Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones August 2019 (part 2)

August 19-25 Be Perfectly Joined Together

Song: I Love to See the Temple pg. 95

Materials: red, yellow, and green construction paper, pictures of foods and drinks, pictures of the temple, picture of kid in swimsuit, Friend Activity

I feel so strongly about focusing on 1 Corinthians 6:19. It’s related both to physical care of our bodies as well as the law of chastity. I would suggest splitting these activities up into two sessions.

Word of Wisdom/ Physical Care

Find pictures of a variety of foods and drinks from grocery store ads and/or print your own. Also include pictures for bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth, exercising, etc. Use the green, yellow, and red construction paper like a traffic signal. Explain that green means we can have a lot of it, yellow means we should be careful about how much we have, and red are things that we do not touch. Go through the pictures and glue them on the respective sheets.

Law of Chastity/ Consent/ Physical Safety

Explain the difference between secrets, surprises, and sacred or private things.

Secrets can hurt people, we don’t tell or keep secrets. If someone tells you something or does something to you and tells you not to tell mom or dad tell that person that we don’t keep secrets and make sure to tell mom or dad or another grown up what happened.

Surprises are when we don’t tell someone something right away because it will be more fun if we wait. This is like when we buy someone a present, we don’t tell them what it is until they open it.

Sacred or Private are things that we only share with a few people. Show a picture of the temple. Explain that the temple is sacred so you have to have a temple recommend to go there. Show them your recommend if you have one and explain what you have to do to get one and that it is permission from Heavenly Father to enter his house. Our bodies are temples and someone has to have permission to touch your body. If someone wants to give you a hug or a high five and you don’t want to you can say no thank you, if they don’t listen then you can move away from them. If someone uses their body to hurt you, tell them no, get away, and tell a grown up. We have parts of our body that are private. Use correct names and/or explain that private places are where a swim suit covers. We keep our private places covered, we don’t talk about them unless we need to tell mom, dad, or a doctor about something, we don’t show them to people, we don’t look at them on other people, and no one has permission to touch them unless mom or dad is helping you in the bathroom or a bath, or if a doctor needs to check and make sure everything is healthy. If anyone tries to touch you in a private place you yell at them, “No, don’t touch my_____,” you run away, and you tell a grown up right away. If anyone tries to show you their private places or a picture of someone with their privates showing, do the same thing- Yell no, run away, tell a grown up right away.

(Depending on the age and maturity level of your kids you may explain that when you are an adult and married then you may also share your private places with your spouse.)

This month’s Friend magazine is a great resource if you need more help thinking how you will explain this to your kids, there is also a great game!

Aug 26- Sept 1 Ye Are the Body of Christ

Song: Two Little Eyes pg 268

Materials: Body of Christ puzzle

Talk about how our bodies work together to do important things.  Play a game coming up with silly things that your body can’t do without all of it working together.  Try to get across the room without using your feet, try to eat a snack with your hands tied behind your back, try to sing a song with your mouth closed, etc.  Explain that in the scriptures it says that we are the body of Christ.  That means that we all have different responsibilities or things that we are good at, but when we all work together following Jesus we can do great things.  Use the body of Christ printable to show this with your family and with the church (the blank copy is so you can add pictures of your own family).  Cut along the lines to create a “puzzle” and help the kids put it together to create the body.  Talk about how your family can work together and how we can work together at church. 

 

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- August 2019 (part 1)

Sorry I’m getting this out in parts this month. Good stuff coming up I just know it’s going to take a little more time to get together and wanted to make sure I at least got this out for this week!

I did some searching and asking around for Bible Story resources- and while there are a few that include a little more than the New Testament Stories published by the church, none of them had enough to justify the cost of buying them for me. So I’m including things that cover similar principles as our weekly readings. If anyone has any bright ideas I’m super open to them. I’m seriously considering creating a children’s book that is devoted to the epistles so in 4 years when this comes around again there will be an actual resource. I’ll just add that to the long list of projects…. But, hopefully I’ll actually get through some more projects coming up, one kid is starting kindergarten and the other kid will be in preschool, so a few days a week I’ll have some time to myself. Number one project will be to finish up August’s FHE ideas!

August 5-11 The Power of God Unto Salvation

Scriptures: New Testament Stories for Young Readers- Jesus Was Baptized, Friend Magazine- Jesus Said to Share the Gospel (to go with not being ashamed of the gospel), Paul Repents

Song: When I am Baptized pg 103

Materials: baptism pictures

Discuss baptism with your kids. If possible take them to see someone be baptized. Show pictures from when you were baptized. If you and/or your spouse served a mission show pictures of your converts at their baptisms. There’s a cute video from the One in a Million series of a girl talking about her baptism.

Explain that when we are baptized we come out fresh and clean from our mistakes. Paul says that we are like new people. Review the song from above about the earth being clean after rain.

Side note- Paul’s analogy also refers to our old self dying- I personally didn’t feel like that would be an age appropriate discussion for my kids especially considering they watched 2 great grandmas and a few ward members die over the course of 13 months. We’ve been very matter of fact in discussing death with them, but I think at this point where their brains are still so concrete, especially my 5 year old would think that he would die when he got baptized- not an association his little brain needs right now.

August 12-16 Overcome Evil With Good

Scriptures: New Testament Stories for Young Readers- I want to Follow Jesus

Song: Fun to Do pg 253 (sub dancing a dance instead of singing a song)

Materials: dance music

Dance Party! Explain to the kids that in order to return to Heavenly Father we need to keep the commands AND have faith- or believe in Him. Keeping commandments is like dancing and having faith is like the music. Try dancing without music- (mom and dad make sure to be really boring)- it’s not a very good dance party. Then everyone sit down and turn on music and just listen to it. The music is nice by itself, but just listening to it doesn’t make it a dance party. Now turn on the music and dance like crazy together. Discuss how dancing without music is like keeping the commandments but not believing- it’s boring and hard to know what to do. Just listening is like believing but not keeping the commandments- you don’t get very far. We need to have both for it to work!

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- July 2019

This month has a running theme of yummy treats and service! You’ll want to identify two families and/or charitable groups to work with this month. I included some charitable organizations at the bottom to consider.

I included Children’s Scripture Resources again, but I’m running out of chapters in the books I know about. Seriously after this month there is only one more chapter in the New Testament Stories book and one in the My First Scripture Stories book…for the REST OF THE YEAR. Anyone have any bright ideas or other resources to help with the epistles we’ll be starting soon???? I’ll be doing some research this month, but please share if you know of anything!

July 1-7 Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories Chapter 55, 56, beginning of 57; My First Scripture Stories– Jesus Teaches the Apostles; New Testament Stories for Young Readers- I Want to Follow Jesus, Jesus Said to Share the Gospel

Song: Give Said the Little Stream pg 236

Materials- ingredients for a treat already measured out

Help children begin to understand sharing and the law of consecration discussed in Acts 4. Prepare the ingredients for a favorite treat by measuring everything out into small bowls or baggies. Give each member of the family a set of ingredients to be in charge of. Divide them out unevenly so some members have large amounts and others have very small amounts (for example one family member might have a few cups of flour and the eggs while another family member only has a few tablespoons of baking powder). Explain that Jesus asks us to give EVERYTHING to Him, no matter how big or small and then he will give us back something wonderful. Ask each family member to give everything they have to make the treat. Once the treat is made ask if the person who had the little ingredients should get less of the treat. Explain that even though what someone gives may seem smaller than someone else, it’s still important to the Lord just like how the small ingredients are still important to the recipe, and that as long as we give our personal best the Lord will give us something equally good.

