Stake Conference Talk: Ministering

The truth is, ministering is awkward. 

On the giving side, it feels presumptuous to interject yourself into someone’s life. “Hi! Look how magnanimous I am to come seeeerve you!” When someone feel’s like your “assignment” there is almost always an immediate barrier. Even when you were friends beforehand. So it’s hard to really get to know someone, let alone perceive their needs. It’s uncomfortable wondering if we are bothering them, or feeling like we may not be doing enough. 

On the receiving side, there’s a natural tendency to be courteously closed-off “I’m good. I’m fine. Carry on with your day! Thanks for thinking of me!” 

Don’t get me wrong, Visiting Teaching was awkward too. But at least after a formal visit you could check it off your list for a month. The bar was low – MAKE CONTACT. Whereas now the bar is scarily high – REGULARLY RECEIVE REVELATION ON HOW THE LORD WANTS YOU TO SERVE THEM.

Therefore, it’s just a little bit awkward. 

Now you may be wondering why they asked ME to speak about ministering. I’m sure those I’m assigned to minister would be completely baffled. Honestly, I currently feel like I’m failing at ministering. So let me assure you it’s not because I’m overly affective. I think it’s because I have been deeply blessed by ministering.

The most impactful visiting teacher I ever had was (and still is) inactive. It was about 10 years ago. She and I didn’t know each other at all, but she called me up and invited me to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. It was a quirky place and it was so fun to get to know her in that setting. I have no idea what we talked about but I remember laughing, and I remember her making me feel good about myself. The next month we did a hot yoga class together. We burst out of that stinky, sweaty, sauna-like class into snowy January weather and talked, shivering, in the parking lot for an hour.

 She wasn’t steeped in the formal traditions of visiting teaching, and so instead she did what came natural to her. She ministered to me by simply doing what friends do. To this day, interactions with her on social media make me smile.  This visiting teacher was a minister a decade before that was a thing, and she changed the way I approached it – Like a friendship not a duty. 

Fast forward seven years, and I moved into this stake from Maryland. I was fulfilling my calling as a primary teacher, attending Relief Society activities, and consistently making visiting teaching visits each month, though they had, for whatever reason, reverted back to the formal visits we all know. Sometimes at the park, or on the trail, I’d meet another mom and we would chat for a bit, but still I couldn’t shake a very unnerving feeling of loneliness.

For the first time in my life, I longed for a friend. Not a friendly acquaintance or a best friend far away but someone whose physical life could overlap with mine – sharing leftover soup when I made too much, or complimenting me on how I handled my two year old suddenly stripping naked at the store. 

Most women wanting a friend would have probably have done something like schedule a playdate, or ask someone to lunch. But nothing that practical occurred to me. Instead, I prayed every day for a friend. 

My companion was very pleasant, and I admired the women we visited, but a few minutes together once a month was not exactly causing us to link arms and spontaneously sing “As Sisters in Zion” together. 

One sister that we visited requested quite a bit of help with her house, her children and then a move.  Over time, as my companion and I worked together to meet her needs, we discovered that under our proper Visiting Teaching facades was a compatible (i.e. snarky) sense of humor. A spontaneous playdate happened. A friendship was born. Two years later, we are close enough that her entire family attended my daughter’s TEDDY BEAR’s birthday party. Yes, you heard that right. The lord answered my prayer for a friend abundantly, through my visiting teaching companion. 

Another sister we visited talked about wanting to start exercising more. She was someone who, frankly, intimidated me a little bit. She seemed to have her act together a lot more than me. Basically, I thought she was out of my league. But I invited her to join my kids and I on our daily trail walks. To my shock, she took me up on the offer. Two years later, we have walked and hiked hundreds of miles together. We have discussed the mysteries of the universe, tips for potty training, and everything in between. God heard my prayer for a friend and answered it abundantly, through my visiting teachee.

These two relationships have blessed every aspect of my life – Even though they were assigned. In fact, I believe because they were assigned by inspiration. Our assigned friendship, over time, led to true ministering back and forth. Some other sisters on my ministering list have also proven to be significant and welcomed blessings in my life. Some still don’t return my calls. But I have been truly blessed as I’ve tried to minister. 

With prayerful consideration I’ve come up with four simple takeaways to encourage our ministering efforts.

