Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The very fiber of eternity

Anna is cutting six teeth. On top of that, she has a bad cold. For the past five nights, we have not been sleeping much. Yesterday, I went to Walmart to hastily grab a few things. I looked liked a mother who had not slept much and had no time to do much for herself. While there, I saw a friend and we visited for a few minutes. As we talked, I noticed how good she looked. Her hair was done, she had on make-up and jewelry, and she was dressed in a cute outfit. Mentally making the contrast between how she looked and how I felt, I found myself wondering why life has to be so hard sometimes, especially when I am just trying to raise a family like I am supposed to be doing.

I needed a pep talk. I have spent the last 24 hours composing that pep talk in my mind, and I am typing it up here.

Matthew 16:25 says "For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." This scripture perfectly applies to motherhood. We literally lose our lives, or in other words, give up control of our daily expectations and schedules in order to care for our children. When they are young, their physical care can often take over our day. When they are older, their emotional and spiritual care can take over our nights! It is so important to remember the promise that as we willingly lose ourselves now, we will later find ourselves. This time of intense care for other people, which sometimes takes up all our time, will come to an end and we will come away with something great, including time to ourselves and eternal relationships with our children (and certainly appreciation for the ability to put on make-up, do our hair, and pick out a nice outfit without spit up or runny nose rubbed on the shoulders).

I read an article on Meridian Magazine (that you can read here) in which the author compared the well-known pioneer story of the three young men who carried many of their party across the freezing Sweetwater River to the sacrifice required to bear a baby, where each mother carries her child from the bank of the pre-existence across the chasm into mortal existence. I think this same comparison can be made about caring for our children. We figuratively carry them on our back or in our arms throughout childhood until they reach the bank of adulthood and are ready and strong enough to stand on their own and continue on the path back to Heavenly Father. Sometimes the day to day of that effort can feel like such a heavy sacrifice. But when you think of it that way, doesn't that make motherhood seem so noble? Doesn't it take you above the runny noses and mundane work to see it as something grand, something that is about saving souls?

I love the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley which he made to a group of General Authorities. I know it also applies to parents. "I hope you are enjoying your work and service. I know that it is demanding. I know that it is strenuous. But what a tremendous opportunity we all have. How could we better spend our time? We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity. We are dealing with the salvation and exaltation of our Father's children."

I have thought of that quote many times. What better could I be doing with my time than to be helping to raise up Heavenly Father's children? We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity. What I am wearing or whether I got to do my hair just right or what the house looks like today will not matter over time. In fact, it will not even matter tomorrow. But it will matter that I spent my time taking care of my sick baby, loving her, meeting her needs.

The day will come when I will get to decide exactly how I look, and how much sleep I've had, when I go to Walmart, but that day can wait. There are children that need to be raised right now, and this is the only chance I get.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Power of the Atonement

Do not forget who you are. You are sons and daughters of God, our Eternal Father, and He loves you. You can lay any burden that you feel like you are carrying on the shoulders of the Lord Jesus Christ as you internalize the Atonement and let that be real in your lives. Remember what He did in Gethsemane and what He did on Golgotha for you and me. Then, somehow, someway, the power of heaven gives you the strength to carry on, do the best you can, to move forward, and not to be too concerned about your own personal worries.
--Elder M. Russell Ballard, Single Adult Conference, May 2007

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grace to help in time of need

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16

I love this scripture. Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Church. He understands our inclination toward weakness as well as all of our struggles. He is available to offer mercy and grace when we need it.

I was thinking of this scripture the other night after I had once again failed to keep one of only two personal goals for the new year--to use a gentle rather than berating voice when correcting my children. Frankly, I am not sure I have it in me to accomplish this goal. Every day, I start out with good intentions, but when things heat up and tempers flair, I can't seem to keep myself from ranting and raving. It is the exact pattern as someone who has an addiction. The brain path naturally follows the same direction every time there is stress, right back to the same unhealthy behavior.

I want to change, though. That is why I like this scripture. I looked up grace this morning in the Bible dictionary. Two sentences really stood out to me. First, grace is "divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ." Then, more specifically, "individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.

Change takes patience and time. During this slow process, we depend on the grace of Jesus Christ. We lay our burden of sin before Him, asking the Father for forgiveness and help to change. Then we to do our best to improve but also to trust Him, being kind to ourselves and patient with the slow progress, knowing that His Atonement will not only bring strength and assistance but also make up for all the mistakes. Grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The trouble with boys...

The trouble with boys is that they are messy and loud and energetic. I have one boy that makes loud noises all the time, over and over and over. As if there is not enough noise in our house! Another boy delights in teasing his siblings. He especially likes the ones that scream the loudest. I have other boys who sneak downstairs and play legos all the time. I am forever standing at the top of stairs, yelling down for boys to come back up to do school work or chores or whatever. And when they play legos upstairs, they leave them all over the house. The boys also leave their dirty socks just about anywhere they feel like taking them off, like on the kitchen counter. That can drive you batty!