July 8-14 What Wilt Thou Have Me Do

Children’s Scriptures Resources- New Testament Stories- Chapter 57, 58, 59, 60; My First- The Epistles of Paul (most of the content is actually from Acts)

Song: I Feel My Savior’s Love (vs 4) pg. 74

Materials: scriptures, materials for service project

Tell the children about Tabitha, New Testament Stories Chapter 60 is a good resource. Discuss how Tabitha helped bring people to Christ first because of her service and then because of the miracle performed for her. Talk about nice things you can do for people each day and then plan a small service project you could do in your ward (for the families you minister to, a new family, or someone going through a trial) or community.

July 15-21 The Word of God Grew and Multiplied

Children’s Scripture Resources: This is a stretch, but- Jesus Loves Me

Song: I’ll Walk With You pg. 140

Materials- multi-colored eggs, ingredients for a treat, matching game

Find eggs with different colored shells. You can typically find brown eggs in regular grocery stores, but I also have some friends who raise backyard chickens and they have given me eggs in a whole range of colors- the more colors the better, but at the very least get some brown and white. Or I guess you could pull out some Easter supplies and dye them ahead of time, but don’t boil them.

Show the kids the multi-colored eggs and ask them to describe them. Talk about how people are all different as well, we look different, our skin is different colors, we come from different places, etc. Then crack each egg into it’s own bowl. Each egg looks basically the same on the inside. Help them understand that while we look different on the outside we are all the same on the inside and we are all children of God. He loves all of us the same! You could then use the eggs to make a yummy treat (do you see a pattern here??) and explain that when we all work together we can do great things.

While the treat is baking you could play this matching game of kids from around the world.

July 22-28 The Lord Had Called for Us to Preach the Gospel

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories Chapter 61, 62, beginning of 63

Song- your favorite Christmas song

Materials: Christmas decorations, Christmas cookie ingredients, gifts for your chosen person or group, wrapping paper

Christmas in July!!! Yes! Pull out some simple Christmas decorations. Sing some carols. Bake some Christmas cookies (I really don’t know why this month is all about food, but why not???) Maybe even watch a Christmas movie. Then read Acts 20:35 “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Take “Christmas presents” to someone in need (bonus points if you wrap them in festive paper!). Maybe someone in your ward going through a rough time. Maybe to a charity (I’ll list a few below the materials list). A homebound sister or brother. A new family in your neighborhood. Think and pray about who could use some Christmas in July.

July 29- Aug 4 A Minister and a Witness

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories Chapter 63

Song: Love is Spoken Here pg 190

Materials: toy snake

No stuffed sheep today- this time you need a snake toy. If you don’t have one- I mean how would you not have one??? But if you don’t, you can find them at the dollar store for, well $1. Explain the promises Jesus made in Mark 16:18 then act out the stories in Acts 28:1-9. Discuss Priesthood blessings for healing and times you have seen the Lord fulfill promises.

Consolidated Materials:

ingredients for a treat already measured out

scriptures

materials for service project

multi-colored eggs

ingredients for a treat

matching game

Christmas decorations

Christmas cookie ingredients

gifts for your chosen person or group

wrapping paper

toy snake

Charities to consider for Christmas in July

Gathering Humanity– AZ based, this group assists recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers. They need household items to set up apartments for newly arriving refugees and back pack kits to give to asylum seekers. They keep a list on their website of needed items.

Maggie’s Place– AZ based, this organization provides housing to pregnant women who have nowhere else to go. They provide them with education, tools, and resources necessary to get on their feet so that they can provide for themselves and their baby. They take moms at any point in pregnancy and allow them to stay in the housing up until the baby is typically about 6 months old, additionally, they continue to reach out to assist alumni moms. They can use women’s clothing (especially maternity and interview appropriate clothing), anything and everything baby related, cleaning supplies and hygiene items (full size not travel size), and toys and books for young children.

Your local NICU- I was only a NICU warrior momma for 10 days, some of those families are there for months. Those 10 days were very lonely and hard so you can imagine how exceptionally lonely and difficult it must be for those with a much longer stay. Each year at Christmas we take treats and a card to the NICU for the current families, but how awesome to get something at a random time of year. Some small things that would mean a lot to NICU families- gift cards to local fast food restaurants (hospital food gets real old real fast- and again I’m saying that after only 10 days), pocket size hand sanitizer (don’t want to spread any germs to the littles!), lotions (be careful about scents as little tiny babies can have super delicate skin), puzzle books or adult coloring books, little treats, etc. You would probably want to call ahead to find out how many families to plan for and to find out specific policies. Know that your children would likely not be able to enter the NICU (when we drop things off my husband keeps the kids where they can look through the window at the babies in the nursery), and you will probably either leave the items with the desk or in the family break room.

For the record my NICU baby is totally fine- she’s almost 3 now and has had no lasting issues. If you want you can read our story.

Image by Melissa Etheridge from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- April 2019

President Nelson promised us that if we would really dive in to this home based church supported thing that it would “unleash the power of the family.”  I saw that really clearly at the end of February.  President’s Day weekend we went to have dinner at my parents’ house while my aunt was visiting.  My grandma was not doing well and my aunt had come to see her.  After dinner we gathered my little family, plus my parents, aunt, and my little brother into my Grandma’s living room to do Family Home Evening.  We discussed John 3:16 and while my Grandma couldn’t say much, her attitude and the way she lit up as the kids made Valentine’s for Heavenly Father was a quiet way for her to bare testimony of God’s love, and the importance of family.  Guys, that’s the last time I saw her alive.  She passed a week and two days later.  And while part of my grieving process is asking myself why I didn’t just make the drive over there one more time, I am also so grateful that that was our last moment, and her last moment with my kids.  Our last earthly experience together was spent following the prophet, learning of Christ, serving her, and just loving.  That’s the power of the family that we need to unleash.  So keep going, you never know which week is going to have an eternal impact on your family.

April 1-14 Thou Art the Christ

Prep Materials: Keys (house, car, filing cabinet, etc.), Priesthood keys (either print the printable or gather up some extra keys), Pictures of Priesthood Ordinances (printable or Gospel Art book)

Song: The Priesthood is Restored pg. 89

Teach children about Priesthood keys.  Show them your key ring and let them use the keys to open the front door, turn the car on and off, open filing cabinets, etc. (whatever keys you have lying around).  Explain that these are things that are special and important to your family so they need to have keys so not everyone can get inside.  Talk about what might happen if you didn’t keep them locked.  Have a different set of keys (either from the printable, baby keys, or just some extra keys from around the house) explain that Heavenly Father refers to the Priesthood power as being keys to things that are special and important to him, and that the Prophet who has all of the keys has the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Gather pictures (either from the printable or the gospel art library) of baptism, confirmation, the temple, temple marriage, and the sacrament.  Explain that these are the things that are special to Heavenly Father that you need his special keys- the Priesthood- to perform.  Match the key to the ordinance.

