Miracles and Memory

“This always happens to me!  Everything always goes wrong!”  I heard him say.

“You only do things like that for so-and-so!  You never do nice things for me,” she complained.

It’s an interesting thing, being a Mom.   One of the things I find most interesting is the up close study in human nature that inevitably accompanies raising a family.  It’s fascinating, really.  I’ve learned more about how the human brain works, how the human heart shrinks in self pity or expands with love, through watching my children grow than I could ever have learned in classes.

Memory is a tricky thing.

I’ve talked with my family about memory on two occasions in recent weeks.  We had a large Family Home Evening lesson with my extended family in Denver after Christmas.  In that  setting I invited my family to consider memory as a treasure.   It’s what defines us, what makes us who we are.  It takes memories to have relationships with others.  It takes memories to learn.   One of life’s greatest treasures are memories.  We passed a treasure box around the room with a small treat in it for the children.  As they took their treat, they shared a recent memory that they were going to take away with them and keep as a special treasure.

A week later we were back in Utah and I again discussed the gift of memory with my children.  This time we talked about the kinds of things we choose to remember and how they define us.  We talked about how perspective can alter the way we remember things.  We also talked about how attitude affects our memories, both when we’re forming them and when we’re drawing upon them for direction in the present.

As I’ve embarked upon my quest for better habits in 2011, I’ve also made a list of habits I want to see in my children.  Not that they don’t have them at all, but I want them to become governing habits.  The list is divided into habits that create character and habits that contribute to a better quality of life.  I’ve decided that the habit of memory, properly used, falls into both.

You see, when a hard thing happens to us, we often call upon our memories to create a context for the current challenge.  It’s so easy to be wading in the mud of daily disappointments and say to ourselves, “This kind of thing always happens to me!”  We then provide a list of evidence to ourselves that we’re somehow being singled out, or at least brushed over while others receive the “good” things we feel we’re missing.  In this case, memory is being used in a negative way, as proof that we’re somehow cursed.

Please understand that I’m not criticizing this thought process; I’ll freely admit that I give in to it far more often than is good for me.  The thing that is interesting to me is watching my children use this line of reasoning when they’re discouraged.  They rarely find solutions to their difficulties when they’re using memory in this way.  And when I hear them doing it, I often feel sad.  I hear them complain that good things never happen to them, yet I can list in my mind multiple things I’ve done for them recently, sacrifices I’ve made for them, opportunities I’ve provided for them with the sole purpose of making them feel loved, special, blessed.  But their use of memory blinds them to these things.  It is as if, temporarily, all the good I’ve worked so hard to create for and with them, is erased.  Their eyes are closed to all the evidence that proves their thinking wrong.

As I watched a scenario play out along these lines recently, a thought struck me:

How often do I do this very same thing?  And how often does my Heavenly Father watch me, feeling sad that I am blind to all the proof that life is good?

I felt ashamed of myself.  I also felt a greater sense of urgency to help my children use their memory wisely.

Once more, I was back in this place, asking myself what I can do better.  Once more I was reciting this quote:

“God, it seems, would have all men behold and observe such mercies and works of His providence as towards His people, that they in like cases might be encouraged to depend upon God in their trials, and also bless His name when they see His goodness towards others.  Man lives not by bread alone. It is not by good and dainty fare, by peace and rest and heart’s ease, in enjoying the contentment and good tings of this world only, that health is preserved and life prolonged.  God in such examples would have the world see and behold that he can do it without them; and if the world will shut its eyes and take no notice of it, yet He would have his people see and consider it.”   (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 320, emphasis added)

One of the reasons God helps us is to contribute to our individual and collective memories.  He wants us to recall not only the times of trial but the fact that deliverance always followed.  He wants us to remember that in all the bad things that have happened to us He provided a way for us to make it.  If we remember this, we’ll more quickly turn to Him when hard times come.  The longer the list of proof we have, the stronger our confidence in Him will become.

I want our whole family to develop the habit of using our memories powerfully.  I don’t just mean recalling facts and figures.  More importantly, I want us to quickly follow our assessment of current trials with the thought that “God has always seen me through when things have been hard; therefore He will help me through this also.”  I need this habit.  My children need this habit.  We’ve got to see and remember the miracles, great and small, which we’re blessed with.

