Family Time is Sacred Time

12036876_518982438264541_2693737435968793580_n

Family Time is Sacred Time is an obvious statement that we all know to be true. But are we really making family time happen? Most families I know are busy with work, school, sports, dance lessons, church callings, etc. and we spend very little time as a family. Perhaps we feel that our busy schedules are normal and that everyone is running short on family time, or we are waiting for football season to end, or the recital to be over before we can spend REAL time as a family.

These are the thoughts that I have always had. My family time consisted of a rushed morning scripture study over a bowl of cereal, and a quick Sunday dinner between meetings. With a big, busy family we never had much time to be together, let alone make it a sacred time. But something changed about a year ago. My children were starting to leave on missions and leaving home to pursue their education and I experienced major panic! All of the time that I had to enjoy having my whole family under my roof was suddenly gone. And what did I have to show for it? I had allowed other people to educate my children, influence their lives and spend quality time with my individual children while I was busy shuttling them around like a crazy person. I had come to the realization that I had outsourced my job as mother!

What a terrible realization! This was precious time I was never going to get back! I may have lived a good life where I avoided doing any major sinning, but with this realization I found myself on my knees repenting with all sincerity for not taking my role of parent seriously and letting this opportunity of growth pass me by. Through this repentance process, I have found that the Lord is extraordinarily merciful! As I turned my heart to Him and took scissors to my list of activities, I have found the ability to make more time for our family…… and as it turns out…..I’m a better mother than I thought I was!

Family Lights the World Family Night Lesson

FamilyHeader2

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the inspired document The Family: A Proclamation to the World. By no coincidence, the World Congress of Families will be holding their annual conference on U.S. soil for the very first time since the Congress was formed in 1997—and, not just U.S. soil, but Utah! The Congress will be held from Oct. 27-30 and will include speakers like Elder M. Russell Ballard and Sheri Dew.

Families around the globe cannot all attend the World Congress of Family events, but they CAN join with Gathering Families on Oct. 26th at 7:30pm MST (America) for the Family Lights the World event and show support for the blessings that the natural family brings to society.

The Family Lights the World Event presents a remarkable opportunity for families everywhere, who have a testimony of the Family Proclamation, to make that testimony known. We are grateful for the great work of the World Congress of Families. We look forward to joining with families all over the world to shine our lights into the sky as we celebrate The Family on Oct. 26th!

Click this Link for the Family Lights the World Family Night Lesson guideline: FamilyHomeEve—FLW

My Daughter’s Name is Faith

31543

Early this morning I felt impressed to share my story, although it comes with great hesitancy. Some experiences in life will never be fully understood by others, but motherhood can be a great equalizer among women who may find themselves at opposite sides of a political or social spectrum. I can’t help but believe that the news we have heard in regards to abortion and the nefarious dealings of powerful organizations has pierced all of our souls, at least at some level. Women are by nature, nurturers and caregivers. Our bodies were designed to give and sustain life, not to take it away. Our spirits are intended to care for the downtrodden and the defenseless – that is just who we are, and it is a beautiful thing. And, for some of us, the news of the past few weeks has been more than we can bear, and more personal than many will realize.

Seventeen years ago I found out I was pregnant with my third child. Even though my husband was close to starting his Master’s program, we were thrilled to add another child to our family. We wanted many children and were willing to make the sacrifices needed. I was nearly four months into my pregnancy when, by chance, my doctor was trying out a new ultrasound and asked if I would want a sneak peak of my baby. We both were worried when the baby didn’t measure what it should have, but because everything else looked ok, he thought I must have been off on my due date. He decided we could wait until my next appointment and talk more then, but something didn’t feel right to me and I started to research and consulted with an OB cousin of mine and who advised bed rest, out of caution.

It was only a few days when my doctor called me and said he had made an appointment for me to see a neonatal specialist in another city and asked me to schedule an amniocentesis. It was a couple weeks after that when we learned the devastating news that the baby I was carrying had an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality and if she survived the trauma of birth, she probably wouldn’t live more than a few weeks. By the time I received the news, I was already starting to feel the fluttering inside of me which soon would turn to kicks. Next I would feel hiccups combined with all of the tender hints that a new life brings. Every movement made me love this baby more than can be explained, and so, despite the news, I did everything possible to provide the best environment for her to thrive. I don’t think I took as much as a Tylenol during that pregnancy and I frequently stayed off my feet. Somehow I assured myself that if I demonstrated to God how much I wanted this child, He would preserve her life and give us an opportunity to raise her, no matter what disabilities she might have.

