GCBC Week 16: “Protect the Children” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

This week’s talk is one of those powerful, direct talks with a good dose of doctrine and apostolic warning. Elder Oaks reminded us all of our obligation to care for the children of the world. His stern reminder reinforced the absolute necessity (in God’s plan) for righteous parenting.

Protect the Children By Elder Dallin H. Oaks

dallin-oaks

What stood out to you from this talk? What can we do to obey and honor this principle in a world that is failing many of God’s children? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

Children Are an Heritage of the Lord, by Ken Craig


By the last week of April, our plans for a November baby were in place, and the anticipation was settling in.

By the first week in May we knew a miscarriage was imminent.

It didn’t sneak up on us, but I’m not sure how you prepare for something like that. Katie knew something had been wrong for a few days, and was grappling with the possibility of a miscarriage long before I considered it. And even though she told me when her concern started, I dismissed it. I didn’t discount that something might be wrong, or insist that it wasn’t a miscarriage. But I held on to the thought, or maybe hope, that it was something else. Something less definite.

I don’t think I realized how much of that day for Katie was spent processing what was most likely happening or what could be happening or what she hoped wasn’t happening. As the husband, without the constant reminder that life is growing within me, I operated on the daily assumption that when Katie wasn’t telling me something, it meant that everything was fine; and when she did tell me something, I could take a moment to wish and hope it away.

I prayed often for Katie. More than morning and night. But I remember the palpable moment I realized that my prayers and supplications were subconsciously or maybe intuitively always for Katie, and not necessarily the baby. And I think that’s when I started to slowly, but not out loud, accept what was already impressing upon me in small waves.

This baby was not coming.

Over the next few days, we didn’t discuss it much.  I didn’t understand what might be happening, so I didn’t know what to prepare for. I would often hug her and ask, “Are you okay?”

She would look away, distracted, dealing with her own feelings. “Yes,” she said simply, and moved on with her tasks.

It seemed so ineffectual, merely asking if she were ‘okay.’  I wished I could tell her what was really in my heart.  I wanted to say, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.  I’m so sorry I can only stand here completely helpless and watch you emotionally dragged and quartered.  I’m sorry I don’t know how to make this all go away and heal your body and strengthen your soul.  Please tell me what I can do to show my concern.  Please tell me that you’re not ‘okay,’ but that if I were to do this or that, you would be.  And please, please don’t let me go through this by myself.”

Then, late one evening, Katie asked me for a priesthood blessing. I knew the request was time-sensitive, so I immediately called a close friend and asked him to come assist me in administering to my wife.  As I placed my hands on Katie’s head, I could feel how loved she was by her Father in Heaven.  How known she was.  How important.

I waited for the clarity to come that all would be well with the baby, but it wasn’t happening.  I waited longer.  Never had I struggled more against the impulse to mix my emotions with the revelation I was receiving on somebody’s behalf.  Everything in me wanted to tell Katie that she would be blessed to give birth to a beautiful baby and her body would heal.  Life would be as wonderful as she hoped.

But those impressions never arrived.  I found myself making all kinds of additional promises to Father, if only He would grant us this one blessing.  But I knew what needed to be said.  I felt impressed to promise Katie that this experience would draw her closer to Him, that whether a baby came or not, she would be at peace in her heart and mind, and in her soul.  Somehow, that knowledge brought me a degree of hope that I had not anticipated.

The next morning Katie seemed remarkably calm. Not carefree, but peaceful. She said she knew this pregnancy would not develop into a child. And she felt calm and comforted by the blessing. I could see that she was blessed with understanding and insight. I felt reassured by her confidence. My feelings up to that morning had truly been focused on Katie’s well being. A miscarriage would affect her physically, as well as emotionally and mentally. My understanding and acceptance of what was happening were a direct response to hers; I was relieved at her confidence and was now determined that everything would be fine. If Katie was at peace, so was I.

Right?

Wrong.

I left for work that morning, hoping that the background noise of the radio would provide a needed distraction during my commute.  I was ten minutes into my drive when the world suddenly slowed down and my mind became singularly focused.

I began to process my own reaction to the reality that a child I was anxious to know and love would not be arriving. I felt like I was going to miss the chance to meet somebody who would have affected my life in a beautiful way…and there was no way to retrieve that specific opportunity.  Suddenly, I felt swallowed up in sadness.  I wasn’t angry or resentful.  I didn’t feel cheated or that life was unfair.  I just felt sad.  And that sadness enveloped me.

The radio became so hushed I just turned it off.  I became unaware of other cars, other drivers.  The air was still and stifling, and I felt energy draining off me like steam.  When I arrived at the office, I pulled into the parking lot and sat in my car, no initiative to leave my seat.

