Family Feature | Brian & Emily Blewitt
Have you ever met an amazing family and had the thought, “If only I could be a fly on the wall and find out how they do it!”? Well you’re in luck! We are starting a new series here at The Small Seed that will give you a glimpse into the lives and practices of faith-filled families! We’re starting with some families that we really look up to, but if you have a family you would like us to interview, let us know—we would love to see if we can make it work!
These family features are a way for us to dig deeper into how families of all ages teach faith in the home. Through these interviews we hope to share ideas from real stories of real people. We know that no family is alike, and likewise, there is not one right way to teach faith in families, but we are certain that we can be inspired and uplifted by each other as we work together to raise families in faith.
We are finally bringing you our second family feature and are so excited to share! I had the chance to interview Emily Blewitt about her family and what they are doing to teach their young children faith while still learning about it themselves. Brian and Emily have three children: Norah, Elias and Elouise.
Krista: How has your faith been a part of your parenting motives and decisions?
Emily: I feel like it’s been the core of our parenting, or better yet the springboard to our parenting. We have started where our faith is and made decisions based upon that faith. I think there are so many things that Jesus Christ laid out in the scriptures that apply to parenting. Things like forgiveness, patience, and focusing on bettering ourselves as a whole rather that pointing our fingers. These are just some of the things I have learned from trying to follow Christ’s example. But sometimes we come to this wall in our parenting, where although the gospel and scriptures contain what we need for salvation, there also is a lot of communing with God that needs to happen to receive family-specific guidance from God. I’ve seen that my faith and my relationship with God and Jesus Christ— our revelatory relationships, have helped me parent. He’s told me specific things to do with specific children or specific situations. And then what has been so great for me is to see that it’s full circle. The gospel itself has been that springboard for how I parent and then I get those affirmations and answers from God and it reaffirms to me that there is a God and it in turn, strengthens my faith in Him. So for me it has become this beautiful cyclical cycle that strengthens me and my faith.
Krista: I feel like that is a powerful message, the more we seek God for his help to raise his children the more he strengthens us! Is there a specific situation or time where you could give an example of when God has helped you in this way?
Emily: There’s so many! Can I choose two??
Krista: Of course!
Emily: My oldest child went into kindergarten last year. Here in Michigan it’s a full day Kindergarten, which just feels like a lot and it was a really hard transition for her and (for me!) At home, our children are always under our wings and you’re there to wipe tears and there to be at every crossroads and suddenly I’m not going to be there with every step. She is also just a peacemaker in our home and brings this beautiful dynamic to all of us that I knew I would miss. So for those and many other reasons, I felt this great hesitancy to send her to full-day kindergarten. My first instinct was “let’s homeschool”, let’s do it! I prayed and prayed and just felt to continue on and put her in school and see how it would go.
I put her in school and she had a terrible first few months and was having issues and having even subconscious issues in her sleep, where she would be moaning and crying. Then we felt like she was even regressing in other areas of her life as well. I naturally I went right back to thinking it wasn’t the right thing to have her there. I went and talk to the principal. I asked her if I could pull her everyday, at 1 PM. She supported me in that. I went back to talk to my husband about it and his thought was that we needed to wait it out— give it another month or two, to just see what would happen. This of course was not what I wanted to hear, but I knew that he receives revelation for our family too, so I decided to support that.
After a couple weeks she was having a hard day so I made a deal that I would come and pick her up for the last half of the day. When we were home and the other two were napping, I was cleaning and she was doing some school work she said to me “Mom can’t we just do this all the time and you can be my teacher?” And that was so hard for me because it is so hard for me to make your child do something that even you don’t fully agree with (full-day kindergarten)! It was a tough moment for me to attempt to explain to her something that I wasn’t even sure I understood! Then I just felt that God put these words in my mouth before I even thought about them and I replied “I have to send you to school to learn things that I can’t teach you”. It was a simple answer but was accompanied by a profound feeling—the confirmation of the Holy Ghost. Now, this is not the answer for every child, I know homeschooling is an awesome option and I have many friends and family who homeschool beautifully and successfully. But for Norah this was the answer from God and I finally felt peace. I had felt that confirmation and feeling from the spirit that clearly did not come from me, but it was the answer I had been begging for the past two and a half months.
We continued to send her to school and it wasn’t until the end of school that I saw why. In that year, this shy, hesitant girl spread her wings. She has learned to talk to adults, be confident, she has learned so many things, that I could teach her conceptually, but that I could not teach her experientially because that learning only comes from experience and she would have been at home with me in my little safe environment. This girl needed to be away from me so she could gain that confidence. God affirmed to me what she needed and it changed her.
