The lesson today in Sunday School was on the importance of learning about our family history. That's an appropriate lesson for me to teach, don't you think? I happen to really LOVE family history in this season of my life.
This morning, I gathered a few family pictures, worried about my lack of preparation on this subject, and then spent the rest of the morning irritated at the kids about the most insignificant things. I couldn't focus at all during Sacrament, and the only thing that kept running through my head was that this parenting calling, and these church callings, and this waiting patiently is way too hard for me some days.
By the time I got to my class, I was over whatever little things had bothered me before church, and happy to be surrounded by those 20 teenagers who I have grown to love so much. They asked a few great questions. I talked about my complicated and vast family, and the reasons I started doing family history in the first place. And then I thought about a scripture from the lesson (D&C 128:18) which refers to "welding links...between the fathers and the children" and also says "for we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect." And then I realized the real reason I do family history.
There is some point in every single day when I feel motivated, hopeful, happy, and confident. Typically that happens early in the morning before the house wakes up, before chores and distractions and life get in the way of my great plans. And inevitably there is also some point in every single day when I crash...emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Usually I can count on that happening about 12 hours after getting up, but every now and then it hits at a time or a place when I'm not expecting it. And every now and then it hits harder than I expect it to. Everything feels too hard, or too far away, or impossible to achieve, and mostly what I want to do in those moments is just give up.
But the craziest thing about family history is that all of a sudden, after finding what you think are just names to fill into a tree-shaped chart, those names become people, and those people become connected to you. Eternally welded links.
I have had spiritual experiences in the past four years through family history and temple work that have connected me eternally to people whose names I didn't even know before 2010. They are part of me. And therefore, I am part of them. And I am convinced that they have a vested interest in my well being. As I do family history, I invite more and more of the "numberless concourses of angels" into my life. They then have the ability to influence and assist when I cannot keep up the spiritual and emotional pace.
My family tree is broad and leafy. It is complicated and messy. And I may or may not be related to some of those people who I've fit into unique spaces on those branches. But, what I have learned in the past few years is that we are connected to more people than we realize, and in ways that we may not have anticipated. Sometime, long before I came here, I know that I made promises to people I would meet in this life, and people who had already lived theirs. I promised that I wouldn't just walk through this life randomly all by myself. I promised that I would marry the man I married, and give life to the four children who are currently in our home. I'm also quite certain that I promised other things to other significant people. Maybe those 20 kids in my class? Maybe my visiting teachers, or my sweet neighbors who I adore, or the missionaries serving in our ward? And because I know that, I am physically unable to quit when I want to, even when it's really, really hard to keep going. Those eternally welded links between my ancestors and countless other people provide not only the hope and motivation I need at the beginning of the day, but also the additional assistance that I need 12 hours later.
Family history isn't just an opportunity to help our ancestors. It's an opportunity for them to help us. I am eternally grateful for the people who have gone before me and paved the way for my family. But I'm even more grateful for the knowledge that I am welded right in the middle of that family link and many other links, and that the place that I occupy is uniquely mine, necessary and integral to my joy in this life and all of ours in the next.