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

 

 

#LightTheWorld Countdown for Little Children

I am so excited about this year’s light the world campaign and the opportunity to combine it with our annual tradition of having a Christ-centered advent calendar.  My kids call them circle activities because we use muffin tins to create our calendar so they take a circle off each day to find out what our activity is.  I have been doing them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the past couple of years (hoping to add Valentine’s day this year!) in order to keep our celebration meaningful, deliberate, and focused on the Savior.

I’m by no means anti-Santa, I love Santa, we do Santa.  But, I have had to DO nothing in order for my 4 year old and 2 year old to learn about Santa. He’s everywhere- in fact he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…

However, I do have to be deliberate and intentional in making sure they learn the true meaning of this time of year.  It’s not all strictly “religious” but I make sure that we find ways to tie the “just for fun” things back to the Savior.

As I mentioned I love the #LightTheWorld campaign for this year especially.  This time it’s broken down by week:

1- Light the World (global focus)

2- Light your Community

3- Light your Family

4- Light your Faith

As I sat down to start brainstorming our calendar I struggled a little to figure out how we could make sure the kids were actually involved in and understanding global service.  I reached out to friends for help and got some great ideas to incorporate into our calendar.  A really cool idea that didn’t make it on the calendar is the Light the World vending machine.  There is one in Gilbert by the water tower (also one at Temple Square in Salt Lake, Manhattan, London, and Manila- and if you can’t get to any of those there is a way to donate online at that hyper link).  This is a vending machine for charities- you choose to donate a pair of glasses, or a chicken, or clean water, etc!

Additionally- we’ll be kicking off our celebration before the calendar actually starts, I could just add it but it would throw off the perfect 24 spaces on the calendar and that might make my slightly obsessive brain explode.  But, we’ll be attending a local Live Nativity on November 30th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It runs the 30th-1st.  There is also the Walk through Bethlehem in Chandler that sounds amazing but as I looked at our crazy calendar for the month I realized I needed to pair down a little and the time and distance on that was going to be a little too much for us this year.  That one runs the 14th-16th.

I’ve had a lot of fun thinking through how to incorporate these ideas for my little ones, and I really hope this helps others find ways to serve and make this season meaningful no matter the ages of your children or if we belong to different faiths- together we can Light the World!

 

1- Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad!”- We’ll be attending a Christmas party- this is an example of how I incorporate a “just for fun” event and still make it meaningful.  This day has also been set aside as a Day of Service.  We will be bringing food and toy donations to the party as our service for the day.

Week 1- World

2- Jesus speaks to the world through His prophet- watch the Christmas Devotional

3- Missionaries are sent around the world to share the gospel- color pictures to mail to a missionary in a foreign country

4- Refugees have had to leave their homes in other parts of the world and come here to be safe.  Take a meal or other donations for refugee families.  If you’re in AZ then Gathering Humanity is an amazing organization!

5- Jesus created the world- Decorate the Christmas tree and talk about the days of the Creation

6- Jesus is the Light of the World- go to a light display (probably Glendale Glitters for us)

7- We believe in a God of miracles for the whole world.  Tell the Hanukkah story.  I’ve purchased this children’s book which tells the story and has beautiful illustrations.  I include Hanukkah each year for my kids because one of my best friends is Jewish and while we won’t be able to celebrate together this year, I have cherished memories of lighting the menorah with her growing up.  Also, I want my children to know and understand that God loves ALL of His children and provides them with miracles even if they believe differently than we do.  This also fits in so well with the global focus, no coincidence that Hanukkah lined up with week 1 this year, amIright??!

8- Asylum seekers come from different parts of the world and arrive here with nothing hoping to find safety.  Make and donate a backpack asylee kit.  We will have the kids pick the backpack and stuff it with the necessary items (my 2 year old LOVES backpacks right now so this will be a good way to get her involved).  We will be partnering with Gathering Humanity again for this one.  And special thanks to my cousin for guiding me to this idea!

Week 2- Community

9- Donate to the Humanitarian/ Fast offering fund.  We typically just do this online, but in order to get the kids involved we are going to go old school and use the paper slip and envelope and actual cash then have the kids hand it to the Bishop.

10- Angel craft

11- Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Make little ornaments and take them to our neighbors

12- Nativity Craft- I bought a cute little foam kit at Hobby Lobby.  They have a few different ones depending on your kids skill level (and your capability for handling messes!)

13- Take toy and clothes donations to Maggie’s Place.  One of our Thanksgiving activities was to clean up and clean out the playroom- this is where those will be going.

14- Jesus was born in a stable- go to a petting zoo to see the types of animals that might have been there.  We will be heading over to Superstition Farm.  This might seem silly, but we have done this a few years in a row now and the kids LOVE it.  Two years ago my son ran around the petting zoo yelling, “Jesus, where are you!”  Apparently when I told him we would see animals like the ones that were there when Jesus was born, he figured we would also see baby Jesus.  Last year we went after we saw The Star and they started calling all of the animals the names from the movie.

