've learned that it doesn't matter, because I matter to the one who matters most to me. My Savior and my Heavenly Father. If I can please them, and live up to their expectations and trust of me, then my life will have been worth living.

I often tell my children, I'm teaching you this (whatever gospel principle I'm teaching at the moment) so you can never use the excuse, "My mom never taught me." You will be free to choose the way you want to live once you leave our home, but you will never be able to say "My mom never taught me ______." I have done my best to teach you because I don't want to have to stand before the judgement bar and feel ashamed that I didn't do my very best to teach you the gospel and how to return to our Father in Heaven.

So many struggle with the decision of whether to have a career or family. For what it's worth I'll give some counsel, the same I give my own children, especially my daughter.

This mortal life is short, in eternal time, and we only get one shot at it, there aren't any do overs. So when making a decision of any importance look at what is eternally valuable or important.

How can any worldly career compare with the bringing of spirits to this earth for their turn to experience mortality. Being a mother earlier rather than later is better because having babies is a young people's sport. Just ask any forty year old mother of an infant. But later is better than not at all. After all I didn't get married until I was thirty, so I missed out on about ten years of child bearing. I just never wanted to live with regrets for not starting right away in our marriage to begin our family. 

The full rewards of parenting are few and far between and sometimes long in coming, sometimes taking as long as nineteen or twenty years! But I have found them sweeter and more valuable than any earthly plaudits because of their eternal significance.

May you find joy in your journey through mortality and the great responsibility of parenthood.

Guest Post at We Talk of Christ

Jocelyn is hosting the Proclamation Celebration over at We Talk of Christ where I'm the guest poster today. Hop on over and see what's on offer; there have been so many great posts about The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

28 September 2012

And speaking of memories. . .

Presenting the Audubon, Iowa High School Marching Band

As usual I'm on the wrong side to get good shots of Dr. Hair, trumpet, and Dandylion, bass drum, but trust me, they're in there!

I love small town parades!!

P.S. This was the first time I've uploaded a video to YouTube and it asked me if I wanted them to fix the shakiness of it; sure, go ahead. Wrong, it makes it look distorted and weird. Live and learn. Sorry.

Make More Happy Memories

That's the advice my older sister D gave me when I asked her what she'd do differently raising her family of seven children. Make more happy memories.

As I read Annette's post over on Chocolate on My Cranium I thought of a few of my happiest memories and wondered if my children remember too.

Boys, do you remember playing beauty parlor and putting make-up on Mom and barrettes in her hair? I wish I had pictures! The attention and pampering was better than any $100 an hour spa.

Chuns, do you remember suppers of muffins and popcorn watching Disney videos? And Saturday homemade pizza nights?

Do you remember the trip to the Hill Cumorah Pageant and swimming in the hotel pool? What about Camp Joseph in Sharon, Vermont? Remember the Milky Way! And hiking the mountain?

Boys, do you remember reading our way through the Ralph Moody, Little Britches series?

Noble, do you remember the fashion shows, and Halloween costumes, especially the purple hair?

Do you all remember the Symphony concerts in the Provo Tabernacle? I cried when I heard that it burned down, and I cried again when I heard it would be rebuilt as a temple!

Remember playing on the GIANT in the park in Washington DC?

Remember our first Family Pajama Game Night?

I'm really thankful for an older sister who I call The Pioneer for going before me and blazing the trail. Because of her I learned early to savor moments, make happy memories and enjoy each stage of raising children. We homeschooled our children for fourteen years so I spent A LOT of time with them. And I've found that to be one of our biggest blessing because as they mature they become our best friends. Our adult children still call regularly to "plug in" to the Mom and tell me all their joys and sorrows.

Families are Forever! I can't think of a more important concept to guide us through our journey of mortality. Spend time with your chuns, make more happy memories, never stop teaching them the gospel and showing them the Savior's love through your love.

25 September 2012

Oh, The Goodness of Ordinary People

Today I saw this video and cried tears of joy for the goodness of ordinary people. It gives me renewed hope that our country will survive.

The best counsel from this is the man who says he wants to live his life so he won't have to say "I should have."

". . . when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God."

24 September 2012

Sixteen Years? How Can That Be?

Dr. Hair - The Birthday Boy

He got a pile of books . . .

. . . and his very own tools.

Look at all that loot.

