Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Teaching Moment

My daughter, Carrie, just recently turned eighteen. With that birthday, she has assumed that certain family rules no longer applied---such as her curfew. We have a standing rule that on week-nights, those that are of dating age, ie. 16 years old, must go on group dates and return at 10 pm. On week-ends, they still must go with a group of friends and return by 11 pm.

Carrie has been very responsible and dependable. She has made certain that she returns BEFORE curfew! So, when she approached me and asked if her curfew, now that she was 18, could be extended to midnight. I was hesitant, but, since she has always been so very good about obeying the rules, and she has proven to be so very trustworthy, I consented.

Imagine my surprise when one of her first nights out with her new curfew, she did not return at midnight! I received no call, and I began to feel more alarm as the time passed. The other factor, which caused me no small alarm, was this date was a SINGLE date with a young man I did not know! One o'clock rolled by, no Carrie, then one-thirty! I was feeling the panic rise, and began praying more fervently. Finally, at two o'clock in the morning, Carrie quietly slipped in. I waited and listened. I was in no condition to confront her at that moment. So, when I realized she was home safe and without injury----I knew if something negative or bad had happened, she would have sought me out. I calmed down and finally drifted off to sleep.

The next day, Carrie came home during her school day for lunch. As she came close to me, I said to her, "Hey, aren't I supposed to be grounding you or something? I mean, 2 o'clock is quite a bit different from 12 midnight! Or were you confused about what time your curfew now is?" She sat down beside me and looked totally bewildered and said, "You were awake when I came in?" I then explained all the reasons I would NOT have been able to sleep while she was out so late by herself with a young man I DID NOT know! She laughed and said, "Oh, Mom, I am so sorry! I would have called, but I thought you would be sleeping!" She went on to explain all the reasons she was late and that she promised it would never happen again! I hugged her and thanked her for extending that promise. I told her that a Mom just can not have such a beautiful daughter and NOT be worried and concerned when she was gone!

It was a sweet exchange, and a memory that I will always cherish. I have found that waiting for the right moment, and using gentle humor has done more to strengthen the bonds of love between my children and myself than any lecture ever could. And, the added bonus: My children seek me out for counsel, comfort, companionship, encouragement and advice. It is such a joy to have them come to me! I just pray daily that when they come, I will know what to say and how to say it, and if they do not choose to come to me, that I will know how to gently let them know I am always there if they should want to talk -- about anything.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Lesson in Humility

I was probably 16. My father was in the Branch Presidency and our Sunday School class had just had a new teacher called to teach us. Being teenagers, I am sure it was a daunting task for anyone. Sister Clinard was likely in her 40's, but to me at that time, she seemed ancient. It was clear she was very nervous that first day she taught our Sunday School class. She had her face in the manual the entire class time, and it was evident that she thought reading the lesson straight from the manual was sufficient.

When the next week rolled around, it was clear the rest of the class was not going to cut her any slack! She was not able to remove her eyes from the manual until she gave us a personal experience about the Word of Wisdom. She divulged to the class that she had given into peer pressure at work and began drinking coffee. It seemed innocent at first, she explained, but now she was totally addicted and cautioned us NOT to make the same mistake in our lives!

I do not remember the reaction of most of the class. I am sure they were as rowdy as usual! But, my sister and I were polite and well behaved. WE could not afford to be otherwise! If our Dad ever found out that we had been rude, talkative or disrespectful in any way, we would incur his wrath! So, Stace and I never ever made any noise. By this time in my life, it was no longer disappointing my parents that kept me in line. I actually knew the gospel was true, and I hungered and thirsted for any and all information taught at church. I loved feeling the spirit and that is best done while being reverent. Stace, well, she was always as close to perfect as one can get without being translated! And, it was very, very difficult being her sister! No matter how hard I tried to behave, I could NEVER measure up to Stace's standard of good! Believe me, I had really tried! Anyway, though I showed no outward signs of disrespect, in my heart I began to judge and think less of our sweet teacher.

I began to think of a way I could influence a change in teachers. I approached my dad, since he was in the Branch Presidency and I said, "Dad, I know that in the church, the emphasis is on the youth, right? I mean, the church leaders want the youth to have the very best of experiences as they are forming their testimonies, right? He agreed! Then, I quickly added, "Dad, did you know that the Sunday School teacher that was just called to teach our class admitted she has a word of wisdom problem to us ALL? And, did you also know that she does not come to class prepared? But, she just reads the lesson straight from the lesson manual or from the Ensign? Don't you think that there should be something done about that??

