A critical review of The Giving Tree

“Please not that book. Pick something else! I’ll read you 10 books if you pick something else.”
Of course, this makes it more desirable. So desirable that I end up reading it twice. Every time. Why don’t I just throw it away, you ask? Partly because RJ salvages it from the donation pile when I put it there. And maybe I feel guilty for despising it.

I love Shel Silverstein and will forever keep “Where the Sidewalk Ends” on an accessible bookshelf. But “The Giving Tree” just makes me feel sad. The tree lovingly gives up every bit of itself for a sad and ungrateful boy. It’s a little too real for me as a mother and as a Christian.

GIVE GIVE GIVE GIVE GIVE. It’s never enough and it’s often thankless.

Many adore this book and I can’t figure out why.  It is not the story I want to read or the story I want to live. Now don’t get me wrong. I do want to lovingly serve my family and mankind. I want to find joy in generosity. I don’t even need loads of gratitude. It’s that terminal burnout that really itches me. That poor tree had nothing left to give.

I can’t reconcile why the things I want for my children seem possible only by sacrificing the things I want for myself.

I want them to love nature and delight in the petals of a flower, the contours of a rock, or the shimmering of water. I also want to get in a brisk 3 mile hike for myself.

I want them to be full of imagination and creativity. I also want to gouge out my eyeballs when I have to play finger bunnies, or clean up art supplies for the bajillionth time.

I want them to enjoy nourishing meals. I also believe “The Joy of Cooking” was a sick joke, rather than an apt name for a cookbook.

There is no sound on earth more glorious than my children’s laughter. Also, I am constantly overstimulated.

I want my children to know that I am always, always available for cuddle and conversation. I also want an hour without interruption to read or write.

Both my desires for them and for myself are good and healthy and important. But they often seem mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually beneficial. It feels selfish to ‘put myself first’ and yet when my needs are met, I’m more equipped to meet theirs.
When I get time to myself, I’m more patient and involved during our together time. When I get exercise, I have more energy and zest to play with them (at least until evening when I’m done, regardless.)

Perhaps something that would help me is to ease up on measuring time as a commodity. You get one hour of TV. I get one hour of exercise. You get 10 more minutes to play before bedtime. I am off-duty after 8pm. It’s so transactional. I like that. But it’s when I stop measuring time that the best things happen. And those best things are occasionally ME things, but more often WE things; Like that night when Millie and Georgia couldn’t seem to settle down and instead of claiming my ‘off duty’ rights, I joined RJ as we tickled their backs. Both of us in that position like you’ve fallen over from kneeling on the floor, in mirror images of each other, our legs touching from knee to foot. Hush slowly fell over the room and I was deeply in love with my family.

As an introvert I jealously protect any moment I get to myself. But time isn’t really mine to dole out and exchange. It’s mine to steward. The seconds and moments and hours count, but mostly in their cumulative power. There are singular experiences that stay vibrant in memories for years. But they are rare. The stuff that really shapes me is more often the stuff I don’t really remember until I analyze my habits, patterns and rhythms in retrospect.

So what DO I want to exchange “my” time for? What is it that I want to BECOME by the use of “my” time?

John A. Widtsoe said “In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilities are good; neither is evil. Usually, however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose that which concerns the good of others – the greater law – rather than that which chiefly benefits ourselves – the lesser law. The greater must be chosen whether it be a law or thing. That was the choice made in Eden.”

My greatest aims and desires are WE things. But I don’t want to be The Giving Tree, whose life-force  is diminished by giving. I want to give out of my abundance. I want to have kindness and generosity and laughter and patience and activism pour out of me because it is constantly being refilled by divine sources and there’s not enough room in my own life to contain it.

I want to be like Eve, who knew that she must sacrifice her own comfort and ease in the garden in order to give mankind a chance. She knew that we must experience both the bitter and the sweet, sickness and health, pleasure and pain in order to know true happiness. She knew that WE brings a fuller joy than ME. So I will forge onward in the tug and pull – doing acts of self-care (not self preservation) SO THAT I can have the abundance which allows me to care for others and experience that fuller joy.

