I know you told me not to apologize for being churchy, but I really don’t intend to make this a super religious blog. This is just where my life is right now.
These are my family home evening lesson packets:
I have a lot of them. They are pretty marvelous, think of them as tiny little Sunday School lessons for kids. Inside each one there are pictures, a scripture story, an idea for a treat, and maybe even a game.
Six months ago I pulled one out for our family night lesson and found it was about strengthening and sharing one’s testimony of the gospel. In our church we have a Fast and Testimony meeting once a month. On this day, instead of hearing from the Bishop or assigned speakers, the pulpit is open to all. Children love to go up, and there is a popular little sing song poem thing they like to say when they are learning how to address the entire congregation:
I’d like to bear my testimony and I know this church is true.
I love my mom and dad and my brothers and sisters too.
Usually with a big brother or sister whispering in their ear, they add their love for Jesus and the scriptures before they flee back to their seats sporting a huge, proud-of-themselves grin plastered on their face.
Since my children had decided they liked sharing in testimony meeting, I thought I’d try to help them think of their own words to say, words that came from their hearts, and expressed their true feelings. We spent the night talking about where a testimony comes from as they read the scriptures, and how important it is to study things out on their own, so as they grow they can decide for themselves if the things we teach them are true.
This lovely evening backfired in my face when my children asked, “Why don’t you share your testimony in church?” I tried to explain that sharing my feelings about deeply spiritual things was something that did not come easy to me, how just the thought of speaking at the pulpit causes my throat to close up and my hands to go completely numb.
My dear sweet children did not let it be. My oldest, in particular continued to urge and nudge, and prod, and finally declared, “But mom, it could be my birthday present.”
Now, I felt like this was highly unfair. I shared my feelings about the gospel at home, with my family. Why was it necessary for me to tell everyone at church? There were so many others far more capable than I, who even seemed to enjoy getting up in front of everyone. My son just simply didn’t understand how terrifying this concept was for me.
Still, I was pretty shocked. “Really,” I asked skeptically, “you’d forego a big new set of Legos to see me tortured in front of a crowd?” He smiled, “Mom, it’s not torture. You can be brave and show me that you can do hard things.”
Where did he come from?
I had six months, so I shut up about it and hoped he’d forget. But he didn’t. I was able to make a plea bargain though, I said, “if I do this, and if I don’t die trying, part of this deal includes that I do not have to bear my testimony in public ever again.” He considered because my husband has taught him how to negotiate well. “Mom, how about this. You do this, you live to tell about it, and you don’t have to bear your testimony again until I go on my mission.”
Good grief, child. Are you seriously only ten?
I shoved the thought out of my head. It would creep up now and then, and I wrung my hands over it to friends, but I really just hoped it would go away. Then, something kind of gigantic happened. My husband was released from his Cub Master position, and was asked to serve in the Bishopric as the 1st counselor. This meant he was ordained a High Priest, and basically had no more sympathy for my plight. He was going to need to be on the stand every Sunday, sometimes conducting the meetings, and though free from crippling anxiety, public speaking was low on his “Things I Love to Do” list. As it happened, his first Sunday conducting our huge, 500 member congregation was also the Fast and Testimony meeting I’d had circled on my calendar for the last six months.
It’s all a blur, which is a good thing, or I’d sit here analyzing every word that eeked its way out of my mouth… into the microphone… in front of hundreds of people… and then I’d have to die afresh, but I don’t really remember. So thank goodness for trauma amnesia. What I will say, was that it was sweet, the way my son sat next to me and held my hand, and whispered, “you can do it mom!” while I dripped Rescue Remedy into my mouth, and spread Serenity on my collar bone and wrists (I don’t think either one helped). My son was so darling as he absolutely beamed up at me from the pew (he was all I could focus on, really), and how he embraced my sweating, shaking body when I somehow made it back to my seat, and said, “that was amazing, that was the best birthday present, ever.”
A big, gigantic thank you to my friends who were in the congregation, who knew how hard that was for me, who cried with me, and gave me huge hugs when it was all over. My husband too, for (having to) share his testimony as he conducted the meeting, for smiling at me, and being ever ready to leap forward and catch me if I passed out.
Paula Amy (sorry, I forgot who it was!) gave me a hint one night when I was in a fit over how quickly October was approaching. I bemoaned the fact that I was pretty decent on paper, but absolutely horrible in person. Testimonies are kind of supposed to be on the fly / from the heart and all of that, but if we want to get really technical, they’re also supposed to be self-propelled, in that you feel really moved to get up, and not COERCED by your incredibly darling child. Anyway. Amy suggested I make some notes and hide them in my scriptures. Then, she said, I could take my Bible up to the pulpit and I’d just look super holy, when really I was cracking open the book to read off my cheat sheets.
I totally did just that, and it helped. What I could see through my tears anyway. Here’s a tiny picture:
I’m telling you all of this, because oh my word, the stress. I think it built up and built up and then when it was finally over, my body had no choice but to get sick. I woke up this morning (the whole adventure was yesterday, if I didn’t mention that in this random outpouring of thoughts) with a sore throat, stuck-together eyes, and a sneeze that will not quit. I’ve been enjoying a pretty nice long streak of health (que the green smoothie broken record) so this was kind of a shock.
My husband and I were so emotionally drained last night, just so wrung out that we tucked the kids in bed early and fell asleep by 8. It was lovely, but it apparently gave my immune system time to pack its bags and head to the Fiji Islands for a vacay.
Dear blog readers. I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who loves me and hears and answers my prayers. I know that Jesus died for my sins so that I can live again. I have a whole lot of great big feelings about the things I read in the scriptures, and the words I hear from my church leaders. There are lots of things I have questions about, things I wonder about, and things I simply don’t yet understand. But I am grateful for my faith. And grateful for my son who helps me do hard things. It was important, I think. For reasons I can’t even put my finger on yet. I’m glad I did it, but I’m even more glad that it’s over.
I also believe in lotion infused kleenex and whatever this homemade Vicks stuff is made of.
Happy Monday (evening), friends. (Time for another family home evening! It’s not going to be on testimony sharing of any kind.)