Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Help Them Aim High

I have always felt that one of my main purposes as a mother is to help my children reach their fullest potential. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but I didn't fully understand the full measure of that responsibility until my children started growing up and their personalities started developing and I began noticing all they were capable of. The amazing thing about it is that this process began much earlier than I ever imagined it would, when my children were small. I never expected to notice certain gifts in my children when they were young, but I have found children these days to be truly amazing and it has not taken years of maturity and life experience to bring out some of their strengths, however simple they may be, such as a kind heart or the gift to forgive easily or perhaps the ability to lead others.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints shared an inspired message on the topic of helping our children aim high in this past October General Conference. He explained how every person has been blessed with specific gifts and encouraged parents to help children recognize the spiritual gifts with which they are born. He says this, "Every person is different and has a different contribution to make. No one is destined to fail." I love that statement! He then encourages us to help our children aim high.

President Eyring said we as parents need to build our sons' faith that the Lord can transform them into servants "braver than the timid boys we see." Isn't that a powerful thought? He said the greatest gift we could give our youth is to hold the goal of eternal life as families out in front of them. He talked about his daughters, too, and said when he prayerfully sought guidance, he was shown ways to help his "daughters recognize the trust God had placed in them as servants who could build His kingdom." He explains that "God loves each of His children as individuals and sees great and unique gifts in each of them"  and tells us as parents that we "will be inspired to help others discover their special gifts from God."

President Eyring shared one way he helped his own children to aim high. He carved personal inscriptions on boards for his sons, with carefully selected scriptures and special dates carved into each board. The boards were designed to help each son see his spiritual gifts and what he might contribute in the Lord's work as he grew older.

I loved this idea! Not being much of a carver, however, I wondered what I could do to help my sons--and my daughters--understand their intrinsic value and have a desire to serve the Lord. I have noticed certain attributes in my children that endear me to them, attributes I feel the need to help them develop deeply and turn into strengths that can be used in the service of God and others. The question is, how do I help my children understand these qualities and help them have a strong desire to develop them?

An idea came to me when I was in Hawaii, of all places, on a little vacation away from my family. While at the Polynesian Cultural Center, I came across a booth that was selling bracelets that had names inscribed in Hawaiian. The draw was that a person could have a bracelet made with their own name inscribed (even with original spelling) in the Hawaiian language. I thought this was pretty cool, but I had a better idea! With my children in mind, I chose an attribute for each child and had that attribute inscribed in Hawaiian on a personally chosen bracelet. The downside was that I was not feeling well and could hardly think straight. It seems like a simple task to come up with a single word to describe each of my children, but I'm telling you, it was anything but easy. I wanted the perfect word for them, the one word that would help shape their very souls and their futures, and so I racked my brain (and my mother-in-law's, who happened to be with me at the moment) until we finally came up with five words--one for each of my children. Looking back, I probably would have done a couple of them a little differently, but all in all, I think it was successful, and hopefully there was some inspiration involved.

First is Berkley: Her word is "Makana," which means, "the gift." She is such a gift in our lives, I couldn't help but put this inscription on her bracelet.

Next is Boston: His word is "Wiwo 'Ole," which means "Courage." My hope for him is that he will have the courage to stand up for what is right and the courage to be the young man God wants him to be.
This is for Regyn: Her word is "Manaoio," which means "faith." To me, faith is one of the most important attributes needed in the world today. Without it, one just won't make it. With it, there is power to do and become anything. Faith in God and His Son makes all the difference. Oh, how I hope for this in my sweet daughter!

This is Nate's bracelet: His word is "Koa," which means "warrior." This was not hard to choose for him. I have always seen him as a warrior, a warrior for the truth. ( I love the little warrior guy that is in scripted by the word, btw).  
Lastly, Hallee: Her word is "Pono," which means "virtue." I had a hard time choosing a word for her because . . . idk. . .I just wasn't sure what fit best. But then it just came to me. Virtue. A trait that seems to be fading in the world today. I thought of my sweet, beautiful daughter, and I chose this word.
Then later, in a special Family Home Evening, we talked about President Eyring's message. I shared my love for each of my children, calling them up one by one, looking each of them in the eyes, and presenting them with a special bracelet with their inscribed word. Along with the bracelet, I had made laminated scripture messages that went along with the attribute. I told them to put the scripture in a place they would see it often and remember their special gift.