The second one was more recently. I was in the kitchen chopping some vegetable for dinner when one of my kids came up and said “Hey Mom! Come look at this!” Now I have a really hard time stopping what I’m doing when I’m in the middle of something (probably an obsessive part of my personality!) so I just told my child to tell me about while I was finishing dinner and my child said to me “No, Mom! Look! I really need to show you something.” That’s when I had this distinct thought in my head. God said “Stop. Look up and listen.” It stopped me and sort of took my breath away. So I stopped and looked up and listened and this child showed me something. It was really simple, but to see my child’s eyes and the things I would have missed had I continued chopping. It made me realize that I need to stop and look up more often. Equally as important, I need to stop more often, look up to God and listen. Just stop, look up and listen. Get out of my hamster wheel (or whatever you call those things!) and get off my task and really listen, stop, look up and listen.
Krista: That is so great, I feel like we need a lot more reminders these days, with so many distractions to do just that.
Krista: What are some of the things you do as a parent to teach faith or teach about God that have been most effective for your family?
Emily: The most effective times for us to teach faith have been in moments when the spirit is there or when we can find opportunities to help them look to God for guidance. For example if we pray and get an answer about something specific, I can walk them through what happened and how I received that answer. I think being a facilitator for spiritual experiences is crucial I cannot feel the spirit for them, but I can facilitate good discussion about what’s going on. I can facilitate a home that is worthy of the spirit to be there or I can facilitate good habits through which the spirit can be invited to come.
For instance, the other day we were watching an innocent movie, one I had quickly picked up for five bucks for a road trip. As it was going I noticed it was saying “Oh God” a lot, and where we live they hear this often, but sure enough my daughter pointed it out to me. My first thought was to just suggest we turn it off, but instead I felt the spirit say this is an opportunity for them to have an experience with the spirit. I instead asked her how it made her feel and she quickly replied “Oh I don’t feel good.” I asked her why and she explained simply that she didn’t think God wanted us to use his name like that. By asking questions, she herself had this interaction with God, with the spirit, telling her something that I think is setting up a standard for her for the rest of her life. And then the conversation went even further, as we talked about what other words we should or shouldn’t be saying. It was one of those moments where she taught me and we could facilitate learning with the spirit and she could have that experience for herself.
Krista: And that makes the teaching all the more powerful. I love that.
Krista: We talk about “conflicts of faith” maybe more often with older children and I know you have younger children, but have any moments like that come up in your family? Questions or doubts about their faith?
Emily: I think there are definitely those moments where they see contradiction in people around us that they think should be doing things a certain way, like seeing people close to us that have chosen not to practice their faith. My kids have noticed them not going to church and that has created a lot of good conversations for us. They have asked us things like: “Why isn’t she going to church?” “They don’t believe in Jesus because they are doing …”. Those questions have opened an important dialogue of explaining to them that those people do believe in God and Jesus Christ, they just do things differently than we do. Or in other cases that they don't believe in God at all. There are so many people of different faiths where we live, it has introduced different beliefs and practices. It has been a real blessings to my kids early on in their life to see differences and similarities between themselves and people with varied beliefs.
Krista: And especially in today’s world we need to learn that early! Speaking of learning things early, is there anything you and your husband try to do on a daily basis that you feel are important to teaching your children faith? Or things that you hope are helping them?
Emily: Giving them opportunity to have responsibility is really important to me. So right at the beginning of the day they start with their “Daily 5”. Those things are all the simple, but important daily tasks, make beds, brush teeth, etc. And saying a personal prayer is one of those five things. It is so important to me that they learn how to commune with God.
Krista: Do they do those things on their own or do you help or guide them through the process?
Emily: We had five little pictures up on their wall and so that helped remind them what needs to get done, but it definitely took some coaching in the beginning. Now they know what needs to be done before they can eat breakfast, play or ask to watch a show. It has been so fun to see even my two year old recognize the picture of someone praying and do it for herself! Even if all she is doing is getting on her knees and then saying “amen!” I think we are helping her create an important habit.
I guess another ritual we have is we do a little devotional, a spiritual thought from the scriptures or our church leaders, before my oldest goes to school. The younger kids will join in to once they are going to school.
And of course we try and do a family scripture study each night. A few years ago we were not reading our scriptures as a family, we would read them separately and occasionally Brian and I would do a study together. Then we just realized that we needed to do it as a family, and we wanted to! We had been saying that our kids were too young for that, but then we just set the goal to read five verses a night. At the time I remember thinking that seemed like Everest for us, such a high goal we would never make it, but now we are reading ten verses. Now our next Everest is going to try and read a chapter. I think it’s just those little tiny goals and being consistent with them.
Krista: And that’s what is so hard, because even as the parents we have a hard time being consistent with ourselves!
Emily: But I think that it’s so great that we get to teach our children because it encourages and bolsters our personal faith and helps us with our own habits because as we try to teach it in turn helps us.
