A friend from work lives on a small farm. Among other animals, she has seven chickens. Every night as the sun begins to set, six of these chickens make their way into the coop where they are kept warm and safe, moving by instinct and without any coaxing from my friend. However, one silly chicken, Miss Gray, does not follow her fellow mates into the protection of the coop. She is a bit slimmer, so she is still able to fly a short distance. Every night she flies up to the top of the enclosure fence, where she perches for a moment, and then flaps down into the darkness of the forest. My friend has no idea where she goes or what she does all evening, but she always finds her the next morning back in the enclosure, rooting around the feed bucket.
Miss Gray may think she is having a grand adventure every evening. Perhaps she even thinks that she is getting away with something. But my friend knows that this is a dangerous habit. She knows that there are frequently cougars and other predators in the forest and that one morning Miss Gray may just not come back home.
As we are preparing our families to fight in this dangerous world which we live in, are we giving them the essential tools they need to be safe and kept from the prowling predators of sin, addictions, and pride? Are we helping them to understand how the gospel acts as a refuge from the darkness in the world?
In order to strengthen and protect our families from the pitfalls of the world, the First Presidency has recently suggested a focus for members of the church. It is “Strengthening faith in our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ through Sabbath Day observance at church and in the home.”
One of the suggested topics, and the one which I have been pondering on for a while now is how to teach our children that the Sabbath is a delight.
In Isaiah 58:13-14 it reads, “If thou turn away...from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight,....and shalt honor [the Lord], not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.”
How do we teach our children that the Sabbath is a delight? Rather than regarding our Sunday worship as a dreary obligation, how can we help them see what a blessing the Sabbath is to our souls? Here are my thoughts on what has helped me and my family take more delight in the Sabbath.
First is preparation. With two young children and a teenager still in our home, preparation at our house in most cases means PREVENTION. If we want to avoid tantrums, meltdowns or other unholy communications on a Sunday morning, we have learned that we need to do certain things. The little girls need to be bathed the night before. Church clothes must be found and chosen on Saturday evening, ensuring that everyone has something clean to wear, including all shoes, ties, socks and tights. We need to have a plan ready for the meals of the day, so I am not rummaging through the kitchen, pulling my hair out while the kids moan about how they are starving.
Of course, even though Eric and I know that taking care of these basic needs on Saturday is always a good idea, this does not mean that all these things are routinely completed. However, I know that when we are prepared, our Sabbath morning is less rushed and I am better able to feel the Spirit in our meetings and more prepared to partake of the Sacrament.
What sort of preparations would improve your family's worship on the Sabbath?
Set a Pattern:
Second is to set a pattern. A pattern is a model used as a guide, or a repeated design.
My mother is a quilter. She has spent countless hours masterfully assembling hundreds of quilts over the years. She has tried to teach me how to quilt, but I always struggle with the exactness of following the pattern. In quilting, a pattern must be followed exactly for the pieces to line up properly. I like to be creative and do my own thing, which means my cooking recipes are never the same, since I frequently throw in whatever ingredients strike my fancy, and I generally have an organic approach to the design of any craft projects I am working on. This creative, loosey-goosey approach does not work well with quilting, but this doesn’t keep me from reverting back to my old habits. I always seem to think blocks are lined up “close enough,” or I can fudge the seam allowance here a little, but the end result is always disastrous. What seems like such a tiny little deviation turns into puckered fabrics, blocks that are not square, points which do not match, and a pattern that is no longer recognizable. Then my mother makes me pick the whole thing apart and start all over again until I get everything lined up exactly.
When I was growing up, my parents set a pattern of Sabbath worship. Not only did this pattern help me, as a child, to know what their expectations were for our conduct, but I have found over the years that it has also given me a reference to look back on as an adult.
In our house on Sundays, I knew that the television would not be on, the laundry would not be run, homework would be put aside, and unless we were on our deathbeds, meetings were always attended. My mother would prepare a lovely meal, the nicest of the week. Church lessons were discussed over the dinner table, everyone would pitch in with the dishes, and my mother would dish out a special treat while we selected a board game. Sometimes we would pull out our various musical instruments and collaborate together on hymns, and sometimes the evening was spent in quiet conversation by the fireplace.