The next few months were among the most difficult of our lives. Because of her genetic condition, we quickly learned there was a chance that not only her life, but my life would also be in danger. Early after the amniocentesis, I had unsolicited phone calls from two doctors, in two different states, that had heard of my case and called me to express grave concern over me continuing to carry my baby. One was gentle and kind and spoke of a past patient who had carried a baby with the same condition and had fought for her life in the ICU with severe preeclampsia (a condition that often accompanied this type of pregnancy). The other doctor was angry at my insistence to continue the pregnancy and called me and my husband naïve. I felt confused and devastated! With two little girls at home and one now moving inside of me, I was in an impossible and hopeless situation. I sought out my church leader for guidance. He counseled me to have an open heart and consider the doctors’ advice. He also told me in no uncertain terms that through prayer I would know what Heavenly Father would have me do.

It was during this time that I started to understand what it was like to become a beggar to God. When I wasn’t on my knees, I was praying in my mind throughout the day. My husband and I were desperate to receive any hint of help. Because we did not live near a temple for worship, there were times I pulled up in the parking lot of our church to pray for help. I asked for a miracle – for a change in my situation. I pleaded for a healthy baby – or if not born healthy, a baby that would live. One early morning while reading my scriptures, I received my first answer: “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” The words “which is right” jumped off the page and pricked my heart. I believed I had the faith for a miracle, but humbly I recognized I was praying for the wrong thing. That was the moment I knew I needed to start to pray for God’s will and not my own.

My pregnancy continued and my girls loved to put their hands on my growing tummy to feel their sister’s kick. It was both tender and heart wrenching at the same time. It was again an early morning when I received my second answer. A strong thought, almost a voice, came to my mind to visit a neighbor. Her name was Sandra and I didn’t know her well, but I vaguely recalled her speaking to me about losing a child. I grabbed a gift basket of lotions that I had felt impressed to purchase earlier that week and headed to her apartment. As soon as she opened the door I said, “Sandra, I don’t know why I am here, except to tell you that Heavenly Father knows you and loves you.” She looked at me intently and quickly asked if I could sit down in her living room so she could show me her box. I soon learned that her “box” held her most treasured possessions of her three children that died soon after childbirth (two were twins). She handled each item with meticulous care, from their crocheted caps to tiny booties. She told me each of their names and showed me their death certificates – as if to prove their existence.

It was in that moment that I realized a loving Father in Heaven was answering both of our prayers. He knew everything about our individual and unique situations. He knew me and my child just as He knew this beautiful mother and each of her children. Each one of us was special to Him and I was sent there so that He could heal both of our broken hearts with His love. I knew at that moment, just as sure as anything I know now, that He had complete control over my life and the life of my child, and I needed to trust in Him and His plan for me and my family. Weeks passed and soon I felt my child die within me. I was nearly 32 weeks when the kicks and hiccupping slowly stopped. Just as quietly and unassuming as this beautiful baby had come into our family’s life, is the way she had left. To say my heart was literally broken, does not do the pain I felt justice; yet, it soon was swallowed up by peace and hope – it is something so difficult to describe. The next day I gave the Easter lesson to ladies in my church. I don’t think I have ever prepared a lesson that had more meaning in my life.

I was in the hospital for four days trying to give birth to my daughter. The nurse that kissed me on the cheek the morning of her delivery and told me it would be the hardest day in my life was right. It was. Aside from the emotional suffering, my fever reached 106 degrees and every movement caused me pain. I couldn’t move my head off the pillow or side to side as my husband washed my forehead with a cold cloth. The medication they gave me was meant to cause an infection throughout my body so that I could expel the baby inside (I have heard it has since been taken off the market), and I was experiencing every side effect the nurse had warned me about. I remember feeling that this must be what it felt like to die. I was so ill but remarkably at peace.

The doctor became worried and determined I needed an emergency C-Section. He told us that because of the small size of my uterus it could possibly mean I would not be able to have more children. My husband and my mom called our families and asked them to all pray together at the same time that the baby would come on her own. Within a half hour the doctor was able to turn and deliver her, and finally the nurse carefully placed my tiny daughter in my arms. The spirit in that room is one that I think about often. The anesthesiologist was so touched that he left the side of my bed in tears. Later as I held my baby swaddled in a blanket with a crocheted cap on her tiny head gifted from Sandra, I sobbed. I thought about all my daughter and I had been through together. It was through her that I gained a greater insight into God’s love for me and each of His children. It was because of her that I learned that He has ALL power, even that over life and death. Carrying her and holding her makes me long for a glorious reunion and gives me another reason to be the best mother I can be in this life. Her name represents everything we went through and continues to remind me to have faith during life’s most difficult challenges. She is, and will always be, a very beloved daughter to my husband and me and sister to her six siblings.