  1. Be consistent:  I believe that CONSISTENCY is the evidence of SINCERITY. As we consistently make contact, whether its a text, a spontaneous or scheduled visit, an invitation to lunch, or something else, those to whom we minister will see our sincerity and eventually open up to us. Even if they don’t see our sincerity, there’s validity to the “exposure effect”! The more you are exposed to something, the more comfortable you are with it! Consistency wears people down. They’ll have to love us if we keep coming around. 
  1. Be Yourself: With the new direction emphasizing that we should receive revelation on how to serve them, it’s daunting. Sometimes we think we need to discern their deepest needs or take on some major role in their life. That is not what we’ve been asked to do. We would be wise to do a prayerful inventory of what we have to offer, time-wise, skill-wise, and heart-wise. The Lord wants us to use WHO WE ARE to minister and He is aware of our time and skill limitations. Ministering efforts don’t have to meet their deepest need, it just has to bless them. It doesn’t have to look a certain way. It doesn’t have to be conventional. But if it is conventional, that’s okay too! We just need to be sincere. In spite of our limitations, if we do what we can, the Lord will magnify our efforts.
  1. Fill your day with tiny kindnesses: Let someone ahead of you in line, compliment a stranger on anything, wave to a little child, give someone a hug, leave a piece of candy on a coworkers desk, write a thank-you note… As we create the habit of tiny kindnesses we develop a generous spirit – the kind that is receptive to inspiration on how to serve others. 
  1. Give it Prayer:  As I pray for people by name it fills me with love and concern for them. My prayers show God (and myself) that I’m ready to serve them. Propelled by God’s love, ideas and inspiration will pop into my head.

For the upcoming primary program, my little sunbeam daughter has memorized Mosiah 2:17 “And behold I tell ye these things that ye may learn wisdom. That ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Part of that ‘wisdom’ is that as we serve and minister to one another, we aren’t just serving God, we are actually coming to know Him – And is their anything sweeter in this world than that? I submit there is not. 

I bare testimony that ministering is a holier way, wherein our priorities are purified, our hearts are filled with charity, and as we willingly do it, those to whom we minister will become blessings in our lives. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Advertisements

“Me too”

I’ve drafted many a controversial post, but never actually published one. Being vulnerable and taking a stand… it’s just plain scary. But lately I’ve been teaching the word BRAVE to my gals. I have defined it as doing the right thing, even when it’s scary.

So here goes.

Even for those of us who don’t read or watch the news, we’re being flooded with information about Christine Blasey Ford coming forward years later saying she was assaulted by Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

This is not a Republican vs Democrat thing.

This is not a criminal case that requires indisputable proof “innocent until proven guilty”.

This is about whether someone has the moral character to pass judgment in our very highest court. A person nominated for such power should be of reputation and character that is not just above reproach but that is undeniably and unquestionably upstanding.

Now, beyond that, I want to talk about HER. All of the Christine Blasey Fords of the world.

…myself included.

Right now I’m deleting as fast as I’m typing. My heart is pounding. Talking about times when I was victimized in the private world of my personal blog, with its minuscule readership, is absolutely terrifying. And there is so much I will never, ever, ever write about because it’s just too much.

So I’ll just stick to a couple vague examples. It’s all I can handle.

There was the first time a boy took too much from me and bragged about it. It got laughed off by some. I got judged by others. But no one thought to protect me, except one fellow. It was the first time someone stepped up for me. He approached the boy and said “She doesn’t want it. DO NOT TOUCH HER AGAIN.” And guess what? The boy stopped. But he wasn’t the last.

As a teenager there was an adult in power of my life who hurt me and degraded me for two years. I was so ashamed that I could be a victim that I hid as much of it as possible from friends and family. Even now there are details I can’t share. Those who were closest to me, with responsibility to protect me, didn’t. I reached out to a church leader and was completely dismissed. The person in power was spreading venomous lies about me which caused those who thought they knew me to question my character, and those who didn’t actually know me were easily sold on the lies. But there were those who believed me. And they stepped up. And I got out.

There was the stranger at a concert who ripped off my shirt. (Thankfully my 6’8″ giant of a friend plucked me out of the fray and helped me pin and tie my shirt back together. You’re my hero, Blakob!)

There were the countless incidents of unwanted butt or chest grabbing by both stranger and acquaintance… some more violent than others.

There was the taxi driver in Egypt who left my bags at the hostel and said I was staying with him (Thank heavens for the other taxi driver who came to my rescue).

I could rattle off many more examples. But here’s the thing…

I’m one of the lucky ones.

Almost every woman I know can share a similar story.

