Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Note About Honesty

Are you honest in ALL of your dealings?

Last week, I was grocery shopping with 5/6 of my kids. I had a list to help keep me on track. Anyone who has shopped with multiple children knows that it is hard to keep your thoughts straight--even with a list. The kids were goofing off as usual. They weren't listening. Things were crazy and I was just happy when we were finished shopping.

As I was packing kids and bags of groceries into the car, I discovered something. A bottle of lemon juice that had been tucked next to my 1-year-old in the child seat. I had not paid for this item!!! Granted, it was $1.98--not very much money, right? But, it would be dishonest just the same to not pay for it--even if it was only one cent. And, how could I teach my children to be honest if I was not likewise practicing honesty myself? And how could I be 'okay' with myself and the Lord if I was dishonest?

I had a choice to make. I could A) Just forget about it and take it home. B) Take it back into the store and just not purchase it--but we needed it to eat with fish that night! C) Haul all of the kids back into the store and make a separate purchase for the lemon juice--no thank you! I didn't like any of these options.

I had a little inspiration and decide upon D) Next time I went to said store, I would pick up another bottle of lemon juice, explain to the cashier what had happened, pay for the lemon juice, and leave it at the store.

So, fast forward to the end of last week. I was back at the store sans children and with a friend. We were getting a warmer jacket because I am always freezing, especially outside. As we were looking, I remembered my lemon juice problem. I told my friend what had happened...and picked up the juice before we left.

At the checkout stand, I explained to the cashier what had happened. She was a bit confused at first, but then I got her to understand the situation. She exclaimed, "You're going to the Celestial Kingdom!" (Haha! Only in a highly populated LDS area, eh?). I laughed, felt embarrassed and ultimately just wanted to get done and pay my debt. She thanked me a few times and said that I made her night.

It made me think that most people may not be so honest. Maybe people get so tainted by just seeing theft all of the time that to see someone honest is just a shock. I have returned items to the store before that had similarly been hidden in my cart. I really hoped that everyone did this, but I guess not.

Consider this message from Acts 5:1-11--it is a pretty intense story about dishonesty:

 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, asold possession,
 And akept back bpart of the price, his wife also being privy to it,and brought a certain cpart, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to alie to the Holy Ghost, and to bkeep back part of the price of the land?
 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not alied unto men, but unto bGod.
 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and agave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to atempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
 10 Then fell she down astraightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
I think that story makes it very clear as to what God thinks about honesty. Hopefully, we do not need such a bold personal lesson.

If you have some unresolved honesty issues, take care of them. Become 100% honest--not for what others will think, but for what your and God will think. After all, honesty IS the best policy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Give Mercy, Gain Mercy

I have been pondering on the attribute of Mercy. . .

What is it exactly? What does it mean? It's clearly really important, but I could never really put it into words. Maybe I still can't, but I'm working on it--and working to increase my mercy for others.

I'll start with this quote from
"Mercy is the compassionate treatment of a person greater than what is deserved, and it is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father knows our weaknesses and sins. He shows mercy when He forgives us of our sins and helps us return to dwell in His presence."
"...compassionate treatment of a person greater than what is deserved..." seems amazing, right? As I searched, I found more than 500 instances of the word "mercy" or "mercies" throughout the scriptures, the perhaps most well-known of which is from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:7:
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
After reading more about mercy, I really have a desire to "obtain mercy" not only for myself, but for everyone I know. Just read this from a Pres. Thomas S. Monson talk on mercy and see if you don't feel the same:
I believe that his juridical concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in his justice and mercy, he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.”~President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
Adding to this unfathomable image of mercy is this from Joseph Smith (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 257):
"Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive."  
What I can gather from all of this, is that mercy is a major part of the Atonement. There has to be justice, but there also has to be mercy, otherwise we would all be lost. Our Savior Jesus Christ literally "saves" us from the limits of justice through His boundless mercy. Isn't that truly a beautiful message of hope? Lloyd D. Newell states, "We can be forgiven, we can change, and we can progress as we press forward by holding on to Christ, whose mercy is the source and substance of hope." (The Gospel of Second Chances, 66).

Because of mercy, I think we all have more than just a "chance" to return home to our Father in heaven. I think He knows our hearts and will be compassionate and gracious in His mercies He extends to all who desire it.

David A. Bednar suggests this--speaking of "tender mercies":
"...the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings. 
"We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance."
 We need to do our best, try our hardest, work toward Salvation and help others to do the same. But as we do this, and we strive to become more like the Savior and extend mercy to others in our life, the same will be given to us. I don't really know that we would be willing to accept mercy if we weren't striving for it in the first place. Nonetheless, mercy is there for each of us. He is waiting and wanting to be merciful to us all. He wants to help us in our darkest hour; He wants us to rely on Him. He wants to run to us and save us.