Recently I was reading in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy.  Verse nine jumped off the page at me.  It reads, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;”

There it was, the concern of my heart, in black and white on the page.  I cannot afford to forget the things I see, the evidence of a loving God, or they might escape my heart and memory forever.  I’ve got to write them down.  My children need to remember, too.

So I made a box.

It’s our “Miracles” box.  I’ve filled it with paper and added a pen so we can easily record moments when we recognize the Lord’s help in our lives.  We’ve written several experiences in it already.  Some of them may seem insignificant; some feel larger.  It really doesn’t matter if they’re large or small.  They ‘ll add up.

I realize I could simply write these things down in a journal.  My children could do the same.  I decided to use a box for several reasons.  1.  We can keep it in a visible spot to remind us that we’re watching for these experiences.  Ours is in the kitchen.  2.  I want to do this as a family, and this seemed the simplest way to do it.  3.  I want all of these things to be written in one spot because, at the end of the year, we’re going to go back and read them together.

Throughout 2011 we’re going to collect a stack of evidence that Heavenly Father loves us, is aware of us, and that He helps us overcome.  I want to really make an impression on our memories.  Really, this is one subject on which we must all be certain.  I know that God is already helping our family in countless ways.  It is our responsibility to see it.  Are they miracles?  Some might not think so, but when I really consider the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for all of us, it’s a miracle to me that we have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who love us and remain involved in our lives.

I’ve written this post because I have a feeling the miracle box is an idea worth sharing.  I might be wrong, but I’m guessing that most of our families could use more practice in seeking and noticing evidence of God’s hand in our lives.  I have shared a miracle box with a few friends and their reactions confirmed my guess.

So, if you’ve made it to the end of (yet another) long post, you’re in luck.  I have two miracle boxes left and wondered if anyone is interested in having one.    Please know that the boxes I have are brown instead of black, and the scrapbook paper on them varies from box to box but the layout of the word “miracles” is the same.

If you want one, simply leave a comment telling me what small miracle in recent memory you would write down.  {I realize that not all experiences are meant to be shared, but if you have one you’re comfortable sharing, please do it.}  I don’t think I’m the only one who would be uplifted by a list of that kind.  If you don’t have one to share, simply tell me why you’d like one.  Comments will close at 12:00 a.m. MST on Tuesday January 25th. Two winners will be chosen randomly on Tuesday.

I’ll go first.  While I was writing this post, two of my daughters decided to heat up some leftovers for lunch.  They use the microwave all the time, so I wasn’t worried about supervising them.  They ate, and the older one left the room while the younger served a second helping onto her plate.  Alone in the kitchen, she forgot to take her fork off the plate when she put it in the microwave.  At the same instant she pressed “start”, my husband walked in the door early, returning from an appointment.  For some reason he walked directly to the microwave, noticed the fork, and quickly but calmly stopped the microwave as a first spark formed.  No injuries, no damage.  We were protected.   He hugged my daughter as he reminded her of the danger and explained what would have happened.  Miracle?  To me, yes.  She was alone in the room, standing on a chair in front of the microwave, watching the turntable rotate.  There would have been an accident, and she could have easily been hurt.  My husband wasn’t expected home yet, but God sent him in the door at the exact moment when an adult needed to see what was going on and quickly stop it.  That’s intervention enough for me.

Miracles.  We’re collecting them this year.  Hope you’ll join us.

Jennifer

2 comments

  • Kris

    what a great idea. My recent miracle is that God has given me the courage to be willing to leave behind my security to try something new.

  • Love this idea!!! I think my miracle is 2 almost 3 years in the making. The fact that I’ve learned to live again and to find joy again for myself and as a family is a miracle since Wyatt died. I didn’t know if that would ever happen but because of a loving Heavenly Father and for the effort in finding those tender mercies in my life that miracle has happened. I love everything you said in this post. It’s so true! I now want my kids to understand this in their daily life so this box is a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing all you do. You are simply amazing. As far as a most recent miracle I would have to say having our 14 year old take apart our laptop that had crashed and baking the mother board in the oven to fix it was quit a miracle for us. The fact that he put it back together was a miracle also in my eyes. We need that extra laptop so to have him be able to fix it was a wonderful blessing for us. Thanks for all the ideas. 🙂

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