15- Jesus healed the sick- take treats to the NICU.  Our daughter was a NICU baby so we make sure and take treats to current NICU parents this time of year.  Be aware if you decide on a NICU for service it is best to call ahead and you really will just drop off the treats with the desk.  Small children will most likely not be allowed into the NICU.   We walk to the door together as a family and then my husband takes the kids to a nursery viewing window while I take the treats in to the actual NICU.

Week 3- Family

16- Jesus said, “Ye shall meet together oft.”  Church!  It might seem like cheating because we do this every week anyway, but I call it being creative with my resources.  Also, I think it’s good to periodically talk about WHY we go to church.

17- Light your family- Make little gifts for Grandparents

18- Cards for cousins

19- Jesus asked us to pray together as families- have family prayer and review how to pray

20- Gingerbread Stables

21- Family Movie Night- The Nativity (8 minutes- live action) Christmas Story videos (more very short videos telling the story) Joy to the World (about 45 min total), and we’ll probably do a VeggieTales or The Star

22- Make memories with Family- activity with extended family and open presents with them

Week 4- Light Your Faith

23- Sing Choirs of Angels- sing Christmas songs at church and with our opera singing relatives coming into town!  My husband’s brother is engaged and we will finally get to meet his fiancee this day!  Their common interest in opera brought them together!

24- Bethlehem dinner- I make lamb and other foods similar to what they would have eaten at that time in Bethlehem.  I’m hoping this year to eat it by light of a candle from that era as well.  Then we’ll read the story from Luke 2 and hopefully have the kids act it out!

 

Merry Christmas!!!  I hope this has given you some good ideas to incorporate in your own family’s celebration!

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.

 

 

Judge Not- a how (not) to guide

Matthew 7:1 is one of those scriptural phrases that people like to quote pretty regularly.  I daresay even most people from non-Christian backgrounds are familiar with the phrase.  It goes a little something like this:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

It’s like the perfect trump card in every argument right?  If you are trying to tell me I’m doing something wrong then I just whip out the whole “stop judging me” phrase and SHUT DOWN.  Except it rarely works that way, and then it just turns more into a defensive argument back and forth about who is judging who and why and then the internet explodes!

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Now for a little clarification, at least from an LDS perspective.  We believe that through the years and many different translations of Biblical writings, some information was, well, literally lost in translation, or just plain and simply lost.  As such, we also believe that through the guidance of God, Joseph Smith was directed to translate certain portions to restore them to their accurate form.  One such notable passage happens to be Matthew 7:1-2, which states:

Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people.

Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.

So then the commandment isn’t to do absolutely no judging, but to judge righteously.  So now we can quibble about what exactly a righteous judgment is.

Righteous and Necessary Judges

In our society we accept certain types of judgment as necessary.

An obvious example is that within the legal system there are judges, and if you find yourself needing to stand before one, he or she will most definitely and openly judge you.  If you were to look at the judge and say, “Hey, judge not!” I somehow doubt that it would go over well for you.  But if you try please do report back.

Math teachers have it pretty easy, either you got the answer right or you got it wrong, so they can just grade you based on those answers pretty easily.  But those English teachers, man, they have to read and judge before they can grade.

Another notable judge from my life has been adjudicators for auditions.  I am a singer/pianist/clarinetist.  I’ve been auditioning for things since elementary school.  Some poor person had to sit there and listen to a bunch of elementary students play their instruments semi-proficiently and decide which ones were best so they could go to elementary honor band.  For the record, I did make it into Elementary honor band, and yes, I am that big of a band nerd.  However, several years later during my senior year of high school I was not so lucky with my All-State band audition.  I had practiced so much, and not to toot my own horn, or buzz my own reed as it were, but I was doing really well.  My clarinet teacher had been an adjudicator for previous years and she was confident I would make it.  In my warm-up I played the pieces PERFECTLY, my best friend was there, she can attest.  I went into the audition and I played so horribly it was outright embarrassing.  My clarinet teacher was in the hallway listening and when I came out she asked if that had actually been me playing and let me know that that was the worst she had ever heard me play.  (Thanks- I really needed that.)  Now there was a miracle that came out of that bad audition, but that’s a story for a different day.  But anyway, telling them they couldn’t judge me based on one performance wasn’t going to help.

In all of these situations the people doing the judging are in a position to judge because they are experts in their field.  They have done all the studying, know all the procedures, and as a society we accept that they are able to “judge righteous judgments” because they know what they are talking about.

What they should not do is be judgmental about things outside of the scope of the situation with which they are presented.

In the following examples think of righteous judgment on a broader scope than the typical “churchy” idea of righteous, think moral, correct, and fair.