Priesthood Keys Matching

 

April 15-21 O Grave, Where is Thy Victory

Prep Materials: Glove, Pictures of Christ (Gospel Art Book)- birth, adult, Garden, Cross, Resurrection

Song: Pick one of the Easter songs, they start around page 64- my kids’ favorite is Easter Hosanna pg. 68

I love using the glove and hand object lesson to teach about death and the resurrection.  We starting teaching our son this idea at Easter 2 years ago and then reviewed it when we realized my Grandma’s death was imminent a little over a year ago.  I was surprised then, at 3 1/2 how much he understood and how it helped him process what was going on.  My other Grandmother passed about a month ago and he has been using this analogy on his own to explain what is happening.  I do make sure as I’m explaining this concept that while Jesus came back to life after 3 days, our loved ones will come back to life and we will see them again in the Resurrection, but that will not be for a very long time.  One of my Grandpa’s died when I was 5, and I knew that he would come back to life so I didn’t understand why everyone else was so sad.  I remember a few years later realizing that he hadn’t come back and honestly feeling a little betrayed.  It’s a wonderful, beautiful, and comforting thing to understand the Resurrection, but I think it’s also important to help children understand that it is sad when someone dies because we won’t see them for a long time.

Sorry about the tangent, if you haven’t done or seen the hand and glove thing here’s how it goes.  Since it’s Easter have pictures of Christ’s birth, Christ in life, in the Garden, on the cross, and the Resurrection on hand- the gospel art book has these.

Explain that your hand is like your spirit, wiggle it and talk about the pre-earth life.  Show the picture of Christ’s birth and explain that when you are born you receive a body, put the glove on your hand- the glove is like your body.  Show that they can now wiggle and move together.  Show a picture of Christ when he was grown and explain that our bodies grown with us.  Show Christ in the garden, explain that sometimes our bodies feel pain and that we can use our bodies to pray.  Show Christ on the cross and explain that he died for us.  Take the glove off and put it in a tomb (under a bowl or something), explain that when we die our body stays here on earth and can’t move anymore but our spirit goes to Heaven and waits.  Show Christ resurrected, explain that after 3 days Christ was resurrected and because of that, someday (a long time from now) we will also be resurrected, put the glove back on.

 

Click for my post full of Christ-centered Easter ideas

 

April 22-28 What Shall I do to Inherit Eternal Life?

Prep Materials: Props for Good Samaritan (bandages)

Song: I’m Trying to be Like Jesus pg. 78

Help the kids act out the story of the Good Samaritan, break out the doctor kit for some bandages to put on the injured person.  Take turns acting out the different roles.  Talk about ways we can help people and be good neighbors to everyone.  Make plans to do something nice for someone who needs it.

 

April 29-May 5 I Am the Good Shepherd

Prep Materials: Stuffed animals (lambs), any other props to help be a shepherd, wolf, or robber

Song: Little Lambs so White and Fair pg. 58

More acting practice!  Grab some stuffed animals to be your lambs and put them somewhere they can be “guarded”.  Take turns being the shepherd (guarding), wolf and robber (trying to get the animals).

 

Materials List:

Keys (house, car, filing cabinet, etc.)

Priesthood keys (either print the Priesthood Keys Matching or gather up some extra keys)

Pictures of Priesthood Ordinances (printable or Gospel Art book)

Glove

Pictures of Christ (Gospel Art Book)- birth, adult, Garden, Cross, Resurrection

Props for Good Samaritan (bandages)

Stuffed animals (lambs)

any other props to help be a shepherd, wolf, or robber

 

 

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- March 2019

March 4-10 Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole

Prep Materials: bandages (or toilet paper), laundry basket/ sturdy box, blindfold, robe

Song: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus pg 57

Use pictures, Bible videos, and acting out to tell the story of some of Jesus’ miracles.  Pick and choose your favorites/ what your children would enjoy and relate to best, or spread this over multiple nights.

Heals a leper- wrap the kids up in bandages (or toilet paper) to look like a leper

Stills a tempest- use a laundry basket or large sturdy box as the boat, turn on the Bible Video or the Animated New Testament Story, shake them around during the storm then stop when Christ calms the sea

Man sick with the palsy- show the picture at the end of manual and tell the story (unless you want to lift your kids in the air and lower them down!)

Blind men- use a blindfold to cover their eyes as you read them the story in Matthew 9:27-29

Jairus’ daughter- have a child lie down and explain that the family was told that their daughter had died but Jesus came, touch her hand and say, “Talitha cumi.”  Explain that it means, “Daughter, arise.”  Have the child get up.

The woman with the issue of blood-  Tell the kids that there was a woman who had been sick for a long time, she heard about Jesus and thought that if she could just touch His clothes she could be healed.  Have a parent dress up in a robe (anything long that can trail behind a little), have the kids reach out and touch it as the parent walks by and then say, “who touched me?”  Finish up the story explaining that she was healed after she touched his clothes.

 

March 11-17 These Twelve Jesus Sent Forth

Prep materials- back packs, heavy objects (rocks/books)

Song: I Feel My Savior’s Love pg 74

Fill backpacks with heavy objects, have the kids put them on and try to walk around.  If it’s still too easy for them add more weight.  Then help lift the backpack and walk with them.  Ask them if that’s easier.  Explain that burdens are hard things in life (help them come up with some hard things they have to do), then tell them that Jesus said he will make our burdens light.

 

March 18-24 Who Hath Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear

Prep Materials: Blindfold, ear plugs

Song: Reverently, Quietly pg 26

Sing Do As I’m Doing, Children’s Song Book 276.  Do a few rounds normally, taking turns with who decides the action.  After a few rounds pull out a blind fold, take turns wearing the blind fold and trying to follow along.  Now attempt to do a sing along of favorite primary songs but take turns using ear plugs (or have a parent cover their ears).  Talk about how it was hard to follow along when they couldn’t see or hear.  Paraphrase Matthew 13:13-16.  Talk about how we need to use our eyes and ears while being reverent to learn about and follow Jesus.

 

March 25-31 Be Not Afraid

Prep Materials: laundry basket/ sturdy box, blanket, picture of Christ

Pull out that laundry basket boat from a few weeks ago.  Use a blanket to make waves.  Have the children act out the story by stepping out of the boat into the waves, pull the blanket up towards their face to symbolize sinking.  Hold up a picture of Jesus, when they look away from it have them “sink” when they look at the picture pull the blanket back down and then reach out a hand to help them out.  Show them the picture at the end of the lesson, remind them that when things get hard or scary Jesus will help them.

 

Materials List

bandages (or toilet paper)

laundry basket/ sturdy box

blindfold

robe

back packs

heavy objects (rocks/books)

ear plugs

blanket

picture of Christ

 

What does Come Follow Me look like in your home?

Shortly after two hour church and the Come Follow Me curriculum were officially announced in General Conference I was perusing Facebook and saw that an old friend from Elementary school had asked in a Latter-day Saint mom group how people thought they might implement it in their home in the new year.  A lot of moms were excitedly sharing their different ideas, and then I saw one person comment, “Honestly, I probably won’t.”

