Sunday, November 30, 2014

Families CAN Be Together Forever

"The family is central to the creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children..... In the pre-mortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 3)
You might be wondering why this part of the blog wasn't included when I first began writing. As I studied for this college course on The Family, I had a wide array of topics and chapters from which to glean. I intentionally placed this part at the end of my blog because I wanted to wrap up what we had been talking about all along, and wanted to re-emphasize the importance of families as a beautiful part of the Plan of Salvation.
This blog's main audience is intended for those not of my faith, for those investigating my church, and for those who already belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but are not fully active in the church.  In any one of these scenarios I mentioned, we all have something in common. We have a family of our own, or belong to a family. I truly believe that for the most part, we want to be with our family forever, or at least want to take steps to mend family relationships.
From the text, Successful Marriages and Families, Elder Hugh B. Brown stated,
"The family concept is one of the major and most important of the whole theological doctrine. In fact, our very concept of heaven itself is the projection of the home into eternity. Salvation, then, is essentially a family affair, and full participation in the plan of salvation can be had only in family units." (pg. 345)
When my father died at age 58, although it was a sad time for me, I knew in my heart that all was going to be okay. I was living in Salt Lake City at the time, as a nanny. The mother of the children I took care of, who was Jewish, asked me how I was doing. I told her, with tears in my eyes, that I knew I would see my father again someday because our family had been sealed in the temple. Because of that binding action, I could, if I lived a righteous life, see my father again. This is one of the most unique blessings in our church, in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our families can be together forever! Imagine that! Marriages do not have to end at 'till death do us part.' In my eyes, that would be a tragedy to never be with my husband or children after this mortal life.
Taken from the text, please ponder on the following statement:
"The power to seal families that was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith was given anciently by the Savior to Peter (Matthew 16:19) and is held by all presidents of the Church today, who in turn bestow this authority on others, who then perform these sacred ordinances in the holy temples. Pertaining to these ordinances, Elder A. Theodore Tuttle of the Seventy taught:
'Frequently we perform marriages in the temple. These marriages are properly called celestial marriages, temple sealings, or eternal marriages.... The family is the most important relationship in this life. In reality, the bride and groom are called to assignments in the family from which they are never released, except through transgression. This the one eternal unit which can exist in the presence of God'". (pg. 343).
In the New Testament we learn of the apostasy where many doctrines were lost. Part of that was the eternal nature of the family as well as the fact that we existed before we came to earth. Much more information on this can be found here. In this website you can browse and search questions and answers to more fully understand the church doctrine on the eternal nature of the family.
I believe that the creation of the world, the fall of Adam, the restoration of the Gospel (because of the apostasy the earth endured for a time) are all part of God's plan to help bring back the ability to have our families be eternal, and to enjoy our families beyond the grave that we might live in Happiness forever. This time on earth is a probationary time for us to learn to be part of a family, to know what our individual roles mean and how to become more like our Father in Heaven. The ties that bind our families consist of covenants we make in the temple, always promising to do our very best and be what our Heavenly Father knows we can become.
"It should be the work and glory of all Latter-day Saints to make and keep these sacred covenants, to teach these transcendent truths to those who do not yet know of them, and to work in God's holy temples to make these covenants and ordinances available to all the children of God." (pg. 345)
That is what I want to do.... to share what I know to be true. I am grateful for the family in which I was born and the family I am helping to raise now with my husband. I love them! I wouldn't want to live eternity without them, for what would be the purpose?


A Glass Half Empty... or Half Full?

