Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Talk

Just days before I found out I was to give this talk, I was at the park, with some moms, chatting, like we do,  and we had a brief conversation about motherhood as portrayed on social media—specifically lamenting the difficulty of painting a fair representation of this nobelest of callings.” On one hand there is the temptation to present only the highlights, the children in their best outfits, faces washes, smiles beaming . We add just the right filters and crop out the messes and dirty dishes in the background, all in genuine efforts to focus on the good. (Elder Stevenson spoke at Women's Conference about this and has a pretty funny example) The other side of the extreme, wanting to counter act this “picture perfect” image, so instead we overly focus on the hardships: the teething babies, the spilt milk, the endless laundry and inadvertently make motherhood look like utter drudgery.

I feel like giving a Mother’s Day talk is totally like that. Could I attempt to describe the beautiful, and unbelievable love I’ve experienced as a mother? Of course, I could. I have had many moments of such joy and awe- inspiring gratitude, where I without a doubt knew the divinity of my calling. 

Could I also relate some agonizing tales of mind-numbing, never-ending tasks, colossal amounts of poop, and long days where I thought I was entirely failing? Yes, I could. I could give a Very. Long. Talk.

In preparation for this talk I reread one of my all-time favorite talks by sister Patricia Holland’s in it she describes the stressful years of raising their family.  She describes: “My husband and children were trying to bandage me together even as I was trying to do the same for them. We were exhausted…
Who was I, and where was I in this welter of demands? Should life be as hard as all this? How successful had I been in my several and competing assignments? Or had I muffed them all? My tank was on empty, and I wasn’t sure there was a filling station anywhere in sight.

In this desperate, seeking state, she had a particular scripture sooth her soul, she heard it but the Spirit, ever personal, used her name instead, and every time I read it I hear:
“[Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea], thou art careful and troubled about many things.” Then she says, the power of pure and personal revelation seized me as I read on , “But one thing [only one thing] is [truly] needful.” (Luke 10:40–41.) As I sat pondering my problems I felt the sun’s healing rays like warm liquid pouring into my heart—relaxing, calming, and comforting my troubled soul.

Our loving Father in Heaven seemed to be whispering to me, “You don’t have to worry over so many things. The one thing that is needful—the only thing that is truly needful—is to keep your eyes toward the sun—my Son.”
“Suddenly” she said “I had true peace. I knew that my life had always been in his hands—from the very beginning!”

I hope today, during at least some part of my talk, you will feel the sun on your face, and feel the hope our Saviour offers each of us.

(This next art I left out because of time)
Sister Stephanie Sorenson, in her book Covenant Motherhood, tells of a time when her husband worked days and went to law school at night. She had a 3 year old boy and a 2 year boy and during finals of her husband's first semester gave birth to their daughter- so three kids under three.  

"I was so tired, " she recalls, "and every time I turned around, there was something or someone that needed to be cleaned. I remember an inner dialogue that would often surface. Seriously?I am a bright and intelligent woman. I have a master's degree fro heaven's sake. I am blowing noses and vacuuming Cheerios and scraping spit-up off of car-seat buckles. Is this seriously how I'm suppose to spend my life?

 I found joy in being a mother because I loved my children. I knew being a mother was important and right and part of God's plan for me. That much I knew, and I didn't doubt my choice, but I could not wrap my head around all the mind-numbing details of my motherhood reality. Was there really meaning in all that? What was I missing? These feelings ignited a desire in me to understand motherhood more, to recognize the value in what I was doing more than just a long-term sense. I began to study & pray & think about it. Think about it a lot. 

I learned that Heavenly Father cared a great deal about how I felt about motherhood. He wanted me to see it how He sees it, so He started to show me. One afternoon, I was sitting on the floor in my daughters room, changing her soiled diaper. I removed it, cleaned her, and fastened a fresh diaper. the following scripture came into my mind: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow."(Isaiah 1:18) It dawned on me that Jesus Christ was in the cleaning business. A crucial part of His mission was taking things and people who were soiled and making them clean. In that moment, I felt a flow of love and revelation--clusters of thoughts and ideas that started to fit together like a puzzle. My job was a reflection of his. it could teach me about Him and make me more like Him. This was life-changing information....My simple service of cleaning in my own home and with my own family mirrors His great mission...And when I think of all the times I sin and repeat the sin or fall into new ones, I realize that I am not that much different from my children and their messes; nevertheless, Jesus Christ cleanses me over and over and over again because He loves me. "

 I share this for two reasons, first, because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who could use a little perspective when it comes to the endless cleaning mommy-hood so often demands, but secondly, and more importantly, because if there is an element of your motherhood that you struggle with, that you need a greater understanding of, I testify the Lord is willing to teach you, as you go to Him for the answers. 

