Teaching Children through Symbols: Easter Week, Plan B

IMG_1726                                                                                         As usual, Elf is eating more than she’s making, but good times non-the-less!

So do you ever have those days, weeks, months, when nothing goes according to plan? That was my week this week.

Mostly we just had some low-key days with Mom and kiddos needing to take care of their health. That meant kids were much more in charge of their homeschooling this week and we did not get out and about much at all.

It was still a good week, just definitely not what I envisioned. But I’m learning more and more that what I envision may not be what is best in the long run. 🙂

Over the past several years, we have really been striving to teach our children the symbolism associated with Christianity. Especially those in connection with holidays (you can read more about our Christmas traditions here)

We feel this aspect of teaching is important because it gives LIFE to tradition and causes the children to focus more on the activities. Don’t you find yourself more focused on an activity if you know WHY your doing/learning about it?

But perhaps even more so, we feel teaching our children symbolism helps them understand Christ’s teachings better. He taught through parables and symbols, in fact nearly all of his direct teachings in the Bible are taught in this way. Also, many books, especially Isaiah, cannot be fully understood unless one looks beyond the obvious and uses tradition and symbolism to interpret the full meanings.

Of course, we will always have the Holy Ghost to guide our insights in the Scriptures, but we feel that the Holy Ghost works better when he has more to work with (ie: a knowledge of symbolism and Christian traditions).

Like with Christmas, my mother gave us a book
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that helps act as a guidebook through the many symbols and traditions associated with Easter. We really love it because it includes all the main scriptural references to the major events in the last week of Jesus’ life, as well as the major traditions and symbolism associated with his time, culture, the Atonement, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. It has been a wonderful resource for our family!

We started the week with our Family Night on Monday. We talked about Palm Sunday and the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the symbolism of the white donkey and the palms (Great article on sybolism of Palms here.)

We also told the story of Jesus last week on earth with symbols, hidden inside plastic eggs (You can find a link for telling a similar story here) We made it into a scavenger hunt this year and the kids had fun looking for all the “ingredients” for our Jesus’ story “egg hunt”.

IMG_1771                                                                       Just the unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and “wine” (aka:Acai juice) this year:)

We had our Passover meal on Tuesday. We did it “Mexican Style” this year, including the traditional foods with some homemade refried beans, guacamole, and veggies.

Usually we have a full Seder Plate, this also opens the door to discussions on Jewish culture which helps children understand the dynamics of Jesus’ day and the cultural and political events that helped lead to His Crucifixion.

But this year we stuck to the essentials that are mentioned in Exodus, during the first passover. Well, we just talked about the lamb, and we don’t drink wine so we used Acai Juice;) The kids were really interested this year in learning the symbolism of the Passover and I had to giggle when Fiesta asked, “But Mom, what does the guacamole signifize (aka: symbolize)?)

IMG_1730                                                                              Fiesta liked cutting up all the marshmallows for our Resurrection Rolls

On Good Friday we made our Empty Tomb Rolls (aka: Resurrection Rolls), discussing about how this day was in remembrance of the day that Jesus actually died and was put in the tomb.

IMG_1734

IMG_1742IMG_1743      Today I think we FINALLY (hopefully) wiped up the last of the flour that got scattered throughout the house;)

We covered them with foil and put them in the refridgerator so that we can bake them on Sunday morning and open them to find that the “tomb” is empty!

IMG_1748                                                                                 Button was trying to talk me into letting her go in the pool, “Poo, Poo Mommy!”

Today we did some of our normal Saturday cleaning in preparation for the Sabbath, but to make it a little different we also “purged” a bit of our excess. Each of the kiddos chose some toys (one for each year of life they have had) to give away to someone that could use it more than they.

I thought this was a good way for the kids to realize that Easter time is a time to reflect and renew, getting rid of things that are not in alignment with living a Christian life. Not that toys are bad, just a symbolic way they can look at their little lives and decide “I don’t really need this.” I’m hoping that we can discuss this some more tomorrow as we watch our traditional Easter movie.

We were going to go to a special park that is a ways from our home that has some trees that remind me of Olive trees, to talk about the Atonement in the Garden of Gethsamane. We did this a few years ago in Peru when we lived near a park with Olive trees and my son still remembers it. Unfortunately, Button had a fever and was NOT a happy camper, so we will have to save that outing either for tomorrow afternoon or sometime next week.

IMG_1752IMG_1758                                                                                  It turned out that some time in the pool with big brother was just what she needed to feel better!

We finished off the day with some swimming as a family and Engineer made us a good hot-dog roasting fire and helped the girls roast (burn?) theirs, which also helped him sign off some of his Scouting assignments.IMG_1761                                                          You can’t eat hot-dogs at the dining table! Improvised picnic….

 

IMG_1772                                                                                        I’ll explain in a separate post how we’re doing the Boy Scouts of America program in Mexico🙂

He also helped Mom this week when she was mostly on the couch to take care of lots of domestic duties and even made a couple meals, which also helped him complete some Boy Scout activities…can we say win-win?

All in all it was a rewarding week and we’re looking forward to celebrating the Resurrection tomorrow as we attend our church meetings, sing in the choir, deliver Resurrection Rolls to friends and watch videos about the life of Christ together as family.

We will also enjoy a “Jerusalem meal”, that will include foods that were typically eaten in Jesus’ time, this will also be a scavenger hunt as I list off the foods and the kiddos can go find them in the fridge and cupboard to put on the table.

We hope that the peace, hope, and joy that comes from the celebration of Easter may rest in your homes as your celebrate with those you love 🙂

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On Loan

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Some of the beauties that I have “On Loan” at the moment….

