Friday, September 16, 2011

A Mother's Journey

This is a talk I gave for my Church Congregation. I thought I'd share it with you as well...

I grew up in Santa Barbara and we returned a year ago, after living twice in California, twice in Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, London, and Utah… But I would like to talk about our real journey. Shortly after my first child was born, I looked at my beautiful baby daughter, Darci, and felt paralyzed with fear.

I had been reading every book I could find on child-raising, I had been listening to advice from family and friends and then---all of a sudden ---I realized there were so many voices in my mind telling me what to do, that I did not know which to listen to. So I went to my husband and told him how I felt. He looked at me, in the eyes, and said, Karen. Who did God give this child to? Did he give her to Sally or Carol or Wendy. No, he gave her to you. That means that he trusts you to raise this child and has given you everything you need to be able to do it. When he said this I felt the spirit grow within me and confirm to my heart that this was true. It felt like I had wings to fly with. From that moment on I knew God and I could raise this child together… I trusted what was deep inside my heart – the small voice that spoke of the subtleties of the soul. It made perfect sense. Who has the history? From the very first breath taken we love them, anyway, watch them carefully, laugh with them, cry with them, pray over and for them, spend time with them, deal with them and work with them at 3 a.m. in the morning on the science project they forgot to tell us about that was due yesterday. The stories of their lives and the essence of who they really are – are the writings on walls of our hearts …..and I look to God and realize that these tiny, inadequate histories held within our souls are dwarfed to almost insignificance by the eternities of history written on the palms of the hands of our eternal parents….My husband’s life-changing “opening of my mind“ taught me to reach up to heaven and join the histories that could then guide and direct a child’s journey - and the freedom I was emancipated into was exhilarating. I felt like God and I had literally joined hands to tend his sheep. I continued to listen and learn, not to the “current parenting fads of the day- voices” but from inspired teachers and writers – but I knew that God was counting on me - -to make the final call about what was uniquely best for each spectacularly different child. His work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man – was also my work and my glory.

I was once asked what the best advice I could give about raising children. I immediately knew. It is to study your child. Find out who they really are so you can help them discover and value all the gifts that are uniquely theirs. I have a son who is a gifted artist and I was forever reaching into the trashcan and uncrumpling beautiful works of art to frame on the wall. I asked him why he did this and he said --0h – anyone can do that – and I assured him not anyone could. I found that I was forever teaching my children that what they could do was very special and not just a gift from God --but a sacred trust between them and their Heavenly Father to develop, value and use to bless others --all their lives. Every parent, if they did not know better, would absolutely testify that each of their children came from different planets. …and this was always proof to me of a preexistence. Each child so uniquely themselves – and if allowed to truly explore that uniqueness, be free to spend their lives honoring God by becoming all they can be. It is one of my favorite things about my whole life – watching them figure out what God was talking about when He stood back and said…Oh look at my Vivian – isn’t she magnificent – she is going to bless the lives of so many with her boundless energy and creativity when she goes to earth… Oh look at Henry – he is going to help others find their way back to me with the sunshine of his devoted soul. God loves what he creates. In the movie, “Enchanted,” a man asks the prince if he likes himself – he looks side to side and then answers, “What’s not to like?” That is how God wants us to feel and He works tirelessly to help us see what he sees in us. He keeps pulling out our crumpled papers keeps hanging them on the walls of heaven….and then says –Look up! I heard beautiful words spoken by a new niece at her wedding dinner. She said, “ I am so grateful to Debbie and Preston for raising Jarom to be such an amazing person…and then she said--- and I want to thank my parents for doing such a great job raising me – because I think I am pretty amazing, too. I know that made God happy.

Through the years I have kept certain words very close to me- in my mothering. They are: “there’s always a story” --- and ----“don’t take it personally.”--- “Signs of Life” – which means- enjoy the backpacks thrown on the entry way floor and cereal bowl and nachos everywhere --because they are happy signs that people you love are still all around you -----“ At least you are not giving birth to a baby in a tree” – which actually happened.…---my Mom saying –“wear your little ones on your hip for the first two years of their lives and saturate them with love.…” My Dad saying - “if it works- do it…”------“Bunny Box Behavior”—which are the every day tussles between little ones that make them strong enough one day to leave the safety of bunny ---…or “age appropriate behavior” which is what you say when you don’t want to be responsible for the ridiculous behavior of a child..------and “come unto me”– written upon my heart. But there came a time when all of a sudden – all the voices and words all went away and I could only hear one sound….my own voice, in a closet, sending tears and anxious words up to heaven in a desperate plea to save the spiritual life of one of my children. I had read in the scriptures about the wolves coming after the sheep and I remember, after a year of doing every thing I knew to help my child –I found myself once again in my closet asking the Lord – how can I save my sheep. I then felt words that made me remember something deeply important….the words were: “These are not your sheep – they are our sheep.” All of a sudden I had a vision of heavens hosts surrounding my child and I knew I was not alone in my battle against the wolves. I was magnificently not alone. I stood up and felt like there was an entire army behind me – that were just as interested as I was in the salvation of the soul of a loved one – bringing to mind the words of Elisha to his servant that transformed a heart of fear to faith when faced with the armies of Syria surrounding Dothan - “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

