4th Annual 12 Days of Christmas Challenge (It’s easy.)

You are hereby invited to participate in the easiest capture-the-real-Spirit-of-Christmas activity that you can do by yourself or with your family: Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head: mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . . You get the idea. No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So join me, starting on Thursday, December 13th and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve. And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family. Who’s in?

Here’s a button if you want one. You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

html code for the button:

<a href=”http://wp.me/ppuBj-1qG&#8221; _mce_href=”http://wp.me/ppuBj-1qG”><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1963″ title=”christmas challenge button” src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; _mce_src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”195″ height=”130″ /></a>

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy. Come back and report some of the things you do, if you want to, or if you have a great story to share. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) You’re welcome to comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something. I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal each other’s ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’ Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

Here’s a fun idea that my family did last year and we’ll do again because the kids loved it.  We made up award ribbon signs and then drove all around our neighborhood looking at everyone’s Christmas lights.  We decided together which houses were our pick for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, then knocked on their door to give them their awards.  I’m sure they were flattered by the great honor.

Maybe I’m the problem.

I have been experiencing a lot of frustration in the mornings.  Like the kind where I wonder if my children have brains?

In order to earn “ticket time” (30 min. of TV, Wii, or computer games) after school, they have to complete a list of tasks in the morning before they leave for school.

It’s not hard stuff, people, and it does not matter when they wake up, we are still scrambling to get out the door on time.  It makes me crazy.  Every time I check on them, they are doing something else.  “Oops.  I forgot,” after I bark an order to get back on task or we’re going to be late. “I can’t find my homework.”  “Why didn’t you put it in your backpack when you were done?!” (like I’ve reminded you every. single. time.)  “Can I just have lunch money today?  I don’t have time.”  “No.  I told you last night to make your sandwich before you went to bed, and you’ve been playing with stuffed animals for the last 10 minutes.” My Facebook status the other day said, “Teaching my children personal responsibility may be the death of me.”  I’ve been wondering:

Why can’t they seem to handle simple tasks that would make their lives (and mine) so much easier?  It’s not like I haven’t taught them.  They have an easy checklist, for heaven’s sake.

Then I saw this article the other day.

It’s called, “Nicer Moms Have Smarter Kids.”

Oh good grief.

Fine.

Remember my goal for the year?  If I can stick to it, maybe my children will be smart enough to remember where they put their shoes.

Coping and Mothering: Overcoming Discouragement

I went to lunch several months ago with some friends.  During a side conversation, one friend said to me, “That’s the worst part about growing up: learning about everyone’s problems.”  I don’t even really remember the context of our discussion, but her comment has stuck with me.  It’s so true.  As a child, we have a very limited view of the world at large, and most of my memories are happy and carefree.  As we grow older and our view of the world around us expands, we are exposed to more and more pain, suffering, and sadness– sometimes our own, but often in the lives of others too.

Over the last several weeks, Matt and I have been struggling with watching people we know and love go through some really hard things.  Not just one or two friends, but several.  There are marriage troubles, there are health issues, there are fears and anxieties.  It has made us heavy-hearted, and frankly, a little discouraged.  We want to fix things and we just can’t.  We want to help, but feel so helpless.  It kind of makes us want to hide from the whole scary world so we don’t fall into the same pits, but where and how?  We start to wonder if everyone else on the planet has some deep, dark secret pain going on, and maybe we’re the only people who have “normal” trials, like bad days at work or budget woes or struggling to keep up with the demands of busy lives.  (Does anyone else feel like that sometimes?)  It of course puts your own trials into startling perspective, but it leaves you feeling a vicarious pain for what everyone else seems to be going through.  And even though your own life is relatively “easy,” it’s not easy to watch the pain that’s happening around you.  It hurts.

