Tag Archives: family

Teaching Our Children to Love God

By Guest Blogger Angee Duvall

Thanx for having me today! (Yes, I spell thanks with an “x.”) I’m so excited to be here today sharing some thoughts dear to my heart! Let me take a moment to introduce myself.

Hi! I’m Angee. I’m a former elementary/preschool teacher turned stay-at-home mom. I’ve been married for eleven years to a pretty incredible man. We have three adorable children, ages eight and under, who keep us busy and happy. In my “spare” time I blog about activity ideas to do with children. And yes, I’m Mormon.

Since teaching and motherhood are so deeply a part of my life, I get asked a lot, “What is the most important thing you can teach children?” This is something I’ve thought about a lot, and every time, my answer comes down to one basic truth:

LOVE GOD

If I can teach my children to love God, then all other lessons should fall into place. They would naturally be compassionate towards others. They would naturally see their own worth. They would naturally find joy in life. They would naturally serve. They would naturally find a purpose in living.

Sometimes I get asked what top three things that I teach my children. If I could break that general concept down into a more specific list, these are the top three things I’m striving to teach my children (in no particular order):

1. Serve others. I want my children to find the joy that comes from service. My husband and I try to involve our children in all aspects of our own service. We involve them in making and delivering a meal for a family who just had a baby. We involve them in shoveling snow from our homebound neighbor’s driveway. We also try to teach them that service doesn’t have to be big. It can be as simple as playing with another kid on the playground who has no one to play with, or smiling at someone who is sad. And we are always sure to point out how the other people looked when we served them and how we feel in our own hearts. Just last week, as we pulled into Walmart on a snowy evening, my five-year-old daughter said, “Mom, do you remember last year when we brought hot chocolate to the [Salvation Army] bell ringers? Yeah. That made me happy.” Warm my heart. That’s what it’s all about!

2. Work hard. I want my children to learn the value of hard work; that work is a part of life. There is deep satisfaction in working. I want them to always do their very best and put their heart and soul into everything they do. I want them to know their work is needed in our home now (that we won’t have dishes to eat dinner on without their help) and in society in the future.

3. Be happy. Most importantly, I want my children to learn to be happy. I want them to smile and laugh and find the good in their lives. Each person in our family keeps a gratitude journal that we write in daily. By focusing on the things that made us happy each day, we have found a deep level of peace. We love to make memories as a family, and you’ll find our home full of laughter.

Now you tell me: What is the most important thing you can teach your children?

We Are Children of God

By Guest Blogger Chelsea Slade

In the course of my training as a medical student, I have seen many difficult situations. I have seen a sixteen-year-old girl die of tuberculosis; I have heard the mourning wails of a wife when her husband’s heart monitor went flat and his last breath was drawn; I have held a premature baby no larger than a frog shortly after he died, and felt the warmth gently pass from his tiny body. I have taken families to see their loved one in the hospital morgue. I have been the one to say, “You have cancer,” and the one to say, “Your cancer has returned, and there is very little we can do.” I have seen families pulled apart by their son and brother’s fits of psychosis and aggression. I have seen a man so tormented by his belief that he was the Anti-Christ that it drove him to try to end his own life. I have tried to comfort a woman so plagued by the memory of the abortion her mother forced her to have at age seventeen that she throws herself into a wall until she loses consciousness. I have seen children who spend their entire preschool and elementary years fed through a tube through their belly wall directly into their stomach, never knowing what it is to taste ice cream or cold lemonade on a hot summer day. I have seen a seven-year-old boy’s body wither away, ravaged by the ravenous cancer in his kidney. I have shared with an expectant mother the realization that the mass on her prenatal ultrasound is a terrible cancer that will likely take her baby’s life soon after she is born.

Perhaps the most difficult encounters I have faced—the ones that wrench my heart into a tangled mess and leave me in tears—were the several women I met while working in a psychiatric hospital, who believed beyond any convincing that they were worthless. These were beautiful women, most of them mothers, who could not, even with long hours of coaching, name anything they truly liked about themselves. They saw themselves as fat, ignorant, stupid, deserving to die, worthless, and disgusting. Many of them had toxic family members who reinforced those beliefs, or heard voices telling them these things over and over, every day of their lives. Suicide seemed the only way to escape the harsh judgments that surrounded them. They had all tried several times.

When I found myself in conversation with these women, I wanted to gather them up in a huge hug and say, “But you are a daughter of God. You are a holy, beloved child of our Heavenly Father, and that makes you beautiful and valuable—no matter what the voices or your family can say.” I knew, from my faith in what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had taught me, that each of these women was a precious spiritual being with intrinsic worth and beauty. If only I could have shown them!

