Three reasons our family will Still be Scouting in 2020

IMG_3630.JPGLast year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would discontinue its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and introduce a worldwide youth program in 2020. While our family fully plans to embrace the new Church Child and Youth Development Initiative, we also intend to continue our participation in Scouting. Here’s why:

P22-4c67f.jpgReason #1: Structure. The Boy Scouts of America has been around for over a century, and the BSA has proven its worth as a structured program. This structure is a remarkable support to both Scouting leaders and Scouting families. Regular quality activities, handbooks full of information, and leader specific trainings all provide a tried and true ladder guiding youth to leadership, character, citizenship and fitness.

IMG_4231.JPGBSA programs—Cub Scouting thru Venturing—are based and built on age-appropriate activities, like stepping stones. My Cub Scout learns to handle a pocket knife, my Boy Scout earns the Woodcarving Merit Badge. My younger son takes a mile hike with his den, my older son hikes for 30 miles with his troop. You get the picture. My children are benefitting from a program shaped and tested for decades, with applicable achievements for each group, and all under an umbrella of specially trained leaders. Scouting is a safe place to learn and grow.

IMG_3573.JPGAdditionally, I love that Scouting youth have requirements—steps that must be followed—and hard tasks to complete. As humans, we rarely choose to over-extend ourselves, but the organization of Scouting gently and consistently compels youth to climb higher, be better, and accomplish hard things. In a world becoming increasingly wishy-washy and self-centered, I find the structure of Scouting remarkable and helpful to my parenting efforts.IMG_4234.JPGReason #2: Skills. Scouting is all about skills—building fires, camping, backpacking, tying knots, pitching tents, cooking, swimming, lifesaving, first aid. The list of Scouting skills is endless! Take a glance at the 137 merit badges offered to understand the full gamut of opportunities available to Scouts. Where pushing buttons with thumbs has become an all-to-common society staple for youth, I am grateful for skills taught through the BSA programs.

IMG_3641.JPG“Outing” is a key component of Scouting. Leave the lethargy and apathy at the door and step into adventure: rock-climbing, rappelling, canoeing, biking, rafting… the list goes on and on.img_4054.jpgAnd the fun isn’t just for the older youth. Last week our Cub Scouts learned and played the iconic game of marbles. Imagine seven 9-year-olds, squealing, laughing and cheering as their marbles rolled across the dirt. And in the preceding weeks our Cub Scouts hiked, whittled with pocket knives, cooked over a fire, constructed with carpentry tools, pitched tents, conducted science experiments, practiced safety, and built contraptions with simple machines. Scouting is all about skills.

IMG_3069 (1).JPGThe skills lead me to Reason #3: Substance. Scouting is chock-full of substance. Let’s face it; there are a million and one extra-curricular options for kids today. But I can’t think of another activity, club, pastime, team or sport based on Duty to God, Country, and Family. Each week I watch Cub Scouts raise their arms in the Scout Sign and recite the century-old Oath and Law—promising to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind…the iconic list goes on.

IMG_2341.JPGWhen any youth commits to Scouting values, we’ve won a battle for our future. Like I’ve said before, our time as a family is precious, yet the substance—the values and character-building opportunities—offered through BSA programs put Scouting at the top of our extra-curricular list.

P4-a1fd9.jpgAnd my fourth point—if I may have one—is Patriotism. No one does patriotism like the Boy Scouts of America. Two weeks ago I stood with over 100 other observers at a campfire. The sky was crystal clear. The stars shone brightly. The full moon came up over the ridge. The fire glowed orange and red. It couldn’t have been a more picturesque evening. Around the campfire stood eight solemn Boy Scouts. With all the respect they could muster, they displayed a flag, tattered and torn. Then, while the audience watched, they shared history in broken and emotional tones, before respectfully retiring the flag in the flames.

IMG_3619.JPGThe audience was completely silent, engulfed in the emotion of the moment. My 12-year-old son was one of the boys by the fire. Four of his younger siblings watched him participate in that sacred event. It was worth gold to me to know that he had set a standard of respect for our family as he handled the American flag that evening. Yes, no one does patriotism like the Boy Scouts of America.