It broke my heart, had she not just heard all of the blessings promised?  Pres. Nelson said it would “unleash the power of the family.”  I don’t know about you, but every time I hear that I just picture us dressed up like the Incredibles.  But she indicated that she wasn’t even going to try.

That comment has stuck with me, and was a big part of why I started sharing my Family Home Evening ideas on my blog.  I realize that life is overwhelming and this could feel like adding one more thing to your plate, so my hope is that by sharing ideas and compiling a list of materials, those that feel overwhelmed can at least have a springboard.  We’re not perfect at it by any means, we missed a week while traveling, and I’m sure we’ll miss weeks here and there in the future.  But, we’re trying and that’s a big part of it.

I’ve also seen a lot of questions about “the right way” to do it.  Is your Sunday lesson supposed to kick off the new week or wrap up the last week?  Should Family Home Evening be separate?  Do you read personally or as a family?  How do I get through these scriptures with kids when they have no attention span?  How do I fit in Book of Mormon as well?

The answer is- there’s no RIGHT way to do this.  The only wrong way is to do nothing.  The introductory materials in the Come Follow Me for Individuals and Families manual says, “Use this resource in any way that is helpful to you.”  ANY WAY!  In his talk introducing these adjustments, Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented.”

So really what it comes down to, is they don’t want to command us on exactly how to use it.  They recognize that each family works differently and they don’t want to give a structure that’s not going to work for everyone.  We need to use our agency, seek personal revelation, and do many things of our own free will (D&C 58:26-27).

That being said, it can be helpful to hear about others experiences as we figure things our for ourselves.  So here’s how we are implementing this in our home, for now.  I’m sure we will make adjustments as needed in the future.

We do our Family Home Evening after church on Sunday wrapping up the current week.  We don’t have a set time of day on Sunday because I frequently have to stay after church for my calling.  We also regularly go to visit my parents or my in-laws on Sunday.  Those weeks I just bring my FHE stuff with me and we do it with them.

This last week we had a beautiful experience as we had a combined Family Home Evening with my parents, my younger brother who attends an Episcopal church, my Grandma who is not long for this world*, and my aunt who was visiting from out of state.  Talk about unleashing the power of the family!!!

Throughout the week we read the assigned set of scriptures with the kids at bed time from the New Testament Stories book published by the church.  And by read, I mean they typically watch them on my phone.  It’s also typically a fight to get them to hold still, but regularly my son surprises me by talking about something we read in the scriptures later in the week.  The stories don’t always align in the same order as the lessons. I realized this week that me missed some that went with a previous week, so we’ll just be catching up and then I will look through a little better in the future.  On the weeks when we have more days than stories we either re-watch or supplement with related stories from the Book of Mormon, or just let them pick a story they want to watch.

My husband and I read the assigned chapters together which typically takes a few nights, and then we read through the study material together and discuss the questions.

Something that is not happening yet- here’s where I could use your help.  I really want to use my study journal and go through the study material by myself as well.  My initial plan was to do this on Sunday afternoons, but like I said, I regularly stay after church for my calling and then we frequently go to see family for dinner.  Also my children don’t like to give me long stretches of uninterrupted time to study.  So Sundays haven’t been working out like I had hoped.  And I haven’t seen or taken the opportunity to fit it in on a different day.  So, if you are doing this, help me out!  Leave me a comment with how you fit this in to your week between kid nurturing, cleaning, cooking, exercising, ministering, flossing,  breathing….

 

*Update- My Grandma passed away just a few days after posting this, a week and a half after that Family Home Evening.  That was actually the last time we saw her alive.  What a beautiful closing memory to have been learning together from the scriptures with 4 generations present.

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Feb 2019

Can you believe it is already time to start preparing for February?!?  How are you adapting to the new schedule and new curriculum?  I’m still kind of weirded out by the short schedule, granted I’ve still been at church at least 4 hours between choir practice and conducting Ministering Interviews, but at least it’s not 5!  At home the kids are doing pretty well with Family Home Evening, but admittedly our plant that we planted for the Sower lesson is already dead…  I’m not sure what happened, plenty of water, plenty of sun, maybe too much sun? maybe it froze over night?  I don’t know, luckily keeping plants alive is not a pre-requisite to Salvation because I would be burning in the bad place!

Thank you so much for the overwhelming response to last month’s post, and if you’re new this month then welcome.  I was shocked, amazed, humbled, over-joyed (basically had all the feels) when January’s FHE post hit 1,000 views in the first 24 hours, and about 3,500 views total.  So thanks for reading and sharing, but even more I’m so grateful and glad to know that we are in this together to help teach and inspire our kids.

If you’re looking for more ways to make February meaningful with your kids check out my Family-centered Valentine’s Activities.

But on to Family Home Evening!

Feb. 4-10 For the Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

Prep Materials: masking tape, preferred toys and treats, picture of Christ, picture of Sun, big prize or treat

Song: Choose The Right Way pg. 160

Create a path through your house- masking tape on the floor works well.  Review the story of Christ being tempted.  Tell the kids they need to stay on the path to get to the special prize at the end.  Place some of their favorite items or small treats just out of reach from the path.  Have one parent be the “Holy Ghost” reminding them to stay on the path and the other one try to get them to step off.  Have a picture of Jesus and a picture of the sun to represent the Celestial Kingdom at the end.  Explain that returning to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is the best gift we can receive, and then give them a prize or favorite treat.

 

Feb. 11-17 Ye Must Be Born Again

Prep Materials: pre-made Valentine with picture of Jesus, supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

Song: As  I Have Loved You pg. 136  or God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son Hymn #187

Make a big Valentine card for your kids from Heavenly Father with a picture of Jesus in the middle.  Read John 3:16 together and explain to the kids that Heavenly Father showed his love to us by giving us Jesus.  Now have the kids make Valentines for Heavenly Father and Jesus.  I’ve made a simple printable with pictures they can glue on to Valentines, you could also encourage them to draw some of their own ideas.

Valentines for Heavenly Father

Feb. 18-24 Blessed Are Ye

Prep Materials: flashlights, candlestick (an actual one or made out of a paper towel roll or pvc pipe to fit the flashlights you will use), bushel (either a basket or a small box will work), pictures or objects to find

Song: I Am Like a Star Shining Brightly pg. 163

Pull out those flashlights from last month again!  Hide a few objects or pictures for them to find.  Read/ summarize Matthew 5:14-16.  Take the kids outside in the evening or in a dark room in the house.  Mom or dad should go first with the flashlight, turn it on and look around for a second and then place it under your “bushel” and keep trying to guide them.  Take turns being the light, give them the option to use a “candle stick” or a “bushel” as they guide the family to find things like a picture of Jesus, scriptures, a picture of Pres. Nelson, the temple, etc.

 

Feb 25-March 3 He Taught Them As One Having Authority

Prep Materials: containers (tupperware or casserole dishes), large rock, sand, small houses (you could just draw or print them on paper or make them out of legos), pitcher of water

Song: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man pg. 281

Using two large containers place a large rock in one and a pile of sand in the other.  Make two small houses.  Sing the song together and place the house on the rock, when you get to “the rains came down….” pour water around it.   Repeat for the sand.  Discuss what happened to the houses.  Read Helaman 5:12 together and talk about how you can build your house on the Rock of our Redeemer.