I was actually very smug! I was sure I had presented a very strong case and soon we would be given a much more suitable teacher! One that I could actually respect! How little I knew! And, how very grateful I was for the wisdom my father shared with me during this major teaching moment! Dad asked me this, "Kim, do you think that the teacher is the only one responsible for making the lesson a learning experience? That threw me! What did Dad mean by that? I said, "Well, I don't know! What do you mean?"

He went on to explain that everyone in the church was at different stages of developing their own testimonies. He said that as members of a class, we should never be content to just sit back and be basically bystanders to the educational process! We had an obligation to do several things.

1. We should pray for the teacher that she or he would be able to give the lesson they desired in the way they had planned and prepared.

2. We had the obligation to participate and assist the teacher in feeling that her students were interested in what she had to say and what she had studied.

3. As students, we should never give in to the temptation to be critical or think that preparation had not been done. Everyone has a different teaching style and many are basically frightened!

So, if they buried their head in the book, it might NOT be an indication of a lack of preparation, but could in fact be fear!

We needed to make certain that we never ever gave a teacher reason to fear, and to be as supportive and kind, and yes, truly grateful for the time and effort they put in to provide instruction for us. Dad then issued me a challenge. He asked me to try for the next few weeks to look for the positive, to seek to learn one new thing from my teacher and to pray for the teacher and for myself so that both would be edified! He told me that both the teacher and the student had an obligation to make each lesson a success!

My eyes were wide open! I had NEVER even thought I had a role in the student-teacher relationship! I decided to take my father's challenge. I would like to say it was because I had an instant change of heart and outpouring of maturity! But, my memory is that I decided I would give it a try and in a few weeks, I could tell my dad I had tried, it did not work and so, could he please ask for a new teacher for us.

What happened was this: I did pray for her and for myself. I did seek to make her experience positive and to express my gratitude for her preparation. I did try to learn something new each week. Time went by, I grew to truly love and adore Sister Clinard. Gradually, she no longer read the entire lesson. She became more at ease, and the entire class embraced her. She invited the entire class over to her home for a Saturday lunch and for Snowmobile riding---an activity I have never forgotten, though it has been more than three decades ago . And, when she was finally released as our teacher, I was probably the saddest to see her go.

How grateful I am that I had a very wise father teach me a vital lesson at that point in my life. It is a lesson I have never ever forgotten and it has served me well all my life. I have loved each and every teacher, because I was given the tools to become the best student and the biggest fan of each new teacher I was blessed to have serve me!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Answers to Prayers

Answers to Prayers by Kim Kerby Hildebrandt

Many years ago, I was sitting in a Fast and Testimony meeting in which an individual who had severely transgressed, spoke of their repentance. This person had had a feeling of overwhelming love from the Savior---so real in fact, that they felt as if the Savior were really holding and embracing them physically. I was troubled by this. I had never experienced a feeling of such love from my Savior or my Father in Heaven. I began to feel a bit hurt that I had never been dealt with in this manner. I felt a tinge of envy and self-pity. Then I prayed. I asked, (childishly, I admit) "Why have I not had these feelings or experiences?" I prayed to feel the same love, to feel the same affection, and to know as assuredly that I was loved. The answer did not see m to come. I felt no dramatic overtures. I determined that it was most likely due to the fact I just had not paid the price.

So, for almost a year, I increased my prayers, my scripture study and my temple attendance. I would turn off the radio and just use any time I was driving to pray fervently to my Heavenly Father. BUT nothing had happened! I did not have that tangible hug from My Father or the Savior! My time was, granted, very limited as I was the mother of six young children, all under the age of ten, and I was home schooling at this point.

Well, some months later my parents were moving to Montana from Iowa. They were unable to move all of their furniture. So, they asked if I was interested in flying to Iowa in order to drive a U-Haul truck full of furniture back to Ypsilanti Michigan. My husband and I had just moved into our first home, and we did not have much furniture. So, when I was provided an opportunity to go to Iowa alone, I decided that I would use that time to continue, in earnest, my quest for that hug as well as gain the much needed furniture!

I had only been allowed a certain number of miles to go from Iowa to Michigan by the rental truck company. I had forgotten to add the detour to the Chicago Temple into the allotted mileage with the U-Haul! I also had very limited funds for gas, food and none for lodging. Yet, it had been some time since I had been able to attend the temple. I decided that though it would be a leap of faith, I would chance it. I took the detour and headed for the temple. I prayed that the detour to the Chicago Temple would not incur too high a penalty in terms of additional mileage and gas. I also prayed that I might be able to afford the detour physically as well as financially, since it would require that I drive through the night to return the truck on time.

