Showing posts with label motherhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motherhood. Show all posts

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Divorce and Family

I love learning about motherhood and the family, and my testimony of eternal families and the importance and benefit of a strong nuclear family unit is one of the reasons divorce was such a hard decision for me.

In October 2013
General Conference, Elder D Todd Christofferson (quickly becoming one of my favorite general authorities - if having favorites is allowed) said,
A woman's moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children.


This would have been lemon juice in a paper cut if it wasn't for the next statement:

Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate it's benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances.


Yes! I can strive to duplicate the benefits of a traditional family! However, in order to do that, I need to know what the benefits are, and how to duplicate them. So that is my quest as a mother of a blended family - to create the benefits of a traditional family for my non-traditional family.




The most influential doctrine that will make this quest possible is the atonement of Jesus Christ. His eternal and universal atonement can and will cover all the gaps between what should be, and what is.

Isn't that what we expect the atonement to do in our personal lives? Then why not in the lives of our children? Can the atonement help my children experience the benefits of a traditional family, even though the family they are a part of now doesn't meet that ideal?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Eventful Year - Revelation and the Lord's Timing

I don't usually post "Year in Review" type blog posts. However, I was reading my New Years' post from 2012 in which I wrote that 2011 and been "the best of times and the worst of times". Perhaps that statement could sum up life in general, because 2013 definitely fits that same description.

I'm sure you have all been missing me, dear readers. And I just want to warn you that this is not me "coming back" really. I hope to be back eventually, and I imagine the summers will be better, but life has thrown me a few curve balls.

In 2013, I had five major life events: birth of a child, starting school, divorce, new job, and remarriage.

Birth of a Child

There are so many thoughts and feeling that are rushing around inside of me about the birth of my second son. His birth was amazing and spiritual and perfect and wonderful and everything I wanted it to be.Heather, from Women in the Scriptures, was my doula - and she was an amazing doula. She will deny it up and down, but I regard Heather as a spiritual giant. I feel like the labor and delivery went so well because she was there, with her faith and her knowledge and her testimony, I could just feel the power of God around me and with me. And if not from Heather, then from what she has taught me about the priesthood and womanhood and motherhood through the past several years, both on her blog and in personal conversations. She is an amazing woman.

Starting School

I felt inspired this year that I should go back to school to finish the few courses I need to qualify for a teaching license. Although I have a bachelor's degree in Math, I don't have a teaching license, and I had been feeling something nagging at me to get my license and teach. Because I was married to a soldier I didn't know how much time I would have in any one place, so I figured that I needed my education to be as portable as possible. So in May I applied to an online university to finish my teacher prep courses. Because of the next major life event, I am so grateful that I listened to the prompting to go back to school and prepare to be a teacher.

Getting a Divorce

This is probably the longest story, and I am not going to tell it all right here, right now (but you can read my emotions about a lot of it in my previous posts about my faith crumbling through adversity and trials). Suffice it to say that when I was scared to death (literally) of leaving my marriage, when I thought it would be better to be dead that divorced, when I argued with Heavenly Father, wondering why He would ask me to do something I knew was against His plan, when my faith seemed to be threadbare, something happened. I got strength from a place I had forgotten about, and somehow, I got out.

And there I was, hurting, broken, but feeling like I had burst out of a dark prison.

I felt like my life had crumbled around me, but God gave me a vision of what my new life could be if I would just cling to Him. And that is what I have been doing.

Starting a New Job

Due to the previous major life event, I needed to get a job so I could provide for my family. I submitted applications for a job on Monday in between filling out divorce papers. I filed for divorce on Tuesday, interviewed for a job on Friday, and was offered the job on Tuesday of the next week. A full time job teaching math at a middle school in a nice neighborhood about 10 minutes from my house. My good friend was looking for a job and is a fantastic mother and I asked and she offered to be our day care practically at the same moment. It was meant to be.

However, my first paycheck wasn't going to come until late September. Because I had started school I had just received some student loan funds. Between the student loans and my amazing ward I was able to make it to September with money to spare. Heavenly Father is watching out for me.

Getting Remarried
This story is probably longer than the divorce story, but I am pretty sure it can be summed up in two principles: receiving and understanding personal revelation (which I wrote about here) and the Lord's timing is not always our timing - which the Stake President mentioned in that blessing.

Did you know that "in due time" doesn't necessarily mean "in a loooong time"? That's what I thought when the Stake President promised me that I would experience the joy of marriage again and followed that promise up with "in due time" which he repeated! I was thinking "so, I'll get married again in a really really really long time. Imagine my surprise when I met my new husband and three days later Heavenly Father informed me that he would be my new husband. Come to find out "in due time" means "at the appropriate time" - which apparently is 3 months after a divorce (for me). Who knew? It didn't take my husband long to receive the same revelation, so then the only question was "when"? We prayed about it and I felt inspired that we should pick a date and take it to Heavenly Father for approval. We looked at my calendar (being a teacher I don't get a lot of time off work) and picked a date mid-January. After a few days I had a nagging feeling that it wasn't soon enough. So we thought "After Christmas would be great". Nope, wrong again. Finally we picked the day before Thanksgiving (which at this point was about a month away). Yep. It felt right. We talked to my bishop, we talked to my parents, we talked to his parents, we told our kids (six of them altogether!), and it happened! So yeah, it all boils down to receiving and understanding revelation and the Lord's timing is not always our timing.

So now you know where I have been for the last 6-12 months. Going through a painful divorce, starting school and a job, and getting remarried to a wonderful man who loves God with all of his heart, might, mind and strength, with me as a close second.

I hope to be able to write more often, but don't hold your breath. Of course, now that I have "come out" and you all know my little secrets, it will be easier for me to write. I always like being open and "real" on my blog, and I feel like I have been lying the past year or so because my marriage was so awful. So, comment on here and tell me you're still reading and I will try to post more often. If no one cares that I was gone I will probably just post whenever it happens (which might not be very often!).

What lessons did you learn last year?



Monday, May 13, 2013

Heavenly Mother at Real Intent

Anath sepulchral stela, Encyclopaedia Britannica
Have you ever wondered about Heavenly Mother?

Well, head on over to my post today at Real Intent and join our discussion about her. It's been lively so far, and very enlightening.


If you have questions about how to separate culture and doctrine submit a question here or over at Real Intent and we'll try to do a little research to get you started finding answers.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Life doesn't come with a manual. It comes with a mother."

For those of you don't really care for Mothers Day, I offer this post by Cheryl at Real Intent: Learning to be Okay with (and Maybe Love) Mothers Day

Mothers' day was always a great day when I was growing up. I loved waking up early with my dad to make my mom breakfast in bed. I loved working with my siblings to make or buy my mom the perfect gift.

My mom is a great lady. I think the thing that impresses me the most about my mom now is how much she keeps learning. My mom is always learning something new. I remember when she asked me once how to copy and paste on our new computer (no more F keys - remember those old IBMs and Word Perfect on a blue screen?). Now my mom is a pretty proficient web designer. She knows how to build a website, which is crazy awesome. To give you a little taste of what my mom has been up to, you can check out our family history website that she has done an amazing job with: http://smithharper.org/

Now that I am a mother, Mothers' Day has a little more meaning for me. Unfortunately, my husband was out of the country last year on Mothers' Day, and he is gone this Mothers' Day, too. But he makes every day feel like Mothers' Day for me. He is always appreciating the job that I do as a mother, and that helps me feel good about the job I am doing.

