Well, I got paged right before Sacrament meeting, naturally. I was grateful I had gotten all the kids bathed, and grateful I had gotten myself cleaned up. I left for the hospital as Nathan was loading up kids for church. When I got there, I was able to get done what I needed to do and run to the church for sacrament while I waited on another hospital to do their part. That’s too much chaos for a Sunday.
Nathan had to leave, too, for a community service thing he was doing. He wrestled long and hard about whether to do it or not, since it was on Sunday, but landed on the service side of things and on the bridge-building-testifying side of things. That’s how it came to be that we abandoned all our children in the middle of church, on a Sunday, for us to go back to “work” (well, mine was work, but Nathan’s was not).
It’s a hard thing, when it’s my turn to cover the ER, or when Nathan has a show in production and one of those shows is on Sunday (this week was not a show, but there is one coming up – and he asked not to be paid for that show, but he still has to be there). I know that legalism is not what the Sabbath is about, but we really do take the Sabbath seriously and so very much appreciate the experience of it and the blessing from it. So if sometimes it is just required of us, then how else can we keep the Sabbath as a family when right now we are not always free to do so in a legalistic way?
I wrestle with that, and struggle with that.
Some things I should know, like at work in my downtime reading talks or lessons instead of doing homework. Or wearing a dress to help me remember it’s the Sabbath, even if I am going to be at the hospital all day. Or by focusing on time with Nathan and the children, instead of doing my own thing.
One way we to focus on the children is by making all the kids cry. That’s always nice. There is not much meaner even than screaming NOOOOOO!!!! in slow motion as the kids step in the pizza… other than making a big giant pan of eggs and sausage in the morning, letting them watch you roll them into burritos, and then wrapping them in paper and sticking them in the fridge for another day. It’s the sure fire way to be an awesome mom, cooking a nice hot breakfast that no one can actually eat on Fast Sunday (the kids made cereal again, of course, this time all over the floor, but that’s another story).
While I was still at the hospital, Nathan talked to the kids about the Sabbath, and about why we do not work on the Sabbath, and how it is hard on days that we have to – and how other helping professionals must, like firemen or police officers. He talked to them about how the Sabbath is for resting, for remembering what God did, for family history work, for family time together, and for helping others. They decided they wanted to do service, then, and so to surprise me before I came home, everyone cleaned someone else’s room. How sweet is that? Those sillies, and what a funny example of not being legalistic, since the cleaning could be work! Their sweet spirits, though, were so tender, and they really worked hard at helping each other, and I am proud of them for trying to learn.
One step at a time.
I did not get out of the ER until after 5, but was grateful to be home and present before the children went to bed. We are working on a children’s book series about the prophets. There is a book for each prophet of this dispensation, and after we finish a book then we watch the “Living Scripture” movie about that prophet. Right now we are working our way through the Joseph Smith book, and tonight read the story about Moroni coming to tell him about the plates buried in the hill.
And I wondered, “How did Moroni know English?”
Now, I know that this is a silly question, and that my theology does not hang in the balance over it. I am just curious. He was there as a person, and really visiting him, not just a vision, so was their talking actual talking? Or did Joseph understand by the Spirit? Or was it revelation, like spirit-to-spirit? I am just curious. It’s not actually any of my business. But when your home is full of preschoolers, this is the kind of thing that comes up.
We had cookies and milk tonight, thanks to Nathan’s sweet gesture last night, and it was lovely to just sit at the table visiting with the children. They are all growing and changing so fast, and Toddler is with us now in the evenings when she used to already be asleep. I can’t believe she is turning into a real child! She really is! We said prayers together, and tucked each of them in with a story and a song and their individual prayers, and then I went to play cello while they fell asleep.
Ah, my cello.
It’s another example of the Sabbath, because if it were just me, in my own little legalistic monastery where I lived all by myself, I would never practice cello on a Sunday.
But now, on a Sunday, play hymns for my children to fall asleep to? Yes. I think it’s beautiful. It’s a connection for us, something I can give them, something that lets them know I am really home tonight, something they will always remember. That is of God.
Our home teachers came, then, and talked to us about the Atonement. I grew up knowing about the cross and Jesus dying and the resurrection, about forgiveness, and about eternal life. It wasn’t until I converted to LDS that I learned about the suffering in the Garden and its direct impact on forgiveness, or about the increased capacity to obey and serve that we get from the atonement. And it wasn’t until this Ensign, or this lesson, that I learned comfort was a part of that.
Assurance, he said.
Well, of course, my head knows this.
But for a quick moment, my spirit got it, finally.
In the article, President Uchtdorf says:
Though none of us will ever have to experience the depth of what our Lord suffered, we each will have our own dark and bitter hours—times when our sorrow and grief may appear to be greater than we can bear. There will be times when the weight and remorse of our sins will press mercilessly upon us.