But the medical profession is strict. An outside observer to that conversation would see a student doctor, in a position of authority, proselytizing and preaching to a vulnerable and victimized psychiatric patient. So I had to check myself and limit the profession of my beliefs and my pain for these beautiful women, to saying, “I don’t believe you’re worthless. I could name a hundred wonderful things about you.” I worked so hard to help each daughter of God come to her own realization that she did have value and that life was worth living, while keeping explicit religious doctrine out of the conversation.

When I left that hospital, there had been only one suicide attempt among these women for a month. I don’t know that my words and love had any lasting effect on how these daughters of God will view themselves. But I came out with further solidification of my knowledge that our Heavenly Father does love us each as his children. I hope I will be able to subtly but powerfully bring that message to all the hopeless that I will touch as a doctor.

Why I’m Mormon

By Guest Blogger Denia-Marie Ollerton

I grew up in a religious LDS household. My parents were and are hardworking, God-fearing, sacrificing people. But it wasn’t easy. We had our difficulties and challenges, and at the time I felt we had more problems than my seemingly-perfect Mormon neighbors.

Church was just a thing we did every week. My friends were there, but I didn’t feel much else pulling me besides them. I remember thinking that religion as taught in my church was for perfect people only. They’d talk about the virtues of being good, and of happy families. I didn’t feel that fit my experience. I thought that God was cold, mean, and punitive.

In my teens, I got into some trouble with school, friends, and had some close calls with the law. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying desperately hard to become so. I still felt that religion was too strict and family relationships too sterile. Around eighteen years old my parents loosened their grip, and I began to experience the reality of being all on my own. I had long since lost any close friends I had in high school. My interactions with my family were minimal, and my life consisted mostly of going to school, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, and going home to sit in my room. Yes, it was very lonely. I knew that the life I had lived and the choices I had made up to that point were not making me happy.

I noticed my siblings were good enough people, and they seemed happy. They were active churchgoers, and always talked about how great the church was. I decided that I’d try religion one time, and one time only. If it was true, if it did work to live by certain rules, then great. If not, I’d know and I could move on with life. At this time, a lot of teachings from my childhood started to come into mind. One principle that came to mind was repentance. Repentance as I understood it was supposed to be this thing where you told God (or your bishop) about all the bad things you’d done, and somehow that was supposed to make you feel better. Oh yeah, and you weren’t supposed to do it again.

I also remembered the teachings about Jesus. I didn’t have much of an opinion on him. I had heard about the crucifixion and the atonement, but those were just words to me. And yet, he did seem like the only forgiving person in the entire story of religion. I remember thinking, “Alright, if he really is merciful and kind, I’ll test it out. I’ll see if he can handle me and all I’ve done.”

I went to my bishop after thinking this over for some time. I expected some harsh words and punishment, but I was willing to go through the process to get to the other side whatever that was. I went in and just let everything out to him. I was surprised but grateful at how calmly and kindly he handled the situation. He just listened for a while, and then asked if we could meet again after church. I agreed. I went to sacrament meeting, and the speakers all spoke about repentance and the atonement. I cried. I felt like a spotlight had been shone on me, and God was finally noticing me. I went back and talked more with my bishop. All of his words were encouraging, hopeful, and healing.

I walked home that day and went to ponder all that had gone on. It was as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulders, and I didn’t even know I was carrying it until it was gone. I felt incredibly happy. I think it was joy. I can honestly say I hadn’t felt joyful or happy up until that point in my life. I had seen people cry “tears of joy” before, but I didn’t want to cry, I just wanted to smile. I went through the rest of that week with a huge grin on my face. I knew then that God lived, and that there was so much more to life than I had known. Who knew that because Jesus Christ died thousands of years ago, and went through the atonement, that I could find healing and happiness in life? I didn’t before, but I knew it then. And there was no way I was going back to the life I had lived before.

I became fascinated with religion. I realized that I had been surrounded all along by a wonderful road map to a successful and happy life! I felt that I was doing years of make up work, but also felt that I was given an increased ability to soak it all in. Everything was positive that I found out. My previous notion of a punitive God was erased in large, sweeping motions. I found out he really did care about me. He did answer my prayers, he listened to me, he talked to me, and he helped me connect with others in ways I never knew were possible.

By relying on the teachings of the gospel, I’ve overcome fear, judgment (mostly of myself), and discouragement and have instead found opportunity, growth, excitement, and love. I thought my past would weigh me down, but it has buoyed me up. It has taught me that if God can right the wrong in life, he can make the good even better. I can come to the Lord, imperfect and all, and ask him to change me. And he does!

