Saturday, August 15, 2009

Connections~First Things First #2

This post is the 2nd in a series of posts on keeping families connected.

Families~there really is so much to say on this topic. One thing I have observed as I have talked to others regarding their families and family dynamics is that there are about as many different types of families as there are fingerprints. Everyone has a slightly different take on family, what it should be ideally and what it is in reality. As for our family, The Family~ A Proclamation To The World sums up our "ideal" precisely.

As a casual observer, I think families in America have changed a lot over our short history. Now in my sixth decade, I have had the opportunity to hear about what life was like in the earlier part of the last century, first hand. One thing I have observed it how the place of children in the family has changed significantly. In those days, children were seen and not heard and now they take center stage in family life and everything seems to revolve around them. The pendulum has swung the full spectrum.

When Jim's grandparents were growing up in the old country all the talk was about finding a better life in America. WWI was brewing and Jim's Grandfather was smuggled out of Italy at 18 and headed to America alone.

Grandpa Andrew in his older years

He left knowing he would probably never see the rest of his family again, especially his parents. Yet he went with their blessings and love. (My heart aches for those parents and I am inspired by their selfless sacrifice for the good of their son.) As it turned out several brothers also made the journey to America, but his sisters and parents never did.

Jim's great great aunt Angelina, that we knew and loved, came to America because she was the one twin that drew the longest straw when their older sister needed a helper to tend her baby on the crossing. That baby was Jim's grandmother. Angelina left her parents and twin and other siblings at 10 years old, became Angie, and never returned to the old country to live again.

My Father 's Dad died when Dad was 10 years old. His mother had to leave the area to get an education to pay her way as a widow with two children. She took my aunt, who was six with her and left my Dad behind to finish his schooling. My Dad lived with their neighbors for 6 years.

My Mother's Mom died when Mom was 5 years old and the nine children were separated and shipped from pillar to post among relatives rarely seeing each other until they were grown.

Fast forward to our day...

As I would cradle my little ones in my arms, knowing they were the most precious things in the world to us, I wondered how the generations before had done it? I have often wondered if they were just conditioned through their hardships to accept what was, or did they suffer like I knew I would have if our kids had been separated from each other or us? I often think they must have been so much stronger than me emotionally to handle all they were given. People that I did ask about this who lived through it, didn't seem to think their life was that hard or unusual. ?? So my very unscientific conclusion is that the community and the way of life we aspire to and have, is highly influenced on an individual basis, by our specific circumstances.

A case in point is our church community which sends our sons and, in some cases daughters, out on a mission to serve the Lord if they want to go, at age 19 for the boys and 21 for the girls. During that time, all expenses are paid by the missionaries themselves or their family, we do not see them, we write a letter once a week, and we talk to them on the phone only 2 times per year; Mother's Day and Christmas. These rules are designed so that they can fully concentrate on their service to the Lord.

As a people we accept this, we want this and although it is hard to be apart we realize the numerous blessing received by the missionary and the family and the people they learn to love and serve during the two years they are gone. That makes it well worth the sacrifice. It makes the adjustment to the empty nest easier because we hope for it and plan for it and prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually for it. Generally speaking, we are prepared in a 'different way' than the rest of the world when children leave home for school, military or marriage, especially when great distances are involved. Even so, it is not easy.

Often when I would long to see our children while they served their missions I would be reminded of the early members of the church and the tremendous sacrifices they made when their length of service was unspecified, their destinations unknown, and many hardships suffered both at home and away for them were guaranteed to be a part of the experience. When I think of them I would not want to exchange any part of my life's problems with any of theirs. I am in awe of them and the lives they endured. How did they deal with the separation from their loved ones? What sustained them, and our ancestors, and millions of others during those lonely gut wrenching times? I like to ponder these things when I feel sorry for myself.

What I know for sure is that family is important; very important to us and to God's plan of happiness for us all. The love that we have for our spouses, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents is vital to our happiness, health and well-being. Not everything is ever going to be perfect because people are not perfect, but in the best of all worlds I want the best possible scenario where our family is concerned.

So the first thing I have done to keep us connected is to know and believe that after God, family comes first. I try to save my best for them. Not just my china but the best of all I have to give. You have heard the old adage that charity begins at home. I believe that. I don't treat perfect strangers better than I treat my own family. The family is the place where we have to learn the pure love of Christ and practice it. To me that is the very first step in staying connected. You have to want it, you have to work at it and you have to keep trying all the time. Nothing happens without work, sacrifice, and above all~desire. Love, civility, forgiveness, tolerance, service, tenacity and never giving up on anyone, all have their place at home.

If you do all of this and still do not succeed, then I still believe it is worth the effort and you will be a better person for having tried your best. Sometimes our hands are tied by the agency of others to choose their own actions, right or wrong. That is when the comfort of the Savior's love is all the more important. If we cannot be connected to them, we can always be connected to Him. And there is great comfort in knowing He knows the innermost desires of our hearts to have that family connection and if we could choose it, we would.

Part 3 Tomorrow!


Nellie's Cozy place said...

Hi Bonnie,
Nice post!! I too believe that family comes right after our relationship with christ. and that
it is where we should love the best.
I heard that someone once asked Mother Teresa, what can we do to promote world peace?? And her answer was go home and love your family!! Wow! that says a lot doesn't it!!
So many times people do treat other people that are strangers way better than they treat their own family. I know there are circumstances we all face at time
just like you said where for some reason our relationship is not what we would want with a loved one, but the bible says "as far as it depends on you, to be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18) It is our job to do our very best, like you said, and sometimes that is just not good enough for some people but I think at least we will have a clear conscience before the Lord.
Thanks for sharing your sweet heart with us. I think most women
want loving families. I know I am so delighted that my son and daughter have gotten so much closer
since he has been back home, something I have prayed to happen for a long time. It is great to see!! God is good!!
Have a great Sunday,
Love ya, Nellie

Marie said...

Great post Bonnie. I loved reading about your and your husband's ancestors. I often think about the pioneers in our church and how much they had to give up for their faith and I think about how blessed I am to have not had to pay the same price for my faith. I wish so much that I had embraced it sooner in life so that I could have brought my children into the gospel with me. That is a blessing and a treasure of untold worth. Perhaps one day. I can't wait to read part 3! Sending lots of love your way! xxoo

laura.elizabeth said...

Awesome Mom. I didn't know all those things about Grandma and Grandpa. That is so cool. Thanks for sharing. These are great posts.

laura.elizabeth said...

Awesome Mom. I didn't know all those things about Grandma and Grandpa. That is so cool. Thanks for sharing. These are great posts.