After General Conference Eric casually added a calendar item on his calendar for a General Conference 40-Day Challenge. The idea behind it is simple. Every day for 40 days there is an assigned talk from this most recent General Conference for you to listen to/read/study as a way to keep the words of the prophets in our minds. I liked the idea so I decided to participate as well. It’s been really great because rather than the full deluge of spirituality that comes with the conference I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on each of the talks in turn and really focus on the things that stood out to me in each one. As I was listening to today’s talk I remembered a favorite moment from conference that I wanted to share.
Today’s talk was Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk entitled “I Have Given You an Example”. This was the part that I especially liked -
[As] I was about to graduate from the university, I fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Jeanene Watkins. I thought she was beginning to have some deep feelings for me also. One night when we were talking about the future, she carefully wove into the discussion a statement that changed my life forever. She said, “When I marry, it will be to a faithful returned missionary in the temple.”
I hadn’t thought much about a mission before then. That night my motivation to consider missionary service changed dramatically. I went home, and I could think of nothing else. I was awake all night long. I was completely distracted from my studies the next day. After many prayers I made the decision to meet with my bishop and begin my missionary application.
Jeanene never asked me to serve a mission for her. She loved me enough to share her conviction and then gave me the opportunity to work out the direction of my own life.
As I heard this simple story I thought to myself, what if Sister Scott hadn’t decided to make that simple statement of convictions to Elder Scott at that pivotal time in his life? How would the church and the world be different, not to mention Elder Scott himself? Now, that isn’t to say that Elder Scott would have turned out to be some maniacal criminal without mission experience or anything like that. There’s every reason to believe he could have gone on to be a faithful wonderful person and done lots of great things. But I would wager that he would not be the man he is today, and having the influence he does worldwide without that experience. And perhaps he would have never had it without the simple prompting from a valiant young woman. Elder Scott’s personal sense of gentle authority has long made him one of my favorite apostles (ok ok, so they all get a turn being my favorite when they come to the pulpit, but all for very different reasons). When he looks at you as he’s speaking you feel like he can see into the depths of you. I’m positive even extremely good people walk away and think “I need to do better! I can be better!” He gives off almost the sense of…. I want to say dissapointment, but it’s not that. Just the sense that you can do more and be more than you are and you just don’t want to let him down. The church needs an Elder Scott to fill that role. Sure, if it wasn’t him perhaps there would be someone else who would have also done an excellent job, but I’m sure not quite in the same way and that makes me sad to think about.
As I reflected on that it made me think more fervently about the influence I have in simple moments every day as a mother, a sister, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a Cub Scout Committee chairperson, a person sitting on the bench at the park, a member of a Sunday School class, a visiting teacher, a Facebook friend etc. Am I living my life in such a way that I might use those small teaching moments to help someone reach a higher potential than they might otherwise? How can I do better to uplift others and point them to righteous paths? I want to be more like Sister Scott and instead of saying, “Eh, you know what? Richard is going to be just fine the way he is, he’s a good guy! It doesn’t really matter if he does this one thing right now, he’ll still turn out fine.” I want to instead say, “How can I help this person to make the very best decision to help them reach their fullest potential? They shouldn’t settle, they can be awesome! Let’s help make them awesome!”
Of course, that attitude should be tempered with the next part, which was that we allow people to take their life in the direction that they choose. I’m not at all proposing making decisions for another person, or judging them for making a different decision than I would have chosen. But if I can influence someone to do better and be more, then I want to put myself in the position to do just that.
One of my Facebook friends posted a link to this article called A Better Way to Say Sorry. With a two year old and a five year old at home apologizing is something that I find we are doing FREQUENTLY, so I decided to read the article. It was simple, but brilliant! Her intro – where she goes through what it’s like to try to get kids to apologize, and how you almost never feel like you’ve gotten them to do so adequately – is the story of my life. Seriously, I couldn’t have written it better myself. The author goes on to talk about a seminar she went to where she learned the proper breakdown for an apology and how she applied the principles in her classroom.