Mountains in Springtime

Bright green buds, creeks joyfully full of snowmelt

birds cheering for new life

even before the morning sun touches their feathers

but also, the old matted down undergrowth

brown and drab like a mangy street dog

The pubescent transition from winter to spring

Dust to dust sounds elegant

Unlike this awkward and messy part of death

I want to look away, to only see the clean new stalks

the glittering waters and the cerulean sky

and the vibrant blooms

But I am like the mountain

I have my unseemly parts

that may one day be hidden under new growth

and you don’t look away.

You take me as I am.

So, dear mountain, I will not look away

I will see your dead rot as nourishment

as a home and a future for life

You do not have to be beautiful

to be beautiful

Alfombras in my kitchen

In Guatemala there is a tradition during Holy Week where artists create intricate “Alfombras” or carpets along the route of the Easter processionals. These are planned and designed for months. The complex and colorful motifs are created sometimes one spoonful at a time, by hand (often with the help of handmade stencils). They’re mostly made of sawdust but they also use pine needles or fruits and vegetables, carnations, bougainvillea, roses and mums, and even random things like bottle caps or tea bags. Precision and clean edges are what make this large scale artwork so eye catching.

(Photo from Google images)

The artists start work on Thursday night, working straight through until morning. These magnificent creations are barely finished when the early morning processions start and the Good Friday processions clomp right through these stunning designs without so much as looking down at what they destroy. Immediately after, a cleaning team will sweep up the remnants, which at this point have no form or beauty.

This work, fleeting as it may be, is considered an honor. The months of planning, the weeks of preparation and the hours of execution are a revered sacrifice that culminates in a brief but perfect moment.

I feel this.

Every flat surface is cluttered and sticky and, in spite of the kids “taking their dishes to the sink”, strewn with evidence that my begrudgingly lovingly prepared meal was not that satisfying. Dishes are scraped and carefully arranged in the dishwasher. Art supplies and precious treasures are put away (or tossed into the next area to be tidied). Then, ahhhhh. The droplets of cleaning spray catch sunlight and fall to the counter. For the nth time today, I stretch across the expansive counter, wiping and scrubbing until there is a clean sheen. I stand back and watch my circular strokes dry for a second. This moment is perfect.

In the next moment, the kids will see this clean counter as a blank canvas waiting to be filled once again with their toys, snacks, art projects and dirty footprints. I’ll roam the house, bending down hundreds of times to pick up bits of string, wrappers, socks, beads, crayons, crackers, toys, tools, shoes… a Hansel and Gretel trail, telling me the story of their day. And I repeat this process without beginning or end, perpetually.

But in this moment, in this one small space, there is satisfaction. There is completion. There is beauty. There is love. (Just don’t look at the floor, though, because there is also a lot of crackers and sweeping doesn’t give me the same joy.)

I create order and cleanliness with the knowledge that destruction is imminent. I don’t welcome it, but I accept it.

On a smaller scale than the alfombras, but with equal labor intensity, I’ve seen how some Bhuddist monks painstakingly craft intricate mandalas out of colored sand. After completing these works of art they destroy it themselves to symbolize the transience of life – that nothing is permanent. THAT, I do not relate to. I mean, like the Easter Alfombras, my work is destroyed by a procession of other people. So help me, after I’ve mopped the floor, no one is allowed to eat or drink until the next morning.

(Photo from Google images)

But maybe the Guatemalan artists and the monks are both teaching me something. My OCD heart doesn’t want to believe this, but maybe its not the perfect moment of completion that matters so much as the act of creation. Maybe its the constant effort that is the art, not the piece itself. My art is not made by measured spoons of colored sawdust. It is not eye catching or noteworthy in the least. But it too is an honor and a sacrifice. Whether it be the wiping of my kitchen counter or the soothing of an irrational meltdown, or the crafting of a weekly menu and shopping list, or cajoling a resistant child to brush their teeth. I am creating an intricate design whose colors are patience, forgiveness, humor, perseverance… and most of all, love.