I love living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because it’s what I’m used to, or what I’ve known all my life, but because it makes me truly happy. And although I haven’t had a perfect life, I don’t hold myself to that perfect standard anymore, and I know God doesn’t either. He and I both know that I am powerful, and I have so much potential. And I’ll continue to draw on that potential, with his support, for the rest of my life.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy…or How We Actually Accomplish More by Taking a Day Off

By Guest Blogger Jenn Felkner

After creating the world, God himself took a day off to rest, then sanctified that day, or made it holy (Genesis 2:2–3). He later commanded us that we should do the same thing (Exodus 20: 8–11). As Latter-day Saints, we generally don’t work, play sports, go to movies, shop, or go out to eat on Sunday, and this often begs the question, “So what do you do on Sundays?” Every member chooses the way that they honor the Sabbath, but here are three things that I do on Sundays that help me be more productive throughout the rest of the week.

1. Rest
Because Sundays are dedicated to God and family, Latter-day Saints generally avoid working on Sundays if possible (although we understand the necessity of doctors, police, firemen, etc working on Sundays). We also try to avoid activities that would require someone else to work on Sunday. If I go shopping on Sundays, it means the store employees don’t have the opportunity to take a day of rest.

During the past year, I was in an intensive graduate program that required many study hours. I decided early in the year to avoid studying on Sundays as much as possible. I realized that when I didn’t study on Sunday, I felt more refreshed on Monday morning and was much more productive that week. I also find it helpful to take some time on Sunday to look at what I have planned for the week to come, set goals for the week, and schedule in everything I need to do.

2. Go to church
Going to church every week allows me to recharge myself spiritually. It helps me get above my day-to-day stresses and refocus on the big picture, which is trying to be more like Christ so that I can follow the plan God has for me. Understanding that plan helps me to deal with daily choices and problems.

3. Spend time with friends and family
Sundays are perfect for spending time with friends and family. Although I don’t have any family nearby, I usually chat on the phone with my grandma, or Skype with my parents and siblings in Texas. Sunday dinner was always a big deal at our house growing up, a tradition that I often carry on with friends or roommates. In my hectic life, it’s nice to have quality time to build relationships with those I care about.

Christ taught, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). Observing the Sabbath is not a list of restrictions, but rather a blessing, as it gives me an opportunity to rest, increase my spirituality, and build relationships.

AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE DURING MY DAY-TO-DAY ROUTINE

By Guest Blogger Carolyn

As a stay-at-home mother of three young children, I am given countless opportunities to help other people.  My daughters are quite dependent and they need my help all day long. Sometimes it is very tiring, and it’s hard to keep an eternal perspective when I am stuck in a routine of changing diapers and cleaning up messes.

I recently read John chapter 21 from the Bible. Jesus Christ asks Simon Peter, “Lovest thou me?” and Simon Peter answers, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Christ then says unto him, “Feed my sheep.” Christ asks him the same question again, and again Simon answers the same way. When Christ asks Simon Peter a third time, it is recorded that “Peter was grieved because [Christ] said unto him the third time, ‘Lovest thou me?’” And Simon Peter answers, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” And Christ again commands him to feed His sheep.

I thought of this in relation to my work as a mother. There were two lessons I felt I learned from these verses.  First, sometimes I become “grieved” at my many chances to show Christ that I love Him. I get tired and when someone needs my help, I think to myself, “Again?” But right now, the most important way I can show God that I love Him is by serving others.  And that includes my children.  I remind myself of the scripture Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” In this life we will be given infinite opportunities to show the Lord that we love Him.  It is important to not become weary in well doing. We need not be grieved at the fact that we are given second chances, again and again.

Secondly, I learned that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know all things, as Peter pointed out. I believe that they do not give me numerous chances to show them that I love them because they are unsure of where my heart lies.  Perhaps they do it so that I can be reminded of my testimony and the reason I serve others.  I do it because I love the Lord.  And He has asked me to feed His sheep.  And it has the potential to change from day to day, depending on what I choose.  I need my answer to be the same every time I am given the chance to serve others: “Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee.”

 

Interested in the LDS church, but reluctant to start attending?