And it is a tough job.

These videos have been floating around on the internet for the past few days, and I thought I would share them here if you haven't seen them yet.



So, happy Mothers' Day to all of you Mothers out there. And every woman is a mother, in my opinion.

How are you appreciating the mothers in your life this year?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Living Among the Dead

Easter Sunday is tomorrow. Honestly I haven't done much to prepare. I blame it on the fact that I have been constantly nursing and sleeping (what else can you do with a newborn baby?). I should be better about studying the gospel when I am nursing, instead of wasting time on Facebook (did I actually just admit to that?) but I have been having a hard time studying the gospel lately. I told my husband that I feel like I am constantly in "input" mode, and rarely in "output" mode. That is, I feel like I am absorbing all sorts of information, but I am never actually putting that information to use in changing my behavior, or actually doing something. It's like my brain is one big pinterest board - you know, full of really awesome ideas that you will probably never actually do.


I need to focus more on creating. Especially creating things with my family, specifically my children. I don't know when I got distracted from that important task, but it was easy to feel like all of my studying was important.

Many years ago at an EFY (Especially For Youth) summer camp, one of the instructors told us not to write down what we hear him say, but rather to write down what we are going to do because of what we heard.

I think that in all my studying of the gospel and other truths I have been too focused on the information and not focused enough on what I am going to do because of the information I am absorbing and the insight I am gaining.

I have been thinking about the question posed by the angel at the tomb, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" I want to make sure that I am actually living. I want to live the things I read, the things I learn. It's as if I have been seeking life by reading and studying. Not that reading and studying is bad, but all of this knowledge is dead without action. Reminds me of that scripture - "Faith without works is dead."

So, first off, I am going to actually go and talk with my children about Easter. We're going to talk about the Savior and the purpose of His life and death and resurrection. Then we're going to do something about it. In order to really drive home the idea that Christ gave His life for us, I think we will each decide an act of service to do for each member of our family, and then we'll spend time today doing those acts of service - giving of ourselves to our family members.

I don't think I have ever been so excited to shut the computer down and spend time with my family! I think it is refreshing to be in "output" mode. Why learn things if you aren't going to use them, right?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gospel Art by Little People

My five year old son is becoming quite the artist. His favorite medium is crayons (I think because of the range of colors). His favorite subject lately has been super heroes (specifically the Avengers). He also enjoys drawing planets and space ships and space wars, etc.

Today during sacrament meeting he blew me out of the water with this excellent depiction of Captain Moroni.


It melted my heart. This kid is a sweetheart. (I won't tell you what song he was humming while he drew this picture in the middle of sacrament meeting... It's a song I am ashamed to say he was exposed to at a friends' house. We've got to be a little more vigilant about keeping our kids safe from questionable movies and music *sigh* it can be so hard sometimes!)

When I picked him up from Primary, he had a new masterpiece to share! Joseph Smith in the sacred grove:


I think his teacher helped him with Joseph kneeling, and I was mildly disappointed that the picture didn't include the First Vision with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, but honestly, the fact that my kid is drawing gospel art is just really touching.

Along the lines of the exposure discussion, he wouldn't be drawing pictures of scripture stories and scripture heroes if he hasn't been exposed to them. We try to expose them to gospel art a lot - from the posters on their bedroom walls to using the gospel art book for FHE to visiting the Church History museum and more.

It's always nice to see fruits from your labors.

Do you expose your children to gospel art and pictures of the scripture stories?How do you use gospel art in your daily life with your kids and in your study of the gospel?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Lie of Perfection

Earlier this summer I wrote about spending “some” time in the scriptures every day. Today I was thinking about that again.

I know you all have been missing me on the blog (don’t tell me if you haven’t – I like to pretend I am important), and if you read my most recent post on Real Intent you might understand why I have been out of commission for a while. It’s hard to write about spiritual things when you feel utterly non-spiritual.

In short, my soul has not been doing a lot of delighting lately.

Part of that is pregnancy hormones (antepartum depression, anyone?), and part of it is a lack of patience and accepting God’s will. Cheryl wrote recently about how she always thought curve balls would come in a certain way, and the curve balls actually came in different forms than she had anticipated. I think part of my failure to endure is because the trials and adversity that I am experiencing are exactly the last thing I thought I would ever have to endure. I thought that because of choices I had made that I would be protected somehow from these trials.

Ha.

God can’t/won’t/doesn’t (not sure which one) usually protect us from any trials. He gives them to us maybe a little too willingly for our tastes, but He knows that we can handle it. And He provides a way for us to overcome or bear them. Every time.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

You’d think I had failed seminary with all the scripture mastery verses I seem to be forgetting these days.

You’re probably wondering at this point what on earth the title of this post has to do with the actual post. Well, nothing, yet. I got distracted.

This post has to do with me learning (again … funny how Heavenly Father has to teach us the same lessons over and over and over again … if only I would learn it the first time!) that I do not have to do everything all the time every day.

What does that mean?

It means that I do not have to study the scriptures for four hours a day. One verse, even reading my favorite verse is sufficient, and if I have time one day to study for an hour or so, then great. But forgoing scripture study because I can’t study the way I want to or think I should is a dumb reason not to study the scriptures.

“Spend some time in the scriptures each day.” – Sister Beck

It means that I do not have to clean all three bathrooms in my house all the way in one day. There is no way I can feed my children, dress my children, eat healthy food myself, and keep the house reasonably clean, plus have a little time to read or do something relaxing/recreational and clean all the bathrooms all the way in one day. It’s just not possible. Even if I think to myself “I have no plans today, I can do the bathrooms today.” Ha. Not likely, and I am probably just setting myself up for failure. However, not being able to clean every corner of the bathrooms every day does not mean I should never clean the bathrooms at all.

The other day I wiped down the counters and called it good. And guess what? I felt like I had done something! I didn’t need to be perfect. Today I cleaned all of one bathroom, (the counter was already wiped – ha!) and mopped the kitchen floor. There are still dishes to be done, but the floor is clean.

I don’t have to do it all, all at once.

“Oh, please. Just let the Savior cover this day.
Let Him cover my inability to do and be everything I need to be and can’t be today.
Please let the atonement cover it.”
Becca Riding, Cover Me, I’m Going In

The lie of perfection is that it is required of us to be 100% perfect 100% of the time, or we are complete and utter failures.

Hello – we are, by virtue of our mortal state, imperfect, and thereby “failures” (through this lens of this lie of perfection).

The hope comes in the atonement, and in doing the best we can.

Yes, I am applying the atonement to cleaning bathrooms.

Because of the atonement, I can wash the toilet in one of my bathrooms and feel like I have done enough. Some days it might be an entire bathroom, and some days it might be all three bathrooms but not the kitchen floor. Some days it might be one load of laundry and we eat frozen corn dogs for dinner.

The atonement covers all that. (if you haven’t read Becca Riding’s post about that over at Diapers and Divinity, you should. It is excellent).

One of the commenters on that post said, “As a mother I tend to put things off til the moment when all is well and no one needs me” But someone or something will always need us, and we cannot do it all, all at the same time, perfectly.

