Sunday, May 5, 2013

Creating Peace at Home

Steve and I were assigned to speak in church last week on peace.  More specifically, I was asked to speak on the talk given in the most recent LDS General Conference by Elder Richard G. Scott.  It is entitled, For Peace at Home and can be accessed in its entirety here.

I learned so much preparing this talk and even though I am through with my speaking assignment I have continued to reference Elder Scott's talk and my notes.  I am so very thankful for the opportunity to speak to the congregation of friends I attend church with.  I felt impressed to post my talk here.  I hope you may also be able to learn something.  We are all so blessed to feel the peace our Savior Jesus Christ can bring if we will but reach out and accept it.

I was assigned to speak on the talk given by Elder Richard G. Scott in the last general conference entitled, “For Peace at Home.”  There is so much in this talk I love.  He starts out by reminding us of the frantic pace the world would have us live and the desire we each have for a place of refuge and peace. 

I think often we think peace in this world is not only difficult to attain but that it is only found within the walls of the temple.  While it certainly is found there, Elder Scott states, “The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece.”

Well, how do we do that in the midst of our busy lives?  For me specifically, how do I do that during days of peanut butter sandwiches pulled apart and smeared on the furniture.  How do I find peace in moments of boys who pull up the sprinkler line in the front yard when I run into start the third load of sheets in two days?

Elder Scott reminds us of the 3 basic fundamentals that can be implemented no matter what our specific circumstance may be; daily personal and family prayer, daily personal and family scripture study, and weekly family home evening.

First, our prayers.  Praying is something I think we do not utilize often or fully enough.  The Lord really does want to bless us, He wants to help us.  Just as we see our children struggling and pleading for help, he longs to hear from us and help us.  He does answer our sincere prayers.  How are we receiving those answers?

We need to do our best not to rationalize the promptings we receive.  Many times our prayers are not answered during the time we spend on our knees but rather as we go about our days. 

In the midst of our day these answers or promptings to do something can be easy to pass off; we often think, “That’s too hard, I could never do that,” or “That would never work, I’ve already tried it,” or “I’m just not that kind of person.”  But these are the very promptings we must follow.  These answers to prayers do cause us to change or do something different than we have done before.  They actually require us to stretch and become more like The Lord would have us be. 

Recently, Steve and I were having a discussion on how frustrating it is as parents to have to repeat ourselves over and over again just to get our boys to follow one instruction.  Just as we were about to go further in the conversation expressing our specific frustrations, we stopped and smiled at each other and asked, how often does The Lord ask us to do something before we actually do it?

The Lord is often not able to answer our prayers without us taking some sore of action.  We must do something different if we want to see a change in our lives.  We must do the hard things he prompts us to do.

Second, personal and family scripture study.  I love that Elder Scott discusses how amazing it is we can carry around all of our scriptures and conference talks in our pocket.  Sometimes it makes me laugh a little when I remember as a kid older people in my ward carrying the extra large print scriptures around, those massive books!

I recently attended a family history conference.  The most prevailing theme of the 3-day conference was the amount of technology we have to do family history work.  This question was posed several times, “What will our great great grandchildren wish we would have recorded?”  This question could also be applied to scripture study, “What do our great great grandparents wish we would do with our time when we no longer have to pull out these volumes of scripture, or search through stacks of old Ensigns for a specific conference talk but can easily pull out something smaller than our hand and read anything we like while using the bathroom?”  Don’t tell me you don’t use it in there!  Think of how they would have rolled their eyes to see us being able to read in the dark, in the middle of the woods if we wanted or even while waiting to pick up our kids from soccer practice? 

While studying for this talk this week, I learned that I love Ether chapter 12.  It is easily one of my favorite chapters of scripture.  I’ve also been really enjoying taking the bishops challenge to read the Book of Mormon studying a specific topic.  What a direct way to receive answers to the problems or questions we have in our lives right now!  If you are desperately seeking or wanting to know what the Lord wants you to know in your life right now, take the bishops challenge.  Pick up that Book of Mormon and dive in, I can promise you will receive the personal revelation you desire.

Elder Scott also has some great advice on how to use the technology we have.  He says, “Be wise in how you embrace technology.  Mark important scriptures on your device and refer back to them frequently.  If you young people would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scriptures memorized.  Those passages would prove to be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance by the Holy Ghost in times of need.”

