Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Found a Gold Nugget in my Stocking!

Last night as I was wrapping presents and wondering if my kids were going to be happy, jealous, or disappointed Christmas morning, it got me thinking on what Christmas is really about.

(Yeah, I know; pagan beginnings, winter solstice, blah blah blah - My brain is MY space and I think my thoughts.
Haven't YOU ever had to celebrate your birthday on a day other than your birthday? Me, too.  So let this argument go.)

This is the day arbitrarily chosen to remind us that He came. 
Image result for baby jesus

And I like it.  

December would be dark and miserable without Christmas lighting the nights both literally and figuratively.  It would be like January. Ugh.  Who wants more January?  Not me.

Christmas can be lit up with love and light and study of truth.  BONUS! It is wonderful practice for receiving. Not only from others, but a good time to remember that the greatest gift of all was Jesus. It was a double-whammy, actually:
He was a gift from God, the Father, AND a gift from Jesus Himself.
He gave His life AND His love.
He lived AND died to teach us and prepare the way back.
He lived to be our Savior AND our friend.

Wait ... that's more like a octuple-whammy.
Image result for stop sign love
  Yep.  Christmas is a big ol' Stop Sign of "I LOVE YOU" from your Heavenly Family.
We get to practice receiving this love.

That reminds me of something.
My oldest son likes to create "treasure hunts" for his younger siblings and their friends.  It has been a favorite activity for him since he was nine.
Image result for treasure map
It rarely goes well.

Either the children would get side-tracked by a toy, or they wouldn't understand the clues.
"I made it as easy as I could!" my oldest would say. "They only have to go to two other places and then LOOK!  The X is right there in real life!!!"
Poor thing.
He'd also have occasion to hear the kids say "What is the treasure?  Show me first and then I'll find it!"
"It doesn't work that way," He'd respond. "You'll love it - I promise!"
But the kids wouldn't trust him.
The worst, though, is when a child would follow the treasure map all the way to the end and then say "That wasn't worth this treasure." or "I don't like this.  I want something else."
It would break my son's heart and we'd have a long talk about the duty of the Giver (Love and give and let go) and the responsibility of the receiver (to recognize the love - what ever physical form it takes - with grace and gratitude).

He's 13 and STILL he sets up a treasure hunt for other children anytime boredom starts to creep in. He's getting better at the letting go part.

What I realized, though, is that The Plan of Salvation is more like my boy setting up his treasure hunts. Father knows the treasure at the end: truth and eternal life of Love with Him and the Savior and our Families sealed together by the power of the Holy Priesthood.

He asks us to trust Him: here is the Map, there's something wonderful for you at the end. I'll see you at the X!
How often do we respond like this:

"How long will it take?"
"Give me more hints."
"I don't want to right now, I'm too tired."
"You never give me anything!"
"There's no way it's better than what I'm doing right now."
"I'll do it tomorrow."
"I don't wanna share the map with So & So! They hurt my feelings! They shouldn't get to come!" (yes, I've actually  heard this one in real life from children.)
"Why can't you just give me the prize?"
"Why did you make it so hard?"
Even if the kids would know what was at the end (the last of the goldfish crackers, in once instance) they sometimes responded with "It's ok - I'll just get these crackers that are like goldfish."
Or, the real doozy:
*Child looks suspiciously at the Maker of the Map* "How do I know it's not a trick?

It's not a trick, my friends. 

Awesome, glorious things wait for us at the big X on the map back to our Heavenly Home!
I'm grateful that Christmas got me thinking about this. I'm grateful for Christmas for a lot of reasons. 

I intend to celebrate.

Image result for celebrate christmas
Merry Christmas!

Friday, January 22, 2016

If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?

It's a common things kids say to each other...or at least, kids from the 80's did. Someone is eating popcorn and says  "I LOVE popcorn!" Another child exclaims

Then everyone laughs.