My mother’s journey from two many voices and not enough voices brought me to another voice that spoke words I feel shining in my heart everyday. We were blessed to be able to pull down from heaven ten of God’s masterpieces. With that blessing came the inevitable and outright chaos of raising a large family. I noticed that all the beautiful energy of young ones was somewhat manageable, at times, in large spaces- but was completely unmanageable on a hard church bench for three hours. My husband travelled a lot with work and church callings. So, it was usually just me with the cheerios and toys and legs and arms flying through the air. Being at church was something I began to fear and dread – a place where I walked the halls for three hours with children in my arms and around my legs ---year after year after year– walking the halls. One time, in the hall, I looked up to heaven and I said, ”I better get something good out of this – this is really, really hard and I am always, always here-- I never miss – ever – so I want some serious blessings out of this! A few years went by and I found myself once again, in the hall – and I had a voice come into my mind that said, “The blessing you will receive is that all your children will be true to the Lord all their lives.” My very next thought was – I would walk these halls for ninety years to have that blessing upon my children. So whenever I see young mothers in the halls – I tell them --“keep walking” ----

My husband and I have now been on our parenting journey for 36 years. When we contemplate these years we find ourselves often saying, “Well, we did our terrible best” ---it may not have been that great – but our best is all we had. This makes me grateful for the gift of highest value that any of us have ever received….interestingly enough – the gift of a child – our Heavenly Father’s child to mend the damage and heal the heartaches from our “best”– the power in the love created in the treading of the winepress alone -making it so we are not left at the bottom of the ocean with our millstone crimes. The balm of Gilead pouring over our children’s hearts to sooth the sorrow and allow us all, parents and children alike, to receive the brightness that comes from the healing of hearts…..all our hearts…..

I had an experience that taught me of healing. In the book, “The Art of Mending,” by Elizabeth Berg, I read something that I have treasured ever since. Quote “My relatives still make fun of me for my love of things domestic, especially my Aunt Fran, who, whenever we visit, always tells me she’s saved her ironing and mending for me. As for mending, I think it’s good to take the time to fix something rather than throw it away. You get to see the whole process through, beginning to end, nothing abstract about it. You’ll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there’s an art to mending: ---if you’re careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is a testimony to its worth.” I had an experience that made me understand this idea personally. I have a favorite painting that I found while we lived in Boston. It is easily over 100 years old and over the years has become ever more dear to me. One day someone was playing ball with our dog, near the painting. There was a candle burning on the table below it. The ball hit the candle and hot wax sprayed all over the painting. I grabbed my painting and my daughter, who was in the next room, and dragged them both into my bedroom. Through tears, I looked up into my daughter’s eyes, holding my ruined painting and plead, “Tell me my painting is just a “thing”, Please!” She consoled me in an inspired way and we went on with the evening that involved entertaining, with a smile, a house full of relatives and friends. Later that night, in the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep, I brought my painting out and laid it on the counter under bright lights. I worked, for hours, to lift the wax off the painting. Finally, I had done all that I could do. I stood back and looked at it….it wasn’t the same…. But it was still beautiful, and in light of what I learned about “the art of mending,” it had become more beautiful, because now it had all the marks of my efforts to restore it, which was in the end, a “testimony to its worth.”……and I realized that this is what the Lord does - looks at his masterpiece, --beaten, battered and bruised by life….and through tears of compassion, under the bright lights of His love, works tirelessly, in the garden, on a tree…to ultimate victory…His work and His glory…carefully, painstakingly peeling the wax away – and there we stand –tended and mended - even more glorious – His work to restore us emblazoned into our soul – the ultimate testimony of our infinite worth.

We are each very uniquely ourselves for a reason and if we open our hearts and the hearts of our children and learn to look to God and live – we will all, by being true to ourselves and God, make the difference on earth God wants us to make. We are here for a reason. I am grateful we can help each other discover those reasons.


Katherine said...

Love this talk.
And thanks for walking the halls...

Caspers, but not the Ghost said...

i always felt that you were an amazing mother as a teenager in your home. and now as a mother, really look up to you.
love this talk.
i never understood the total devotion of a mother..until i became one.
i walk the halls..and will never roll my eyes about it agian.

Rita said...

Loved this talk! and loving you even more! Miss you too -