Eve “the mother of all living” said it was better to learn for ourselves the good from the evil, the pleasure from the pain. And motherhood certainly has both. It, like partaking of the fruit, is an eye opening experience, where we learn for ourselves, the highs and lows life has to offer us.

When Eve partook of the fruit, to make her physical motherhood a possibility, she did so with the hope of greater comprehension. Not unlike our first parent’s expulsion from the garden- opposition gives us knowledge that can be acquired in no other way.

Eve, “Our glorious Mother Eve” understood this all.

“And Eve… heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5:11)

Eve knew the point. And as the mother of ALL living, she definitely has righteous as well as struggling posterity among us, staring with her son Cain who murdered her son Abel. Eve knew what an imperfect family looked like, because  she was a part of one. She knows what it feels like to have your children “love Satan more than God” (Moses 5:13)

And yet she speaks of joy? How?

As I said, Eve knew the point. The point was not to raise perfect children. She herself had fallen and had learned the only way to redemption was by covenanting with and thereby being covered by Christ.

She also knew she was destined to be a Queen. But that she had only been anointed to become such…that there would be more required of her before she was to be trusted with such an eternal crown.

Eve’s real job, and ours, is not just to influence the next generation- that is not how any of our fellow sisters in the scriptures success was defined. Sariah, Lehi’s wife, will not be judged by how many Nephi’s she raised vs how many Laman and Lemuel’s.  But she will be judged on the Sariah she became. And so will we.

WE are the product of our motherhood. 

I recently announced that I’m expecting our 6th child. When I was pregnant with our 5th, our little Enoch, I told Ben early on, you better get praying and find out if this is our last. After some kind chastising from the Lord and my eventual submission to his timetable and wisdom, through a powerful priesthood blessing we obtained the very clear answer that there was yet one more spirit to join our family.

The other night I was lying in bed with McKye, who in many ways is our oldest. We were discussing the day and I casually asked him if he was excited for this next baby.
He kind of got this bashful look, and as I often have to do, I prodded him to share his thoughts. He looked at me and in all seriousness and with quite a bit of concern he asked me, “Do you really think you can take care of them all?”

Now, anyone who has ever sat behind us in church knows, he has a valid point. I have asked myself the same question a million times and bitterly doubted my capacity to raise these children and give them all they need.

But as I looked at my son’s face, I knew I needed to tell him the truth.

“Mckye”, I said, “if you asked me if I thought I could be the mom of 6 kids, I would say no way! You’re crazy! I’d go crazy! In fact, if you asked me if I thought I could raise even one child on my own, without the Lord’s help, I COULD NOT do it, there is no way.
But because I know it is the Lord asking me to do this, I can. Because when the Lord asks us to do things, He doesn’t leave us alone …remember what Nephi said? “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way that they may accomplish the thing that he hath commanded.” 
When He commands, He also Helps us. I know the Lord will help me, and with His help I can do anything. Even raise 6 kids. 
McKye,” I said.  “I know this is what the Lord wants for our family, and He will be with us.”

Brothers and Sisters, He asks us to do hard things, because he wants us to need Him. In educational terms, it’s like the strategy called “scaffolding”, based on the understanding that the greatest degree of learning doesn’t come from a child doing a task they can easily do on their own, nor a task they couldn’t possible succeed at without any help. Skillful teachers pick exercises that stretch their students just beyond their capabilities, tasks that with just a little bit of help and support are doable, but not on their own.
God is a great at scaffolding---especially seeing as the ultimate lesson he wants to teach us in mortality is how to trust Him. Maybe he hasn’t asked you to have 6 kids, but what has he asked you to do?  Has he prompted you to put a little more effort into family home evenings or family prayers and scripture studies? Has He told you to break your habits of using too much harshness in your home? As he asked you to prepare your sons for missions without the support of, or example of your husband? Has he asked you to marry the man you love and combine two families into one? Has he asked you to bring your small children to church though you spend the duration of every meeting pacing the halls? Has he maybe even asked you to wait til the next life to have your mothering experience? Those are hard, hard things.

I testify that whatever it is He is asking of you, even if it seems too much---like 6 kids seems to me—He will help. He will uphold you. He will guide you and whisper gentle encouragements to your heart, as you do the hard things that he specifically knows will cause you reach out to him.

Sister Neil F Marriot tells the following story of a “mother-heart” that reached out to her in a time of need (though it sounds so much better when she tells it in her lovely southern drawl!) She tells of how when she was born, her parents planted a magnolia tree in the backyard so there would be magnolias at her wedding ceremony, held in the Protestant church of her forefathers. "But on the day of my marriage, there were no parents at my side and no magnolias," …she’d joined the church and was going to get married in the temple. "When I left Louisiana and neared Utah," she recalls," a feeling of homelessness swept over me. Before the wedding, I would be staying with David’s step-grandmother, who was lovingly known as Aunt Carol.