I decided almost immediately that it was something I wanted to implement in our home. So of course, I had to make it into an FHE lesson. I haven’t yet used this in our home because today was a long day and I felt we would be better served by having FHE on Tuesday instead of Monday this week, but I thought I would share what I came up with. I would recommend reading the article that I linked to above so that you can get a good feel for her methodology before teaching this lesson. However I think you can probably teach it just fine just from the outline I’ve provided. Hopefully this works as well as described! I’m excited to facilitate more effective repentance in our home, and hope it works well for you too :)
I’ve provided in this lesson an outline as well as a printable that you could put on your fridge to remind everyone during the week. My printable is nothing fancy, but I think it will get the job done.
Oh and I have to give a shout out to my amazing husband Eric for the treat idea. I was trying to come up with a treat that would go along with repentance, but wasn’t too hopeful that I would come up with anything. On a whim I decided to ask him if he had any ideas and he almost immediately came up with Sour Patch Kids. If you don’t understand why that was a brilliant treat idea you should probably see this Youtube video:
Today I’m featuring a guest post from one of the most amazing women I know – Kerry Anderson. Kerry is a meteorologist and the mother of five children. Oh, and the oldest of those children is me ;) Growing up I remember being really proud of my mom as a feminist. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in meteorology and is currently pursuing her master’s degree. She often talked about how hard it was being the only woman in her science classes and pursuing a route that not many women took at that time. This was certainly an inspiration to me later in life as I pursued computer programming. I remember my mom always sticking up for women and particularly for their position within the church. I always thought of her as being super progressive. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that my mom didn’t exactly fit the ultra-feminist mold. While she worked outside the home in my younger years, she always made sure to find a schedule that would allow her to be with her children and support my dad in his church callings. When we moved to the west coast she gave up that career and opted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. Not exactly a bra-burning feminist. However, I still think of her as a role model of a feminist in their truest form – one who is fighting for women’s opportunities, recognition of women’s abilities to contribute and, women’s place in society, particularly in the most feminine role of all – that of a mother. She shared this essay with me and I thought it was brilliant, so I asked for her permission to post it on my blog. Enjoy :)
As General Conference approaches there seems to be a lot of talk about the Ordain Women Movement. A friend told me that she has been reading blogs from other LDS women that discuss the movement and the list of privileges that they know are being withheld from LDS women. She seemed restless and agitated and wanted my opinion on whether it was worthwhile reading them. Many in the movement say that they are “agitating peacefully” but it has been my experience that agitating does not bring peace.
As she commented on how she felt it made me reflect on my own experience in this church as someone who has struggled with feelings that church leadership did not fully empower women. I have attended many Young Women’s meetings where we have been told that we are daughters of a “King”. I know that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father but as a woman I yearn to hear that I am a daughter of a “Queen” and to have a Heavenly female role model. In my search for greater understanding of the female role I have spent time reading papers written by others who were agitating for change. The more I read the more certain I was that the prevailing view of the female role in the LDS church was not fully enlightened and that there were more privileges and powers available to women. This caused me to feel agitated and frustrated with my current status. At the same time my husband and I were increasingly called to positions of greater responsibility within the church. I came to a point that I was so frustrated and agitated that I no longer thought that I could continue attending.
This was a very private and difficult struggle. While going through this a family member mentioned something that made me stop and think. They related an experience where someone else was struggling with a different doctrine and that they had been told that “Heavenly Father would never create a doctrine to make us unhappy.” At this point in my life I felt conflicted and unhappy. The more I read and dwelt on the supposed injustices the more unhappy I felt. I decided to listen to this piece of advice and to act in faith and start believing that by fulfilling my role as a wife, mother and woman in this church that I could be happy. I laid aside the literature that I was reading and got back to focusing on scripture reading and serving.
As I acted in faith and stopped agitating I have found the most profound happiness. I have actively sought to find understanding of my role by attending the temple, praying and trusting in my Heavenly Father and my church leaders. Instead of reading and finding faults, I recognize that our church has imperfections because the church is led and built by humans. I know I haven’t always got it right when I have been called to lead. But with compassion and humility we can listen to one another and build together.
My husband has a poem that he learned on his mission that has made me think about how criticism of church leadership can hurt our church.
I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a side wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
Men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles do I try to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Shaping my deeds with a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?
I am grateful for the privilege of being a part of “Building” the Kingdom of God. I live at a time where I have access to the exalting ordinances of the Priesthood through the Temple. My ancestors did not have that privilege. I want to spend my time building this Kingdom rather than tearing down this church. There is so much work to do and as I work I find greater peace and joy. Having complete faith and supporting church leadership has brought me that joy.