I’ll bet you have one coming to mind now!

I have been so fortunate. A lot of people have stepped over the ‘required behavior’ line and stepped in to help me. None of my experiences have been inescapable. Yet, I’m full of shame that they happened, or to what extent they happened. I’m terrified to admit them. I do not want to be remembered or defined by any of my bad experiences. So I’ve done what all women do. We sweep it under the rug. We put on a brave face. We move on.

Sometimes this causes us to have more empathy. Sometimes less. It’s not just society at large that trivializes victims/survivors. It’s individual women. We look down on someone bravely coming forward, even WAAAAY past due, and almost shake our heads at them because something similar happened to us and we were able to shake it off. Why not them? If it was so important why not until now?

BECAUSE WE BURY THE TRAUMA! We often don’t process it until  much later when it festers and rots, or when we are in a safe enough place for it to bubble up and be dealt with… or when the stakes are high and we think it could protect others.

I’m not saying we have to shake posters saying “I believe her” every time a woman comes forward.  I’m not saying women haven’t lied to bring down a man. But the price a woman has to pay in coming forward is STEEP. The shame, the invasion, the speculation, the judgement…

So for those who are tired of the “me too” movement, or who are questioning the motives and integrity of someone coming forward, please just consider this:

This moment in history when women CAN come forward is making the world safer for your daughter and your granddaughter and your wife and your sister and even your mom. Because of “her”, discussions are had around the dinner table and at the highest level of government about women’s safety. Because of “her”, the culture of “boys will be boys” is shrinking. Because of “her”, men are being more careful about consent and manipulation. Because of “her”, women can come together without *as much* discomfort and find healing.

I hope that the next “me too” movement will be for men. Perhaps once women are safe enough to come forward without being defined and shamed, men may also be able to come forward with all of their buried wounds and horrific experiences without the fear of emasculation.

And with all of our pain out in the open, perhaps we can be free. Free to heal. Free to prevent future abuse. Free to progress.

Let Peace Be Enough

“Wear this, do that, travel here, be seen!”

drowns out the voice of our Heavenly king

Busy-ness, lists, so much to do

but softly He calls out to you.

Through prophet and scripture and Holy Ghost

He offers what you need the most.

Inspiring, encouraging, warning of danger

He speaks through nature, friend or stranger.

Your head is full of clamoring noise

amid billions though, He knows your voice.

Do you know His? He’s speaking now.

He can calm your storm and peace endow.

In one heartbeat you’re shown a vista eternal

then filled with love divine and supernal.

But trials persist and life is long-

We often forget how to hear His song.

So many blessings He’s withheld.

So much pain He hasn’t quelled.

Kneel down. Speak. Or even just listen

You may sense it but there is no division.

God travels at the speed of thought

and loves you fully (though you believe He ought not).

He’s here. Feel Him. See His love.

Shut out the din and let peace be enough.

I Have Time for This

Georgia just started preschool this week and she’s having so many big firsts. She’s reading her first words, writing her name for the first time, developing relationships with people I don’t know… She is fearless and excited about it all, and therefore I’m excited for her. But amid all of these firsts are a lot of unseen lasts. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but sometime in the past couple of months, Georgia started wiping her own bum. She started properly enunciating “three” rather than “free”. The only time she asks me to pick her up now is if she’s hurt.

Flora too, is experiencing all of the exciting firsts and our many lasts are just a blink away. Every time I nurse her I think about how soon it will be over and she’ll never stick her feet in my face that same way again. She’s about to start walking and the sound of  knees scuffling and baby hands slapping the wood floors will just be a memory.

At this precise moment, Millie is plugging my nose with her tiny hand and saying “Mommy, do it againnnnn!” Because she loves how it vibrates on her fingers when I hum. It’s kinda tricky to look around her fuzzy curls at the screen but I’m not in the mood to kick her off and force her to take a nap because I can’t get something George said out of my head.

In one of those meandering conversations that take place when spending a lot of time with family, Uncle George left me with a nugget of applicable wisdom. When driving in traffic and someone cuts him off or won’t let him merge, he says to himself, “It’s okay. I have time for this.” Rather than getting aggravated by someone else’s inconsiderate behavior, he offers them a generous response. More than likely, it makes no difference to the offender, but to George, he walks away with kind feelings instead of frustration.

