So, what is this blog? It’s called Women in the Scriptures and the premise is this – how many women would you guess are mentioned in scriptures? Go ahead and take your guess, I’ll wait. My original guess had been maybe as many as 50, if you looked really hard. I’ve long been of the camp that women are not mentioned frequently enough in the scriptures, was that what you’d thought too? Turns out, we were wrong. Heather (the author of Women in the Scriptures) went through her scriptures and marked every time that a woman was mentioned in the scriptures. The real answer? 556. I was amazed when I read that, how did I not know that there were that many women in the scriptures?? I’ve been reading the scriptures my whole life and I’d never noticed many, could there be that many?
It opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on the scriptures. Instead of reading the scriptures with a chip on my shoulder that there weren’t any women in them, I started looking for the women. Suddenly the women were popping out of everywhere. None of the scriptures were written by women, but they factor into the stories more often than you might realize. All at once I saw mothers, sisters, aunts, maids, queens, prophetesses – how had I not seen them before?
A couple weeks ago Heather released a new book called – Walking With the Women in the New Testament, a book which focuses in depth on the stories of each of the women who are mentioned in the New Testament. When she sent out a request for people to participate in a blog tour I jumped at the chance! I knew this would be a book that I would need to share with all of you.
I was so excited when I received my copy in the mail. After reading all the great insights in her blog I knew it was going to be great. But something about the book surprised me. I brought the book with me one Friday afternoon to the church while I waited for Sam to go through his primary program practice. I figured it would be a good time to sit and read through some of the book. As I sat in the foyer with my book, my three-year old son came over and asked me to read it to him. At first I sort of put him off, this wasn’t really a “kids” book, but he insisted. So he plopped down on my lap and I let him point to a name in the table of contents. I figured he would sit with me for a few sentences and then run off to go play in the nursery.
He chose “The Widow Who Gave Two Mites”. We turned to that story and I gave him a simplified version of the story first and then started reading to him what was in the book. I hadn’t wanted the book for the pictures (as you may have gathered from the wordiness of most of my posts – I’m a words person more than a pictures person) but the beautiful artwork convinced Danny that this book was for him too. Instead of a “kids” book that might have given him a very superficial understanding of this story, he sat and listened to some pretty meaty insights about how Jesus brought his message to both men and women, and how we should give up all to serve Him, and that He sees and knows our needs even when we feel insignificant. Wow. I’ve read this story many times before and I’d always thought it was meaningful, but I had never gotten all of that out of it! I sat in the foyer with tears in my eyes from just the experience of that one story. But more importantly, Danny sat there and listened to it, and was eating it all up. I expected that this book would give me some good insights but I hadn’t imagined that at such a young age it would be influencing my young son. This truly isn’t a book about women just for women, it is a message about some of the sometimes overlooked players within the scriptures with a message for everyone.
I haven’t yet read all of the stories, but I have been thoroughly enjoying reading them one at a time and really savoring the deeper messages of stories that I’d never thought much of, or hadn’t even noticed. I used to think that there should be more women in the scriptures so that I could learn from their stories as they would be more relatable to myself as a woman. Now I’m thinking maybe there aren’t more because I haven’t learned what those that are there have to teach me!
So, if you’re getting ready for your Christmas shopping and not sure what to get for your mom, sister, daughter, grandma, aunt, wife, girlfriend… or your dad, brother, son, grandpa, uncle, husband or boyfriend, this would be a great gift for anyone. What better gift at Christmas than the opportunity to delve deeper into the scriptures and learn lessons that will draw you closer to the Savior?
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for reviewing it, but all opinions are my own.
When I was a little girl I remember every year being excited to sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what a good girl I’d been and ask for something special for Christmas. I loved watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My parents didn’t make a huge deal of Santa but he was still an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. When I was in fourth grade my friends started to tell me that Santa Claus wasn’t real, that it was just my parents who bought the gifts. In all honesty, I think I knew logically by then that was true, but it didn’t bother me too much. I still loved the idea of Santa Claus and chose to keep believing anyways because he was part of the magic of my Christmases and I didn’t want to give it up.
Now, a full two decades later I find myself on the other side of the Santa Claus celebration. Instead of believing in Santa Claus – I am Santa Claus for my three sweet children. I love that part of Christmas where I now have the chance to prepare surprises for Christmas morning for which I will not take credit. I love trying to find something that will make my kids eyes light up on Christmas morning and bring joy into their hearts. Even though I want their Christmas to be Christ-centered, I feel like the tradition of Santa Claus can turn their minds, and mine to the Savior.