P14-36c94.jpgWill the partnership between the Church and the BSA end in December? Yes. But for our family Scouting will go on. The structure, skills, substance and patriotism offered by the BSA are—in my mind—indispensable. It is my belief that Scouting will compliment—not compete with—any other extra-curricular activity, including the forthcoming Church initiative.

P19-b63a8.jpgOur family looks forward to another century of citizenship, fitness, leadership, and character through the Boy scouts of America. In 2020 we will Still be Scouting.

 

“Just a Mom” – The First Falsehood of Motherhood

IMG_4227.jpgI wasn’t even a mom when I first used this phrase. Well, I wasn’t quite a mom.

It was the day of my college graduation ceremony. There I was—dressed in a black gown, thrilled to be receiving my bachelor’s degree—when I spoke the false words.

“What are you doing after graduation?” a caring friend asked.

Glancing at my large belly with a smile I said simply, “I’ll be just a mom.”

I wasn’t disappointed, just truthful. With a new baby arriving in a few weeks, I wouldn’t have time to pursue a job and career. I’d already made my choice: motherhood.

Still, my answer didn’t seem quite as adventurous as my colleagues who were going on for higher degrees or enviable jobs.

I mistakenly thought I had spoken the truth. I would be “just a mom.” But I had no idea how false my words were.

~~~~~ 22 years later~~~~~~

At 5:30am the alarm rings. I roll over to turn it off and remember that my husband is out of town…again. I’m a single mom for a few more days this week.

My exhausted body tells me I CANNOT get out of bed, so instead I lay there for a minute and think through the day: the meals, the carpools, the homework, the piano lessons, the preschool. There is so much to be done! Who is going where? When must they arrive? What has to be done before they leave? And the never-ending question, “What’s for dinner?”

My mind cannot possibly solve all of the puzzle pieces or unknowns, and so I finally crawl out of bed. It’s time to make breakfast.

Lunches.jpgI open the cupboard and see the oatmeal. Again. I have made at least a million gallons of oatmeal in my life. And a million peanut butter sandwiches. And sliced a million oranges for lunch. And wrapped a million carrots. And buttered a million pieces of toast. And don’t even get me started on how many morning ponytails I’ve brushed or diapers I’ve changed.

Mothers totally comprehend eternity and infinity.

In fact, I’ve lived a million days like this one: waking children, cooking for children, helping children, dressing children, feeding children, cleaning up after children, signing homework for children, sending them out the door, folding laundry, sweeping floors, washing dishes. Sometimes I even envy Cinderella.

With the tasks of the day looming over me I cannot possibly get my slippers to move. So instead I sit down on the couch and shut my eyes… just for a few more minutes. But, no matter how well I did it yesterday, I must do it again.

The clock is ticking, so I finally stand up to wake the first batch of children.

On mornings like this one the falsehood from my graduation day comes back to me, and I hear discouraging voices.

You are just a mother. You are just a mom. You are just one more robe-clad bleary-eyed Mama calling up the stairs to wake sleeping kiddles. Your daily routine is empty.

But the beauty of this moment is that my minuscule perceptions are completely and totally false. Despite the exhaustion and mundaneness, these feelings are not real.

They are actually a farce and a dream.

IMG_4226.JPGFirst, the voices are wrong because I do go on. I do get up each morning. I do wake up children. I do make the breakfast. I do brush the hair and kiss the cheeks and hug them goodbye. Yes, like every morning, and every other mom around the globe, this Mama goes on. And on and on and on… Like the Little Engine that Could, or the Titantic, or the Energizer Bunny.

We don’t stop because we can’t. And that’s the paradoxical beauty of our situation.

We can’t.

Motherhood is forever. Once the decision is made, there is no turning back. In fact, even on those mornings when we do stay in bed, or do skip fixing dinner, or do forget the homework, we are still mothers—indispensable, never forgotten.

IMG_1242 2The world would stop turning without us. Literally. And the sooner we come to realize this amazing fact, the more empowered we are to go on.

Second, the discouraging voices are false because we will never be “just”. We will never be disposable or invisible or even secondary, no matter how the legislators and the regulators vote. We are the world.

But with all respect, these truths are hard to remember at 6:00am.

I call the children down to family prayer. I cook the oatmeal. I kiss high-schoolers goodbye. I pack lunches. I find lost library books. I comb tousled hair. I listen to piano practice. I sweep up crumbs. I find matching socks. I zip up the backpacks and the coats.

And the world turns.

I somehow survive this morning like I have survived a million mornings in the past. And as I work, the glorious truth unfolds.

By the time the kids have eaten breakfast, their happy chatter and eager smiles have miraculously lifted my spirits. Their sticky hugs, their shared concerns, their innocent conversation carries me up and over the mountain of motherhood.