I showed up at my court date once after receiving a speeding ticket and got to stand before the judge, who judged me as guilty, because I was in fact speeding.  Now in that instance I was speeding on a down hill trying to catch a light because it was a ridiculously long wait if you missed it and I was running late for work (again).  But, the fact of the matter is that I did indeed knowingly break the law and was caught doing it.  He decided that I did in fact need to pay the ticket which was a “righteous judgment.”  However, if the judge went on to decide that I was a terrible person and an unfit teacher because I was not responsible enough to leave on time so that I didn’t feel the need to speed, that would be over the top, would not be taking into account the rest of the picture, and would be an “unrighteous judgment.”

If an English teacher comes across a paper that is full of spelling and grammatical errors, lacks focus, and does not meet the objectives of the assignment and gives the student a bad grade, that is a “righteous judgment.”  If the teacher goes on to assume that the student is lazy, didn’t even try, and will never amount to anything that becomes “unrighteous judgment.”

And finally, those adjudicators who deemed me unfit for All-State judged righteously based on what they heard from me during the audition.  However, if they had gone on to assume that I was the worst clarinetist in the state, hadn’t bothered to practice, and wasted their time, that would be incorrect and “unrighteous judgment.”

Judging- what it is and what it isn’t

So, how does this apply to us lay people?

I regularly see people on the internet accusing other people of judging when no judging was happening.  That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of judgment that does happen, but let’s just make sure we understand the difference.

Here’s some items that are not judging:

  1. Facts and Statistics-  When you ask a question and someone shares a factually based answer, this is not judgmental.  They are the facts.
    • As a subset of this, stating a procedure, rule, or specific doctrine is also not judgmental, it’s a fact.  This is what the procedure is, this is what the doctrine states.
    • You can decide whether or not to believe the fact or doctrine, you can decide that the statistics or procedures don’t apply to you, but if someone simply states what they are, they are not judging you, they are informing you.
    • If someone does not ask and you take it upon yourself to inform them, it may or may not qualify as being judgmental, but it’s almost definitely rude.  But if you do ask a question and someone gives you the information you requested, even if you don’t like it, it’s not judgmental.
  2. Opinions based on facts, etc.- this can get tricky because there is a fine line that often gets crossed, but simply stating your opinion is not judgmental especially if someone has asked for opinions or advice.
  3. Disagreeing- this is another item that has a fine line before it can turn into judging, but simply and respectfully disagreeing with someone is not the same as judging.

 

Here’s some things that are judgmental, and not of the righteous variety:

  1. Assuming intentions
  2. Questioning intelligence, level of commitment, moral caliber, or quality of love
  3. Insinuating that you are better than the other person or a group of people

Examples:

I’m going to give examples from different types of arguments I regularly see online.

Mommy Wars!

Car seats.  Oy please don’t ask car seat questions on online forums, just google the information, it just turns into a fight.  You could substitute a variety of mom topics in here- safe sleep, breastfeeding, introducing solids, screen time, etc. etc.

Possible question: Is it ok to move an 18 month old to forward facing because their feet are jammed against the seat and they are getting fussy?

Non-judgmental factual response:  It is statistically safer in a collision if small children are rear facing.  Most recommend at least 2 years, but even up to 4 years.

  • Simply stated a statistic- not judgmental

Non-judgmental factual response:  In Arizona, state law requires children to be rear facing until age 1, and have met the height and weight requirements on their car seat.  So if they are over 1 but are smaller than the specific car seat requirements the law says keep them rear, if they are under 1 but meet height and weight requirements they should still be rear facing.

  • Simply stated a law- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  Because of the statistics that show that children are safer when rear facing, I feel that it is important to keep them rear facing and have chosen to keep mine rear facing even if they fuss about it.  There are extenders you can get to help them have more room for their feet.

  • Stated their opinion based on statistics and their personal choice, offered an idea for help- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response: I had a similar issue with my child becoming extremely upset about being rear-facing.  As she met the legal height, weight, and age requirements I chose to go ahead and switch her forward facing as I felt that the trauma being caused by forcing her rear-facing outweighed the smaller chance of getting in an accident with a collision forceful enough to hurt her.  I also felt that the anxiety and distraction that her screaming was causing me was increasing my risk of getting in an accident.

  • Stated their opinion and personal choice despite the statistics- not judgmental

Judgmental response: How is this even a question for people?  I mean seriously.  Of course you keep your kid rear facing even if they fuss.  Wouldn’t you rather your kid be alive and fussing?  If you really love your kid then you wouldn’t even wonder if it was ok to turn them around.  I love my kids so I am keeping them rear facing until age 4.

