Monday, December 1, 2008

When the Teacher Becomes the Student

It's often said that a teacher gets more out of her lesson than do her students.  I can't argue with that.  With the preparation, and hopefully the prayer and thought put into it, it would be nearly impossible for those listening and participating to come away with the same level of insights.

I teach Primary.  Or I did.  I was released yesterday.  I am the new ward music chairman and choir director.  But this post is about Primary.  I taught Valiant 10B, and being nearly the end of the year, all but one of the kids are already 10.  The class is split into two, but unevenly so, leaving me with anywhere from 1 to 4 students in my class on any given Sunday.  Yesterday I had one.

Our lesson was about how Moroni taught faith in Jesus Christ.  We spent most of our class time discussing stories from the Book of Mormon that have been taught all year that demonstrate the blessings that come from having faith.  They are familiar stories:  Nephi and the brass plates, Abinadi and King Noah, Alma and Amuleck, the brother of Jared, Ammon.  As I was discussing these men and their faithful examples with my pupil, I answered a question that I've had for a few months now.  And I instantly believed the answer.  

I've struggled with the ability to ask Heavenly Father for a blessing that I need.  We need our house in California to sell.  Last summer and fall, it was not so urgent.  Obnoxious, sure, but we'd be able to manage the extra payments.  Things have changed, however, and now we really need it to sell.  Yet I have had a hard time asking for that blessing straight out.  This may be because the biggest reason that I would be devastated by losing the house would be the fact that we would then lose the house we're building.  This seems greedy or materialistic to me somehow.  Plus I've seen many faithful, righteous people around me lose their homes over the years.  I start to wonder what makes me so special that I should ask to be spared that loss.  

Yesterday, I taught the principle that Christ will help his children be able to accomplish the ends that he desires of them.  I know that is true.  But I hadn't thought about my problem this way.  I know that my family needed to move to Idaho.  I don't know that it always matters to the Lord where one lives, but we felt this was being directed by him.  It was a tough pill to swallow, and as soon as we officially made the decision little problems kept popping up that made the move difficult.  Larry and I continued to know this was the right thing to do.  Since we've been here some situations have actually gotten worse.  Things in regard to our children, however, and our oldest child in particular, have gone more smoothly than I could have hoped for.  I still know we are supposed to be here, I know that fact more strongly than I did as we were driving up.  So maybe, I thought during my lesson, I do have the right to ask for a some help regarding this move.

I feel at greater ease now.  I feel more confidence. I feel so grateful that the Spirit seemed to be there in that Primary classroom with us, teaching not just a 10 year old girl, but a 34 year old girl as well.  Am I sure of the exact outcome?  Well, not really.  But I am sure that I can ask.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Her Brother's Keeper

My kids fight sometimes.  Do yours?  If you want to know, numbers 3 and 4 are fighting horribly lately.  It's discouraging.  I try reasoning, punishing, humor, mediating, and sometimes even letting them have at it.  Nothing makes a difference.  They may stop and make up for the moment, but a day, or an hour, later, they're right back at it.  I am commanded to not let my children contend one with another.  I guess I'm not doing a fabulous job keeping up with that one.  Really, though, as a mom, if it's not one concern it's certain to be another.

Throughout the years, however, I've had glimpses of sweetness in our family life that have let me know that everything is alright.  I remember one day when the girls were small I looked out my kitchen window to see them playing in our back yard.  It hadn't been long that they were really old enough to go out and play on their own, so it was a relatively new sight.  They were having such a great time enjoying each other that I was overcome with emotion.  I felt a little silly crying at my sink because my girls were happily experiencing sisterhood.  I later tried to relate this story to my husband.  He didn't quite get it.  His mother, on the other hand, knew exactly what I was talking about.

Tonight I had a similar experience during Family Home Evening.  It was #4's turn to give a lesson.  #1 helped him pick out some pictures of Adam and Eve and then helped him with long words as he read the narration on the back of the pictures.  There was something so tender about #1's manner.  She tried to anticipate which words her brother may not know to provide him with a smooth delivery.  Watching them I realized I had a huge, silly grin on my face, and the moment I became aware of how touched I was, the tears began to flow.

It was a small, simple, significant moment.  I was reassured that I am raising loving, giving people who I can only assume will no longer be pushing and kicking each other as adults.  I am thankful for moments like this.  I am thankful for the great kids that they are, maybe in spite of their mother.  

Friday, October 17, 2008

Every Day I Need ...

Scripture power keeps me safe from sin.
Scripture power is the power to win.
Scripture power! Ev'ryday I need
The power that I get each time I read.

chorus from "Scripture Power,"  c. 1987 by Clive Romney

I love this Primary song.  When I hear a group of children singing it with determination I get tears in my eyes.

This past January a boy at the kids' middle school brought some prescription drugs of his mother's to school and sold them.  Some kids bought them, took them, and got ill.  I heard this from the principal, who was a friend of mine.  Plus, being a member of the school site council and the PTA board, I guess she thought it was good for me (for all of us in those positions) to know the actual story, minus names of the kids involved.