Thank heavens for the atonement.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of “perfection”? Or do you rely on the Savior’s atonement to perfect you, rather than your own works? Do you do nothing, for fear of coming up short? Or do you realize that no matter how much you do, you will always come up short, and then do as much as you can and let the atonement cover everything else?

Image Credit: Heath Robbins

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

By the Voice of The People - FHE

IMG_2602

Today is election day in the United States of America. In our country, the voice of the people rules (well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s basically true). In our country, we get to choose our governing officials, and then we get to tell them how we want things done.

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. (Mosiah 29:26)

Last night at Family Home Evening, we talked about what it means to vote, and why it is so important. Talking to a kindergartener and a preschooler about political responsibility was fun – and a bit of a challenge.

We talked about the President of the United States of America (who my son knew was Barack Obama – I’m such a proud mama!). Then we talked about how every four years we get to decide who will be the president. V was very much convinced that we should elect Mitt Romney because “Barack Obama has already been the president!” Makes sense, right? Everybody gets a turn! Gotta love 5 year old logic.

Of course, then we talked about how if the president has only been president for four years, we get to decide if he has been doing a good job, and if we want to have him be president for another four years. Then we talked about how to choose a president (or other officer – we stuck with president because senators and state and city governments are probably a little complex for kindergarten/preschool citizens to grasp).

We asked our kids things like, “Should we vote for a president because we like his tie? What about because we like his haircut?” Our kids were pretty smart and knew that we shouldn’t vote for a president just because we like how he/she looks.

Then, how should we choose a president? (the kids didn’t have any quick answers, which was fine, because that’s what the lesson was all about).

To answer my own question, I decided to share with our kids the First Presidency’s statement from 2008 (which they read now around every election time) about participating in the political process.

Fullscreen capture 1162012 74303 AM.bmp

A lot of the words were too big for our kids to understand, and if you have small children you know that losing a child’s interest is basically a death sentence for FHE, so I had to paraphrase a lot of things in child-friendly terms.

We focused on a few things from the statement:

1.) “the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy” – we talked about our responsibility to vote. I also explained “public policy” – how things like funding schools is a public policy. We also talked about fiscal responsibility. We talked about how we give the government money (taxes) and then the government spends the money on things that should benefit us as a society. A lesson in economics was a little beyond our kids, but they understand the basic – that it’s better for the government to spend our money on food for hungry people rather than toys. They also understood that it is good for the government to help other countries, but we can’t spend money that we don’t have.

2.) “Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest.” All we did was read this sentence, and my five year old knew how to choose a president: “Choose a president who is wise, good, and honest!” Smart kid. Because partisanship is a little more complex, rather than talking about political neutrality, we simply talked about how both President Obama and Mitt Romney are good people. It’s a little over simplified, but I think it provides a good basis for political neutrality. And we’ll have this FHE every two years – building blocks. We’re just laying the foundation right now.

3.) “study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully” We really focused on the “prayerfully” part. We talked about how my husband and I have been studying the issues and candidates, but that we pray for help to make good decisions in the election. After our mock presidential election, my husband and I talked about a few of the issues with the kids.

4.) “then vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.” The “actively support” part is what I have never been particularly good at. I don’t like campaigning, and I don’t care for party politics. It’s my goal to be more actively supportive in the next few years of the people/persons I support in government. I hope that our Election Day FHEs will become a safe place for our children to learn how to be politically active.

IMG_2601After our discussion, we had a mock election. I made up some simple presidential election ballots. I had a picture of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and next to each picture a little box for the kids to mark. I wish I had made a polling booth because it would have made the experience a little more real.

As our children mature, we will add things to the ballot – propositions, senators, etc. My hope is that by the time our kids are in high school we will be holding FHE mock elections with actual sample ballots from our area.

We talked about how in an election we are not required to share our vote with anyone. We don’t have to tell anybody how we voted, but if we want to tell people how we are going to, or how we did vote, we can.

We tried really hard not to influence our children’s choices on their ballots, but the winner won by a landslide. (okay, it was unanimous)

Our kindergartener had a fun time counting the ballots, and I told them I would take them to the real polls today and let them help me vote.

This morning the first thing they asked me when I woke up was “When are we going to the pool?!” (last night they were saying “pool” and we made sure to clarify – not the pool where you swim, the poll where you vote. Didn’t make a difference, they still say it “pool”

This morning they were telling my friend that they were going to the “pool” today. Her response, “ I hope it’s an indoor pool! It’s too cold to go swimming outside!” My kids stared at her blankly, wondering what on earth swimming has to do with the election! I explained that they meant the polls.

I hope my children aren’t utterly disappointed with their (and my!) first experience voting. (I’ve only ever voted via absentee ballot! So I am excited for my first “real” voting experience!)

How are you teaching your children to be responsible citizens? How do you teach them about the political process and political participation?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Entertaining Angels Unawares

Note: This post was originally published on December 6, 2010. We went thought all the licensing work (classes, training, background checks, home studies, etc) but ended up housing others who needed a place to live - first a disabled vet and her kids for a few months, and then my sister and brother-in-law for a few weeks while they transitioned to the East coast, and then a young family who was also in transition - albeit a bit longer one. Our house is finally empty again, but we're expecting baby #3 in the spring and felt like we wouldn't be able to give our best parenting to a teen in foster care while we're adjusting to a new baby. We still have extra room, so we're applying to be a host family for international students at the local community college. We just can't help ourselves! We love to "entertain strangers" - and who knows, maybe we'll entertain some angels unawares.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2.)

My husband and I are applying for a license to provide foster care. We specifically want to foster children who will be available for adoption, although we know that it won’t always be the case.

I’ve been reading Gene R. Cook’s Raising Up a Family to the Lord, and then searched on lds.org for some articles about foster care. I read a few good stories from other saints who have cared for other children in their home, and the scripture above from Hebrews stuck out to me.

entertainangels

Since I was a young child myself, I have had a desire to be a mother – and not just a mother to my own children. I want to be a mother to any child who needs a good mother. In the case of foster care, it may not be permanent, but I know that if I will make myself available, the Lord will bless these children through my efforts, and will also bless me through these little angels.

Every child deserves a chance to see what a good, functional family unit looks like.

This is what I want to accomplish as a foster parent:

We may have these children in our lives for only a brief time before they go back to their own families. They may not return to ideal situations, but the children go home knowing a little more about how a family unit should function. Later, when they become adults and parents, examples from good foster parents can influence the choices they make in life.

If I can just be an example that will influence their lives, sending them back to their parents will be a joy for me, instead of a loss.

Do you have a desire to influence other children for good? What have you done lately to nurture a child other than your own?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eve: The Mother of All Living

Note: This post was originally published on July 12, 2010. I'm still on vacation, but we'll be home today and I'll be back blogging tomorrow, hopefully. If I'm not too worn out from our vacation - you know you usually need a vacation from your vacation. I hope you've enjoyed reading and discussing some of my older posts. Make sure you stick around - we'll be having another giveaway soon!

I have felt inspired to study the mothers of the scriptures. I feel a sacred responsibility to be a good mother, and especially to be a mother to more than just my own biologically borne children. I don’t want to be just a half-rate mother, though – I want to be a great mother who has great compassion and charity and patience for children (and people in general) and who can teach with kindness and gentleness.

The first mother I want to study (and how appropriate) is Eve.