Sounds from the porch where I quarantine

The rapid thud of a two year old as she blazes through the house with confidence you can hear in her footsteps.

Songbirds warbling unseen amid the stillness of budding trees.

Church bells dong consistently and reassuringly in spite of, well, everything.

The squeal of trampoline springs being stretched with each bounce.

Echoes of happy neighbor children whose sounds have more expression than content.

Distant cars whirring like the suburban equivalent of waves hitting the shore.

Wooden chairs knocking on wooden floors.

The specific sound of the “treat” cabinet hinge followed by mischievous whispers.

The enthusiasm of dogs.

My own breathe as I release the lingering anxiety.

My own heartbeat that says life is not cancelled.

Mining for Gold During a Pandemic

Yesterday I was awoken at 6:12am by another earthquake. It wasn’t like the one that had the whole house jumping and rumbling, but I lay in bed until the swaying and the rocking stopped. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t believe everyone else slept through it. But there wasn’t an earthquake… Until 8:12am. It was just me in a panic.

I am so fortunate. My shelter, food storage, and income are more secure than so many right now. I have the luxury of being able to do a proper quarantine. While the economy is tanking, and some families are living day to day, I’m buying stocks and having someone deliver groceries to my doorstep. I AM SO VERY, VERY, VERY FORTUNATE.

But that does not make me immune to anxiety. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just struggling like so many others. In times like this, I think it’s normal to be grateful and still freaking out.

I’m amazed at those on social media and in my podcast library who are putting out the most inspired content right now. They’re sharing deep spiritual messages, complex ideas and practical suggestions on how to use this quarantine in beautiful ways. I am so wowed by this and I am squirreling away their nuts of wisdom for when I will be able to digest them.

But for now, I’m barely absorbing anything and I’m hardly able to get a coherent sentence out. My brain is a jumble of anxiety, not creativity. My former life from two weeks ago feels IMPOSSIBLE. I’m in such a fog. I feel stuck in the bottom part of Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs.

maslow-hierachy-of-needs-min.jpg

I know exactly what I need to do to get out of this funk and get higher on the pyramid. Everyone knows. It’s so easy. The answer is my normal routine: Exercise, healthy meals, fresh air, prayer and scripture study, meditation and staying connected with loved ones.

BUT IT FEELS SO OUT OF REACH. Instead I feed myself garbage. I shower at some point. I voraciously read scary headlines while avoiding talking to anyone I love. I either cling to my children in desperation or swat them away like flies. At night I toss and turn amid terrifying dreams (okay that part is fairly normal) before doing it all over again.

I’m writing today as an attempt to pull something good from the deep recesses of my soul  NOT because I feel like I have something to offer anyone else. I’m just hoping I can tunnel down deep enough that I can bring out some of my spiritual gold before the whole mine collapses. The canary in the shaft is not chirping. So that’s not a good sign.

So here are a few things I want to remember, that maybe could give me enough motivation to slowly climb upwards:

Above the clouds, the sky is always blue. 

Sometimes you have to laugh to CREATE joy. 

Seemingly opposite feelings can coexist. 

Now is not forever. 

One small improvement is enough for today.

That’s all I’ve got for now. But if you have any suggestions, or better yet, some hilarious memes or videos, send them my way.

20 Something

The anxious father watches his teenager back out of the driveway and hopes he’ll be safe. Love. It’s what makes a Subaru.

The couple with a few gray hairs decide it’s time to reevaluate their finances and make wills.

The enthusiastic woman reclaims her life, peddling a bicycle along a green path now that she takes vitamins.

A woman eats yogurt like it fulfills her every sexual desire, (and it also happens to make her bowel movements more regular!)

These advertisements have yet to affect my consumer choices, but I recently realized I AM THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE. What? How? When did I become the middle-aged woman drying her hands on a towel, smiling as her muddy children clomp through the house – inspiring the purchase of Tide laundry detergent? When it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide. 