However, I have been troubled by the first question that my kids are asked this season by almost every adult they see at this time of the year, “What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?” Since I’ve already claimed that I really do love the tradition of Santa Claus so much, how can this bother me? It’s an innocent question and it is fun to see the things that kids are excited about for Christmas morning. But I feel like it places too much emphasis on the wrong part of Christmas for young minds.
Earlier this week a friend posted this article by Jen Hatmaker called The Christmas Conundrum. In it she describes her experience as a pre-teenager being totally disillusioned by finding out that the presents she received on Christmas morning weren’t what she expected, and how it ruined her whole Christmas. She goes on to say how sad it is that her Christmas was completely defined by material things with no actual thought of the real meaning of the season – the birth of Christ.
I don’t think we’ll be going to her extreme of cutting out Santa from Christmas entirely, but I do want to help my kids from a young age be more aware of the real meaning of Christmas, rather than the consumerism aspects. While I like knowing what my kids want for Christmas I’ve never had them sit down and make Christmas lists, or badgered them for what they want most. We’ve gone to visit Santa Claus (although with very little success getting our boys to sit on his lap so far) and we’ll talk a little about things they might like, but I really try to focus on other parts of Christmas. I try to find ways to read Christmas stories with them, or sing songs, or serve others, rather than expending too much of their energy on what they want to get from Christmas. In addition to taking the focus away from Christ, I think focusing on what you’re hoping to get sets kids up for disappointment. If you have high hopes of getting the 5 things on your Christmas list and you only get 4 of them then you’ll be sad. But if your focus is on other things than yourself then anything you get is just a sweet surprise. I would like to suggest some alternate questions that we could pose to young children that would help bring the focus back to our Savior and less on Santa Claus.
What are you going to give this year for Christmas? I will never forget listening to this inspired talk by President Monson back in 1995 called Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings which he gave at the Christmas Devotional that year. He suggested rather than asking what someone got for Christmas we should ask what they gave for Christmas. Quite often we put a lot of thought into what we’re giving different people for Christmas and it’s much more exciting to focus on how we’re hoping to make someone else’s life brighter. I think if we try to ask this question to kids it will help them to want to do things for other people and be a little more selfless rather than selfish.
Do you love the Christmas music at this time of year? What song is your favorite? Yes, you might still get answers that are more about presents and snow and jingle bells, but the music at Christmas time is inspiring to the soul. There is a joy in that music that helps bring in the spirit of the season better than almost anything else. You can even take that chance as an opportunity to share your favorite Christmas song too, maybe one that bears a small testimony of the Savior.
Who are you spending Christmas with? I’ve heard people say before that the meaning of Christmas isn’t to be with family, but I think that’s baloney. Our Savior died so that we can be with our families forever, so what more fitting way to celebrate His birth than by spending time strengthening those family relationships? Children will get excited at the thought of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or even just having a day or two extra at home with their mom or dad off work.
What is your favorite part of Christmas? I’m sure many children will respond with an answer of Santa Claus or presents, but it opens the door for you to include your favorite part of Christmas too. Whether that’s serving others, or the love people show at this time of year, or Christmas music. Even if their initial answer isn’t part of the real meaning of Christmas I think it’s a good way to at least suggest to their minds that there’s more to this season than just presents under a tree or in a stocking.
Does your family have any Christmas traditions that you love? When I was growing up my family had the tradition that on Christmas Eve we would all get a new pair of Christmas pajamas that we would wear to bed that night and then we’d stay in them all day on Christmas. For whatever reason that always seemed like such a treat to me when I was younger, and that day spent at home, with my family, in our PJs is still one of my favorite memories of Christmas time.
It takes a little creativity, but I think we can find ways to help our kids turn their focus from Santa to Christ. I’ll try to post some more traditions and suggestions to help your family’s Christmas be more Christ-centered this year. But for now I’ll leave you with this one challenge – as you try to engage the kids you see in talks about Christmas, will you try to find ways to bring their focus away from Santa and towards our Savior?