Third, weekly family home evening.  I love the talk that was given about four years ago in this ward by a newly released singles ward bishop.  What I recall most in his talk was how to teach our children to avoid the evil of the world.  He recommended we take our children to the temple regularly and that by doing so they would start to recognize the peace that comes in being there. 

He said our children would better be able to discern between what is evil and what is holy because they will remember the feelings associated with being in or near the temple.  We don’t have to have 12-year-old children to do this.  All of the temple grounds are dedicated and therefore carry the spirit of the Lord. 

Taking our children to the temple regularly is easier to implement than you may think.  As a family, we spend one family home evening there a month.  It’s the easiest family home evening we have all month and our boys cheer when we tell them we are headed to the temple for FHE!  We let them decide each time what they want to do; watch movies, look at pictures, talk to the missionaries and they always want to hear Jesus talk so we sit and listen to the message given at the Christus.  We then walk over to the temple and have them touch the temple walls and let them run!  Run all they want!  Everybody loves it and I love to hear my boys ask to go to the temple in the days and weeks that follow.  So for a night of no planning on our part we teach them the love we have for the temple and it allows us all to feel of the Savior’s peace and love for us. 

By spending more time in and near the temple we will be more able to recognize the things in our life that are keeping us from feeling the peace we feel there. 

The First Presidency has invited “adult members to have a current temple recommend and visit the temple more often” where time and circumstance permit and encouraged members “to replace some leisure activities with temple service.” They also encouraged “newer members and youth of the Church who are 12 years of age and older to live worthy to assist in this great work by serving as proxies for baptisms and confirmations.”  Even our young children have been encouraged to visit the temple grounds and touch the temple.  President Thomas S. Monson once counseled, “As we touch the temple, the temple will touch us.”
So three things to help us gain peace in our homes; personal and family prayer, personal and family scripture study, and weekly family home evening.  Sounds easy enough, right?  If we are feeling weak in any of these areas of our lives please remember, Satan constantly tries to exploit our weaknesses.  He’s happiest when we are focusing on all that we are not rather than all that we are.  We may be imperfect, but we have the ability to accomplish all that God wants from us here. 

As we were reminded this last general conference, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with.  We are promised multiple times in the scriptures that He will make weak things become strong if we will be humble, seek after Him and do all that we can do.  

Ether 12:27, And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Elder Scott counsels us to recognize the good in others, not their stains.  That we must always build on his or her virtues.  This is true of how we see and treat ourselves as well.

To me anxiety and stress are the direct opposite of peace.  We learn in Doctrine and Covenants Section 130: 20-21,
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

So if you are feeling stress or anxiety over:

·      Your Marriage
o   Pray for your spouse and for your marriage
o   Seek counsel from the bishop if needed
o   Seek professional help if needed
o   Serve the other one, even if you don’t always feel like it
o   Remember how you fell in love, do the things you did then, now; we were poor college students so that means for us going on walks, making dinner for one another, sharing our hopes and dreams for the future, making things for one another, investing in quality alone time with one another
·      Your Children
o   Spend one on one time doing something they love
o   Talk to them without distractions (phones, TV, video games)
o   Ask them how you can help them, what do they need? (sometimes the answer is surprisingly simple)
o   Encourage them, praise them, take any opportunity to build them (our children live in a harsh uncaring world they need all the building they can get)
o   Read and counsel with the Lord over The Family Proclamation
o   Pray for your children and yourself as their parent
o   Ask for personal revelation as to how you can build the relationship with that child
·      Your Finances
o   Get rid of debt
o   Stop buying things (Jen's Nothing New For a Year)
o   Stick to a budget
o   Pray for self discipline
·      The Future of our world
o   Food storage
o  Save money
o   Serve others, bring goodness into the world
o   Recognize the good in others, not the stain
o   Pray for those that are suffering in the world
·      A Problem At Work
o   Look for opportunities to serve those you work with, go the extra mile for them
o   Pray for them and you

I believe there is never a time when the adversary is working harder on us than we are trying to change to be better or work towards a worthy goal.

For us, I always feel this the most when we are in the process of adopting a child.  I am no longer surprised at the lengths Satan will go to in order to keep a special sacred spirit from going to a home where that precious baby can be sealed in the temple. 

After we had Zadok in our home and were waiting months for paperwork to be filed and court dates to be set, I became keenly aware of how desperately Satan wanted to keep us from taking him to be sealed to us in the temple.  Everything seemed more difficult.

