January 28, 2012

learning heaven.

please don't read this post if you have perfect children.
i wrote this blog right after a morning of contention and making up...  
re-reading it later i think i may have over-reacted. 
it is never good to react to a child as if they are "ruined" because of one unusual situation.
i think i had a couple kids that may have been tired and cranky and all of a sudden i'm worried that i've hit the "teenage hormone" stage of life.
i wish i would have just started out my blog keeping things vague, like this--  
sometimes my kids are cranky.
sometimes they are sassy.
sometimes they blame me for their attitudes and point out my faults to justify theirs.
often, the things they say about me are true.
i have done something wrong and they notice it.
i'm never quite sure what to say to that.
this morning... i learned as i taught.
but, i'm having a hard time deleting the honesty i already threw out there...
so, enjoy the post in it's original "whoa, i've entered a new stage of life" entirety.  
for now.

honestly, i was hoping that i would miss this stage of life.
Sassy pre-teens.
Verbal arguments.
fights where we both say things we wished we hadn't.
i have heard other mothers talk about the yelling matches they have endured with their kids and thought- whoa, thank heavens that isn't me.
this week i had two separate kids respond harshly to something i'd asked them to do.
simple things like, go sit on the bench and pick up your shirt.
i got stronger, they got stronger, they started saying things to me that were true but very sassy.
i didn't know how to respond.
i especially didn't know how to respond when they would deflect the conversation from something they were doing wrong to things that i do wrong... and they were right.
"you don't have to squeeze my arm like that."
or "you're always pointing out what i didn't do and not noticing all the good things i am doing."
true- but not an excuse for the really bad level that my kids went to.
yelling, slamming doors, one child even yelling to herself in her room, "i hate my mom."
one child kept telling ME to "say PLEASE.  say PLEASE" after i had asked him nicely 10 times to do his job and finally raised my voice.
oh, i really hoped i would NEVER go through this stage of life.
looking back now it seems easy to respond without emotion
"I'm sorry that i squeezed your arm, now sit down on the bench and think about what you can do differently."
or even, "Please sweet child, will you pick up your shirt?"-- (oh, i have a hard time even typing that one.)
but in the heat of the argument i admit, i was unprepared and stumped.

these two incidents allotted me some time to really sit and converse with these two children.
to listen to them and to learn with them.
i heard them really being too hard on themselves for the mistakes that they made,
and i also heard them being too critical of the mistakes that i made,
this analogy came to my mind...

in the talk His Grace is Sufficient, printed recently in BYU Magazine,  Brad Wilcox compares GRACE to Piano Lessons.  (Read the whole talk here.  It's GREAT.)

Christ's arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child.
Mom pays the piano teacher.
Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something.
What is it? 
Does the child's practice pay for the piano teacher? 
Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom's incredible gift.
It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level.
Mom's joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used- seeing her child improve.

i used this analogy with my pre-teens.
i explained-
each day, you are practicing a song on the piano...
jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle--blah blah blah.
i hear an area that is not right.
i stop you.
i help you see your mistake.
i ask you to try again.
to ACT or PRACTICE so you can get better.
are you BAD because you made a mistake?
just learning.
and learning is exactly what you should be doing.
when i offer correction, i'm not punishing you, i'm not condemning you,
i'm just helping you learn lessons that will add to your happiness.
we all have to practice the hard spots in life.
and, i have played the 9 year old song before.
i might be able to give you some tips on where to put your hands.
i might make you practice again, so that next time you get to that measure, you can play it by memory.
because i love you and because God picked me to teach you.

my child loves to point out that there are always other kids doing wrong too--
i asked her what she would do if she was a piano teacher?
i asked if she could teach seven kids at one time?
how would she do it if every kid hit a hard spot at the same time?
maybe have everyone freeze
and then work with one child, and then the next, and then the next...
that's what i was trying to do.
everyone on the whole Earth is learning.
this is a time to practice and prepare.
everyone is making mistakes.
we can't use another person's mistakes as an excuse not to practice.
that's silly.

as the mother, i am also learning to play the piano.
my music is harder.
i have 7 lines of notes- plus pedals.
sometimes i mess up and i need to go back and fix things.
today, i had a couple lines that were messed up and so i fix them one at a time...
sometimes i play a line, just one note at a time, one child at a time, to be sure that we have a good harmony together.
i asked if i was BAD mom because i didn't always play my symphonies perfectly?
i asked if she felt the need to hate me or be extra critical of me when i mess up?
i assured her that i was practicing.
that i was trying hard every minute of every day.
that i really, really wanted to play beautifully so that her life would be blessed...
and i promised her that i would continue to make mistakes that she would see,
but that we were BOTH just learning.
i also reminded her that she was playing one-handed and i was playing with both hands and pedals.
i was called by God to be her teacher.
that He was teaching me how to teach her better.
it wasn't her job to teach me, although i had learned much from her.
we can encourage each other, we can love each other, we will most definitely hear each others hard spots.
and when it's time for the recital- we will both be their smiling proudly at all we have become as we practiced together.
and then we will smile in the presence of the Master.
we will thank him for our lessons.
we will be surrounded by His perfect symphony and we will want to be more like Him.
there is joy in practicing heaven.

because we all are learning life.
we all make mistakes.
it is good that we see our mistakes because then we can practice and improve.

"I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, "You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven."
"I say, 'No, we are not earning heaven.  We are LEARNING heaven.  We are preparing for it.  We are practicing for it."
"They ask me, "Have you been saved by grace?"
"I answer, 'Yes.  Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully-- yes!"
"Then i ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: 'Have you been CHANGED by grace?"

Brett Sanders put it, "A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ's life."

Today, i'm learning heaven.
right along side of my children.
we are each practicing our symphonies.
we each make mistakes.
we are each saved by grace.
as mothers, we are blessed with wisdom daily.
as we teach our children we are taught by the Master.
today, i was taught again.
there is such beauty in this analogy.
and beauty in the doctrine of repentance and growth.
i LOVE understanding that as my symphonies get harder i'm going to continue to hit rough patches.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, "The great Mediator asks for our repentance NOT because we must 'repay' him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a development process that, with the Savior's help, leads us along the path to a saintly character."
(this quote is also from Brad Wilcox's talk on grace)

there is power in God's grace.
He is the perfect conductor.

there is good in falling and good in rising after we fall.
through his grace we are cleansed, we are saved and we are TAUGHT.
praise ye the Lord.
i love this video- about a girl who falls in a race then gets up and WINS...
life is good.
keep practicing- He is teaching us heaven!!


astowers said...

Wow! Love this analogy! Thank you for sharing!

Alison said...

I love this Jen! Thank you for sharing it. You always help me to want to be a better mom and to try, try again. We all have those days, my kids have been pointing out my mistakes too, it's so nice to think of it this way, that we are learning heaven and practicing together and mistakes don't make us bad, we're just learning. You express things so well, in ways I never can. I appreciate you!

Taneil said...

So perfect for my day Jen! I needed it! Love you!

jenifer said...

this is a post where i just wish i could write it as cool as i could think it. this "piano lesson" concept has been swimming in my brain for the past couple of days and i really FEEL it. i've been able to see myself differently and find beauty in my progress despite my inability to play my pieces perfectly. thank you for your comments.

Catherine Andrews said...

So so good! As a mom, a piano player and a piano teacher this makes so much sense! I love the way this written and makes you think. I am saving this one so I can read and re-read. Thanks!

Catherine from Wyoming

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