"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters.... accepted God's plan by which his children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection.... The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave."
(The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 3)
Life is hard. No one said it would be easy. It comes with trials of all shapes and sizes, and no one is immune from them. In the above phrase taken from The Family Proclamation, the part that causes me to ponder is that we "accepted God's plan." I believe that. This life is a time for us to be tested, to go through the wringer, so to speak, but to also enjoy life even amidst the pain and heartache. But pain hurts; physically, emotionally, mentally. No matter how you look at it, whatever the trial; whether it be death, disability, divorce, you name it..... it is painful. Thankfully, though, we have the promised blessings from The Family Proclamation to help guide us through these difficult times. This is our time, our opportunity to "gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection" and one day enjoy the "the divine plan of happiness."
When I was 22 years old, living as a young, single adult in another state from my parents, my father died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Just two years later, after having been married for only one year, my first-born child, McKenna, died after a nearly four month battle with a fatal lung disease. I had become a daughter, who lost her father, to a mother who lost her baby girl, in a matter of two years. Those were two life-altering events which shaped me into who I am today. But they were not easy experiences to endure. They were heart-wrenching to say the least. Yet I was and am so grateful for the proclamation which promises me that family relationships can be perpetuated beyond the grave.
In the text, Successful Marriages and Families, I came across this quote:
"In many ways, the principle of opposition is an important part of the crucible experience. Many of life's experiences are oppositional in nature and involve learning through contrast and comparison.... Why must there be opposition? The Lord taught Adam that opposition is needed in this life so that the children of God can 'taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.' (Moses 6:55)" (pg. 237).
This section of my blog is sensitive in nature. I will share some very tender and painful experiences from friends of mine that have allowed me to share them with you. I appreciate their honesty and willingness to share the trials they have endured and to some extent are still enduring.
This first story is from a friend who has battled the trial of divorce in her life. In her words she says:

I grew up in Utah always expecting to marry young and have a large family. It's what I wanted. So living the single life all the way to 36 was truly difficult for me. I struggled with the "why" of being alone when it was a righteous desire to marry and have children (and certainly something God would want for me too). By the time I got married, I considered it my own personal miracle. The answer to all my prayers was "yes", and after we married, I felt the burden of years of loneliness lift. Within three months of our marriage, my husband developed a disabling migraine, which persisted for the next 2.5 years. As I dealt with the disability of his illness and the slow failure of our marriage, I once again found myself struggling with great pain. When I finally made the choice to leave my husband--not because of his illness, but because he made choices that destroyed our marriage--I entered what was, in some ways, the darkest time in my life. The irony is that 2014--one of the most painful in my life--has also been one of the brightest, most pervasive and powerful lessons on love.

I have wondered why that is.

In the midst of my divorce, I taught a lesson in Gospel Doctrine, where I ran across this quote: “[The] ability to turn everything into something good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our Heavenly Father always seems able to do this. Everything, no matter how dire, becomes a victory to the Lord. Joseph, although a slave and wholly undeserving of this fate, nevertheless remained faithful to the Lord and continued to live the commandments and made something very good of his degrading circumstances. People like this cannot be defeated” (Elder Hartman Rector Jr. in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 170; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 130).
I rejected the comments I was hearing from others as I went through my divorce--"God must think you're strong to give you this trial"--and the questions about why I thought this was happening to me. I don't know why it happened to me! I struggled long and hard, and finally decided that sometimes there isn't a "why" beyond the fact my husband made stupid choices and opted out of our marriage. Sometimes bad things happen in life merely because this is mortality. And sometimes bad things happen because we all have agency, and we do dumb things. I believe in a loving Father as God--a father who would never manipulate his daughter into a horrible marriage to somehow make her grow. Could you imagine doing that to your own child?? I do, however, believe that He lets bad things happen to us--whether it be through the natural consequence of mortality or through consequences of our own choices. He may not plan for horrible things to happen, but He also won't always protect us when they do.
Not long after my divorce I read a great book by Rabbi Harold Kushner in which he said the following: "Pain is the price we pay for being alive ... When we understand that, our question will change from, 'Why do we have to feel pain?' to 'What do we do with our pain so that it becomes meaningful and not just pointless empty suffering? How can we turn all the painful experiences of our lives into ... growing pains?' We may not ever understand why we suffer or be able to control the forces that cause our suffering, but we can have a lot to say about what the suffering does to us, and what sort of people we become because of it. Pain makes some people bitter and envious. It makes others sensitive and compassionate. It is the result, not the cause, of pain that makes some experiences of pain meaningful and others empty and destructive."
It echoed for me another quote I have long loved from Viktor Frankl, "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. ... It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful ... Man's inner strength may raise him above his outward fate."
The reality is that bad things will happen to us. If we get caught up in the why--either in questioning God/growing bitter at him, or (alternatively), assuming we can puzzle out the answer to all our life's trials ourselves--then I think we're wasting our time. It's not about understanding why. It's not about questioning or figuring out our life path. It is about accepting that something bad has happened and then letting go of anger or hurt or bitterness or our need to accuse God of abandoning us. At that point it becomes a chance for us to choose an attitude of humility; to express our trust in God; and to allow Him to make something wonderful of our circumstances. That is the way--I believe--God works. Bad things will come--not as specially-crafted trials meant to test our metal (those may happen, but for the most part, I think just "life" happens)--but like Joseph in the quote from Elder Rector, when we give ourselves and our wills and our trust to God, He can still make something wonderful of it. And we can't be defeated.
So, I guess I would say that my trials have changed me. Not in and of themselves as "designer adversity", but because they have driven me to my knees and to a place where I have had to choose between bitterness and forgiveness; between anger and humility; between sorrow and happiness. It's everyone's choice as to whether their darkest moment will remain dark, or will bring them new light and understanding and eventual happiness.

