Here’s another installment from my new novel, Dates with God. Sorry it’s a day late. I’ve got a lot on my plate! In today’s excerpt, Kate consciously chooses to avoid shaming her daughter and discovers how she masks feelings of irritation with electronic escape. She also gets inspired by Ammon and Abraham’s examples. So here’s Chapter 3, Part 3: Kate’s Letter #3.
Kate’s Letter #3
Yesterday was rather crazy. I had one disaster after another happen at home. Sophie read about this idea of making big multi-colored crayons out of melted crayon stubs, when I was out of the room helping Maddie with her math. So she melted crayons in a pot, then she poured the melted crayons into an ice cube tray and then put it in the freezer to harden. In the process, she spilled it everywhere. There was blue wax on the floor in front of the fridge, down the fridge door, and in the gasket creases of the door. What a mess! I wanted her to clean it all up herself but since she is 7 years old, I realized that she was simply not physically capable of doing that. That would be like asking a 1 year old to mow the lawn. So I helped her. It reminded me of the Parable of the Spilt Milk lesson from the Mothers Who Know Class. I didn’t shame her, just asked her to help clean up the mess and acknowledged that we all make mistakes, and it’s important to clean up after our mistakes. I realized how often I make spiritual messes and that Thou always helps me clean up through the atonement of Thy Son, Jesus Christ.
That was just one of many messes that day. Then I went to class in the evening, and I got in this silly argument with Lauren. Somehow we got on a tangent, when the mentor was out of the room. We started talking about what is proper footwear for attending Church meetings on Sundays. She said she loves to wear her dressy flip flops to Church. I immediately told her that was wrong, because Elder Holland said once in General Conference that we shouldn’t look like we are going to the beach when we go to Church. She insisted that her flip flops are OK to wear to church because she would never actually wear them to the beach, because according to her, it’s not functional to walk on sand in flip flops. She asked me if I had ever actually tried it. We really went the rounds on that one until the mentor came back in and got us back on track with the actual planned content of the class. So I left class feeling at a Level 2. It was this total exasperation at how aggravating Lauren can be. She can just be so boldly annoying, the way she thinks she is always right. She gets away with it, but one of these days her boldness is going to come back and bite her.
I got home and everyone else was already asleep. Oh happy day! I started playing on my phone to cover up the irritation at Lauren that I felt. Then I forgot to write in my journal and lost my battle with that. So now I have to write a lost battle analysis. I am starting to see that I can’t ever really let my guard down spiritually. I can’t just zone with my phone, without first making sure my duties, meaning my nighttime power actions, are done.
I was reading in Alma 52 and I noticed a cool lesson for when I am not feeling attacked. At the end of Alma 51, Teancum killed Amalackiah. So this evil, sneaky guy, Amalackiah has been killed, but do you think the Nephites take a break, thinking their troubles are over? No way. They keep preparing for war. In Alma 52:7 it says that they “kept preparing for war.” Moroni sent all sorts of work project orders to Teancum to fulfill. This teaches me that when I have brief lulls when I’m not feeling direct hits from satan I can be working on my passion projects. I don’t have to be “taking a break” by looking at fluff on the Internet. I can be creating beautiful things for my family and friends that make a lasting difference. I have seen so many ideas from Jill’s blog that I can’t wait to work on! It feels so good to get back to sewing and crafting, two things I shelved once I had so many little fingers around here. Now that the kids are older, I feel I can get these crafts-y things back out without freaking out that someone is going to swallow a pin. I feel like I am coming home! It feels good to get out the crafts!
Pres. Uchtdorf said in one of his General Conference talks awhile back that the surest way to beat bad feelings is to create something. I know it’s true! These passion projects are how I create beautiful creations of lasting value and service. They keep me genuinely happy, definitely at a Level 0. I’ve noticed that genuine happiness puts me at a Level 0 on the Chemical Scale (see page 21 of Like Dragons Did They Fight), whereas I turn to pleasure, like eating sugar, Level 5 for me, only after being at Levels 2 – 4. So these passion projects, and my power actions, and my prophesying, are the ways that I keep preparing for war. When I am at a Level 0 and feel genuine happiness for long chunks of time, then I am more be able to recognize when I start to feel Level 1 and slip into Levels 2 and 3.
For Family Home Evening this past week we acted out the story of Ammon and King Lamoni’s sheep. This story fascinates my kids. We’ve acted it out a ton of times, and they never get tired of it. I narrated from the scriptures as they acted it out. This has never been a story I like because of how Ammon cuts off the robbers’ arms. I always thought it was so gruesomely violent. The kids love to act out the cutting off of the arms with their toy swords. For the first time I noticed that we are dealing with people of two extremely different worldviews. Ammon believes in Thee. He believes in Thy promises and Thy word. Thou told him through a blessing given by his father Mosiah that he would be delivered out of the hands of these “wild and hardened and ferocious people.” (Alma 17:14) By contrast, the robbers did not know of this promise or believe in the same god. They were a godless people who were out to scatter the flocks and kill Ammon for sport and fun with no respect for property rights, the sacredness of life, natural law and consequences. They “delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them.” (Alma 17:9) I had never noticed the word “slay” in the story until now. “Slay” means they did attempt to kill him. (Alma 17:36) That’s rather a significant word that I glossed over in all of my previous readings. Ammon was completely acting in self-defense.
