Monday, June 6, 2016

Every Mother a Missionary



"So who was your missionary?"

I gave a lame, jargon-laden answer to the newly-baptized friend I was teaching about Jesus Christ in Sydney, Australia that including phrases like "I was raised in the Church" and "born under the covenant."  From my answer, you would think that the kind of faith that keeps one active in the faith and practicing all of the many do's and dont's of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would have been granted by osmosis.

The truth is that everyone in my faith who is active for a prolonged period of time, born into it, or no, is a "convert", and there are always missionaries involved.  They may not wear name tags, but their testimony and careful teaching of the gospel of Christ is the spark that lights an independent flame.

Though my initial answer was a bit lame, as I pondered the question, it became clear that it was my mother who had been my missionary.  Although my dad was an unwavering second witness, my mother was there hourly and, during my formative years, it was mostly from her that I learned about Christ and the faith I now call my own.

It was a beautiful thought, and I have looked forward ever since to when I could be a missionary to my own children.

Now that they are here, I try to follow as best I can my missionary ways from 15 years ago (wow, I'm old!).  I start at about nine months, when I start requiring them to sit still for prescribed periods during church, which lengthens to the full 70 minutes of our Sacrament Meeting by the time they are 2.  At one I start saying their nightly prayers with them, encouraging them to fold their arms and close their eyes and say "amen" and attempting to read something that resembles scriptures.

Once Gideon could talk, I tried to pay attention to when he was feeling the Spirit the way missionaries try to do with investigators.  Each time I thought he felt it, I would stop whatever I was doing and ask him if he felt anything. It took a while to try to help him identify what it was he was feeling - was it cold or warm, prickly or soft, happy or sad, I would ask in succession. Once I knew he was feeling it and he could reliably describe it, I started to try to help him understand what it meant - that what I was reading or saying was true, that Heavenly Father and Jesus loved him, etc.

I then progressed to thoughtfully preparing for his prayers.  He will no longer say them by himself, but we can help prepare by asking what he wants to pray about - what he is grateful for and what he wants help with.

I had no idea whether this was at all penetrating.  Then, increasingly, he has insisted on a "big prayer" or, after identifying several things, will say, "I want more things to do." The other night the sense of it all became clear.

After saying a third prayer with him - he kept adding things, insisting on a "big prayer" - I thought, tired myself, that maybe he was finally ready to sleep voluntarily.  He then called out, "Wait! I want to feel the Spirit!"

I realized, suddenly, that his insistence on "big prayers" and wanting "more things to do" in adding to his prayers was so that he could feel the Spirit. He knew what it felt like, desired it, and had come to expect that he would be able to feel it in his prayers such that he didn't want to quit till he had felt it. Sweet boy.

As I thought in my exhausted state about the implications, I was impressed by the example he was setting - feeling the Spirit should be the aim of all spiritual practices, and we shouldn't stop until we have felt it.  I was incredibly grateful that not only had my missionary efforts been efficacious after so many months (and years!), but that the blessing was returning to my own benefit as I learned from my little boy.  I guess that is the beauty of the Spirit - it teaches one and all, regardless of age, and permits any who feel it to teach others.

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Small Wonders
* Esther's vocab explodes a little more every day.  She has begun to say very small sentences, beginning with "I bite" (!) after having inflicted pain on Gideon. :-0 Not the best thing for her to do - a vinegar washcloth in the mouth has certainly helped (thanks, Anj!), but at least she is self aware.
* Esther succeeded in putting her PJ bottoms on the other night.  One small step for her, one large step towards potty training!
* I was informed yesterday that Esther has an aggression, bossiness problem from her nursery leaders.  She was supervising how all the children interacted with the toys, and prevented them from using her own.  Oh dear.  Hope it's just a blood sugar issue, but I fear it has bigger implications.
* Gideon has started to notice when I am struggling with the stroller in and out of a building, and will race to my rescue with a "do you need some help?" and then lift the front end of the stroller up or down as needed.  Warms my heart and hearts of all her observe it.
* I "bore my testimony," or got up spontaneously to share what I feel and know about the gospel of Christ yesterday during our monthly "fast and testimony meeting" where such spontaneity is appropriate.  Gideon came with me.  I shared some of what I did above.  Then, moved by the Spirit, Gideon insisted on speaking - standing by himself, microphone close.  He then lost his nerve when I noticed how many people were watching, but knowing he wanted to say something, I asked him questions, searching for the things I know he has often said in his prayers  of his own accord - do you feel the Spirit? do you love Jesus? do you love Heavenly Father? Are you grateful for Heavenly Father's help to be obedient so you can go to Wisconsin and see your cousins?  Then shared his affirmative statements with the congregation.  He then was able to say "Amen" into the microphone.  His first testimony.  Very sweetly, his testimony prompted a dear little friend to also get up - a little girl who had been trying for several months to get up - which then prompted her mother to get up.  When Mary had finished, Gideon raced over to hug her - too quick for me, again feeling the Spirit and too excited they both had. It was a very sweet experience.
* We had the missionaries over again last night, and Gideon was extremely aware of all of their needs, making sure they had salt and spoons, then trying to feed him his favorite things - berries, veggie sticks, and fruit snacks, getting down from the table to go find them.  He also let them know that when they had had five bites of their soup, they could then have a tortilla. (He learns quick!)
* Overheard: (when wrestling with his dad, who wielded a pillow): "can you hit me?" (when playing with firetrucks, speaking for them) "I have things to do." (at appropriate times) "I'm struggling."

I recently got to attend the temple, and was so grateful.


we visited Port Clyde, Maine last weekend.





The island we visited for a day while there - the 1830 house and barn had been imported from New Hampshire and reconstructed on the island, beam by beam.

new friends.



ringing the bell of the local Baptist church

the view from our guest cottage





pigs!  Esther's new favorite animal.  These piglets were bright and adorable.

Do you spy a little boy with his trucks?

Saturday morning activity: wading in the warm water of our local 'Tooky river.  It was a good day for all of us.

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