My emotions are very near the surface under even the most benign circumstances; so with the profound sadness I was experiencing, I found that I was crying, quietly.  I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotions, nor did I feel that my exterior was cracking. But I knew that I didn’t feel like talking about what was going on.

I worked half the day and then left for an ultrasound appointment with our midwife. As Katie and I drove to the office, our conversation included speculations from one side of the spectrum to the other. From “Maybe I was never pregnant?” to “What if we’re completely off and everything is okay?” But when the ultrasound showed what we had already suspected, that a miscarriage was imminent, we weren’t startled. That sadness briefly stung my heart again, and I studied Katie’s face, searching for any detectable sorrow. I thought I could see it, but it was buried under a brave, accepting face, so I didn’t say a word to her. I felt like speaking would have pulled the foundational block out from under her pyramid of strength, and her calm exterior might have given way. And that just seemed unnecessary. So I simply squeezed her hand.

We drove home somewhat oddly comforted in knowing for certain where we were at, physically. We didn’t say anything to anybody else, as we hadn’t told anybody yet, not even our parents. The next couple of days were just watching and waiting, but brought us closer. I felt conscious of Katie and what was going on inside her.

At the end of that week, my parents were set to arrive at our house for the weekend, and literally, as I heard my kids squealing that Grandma and Grandpa were here, Katie found me and told me that it had just happened. She cried a light, heartfelt sigh of relief, finally feeling that she had turned a page and felt closure from a long, uncertain experience. I hugged her so close I wasn’t sure if my hug was sustaining her or vice versa.

I walked outside and met my parents at the car. I hugged them, helped grab their stuff, and then told them a little about what the last week had been like. I wanted to let them know so they could be sensitive to Katie.

My dad and I were taking my boys camping for the night, and Katie and my mom and the girls had planned to do a Girls’ Night at home. As Katie went into the kitchen to start their special dinner, my mom pulled Katie in to her and said, “Don’t you worry about dinner. We’re going out. Let’s take it easy tonight.”

I watched Katie melt into my mom’s embrace, crying. Of course it was more than the promise that she wouldn’t have to cook dinner. It was being understood, being cared for. It was the profound link between women, between mothers. It was an answer to prayer and the fulfillment of a blessing.  My mom had had a miscarriage between my two youngest brothers and so understood much more deeply than I, though I wanted to. And Katie felt that. I will always be grateful that my mom was there; that she is exactly who she is, with the instincts that she has, and the love she’s had for Katie since day one.

As I thought about that moment I realized how many people I know and love who have had miscarriages. But for how common they are, rarely are they discussed. I imagine it’s because the event may be common, but the experience is personal. It was for us. It seems like a very private grieving; mourning the loss of possibilities, of plans.

We have since added a seventh child to our little family.  Like her brothers and sisters, she has added a measure of joy to our lives that goes beyond expression.  We’re grateful for her sweet spirit in our home.

I’ll always remember that touch of sadness that accompanied that unique experience of ‘what might have been.’ But through it all, I knew Heavenly Father was mindful of us, that he was aware of our anxiety, our sorrow. And I know He is aware of our unwavering gratitude for the blessing of family.

‘Children are an heritage of the Lord,’ the Psalmist writes. I couldn’t agree more.

Ken Craig is an account executive for SealSource International as well as a small business owner. He has a passion for writing, which he discovered when he began writing comedy sketches in college as a founding member of BYU’s first comedy troupe, The Garrens. This is also where he met and married his wife, Katie. Ken serves as a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he resides with his wife and their seven children.  Their family adventures are featured in Ken’s blog, “The Craig Report,” and he is also a contributing writer to www.parttimeauthors.com.

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Today there is a “Blog Hop” about the Family Proclamation. Please share your own feelings or testimony or inspiring thoughts on your blog.  Then go to any of these other hosting blogs and leave a link to your blog post at the bottom of the posts there. You will find a “Mr. Linky” tool, where you can enter in your information and direct us all to what you wrote.  Go on now; I’m excited to read what you have to say.

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If a blog die, shall it live again?

Hi.

Um, remember me?

Of course a dead blog can live again!  It totally can. Right? I checked Google Reader, and some people are actually still subscribed here. It might be an accident, but still…. (Does anyone even use Google Reader anymore?) Plus, whether they actually mean to be or not, there’s still a handful of people that subscribe by email, so hello there long-lost inboxes.

Wow. So where do I start?  I have so much to tell you. Really. Let’s transition carefully back into blogging, shall we? I think I’ll start with a bunch of mini blog posts just so we can all get used to each other again.

Mini-post #1:  Guess What?