I love this song by Amy Grant (though the version I love better is by Mercy River, but they're not on Youtube with it). Think of mercy pertaining to these lyrics--God sometimes loves for us to need him, better than he loves our shouts of praise. He loves for one of His lost sheep to return to the fold.

© Wendy 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saving Innocence

One of the most difficult things about parenting may be trying to protect your children from the bad things of the world and losing the innocence of their childhood.

As a protective parent, I have had to have several discussions with my kids about such topics.

We've had very blunt conversations with my kids about people who may try to touch them inappropriately--maybe a stranger, a teacher, someone at church or even a family member--and then what to do if this happens (starting with first telling myself or my husband).

We've talked about people who try to take kids by luring them away with candy or "needing help" to find a lost pet.

The subject of bullying has also been brought up.

And drugs.

And alcohol.

And sex, rape and the aforementioned molestation.

It seems that more frequently than ever before, parents are being faced with the need for discussion about really tough topics.

Most recently, as with most parents, we had to talk about the possibility of a school shooting. We told them what had happened at a school earlier that day. We told them that if they heard shooting, or banging or screaming to hide. We told them to pray. We taught them that while terrible things happen, we need to stay strong, keep praying, trust in the Lord and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost about what to do.

They seemed to handle it really well--probably better than I was handling it myself.

Kids are really resilient.

The most important thing we can do as parents for our children is to create a safe haven at home. Love them, care for them, create a place of comfort and safety. We cannot prevent many of these tragedies from happening, but we can raise children that are strong and who know who they are (a Child of God) and that they are loved so that when these storms of life arrive, they will be better prepared to handle them, mentally and spiritually.

Be prepared. Have discussions with your children about these things and prepare them. A scripture comes to mind: "...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30).

You can't always predict and/or prevent what happens, but you can do your best to prepare. Just like schools have various practice drills--fire, earthquake, and lock-down--we too can do some of these preparations so if/when it arises, we know what to do.

Occasionally, a child may have increased anxiety upon discussing such matters, or may actually have an event that occurs that makes them more fearful. Reassure them and comfort them the best you can. If this does not help after a reasonable amount of time, you may need to seek outside help--either from their school teacher or counselor or another professional.

Our family is strongly built on our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Regardless of what happens on earth--tragedy, death, etc.--we know that we can be together again and we can be healed through His Atonement. Our trust in the Lord is the foundation of our peace and comfort.

Watch this video from Jeffrey R. Holland speaking about protecting our children: Spiritual Protection for our Children.

Decide what your own beliefs are--in the Universe, Heaven, people who are good, etc.--and build this as a strong foundation for your children, always centered on love and trust.

It won't always be easy, but it will always work out.

Amid all of the evil in the world, there is always good. Seek the good, the pure, the lovely and surround yourself and your family in the beauty in all things. Create a strong family. Do activities together. Make memories. Strengthen your love for each other. Be the good you want in the world.

© Wendy 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Mother's Mite

Have you ever heard the story of the widow's mite in the New Testament? Consider this from the book of Mark:
"And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." (Mark 12:41-44)
I just finished reading another grand book by DeAnne Flynn, entitled The Mother's Mite. She illustrates this story by pointing out that this widow, gave ALL that she had to give, thus making it more than all of the others' offerings.

Now, consider mothers--either your own mother, yourself as a mother of children, or as one who mothers other people (think caregivers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers etc.).

Aren't there times when we, though we think we are not giving much, are actually giving our ALL? It's these small and simple things we do for our children or others that truly matter to them--and let them know that we love them. It does not mean that we have to do everything to be the best mom we can. Small efforts matter.

In her book, Flynn shares many beautiful stories of mothers doing small things that are actually big things to others. These are touching and tender gifts to the reader. Each story is met with a small challenge or idea of something we can do to improve our mothering efforts. Equally sweet, are quotes from children of all ages sharing an effort their mother made that helped them feel special or loved.

Flynn closes with this quote by Jeffrey R. Holland:
"If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do."
Isn't that perfect? We just have to do our best--not your neighbor's or girlfriend's best--but YOUR best. You can read his full talk here--it is glorious.

Admittedly, I felt somewhat inadequate to all of the mothers in this book, wondering if there is anything that I actually do that helps my young children in some way. It's hard to see it when you're just trying to keep your head above water and not lose your mind or temper in the process. And of course, I count the minutes until bedtime--when the house settles down and there is . . . quiet. I'm trying to just take it one day at a time.

So, I went to my young ones for some Mother's Mites of my own. Here's what they said (clearly, I need to work on this area):

"I like that you buy clothes and shoes and food for me." ~Cooper, Age 11

"No matter what, you love us." ~Sydney, age 9

"I love you because you feed me." ~Ty, age 7

"I know what makes me feel happy...when you kiss and hug me!" ~Kate, age 6

"[You] get me drinks." ~Cole, age 3

Scarlett, 20 months, though she can't yet articulate everything she wants to, I'm sure she would answer that she loves to be snuggled and kissed and loves me to just listen to her jabber.