What other questions could we be asking our kids instead of Santa questions? I’d love to hear your suggestions! Leave them in the comments below 🙂
Most of you will remember a little over 4 months ago when I posted about the death of our neighbor’s little boy Kayson. Tomorrow (Tuesday, October 14, 2014) would have been his 3rd birthday. In commemoration of his birthday his family is asking that anyone who can do some act of service for someone else. It doesn’t have to be anything big – make a freezer meal for someone, help someone asking for money, go pick up some trash at a park – just something to make the world a brighter place in memory of a child who was full of light.
If you do something I’d love for you to post it on your social media or in the comments below. Post it with the hashtag #HappyBirthdayKayson. At the end of the week I will try to gather all the comments, tweets, Instagrams, and Facebook posts that I can get at and compile them for the Sheltons. Even if you don’t want to post what you did, you could just post “Served for Kayson #HappyBirthdayKayson” If you don’t feel comfortable even doing that, you can also email me and I’d be happy to include what you did anonymously.
Happy Birthday Kayson! Thank you for the two and a half years that you shared with us on this earth. We love and miss you, but you are not forgotten <3
Those of you who follow me on Facebook have probably noticed a theme of me being a little overwhelmed lately. Today I thought I should stop for a moment and properly document the adventures going on in our household recently, and some thoughts on motherhood. If you want to skip over my tales of craziness to the moral of the story you can click here and jump to the end. Strangely enough this post is long. Not sure why, none of my other posts are ever long 😉
My Commitments and Projects
I posted this to Facebook the other day – “I’m pretty sure I’d be doing a whole lot less work if I were homeschooling Sam than I am by helping out with his class in the public school – this is getting a little ridiculous!” I have gone back and forth for a while as to whether I should homeschool Sam or not (that’s a whole other post for another day), but I signed Sam up for kindergarten at our public school this year. He’s SO far ahead of their curriculum it’s silly, but we try to find things to keep him engaged at home. When I went in for his kindergarten assessment I noticed that no one had signed up to be the room mom so I decided to take the plunge and sign myself up. That commitment on its own really isn’t too bad, I’m mostly managing volunteers for all the class activities, which I can do via email from home – right up my alley 🙂 I’m helping with stations every other week on Tuesdays. I’ve been surprised at just how much parental involvement is required to run our kindergarten class – I’m glad for the parents that have been so willing to do it, and that the kids are getting such a great experience – just overwhelmed with how much it requires from each parent. In addition I’m our ward’s cub scout committee chair, Danny’s soccer coach, a freelance web developer, a local political activist, a visiting teacher… oh yeah, and a wife and a mother to three young kids. It’s been a little busy around here
As I mentioned above, I decided to coach soccer this year. The last time I played any sort of organized soccer was when I was in 3rd grade so I’m not the most qualified, but I figured that for U04 soccer (a league comprised of 3 and 4 year olds) my experience was sufficient. I figured my whole goal was to let the kids play and not cry too much – if we were generally kicking the ball and playing something that resembled soccer that was enough for me. I figured the other parents can’t get too upset since I wasn’t getting paid, and if they thought they could do better, I would gladly let them (our league had to refund a lot of players’ money this season because not enough parents volunteered to coach). It’s been more difficult than I thought. We have a team of 7 players, but of those 7, two have refused to play at all, two have been willing to play occasionally (but sometimes “play” means sit on the field – Danny would be one of these two), one who is a really decent player – but gets really upset if the other team scores or if someone takes the ball from him, and two little girls who have been stuck playing every minute of every game we’ve had so far. This last Saturday when the game started we had 2 players who showed up.. the other team had 9. Oh, and one of my two was Danny who was upset about everything and didn’t want to play (his shorts wouldn’t stay up, his shin guards were wrong, his socks were wrong, his cleats were wrong… he’d gotten up too early, everything was wrong). The other coach was understanding and subbed some of his players in and out of our team and we played with whoever would come out on the field at any given time. I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for that very flexible and understanding coach for totally rolling with our ragtag team and just letting the kids have a fun time with whatever sort of team we had. Also, a HUGE amount of thanks to my wonderful in-laws who have been coming to all of my boys’ games. Eric had commitments as the Young Men’ president on Saturday and wasn’t able to be there, so his parents’ help of sitting with Maeli and helping negotiate with Danny was helpful beyond compare.
