In the Image of God, by Shantel Gardner


I had an experience with my daughter several years ago. When I was thinking about what I wanted to write about the Family Proclamation, this experience came to me. I pushed it aside, but the impression kept coming back. The Family Proclamation does not tell us what to do— it tells us who we are and what our relationship is to God and Jesus Christ. It also gives us incredible insight into the character of our Heavenly Parents. We are meant to learn how to be like our Savior in family units, and this is how it happens for me. God is good. So Good.

This is my daughter Ella. Isn’t she just cute?? And so big, making her own PB & Chocolate (Nutella. She calls it chocolate–I guess she thinks she is getting away with something.) sandwich for lunch. I took this picture to remember. Here is the story:

On this particular day, Ella was having a bad day. She has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of Autism. Most people in her world are not even aware that she has this. I don’t notice it most days, but this day I did. On her bad days she gets stuck in a rut, with a need for structure and for things to be and look a certain way. These days normally end up with her alone in her room, organizing her toys, until she feels better. My mood on this day was of no help to her. She had come home from school, and wanted to make her own lunch. I usually have her lunch pre-made, so it is waiting when she walks through the door. I had a crazy morning, so this did not happen. When Ella is having a bad day, she will not compromise or rationalize, or she is not even able to have a two-sided discussion. She will even lose her language if it gets really bad. I have found the best thing to do is give her what she wants as reasonably as possible and try to curb bad behavior with distraction. Anyway, here was our dialogue:

Me: Ella – Do you want peanut butter or circle sandwich for lunch? (Circle is Bologna – long story)

Ella: Peanut Butter Chocolate – I want to do it!!!!!! (High-pitched scream)

Me: o.k. Ella – let me help you.

Ella: No! I do it!!!!!!! (Scream)

Me: o.k.

So I watched her proceed. She got a stool, climbed up to the counter. Couldn’t reach the bread. She started screaming.

Me: Ella – do you need help?

Ella: Bread!!!! (Language now down to one word – this was not headed in a good direction)

So I got up to help her. I reached for the bread.

Ella: NO!!!!!!!!

Me: DO you want the bread?

Ella: Ella Do! (Scream)

Me: o.k.

She struggled a few seconds.

Ella: Please help.

So I helped her get the bread out and laid out the slices for her. I magically and very sneakily managed to get out the jars she needed and unscrew the tops without her protesting. I handed her the butter knife.

She proceeded to dig into the peanut butter and the Nutella. She was making a huge mess. I was having a very hard time not intervening. Not only was she making a complete mess of everything, but she was getting upset. She was piling way too much on the bread, she was taking way too long, and I had a long list of other things I did not like about this situation. Finally, after about 10 minutes, she was done with one piece. It was literally a mountain of Peanut Butter. She and the counter were covered. I was not happy. I was dwelling on how my day had been so far. How she was likely going to need a bath after this and a bath would lead into the afternoon, and then the kids would be home from school –I was getting overwhelmed quickly. She started screaming again. I started to cry; I felt done. The sound hurt my ears, and my heart. I didn’t know what to do. What did she want now???

Me, through tears:  What Ella?

Ella: Fix it!

I didn’t know what she meant, so I got up and looked at the disaster on the counter. Ella very quietly (and completely unlike how she had been over the last 30 minutes) said, “Make it smoooooth,” and she handed me the knife. My despair at the situation was immediately transformed to deep peace and understanding at what I was being taught. As I followed Ella’s instructions to smooth out the Peanut Butter perfectly and make it go “all the way to the edges” of the bread, I realized that we makes messes sometimes. We take situations in life, and insist (sometimes screaming) on doing it all ourselves. We make mistakes, we misjudge, mistrust, and misuse sometimes. We cause a lot of grief to the people around us as we learn, and we judge others harshly as they learn. Then we give our slice of peanut butter bread to the Savior, and he makes it all smooth. He makes it perfect. He spreads it to the edges of the bread, and makes our work look like it was done by a professional chef. Then he lets us keep it. To savor and find joy in. As we become confident in the Savior’s ability to perfect our efforts, we become stronger– and our capacities increase.

I grabbed the camera and took the picture, and really enjoyed letting Ella make the rest of the sandwich. I enjoyed the process of watching her learn, and I was ready to step in when she needed me. Happily and patiently this time, I felt so grateful to my Heavenly Father for taking what was a mess, and making it a moment of learning never to be forgotten.

Shantel Bancroft Gardner lives in Minnesota with her husband Joel and their five children. She is a student in the honors program at the University of Minnesota, majoring in US History and Religious Studies with a minor in Jewish Studies. She is a research historian for the university and also for the Minnesota Historical Society. Shantel has published several articles and essays in both academic and LDS literature.  She serves on the Board for the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society, and travels to universities and historical sites to speak about the lives and legacies of Joseph and Emma. Her favorite place is Winter Quarters. Shantel also considers chocolate necessary to her salvation, and partakes as often as she can.

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Click here to read a complete version of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The celebration will continue from Sept 17-30.