As I stood at the front door of Aunt Carol’s house, I wanted to shrink away. The door opened—I stood there like a scared rabbit—and Aunt Carol, without a word, reached out and took me into her arms. She, who had no children of her own, knew—her nurturing heart knew—that I needed a place to belong....
Love is making space in your life for someone else, as Aunt Carol did for me
She continues: “Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby—and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them—but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a “mother” before she had children. I believe that “to mother” means “to give life.” Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God. Sisters, all of us came to earth with these life-giving, nurturing, maternal gifts because that is God’s plan.”
“Life giving love”. I love that definition of motherhood.
Yet, Sometimes my motherhood doesn’t look like that at all-- it’s bossy,  ill-tempered, a lot more vice than I’d hope and not near enough virtue.  I love them, but the ways I treat them aren’t always very nurturing or life-giving.
I try and remember Elder Holland’s comforting assurance: “To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.”
And when we fall short, when we get beguiled by our own serpents and do things that aren’t in accordance with the clear direction Father has given us, we like Eve can repent and rejoice that our loving Father has provide a Saviour so that despite our fallen-ness and our children’s, there is hope for us all to return back into the presence of our loving Heavenly Parents.
I will never forget sitting in the Houston temple. I only had one child and was expecting a second. We were approaching Aaron's diagnosis and I was feeling totally helpless. And those feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed seemed to apply to my entire role as a mother. How could do all that was required? How could I be who I needed to be? How could I possible teach my children all they needed to know in ways that would insure that they would accept the truth and avoid deception and heartache, I felt so powerless to protect them from the evils of the world and the foolishness of our own silly and selfish choices.
In the depth of my discouragement, I felt to look up.
There on the wall opposite me was a large, bright, beautiful painting of the Savior, in Elder Hales has testified is His “true posture” his arms out stretched towards us.  (Come Follow Me, October 2016)
And in that moment, I felt a gentle, reassuring voice simple say, 
“Bring them to Me.”
The hope and healing and redemption and protection---all that I wanted to provide my children with, my desire to SAVE them- wasn’t my role at all.
My job, my only job was to bring them to their Savior. 
Who’s mercy I am beginning to believe extends so far beyond what we can comprehend, who when we think we or our love ones have blown it and rejected all He offers—He still has a plan for us and is still reaching out in ways He patiently knows will eventually touch us . He knows our hearts even better than we do.
We do not have to be our children’s Saviour's, we just need to bring them to Him, and trust that He is the way.
I will close by telling you about one of the Christ-like motherly examples who helped me in my life. My daughter’s middle name is Pearl, which is my great-grandmother’s name, but it was also the name of a sister in the ward I grew up in. Pearl Thomas.

She had been a vibrant, faithful women who had raised her own large family and served faithfully in the church, but I knew her as the little old lady who lived next door to my friend’s house. She often welcomed me and my friend into her home. We would pick her own lilacs from the bushes in her yard  and then present them to her and she would always looked so thrilled and place them carefully by her kitchen sink in the canning jars she used as vases. She would let us suck on cinnamon sticks and just listen to us chat. We had lovely days visiting with Sister Thomas- who told us her first name almost like a secret.

The last time I saw Pearl, she was in the same nursing home as my grandpa, specifically for the elderly who had become not just physically but also mentally debilitated.
I noticed her and recognized her kind face from my childhood. She as sitting by another lady, both hunched in their wheel chairs. The one lady became very distressed, confused and disoriented and a bit panicky.
Pearl reached over and gently stroked her hand, till she began to calm. “There, there,” she said, “it’s okay”, as sweetly as she surely had a million times  before to others over the years.
I continued watching, so touched as they shuffled their wheelchairs side by side down the hall, at a barely perceptible pace, Pearl still patting the other women’s hand. I will never forget as the lady in her croaky voice, said “Oh Pearl! What would I do without you?”

Here was a woman who, when she could no longer walk, no longer remember where she was or even her own name--- she knew how to mother. It had simply, become who she was.

May we all seek to make space for others in our lives, make room for their needs and be there when they need comfort, may we offer the “Life-giving” love that flows from our heavenly origins and our divine destinies- where along with our crowns of glory and titles of Kings and Queens, we will, like our Heavenly Parents, still prefer the terms 
Father and Mother. May we come to learn what those holy names truly mean, and act in accordance with the Love and goodness they are meant to represent is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.


Liesel said...Best Blogger Tips

That is a beautiful talk, you have a way with words and expressing yourself that is a blessing to others. Thank you for sharing.