Two Saturdays ago while Eric was at some stake leadership training Danny comes into the house with blood running down his face. I of course bring him in and get him cleaned up as best as I can while asking what happened. He tells me that one of the boys in our neighborhood hit him in the head with a bat. Outraged I go outside and confront the boy about this and he claims it was an accident. I’m somewhat dubious, but I also don’t want to be accusing him of things that truly were accidental – plus Danny is still bleeding so I say something about not playing with bats and go back to caring for Danny. As I get him cleaned up the cut doesn’t look too bad, it’s not very long but it’s opened up pretty wide from the swelling. I’m pretty sure I’m overreacting but I text Eric to say that I’d like him to come home and look at it once he finishes his meeting, rather than going and getting a haircut as he had planned. Eric arrives home within minutes and looks at the cut. He concurs that it’s opened pretty wide and we should probably get it looked at. While he carries Danny around he gets the rest of the story. Apparently the boy who hit him had hit Danny on accident – but he’d been using the bat to try to hit another little girl and had just missed. Awesome. By the time I find this out I feel like it’s too late to bring it up with the mom or the little boy again so I decide to let it go and just be grateful that Danny wasn’t injured worse. We’re fortunate to have a friend who is a doctor and lives a few doors down. He takes a look at Danny’s head and is of the opinion that a butterfly bandage will be sufficient to let the wound heal properly. Poor Danny complains sporadically over the next few days that his head hurts and gets a black eye. When the bandaid falls off everything looks fine, but then he can’t leave it alone and picks the scab off and makes it bleed again. Danny’s still wearing a bandaid today, a week and a half later because he’s too traumatized that it will start bleeding again 🙁
Last week we were ready to to the bus stop and Sam was outside reading. I called him in to get his backpack. When he got to the garage he said, “But Mom, there’s a master spider in here!” Sam can get worked up over things that aren’t that big of a deal so I was certain it was just a box elder bug. I told him, “don’t worry about it and come in” As I looked around the car I found that it wasn’t a box elder bug – IT WAS A TARANTULA! Ok, so it turns out it wasn’t actually a tarantula… it was a wolf spider that was the size of a tarantula. I am a bit arachnaphobic, I hate, hate HATE spiders. So to have a giant spider in my garage?!? AHHHHHHHHHH! I was not a fan.
For some reason these spiders seem to be taking over our neighborhood. That picture above is some of the pictures that have been posted to facebook of these spiders. I’m not sure why I decided to make a collage… just looking at those pictures is enough to give me the creeps. Oh, and black widows have been taking over our neighborhood too. Greeeeaaaat. I might not be outside much between now and when our neighborhood freezes over.
Adventure to the Doctor’s Office
So yesterday was an exciting afternoon. We had scheduled an appointment for Sam to finally go in and get his last immunization for kindergarten. Since I am pretty severely trypanophobic we had scheduled this specifically for a time when Eric could take him. About 15 minutes before it was time to leave Eric was requested to join an emergency call for one of his clients. So instead of just Eric and Sam going, I got to take all three kids to the doctor’s office. I thought we’d be in and out super quick since we were just there for a shot, but we ended up waiting room for 1 hour! During the wait of course Maeli started to get super tired. When we were finally called back Sam was trying to bargain, he said he wanted a full check up before he’d let them give him a shot. Luckily their protocol had them weigh and measure him, check his pulse and temperature, ask about the things that he’s been eating and did a pretty decent mini check up. His one specific request was that they look in his ear with an otoscope and the nurse even played along and looked inside his ear. When she left the room Sam started getting nervous. So I let him decide whether he wanted the shot in his arm or his leg so he could feel a little bit like he was in control of the situation. He decided on his leg so I helped him take his pants off and sat him on the table. Then I gave him my phone and let him play some games with the deal that if he’d be good for the nurse he could keep playing. That was great… in theory. When the nurse came in, Sam was upset but I was able to distract him with the game a few times, but I was trying to help Maeli who was now rather over tired. When the nurse finally was ready to do the actual shot Sam freaked out completely and tried to climb the wall. So she went out to bring in another nurse to hold him down. Even with both of them they had a hard time holding him still. So the second nurse called over, “Mom, some help?” (she obviously hadn’t gotten the memo that needles tend to make me pass out). So I buckled Maeli back into the stroller and tried to come over and hold Sam’s hand, but Sam was flailing and I couldn’t look at the needle without wanting to react the same way Sam was… I wasn’t much help. They finally got the shot in Sam but he was still flailing and freaking out, so his heart rate was up… meaning he bled… a lot. There was blood everywhere. All over his leg, all over his arm and all over his shirt (naturally, since he was wearing a brand new shirt yesterday). The nurse finally gets his leg cleaned up and lets him pick out a bandaid (he wanted the plain brown one, not ninja turtles, not iron man, not perry the platypus – plain brown) but he was still mildly freaking out. Maeli was crying because she was overtired. Danny decides to act up. He had ridden in the stroller in and had taken off his boots. He wouldn’t put his boots back on, and he refused to walk and let Sam sit in the stroller. As we walked out I needed to get a receipt from the office that Sam had gotten his shot for the school, I had to just hold Maeli while we waited for that because she was so upset at that point. I got it, and we left the office with both Sam and Maeli in hysterics. Danny on the other hand is feeling smug for having helped rile Sam up even more. When we got to the van Danny hits his head on another car in his smugness so he’s crying too. Awesome. Everyone cried on the way home and we made frozen pizza for dinner, and called it an early night at the Hansen house.