Even so, if we will lift our hearts to the Lord during those times, surely He will know and understand. He who suffered so selflessly for us in the garden and on the cross will not leave us comfortless now. He will strengthen, encourage, and bless us. He will encircle us in His gentle arms.
I needed this.
It is new for me, this idea of the atonement offering comfort. I know the Holy Spirit is the “Comfort-er”, and obviously having the atonement is a great comfort because I would be lost without it. But the idea of the atonement itself offering me comfort directly is brand-spanking-new to me, and is going to take some time to settle in. I need to wrestle with it for awhile.
I remember a talk from General Conference once that included instruction about keeping the Spirit as part of the Sabbath, and that the rules for Sundays are not meant to oppress, and especially not to make children miserable on Sundays. I couldn’t find the talk to link to it, so please leave it in a comment if anyone remembers when or which one it was. But I didn’t have kids then, I don’t think, or maybe it was right after I got them. I wondered about the comment then, and how the audience laughed at it like it was funny but also they were guilty, and I wondered what it would be like for me. I understand now that Sundays are hard as one more day to get up early to get kids out the door on time, or on years like this one when our rotation is in the afternoon, it is painful endurance as we step out to church just as naptime should be starting. I understand the trying to get kids clean some time between playing hard all day on Saturday and arriving in the pew on Sunday. I understand the disgusting display of snot and gummied crackers that get wiped on my “best” clothes, the urgency at which a mom has to move to get so many kids out the door on time, and the temper tantrums that come at the last minute, delaying everyone, and probably caused by my change with the urgency instead of the gentle persuasion I can use when I am in a spirit-place instead of a we-have-to-leave-now place. I understand what it means to lay prostrate on the floor in my bedroom to cry repentance, covered with blankets because there are no rocks under which to hide, while all the children are crying in time out on the other side of the door. I understand what it means to land in the pew, begging for sacrament because I yelled at the kids for running through their pizza, and feeling terrible because it was my own voice that chased away the spirit in our home. I understand what it means not to want to take my babies to nursery because two hours together is precious, but battling them all the way because it is good and healthy and right for them even though I’d rather just sit and cuddle with them all day while I can. I understand what it means to slump into my chair in Sunday school, just to breathe for a moment without children pawing at me, wondering when I will ever get better at this, and if I will figure it out before they are gone. I understand what it means to look at a new baby in her mother’s arms, and wonder what it is like to give birth to a baby who lives, and I almost-very-soon will understand what it means for a judge to say kids can stay for keepsies, for the temple to say eternity is possible, for me to determine not to yell about the pizza next time because eternity is more important than tomato sauce on the carpet.
I don’t know very much, but I know to keep trying. I know that the atonement covers me like my repentance blanket, and somehow makes it okay for me to still approach my Father-in-Heaven the way I hold those babies when they finish their two minutes or six minutes in time out. I know that the atonement increases my capacity, far more than what I can do on my own, and that the only time I really fail is when I get lost in what I want instead of what He wants. I know that while I would love a weekend of being nourished by General Conference, the most important thing will be creatively making a positive General Conference experience for the children, so that one day they will want to be there, will want to pay attention, and will want to follow the prophet. I know that pulling that off will mostly mean me trying hard not to yell about tomato sauce on the carpet, and instead focus on how funny pizza feels between your toes. I know that my home teachers promised me that the atonement brings comfort, too, and that if I pray about that and think about that and study about that, it means I will learn more about it and start to know that, too.
Even if the only time I actually get to hear General Conference is at 4 in the morning, on my way to chaplain before work.
And maybe, just maybe, that leads to a greater understanding than if I yelled about pizza long enough to make every child quiet enough for me to hear every single word as it was said while conference was happening live.
Sister Oscarson said:
“We should ‘make our homes’ places of order, refuge, holiness and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.”
We have work to do.
In Nathan’s writing work, one of his favorite things and best skills (besides the crafting of words) is creative placemaking. This is when the play or musical or whatever it is becomes a part of the space in which the audience actually is, rather than only on the stage. It uses the environment itself as part of the creative experience, and it’s an amazing and powerful thing.
I think that’s what we need to do at home, maybe, besides just following rules.
How do we create our home into a place where the Spirit is felt in “rich abundance”, and where our primary goal in every moment is one of defending our home as a holy place? While that does require the rules that comes with covenants we have made and the lifestyle that is our religious culture, it is actually very Spirit based. It takes a different kind of parenting, one that focuses on where the children are and what they need, rather than what my agenda is that day.
That makes me think of chaplaincy, and it makes me wonder if that is part of why I got called to this, because I really need to learn it for my children.
That gives me something to think about today, besides tomato sauce on the carpet… or how it was me who put the pizza on the floor, anyway, while the kids had a picnic and I was trying to feed a baby and braid Six’s hair and assuming everyone would just walk around it rather than in and through it.