Brush Strokes

Half way through church on Sunday, I was weary and overwhelmed and not really in the mood to be sitting alone with four squirmy children. When Sam stole a book from his brother, eliciting a howl right in the middle of someone’s heartfelt testimony… a howl loud enough to be heard three counties over, I nearly lost my cool. After the difficult morning we had had, it was just enough to push my tolerance over the edge. I scooped up the offending child and hightailed it out to the lobby. It’s where I felt like being anyway.

My husband, aptly tuned to the not so pleasant energy radiating from his wife, left his seat on the stand and came to my rescue.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Sometimes,” I said, “it just seems like you can never do enough. You have all the right conversations, all the right family home evening lessons. You teach children all the principles you think they need, and yet, they still have moments when they are evil and rotten and completely irreverent and disrespectful. i wonder why I try so hard.”

And in that moment, I did wonder. I was tired and overwhelmed and completely disheartened when it came to the challenges of my children. Josh hugged me reassuringly and took Henry, leaving me to a few minutes of blissful quiet. I sat and pondered the efforts we make with our kids, the desire we have to turn them into respectful, responsible adults. I wondered if I was the only one that often feels like efforts are fruitless, progress barely visible.

When it takes twenty minutes to get children calm enough to listen to scripture reading for five, is it worth it? When eyes are opened after family prayer to find one child standing in the middle of his family, dancing to imaginary music, intentionally oblivious to the fact that a prayer was being said, is it worth it? When church meetings are constantly disrupted by one child or another, is it worth it to keep going back?

And then, I thought of David A. Bednar’s words, given at General Conference this past October.

“Brush strokes,” I thought. “All our efforts are brush strokes.”

He said,

“In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brush strokes – none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brush strokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brush strokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.

Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brush stroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great,” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes.

I then thought of a training session for seminary and institute teachers I recently watched with Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President of the church. I remember her saying that we don’t have to be perfect. The Lord doesn’t expect perfection. But we can have precision. We can be precise in doing the things that He has asked us to do… in making the effort to be consistent, and build positive habits in our homes.

Perhaps when my children are grown, while they might not remember any one particular session of family prayer, or the specific words read in family scripture study, they will remember that it happened; that everyday, we tried.

I cannot be perfect. Of that, I am certain. But I think I can be precise.Β  I can keep making brush strokes, hoping that in the end, I’ll be able to step back and see something beautiful.

wheat field painting

22 thoughts on “Brush Strokes

  1. Tracy says:

    Elder Bednar's talk was awesome. Our lives are filled with little (and not so little) frustrations, and it's easy to doubt whether our efforts are worth it – but they are. Great post!

  2. Claudia says:

    As moms we often struggle with this feeling, is it worth all the effort when you have to ask 20 minutes to get an action that should take just a few … but we quickly get back in our senses and realized OF COURSE IT IS.Great Post … Thank You!

  3. wonder woman says:

    Perfect post.Love Elder Bednar's talk. I have a piece of paper with reminders from his talk above the kitchen sink. "Express love. Bear testimony. BE CONSISTENT." I have the hardest time with the "consistent" part. But I'm trying.And I think that the yells of our children are MUCH louder and more disrupting to us as parents than they are to everyone else. Think about it: Do you remember any other specific child acting out, other than yours? Probably not. But I'm sure there were a few. Just keep that in mind next time. It's still frustrating, but more so for you than other, most likely. {{hugs}}

  4. Melanie J says:

    His talk didn't register much when he gave it (because, hello, I had a toddler jumping on me) but in re-reading it since, it's made such a difference in the way I view things like FHE and family prayer. Great talk. Great post.

  5. Lara says:

    I loved his talk. It helps me not to be frustrated when I can't even listen to Sacrament meeting or family prayer because I am too busy making sure the children are listening. It will be worth it someday, even though it seems crazy now.Thanks for the reminder, I loved reading your thoughts.

  6. Carrie says:

    I love Elder Bednar! And I love you! Thanks for sharing the feelings I have often…And I only have one child!!! You are awesome and so are your children. I haven't really met them but I have NO doubt it is true. How could it not be when their mom is so awesome! Thanks for sharing your "mommy moments"with us.

  7. Stacy says:

    THIS is why I love blogging. It's because I can come across posts like this and realize that I'm not the only one! FHE last night was a joke and left both my husband and I shaking our heads, wondering if anything we were doing was going to make a difference. Thanks for a fantastic post and a great reminder!

  8. Momza says:

    This reminds me of the Christmas Devotional on Sunday…I "created" the mood…fireplace going, hot cocoa with marshmallows, Christmas tree lights glowing, blankets thrown about so everyone could get comfortable–I thought we were ready…but NOPE! In between and during all the talks and beautiful music, I could be heard, "Sit down! Get off your sister! Get back down here! There's an Apostle of Jesus Christ talking! Listen to him! Doggone it!" Yeah. Someday they'll thank me for being so consistently insistent. That's the theory anyway.Hang in there! Don't wave the white flag yet!

  9. M-Cat says:

    Fabulous post! Being on the other side of the small children era, let me just say, hang in there and NEVER forget that trying is enough sometimes. And when you think they aren't paying attention or listening, they are. I promise. They are.

  10. Happy Mom says:

    My brain had gone straight to Elder Bednar's talk and I was forming my reply as I came to your mention of it. I also LOVED Sister Beck's talk!!! I've noticed that ever talk I've heard since from her uses the phrase "faith-based work". It's my new fav!I remember having the EXACT same feelings. I was sure they would never get it. But eventually, my kidlins have turned into responsible, polite adults. Yours will too.

  11. LDS Sister says:

    And then one day some 20 years after the first time you told him to help Mrs Wilson to her car and after hearing hundreds of times "AWE MOM nobody does that," you watch your eldest son walk a senior sister to the door of his home, offer her his arm and lovingly escort her to her car. AND he does so with out a even a little hint from you. AND you are blessed.

  12. somestratt says:

    Amen! That is, amen to the frustrations of children (especially at church), and amen to the adding of each individual brush stoke. Thank you. After wanted to cry for a good 4 hours after church yesterday I needed this pep-talk.

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