Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creating a Family Standard

My dear readers,

This is a cross-post from my family's personal blog, but I feel it is worth sharing here. As the world becomes more chaotic and confusing, I firmly believe that we need to be specific and clear with our children about our family's goals and expectations. 

It is my hope and prayer that you and your families can continue to stand for truth and righteousness wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances.

For years, I have been convinced that our family needed a "Family Standard." But it wasn't until this past weekend that we finally finished ours! 
Why do I think our family needs one? 
Well, because there are problems and issues that keep cropping up and causing unrest and contention in our home-- rules and standards that my husband and I thought were understood, but obviously haven't been, due to the negative aspects going on.
So after reminders from our awesome stake president in a recent adult fireside, we decided to finally take action.
(Our stake president assured us that he and his wife have had plenty of "Family Home Grievings" in their home, where they look around and observe the weeping and wailing that comes from renewing and resolving missing standards. That gave me hope!!!)

Joan of Arc

In one of my FAVORITE parenting books, written by my good friend, Nicholeen Peck, she talks about having a Family Standard that is designed specifically for each family. In her book, she mentions how Joan of Arc would go into battle holding her standard, or flag, high so that all the men fighting would continue to have hope and courage to keep going.

Here's what one source said about that:
Joan never actually fought in battle or killed an opponent. Instead, she would accompany her men as a sort of inspirational mascot, brandishing her banner in place of a weapon. She was also responsible for outlining military strategies, directing troops and proposing diplomatic solutions to the English (all of which they rejected). Despite her distance from the front lines, Joan was wounded at least twice, taking an arrow to the shoulder during her famed Orléans campaign and a crossbow bolt to the thigh during her failed bid to liberate Paris.
And from another source:
The purpose of the standard was to indicate a clear location to which her army could rally when dispersed in the confusion of battle. On several occasions when her troops were losing ground, Saint Joan of Arc is reported to have ridden into the midst of battle, using her standard to mark her position on the field, and rally her men on to victory.
"I loved my banner forty times better than my sword. And when I went against my enemy, I carried my banner myself, lest I kill any. I have never killed a man." In Her Own Words, p. 26
 Sometimes, I think our children just need to know FOR SURE where we stand on things, so that they can have courage to keep fighting, keep trying.


 I can't begin to tell you how difficult it was for us to write our standards out on paper. I have been distracted from the task for YEARS, remember! This last weekend we closed ourselves in our bedroom for a day and a half and did not come out until it was FINISHED.
During our standard's creation, my husband and I felt opposition from the adversary in a way that we rarely have before! It was like we were trying to slog through mud in a rainstorm, or trying to drive at 15 miles per hour in a blizzard with very little visibility.
But there was this spark that kept urging us on, and when one of us would get overwhelmed and ready to despair, the other would take up the task and sit down and write. The adversary was using every trick in the book, but at the same time, the Holy Spirit kept whispering words of comfort and encouragement.
We used the Church's booklet, "For the Strength of Youth" a LOT, quoting from it now and then, but also using its outline and format to organize our thoughts. I feel that, if the Lord has a outline and standard for the youth of the Church, then we should have one specific for our children, too!

Every family has a standard.

Whether it's stated or not, every family has a culture and law in how they do things. The standard may be that they don't have any rules! But they still have one by the way they live. If we want to guide the outcomes of the people our children (and ourselves!) become, we need to be sure to have the boundaries that we need set in place.
As I said above, my husband and I had made too many assumptions that our kids knew our expectations and reasons for why we do things the way we do, but as our kids get older, we have seen boundaries that we thought were strong, being bent and pushed. It is human nature to test boundaries, and our kids have been testing ours with a lot of persistence the last few years! We realized we needed to reinforce the boundaries, and build up the walls (Like Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon) to protect our family better from the slings and arrows of the adversary.

