Friday, March 8, 2013

Brush Strokes

Family Home Evening is a Mormon thing. Once a week (generally on Monday night) we gather together as a family to sing songs, read scriptures, hear a lesson, pray, and most importantly eat treats. From time to time we also engage in wholesome family activities on these nights like watching a good video, flying kites, having a picnic and so on. At least that is the idea.

What is a wonderful ideal is many times difficult to execute perfectly. School activities, homework, meetings, and flat out exhaustion are all barriers to FHE happening at all. It takes a concerted effort to get everyone there, and once you do the participants are less than interested in what is going on.

In our home the brief lessons are often punctuated with children hanging upside down off of the couch, making faces at each other, breathing each other's air (heaven forbid), incursions by princess figurines having loud tea parties on the coffee table, screaming, crying, pouting, and every so often outright bedlam.

As a parent it can be difficult to be enthusiastic about going through this rig-a-ma-roll every week. On top of that, coming up with an attention grabbing lesson of some sort that will instill Gospel principles in the minds of your little brood is problematic. How do you teach them the truths of eternity and help them feel the Spirit when they are either partially comatose or busy pulling a sibling's hair? You have to be creative, and that doesn’t always work out the way you think it should.

My friend Betty wanted to teach her family about how evil things can superficially look good. Things like movies in which the preview looks awesome but once you are watching the flick is full of bad language and raunchy behavior. It was an important topic and she felt prompted to teach it. She knew that if they paid attention it was a principle that could protect her kids from all kinds of unsavory influences. She had a lightning bolt idea for an object lesson.

One Monday afternoon before the kids came home from school, she took a cup of dog food from the 50 pound Costco sack in the garage and brought it to the kitchen. She then painstakingly dipped each individual piece in melted white chocolate. The nuggets were drizzled in more chocolate and carefully placed in a crystal candy dish. They looked amazing.

Betty wanted to make a point. Not everything is what it seems. Never judge a book by its cover. She would show the attractive looking “candy” to the kids during the Family Home Evening lesson and then tell them what it was. They would gasp about the grossness of it all. They would forever remember the lesson. It was going to be great!

With the decorating finished, she placed the dish high up in a cabinet above the refrigerator where no one would find it and went on with her day. Several hours later while she was in the laundry room doing laundry sorts of activities, her husband came home from work and began his usual prowl through the kitchen looking for his before-dinner snack.

Why he chose to look in the cabinet above the frig is a mystery. In all their years of living in that house he had never before opened the little hinged door that resided above the dusty appliance top. It may have been desperation, since Betty had recently cleared all the junk food out of the house as part of her latest diet. Regardless of the motivation, he did indeed open the door and there in the dark recesses of the cupboard shone the gleaming white chocolates. It was as if the angels of heaven were singing. They were quickly scooped up and taken to the family room where he would sit in a chair and enjoy the news, adorable children playing at his feet.

Shortly thereafter, Betty returned to the kitchen to check on the simmering pots of dinner. Just then her three-year-old streaked by at high speed chewing on something that made a unique crunching noise. Betty stopped the bright eyed little boy and said in a very motherly way “what’s in your mouth?” “Nuffin” was the answer, “just this weird candy dad gave me”. “What weird candy?!?” Betty made a B-line for the family room.

There on the end table next to her hubby’s designated chair was the now empty crystal candy dish. Horrified reality crashed down on Betty as she looked around the room. Every single kid was chewing. Then her husband said “that wasn’t the best candy you’ve ever made but it was alright.” Holy cats.

“I’m so glad you liked it!” I said Betty said and ran out of the room eye twitching uncontrollably.

So what is to be learned from this story of object lessons gone wrong? For me it is to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect in this. Not every Monday night needs to be a life changing spiritual experience. Not every lesson should be one “they will remember forever”. It just needs to be.

Like the brushstrokes of the painting of a wheat field that hangs in Elder Bednar’s office “each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

So even if the paint to your masterwork ends up with some dog food in there, so be it. Those kids will never forget that bad things sometimes look good, and possibly the more important message, don’t EVER eat candy dad gives you without checking with mom first.



“If you are trying to do the best you can—if, for example, you keep trying to hold family home evening in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a houseful of little bedlamites—give yourself high marks” -Jeffrey R. Holland

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my, I am laughing so hard my eyes are tearing up and my kids are asking, "WHat's so funny??" Poor "Betty". How long did you, uh, she wait to tell her family what they had eaten? They will never forget this lesson as long as they live, so you have achieved your goal. Just not the way you planned. Isn't that awesome how that works out sometimes? Love you, lady! Keep on writing!


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