I got to the Temple early in the evening. I entered the Temple and at the entrance to greet me, was a former Bishop and his wife! I had not been in their area for over 6 years! It was such a sweet and comforting reunion! They called me by name, remembered me and hugged me and led me further inside. They asked about my family, was I there alone, had I eaten, did I have a place to stay the night? They seemed to want to meet my every need. They assisted me in obtaining my temple clothing, and in all ways ministered gently and lovingly to me. I was moved to tears! This kindness was very much like them, albeit even more intense. Then, when I told them I had not yet eaten, they insisted upon buying me dinner in the cafeteria, they were just going to dinner themselves they said. I told them I did not need lodging, as I just planned on driving straight through. The rest of the evening, they kept asking me to change my mind and just stay with them overnight! They were so solicitous and kind.

I was blessed to be able to attend two sessions and to spend more time in the Celestial Room than I ever had previously. There, I put forth my long-standing petition. But, still I had not had the experience I had longed for ---- the Savior to hold me in a tangible way. I bade farewell to the Cardon's and they hugged me tight and through my tears, I told them how much I loved them, and how grateful I was to be able to see them again---they were now serving a temple mission! I stopped to get some gas near 11 pm.

Just before starting on the long 8 hour trip home from there, I broke down and began to weep. I cried out in my heart and said, "Heavenly Father, why? What more do I have to do? Of all places, I would have thought I would have had my prayers answered in thy Temple!" And then, a voice in my mind asked this, " What more could I have done for you KIM?" My mind instantly recalled all that the Cardon's had done for me while in the Temple. And, my tears turned to tears of shame. I had had His love manifested in a very real and physical way. Yet, I had overlooked it. I had been looking beyond the mark. I wondered what else my kind and loving Father had done to show His love to me and I had ignored or refused to see it! I had been blessed beyond measure, but had not even accepted that amazing gift for what it was! I reflected back on everything that the Cardons had done and even tried to do for me, most of which I would not accept! I bowed my head in shame and renewed gratitude. I thanked HIM for allowing me to have such a beautiful experience and begged for forgiveness for not seeing it for what it truly was. My prayers had been answered so completely and tenderly!

I learned many valuable lessons that day. 1.) The Lord does care and loves us ALL! One indication of that love is His invitation and admonition to pray!2.) The Lord does meet our needs and cares for us in many different ways. 3.) We can be the means of answering the prayers of others. We can be instruments in the hands of our Heavenly Father. Others can feel His love through our showing love to others.4.) Heavenly Father does answer our Prayers! If we are not humble and receptive, if we do not have the spirit of gratitude, we can overlook the answers and miss the joy and love intended for us.

I returned home safely, early in the morning the next day. We unloaded the truck, and I returned it to the U-haul dealer. I had zero cash left, it took my last penny to fill the tank, but, I had enough. And, just as I pulled into the U-Haul place, the odometer turned to the exact number of miles I had been allowed and I was able to return the truck on time! I owed no additional money! That was a miracle---yet another manifestation of the love and caring of Our Heavenly Father for me.

But the story does not end there. About 4 months later, I was again able to go back to the Chicago Temple. I again, was able to see the Cardons. But, as I ran up to hug and kiss them, it was very clear that they did NOT remember me! It was awkward and a bit embarrassing! I then disclosed my name and how we had known each other years ago. Later, I mentioned this experience to my Mother. She commented, "Oh, that must have hurt your feelings or was at least disappointing, huh? I said, "NO, not at all. You see, to me it is just a further witness that those months earlier, it was my Heavenly Parents answering my prayers and welcoming me home. Now, I know the ministering was not just because I had been remembered by the Cardon's! But, I am so very grateful they were receptive to His promptings and were instrumental in bringing to me such a powerful experience.

I am trying to become more like them, and of course, my Savior, in showing love to my brothers and sisters so they too can feel Heavenly Father's love for them. I testify that what I have related is true. I consider this a sacred experience and cherish its memory. I am inexpressibly grateful to my Heavenly Father for prayer. I have a sure knowledge that He is attentive. He hears and answers prayers. It is precious, sweet and humbling to know that He, our Father, yearns to hear from us---all of us! That knowledge gives self-esteem as nothing else can. It is awe inspiring to know that our Creator, our Eternal Father, the ONE to whom all things are possible, the ONE whose accomplishments are endless and perfect, a Supreme Being---is willing, and even wishes, to commune with me, with each of us!

Now I shall never be granted audience with a King or President of any nation. Nor, of even more value to me, do I ever expect to meet personally and speak heart to heart with our Beloved Prophet. Yet, ONE greater than any man that has ever lived, desires to give me audience, any time, any place and for as long as I wish. That is the awesome nature of prayer. I can communicate openly with Deity, (at Heavenly Father's request!) anytime I choose! That to me, is humbling and sobering. His invitation is to us all! It means we all have great worth.