14 January 2019

Striving to Come, Follow Christ as a family

There is no doubt that God designed the family to help us develop godlike qualities, nor that God intends for the parents to teach their children well.  Apparently there is some confusion about God designing something that is necessary and yet isn’t pleasant all the time.  Men are that they might have joy and all that.  ‘They might’ being the significant phrase.  It doesn’t say ‘they will automatically’ or easily or ONLY have joy - just that they MIGHT have joy.

To quote my husband (if you haven’t heard him proclaim this already), “Marriage is hard!”  And this is part of the design of it!  Family life is supposed to be hard - it is a design Feature, NOT a design FLAW.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it,

“Why should it surprise us... that life’s most demanding tests as well as most significant opportunities for growth in life usually occur within marriage and family? ... Is being courteous, one time, to a stranger on the bus as difficult as being courteous to a family member who is competing for the bathroom morning after morning?   ...

“Should it surprise us that in striving to acquire and develop celestial attributes, the greater the interpersonal proximity the greater the challenge?  Is not patience, for instance, best developed among those with whom we interface incessantly?  The same is true with any of the eternal attributes!  Hence the high adventure of marriage and family life!”

Now, it might not be competing for the bathroom that is hard for us (it certainly seems to be for certain members of our family) but I am going to make a wild guess that nearly everyone has to deal with someone in their family that does something annoying.  They might even do it ON PURPOSE.  It might be never putting their cereal away.  It might be they use your stuff and don’t put it away and it gets broken.  It might be they can’t seem to put their clothes in the hamper or shoes in the closet.   It might be that they keep messing up your shared room that you just cleaned.  It might be that they snore at night and keep you from your well-deserved sleep.  It might be that they stubbornly refuse to joyfully participate in family scripture study.  Maybe.  Perhaps.  

These annoyances - er - interactions - with other people give us every day an opportunity to hone our celestial mettle.  As Elder David A Bednar said,

“In marriage and family life, we learn and grow together as God intended.  In our families ‘we cannot hide from who we really are as we strive to become who we are destined to become.  In essence, a family is the mirror that helps us become aware of imperfections and flaws we may not be able or want to acknowledge.  No one knows us better than a spouse and the other members of our family.  Thus, the family is the ultimate mortal laboratory for the improving and perfecting of God’s children."

Who knew family life was part of Ultimate Sports?  Forget American Ninja Warrior or Survivor!  If you survive family life you win the Ultimate Prize!  If you survive it with too much grace and ease, some  will just stand agape at your skills while others might want to vote you off the island - but the thing is, everyone has their moments of despair or insecurity and clinging on by the very fingertips with shaking muscles and by hiding them we are only denying everyone cheering us on to the finish.  The other nice thing is that there is never an elimination in this Ultimate Family Game.  You slipped off the rings into the water?  You missed that crazy jump?  You yelled at you kids for the thousandth time?  No problem!  You get to try again and again and again.  Because repentance and forgiveness are definitely included in the rules of this game.  In fact, they’re essential because without them - no one would finish.  No one.

The danger is that we look into that mirror that is our family and we don’t like what we see because we can only see all the imperfections - the wrinkles and zits and awful things that we did or said and we don’t take advantage of the greatest Photoshop of all - the Atonement.  Not that all those things will be magically taken away in the click of a button (wouldn’t that be nice!) just that we can catch a glimpse - a breath-taking, wonder-inducing glimpse of what we could be if we keep trying.  And that glimpse gives us hope to keep trying and repenting and trusting in Christ and His promise to make us whole if we desire it.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow see all of our imperfections as opportunities to change instead of something to be hidden?  

Getting this rule more deeply ingrained in our heads is one of the main reasons of the new Come Follow Me program.  Seriously.  And I quote:

“The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ. For this reason, when we study the gospel, we’re not just looking for new information; we want to become a “new creature” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). This means relying on Christ to change our hearts, our views, our actions, and our very natures.”

Yep.  Christ is out to change us.  Entirely.  So when we notice that something needs changing, it means we can start working on something that will make us more like Him.  Sometimes that changing is going to need more help that just you or you and your family alone can manage.  Seek out or be willing to be guided by the Spirit to the people who can help you change.  These might be friends or medical professionals or therapists at times.  