Our Family Standard

Our Family Standard turned out to be quite long (10 pages)-- and that's because we were very specific! It's easy to see the areas that have become of real concern to us. (Time wasting, management of electronic devices, pairing off in couples, etc.)
It's interesting that we have had some of the problems above, because we have never allowed any of our kids to have their own electronic devices. We have always talked openly to them about dating standards, and had very frank discussions about not getting romantically involved with others until they are of marriageable age. And yet, we've had issues come up.
Our kids may be homeschooled, but they don't live in a bubble! They know that all the kids at church have their own phones and i-Pods. They know that lots of teens they know walk around with headphones in their ears all day. It is difficult to be different!
I know that we are very, VERY strict parents. BUT, we have worked hard to nurture the relationships we have with our children. That has been one of the REAL benefits in our homeschooling efforts, is that we KNOW our kids! We work on our relationships with them every single day, all day long. And because of that, they trust us. They have been meek and willing to take a look at what they've been doing, and have been willing to change.
Luckily, our family meeting went well. My husband and I are the first to admit that we have some real, BIG shortcomings that we need to overcome. We acknowledge that we are some of the worst perpetrators (especially of the time-wasting!) in our home. So we asked their forgiveness for setting bad examples. We asked for their help in overcoming our weaknesses.
And so, we avoided a "Family Home Grieving" episode, and instead, our home has been filled with peace and love.
Perfection? No.
But overflowing love and feelings of security and hope?
I am so glad that my husband and I pushed through the opposition and finally finished creating our standard. It is helping us all-- me included!-- feel like we have a direction and goals to become the very best disciples of Christ that we can be.
If you are interested in our Family Standard, you can read it here.
I pray ALL parents will have the strength to stand and hold up a righteous standard for their children to follow, however short, long, general, or specific they make it. The hope ours has given our family is real and powerful.
With love,

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A New Servant of God

My son, age 18, has decided to dedicate two years of his life, twenty-four hours, seven days a week, to bringing others to Christ.

In our church, young men and women apply to Church headquarters to receive an assignment where they could be sent anywhere in the world to become missionaries, teaching others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and inviting them to be baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

While these young people are serving, they dedicate all their time and efforts to being missionaries. They separate themselves from worldly entertainment and pursuits, working from early morning to evening teaching people. They leave behind their families, hobbies, friends, cars, college, and EVERYTHING. They call their families at home only twice per year (Christmas and Mother's Day), but they can write their families once a week via email or letters.

In my extended family, we have had lots of missionaries serve. My grandfather served a mission in the Southern states, back in the late 30's, I believe. He spent most of his time in Florida on that mission, and then he and my grandmother returned together to serve in Alabama. Yes, they left behind their grandkids and hobbies to also share the good news about the Savior. It had a HUGE impact on me as a child!!! 

My husband served in Arizona, my brother served in Ohio, and I have brothers-in-law, uncles and cousins (men and women) that served all over the world!

I am so grateful my son has decided that giving two years of his life to the Lord is the most important thing he can do with his life. Here's a video of him opening his call:

So if you live in Eastern Washington or Northern Idaho, watch for my boy on his bike, and maybe feed him now and then? He is looking forward to loving and serving the great people of the Washington Spokane mission! 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why I Keep Having Children

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." ~The Family: A Proclamation to the World

There's a common joke in the world today when people see a large family. It goes something like this:
"Are you Catholic...? or Mormon...? Ha ha ha!"
Really, it's a very OLD joke, because I think we all can see that there are actually not many Catholics or Mormons having large families these days. (I'm only guessing about the LDS birth statistics, but being an active member who moves around a lot, I think I have a fairly good grasp of the average size of most active LDS families. Of course, we still have larger families than most, but anyone can attend a church activity or meeting and see that LDS family sizes are noticeably shrinking from what they once were.)

There are the occasional exceptions to this (like our family), but as a rule, most families, regardless of religion, routinely use birth control or sterilization to stop having children.

Five of my seven lovely daughters, posing after church.

Multiply and Replenish

Today's definition of a "large family" is very different from what it used to be. I have heard gasps of disbelief and exclamation when I have overheard young LDS (Mormon) moms tell someone that they have-- wait for it-- FIVE children. 

The responses range from "Wow, you're a SAINT!" to "Are you CRAZY?" and even "Oh, my gosh. I would KILL MYSELF!"

When people ask how many children I have, I respond in various ways, based on the situation. Sometimes, when I can tell that they might go into shock if they really knew the actual number, I smile and say "A lot." Most of the time, it's just a question people ask to begin small talk. Usually they are not looking for something as earth-shattering as hearing that I have had a dozen children from my own body, no twins. 

I mean, who could be THAT insane?

Brennan with Grayse

Training for Real Life

I think one of the shocking things about having lots of children to many people in our society is that they imagine that I have a dozen two-year-olds running around, driving everyone crazy, and tearing my house apart.

But then, when it occurs to them that I have older children, they start to talk about how nice it is to have older kids to help. Unfortunately, often they then go into how they hope my big kids get a chance to have fun, and that they aren't "raising my children for me."