I want to name one of my daughters Eve. I love the name, and I especially love the symbolism – our first parents were Adam and Eve, and Adam called her Eve because she was the “mother of all living.”

In the Garden, when the Lord created Eve, he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be on flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) I think Eve was a great example of a mother’s first priority – her husband. The relationship between husband and wife is always a greater priority than the relationship between mother and children. I’m not trying to put down the relationship and role of mother, but I feel that if a woman is being a good wife, she will probably end up being a good mother. Not only does she have to practice patience and humility with her husband, but by cultivating the relationship with her spouse, she will also have a champion and helper when it comes to teaching and having patience with those children.

I know in my own life when I feel more like “one flesh” with my husband, and I am a better mother. When we are “one flesh,” our parenting styles do not clash – our methods actually compliment one another.

Our children are very young (3 and under), and we are only barely forming our parenting styles. Sometimes it is difficult, because we both were raised differently. But then when we’re talking about it, we realize that we both want the same things for our kids. The only place we differ is in how to get our kids there. But when we really think about it, and pray and fast about it, we realize that if we have the gospel of Jesus Christ at the heart of our parenting – if we parent with the atonement and the doctrine of salvation in our hearts – we end up parenting much the same way.

We do what feels right – we parent the way that feels confirmed by the Holy Spirit. And there is no way to feel that Holy Spirit – in any aspect of our family life – without being “one flesh.”

Being unified with my husband is the first step in becoming a good mother.

 

Eve Part II

In the Pearl of Great Price, it says “And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and daughters.” (Moses 5:12)

Eve taught her children everything. I think she focused on the principles of the gospel. She taught them everything she knew about God and Heaven and angels and the Savior. And I like that “she made all things known” unto them. It doesn’t say she sat over them while they read book after book after book and did worksheet after worksheet after worksheet. She simply “made all things known unto them.” I like to think that while they were out working in their gardens, tilling the earth, she talked with her children about how faith is like a little seed, and how when we study the words of the Lord and we pray, our faith can grow until it becomes a beautiful tree and bears fruit. That fruit is the works of our spirit, because faith without works is dead.

I like to imagine the conversations Eve had with her children while they were washing their clothes in the stream, when she told them about the Savior that would come and redeem mankind. She probably mentioned how the river washing their clothes was like repentance washing away their sins.

When they sacrificed the first born of their flocks at the alter, I imagine her gently whispering to her children how this was symbolic of the sacrifice the Savior would make to save us from our sins, and further symbolic of the sacrifice we would have of a broken heart and a contrite spirit for our sins.

I imagine that when Eve held her little ones in her lap as she rocked them to sleep, she told them about our Father in Heaven who loves them, and knows them by name, and is watching over them. I imagine that after she rocked them, she knelt with them in prayer, guiding their words to help them speak to our Father in Heaven.

I am going to study more about Eve this week, but I think I am going to focus on making “all things known unto [my] sons and [my] daughters.” I will tell them all about the gospel of Jesus Christ, because I want them to know what I know.

What things about being a mother have you learned from Eve? How to you make things known to your children (about the gospel, every day life, etc)? How do you and your husband deal with conflicting parenting styles?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why We Write

Note: This post was originally published on September 17, 2010. I'm reposting it because I'm on vacation! And because it was one of the first posts I wrote on this blog, before people actually read this blog - by the way, shout out to my readers - you guys are awesome, and not just because you read my blog, but for the awesome insights you share. That's what I want this blog to be about anyway - about sharing our thoughts about the scriptures. I love to learn from others and hear/read their perspectives, especially about the scriptures. So please! Keep sharing! I love your thoughts!

One of my favorite scriptures lately has been 2 Nephi 25:26:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (emphasis added)

As a mother I am always striving to find ways to teach my children the gospel. More than anything, I want my children to know “to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” Christ is our Savior, our Redeemer – He has taken upon Himself the sins of the world and has conquered death. It is to Him that we must teach our children to look.

We Talk of Christ

In General Conference back in April, Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to their children. Such occasions need not be programmed, scheduled, or scripted. In fact, the less regimented such testimony sharing is, the greater the likelihood for edification and lasting impact. “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).

Elder Bednar’s talk about “bearing testimony spontaneously” really hit home to me. Growing up my parents didn’t really talk about the gospel outside of family home evenings, and maybe when “special” events came up, such as when my oldest brother was endowed. But there were people in my life who did talk about the gospel outside of those times, and now I find that even more.

When we are in the car, I try to talk to my children about all the things Heavenly Father created, and bear testimony of His love for us, and His love of variety and good things. The world is such a manifestation of God’s love for us.

Now that my oldest is developing a more active imagination, I have the opportunity to bear testimony to him of the power of the Holy Ghost to bring comfort to us when we are scared. I also have the opportunity to bear testimony to him of the power of prayer, and that God hears and answer him – even a little child.

These moments are not scripted – I simply talk to him about how to calm his fears. “You know, V, if you are scared, you can pray to Heavenly Father and He will send the Holy Ghost to help you sleep and have good dreams.” Even though I didn’t start out with “I’d like to bear you my testimony...” that is my testimony – loud and clear.

We Rejoice in Christ

In order for me to have something about Christ to share with my children, I have to be having experiences with Christ myself. I need to be rejoicing in Christ every day, gaining a testimony that I can share with my children.

“When we are on the path our Savior has taught us to follow, additional gifts from our Lord will be manifest in our lives, both in blessings upon us and in the blessings that we share with others through service. Charity will motivate us, and we will have reason to rejoice in Christ, ... I have had opportunities to see this truth verified over and over, in many different areas of the Church.” (here)

And this:

“Rejoice in the power you have within you from Christ to be a nucleus of love, forgiveness, and compassion.” (here)

We can rejoice in Christ by having charity, being forgiving, serving others – there are so many ways to “rejoice in Christ” and receive that testimony.

We Preach of Christ

The definitions of preach in the Merriam-Webster dictionary are: 1. to deliver a sermon, 2. to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action, 3. to set forth in a sermon, 4. to advocate earnestly, 5. to deliver (as a sermon) publicly, 6. to bring, put, or affect by preaching.

I made bold the definitions I like the best. Preaching of Christ, to me, is urging our children to accept Him as their Savior. As the Savior is our advocate with the Father, I imagine that we are something like His advocate with our children. There is a “public” feeling to the definitions of “preach” – whereas “talking of Christ” has a more private connotation. So not only should we be talking of Christ in our homes with our children, but we must preach of Christ – around us, to our friends, to our neighbors, to the world. As our children see us unabashedly declare the divinity and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, they will come to understand that divinity and mission themselves.

We Prophesy of Christ

Joseph Smith wrote in the articles of faith that “We believe in the gift of ... prophecy.” Prophecy is not just limited to the President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson, and Christ’s apostles. We can prophesy of Christ in our own lives. The dictionary says that to prophesy is “to utter by or as if by divine inspiration.”

In Revelations 10:10, we learn that “...the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” So, if we have a testimony of Jesus, then we can prophecy of Him by bearing testimony.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “’We prophesy of Christ’ means that we express our testimony of Him by the power of the Spirit... As those who anciently prophesied of His first advent, we also confirm in word and deed the prophecies of His Second Coming.”

So we prophesy of Christ by echoing in testimony the prophesies of the Bible, of the Book of Mormon, and of Latter Day prophets.