When I read this experience from my friend, I think again about the part in the proclamation I quoted above, that we accepted His plan and came to gain earthly experience. Life truly is a test for us, and how we react to those tests, as my friend descried above, will help determine whether or not we are choosing happiness. She has and continues to be a beautiful example to me of understanding how to move forward with life, knowing that Heavenly Father is aware of her, hasn't forgotten her, loves her and wants her to have happiness.
The next story is from a dear friend of mine, Vannessah. She is not a member of the church (yet!), but she is, what I like to call, "the most active non-member" of our ward, as she has been coming to church sometimes with and without her children for the past few years. I have come to know Vannessah on a more personal level as we have gone through similar life experiences of losing a child. I asked Vannessah if she wouldn't mind me sharing her thoughts on experiencing disability, death and divorce, as she has been through all three of them. In her words she said:

My attitude towards my daughter's death, my Stage IV breast cancer and . . . uh-hum, three divorces, are kind of fluid. At first, they were all devastating. Time heals a lot, though. I've probably healed less from the divorces than my child's death or my terminal cancer, because with those two I really had no hand in them. But with the divorces I could have changed things, done better . . . a lot of culpability and guilt that will never go away. 


I've gained something from each of these trials. I've always been terrified of developing a serious disease, the thought of treatment, needles, mortality, etc. So it was petrifying when it happened and it took a long time to get my head wrapped around it, and to realize that whatever time I have left is time and I can't be paralyzed. It was, of course, an extra trial that I had to "evict" my husband from the house - which he still blames me for. 

 Losing a child is without-a-doubt the most horrible of trials. 
 It took years to do alright again - little things that others wouldn't see - and I still take anti-depressants to keep "skating" above the tragedy (I know it's there but just like water under the ice, I'm not falling through). I work really hard to make sure I say her name a lot and I never allow anyone to omit her (I have five children, I list her current age with the others when people ask me my kids' ages, etc.). The divorces are an on-going I-beat-myself-up-for-them. I still keep in contact, by varying degrees, with all three, so it's a constant roller-coaster of feelings (in my mind). I've learned that I'm probably not relationship material as much as I look at couples and want the love and partnership they have. 
I generally think my glass is half-full, despite trials. It's life and it's thy way it is.

I love Vannessah! She is a stalwart example to me of someone who has and continues to pull through the most difficult of trials. I love her perspective at the end, "I generally think my glass is half-full." After all she's gone through, to still be able to say that is so encouraging to me. I want Vannessah to also know, that the words from the Family Proclamation are true. I know them to be true because of the Holy Ghost manifesting it to me. Because both she and I have had children that died, I know that we can be with them again someday. Our beautiful girls' lives have not ended, and they are waiting for their mommas to return to them again.