Yeah, they uncovered my evil plot: I have more children that cost money, time, effort, resources because I want to enslave my older children so they never have any fun. No fun allowed. EVER.

One thing they have right. I want my older kids to know what it is to be a parent. I want them to think about someone else's needs outside of their own. I want them to grow up knowing how to love and serve others. I want them to know that the universe does not entirely revolve around them.


Diabolical, I know...

My five handsome sons

Suffer the little children to come unto me

There is a relatively new movement of Evangelical Christians having large families. (A very famous family, the Duggars, are part of this growing philosophy. And yes, we love their show at our house!) They call it "Quiver-Full," and I have been asked by people who don't know what my religion is if I am part of it.

I have said yes. Which is kind of true, because I know what the movement is about, and I happen to agree with the principles of it, even though I'm not Baptist.

I've also said, "No," and then explain that I am LDS (Mormon). Sometime, when I give that answer, the person may back away slowly, nervous of what I might say next. But then, they might remember the old joke about Mormons and Catholics, and now have a story to tell about a REAL, LIVE Mormon lady they actually met who had a ton of kids.

Hey, I'm willing to provide that service! But no, my pathetic obsession with being the center of attention is not the reason I have a large family. I promise.

I have children because that is what the Lord has commanded my husband and I to do.

And no, I am not now going to go into a diatribe about how selfish other couples are, and about how evil birth control is, or about how I'm trying to buy my way into heaven by having a houseful of children. (This is for the fellow LDS sister who asked me the other day why I wasn't translated yet.)

All I am saying is that the Lord has asked me, through personal revelation from the Holy Ghost, to welcome each and every one of these children of His into my heart, my home, and my family. 

I don't know for certain all the reasons why the Lord wants me to have this many children, but I DO know that I am far, far, FAR from perfect, and that this is one way the Lord is teaching me to get over myself by serving others.

I am fully aware that I still have a LONG WAY to go.

My mom with her siblings and my grandmother.

Doing My Part

Growing up, I always knew that I personally wanted a large family. I come from a long line of large families, especially from my mom's side of the family tree. My mom is number five of eight children, and I have always LOVED being with my entire extended family. My very BEST memories of my childhood are tied to those close, loving, BIG, family relationships. I knew that I wanted to be just like my beautiful and stalwart grandmother by having a large posterity around me forever. To this day, that vision of having all my children and grandchildren around me throughout my life thrills me to no end.

And I already get to have that joyful noise and warmth around me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. My life is filled with joy!!! How could I regret inviting any of these awesome people to be such a big part of my life? How? How? HOW?

I couldn't. And I haven't. I feel really good about that.

Now that I have a big--okay, MEGA-sized-- family, I am learning all kinds of really neat things about big families.

The reality of life is that the world needs CHILDREN. 

It's actually kind of scary. 

Who will be the next generation of citizens, parents, teachers, leaders, when so many of them are tragically slaughtered in the U.S. and all over the world every single day?

My heart breaks for those I know and love that have not been able to surround themselves with all the children they hoped and planned for. 

Infertility is a HUGE problem, and it frustrates me to see how so many wonderful couples want children, and then compare that to how many couples reject welcoming children in to their families. 

I don't know how to sort all that out, and I'm grateful I don't have to! But I know that the Lord is over all, and that He will work it all out in the end.

Our precious twelfth child, Davy

One more

It should come as no surprise to my readers that I am now expecting my thirteenth baby, due in mid to late April of 2014. 

Am I surprised? 

Yes, and no. I really thought our Davy was the last. 

But then, I thought that about baby #7, and then about baby #10, and then about baby #12.

The Lord is asking me to step into the dark once again. He wants me to trust His plan and bring one more baby into our family and into the world. 

I have had some very sacred experiences with the spirits of my unborn children. I am careful about what I share, but I can honestly say that I know that each one of my children is supposed to be here. I know that they are meant to be a part of our family-- that God sent them specifically to my husband and me to raise.

I am doing my very best to help them return to our Father in Heaven. Thank goodness for the Lord's help in doing so!

I assure you that I feel that responsibility keenly, and that I take it very, VERY seriously. None of my children are "a mistake." They were invited by my husband and I, and they were sent by God.

I testify of the divinity of parenthood. It is a holy calling and the greatest work ANY of us can do. I am so grateful for the chance to be a small part of the grand design.

With gratitude and joy,
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