Do I still think and feel that there is more to be revealed about the role of women in the eternities? Absolutely. But what I have found is that I have gained a greater understanding about those roles as I have fully participated in Temple Ordinances and as I have faith that the Lord would never create an organization that would make me unhappy. I pray for the day that we will have a greater understanding of the female role in the Eternities. What I have found though is that agitation and criticism of church leaders brings me discontent and unhappiness. Conversely I have found that prayer, focused effort on building the Kingdom of God and temple attendance have a greater ability to bring change. I want to be known as one who has spent my time and energy here on this earth building the Kingdom of God not one who did anything to tear it down.
Since having Maeli 6 weeks ago I’ve been frequently asked what it’s like to have 3 kids. This was my day today-
Woke up to get Sam ready for school. Laid out all his clothes and then went to get myself ready. Came back 10 minutes later to find Sam still with no pants on just wandering about his room. Get him dressed. Downstairs for breakfast. Sam wants a smoothie and oatmeal. While I”m making his food, Danny wanders downstairs and says he’s going to stay with Eric while I go to my doctor’s appointment. Just as I’m about to walk out the door he changes his mind and wants to come with me. Run through the house to find him some pants, a fresh diaper, shoes and a coat. Put all three kids in the car, race to the bus stop – we’re too late. Also, the van is almost out of gas and I don’t have my wallet. Run back to the house, get my wallet and some other things I’d forgotten. Get back out to the car and Maeli is screaming because she hates being in the car when it’s not moving.
Take Sam to school, drop him off just minutes before the bell rings. Head over to Smith’s to fill the van with gas. While pumping notification on my phone pops up that my doctor’s appointment is in 10 minutes – I’m at least 15 minutes away. Finish fueling, hop in the van. Maeli is screaming again. Drive to the doctor’s. Arrive about 15 minutes late. Have my appointment – everything looks great and I’ve lost 18 lbs since the beginning of the year! Best. diet. ever. ;) Finish at the doctor’s, Danny keeps asking why they were shining a light on my bum.
Go out to the van and fight to get Danny into his carseat again. Waffle for a little bit and finally decide to be brave and finally take some returns from Christmas back to Macy’s (by some I mean about $200 worth of clothes from Black Friday sales). Danny won’t go through the door I open and insists on opening his own different door. Sales lady comes out to help him and looks at me like I’m being neglectful or mean. Go to take the returns back and find out that I have to take the specific items to their department. I only have items from 2 departments, but still, not the easiest to work with. Make my returns. As we’re leaving Danny insists that we go get french fries. I decide to make that deal with the devil… I mean, my son… and we head out to the car without too much more problem. Hit up Burger King on the way home and get a large order of fries. As soon as we’re through the drive thru he starts saying “no! I want a soda too!” Too late kid. Then the plea is for ice cream. *sigh* Finally about half way up the mountain he’s figured out that he’s not getting anything extra and asks for the french fries. Give him the french fries. Reaction? “No, lots of!” Good heavens! Tell him to suck it up.
Get home. Realize that Danny’s still in his PJs with his cowboy boots on. His sweatpants have made their way up to his knees. He looks like an orphan. This is how we’ve been out in public all morning – awesome. Also find that Sam drank about 3 sips of his smoothie. Danny proceeds to carry the smoothie around the house. Tell him to take it back to the table. He goes back… but then decides to walk around the kitchen with it. Slips on the floor and gets smoothie all over the floor, the back window and the curtains. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.
It’s time to go pick up Sam. Decide it’s a nice enough day that we can walk to the park. Leave Maeli with Eric and let Danny ride Sam’s bike to the park. Carry Danny’s bike so we don’t have the problem of Sam not having a bike. Get to the park just in time to see Sam get off the bus. Confiscate Sam’s bike from Danny so that Sam can ride it. Give Danny his bike. Huge fit. Tell Danny I’m going to ride his bike instead. Go back and forth between me threatening to ride the bike, Danny riding the bike, Danny walking the bike, Danny throwing a fit for about a block. Finally Danny decides to ride the bike. The boys want to go to the scenic overlook on the way home. Danny insists on riding in the mud close to the edge of the dropoff – just to give me gray hairs. Get home.