My faith has definitely been strengthened as I have watched their little habits grow, seeing them learn to pray and communicate with God has been so exciting for me! A couple of months ago my son came to me and told me he was really scared the night before. I felt so bad that he didn’t come get help from me (probably because he thought I would be grumpy in the middle of the night!) so I asked him why he didn’t come get me. He said “It was okay because I prayed to Heavenly Father and he helped me feel better.” That was one of those awesome moments as a parent where you realize they are actually listening and doing those things we are trying to teach. And that it’s working!
Krista: Are they are any traditions of faith you feel are important around holidays or special occasions, either that your family does now or that you are trying to implement?
Emily: Especially around Christmas of course there are a lot. We use literature that teaches about Jesus Christ. Around Christmas I have about ten books that I wrap up and the kids open them as kind of an advent calendar and we read them every day or every other day. Some of them are about Christ, some of them are about service and being a Christ like person.
On Christmas Eve we have a tradition that I continue to do with my little family that I did in my home growing up. We bring gifts to Christ, like the Wise Men did. We would sing a song for him or make up a dance or whatever your talent is that’s what you bring him. One year my husband Brian dribbled a soccer ball because he felt that was the only talent he had! So anything goes! But I have felt that this tradition or bringing the Savior gifts has made him real and tangible.
Another Christmas tradition I am starting was only I learned from a friend recently was singing Christmas songs in a circle and each person has a candle to light. We go around the circle and light each other’s candles as we sing to show that Jesus Christ’s light can be spread.
Other than that we do the pretty usual stuff, I would like to say that I’m a super holiday girl and I do more, but between Easter, Christmas and birthdays we are about maxed out!
Krista: What are the things you learned or did in your family growing up that you felt were impactful for you and how do you hope to carry on those traditions in your family now?
Emily: There were a couple “tag lines” that my parents gave us. That makes it sound less deep than it actually is, but they taught us some great ideas and concepts using little sayings. The first one I can think of is “see a need and fill it”. That is one I am really trying to teach my own kids for sure! For instance, a very basic example is if someone else is cleaning up a kitchen, you don’t just sit there you get up and help. Now that is a simple way of showing it, but it goes for anything. If you see someone struggling or needing help realizing that there is a need and we should fill it. We are Jesus Christ’s hands and obviously he could do all the things he asks of us because he has limitless power, but that’s just not the way he wants it to work. Because when we are serving others we are serving God and Jesus Christ and through that we learn so much about others and learn to grow closer to God. We are also helping Jesus Christ to fulfill is eternal promises of the Atonement as we help the hands that hang low and mourn with those who mourn.
Krista: I love that! Such a powerful way of teaching kids one of the most important concepts. Any other example of this that you could share?
Emily: I remember my parents telling us “when you walk into a new place don’t think about how nervous you are or how you’re feeling. Find someone that looks nervous and talk to them and help them not feel that way”. Then I would come to those uncomfortable social situations and I’m no longer uncomfortable because I’m not thinking about me anymore.
I also think that it teaches this really great concept that we all need (parents and children alike!) And it really helps with so many other issues that we have as human beings: looking outside ourselves and looking around and seeing other peoples’ needs and hurt hearts and as soon as we do that we stop thinking about ourselves, our insecurities and weaknesses and I feel like it just edifies.
Krista: Yes! We all need a lot more of that for a lot of reasons!
Emily: The next one was one that my Dad left us just before he passed away a few years ago. My Dad was really good at writing down thoughts that he had from the spirit in journals and until he got them into a journal he would often have index cards in his pocket he would write them on. After he died we went down to his study and found an index card that said “May you always have a hearing heart and see the unseen. Love, Dad”. Because of the way it was written, the writing kind of trailed off with his signature and the fact that he signed it (which he never did on his notes) led us to believe that he wrote it for us just before he went upstairs and lied down, which is where we later found him. This phrase has now become a guiding theme for me and my family. There are so many things it has taught me. First, that there is beauty and stillness as we listen with our hearts and if we don’t stop and slow down then we can’t hear those important, tender messages. Second, something that I don’t think we talk about all that much, because it is so sacred, is explained by Jeffrey Holland as angels surrounding us and if we could just see the heavenly forces on our side we wouldn’t even be able to comprehend it. Before my Dad died I felt really uncomfortable talking about that, but since he passed I talk about it because I have seen it and felt it and know that we are not alone. They are so close, Christ is so close and God is so close and that saying has taught me that and reminded me of that.
Of course these are such sacred experiences so we don’t often share them, but I think the concept is one that can help us prosper and find strength from in our weak moments. Those helpless and hopeless moments we all have that we sometimes can’t control, whether it’s anxiety, depression, losing a loved one or just feeling like an insufficient mother, we all have those times. And realizing the help we actually have surrounding us can be so powerful.
Thank you to the Blewitt family for sharing a glimpse into your family life and giving us all inspiration to be more intentional and faithful in our families! You can connect with Emily on instagram @emilyblewitt.