We Write According to Our Prophecies

My children are young right now, almost four and almost two, and they do not understand (nor would they appreciate) some of the trials that I face in my life, and my testimony that guides my approach to these trials, and grows in the aftermath of the trials.

In order to preserve these experiences for my children, and for my posterity, I write in a journal, and I write on my blogs. Some day I will read to them from my journal, or allow them to read from my journal, and I as we publish our blogs into books, they will be able to read those at their leisure as well.

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity.”

I am working on writing more of the “rich passages” that my posterity might quote, and talking about my “triumphs over adversity, [my] recovery after a fall, [my] progress when all seemed black, [and my] rejoicing when [I] had finally achieved.”

It doesn’t do to be negative or belittling of your life in your journal. “The truth should be told, but we should not emphasize the negative. Even a long life full of inspiring experiences can be brought to the dust by one ugly story.” (Pres. Kimball) It also doesn’t need to be made to seem more glamorous than it really is. “Your journal should contain your true self rather than a picture of you when you are ‘made up’ for a public performance.” (Pres. Kimball)

I don’t think I have a problem with painting a more glamorous picture of myself, but occasionally I do dwell on the negative, without talking about how I overcame the negative trial. My goal for my journal writing from now on will be recording those things President Kimball talked about – the triumphs, recoveries, progress, and rejoicing.

 

I testify that as we talk of Christ, preach of Christ, testify of Christ, prophesy of Christ, and write according to our prophesies, our children will come to know to “what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” I have seen it in my own life as I testify to my children, and I know you will see it in your life with your children.

In what ways to you bear spontanteous testimony, as Elder Bednar counseled? Do you keep a personal journal? What kinds of things do you write about? How do you rejoice in Christ? Have you seen your children look to Christ because of your living this scripture?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

But why?

Note: This post was originally published on April 16, 2010. I'm reposting it this week because I am on vacation! And because it was an awesome post from the very beginning days of this blog, and deserves to be republished!

Little children love to ask questions.

Why? What is that? What are you doing?

A constant stream of inquiry comes from their precious lips, and behind that is a genuine interest and need to know.

My freshman year of college, my religion teacher taught us to ask questions as we read the scriptures. Each day before class we were supposed to write a one page paper on our reading assignment for that day. Our teacher never gave us guidelines on margins or font sizes. It was simply to be one page. There was one requirement though – that we ask, and answer, a question about the reading.

That semester was probably some of the most productive scripture study of my life. I felt myself digging into the scriptures, asking questions, wanting to know more – and most important were the answers that I received to those questions.

“Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you…”

I haven’t been asking questions lately in my reading, but tonight, as I was studying Alma chapter 7, where Alma is teaching of the prophesies of Christ, and the events that will be His life, I found myself in a dialogue with the scriptures.

“And he will take upon him death…”

Why? My three year old knows this simple truth – that Jesus died for us. What does it meant that He died “for us”?

“…that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people;…”

Jesus died so that we can live again. His death was so significant because He had to die to be resurrected. He had to die so that He could live, and if He can live again, so can we. Thus, the bands of death are loosed.

“…he will take upon him their infirmities…”

Why? Why would He, in His glorious perfection, take up our burdens, our feelings of grief and pain and guilt because of our weaknesses?

“…that his bowels may be filled with mercy…that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12)

So Jesus suffered for us so that He could know how to LOVE us better! Do I think of suffering for others in this way? When I take upon myself the burdens of others (as I covenanted to do at baptism) do I learn “how to succor” those people? Is that what I am learning? Do I complain about the pain, or do I rejoice in my increased ability to LOVE others?

I feel increased in my gospel understanding. I feel renewed in my commitment to live the gospel and be more Christ-like.

When I engage in dialogue with the scriptures, instead of simply reading, I feel as if God’s word has distilled “upon [my] soul as the dews from heaven.” (D&C 121:45)

Do you ask questions when you read the scriptures? Do you feel like you find the answers? Have you ever felt like you had a dialogue with the words in the scriptures?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Needed Break

My husband travels a lot for his job. All around the world. It isn’t too bad, he’s usually only gone for a few weeks at a time, but that means that when he’s home all he wants to do is… be home. So we haven’t really been on a vacation as a family in… well, forever it seems.

Last week we got news that his most recent assignment that was going to start on Monday and would last two months fell through and he wouldn’t be going anywhere – except when he goes to Germany in September. I had already made plans to drive across the country to visit my home town and my parents for a few weeks after he left for his two month assignment, so instead of canceling my trip, we just added another traveler!

I don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging while I’m driving across the country and catching up with friends – don’t worry, the giveaway is still on, and there will be another one next week! But I was going back through some of my old posts that I wrote when I first started this blog, and some of them were pretty good, if I do say so myself! And so I’ll be reposting a lot of those older posts, because I just can’t stand all these posts in hiding with no comments and no views! Blame it on my pride.

Also, just to show you that I am a little bit humble and I don’t think I’m the only one with good things to say, I would love to have some guest posts on the blog while I’m away. So email them to me at mysouldelighteth (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll put them up in the next few weeks while I’m gone.

And guess what!? General Conference is only two months away!! Can you believe it!? I’m a Conference junkie… seriously. I just can’t get enough. It’s like Christmas comes twice a year! Who else is excited!? If you haven’t been participating in General Conference Book Club, you should really come check it out. I will definitely be keeping up on General Conference Book Club. Don’t you worry about that!

I am really excited for the next few weeks on this blog. I hope we can have some great discussions about the scriptures and the gospel – and I hope you all enjoy the giveaways planned! Two CD giveaways, and at the beginning of September I will have another book review with a giveaway – and I’m really excited about that one because it is a collaboration with my husband – I always love working with that hunk of handsomeness.

(can you tell I’m in a really good mood!? Vacations are really good for me!)

What have you been doing this summer? Are you vacationing? Getting ready for back-to-school? How do you keep up on your gospel study while you’re vacationing?

*photo credit: breahn

Monday, August 6, 2012

We Are All BORN BRAVE {CD Giveaway!!}

The last time I did a giveaway on this blog was almost a year ago(!) in celebration of me writing the 100th blog post for this blog. Since then I have written nearly 200 more posts and the readership of the blog has grown at about the same rate! I’d say it’s definitely time for a giveaway, and thanks to YourLDSRadio.com, I’ve got a couple of great CDs to give away this month.
YourLDSRadio is an online streaming radio station that provides constant uplifting music, mostly from LDS composers and artists, although I was just listening and they played I Hope You Dance by LeAnn Womack, so it looks like they throw in some other stuff every now and then. If you’re looking for some nice background music you know is safe to listen to with the kids around, this would probably be it.

If there’s one thing you should know about me it is that I love music. Now, I am not your average music lover. I love music. I get emotional when I am listening to music – just about any music. Seriously, The Itsy Bitsy Spider can get me choked up. I don’t know what it is, but music speaks to me in a way that nothing else ever has or probably ever will. It may be the reason why I end up being the choir director in every ward I attend. I am passionate about music. I believe that music is a very spiritual thing – and can be used to uplift, or to tear down.

When YourLDSRadio contacted me and asked if I would like to review a few CDs for them, and give a few away on the blog, I jumped at the chance.