 

Combined Materials List:

masking tape

preferred toys and treats

picture of Christ

picture of Sun

big prize or treat

Valentine with picture of Jesus

supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

flashlights

candlestick (paper towel roll/pvc pipe)

bushel (basket or a small box)

pictures or objects to find

containers (tupperware or casserole dishes)

large rock

sand

small houses

pitcher of water

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Jan 2019

Can I just say how excited I am for this Come Follow Me curriculum.  There’s a lot of reasons:

  • studying the same material across age groups
  • home focus- which goes right along with some of my feelings about deliberate parenting
  • multi-modal learning- it’s making my educator heart sing
  • lots of opportunities to use my laminator- also making my teacher heart happy 🙂
  • FHE whenever works best for your family (which relieved all of the guilt I have had about having community choir on Monday nights!)
  • Family Home Evening ideas!

I keep thinking I should film the craziness that is Family Home Evening at our house but my 4-year-old is typically in his underwear and I’m not going to put that out there for the internet.  It’s kind of a circus and I’ll admit that I have gotten to the point of yelling, and threatening, and time out.  I’ve been better recently about keeping my patience and the kids have been a tiny bit better about listening.  One of the things I noticed was that they could smell fear and lack of preparation; the weeks where we were just throwing something together went really badly.  The past few months we started just using the Behold Your Little Ones manual, and that’s when I noticed that things started getting better and I think it has everything to do with my husband and I having a plan and being organized.

With the new curriculum I want to get even more organized and I figure if I take a day and get everything prepped for the coming month then we can have super low stress family home evenings after church on Sundays.  And if I’m already doing the work, I figured I’d share with others and hopefully make things a little easier for you as well.  So I’ll give you ideas for how to take what’s in the curriculum and make it work with little ones, and at the end of the post there’s a combined materials list for the whole month.

Dec. 31- Jan 6  We are Responsible for Our Own Learning

Prep Materials: plant, rocks, thorns/weeds, pot for planting, print/ laminate sower game

Song: Faith pg. 96

Lesson: Review the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:1-23.  If you are a super overachiever you could plant seeds ahead of time in rocks, among weeds or thorns, and in good ground and compare how they have grown.  I’m not so good at the growing things from seeds thing, so I’ll probably just fill a cup with rocks, show the kids the weeds in the front yard (maybe pull some while we’re at it!), and buy a plant already growing in good soil.  We’ll compare how things grow in different types of soil and talk about needing to listen well at home and at church so we can learn about Jesus really well.  Then we’ll  dig a hole (a favorite activity for my kids), put our new plant in, water it, and get it some sunshine (but not too much!).

Activity: Sower game

 

Jan 7- 13 Be it Unto Me According to Thy Word

Prep Materials: Christ’s lineage print outs, Pictures of ancestors, optional names and titles for game

Song:  Family History- I Am Doing It pg. 94 (or go to the Family History Section in topics, there’s a surprising amount of songs in this category)

Lesson: Christ’s lineage is laid out.  Below you will find an attachment with His ENTIRE lineage, do with it as you please depending on your kids’ reading and comprehension level.  Then there are pictures that just have His most famous Ancestors.  I plan to print those out, laminate them, and turn them into ornaments.  I will do the same with pictures from our own family tree.  I’m just going to go ahead and leave our Christmas tree up until we get to this activity, but you could make a tree out of paper, or just do the activity on the floor.  We’ll first talk about Christ’s lineage and then put our own family tree together.

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Christ’s Lineage (this is the entire lineage given in Luke 3 as a list, if your kids can read and have a decent attention span you may want to put the names in a bigger font and print them to put together as well)

Activity: Let the kids play with the print outs.  I am going to print out 2 sets of our ancestor pictures and Christ’s lineage pictures and play a simple memory game.  If your kids can read you may want to have them match the picture with the name and title (great grandma, great-great grandpa, etc.)

 

Jan 14-20 We Have Come to Worship Him

Prep Materials: Kid friendly nativity set

Song: Picture a Christmas pg. 50 or Nativity Song pg. 52

Lesson: Hopefully they remember a lot from having just gone over the story, it’s like Christmas Eve round 2!  Use a kid friendly nativity set, if you don’t have one, you might be able to find one on clearance right now, or, I just have this little printable set.  Put the characters (yes even the animals) in a bag and have the kids pull them out at random then talk about that character’s contribution to the story.  Then have the kids tell the story the best they can (probably good to have the camera ready!!)

Activity: Just let them play with the nativity!

 

Jan 21-27 We Have Found the Messiah

Prep Materials: Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want), Objects to find (could be church related, could just be for fun)

Song: Teach Me to Walk in the Light pg. 177

Lesson: Explain that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Either make a room in your house really dark or wait until it’s dark outside.  Give the kids a flashlight (you could tape a picture of Christ to it to help with the visual), then send them on a scavenger hunt.  You could do church related things like a picture of the Prophet, scriptures, church clothes, etc. or just fun items, or a mixture.  The final item could be some sort of Celestial treat!

 

Jan 28- Feb 3 Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Prep Materials: two mason jars, food coloring, water, bleach AND/OR a tea bag (with a string), a cup with water, a lighter

Song: When I am Baptized pg. 103

Lesson: You could do either of these object lessons or both to teach about baptism

#1- super simple and guaranteed to work.  Fill a mason jar with water, the other one with some bleach.  Talk about mistakes that we make and drop food coloring into the water with each mistake.  Then explain that when we are baptized our sins are washed away- dump the bleach in and the water will return to clear.

#2- sorta complicated, and sometimes it doesn’t work quite right- you should definitely do a practice run!  We used to do this on the mission a lot and would turn it into kind of a story and get really into it- until our mission president told us we had to stop playing with fire, I’m sure he didn’t expect to have that conversation with a set of sisters, but it’s really cool.

Take a tea bag (it can be any kind of herbal tea but the bag needs to be the kind that is folded in on itself with a staple and a string (as opposed to sealed around the edges) and preferably individually wrapped)

Tell the kids that the bag wants to get to heaven but it can’t.  Toss it up in the air a few times to show that it can’t get there.  It will need to go through some steps to get there.

1- It needs to have faith so first off it’s gotta leave the comfort of it’s wrapper (or box if they aren’t individually wrapped).

2- Now it’s out but it still can’t get there, put your finger on the string to “weigh it down.”  Explain that it’s going to need to let go of the things holding it back by repenting.  Take off the string.

3-  Toss it up and down again, see that it’s doing better now but still can’t make it to heaven.  Even though it repented and let go of the weight it still has some things that need to be washed away.  Carefully take out the staple and empty the contents into a cup of water and explain that baptism washes everything away (but do NOT get the bag itself wet!)  Now you should have a tube, carefully stand it on one end.

4- Explain that now it’s standing taller, it’s getting closer, but it still needs one more thing, the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes the scriptures call this the baptism by fire because fire also purifies.  Light the top end of the tea bag tube on fire and as it burns it should suddenly float into the air “up to heaven!”