  • Questioned intelligence by wondering how they could ask the question, questioned the quality of parents’ love who do turn their kids around, insinuated that she was better and loved her children more than other people- highly judgmental

 

Other examples of judgmental responses to other issues:

  • People with messy houses are lazy
  • When I see people allow their doctor to put Ilotcyn in their baby’s eyes, I know they are either uninformed or too spineless to stand up to their doctor
  • I’m not going to give that chemical crap (formula) to MY baby

 

Living your Religion

I am most familiar with LDS standards of living, which are fairly unique compared to the general public, and can cause a lot of room for questions on how strict people are etc.   I’m sure other groups face similar squabbles within their membership.  Unfortunately sometimes people forget the standards for kindness as they hash out the details, which begins to fall under the next part of the judgment scripture: “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

I’ve been seeing a lot of questions about tattoos coming up in some LDS mom groups I follow so that’s the example I’ll use, but you could substitute a variety of topics- what’s ok to do on Sunday, when it’s ok to not wear garments, specifics for the Word of Wisdom, piercings, media, etc.

Possible question:  I recently lost a loved one and want to do something big to memorialize them, something I will see regularly so I can remember them.  I’m thinking about getting a tattoo, do you think that would be ok?

Non-judgmental factual response- Several times Prophets and Apostles have counseled against getting tattoos.

  • cited specific counsel- not judgmental

Non-judgmental factual response- While we are counseled against receiving tattoos, it will not affect your church standing as far as receiving a temple recommend or serving in most standard callings.  However, on a case by case basis, potential missionaries will be asked to keep their tattoos covered at all times or may not be able to serve.  Also some higher level callings (as in regional level as opposed to congregational) will also be asked to make sure tattoos are covered or may not be extended the calling.

  • explained policies- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response- As we’ve been counseled against it, I personally have chosen not to get tattoos.  Perhaps you could find a different meaningful way to remember them like a special necklace or ring and/or a piece of art hanging in a prominent place in your home.

  • simply stated their opinion based on counsel and offered an idea that might help- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  Yes we’re counseled against it, but it won’t affect your church standing, I might do the same thing in your position.

  • simply stated their opinion despite counsel- not judgmental

Judgmental response- I don’t understand how anyone could think this is ok.  Counsel is a commandment, and people need to be listening better.  If you really had a testimony this wouldn’t even be a question.  I follow everything the Prophet says so I definitely don’t have any tattoos.

  • questions intelligence, commitment, and testimony.  Assumes the other person’s intentions are to be disobedient.  Insinuates that they are better.  (And apparently forgot to listen when we were counseled to be kind- mote vs. beam)- highly judgmental

 

Politics

Quick, everyone run for the hills!  Just kidding.  This is definitely one of the trickiest categories for having civil discussions.  And I think that Thumper’s mom was definitely inspired when she came out with the old adage, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”  But, you can find nice, tactful, and respectful ways to disagree without being disagreeable, rude, and judgmental.

We’ll use birth control coverage as the example here, but again, substitute in whatever topic you can think of.  Sorry, I didn’t take the time to look up specific stats, etc, and those aren’t the point here anyway, the point is how to put together responses, I’ll let you do your own homework to find the stats. 🙂

Possible post:  Call your representatives to make sure that birth control continues to be covered with no out of pocket costs.

Non- judgmental response:  Insert facts and statistics about birth control use and it’s benefits to women.

  • citing statistics- not judgmental

Non-judgmental response:  Insert statistic about how much it costs to provide at no out of pocket cost.

  • citing statistics- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  We need to make sure that we continue to provide this benefit for women’s over all health, prevention of unwanted pregnancy, etc, etc.

  • simply stating an opinion- not judgmental, someone may disagree but you have not attacked them or their position

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  I am concerned about the cost of this benefit on an already overstretched National budget, and the increase in insurance premiums for the already overstretched household budgets of many Americans.  I wonder if there are other ways we could help, or if there are higher priority items that also require budgeting.

  • Simply stating an opinion/ concern, offering the possibility for compromise, did not attack the other position- not judgmental

Judgmental response:  If you aren’t pro- free birth control then you are anti-women.

  • Assuming people’s intentions- judgmental

Judgmental response: People that want free birth control just don’t want to take responsibility for their finances and choices.  Just keep your legs closed if you can’t afford it.

  • Assuming people’s intentions, and questioning their morals, and just rude/crude- judgmental

 

Other examples of politically judgmental responses/ statements:

  • anything that assumes or insinuates that the other side is stupid or uninformed.  I know a lot of people on both sides of the political spectrum of varied education levels, and who do a varied amount of research.  Just because someone came to a different viewpoint based on the information received does not make them stupid, it’s also a sure fire way to shut down discussion.
  • All they care about is…..
  • If you don’t support [insert platform] then you hate [insert group]

Righteous Judgment in our Daily Lives

Essentially every decision we make involves some amount of judgment, we judge styles, media, appropriate activities for our children, etc., but this gets trickier as it involves our lifestyles and the people with whom we choose to associate.

If there is a person in your life who is making decisions that may affect you or your family in a negative way, it is not only within your rights, but your responsibility to righteously (think fairly, morally, and correctly) judge if their behavior is dangerous and whether or not you should continue associating with them or to what degree you will continue to have them in your life.

