Friday, July 27, 2012

Pity Party: Table for One

Don't mind me, I'm just throwing myself a pity party.

I am sick of not feeling like I have the time, the space, or the money to invest in making my home prettier and more functional.  I hate that I feel like it's not worth it to do much, or that I'm restricted from doing much, because we're renting this apartment and will likely be moving soon.

I'm sick of having no space to put things away.  My counters are so cluttered, because my cupboards can't fit cereal boxes.  Then my kids are constantly getting into those things when I don't want them to.  My kitchen is hard to access, with a lot of cupboard space wasted in corners.  And my arms are short, so I can't reach up/back there to get stuff anyway.  I have started collecting craft supplies for different projects, but don't really have any good space to put them.  So they end up tucked in random boxes and bags, stuffed into odd corners in my bedroom or closets.  Then I can't find them later and either can't finish a project I wanted to, or have to buy more things.

I know a lot of my issues could be ameliorated by de-cluttering and purging.  But there is no space to do that!!  Maybe if I didn't have my kids for an entire week, I could get it done.  But I do have kids.  Three of them, in a two bedroom apartment.  THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.  There is no space for me to de-clutter without them getting into EVERYTHING and ruining any progress I am able to accomplish, most likely resulting in an even bigger mess than where I started.

I am sick of being poor.  I am sick of buying the cheap version, especially when I know it isn't as good of quality.  I am sick of not feeling much ownership over my space.  I am sick of being discontented and feeling so materialistic.  I desperately want my husband to get a new job, and not just a job, but a career.  I want all the benefits of that job: extra money for a nicer, bigger place to live; a minivan (mostly just to have a second car!!); health insurance for the whole family; opportunities for advancement; etc.  Haven't we paid our dues by now?  Can't we catch a break?!

I know I am richly blessed.  I know my problems are fairly minor ones, and ones that are likely to be resolved.  But right now, at this moment, I just need to wallow in my frustration.  I need to vent it so I can shake it off and move forward.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Not Many Answers, Just Feelings and Questions

Do you ever feel better after you find out some bad news?  There's been some drama among a group of friends of mine, hurt feelings and lashing out on several sides.  It's been on my mind all week and I've been worried about everyone involved.  I didn't think I was very involved in the situation, but I found out that there's been some harsh talk about me going around.  I was a little surprised with myself with my reaction.  I wasn't surprised and it didn't really bother me as much as I thought it would.  A couple years ago I would have been crushed and become obsessed with wanting to know every detail and intent on fixing it all.  But I've come to a rather zen conclusion about it: it's not really about me, I am just an easy target in this situation.  And that's okay with me.  I can understand why people may take issue with certain parts of my personality and demeanor, despite my intentions being different from perception.  But it's who I am, and I know I am not doing these things in a malicious way, intending to cause harm.  I am okay with how I've chosen to present myself and my opinions, and if someone else has taken offense and chooses not to address it directly with me, that's on them.  I would welcome that conversation, but I am not going to seek it out either, because again, I don't think it's truly about me.

I felt more settled after I heard about it.  I hadn't been sure of where I stood with certain people, what they thought of me, how they perceived me, and I had been conflicted over how to approach them.  But with this information, I know better where I stand and what would or would not be helpful.  That gave me an enormous sense of peace.  I realized my gut had been telling me to hold back for a reason, and I was so grateful I listened to it.  I know that the person(s) involved are in a really hurt place right now.  They are not lashing out from a whole, healthy place.  If hating on me is helping them get through it, I am willing to take it.  If I can't help by being a friend, I'm willing to help by being a target.  I am a big girl and can handle it.  I feel confident in who I am and what I've said or done, regardless of what may be said.  Someone else's opinion isn't going to change that or my relationship/standing with my Heavenly Father.  My family and friends who truly know me, still love and stand by me.

At the moment, the harsh words are staying fairly private and I'm not being condemned in the general public.  As long as things stay that way, I'm okay with it.  If things change and harassment or libel ensues, then my tune will change.  But I don't anticipate that so for now, I'm fine.  I won't say it doesn't hurt, it totally does!  I thought we were close friends and there was mutual affection.  I don't like the idea of someone feeling that harshly towards me or saying harsh things about me.  I wish it weren't happening.  

