Friday, April 18, 2014

An Easter Lesson for Young Children

My husband and I were officially called and sustained by members of our church congregation last Sunday to be in charge of the Nursery in our ward.

The Nursery is a class  in our Primary organization that teaches and cares for the children of our congregation that are ages 18 months to 3 years of age.

Our ward already had a GREAT Nursery in place. They haven't had leaders in months, but the workers have worked hard to maintain the structure that the previous Nursery Leaders implemented. The only thing that our Bishopric felt was lacking and asked us to pray about changing was the implementation of a short gospel lesson for the little ones so they can start learning and having gospel principles reinforced by more than just what they get from their parents at home. We absolutely agreed that this needed to happen and made a plan to make it happen.

I still need to get the Nursery workers' names and phone numbers so we can start a lesson rotation, but was very excited and happy to come up with a lesson plan for this Sunday. I was planning on starting with lesson one of the manual that the church has published for use in the Nursery class, but, realizing it was Easter, decided to start with one of the supplementary lessons for Easter. I liked certain ideas from the lesson but after praying felt strongly that the most important part of the lesson that needed to be conveyed was the Easter story and WHY we celebrate Easter.

Having had education classes for elementary and pre-K students, I knew that the lesson had to be presented in a hands on way that would keep their attention. What better way than telling the story in a simplified version with a story board and allowing the kids to take turns adding characters to the story?

I searched the internet for Easter clip art to use and came up feeling wanting...I just couldn't find pictures that I felt were worth printing. So...I decided to draw upon my strengths and do something I haven't done in AGES...I decided to freehand some of my favorite artwork inspired by the Precious Moments universe.  I haven't had a chance to draw anything like this in a while, and while it was difficult with two toddlers running around, I found time to write my story, poem, draw characters to be added to the board and create the board.

Since I went to all this work, I decided it would be worth sharing...Maybe you're preparing your lesson for a group of small children for Easter Sunday? Maybe you're trying to find a fun way to present Easter and the concept of the Risen Christ to your small children in a way that involves the bible but doesn't leave their minds to wander?  Well, my work may very well be your gain.

I am going to attach the text for the story/poem that I wrote to use and the jpg files of the characters. I drew a large tomb on a piece of poster board (I am attaching a picture of the poster board for you to see) as the background for the story. If you don't have art skills the Behold Your Little Ones lesson manual has a jpg you can print. It won't be large, but I'm sure you could blow it up somehow and glue it to the board to use as part of your lesson. The link for that can be found HERE . Also, I didn't freehand a Precious Moments version of Christ. I have a 5x7 picture of Christ that I am opting to use instead, so you will need to find an image of Christ you'd like to use. Fortunately, the Behold your Little Ones link also provides a drawing of Christ that you can print out.

Here is the story/poem:

Three days after Jesus died, Mary, one of Jesus’ friends, and her friends went to his tomb to finish cleaning his body.
Two angels were there. They had moved the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. They said that Jesus wasn’t there, he had risen.
Mary’s friends left, but Mary was very sad that Jesus’ body was gone and didn’t know if she could believe he was really alive.  She started to look for Jesus all around the garden where the tomb was.
The sun was shining in the sky, but where was Jesus?
The clouds were floating way up high, but where was Jesus?
The trees were towering in the sky, but where was Jesus?
The butterflies were flying by, but where was Jesus?
The flowers were growing from the ground, but where was Jesus?
The bees were buzzing all around, but where was Jesus?
The birds were singing in the trees, but where was Jesus?
The squirrels were chasing around the bees, but where was Jesus?
Let’s all look to see if we can help Mary find Jesus!
(after the kids look for a while have one of the nursery leaders pull Jesus from behind their backs and hold him up, bringing him up front)
Mary didn’t know it was Jesus at first. She thought it was a gardener and asked him where Jesus’ body was so she could take him back to his tomb. Jesus finally said her name, and she recognized his voice
(Nursery worker)Mary. (put Jesus on the board)
The prophecies had come true. He was alive! He had been resurrected.
Mary fell to her knees and cried because she was so happy.
Because Jesus died for us, we can be forgiven of our sins and because He was resurrected, we ALL get to be resurrected after we die and live with Heavenly Father again in heaven. That is why we celebrate Easter.
That should make us all happy too!

and here are the jpgs of my freehand drawings. (P.S. Decided AFTER I colored them that I was going to upload this to the blog...I promise, I'm not trying to kill your color ink supply. If I decide to upload anything like this again, I will remember to wait to color it in until I've copied the drawings.)