She looked up at me with a tear-stained face, not even capable of holding back the fountain of tears that had pushed their way up from her broken heart. “I don’t even want to try anymore,” she managed to whisper. She was still recovering from a painful miscarriage, just a little over a year after watching her son, barely a day old, die in the hospital, from what could have been a preventable infection. Honestly, I just wanted to run away. The pain was too deep and the agony was palpable in the room. I ached as I sat closer and gave her a hug. There was nothing I could do, that was the worst of it. It was all in her court. That and in the arms of the Lord. Only He could carry her through…

Being a woman, especially one with children in the home, you seem to learn more of these tragic stories either from your own experience or the other women in your circle of influence. Miscarraige, still-borns, infant death, child death…then there is a different side of the coin that is equally heart-wrenching, women who spend their whole childhood dreaming of someday being a mother and then they are unable to conceive. Some of them move forward with foster care and adoption and have to deal with the unsympathetic bureaucratic nonsense that often leaves them childless once again as they are forced to give up a child, one they have often put their heart and soul into raising and bonding with, that has become THEIR baby.
When I hear of these stories they are often close to home. I have had three miscarriages myself and nearly every woman I have been close too has a very similar story of heartache to tell. I have pondered on this subject for years. Where is the justice? Where is the mercy? What is the purpose?
When my niece died of SIDS I remember falling to my knees in prayer, nearly screaming at God, WHY!?? WHY HER? WHY THIS? That is the only time I can remember ever being angry with God. It just didn’t make sense. I knew He was a loving God, how could he allow this to happen?
The Lord comforted me and though I didn’t have answers I was able to move forward with the thought, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
It wasn’t until very recently that answers slowly began to come. I started looking at the bigger picture and as I put together all my ponderings I realized that the Lord had wanted me to find my own answer.
There were two very influential statements said during this time of pondering that helped me shape my answer. One came from a dear friend that constantly inspires me with her devoted life, amidst seemingly impossible odds. She was sharing her experience of how she began to want to change her life and become a disciple of Christ, eventually leading her to baptism in our church. She said essentially, “When I came to the funeral of my sister’s infant son I felt something different. I felt that it was time to change my life…I know that part of his (the baby that had died) mission in this life was to bring me back to Christ.” When she said that it was like a lightning strike of truth entered my being. I knew what she said was true.
I believe everyone comes to earth for a specific purpose and when it all comes down to it, our main goal as brothers and sisters in God, is to make sure that we all make it back to Him. I just had never thought about even a baby having a mission and that it could be fulfilled in just a few short hours of living. As I looked back on my niece’s life I could see how she too had become a catalyst to lead many members of our family closer to Christ.
As I pondered this on the back burner of my brain, another memory came. My dear step-father had shared with me his insights with me during my first miscarriage. He too, had lost a baby when she was a mere few hours old and he shared from his journal an insight that came to him during this time. He said basically (I’m paraphrasing horribly), “We need to remember that nothing that we’ve been given is actually ours, everything belongs to the Lord. That means even our children are “on loan” to us, they don’t belong to us, they are part of our stewardship and if we prove worthy and teach them correctly then through the mercy and power of the atonement of Christ we can all live together forever. That also means that in order to follow Christ we must as he said, be willing to give up everything, even our children, whether it be for our better good, their better good, or the good of the kingdom.”
These two thoughts seemed to fill in a huge piece of the puzzle for me. We all have a mission, even our children. Sometimes ours, or their mission in this life can be fulfilled in a moment. And sometimes the only obstacle standing between us and Christ, is our inability to let go or something that really isn’t even ours to begin with.
As I’ve tried to apply these principles to the many heartaches I have witnessed, at times it is still very hard to accept.
I know a wonderfully amazing young woman that has had her share of hardship. But never the sun goes down on a day that she has not made better for someone else. She inspires me with her dedication, wisdom, creativity and tenacity. She is also among one of the army of remarkable women who whether for a time or a lifetime, has been unable to conceive.
Instead of viewing it as a set-back, she has chosen to move forward and share her mothering and nurturing talents in the foster care system. She amazes me because she knows that these children may only be with her for a matter of weeks or months, yet she puts her heart and soul into raising them as if they were from her very own womb.

It is because she is a mother, regardless of biology, she knows that as a woman, her divine purpose on this earth is to lead and guide children back to Christ. She knows that, regardless of their origin of birth, they are children of God and she will lead them back to Him. My belief is that is her divine mission.
These children, regardless of their age or future circumstance will always remember her influence and wherever they might go in life they will know that they were loved by a woman that loved Christ and taught them to love Christ. They will feel it. I believe very strongly that through these foundations, even if they stray, they will feel the pull of their heartstrings that will direct them back to Christ. The heartstrings that she, so lovingly, tied for them.
It is a journey. This relinquishing of our own will to align with God’s purpose for us and others.
All of these ponderings finally led me back to the story of Hannah and Samuel. To me, Hannah is a woman that really understood the process of consecration, that nothing is truly ours, as she gave her only child (at the time she did not know she would have others) over to life of service to the Lord.
It is also interesting to me that Hannah only raised Samuel for a short time (she gave him over the priesthood after he was weaned). Yet, Samuel was able to remain worthy, righteous, and eventually even become a prophet, despite the wickedness that surrounded him in the priest Eli’s household.
This story gives me hope and comfort. Whether we give birth to them or not, though a child is with us for a childhood or a few days, we as mothers can make a difference in their lives. Truth will find the heart, and there it will stay. Either growing or waiting for the day when it can.