The first CD I listened to was Katherine Nelson’s new CD, Born Brave. I popped it into my CD player and pressed play. At first I almost cringed. Country? I’m not a huge country fan. A few of my favorite songs these days are a little more country, but I’m still not all about the country music. But it didn’t take long for the catchy tunes, pick-me-up beat, and uplifting words of Katherine’s songs to get me moving. Her album is officially my first country album, and it’s probably my favorite album (of all of them).
The feel of Katherine’s music reminds me a little bit of Kelly Clarkson’s the “girl power” songs. But much less angry. Each song I listen to on this album makes me feel more empowered. I feel like she really gets what it means to be a woman – and that there are so many different faces of women who need to feel empowered.


You know how you listen to an album and you usually have one or two favorites from the album? Not so with Katherine. I love every single one of her songs. The ones that move me the most (remember, I cry when I hear music) are “Good for Me” and “What’s Mine is Yours”.

The lyrics for the chorus of “Good for Me” are especially poignant for me. I studied math and physics in college. I always thought I would be an engineer. Or maybe an accountant or businesswoman. Some days I thought about going to law school after my undergraduate studies. I would have been a “courageous woman out there in shiny shoes and business suits.” But there was something else I needed to do – which doesn’t mean that there aren’t women out there who should be out there in the world. Good for them. But there is a significant work to be done in homes, and if people think that a woman who “gives up” a career in order to raise a family is “doing it all wrong”, my house isn’t a place to do it – I’m doing it all right. And good for me.
“Here’s to courageous women out there in shiny shoes and business suits
Good for you
But hats off to the women in the kitchen who run the world
Raising boys and girls.”
The story behind, and in, “What’s Mine is Yours” is about infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and giving up children for adoption. I’ve never personally been in that situation, and I honestly don’t know if I would be able to survive such a trial. My heart feels like breaking when I hear of the heartache of others who lose children, and I just can’t imagine going through it myself. I am positive I would die of a broken heart.
However, the chorus of this song seems to go beyond that for me. It is about giving up what we think we want for what God really wants for us.
“What’s mine is yours
It’s always been
What slips through my hands has your fingerprints on it
I’m letting go
Remembering
Though Heaven’s doors feel shut they’re wide open
What’s mine is yours”
I think about Emma Smith and how everything she had she gave to the Lord – what’s hers was his, and she understood that. I want to have faith to be able to truly say to God “What’s mine is yours”. That is definitely a brave thing to do.

Speaking of Emma Smith, one of the songs on this album is about Emma, who was probably the bravest woman who ever lived, except maybe Mary, the mother of Christ. I had actually heard this song on The Nashville Tribute Band’s CD “Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet” that I won in a giveaway last summer, and it quickly became my favorite song – especially because I was going through a particularly hard time in my life when I felt like I “couldn’t let the world see [me] cry”, and “Every time your life turned a page, It seemed like your heart might break.” Now I don’t want to compare my trials to those of Emma, but we all have times in our lives when that is true – when each turn of life’s pages seems like it brings more heartache and sorrow, and we wonder, when will be our joy?
The line of Emma’s song that really does a number on me says, “And I’m sure your heart breaks When some people still say Somewhere down the line you lost your faith.”

It’s a really powerful song, and is one I’ll listen to on repeat for hours (okay, maybe not that long, but you get the idea). I actually like the Nashville Tribute version better, sung by Mindy Gledhill, but perhaps that’s just because it was the first one I heard. I think it has more to do with the instrumentals than with the vocals (the Nashville Tribute’s instrumentals are more robust than Katherine’s). But the song is just as powerful – and almost more powerful because it’s coupled with all the other songs on this amazing CD.

(random interesting tidbit – I wanted to listen to Katherine’s CD while I wrote this review, so I typed in “Katherine Nelson” on iTunes so it would bring up her album. Who would’ve known, she also sang two of my very favorite EFY songs from my EFY days! I love it when I find out amazing people wrote or sang my favorite songs.)

Want a chance to win this amazing CD? Well, here’s your chance, thanks to Your LDS Radio. I’ve got one copy of Katherine’s new CD to give away – so you can rock out to some uplifting “girl power” music!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me about a time when you or another woman you know showed that they were BORN BRAVE.

The giveaway will end on Monday August 13, 2012 at 11:59pm. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator at random.org. I will post the winner on Tuesday, August 14 so check back then to see if you have won!

This giveaway is closed.






Thursday, August 2, 2012

Some Time Each Day

Several months ago I was listening to one of Sister Julie B. Beck’s Q&As on the Mormon Channel and she said something I have heard her say before, but this time it really hit me.

sometime

As a busy mother of small children it’s easy to skip scripture study, or not do it because I feel like if I don’t have a whole hour to devote to some serious study of the gospel I might as well scrap it all. But Sister Beck’s counsel is wise. While it is nice to be able to spend hours on end in gospel study that kind of study isn’t always realistic – especially from mothers of small children who seem to need something at all hours of the day and night.

But “some” is a very loose term, and at different times in our lives “some” time might be simply reading our favorite verse, or a familiar chapter. There may be other seasons where “some” time means we get to read page or two before bed. Even other times in our lives we may have the opportunity for “some” time to mean we get to study a passage, experience, or story from the scriptures in some depth and detail, cross referencing with the footnotes, looking up other resources online or from other materials we may have.

For me, right now, spending “some” time in the scriptures each day is reading my Book of Mormon each night – whether it be one verse or two pages. I have been slacking lately because I have let myself be convinced by the lie that it isn’t worth it unless I can really study what I am reading.

But even one verse of the scriptures can work miracles with our souls. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

What does “some time” each day look like in your life? How has the amount of time you’ve been able to spend in the scriptures changed as you have gone through the seasons of life? How do you make the most of the “some” time you spend in the scriptures each day?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Multiply and Replenish the Earth

Do you remember Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk from October 2011 General Conference? I do. It hit me hard and was actually kind of a thorn in my side for a little while. During October 2008, I was pregnant with our second child, and our first was about 18 months old. I always imagined that we would just have kids one after another, but when October 2011 rolled around, and our second daughter was two and a half I couldn’t help but feel like we had missed something somewhere.

I believe in having children. I believe that is is a personal decision, to be made between a husband, his wife, and the Lord, but I believe in having children – and I don’t believe in postponing childbearing or ending childbearing for selfish reasons. I believe in having faith in following the commandments of God, and one of those commandments I believe in is bearing children.

“THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”

Bearing children is not something we do because we worked hard enough and because we got a good enough job and we have a nice house and we’ll be able to give our children all of the worldly comforts of this life. Bearing children is something we do to raise children to the Lord. It’s not about raising geniuses, raising star football players, raising world class musicians, or anything of the sort. Bearing children is about teaching our spirit HPIM1734brothers and sisters how to believe, have faith, and act so that they can return to live with Heavenly Father some day. How we do that, how they do that is an extremely personal matter, and I believe our Father will help us in that monumental responsibility. Parenting – bearing and raising children – is a sacrifice we make. A sacrifice we covenanted to make. We sacrifice worldly things for the opportunity to bring souls back to Heavenly Father. I’ve written before about the Mission-Motherhood Parallel – just as our young adult brothers and sisters sacrifice up to two years of their lives to bring souls back to Heavenly Father, our job as parents is to do the same thing – the sacrifice is longer, the work is harder, but the payoff is the same – souls are brought to Heavenly Father.