The new Come Follow Me program is going to make us face that family mirror more - yay for more opportunities to change!  God is cheering you on in this journey to become alive in Christ.  God wants your success and will help you in it as much as you allow Them to especially as you plead for Their help in guiding your family through.  Does God’s help mean that your family will become impervious to problems or falling away?  A survey of the prophets from Adam on down seems to say “NO”. Not even Jesus could convert people who didn’t want to be converted.

I’d like to give a few suggestions to help make your Come Follow Me family experience the best that it can possibly be:  1. Decide on your goals; 2. Teach Who you have; 3. Teach with What you have; and 4. Teach by invitation and example

First, Decide on your goals.  

Now, as already stated, the overarching goal is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ.  There are going to be many little goals along the way that help our families get closer to Christ.  What is your focus going to be?  Sitting reverently for 5 minutes?  Sitting reverently for 1 minute?  To memorize scriptures?  To love the scriptures?  To love the word of God?  To invite the Holy Ghost more fully into your home?  To turn off the screens more?  To connect as a family more?  Loving each other more?  Sharing the love you feel with others?  Being more consistent in Family Prayer or Scripture Study?

Each family is different and will have different goals.  Setting goals helps you focus on what you really want.  Always remember that grand goal - to deepen our conversion to Christ and try to see our decisions and actions within our families through that lens.

I went to a parenting workshop this past week that discussed the importance of deciding what you really wanted in a relationship with your children when they were twenty and acting accordingly.  Did you want them to tell you everything?  Did you want them to be successful and mature adults?  Did you want them to feel so at home that they would just walk in the door?  Did you want them to be thoughtful and kind?  I wanted so many things!  It was fascinating to think through how our reactions to situations might be totally different depending on our ultimate goal and none of them would be Wrong.  

What will your goals be and how will they shape your interactions with your family?

Second:  Teach Who you Have

Congratulations to all the families that have children that all eagerly and reverently listen (at the same time) as you teach the gospel.  I haven’t experienced that yet!  Why aren’t you up here giving this talk?!?

Christ taught the individual - He had the advantage of divine omniscience to know exactly WHO He was speaking to, what they needed to hear, and how they needed to hear it.  And even then some chose not to listen!

Luckily (although they can still be a mystery at times), you know your family members better than anyone else.  You’ve known them for Your entire lives or you’ve know them for Their entire lives.  When you ask for and take advantage of divine omniscience through the Spirit, you can be guided on how to best teach them.  And even then they may choose not to listen!

Take inventory of what you know about each of them - their abilities and nature - Do you have energetic kids?  Long attention spans or short attention spans?  Do they like to be in charge or do they like to observe?  Are they creative or literal-minded?

Clearly, even in a nuclear family setting, very infrequently will the needs and interests of everyone intersect.  We definitely struggle with this having teenagers through preschoolers in our home!

One thing that we have focused on is respecting our family members’ attention spans.  My husband still has strong antibodies against long lecture-like Family Home Evenings where everyone has to sit still the Whole Time because he resented them so much as a child.  

Lessons don’t have to be long to be effective!  Putting kids in charge of the lessons can help them be shorter.  Sometimes it is as simple as reading a scripture and drawing a picture to go with it - either the actual story or a principle from it.  Set them up for success - show them the online resources or Gospel Library App and where you keep the spiritual books and manuals in the house.  The Friend and the New Era each have suggested FHE lessons that support the Come Follow Me curriculum and are set up so that an older child or teen could teach the lesson.  One of my brother’s favorite lesson techniques was to get a bag of random stuff from around the house, have us draw something out and then somehow relate it back to the lesson topic.  We laughed a lot but also stretched our understanding of the scriptures!

If you don’t have family at home, pray for opportunities to share the insights you find as you study with others - it can be a text to a grown child, a written note to a grandchild, a conversation with a ministering sister or brother.  For those that have families in the growing stage, prayerfully consider how you can include people who don’t have family nearby or are alone in the gospel within their family in your family’s study of Come Follow Me so that both you and they can be blessed.

Three: Teach with What you have

Christ was an excellent teacher in part because He used examples from the everyday lives of the people He taught.  They understood about chickens and fishing and shepherds and publicans.  If the people you’re teaching don’t know about these things, find some way to let them experience it - or draw from their experience to liken principles from the scriptures to things in their lives.  I look forward to hearing how soccer or Ultimate Frisbee can be related to the principles of repentance or how the desire to check in on the favorite game (Insert Minecraft or Terraria or Puzzle & Dragons or Zelda or Pok√©mon here) is like the desire of the shepherd to watch over the sheep.  Work with what you have in your house.  Use the situations they already see and experience to help them understand gospel principles.