Somehow the very souls that increased my burden have actually resolved it.

IMG_4111In fact, by the time they walk back through the door that afternoon after school, they are literal saviors. Their happy chatter heals me. Their souls are my souls. Their accomplishments of the day are my victories. Their friendships and kindnesses have filled my bucket. This reality is surprising, and our shared existence is exhilarating.

We eat dinner. We do homework. We feed chickens. We fold laundry. We brush teeth. We resolve calculus. We read stories. We say prayers… And over and over again these small efforts become big. My minuscule motherhood moments have become monumental.

As I crawl into bed that night I count my victories, and comprehend who I really am—the Mama beyond the “just.”

IMG_3136I am the scientist (my son) launching satellites around the globe.

I am the missionary in Sweden (my son) changing the world one door at a time.

I am the student secretary at the university (my daughter) managing service events.

IMG_4191I am the DECA president, (my daughter) traveling across the nation to compete in marketing.

I am the first chair flute (my daughter) performing at the state band festival.

I am the Scout patrol leader (my son) teaching First Aid skills to his peers.

I am the student leader (my daughter) sharing hope with others.

I am the Science Olympiad contestant (my son) practicing with his teammates.

I am the bubbly first grader (my daughter) reaching out to the injured classmate.

I am the adorable preschooler (my son) carefully writing his name and sharing smiles with all around him.

Temporal accomplishments are certainly not the goal, but influence is the natural offspring of effort, and my children make me shine.

I have never been to Sweden, or the moon, or the Science Olympiad—yet I have miraculously impacted those corners of the world.

Who knew that one oatmeal-making, hair-brushing, story-reading mama could affect life with this scope and magnitude?

IMG_4128 2I know nothing about satellites. I cannot speak a word of Swedish. I can’t play the flute, or recite the Scout Outdoor Code—but I am all of these things because of my children. It’s a humbling and exhilarating realization!

And this motherhood success is irrelevant to numbers. One child or twenty, the hand that rocks the cradle literally rules the world. Children make us more than we are. They make us who we are!

IMG_3144In fact, Mother by definition, is everything. The world. The future. The universe.

The very opposition that entices us to be “just a mom” is evidence enough of our eternal and influential nature. Our daily struggle provides ample proof that our role matters.

The mornings of exhaustion. The mounds of oatmeal. The million pony tails. The pages of homework. The hours of piano practice. These are our stepping stones to exaltation.

In the end, the truth will set us free. We are not and will never be “just” mothers.

We are MOM. We are MAMA. We are MOTHER.

Take notice. We are the world.

Top Ten Books For Summertime Reading

Summertime is all about READING! Stacks of books, hours of free-time, long hot days with nothing to do…except read!

Join me today in our family SCHOOLROOM (my favorite place…) for the TOP TEN BOOKS on our reading list this summer.

During the school year my kids read whatever their teachers recommend, or whatever they find at the library. But in the summertime I give them a list from our family bookshelf. These are tried and true old-fashioned books I read as a child. I don’t want my kids to miss out on these stories, even if they are from a different era. Most of our copies are from the second hand store, and I love the dog-eared pages and stamps from school libraries of long ago.

This summer, to add to the fun, we’re having a family BOOK BATTLE! My kids love doing book battles with their school librarian. This year we’ve made our own family list of books to read…and we’ll battle it out in August.

P.S. Stay tuned at the end for 3 bonus books…

OF MISSIONS AND MOTHERHOOD

IMG_0147I served as a full-time volunteer church missionary for 18 months in the Japan Okayama Mission. Yesterday my oldest daughter was called to serve as a missionary in the Hungary Romania Mission. Anticipating my daughter’s upcoming mission brings back a flood of memories and miracles from my own time of service.

IMG_0146

My mission was a wonderful and challenging experience. Learning to speak Japanese, riding a bike, and coping with the physical and emotional aspects of missionary life were soul-stretching yet spiritually fulfilling opportunities. Several times during moments of difficulty I naively thought to myself, “Serving a mission is the hardest thing I will ever do!”

Now I am married and have ten children. The physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges I have faced as a mother are even greater than those I experienced as a missionary! However, I have learned that motherhood is a mission, and I am grateful everyday for the lessons I learned as a missionary which helped to prepare me for motherhood.

IMG_2983Preparation

