Friday, February 8

Families of Trees

I've been put in charge of our ward's cub scout Blue & Gold Banquet coming up. We're going with a medieval theme "Be Loyal to the Royal within You: Put on the Armor of God." We had the boys paint shields of faith this week. The food will be eaten with our hands - roasted chicken legs, roasted potatoes, cut up fruit and veggies with dips, rolls, and cupcakes. With their shields, the boys will sing, "As Zion's Youth in Latter Days" and we'll recognize rank advancements among them. The scout leaders are planning a Knight's Tournament. It's going to be a lot of fun I hope!

I've had a lot of fun learning more about heraldry symbols used and what colors mean. It's pretty awesome! We see a lot of it here in Europe everywhere I go. I was hoping the boys would choose to paint symbols of their faith (CTR, temples, angel Moroni blowing the trumpet), cub scouting (bears, wolves, trefoils), and their country (flags). The boys did a great job, but I think I'll have to make some for decoration to scratch an itch I've got and maybe they'll be used for decoration by my committee. This is coming from someone - me - who dreams of crafts and never does them! I have one small bucket of paper, one small bucket of craft "supplies." That's it. I always thought once I was a stay-at-home mom, I'd make time to craft and create. It's not happened yet. I've had other priorities when I worked part or full-time while we lived in Virginia and then getting assimilated here in Germany, traveling a lot and all the work that is, and just keeping up with my little people. Crafting just seemed like getting out a mess I'd have to pick up because you can't leave stuff out with little kids around. I so admire my crafty family and friends!

So back to this medieval themed Blue & Gold Banquet. In a planning meeting, we thought it would be fun to incorporate family history. Ryan led a discussion in Elders Quorum at the beginning of the year to set goals for each quarter. The first quarter had to do with family history. In coordination with that goal, we're going to have the boys submit a four generation chart at the Banquet in order to prove their lineage like knights of old did to compete in tournaments. These charts will be on the tables as families get settled and then eat.

A conversation I was having with the scout master's wife, our Relief Society president, reminded me of one of my inspirations. When I was a teenager, my dad and Papa drew a family tree. I am in love with it. It is one of my most treasured possessions. When I got married, I begged my dad to add Ryan to the tree for my wedding gift. He seemed to have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that his first daughter was getting married and growing up, flying the nest for good. But I will always be a part of his branch forever. Happily so! I am so proud of my roots. And I wanted to graft in the man I love and am creating a family with to my young branch and see how we fared. Could we produce good fruit too and weather the storms of life?

That tall middle branch is Dad's branch.

My study this morning was in preparation for Primary Sharing Time this Sunday: "The Fall was part of God's plan." [page 4] (I've got a new calling at church as the Primary first counselor. A good friend at church in congrats joked, "It only took ya four years to graduate to the front of the room!" Ha!" Anyhow, great lesson and I studied the "Preach My Gospel" manual's portion [page 50] with Chapter 3 in "The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life." Seriously, I'm totally in love with this topic and how its interpretation throughout time has contributed to a misunderstanding of Adam and Eve's choice to partake of the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Satan has truly propagated this misunderstanding of The Fall, leading to such heartache pitting men and women against each other and for some women, a view that they are somehow inferior, weak, and punished by being born female. But I love the Restored Gospel! And the theme of trees, fruit, and agency.

I am fascinated by how families portray the linked generations of their families -- quilts, fans, trees, pedigree charts and so forth. But I'm rather partial to trees. As I snapped a picture of Dad's tree for my friend on this cold sunny wintry day with a light new layer of fluffy snow outside, Dad's big Bare bare tree reminded me of a tree getting ready to bloom in spring. Last week all the snow had melted and one of my trees had little pink blossoms on it, I was so excited! My siblings and I are in the midst of adding to our branches on this great tree. My brother Ben and his dear fun wife, Elizabeth, welcomed the newest Bare to the clan last week, cute Marley! Those pink blossoms reminded me of her arrival every day. My sister Brooks and her jovial, tender husband, John, will welcome their first - lil Scott Dean very soon. My youngest sister Abby is getting married this summer. My sister Lorry and her sweet smartypants husband, David, welcomed little Davy in October. My brother Nick and his beautiful creative wife, Christine, welcomed Mikilah last spring. The Bare tree is growing taller and fuller all the time! There's so much potential in this tree filled with people I love.

Like I said, Dad and Papa's tree looks like a tree entering a promising spring. A warm day with birds soaring in the distance, bees busy buzzing around as their preparatory work means blossoms and fruit will appear in coming months. The roots reach deeply into the ground absorbing nutrients to feed the upper limbs reaching toward the sun above. I feel fed by my predecessors, feel them rooting for me and know I'm not alone in the challenges of life here for many have gone before me. The full branches on each side of my dad's tall branch provide balance and beauty to the wholeness of our tree. Clouds above pass on by, sometimes showering each limb with precipitation. Sometimes it falls gently making our colors more vibrant and fresh, but sometimes the rain falls in damaging torrential windy downpours or fluke summer hail storms. The rain falls on all and we all deal with it in our own ways but the tree is still intact and beautiful even before we're in full bloom.

I've thought a lot about that sign post now and then. Many pointers could be added these days with all of us spread out. But home will always be home because of our roots. The other trees in our community not shown in this drawing continue to strengthen the tree and welcome back those who've blown away to put down roots elsewhere. That's why I love visiting my hometown. So many, many good people there.  I revived my Christmas card tradition this past year. It's been a long time. As cards have come in return, I've loved reconnecting with friends and family all over the world. I am so happy the wind has blown me and now my little family to new places so I can continue to glean strength from strong trees in other forests. There are so many good people in and out of the church everywhere we're planted!

There is a beautiful CES devotional given last spring by Elder Marlin K. Jensen that my mind has often turned to when I glance at my family tree and wall of displayed Christmas cards in passing. Elder Jensen shares what he learned about trees from the gardener of the Sacred Grove when he presided there as mission president with his wife and family. It's entitled, "Stand in the Sacred Grove." This is a powerful talk and luckily, easy to summarize because he did it so well in his talk!

Lesson number 1: Trees always grow toward the light.
Lesson number 2: Trees require opposition to fulfill the measure of their creation.
Lesson number 3: Trees are best grown in forests, not in isolation.
Lesson number 4: Trees draw strength from the nutrients created by previous generations of trees.

  1. 1. 
    When powers of darkness seek to destroy you—as they once did an inquiring young Joseph Smith, stand in the Sacred Grove and remember the pillar of light, “above the brightness of the sun” (seeJoseph Smith—History 1:15–17).
  2. 2. 
    When opposition and adversity hedge up your way and hope dims, stand in the Sacred Grove and remember that “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
  3. 3. 
    When loneliness and isolation are your lot and you struggle to establish fulfilling human relationships, stand in the Sacred Grove with the community of Latter-day Saints who have covenanted to help bear your burdens and comfort you in your need.
  4. 4. 
    And when experiences or people or conflicting truth claims challenge your faith and create doubt concerning the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, stand in the Sacred Grove and take strength and encouragement from the generations of faithful Latter-day Saints who have steadfastly stood there before you.