These are my memories of Sundays. In the midst of our crazy, hectic lives there was always the respite of these joyful days spent together as a family.
Now that I have a family of my own and I know how difficult it is to replicate even ONE of those traditions, I can’t help but admire my parents and their continual commitment to rearing their children in the gospel. I’m sure that my siblings and I had squabbles, just like we did on every other day of the week. I’m sure there were times that the dinner was burnt, our meetings ran late, or our clothes were not properly pressed, but that is not the part that stands out in my memory. I just remember the feeling of great love and acceptance which was always present in our home, particularly on the Sabbath as we spent so much time together as a family.
What pattern do you want to establish in your home? What traditions or attitudes toward Sabbath worship do you want to pass along to your children?
My great-grandmother taught my mother that for every stitch you make with your needle on the Sabbath, you will have to pick it out with your nose in heaven. It may sound silly to us today, but it made an impression on my mother. To her grandmother, sewing represented work and the never-ending task of running a household. To my mother, it represents her dearest hobby, something which she passionately works on six days of the week. However, with her grandmother’s voice echoing in her head, she has never picked up a needle on Sunday, choosing instead to use her personal sacrifice as a sign to her Heavenly Father of how she loves and honors Him.
Of course, not all families are the same. The pattern you set for your family may be completely different than the pattern I set for mine. The only thing that matters is that our pattern is based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. When we use these guidelines, in conjunction with the guidance from our beloved church leaders, the pattern we set for our families will be beautiful and unique, providing our family with confidence and protection for generations to come.
Make it Special:
Lastly, in order to set the Sabbath day apart from the rest of the week, think about ways in which you and your family can make the day special.
You can create family traditions.
A sister in our ward recently spoke about a tradition they do on Sundays with their two young children. Every week the children take turns selecting what activity they will do together as a family, and then they do it. It could be baking cookies, going for a walk, playing a game, or playing with Legos, anything they want. Their children look forward to Sundays all week, because they are actively involved in planning what special thing they will do together.
Another sister in our ward recently taught a lesson in Relief Society about family history work. As a result of studying and preparing for her lesson, she learned of all the blessings of protection and faith promised to families who do their family history work. She wanted that for her family, so she made a commitment that before she could take her weekly Sunday nap she would do family history work together with her teenage children for one hour. Although grumbling at first, her children soon jumped on board with doing the work and in turn developed strong and beautiful testimonies of family history work for themselves.
There are many ways that you can make the Sabbath day special in your home. Serving others, visiting the sick and lonely, and sharing time together in family gatherings-- all these things will help bring the true purpose of the Sabbath day into your home. I have often found that my most sacred and special moments are the quiet, gentle conversations at unexpected times with one of my children as we are reading, doing the dishes, or driving in the car. My testimony and love for my Savior grows every time I testify of Him. Create an atmosphere on the Sabbath where these opportunities can occur frequently in your home. Not only will your testimony grow, but your children will be strengthened in the light of the gospel and find true delight in the Sabbath.
What sort of traditions would you like to implement in your family? How would you like to set the day apart from the rest of the week?
A Sacred Sabbath:
Elder Russel M. Nelson taught: “Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God. A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.”
I love the opportunity which we have every week to step away from our normal labors and cares, and immerse ourselves only in the Lord's work. I feel strongly that the more we turn away from our own pleasures and focus on what the Lord would have us do, the more our families will be blessed. In Doctrine & Covenants 59:15-16 we are promised that "....inasmuch as ye do these things [Sabbath observance] with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances...the fullness of the earth is yours." Health, prosperity, and protection are all promised those who learn to observe the Sabbath with a willing heart. How could these blessings be anything but a delight for our families?
After pondering and studying more about the Lord's expectations for the Sabbath, I know that I feel a renewed desire to work a little harder, prepare a little more, and create Sunday traditions that my children will always cherish. I know that if I do these things, I can help my children truly delight in the Sabbath. They will then choose to stay within the warmth and protection of the chicken coop, rather than seek their own way in the dark and dangerous world. Instead of dropping in occasionally to nip a little morsel of truth like the unwise Miss Gray, I know that consistency in honoring the Sabbath will inspire our families to stay grounded, feasting on the words and promises from a loving Heavenly Father. Then the Sabbath truly will be a delight.
My name is Heather.
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