I could swear I was still the 20 something who goes on spontaneous road trips and can leg press more than twice her bodyweight. But my search history belies me.

Wrinkle Cream

Stew Recipes

Best stock to buy during a pandemic 

72 hour kits

Where did that girl go? The one without wrinkles? The one who knew loneliness but didn’t know the grief of miscarriages and infertility? The one who said “When I’m a parent, I’ll never do that!” The one who lived a vibrant life, yet felt so unfulfilled? The one who had no idea how much she didn’t know?

AND WHY DO I STILL THINK I’M HER?

Aunt Dawna turns 90 in a couple of months, so it surprised me when she recently said “I think all of us still see ourselves as 20 something.”  She says she is shocked when she sees herself in the mirror. You too??

Perhaps we lock into this self-perception because our brain development stops in that decade. Perhaps it’s because so much of our identity is cemented at that point – it is the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Perhaps it’s because that is our “prime”.

The last few months I’ve had flashbacks to my 20’s and its been excruciating. I think about how I felt I had to prove myself. I think about how I treated some people. I think about how I lacked healthy boundaries. I think about how I didn’t take advantage of silly things like travel miles, or I didn’t start investing sooner… My list of cringe-inducing memories just keeps growing. IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW! (Although, in reality, I haven’t actually grown up or learned that much since then.)

Why am I cringing over my 20’s when I was doing pretty well? Why am I not cringing over high school when I had no idea how to dress my body, no clue how to apply myself and be ambitious,  and had soooo many emotional scars to deal with?

Well, who knows. Maybe I’ll start cringing about those now too. All I’m saying is that it sucks to suddenly look at my “prime” through a critical lens. And I need to stop.

It’s interesting how history books keep being re-written. Things that were once celebrated are now vilified, and things that were once overlooked are now highlighted. History changes depending on present!

The same is true for our personal histories. But let’s try not to do it the cringy way I’ve been doing it. Let’s do it in a way that’s helpful. The way we see traumas and trials can soften into lessons learned and strength grown. The way we see our naivety can turn into gratitude for the passage of time. The way we see missed opportunities can encourage us to stop putting off important things. The way we handled relationships can remind us of how good forgiveness feels and apply it to current situations.

I can’t go back in time and appreciate the waist I had at 25 (which I thought was unacceptable at the time but would kill for now.) But I can slap on some moisturizer to take care of my 37 year old skin, and still embrace some of who that 25 year old was – a hard worker, an adventurer, and a tireless friend.

 

What I Mean

You open the shower door and lean in to kiss me goodbye before work. I say “Have a good day!” But what I mean is “Your voice wafts through my mind all day like your cologne does in the shower steam.”

You’re away on business and I text you at midnight to say “I don’t sleep well when you’re not here.” But what I mean is “Your presence makes me feel safe and loved.”

We lay next to each other, each looking at something and I ask “Will you read this?” But what I mean is “I want to see the world through your eyes for a minute.”

You text an update about meetings and contracts and I reply “What time will you be home?” but what I mean is “My favorite part of the day is celebrating your return.”

On Saturday morning when the kids start jumping on our bed, you herd them out and  close the bedroom door. I sleepily grumble “Leave it open.” But what I mean is “Listening to the kids laughter as they play with you is the best feeling in the world.”

You notice the mountain of clean laundry is gone when you get home and say “I would have done that tonight.” I say “No worries.” But what I mean is “Every time I stack your giant socks I get the same comfort as when I hear your footsteps.”

The kids are lost in play as we watch them and you comment on how fast they’re changing. I say “Can you believe we made them?” But what I mean is “The closest I get to comprehending eternity is seeing the product of our love.”

Someone asks about how we met and I say “He wasn’t my type.” But what I mean is “I always knew it was you.”

You say “I love you.” and I say “I love you, too.” But what I mean is “I know how lucky I am to take for granted someone who is better than I ever dreamt of having.”