Elder Bruce C Hafen said:

"Somehow our joyful experiences mean more when we are fully conscious of the alternatives and the contrasts that surround us. We prize the sweet more when we have tasted the bitter. We appreciate our health when we see sickness.... These contrasts do not deter our idealism. Properly understood, they only make the moments of the true joy worth waiting for." (pg. 240),

I want to end this post by sharing a beautiful Mormon Message, The Refiner's Fire, that sums up how I feel about this very tender part of the Family Proclamation.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and WHOLESOME RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 7)
This Mormon Message I want to share with you is a great introduction to this post. Take a look.
I have often thought about each particular principle mentioned in the above quote from the proclamation. In one of my recent posts, we talked about work. This time we will talk about wholesome recreational activities. The fact that this was included in the Family Proclamation says to me that it is very important to our Heavenly Father that we understand its value and implement it in our lives so that we can achieve happiness in our marriages and families. I believe we were sent to earth to enjoy life, to be happy, and part of that encompasses the wholesome activities we can do to enrich our lives and strengthen our families.
In the text for my class on the Family, research has been devoted to determining what makes a family happy. What does it consist of? We must be careful to distinguish what it is that truly gives us fulfillment. There is a difference between pleasure and happiness. "Gratification results when we invest rather than consume" (Successful Marriages and Families pg. 226).
Often, members of our church are asked the question by non-members, "Why are Mormon families so happy?" I don't think there is just one answer to this question. It involves a lot of things, like the knowledge we have of eternal families, that we work together in our family unit to love and serve one another. I would also venture to say that it is because we take time to be with one another, spending quality and quantity of time together as a couple and/or family. We like to have fun! Wholesome fun! But what does that consist of, especially in this day and age when drugs, alcohol and immorality in the world are promoted?
I asked my Facebook friends if they would share what they did growing up and/or what they are doing now to achieve wholesome recreational activities. Several of the responses are from married couples who don't have children, or their children are no longer at home, and they've shared what they do as couples.
* Birding
 * What comes to mind automatically is anything involving nature
 * Board games. Lots and lots of board games

The list could go on and on. There are so many things that can be done, and most of them don't need to involve money.  Some things my family loves to do are go on Sunday walks, bike rides, drives, little getaways to the coast, and we love to save our money and go traveling. One of our favorite things to do is watch movies together and watch or go to basketball games. I especially love to do those things that my children have a particular interest in. I feel it shows my love towards them and  a willingness to participate in what they enjoy. It is also a good way to show love towards one another in our family when we support each other in our various activities, such as sporting events, piano recitals, gymnastic meets..... whatever the occasion is. Make it fun. Show your kids you love them by being there for them. The point is to be together, and doing something that is wholesome and doesn't detract from the principles we are striving to live in our lives.
I received this response that I wanted to include as well:
* My dad always refused to swim with us. I didn't get the whole body image thing back then, but I also felt like he "NEVER did ANYTHING" with us. It was always my mom. I know people get uncomfortable doing things, but I think wholesome recreation involves occasionally being outside one's comfort zone.
I thought this was an interesting perspective. Are we missing out on precious time spent with our children and/or spouse if we are too uncomfortable for one reason or another? I hope not. Our children just want to be with us. They want time with their family to grow bonds and ties that bind us together.
In the text from my Family class, it says this:
"We have multiple televisions in our homes, personal computers at work and home, digital music players in our pockets that plug into our ears, and cell phones within easy reach. We seem to be connected to the whole world electronically, yet disconnected to those closest to us" (pg. 228).
"The components to wholesome recreation include opportunities to verbally communicate, develop skills, face challenges, create memories, share traditions and beliefs, and spend time together in the family setting" (pg. 233).
If it's been a while since you spent some wholesome recreational time with your family, I would challenge you to start now. Start small if you need to. Let your children and/or spouse help in the planning. Heavenly Father wants us to enjoy life, to be happy. And I firmly believe this can be wonderful preparation for the eternities when we can be with our family living in joy.

Friday, November 14, 2014

All In A Day's Work

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of.... work"
(The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 7)
I think one of the most stressful parts of parenting for me is keeping the house clean. Getting my children to participate in this effort without the constant, automatic sigh and shoulders drooping when asking one of them to clean their room, or the bathroom, or mow the lawn. It is a constant battle, some months worse than others. I've had spans of time where I felt like I was knocking it out of the park when there was cooperation.... but then the excitement wore off.
In one of my first posts for this blog, a recent member of the church, newly married, wanted to know how husband and wife divided their responsibilities. I think this next piece of advice is worth noting:

"New husbands learn three things: 1) Your wife may become a mother, but you are not one of her children.... 2) There is no job so hard or disgusting that your wife can do it and you can't...... 3) If you do it now, she won't have to do it later" (Successful Marriages and Families pg. 223).