Tell the boys we’re going in for lunch. Danny is adamant that he’s still riding his bike. Threaten to put the bike in timeout. Argue with Danny. Danny keeps faking me out that he’s coming in, and then whines again. Danny falls off bike and is very mildly hurt. Carry bike into garage while Danny is still sad about the bike. Have lunch.
Get the last few forms to finish off our taxes. Let the boys play on the tablets while finishing filing taxes. Taxes filed – WOOT! Realize it is now 4pm and still need to go to the grocery store. Take another hour to finalize list, and decide that Danny is coming to the store and Maeli and Sam are staying with Eric. Move carseats so we can take the Corolla instead of the van. Danny fights over whether I buckle him or if he buckles himself (he says he wants to do it but won’t). Run in for something I forgot. Come back out and Danny is furious that he can’t reach his door handle. Re-engage child lock on his door. Drive as far as the park with him mad at me. Put state returns in mail box and get mail. Got the CD of proofs from our recent family photos – yay!!
Drive to Smith’s with Danny mad for most of the way. Park in the parking lot. Danny fell asleep – crap. Unbuckle him and stand him up outside the car. He’s still mostly asleep. It’s pretty funny to see. Make him walk into the store half-asleep. There are no more shopping carts with cars. Let him grab a small cart and walk towards the other entrance to check if there’s a car cart there. Try to direct Danny’s cart. Danny is mad that I would dare touch his cart. Stop at the pharmacy to get a prescription. Continue to other entrance still praying there’s a car cart – there isn’t. Boo. Go through the store with Danny with a little shopping cart and me with a big one. Feel like a broken record. ”Danny, stay near me. Watch out for other people. No we’re turning down this aisle.” Have lots of coupons and random items on the list. Takes longer than usual. Heading towards checkout and realize it’s after 6:30pm and we haven’t had dinner yet. Grab a rotisserie chicken for dinner. Checkout. Danny keeps trying to go through cashier’s station. Find out he wants stickers. He gets some. Puts one right on the top of my leg. Decide not to fight it.
Out to the parking lot. More pleas for Danny to stay near me. Put all the groceries in the car. Danny still has his cart and is spinning in circles, just to give me a panic attack. Get groceries into car – probably have smashed things that don’t want to be smashed but mostly want to get finished so Danny isn’t in the parking lot anymore. Remember there are plastic bags in the trunk. Take them back to the store when we return the carts – win! Out to the car again. Danny fights over buckles again. Drive home.
It’s after 7pm. Send Sam to get ready for bed. Bring groceries in. Try to get perishables put away before dinner. Maeli is hungry. Sit down to feed her. Turn dinner prep over to Eric. Eric finds missed perishables – doh! Maeli’s done eating. Eat food quickly while she swings. Finish just before she starts to be mad. Hold her while continuing to referee boys. Eric has an important business call. Trying to keep the boys volume down while holding Maeli and trying to get them to finish their food. Eric retreats from his downstairs office up to the master bedroom – we failed. Boys finish eating.
Sam gets a story for bedtime. Read it to the kids while Maeli is angry at me. Finish the story. Danny wants another. Send him up to pick one out. Try to make Maeli happier. Realize Danny’s been gone for awhile and that Eric is still upstairs on his call. Dash upstairs. Find Eric reading the story to Danny. Danny came in just as Eric’s call finished – phew. Time for scriptures. Sam reads 3 verses on his own – his reading is getting pretty impressive! Read the rest of the chapter aloud. Eric has put Maeli to sleep – hooray! It’s Danny’s turn to pray. Debate with him about whether he’s praying or not. Danny finally prays… or something. Prayer involves lots of random stories about imaginary friends. Decide to go with it and just say amen.
Time for Sam’s pre-bed game. Sam plays one level with Eric and then up to bed. Go lay down with him. He wants to play a couple levels with me. Start the levels. After the first level Danny comes in, throws lightswitch rave. Finally disable wall switch by pulling cord on the light from the fan. Take that Danny. Boys get rowdy. Threaten remove Danny. Boys settle down and snuggle for 8 seconds. Danny is getting rowdy again. Take him downstairs much to the dismay of both boys. Eric’s turn to snuggle Sam. Danny follows with promises of piety. They finish snuggling. Danny comes downstairs with Eric.