Activity: Set up a washing station in the sink or bathtub with toys that are dirty.

 

Full materials list for the month

plant

rocks, thorns/weeds

pot for planting

Sower game

Pictures of ancestors

Names and titles for ancestor matching (optional)

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Kid Friendly Nativity Set

Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want)

Scavenger Hunt objects

2 mason jars

food coloring

water

bleach

AND/OR a tea bag (with a string)

cup with water

lighter

 

 

IN the World

This post is an extension of remarks I offered in a recent sacrament meeting.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have paid clergy or preachers.  Rather, each week different members of the ward (congregation) are asked to speak on a specific subject.  I was recently given this opportunity with the prompt “How can we be in the world but not of the world?”

I feel that we frequently focus on the end of that phrase- not OF the world.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, succinctly and eloquently taught us how to do this:

“We will have to stay calm under peer pressure, not be impressed by popular trends or false prophets, disregard the ridicule of the ungodly, resist the temptations of the evil one, and overcome our own laziness.”

This is so important especially in our day where so many lines are being blurred and crossed, however, I think we sometimes pay too little attention to the beginning of that phrase where we are asked to be IN the world.

While this exact admonition is not found word for word in the scriptures, the idea is certainly there and similar commands are made both anciently and in modern times.

In Matthew 5 we read:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Additionally, Elder Quentin L. Cook said:

“We cannot avoid the world. A cloistered existence is not the answer. In a positive sense, our contribution to the world is part of our challenge and is essential if we are to develop our talents.”

We are not to be cloistered, or under a bushel.  We need to be on a candlestick and contributing.

Why is that important?

President Russell M. Nelson taught:

“True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.”

I don’t know about you, but I would like to be counted as a true disciple.

President Spencer W. Kimball offered these thoughts:

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.”

While that was specifically directed towards the women of the church, it does not take the men off the hook.  Missionary work is driven forward as we are different, and articulate.  As we stand out and speak up, and as we are a light.

How then can we appropriately be IN the world to be this light?

We can:

Be Involved

Be Inclusive

Be Informed

Be Inspirational

 

Where do we do these things?  Sister Neill F. Marriott taught that we carry a circle of influence with us wherever we go.  I want to discuss 3 circles in which we can carry a significant influence.

 

First in our communities.

Do you know your neighbors?  Are you involved in their lives to any degree?  Do you include them in yours?  My uncle once said that the garage door opener was a destructive force in neighborhoods.  And it’s kinda true, we never have to talk to our neighbors because we don’t have to spend time in our front yards unlocking our doors and it feels awkward to just ring our neighbors’ doorbells for no reason.  Which is why I love Halloween…I get to ring my neighbor’s doorbell, they give my kid candy, and then we chat for a second.

Other Holidays are a great opportunity to connect- I used to make plans to carol to our neighbors at Christmas, but to the dismay of my high school dreams of eternal duets, my husband doesn’t like singing in public, my kids don’t sing on command, and it’s a little less cute for me to sit there and solo on the porch.  Also, we always get overbooked and sick right around Christmas.  So the last 2 years I scrapped the Christmas caroling idea and now we take treats to our neighbors for Valentine’s day.  They love it.  We have an older, wheelchair bound gentleman down the street and he loves our visit.  This last year we met a new neighbor on Valentine’s day, she was actually crying when she opened the door because she was going to have to put down her dog the next day.  I followed up with flowers a few days later to make sure she was doing ok, but I would have had no idea what was going on if I hadn’t taken her a Valentine treat.  Find a reason to knock on your neighbors’ doors periodically, and spend some time outside- in your yard or out for a walk so you have opportunities to meet and talk to your neighbors.

Additionally, the Church Handbook of Instruction states:

Members are also urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families.

This will depend greatly on your season of life and time availability, but find ways to serve whether on a regular and scheduled basis, or simply donating goods.  There are many opportunities to serve refugees in our community depending on your time and resource availability you could set up an apartment for an incoming family, make and drop off a meal for their first night in the country, stock them up with groceries- you can even do a clicklist and someone else can pick it up if you have the money but not the time, or you can simply donate goods as you declutter your home.  You may be involved on the PTA, or HOA.  Join a club or sports team.  I’m part of a community choir, I’m the only active member of the church in the group- which is completely opposite of any other choir I’ve ever been a part of, but I’ve had many opportunities to answer questions, and share experiences with other members of the choir.

Get in the world by being involved and inclusive in your community.  Avoid being of the world by being offish.

 

The next sphere I want to talk about bridges both locally and nationally.  And since we’re already discussing one taboo topic- religion- let’s just go ahead and discuss politics while we’re at it.

Again from the handbook:

“As citizens, Church members are encouraged to participate in political and governmental affairs, including involvement in the political party of their choice.

Members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment. Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise.”

In the last Presidential election, which as you might remember was a little heated to say the least, and an incredibly close call in the end, 45% of adults in the US did not vote.  Please don’t be part of that 45%!  We just had an election about 2 weeks ago…did you vote?  We have another one coming up in about 2 months, will you vote in that one?  And more importantly, will you be an informed voter?

Getting informed is time consuming and can be frustrating as it can be difficult to find unbiased information but it’s SO important.  Take a look a multiple sources, including looking into the other side of the argument.  It may or may not change your opinion, but it will certainly help you make a more informed decision.  It will also help you engage in more civil and constructive discussions on the topic.

We also need to decide what principles will guide our decisions and stick to them.  May I suggest that one of these guiding principles would be to follow the prophet, even, and especially when he may say something that goes against our typical political line of thinking.

Earlier this year I posted something from President Nelson that went against the grain of a certain line of political thought.  The topic and political side are unimportant, but I want to share an exchange that occurred with another member of the church that I knew from my mission.

She responded:
“I’m alarmed that the prophet would make such a [leftist or rightist] and non-sensical comment.”  She went on about her thoughts on the topic then concluded with: “Why do people… now apparently including our prophet!, think that laws impact people’s choices at all??? Utterly ridiculous”

I was a bit shocked that a fellow active member of the church would speak out so derisively of our prophet.  Even to go so far as to call him ridiculous.  But, while this example was extreme, I had noticed multiple examples of a similar attitude when the church made an official statement that went against someone’s political leanings.

I responded to her with these thoughts:

“I don’t think of this as a [leftist or rightist] view. I think that the Prophet is the center, and sometimes the right aligns to center, and sometimes the left aligns to center.

I think the most important thing is to look introspectively and make sure that we are aligning our political views, the policies we support, and our general behavior with God and His teachings rather than trying to make Him and His teachings fit into our political views.”

With the recent statement on the Medical Marijuana bill in Utah, a friend and fellow blogger published an amazing article on this exact same subject of following the prophet.  I highly recommend reading the post, but here is a quote I stole from it by Elder Neal A Maxwell from 1978:

“Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. … But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.”

Please be IN the world by being involved and informed politically but avoid becoming OF the world by putting party above Prophets.

 

The last sphere of influence I will discuss today is our potential global influence via the world wide web.

Social media is a two edged sword, on the one hand it can turn into a major time suck which can take us away from real relationships and higher priorities as well as turning into a war of words and tumult of opinions.  On the other hand, it offers a convenient way to keep in contact with friends, family, and associates and gives us the opportunity to share goodness on a large scale.