So, after yesterday’s adventure I was hoping for a quieter day today – hahahaha! How naive I must be. This morning I had to get everyone up and ready early because I’d volunteered to take in the snack today for “W” day and hadn’t made it to the grocery store yesterday ( it’s what I’d planned to do while Eric took Sam to the doctor’s. Then last night I was helped Eric Hansen put a hitch on our van – because when you’re the Young Men’s president it’s important to have a hitch 😉 ) Luckily everyone woke up at a relatively decent time and I had all three kids ready before 8:25 and even remembered to text my friend whose son I usually walk to the bus stop on Tuesday to see if she could find someone else to walk him. Good start! We got all of our groceries and our W snack (wheat thins and gummy worms), but of course before we could check out the boys both needed to go to the bathroom. Since Danny is still in the process of potty training I wasn’t going to mess with that and sent them together to the men’s room while I waited with Maeli. It’s always a little stressful to send the boys into public restrooms on their own, but that went off without event. We got bagels for everyone for breakfast (Danny wanted the chocolate kind – aka a donut – but I was able to talk him into a blueberry bagel instead) and got everyone loaded into the car without incident. I realized though that I’d forgotten the actual snack bucket at home. Luckily I was scheduled to help in Sam’s class anyways so I sent Sam with one grocery bag that contained the snack and promised to bring the bucket when I came in.
When we got home Danny started whining about not wanting to go to preschool. You need to understand that Danny’s preschool takes place in the home of our next door neighbor. The same neighbor whose house he runs away to on average once a day. The same house that he’s so comfortable at that I found out (to my mortification) that he will let himself in the back door, go straight to the pantry, grab himself a granola bar and just join into the conversation. You know, someone who he really doesn’t like 😛 But because I want him to go to preschool and it isn’t his idea, he never wants to go. I decided not to address it since that only seems to get him more upset. I take Maeli upstairs to Eric, and pick up Danny’s preschool bag. Danny tells me defiantly, “I’m not wearing shoes, I won’t put them on” in the apparent hope that I care enough about whether he wears shoes to get him out of going to preschool. I don’t 🙂 So I just pick him up and carry him over while he whimpers on my shoulder. I set him down in a chair and he stands on the table stamping his foot… and I leave. Presumably once I leave he calmed down again pretty quick.
So, back at home it’s time for me to shower and get ready to go to Sam’s class. I get all ready, feed Maeli and take her over to my friend’s house. She agreed to watch Maeli and Danny while I was helping at the school but let me know that her mom would be the one doing most of the watching. I guess she’d forgotten to tell her mom I was coming because she wasn’t expecting me, but she cheerfully took Maeli anyways and I headed off to the school.
When I walked into the office to sign in I realized that I’d left both the snack bucket and the immunization form in my car, but I decide that I’ll get them after helping. We start doing stations and I get a text from the girl watching Danny and Maeli. Luckily I was wearing my Pebble so I was able to glance at my watch and see it, otherwise I probably would have ignored any incoming messages until after class was over. The text said, “Sorry to bug you… so after preschool Anna said ‘Danny you’re going to go to Kashe’s.’ Danny promptly ran home and in the door. And locked it. He won’t open it. So… I know you’re coming home soon. We’re just trying to get Danny to open it.” My heart sunk. Not because this was unexpected, actually I had thought through this earlier in the day and thought that I needed to make sure our front door was locked before I left… and I thought it was. Obviously, I had forgotten. My mind started racing through how they could get in to him, while still trying to guide the kindergartners through doing their W page in their alphabet books. I don’t have a spare key outside or anything like that so I thought I was just sunk and I’d probably have to bug out early to go get Danny. Then I remembered that we have a keypad on our garage so I texted back our garage code. My friend was able to get in and find Danny, who had come inside and was hysterical because (obviously) no one was home. She showed Danny the text from me that I’d be coming home soon and I guess that was enough to convince him to go to his friend’s house (all of 4 doors down) of his own accord.
