The following is an excerpt from A Mother’s Greatest Gift: Relying on the Spirit as You Raise Your Children by Heidi Poelman (Cedar Fort, 2015). Reprinted with permission.
I don’t claim to be a parenting expert. Like many parents out there, my primary desire is to give my children their best shot at happiness, in this life and the life to come. This book is the result of a journey to discover more about what might just be the single best thing we can do for our children. It is the culmination of one mother’s desire to better understand how to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation, which General Relief Society President Julie Beck has called the “most important skill we can acquire in this life” (2010) .
My journey started with a comment from my mother-in-law, Kerry, a woman I admire deeply as both a person and a parent. Her five children are bright, well-educated, musically talented, service-minded, well-employed, fun-loving, and spiritually centered. I can’t say I haven’t been intimidated by that mothering legacy. From the moment I met her, I wanted to know more about how I could help my children follow in her children’s footsteps, and how I could follow in hers.
I asked her once, “So, what’s your secret? Is there one parenting tip, one book, one resource you would suggest to help me figure out how to raise happy, successful kids?” I love parenting books and have devoured many in my search for the perfect parenting approach. I figured she had to have a favorite.
Kerry didn’t hesitate. “I think with every book I’ve read, I’ve picked out and applied different things that appeal to me,” she said. “But what I’d say matters most is learning how to rely on the Spirit to guide you.” It was so simple, and yet I felt the truth of her words immediately. Of all the books I could study, with all their different approaches and techniques, maybe it was the Spirit that could put all the pieces together to make a complete picture and answer every question I ever had.
The messenger in that channel is the Holy Spirit, a member of the Godhead who connects each of us with our Eternal Father. The Spirit is our gift from the Father, which allows us to access our Creator at any time, as often as we want. As President James E. Faust once put it, “There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace” (2002). What an awesome privilege. Our challenge is to grasp that privilege with both hands as we learn to communicate with our heavenly parent.
I thought about Kerry’s suggestion. Surely, like many religious people, I had learned to pray. I prayed every day. I prayed about my children. I prayed about how I could be a good mother. But did I listen? Had I really learned to access that most important gift so that I could know the will of the Father regarding my children? Did I use that gift to provide comfort in times of trial? Was I teaching my own children to use the gift? I wanted to learn more.
I remember the first time it hit me, really hit me, how important my own role would be as a mother. I was pregnant with my first child and I was on my way to the public relations firm where I worked. Out of nowhere, the thought struck me “I am going to have a son!” and I became emotional right there on the San Diego freeway. For whatever reason, in that moment, I felt an overwhelming realization that I was going to be given a precious spirit from my Father in Heaven. And He was going to trust me and my husband to care for that baby boy–to feed him, clothe him, care for him, comfort him, and teach him everything he needs to know to succeed physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually. I imagine every mother has had a similar moment when she feels the significance of her calling.
I wrote this book especially for mothers–those who have born their own children or are mothers at heart to the children in their life. As mothers we hold the sacred stewardship of raising and nurturing our children. No relationship in the world can compare to the unique connection and tender love between a mother and her child.
My journey to discover how the Spirit can guide and comfort mothers has been paved with several stepping stones. Those stones include a study of what the scriptures and church leaders have to say about personal revelation, my own parenting experiences with the Spirit, and interviews with mothers who shared with me how Heavenly Father has guided them. While some of the names of these mothers have been changed for privacy, all the testimonies shared here are true accounts of how mothers have been guided, warned, or comforted by the Spirit.
With every passage I read, and with every mother to whom I spoke, one conclusion became crystal clear: we are not alone as we raise our little ones. Our Father in Heaven wants to be with us all along the way, because, after all, these are His children too. He wants to strengthen us, send answers to our questions, guide our decisions, warn us of danger, help us understand our children, and provide comfort when our hearts are aching.
That access to our God never wavers as long as we are worthy and willing to hear. From the time our little ones are born to the time they are grown, He is willing to play a role. As Kerry, whose children are all grown, shared with me: “Even today I felt inspired to connect with two of my older children. The one thing I will say for myself is that I know how to seek it. I know how to recognize it, and I know I’m nothing without it. I know it’s Heavenly Father’s plan to give us guidance all along the way.”
What wise counsel to a young mother. That is His plan–to guide us all along the way. He has promised to always be there: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 88:63). He gives us that promise over and over throughout the scriptures. All He needs from us is a heart ready to receive His counsel and His comfort. If we are worthy of it, if we can learn to listen, and if we choose to act upon the spiritual promptings in our life, then our divine Parent will show us how to best love our children, and how to bring our families home.
Heidi Poelman has always loved learning about subjects that strengthen families. She has a degree in communications from Brigham Young University (BA) and Wake Forest University (MA). Her books include A is for Abinadi, The Two-Minute Marriage Project, and A Mother’s Greatest Gift. Heidi lives in Utah with her husband and four children.