Have you been considering becoming a member of the LDS church, but are reluctant to meet with missionaries or start attending church?  This was a question from one of our readers and I’ve spent some time pondering the question.   As part of my response I’ve decided to include a few thoughts in this blog that might be useful for others.  I realize that there are many reasons why someone would be reluctant to start attending the LDS church even if they are interested in becoming a member.   You shouldn’t feel any pressure by attending a service.  There are usually a few people at a church service held on Sundays that will notice a stranger and will make an attempt at introduction, whether you a member of the LDS church or not.  If they happen to find out that you are only visiting for the first time you may here any number of responses reflecting the hope that you liked what you saw or felt and are welcome to come anytime.  If you are more than a casual observer, you are likely to be invited to meet with missionaries who are full time temporary volunteers dedicated to teaching more about the LDS faith.   You are not required, however, to meet with the missionaries.  Though they are trained to teach and are commissioned to baptize they generally eschew the appearance of pressuring.

I know of instances where members not of the LDS faith regularly participated in LDS activities like organized sports and Scouting.  There are a lot of benefits to attending church regularly.  The church is divided up by geographic regions and members belong to congregations based on boundaries.  The church is very logistical in that regard, but it proves useful.  Congregations or ‘Wards’ as we call them are much like families and no one ward is exactly like another.   As my Ward has changed over the years due to migration of fellow members and/or myself my experience has varied, but I have always felt some affinity for the Ward.  Most of my life’s cherished experiences have been with people from my local Ward, but it sometimes takes an open mind, positive attitude, patience and work – perhaps more on that in another post.  I’m not sure I’ve answered your question about what to do if you are interested in becoming a member, but are reluctant to attend church or meet with the missionaries.   Thanks for the question.  It caused me to pause and reflect on some good times!

A Christ Centered Home

My family is now a family of 4. Don’t ask me how we got to this point, I have no idea. I feel like I should still be in college with my roommates eating pizza and cookie dough while watching chick flicks. But here I am, finally realizing I’m a real adult (think it took me long enough?). I’ve been reflecting on the influence I have on my family and especially my children and I’ve realized that the influence I have on them could either make or break their happiness in life. No pressure. I’ve had a few negative experiences lately (in places where I was expecting positive experiences) that have made me take a step back and recognize that really my home is the only place where I can guarantee that there will be a loving and Christ centered atmosphere. But the only way to guarantee this is if my husband and I make it that way. It’s harder than it sometimes seems. Now that life is much more hectic and jumbled with a very young baby  and a 3 year old I’m finding it’s harder and harder to stay focused on Christ and to have that loving environment.

Though my husband and I have always tried to be doing what is right we are realizing we need to be more dedicated and more diligent. The past 4 days we have made sure that we have read scriptures together as a family (usually only a few verses, we do have a 3 year old) and talked about what the scripture meant and how we can apply it to us. We have had a family prayer before my husband is out the door for work and we had a short but meaningful Family Home Evening (this one is tricky for us because my husband works late so we are going to be experimenting to find out how we can better fit it in).  I kid you not, the past 4 days have been so much better than the month before. My son has had fewer tantrums, I have been more patient, I’ve felt less scattered and all over the place. There has been a real difference in how our home feels. Though it’s hard to always fit things in with crazy schedules and crazy children I’ve learned I can’t afford not to. I owe it to my children to have Christ as the center of our home so that they can feel love here and feel safe here and know that no matter what lies outside of our front door they will always be able to feel the spirit in our home.

A Partner With God

I am now counting down the weeks before our little girl is born. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be best prepared both practically speaking and emotionally. I have been working hard to make sure we have everything ready: meals in the freezer, diapers and clothes ready, babysitters for my son arranged, etc. There is a lot to do to get ready for a baby but what I learned from my son is that the most important preparation is emotional and spiritual.

I am a bit of a control freak. I really hate giving up control, especially if it’s because I feel like I can’t do it all on my own. Giving up control to benefit someone else is not too hard for me but being forced to give up control is extremely hard for me. I am a really independent person and I feel that I have no business getting myself into things that I can’t do on my own. I’ve always known this about myself and it’s never really been much of a problem. It’s caused a few stressed out days/weeks but nothing too much beyond that. And then came motherhood.

After I had my son I literally did not sleep for 72 hours. I was so overwhelmed with not only the responsibility of motherhood but the responsibility of having a newborn. If you’ve experienced what it is like to be a first time parent you know that newborns are so fragile, anything could go wrong. And, as a control freak I had to be the one to make sure nothing happened, it was all on me. With each passing day of no the sleep the crazier I got. It literally became too much for me. I couldn’t do it on my own. I couldn’t watch him constantly. This was very hard for me to accept and I didn’t know what to do. My husband gave me a priesthood blessing to help calm my mind and spirit. In the blessing I was reminded that motherhood is not meant to be a solo job. It’s not even meant to be only a partnership between mother and father. Parenthood is meant to be a partnership with God.