Our calendar certainly isn’t full, yet I tend to feel like I’m rushing to the next chore, nap, meal, diaper change, nursing session, appointment, etc. When someone or something inconveniences me, I rarely respond with that type of generosity. I don’t think of myself as a busy person, but I certainly don’t feel like I have time for inconveniences or the dawdling of children. But what if I did?

Would the world end if I made time for Georgia’s distracted and drawn out method of getting buckled in the car?

Is it really that horrible to sit on hold for an hour with the home warranty, while folding laundry or tickling Millie’s back?

Will I even notice the minute of  “me time” I gave up to sing them one more song at bedtime?

When I have my head on straight, I am keenly conscious of just how fortunate I am to have the kind of inconveniences that I have. Literally millions of others would make monumental sacrifices to have my type of problems.

I have freedoms. I have abundance. I have family. I have safety. I have love. So for the other things that I so often want to rush through or get past, I’m going to try and adopt George’s response. “I have time for this.”

And now, I’m gonna go “have time” for some ice cream.

Dear RJ, when you can’t see clearly

You call me after the time you should be arriving home to let me know you haven’t left yet. Your tone indicates that you’re (justifiably)  nervous that I’ll be mad because you’ve once again broken my rule to notify me as soon as you know you’re going to be late. Finally you get home, heavy laden with the stress of the day, overwhelmed with the roadblocks and challenges at a job where war is far more common than peace, and instantly you have to be ON. Georgia wants to be chased, Flora screams until you take her from my arms, and Millie wants to wrestle. I expect a kiss and a download of how your day went… and sometimes I need you to feign interest in the most basic details of my day. You are weary. You are stressed. You are still writing emails in your mind (and on your phone when you think we aren’t looking). You’re responding to calls about church needs and trying to make time for that and all of the house projects that stare you in the face. You’re trying to be so much for so many, and in the process you’re feeling like you’re running on empty and failing in every area.

But honey, STOP for a second and just take this in.

You’re actually doing great. Like, really great. I know you don’t see this. You only see what you aren’t doing. You have such big dreams and hopes for life and our family and you ache  because each day/week/month/year you see more of what you aren’t accomplishing. I wish you could see what I see.

I see a hardworking employee. You genuinely strive to make things better. You don’t back down from a challenge. You are determined and gutsy and fun to work with. You live your job and give it your all, even when its really really hard.

I see a good provider. You aspire to more, but you have given us so very much. You’ve given our children the opportunity to have mother at home. You’ve provided a beautiful home, two cars with no debt, toys, food, clothes, luxuries, adventures and allowed us to be generous with others.

I see a devoted father. You chase and tickle. You take time to teach important lessons, sing songs, and read books. You make sure they know the rules, but also make sure they have extravagant fun. I honestly don’t know any other kids who have such a childlike childhood. Really. (I mean, who else has a playland in their basement?) Even at your  most exhausted you will tickle Millie’s back or tell Georgia another story or rock Flora. They will never doubt that they are loved.

I see a man of projects. I know, I know. You have dozens of unfinished projects. But that too speaks to your work ethic. You aren’t afraid to approach a huge job, even if you’ve never done it before. You can outwork an ox, basically fueled by water and sunshine. You literally jump at the chance to do projects for anyone – family, friend or stranger. On Saturdays my brain immediately goes to leisure or adventure and yours goes straight to projects. You say you don’t have a hobby. But in truth, you have dozens – they all can be summed up by the word PROJECT.

I see a supportive husband. You appreciate what I do, and overlook what I don’t. You listen to my long-winded monologues filled with endless minutia. You regularly encourage me to spend money, socialize, or develop talents. You gladly make tacos at 10pm. You consider my workload when trying to balance all of your outside demands.

I see a loving son. You feel off-balance if you haven’t checked in with Mom and Dad. Their projects and needs are always at the forefront of your mind. You are never more relaxed than when on their patio chatting.

I see a faithful Priesthood holder. You honor God by living with integrity. Even when you aren’t thrilled about it, you fulfill your duties – FHE, scriptures, temple, meetings, service to others, and giving blessings. Ultimately, you see yourself as God’s hands and you do what He wants done.

I see a friend to whoever needs one. Most people are instantly charmed by your warm interest in them. Many are easily disarmed and unveil their hearts to you. No one who asks for your ear is turned away. You dole out compassion and pep talks like a lunch lady plops out sloppy joes – generously and without hesitation.

RJ, you know that when I’m up all night with the baby, I pray. You know a lot of what I pray for. But the one thing I’ve given the very most time to is this: That you could see yourself as God does, or at least as I do.