·      I was healing from surgery I had undergone only 5 days before we received him
·      Steve and I were arguing rather than talking through differences we had as brand new parents
·      We were working out brand new relationships with Zadok’s birth family that we had met only two days before he came to us
·      I was feeling torn between staying at work or suddenly becoming a stay at home mom with no time to prepare myself or the boss and staff I worked with
·      I was not attending the temple weekly like I had been for years because of all these new demands as a mother
·      This was all on top of the little sleep and increased demands that come with any baby

As completely overjoyed as we felt in the first several weeks after he arrived, it was incredibly stressful.  We needed somewhere we could turn for peace.  We wanted some place of refuge.  Finally we decided that they only way we were actually going to make it to the temple to be sealed as a family and have the peace we were desperately seeking, we were going to have to change.

We started with media in our home and cars.  We completely turned off our TV and didn’t watch any movies.  We stopped listening to the radio.  We started listening more to conference talks, music put out by the church and Classical or other uplifting or relaxing music.

Next, we decided we would not talk about or make decisions when we were tired.  We avoided subjects that were unnecessary or caused stress we could not do anything about.  We also decided to really lighten up on ourselves and each other.  We had never done this before and few people around us had any experience on adopting a baby in under 48 hours, it was difficult and we really only had ourselves and the Lord to rely on.

We also continued to pray together and with our new precious baby.  It was so fun to read scriptures like you would a fairytale to him.  I’m still convinced this is when he learned his favorite line in the scriptures, “And it came to pass.”

The blessings came and the sweet spirit we had enjoyed when Zadok first came returned.  While reading through my journal of that time recently, I was reminded of times we were both in an exhausted stupor with one of us holding him and we would look at each other and grin at one another.   

We literally bathed in The Spirit that came with this sweet baby.  When it came time to take him to the temple I wrote this in my journal, “The morning was overcast and rainy and while the three of us left before everyone else, we started to see cars sliding in the rain and puddles.  I started to get so nervous we would not get there safely and then just as I had that thought I felt as though a blanket were placed over our truck and we seemed to avoid any problems the other drivers were having.”

If we want peace in this world, it is not going to just come to us because we desire it.  We are going to have to make an effort to seek after it, even fight for it.  We need to increase our consciousness of what is getting in the way of the Lord’s Spirit having a constant influence in our homes and minds and then decide to do something about it. 

So often we feel like attaining peace in our homes is a daunting or even impossible task,  as though it would take a miracle.  But we are promised in Ether chapter 12 that if we have faith and are obedient, miracles will happen.  Real miracles.

We are also shown in this chapter that our weaknesses are actually gifts from God.  Isn’t that surprising?  In order for weaknesses to become strengths we must become humble and have faith that the Lord will help us and provide us with his grace.

He is not asking great things from us but simple small things each day.  I believe the Lord actually blesses us on the effort we make rather than the actual outcome of those efforts.  We all fall so very short.  But if we will do our best to have personal and family scripture study, personal and family prayer and weekly home evenings; the Lord will guide us and tell us what else we can do to bring greater peace into our homes. 

We must be obedient to the promptings we receive if we are to bring the miracle of peace into our lives and homes.  He will actually fill in the gaps we leave.  I know this is true as so often I can look back and see how He has done this for me specifically.

I am thankful to have knowledge of Jesus Christ, The Prince of Peace.  I know He lives and desires to bless all of us with His peace.  May we all seek after Him and find peace.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Myth: Openness Fades With Time

Myth Busting Monday

One of the biggest reasons I decided to start blogging again is because I want to normalize the adoption experience for my family and especially my children.  I am frequently asked many questions regarding adoption, which I welcome.  Much of the time these questions originate in misconception or myth, this is my effort to remedy (at least a little) these misunderstandings.  I have found that many times all that is needed is education.  While I do not consider myself an expert, I choose to write from my own experience backed by research when available.

While my experience is no, openness in adoption does not fade or at least it does not have to I sadly know of many open adoptions that have faded and eventually lost track of one another.  The reasons why are as varied as the people involved in them and I cannot possibly address all of those reasons here.

For me, I hope the relationships we are building with our boy’s birth parents continue to grow and become a support to them in the future.  For me, my dad’s last birthday was evidence of that for him.