Finally, Teach by Invitation and Example.

Come, Follow Me is very appropriately named.  It is both a reminder of Christ’s invitation to us to follow Him and a reminder of the best teaching methods we have available to us:  teaching by example and invitation.  As a teacher, Christ never forced, he only showed the way and invited.  As parents we are constantly showing the way:  Whether we like it or not we are setting the standards for behavior - including repentance and forgiveness.  It is not failure to make mistakes - it is part of the learning process!  All you older children?  You’re teaching your younger brothers and sisters how to behave whether you like it or not, so I plead with you to help set a good example for them to follow.  

In the role of parent of young children, we must also enforce justice so that young children know the boundaries of acceptable behavior.  But as they get older and start understanding principles of the gospel better, making invitations to better behavior gives them a sense of your trust and belief in their abilities to make good decisions and choose the right.  Trust that you have imperfectly taught them well.

May you be blessed as you and your families strive to follow the Savior, become more like Him, love more like Him, learn together, teach each other and reach for Divine inspiration and grace.

(From a talk given January 2019)




23 April 2013

My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

My brother and his wife are about to go through the worst thing I can imagine.  They are about to lose their baby.  About a month ago, they went in for their routine ultrasound - the one where you usually get to find out the gender of the baby.  The technicians measure a lot of other things, but usually I don't care about them.  This is when my brother and his wife found out their baby was very sick and would not be able to survive outside her womb - and maybe not even until full term.  

I've been trying to wrap my head around this for a month and I can't.  I can't comprehend how this knowing their baby must die weighs on their every moment.  I can't tell how much it must hurt to feel this little living kicking moving darling Tiny Baby and know how fleeting this baby's life will be. I can't imagine the long drawn out pain of  knowing that your baby will not survive and knowing there isn't anything you can do to change it.  I can't stop crying whenever I dwell on it.  It seems like every discussion and lesson at church this past month has been related to this somehow (and it means that I've spent a good portion of church crying).

This past Sunday the Relief Society lesson was on learning through our trials.  I always struggle with these lessons because I feel like I live a charmed life - I worry that I'm either too fragile to get any huge trials or that there is a real doozy waiting for me just up the road around the bend.  Right now I'm leaning towards too fragile to handle anything at all because I'm in pieces over someone else's trial.  Yes, it is happening to people close to me that I love but it is not ME.  They are handling it as well as anyone can in these circumstances with a mix of love and grief and hurt and bewilderment and grace and pain and faith.

But I had two things I want to cling to and share.

One - We talked about shrinking from our trials.  I think this is our natural response - we all withdraw from the things that hurt us.  It is instinct, reflex.  We don't think about it.  Shrinking from the trial is not a sin.  Even Jesus wished, "that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink"  It is when we push through and past that initial response and embrace or overcome that instinct to shrink away that we can grow.  Every trial is a chance to choose to grow or shrink.  The trial is still miserable.  The pain will be there no matter what.  But the choice is ours to whether our cup of joy gets bigger or smaller.  It is perfectly ok to feel desperately sad and that life will never be the same again.  It won't.  But I have to believe that we decide how the experience transforms us.  I know what I hope I would choose.

Two - We listened to a song based on Jesus' response to Joseph in Liberty Jail when he complains about the trials he is going through. (which were more than I ever want to experience).  Here are the lyrics:

For a little while
Have I forsaken thee; 
But with great mercies will I gather thee.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee
For a moment.
But with everlasting kindness will I gather thee,
And with mercy will I take thee 'neath my wings,
For the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
But know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!

Though thine afflictions seem
At times too great to bear,
I know thine every thought and every care.
And though the very jaws
Of hell gape after thee I am with thee.
And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee,
And with healing will I take thee 'neath my wings.
Though the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
Know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!

How long can rolling water
Remain impure?
What pow'r shall stay the hand of God?
The Son of Man hath descended below all things.
Art thou greater than He?

So hold on thy way,
For I shall be with thee.
And mine angels shall encircle thee.
Doubt not what thou knowest,
Fear not man, for he
Cannot hurt thee.
And with everlasting kindness will I succor thee,
And with mercy will I take thee 'neath my wings
For the mountains shall depart,
And the hills shall be removed,
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea,
But know, my child,
My kindness shall not depart from thee!
My kindness shall not depart from thee!