And I am totally cognizant that this post merely existing seems at odds with the ideas I've explored here.  For repeatedly saying "this isn't about me", this post contains an awful lot of "me" and "I".  But this is my blog, where I talk about my experiences.  So while I believe the harsh stuff going on isn't truly about me, my tangential experience is.  I also am aware that I mentioned how I wish those who dislike me would have approached me directly rather than lashing out behind my back, and this post seems to be doing the same thing.  I don't know that I have a strong answer for that.  I do believe that intention makes a difference.  My purpose in this post is just to explore my own feelings, I haven't condemned anyone's character, I've tried not to make any value judgements, and I'm trying to keep the focus on my perception and my reaction.  I imagine what's being said about me is being said in a venting tone and not truly intended to harm me.  I am sure it wasn't intended to ever come to my knowledge (and I don't have any specifics, just know that it's going on).  The reason I am not approaching the person(s) directly is because I don't believe it will help anything and I'm only interested in exploring it with them, if it will truly help rebuild our relationship.  I don't know that they are interested in doing that right now; which is probably why they haven't approached me and that's okay with me too.  I wish it was different, but considering where I imagine they are coming from, I can see why it's playing out the way it is.

The whole situation, from the initial fight between other people, to hearing about the talk about me, has brought up some really complex questions for me.  When do you let someone vent and when do you try to stand up for what they are railing against?  How do you make the decision about whether it is helpful or not?  How do you validate someone's feelings and be supportive when you don't agree with what they are saying?  Is it ever okay to give out information that was given in confidence?  Where is the line between letting someone vent about another person, giving information, and gossiping?  Is there even a line?  Does intention matter?  I don't really have any good answers for any of these.

All in all, I am at peace with the whole thing, or at least my part in it.  I am hurting for myself and my friends, but I am not angry or lashing out because of it.  My hope and prayer is that with time, all parties are able to reach out and rebuild the relationships and trust.  I'm not sure if this is just part of the normal ebb and flow of relationships or if this will end up changing our lives forever and the friendships will never come back.  I just know that I am going to just wait and see.  I have my dream of how to it will turn out, but it's not up to me.  It's up to others and I wish them peace, comfort, and love on their journeys.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day Talk

This year I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mothers Day.  I had several reactions to it within a short amount of time.  First there was "Ugh, seriously?! I have to work on Mothers Day?" then "Good, after my rant last year, better I get to do it this year, so I know it will be done right," (humble, I know), then "I don't even get to be with my kids on Mothers Day?  Whine!" then "Wait!!  That means I will actually get to listen to the talks and not have to be dealing with noisy, cranky children."  I went through all of those thoughts in about 3 seconds.  ;-)  I agreed to give the talk and then when I got my topic I was excited as well.  The topic was "Example of righteous mothers in the scriptures".  I thought this was a simple and good way to approach Mothers Day in the church.  

I didn't stress much about it during the week, because I knew I would just be telling stories and I would be one of three speakers, so if I ran short, it would be someone else's problem to fill the time.  Then it came to Saturday, the day before I was to speak, and I hadn't done anything about the talk.  Shoot.  I had compiled my own list of mothers in the scriptures and I started looking up the scriptures about them.  It turned out there was remarkably little information about these women!  It was hard to glean much from the stories, but I did what I could.  I was helped out immensely by a friend who spoke in her ward last year on Mothers Day and had saved her talk.  She generously offered me any part of it to use, and I ended up using some of it.  I had been pretty sure the talk wouldn't be very long but figured oh well, that's the closing speaker's problem.  When I got to church, I saw in the program that there was no youth speaker, just me, the Primary children singing, and the closing speaker.  Uh oh.  But when I actually got up to speak, it ended up taking longer than I originally thought.  It ended up being a nice talk.  I enjoyed preparing for it and delivering it (once I stopped my nervous hand wringing ;-)).  I am glad I was asked to give it.  Here is the text of it, for those who want to read it.

Good morning and Happy Mothers Day. What wonderful beings mothers are. I know we have all felt the influence of righteous mothers in our lives, whether they are our own mothers or those who has exerted a motherly influence upon us. I personally feel blessed and privileged to have had many examples of beautiful mothering in my life. I especially delight in reading about mothers in the scriptures and learning about their trials of faith and how they rose to the challenges given to them.