After I really internalized that God was in charge and in control I was finally able to sleep and relax. I have to try my best to do my best but more importantly I have to have faith that God will give me strength and that he has a plan for my family. Without God I can’t do it and it is supposed to be that way. Just like my newborn is dependent on me, I am dependant on my Father in Heaven. And just like I love my children with all my heart and will always do what I can to help them, my Father in Heaven loves me and will always help me.

This time around I can feel myself getting nervous about having to give up so much control again but I know I can do it and I know that God will be there for me. I know that He loves me. These are the ways I am trying to prepare for the arrival of our little girl. This is the most important preparation I can do, to prepare to be a partner with God.

And We Shall Meet Again

A few weekends ago, we attended a funeral service for a good friend and fellow church member. He had been battling cancer for over five years and had undergone various chemotherapy treatments.  He spent his last three weeks under hospice care and his family opened their doors to visitors and friends who wanted to say their last good-byes. However, I suspect that few of us felt that we were really saying goodbye forever.  I believe that many of us hold firm to a hope of seeing him again.

The resurrected Christ

We believe in a literal resurrection for all who ever lived.

No matter what your religion, the loss of a loved one is difficult, potentially life-changing, and for some, devastating. Mourning and grief come naturally, as do questions about life and life after death. “If this life is temporary, then why are we here?”,  “What happens after we die?”, “Will we ever see our loved ones again?”

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are taught that this life on earth is a temporary, learning period in which we will have gone through many experiences — trials and hardships, as well as joy and love (2 Nephi 2:21), so that we can prepare ourselves to meet God (Alma 34:32). From this life we learn about three different types of relationships: ours to others, ours to God, and God’s to others. These relationships help determine who we will ultimately become, not only in this life, but forever after (Helaman 14:30-31).

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe that there are two types of death: physical and spiritual (separation from righteousness and God – Romans 6:23).  Physical death is but a marker along a path of progression.  We believe that at this death, our physical bodies are separated from our spirits (James 2:26), and while one part remains in the earth, the other part ascends to the Spirit World, until they are again reunited forever in the resurrection (Ezekiel 37:12-14). It is through the power and grace of Jesus Christ that the resurrection will occur (John 11:25), not only for the righteous, but for everyone (Acts 24:15).

After our physical resurrection, we believe that we are judged for the life that we led upon this earth, by a merciful and just God and His Son.  We believe that if we have done all that has been asked of us, we will live with God, and be reunited with our loved ones again.

The knowledge of the resurrection blesses us in many ways. The hope that we can be with our family and friends again tempers the distress surrounding death and gives it meaning as we learn that we must shed the mortal to put on the immortal.  I am so grateful for the gift of the resurrection and the sacrifice of the Savior who made it available to all of us. I know that the promise of reuniting with our families and friends is true, and I look forward to the day when I can again embrace my friend, whose funeral we just attended.

My Journey through Bereavement

Mackinac Island, MI 1984

In December 2010, I lost my 28 year-old brother to a very aggressive cancer which took his energy, health, and ultimately his life in roughly six weeks – from the time he was diagnosed to the day he passed away.  My immediate response was pretty typical – I went into survival mode taking of care of everyone but myself.  In fact, when I got the first bereavement letter from hospice six month after my brother’s death, I thought, “thanks, but I’m already passed this point.” Only recently have I realized how long the process of bereavement really is, the extent to which this loss impacts my life, and just how much I did need all the support that was given.

There are five stages of grief that most experts appear to agree on – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can experience them in any order and sometimes go back and forth between stages, culminating into something that feels very much like a roller coaster.

A few weeks ago I decided to finally track my progression through the bereavement process to better understand where I am and the decisions I’m making. I actually have a very real fear of choices being based solely on emotional motivations and needed to ensure there was some logic behind my past 10 months of decision making.

So where’s the Mormon tie-in? Bargaining.

I’ve been in this stage since day one and while I may have briefly ventured into other stages, I feel I have yet to move out of bargaining due to my faith in principles such as eternal families and temple ordinances. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. I choose for faith to be a real and significant influence in my life and in this case, it’s helped me cope with a terrible loss and the moving on process.

But at some point, I will have to accept that being an eternal family will not enable me to grow up with my brother here on earth and participate in the important chapters of each others’ lives. Temple ordinances open the door for different, not identical, opportunities. The entire experience has forced me to rethink where I stand on certain issues – and to be comfortable knowing that future experiences may change how I feel about it all over again.

Have you ever experienced something that made you hold on tighter or clarify what you really believe?