Today I’ve been asked to talk about how as a father you make your home a refuge from the world for your family. Anyone who knows me from speaking, knows full well I’m not going to start my talk on topic. So let’s start with a confession.
I really enjoy photobombing, but I try not to be mean about it. In December we were in Nuremberg and I totally photobombed some lady and she called me on it. I felt terrible and so we bought her some of that cinnamon bread on a stick. Our next big family trip was this last weekend. We went to see the tulips in the Netherlands. Everyone was taking pictures while walking around those beautiful gardens and I really wanted to photobomb. This time I figured out a way to be nice about it.
Large groups have trouble taking photos without a selfie stick and so I’d walk around and volunteer to take the group’s photo. After taking a couple of shots of them I’d pretend I was having trouble with the phone but really I was switching the camera to the selfie camera. I’d then turn it around and selfie me into their photos. Everyone smiled and laughed and I’m sure I got deleted from their album, but for a moment us strangers were sharing a fun memory. I could photobomb without feeling guilty.
I’ve been in the Army for 18 years and as we travel we get asked where we’re from. I’ve almost been in the Army more years than I ever was at home and there’s no place I call home back in the states. At this stage we can make a home out of anywhere. We may not hang pictures on the walls, but we can make it a place for fun memories. Growing up I felt intimately attached to home. Home growing up was in the Farmington River Valley in Simsbury Connecticut. Driving home from church we’d pass gorgeous lakes, cross the Metacomet trail, and the oak tree that hid the state’s constitution back in colonial days.
As pretty as those things were, the best memories I have of that home are now feelings. My mother and father worked hard to provide a refuge for their family and it worked. But it didn’t work perfectly. There was fighting. My brothers and I tell a story of a broken door. My room was in the early stages of a sedimentary experiment with the hardwood floor and a throw rug as the base layers. Additional layers of clothing and toys were built upon it.
Our home now is at the stage where it doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes I think my kids have been sneaking around rewriting the lyrics to church songs. One version of choose the right could be:
Choose to fight when a choice is placed before you.
In the fight the Holy Spirit flees
Everyone else is wrong except you
When you fight there is no peace
At some point in life we all adopt the philosophy that since you’ll be repenting of it afterwards make sure you win. As parents we also have at least one verse of Love at Home
There is beauty all around when they’re not at home.
There’s no messes being made when they’re not at home.
You can read and take a nap, you can sit with an empty lap
Oh you feel like your brain is back when no one’s at home.
I mention this because those of you that don’t know my family may think that we’ve magically got it all together. Even though we’ve got full verses of a couple of songs we still get some things right. I love bringing in a sense of humor to our home. Before my kids got watches they’d yell, Dad, what time is it? I’d respond with it’s 1000, what time is it where you are?
We’ve tried various rules for using screen time. One was that they had to watch a conference talk before getting on their screens. Although we’re terrible at being consistent with such rules by making them and following them, even for just a short season, we’ve invited more of the spirit in our home and provided memorable references for our children to use as a reference point later on in life. The more we keep including the gospel in our conversation the more reference points I give them to be spiritually successful.
We’ve tried to find the magic set of rules that will get us back to heaven together as a loving family only to find there is no magic equation. Hormones will overrule whatever set of rules we’re trying to adopt.
Dad joke: Which prophet broke the most commandments? Moses, he broke all ten at once.
One of the largest reference points for my life occurred outside of the home. It wouldn’t have happened with all the smaller reference points my parents provided me growing up. When I was single I made some extremely poor choices one night and was no longer able to exercise the Priesthood. I needed to see the Bishop and started working through the repentance process. If it weren’t for my parents supporting my baptism, youth temple trips and advancement in the priesthood where I had to have interviews with the bishop I wouldn’t have gone as an adult. Because of these experiences I had a reference point to how Bishops are generally blessed with the right ability to be both firm and kind in just the way the Savior would.
President Uchtdorf was right. He said, “Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.” It was the weekend after I made those poor choices that Chrissy walked into my life. After a year of working through the repentance process we got married in the Cardston Alberta Temple. I have a lot of spiritual reference points from that experience on my knees over that year. Some were awkward and embarrassing, but they’ve helped me chart a course in life that leads to our ultimate home.
In order for you to understand this next part you’ve got to realize that we got married in 2000. After our families left the sealing room in the temple I pulled Chrissy back inside and we looked at our ever repeating reflection in the mirrors. I looked at her and said “to infinity and beyond!” I am such a romantic, but she was stuck with me for good after that and my jokes have only gotten better since.
Dad joke: What kind of man was Boaz before he got married? Ruthless.
When I was working through the repentance process I had to redesign the influences I let into my life. I learned something over that year. I learned that if I invite the good things of the world to come in. Those good things would fill up the space where bad things can occur. One good decision at a time and pretty soon you’ll be wondering how you screwed up in the first place.
Richard G. Scott said, “be certain that every decision you make, whether temporal or spiritual, is conditioned on what the Savior would have you do. When He is the center of your home, there is peace and serenity. There is a spirit of assurance that pervades the home, and it is felt by all who dwell there.”
With our home in some sense of order we’ve had a tradition of inviting others to join us for Sunday dinners. Partaking of the spirit and gospel conversation over time has lead to some long lasting friendships. There’s been at least two marriages in the temple, a few reactivations and more of the spirit in our home.
Right now our kids are 14, 11, 9 and 6 ½. Maybe I’ll have all the answers when they’re out of the house, but for now the method that’s working for us is to just make good choices. Each good choice we make takes the place where a bad one could grow. Ok, one more dad joke?
Dad joke: What’s a missionary’s favorite car? A convertible.
Incorporated more good is the a large part of my conversion story and by patterning my home after that model I hope it can be a portion of my children’s conversion story.