Half way through church on Sunday, I was weary and overwhelmed and not really in the mood to be sitting alone with four squirmy children. When Sam stole a book from his brother, eliciting a howl right in the middle of someone’s heartfelt testimony… a howl loud enough to be heard three counties over, I nearly lost my cool. After the difficult morning we had had, it was just enough to push my tolerance over the edge. I scooped up the offending child and hightailed it out to the lobby. It’s where I felt like being anyway.
My husband, aptly tuned to the not so pleasant energy radiating from his wife, left his seat on the stand and came to my rescue.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Sometimes,” I said, “it just seems like you can never do enough. You have all the right conversations, all the right family home evening lessons. You teach children all the principles you think they need, and yet, they still have moments when they are evil and rotten and completely irreverent and disrespectful. i wonder why I try so hard.”
And in that moment, I did wonder. I was tired and overwhelmed and completely disheartened when it came to the challenges of my children. Josh hugged me reassuringly and took Henry, leaving me to a few minutes of blissful quiet. I sat and pondered the efforts we make with our kids, the desire we have to turn them into respectful, responsible adults. I wondered if I was the only one that often feels like efforts are fruitless, progress barely visible.
When it takes twenty minutes to get children calm enough to listen to scripture reading for five, is it worth it? When eyes are opened after family prayer to find one child standing in the middle of his family, dancing to imaginary music, intentionally oblivious to the fact that a prayer was being said, is it worth it? When church meetings are constantly disrupted by one child or another, is it worth it to keep going back?
And then, I thought of David A. Bednar’s words, given at General Conference this past October.
“Brush strokes,” I thought. “All our efforts are brush strokes.”
“In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brush strokes – none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brush strokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brush strokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.
Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brush stroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great,” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes.”
I then thought of a training session for seminary and institute teachers I recently watched with Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President of the church. I remember her saying that we don’t have to be perfect. The Lord doesn’t expect perfection. But we can have precision. We can be precise in doing the things that He has asked us to do… in making the effort to be consistent, and build positive habits in our homes.
Perhaps when my children are grown, while they might not remember any one particular session of family prayer, or the specific words read in family scripture study, they will remember that it happened; that everyday, we tried.
I cannot be perfect. Of that, I am certain. But I think I can be precise. I can keep making brush strokes, hoping that in the end, I’ll be able to step back and see something beautiful.