Many years ago when my oldest children were young, I put together 72 hour emergency kits for our family. It took me many hours to figure out what we needed and to do the shopping for the items. My kids were little so I wanted to make sure I had things like coats, mittens and woolen hats in the kits as well as water, food and survival equipment. Since we didn’t have a lot of money it took hours of looking through second-hand stores to find what I wanted at reasonable prices. I was fortunate to find everything on my list including very used wool blankets which I had read had the ability to keep people warm even while they were wet. I was quite thrilled with the things I had found and I organized everything into individual backpacks (something else bought at second-hand stores) so that, if need be, each person could carry something. Then I put everything into a garden cart so that, if I needed, I could pull the cart by myself with my kids, if my husband was out-of-town on business. I stored the cart in an outdoor storage space so I had easy access to it, and I was feeling pretty good about the results of my hard work and diligence. At some point I realized I needed to update the items in the kits and pulled out the cart only to find that mice had gotten into everything. As I sorted through the kits I found they had eaten all of the food, chewed holes in the clothes and blankets and left their nasty droppings everywhere. It was disgusting and I was heartbroken. I had worked so hard putting it all together and the only things salvageable were things like flashlights and canteens and other survival equipment. I picked up all of the other items and threw them all away-backpacks, clothes, empty food packs, everything, and I told myself I couldn’t do it again. I didn’t have the money, energy, time or strength to make new kits, and so I didn’t. In the back of my mind I knew I needed to make new kits but it was just so overwhelming, especially for something to be destroyed by mice again. And so I didn’t. Several years went by and one day, when I was feeling guilty about not having emergency kits, the thought came to me that it was a matter of obedience. That, if for no other reason, I needed to make new kits to be obedient to the directions given by the leaders of the Lord’s church. With that new thought I bought mice proof containers, simplified my wants, researched the best foods to store and spent many hours putting the kits together, and since by now we had all 8 of our kids it took even longer to do than the first kits. But, I did it! Everything is still piled into a garden cart and I go through it every 4 years to replace the old with new, and the mice proof containers have worked great. I needed to be obedient and it wasn’t easy to do the kits again, but of course it was easier than I had imagined.
When my kids were little and they were enjoying an activity, as it neared time to leave whatever we were doing, I would give a fifteen-minute warning and then a five-minute warning. I found that if I suddenly said “well, it’s time to go home” I got tantrums and fighting because my kids needed time to transition. They needed time to wrap their heads around the fact that they were going to have to leave something they were liking and having fun doing. Now as adults they laugh at memories of being at the pool or park with me shouting “Fifteen-minute warning” and then again, “five-minute warning.” It was kind of awkward for me to make a spectacle of myself shouting like that but the result was no tantrums and no fighting, and cooperative kids.
Once when I was reading the account in Matthew 24:24-27 of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish man who built his house on sand I noticed for the first time that the rain fell on both houses. The wise man’s house was able to withstand the rain while the foolish man’s house was washed away. Somehow I had always assumed that the foolish man’s house was the one that got rained on even though in plain English it says that the rain fell on both houses. This realization caused a paradigm shift. Rain, or troubles, fall on everyone and the difference is the foundation upon which I am built. Thank goodness for the gospel of Jesus Christ that gives me a firm foundation.
When I was a young child my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and she was an active member of our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). She wanted to follow the commandment to pay tithing but my dad was dead set against it. When they had married she didn’t even know he was actually a member of the church which means he was obviously very inactive. She had later met the missionaries when they were going door-to-door and was almost instantly converted. She would have loved for my dad to have become active but he was totally against the church. In those days men often controlled the money and gave their wives a set amount from which to run the family and household, and in my family’s case this is what happened. She wanted to be obedient to the commandment and she also wanted the blessings that come from paying tithing so unbeknownst to my dad, she paid it on the household money he gave her. Later, after they were divorced and she was only earning minimum wage to support her kids while going to school (they didn’t have the deadbeat parent laws then and for some reason my dad didn’t feel it was necessary to pay child support), she often said that the only reason we made it was because she paid her tithing. President Gordon B. Hinckley said “Tithing is a matter of faith, not finance” and my mom believed this was a true principle because on the very little money she earned to support a family of six she still paid her tithing faithfully. In my life I have also seen the blessings that come from paying tithing, especially when I was a very poor student at BYU. I had very little money but I always had what I needed and I believe it was because I paid my tithing. Tithing is a matter of faith, not finance!
