little Christmas moments

The other night was like most evenings, my husband and I were exhausted from a busy day! It was also Monday night, which means we hold Family Home Evening: a time when we have a brief lesson about Jesus Christ and His gospel and occasionally some sort of activity. It turned out to be an especially wonderful evening.

Abraham (who is 22 months) offered the opening prayer. He speaks many words and is starting to put together sentences, but Jeremiah and I lovingly joke with one another that Abe does "angel speak" when he prays, and only Father in Heaven can understand him. We don't tell him what to say--he says his own thing. It really is the sweetest thing! Abe ends his prayers with a sense of accomplishment. And we all feel something very special when he prays. 

Our older son Matthew showed a nativity movie. He began to narrate what was happening in the movie, and that was the sweetest. He talked about Mary’s goodness and how she would become a mommy to Jesus. He talked about how amazing angels are and that sometimes they appear with special messages. Matthew loves shepherd staffs, so when the movie showed the shepherds, he talked about how they sometimes use their staffs to help their sheep (it made me think of the significance of shepherds and mostly of The Good Shepherd and His gentle lovingness toward each of us). During the part that showed the three wise men, Jeremiah interjected that it is significant that both wealthy wise men and humble shepherds sought Jesus Christ--just as each of us, no matter our monetary circumstance or position, need to do. Then Matthew’s favorite part in the movie: the hosts of angels who sang praises to the newborn babe. Matthew pointed out how Jesus opened His eyes to say "hi" to all of His visitors (we've been talking a lot lately about what it means to be gracious). The most beautiful stories and doctrines are often taught best by children.

After the movie, Matthew bore his testimony of Jesus Christ. It was simple, sweet, and sincere. And it caused my mother heart to rejoice.

The experience was special to me for several reasons. First, it reiterated to me the importance of being consistent. Being a parent is exhausting work! But being consistent in the seemingly little things, like gathering once a week as a family for family home evening and praying regularly and sincerely, matters. Those things are part of our family culture, and though they're not fancy, they're important tools to help our children build their own foundation and testimony of Jesus Christ piece-by-piece, week-by-week. And a strong foundation built upon Christ will not only help them weather the storms of life well, but will also help them live joyful lives. As it turns out Matthew really was listening over the last couple of weeks as we spent time in the scriptures together--even though I wondered at the time whether it was making a difference!

Second, children are their own people and require opportunities that help them articulate their own thoughts and feelings often. And they are very capable. Even from a very young age, children can accept and carry out responsibilities such as preparing a lesson or doing a chore. From my experience, without exception, age-appropriate (and even stretching) responsibilities help to grow the child and everyone comes away feeling wonderful! 

Third, the Family Home Evening experience reminded me that my children are sponges. During the lesson, Matthew used several of my phrases--verbatim. I don't know why I'm surprised when I hear my children use my exact phrases, but it always makes me laugh. It also reminds me to use care in what I say--especially in my moments of frustration. They are always watching and learning how to view themselves and the world by what I say and do. 

Beauty in family life really does come in little moments like this--the kind that gently mold each of us as children, as parents. And it's the little moments that help us grow closer to Christ Himself--an especially beautiful opportunity during this Christmas season.