I encourage you to do this yourself--ask your children what it is that you do that makes them feel special or loved. See what they say. Write down their answers and start collecting your own "mites."

Enjoy a little song by DeAnne Flynn...I love this song. Focus on the important lyrics.

© Wendy 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Such a Small, Insignificant Thing

I was doing laundry today (okay, I'm always doing laundry), when I noticed something bad. To my horror, I discovered remnants of a red crayon in my dryer. I am pretty sure it managed to spread some of its red, waxy goodness on every single sock, pair of underwear, shirt, pants and blanket that may have been tumbling with it in the hot dryer.

I had to toss some articles of clothing in the trash. Some, we'll deal with--like red crayon on socks--not generally noticeable, right? How this crayon found it's way into the laundry, I can't know for sure. In a pocket? Placed by tiny fingers? Just mixed in 'the pile'? I don't know, but it is there, permanently, in all it's red blazing glory (I guess I could go look up some laundry miracles on the internet...).

A red crayon. Such a small thing. So seemingly insignificant. Used by tiny fingers to create masterpieces to be displayed on refrigerators. I love the color red. But, when this red, tiny, insignificant thing ends up in your laundry, it suddenly becomes a very BIG significant thing. Almost like magic, it is able to permeate the entire load of laundry. If not cleaned up, it could also contaminate the next batch of clothing.

Do you have red crayons in your life?

Are there seemingly small, insignificant things that you probably shouldn't be doing in your life that could potentially permeate your soul?

It's interesting how there are so many small things that we are asked to do (or not do) as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yet many people don't think these things are important enough to matter. Maybe in hindsight, it will be like the red crayon.

Perhaps swearing, having more than just one ear piercing, having a tattoo, drinking coffee or partaking of other harmful substances, watching inappropriate movies or dressing immodestly seem like they are not that important. But, why then, would we be instructed to abstain? I think partially, it is about obedience, but mostly, doing some of these things slowly allows for more inappropriate things, which individually may all be small. But, compiled together, they become larger openings for more serious sins to envelop our lives. Satan knows this--hence why he works so diligently to convince us that it's "not that bad" or "it won't hurt anyone or anything" or "I have my agency!" Satan is so cunning and deceitful and he wants us to fail. Don't listen to him.

Just like the red crayon--it's "not that bad"--until the heat gets turned up and suddenly it's much worse than you previously could have imagined.

Eliminate the red crayons in your life. Don't risk it. When the heat of the world gets turned up, avoiding these small significant things will prove to be an advantage and blessing to us. If you don't understand why we are asked to do or not to do a specific thing, study, pray and seek for the answer, gain a testimony and become converted. Where the Atonement is needed, apply it. "Keep the commandments. In this there is safety and peace."

© Wendy 2013

Is Your Family 'Time-Starved'?

Sports, dance, gymnastics, music lessons, church meetings, school and school activities...not to mention homework, laundry, cooking, dishes, chores, family home evening, prayers, scripture study and, well, sleep. Did I just give you  anxiety and/or a panic attack?

If so, your family may be suffering from starvation--of time. Do you wish there was more time in the day so you could 'eat it up' with more activities and responsibilities?

Stop right there.

Back up.


What is most important?

I just finished reading The Time-Starved Family by DeAnne Flynn. In her book, Flynn suggests that we all need to slow down, simplify and focus on what matters most. In this case of family, what matters most is getting our family 'prepared to meet God.' As a mother of 7 children, Flynn is very busy (even without extra activities). Her family decided to cut down on activities and then to focus on living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and making things like scripture study, family home evening, family prayers, and eating as a family the priority. She also makes some really smart suggestions for getting children to do their part around the house, keeping organized and teaching your children how to serve--and love it!

As a mother of 6 kids myself, I found all of these ideas very useful. Luckily, we do not have all of the activities right now--however, last school year, we had one child in ballet, one in gymnastics, two in soccer and two also taking piano lessons (on top of that scouts and activity days to also schedule around). It felt so frantic. It was actually a relief to have a good reason why we couldn't do it this year (my husband had lost his job in May).

I found some really good inspiration from her words on organizing and helping teach kids to clean and most importantly, making God a priority and getting home to Him an attainable goal.

Go get yourself a copy, get your kids a copy, and get one for your busy friends. The Time Starved-Family is available on Amazon, at Deseret Book and even as an eBook or Kindle version.

Watch an interview with her here: 

Realign your family with what is important, what really matters, and what is ultimately going to make them become a successful human being--and more importantly who God knows we can become. Focus on eternity, not just the here and now.

© Wendy 2013