Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shimmering Glimpses into Eternity ...

Learning to fully understand the doctrines of the gospel is a process of a lifetime and comes "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little (2 Nephi 28:30). As children learn and act upon what they learn, their understanding is expanded, which leads to more learning, more action and an even greater and more enduring understanding.
We can know our children are beginning to understand the doctrine when we see it revealed in their attitudes and actions without external threats or rewards. As our children learn to understand gospel doctrines, they become more self-reliant and more responsible. They become part of the solution to our family challenges and make a positive contribution to the environment of our home and the success of our family. (Cheryl A. Esplin, April 2012, General Conference)
There are a lot of things that I love about being a mom, but some of my favorite moments are those when I can see the girls building the foundations of their eternities. There've been a few of those times lately.

Last weekend, the girls' step mom told them they didn't need to buckle up when they were driving to the store. M told her that her parents always made her buckle and that they'd be upset if she didn't. My 10 yr. old then buckled her seat belt and made sure that her little sister did the same, even though neither her dad nor I were nearby. For a child M's age to do what's right, even when the adult says she doesn't need to, takes a great deal of courage. I was thrilled to see this confirmation that my daughter is growing both strong and wise.

Today after church, my kids wanted to watch a movie. M told her sister that since church was over, L could pick any show that she wanted. L asked me if that was true. I said that I'd prefer that she pick a Sunday show. She started to argue with me, so I looked at her and said that it was up to her. I told her she could pick whatever she felt good about, and then I left it alone. A few minutes later, L came up to me holding the movie, 17 Miracles. This is the show that she decided to watch.

Each of my children is learning to make good choices for herself without outside urging. I can see them growing, and it lights my heart. I feel so blessed that God has allowed me to have these sweet girls in my life. I don't know what I did to earn such trust, but I'm thankful God has given me the opportunity to help Him raise these little ones.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Wisdom of a Child

Yesterday, we had fast and testimony meeting. It's a meeting once a month where members of the congregation can walk to the pulpit and share their feelings about the Savior and His Gospel. It's a time for people to share their own witness of the goodness of God in their own lives. My daughters have found that they love this opportunity.

In her own testimony, my oldest daughter said something profound. Her testimony was short and simple, but she ended it with, "And I know that I am special." Her sweet, simple words seemed to resonate with many of the members of the congregation, because there was a collective "Aww ..." and a few quiet chuckles.

What a lesson for me. My sweet child, who has already faced so much in her world, knows that she is special, and she felt that it was important to witness that to all who could hear. There was an innocence in her statement -- she was simply stating a fact. How much better would life be if we could all remember that one simple thing? That, in God's eyes, we are all so very special.

Moments like these give me hope that perhaps she'll walk through the fires of life, brilliant in her own special light and in the light of God's love for her.

Lessons Worth Learning ...

For almost a year now, it has seemed to be raining challenges in my little world. They've come hard and fast, and I've been happy if there's been a three-week period without a major stress dumped in my lap.

**Let me just say here that, compared to many people, my challenges are small potatoes, but for me, they've been gut-wrenching ... or maybe tear-jerking ... perhaps both. **

As I've pondered what I need to be learning from these experiences -- I believe that any experience can teach us lessons for our good -- I don't know that there's been a really clear-cut answer, until this last couple of days. Of course, there's been the whole bit about what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (think Herculean strength) and other such wisdom, but I wanted to gain something more. After all, if one has to live some of this craziness, one might as well walk out the other end as a better person.

This weekend, it finally hit me. All the stress, all the anguish, and yes, even the little flickers of light in the darkness have been teaching me one all-encompassing truth. I need my Savior.

I've always known that He atoned for my sins. I've known for a long time that He felt my sorrows and heartache. But knowing and KNOWING are two different things. During the past year, I've learned, better than at any other time in my life, save one, to understand His atonement . In that previous learning time, I felt the life-saving power that comes from His love and allows us to walk through fire safely. I've felt it again in the midst of this batch of trials. This time though, there's been more.

I've learned to live with faith in His ability to compensate. Between the Savior and I, we're a whole pie. The catch is that some days, all I can bring to the table is a little, tiny sliver of goodness. Some days, I have a little bit more to offer. What I've learned is that it doesn't matter. I come to the table each day with the best I have to offer -- and some days, we call it good if we make it out of bed and to every destination -- and He is ALWAYS there with enough to make up the difference.

When my heart aches, and I can't seem to see the future with faith enough to see the miracles, I can turn to Him with a cry of "Help Thou mine unbelief" and He will. I have learned that when I can't have faith enough to see the ends, if I will keep the eye of my faith on Him, I can trust that He will make it enough, and the miracles will come. They may not be the miracles that I thought would be best or even in the time that I'd thought best, but they will come.

I've learned that He is there -- always. I've learned to better hear His voice and to better watch for His hand. I've come to better appreciate His goodness and love. And though my heart aches for the pain that my own sorrows and sins have caused Him, I have learned to be deeply grateful for a heart that understands my pains as deeply -- if not more deeply -- than my own heart does.

I have found comfort in His atonement. At the same time, I've come to believe that as much as He feels for us in our hours of weakness and trial, there is no one who rejoices more in our moments of joy. He sees the minute triumphs as we climb the mountains of life. No one else knows more clearly the effort that it costs to move even one finger to the next hold. He knows our hearts intimately, so much so that He knows how dear the cost is to move forward during our struggles.

I know He lives. I know that He loves me. And learning these lessons, bone-deep, is worth every challenge that it takes ...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Helping Kids See Christ in Easter ...

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Yes, I love the candy, the family activities, the egg hunts, and even the excitement of the Easter bunny, but what I love the most is the opportunity to focus, not just on the Savior, but on His sacrifice and atonement, and what it means in my life.

As a parent, I've tried to find little ways to help my kids focus more on the Savior. For years now, we've included Resurrection eggs as part of our Easter celebration. It's a set of plastic eggs that contains various items that symbolize the different aspects of Christ's atonement and resurrection. We read the scriptures that talk about those things as well. I'm finding that the older the kids get, the longer it takes to complete this activity.

As the girls learn more, they have more to add to the conversation. I'm learning to step back and go with the flow. Sometimes, my brain wants to holler "FOCUS!!" but I'm beginning to see that when they are commenting on what we're talking about -- even if it seems like a bit of a tangent -- they are really grasping and internalizing what we're studying.

This year, I found another little trick that seems to open the door to focus more on why we celebrate Easter. As we were coloring eggs, I used a crayon to write Easter messages. "He is Risen!" "Families are Forever Because of Him." etc. I didn't tell the kids, and I didn't point them out as the eggs came out of the dye. After we finished though, I found the kids reading and re-reading those eggs. When it came time to eat a few eggs, those were the eggs that they tried to get to first. It's simple, but it seems to be making a difference ...

Juggling the kids' schedule between their dad's house and ours can make it a little tricky to fit everything in. I've had to realize that it's okay if the bulk of our Easter celebrations happen on a day other than Easter Sunday. What matters is that they DO happen. It's a process and, Easter Sunday or not, I'm helping my kids to learn about our Savior and His love for them.