 Here is a jpg of the board that I drew. You may be able to print this off and use it...but if not, I gave you another option above. :)

And, finally, what the board COULD look like after the kids have finished adding the characters to it.

 We have a LARGE nursery class (17 kids that are in our ward boundaries and several visitors weekly) You can choose to use as many or few of the board characters as you'd like.  I just wanted to be sure that we would have enough for every child in the Nursery to be able to have a part in putting the picture together.

And...there you have it. 

I know Christ lives. I know he suffered for me and by His grace, we are freed from the weight of our sins as long as we are willing to repent and draw nearer to Him. I know that He gave us the perfect example of how to live our lives and that if we draw upon His example and work to become more like him, we will slowly but surely be perfected.  I know that because He lives we will live again, and through our works, will have the opportunity to dwell in His presence and the presence of our Father in Heaven, that we will become as they are: Gods with a perfect knowledge of the eternities. I know Christ loves us. I know God loves us. I know that they want us to return to them and that Christ wants to share His inheritance of eternal life with us. All we need to do is open the door. He is knocking. Let Him in.

Happy Easter.

Hugs and Loves until next time, darlings.

Friday, April 4, 2014

True Love

A poet once said that if you truly love someone or something, you will be willing to set it free.

When I was younger, I always thought this phrase was stupid. If you love, and love fiercely, you should fight with every fiber of your being to show that love and keep it.

As I got older, I began to understand the truth of that phrase...and the truth in my own thoughts. That both thoughts were true and intertwined.

In the last few weeks, I have been forced to dwell on both of these thoughts as my husband and I have been faced with tough decisions.

A month ago today, we brought Pixie home from the Cache Humane Society. She was so sweet and good with the kids, we had great hope that things would work out. 

We had a shaky first week. She didn't eat, she would go outside and then come back in and poop on the carpet and I began to wonder if our home made her nervous.  Eventually, with time, we were able to establish boundaries and she seemed to settle into our home life...

She was sick with Kennel Cough when we brought her home (basically Bronchitis for dogs) and had been treated with antibiotics at the shelter. We were told that she just needed time to let it work through her system. As she started to get better and want to do more than sleep on the couch all day, as she started to get a little "zip" back, we began to notice a new problem...she wanted to be outside ALL.THE.TIME.  We had been told in the shelter that her previous owners kept her outside during the day because they both worked and then would bring her in during the late afternoon and evening. To be honest, I didn't believe it would be a problem initially which is why we continued the process and chose to adopt her. In general, in my experience with dogs, the dogs I've always had have wanted to be indoors, even the big ones. So for me, this desire to just be outside was very foreign. 

Now, if our house had a private backyard, or our HOA allowed for animals to be tethered on our porches outside for short periods of time without owners being present, this wouldn't have been a problem...but we don't have a private, fenced backyard, and our HOA rules clearly state that animals need to be on a leash with owners present and tethering is not allowed.

It was starting to get to the point where I would take her out for a long walk while the girls were napping, she would have "done her business", and as soon as we were back in the house and the leash was off, she would run to the door, and begin to yelp (sometimes to the point that it sounded like I was physically abusing her). The only way to stop it would be to put her in her kennel. She would instantly quiet down and go to sleep but then beg to go outside after I let her out again in 20 minutes or so.  It started getting to the point where I was needing to take her outside every 30 to 45 minutes and the amount of time she wanted to be outdoors was getting longer and longer.

Now, if my kids were older, this wouldn't have been a huge problem, but I was becoming concerned that going for long walks at naptime  with my front door always in view(so 4 times a day for 20-30 minutes) wasn't cutting it. 

Imagine being 28 weeks pregnant and trying to wrangle 2 toddlers and a dog while on a add to that the complication of one of those toddlers being Autistic, with no sense of danger, and a tendency to bolt. Needless to say, going outside all together was problematic to say the least and I was finding myself having to close the girls into the baby proofed living room behind the baby gates to take out a dog on the verge of hysterics that just wanted to be outside in the sun, grass, and smelling the dirt for no other reason than she craved it.

I was hoping that this was just another adjustment, and that with a little more time she would begin to see that we go outside at certain times and we are free to play inside the rest of the time but the problem was just getting worse, culminating in her running away TWICE last week (she just bolted out the door as soon as someone opened it...a behavior we hadn't seen before because usually she was content to stay back and wait for an invitation to go outside and for her leash). 

This week, my mom decided to come for a visit. She is kind of a dog whisperer. I knew she would either have suggestions or help me come to a decision about what to do.