I had to chuckle after I read that!

I want to take it further this time and talk about how a family, as a whole and working together, are learning divine principles that our Heavenly Father want us to know. Because "work" is part of The Family Proclamation, I know that it is an important piece of how our families are tied together.
Let me start off with a quote from the text, Successful Marriages and Families. "Housework is also a major source of contention between the sexes. One study found that six months into marriage, disagreement over allocation of household chores was the top source of conflict between husband and wife, and it remained so after five years" (Cox, 1996, pg. 213).  I was shocked by this number. Perhaps this is a discussion that should happen before a couple marries so they understand each other's expectation. Further in the book, the authors explain:

"When family members work together in the right spirit, a foundation of caring and commitment grows out of their shared experience. The most ordinary tasks, like fixing meals or doing laundry, hold great potential for connecting us to those we serve and with whom we serve." (pg. 214)
Isn't this the idea that every mother wishes? I know I do. I posed a question on Facebook asking my friends their thoughts on doing chores and how to get their children (or future children) to participate. These are some of the responses:
*  It would help me and allow me to do other important things that would be mutually beneficial. And then when they agree later I'd ask if they had done such and such chore so that we both could move forward to bigger and better things.
* When I was a kid my mom paid per chore, it only worked for me, my brother couldn't care less about the money, but hey I made lots of money! Lol I tell my kids the chores are what they do to earn privileges like TV or games.
* Say what you mean and mean what you say. Explain that everyone in the family has work/chores to do and each has to do his part, or our family doesn't function well. If they want to have a happy mom they need to do their chore so she can have time to do fun things with them. Make sure everyone has chores. My kids started having chores at the age of two, they could empty the dishwasher. Make sure to be finished on a certain day and no other activities happening, and they don't leave the house unless they're done. For our family we call them Friday chores and everybody does their chores on Friday. They need to be done if they want to have fun activities on the weekend. If they grow up with you following through they won't question it.
* I hate the word chore because it sounds like such a chore. I teach my kids life skills that they need to master before they leave home so they can live well without their "mommy".
We all live here so we all have to take part in cleaning. On Saturdays we have a big clean and we always go to lunch afterwards. Get everything done and we get a reward. Other than that I simply ask and my kids do it. Please empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, etc. If you want me to cook dinner and take care of the bigger things you need to help with the smaller ones. Jared is the only one that will suddenly have to go to the bathroom or something to try to avoid chores. When they were younger we had a chore chart. They had to mark it with a sticker when the chore was done. At random I would take the chart down and pay for chores. If they hadn't marked it they didn't get paid - just like at your job - if you don't clock in you don't get paid. I have been very fortunate to not have kids who fight with me. They are simple requests, I ask nicely - they do what is asked.
I had a friend that used to put chores on 3x5 cards when her kids were all dating age. She would put them out on the table at 11:30 on Friday night. Last one home usually got the bathrooms. This helped with curfew and chores. 
I think these are some great ideas. Not all of them may work for you, but what is important is that we find what clicks for our family. There was a time where I had a list on the wall for each child that had on it their individual responsibilities; whether it be their bedroom, a certain part of the house, homework, practicing their instrument, and so forth. They got paid by their age each week. 10% went to tithing, 20% went directly in the bank, the rest was for them to have. Now, before some of you get all upset about kids getting paid for their chores, I had a pretty good reason. (I got this idea from another blog, too). The money they earned was for their own clothing and entertainment. The things that I was paying for, they now had to earn. You see, it wasn't taking any extra money from my budget that I wasn't already using on them to begin with. A few of my children really wanted to buy a certain piece of clothing, or a video game. When they saw the price tag and knew that they were the one's paying for it, they immediately thought of how important it really was to begin with. 99% of the time they would not end up buying what they thought they wanted or needed.
The trend I see from these responses is also that of work ethic. We want our children to grow up and be responsible citizens, to be able to take care of themselves, and do what it takes to achieve that. The best place is in the home. I came across a great segment of video from an interview with Elder Ben E Banks of the church and he and his wife talking about a good work ethic. It's just a few minutes long, so take a look.
You've heard the saying, "When a family prays together, they stay together." I think we can apply the same message to working together in the family. Believe it or not, when families work alongside each other, wonderful, lasting relationships can develop. Take a look at this sweet 1 minute video of a father and son working together.
Great conversations can be had when we spend time with our children. And you never know, they may end up not realizing they're "doing chores" when they're spending valuable time with their family.
I love this passage from the text:
"One young mother recalls pondering during scripture study why family work constantly requires every hour of every day. While reading about the law of Moses, she realized that 'just as the law was designed to remind the people of the Lord, our family work has been designed to point our hearts toward the central reason we are here on earth - to build a family..... If children were never underfoot and only had to be fed once a day, parents would get distracted. But because they are spitting up on us, dumping cereal on our floors, and saying, 'Mommy'?' all day, there's no way we can forget (where) our focus  needs to be" (pg. 221)
Don't you just love that? I know I do. That has really made me want to change my attitude about my own responsibilities around the house, and especially with my children. I know for me, the times when I ask my children in a loving way to help out, they usually respond likewise.
Most importantly, if we can instill in our children a good work ethic that helps them develop closer relationships with each member of the family, then I believe we are helping to fulfill part of The Family Proclamation that says we can be successful as a family.  And at the same time, we are becoming more like our Savior.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let Faith Be Your Rock

Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith (and) prayer. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 7)
I just love this topic of faith and family. I feel so blessed to be a member of this church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because it fills me with so much knowledge of my Savior and Heavenly Father and Their plan of Happiness. Life is hard! There's no getting around that. We all have trials, but it's how we get through them that determine the outcome and how we move on.
I have had many friends over the years that have joined this church and wondered how and why families are happy. What makes them press on in difficult times? Well, I say to them that it isn't just one thing, but a culmination of things, practices, beliefs, that encourage us. Most importantly for me, it is faith in Heavenly Father and the power of prayer. For some, especially those who weren't very religious before they became interested and then joined the church, they can see a difference of why religion, faith in something, or someone, helps them in their daily lives.
Please watch this very tender video about the need for faith in our lives.

From the textbook in my Family class, Joseph, a non-denominational Christian father said this:
"There's something that.... when as a family your hearts are pointed together toward the same thing, and it's God, then parenting and economics and space and food and disagreements and hassles and joys and celebrations and all that other stuff.... it works different, it seems different, it feels different.... Our family is all oriented in the same way. Christ is King, He's the center, He's what it's all about.... Our faith forms our relationships and everything about us." (pg. 191)
For those who might want further understanding on how religion and faith go hand-in-hand, ponder on what Emily, a married mother of 5, and a member of the LDS church had to say on the topic:
Faith is not "science"-based. It is believing something without having to have tactile proof of its existence. Whether it be faith in knowing something's going to happen for the better or faith in our Heavenly Father. If you have that faith, there is some kind of religion in your life, however a person deems a religion to be. That's one way of seeing it.

Another is more personal. I would say this: without faith and religion, it's like playing the lottery. Sure, you have a chance that your children will turn out just fine, that they'll make that choice to choose the right in circumstances they are faced with. A chance, like betting. But we all know how gambling goes, 90 times out of 100 you don't win. The odds are not ever in your favor. But if you do everything you can by promoting and exercising faith and your religion in front of your kids as an example your odds flip and it becomes "ever if your favor".

Children learn by example be it good or bad. They quietly watch and learn every little nasty habit we have emotionally and physically. And they also watch us with our goodness too, as in service we choose to perform and words we choose to say, integrity we posses. These things are helped by having faith and religion. Religion prompts the curiosities and faith helps answer and seal those. You also need religion with faith otherwise where do the origins of the faith seed that's planted in your heart come from? Religion is like a university with many different aspects to it that all come together to teach and to form a perfect degree in the end. Faith is the homework that is required daily in order to maintain those subjects. You can't succeed in college without doing homework. Likewise, if you are doing homework without direction of a class, you become stagnant. You do not progress and it eventually just becomes an unorganized mess that just creates confusion and then it is ultimately dropped for lack of direction.