 

Elder David A. Bednar, in his address that began the #sharegoodness campaign, taught the importance of our online presence:

“The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.”

Sharing goodness isn’t just about always sharing church related material.  I feel it’s more about HOW we share than specifically WHAT we share, and should certainly extend to how we share our opinions on secular matters such as politics, current events, and really any issues that are argued on the internet.

He offered these guidelines to help us as we post on social media:

Be Authentic and Consistent and Seek to Edify and Uplift

“Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate.  We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not.”

Last year I posted an “end of year review” detailing some of the fun things we had done throughout the year.  We had gone on several trips, etc.  After I posted it, I just didn’t feel well, authentic.  The post made it seem like 2017 was this beautiful fairy tale year.  When in fact, 2017 was a really hard year.  I was struggling with post partum depression, we had 3 ER visits, found mold- hence the ER visits, and my car basically exploded.  Yes, it had a lot of fun moments as well, but I realized in only sharing the fun, I failed to share the goodness.  I failed to share how we had learned and grown and the miracles we had seen despite the challenges.  So I wrote a blog post end of year review to be more authentic and accurate.

From Elder Bednar:

“Our content should be trustworthy and constructive. And anonymity on the Internet is not a license to be inauthentic.”

“We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”

Before you post something, make sure it comes from a trustworthy place.  Unfortunately, many entities put together posts and click bait articles that are not entirely true (or just outright lies) and specifically intended to stir contention.  Before you share stop and check that it is true, and then think about how it is worded, will it be informative and potentially inspirational, or will it primarily come off as judgmental and offensive?  A good guide can be to ask yourself if you would say it or share it if the person you disagree with was standing right next to you.  Name calling or insinuating that the other side is stupid is by no means constructive, it merely tears down and creates a bigger divide.  It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

Consider the example I gave earlier of my friends’ response to what I posted from Pres. Nelson.  She used words like non-sensical and ridiculous to describe our prophet, even if it wasn’t the prophet, but someone else I held in high respect it would still be rude.  She also insinuated my stupidity which immediately put me on the defensive.  Perhaps a better way to have worded her post could have been:

While I respect our prophet and your opinion on this issue, I am confused by this statement.  The church often emphasizes the need for personal responsibility, and I’m concerned that more laws would not change behavior.

That would have gotten her same point across without being offensive.  You can and should boldly share your opinions, but you ought to do it pleasantly. Because…

“Authenticity is strengthened through consistency. The gospel messages you share will be accepted more readily if your Christlike example is evident in the ongoing pattern of your posts.”

If your other posts and comments do not follow His example and demonstrate His love, then people will not be keen to listen when you share a message that is specifically gospel related.

Elder Bednar went on to say:

“Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.”

Let’s be in the world wide web by being inspirational but not of the world by being offensive.

In closing I want you to consider the many temples we have in the world.  While we have temples in many areas that are primarily known for their high Latter-day Saint populations, we also have temples in places like New York City and Las Vegas which are certainly more well known for their worldliness.  Temples are here IN the world, but are certainly not of it.

Sis. Marriott shared this insight:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We too as [children] of God have been placed all around the world, like temples, and we each have our own unique look and outward design, like temples. We also have a spiritual light within us, like temples.

We have our own roles on the earth.  Each is influential. Each role will have moral power as we reflect gospel truths and temple covenants in our lives.”

I invite you to consider how you can individually be more IN the world by being involved, inclusive, informed, and inspirational then having the integrity to not become OF the world.

Come, Sweet Death

When I was about 5, shortly after my grandfather passed away, my Grandma had been going through and organizing old boxes (a favorite a past time of hers).  She pulled her wedding cake topper and gave it to me saying, “I probably won’t be around for your wedding so I want you to have this now.”  Well, she did make it to my wedding just shy of her 90th birthday, and proceeded to last another 6 years beyond that.

IMG_20180201_174120

On January 21, 2018, just two months shy of her 96th birthday, my Grandmother peacefully passed from this world.  In the days following, as is expected, people have offered their condolences, saying things like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” or remarking on the sadness of it.

Of course I appreciate everyone’s condolences and well wishes, but to be honest, and I hope this doesn’t make me sound uncaring or cold, I have not felt sadness or loss over her death.  I have felt only peace and joy at her passing.

Background

As I mentioned, my grandma was almost 96.  Her husband, my grandfather, passed away almost 25 years ago.  At that time she was living one street over from her older sister who was also a widow.  They were companions then and my grandma cared for her sister up until she passed about 16 years ago.  Living in St. George, which was basically a glorified retirement community, she still got together with “the girls” on a regular basis and busied herself with family history work.  But as the years went on, more friends passed, and she spent much of her time alone, she began to be plagued with paranoia, anxiety, and other health concerns.  About 10 years ago we thought we were going to lose her, but she bounced back and chose to move into semi-assisted living back in St. George as she had several friends living in the same community.  She “de”-aged after moving there, surrounded by people again.  Which was a huge testament to me of the need for human connection.  I was living in Provo and would visit roughly once a semester.  She would take me to the cafeteria to show me off to her friends and bring me to play cards with “the girls.”

On one of the card playing adventures the ladies began discussing other ladies in the community.  After making a comment about someone my grandma said, in a very plain and matter of fact tone, “She used to play cards at that table, [pointed to the next table over] but she died.”  Then a few minutes later the following conversation took place:

Friend: “Did you hear about Doris?”

Grandma: “Yes, her daughter came to help her move.”

Friend: “Well, she was going to move, but then she died.”

Grandma: “Oh, that’s nice.”

I was baffled and had no idea how to react.  These ladies were talking about people in their community dying as casually and almost as celebratory as my friends and I would discuss people getting married.  It began to occur to me that it was just the next step to them, just like my friends getting married or graduating.  They were happy for them.

Loss

Grandma lived in that community for about 6 years.  She continued to drive herself and her friends around past the age of 90 and took care of all of her own finances.  She walked slowly but without assistance.  While she ate most of her meals in the dining room with the other residents, she could still fix herself a simple meal as needed.  She kept her apartment impeccably clean and organized.

And then one day, about 4 years ago, she lost it all.

It’s unclear as to the exact order of events.  They aren’t sure if she suffered a minor stroke which caused a fall, or if she fell and hit her head causing a small stroke.  But however it happened at 92 she started her decline.  We moved her to Arizona, first to a care facility near my parents house, then into the mother-in-law suite attached to my parents’ house, where my mom’s mom was already living, and then finally a year ago, her care became too involved and she was moved into another care center where she died.

Perhaps the reason I have not felt sorrow or loss in her death is because I started the grieving process 4 years ago as I watched her body and her mind fail her.  She suffered a few falls, one that broke her hip, because she couldn’t remember that she couldn’t walk on her own.  She began to struggle with terrible panic attacks.  She lost the ability to keep any sort of conversation.  She could hardly follow a television program.  It got to the point where she wasn’t really living, she was mostly just existing.  She wasn’t really Grandma anymore, we lost her a long time ago.

