My little Treasures, at just 17 months old, have taken up a BIG book as their favorite. This heavy, hard cover, beautiful blue book contains a favorite story of mine also. They pull at it, tug at it, heft and work at it, even whimper with the struggle of it sometimes, but they INSIST on bringing me “Dirella”, in grown up language it is called “Cinderella”.
Yes, I love Cinderella’s character, ever gentle and kind and hopeful in the face of a horrible situation. My view of the story has grown as I’ve grown. It’s delightful to see Cinderella have compassion and save a little mouse from a trap (several times) making her all the more worthy of being delivered from her own trapped oppression. Cool that the little mouse she saves is the one that holds the key to her being freed in the end- much like our service to others actually saves us in the end!! (You might need to re-watch Disney if you aren’t following me here! Lol!) In the very end, Cinderella is saved from oppression and cruelty and unhappiness by the prince! Ahhhhh, sigh, I still love it. And, like our English teacher in high school pointed out to us again and again, “there is always a Christ-figure”- here he is the Prince of Peace, the Bridegroom. And I believe more than ever that “the dream that you wish… WILL come true”.
Yes, it is a wonder-full story as the symbolism and lessons of faith, hope and love are replete throughout it, but as I was sitting with my little ones on my lap again one morning, reading their favorite ‘Rella’, I had a sudden and clear realization of just HOW IMPRESSIONABLE they ARE right now!! And though princess stories are delightful, I felt strongly HOW MUCH MORE IMPORTANT it is for me as a mother to teach them words of truth- the stories of Jesus, the scriptures, the words of Christ. So we finished Cinderella and I picked up the Children’s version of scripture stories off the shelf and started to point to the pictures and tell the stories in simple form so that these little baby girls could be engaged and understand.
I showed the Babies pictures from the first story I opened to, the prophet Joseph’s own history: how his leg was hurting, “see his Daddy hold him, his mama crying” (sign language tears), “they prayed to Heavenly Father to make it all better”. OK, so my babies can’t know of the medical miracles that happened there as we do- we used to go see Nathan Smith’s, the surgeon’s, medical bags encased at Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical center where my husband did his residency and where that same Nathan Smith had started the medical school. They don’t know the procedure this Dr. used to operate on Joseph’s leg was more than 100 years ahead of his time, way before it was done that way as modern procedure. My babies couldn’t grasp what faith they must have had to see that miracle, what pain Joseph really did endure before, during, and healing from the surgery, how he wouldn’t take any alcohol for it but simply asked that his mother leave the room and his father hold him. My Babies obviously didn’t know all this but they were engaged and interested. They know pain and they know Daddy’s comforting arms and they even know prayer.
Then I showed them the picture of Joseph, a young boy of age 14, going to many different churches, each one insisting they were right. “Come here! No, Come here!! No, come here!” I yelled out in drama for my babies to catch the story. With shrugged shoulders and a question on my face I pointed to Joseph, “Which one is right?” I shook my head in confused wonder. They know the “where” sign so I signed, “where should he go? Where should he go?” They reflected my confused face with worried brows. Don’t we all feel that way in life at times? Where should we go to find answers we can trust? Where can we go to find truth we can rely on in our lives? Where can we find peace and safety and rest and refuge?
With all that pleading in my face and the ‘where’ sign, I showed them Joseph’s worry and confusion. Then I pointed to the picture of Joseph reading the Bible. “Look”, I invited, “Joseph is reading the scriptures”! They recognized that picture as it is one they see each night as our family reads together before bed (iPads and iPhone have become more what they see us studying than the book Joseph held, especially since the children get iPads from school now, but thankfully the Little Sisters still recognized the Bible as a book) and seemed to know what Joseph was doing.
This engaged them even more. I paraphrased James 1:5,6 “Joseph read,” and I articulated very succinctly, “if you don’t know what to do, ASK GOD.” “Joseph can pray and ask God!” (Happy voice of hope!) And to keep their interest, “Look!” now my voice as reverent as I feel about it, “Joseph WANTED to pray. He went into the woods so he could say a very special prayer. See?” We all 3 snuggled down there bending in closer to the book to see, and then my heart was fuller than it could ever be reading any other story, (besides Christ’s life – I’ve been reading them the Easter story too since this) for there on the page was the picture of one of the dearest, most important stories of our time, to the whole world, to my heart.
There on the page was the picture of Joseph kneeling in a sacred grove of trees on a beautiful spring morning in 1820, in prayer. I was quiet, in awe myself for a minute. Then I pointed and asked, “Who is that?” For a bright white light had flooded over Joseph and two people stood in the light, and suddenly I wanted to know if my Babies knew this most important story of all stories of our time, if they knew who that was standing there in front of Joseph in the light. Without a seconds hesitation Sarah, so outgoing, with deeply contemplative Adelynn by her side, reached down to point right to those two glorious beings and said an unmistakable, “Dte-sus”.
She knew. I don’t exactly know how but they’ve always seemed to know. From their first expressions, we could point to a picture of Christ and they would say in baby language “de-dus” softly, reverently- an awe-whisper most the time.
I felt warmth and peace and love a plenty burning in my heart as it always does when I read this story, but I felt especially blessed to be sharing the most delightful, joyous, wonderful news of this dispensation with my Babies. As infants they get to know of God, His nature, that we are formed in His image literally, just like the Bible says, that He knows them by name as He called Joseph by name, just as he called Samuel and Moses and others by name, that the heavens are open in this day through revelation as well as in the ancient days of the Holy Bible, that Christ lives and is at the head of His church and speaks through a living prophet of God just as He has through all times, that we can ask and seek and knock and receive answers from heaven just as Joseph did! It’s glorious truth! And it makes my soul rejoice!!
As a mother snuggled on the floor with my two tiniest children I was in awe once again at what they understand, what they absorb. I felt so honored to have the opportunity to teach them, even as I was reminded of the huge responsibility it IS to TEACH them. They are so incredibly impressionable and I need to be sure that in a world of pop-culture & princesses, movies and make-believe, dress-ups and Disney songs that they are learning what is most important, that they know what will really, truly lead them to happily ever after.
It has led me there. I feel just like the country song and often have to belt it out, “I am so blessed, and I feel like I’ve found my way, I thank God for all I’ve been given, at the end of every day – I AM SO BLESSED!” Blessed with the knowledge, truth and light that has delivered me and led me to my own dreams come true, to my own peaceful and happy endings… & beginnings!
Happy reading… And teaching… Of your little ones!!
“7 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;…”
p.s. For anyone wanting to learn more about what their Christian neighbors, the Mormons, believe, please join us at our informational open-house this Saturday from 1-4 pm at our church building. It is located on Rader Rd just off Lycoming Creek Road. You can see it clearly from the road and it has a sign also, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. Hope to see some of you there!