You. Are. Good.

Love,

Honey-Squeeze

 

Headwinds and Tailwinds

Each morning the girls select which trail we will do. I brace myself and hope against it yet they often exclaim “DINO TRAIIIIILLL!!” And while it’s one of the most lovely, pushing a heavy stroller uphill against a strong canyon wind takes a little more motivation. It occurs to me, however, that I could instead look forward to the return trip, when its downhill and the tailwind pushes us along.
Why is it that, on the trail and in life, I often notice the slightest bit of resistance and so easily overlook any boost or even the value of momentum?
But there are days when I am overwhelmed with the sound of the rushing river, the chipper movements of a tiny bird, or the golden warmth of the sun as it slowly crests over the mountain. On those days I hardly notice the wind or the uphill push. Sometimes I see the beauty without effort. Other days I have to consciously push off those thoughts about the hill and the wind by looking for beauty. It would serve me well, though, to also recognize when I have a tailwind.
On one of my old biking routes, I was always baffled that, no matter the direction I was going, there was always headwind. I never once experienced a tailwind there. Finally, after a few years of biking there, it dawned on me that there was not really much wind at all… it was my own speed that caused such strong wind resistance against my body. If I begin to wear down from the wind, the best solution is to put myself into a more aerodynamic position, or to slow down.
Resistance may not always be “fun” but it is great for us. Physical resistance and gravity not only strengthen muscles, but build up the bones. That’s why astronauts lose bone density at 10 times the rate of a post-menopausal woman! …And why those who are shielded from failure or discomfort end up with a lot of trouble.
I guess all this is to say that headwinds aren’t all bad, and a little positivity can help get through them. And tailwinds are awesome too, so we ought to notice and be grateful for them when they happen.

Show Your Work

Did your math teachers ever require you to show your work? I remember it being written across the top of each of my tests during my 8th grade year: SHOW YOUR WORK! Even if we got the problem wrong, we were given partial credit for writing our process.

Somewhere in the years between then and now, however, things have changed. Maybe not for math teachers, but for the rest of society. Now, it’s all about BEFORE and AFTER.  “Before this product I was ____ but look at me now!” If you watch a show like Fixer Upper they fast forward through the process, glossing over the demolition and nasty rat poop under the floorboards, then quickly take you to the magazine worthy (though not lived in) home. Other than Bob Ross, what artist do you know who showed their process? Other than close friends and family, who ever tells you that they’re doing therapy? When was the last time that someone who wronged you (intentionally or not) apologized and talked it out with you?

Perhaps our highly edited world has perpetuated the idea that change happens overnight, perfection is attainable and admitting our faults is unacceptable. But I’m gonna say that my 8th grade math teacher had it more right.

My kids need to see me fail, try again, fail, try again, fail, try again, etc.

My kids need to hear me admit that something is hard for me.

My kids need to see me get mad/grumpy and not handle things well, then apologize and try to work through my feelings.

My kids need to see me disagree with their dad and watch us work through our differences.

My kids need to see that I can still be gentle with myself when I’m not satisfied with my body/temper/cooking/whatever.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of being incomplete. Failure may be painful, but it doesn’t have to be shameful. It’s more important that our kids see our grit to keep trying than that they see our success. Successes are really just ‘rest areas’ on the scenic highway of our lives where we can get out, stretch our legs and take in the scenery. Most of our journey is a long road with flat tires, gas stations and traffic. But we can make it more pleasant with good company and by choosing to see the lovely scenery we pass through.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

I’m learning that peace and anxiety can coexist. Gratitude and yearning can coexist. Happiness and stress can coexist. And if that wasn’t all strange enough… I’m learning that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. At least not in the expected ways.

Since everyone else is on their own highway with potholes as well, whats the matter with acknowledging that we are all hitting them? It seems to me that its easier to notice the blue skies or the mountain vistas when I don’t feel alone. “Showing our work” doesn’t mean advertising our weaknesses, it means relating to one another’s humanity and saying “me too!”

I yelled at my precious darlings.

Me too!

I’m worried about money.

Ugh, same!

I argued with my husband today.

Been there!

I often wonder if I’m “enough”  and other times if I’m “too much”.

I hear you.

“Showing our work” is really just another way of fulfilling that baptismal covenant we made to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. It’s freeing to let go of perfectionism and allow ourselves space for our flaws…. space for our growth… space for connection.