 

 

The Virtue in Fallibility

Many have questioned the validity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because of the fallibility of it’s leaders. There are some uncomfortable parts in Church history that have caused members to abandon the Church, and many an outsider to assume that the Saints are living in blind faith.

There are sticky points in Church history, culture and doctrine for me too. But my discomfort, when I have turned it over to passionate study and sincere prayer, has increased my faith every single time. This is because my faith isn’t just wishful thinking or filling in the gaps with optimism. My faith is spiritual knowledge gained by experience.

I love that God, in scriptures, has extended challenges such as “Prove me now herewith…”

What does it mean to prove something? It means to have indisputable, replicable evidence gained by experience.

I like how David S. Miller put it: “Faith is more like being faithful to your husband or wife than it is like believing in magic. Fidelity is the key. You may fall in love with someone because of how well they complement your story, but you’ll prove yourself faithful to them only when you care more for the flawed, difficult and unplotted life you end up sharing with them. Faith isn’t the opposite of knowledge. Rather, like love, faith perfects knowledge by practicing fidelity to it.” -Letters to a Young Mormon

Faith has ample room for questions and doubts. In fact, I think those are essential components. In my experience, every doubt has become a blessing. Every question has been a chance to grow closer to God. Every human error has been an opportunity to see God’s hand (I’m pretty sure the Prophet Joseph would agree with me.)

I am, unequivocally, a believer in the restored church. I believe that God the Father and Christ the Son called upon a young, uneducated boy, Joseph Smith, to bring forth the Book of Mormon and re-establish Christ’s ancient church, in preparation for the second coming. And I believe that the current Church is led by true and living prophets. But you’ll never hear me say the oft repeated testimony, “I know the Church is true.”

Why? Because the Church, God’s Kingdom on Earth, is not a glorified, completed, perfected organization.  The GOSPEL is true, the Church is not. It’s still growing, still receiving further light and knowledge, and currently being led by prophets who are good good good and inspired men called of God, but still imperfect humans.

So why get baptized? Why give a tithe? Why sacrifice a large portion of time and means? What’s the difference between this Church and any other? What’s the use of organized religion anyhow?

I’ve worked over many years to get answers to those questions for myself. And I’ve received them. I won’t share all those answers now, because it was the process of working for answers that has been the greatest spiritual gift. But one of the outcomes of my effort has been to discover the virtue in fallibility.

God works miracles through the weak and the flawed.

Jonah was a reluctant prophet who never really got it.

Joseph Smith lost the manuscript pages and fell prey to human weakness.

Peter denied Christ 3 times and then went on to be the head of the Church.

God doesn’t call perfect people to the work. He calls the weak.

When I was employed by the Church, members would often say “It must be amazing to work for the Church!” With stars in their eyes they seemed to imagine that angels would come down during PowerPoint presentations and give us clear instructions on how each project should be done. Then, of course, the prophet would meander down the hall and nod his approval.

In reality, a lot of the work wasn’t ecclesiastical. It was corporate. There was a lot of politics and bureaucracy. There were ineffective programs and failed projects. There was even, dare I say it, sexism.

BUT.

I still believe that the Church, including it’s corporate holdings, are part of God’s Kingdom on Earth. A perfect God is willing to put His name and blessings on our flawed attempts because He is using it to educate us and prepare us. He is proving US by experience. He is refining us as we wrestle to subdue our egos and ambitions as we  attempt to do His work “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”.

We saints may be fallible and flawed. But we have been bound by covenants to an infallible and perfect God, through the blood of an infallible and perfect Savior. And those covenants give us access to the Power of God in the tiny details of life. Miracles. Unbelievable miracles. And even more wonderful, personal growth as we see what He can do with us even in our weakness. All of this He does because of LOVE. Love for us not because of our potential, not because of our productivity, not because of our proven worth. But simply because we are. We are loved IN our fallibility, not in spite of it. A lot of healing comes from that. And with that healing comes the faith and motivation to keep building up His Kingdom.