Looking beyond the scope of how their behavior effects you and judging the circumstances that led them there would no longer be righteous judgment.  Assuming that they don’t want to change is also unrighteous judgment.  Deciding they are a lost cause or what type of Eternal rewards they will or will not receive is most definitely outside of your place to righteously judge.

Final Judgment

The last type of judgment I mentioned, the lost cause or Eternal rewards type, this would fall under the jurisdiction of Final Judgment.

I do believe that someday we will stand before God and our Savior and be judged of all our works, actions, intentions, thoughts, and desires.  They are the only ones qualified to judge us not only righteously, but perfectly and finally because only they know our WHOLE story.  For us to attempt to pass that kind of judgment is unfair and completely unrighteous.

Our job is to hope for, love, and assist others, not to judge their worth or their Eternal standing with God.  I think we will be pleasantly surprised by how merciful His judgments will be.  So when righteous judgment does become necessary in this life, be fair and careful, but do your best to lean on the side of mercy.

 

 

 

Christ-centered Christmas Advent Activities

Last year as we were coming into the Christmas season I had a few strong impressions from the spirit which lead to some resolutions.  One that I needed to be a more deliberate mother, that we needed more structure in our lives.  The other that I needed to focus on keeping this holiday about Christ.  With absolutely no deliberate action on my part, my children will learn about Santa.  Santa is everywhere.  Shows, decorations, songs, EVERYWHERE.  Let me be clear that I am by no means anti-Santa, and he does visit our house.  BUT, because everywhere else we get inundated with Santa and commercialization, I felt very strongly that I needed to come up with meaningful and fun activities to make sure my kids understand that this holiday is about Jesus.

If you look at my Thanksgiving advent post I explain a little bit of how I put together these activities.  But for a quick recap, I keep it simple, there’s candy involved, and I use dollar store muffin tins with circles of construction paper to make the calendar.  I don’t have December’s put together yet, but here’s a picture of November’s for reference- just imagine red and green paper instead.IMG_20161031_151857448

Some of my activities are based on the #LightTheWorld campaign from mormon.org, but I struggled to come up with activities for a 3 year old and 1 year old that fit with each scripture.  I also did not go in the order of their calendar at all just because certain activities would work better for us on different days of the week.

You’ll notice that I included a day to celebrate Hannukah, I did this for a few reasons:

  1.  One of my very best friends is Jewish and she has inspired me to want to teach my children to love and respect other cultures.  Also she’ll be visiting right after Hannukah ends, so we’ll get together and have a belated Hannukah bash!
  2. My thought for that day is that we believe in a God of miracles.  The story of Hannukah contains a beautiful miracle and it’s fairly simple for children to understand.
  3. I want my children to understand that God loves and gives miracles to EVERYONE, even those that believe differently than we do.

In addition to the activities listed below we also have Nativity picture books, one from Usborne and the others I think I just grabbed from Toys R Us, and I found some Nativity printables on Pinterest and turned them into magnets for the magnet board in the play room.

I don’t have all the dates set in stone, but here’s my list of thoughts and activities.  Activities based on Light the World have a little star.