This morning, we had a rare moment when all five boys (plus Anna) were upstairs as I was reading aloud. I paused to look at them. They are so cute and sweet and considerate of my feelings. Well, they try anyway. I realized something surprising as we sat there. I only have four more years guaranteed to be with all of my boys. Jacob will turn 18 and head off to college in about four years, or less, really. Wow!

That put me to thinking. So is it really so bad when they are loud? Maybe I could be a little nicer when I ask them to be quiet or to do chores or to put away dirty socks. Is it really so bad when they are teasing? Mostly, it is just in good fun. Maybe I could encourage the screamers to try laughing instead. Okay, that won't work, but maybe I don't have to get so mad. I wish I were better at keeping my temper and using a nicer voice.

I had a friend remind me just this week that you spend a lot more time with your husband alone than with your children at home with you. She said children grow up too fast. She should know because her sixth and last child just went off to college last fall.

I'm going to work on that. I am going to work on using a nicer voice and being a little more patient and not taking things quite so seriously. And not just with the boys. The trouble with boys (and children) is that they grow up so fast!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I choose joy

This morning I woke up crabby. We have not been getting much sleep lately because Anna is cutting six teeth simultaneously, and she has had an ear infection and the flu, and Beth had an abscessed tooth and the flu, etc, etc, etc. I have this gastritis stomach thing, undoubtedly aggravated by the wakeful nights, that forces me to be sure to get extra sleep or suffer from stomach pain. So this morning, I couldn't get up when I wanted and therefore began the day playing catch up. This makes me crabby. The thing is, I love the days when I can get my shower and scriptures read before the little children are up. This was not one of those days, and I was feeling pretty bugged by life. I was dragging myself through the morning routine, wondering how I would make it through a day of what felt like total drudgery ahead. Crab, crab, crab.

I decided to read the scriptures with breakfast. A gentle thought came as I was reading, probably the first chance I had given the Holy Ghost to influence me all morning, that it was unusually quiet. I looked around to see children doing an amazing thing--for the first time since the new year, they were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Josh was reading; Jacob was doing homework; Adam began practicing the piano. No one was bugging anyone else, and I didn't have to drag someone away from the beloved legos to get started on school work. Suddenly, I viewed the day from the perspective of what was going right instead of was going wrong.

A quote from President Monson's Oct. 2008 talk "Finding Joy in the Journey" came to mind (which my sister shared in a recent blog):

“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”

Here was this principle in action in my life. I could choose to focus on what was missing, having everything the way I wanted, or I could focus on what was going well, like children choosing to follow the routine and a sunny day and a stomach that didn't hurt.

Our Bishop gave a fantastic talk on Sunday. One thing that struck me was his discussion on the need to purify the heart of pride. I can see that the things that make me the most crabby and irritable are directly related to my pride, like not being able to do what I want or have the house look the way I want or have my children behave the way I want. If I follow President Monson's thought, then I humbly and patiently submit to the things that are not the way I want and recognize the things that are the way I want with gratitude and appreciation. So I am working on that.

Today, I chose to be cheerful instead of crabby and to be grateful for the things that were going well instead of the ones that weren't. It turned out to be a pretty great day, and the drudgery ended up being pretty fun.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I have a confession to make. I am in over my head. I have more than I can handle. I am a blue diamond mother trying to make it on a black diamond family ski run.

Anyone who has gone downhill skiing knows the feeling when you head down a run harder than your skill and realize it partway down the hill. You have that out-of-control feeling where the poles are flying and you are going quite a bit faster than you can handle. You feel like you are going to crash any minute, every minute. You want to yell to the other skiers "Get out of my way! Novice skier coming through!" and you pray like crazy. Yeah, well that's how I am feeling about our family. This is out of control.

You might ask, "Well, why did you have so many children?" Good question! What I want to know is why Heavenly Father didn't stop me when I got married and say something like, "Now, Khristine, you weren't raised in the church and you were the baby, so you better just take it slow. Let's keep you on the bunny hill for a while. Let the gals who helped raised all their younger siblings have the fast and furious big families. Let's not overdo it." But no, He sends us twins right off the bat, and there I am, with no idea what I am doing, on the blue diamond hill to start. Then He lets us hop on the lift and head right up to the black diamond course without so much as a warning, "You might not want to do that!"

The problem is that we sure love all these children. Who would we do without? If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change one thing. Maybe I am just a glutton for punishment. So what is there to do? I guess I am going to have to pray my way all the way down to the bottom of the hill!