Sunday, March 29, 2015

I Am a Defender of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World"

In 1995, a very important proclamation was read to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" by the current prophet of the church, President Gordon B. Hinckley. The words of this proclamation are sacred, and a testament to the world that prophets do receive divine revelation in our day to help people come closer to God. Now 20 years later, the leaders of the Relief Society, Young Women's, and Primary organizations of the Church celebrated this anniversary by centering their talks on this important document last night at the General Women's Meeting. One leader in particular, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, challenged every person to be defenders of the Proclamation to the Family and boldly declare its teachings. I felt inspired to do just that, because I know that this proclamation was a revelation to all the world on the importance of the family. Sister Oscarson asked us to focus on three parts of the proclamation: marriage between and man and woman, elevating the roles of mothers and fathers, and acknowledging the sanctity of the home and homemakers.

First, marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. In the very first paragraph of the proclamation, it reads:

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God."

I know this to be true. Right now the world thinks differently on this issue. But I know that God's laws do not change, and that if we are to see families thrive in our society, this important commandment needs to be obeyed. The proclamation further states:

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

I know that this is God's plan for his children on the earth. And that's all I'm going to say on this topic!

Second, we need to elevate the roles of mothers and fathers. I loved the story she shared of her daughter discovering it was career week at her child's school, and how she submitted an application to present for the career of "mother/homemaker." After the school did not call her, she called them, and asked if she would be permitted to attend. She was, and her presentation was such a big hit with the kids that the following year she was asked to give it to 6 classes. She elevated the role of mother in this simple act. As mothers we are asked to do a lot for our children. Even if I had a job outside the home, parenting would not be my secondary job, it is my primary job. And really, when it comes down to it, what I am doing all day, every day, for my children and family, is small acts of service. Service that often seems repetitive, mindless, even boring, but absolutely essential to the work of the family. In another talk given that evening, I heard something that really stood out to me: "Families are the Lord's workshop on the earth to help us live and learn the Gospel...strong families don't just takes real work." Fathers and mothers have to work constantly to keep their family strong. And this work is tiring, but so rewarding. Right now, in the thick of this draining work, it's hard to see the rewards of our efforts. But they are there, waiting to be recognized. The proclamation reads:

"Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations."

If we are teaching our children these things, then our Heavenly Father is pleased.

Third, we need to acknowledge the sanctity of the home. In her talk, Bonnie Oscarson said,

"Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness." 

Now this is not an easy task. The temple is clean, white, pure, and quiet, no voices above a whisper, usually. My home is the complete opposite: loud voices, screaming, a crying baby, dirty floors and countertops, dusty shelves. But I don't think that means we aren't making our homes holy, because it's hard to stay on top of these things when you have young children (well, for me it is!) What we choose to view in our homes, listen to, read, and how we treat one another are indicators of the holiness that can be found, because they create the spirit. If a home has the holy spirit, it's undeniable. I have been to homes where I could feel it, just setting one foot inside the door. I'm not sure what others would say about my home, but I do know that I have lots of work to do in this area. I want my home to be a refuge from the world where my children feel safe and loved, cared for and listened to. The saying is true that the mother is the heart of the home. My challenges as a mom have greatly robbed me of the joy and peace I want to feel, and in some ways I feel like Satan is winning the battle, that he has trapped me in bitterness. But I can break free of this and see the sunshine again, as long as I strive for it. The proclamation reads:

"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

This is how we can find happiness in our families, how our homes can feel sacred and holy. If we are making the gospel our foundation, then we will have sanctity in our homes. I know this to be true.

The proclamation on the family is succinct and to the point. It lays out every important, inspired aspect necessary to having a happy family. It outlines what God ordains the family to be, and how we can please Him in what we do in our families. I know that "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" was written by a prophet from our days, and that if we abide by its precepts, we can have more peace in our families and homes. This is my defense on the proclamation, and I declare it boldly.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Time Out for Women 2015

This past weekend I was able to attend Time Out for Women with an amazing group of women from my ward, or church congregation. Because I had such an amazing, life-changing experience last year, I knew that going to this event would become a yearly tradition. Last year's experience must have been a unique one, because this year, I was a little disappointed. There were many great points made by each speaker, but none of them really touched me or made me get emotional, or have one of those moments that really made me think about what I need to change in my life, or so I thought. But overall, I came away with a new sense of what it means to develop talents.