We LOVE Pixie. She is seriously one of the best and sweetest dogs I've ever met. She is so gentle even with the littlest of kids and is always eager to go say hello to babies and toddlers and give them a quick love...and more importantly, we have been seeing some HUGE strides therapy wise for Faith.  Faith has been eager to try to communicate with Pixie, and, while she still isn't mimicking us, she was beginning to mimic sounds that Pixie made in her attempts to play with her. She was also sharing toys and trying to share her food with her...things that she never does with anyone. This last Sunday, during nursery, I was in tears as I watched her walk over to a little girl and try to share a puzzle with her. She never made eye contact once, but she made noises like she makes when she plays with Pixie and happily handed the little girl puzzle pieces to put into their correct slots. I know that if she hadn't had the motivation to learn how to share from her time with Pixie that this break through would likely have been months off...

With all the good, it was easy to try to say that we would continue to forge ahead. I didn't want to disrupt the progress we were making with Faith, and I didn't want Pixie to have to go back to the shelter because she came to us SO SICK with Kennel Cough and the volunteer at the shelter that had suggested Pixie as the animal to try had said that she had really NOT been faring well there in the month and a half that she had been there. 

My sweet mother came and after a day or two of observing our situation looked at me and said, "Honey, sometimes you have to just know when its time to face the facts in front of your nose. This dog is a great dog, she is perfect for you- your house just isn't perfect for her."

She was right. LOVE had been my motivation to fight and continue to forge ahead. Love for Pixie and her sweet personality, love for Faith and my desire for her to progress, love for Phillie who had become Pixie's partner in crime and could often be found trying to snuggle with her and give her kisses, and love for animals in general and my desire to have one in my life.

I was raised around dogs. Before his death, and while I was growing up, my biological father became a licensed breeder of Shelties. My mom and dad worked together to teach us respect for the animals we were caring for. Through 4 litters of puppies, before our female Buttercup had some major complications and could no longer breed, we learned about housetraining dogs the correct way, how to train puppies to be soft as they played with humans, how to get them the proper medical care and, more importantly, we learned about respect and putting an animal's needs above your own. 

In no case was this more true than with "my dog" Penny. My dad had rescued her. She was old, much too old to breed, but when he heard her story, he didn't have the heart to have her sent to the shelter or euthanized when she still had some good years left. Abuse had left her blind and she was starting to go deaf ( a common problem in old age for Shelties), but he wanted her to have as much time as she could still have before deafness claimed the last of her abilities to care for herself, in a loving home. He wanted to erase the abuse.  

Penny and I instantly had a connection that couldn't be denied. She was mine and I was hers. For a year and a half, I fed her, bathed her and earned extra allowance to buy her treats and toys. Finally, one day, my dad sat me down one day after school and explained that he had taken Penny to the vet for a check up. A hearing test had revealed the awful truth that he had feared as he watched Penny running into things in the backyard and noticed that I would have to bring food to her and that she didnt want to walk around much, Penny had gone completely deaf. Her one sense of smell was failing her as well because of age. The vet and my father both agreed that it was time for Penny to be put down, that she had no quality of life left with only a failing nose as her guide. 

At the ripe old age of 6 years old, I didn't hear the good reasons, all I heard was that "my" dog was going to go to heaven and I was ANGRY. 

It was a hard lesson. My father agreed to let me come along to the vet but didn't want me to come in to watch the procedure. I cried the whole way there, I cried as I sat in the car. All I could think of was me. All I could think of what Penny was doing for me as a little kid who loved her, I wasn't thinking of her.

As time went on, as the wound from missing "my" Penny healed, I began to see the wisdom. To truly love means that you put the needs of others first, it means that you see a need and if you can't meet it, you have two choices: 1) Fight to find a way to meet the need or 2) Let go and move forward with love to find a way outside of yourself to meet that need.

I have thought a lot about that young childhood lesson as this last week and a half or so has worn on. I have thought about poor Pixie, confined to a kennel most of the day because she won't stop whining at the door. 

My mother made it more real...I was thinking about what Pixie did for us...not what we were doing for her. As an adult dog, it will be hard for Pixie to change and adjust, in fact, it just may break her spirit to do it.  I was doing all I could to try to meet her need for the outdoors, I was trying my best to meet her needs but because she was so set in her ways, I was trying to FORCE her to change. I was trying to force her to change because I wanted it to work. I wasn't considering her needs, I was only considering my needs and the needs of my family...

In the end, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to find Pixie a home that met ALL of her needs...not a home that was trying to force her into submission and to force a change that she wasn't prepared to make. 

