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Feb 26, 2016

A Message from the Syrian Refugee Children

My sweet cousin agreed to let me share her experience with these beautiful children. She is a great writer, photographer, and a woman full of compassion and wisdom. The way she related the experience left me mulling over how I teach my kids and how much they have to teach me. She is spending the better part of 2 years living among the German people, serving them, and teaching them the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of her privileges has been to help the Syrian refugee children that fled to the German nation with their families. From across the world, here is their message.

"I sat on the floor of the refugee home. The kids were becoming restless and a little bored, and due to their environment, that also means they start to fight with each other. That is when you see their previous life flash out; when the punches fly and the anger they have that has been conditioned to fly out at the slightest threat. My companion and I walked to the front where we asked for some paper and colored pencils. With my companion by my side, and a child clinging around each of our necks, we walked back into the room. I sat on the ground with my pile of papers and tupperware of pencils and waited as the children noticed the new objects in the room and started to gather around. These children only know how to introduce themselves in German, anything else is beyond their current knowledge, but they have to learn, otherwise they won't make it here. 

Normally the way they get your attention is by screaming "Hello!!! HELLO!!" And when they want something they just grab for it, they had to do that where they came from, it was the only way to get anything. They have brought the mindset of war into a place of safety. 

As the children grabbed for the paper I held it tight in my hands and had one of the Elders reached his hands out and said, "Bitte?" I handed him a piece of paper and a pencil and he replied with a, "Danke." The children watched and for a few of them it clicked, "Bitte?" They would ask and I would hand them a paper and pencil, which was followed by a "Danke." 

Slowly the crowd thinned as they flopped on the floor with their papers and pencils in hand. And the younger, shyer ones were left. They would just stretch their hands out, but I wouldn't give it to them until they would say Please. Some of the older ones, noticing their struggle to understand, would turn and explain, in their own language, what would happen if they said Bitte and Danke. Some even left the room to get their sibling and walking up told them to say Bitte and then Danke. Eventually, every child had a piece of paper and I was being commissioned to draw whatever Disney character was on their shirts. 

The scripture in Matthew 18:3, "And Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." 
Or in the Book of Mormon,
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."- Mosiah 3:19

So many times when explaining the gospel, Christ and his disciples used this analogy; to become as a little child. This experience, in some way, helped me to understand why. These children have every excuse not to be kind or charitable, to stick to their own problems and to never reach out. But, they didn't. They understand the simplicity of Christ-like behavior in their youth, they understand the simplicity of reaching out even when you have been shoved down, pushed out of your country, and in a house of strung up bed sheet walls. 

I think we can all learn a little something from that. To humble ourselves and become as little children, ready to teach, ready to help, and to serve." 
                                                                                                             -Sister Daniella Seare


I have been somewhat impatient and demanding of my children lately, and certainly have forgotten to keep the spirit of please and thank you, especially when home life is stressful. And, so, I must do as Christ has beckoned us many times... to follow, forgive, and reach out... to become like a little child.

Feb 18, 2016

Shoveling with a Marine

A few weeks ago our town got another big snow dump. My husband was still recovering from pneumonia, was going to school and working full time and we had the audacious responsibility of clearing a huge turnaround driveway with shovels. ...and let me tell you a secret... our town usually gets 2-3 feet of snow every year.  ...  Yep, my husband and I have worked on some big shoveling muscles.
I strapped on my big girl panties and my 1 1/2 year old into my wrap and set my mind to getting that driveway cleared before my hubby got home from work. My three year old boy followed my lead and "revved up his shovel-bulldozer".
A man rode by on his bike through the snow. I waved at him and I must have looked like I needed help because he turned around and asked me If I could use an extra hand. I sized him up, a little nervous to interact with a strange man. His eyes told me he was trustworthy. His oxygen suppressant mask and clothing told me he was training for some crazy triathlon. We didn't speak, as our heavy breathing and passing cars made it hard to hear.

I have never seen a person move so much snow so fast. Feeling his energy, and not to be totally left behind, I thrust in my shovel a little faster and deeper. As our shovels scraped in together across the cement a feeling came over me that I did not understand at first. It was familiar and warm; with a peace and fortitude that seemed to expand the ages of time. There was something I needed to understand here and I really thought about it.

I later learned I shoveled snow with a Marine.

The Marine motto is "Semper Fidelis". Meaning Always Faithful. Marines are always faithful to each other, but it is more than that. On the Marine Heritage page the first thing that draws your attention is an expanse of planted Marines upholding a football field sized American Flag. The picture reads:

"The Land That We Love". 

They uphold, and are always faithful to the people and the values of the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

It dawned on me why I felt such a connection to him. Being able to do his job was contingent on weather or not I was doing mine as mother and wife. Was I passing on values of liberty, honor, virtue, work, perseverance, service, love? If we do not pass on these gems of liberty and harmony to our children, then what do our Marines protect? 

If our country were compared to a treasure box... the armed forces would be the walls. The values embodied in the people are like the item of worth. Nothing is more valuable to mankind than the values that promote liberty and human happiness.

In 20 years... in 50 years, will our box be empty or full? Will our children not only shed a tear when the flag passes at a parade, but know how important these values are because we planted them in their hearts? Are we telling our Nation's story by living it? Are we helping our children live it along side us?

Mothers and Fathers, as I have seen these values slipping I would like to rouse a call to duty. A call to the home-front so our soldiers can keep this treasure to be proud of. Our battle is against ideals that create selfishness, and endless distractions in a prosperous age. Arrange your lives so that work, play and other distractions are second to growing and protecting faith and family. If we are not engaged, how do we know our children are learning what is important?

 Sempre Fidelis

With each shovel full there was no grand music, no person who knew who he was... only a fierce and quiet commitment to sacrifice for the good of the American people. When we parent, no one sees what happens behind our walls as we continue to "shovel" out dirty diapers and wear our bodies into the ground for our kids. Can we learn from the quiet dignity of a Marine? Are your values and family second to none? Do it because with every shovel full, or diaper full, we teach and build excellence of character in our selves and our children. This sacrifice is something we share with all those who understand what it is to give everything for the greater good and the future.

It makes us Mothers and Fathers
and Marines...

It makes us American.