Remember that during the world-wide-web Family Proclamation Celebration, you can read more posts every day at We Talk of Christ, at Chocolate on My Cranium, and at Middle-Aged Mormon Man.

Every time you leave a comment on any of the Proclamation posts or participate in any of the Blog Hops, you are entered in a drawing to win a giveaway prize.

The giveaway this week is a Dream Big Family Rules Subway Art sign from Landee on Etsy. “One of the reasons we love to create things for our homes is because our favorite people live there! We love our families and want them to be in a happy & healthy environment. We always try to create products that are positive, motivating and uplifting. Stop by our shop and find that special detail for your home that you’ve been looking for!

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So much to celebrate.

We’ve got something really great to look forward to.  Behold:

(Eventually I’ll have a button over there on the sidebar with a code you can grab –>)

I will be teaming up with these fine folks:

Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, and
Middle-aged Mormon Man of … well, Middle-aged Mormon Man
to celebrate this:
We will have a Proclamation-related post every day from September 17-30th at all four blogs. I have some fantastic guest bloggers lined up, so you won’t want to miss it. This proclamation was written “to the world,” and we hope to share it with as many as we can. Here are a few ways I would love to have you participate:

There will be three “Blog Hops,” which is simply a cute name for an Internet Block Party. We’re inviting you to write a post on your own blog about a topic we’ll all share that day, and then leave a link in a central place (to be announced) where we can all see what everyone has to share.  The scheduled Blog Hops are as follows:

Wed. September 19 – Share an FHE lesson or craft about The Family Proclamation.
Sun. September 23 – Share your personal thoughts, testimony, or faith-promoting experiences with any aspect of the Proclamation.
Wed. September 26 – Family Proclamation Photo Essay – pair photos of your family with different phrases from the Proclamation (as many as you choose). There are examples of photo essays from past celebrations here and here.
Also, I invite you to give away a copy of Family: A Proclamation to the World to someone who maybe has never seen/read it before. Why? Because it’s awesome. And it’s true. Anytime we can help people to love and honor and promote family, it’s a good thing. I’m hoping that on the last day, Sept. 30, you can come share with us how that experience went.  You can order them in brochure form (perfect for giving away) right here for FREE, even with shipping. So please hurry and order some copies and start giving them away because I want to hear all about it.
Hooray. (And all kinds of other celebratory exclamations.) !!!  You ready for this?

Breaking News (and other earth-shattering announcements)

This post is a COPY of Sunday’s.  When I did two posts in a row, I think this one got buried, and I just wanted to make sure it was out there.  If you’ve already seen it, it’s old news.  Sorry.

[image credit]

Forgive me while I wax administrative for a day, but there are a few news-items I need to communicate.  Get your mouse-clicker finger ready because I’m sending you all over the place.

1.  For the sake of pure anticipation, I need to let you know that in September, I will be teaming up with  Montserrat of Chocolate on my Cranium, Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, and the mysterious Middle-aged Mormon Man to host a Family Proclamation Celebration.  It’s exactly what it claims to be: a two-week star-studded gala honoring the timeless principles of Family: A Proclamation to the World.  And by star-studded, I mean a cohort of guest posts that will knock your socks off, including but not limited to:

Shawni at 71 Toes
DeNae at My Real Life Was Backordered
Michelle at Mormon Women
Allison at Simple Inspiration
Melanie at Write Stuff
Ken at The Craig Report
Some other dear real-life friends that predate my blog,
and Matt (my husband, who puts the stud in star-studded),
plus even more, because that doesn’t even include guest posts at the three other blogs.

Also, in association with the celebration, Montserrat is putting together a video of families around the world reading phrases from the Proclamation.  It would be really helpful if you would do a little webcam project and submit it to her. (I’m sure it will bring you lots of fame and fortune.)  You can get more information here.

There’s really nothing else you need to do about this now except get excited.  And get your kids all ready for back-to-school in late August so that you can spend September 17-30 basically reading blog manna around the clock.

More announcements.  I’ll be brief.  (I’ll try.)

2. I’m taking a blog sabbatical.

sabbatical:  any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.

I know I’ve tried this before and failed, but this time I really mean it.  🙂  I just accepted a very-part-time job to teach a Doctrine and Covenants class at BYU that starts in a few weeks. (Thrilling and terrifying at the same time.) It has become clear to me that in order to make this work and still keep my focus on my family, I need to adjust my juggling act, so I’ve picked the blog as a plate to drop.  I’m sure I will pop in occasionally because loud people don’t shut up well, and obviously I’ll be up and running again by September (see announcement #1).  Other pre-determined exceptions are listed below.

3. General Conference and GCBC.  This week, I will still do a few fun posts about getting ready for general conference.  I have been hosting the General Conference Book Club here for three years.  I can hardly believe it.  It’s my “baby,” and I love it, but it doesn’t fit well with sabbaticals, so I’m handing it off like a faith-filled birth mother.  Becca will be adopting and hosting this next round of GCBC at her blog:  My Soul Delighteth.  I’ll post more information this week, but I wanted to give you a heads up.  It will be the same deal, same system, and I really hope you will still use it as the gospel-study tool it was intended to be.  I plan to still participate, but I’m just not going to host it for a season.