Remember how I only occasionally popped in during the summer to beg you to vote for me in that video contest?  Well, I don’t know how to tell you this without a formal plan to compensate you for your goodness, but I won!!!  I’m not even kidding– I won a cruise. Matt and I are going in October and I’m very excited about that. It took a little bit of manipulative creative negotiating to convince Clark that even though it was his story that won the trip, it would still be better for Matt and I to take the trip together.  I’m sure that with the passage of time and maybe a small amount of therapy, he will find it in his heart to not feel completely ripped off. And I will find it in my heart to sit on a ship deck and read books and drink virgin daiquiris.

Mini-post #2: No, Really, Guess What?!?

This part is almost too exciting to say. I’m truly afraid that by embracing it, I may somehow curse it. The reason I took a blog sabbatical in the first place is because I, honest to goodness, felt down in my soul that I needed to write a book. I had never before in my life imagined myself authoring a book, but I felt (select the word that you’re most comfortable with here–>) prompted/compelled/pushed/inspired/obligated to write a book about my testimony concerning motherhood. I have spent a good part of the last decade of my life studying motherhood in a gospel context, and I felt the pieces coming together little by little in ways that gave me new insight and purpose. Motherhood was still hard–it’s always been kind of hard–but I felt like I was starting to get it.  And then I felt like I should write it all down. So I did. And (here’s the exciting part) I recently got word that it’s going to be published. As in, printed by someone else in an actual book that will appear in LDS bookstores next Spring. I’m not the type of person that writes things like *squeeee!* or “yippee! yippee!,” but if I were, I would write that here right now. Other than the fact that I feel a tiny bit terrified, plus an equally tiny bit inadequate, I love the thought and hope that maybe, just maybe, my book might help some mom out there (especially a mom of young children) “get it.” And by “get it,” I really mean get herself–see herself and what she’s doing as she really is and how much it really counts. So, yes, yay for that.

Mini-post #3: In Which a Mom and Her Kids All Grow Up a Little.

Something unbelievably amazing has happened. Perhaps even more amazing than a cruise or a book deal. (I realize that this would be the easy place for anyone who’s having a bad day to hit the delete button real quick before my life gets any luckier, but please don’t. I promise I’m not bragging. And I think this next piece of news just might be some kind of balm for your weary soul. Maybe.) When I started this blog, all three of my children were in some stage of diapers. It is with no small amount of shock that I announce to you that last week, they all started school. All of them. From morning until early afternoon.  Look!  Look at this picture and tell me that they are not the cutest people you’ve ever seen. Just try.

Anyway, I’ve blogged a lot over the years about the stages of motherhood, and how sometimes times and seasons must be endured-slash-appreciated for what they really are. When my oldest went to kindergarten, I felt like I had entered Stage 2 parenting. There were glimpses of my children’s growing independence, and I found random bursts, no matter how brief, of “down” time, where I could choose to read a book, or nap, or hang up my clothes, or nap. Now, my friends, I think I have entered Stage 3. Yes, they are older, and make bigger messes, and more noise, and have developed some snarky habits, but trust me when I say: It is glorious. Do you know what I did yesterday? I did a workout video in my family room and then I cleaned my bathroom. I cleaned it for three and a half hours, and it is a masterpiece. I have not cleaned an entire room from start-to-finish in years. After that, I went to the library by myself and picked out books in peace. Then I went to 3 stores in a row and quickly returned some items, stopped at one more store, and picked up a few groceries. I came home and made chocolate chip cookies. When I got home, my house was just as clean as it was when I left in the morning. It stayed clean; do you get what I’m saying? When my kids got home, I hugged them and gave them cookies and helped them with their homework. I still got annoyed sometimes, but I felt ready to be there for them. I. am. loving. it. I am not trying to rub any of this in your face if you still have small children at home and you feel entirely drained. Nor am I trying to knock anyone who feels terribly sad when their children go to school. Not at all.  All I’m saying is that toddler and preschool mothering were quite challenging for me, and now I feel like I’m hitting my stride. I’m not foolish; bigger kids will mean bigger challenges, but if you are wondering if there’s any light at the end of the diaper tunnel, I’m here to tell you:  Good gravy, there is!  I can hardly believe it myself. Stage 3 just feels like it fits so nicely right now. Carry on, good moms everywhere, the stage that fits you best will come in good time.

Mini-post #4: More to Come.

I’ve got fun summer stuff to tell you. I’ve got some giveaways of things I’ve been saving up for you. The September celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World is coming up, and that will be epic. Basically, I’m excited to be back. This party ain’t over yet. Please say hi. I missed you.

General Conference Guessing Game and a few more ideas

I usually do a post-conference trivia contest, but I thought it might be fun to shake things up a little bit and do a pre-conference guessing contest.  This might be fun to duplicate in your own family and play with each other.