This information was a wake-up call for me.  My girls had no idea that this had happened.  They moved in a completely different set of kids.  They were still in that younger, "Drugs, eeew," mind frame.  Even so, it was happening around them, and I realized that they would not be unaware much longer.  This sort of thing will only increase as they get older.  They aren't babies anymore.  They will be facing the world without me holding their hands.

I wish I could say that we have always had our daily family scripture study.  I suppose I'm thankful that I do not have to admit we've never had it, either.  But I fear the not times far out number the times we do.  Learning about this drug dealing inspired me to finally establish this habit once and for all.  

The obstacle?  Me.  I am absolutely horrible at routines.  My kids are pretty lucky I manage to feed them regularly.  I surely don't feed myself every meal. 

The solution?  #2.  In desperation, I enlisted #2.  She is amazingly self-motivated and driven.  She's 11 and she has achieved a level of self-discipline that I dream about.  I told her I needed her help getting us to read the scriptures every night.  I testified to her how important I knew this to be to our family as a unit and to each of us individually.  She casually answered, "OK, mom," like I'd asked her to take out the trash, and walked away.  Five minutes later she came upstairs with a January calendar entitled "Family Scripture Chart" and a sheet of mini stickers.  I praised her idea but secretly worried that a sticker chart would be poor incentive after the first week or two.  We taped it up to the fridge and gave it a shot.

Ten months later I believe that the idea to ask #2 to help me was inspiration.  We are now on our longest run of regular nightly study.  We miss a day or two each month when our schedule gets hairy.  But even Friday nights when Larry and I are on a date and don't read with the kids beforehand, they read together themselves, and get that sticker up on that chart.  I do think the habit is formed, but that chart on the fridge helps us to not quit when we do miss a night or two.  I see the blank spaces throughout the day, and the sticker sheet marking our place in the scriptures starts to call to me.

I'm not sure what the biggest blessing here has been.  I see the drug issue at the middle school as a blessing to me.  Knowing the potential power of the scriptures is a blessing that all do not enjoy.  And certainly my #2 girl is a huge blessing to me and to our family.  I have reason to thank God for her many times every day.  She is a depositor in the bank account of my life.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oreos and Tulips

I am aware that the theme of this particular blog is by nature subject to some level of cheesiness.  I still feel the need to make the disclaimer that this post feels particularly cheesy, and even a bit trite.  This story is not an uncommon one.  It's often heard in LDS testimony meetings and Relief Society lessons, told from varying viewpoints.  My version will be no more meaningful than the previous tales to anyone, but me.

This past week has been very stressful for my husband and I.  This may seem like a strange way to begin to those who know us.  Our whole summer has been stressful.  Medical testing, moving out of state, setting up camp here, crises in my extended family, selling (rather, not selling) a house,  building a house, building a warehouse ... it's been stressful for months.  

This past week has been different.  I have been scared.  We made all of these big decisions, and still feel we've done the right thing, but now there are some troubles with business.  I am praying over my fields.  I am praying for faith because I find myself lacking.  I am doing what I can to contribute in a positive, if nearly insignificant, way.  Largely, however, I feel entirely helpless.  There is in reality little that even Larry can do.  It's a waiting game.  And I don't like it one bit.

Yesterday, my visiting teaching companion showed up on my doorstep with a package of Oreos.  She'd been grocery shopping, and thought of me, and told me to sit with a glass of milk and enjoy.  (I did enjoy about 7 of them before instructing my kids to please finish them off.  An observer might have thought they'd won the lottery.)  This woman knows nothing of our problems.  She knows very little of me at all.

Today, I came home from spending $99 and change of the $100 I had for groceries, to tulips on my counter from my sister-in-law.  She knows me well, and knows a little of our current struggles, but I am hesitant to really tell anyone how afraid I am.  I called to thank her and she just said she'd been thinking about me, and everything we have going on, and the fact that Larry is in California again this week trying to get some resolution, and thought I may like some flowers.

Cheesy, yes.  Unique, no.  But I sit here in awe of how two simple actions touch my heart so significantly.  I feel like Heavenly Father is letting me know he is hearing my prayers and loves me.  We will be okay.  Things may not go how I want them to, and we may face serious trails in the coming year.  Or maybe things will work out well, and the outlook will be brighter in a week or two.  But either way, we will be okay.  We have each other and our family and friends and faith.  God strengthens us using those tools.  And when we are strong, we can handle anything.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Called to Serve

Perhaps I should feel embarrassed to admit that I have only a few times in my life prayed more earnestly for something than I once prayed against something.  

This was in January of 2004, unknowingly only months before we moved up the mountain.  Things were getting shaken up in our ward.  I had been 1st counsellor in Primary for about 18 months, and our president was about to have a baby.  My very good friend had recently been called as Relief Society President, and, right or wrong, had let me know several times that she was submitting my name for her secretary.  This ward was funny that way--callings seemed to be open for discussion and gossip well before sustainings ever took place.  So, right or wrong, she began to let me know her frustration that she was getting pretty discouraging replies regarding her request.  Again, it was definitely wrong that she found out that my name was also being submitted for Young Women Secretary, and wrong that she let me know.