At the beginning of my missionary service I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. At the MTC I spent nine hours a day intensely studying Japanese and principles of missionary work. After arriving in Japan, I continued to study each morning. Learning was a key factor in successful missionary work.

Since becoming a mother, I have often wished for a different MTC, a Motherhood Training Center, where I could have studied in preparation for the challenges of parenting.

Although there is not a physical MTC where mothers go for instruction, mothers do have many gospel resources available. Regular attendance at church and the temple provide learning opportunities. General conference addresses, scriptures, and church lesson manuals contain instructions and counsel for mothers.  Although our uninterrupted personal time is often short, mothers can find creative times to study the gospel.

Arising early to attend the temple, reading Church magazines in the car while waiting to pick up a child, or studying the scriptures while the baby is napping are just a few of the moments I have found to squeeze gospel study into my busy schedule. No matter how short, daily learning has blessed me as a parent, just as it did as a missionary.

1617586_738920106155020_2375143222699830656_o.jpgSacrifice

Serving a mission requires sacrifice. Leaving friends and family for 18 months or two years, financially paying for a mission, and taking time away from educational studies are sacrifices many missionaries make. On a mission I learned that the blessings of sacrifice often come later, just as seeds take time to grow and bear fruit. Although I returned from my mission over twenty years ago, I am only now fully enjoying many of the blessings of my service.

Recently, I met a young woman I had taught in Japan, who has since been baptized, married in the temple, and is raising a beautiful family in the gospel. Seeing her success and feeling her testimony was a sweet and fulfilling moment which came many years after my service to her.

Mothers also make sacrifices – physical, financial, and personal – to bear and raise children. These sacrifices can also bring future fruits of joy. I have faith that my hours spent doing laundry, fixing meals, and caring for children will eventually yield results as I see my children grow and mature.

Learning to trust in forthcoming fruit as a missionary has also taught me to “wait upon the Lord” (Psalm 37:9) until my motherhood sacrifices are brought to fruition. The sacrifices of both missionary work and motherhood are minimal when compared with the sweet fruits of service.

IMG_3514Teaching

The Japanese word for missionary work or proselyting is “dendo.” Literally translated, the Kanji characters mean “show the way.” I enjoyed teaching the gospel and “showing the way” to investigators and friends on my mission. My purpose as a mother is similar to my purpose as a missionary. I “show the way” to my children, teaching them the gospel, and helping them along the path that leads back to our Heavenly Father.

I remember standing by the font watching one of my daughters being baptized. As she entered the water, I had a sudden flashback of watching a sweet Japanese investigator being baptized. It occurred to me that I had taught my young daughter the gospel, just as I had taught my investigator, and the joy I felt at my daughter’s baptism was the joy I had felt as a missionary.1836707_738920099488354_524628182105384612_o.jpgScriptures

On my mission I kept a quote by Heber J. Grant written on a scrap of paper and tucked into my scriptures. “The Book of Mormon… is the greatest missionary that we have…” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p.19) Years later, I still carry this quote in my scriptures. Missionaries use the scriptures daily in teaching the gospel.

Mothers can and should use the scriptures too as a daily companion in teaching our children and ourselves. We generally have the privilege of being the very first people to introduce children to the scriptures, just as missionaries are often the first to introduce investigators to the scriptures. Sitting by a child, first reading to them, then helping them read on their own, and then watching them have personal scripture study is a very fulfilling part of motherhood.

IMG_2986Gospel Discussions

While riding our bikes on the streets of Japan, my companion and I would often stop and visit with the people we passed. These spontaneous missionary discussions were a regular and fulfilling part of our work. Although we often never met the person we visited with again, I felt we were planting seeds, which could someday grow into a full testimony of the gospel. Perhaps that person on the street would meet with missionaries or Church members in the future, and eventually come to a full understanding of the truth.

Children, too, need spontaneous religious discussions. As mothers, we can participate in gospel discussions whenever they are appropriate or necessary in our children’s lives. I have enjoyed deep religious discussions with my children at random times such as while fixing dinner, doing yard work, driving to or from activities, and late at night.

Although these discussions are almost always unplanned, parents can use them as opportunities to plant gospel seeds in our children’s hearts.

IMG_2990The Spirit