Guess who the shrimp of the family is?
Update: After TopDad read this he asked why I had put it here instead of my other blog. I told him that we're celebrating The Family: A Proclamation to the World and what better way to celebrate family than a family celebration! (If that makes sense to anyone but me)

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.

17 September 2012

A Family Celebration

Welcome to the Family Proclamation Celebration! I'm delighted to be a part of it this year.

I grew up in a wonderful family and wanted nothing more than to marry, have children and establish my own family. I eventually reached that goal but it was a long time coming.

With our own five children I've "indoctrinated" them since they were little, teaching them that one of the purposes of life is to marry and have children because that is what Heavenly Father sent us here to do. Our children are just now reaching the point in life where marriage is a possibility so we're trying to  patiently wait for the second stage of parenting, Grandparenting!

The Family: A Proclamation to the World is extremely special to me because of the circumstances of it's presentation. The story of what happened will be a guest post at Jocelyn's blog this month.

Thanks for stopping by. I'll be posting some pictures and further thoughts as part of the celebration. Check back often.

07 September 2012

How to Help the Spirit Convert Your Spouse

Talk given 13 August 1995, Prince William Word, Centreville, Virginia

At the end of my full-time missionary service I confided to President Curtis that I didn't feel very successful because although I'd had twenty baptisms in the first half of my mission, I hadn't had any in the second half. President Curtis leaned over and said, wisely, "Your success has been in other ways," and reminded me of some of my accomplishments. Then he said "Baptisms are brought about by circumstances only the Lord can create. The missionary who just happens to be in the right place at the right time as part of the plan gets credit."

Today I'd like to share with you some ways to help the Lord create the circumstances necessary for truly spiritual conversions of our spouses, children and friends.

First a word about spouses. I do not advocate dating or marrying a non-member. I firmly believe we should be obedient to the counsel of our prophets and leaders to date and marry within our faith. I also believe in prayer, and in following the promptings of the Spirit. For six months following my 29th birthday, before I met Steven, I prayed fervently that I could get married. Heavenly Father know who would be right for me and He knew where he was. I specifically asked to be led to someone who would love me and whom I could love. Through a series of circumstances, such as my mission president described, Steve and my paths crossed and I received a spiritual witness that he was indeed "the one." Hence my marriage at age thirty to a non-member.

Shortly after we were married, Steven asked me why I had married outside the church if it was so important to me. After much thought I answered that I could teach him the gospel anytime he wanted to learn, but that I couldn't teach him to be loving and patient, to be hard-working and have a sense of humor, to want to be a father, or any of his other good qualities.

I waited for him to ask to be taught the gospel. It didn't happen, and being, by nature, impatient, I decided to experiment a little and see what would happen. Alma describes this experimentation saying:
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, it if be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts, and when ye feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves--It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)
I began to plant seeds and I watched them grow. I have observed that persons investigating the church, especially those with little religious background, and who are inexperienced in spiritual matters, often feel uncomfortable, nervous, or even frightened as they experience these new spiritual feelings, these "swelling motions." Many times the person withdraws and retreats to his comfort zone of worldliness. It can be frustrating. As I began to notice this phenomenon with Steve it took me a while to remember what I had learned as a missionary and relax and be patient.

With each spiritual experience he advanced a little further and his retreat wasn't as far back as the time before, until the time came when he felt more comfortable with spiritual feelings and less comfortable with worldly ones. At that point, I and several others challenged him to make a decision about the direction of his life. Not long after that he came home from work and announced that he wanted to take the missionary lessons and be baptized.

Each situation is unique and the Lord will not force anyone or rob a person of their agency, but basic principles can be applied universally, and then, guided by the Spirit, we can experience the joy of conversion in our families and among our friends.

From the beginning of our relationship Steve knew that I kept the Word of Wisdom, attended meetings, held callings, did visiting teaching, paid tithing, prayed and read the scriptures. I tried to be an example to him and tried to include him in as much as he was willing to be part of. He knew that I had convictions and would not relinquish them.

After we were married I asked his permission to bless the food at each meal. I encouraged and expected him to call on someone to do so. It took some training and explanation but eventually he got the hang of it and sometimes he would surprise me by saying the prayer himself. Those were tender moments.

We received the Ensign magazine and I left it, and pamphlets such as Joseph Smith's Testimony in strategic places like on his nightstand or in the bathroom. We are both "readaholics" so I took advantage of that and made sure he had some appropriate reading material within easy reach.