(Youtube link here - just listen)

So, if you have a spare moment to send up an extra prayer for my brother and his family today, please do.  I will be praying that the angels will encircle them and that they will feel of His love over these next difficult days and months to come.

Their blog is here:  www.hilleries.com

10 December 2012

Oh the Catching Up-ed-ness!

I figure since I put this blog on our Christmas Card, I should actually put a current post up.  And hey, I actually DID Christmas Cards!!!!  We have NEVER done Christmas Cards before!  We did a Christmas letter a couple times, but never a CARD.

The Dude is now in 4th grade.  He has already completely his California Mission Project (with distinction).  He is still playing the violin and is getting really good and a joy to listen to.  His little quartet from Violin Camp this summer has had a couple other chances to perform because they were just so good.  :) Having recently acquired dragon-wings has made him very happy and he loves swooping around the house.

Sita is in 1st grade.  Apparently she's quite the popular little person on the playground but has a lot of the accompanying drama that goes with it.  She is also plucking away at the violin and is starting to actually read the music.  We are still trying to stay ahead of her reading, but that is fairly impossible.  She is such a good storyteller that sometimes it is hard to winnow fact from fiction and she has such a good imagination that sometimes it is hard for HER to tell fact from fiction.

Boo's favorite things to do are to have books read to her, play dress up with Sita or play dragons with the Dude.  She loves going to her preschool once a week and especially enjoying the company of another little girl that has ALMOST the same name as her.  It can get rather confusing when they're hanging out together (which they do a lot!)  She is also my great helper around the house and likes kneading bread with her Daddy.

The Spozo Maravilloso is doing Very Important Things at work.  He is filing for a patent (again)!  He'll have to tell you what it is actually about.  He is also in demand at conferences and has gone to several this year (although none outside of the U.S. - which is sad because I got my passport renewed just so I could come with him if he got to go to a foreign one!)  He loves teaching the Elder's Quorum (men's group) lessons at church and is getting attention for his wonderful singing and oboe-ing.  The children are caught up in watching him defeat the Evil Demons on Zelda Skyward Sword.

I got to go to Girls' Camp again this year (thanks to Nonna and GrandMary!).  I went with one of the groups that go on an overnight hike, which was my first time ever.  It was a great experience and I had a great time with the girls.  I have been teaching art lessons for the Dude's and Sita's classes (because the parents teach the art here - they give you all the lesson plans and supplies).  Getting to know the kids in their classes and their teachers has been great - and I just love teaching art!  :)  I just got released from working with the Young Women and am now the Thing Formerly Called Enrichment Coordinator.  Being in Relief Society again is nice, but I still miss working with the youth.

That is us in a very nutshell!

I will try to post more often!

~

24 April 2011

Yes, she gets it

Most of the time when I mention that the Sita is reading the Little House on the Prairie books or now the Chronicles of Narnia, the first question they ask is, "Yes, but is she understanding it?"

Now, she probably isn't understanding all the symbolic or allegorical aspects of the Chronicles of Narnia, but is she understanding the basic stories?  Yes, definitely!  Since she is almost always making up some story out loud, it is easy to listen to her stories to see what she's been reading lately because she pulls from those to make up her own.  For a while, she named one of her dolls Charlotte and they had a lot of fever and ague and eating of cornmeal mush.  Now she's into talking animals and alternate realities although we've also had a lot of Fairies (the Rainbow Fairy books), Dragons (How to Train Your Dragon), and Owls (the Legend of Ga'Hoole).  =)

As another proof of her reading comprehension, the Dude has been taking pretests in prep for the STAR testing next week and bringing them home to show how well he's doing on them.  There are a lot of stories on them for the reading comprehension bits and I saw Sita reading one of them this morning.  So I asked her all the questions that were connected with that story and she verbally answered them correctly and only needed the "multiple choice" options to guess it right a couple of times.  Once she realized she got all of them right, she wanted to try the rest of the practice tests.  And she totally passed.  Only on one story did she get any wrong at all.