My dad on his 60th birthday!
My mom and dad were here last week when my dad turned 60.  We spend the early morning talking about his life and all that he has done and all that he would still like to do.  His phone rang for the first time that day and I was sure it was one of my brothers, but when I heard him say, “Can you believe you have a son that is 60?” I was surprised thinking my grandma would be calling so early.  A few minutes into hearing half the conversation I knew it must be Joe, his birth father.  It made me smile.  They talked about kids and jobs and my dad’s birth mother and 20 minutes later ended with, “I hope to get out to see you this year.”

When they hung up my dad and I were able to have a long conversation about the openness of his adoption that took place in the 1950’s!!  How unusual it was and how secure my grandparents were but mostly how much Joe really loved my dad and what a blessing having him in his life was.  It wasn’t always flowers and candy and we talked about how at times my grandparents had to set some boundaries and even how when my dad was grown there were times of hurt feelings after things were said with both his parents and birth parents.  But there was a connection there.  A place to go for answers, a place for understanding of why when before he went to kindergarten his name changed from Joe to Tom and hundred other whys.  Even though my dad is not at all the gushy type, there is another person in the world who thinks of him and remembers him on his special days.  I think my dad appreciates that even if he would never say it.

Having my dad as a reference to go to when it comes to being “the adoptee” is a tremendous advantage for me.  While I am the uber-gushy type, he is more rough around the edges and it helps me balance out how my boys may feel in the future about some of the decisions we make for them now.  My dad is always thinking of them first when it comes to the tough decisions Steve and I take to him at times.  While I am typically trying to weigh everyone’s feelings and interests (which is impossibly difficult in open adoptions) my dad always brings us back to Zad and Ike and thinking of their needs and possible future desires first.  It’s invaluable advice and wisdom I don’t have yet but am gaining as we try to predict what the future of their lives will be like with a lot of extended family.

Recently, I was talking about openness with a new friend when she asked, “So how long are you going to do that for?”  I was honestly taken back.  It was not a question I had ever received much less even thought about.  All I could say was, “For forever!”  I had never considered anything else.  After my dad’s birthday I found myself answering her in my head in a different way, “Is 60 years too long?”  I sure hope not!  I would love to know that someday my kids are getting phone calls on their 60th birthdays from the parents who first loved them.

All of my dad's posterity on his 60th!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Mom, you turn brown like me?"

In the middle of getting two boys out of the tub, getting one boy lotioned up and in his pajamas while the other is jumping off his bed still naked using his towel as a cape pretending to be superman he asks me, "Mom, you turn brown like me?"  

I'm so excited to be at the stage where race is starting to make it's first real appearance in our home and to begin to engage in what I imagine will be many conversations on the subject.  I've read almost anything and everything I can find on transracial adoption; an adoption where the parents and child are different races.  For years I've commented on his beautiful brown skin, how lucky he is be the color of chocolate and he knows this is good because mom loves chocolate.  He hasn't really ever commented back about it, he just seems to observe until now when in the past few days this question has been asked more than once.  So here we go!

Our conversation went something like this:

Z: "Mom, you turn brown like me?"
Me: "No, I'll never be brown like you."
Z: "Why?"
Me: "Because you grew in Norma's tummy and Norma is brown and your birth father is really brown."
Z: "Oh. Where did you grow?"
Me: "In grandma's tummy.  Grandma is white so I am white cause I grew in her tummy."
Z: "Where did grandma grow?"
Me: "In Grandma Frost's tummy."
Z: "And I grow in Norma's tummy, she's brown like me and my birth father is really brown." He says this while jumping from his bed to the floor and I'm glad because it feels casual and I want conversations like this to be comfortable and casual.  "We go see him mom?"
Me: "I wish we could but I've never even seen him.  Someday I hope we can both go see him."

Up until tonight he hasn't really put it together that he has a birth mother and a birth father even though we have talked about it.  I'm excited that he's beginning to put more of his story together.  So I offer to show him a picture of Mo, his birth father.  We pull up the 2 pictures we have of his birth father and talk about his brown skin and black eyes, things Zad inherited from him and for the night he is satisfied and so am I.

I know it won't always be this simple and that a conversation about his birth father will last much longer than a casual 10 minutes while getting ready for bed and scriptures.  Someday I imagine we will talk for hours about his story before he came to us but for now I'm happy to be starting that conversation and happy he feels comfortable asking me his questions.