Maeli’s mad again. Give Danny the option of snuggling with Mom or Dad while watching Olympics – Dad is chosen. Strap Maeli into BabyBjorn – still mad. Take her out. Change her diaper – it’s slightly wet. Feed her a little more. Back into the BabyBjorn. Still mad, but less so. Watch Olympics for about 30 minutes. Eric decides it’s time for him to go to bed. Eric takes Danny up to bed with him. Watch some Men’s Figure Skating. Maeli asleep-ish. Eat a snack. Write this post. Time to collapse into bed.
I’m sure that sounds super negative, it really wasn’t a terrible day. I got lots done! I went to the doctor’s, made some returns that have been hanging over my head for a long time, filed our taxes, made a huge grocery run, got our meal plans figured out for the next week and wrote in my blog! And all that on top of my normal basic tasks – getting kids to school, feeding everyone, getting kids to bed. Honestly, it was a pretty successful day. But I’m definitely tired, tomorrow will be much less ambitious for sure :) So, that’s sorta what it’s like to have 3 kids.
This week I read the Book of Job as part of my scripture reading. A few things really impressed me about the book that I wanted to share.
The first is that this man, who was known to be a just and good man before his trials came, was mocked and ridiculed by those who were supposed to have been his friends. I hadn’t realized this before about the book, but most of the book is spent with these “friends” telling Job that he must have done something wrong. That he must be secretly evil and doing bad things and obviously this is why he was having all these trials come upon him. I’ve often heard this book referenced as the quintessential example of bad things happening to good people. However, I’ve never really considered that it is also a guideline for how we ought to treat people who are facing trials. In Job 16:4-5 Job is addressing his friends who are telling him that he needs to repent and telling him that he must be a bad person and Job says-
4 I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.
5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.
I really liked that simple passage. He says, “Yeah, if our roles were reversed I could do like you’re doing and add to your grief. But instead I would try to strengthen you and build you up rather than tear you down.” I think this is sometimes a hard balance for us to reach. On the one hand, we ought to call out those things that are wrong and evil in life, and encourage others to remove such things from their lives. However, we need to also be careful to use our words in ways that help to build people up rather than tear them down – even if they have done something wrong. Rather than assuming the worst in people we should be ever striving to help them become their best.
The other thing that really stuck out to me is the idea that even when we are righteous it doesn’t always mean that we will be given the blessings we think we want or deserve. It can be really easy to look at the things we have and say “I have great kids/a great job/a wonderful spouse etc. because the Lord loves me and has blessed me because I am righteous.” While it is true that the Lord loves us, and often we receive such blessings as a direct result of our righteous actions, the receipt of blessings isn’t the reason to be righteous. Furthermore, the lack of those blessings isn’t a mark of unrighteousness. I think we need to be sensitive about how we express our gratitude for blessings publicly and be careful not to imply that other people don’t have the same blessings because they have done something wrong. Someone who had struggled with infertility once mentioned that they felt hurt whenever someone would bear their testimony and mention the blessing they had received of having children. To the person struggling with infertility they felt like this was a rebuke against them, that clearly they weren’t righteous enough to have the same blessing. While I don’t think it is wrong to express gratitude for our blessings (in fact, we’re taught that failing to be grateful is one of the worst things we could do), we just need to be aware of how we express that gratitude and be sure it is not in a way that implies that we deserved such a blessing because of our righteousness. We deserve none of our blessings – that’s what makes them blessings. As King Benjamin taught -
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
Another aspect of that is that I think we need to be as grateful for the things we don’t have as the things that we do have. I want to be better at adopting the attitude Job expresses in Job 1:21 -
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
While I’m sure Job would have been very grateful for his children to still be alive, his possessions to have remained in tact, and to have not had sores I think it is impressive that Job blesses the name of the Lord even in the taking away of his blessings. The Lord doesn’t spare us from all the things that are hard in this life because it is through those hard experiences that we learn and grow and become like Him. In a talk that he gave in April Conference of 1991 Elder Neal A. Maxwell made this astute observation -
Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, “Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!”
I think we need to be careful that we don’t limit the Lord to only blessing us with good things, but also recognize when He blesses us with trials, because it is only through those trials that we grow and become stronger.
While it would be dishonest of me to say that I hope to have the same kinds of experiences as Job, I certainly hope that I can be more like Job in the way that I face the experiences I am given, and remember to treat others who are facing trials with the compassion he was not shown.