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July 16, 2012
We the Parents
Building Testimonies that Soar
by Melissa Howell

As we pulled up to a community park very early on a bright, clear, calm, refreshing summer morning, my tired but excited kiddos spilled out of the van with eager anticipation. My daughter took in the scene before us, and instantly stopped short.

“This doesn’t really look that fun and exciting,” she observed.

“Oh, just you wait,” I told her.

Numerous vehicles toting trailers were parked in one section of the park. Large, colorful pieces of silky-looking fabric were spread out flat on the ground, as lifeless as a fallen leaf on a windless day.

And then, the sound I had been anticipating: a great heavy, hot whooshing began to fill the air. Flames danced from the burners. One by one, the flat, colorful objects began to grow, as did my children’s eyes. Once the hot air balloon envelopes were fully filled with sufficient air, they parted with the earth and, one by one, began to take flight.

Nearly two dozen in all, the hot air balloons filled the sky and floated against a striking blue backdrop. No two the same, their various colors and patterns only added to the beauty of the morning.

We later enjoyed visiting with several of the balloon pilots and learning more about this specialized form of flight. And in so doing, I came to realize how much preparing and then sending off a hot air balloon is similar to preparing our children’s testimonies and then sending them off to soar and shine.

Each hot air balloon is operated by a pilot, who in turn has a crew. The crew has special knowledge and training, and crew members work diligently to prepare the balloon for flight.

As parents, we are like the crew. We have been taught what we need to do to raise righteous children and prepare them for the solo flights on which they will someday embark. It takes much work, and ongoing practice, to get it just right. The pilot requires a stalwart ground crew to achieve success.

Hot air balloons require near-perfect conditions in order to fly. This includes a day that is clear, cool, and calm, with winds in general less than eight miles per hour, and no storms with their accompanying updraft and downdraft winds.

If we want to nurture our children’s testimonies, we must provide the best possible conditions to help them take flight. Chief among those conditions is for them to see our own testimonies in action, which in turn better compels our children to let their own testimonies fly. Such things as prayer, fasting, scripture study, family home evening, bearing our testimonies and serving others should be more than Sunday School answers. They should be actions that create an environment of love and growth.

Once the crew has prepared the balloon and sends it off to the sky, the pilot assumes full control of the balloon. Winds swirl in all directions above the earth, and sometimes even just inches of elevation drop or gain can send the balloon in an entirely different direction. The pilot generally has just a few key instruments – including a thermometer and altitude indicators – to provide information that guides him or her in making decisions for optimal flight.

As we send off our children to pilot their own testimonies someday, it is paramount that they understand that just as the burner produces the heat to fill and lift the balloon, it is the Holy Spirit that fills our testimonies and provides the lift. Testimonies cannot fly without the Spirit.

We can teach our children to recognize the different winds that they will encounter throughout their lives, and to follow those that will take them where they want to go. Even the slightest change in behavior can set us on an entirely different course, for good or for bad. With the help of the Spirit, our children can learn to discern between the winds that swirl around them and stay the course.

We can teach our children to always keep with them the instruments that will keep their testimonies strong, including prayer, scriptures, church attendance, an attitude of love and service, temple attendance, and a desire to keep the commandments.

Just as hot air balloons vary in size, shape, color and pattern, so too should we remember that our children’s testimonies will vary. The variety of balloons greatly enhanced the beauty of the morning, just as a variety of testimonies can create a greater spirit in our homes, wards and communities.

The goal, therefore, is not to produce cookie-cutter testimonies, but to prepare each child’s testimony to get off the ground and eventually soar high, bringing beauty to all who witness its light.

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