|fantastic print from John Tibbott|
Friday night the husband and I went to dinner and talked non-stop about all the things we haven't been able to talk about with crazy schedules. I shared with him some of the thoughts I'd had while preparing for my talk on Sunday, and I couldn't get through certain things without crying. The server came to see if we wanted things boxed up, and I'm sure he must have thought something was wrong when he saw my tears. We talked as we left and stopped on a small bridge on the way to the car as I broke down while sharing my feelings with my sweet husband. I felt overwhelmed thinking about discussing such personal experiences and feelings in stake conference as I realized I couldn't even talk about them with my husband without becoming emotional.
The topic I was assigned to speak on was not easy for me- essentially how to teach children to apply various aspects of the Atonement within family relationships. I spent several hours studying and several more writing in hopes that I would convey the message that others needed to hear and that my Heavenly Father needed me to share. I spent time at the temple on Saturday and felt great peace along with immediate blessings for my service there. I attended stake conference Saturday night and after I came home I wrote for another few hours.
The essence of my message was that my current role as a parent is to point my children to Christ. They're not at ages where we can have deep discussions on how it was possible or the depth of suffering Christ endured or all that the Atonement encompasses, but they can understand that Christ is a source of strength that never fails. I first spoke of teaching in small moments- probably one of the most common ways I teach my children. Below is an excerpt of what I shared.
The thing that I feel like I have tried to do [in teaching the Atonement] and that I will continue to do is to point them to Christ in all things. I feel like if I can teach them to turn to the Savior always, lessons of the Atonement will come more readily line upon line.
When normal sibling squabbles occur, we talk of Christ as we discuss principles of forgiveness and repentance. When they’re scared during the night, we kneel in prayer and we talk about the Savior’s power to remove that fear as they replace it with faith in Him. When they are sick we let them know that there is someone who knows exactly how they feel because He has also felt that way, and we testify that Christ knows how to help them since He has also endured their pain. When things seem too hard whether it’s practicing the piano or building a Lego model or learning to ride a scooter, we remind them that there is One who can help them if they seek His help to accomplish their desires. When I make mistakes as a parent and react in anger and without patience, I apologize to my children and seek their forgiveness and pray that the Savior will heal our relationship that I may never lose the love and trust of my children. I recognize that these are all small examples, but as I teach my children these principles I hope that I am helping them to realize that we all are completely dependent on Christ in all we do- not just when we’re in the depths of sin, but when we’re in the depths of life.
I then went on to discuss the principle of teaching by example- one of the greatest single ways we can teach our children, and by far one of the most difficult. I shared some of the story of caring for my dad and the personal lessons learned about the Atonement through that experience. I know that there is a strengthening power in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that he can make our burdens light.
My husband and I reflect on this experience as certainly the most difficult, but also one of the greatest that we’ve been through. We learned many lessons that could have been gained in no other way, but we also were blessed to show our children an important example through this experience as we pointed them to Christ. I can’t count the number of times I’d drop my dad off at therapy and one of my older two would ask, “Why do we have to take care of grandpa?” Their innocent question was one that I asked myself during this time, as well. They felt the affects of this choice and knew it was a difficult thing our family was doing, and they couldn’t understand why this was something we were going through. It was a humbling experience to be able to say to them (and to reassure myself as I tried to teach them) that we were taking care of grandpa because Jesus asked us to, and Jesus was helping us to be able to help grandpa. These lessons and testimonies have become part of our family story and continue to bless our lives. I am grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to teach our children to apply the Atonement within our family by our examples in doing so.
It is always a good experience for me to prepare to teach or to speak. I learn so much and am always reminded of lessons that have already been written in my heart, but maybe I've just forgotten them. I remembered much as I prepared for this talk about the power of example. Actions really do speak louder than words, and I hope that everyday my interactions with my children are teaching them the things that truly matter to me. I hope that as I nurture them and help them to grow, that they will begin to understand the love of their Savior as I try to share a small piece of that with them. I know I have work to do. This motherhood thing is overwhelming, but it's the best.
Thank you for humoring me as I shared a few thoughts that have been weighing so heavily on me over the past week and a half. If you want some good reading, I found the following talks to be particularly inspiring regarding teaching my children of Christ.
Help Them on Their Way Home by Henry B. Eyring
Little Children and the Gospel by Jay E. Jensen
A Legacy of Testimony by Henry B. Eyring