4.  My Pretty Darn Funny Video.  I posted yesterday about this video contest I entered.  Turns out that, after reading all the small print, I’m still confused about when the votes actually count.  The real promotion period starts on March 31st (I think), so I may come out of my sabbatical once or twice to do some shameless self-promotion and ask you to vote again.  I really, really want to win that Caribbean cruise.  Forgive me in advance?  Thanks for all your votes so far, and feel free to drop by right here at random and leave more votes pretty much any day between now and the end of May.  🙂

5. “I love you, man.”  I just want to say thank you for all your kind support here on the blog over these last few years.  This isn’t a funeral speech, and you’ll be hearing from me periodically, but really, thank you.  I’ve loved your comments, participation, and virtual friendship.  You make a sabbatical feel really hard to do.

Breaking News (and other earth-shattering announcements)

[image credit]

Forgive me while I wax administrative for a day, but there are a few news-items I need to communicate.  Get your mouse-clicker finger ready because I’m sending you all over the place.

1.  For the sake of pure anticipation, I need to let you know that in September, I will be teaming up with  Montserrat of Chocolate on my Cranium, Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, and the mysterious Middle-aged Mormon Man to host a Family Proclamation Celebration.  It’s exactly what it claims to be: a two-week star-studded gala honoring the timeless principles of Family: A Proclamation to the World.  And by star-studded, I mean a cohort of guest posts that will knock your socks off, including but not limited to:

Shawni at 71 Toes
DeNae at My Real Life Was Backordered
Michelle at Mormon Women
Allison at Simple Inspiration
Melanie at Write Stuff
Ken at The Craig Report
Some other dear real-life friends that predate my blog,
and Matt (my husband, who puts the stud in star-studded),
plus even more, because that doesn’t even include guest posts at the three other blogs.

Also, in association with the celebration, Montserrat is putting together a video of families around the world reading phrases from the Proclamation.  It would be really helpful if you would do a little webcam project and submit it to her. (I’m sure it will bring you lots of fame and fortune.)  You can get more information here.

There’s really nothing else you need to do about this now except get excited.  And get your kids all ready for back-to-school in late August so that you can spend September 17-30 basically reading blog manna around the clock.

More announcements.  I’ll be brief.  (I’ll try.)

2. I’m taking a blog sabbatical.

sabbatical:  any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.

I know I’ve tried this before and failed, but this time I really mean it.  🙂  I just accepted a very-part-time job to teach a Doctrine and Covenants class at BYU that starts in a few weeks. (Thrilling and terrifying at the same time.) It has become clear to me that in order to make this work and still keep my focus on my family, I need to adjust my juggling act, so I’ve picked the blog as a plate to drop.  I’m sure I will pop in occasionally because loud people don’t shut up well, and obviously I’ll be up and running again by September (see announcement #1).  Other pre-determined exceptions are listed below.

3. General Conference and GCBC.  This week, I will still do a few fun posts about getting ready for general conference.  I have been hosting the General Conference Book Club here for three years.  I can hardly believe it.  It’s my “baby,” and I love it, but it doesn’t fit well with sabbaticals, so I’m handing it off like a faith-filled birth mother.  Becca will be adopting and hosting this next round of GCBC at her blog:  My Soul Delighteth.  I’ll post more information this week, but I wanted to give you a heads up.  It will be the same deal, same system, and I really hope you will still use it as the gospel-study tool it was intended to be.  I plan to still participate, but I’m just not going to host it for a season.

4.  My Pretty Darn Funny Video.  I posted yesterday about this video contest I entered.  Turns out that, after reading all the small print, I’m still confused about when the votes actually count.  The real promotion period starts on March 31st (I think), so I may come out of my sabbatical once or twice to do some shameless self-promotion and ask you to vote again.  I really, really want to win that Caribbean cruise.  Forgive me in advance?  Thanks for all your votes so far, and feel free to drop by right here at random and leave more votes pretty much any day between now and the end of May.  🙂

5. “I love you, man.”  I just want to say thank you for all your kind support here on the blog over these last few years.  This isn’t a funeral speech, and you’ll be hearing from me periodically, but really, thank you.  I’ve loved your comments, participation, and virtual friendship.  You make a sabbatical feel really hard to do.

Sharing

Just a couple things I wanted to pass along.

Today at 6:00 p.m (corrected!). MST, Sister Elaine Dalton will be doing a live webcast with Voices for Virtue via Facebook.  If you’d like to watch or participate by asking questions, that link gives all the info.

Montse and Jocelyn will be hosting a celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  In preparation for that event, they are inviting people from all over the world to submit video clips of themselves/their families quoting snippets from the Proclamation.  Check out all the details at either one of their blog links (Click on their names above).

Also, you know that recently I shared some of my feelings about fighting pornography.  I’ve since come across a few more ways to do that, but one simple way is to go sign this petition to Congress about enforcing the laws related to the pornography industry.  It’s a quick way to make a difference.

Have a great weekend, everyone.  I know I will.  🙂