Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tying up imperfect wagons

Perhaps it was because I just saw a play about pioneers. 

Perhaps I still had the image of those single mothers surrounded by children-- not just alone for the bulk of the day in the connivence of a modren day home murmuring that daddy's late for dinner again-- but alone indefinitely. Alone, on a journey of physical, and surely, emotional challenge we can't even begin to comprehend. Everyday pressing forward with their little ones clinging to their petticoats. I think how whiny my kids are when their due for a snack or a nap. Maybe those pioneer children sang a bit while they walked but I'm sure those mothers tired ears also heard the exhaustion of their little ones, their little limbs and minds as worn as their mamma's.
Yes, maybe it was vignettes fromt he play still fresh in my mind that made this account from Daughters of My Kingdom on Sunday impress so much upon me:

Mary Fielding Smith set an example as a strong, loving mother. Her son Joseph F. Smith, who became the sixth President of the Church, recalled:
“I can remember my mother in the days of Nauvoo. I remember seeing her and her helpless children hustled into a flat boat with such things as she could carry out of the house at the commencement of the bombardment of the city of Nauvoo by the mob. I remember the hardships of the Church there and on the way to Winter Quarters, on the Missouri river, and how she prayed for her children and family on her wearisome journey. … I can remember all the trials incident to our endeavors to move out with the Camp of Israel, coming to these valleys of the mountains without teams sufficient to draw our wagons; and being without the means to get those teams necessary, she yoked up her cows and calves, and tied two wagons together, and we started to come to Utah in this crude and helpless condition, and my mother said—‘The Lord will open the way;’ but how He would open the way no one knew. I was a little boy then, and I drove team and did my share of the work. I remember coming upon her in her secret prayer to God to enable her to accomplish her mission. Do you not think that these things make an impression upon the mind? Do you think I can forget the example of my mother? No; her faith and example will ever be bright in my memory. What do I think! Every breath I breathe, every feeling of my soul rises to God in thankfulness to Him that my mother was a Saint, that she was a woman of God, pure and faithful, and that she would suffer death rather than betray the trust committed to her; that she would suffer poverty and distress in the wilderness and try to hold her family together rather than remain in Babylon. That is the spirit which imbued her and her children.” (pg 151).

But then maybe it was the imperfection, meeting determination. 
She didn't say, well I don't have oxen so I guess I can't go. 
She didn't even have a decent wagon. Yet she took what she had and she made it work!
Am I too quick to bemoan an imperfect situation and write it off? I'm I too quick to condemn an entire day because of one missed nap or a disappointing email? Do I really get discouraged so easily?  I'm I content to stay in easyBabylon, to even let it "comfort" and distract me, instead of exerting the necessary effort to access true comfort and divine assistance on my bad days?
Yes, some days are better than others, for sure. But on the not so ideal days, can't I just tie my wagons together and press on?
Can I be okay with the mismatched socks and the crusty noses? Can I be happy with making a friend laugh on the phone, or reading half a verse of scriptures with the kids? Or do I think unless I have a perfect wagon and strong oxen the trip isn't worth making?
Some days we just need to tie are wagons together and "pray to God to enable [us] to accomplish [our] mission." 
Because our mission is about building faith--faith no matter what. 
We are teaching our children how to respond to whatever mortality is gonna throw at them (sometimes by how we respond when they throw things at us! Or am I the only mom that gets used for target practice?) Is my messy house my mormon trail? Is it my path to patience? Those pioneers just had to keep their feet moving--is my test to hold my tongue? 
The Lord uses situation to build us. He always has.

Camilla Fronk Olsen's explainsTo the paralytic man lying helpless on a bed, Jesus proclaimed, “Be of good cheer”(Matthew 9:2). To the frightened Apostles battling the tempestuous sea, Jesus appeared on the water, declaring, “Be of good cheer” (Matthew 14:27). To Nephi the son of Nephi, who was subject to an arbitrary law threatening his life and the lives of other righteous Nephites if the signs prophesied by Samuel the Lamanitedidn’t occur, the Lord said, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer” (3 Nephi 1:13). As Joseph Smith met with ten elders about to be sent out, two by two, to missions fraught with trouble and danger, the Lord announced, “Be of goodcheer” (D&C 61:36). In each instance the people had every reason to be anxious, fearful, and hopeless, yet the Lord directed them toward a reason to rejoice."
Mary Fielding had every right to be anxious, fearful and hopeless in such a daunting journey, so ill-equipped. But her real journey was one of becoming, all her Father in Heaven knew her capable of. And her decision to "hold her family together", despite all, has affected generations.
Her affect on her son has affected me.
She died when he was just 14 years old and yet he could say of her:
"No love in all the world can equal the love of a true mother. . . . It was life to me; it was strength; it was encouragement; it was love that begat love or liking in myself. I knew she loved me with all her heart. She loved her children with all her soul. . . . Whenever . . . temptations became most alluring and most tempting to me, the first thought that arose in my soul was this: 

Remember the love of your mother. Remember how she strove for your welfare. Remember how willing she was to sacrifice her life for your good... This feeling toward my mother became a defense, a barrier between me and temptation."

He also said (and this is my favorite parenting quote of all time): 
"If you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! . . . You can’t do it any other way. You can’t do it by unkindness; you cannot do it by driving. . . . You can coax them; you can lead them, by holding out inducements to them, and by speaking kindly to them, but you can’t drive them; they won’t be driven. . . . You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh words in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be. . . . You can only correct your children by love, in kindness, by love unfeigned, by persuasion, and reason."

I'm grateful for Mary Fielding who was willing to tie those two wagons together and show her children, no matter what the situation, we must always trust in God and that He will "open the way". I'm grateful to be taught through her example that our children need us to be Saints too--press forward, love the Lord, and tie our wagons together, if needs be-- Saints.

A few more quote from Mary's prophet son:

“Everywhere in nature we are taught the lessons of patience and waiting. We want things a long time before we get them, and the fact that we want them a long time makes them all the more precious when they come.” 
― Joseph F. Smith
“Men and women who humbly plod along, doing their duty... who help look after the poor; and who honor the holy Priesthood, who do not run into excesses, who are prayerful in their families, and who acknowledge the Lord in their hearts, they will build up a foundation that the gates of hell cannot prevail against.” 
― Joseph F. Smith
“A mother that is successful in raising a good boy, or girl, to imitate her example and to follow her precepts through life, sows the seeds of virtue, honor and integrity and of righteousness in their hearts that will be felt through all their career in life; and wherever that boy or girl goes, as man or woman, in whatever society they mingle, the good effects of the example of that mother upon them will be felt; and it will never die, because it will extend from them to their children from generation to generation.” 
― Joseph F. Smith