 

Like a Dream

I wake up in a sweat. The details of my dream swirl so powerfully through my mind that I can’t separate them from reality. The feelings, the images, the people, the place, even the smell… all of it is so graphic and real that I am still living in it as I stumble to the bathroom to pull on my gym clothes. I drive through the black of pre-dawn. The snowflakes hitting the windshield make it easy to imagine I’m flying through space, whizzing past stars… or at least still dreaming. I’m on the treadmill as slowly, the haze begins to lift. I’m trying to make sense of the dream and finally realize that none of it was real, except for the strong emotions it left me with. I swear though, the details are so, so real. I’ll never forget this dream. It will likely flash into my mind a hundred times a day until I die. But then, by afternoon I can’t tell you more than a wisp of the storyline. By evening, I don’t remember anything except that “I have really weird dreams.”

“Do you think Flora is getting in her two year molars? When did the big girls get them?” “I have no idea.”

“Look at that baby. Were the girls ever that small?”

For some things, I feel like I’m still in that swirly wakeup part where I’m separating reality from the dream. The emotions are still fresh but the details are getting hazy. But for so many others, I feel like it’s evening and I just vaguely remember “that stage was really demanding”.

With some deep reminiscing with RJ and the help of photographs, I can remember quite a bit right now. But I feel the memories slipping like sand through my fingers.

“Momnesia” is both a blessing and a curse.

Blessing: During a formal visit, the girls get into a scuffle. Millie’s head misses the stone mantle by an inch and she retaliates with a fierce blow to Georgia’s stomach. The rolling, screaming ball of girls reminds me of cartoon fights between Tom and Jerry; a tornado-like puff of dust with limbs randomly jutting out. I notice Flora’s foot in the melee and swiftly pull apart the 3 combatants.   Trying to maintain composure I turn and ask the dignified septuagenarian mother of 7 on my sofa “What did you do when your kids fought?” She sighs, looks to the ceiling as she scans her memory and says “I don’t think my kids ever really fought!” Okay sure, Linda. That’s unrealistic. But I’m glad you don’t remember it.

Curse: I don’t remember when Georgia’s cheeks went from the slack velvet of newborn to the full roundness of baby. I don’t remember when Millie’s thigh rolls were replaced by lean muscular quads. I don’t remember when Flora first said “I yuv you, mama”.

I restrain an eye-roll when well-meaning strangers advise me to “Enjoy every moment!” I have never met a mother who enjoyed potty training, or who thrilled at using a public restroom with three tiny people who were verbal enough to observe and comment loudly on everything, capable enough to open the stall door while you’re still wiping, but not yet wise enough to restrain from licking the sink. Perhaps what they really mean is, “Take in what you can, because you won’t remember most of this.”

I’ll forget how the weight of an infant on my chest will seem to double when she goes into a limp sleep.

I’ll forget how soft, warm (and perpetually sticky) are the hands of toddlers. And worse, I’ll forget how loved I felt when those hands reached up for me (even if it was simply to squish my face into painfully hilarious contortions).

I’ll forget that there was ever a time when I could fix nearly any problem with a bandaid, a lollipop, or a hug.

I’ll forget the specific exhaustion of nerves and stimulus  that I feel after tucking rambunctious rascals back into bed for the nth time, only to go to my bed and scroll through pictures of them for an hour.

I’ll forget things I haven’t even experienced yet.

I’ll forget the anguish of feeling unpopular. I’ll forget the exquisite joy of a hard-fought victory. I’ll forget the agony of forcing homework. I’ll forget the backward glance and lip-bit smile as they drive away on their first date. I’ll forget the first time they call for a recipe. I’ll forget the first mention of a name that will change the course of their life, and therefore mine. I’ll forget which songs they played on repeat. And when they make me a grandma, I’ll forget anything helpful, yet still dole out advice nonetheless.

At the evening of my life, most of it will blur together. It will feel as if it were all just a dream. I won’t recall the vivid details, and may not even be left with the strong emotions of it. But I will always remember one thing:

That I loved them all along.