I’ve noticed it’s difficult to brush those feelings aside and deal with the matters at hand, like helping children with homework or finding socks or making dinner.  They have no idea about the hard things going on in the lives of friends and family.  You certainly don’t want to make it their burden either, but it’s hard to put on a happy face and go on like nothing’s wrong.  This morning, after I got the boys off to school, I tried to get Natalie occupied with her own activities so that I could just crawl back into bed and think.  Rest.  Decompress.  She kept coming into my room every 5 minutes to ask for help with milk or TV buttons or questions.  I was losing patience quickly.  It’s really hard to heal and mother at the same time.  I wasn’t very kind.

I don’t have any real answers to this.  I’m still working through it, but I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about and learning about in the meantime.  Yesterday, I had a rare opportunity to be in the car by myself in between some carpooling drop-offs and pick-ups.  I wanted something to listen to in the car that would help me focus my thoughts, and I remembered that I had an old general conference CD set somewhere.  I scanned the bookshelf in the office, found it, and grabbed it.  I really wish I had some kind of system in my car where I could just hook up my iPod and listen to whatever I want whenever I want, but I don’t.  And it seems really dumb to invest in that kind of stereo equipment when my van is pushing 160K miles.  Anyway, I had general conference CDs from 1998, and I popped them in and listened while I drove.

This morning I had to go to the dentist, and the CD was still in when I turned on the car.  I heard the end of one talk that was nice.  They had all been nice, but nothing had jumped out at me so far.  Then I heard this talk:  “Overcoming Discouragement” by Elder Val R. Christensen.  Here are some of the things that I learned:

Many of us face significant challenges. Even the great prophet Enoch experienced sadness when he viewed the wickedness of the world: “And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44).

There are at least three steps to take when striving to overcome discouragement:

  1. You can work on changing your attitude toward the problem. Even though you can’t change the circumstances in which you work or live, you can always change your attitude.
  2. You can receive help from those who are close to you—your family, friends, and ward members, those who love you the most.
  3. You can develop a more powerful and complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even before he started explaining his three points, I knew that there was truth in them.  I felt the Spirit– enlightenment and hope.

By looking at a problem in a different way, it may be possible to reduce discouragement. I have been impressed with the pioneer story told about Zina Young. After experiencing the death of parents, crop failure, and sickness, she was encouraged with a spiritual experience that changed her attitude. While attempting to seek divine help, she heard her mother’s voice: “Zina, any sailor can steer on a smooth sea, when rocks appear, sail around them.” A prayer came quickly: “O Father in heaven, help me to be a good sailor, that my heart shall not break on the rocks of grief” (“Mother,” The Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1911, 45). It is often difficult to change circumstances, but a positive attitude can help lift discouragement.

One morning, several days ago, I got some bad news from one of my friends I’ve been worried about.  I lay in bed in the quiet early hours of the morning and my heart just hurt.  I could feel a real, tangible sadness.  While I thought about that pain, I was reminded of something I’ve taught many times before in a lesson about the Atonement.

“I believe, to use an insurance phrase, we must pay the deductible. We must experience sorrow enough, suffering enough, guilt enough so we are conscious and appreciative of the heavier burden borne by the Savior.” (Elder J. Richard Clarke, in Conference Report April 1993, 10)

In that moment, I kind of got it.  What I was feeling was just the tiniest piece of what the Savior felt when He took upon himself the pains of the world.  It was pain from sin, but also every kind of sorrow.  It is His pain.  Not mine.  Not hers.  It’s His.  He bought it with a price and I need to give it back to Him. I don’t need to keep it.  So, I determined then that all I can do is hand the burden back and then pay close attention to what He wants me to do.  He can show me how to help and how to move on.  So in the several days since, whenever I’ve felt the weight of sadness, I try to replay this same scenario in my mind and let it go.  Here’s another snippet from Elder Christensen’s talk:

I’ve talked about changing attitudes and receiving help from others. Now, let me mention the need to put more trust and faith in the Lord. I once talked to a woman who received help with her discouragement. While waiting for a temple session to begin, she picked up a Book of Mormon to read a verse. Her eyes fixed upon Alma 34:3: “And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience.” The scripture in Alma was an answer to her prayer. The message was simple: the problem she faced was going to take a long time to solve. If we place a little more patience in the process and a greater amount of faith in the Lord, our challenges will find their way toward successful conclusions.