Deliriously Deep Thinking

Flora’s gentle fussing pulled me slowly from a dream and, propelled by muscle memory, my feet plodded the well worn path from my bed to Flora’s crib. In these dark hours I honestly don’t know if I’m walking with my eyes open or closed.  I reach blindly into the dark and pull Flora’s warm body to me. We settle in for the 2nd of her 3 nightly feeds. The tug of her sucking generally keeps me in a 3/4 sleep state, but tonight my dream is still swirling so aggressively through my head that I wake to more of a half sleep state.

Thoughts from the day have melded into a strange storyline that is almost immediately gone from memory. But the competing feelings from the day and the dream are stirring my mind into a delirious frenzy about “beauty”.

On one hand, I enjoy having clothes in which I feel attractive, on the other I believe my body should be an instrument, not an ornament.

On one side I feel incredibly frustrated that my body won’t shed baby-weight until I stop nursing and its horribly inconvenient that none of my clothes fit! On the other hand, I feel like time spent self-criticizing or counting calories would be much better spent nurturing, innovating or creating.

I want my health and my fashion to be set at a comfortable speed of cruise control so that I can focus energy on creating and doing good.

My physical self, while important, will never be my masterpiece. And I’m okay with that. I am so grateful for these arms that lift children and schlep groceries. I’m so grateful for these legs that climb mountains and provide a cozy armchair for tots.

I want my physical self to be healthy and well maintained. I don’t want that maintenance (fitness and fashion) to detract from living a well-balanced and creative life. If fitness or fashion were my creative outlet, that would be fine. But I want to write, weave, watercolor, woodwork, and probably do some things that start with other letters too. And I would much rather my kids see me pursue those hobbies than see me obsess about how I look (or don’t look) in jeans… or lets be honest… leggings.

Some of the bizarre challenges of modern womanhood are to work on healthy living and self-acceptance while fending off warped beauty ideals. I don’t have the answers. I worry that I’m going to pass my own issues onto my daughters. And I probably will. But hopefully, too, I will pass on this belief that we are so much more than our bodies.

i will tell you, my daughter
of your worth
not your beauty
every day. (your beauty is a given. every being is
born beautiful).
knowing your worth
can save your life.
raising you on beauty alone
you will be starved.
you will be raw.
you will be weak.
an easy stomach.
always in need of someone telling you how
beautiful you are.   -Nayyirah Waheed

A Gift

I was just listening to a podcast where the host was talking about losing her mother to cancer when she was 19 years old. Our experiences were vastly different. She had so many memories about her mom pushing her and supporting her as she searched for a talents and found a ways to make her feel special and loved. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually did feel special and loved. But I have very few memories of my mom going out of her way for me. I have no resentment over this. Not only was she dying of cancer – I was the youngest of six children. She was supporting my father who was unemployed for a long time and then returned to college (sending her back to the workforce). She suffered from anxiety and depression. My older siblings were getting married, going on missions, and involved in sports. I wasn’t put into music or sports. And I have no memories of my parents even commenting on my grades.

When I became a mother myself, I began watching mothers much more closely. I listen to adult friends talk about how their mothers guided, supported and celebrated them. I don’t feel envy but I do feel a bit… I don’t know… left out. I know I was loved. I have no question of that. And I do appreciate and admire my mother. But I suppose what I feel, in retrospect, is overlooked or ignored. This feeling does NOT hurt. Its just kind of uncomfortable. Like when you’ve been wearing a bra for too long and you’re just anxious to take it off for the day.

Many of my memories are of me helping my mom with her goals or tasks. I was an extra pair of hands she could leave to fold and put away laundry, to finish cooking supper or organize her closet. I was a walking buddy to help her get in a few miles of exercise in the evening. I enjoyed accompanying her when she wanted me around, but I was quick to entertain myself when I was shoo’d away.

Anyway, all of this is pretext to understand this morning. As I listened to the podcaster talk about the legacy of her mother, and my own experience was so different, but both of us came from wonderful, loving humans, I had a strong impression.

I was a divine gift to my mother. It was ME who was there to comfort, support and encourage HER.

My mission president used to call me “Low maintenance, high yield” and while that hasn’t always been a perfect description of me, I think that’s why God gave me to her.

God knew he could, over the years that followed, surround me with loving maternal figures who would SEE me, support me, and even celebrate me. And from the other side of the veil, I have felt her attention more than I did during her life.

