I’m not really one for making new year’s resolutions—probably because I find it tough to keep up on them. But this year I’m going to try to do things differently. Because last year was one for the books. It started with a bang and ended with a crash (you gotta love teenagers). And in between we did a lot of home renovating and some career changing. There is a lot going on. And I discovered that I still have a lot to learn. So it seems like a good time to do some personal renovation of my own. For me, the hardest parts are finding a place to start and whittling down the list of what I want to accomplish. But perhaps that is the place to start my resolutions.
Deciding on Priorities
I thought that as my kids grew into teenagers and became more independent I would have more time on my hands. But somehow, the opposite is true. Our family is busier than ever. So it’s time for me to nail down what my priorities are for this year. Elder M. Russell Ballard said,
Sometimes we need a personal crisis to reinforce in our minds what we really value and cherish. The scriptures are filled with examples of people facing crises before learning how to better serve God and others. Perhaps if you, too, search your hearts and courageously assess the priorities in your life, you may discover, as I did, that you need a better balance among your priorities.
All of us must come to an honest, open self-examination, an awareness within as to who and what we want to be.
As most of you know, coping with the complex and diverse challenges of everyday life, which is not an easy task, can upset the balance and harmony we seek. Many good people who care a great deal are trying very hard to maintain balance, but they sometimes feel overwhelmed and defeated.
I don’t know if crises is the right word, but certainly chaos and changes would fit. My husband switched not only jobs but careers, I have four kids going as many different directions and we began renovations on our home. But life is all about making choices, and choosing our priorities is one of the biggest. So my first resolution will be to prioritize—often. To make sure that I spend my time on what matters most—my faith in Jesus Christ, my husband and kids and serving others.
Faith and family are my top priorities. And I don’t know that I could rank one above or below the other, because they are both such an integral part of who I am. But I am starting with faith because strengthening it helps me to be a better wife and mother. Elder Richard G. Scott said,
When faith is properly understood and used, it has dramatically far-reaching effects. Such faith can transform an individual’s life from maudlin, common everyday activities to a symphony of joy and happiness. The exercise of faith is vital to Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness. But true faith, faith unto salvation, is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in His doctrines and teachings, faith in the prophetic guidance of the Lord’s anointed, faith in the capacity to discover hidden characteristics and traits that can transform life. Truly, faith in the Savior is a principle of action and power.
Faith is a principle of action. I can’t just say that I have faith, I have to show it. And that is how I strengthen my faith– and my character. Elder Scott continued,
We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day. Righteous character is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming. Righteous character is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind. In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality.
Faith is more than lip service, it is acting upon what I believe.
My faith is inextricably intertwined with my testimony. Both are important. Scott explained,
A strong testimony is the unshakable foundation of a secure, meaningful life where peace, confidence, happiness, and love can flourish. It is anchored in a conviction that an all-knowing God is in command of His work. He will not fail. He will keep His promises.
A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life. It is centered in an understanding of the divine attributes of God our Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is secured by a willing reliance upon Them. A powerful testimony is grounded in the personal assurance that the Holy Ghost can guide and inspire our daily acts for good.
I gain a testimony of obedience to the commandments of God as I exercise faith and obey them. But gaining a testimony and exercising faith take work. So my next resolution is to strengthen my faith and testimony by improving my daily scripture study and personal prayers. These, in turn, will increase my ability to be patient with my kids and find peace in the chaos of our lives.
Being a wife and a mother is one of the most important things in my life, and sometimes I worry that I don’t give my family the attention that they deserve. I know that childhood and the teen years go by so fast. My mother always told me to be a kid for as long as I could, because I only get to be a kid once. I tell my kids the same thing. But lately I’ve been realizing that my kids only have a few years left at home. My oldest is a junior this school year and will be a senior—and legally an adult— the next. I can count his time at home in months rather than years, and I’m not ready for that. So my resolution is to make the most of the rest of the growing up time I have with my kids. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
When we are young, it seems that we will live forever. We think there is a limitless supply of sunrises waiting just beyond the horizon, and the future looks to us like an unbroken road stretching endlessly before us.
However, the older we get, the more we tend to look back and marvel at how short that road really is. We wonder how the years could have passed so quickly. And we begin to think about the choices we made and the things we have done. In the process, we remember many sweet moments that give warmth to our souls and joy to our hearts. But we also remember the regrets—the things we wish we could go back and change.