Back to my General Conference thorn (Elder Andersen’s talk). During General Conference I write down directives – things that the General Authorities specifically instruct us to do, and more personally, things I feel prompted to do by the Spirit. After Conference I go through my notes and make a list of those “directives”. This year I put a star next to each directive for each time it appeared in my notes. After “go to the temple” (which had about 5 stars) and “read my patriarchal blessing” and “study the Daughters in My Kingdom manual”, the only other thing I felt multiple times was “have more babies”.

Prior to General Conference I had mentioned having more children (in passing) to my husband. He seemed uncomfortable with the thought – his words, “I feel like I would be ungrateful if I wanted to have more kids, since Heavenly Father has already blessed me with these two perfect children.”

After conference I wrote about Elder Andersen’s talk, and I mentioned that the choice to have babies is not just between husband and the Lord, or the wife and the Lord – it’s a three way decision. That means that just because I felt like we needed to have more babies did not mean that we would have more babies right away. My husband had to feel the same way.

CIMG5990

I prayed about having more babies, and I felt an urgency that was hard to ignore. I was hesitant to discuss my feelings with my husband, so I kept the feelings to myself, praying fervently that my husband would eventually feel the urgency that I felt. Weeks passed. Months passed. I couldn’t shake that feeling that we needed to have babies, but every time I mentioned having more kids I got the same response from my husband. Finally, he said, “Well, let me think about it for a while.” (for him that means “let me pray about it” – though he won’t always admit it). More weeks went by, and finally, he told me he was ready – he felt like we should have more kids.

I was so excited. Finally!

But there was one problem. He was gone every few weeks for a week or two at a time, and his timing was impeccable (in the bad way). Those few months were really hard for me, as each opportunity passed for me to get pregnant, and there was no way. When he was home for a few weeks at one point I had an emotional breakdown. Sobbing into his arms I said, “All I want is a house full of children!” 100_1544When we were dating and engaged and newlywed, my husband used to say we were going to have a hundred children (and he wasn’t exaggerating!). He and I both had plans to foster, adopt, and birth our own children – a hundred of them – as many as we had room for – and we feel like we have room for as many as need a home.

I am a fertile woman, and the past few years since my daughter was about one I have felt guilty for not having more children. This might sound strange, but it was really hard for me to be physically able to bear children and not actually be able to get pregnant for reasons other than physical ability (or even temporal preparedness).

Often, we have endless compassion for women who want to have children but struggle with infertility. We understand that it’s not their choice not to have children. But what about women who would have dozens of children but can’t for other reasons (whatever those reasons may be)? Do we have as much compassion for women like me, who are completely fertile and in a great (temporal) position to have children (healthy, husband has a good job, great health insurance, roomy home to fill with children) but can’t for reasons other than infertility? I’ll tell you – before I had this experience I wouldn’t have had as much compassion for someone like me.

Elder Anderson said,

“We go forward in faith—realizing the decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord. We should not judge one another on this matter.” (emphasis added)

I’ve been learning that the experiences in my life have been teaching me how to have compassion for people who I would have judged. Maybe I’m not as compassionate as I thought I am.

And now, if you haven’t already figured it out, I’m writing this post because we’re expecting baby #3! That’s why I’ve been a little MIA lately – morning sickness and fatigue have overcome me, and because I have been wanting this for so long, so I waited a little longer than normal to tell anyone besides close family and friends (I’m one of those tell-everyone-as-soon-as-the-test-is-positive people). I felt like keeping it to myself for a little while this time, enjoying the blessing that it is, and spending lots of time in prayer and thanksgiving for the patience and compassion I was taught in waiting for this.

Have you had to wait for something that you desperately wanted, but was out of your control? Have you had to experience waiting for children – whether because of infertility or any other reason that was beyond your control? Have you found yourself judging others because of what you may have thought was their choice, but you later discovered was out of their control?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mother in Danger

(Image Credit: veni markovski)

What does it mean to be a woman?

This is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. I was talking to a friend the other day about how I believe things are black and white, but I am not very sure that I know what is black and what is white, if you know what I mean. This question about what it means to be a woman is a manifestation of that problem I have – not knowing what is black or white, but believing there must be a black and white.

I believe in God’s absolute truth (as opposed to relative truth) and I believe in prophets and I believe in agency. Sometimes I can’t always figure out how those three things work together.

But I digress.

In my heart of hearts I know that there is something to gender. There is a reason that we are male and female, beyond simple genetics and “chance” of nature. I believe there is something about men and women that is more than just our physical and biological attributes.

The prophets have said, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” and that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World) But that isn’t very clear, and while it does give the “primary responsibility” for mothers, it doesn’t really come right out and say what it means to be a woman, although I think the implication is maybe there.

As I have been studying and praying and asking Heavenly Father for more wisdom and understanding, I think I can say (with at least some conviction) that being a woman means being a mother. *

I have been reluctant to say it that way because of the women I know (and admire) who either have not had the opportunity to be married (like my great aunt Lavina) or who have not had the opportunity to have children (my neighbor and wonderful sister in our ward, Amy). As I have studied gender identity and womanhood, I kept resisting this notion, that being a woman means being a mother. I felt that it wasn’t a fair explanation. That by linking the two we leave out millions of women who will never be “mothers”.

And then as I was running with my husband the other day I realized that it doesn’t matter.

In God’s plan, the imperfections of this world do not matter. I don’t want to minimize the trial or heartache that I am sure is felt by those who never marry or never have children when that is the greatest desire of their hearts. That is hard, and it does matter – both to the person experiencing the heartache, and to God. He cares. He really does. And it is important to Him.

But all the imperfections of this world will never change eternal truth. And I feel like the eternal truth is that women are to be mothers.

IMG_1038If this explanation suddenly conjures up images of ignorant, oppressed women bearing child after child after child let me interject that there is no honor or glory in that, and that image is not God’s plan. After all, the glory of God is intelligence (Doctrine & Covenants 93:36).

This explanation is simply to give us somewhere to go – if being a woman means being a mother, then the real question is not “What does it mean to be a woman?” but rather “What does it mean to be a mother?” – which question is almost as difficult to answer as the first one. But we have something significant telling us what I means to be a mother, and that is the line from the proclamation I quoted earlier: “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

I would go into more detail about how I arrived at the conclusion that woman means mother but I will save that for another post. Suffice it to say that I have done a lot of searching, pondering, and praying about the priesthood, women and men in the Church, Eve, and mothers and fathers, and somehow from the middle of all the words and thoughts and feelings, this thought emerged, almost like silver from a refiners’ fire.

I want to go back to the image of the ignorant, oppressed, womanized, eternally pregnant woman.

That is not what God wants a woman to be.

What does God want a woman to be?

 

I believe He wants a woman to be intelligent and educated.

We want our women to be well educated,
for children may not recover from the ignorance of their mothers.

                                           Spencer W. Kimball

I believe He wants a woman to be strong, steadfast, and immoveable.

In order to do our part as women under the Lord’s plan,
we must stand strong and immovable in faith,
strong and immovable in
family,
and strong and immovable in relief.

                                            Julie B. Beck

I believe He wants a woman to be a leader in her home and in the world.