In the Old Testament, Hannah was a righteous woman. She wanted to be a mother very intensely. She went to the temple, year after year, praying to be given a child. One particular time, she was pouring her heart out to the Lord, weeping and begging. She was covenanting that if she could be given a child, she would raise that child in righteousness, teaching him all that she could, and would dedicate his life to the Lord. The high priest, Eli, saw her, and after an initial misunderstanding, told her that she would be given her heart's desire and would bear a child. Hannah conceived and bore Samuel and for the first few years of his life, she raised him just as she promised. Then it came time for Samuel to dedicate his whole life to the Lord. Hannah brought him back to the temple and gave him to Eli, the same high priest who had promised her this child years before. Eli taught and trained Samuel in the ways of the Lord. Samuel went on to become an important prophet. His mother Hannah returned home and bore more children. Throughout her trials, she remained faithful to the Lord, continually asking for his help and trusting that he would answer her prayers. As she was letting him go to a life of service to the Lord, Hannah was joyful and grateful,  

1 Samuel 2:1-2
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn in exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

Another example in the scriptures is found in Judges chapeters 4 and 5 where we read about a judge in Israel, Deborah, who is the first woman to have been called a "mother in Israel."

Deborah had many roles.  She was a poet, Prophetess, Judge, and Leader of military action.  As a prophetess and judge, she received instruction from God that Barak should raise an Israelite army and move against the Canaanites who held them captive.  Even after Deborah assured Barak that God would deliver the leader of the opposing army into their hands, Barak insisted that he would not go to war unless Deborah accompanied him.  Barak lead the army; Deborah, in her role as prophetess and judge, led Barak, making possible through revelation, his military victory.

While Barak's army, with God's divine assistance, defeated the much more powerful Canaanite army, Deborah advised him that "the Lord shall sell Sisera [the leader of the Canaanite army] into the hand of a woman."  True to this prophecy, Sisera fled sure destruction on the battle field and took refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of an Arab chief allied with the Israelites.  Having made Sisera comfortable and promised to hide him, Jael waited for him to sleep and then killed him.

After the Israelites' victory over the Canaanites, Deborah sings in praise of God that "the inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel."  How is it that she arose "a mother in Israel" as she first revealed Gods plan and then accompanied the army into battle as it fulfilled God's plan?  At the end of her song of praise, Deborah sings: "So let all thine enemies perish O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.  And the land had rest forty years."  Deborah's efforts, Jael's actions, and the Israelites' obedience to God's commands resulted in forty years of peace.  While we do not know if Deborah actually had children, her righteousness fostered the spiritual life of her community.

Rebekah, who eventually became the wife of Isaac and the mother Jacob and Esau, is an example of a woman who exercised charity.  In the normal pattern of her daily tasks, she was kind to Abraham's servant who was visiting her village on the dramatic mission to secure a wife for Isaac.

The Lord knew Rebekah's heart; he knew how she would respond when she observed a need.  He answered the servant's prayer that the young woman who was to become Isaac's wife would offer him water.

In Genesis 24:15 we read, "Behold, Rebekah came out...with her pitcher upon her shoulder" and went down to the well.  The servant asked for a drink.  Whole family trees hung in the balance of her answer.

In verses 18-20:
18 And she said, drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher up on her hand, and gave him drink.
19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for their camels also, until they have done drinking.
20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

Her brother Laban invited him to lodge, and not until the servant was introduced did she discover he was the servant of her uncle.  Her charitable response to this stranger was automatic.  She did not stop to think, I am giving service, nor did she consider the station of the one in need.  She hastened to serve water--even to camels.

Respectfully, she offered an act of service, a simple one, and from that act was born a family of great influence for whole dispensations.  Rebekah loved with worthiness and willingness as a daughter of God.