My goal is to try to minimize the things that I regret doing—and not doing—with my kids.
One way to make the most of the time I have left with my kids is to take advantage of teaching moments. Not just the times where I can teach my kids, but the times that they teach me, as well. Sister Cheryl A. Esplin said,
Our “children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). He knows and loves each one with perfect love (see Moroni 8:17). What a sacred responsibility Heavenly Father places upon us as parents to partner with Him in helping His choice spirits become what He knows they can become.
This divine privilege of raising our children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone, without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence. He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost.
This is the reason that it’s so important for me to stay close to the Holy Ghost, so that I can divine help in raising my kids. Sister Esplin continued,
Teaching our children to understand is more than just imparting information. It’s helping our children get the doctrine into their hearts in a way that it becomes part of their very being and is reflected in their attitudes and behavior throughout their lives.
I learn a lot from my kids—especially about myself. President Russell M. Nelson explained,
Parents and teachers, learn to listen, then listen to learn from children. A wise father once said, “I do a greater amount of good when I listen to my children than when I talk to them.” …
The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. Children are naturally eager to share their experiences, which range from triumphs of delight to trials of distress. Are we as eager to listen? If they try to express their anguish, is it possible for us to listen openly to a shocking experience without going into a state of shock ourselves? Can we listen without interrupting and without making snap judgments that slam shut the door of dialogue? It can remain open with the soothing reassurance that we believe in them and understand their feelings. Adults should not pretend an experience did not happen just because they might wish otherwise. …
Parents with teenage youth may find that time for listening is often less convenient but more important when young people feel lonely or troubled. And when they seem to deserve favor least, they may need it most.
Wise parents and teachers, listen to learn from children.
Another part of making the most of the time I have left with my kids is to learn to listen to them, and listen to learn from them. It’s not always convenient to stop and talk when I just want to go to bed, but I am trying to be better about making time for my kids whenever they need it.
Learning from Mistakes
I have really good kids, and sometimes I take that for granted. Other times I forget that they really are good kids when they are having a bad day, and so am I. My kids are human and make mistakes, which kind of puts us on equal ground because I am far from perfect. My goal for my kids is to do things better than I did and to make fewer mistakes. But that, I am learning, is not only a pipe dream but is a damaging one. Because how can they learn without messing up sometimes? Elder Uchtdorf said,
No one likes to fail. And we particularly don’t like it when others—especially those we love—see us fail. We all want to be respected and esteemed. We want to be champions. But we mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes.
… Our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.
My oldest son ended 2017 by driving the car into a ditch and hitting a sign. In his quest for independence and to prove that he could take care of things on his own, he did not call us. Instead, he texted a friend and relied on other people who stopped to help. My husband and I went looking for him and found him in the ditch. The car was barely drivable when they finally got it out. Needless to say, my husband and I were not happy. We worked to teach our son about responsibility and communication—and to learn from his mistakes.
Looking Past the Mistakes
Our story, however, doesn’t end there. Over the next few weeks, I watched my son work to rectify his mistakes with the car and not communicating with us. One night in January, my son came home from work and he and I had a nice talk about how he was doing. I could tell that he was really trying—and feeling good about his progress. He even offered to pick up his sister from school. I told him to be careful because the roads were slick.
When they came home, my daughter came upstairs and told me that my son backed into our second-story deck and knocked one of the support poles out of place. I went to talk to him and he was so upset. He had been trying to do the right thing and made a mistake. I learned a valuable lesson that night. Sometimes, we are harder on ourselves than anyone else, and it’s these times that parents need to show love. I needed to look past the mistake to the boy who made it. And I did. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,
Good men sometimes make mistakes. A man of integrity will honestly face and correct his mistakes, and that is an example we can respect. Sometimes men try but fail. Not all worthy objectives are realized despite one’s honest and best efforts. True manhood is not always measured by the fruits of one’s labors but by the labors themselves—by one’s striving.
The same goes for women. We all make mistakes, and we all must learn from them. Sometimes discipline is in order, and sometimes love and compassion are. My goal this year is to be more aware of which response is required in each situation.
My last resolution is to find joy and be happy. President Thomas S. Monson said,
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. …
Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”
And so this year, I will do things better. I won’t let the stresses in my life overshadow what is really important. As President Monson said,
This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that elusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.