I think Emily gave a great description and analogy. Along with what she said, I want to talk a bit about family rituals. What can they be? Prayer, scripture reading, attending church together; these create bonds that can tie families together and create a faith-based home. They might not be the easiest to implement if you aren't used to practicing them, but I can testify they are essential in building faith in ourselves and those in our families, and in the Savior. I know for me, when I become relaxed in my daily prayers or scripture reading my days don't fair as well and I realize I am missing something important in my life.

Faith is my rock I lean on to when I am vulnerable. When my first baby at 2 1/2 months old had a double lung transplant, when I was told I would have a 25% chance of having a baby with the same disease, when I was told she would not make it, and when we placed her sweet little body in the grave, I couldn't have gone through those trials without faith in my all-knowing Heavenly Father. It was only through faith and prayer, my husband and myself being equally yoked, that I was able to get through it. I've had 4 healthy children since the passing of my McKenna. Each pregnancy and birth were faith building experiences, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I was able to get through the most difficult time of my life because of the faith I placed in Heavenly Father and His guiding principles.

I want to end this post by sharing a beautiful video of a woman who has gone through indescribable trials that, unless we've gone through them ourselves, we could not comprehend. Stephanie Nielsen is an example to me of faith in our Savior and Heavenly Father, Their plan for us, and her desire to raise her family based on her faith and trust. She is an inspiration to me, and has been for millions of people around the world. (She has a blog as well that is worth the read..... so faith building.)


Monday, November 10, 2014

Even Fathers Have Bad Hair Days

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness." (The Family Proclamation para. 7)
I think this is my favorite post in this blog so far. It is very meaningful to me because of the wonderful responses I received from so many friends. Each of us has had our own unique experiences with fathers; some we cherish, some that stretched us beyond what we knew we were capable because of very difficult father/child relationships. But what I hope the reader will take away is that regardless of our experience with our fathers, we can become what our Heavenly Father knows we can be..... a cherished child of God who can rise above the trials that come our way.

So let's start this post on a lighthearted note, with a short, cute video. Enjoy......

What little girls wouldn't love being able to do this with/for their dad? In just 62 seconds, this video demonstrated a father realizing what his priority was right in that moment. He comes home from work; tired, feeling like he should spend time bowling with his buddies, then sees the look on his daughters faces and knows what he should do. Time..... that's all most children want from their parents, and in particular, fathers. 

From the text Successful Marriages and Families, I came across this passage that I love:

"To father a child is to accept a divine calling, a moral stewardship, and a lasting commitment across generations...... First, fathers are directed to take upon themselves the responsibility of spiritual leadership in family life as part of a loving Eternal Father's plan for family functioning. Second, a father's responsibility to preside occupies the first and foremost duty among the varied obligations that rest upon men in family life. Third, the manner in which a father is to exercise spiritual guidance among family members is explicitly articulated: 'in love and righteousness'" (pg. 140-141)

I asked some friends what attribute about their father made an impact on them. These are their responses:

* Hard working.

* My Papa was nonjudgmental, he made friends with anyone and everyone.

* He is brilliant, hard-working, loves the Lord passionately and is always learning.

* My dad is not quick to anger at all. I don't know that I have ever heard him yell.  

 * My dad will drop everything to help someone, and never complains about it.

* My father was persistent, he never gave up when asked to accomplish something.

* His commitment to the gospel and family.

* Loves us enough to apologize and ask forgiveness when he has been in the wrong.

* My father is the BEST example of giving service regardless of time of day or weather. He also is the kindest man and can make friends with ANYONE!!!!   

* Patient and loving, overall calm demeanor.

* A man who knew how to get it done, and if he didn't, he found a way.

* Hard working man who always provided for our family.

* Tender-hearted and humble.

* (And this from a friend whose father died when she was a baby) I'm told and I believe he was a great man with a lot of patience.
Time for a commercial interruption..... enjoy!