These pictures are all out of order, but you get the idea.
Nate's word is WARRIOR,  and his scripture describes the Stripling Warriors in the Book of Mormon (remember his poster from Christmas of the StriplingWarriors? So fitting). I love the attributes of these young men (valiant, firm and undaunted, obedient, courageous, thought more of others than themselves, etc.) and feel if my son could possibly develop these in any way, he could make such a difference in the world. He seems to be born to lead, and these are the attributes of a good leader. I talked to him about being a warrior for truth and righteousness, no matter what was happening around him. I hope and pray he can become this kind of young man. It won't be easy.

Regyn's scripture was about FAITH. There are lots of scriptures about faith, but for some reason, this is the one that felt right to me. It's from the Book of Mormon again.

This is Hallee's poster from Christmas, too. It's of Esther. She stuck her scripture in the corner of this, which was pretty fitting, if you ask me. 

Hallee's word was VIRTUE. I just love this scripture! So simple but so profound and powerful! It's found in Proverbs.

Berkley's scripture is about GIFTS. Berkley is such a gift in our lives that I couldn't help but make her a bracelet that said "gift." I found these scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants that talk about gifts, and I thought they were perfect.
Boston's word was COURAGE. This scripture was about the Stripling Warriors, too.  I love the word "valiant" and think it goes along with courage so well, especially when talking about being courageous in doing what is right. Oh, how I hope my children will develop these attributes!

Truthfully, I'm not sure Boston totally caught on to how important the whole concept/experience  really was (although he's taken excellent care of the bracelet), and it wasn't exactly the completely silent, gigantic spiritual experience I always hope for as I mentally plan these events, but I will tell you that the experience with Hallee was worth it all. I called her up and told her about her word, "pono," which means virtue, and I read her scripture to her about a virtuous woman being worth more than rubies. I told her how absolutely beautiful she is--inside and out--and how virtue is so hard to find in the world today, but I knew if she would remain virtuous, the Lord had amazing things in store for her. I told her how very much I loved her, and the tears just streamed down both our faces, the air thick with love and the spirit. It was one of those sweet, tender moments you never want to forget.

Now, of course this little gift is only one small step in the journey of helping my children understand who they really are and who they are meant to become, but I'm so grateful for every time I get some sort of inspiration that moves us in the right direction. Nate left recently for a baseball tournament in Phoenix  AZ and it was great to say, "Son, remember who you are. You are a warrior," and I knew he knew exactly what I meant.

I've been told I'm a bit intense and that it's possible I expect too much of my children. Maybe it's true. All I know is I look at these kids of mine, and I see all they are capable of, and I know I can't let them down by being too casual about things of great importance. I just can't. And so I plan to do all I can to help them aim high because . . . well, I just love them so darn much and I know they can do it!

Here they are modeling their bracelets (ok, "modeling" might be a strong word, but you get the picture:).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Because Even Moms Need Breaks Sometimes . . .

. . . to Hawaii!!

Yes, that's right! This year for a little "Girls' Retreat" my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and I decided to go for the gusto and we all met up in Hawaii for a five-day get-away. I can still hardly believe we made it happen. It's usually hard enough to get away for one night just to go to Park City or something. I had joked this year that we should go for a weekend to Denver, where one of my sisters-in-law lives, and that seemed almost too much to hope for, so to think we pulled off Hawaii is pretty darn amazing. It's all possible because my dear mother-in-law dares to dream, and I love that about her. She isn't afraid to think anything is within reach. She and my father-in-law had already planned a Hawaiian cruise, which led to their daughters meeting them in Hawaii for a few days at the end of the cruise, which led to all of us women meeting my mother-in-law there for five days of fun! I won't share all the details. I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

The first few days of our trip we stayed up north on the island of Oahu, on Turtle Bay.