During my mission I often recalled a phrase I had read in the Missionary Guide. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Without the Spirit, you will never succeed, regardless of your talent or ability.” (Seminar for new mission presidents, 25 June 1986, Preach My Gospel, p.176)

One of the sweetest joys I experienced as a missionary was learning to feel and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When I did, I always felt peace and joy, and saw success in my missionary work.

A wise mother once counseled me to follow the promptings of the Spirit—no matter how small—in raising my children. These promptings have come as a mother just as they did as a missionary – in quiet times, during unexpected moments, and usually in a still, small voice.

Often the promptings require immediate action on behalf of my children. One day I was prompted to pick up my son early from school and spend some personal time with him. Another time I felt impressed to keep my daughter home from an activity. Recently I felt inspired to sit by a certain child during Sacrament meeting. Whenever I have followed these promptings, I have seen and felt blessings as a parent and in the lives of my children. Following the spirit has been a comforting and vital tool in my work as a mother.

Teaching investigators to feel and recognize the spirit was another important task of a missionary. The spirit is usually present at missionary lessons. Taking extra care to identify the feelings of the spirit for investigators allowed them to recognize the spirit on their own, and made their gospel conversion even deeper.

One of the sweetest tasks of parenthood is helping our own children feel and recognize the spirit. Taking time during family home evening, family council, family testimony meeting, or spontaneous family discussions to identify the sweet peace of the spirit has led to meaningful family experiences.

Feeling the spirit with my children has been sweet, just as it was with my investigators. Watching my children identify the spirit on their own has given me additional joy in knowing that they are capable of this important tool for spiritual success.

IMG_0145Hard Work and Joy

Before leaving on my mission, I often imagined that missionaries lead a life of drudgery: knocking on doors, experiencing continuous rejection, and spending long hours laboring. However, even on the very first day of my mission, I thought to myself, “Missionary work is fun! Am I supposed to be enjoying my mission this much?” I discovered that each day on a mission had moments of work as well as joyful times. I truly enjoyed the many (and mostly) happy experiences as a missionary.

Motherhood can be the same way. When we take time to enjoy our everyday life – even when it is filled with mundane tasks – we can truly be the best mothers possible.

In addition, I learned as a missionary that the most discouraging moments in life are usually right before the most happy and fulfilling times. Each of the baptisms I saw as a missionary was preceded with surprising difficulties, including hard rejections, contention with my companion, and even a typhoon!

When I get discouraged as a mother, I reflect on the emotional ups and downs of my mission, and recall that opposition is a sure sign of coming success. My missionary experiences have taught me to press on as a mother until difficult times improve.

IMG_3512Training

Finally, with the new, younger missionary age and the increased interest in youth serving missions, mothers have the opportunity to make their homes a Missionary Training Center. Sister Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society general president stated, “Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre-missionary training center. Then the doctrines of the gospel taught in the MTC would be a review and not a revelation. That is influence; that is power.” (Conference Address, October 2007).

President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized that the work of righteous women, “Must begin in their own homes.” (Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 20) Family home evening, family scripture study, family prayer, and spontaneous gospel discussions can all be “missionary training” for our children.

I am grateful for the soul-stretching and eternally fulfilling experience of serving as a full-time missionary. My mission prepared me for the challenges and work of motherhood, and the fulfilling and important role of teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to my own children. Now I see not only the fruits of my missionary work—but also of my motherhood—fulfilled as my own daughter goes forth to serve.

IMG_0147My purpose as a missionary and as a mother was and is the same: To bring souls unto Jesus Christ.

Three Tips To Becoming a FRESH AIR FAMILY

Last year I took a class on “Becoming a FRESH AIR FAMILY.” I was intrigued, mostly because I worry about the amount of digital screens in the lives of our children today.

The class gave three simple tips to getting kids – and families – outdoors on a regular basis. These are simple, fun, and easy to remember.

Thanks to my sister, Mamie, for joining me on this week’s episode of Nettie’s Notes.

And enjoy these beautiful views of the Land of Enchantment!