So, as I have watched the news of the past few weeks, my heart – like so many others – has been torn apart. I think of all the mothers whose greatest desire is to create life, and other mothers who have sacrificed their lives to protect it. I will always have great empathy for those who find themselves in a similar situation as me with a heart wrenching and impossible choice to make, but those circumstances are so very rare. I can’t help but wonder when we as a society became so callous to life and the God that has made it all possible. When did we stop looking to Him for guidance in our most difficult and darkest days? It is our privilege in marriage to be in a sacred partnership with our Father in Heaven in creating the bodies for the beautiful spirits He may bless us with. He is where I will find the answers to my deepest and most heart wrenching questions, and I will continually pray for courage to move ahead with hope in the answers that He gives me. Eighteen years ago my daughter, Faith, helped to teach me these important truths, and I now have my own precious box to remind me.

By: Becky Foster

Family Lights The World- St. George, UT Event

Announcing the St. George, Utah Family Lights the World Event on October 26, 2015 at 7:00 P.M.
All families are invited to share in the festivities and welcome the World Congress of Families to Utah!!!!

Our light ceremony will be at 7:30 P.M. Bring a light (or two, or many) for your family to shine to show the world how much your family lights the world!

There will be music, speakers and lots of fun for all! Families are welcome to arrive early with a picnic dinner to enjoy the music and pre-show! Don’t forget chairs and picnic blankets!

websize (1 of 1)

I Am Mom

66091392546629IMG_20150913_151654

The notary was signing our homeschooling affidavit when, with respect and awe in her voice, she remarked, “Mom and Teacher. Wow.”

I replied with a shrug, “Eh. I used to be a teacher. That’s not hard. It’s actually the ‘mom’ part that weighs more heavily on me.”

It wasn’t till I heard and reflected upon my own words that I realized just how much I knew that to be true.

A teacher, by the world’s understanding, can certainly be a wonderful influence for good and even impart valuable life lessons. More often than not, though, a teacher’s goals and ability to guide are bound and determined by a particular and finite end in mind. A teacher can certainly instruct with truth yet the focus will undoubtedly be limited by standards which fluxuate with worldly views and moral relativity.

But, what of a mother? A mother’s goals and ability to guide are determined by standards of eternal value. A faithful and dedicated mother will diligently provide an education which teaches “out of the best books words of wisdom…even by study and also by faith” for her life’s greatest joys will hinge on knowing that her “children walk in truth” and light.

Suddenly, a flood of eternal truths and principles regarding the role of mother came to my mind. Things I had been taught my whole life of motherhood suddenly rang true in my heart. I am Mom. As such, I knew I had been entrusted with the responsibility of bringing these little spiritual beings back home to Him from Whom they had been loaned here on earth. To honor this responsibility, I knew I would need to become a partner with God in my mothering.

Thomas S. Monson has reminded, “One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”

I understood, as Boyd K. Packer explained, “no teaching is equal, more spiritually rewarding, or more exalting than that of a mother teaching her children.” I was determined to be worthy of such rewards in my dedication to teaching my children of all things, both spiritual and temporal.

The few hesitations and fears of inadequacy I initially had were replaced by Jeffrey R. Holland’s promising reminder, “Cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones.”

My role as ‘mom’ had always included being a teacher. The only difference being that I was now declaring it to the world through a notarized affidavit. I am Mom.

By Shelby Rodgers

Family Service

po8mfr40u81muto

Whenever my friend’s children are asked what their favorite Christmas memories are, they all immediately think of the same thing—but then, surprisingly, they skirt around the subject only giving half answers. They won’t say much or go into a lot of detail but their eyes sparkle as they remember. What’s their favorite memory? Their family’s tradition of doing service projects every Christmas and they all love it!

Needless to say, I wanted to know more about these service projects which none of them would discuss. After some wheedling and many promises not to tell, I was permitted to hear their secrets. This family has a special signature way of doing their Christmas acts of service. It’s the same every year and many people have received their help. But because of this special signature they leave with their service, they can’t talk too much about it or all the people they have helped will know who was responsible for their Christmas surprise. It’s amazing to me how these special acts of service have become a big centerpiece for this family’s Christmas celebrations.