It's good question, though. Inherent in this "joke" is a question of time and commitment. Are you committed to popcorn?  Willing to eat it every meal for the rest of your life? That kind of thing. It worked on our definitions of "love" even as children.

When it came to picking a mate, the answer to "If you love him so much, why don't you marry him?!" was and continues to be "Okay, I will!"
And I still love my champion like he's a big bowl of buttery popcorn that never gets stale and never gives me a belly-ache.

But can this "stress test" found in a teasing childs question be applied elsewhere?  I tried it today and found the answer to be Yes. Story time.

We have decided to limit our kids to one hour of screen time per day.

My kids have had mixed reactions.

My oldest son being "hit" the hardest by the change led us to have a talk. He kept ping-ponging between understanding our point of view and just -frankly- hating it.

He said he needed a new perspective on gaming.

I suggested that we make a Pro and Con list. With his help, it turned out like this:


* It's fun
* Do things I can't do in real life  (build a house in a day on Minecraft; play with the laws of physics in Portal, etc).
* Play with cousins and friends in other states.
* Way to connect with friends/Dad (something in common)
* I get to win/ feel successful
* Accomplishment (Achievements and rankings)
* Fill the time in a way that is not boring
* Puzzles/ Brain teasers
* Instant Gratification/Fulfillment
* Instant consequences
* Instant Second Chances.


* Bad on the eyes
* False sense of control
* Miss out on real life
* No concept of time/passage of time in real life
* Impatient with others
* False sense of Physical Accomplishment (the brain has the thought "I just climbed a church in Constantinople!" But the body knows you didn't which leads to)
* Physical/Mental disconnect
* Little/no exercise
* Physical weakness
* Fight with siblings over things that don't matter
* "Builds doubt that I can find solutions in real life"
* It's a use of time that is forgettable
* Makes real life seem "too slow"
* Not enough real life rewards - I'm not earning anything in real life.
* Makes it harder to see choices
* Makes it harder to make choices
* Makes real life consequences scarier
* Fewer real life/lasting connections
* Wasted Day
* I build nothing that lasts

He came up with literally 16 of these Cons by himself! Pretty smart kid, I know.

I let him look at the list for a while. He said that the pro's were short-lived and the cons were long. He didn't like that one bit."This makes me feel awful. Gaming makes things worse inside."

 "Well," I said, "If this were a girl, would you want to marry her?"
"If you were in a relationship with a girl who made you feel like this - who's pro/con list looked like this - would you marry her or just be friends?"
It didn't take him long to decide. "I wouldn't marry someone who made me feel like this." he said, clearly wondering where I was going with this weird train of thought.

"You are in a relationship with your electronics." I said.
I let that sink in before going on. "The Xbox is fun to hang out with, but look at the cons of tying your life to it. You can have all the pros with the Xbox in an hour. Managing the time you spend with it will cut at least 10 things off the cons list."
He thought about that, and lifted his chin as it worked in his head.
"So, the question is do you want to marry the Xbox or just be friends?"
He thought about that longer. I think he could see that his answer would be a choice.
Then he smiled.  "I just want to be friends."

"Great. Then you'll have to break up with the Xbox."
My twelve year old son quirked an eyebrow.
"I've broken up with people," I said. "So I know what it's gonna feel like. You'll miss it. That's normal. That's ok.  It's a real loss."
"So it's ok to cry about it?"
I nodded.  "Absolutely. You can still hang out with Xbox sometimes; because Xbox is fun."

"But it makes me feel bad if I hang out with it too much."
"That's why you don't want to marry it."
"Yeah. I get it."

He got tears in his eyes, so I softly told him about the bright future past the loss. "And then, you will fill your life with better relationships. A relationship with nature, with exercise, with making things, with theater; you'll even build up your relationships with people. There will be strength after the struggle."

"Love?" I asked him in our usual way.
"Love." He confirmed.  Then he slammed into me with a big hug. "Love love love."

Later I had this conversation with my daughter and it turned out exactly the same.
So my kids are breaking up with electronics. Which is awesome.  They deserve better.