Monday, May 24, 2010

Apple Blossom - Take Two

This past weekend was Apple Blossom here in Payette. Ty had the weekend off and was able to enjoy the town's festivities with us this year which was great! They have a fun parade where the kids loaded up on candy. Vanna was an absolute sticky mess by the end of the parade - she couldn't shove that taffy in her mouth fast enough.

After the parade, we received a sweet invite to a bbq with friends and enjoyed the entire afternoon with them. We thought for certain the kids would be monsters while we were there as we were already getting passed their nap times but they did great and couldn't have had more fun playing with all the kids that were there. When we finally loaded them in the car to go home, they fell asleep within what seemed like seconds. They enjoyed a late nap which we thought would be perfect because we still had the carnival and fireworks to go to.

Well, we should have known better than to plan that much fun into one day because the monsters DID come out as we left the carnival. :) Cash had a complete meltdown because as we were leaving, he came across a glow-in-the-dark sword he'd seen and NO amount of convincing (that he'd already had loads of candy, played with friends, rode rides at the carnival, etc.) could persuade him otherwise. Needless to say, we left the carnival frustrated and determined not to go back next year. We also figured we'd skip out on the fireworks (my favorite part of the festivities-tear) as we were approaching the kids' bed times and weren't about to encourage more meltdowns of the same magnitude. We defintely had over-exhausted kids by that time already. Oh, but it really was a fun day and a great time we had together as a family. I've often thought, "what would we do if we didn't have kids to entertain or kids to entertain us (yes, even meltdowns can be quite entertaining and comical)?" We definitely have a good time with them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Privilege Of Being A Mother

I was asked to speak in our ward for Mother's Day, on the topic of "The Privilege Of Being A Mother". I truly felt rejuvinated after studying so many wonderful talks on the topic and thought I'd share some of the things I came across and the things that have occupied my mind over that same subject as of late. Warning: It will be a long read - I simply cut and pasted almost my entire talk.

In April we had the privilege of hearing from our Church leaders and as I listened to the speaker’s messages, I felt there was a connection between many of them in regard to the importance of strengthening our homes and families. Of particular interest to me, were the three talks regarding mothers. One of those was given by Elder Ballard where he encouraged young women to look to their faithful mothers for a pattern to follow. He said:
"Look to your mother. Model yourselves after them... Learn from her strengths, her courage, and her faithfulness. Love your mother, ...Respect her. Listen to her. Trust her. When it comes to matters of the heart and the things of the Lord, she has a wealth of knowledge."
He goes on to say:
"No other person on earth loves you in the same way or is willing to sacrifice as much to encourage you and help you find happiness— in this life and forever." (Mothers & Daughters - April 2010 General Conference)
I’ve studied that talk and as a result, have again looked to my mother and reflected upon our relationship, as I often do. My mother has been through more enormous trials than I ever desire to go through and I can say that she is strong, she is faithful, she is wise. I do respect my mother, I trust my mother, I love my mother. I can agree whole heartedly with the famous quote by Abraham Lincoln: "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

Elder Bradley D. Foster also spoke of mothers in our last General Conference. He spoke of herding cattle and yelling to lost calves in frustration,
"Just follow your mothers! They know where they’re going! They’ve been down this road before!"
In his talk he also quoted President Faust who said:
"There is no greater good in all the world than motherhood. The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation" ("
Fathers, Mothers, Marriage," Liahona and Ensign, Aug. 2004, 3).

After hearing these talks, I felt a tremendous weight upon my shoulders as the Spirit whispered to me of the responsibility that is mine - to be the kind of mother my children can and should look to as an example, a teacher, a nurturer, and the many other titles you could give a mother. To be the kind of mother mine is to me.

In 1997, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a wonderful talk entitled Because She Is a Mother. In it he spoke of one young mother that had written to him who I think felt the same inadequacy I do in regard to such a profound responsibility. Her letter said:
"...her anxiety tended to come on three fronts. One was that whenever she heard talks on LDS motherhood, she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task. Secondly, she felt like the world expected her to teach her children reading, writing, interior design, Latin, calculus, and the Internet—all before the baby said something terribly ordinary, like "goo goo." Thirdly, she often felt people were sometimes patronizing, almost always without meaning to be, because the advice she got or even the compliments she received seemed to reflect nothing of the mental investment, the spiritual and emotional exertion, the long-night, long-day, stretched-to-the-limit demands that sometimes are required in trying to be and wanting to be the mother God hopes she will be.
"But one thing, she said, keeps her going: "Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him. I am deeply moved that God finds His ultimate purpose and meaning in being a parent...
"It is this realization," she says, "that I try to recall on those inevitably difficult days when all of this can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe it is precisely our inability and anxiousness that urge us to reach out to our Heavenly Father and enhance His ability to reach back to us. Maybe He secretly hopes we will be anxious," she said, "and will plead for His help. Then, I believe, He can teach these children directly, through us, but with no resistance offered. I like that idea," she concludes. "It gives me hope. If I can be right before my Father in Heaven, perhaps His guidance to our children can be unimpeded. Maybe then it can be His work and His glory in a very literal sense."

Elder Holland uplifts us by saying:
"...In light of that kind of expression, it is clear that some of those ... [shadows under mother’s eyes] come not just from diapers and carpooling but from at least a few sleepless nights spent searching the soul, seeking earnestly for the capacity to raise these children to be what God wants them to be. Moved by that kind of devotion and determination, may I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent.
"We tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high."