That was the cutest thing ever! I look at the little girls above, and this little boy in the video..... they just want to spend time with dad! When I think about all the responsibilities fathers have as husband, father, provider, to preside, to protect..... they have a lot on their plate!
"....a father's leadership in family life requires both quantity and quality time and that fathers give their time and presence in their social, educational, and spiritual activities and responsibilities." (pg.144)
Now let's jump to a more serious discussion about the less than ideal situations with fathers. In a world where you hear more and more of fathers not being a part of their children's lives for one reason or another, it makes me sad not only for what the children are missing, but the father as well. The ties that bind our families together include all participants in the family: the father, mother, children, extended family members. Without any one of them, the bind isn't as strong. We need each one, and the father holds a special part that cannot entirely be replaced by anyone else. I had some friends, however, who told me some less than ideal attributes about their father, and to be authentic in this post, I wanted to add them:
* Self loathing, greedy, liar, con artist, user, adulterer, cheating, backstabbing, rapist, child abuser, he is useless.
* Selfish

I asked these friends if they would share what they learned from their experience with their father. One person told me this, and said I could share with you:
As much as I despise my father, he is still my father, and he showed me what kind of father not to be. This man showed me more than a child should ever experience and taught me in the criminal ways, and did all manner of cruel things to us, even abandonment. Shelley, I said those things because I witnessed them and experienced them. I know what it's like to live life on the streets in the poorest of poor conditions, living around drugs, violence, and abuse. I will NEVER allow my kids to experience this. And that is what I learned, but in a very hard way. We may not have much financially but my children and wife have me, my experience to survive off of, and we do it by placing God first in our lives. It's the only way we make it. 

Another friend of mine responded with this beautiful message, of which she gave me permission to post here on the blog. 
  I wanted to share briefly how my dad and his choices affected me. Due to horrible choices his father made he was exposed to horrible things as a child, things no one should ever have to see. As a result, he has struggled his whole life with destructive addictions. He was a great provider, but emotionally absent in our family the whole time I was growing up. Looking back now, it impacted my life in profound ways. I call it looking for love in all the wrong places. Because I had no relationship with my dad, looking back I was willing to do some pretty stupid things to have a boyfriend. Thankfully I never followed through with some of those things, but I do remember I was willing.
Ultimately, I married the first guy that proposed, and the reason? I thought it was my only chance. I distinctly remember feeling like if I didn't marry him no one would ever marry me. What does this have to do with my dad? I've watched girls who have a loving healthy relationship with their dad. It seems they are full of confidence, and they know who they are and their precious worth. It took me YEARS of heartache and precarious situations before I found that. I will say, however, that a lack of relationship with my father during formative years caused me to search out a relationship with my Father in Heaven, though, unfortunately, not until my adult years. But when I did that, and began to comprehend who I really was, and my worth in His sight, everything changed for me.
I love my dad, and we have been able to build a loving relationship over the years as he has been honest with us and working to overcome his addiction. Because of his struggles I feel like I am a more compassionate person towards those who struggle. He is a good man, with a gentle heart, who is doing the best he can based on his life's experiences. His actions have profoundly affected who I am today. And while those actions were less than ideal, they have not destroyed me but rather caused growth, strength, and great love towards him within me.

I felt these were important to share, and I am so grateful these individuals allowed me to share them with you. They are shining testimonies to us all that even though they grew up in circumstances that are not ideal, they pulled through and became stronger because of it.

Fathers can be the best example to their children as they model righteous behavior and lead in a way that exhibits their love for Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. 

I would challenge you to consider the ways your father has made an impact on your life, and tell him! If you are a father, think of ways you can stretch yourself to give a little more time in your family, knowing that you provide a very important example of a provider, protector and one who presides.  If your father has made choices that have had a negative affect on your life or in your relationship with him, I would suggest doing what my friends above did, and seek for the precious relationship you DO have with your Father in Heaven. Only He and the Savior can help heal wounds and bring peace.
The following Mormon Message is my husband's favorite. He watches it all the time. It describes exactly how he feels as a husband and father. I am grateful for my father, the example he was and still his to his children, leading our home in righteousness. And I am grateful for my husband who works so hard in his role as father to our 5 children.