"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
April 8, 2013
Precious Gifts
by Melissa Howell

Of the more than 200 photographs I took on a recent family trip, one in particular stands out to me more than any other.

We had driven from Colorado to St. Louis and back, visiting many locations around the St. Louis area; we also spent some time at some Church history sites in northwest Missouri, including the Liberty Jail Historic Site and the Independence Visitors' Center. As I perused our pictures of the Gateway Arch, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, museums, beautiful architecture, local wildlife and nature, historical sites and family pictures, it was a picture from the Independence Visitors' Center that halted my perusing and filled me with emotion.

In it, my children are posed in front of the gleaming, bright Christus statue replica that greets visitors near the entrance. There they stand -- those four happy, sweet, precious faces of my kiddos, framed by the Savior's outstretched hands. Dressed not in perfectly coordinated outfits, but rather in comfortable, mismatched traveling clothes in preparation for the 12-hour drive that stretched ahead of us, my camera captured their cute growing bodies and unique, varied individual personalities as they were in that frozen moment in time.

But what really affected me was how my children were framed by the Savior's outstretched hands; as I stared at it, I feel I could almost hear the Lord saying, "I have given you these precious gifts - how have you received them? What are you doing to show gratitude for these spirits I have sent to you? Are you doing your part to prepare them to someday return to me?"

It also called to mind an occasion when I was driving home from a Primary activity with my oldest son; I was serving as the Primary President, and he was a young member of the Primary. The activity had been themed "I am a Child of God," to reflect that year's theme, and our activities had surrounded this crucial and key message.

As we drove, my son announced to me, "I'm not just any child. I am a child of God!"

It is imperative that we not only instill in our children this reminder of their divine nature, but also keep this on the forefront of our minds as we endeavor to raise the sprits entrusted to our care.

I can barely even comprehend how different children throughout the world would be treated if all - or even more - parents and caregivers understood this principle and let it command their actions. Perhaps abuse and neglect would be eradicated, or at least greatly reduced. Perhaps parents would sacrifice more to spend greater and more quality time with their children. Perhaps the moral character of our countries would be strengthened.

My friend recounted an experience she had last summer while riding the Subway through New York City. As she watched the variety of people come and go all around her, from all walks of life and all backgrounds, she was filled with a profound feeling of love as she was reminded that everyone who walks this earth is a son or daughter of God, no matter their appearance or station in life. If we know and believe this in the very depths of our soul, shouldn't it affect how we treat those we come into contact with?

On a much smaller scale, as my photograph reminds me, as parents we are raising children of God. If we know and believe this, shouldn't it affect how we accept this responsibility and how it governs our parenting actions?

I have reflected much on the perceived questions the Savior might ask in regards to my sacred responsibility.

Am I grateful for the gift of motherhood?

How have I received these precious children?

Am I doing all I can with my limited time to prepare them for their own lives, and to someday return to Him?

If there's a quintessential mothering cliché, it has to be, "Where does the time go?"
It's true; we are parenting on borrowed time - borrowed from Him above. We are subsequently accountable for what we do with this time. For the things we teach them, with both our actions and our words. For the attitudes we have toward our children. For the time and love we give or don't give to them. For how much we make parenting a priority.

And ultimately, for how often we greet them with outstretched arms, holding them safe and loved until they return to the arms of the Savior.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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