For the sake of the blog, go ahead and make your guesses in the comment box below.  Since it’s all random guessing, I don’t think there’s any advantage or disadvantage by seeing each others’ picks.  I will pick the winner for each question (by drawing if there’s a tie), and then those 10 winners will go in a drawing for the “Grand Prize,” which will be a copy of the book I was proud to be a part of:

Tell Me Who I Am: Stories of Faith, Family, and Identity

So here goes:

General Conference Guessing Game

1.  How many new temples do you think will be announced?

2.  What’s your guess for any auxiliaries to be reorganized? (RS, YW, YM, SS, none)

3.  Take a guess at one location of a new temple.  Name a state in the US or a country outside of the US.

4.  Barring any absence, 11 of the 12 apostles speak in the four Saturday and Sunday sessions. Who’s your guess for the one apostle that only speaks in Priesthood session?

5.  Who will conduct the first session of conference (Sat. AM)?

6.  How many members of the church will be announced in the statistical report?

7.  What color dresses will the women of the Tabernacle Choir wear on Sunday morning?

8.  Who will be the first woman to speak in this session of conference?

9.  What color tie will President Monson wear on Sunday?

10.  Make a guess for a congregational hymn that might be sung at any of the four sessions.

I acknowledge that this is just for fun and has no true spiritual benefit other than to maybe make us pay a little more attention while we watch.  All entries recieved by 9:30 a.m. MST on Saturday morning will be in the running for the prize.  :)

Other ideas:

I’ve shared tons and tons and tons of conference preparation in the past, especially for the kids.  This year, I decided to do a little variation on the tradition “packet” idea.  Sometimes my kids just flip through the packet and pick a few things to do and then don’t seem to pay as much attention to it as I would like.  So I’m trying a new approach, based loosely on this idea I saw on Pinterest:

I printed out a list of the names of the First Presidency and 12 Apostles and then cut them out.  One copy for each child. (You could also use pictures instead of names.)

I skimmed through all the different packet versions I’ve seen over the years (there’s a good collection here) and printed out pages of specific activities I knew would engage my kids based on their interests, reading level, etc.  Then I stapled each apostle’s name to one activity (a crossword puzzle, a cut-and-paste of apostles in the red chairs, a Friend magazine to cut up and make a collage, etc.).  Not all of them are conference related.  There are one or two that are just stickers or stencils and crayons to keep their hands busy.  Some of them are just stapled to a piece of paper that says:  “Get 3 popsicle stick puzzles and play with them” or “Play the Apostles Memory Game

The idea is this: Whenever an apostles or First Presidency member speaks, the child finds the speaker’s name and can do that activity during his talk.  There will still be ongoing bingo and traditional packet items with notetaking, etc. (see below) for them to do during all the other speakers, but it helps them to pace out different activities and change focus often.

So other than making food and gathering up snacks, I’m ready to roll!  I hope it’s helpful to someone.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Bring on Conference!

An open note to my children (to be read every January)

Dearest children,

I probably owe you an apology. I do not like January. This stems in part from my deep-seeded disdain for cold weather.

I love Christmas time. But when it’s over, it’s all downhill for a little while.

I’m sorry this means there must be a significant decline in presents, vacation days, and festivities in general.
I’m sorry this means we have to return to routines like chores and homework and early bedtimes.
I’m sorry this means the period of un-rationed goodies is over (unless you’re me).

Another reason I don’t like January is we always get sick in January. Right now I can only breathe out of one nostril. During this past week alone, our house has been graced with coughing, fever, vomit, diarrhea, croup, congestion, and oh, another urinary tract infection.

Dirty dishes and dirty laundry piles sit a little longer in January. You may want to get used to me saying things like, “Who wants to make macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight?”

While some moms see January as an opportunity to rekindle their love affair with the gym, your mom sees January as an opportunity to eat Toaster Strudels and Reese’s peanut butter cups for lunch.

I just want to reassure you that I still love you. I wish I had any desire to play Princess Chutes and Ladders with you, but I don’t. I’m afraid that January is the one month out of the year that if you want to spend quality time with your mother, you probably need to start reading Pride & Prejudice, or take a sudden interest in Latin music, or save up your allowance for a trip to Europe or a warm location of your choice (or even better, my choice.).

I have no idea why you were so lucky to be born into my care, but I promise I’ll try harder to wade my way through January and be the kind of mom you deserve.  Remember that I’m a pretty rockin’ mom in the summertime.

Feel free to print out this picture and tape it on a Popsicle stick and wave it in my face as needed.

When you do, I will try really hard to count to ten in my brain and get over it.

Much love,

Your mother

P.S. Your dad is a rock star in January because he steps it up a lot, and he’s not nearly as irritable as I am.  I love him all year, but especially in January.

P.P.S.  I’m really not as pathetic as this letter makes me sound.  I do plenty of good stuff in January too.  Let’s just say that the ratio of good stuff is a little more sparse than usual, and I’m keenly aware of it.

P.P.P.S.  Would it be presumptuous of me to alter President Monson’s quote to say “Courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow [next month]‘”?