Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Tower of Cups and a Wheat Field...

So we blend a lot of smoothies here at our house...
Several per day, usually.
We put them in clear plastic cups so they are easy to take when we are on the go.
Which is often.
But in an effort to be conservative
(and since they melt in the dishwasher),
we wash and rinse the cups out,
then place them in the windowsill to dry
so that we can reuse them.
There are usually one... or two... in the corner of our windowsill.
But since we've had houseguests this week, we've made quite a few extra smoothies.
Even more than normal.
So we've had this little pyramid going...
Well, this morning, after breakfast,
I lifted Daynen up to the kitchen sink to wash his hands.
He looked at them and said, "Cool! Are doze Jesus cups?"
I wasn't sure I understood what he meant...
My mind was puzzling over whether he meant,
Mmm... like really big sacrament cups, er what?
So I said, "What kind of cups?"
He repeated, "Jesus cups! Let's do the trick!"
Still confused, I said, "What trick? Show me."
He reached for the center cup on the bottom row and pulled it out,
explaining, "Like when Jesus dies and dey awe come tumb-wing down
and da choo-wuch cah-w-ashes."
(Toddlerese to English Translation: ... and they all come tumbling down and the church crashes.")
I couldn't help but smile as I caught on and realized what he was saying.
I guess he really WAS listening at Family Home Evening last week
when we had our lesson about The Great Apostasy...
We labeled some of those same plastic cups and then stacked them,
creating a tower to represent the Church as it was when Jesus Christ was here upon the earth.
Then we pulled out the bottom cup (representing Christ as the foundation of the Church)
and talked about how it all fell apart after his death and the martyrdom of the apostles.
We showed the boys how many of the same principles and ordinances of the gospel remained,
but explained that some were lost, distorted, misinterpreted or even forgotten.
We told them how these scattered pieces were used to build other doctrines
throughout the ages, but remained incomplete until The Restoration.
The big boys seemed to understand the object lesson,
but of course the little ones were way more interested in just building and crashing towers.
The rest went right past them.
Or so I thought...
So imagine my surprise when my sweet, barely-3 year old replays the message to me.
All on his own!
Almost a whole week later!
It was one of those far-too-few-and-far-between "Parent Pay-offs".
You know...
When you realize something you thought went right over their heads,
actually stuck.
Even just a little!
...Guess we'll keep at it!
It also reminded me of a particularly touching talk from last fall's General Conference...
Reaffirmed to me the total and absolute truth of it.
Like many other moms, I sometimes struggle with feeling like I just try SOOO hard...
And for what?
The job often feels overwhelming and fruitless.
Trying to get everyone to cooperate and do the right thing
seems like a lot of hard work
and often even ends up feeling counter-productive.
Sometimes I feel like I. Just. CAN'T. Do. It.
So Elder Bednar's talk pierced me to the core
and warmed my very soul with a rekindled commitment for consistency.
Despite the sometimes discouraging individual instances.
I remember sitting in my car in the Costco parking lot.
Too paralyzed to get out and go inside
as I listened to his words stream in over the radio.
I could not move.
Feeling so filled that my emotions were spilling over.
Streaming silently down my cheeks.
I heard... really HEARD... his words.
Spoken as if straight to me.
It felt as if the teardrops spotting the bosom of my t-shirt
were imbedding them indellibly upon my heart.
So as a reminder to myself,
and to share with anyone reading, who may also benefit,
here is the part that I just loved:
"As our sons were growing up, our family did what you have done and what you now do.
We had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening.
Now, I am sure what I am about to describe has never occurred in your home, but it did in ours.
Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered
if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile.
Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts
such as “He’s touching me!”
“Make him stop looking at me!”
“Mom, he’s breathing my air!”
Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking.
And with active, rambunctious boys,
family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification.
{Uh... ya think? This sounds oddly familiar...}
At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated
because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster
did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.
Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember
about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening,
I believe I know how they would answer.
They likely would not identify a particular prayer
or a specific instance of scripture study
or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson
as the defining moment in their spiritual development.
What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.
Sister Bednar and I thought helping our sons understand the content
of a particular lesson or a specific scripture was the ultimate outcome.
But such a result does not occur each time we study or pray or learn together.
The consistency of our intent and work was perhaps the greatest lesson—
a lesson we did not fully appreciate at the time.
In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field.
The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes—
none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive.
In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass
of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint.
However, as you gradually move away from the canvas,
all of the individual brushstrokes combine together
and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field.
Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together
to create a captivating and beautiful painting.
Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study,
and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls.
No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable.
But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other
and produce an impressive masterpiece,
so our consistency in doing seemingly small things
can lead to significant spiritual results.
“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing,
for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.
And out of small things proceedeth that which is great”
Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes."
That message and that image of the wheat field has stayed with me.
So, here, in this simple stack of plastic cups drying in my kitchen windowsill,
I realized...
I am painting.
Still painting.
Ever painting.
One. Stroke. At. A. Time.
Painting the portrait of my own ever-growing, testimony
and imprinting it upon the hearts of my children.
Helping them to paint their own.
As artists of their own souls.
One prayer.
One scripture study.
One Family Home Evening.
One heart-to-heart chat.
One teaching moment.
One plastic cup tower. At. A. Time...
And THAT...
Well, THAT, I CAN do.
For today.