Elisabeth was righteous before God, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances”. She and her husband Zacharias followed the Lord and obeyed his word. They didn't have children and in their old age, Zacharias served as a high priest in the temple. One day the angel Gabriel appeared to him, prophesying that Elisabeth would conceive and bare a son and his name would be John. Zacharias was incredulous that such a thing could come to pass because of their advanced age. The angel rebuked him and struck him dumb. When he returned home, Elisabeth did conceive and was 6 months pregnant when her young cousin Mary came to visit. As the cousins embraced upon Mary's arrival, the baby in Elisabeth's womb leaped with joy and Elisabeth was filled with the Spirit. Mary stayed with her for a few months before journeying home right before Elisabeth gave birth. The baby boy arrived and his parents named him John, fulfilling the angel's prophesy and restoring Zacharias' powers of speech. That baby boy grew up to become John the Baptist. Because of his parents' loving guidance and teaching, he was able to teach and prepare the way for his cousin Jesus Christ, eventually baptizing the Savior.

Mary was a pure and clean. She was a precious daughter of our Heavenly Father and one he trusted with the ultimate calling, to be the mother of Christ. In Luke 1:28-38, the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said:

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, the cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God, nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

She carried and bore the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father. She loved him, raised him, guided him. At the end of his life, she was still there, caring for him. As he hung on the cross, he asked his disciples to take care of his mother. I think that may be one of the most beautiful tributes to motherhood. What better expression of love, than that of concern for his mother, while he was suffering and dying himself.

Sariah is one of the mothers we get to know the most in the scriptures. She is Lehi's wife and Nephi's mother. She is asked to give up her comfortable life and home in Jerusalem and venture into the wilderness with her husband and four sons, based on a dream. That's a lot to ask. But she did it, because of the faith she had in her husband and the Lord. They traveled in the wilderness for three days before Lehi informs them the boys need to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, the sacred records of their family and the gospel. Her sons are gone for a long time, on a dangerous errand. Sariah begins to murmur and complain against her husband, because she figures her sons have been killed and it's all Lehi's fault.

1 Nephi 5:2-9 reads:
2 For she had supposed the we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
3 And after this manner of language has my mother complained against my father.
4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them powers whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

Sariah faltered in her faith temporarily, but after being comforted tenderly by her husband, she is bolstered up and renews her faith and commitment to the gospel. The strength of her testimony increases greatly and she changes from just believing to knowing. And with that greater knowledge, also comes humility and gratitude as they offer sacrifices unto the Lord.
Later in the Book of Mormon, Helaman was fighting a war and had an army of 2,000 brave warriors. They were young and had no experience as soldiers, but they wanted to defend their people and had faith in Heavenly Father. During a fierce battle, some of them were wounded, but not a single one died. All 2,000 were preserved and saved, through the grace of God. Helaman called these young men his sons. He was amazed, impressed, and incredibly heartened to hear them show their faith.

Alma 56: 46-48 reads:
46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.

They did not doubt their mothers knew it. Their mothers had taught them from their youth to believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Their mothers showed an amazing example, through words and actions. We don't learn of these mothers by name, we don't know all the details of how they raised their sons, but the important part comes through. Look at the effect these mothers had on their young children. Their sons had no doubt, just utter faith and peace that the Lord would take care of them.

Eve is the mother of all living. She was the first mother on this earth. After the Fall, she worked, struggled, and suffered to return to our Heavenly Father. She made new covenants with him and obeyed his commandments. She taught her children what they should do. I am sure she was grieved when they disobeyed and gloried and praised when they followed her teachings. To me, she is the ultimate example of someone who made a grievous mistake but then spent the rest of her life making sure to obey and teach others. Eve certainly did not shirk her duty.

In Moses 5:11-12 we learn:
11 And Eve, his wife, 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.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

Motherhood is certainly no easy task; but the fruits of the labor are worth it. The influence of righteous mothering can be felt not just for years, but for generations. The exact means through which that influence is exerted varies from woman to woman. We each have a different lot in life, regardless of the number of children we bear, whether none or many, we can all have a motherly influence on those around us. We can be strong examples of righteousness and uphold the responsibilities given to us by the Lord.

I bear my testimony that the Lord knows and loves each one of us, individually and deeply. He has set up this life, with the exact trials and opportunities we need to grow to our greatest potential. We absolutely have the choice of how to deal with those opportunities, but I know that no matter what is given to us, we can always learn from it. As we strive to live the commandments, we will grow closer to him. We will see miracles wrought before us. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.