  1. Jesus created the world and all of nature.  Decorate the Tree.
  2. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.* Attend the Southwest Family Christmas Party (my mother in law works for Southwest and you should all be jealous because their family party is so much fun!  But I felt like this Light the World activity should definitely be matched up with a party, so if you already have a holiday party to attend, just pair it with this scripture!)
  3. Jesus speaks through His Prophet and Apostles.  Watch the Christmas Devotional.
  4. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.* Make ornaments to take to neighbors (I’m using foam and felt snowflakes that I got from Target last year because they are super easy and low mess, but substitute whatever craft floats your boat.)
  5. Nativity sticker scene, again, I picked up a pack of stickers last year at Target.
  6. I was in prison and ye visited me.* Take treats to a police station.
  7. Make gingerbread stables for Family Home Evening.
  8. Jesus is the light of the world.  Go to Glendale Glitters. Here’s an example of doing something fun, but still keeping it Christ-centered by linking the lights back to Him.
  9. I was sick and ye visited me.* Take treats to the NICU.  If you want the long story for why we pick the NICU you can read that post here.  Short story, my daughter was in the NICU for 10 days.  We took treats last year, and I plan on continuing the tradition as the kids grow up.  If you want to do a NICU near you just know it’s best to call ahead and you really will just drop the treats off, young children will most likely not be allowed in.  But, being there even for the short time we were, was lonely and stressful, I can’t imagine being there during the holidays, so NICU parents are definitely a group that could use some cheer.  You could pick any group of ailing individuals, visit someone who recently had surgery, etc.
  10. Jesus gave us temples.  Got to the Mesa Temple Lights.
  11. Family Home Evening, movie night with Nativity movies.  Bible Videos-Nativity, Collection of short Christmas videos, Joy to the World
  12. I was naked and ye clothed me.* Drop off donations to Maggie’s Place.
  13. We believe in a God of Miracles.  Tell the Hannukah story, light candles, play dreidels, etc.
  14. Jesus gave us families.  Make ornaments for grandparents.
  15. Visit a Live Nativity.  There’s a few I’m considering but need to figure out some dates.  Here’s some links to help you out.  Walk through Bethlehem, Grace Glendale
  16. Because of Jesus, our family can be together forever.  Make wreaths (circles have no end.)
  17. Ye shall meet together oft.* Go to church.
  18. Make more ornaments for friends and family.
  19. Family Home Evening- Caroling
  20. For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.* Donate food, either to a food drive or take a meal to someone who is sick, or a refugee family.
  21. Wisemen still seek Him.  Do a wisemen craft.
  22. Jesus was born in a stable with animals around.  Visit a petting zoo.
  23. Go to see The Star in theaters.  We aren’t huge movie goers, and part of me is wondering if I’m crazy to take a 1 year old and a 3 year old to a legit movie theater,  but I feel like it’s important to support this film so that more like it can be made!  Also, my friend’s son is one of the animators so that’s pretty cool!
  24. Bethlehem dinner.  Last year we started this tradition, and it definitely went over my son’s head, and I think he was sick and didn’t eat anyway, but by golly we are going to stick with it.  We’ve decided to do Christmas Eve on our own as just our little family.  For dinner we eat the type of food that was eaten in Bethlehem.  We had lamb with pita bread which I bought from a Middle Eastern market (you should find one, it was a really neat experience).  We had goat cheese, I cheated on this and bought the stuff wrapped in cranberries from Costco, so maybe less authentic, but sooo good.  Then we read the Christmas story and used our Nativity magnets to help act it out, as the kids get older we’ll have them do the acting, but for now we just use the pictures.

Merry Christmas!

To Tremble Because of Pain

I introduced this idea in my post about my birth stories, but wanted to develop it further.

If you’re into birth stories then give it a read, but if you would like to be spared all of the TMI here’s the pertinent part of the story in a nutshell.

With my second pregnancy I developed symphysis pubis dysfunction at 10 weeks.  Which basically meant that I was in debilitating pain for the last 30 weeks (plus the 2 days overdue) of my pregnancy.  It was horrible and my doctor didn’t care/ wouldn’t listen.

The pain was sometimes mild and manageable but frequently jumped to excruciating, by the end it was mostly always excruciating.  But no matter what, it was constant.

I had a doctor’s appointment on my due date, which was a Monday and my doctor agreed to set an induction date.  He initially said Wednesday then changed his mind and suggested Friday.  I piped in, “Or Wednesday!”  “No, Friday will be better schedule wise.”  “Or we could do Wednesday.”  “Why Wednesday, what’s two more days?”

Anyone who would suggest that it’s just two more days has clearly never experienced chronic debilitating pain.  I mean he might as well have said, “What’s two more days in Hell?”  It’s 4 MORE days in Hell, is what it is, because Wednesday is 2 more days.

He settled on Friday, I felt powerless to argue, so that was the plan.  That’s not what ended up happening, but that starts getting way off topic.  She did end up coming on her own on Wednesday.

The thought of having to be in pain longer caused me to reflect deeply on a favorite passage of scripture.  This comes from the Doctrine and Covenants and is a revelation given to Joseph Smith in which Christ explains and details His life and mission.  He explains His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to being crucified:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”

That phrase, “to tremble because of pain” has always struck me, but now it was striking with more meaning.  I felt like my pain was being disregarded, that I was being treated as weak or foolish for expressing that I was in pain, and yet the Savior, even God, TREMBLED because of pain.  I by no means want to compare my pain to what He must have gone through in that time, and yet, it was validating to realize that He was admitting to trembling in pain.  I realized on a very personal level that He understood what I was going through which made me feel closer to Him.

The biggest thing it did was make me thing about how we, “mere mortals,” react to pain in ourselves and to others.

No one will get through this life without experiencing some form of debilitating pain, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, or really any combination of the above, because really they are all connected.  These painful trials can become a stepping stone that allows us to draw closer to our Savior making them sacred experiences.  But what about when you are in the middle of it, or someone around you is in the middle of it, too often we try to just make it go away or make it seem less awful than it is, I feel that this can take away from the sacred nature of pain, and unfortunately can make the situation harder in the moment.

I want to take a look at some of the mistakes we make when dealing with pain both our own and others.  Like I’ve said in other posts, if you realize that this is something you have done to me or others, know that I am not upset, or holding a grudge.  I know that people are for the most part well meaning.  My hope is that we can learn together from these mistakes so that we can be more helpful to others in the future.