Once Sam was packed up we hurried out to the van, grabbed the snack bucket and immunization record to bring back into the school. Returned both of those items to where they needed to go and turned in my visitors badge. We got back to pick up Danny and Maeli. Crystal tells me about their adventure with Danny (she was supposed to still be asleep since she’s a nurse and is working tonight). She also tells me how Maeli cried at her mom every time she would look at her while I was gone 🙁 While we’re talking my phone keeps ringing from the school, but I decide they can leave a message and I’ll call back when I get home. Sam however didn’t agree with that plan and answered it for me. So while I’m loading kids into the car I’m talking to the school nurse. She tells me that the paper I brought in was not sufficient and that Sam had 3 shots to get, not just 1. My brain is a little frazzled but I remember that there should be two separate immunization records in Sam’s folder – one that has most of his shots, and another that records the two shots he’d received earlier this year. She put me on hold and was able to find that, but I still need to get her an actual immunization record, and not the receipt saying he’s received the immunization, for the shot he received yesterday. At this point I sort of feel like I should have expected that and agree to get her the right thing and hang up.
The Moral of the Story
So, as you might imagine, I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling like I look in that picture at the top – e x h a u s t e d. What you might not expect though is this – I love every minute of it. That’s not to say that I sit there in the doctor’s office while Sam’s bleeding and freaking out thinking, “Wahoo! This is a blast!” but I wouldn’t trade those crazy experiences for anything. I love being involved and helping out and doing what I can do to help make this world a better place. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to raise these kids and have these crazy adventures. This is what life is all about, and even though it’s tiring, and messy, and stressful – it’s also wonderful, and exhilirating, and joyous! I love being there in Sam’s class and hearing about how he’s well liked and polite. I love seeing Danny’s face light up as he comes home from preschool because he’s excited to show me all the cool things he’s done. I love watching Maeli discover new things and learn new tricks. I can honestly say that when people look and tell me, “Looks like your hands are full” I can truthfully answer, “but so is my heart.”
In Doctrine & Covenants 58:27 we read, “Verily I say, men [and women!] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;” At the end of the day I may be totally worn out and able to fall asleep as fast as this little girl –
So while I appreciate the urgings from friends that I can just say no to more things and to take more time to take care of myself… I don’t plan to slow down. I’m involved in a lot, but I’m happy being busy. The things I do might not always be done as well as I would like, or as quickly as I would like, but I’m happy to be able to do them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take care of Maeli. I’m not sure what she’s gotten into but despite having been inside all day, and having showered this morning… she suddenly smells like dog poop. While I investigate what she found and get her cleaned up you can enjoy this video that I think will speak to anyone who has found themselves in the midst of adventures like mine.
(If the video won’t play here try this link instead)
I know I’ve promised to post about my testimony on Fast Sundays, but this post has been rattling around in my head and my heart for the past couple weeks and I needed to write it first. So while this post will still share a portion of my testimony and explain a little bit of “Why I Believe”, it’s more of a theological pondering than a testimony. If you’re really itching for a testimony post you can read Part 1 and Part 2 of that series at those links. I’ll try to resume those posts with next Fast Sunday… unless I have something else I’m itching to write about 😉
Whenever I watch General Conference the stories that touch me most are always those about the small spiritual promptings that someone received and followed that shows in a small and personal way that Heavenly Father is aware of each of us. One of my favorite recent stories of such a prompting came from President Monson’s talk during the Relief Society General Broadcast this past October. He told the story of a sister who had lost a lot of hope. She had expressed to a friend that the only thing that sounded good to her was homemade bread. The next day, an acquaintance – that barely knew this woman and was completely unaware of her struggles – drove across town with such a loaf of bread and quietly dropped it off without any idea why she was doing so. To me these small personal experiences are the greatest testament of Heavenly Father’s love for each of us individually.