This is how I felt about being there. I was so excited to wake up to the sun! It just felt so refreshing to see and feel the sun every morning after months of harsh winter in Utah, let me tell you. And I was excited to be going to the beach. It had been a while. 
This was the view out our balcony. I got up early every morning and read scriptures and just basked in the beauty. It was a great way to start the day.

A little closer view. I sent this picture to my husband and he was so jealous we were staying on a golf course.
If you're going to be in Hawaii, you might as well drive in style. I felt so out of my element, but decided to just go with it:). It was fun to just let go of my normal practical self and have fun with the girls for a few days. 

Playing  beach volleyball. To me, it doesn't get much better than this. 

We met this gold medal Olympian (winter Olympics--she's a skiier) from Australia (second from left) and she was so sweet, we had to get a picture with her. I wish I could remember her name, but I am brainless these days. What are the chances, though?
Got up early one morning to go to the temple. It was perfect timing for me because on the way there I  found out my grandfather had passed away. I was so grateful to be in this holy, sacred place for a while and ponder his life and also the reality that because of temples and the sealing ordinances that take place there, families  can be together forever. 

I love the words on the temple: "Holiness to the Lord-The House of the Lord"
Spent a lot of time on different beaches. It felt so good to relax.

There is just something so soothing about the warmth of the sun.

We also tried some boogie boarding, which I always love, although I've gotta say, California waves are best for boogie boarding. Still had a blast, though.
We are some of the best food ever while there! This was from a Thai place call Opal's Thai. It was a food experience, let me tell you! This guy just ordered the food for us and we had no idea what we were going to get. I was pretty nervous about it, but was fantastic food!

My sister-in-law Jen made us this amazing oatmeal for breakfast with fresh fruit in it in the morning. I thought it was fabulous! We were so spoiled.
Did I mention we swam with turtles? I took this picture with the turtle right  in front of me. I was worried it was going to snap at my legs any minute. Hence, it's not a great picture!
I realize these pictures are getting all out of order, but here we are eating at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Honestly, I don't think the food there is great, but visiting the PCC is always an adventure. I wasn't feeling well that day, so I couldn't really soak it all up, but it's definitely a cool place to experience.

The last couple of days of our trip we went to a super nice resort right on the beach called Koa Olina (pretty sure I spelled that wrong). Below are a few pictures of the resort. It was pretty amazing--way nicer than I am used to, that's for sure.

One of the most amazing things about Hawaii are the sunsets. Because we were staying right on the beach, we caught a couple of amazing ones. I just never cease to be in awe at the beauty of all that surrounds me. In Utah, it's the mountains. In Hawaii, it was the foliage and the sunsets.

So, all in all, I was gone from my family for six days. I don't think I've ever done that before, and although I'll admit it was a nice break in a lot of ways, I must say, I was more than ready to come back home. The last couple of days I was antsy as ever to get back. I even called the airline to see how much it would cost to change my ticket and come home early. I know how crazy that sounds, but man alive, I do love home.

Here is a message I wrote in the sand and sent to my husband and children while I was gone.
I also learned something while I was gone. I've always taught my children that our home was a safe place, a place where they could always feel love and security, no matter what else happened in the world around them. I've told them that if they had a rough day out in the world, they could know that they would always come home to two parents who loved them like no one else on the planet and siblings who had their back and were on the same team. I've meant that, of course, and have hoped it would help my children through some rough days when kids at school might bully them or when they might face disappointment--or whatever it might be. I just never considered that I might be the one who would need that "safe place."I had an experience in Hawaii that was really tough, and I was alone and I felt like I would break. I just yearned to be home in that "safe place," where I knew I was loved and accepted, despite all my flaws as a wife and mother and person, but instead, I was a whole ocean away from the people I needed most. And it was so, so hard.

When Dan pulled up by the curb at the airport and my kids jumped up from behind the seats to surprise me, I wrapped my arms around them all at once and cried the biggest tears of joy and deep, deep gratitude that they are mine and that they love me. Oh what a blessing it is to be loved!

And so, although I totally think moms need breaks sometimes--even amazing breaks, like Hawaii vacations--I just have to say, I think I am happiest right here at home, in my "safe place."