Monday, March 28, 2011

Penny Update

So this has been pretty humbling.

The first day I attempted to praise my children, I only moved one penny from one pocket to the other. Okay, so I shouldn't have started on a busy Saturday with a full day of cleaning ahead of us. But still.

I really have to get better at verbalizing the positive things I notice about my children. I am thinking it is like any skill. It will improve with time.

So this weeks goal is to put 10 pennies in one pocket and see if I can successfully move all of them to the other pocket in one day by the end of the week.

I did better than Rich. He didn't move any pennies from one pocket to the other that first day. ; )

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pennies in your pocket

I read a great idea yesterday in a magazine. The author was discussing the need to be more positive to children than negative, especially when noticing their character strenghts. He recognized that it is much easier to scold children for what they are not doing than to commend them for what they are doing. That is the truth at our house!

So he suggested putting 10 pennies in one pocket. Then you move a penny to the other pocket every time you give a child a sincere compliment. The goal would be to move all ten pennies to the other pocket by the end of the day.

Isn't that a great idea?

Of course, since we have 8 children, I would have 80 pennies in my pocket!

I love this ideas because it is such a tangible way to remember to praise. I also love it because I want to develop the habit of catching my children being good, but I forget from day to day.

So my plan is to put a pile of pennies in my pocket and see how many sincere compliments I can give each day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go

Yesterday in Sunday School, the teacher referred to Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." He asked us how we know what our treasure is. Answers came back that our treasure is determined by what we use our time, money and thoughts on. He asked us to consider this in our lives to see if we need a course correction.

I have been thinking about it since the lesson. There are so many endless ways to help, and so many endless distractions and demands on a woman's time. It can be hard, for me at least, to keep it all straight.

Tonight I read a blog post that reminded me about my greatest treasure and greatest responsibility right now. It is from my wise friend, Britt, again. She said:

"a CS Lewis book kept coming into my mind…Screwtape Letters. At one point wormwood is reminding screwtape that if a person must feel charitable and have a desire to help, try to focus it on people as far away as possible. Let them feel all sorts of love and compassion for those on the other side of the world, but for those closest to them encourage little annoyances. Especially in this internet world I feel prone to look at those who have real needs far away. It is possible that God wants me to do something for them. Yet it is equally important to cloth the naked and feed the hungry in my own home. One service may get more attention, but both care for God’s children. If we really feel that we’ll go where God wants me to go, that may include time sitting on the bathtub with a child, or into our very own laundry room."

For me, right now, my treasure, where the Lord wants me to spend the majority of my time, thoughts and energy, is at home.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Perfecting ourselves vs. becoming perfect in Christ

Today I was tired from working so hard last week on a Sunday School lesson. I estimated that I spent 12 hours preparing for a lesson on Matthew 5. You see, I teach Gospel Doctrine, and the Temple President, the Stake President, and the previous Stake President, plus any number of ex-Bishops, can be found in our ward on any given week.

That makes me a little nervous.

So I spent hours looking up cross-references in the scriptures and studying commentary from various sources. I spent about two hours each day, Monday through Saturday. That is all my spare time, the time I usually exercise and read and blog, the time I have to do things that make life fun and more than just a lot of work.

The lesson went well, and I think we all felt the Spirit and learned more about being a follower of Jesus Christ. But today I felt pretty worn out from the effort.

Then, this morning as I sat there feeling reluctant to dive into Matthew 6 for next week's lesson (which the team teacher will be handling, thankfully), I glanced at Matthew 5:48. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect."

What does it mean to be perfect?

I did my best to prepare perfectly for my lesson yesterday. As a mother, I try to do everything just right so that my efforts will prepare our children to be adults and to be independent. I try to be perfect as I serve and work and take care of all these bodies and juggle all the demands of life.

But am I trying to perfect myself or am I allowing myself to become perfect in Christ?

It's a fine line that divides the need for individual effort versus the need for faith. However, I read a verse this morning that helped me see things differently.

D&C 121:35 ...their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men...

Am I aspiring to the honors of men? Am I trying to become perfect on my own so that others will give me recognition? Did I work so hard on that Sunday school lesson because the Temple President might be there? Would I have worked as hard for a class of 15 year olds?

The answer is one of those gray areas of life--my motivations aren't completely focused on bringing honor to the Father, but they aren't completely focused on bringing honor to myself either. To have intentions that are free from selfish motive and concern probably takes more than this lifetime.

But the important question I asked myself is who am I relying on?

When I am trying to perfect myself and relying more on my own efforts, then I quickly get impatient with my children for getting in the way of the things I want to get done. When I am depending more on Christ, then I am full of love for my children and I am patient and understanding and slower to react with anger when they don't fall in line with my plans for the day. I know He will somehow help me, and so I can trust that, although things might go more slowly, the important things will still get done.

When I am trying to perfect myself, I am impatient and hard on myself for my weaknesses and imperfections. I am also impatient and hard on those around me. When I am depending on Christ, then I am patient and kind and gentle with others when they make mistakes. I am also more kind and patient with myself. I recognize that change takes time and that we are all doing our best and that the Atonement is real. I see the big picture and am not in such a hurry for everyone to be just the way I want them to be, even myself.

When I am trying to perfect myself, I am focused on worldly things that will bring me the attention of others. When I am depending on Christ, I am focused on spiritual things that will bring me closer to Him and to my Father in Heaven. I feel the Spirit and want to feel it more and care less about things that don't matter eternally.

So how do I stay more focused and dependent on Christ? It all seems to come back to having the Holy Ghost as a companion each day by doing those simple things that the Prophet asks us to do--pray, study, ponder, attend the temple. It also comes from turning my burdens to the Lord in prayer and asking for His help and then trusting that He will give it.

One thing I also realized through this contemplation is that Heavenly Father knows I can't put 12 hours into preparing a Sunday School lesson every week. He doesn't expect me to give up all my spare time and the things I enjoy doing, even for something as worthwhile as service and scripture study. He doesn't expect me to try to perfect myself and rely on my own efforts in order to have successful, uplifting lessons.

He knows who comes to that class. He also knows how much I have to do each day. He just expects me to do the best that I can each week, ask for His help, and then rely on the perfecting power and mercy of the Savior and His Atonement. Then the Sunday School lessons will take care of themselves, and I will still get to exercise and read and blog a little. And maybe I won't be quite so worn out on Monday morning.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What is life all about anyway?

My friend Britt Kelly posted this very poignant thought in her comments on her new fly lady blog:

Life is IN the interruptions.

Love it.