My son, currently at the MTC in Provo, told me about a fireside talk they heard one Sunday evening. Elder Bednar spoke about the character of Christ and of how we as faithful believers should be striving to be Christ-like. He mentioned how Christ went much farther than just keeping the commandments; He taught, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt 1625) and “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14) This implies more is involved in being Christ-like than simply obeying.

When Christ was at His lowest point, He didn’t just think about Himself. As He hung on the cross, He thought about His mother and how she could be taken care of when He was gone. He thought about all those who were crucifying Him and asked His father to forgive them. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was thinking of others as He healed the servant’s ear.

This is the opposite of our normal reaction to adversity. When bad things happen, we tend to close up and “turn inward,” as Elder Bednar called it, becoming oblivious of other’s needs:

Thus, [Christ’s] character is demonstrated by looking and reaching outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and turn inward.
– Elder Bednar

If we want to be Christ-like, we must look outward and care for those around us and teach this to our children as well. Since example is the best way to learn, family service projects teach this better than anything else. When we see someone in need, we can help them. It doesn’t take much really. Sometimes it’s just a plate of cookies or even a welcoming smile. It’s not necessary to wait for someone else to organize it or see if the church or the government will step in, we need to be there for others now.

Most of all, our families need to be a part of it. They need to feel that spirit that comes through service and from giving of themselves. They need to experience turning outward and caring for others even when it’s tough. Imagine the change in our communities if we all began to emulate the character of Christ. My friend’s family is an example of how it can work. If their children have wonderful memories of Christmas as a time for service, then other families can have that too—mine included!

By Jennifer Jensen

Let Go and Let God

Well Done
Luke 22: 39-43 reads,

39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was awont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into atemptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, aremove this cup from me: nevertheless not my bwill, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an aangel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

In verse 42 are found my favorite and most inspiring words the Savior spoke. For an instant, He was a man. He was a flesh and blood man capable of feeling pain and He knew it was coming. He knew it was going to be unbearable for any normal man, and nearly unbearable for even Him; yet, he had the courage to put his trust in His Father, the Father of us all. The most important moment in the history of mankind was still a choice, and He knew it. Even still, He chose to submit to the Father’s will, suffering so that He might overcome the demands of the eternal laws of justice. And knowing that His son needed a little help to do what needed to be done, our loving Heavenly Father sent an angel to strengthen Him and boost Him up, so He could finish what needed to be done.

“Let go and let God”. I have heard this said during some difficult and trying times in my life and the lives of others. It’s meant as a sign of faith. When you’ve tried all you can do to relieve yourself of a problem, disease, hardship, or even sin, and you can’t figure a way out, you “let go and let God” handle it. The only problem is, sometimes God has to let us go through the bitter. Sometimes, He can’t “remove the cup” and make it all better. For reasons we won’t know until we meet Him again, we sometimes have to suffer here. Sometimes we suffer because of the iniquity of another and sometimes it is our own iniquity. Sometimes we see others sailing along smoothly in this life while we are hitting every pothole and roadblock the highway of life can throw at us. It’s unfair, undeserving, and yet, completely necessary. Which is why verses 42 and 43 can be so inspiring to each of us.

In Verse 42, the Savior first asks for the cup to be removed. There is no shame in asking our Father to remove our pain and anguish. Sorrow is not what He wants for us, and, if He can, He will fix it. However, we have to be prepared to follow the Savior’s example and keep moving forward, saying “nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” We need to keep fighting, trying to find an answer or happiness, or whatever it is we are looking for, because there may be some higher purpose we can’t see now (and maybe won’t understand until we stand before Him again). But what I found most interesting and tender about these verses is found in verse 43. Our Father could not make it any less painful or difficult, He couldn’t intervene or help on this one, but, oh, how much He wanted to, I’m sure. So He did the only thing He could do, He sent some comfort in the form of an angel. And He does the same for us. When we think He has forgotten us or doesn’t care, we should open our eyes and hearts a little more to the things around us. A song on the radio, the kind words of a friend or neighbor, a hug from a dear one, a good memory, or even the sweet whispering of the Spirit may be sent as comfort and a boost. Because even though we have to pass through the bitter, He still wants to give us all the sweet that He can. And one day, in some way, the trial will be over and eventually there will be light and laughter again.

I know that God lives and that He hears and answers prayers. Maybe not in the manner we would like, but they are answered. He is tender and merciful and watchful over us, and above all, I know that He loves us unconditionally and eternally. May we all decide to pass through the bitter times and come out on top and embrace Him and have him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.

By Tony McKeighan