There were sweet moments as well.  She began to have conversations with lost loved ones, or would ask about them.  My dad had been contacted by some distant cousins to help do the temple work for their Uncle’s second wife, Therle.  I had never heard anyone in the family mention her before this experience, and my dad had not said anything to Grandma about the plans.  But one day, a week or so before my dad was going to meet his cousins at the temple, out of nowhere Grandma asked, “And how’s Therle doing?”

The time she lived here in Arizona allowed her to spend time with her great-grandkids.  She would perk up a lot when they were around.

But the overarching question she constantly asked over those 4 years was, “When can I go home?”  And in all of hearts we started to ask the same question, when could she go home?

Sweet Death

The sadness I have felt in this experience has not been in her death, but for how long she lingered.  I don’t feel the need to seek understanding for why the Lord took her as so many do in situations of untimely deaths, the understanding I have been looking for is why she was made to linger so long.  It’s painful to wonder how much loneliness, pain, mental anguish, boredom, and complete lack of independence someone can endure, only to watch it get worse and worse, and feel so powerless to do anything meaningful about it.

The decision was finally made to discontinue some of the medications that were keeping her alive and just make her comfortable.  When my parents let me know that the decision had been made and hospice estimated it would only be a few more weeks, I felt very much at peace.  We made arrangements to get the family together to visit her and for my husband to assist my dad to give her a final Priesthood blessing.

Typically when we talk about Priesthood blessings, they are intended to seek healing.  This one was very different.  My dad, seeking prompting by the Spirit, blessed her that she would see her loved ones soon, and that she would not be afraid but would feel peace.  He blessed her to die.

She was asleep the whole time we were there, and was struggling to breathe.  As we sat there with her the words to this song came to my mind, and became almost like a prayer for her:

Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest!                                                                                    Come lead me to peace                                                                                                            because I am weary of the world,                                                                                                    O come! I wait for you,                                                                                                                  come soon and lead me,                                                                                                                  close my eyes.                                                                                                                                Come, blessed rest!

That idea of death being sweet and blessed was very real.  She was weary of the world in so many ways.  Her body was weary.  Her heart was weary as most everyone she had associated with in this life went before here.  Come soon.  I didn’t want to watch her suffer any more, I wanted it to come soon.  And it did.

We had figured it would still take a few days for her medications to leave her system.  However, the very next day my dad received a call from hospice telling him they believed it was going to happen that day and that he should probably come.  My mom sent me a text message shortly after I got home from church relaying the news but said that it might be several hours.  I wavered for a minute on whether or not I should head over then or wait, but since it was Sunday and my husband was home to take care of the kids, I decided I should just go ahead and go.

Shortly after getting on the road for my 40 minute trip across town, my mom sent another message that said it would be soon.  I was full of nervous energy wanting to be there, but also a little bit afraid to be there as she passed.  I can’t really explain it, but the idea of being with someone as they pass has always sounded odd to me, but I hoped that this might help me work through some of those anxieties.  When I was about halfway there I had this sudden peace come over me, and had the thought that she was gone.  I immediately second guessed myself and the nervousness came back only to followed by peace again and a voice that said, “You’re not going to make it in time.”  About three minutes later my mom sent another message that she was gone.

As I pulled up to her care center, knowing she had already passed, but wanting to see her, I got this distinct impression, I could almost see it, that she was with my grandpa, and they were so happy, almost giddy.  It was beautiful.  Her death was sweet.

Final Acts of Service

About a year ago, knowing that his mother’s death was more imminent than not, my dad began designing a casket.  I think my dad’s love language is building things.  Some might call this gift giving or acts of service, but it’s not just any gift or any act of service, it’s designing and building very customized items.  The design for her casket was based on her old Singer sewing machine that had been her mother’s.  It is now over 100 years old and has been a prized possession.  About a week before her passing, he showed her pictures of the almost completed casket, she was able to whisper that it was beautiful.  Below is the sewing machine to the left (sorry I should have gotten a better picture of the front), and the completed casket to the right.

 

 

It was not quite complete before her passing.  I began helping to stain it before we went to see her the last time then continued that evening and after she passed.  My 3 year old had taken quite an interest into what Grampses (that’s what he calls my dad) was doing in the garage.  We explained to him that it was a casket, that Great-Grandma Ramsey’s body would go in the casket when she died, but that her spirit would go to Heaven.  We got him set up inside with some blocks so we could work in the garage, but he came running up to me with the blocks and excitedly exclaimed, “Let’s build a casket!!”  He proceeded to build a casket out of blocks then showed it to me and explained, “This one’s for her spirit.”  It sounds a little creepy out of context, and I made sure to warn his preschool teacher the following week that he might build a casket out of blocks.  But it was so sweet and innocent and I hope that he can keep that perspective of service for the dying.  One of the hard parts of watching someone go, is not being sure what to do about it.  Should you sit there and just watch?  I don’t know, and the answer is probably different for everyone, but it felt right to be honoring her by helping my dad finish his final tribute to her.

Additionally I had the beautiful and sacred experience to assist in preparing her body for burial.  It is customary for endowed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be buried in their temple clothing.  When possible, this is traditionally done by other endowed family members of the same gender.  For those who are unfamiliar with the temple, there is a beautiful and short video that briefly explains this clothing and it’s importance.  In the temple we receive instruction and make covenants in endowment rooms, which includes putting on this special clothing, also referred to as the robes of the Holy Priesthood.  Temple worship service culminates by entering the Celestial Room which “[symbolizes] heaven, where we may live forever with our family in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.” (See reference and more information here.)

Honestly, when I first got the news that they were just making her comfortable and realized that this service of dressing her would fall to my mom and me, I felt anxious.  As I mentioned before the thought of being with someone when they died was a bit frightening to me.  The thought of touching a dead body, was very disturbing.  I can’t really explain exactly why, but it made me queasy.  I asked around for advice from others who had done this for their own relatives and received a lot of wonderful responses.  One of the responses that helped me work through my concerns was a reminder of the women who prepared Christ’s body for burial.  That was a beautiful way to think of it, so I carried that with me, and while it was still difficult at first to touch her, I was able to do it.  I felt the need to take extra care to make sure everything was straight and tied beautifully.  My mom and I chuckled a little together as my grandma had been incredibly neat and tidy, maybe to the point of being a bit obsessive compulsive about it.

I reflected on that desire to be neat after we finished and left her in the funeral home.  I thought about my first time going to the temple.  I was living in Provo at the time, my parents in Arizona, which made St. George (her home) a good meeting spot.  At that time she was having a difficult time sitting anywhere besides her own chair at home for long periods of time which would make attending the temple difficult.  I spoke to her and let her know what the plan was, that I would love it if she could be there, but would understand if her physical limitations would not allow it.  Her response was that she would, “take an extra pill if needed.”  I don’t know what those pills were, but apparently they worked, and she was able to come.  I remember her fussing over me a little to make sure everything was straight and neat.  As I was reflecting on this, the beautiful thought came to me, that she had helped me to be prepared to enter the Celestial Room of the temple nearly 10 years ago, but now I had symbolically prepared her to enter the presence of the Lord in the Celestial Kingdom.

To picture her finally fulfilling her desire of going home, to her eternal home, reinforced in my heart and soul that her death was sweet.