So I found it highly instructive that Ammon, even though he knew that Thou would deliver him, because of the blessing pronounced on him by his father, and even though he absolutely trusted in Thee, he did not sit back and say, “OK, God, I am just going to sit back and chill-lax and Thou wilt deliver me from these thugs who are hurtling stones at me and beating me with clubs to kill me.” No, he still actively did what I’m assuming is everything in his power to deliver himself. Thou added to his strength, I assume, by allowing him to survive, amidst these violent attackers who outnumbered him. It says that they “were not a few.” Maybe it was 8, two dozen, 30, who knows.
This scripture story really speaks to me. I t reminds me to trust in the specific promises that Thou gives to me, including ones given to Dave, like his latest priesthood blessing which said he would be healed. If I want to follow Ammon’s example, that means I can’t just sit back and wait for the blessing to happen. It reminds me to do everything in my power to bring about the desired blessing. I can’t just sit back and relax and think he is going to get healed without us changing anything. I will continue on the quest to see if we can heal his cancer by changing his diet!
So while I work and wait for that, I can see how passion projects can make the watching and waiting more enjoyable. One of my passion projects involves a study of the classics. I decided it’s time to stop spending so much time consuming dross and brain candy, which is basically what I am doing on Facebook and Pinterest every day, and start consuming nourishing food for the soul. What brought that decision on was my reading of the scriptures this past week. I was preparing for the Gospel Doctrine class, reading Abraham 1-2. I have decided that I am going to do more than just read the Book of Mormon for five minutes a day, I am going to listen to the Gospel Doctrine lesson on my iPhone every day for at least 5 minutes, plus listen to 1 General Conference talk a day, plus listen to the upcoming lesson from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual.
So as I listened to the Abraham scriptures for my Sunday School lesson I heard some key phrases that I really liked. It said that Abraham “sought for the blessings of the fathers.” (Abraham 1:2) In the same verse, he also said that he was a follower of “righteousness” and he desired to be one who “possessed great knowledge.” Then he emphasized just how much he was those things by stating that he desired to be a “greater follower of righteousness, “and a “greater possessor of knowledge.” He also said that he desired to be a “father of many nations” and to “receive instructions” and to “keep the commandments of God.” Basically, Abraham desired to be a spiritual man, a man of great learning, and a family man.
So how can I be a “greater follower of righteousness” and a “possessor of great knowledge”? How can I be a “mother of many nations” and “receive instructions” and “keep the commandments of God”? I have thought of myself as a spiritual woman and a family woman, but how can I be more so? How can I be a more spiritual woman, a woman of greater learning, and a woman who is more family-oriented?
I’ve homeschooled for a long time because I felt it was the best way to impart spirituality to my children but I can see unspiritual things creeping into my home and family life. My big kids still want to do the easy and pleasurable things instead of digging into eternally meaningful things like the classics and the scriptures or practicing their instruments. For a long time I have felt like I should eliminate certain things from my life, like our Netflix account, our Roku and TiVO and the cell phones I gave the older kids when they turned 8. The use of all things electronic in my home is totally out of control. They are such distractions. I remember being 12 and hearing my orchestra teacher telling us that we could all become great musicians if we just practiced consistently long enough, like an hour a day, instead of watching TV. I felt guilty about it but I wasn’t ready to give up my TV shows and I didn’t. One of my friends did practice for big chunks of time every day. As a result she did go on to be a great musician who plays with the top symphony in her state. Not that I want to play in a symphony orchestra at my age, but I want to create the environment for that high-level of success of whatever my kids’ righteous interests are.
Now I look at these kids and I see them squandering their free time. I wish I could give them a vision of what they can have if they just do the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour thing (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell). I was thinking about it a lot and I realized that the only way they can see someone dedicating her time day after day to nurturing great knowledge and talent is for them to see me do it! I have a huge list of classics I want to read and I also want to learn how to draw and paint. All that is standing between me and those things is dedicated hours every day. Which means dedicating myself to stay in my frontal lobe so I don’t get distracted in the afternoon onto the Internet. I also read this verse, in Abraham 2, about Thee calling Abraham to be a minister of Thy name in a strange land. Then I realized that my strange land is the environment of electronic gadget worldliness that I have allowed to happen right here in my own home, and I can minister in Thy name by not choosing it.