What not to do:

Putting things in perspective

Having an Eternal perspective is so important when dealing with trials.  Knowing that God is there and on your side and that “all these things shall give thee experience and work for thy good,” can be the only thing that keeps you going sometimes.  I feel like developing an Eternal perspective is something that you should be working on constantly, especially during the “down time” when you aren’t in the middle of a crisis so it’s there to get you through the crisis.  When the crisis comes, the Eternal perspective becomes a very personal relationship with God through mighty prayer and faith.

Sometimes people say things, well meaning of course, to try and spin the Eternal perspective, or put things in perspective during the crisis.  Things like, “Well it could always be worse….you could have….”  or “Well at least you have….”

Yeah, because when you’re in pain you definitely want to think about how things could be worse, that’s a pretty hopeful place to go.

I really can’t picture anyone saying to Christ in the Garden, it could always be worse, I mean you could have gotten YOUR ear cut off, or your disciples could have gone home to sleep instead of falling asleep in an uncomfortable garden.  You wouldn’t say that to Him.  And the only person I can see coming up with a “Well at least…” statement is Satan.  “Well at least you HAVE body.”

Those kinds of statements invalidate the experience.  And OF COURSE it could be worse, and people have gone through harder things.  I mean ultimately Christ experienced it ALL.  But I can’t for a moment picture Him coming and saying it could be worse, or at least you didn’t have to go through what he went through.  No.  He validates our pain because He experienced it.  He sends the Comforter to help us through.

I feel like in Mormon culture we don’t want to let things be bad.  And maybe that’s because we believe that ultimately we will be led to pure joy.  Or we have this idea that in order to be Christ-like we can’t admit to the struggle because He was perfect and somehow we think that being perfect means not having human emotions, reactions, or struggles.  And yet, he said, “Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.”

Was he showing a lack of Eternal perspective in that moment?  Was it sinful to show weakness?  No, but He was expressing His emotions and His pain freely to His Father.  Sometimes things are just hard, really hard and awful, and the cup can’t just be removed.  He had to experience it in order to fulfill His most sacred responsibility.  Likewise we have to allow ourselves and others to experience pain in order to fulfill our sacred potential and join the fellowship of Christ.  To try and remove it, or make seem not as bad would hold us back from being able to “overcome all things,” which is a characteristic of those who will inherit the Celestial Kingdom.

Find the deeper meaning or give an explanation

“He’s in a better place.”

“God must have needed her more on the other side.”

“Think of all the lives he’s touching.”

“If it’s God’s will….”

“I’m sure it will all be ok”

These platitudes, plain and simple, are not helpful.

As individuals deal with pain, grief, and loss and turn towards God, sometimes they receive answers that give meaning to what they have experienced.  Sometimes the personal revelation they receive sounds like some of the lines I wrote above.  HOWEVER, those answers are deeply personal, need to come from God, and need to come when they are ready to receive it.  While it may turn out to be true, to try and offer meaning or give an explanation is an attempt to receive personal revelation for the other person.

Also, don’t give assurances that it will be ok.  Again, that’s as if you have received personal revelation for someone else’s experience.  When I was 16 my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  For the 2 weeks between diagnosis and hysterectomy I lived with constant weight and fear of the unknown.  When I told people they frequently said to me, “It’s alright, your mom’s going to be fine,” “Everything is going to be ok!”  It was really frustrating because didn’t know if everything was going to be ok, I hadn’t received that answer from God.  The prognosis was good, but there was still the lingering fear of what could come, not to mention that even if they could get everything out with the surgery and no follow up needed, my mom was still undergoing major surgery and would be healing for several weeks.  (For the record, everything did turn out ok.  In fact, after the surgery they came back and said it wasn’t actually cancer, just cysts, and now 15 years down the road there have been no continuing concerns.)

When baptized in the LDS faith we covenant to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.  Our job is to bear, mourn, and comfort, not to explain or reveal meaning, that is God’s job.

Comparisons

Don’t compare your pain.  Don’t compare anything for the matter, but really, don’t compare your pain and your trials.

As a missionary I started out with a chip on my shoulder.  I had myself convinced that I had sacrificed more than most of the other missionaries, so I really had a reason to struggle and have down days.  I did sacrifice a lot to be there, and I certainly had my fair share of literal blood, sweat, and tears.  But one day I was humbled with the seemingly obvious realization that at some point everyone would go through the hardest thing they have ever gone through.  That would be different for everyone and tailor made for them to grow and develop as needed.  I realized that I needed to allow other people to struggle, because while they weren’t going through the same thing I was, what they were going through was hard.

I had to learn this same concept but flipped when I went through my second pregnancy.  I was surrounded by people who were going through very very difficult trials.  A few friends experienced infant loss while I was pregnant, another friend was struggling with infertility (prayers for her recently implanted baby!).  And then there was me, carrying a healthy baby, and yet struggling so much.  Let me be clear that none of them did or said anything to make me feel guilty, I placed the burden of guilt on myself.