I took comfort in that talk for a number of reasons. First, it helped me to again realize that other mothers have the same thoughts, concerns, feelings, and struggles that I do. It’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by all the little things that occupy a young mother’s time. I have to force myself to focus more on what I am to be, rather than what I am to do. But even more overwhelming to me than those many little things, is the responsibility that I have, to teach my children "to walk uprightly before the Lord" - to help them develop that strong testimony that is so essential. And the dear Sister that wrote to Elder Holland brought out a wonderful point - maybe it is precisely our inability and anxiousness that urge us to reach out to our Heavenly Father and enhance His ability to reach back to us.

A couple months ago, I had a very real experience that I thought related to this idea perfectly:
One night when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, I was kneeling beside my bed praying to my Heavenly Father with the question in my mind - of the so many important principles and things to be teaching my children - what was most important for them to be learning at that moment - what should I focus on? As I’m engrossed with this prayer and having, what I felt was a very spiritual experience, in wanders my almost 4 yr. old boy, Cash, who apparently hadn’t yet fallen asleep in his bed. He proceeded to kneel next to me and whisper into my ear the things he thought I should say in my prayer -much like we do with him as he says his own nightly prayers. Being that the Spirit quickly seemed to leave the room, I wrapped up my prayer, took him back to his bed and climbed into my own. As soon as I did so, however, I was immediately touched by the sweet assurance that my prayer was answered - for in that moment, I was doing the thing I needed to be doing most - I was setting an example for my children to observe and follow - the likes that Elders Ballard and Foster refer to in their talks. The entire experience was answer to my prayer in and of itself - had I not been kneeling, saying my prayer that night, Cash would not have witnessed his mother practicing the principle of personal prayer. Indeed, my inability and anxiousness urged me to reach out to my Heavenly Father for help and He did reach back to me.

Elder Holland’s talk and his reference to that letter he received brought me further comfort as it reminded me of the very sacred calling that is ours as mothers. Remember he says:
"We tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high."
What an honor, what a privilege it is to be a mother, to work so closely with our Father in Heaven in such an important work!

Again, in his talk, Elder Holland encouraged us to:
"Remember, remember all the days of your motherhood: "Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging." (Elder Holland - Because She Is a Mother, 1997)

Just as he said, I know that we can always rely on our Heavenly Father and turn to Him in prayer over matters concerning our children. I love what Elder M. Russell Ballard said in a talk a couple years ago. He said:
"By praying deeply about your children and about your role as a mother, you can offer a unique and wonderful kind of prayer because you are praying to the Eternal Parent of us all. There is great power in a prayer that essentially says, "We are steward-parents over Thy children, Father, please help us to raise them as Thou wouldst want them raised." (Elder M. Russell Ballard -Daughters of God, May 2008)

When we go to the Savior in prayer and our burdens are shared with Him, they do become lighter as promised in Matthew, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28). And isn’t that the very definition of a mother? A person who labors and is sometimes heavy laden - and isn’t the only thing we sleep deprived women really want is a little more rest? No really, all laughs aside, I know that scripture to be true.

In fact when we were expecting my daughter, Vanna, we ran into some complications with the pregnancy and I was put on bed rest for the last trimester. A month before I was due, because of additional complications, the doctor called me in to start my labor before Vanna was put under too much stress. Well we had our beautiful, tiny girl and amazingly she seemed to be doing fine. But that night, she began struggling with her breathing and was admitted into the NICU.

The following day, I was to go home and we were unable to leave the hospital with our little girl. This seemed particularly hard for us I guess, as we had already experienced taking a baby home from the hospital following his birth and had enjoyed a perfectly healthy experience with him. I believe we have never had to rely on the Lord so much than at that time in our lives. And when we turned to him in tearful prayer, our burdens were made light. The service we received from others throughout those couple months surrounding Vanna’s birth came in unimaginable proportions-even with the knowledge that no service could be returned as we were moving here to Payette within the month. Such Christlike service. Truly it was a most humbling experience to be loved and served so thoroughly.

After 11 days we were able to take Vanna home and what a joy that was. Going through this trial helped me to remember never to take such a thing for granted and among other things, to cherish my calling as a mother to my beautiful children. I do count it a wonderful blessing and privilege to be a mother.

In conclusion I just wish to share some words of encouragement from Elder Holland that he gave in the same talk referenced earlier. To mothers he says:
"You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility [as a mother] is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. (Elder Holland - Because She Is a Mother, 1997)

It is my prayer that we can fully rejoice in our callings as mothers - and count it a wonderful blessing and privilege to serve the Lord in such a unique way. Even the First Presidency said over sixty years ago, that motherhood was "the highest, holiest service assumed by mankind". I know that a mother’s work is a profound and divine work as we walk side by side with our Father in Heaven in rearing His precious children.

Whether our concerns be small, as mine seemed in regard to be overwhelmed with knowing what to teach my children at this time in their lives, or larger such as our experience with Vanna , I know how important it is to turn to our Father in Heaven with our every concern in regard to our children, for they were His before they were ours. Like Elder Holland, I believe you are doing terrifically well! I wish you all a very happy Mother’s Day!