Jenny Oaks Baker, a celebrated violinist with 4 children, performed many beautiful pieces, some with her 11-year-old daughter on piano. When she performs, she has a very serious look on her face, so serious that you wonder if she ever smiles. But when she's done, she does smile, and takes a bow, and when she spoke to us, she had a smile from ear to ear. I was impressed by her motivation and drive to succeed. She travels all over the world performing her violin, sharing the talent she has been given. Even though she has a family to take care of, somehow they make it work, and she is able to pursue the talent that God has blessed her with. I really admire that about her, and I am positive that she knows that this is the path God wants her to take in her life. She is touching people through her music.

Then, Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist, spoke about the four stages of relationships: 1) honeymoon; 2)power struggle; 3) withdrawal; 4) acceptance/renewal. In any relationship with a person, these are the typical stages that we all go through. In my relationship as a mother to Julianna, I am definitely going back and forth between stage 2 and 3, hoping to reach stage 4. Actually I would think most people bounce back and forth between those stages. Acceptance takes a long time to reach. She then asked us to relate these stages to our relationship with God. She also said, "Sometimes we need to sit still and let God and our goals find us."

On Saturday, a singer named Sandra Turley performed and spoke to us. She sang a song about seasons, and asked if we were happy in the season that we're in, or are we always looking to the next season? She also sang an arrangement of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked, and talked about how the two songs were related. One line stood out to me: "Some things I cannot change but if I don't try I'll never know." Sandra told us to clear out the clutter and focus on the things that matter. Instantly I thought, to me, this means to develop my talents. Stop cluttering my life with things that are unimportant and do something that will make a difference.

A piano player named Josh Wright sat down to amaze us, and I began to write in my journal as I listened. I wrote about my own talents, and how I have been wasting years not developing them. Sure, I have been the best mom and wife I could be, and I play the flute here and there for church events, but I know I have even more talents that I can give to the world. What does God want me to do? What goals will I set to accomplish this? I began to think about all the speakers and performers at Time Out for Women, and realized that the only reason they are up there, inspiring all of us, is because THEY PURSUED THEIR TALENTS. They discovered what made them unique and special and made sure they developed those things. And while most people give up, or let other things get in the way, they didn't. They kept going, even when it was hard, and got to a place where they are now inspiring other people to do the same. That's what sets them apart. They set goals, and they reach them. And then they set some more.

Another speaker, Emily Watts, talked about how it's okay to be an imperfect mother. She said maybe the finished product is not the whole point--it's the process, the learning. She said "The broken heart is the fertile field for the seeds of his love." Later on, Emily Freeman pointed out that sometimes you can't see God's hand in your life, but you can see the fingerprints. She asked us what one thing we would write on a small stone as our "faith step." Right away, I thought, "Stop wasting time!" She ended by saying, "Be someone who can make a difference."

When I reflect now on all the speakers and performers, I can see how they tie together, and even though I thought I didn't feel anything while I was there, I really did. I just didn't realize it until now, after reviewing my notes and writing this post, I finally felt the tears come to my eyes. I was inspired at this event, inspired to make goals and reach new heights in my life. I can't make excuses anymore for wasting time. I know that I can achieve things of great importance, and that anyone can. I know that I can make a difference, that every single person can make a difference. I know that I have talents that need to be developed, that every person does, too.

Our group went to lunch during the break, and my table had a very interesting conversation. I brought up the point that all these women inspire us because they don't waste their time--they go for their goals and don't give up. Someone said that she thought I could be like those women too, but that maybe my story isn't written yet. I was flattered! But then she said maybe my kids need me more right now. She was right. So, I am doing what God wants me to do right now in my life. Maybe He does have bigger plans, I don't know. But for now, I will continue to write my story, and maybe my little goals will add up to bigger ones in the years to come.