Recently I had just such an experience which I wanted to share. A little over two months ago I was outside on a Sunday evening with my little boy Danny. We were getting ready to go inside and I was trying to gather up all of his bikes and scooters which he had left scattered around the neighborhood. As we were looking around we found that his prized possession – a bike that looks like a dirt bike – had been commandeered by one of his friends.
I knew Danny would be upset about not having his bike. While it didn’t really bother me that this kid was riding Danny’s bike I also didn’t feel bad at all going to ask for it back. As we reached the end of the driveway though I had a distinct impression to just leave it be. At the time I interpreted the impression as, “They’re only young for so long, see how happy it’s making him? Just let it go and distract Danny with something else.” I decided to go with that feeling and Danny was somehow easily distracted despite his adamance a moment before that we go retrieve this bike. Danny is not usually easily swayed so this was a little bit odd but we went on with our evening. At some point the bike was returned and all was well.
I probably wouldn’t have thought of that experience ever again except for what happened next. The little boy who was riding Danny’s bike, was Kayson Shelton. That evening on Danny’s bike was the last time I saw that sweet kid in this life. The last thing I can remember doing for him personally was an act of kindness. An insignifiant and small one, but in a moment where I was planning to do otherwise. I can only imagine how I would feel now if I had instead gone over and said, “Hey bud, that’s Danny’s bike, would you mind letting him have it back?” rather than just letting him enjoy it for a bit longer. It wouldn’t have been wrong of me, and it wasn’t like I would have been at all mean to him. However, I’m so grateful that the last thing I can remember doing for him was something that made him happy.
In retrospect I don’t think the impression was really that “they’re only young for so long”, but really it was a warning to me that Kayson only had so much time left on this earth. It’s hard to explain how I can reinterpret that impression, but it’s not like it came in printed memo format. It was more than just a feeling but less than a complete coherent thought. Impressions like that require some interpretation by me so I can make sense of them in my conscious stream of thought. At the time, the idea that this little rambunctious, bright two and a half year old would be gone less than a week later was completely unthinkable – it still is. So even though that was the thought I had, I wouldn’t let myself think something so outlandish and interpreted it in terms that made more sense to me at the time.
I can think of another time in my life when I had a similar experience with a spiritual impression. In August 2006 I had just flown into Utah from a trip with my family in Australia. I’d been travelling for over 24 hours, and was tired but decided to go visit some friends. While I was there my friends’ roommate went out of his way to talk to me and really showed an interest in being nice to me, despite my friends being preoccupied with other things. I’d been told in the course of meeting him that he had a girlfriend, but while we were talking I had the distinct impression, “I am going to marry this man.” At the time, that impression made no sense – I barely knew him, he had a girlfriend, I had someone else I was interested in pursuing… it just didn’t compute. So I brushed the feeling off. I reinterpreted that impression and said to myself, “What you mean is you want to marry someone like him. Someone who will go out of their way to make others around them feel comfortable. Seriously Brittny, you need to go home and get some sleep.” Four months later, we were engaged, and six months after that I did in fact marry Eric. Seven years and three kids later – that crazy impression doesn’t seem so crazy after all.
As I’ve thought about these experiences I’ve wondered what would have happened in my life if I were to have listened more closely to the Spirit? When I was in college I found that I would frequently have the impression before leaving for class to grab a couple extra pens. Every single time I had that impression, whether I followed it or not, I would find someone during the day who for one reason or another needed those extra pens. I started to try to be more quick to follow those impressions so I could be prepared to be (a very very small) blessing to someone else during the day.
I think now, what if I had been more true to these larger, more dramatic impressions like I tried to be with those small pen impressions? What if instead of downplaying my thought about Kayson I had taken it at face value. Could I have given his mom a warning? Or maybe just told her to take a lot of pictures or to hug him a little bit closer? I’m not saying that I necessarily should have given such warnings, but if I had been more receptive to the Spirit, could I have done more? In a similar vein, what if I had taken my impression about Eric seriously? What if, I had decided right then to stop wasting any energy on the young man I thought I was interested in and focused that energy on Eric instead?
Obviously, playing the “what if” game for things that happened in the past is useful for no one and things seem to have worked out anyways. I don’t think I did things wrong in the past, but I’m playing the “what if” game with my future. What if I try to live closer to the spirit today, could I be a greater instrument in the hands of the Lord? What if I trust the promptings I receive instead of reinterpreting them, could I gain more insight to help in the lives of my children? I want to strive to be the kind of person who listens to and acts upon the impressions I’m given, rather than letting them pass me by.