I tried to treat Steve as if he were a member. I'd tell him about the speakers in Sacrament Meeting, the Sunday School lesson, the Homemaking nights, what I did visiting teaching, etc. I'd answer all his questions, even if I was telling him things he wouldn't understand. That usually led to more questions and sometimes opportunities to bear my testimony.

Having children began another phase of gospel teaching. We had agreed before our marriage that our children would be raised in the church. It was exciting to see Noble participate in her first Primary Sacrament Meeting program. She knew all the songs and had a speaking part. We got teary eyed and felt very proud. About that time I read a book that opened my eyes and heart to the great responsibility entrusted to us as parents. In Raising Up a Family to the Lord, Elder Gene R. Cook quotes Elder A. Theodore Tuttle. It was one of those passages like Joseph Smith describes as "seem[ing] to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart." (JS 2:12) Elder Tuttle said:
The Lord organized the family unit in the beginning. He intended that the home be the center of learning--that the father and mothers be teachers.
How would you pass the test, parents, if your family was isolated from the Church and you had to supply all religious training? Have you become so dependent on others that you do little or nothing at home? Tell me, how much of the gospel would your children know, if all they knew is what they had been taught at home? Ponder that. I repeat, how much of the gospel would your children know if all they knew is what they had been taught at home? Remember, the Church exists to help the home. Parents, the divine charge to teach has never been changed. Do not abdicate your duty.
I felt duly called to repentance and set about to change things in our home. Again, I asked permission to have family prayer and to hold Family Home Evening. With little ones it is so easy to involve Daddy. After all, I couldn't hold all three children on my lap, I needed help. So I was able to teach principles of the gospel, and scriptures stories not only to our children but to their father. And you have seen the effect of the prayers of children who say "And bless Daddy to want to be baptized so we can go to the temple and be a forever family."

From the beginning I prayed that we would be sent to an area where Steven could join the church. In each ward we've lived I've prodded the home teachers to set appointments with Steve because he is the head of our household. As needs arose I asked them to bring specific messages. I encouraged the Elders Quorums to include him in service projects, sports activities and social functions. The ward in Mount Vernon, Washington was an answer to my prayers. The men of the ward took him into their circle and fellowshipped him right into the gospel. Every ward can be the answer to someones prayer if we will obediently follow the promptings of the Spirit.

When we began to homeschool Noble last year (1994) we decide that religious education was just as important in Kindergarten as Seminary is to high school students, so as part of school we read a chapter from the church's scripture readers each day, as well as a story from The Friend. We sing Primary songs and memorize scripture verses and Articles of Faith. It is exciting to see her knowledge and testimony of the gospel blossom and grow. These spirits saved for the last days are precious. This year she has asked me to read chapters from the "real" Book of Mormon. Our goal is to complete it before she is baptized in two years.

Additionally we have used holidays to teach the gospel and the plan of salvation to our children. We limit participation in secularized or commercialized corruptions of sacred days. When JET was just four months old we got our Christmas tree up and the lights on it but that was as far as I went. The demands of a new baby and two preschoolers was a bit much. Shortly before Christmas I sat in the glow of those lights nursing JET wondering what on earth a pine tree with tinsel and lights had to do with the birth of the Savior. I tried to think of a connection but couldn't. Then I set my mind to pondering what would be a more appropriate and useful image to have for our children to learn about the true meaning of the holiday. Into my mind came the idea of having a manger and a baby doll swaddled to represent Jesus. This past Christmas we had just that. Steven build a sturdy manger, I bought a realistic looking newborn baby doll and made a wrapping of unbleached muslin. Our children were free to touch, pick-up, play with and cuddle that baby. What a difference in their attitude about gifts as we talked of birthdays and service. For months afterwards they playacted the birth of Jesus, complete with wise men and shepherds, angels and animals. It was wonderful to listen to them play. At some time we may have another tree but we will keep the tradition of the manger and baby to remind us so vividly of what we are truly celebrating.

I hope you've gotten something from my rather disjointed explanations. Frustration, discouragement and impatience are devils I have wrestled with as I tried to teach my husband the gospel. I'm still wrestling as we try to teach our children. The labor is long and hard, but the fruit is desirable and worth the struggles.