Love is a two way street. While Pixie loves us and was happy to be with people who cared about her, she wasn't fully happy, she couldn't have the one thing she wanted most and craved. She was trying to be content, there would be days she would give up whining and yelping after 10 or so minutes and settle in to play with the girls and their toys or jump up to snuggle with me on the couch, but she wasn't fully content.

We made the tough decision that we'd fought all we could for her. Because she was unable to change at this point in her life, we were fighting a losing battle.

While there were and have been benefits to fighting that losing battle, that losing battle has been becoming a dangerous one...forcing me to leave my kids unattended or break rules of our HOA to tether her up outside. Something had to give. 

However, the Lord in His tender mercy has found a way for this situation to not be as heartbreaking as it could have been.

I couldn't stomach the thought of taking Pixie back to the Humane Society. While I know they do their best to care for the animals under their stewardship, knowing what we now know about Pixie, I knew that taking her back to spend who knows how long in a kennel and only 2-3 trips outside a day would REALLY crush her spirit...and I definitely couldn't fathom the idea of her being bounced back and forth until she found the right home...most importantly, we have become attached to her. I was really struggling with the idea of not ever seeing her again.

The Lord knows our needs, and His wisdom is in everything.  My sweet little sister has a giant fenced backyard and 3 adorable little girls that had been begging for a dog that could be "theirs"...they do have another dog, a jack russell terrier like Pixie, but he is timid and not fond of children, so they rarely get chances to interact with him.  He also came from a home with 7 other dogs so he has been itching for a playmate too.  

My little sister eagerly offered to take Pixie in. 

So, this morning, as I cried and cried and cried, Pixie was loaded up into my parent's minivan to begin the sojourn back to Idaho Falls with them. She will be dropped off at my sister's house as a "spring break surprise" for her girls.  

 Sometimes, the truest form of love and compassion you can demonstrate is to recognize the needs of someone (or something) and put those needs above your own. Sometimes you have to fight losing battles to win...

What have we won?

1) We won the knowledge that a service dog truly will help Faith and will be a great asset to her current therapy regimen.

2) We won the knowledge that sometimes the quickest way to accomplish the task isn't necessarily the best. Pixie had the perfect personality to be a service dog for Faith, but I went against my better judgement (knowing what I know about dogs) and hoped it would work out to train her in spite of her age because it was the quickest way to bring a furry friend into the house to help her.  We haven't given up on having a dog, but we know now that it will be worth the wait to either save up for a papered puppy that we can train to be okay with our home environment or suck it up and save up to spend the $3800 required to buy a trained service dog that will come to us all ready to meet our needs. We will take comfort in knowing that we now know a path that will give us amazing results to help Faith and will work hard, having faith in God that we will be led down the right path so that the next time we bring a furry friend home, it can be a "forever home" for that pet.

3) We were reminded about true love and what it really means. We have worked hard over the last month to try to give Pixie everything she could need or want to be happy, and were able to recognize our shortcomings. We were given a chance to make it right and God, in his mercy, gave us the perfect solution so that good-bye doesn't have to mean parting ways forever...

4) We have been given the chance to exercise hope, love, faith, and courage. Its never bad to flex those muscles every now and again.

God never gives us anything that we can't handle without His help. 

All experiences are for our good.

While our hearts are broken that we couldn't change enough to make our home the right home for Pixie, we have learned important lessons and valuable lessons...some of them for the benefit of our kids, and others so we can stretch and grow spiritually. 

God will drag you kicking and screaming from one blessing to the next if He has to. 

This just happens to be a situation where I was dragged kicking and screaming to the ultimate blessing of this experience- the blessing of remembering what it truly means to love without being selfish. 

Love isn't selfish. Love is patient. Love is kind.

Paul's epistle to the Corinthians was pretty genius. 

How blessed am I that I got a chance to gain a greater understanding of these inspired words? 

I was blessed with a chance to exhibit Christlike love through charity. I got the chance to put the needs of another above mine and I have been enriched by it.

I will still probably cry for the next few days...but I have faith that my pain will be healed. I have faith that God will show me the wisdom in this plan and that my choice to let Pixie go will ultimately be shown to be the right step...line upon line, precept upon precept and that I will receive the blessing of having that hole in my heart filled and that our needs for help for Faith will be met through hard work,  and by the acts of God's army on earth (my brothers and sisters in spirit). 

Now just wasn't the time...we needed to see that it would work and that it was a viable path for helping sweet Faith to learn how to make friends...and now we can look forward to the day when we are fully prepared to receive that blessing at the right time and with the right tools for the job.

Hugs and Loves until next time, darlings.