This isn’t a poor me post. It’s actually a comforting epiphany. I have been abundantly blessed by many mothers. I’m just glad to know that I was a blessing to mine.

 

A couple of insignificant days I want to remember

Sleep deprivation causes me to be extra sentimental, and right now I’m feeling ALL of the feels. There are just these moments I don’t want to lose – though they are common now, that I know in years to come will be easily forgotten. Geez, often they slip away before I even fall asleep that night.

This week Flora is teething? whatever it is, she is waking up a lot and only wants a human pacifier. Two nights ago she awoke at 4am and didn’t go back to sleep. By 5am I was so frustrated and exhausted I swore at the baby. So I took a handmade quilt outside for her to sit on while I weeded the garden. She babbled, fussed a little, and mostly gave me the gift of a profound experience to hear the birds begin to chirp, and watch as the shadows of night began to evaporate until finally the sun crested the mountain and blasted us with bright gleaming white, all while my hands were buried in cool moist dirt and the smell of earth was pungent and clean. I remembered how much I loved working out at 5am because I was having a quiet but productive experience before the rest of the world even woke up. It felt like a secret treasure. The remainder of that day was shockingly efficient, and also so pleasant with the kids.

Yesterday I think I actually got 4 or 5 hours of sleep. But the fatigue was strong. Early in the morning, knowing that the likelihood of flaring tempers would plague me, I set the intention to simply not get mad. I mostly succeeded. But to do that I had to sacrifice “productivity” and hour by hour choose to enjoy my kids company. Georgia decided it was Teddy’s birthday so we spent a lot of the day planning and preparing his party. Georgia and Ani delegated the tasks to me and she invited the Stantons over for the party. It took a lot of restraint for me to let her run the show. The boss/organizer in me wanted to take over. But I remembered it was A TEDDY BEAR’S BIRTHDAY PARTY and thats exactly what the guests expected. I sat back and enjoyed RJ and the Stantons and watching the kids. They made it great. I almost forgot about my tired headache for a minute.

After getting the kids to bed, I went for a run with Valerie. I’ve traded running for walking almost 2 years ago, and my joints are all very grateful for that. But it felt good to push my lungs a bit, to use different muscles, to feel the warmth of the baked earth rising from the ground in the evening instead of the heat of morning sun coming down. And unlike in the morning when the hustle of the day forces a quick transition, I got to luxuriate in the post workout endorphins. We laid in the grass for a few minutes, then came home and got into the pool in our clothes. It was energizing and calming at the same time. It was quieting and cleansing.

When I came in, I began cleaning up the party and then RJ and I battled the kitchen sink which is backed up and leaking underneath. Finally, we made our way to bed and I rubbed his feet until he fell asleep. Lately RJ and I both feel so completely depleted. Him from outside pressures of work conflicts and church service, and me from trying to maintain the house, yard and kids and my sanity. We both want to give each other the very best of ourselves, but end up giving each other the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. It won’t always be like this. We won’t always be so needed. But its hard to wish so badly that we could enjoy and support each other more and then just have a few exhausted moments to rehash the day and pass out.

This morning my ‘tired headache’ was more like an arrow had been shot through my temple and was coming out of the other. RJ took the girls to let me rest but I couldn’t sleep so I went out to the hammock. The girls tenderly brought my childhood teddy bear, Nilla, and a blanket for me, all with concerned faces and kind words about my headache. Georgia suggested “Maybe you should lay on the grass. Whenever I lay on the grass my head feels like a rainbow.” And Millie determined that swimming would help my head. RJ made apple fries, which were delicious, then the girls and I got into the pool. We splashed and played until they were too cold and got out. I stayed. Floating on my back, I closed my eyes and let the world disappear in my own sensory deprivation tank. When I opened my eyes, there was a small finch flitting around on the green branches right above me – the blue sky the perfect backdrop to show me his tiny yellow and black feathers. The girls and I laid down on the warm cement to dry off and warm up and RJ came out to tell me I was needed. As Flora’s warm body pressed against my cool skin, she filled her belly and I watched her eyelids turn that purple color they always become as she fell asleep on me.

Amid all the bum wiping, the tantrums, the schlepping of kids/groceries/everything, I sometimes get so in-the-zone that I don’t cherish the beautiful moments mixed in. But these past couple of days the heightened emotions from sleep deprivation have caused me to really see and feel the glory moments. In a few very short years my life will look so very, very different. I don’t just want to never forget this, I want to remember it.