Several years ago I was pondering the many talents that people have, the vast majority of which I do not have. I thought of a friend who was very musical and thought I would love to be able to play a musical instrument or sing really well. I thought of people who were artistic, who were excellent teachers or who were really good listeners, and then there are people who are mechanical and good with technology. There are people who are really good gardeners and people who can fix just about anything. I can’t draw and I am horrible with mechanical things and I definitely can’t think of anyone who would ever have me fix something for them. The list of talents that I don’t have goes on and on. As I sat there feeling slightly sorry for myself and pondering why I couldn’t have any or all of those talents the thought came to me “because then you wouldn’t need anyone else.” Another eye-opener! We are taught in the scriptures that talents and spiritual gifts are to be used to bless the lives of others and I have definitely been blessed by other people’s talents.
Many years ago, when my children were young, my family and I sat in a church meeting that had a “families can be together forever” theme. During that meeting my children were rude and mean to each other, obnoxious and just down right ill reverent. By the end of the meeting I was worn out and turn to my husband and said “families can be together forever, is that a promise or a threat?” That day it felt more like threat. People used to tell me that my children wouldn’t be young forever and that the years would fly by and to just enjoy them while they were young, and I thought “they are wrong, I will always have young kids!” It was exhausting because all I did from the time I got up until I fell into bed at night was kids, kids and kids. But you know what, those people were right! The years have flown by and those same fighting, obnoxious kids are now each others best friends and I’m not sure when or how that happened. Now when we gather there is laughter, and fun and just enjoying each other, and even occasionally there are still squabbles (we’re still far from perfect). So were all of the sleepless nights, sheer exhaustion and refereeing worth it? I would do it all again only this time with a clearer vision of the future and I would worry less and enjoy the small moments more, because after all, families can be together forever, and that’s a promise.
I was reading my journal and came across some goals I had set in January 2012, six years ago. I guess I had been reading a book by Elaine Dalton that said “Our vision of the future will help us press forward. As we prepare to succeed in this marathon of mortal life, we might like to start by taking a few minutes to envision where we want to be in one year or two or five.” I wrote about how I had no vision of the future, or goals or anything I was working towards, mostly I was in day-to-day survival mode. She said to take a few minutes to think about it, I took several months. When I finally came up with some goals I had them divided into 4 categories: physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. I had two or three goals and methods under each category. I felt pretty good about this and went to work and I diligently pursued my goals. I found that mostly what I was doing in my life was working on goal stuff and even though they were good goals and worthwhile pursuits, it was way too much! I was overwhelmed and of course had set myself up for failure. Who has time to pursue that many goals with several children still at home, callings and household responsibilities? Actually, who has time to pursue that many goals even without all of those other responsibilities? This year I have set one goal, just one goal and I have found that actively trying to achieve that goal is enough especially as I put effort into it and see a little progress.
Many years ago, in an effort to be more providential, I decided I would use our powdered milk from our food storage instead of letting it go to waste which I had been doing. It was a hassle to mix it and I didn’t like the taste of it so I had rarely used it. Through experimenting I did find that if I mixed it up at night and it got really cold and used it on cereal it was passable, and actually hard to tell it wasn’t fresh. Even at that some of my kids didn’t want to try it. So one night my husband was mixing up the powdered milk and he told the kids that this milk came from desert cows and that’s why it was dry and we had to add water to it. He explained that there’s not very much water in the desert for the cows to drink so it came out powdery, and of course he was just having fun with our kids not thinking anyone would really believe him. Well, our kids were fascinated by this and the next day my then 5-year-old said to me “mom, I want some of that desert milk” and then everyone else wanted to try it too. After that the kids started calling it desert milk which made it a lot more fun than calling it powdered milk. Seems like a little humor and creativity made even powdered milk something desirable.