How dare I feel depressed when there were so many people around me going through something much harder.  Never would I ever wish to trade places with them.  So I tried to tell myself that I should just suck it up, and I should be so happy.  And of course I WAS happy to be carrying a healthy baby, that wasn’t what I was depressed about, but that’s what makes it depression.  I wasn’t really sad about anything, I was sad about EVERYTHING, and being in constant physical pain made it so much worse.

I finally realized, that yes, while other people were going through things that were harder than what I was experiencing, that didn’t mean that what I was going through wasn’t hard.  While I found joy in the hope that I would have a healthy and happy baby at the end (which isn’t quite how it went what with the NICU stay and all, but that’s a different story), it didn’t mean that I had to pretend to be enjoying my present circumstance.  I needed to validate my own pain and stop comparing it to others.

Another comparison we need to avoid is an attempt at an empathetic comparison.

A dear friend of mine lost her Father to a very long battle with cancer when she was only 19 years old.  I was her visiting teacher at the time and I’m sure I said some well meaning, but stupid things to her, but did my best to comfort while validating her pain.  At one point I started to say to her, “I know how you feel.”  Then corrected myself, and said, “Actually, I have no idea how you feel.”  She thanked me for saying that and told me that she found it a little frustrating when people said, “I know how you feel.”  And then a lot of them would follow it up with something like, “My grandpa died.”  Not to take away from the pain and sadness of losing a grandparent, but losing your parent especially at such a young age, is a very different experience.

On the flip side of that, the “I could never do that” response is another form of comparison.  Again it’s well meaning, and perhaps trying to highlight a strength that you see in the person.  Unfortunately it can feel like a wall being put up that makes them different.  The implications of the phrase, while in most cases not meant to be malicious can hurt the person who is doing their best to get through something difficult.  Often people experiencing loss (especially in extreme cases such as the loss of a child or untimely death of a spouse) feel guilt when they realize that their life is moving forward, especially in the moments when they realize they “forgot to miss them” or “forgot to be sad.”  Somehow they do have to continue with their life without letting loss consume them.  Comments like, “I could never do that” or “I would just fall apart” can increase that feeling of guilt, as if moving forward means that they didn’t love the person enough.  That’s of course not the case, but in the middle of loss our brains are not exactly known for being entirely logical and rational.

 

An empathetic response is wonderful, however an attempt at an empathetic comparison may leave the person experiencing the trial actually feeling less understood and less validated in their pain which can unfortunately end up causing more pain.

What TO do:

501px-gethsemane_carl_bloch

I feel like this painting really illustrates it perfectly.  Allow people to go through the experience, to grieve, to cry, to express themselves, and mostly just be there holding them, listening, and loving.

The angel isn’t saying to Him, “It’s gonna be ok.”  Because she knows it’s not, His trial and pain were going to continue and get worse.  I picture her simply saying, “I’m here, I love you, your Father loves you, I’m sorry you have to go through this,” and then crying along with Him.

In my experience, and from what I’ve observed with other people’s experiences is that in the middle of the trial they need people to just be there, to allow them to express the reality of their pain, to let them ugly cry when needed, and to just know that you are a safe person to vent to.

Rather than trying to give a positive spin or a comparison say things like:

  • I’m so sorry this is happening
  • That sounds so hard
  • I can only imagine

Don’t just tell them that God loves them, SHOW them by being an extension of His love.  Let them know that you will be there and help with whatever they need, give them ideas of what that means.  Tell them if they need to talk about it then your ears are open, if they need a distraction to get their mind off of it then you would love to get out of the house with them and not talk about it.  Offer specific service- can I bring a meal, do some laundry, mow your lawn, watch kids, donate to a fund, etc.

I feel like this quote from Spencer W. Kimball really sums this up:

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs… So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!”

Pray, and let them know you’re praying, but be aware that it can seem trite when someone says they are praying but doesn’t follow up with any action or dismisses what the hurting person is saying.

Send notes and text messages to let them know that they are on your mind.

Most of all just love and be loving.

To Those Experiencing Pain and Trials

I’m sorry, I hope you are able to find comfort.

Please keep in mind that people are trying to be nice so when they do make one of the mistakes from above, forgive them.  When appropriate you may want to find ways to calmly explain what types of responses are helpful vs. hurtful.

Let people serve you!  While on my mission, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland did a mission conference for us and something that he said has really stuck with me.  He explained that while on our missions we had a very specific and important focus and we ought not to let Terrestrial, or worldly, cares get in the way of our higher calling.  That’s why they encourage members to feed missionaries, and ask missionaries to have simple wardrobes etc. so we don’t have to use too much of our precious time taking care of those earthly needs.  I feel like this applies to us when we are experiencing significant trials as well.  When in the middle of the trial you have much more pressing needs to take care of so let people around you take care of your Terrestrial needs as much as they can.

Most of all take care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.  Surround yourself with positive influences and don’t be afraid to reach out to trusted people.

And if you do need some good perspective, remember that this too shall pass.  It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.