I did NOT want to be in YW again.  I was just turning 30 that month and I had already spent about 6 years total in the Young Women's organization, including two as President which had concluded less than two years prior to this time.  I loved the girls, but that is an energy and time consuming calling if ever there was one, and I felt like I needed more of a break.

I decided to petition my Heavenly Father.  There was a choice of two calls that the Bishopric could extend to me.  I prayed and prayed with much energy to NOT be put in Young Women.  I pleaded for a chance to work again with my friend who had also been my counsellor for nearly two years.  But, not wanting to sound like I was bossing God around, I tried to sincerely include the sentiment that I desired His will to be done.  It was only partially true.  I also always reminded Him that I would accept whichever calling I was given, and He knows very well that that was the truth.

My prayers were answered with a resounding "no" when I was extended a call to be Young Women secretary.  I sobbed, which was a little embarrassing.  But I accepted the call.  The president was being newly called, and therefore so were all of the staff.  I was relieved to see that one of the counsellors was another good friend who had served for about a year as my other counsellor in YW and had succeeded me as president.  She wasn't excited to be back either.  

About 6 or 7 months after my release as YW President, the Church revamped the Personal Progress Program for girls.  This had not been done for about 14 years, since I was a 15-year-old Mia Maid myself.  I knew that older program front and back. My friend and I decided to complete the program together, to learn it and be better able to help the girls. I went full speed ahead.  I was nearly finished with it in late May when we made the decision to relocate.

Moving up the mountain also meant moving to a very small branch where there were currently no Young Women.  When my #1 would turn 12 in just over a year, she'd be the only one.  It suddenly all became clear to me.  I needed to learn that Personal Progress program, which no one else in the branch had had a reason to become familiar with, so that I could help my daughter with it.  It has been helpful.  I might even say it was a blessing to have been called into Young Women at the time I was.  I know our Heavenly Father blesses us with "good gifts."  Sometimes even with ones that we are trying to avoid.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Wrong Turn

Our family is moving to Idaho next month.  It was a difficult decision to make to leave Southern California, as we have most of our extended family here.  But for business reasons, and also for some family reasons, we feel like this is what will be best.  We are excited.  It will be a big adventure.

It is also a lot of work, and a lot of money.  As happens in life, there have been some logistical and financial trials that have come up concerning the move.  But yet, we continue to have little assurances that we have made the right decision for family.

Larry was in Boise this week, and one of his tasks was to find us a rental home to live in while our new house is being built.  In preparation, we spent time on rental sites looking at options in the area.  We had several possibilities picked out that Larry then looked at and tried to call on when he got there on Monday.  A couple of the places wouldn't take less than a year lease and a couple that had seemed more promising just didn't return Larry's calls.  He was a little concerned because he only had three days in town.  So here at home, we began praying for assistance.

On Tuesday, he started to drive to one of the potential rentals and made a wrong turn.  To backtrack, he turned onto a side street.  There he saw a house with a for rent sign in front.  He called on it, and it wasn't even officially in the data base yet.  They don't normally take pets, but are willing to take our Golden, and they will do a six month lease.  It has three bedrooms, which is what we'd been looking at, but it also has a huge bonus room above the garage with a half bath and a closet where all three girls will fit.

Larry felt like he was led to this house.  Not that we needed to be in that specific location, but that it was a place that would take our terms and do it in the amount of time that he had up there.  I know our prayers were answered.  As we move into this house, we will be grateful to be moving into a blessing from our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

High Chair From Heaven

When Larry and I got married, we were both students. Needless to say, money was a rare commodity. Of course, our needs and financial commitments were no where near what they'd someday be, so there was a little extra freedom there.

Our first baby was born just before our 10 month anniversary. We purchased rocking chair and a changing table, and Larry's parents gave us a crib. That was about all we had. My sister-in-law lent us a new-born sized basket for a bassinet, and we bought a lightly used infant car seat from a friend of hers for 10 or 15 dollars. Other than shower gifts, most clothes were handed down. We were very grateful.

I think our daughter was only a few weeks old when a highway patrolman in our congregation approached my father-in-law, who was bishop at the time, about a high chair he'd found while on duty. It was brand-new and in it's box and laying in the middle of the freeway. They'd sat on it a while, as I remember, and no one had come to claim it. He wanted to know if Dad knew of anyone who could use it. And of course he did.

I hadn't been looking for a high chair yet, but I certainly knew that it was going to be a stretch for us to get one. I was so excited when we were told about this one. I immediately began calling it our high chair from heaven. I can't say I'd have picked it out, but it was new and sturdy, and worked for all four of my kids.

I seems like a small thing now, but at the time, it was enormous. I truely felt that we were being watched out for.