I clearly remember the day I sent my first child off to public school. She wasn’t the traditional child of five. She was a teenager entering junior high school after being taught at home for six years. She was the first of five to leave my little educational nest. I prepared her that day with all the things you’d expect: a sack lunch, pocket folders, new pencils and pens, a spiral notebook, a map of the school, and a lot of “You’ll be OK! You’re going to do just fine!”
I waved good-bye as she headed out into the fall air to catch the school bus. As I turned to go into the house and face the new day with my home school class, smaller by one, something very painful tightened in my throat and tears started to spill from my eyes. “I’ll be back in a minute!” I called through the opening in the door to the little group of four, who were giggling and eating Cheerios and bananas around the kitchen table.
I didn’t venture too far off, but that morning I walked around the block a good many times before going back in the house to be the mother and teacher. I cried and I talked to God. “Lord, if I can’t teach all of them, I’m not sure I can or want to teach any of them. It feels sad. It feels incomplete.”
That was the morning the Spirit told me I had to become forever willing to be fully present with the members of my family at hand. “Work with the ones you are with Nannette. The family is not an all or nothing proposition, not the Lord’s vast family or your little family.” He reminded me that my all or nothing mother mentality extended into subjects other that education. It threatened the way I felt about spiritual family activities, recreational family activities, celebrations and holidays. This was the morning the Lord invited me to accept the truth that as my family grew I would not always have everyone at family prayer, family night, family scripture study, family dinner, on the family vacation, at the wedding, sitting around the table at Thanksgiving dinner, or at the yearly Christmas Sing Along.
I remember finally pulling myself together that morning and gathering my group for opening prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, a brand new scripture and a poem to memorize, new books, and a new schedule. Without missing too many beats we were off and running. Since that day I’ve had many “family” experiences with three out of five, two out of five, and even one out of five. I have felt the Lord smile at my willingness to participate with Him in family activities with all those willing and able to be present.
For many of us the joy of the holidays is threatened by the sadness we feel over the ones who are missing for whatever reason. Today, when I’m tempted to allow the joy I might experience, with the ones I’m with, to be overshadowed by the emptiness of a less than perfect attendance, I get honest with the Lord. I say to Him, “Lord, I just want everyone present and accounted for.” “Me too!” I seem to hear my Heavenly Father whisper. “Me too. But just like you, though my heart longs for the presence of all my children, I can’t hold myself back from the ones who are present. I give myself fully to being, teaching, loving, and celebrating with one or with all.
By Nannette W.
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009
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