It is not for you to be led by the women of the world;
it is for you to lead the … women of the world,
in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like,
everything that is uplifting and … purifying to the children of men.

                                           Joseph F. Smith

I believe He wants a woman to have the power of the Priesthood.

The Prophet Joseph Smith put the sisters in the position to receive all the gifts, blessings, and privileges of the priesthood. We need never confuse the idea of those who hold the priesthood in trust, with the priesthood. The priesthood is God’s power. It is His power to create, to bless, to lead, to serve as He does.

                                           Julie B. Beck (emphasis added)

Most importantly, I believe that God wants women to be mothers.

I will say the priesthood duty of sisters
is to create life, to nurture it,
to prepare it for covenants of the Lord.

                                           Julie B. Beck

Why do I say “most importantly”? Because that is the most important role we have as women. I love how President Beck put it – that the priesthood duty of sisters is to create life. It’s interesting that she did not say “to bear children.” It may seem ironic that our primary role as women is to be mothers, and yet President Beck did not include bearing children as our priesthood duty. She said our duty is “to create life.” Does bearing a child mean you are creating life? Certainly, in the sense that there is a spirit in a body and there is a heartbeat and all that. But let me take you to the orphanages in Romania and other parts of the world where lives sit in cribs their entire lives and become almost zombie-like. Is that a life? Is that life? Did the man and the woman who created that child physically also create that child’s life? I don’t think so. Creating life is so much more than bearing children (although I will add here that I do believe bearing children is important – and part of the duty to create life). Creating life is something that any caring, loving person can do, but it is specifically the duty of women.

I love that President Beck didn’t stop at “creating life”. Being eternally pregnant is not one of our duties as women. President Beck continues saying that our duty is to nurture life and prepare it for covenants of the Lord.

Being a woman means being a mother. And mother is in danger.

Mother is being attacked from every side in the world today. She is being attacked from the economy – a woman “has to” work to make ends meet (i.e. in order to keep up with the Jonses – I want to add that I do believe in some circumstances it is necessary for the mother to be in the workplace). She is being attacked from the “intellectual” community – a woman should travel, gain success in a career, and “live a life” before she “settles down”, gets married and has babies. She is being attacked from within her own home – it is so hard to be a mother, children are a bother, children are boring, children are ____ (fill in the blank with your favorite complaint – I already listed mine).

As I was running with my husband and feeling this impression that yes, being a woman means being a mother, I realized that the reason for all the confusion was because I didn’t want my identity to be defined by motherhood. But I am gaining a completely new perspective of motherhood. It is my priesthood duty “to create life, to nurture it, and to prepare it for covenants of the Lord.” Yesterday as I was doing chores with my little ones (five and three) and thinking about how difficult it is to teach them to work and help out around the house I was hit with a realization that I am raising people. I don’t know why I didn’t really get it before – back when I whined a complained about motherhood (it’s hard, it’s boring, I’m isolated, my children are whiney, etc etc). But I am starting to really gain a testimony of the sanctity of motherhood. I have always known that motherhood was sacred and that what I am doing in my home is the absolute most important thing anyone anywhere can ever do. But I just didn’t feel it. I dreaded it.

When I asked myself why? I realized that it is because mother is in danger. I grew up being loved and nurtured by a great mother who never complained about motherhood. In fact, right this minute I could not tell you her least favorite part of motherhood. Probably because she doesn’t have one. But the world attacked me. The world yelled at me from every side. Careers enticed me, media hypnotized me, my fellow mothers’ voices echoed “It’s SO hard. Children are SO hard. They are SO whiney.” Their bad attitudes and negative remarks slowly ate away at my soul.

In my heart I still knew what motherhood really meant, but my actions we contrary to my beliefs, and motherhood was hard. It still is. But a mission is hard too, right? Did you spend your whole mission complaining about every last little thing? Probably not. You just served the Lord and taught people the gospel. I have talked before about the Mission-Motherhood Parallel.

We’re doing the Lord’s work here in the trenches of motherhood, and it is hard work. But this work is God’s work.

And Satan hates it when God’s work goes forward.

So rise up women, mother.

Let’s fight the good fight.

 

* I would say the answer to the question “What does it mean to be a man?” is “It means to be a father.” So this isn’t about women and the priesthood, this is about how our most vital roles as children of God is to be parents to other children of God.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Voices All Around

Yesterday I was talking with my friend about the increasingly secular views of the world. In particular, we were talking about homosexuality and how the response to people “coming out” is often “Cool!” or “Good for you!” Not only is homosexuality accepted in today’s world as normal – it is becoming increasingly viewed as “cool” or “good”.

A few nights ago I was reading my conference issue of the Ensign and I read this quote from a talk by Elder Paul B. Piper of the Seventy.

Today the struggle continues. Secular voices are growing in volume and intensity. They increasingly urge believers to abandon beliefs the world considers irrational and unreasonable. Because “we see through a glass, darkly” and “do not know the meaning of all things”, at times we may feel vulnerable and in need of greater spiritual assurances. The Lord told Oliver Cowdery:

“If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”.

The Lord reminded Oliver and us to rely on sacred personal witnesses already received when our faith is challenged. Like Moses’s, Alma’s and Joseph’s before, these divine encounters serve as spiritual anchors to keep us safe and on course in times of trial.

The sacred cannot be selectively surrendered. Those who choose to abandon even one sacred thing will have their minds darkened, and unless they repent, the light they have shall be taken from them. Unanchored by the sacred, they will find themselves morally adrift on a secular sea. In contrast, those who hold sacred things sacred receive promises: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”.

I was struck by his statement that “Secular voices are growing in volume and intensity.” I definitely see this happening. I believe that it is our responsibility as disciples of Christ to make sure that our voices are growing in volume and intensity. Those of the world would stamp out, mute, and deny the voices of those who proclaim to follow Christ.

As if the one witness wasn’t enough, the very next talk was Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk where he said

President Thomas S. Monson has described our day as moving away “from that which is spiritual … [with] the winds of change [swirling] around us and the moral fiber of society [continuing] to disintegrate before our very eyes.” It is a time of growing disbelief in and disregard for Christ and His teachings.

In this turbulent environment, we rejoice in being disciples of Jesus Christ. We see the Lord’s hand all around us. Our destination is beautifully set before us. “This is life eternal,” Jesus prayed, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Being a disciple in these days of destiny will be a badge of honor throughout the eternities.

I am so grateful for the words of the prophets in General Conference, which Elder Andersen referred to as “guideposts from the Lord on our journey of discipleship.” If we will listen to these messengers of Christ and try our best to follow their counsel, we will be able to stand strong in the face of the “winds of change” as the secular voices grow louder in every direction.

IMG_1113

My only fear is for my children. I have faith that my testimony will carry me, but I am sometimes so afraid that my children will not have the testimony that I have and they will not be able to stand strong. I worry that my children will grow up in this secular world and will be distracted from the sacred and focus instead on the secular.

As I have been struggling with his fear in the past several days, I have been trying to have faith and take my fears to the Lord in prayer. I have poured out my heart to Him, and I am learning to trust Him to teach me and help me teach my children.

And some days all I can do is cry out to the Savior in tears and say,
“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Do you ever doubt your abilities as a mother to raise children who will have unwavering testimonies? How do you increase your faith? How do you feel better about the increasing secular world? How do you make it? How do you keep your children safe?

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