So here is my plan. These are not my official Girl Goals yet, but I will be working on these and gradually work them all into my Girl Goals, over the coming years. Yes, years, maybe even decades! I don’t see it happening in months. I am scared and excited at the same time. I have known that I have wanted to work on these things for a long time, but I just felt overwhelmed by the prospect. That feeling of overwhelm kept me from translating my vague desires of my heart into articulate plans on paper. Hmmm…I guess that was really satan attempting to get me not to even attempt to work on them by spilling overwhelm into my brain. Well, take that, satan! I am fighting back and making plans that I am determined to carry out! Here goes…
To Be a Spiritual Woman
1. Pray first thing in the morning, right after I awaken and go to the bathroom, giving thanks to Thee for all things. Then I will present my plan that I made the night before for the day, and ask if I need to change anything. I am also going to present any questions to Thee and ask if there’s any answer that Thou has that I can find as I next read the scriptures.
2. Read the scriptures, doing the Bible on Monday through Friday and the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church upcoming Sunday lesson on Saturday and Sunday.
3. Write about any insights I receive here in my journal.
4. Read with my family Preach My Gospel, two pages or so a day.
5. Listen to a chapter in the Book of Mormon and a General Conference talk as I get dressed for exercise and fix breakfast.
6. Attend the temple at least once a week with my youth coming with me to do baptisms. Eventually I would like to get them to bring their own names that I teach them how to find.
7. Keep an “Observe then Serve Journal” inspired by Sister Linda K. Burton’s October 2012 General Conference talk. I am going to write down my impressions of how to serve other people and then what I did to serve and what the result was.
To Be a Family Woman: a Mother of Many Nations
1. Continue to have devotional every morning at the breakfast table with my kids and read a scripture story every day, having them mark at least 1 principle in their scriptures, and talking about it.
2. Create time and space in the morning to invite my family to do Power Actions with me individually. After we do our writing we are going to share what we learn. Then we will do Family Power Actions of family scripture reading and family prayer. I am also going to provide a family journal to them where after we do family scripture reading and family prayer they can write down some way they felt the Spirit the previous day.
3. Greet my children every morning with a smile, a hug or kiss, and help the littler ones say their prayers and do their morning habits of getting ready for the day.
4. Not allow cell phones or devices at the mealtime table, unless, we are reading a missionary’s letter.
5. Somehow I am going to have to restrict Internet usage in our home. I have to discuss with Dave how we are going to do this.
6. Work with my children for their morning and evening chores until they have mastered them, and then read aloud to them when they are mastered while they do them.
7. Have one of the kids ages 8 and up have one night a week to fix dinner. Sit down with them on Sunday and plan the meals with each one. Do my shopping on Monday afternoons.
8. Have Friday be Family Service Day where we go do a service project.
9. Do some family outing on Saturday afternoon or evening.
10. Take my youth to the temple for baptisms once a week in the early morning while the little kids are sleeping before Dave leaves for work.
11. Teach my kids how to find names to bring to the temple for baptisms.
12. Each week focus my family history research on the lines branching off from one ancestor. I have 64 fourth great-grandparents so I can focus on one a week for over a year. Then I want to share the stories I find at mealtime with the kids.
13. Have a Family Tree Gathering once a quarter with my extended family like Elder Cook said in April 2014 General Conference.
To Be a Woman of Learning
1. Every year, pick one author’s works to study and then listen to their work on audio for at least an hour every day as I prepare dinner with one of the kids. I am going to start with works by Louisa May Alcott, like Emma is doing, and listen to one right after another until I finish all of her works. I don’t know how long that will take me. Then I am going to move on to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Then C.S. Lewis. Then Victor Hugo.
2. Listen to my favorite podcast on the movement of liberty every day.
3. Learn one new vocabulary word a day and share it with the kids over lunch and write it down in my “new words to know” notebook.
4. Talk to the kids about one country and its capital and languages spoken there at dinner.
5. Start a Nature Sketchbook. Take it with me whenever I take the kids to the park or on a hike, along with my colored pencils. Sketch one thing, a flower, tree, plant or animal, from each outing.
I come up with grand plans all the time but now that I have a plan for tracking my goals, by working on three at a time, I hope I can work up to doing all of these great things. Satan will try to get me to feel overwhelmed, that I can’t do them, or to feel like they don’t matter. But I am on to him! They do matter and I can do them. In fact, at my last class one of the class members was talking about creating Life Visions. She said she wrote out a vision of her life, and then she recorded it to Baroque music. She listens to it every day an hour before she gets out of bed. She is already seeing some of these things manifest in her life, without having to set goals or even think much about them. They just flow into her life. So I am looking into that. What I just wrote seems like a life vision. Maybe I could use that. I thank Thee so much for bringing so much abundance to my life.
If you would like to experience this class for yourself, come take the September Mothers Who Know class. It starts Wed. Sept. 9th!