My boys are visiting me for the summer. I’m super excited, happy, and crazy busy! I don’t get as much sleep; I sometimes skip meals; and sometimes I feel like I’m run ragged. However, I wouldn’t change any of it. Isn’t that part of being a parent?
I have done menu planning, washed laundry the day before church, and still, without fail, something has prevented us from making it to church. The tub was leaking the first week, and we all had woken up super late. The next week, I washed their only pair of jeans (that I was going to allow them to go in, because they do not wear slacks to their church), and one boy wore them to the canyon where he fell into the river and then was scaling the river in his clean pants. Due to other people using the washer, I was unable to wash them the night before. The next day, my daughter told me that she was sad we weren’t able to go to church. That made me sad. I knew I needed to try harder this coming week.
Going from one child to three is a big change. The two are obviously older, and they are being raised differently than I would raise them. It’s just different. I’m sure people who have gone through a divorce and have a similar visitation situation know what I mean. That being said, I have to kind of roll with the punches, and keep a structured environment as much as possible. Easier said than done, right?
My boys were blessed in my church when they were about eight weeks old. They went to church with me; they went to church with my second husband and me. They enjoyed it and even spoke of becoming missionaries one day. Well, it was approaching their eighth birthday and someone called our house phone and my mother picked up. It was the primary president from the ward. In our church, we do believe that a child can be accountable for their own sins or transgressions at age eight. Thus at eight, our children are baptized by immersion and are given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Well, my boys went to live with my first husband, their dad, before their sixth birthday. I also hadn’t spoken with them for two years. When the primary president asked my mom if I would be having them baptized, my mom immediately began crying. She told her that the boys live with their father in California and are not attending the LDS church anymore. It broke our hearts to even talk about it.
When I received a text message from their stepmother that the boys had joined a different church, my heart sank. My silver lining to this was that they would at least delve into understanding the love of Christ. When I began seeing them after our visitation was established in the courts, I was not ready to take them to church. But their father had expected me to. Their visit was only two weeks. I told him, next time. Well, the next time, they fought me, and they fought me. I even told them that their dad expected me to take them to church, and they still told me that they didn’t want to go.
I wasn’t quite sure of what to do. I know I wasn’t as committed to attending church then, as I am now, but I still wasn’t quite sure. So, I spoke to their father again, and confirmed that they were allowed to go to my church, and that it is expected that they go. They did not bring church clothes, or church shoes, so I told them that they will be going in their jeans and their sneakers. I mentioned that their baby sister and I could not miss seven weeks of church, so we will be attending. Guess what? They did not fight me one bit.
I am not a mother of older children who have chosen to no longer be a member of our faith, or who just stopped going. I do know that my own mother has struggled with the fact that her children have not been active at times. My oldest brother had a difficult time when he was a teen. But before he married his wife, he asked her to take the missionary lessons to become a member of the church. We were so pleased to hear this. My sister in law was baptized and though they don’t currently attend church, she sometimes thumbs through the Book of Mormon to find comfort and peace. Another brother has had a job where he works on Sundays, but was reactivated by the missionaries, and has been finding a way to go to even a portion of church each Sunday. I am so happy with his choice to do this! My mother is ecstatic!
My youngest brother is struggling quite a bit with his own choices. We pray for him on a continuing basis and we know that the Lord is watching over him, and protecting him the best He can. My heart goes out to those parents who struggle with this situation. I know I have told my mom, in the hopes of comforting her, that the right values and teachings were instilled in us as young children and teens, but that we chose to go another way. We made those choices. We all have to be accountable for what we do in our lifetime.
I pray for my boys to make the right choices, I pray that they will have softened hearts and open minds. Perhaps maybe one day missionaries will approach them, and they will be ready to listen. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I cannot foresee the future. But I can continue to pray for their guidance, and their protection. I also pray for myself to be an example to them. When they are with me, I do teach them about unconditional love and some of the basic principles that Jesus taught while on the earth. I know I could do more, but as I have said before, baby steps. Part of being that example is attending church regularly! I know I will put forth much more of an effort in the following weeks that they are here. I am more committed to it now.
Our beloved President Monson told us in October 2014 Conference, “With the parable of the lost sheep, [Jesus] instructs us to go to the rescue of those who have left the path and have lost their way.”
Be one who reaches out to a lost sheep, and even if they are not ready, be there for them. Be an example to them, and perhaps when they are ready, they will reach out to you.