My word for 2020: Fail

IMG_3598.jpeg

Last year I took a handful of watercolor painting classes. The instructor, Anita Kimbler, would catch me hesitating on something and proclaim “It’s only paper!” I *knew* that. I knew nothing would be lost but a few cents of paper and a little bit of time. But it didn’t stop me from freezing up. Then, in my anxiety, I would overthink the painting and make color choices I would regret. I let the fear of failure take the fun out of trying something when there was very, very little at stake. Other times I would paint with reckless abandon. These were always the pieces I liked the most. These too, would be marred by mistakes. Whoops! That paint splatter wasn’t intentional! But in my free-spirited mood, I would embrace it and add more splatters to give it friends, or turn them into leaves falling. My failures taught me to be creative. My fear only ruined the fun.

There are other times, though, when my mistakes and failures have had higher stakes. When I was serving as RS president for my ward, I made some poor dating choices. One of those caused heartache for a sister I had been desperately trying to help. God turned that “paint splatter” into falling leaves, though. He not only helped me gain her forgiveness, He helped me become her friend and introduce her to her future husband.

Intellectually, I am deeply grateful for the mistakes and failures I’ve experienced. They have taught me much more than my successes and good fortune. But instinctually, I am ashamed of them, and often don’t try something for fear of failure.

But in the year of 2020, I shall seek the blessings and the lessons of failure! With any luck, I will show my children not to fear mistakes.

On many a trail, I’ve learned that a stumble may prevent a fall. Similarly, I love the conference talk where they were lost and prayed to know which road to take. They were inspired to take a road that quickly became a dead end. At first frustrated with the Lord, he later realized it was a mercy that the dead end gave him full confidence in the other route. Sometimes what seems to be a mistake is actually a valuable detour.

“O happy failure, from how many evils have you saved me!” -Saint Therese of Lisieux

In my day-to-day life, I am constantly asking “Am I failing them?” I lose my temper. Our scripture study is pitiful. What am I even feeding them? I have no idea how to discipline. Where will this current path of parenting lead them? Does RJ know how much I really love him? Am I nurturing our marriage? THIS IS NOT JUST PAPER, ANITA! These are our immortal souls! I need to stop obsessing over failure and have faith in the compounding effect of small efforts to improve every day. None of this is final. And although I am a parent, I’m not the One in control. There are unseen forces, both evil and divine, that are influencing us. God is using my mistakes to grow us. Satan is using them to paralyze us. But my mistakes and failures are not final. They are not being kept on a scorecard. The more I trust God, the more “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.” 

How am I dealing with the failures of my children? Am I instilling fear or teaching them to grow from it? When they mess up, I don’t want them to think “Mom is gonna be so mad.” I want their reaction to be “I need mom.”

My friend, yet another artist, Megan Schaugaard,  posted something she learned about mistakes from her own mother. “It’s all a process – even the failed attempts aren’t worthless if they help us grow. (This painting that my mom did before I was born) It was hung in our house for as long as I can remember and is still on my parent’s wall today. If you look closely, she missed a letter in “beginning” But she didn’t toss it and call it worthless. I love that it still had a place on our wall regardless of the misspelled word. It reminds me that life isn’t perfect but that every step to get there is of value. It also helped me remember that though none of us are perfect, we are loved and still have a “place on the wall”. I dibs inheriting it!”

IMG_3580.jpeg

I currently have dozens of writing ideas in my drafts folder. They’re imperfect. They’re partially developed. And because of my fear of failure, they’ve sat there for months to years. Some of them have lost all meaning to me and I don’t even know where I was going with it when I abandoned it. I don’t vow to stop doing this, because that is unrealistic. But I vow to try and let the flawed, incomplete and underdeveloped ideas get out of ‘drafts’ and into ‘published’ more often. ITS ONLY (digital) PAPER! There is a place for it on the “wall”! The more I do with passion and the less I do with perfectionism, the more I will grow.

So WHO IS WITH ME? Lets get out there and FAIL IN 2020!!!!