The four most important things to remember in living the gospel and teaching the gospel in our homes are to:

  1. Be an example of obedience - this is how blessings will flow!
  2. Pray individually and as a family. Expect to receive answers and then act upon the promptings we receive.
  3. Study the scriptures and the current prophet's teachings, again, individually and as a family.
  4. Hold regular Family Home Evenings to teach principles, bear testimonies and to feel the Spirit of the Lord in our homes.
Remembering that we cannot force another or rescind his agency, these words from Joseph Smith give great comfort:
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. (D&C 123:17)

I testify that God lives, prayers are answered and blessings come in ways and when we least expect.

06 September 2012

Line upon line, precept upon precept

I'm teaching Seminary again this year to just our two sons, which is a lot like homeschooling: We do things a bit differently. I don't follow the "song and dance" routines outlined in the Teacher's manual, opting rather for a more exegesistic approach (critical explanation or interpretation of a text, esp. of scripture). Years ago I came upon that word in a book about homeschooling, by the way, and had to look it up. Very good word.

We open with a song, prayer and thought. Pretty regular there. Then we read what the student manual says about the chapter we're going to read; usually the manual, designed for home study students, asks you to look for something as you read. So we do. Then we discuss it and answer the questions in the manual looking for the subtle clues that show a larger picture.

Reading just one or two chapters each morning and talking (or thinking and writing) about the doctrines and principles in them is a good way to receive personal revelation line upon line and precept upon precept. You truly do get a little here and a little there, nuggets to build with. Build your testimony, your knowledge, your understanding.

We are studying the New Testament, of which the Gospels are my favorites, and the blessings of modern technology in the form of Bible Videos available on demand in the internet is huge. Talk about bringing the scriptures to life!

May we study the scriptures "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Ephesians 4:13

04 September 2012

Truth and Consequences

Truth will stand, eternal and unchanging. As I read bloggers and comments all over the internet spout opinions about my religion I remember Galileo. He was arrested, tried and convicted of heresy because he taught that the sun is the center of the solar system, not the earth. He was not the first to teach this truth, and of course he was not the last, but in his day the truths he espoused were not accepted. The truth did not change because of this non-acceptance, it stood the test of time and with the proper instruments to view to solar system the truth is now universally accepted.

The truth that members of The Church of Jesus Christ is Latter-day Saints are in fact, word and deed Christians followers of Jesus Christ, is not universally accepted. But that doesn't change the truth and someday with the "proper instruments" to view the beliefs and practices of the church it will be an accepted truth.

I've always wondered why seekers of facts or truth don't go directly to the source. It would be like a person wanting to know about Subaru automobiles going to the Ford dealer. Would you get the straight scoop? Would anyone wanting to know about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology go to University of Nevada, Las Vegas for information. If I want to know about the Baptists I sure wouldn't go to the Lutherans.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not lie about it's theology, practices or customs. We do not brainwash individuals or force anyone to do anything against their will. All are welcome to attend our meetings and speak with members and missionaries. Look around the walls of our buildings and listen to the hymns we sing, the prayers over the Sacrament and then tell me that you believe we are not followers of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

One commenter said that the Book of Mormon was simply the rantings of a deranged mind (wonder where he heard that) and I wondered if he/she had ever read the book.

I do know that human beings are generally afraid of what they don't know and that fear tends to show itself as dislike. I can tell you about that from my own experience. As I was preparing to serve a mission I so hoped I would not get called to an Asian mission. I didn't like the food or the music or costumes or the strangeness of it all. I hadn't been introduced to the Asian cultures and found them to be odd at first glance. I wasn't sent there, I went to the deep South and learned to love the people of the Bible Belt, along with speaking Southern. After my mission I had experiences that opened my eyes a little bit and I could see that the Orient had wonderful things to offer. But it wasn't until many years later when our daughter Noble introduced me to all things Korean that I let go of my prejudices and opened my heart to learn of a people and culture rather different from mine.

Followers of Jesus Christ in other churches saying that Mormons aren't Christian are like me saying that Asians aren't human beings because they have customs and habits that are different than mine. We don't have to have the same customs, habits and tastes to value and appreciate each other as human beings; nor do we have to be the same in beliefs and customs to value and appreciate each other as followers of Jesus Christ. We have more in common than we are different. I can learn from you and you can learn from me. We can help each other and our communities if we unite in our commonalities and strengths rather than emphasizing our differences.