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read this: “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful” (D&C 136:29).

Some of these things will take time to work themselves out.  I have faith that some of them really will work out just fine, but it may take a while.  There may be long periods of down before the up figures itself out.  So that’s what I’m working on right now: finding joy and optimism despite sad things happening around me.  When the talk was over, I turned to Natalie in the back seat and said, “Natalie, I’m sorry I wasn’t very nice to you this morning when I was in bed.  I was frustrated because I just wanted some rest, but I still should have been kind.  I’m sorry.”  She, being the epitome of childlike forgiveness, simply smiled and asked what was for lunch.

Anyway, I’m sorry if this post doesn’t have a cute little conclusion that makes it all better. I’m still working on it, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully it can be helpful to someone who’s dealing with or feeling some of the same things.

So I say to myself: “Remember this…”

“… Kindness begins with me.”  (Children’s Songbook, 145b)

You know, once you decide to work on a goal, stuff happens and it becomes kind of hard. Take our family goal this year:  Try to Show Kindness in All That You Do.  Well, people do dumb things.  People say dumb things.  From where I stand, sometimes it looks like people live dumb things.  And, sadly, that makes it hard to be nice.  But like the song says, “I want to be kind to everyone, for that is right, you see.”  And so it is.  It’s right.  It’s hard, but it’s right.  So even though the first week of January made this feel particularly difficult, I’m going to keep trying.

I’m thankful for the Atonement, by the way.  I’m thankful that the Savior was so kind that he was willing to offer forgiveness even to people who intentionally hurt him.  And then he still offers forgiveness to those of us who get angry when people are intentionally mean to us or toward people or things we hold dear.  It’s hard to be kind and angry at the same time.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I found out that kindness is much easier if I just give the angry back to Jesus and let him take care of it.  He always does if I let him.

 

Thanks so much to a sweet reader who stumbled upon my request for something to hang on my wall to remind me about my new goal.  In a quick whirlwind of talent and kindness, she created this printable (above) for me, and I love it.  You’re welcome to download your own copy here. Thanks, Jen!

Somewhere on Facebook, a friend also shared this video of the primary song that’s the source of the goal phrase.  It’s really quite lovely, and I felt the spirit confirming the simple, sweet message as I listened.  Hope it adds a dose of goodness to your day, too.

“At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do.  Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought.  For these are the things Jesus taught.

Have a great week, friends.

 

3rd Annual 12 Days of Christmas Challenge (It’s easy.)

So here’s the basic idea: Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head: mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . . You get the idea. No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So I’m going to start Tuesday, on December 13th and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve. And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family. Anybody want to join me in the challenge?

Here’s a button if you want one. You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

html code for the button:
<a href=”http://diapersanddivinity.com/2011/12/12/3rd-annual-12-days-of-christmas-challenge-its-easy/&#8221; _mce_href=”http://diapersanddivinity.com/2011/12/12/3rd-annual-12-days-of-christmas-challenge-its-easy/”><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1963″ title=”christmas challenge button” src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; _mce_src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”195″ height=”130″ /></a>

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy. Come back and report some of the things you do, if you want to, or if you have a great story to share. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) You’re welcome to comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something. I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal each other’s ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’ Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

 

Here’s a fun idea that my family did for Family Home Evening tonight.  We made up award ribbon signs and then drove all around our neighborhood looking at everyone’s Christmas lights.  We decided together which houses were our pick for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, then knocked on their door to give them their awards.  I’m sure they were flattered by the great honor.  The kids loved it, and it was a fun family activity.