The Dude was a little jealous of her doing as well as HE did on the tests, so we got to have a nice chat about how someone doing as well as you at something does not take away from you doing well and you don't need to feel threatened by it.  I'm sure we'll have this chat at least a few more times.  It is something I have to remind myself of every once in a while.
~

21 March 2011

Addicted to Movies

Yes, I am sorry to say Boo at the tender age of 2 is completely addicted to watching movies.  At first it was just Green Eggs and Ham and Cat in the Hat.  Then we discovered the Eyewitness DVDs at our local library!!!  Now she asks for "uhSHEEN" (Human Machine) "i-a-uhs"(Natural Disasters) and "orssy" (Horses).  She didn't like Skeleton as much.  Birds and Butterfly and Moth were also good ones.  And although I love Dr. Seuss and the slightly crazy songs on the DVDs, I was getting very tired of listening to them.

One thing that I am sure she will NOT be watching is "educational" shows (NOT the Eyewitness DVDs - the ones on PBS, Nickelodeon, and the Disney Channel).  After reading Nurture Shock, which I liked a LOT of (such as the sections on Praise and Self Control and Race and Sleep Deprivation) but Strongly Disagreed with some other points in it (especially the section on Education), I feel really good about not allowing "educational" programming in our home.  I will admit that I was surprised that the researchers "found that Arthur is more dangerous for children than Power Rangers" (p.181) and "The more educational media the children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were."  (p.180) The researchers theorize that this might be because the majority of children's shows are negative most of the time with just a small part (the resolution at the very end) being "positive."  To quote again:

We can imagine educational television might use an initial insult to then teach a lesson about how insults are hurtful, but that never was the case, Schiebe [one of the researchers] found.  Of the 2,628 put-downs the team identified, in only 50 instances was the insulter reprimanded or corrected - and not once in an educational show.  Fully 84% of the time, there was either only laughter or no response at all." (p.182)

That said, I think that Charlie and Lola (at least the first few seasons) is fairly good at modeling positive sibling/child relationships because Charlie and Lola have their differences, but they don't resort to calling each other names over them.

As for what I am watching, right now I am addicted to Pushing Daisies!!!!  The episodes with Wilford Woodruff and Lemuel made me laugh with special glee.  =)  Thanks, Lady Steed!
~

10 March 2011

the Dude loves Math

The Dude gets up at Insanely Early Hours every morning but he is expert at finding something fun to do while he's waiting for us to wake up.  (See Treasure Hunt)  Today he brought in a piece of paper that he had been expanding a fraction out on (I don't know the correct terminology here!)  - whatever the opposite of reducing fractions is.  He had started with the fraction 2/5 and had multiplied by 2 out to 4/10, and kept multiplying it by 2.  He got it Perfectly Right to 1,024/2,560 and then did a slight carrying error in the bottom.

BUT he did Perfectly Right on the top all the way until he stopped (at 65,536!)  AND he multiplied his incorrect answer correctly until the end (to 160,640).

I love how we talk about a concept (like reducing fractions) and he takes it in a slightly different direction to the Extreme.  (I like less that he chided me for doing it the Easy Way as I wrote out the multiplication to check his answer).

One thing is certain - the Dude Loves Math!


~

07 March 2011

Waking up to a Treasure Hunt

When I got up this morning, the Dude was already deep at work on some project.  I was warned several times to look away at certain times (which I dutifully did) and asked where my treats were because he needed some... for me.  I directed him to his father, who said Mommy could get her Own Treats.

The Dude very proudly hands me a small piece of paper that reads,



I look there (the very chair I'm sitting on now!) and find another:



This might've posed a bigger problem if I hadn't heard the front door open a couple times this morning and gotten an Evasive Answer about what was going on.

So I go around collecting my notes from their hiding places.  Some of my favorites:

Clue three: Youve done the hard one that is true, but now check under the table.
Clue four: to get to the prize, go and ask a old clumsy chair.
Clue nine: inside a thin drawer is next.
Clue eleven: next to the piano is next.

Until I get to "Clue eghteen: in dads box is the prize."

Of course the Dude is following me around and giggling delightedly every time I find a clue or Especially when I look in Not the Right Place immediately.  He is on hand to explain to me that he could not put my prize there, but that I had Certainly earned it, so I should go get it.  Since I hadn't had breakfast yet, I deferred collection of my Prize until later.

I wondered what had inspired him to this project and I found it was from his new book:


Cost of the book?
$9.99
Cost of this Treasure Hunt?
Priceless.
~