The World is Having a Tantrum; The World Needs a Hug

Sometimes I am amazed by the way current societal trends make their way into the hearts of people who should know better–people like me–and then society’s sickness infects our families, and then, because family is the core of civilization, that sickness becomes a permanent change in society.

And it’s worse than it used to be. “Society” used to imply localized cultures, trends, and mores, but more and more “society” has worldwide connotations. Societal “norms” have become worldwide standards of behavior.

Sadly, our standard of behavior is downright selfish!

Selfishness is a pandemic sickness that has made an insidious creep into our homes. If we are not careful, it will complete its cyclical course, and our families will set the standard for permanent worldwide societal change.

We see the selfishness in all its flagrant fury metastasized like a terminal cancer throughout the governments of the world.  Leaders don’t want to lead, they want to rule. Law-makers don’t want to protect rights, they want to control rights. Public servants don’t want to serve, they want to dominate. Men and women who have been entrusted with the responsibility of establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility have, shockingly, been acting more out of self-interest than public interest. But is it really that shocking? Or have they simply been acting like men and women outside of government?

For as long as I can remember, men and women have been clamoring for self-fulfillment. Women expect men to treat them special, but not in the way that kindles affection and builds families. They expect men to be subservient and treat women not as equals, but as superiors. And, since chivalry is clearly dead, men expect to be free of responsibility and honor and free to treat women as “special” tools to be used for base desires. It’s an equality of selfishness.

But it’s a selfishness that is NOT without place in our homes. In fact, our families have sopped up society’s selfishness like a sponge.

Parents see children as possessions that can be cast aside or destroyed when inconvenient. Mothers view embryonic children as invaders of their bodies and proclaim that it is their choice whether that invader should live or die. They are without the natural affection that motivates a woman to change her life in an effort to protect her unborn child.  Fathers feel free to abandon their seed once it’s planted instead of feeling responsible to nurture it and help it grow.  Once children are born they are often regarded as burdens to be borne, and they are dragged along through every cesspool and mire their parents desire to explore. Or they are seen as trophies to be paraded about or displayed in a glass case like spectacular creatures in a menagerie.

Children are not untouched by the cancer of selfishness. They see parents as the dispensers of wants and wishes, and they are ungrateful when their wants are supplied. They make demands and feel abused when those demands are not met. They do not speak with respect when addressing their parents, nor do they listen to and heed their parents’ counsel.

All around us disrespect and disinterest abound and selfishness rages like wild fury through our hearts. There are some who fight it, and even some who have conquered it, but none of us are unaffected.

It started in the era of Civil Rights and “free love,” or maybe all the burning dope caught the wind and spread the selfishness like a wild fire. It worked the way insidiousness always works; it took something good and necessary and intermingled it with something destructive. Civil Rights was the good and necessary part. All of God’s children, regardless of race, creed, or socio-economic standing, are of equal worth in the eyes of God, and should be in the eyes of mankind as well. It was necessary for brave men and women to fight for political recognition of equal worth. But that fight for freedom from unjust oppression somehow morphed into a fight for freedom from responsibility. “Free love” wasn’t about love at all, and it certainly wasn’t free. It was about changing a culture of traditional family values into a culture of self-fulfillment, and the cost so far has been exponential because the degree of selfishness has been exponential. The parents taught the children, by example,  to be selfish, and as children usually do, the children “improved” upon the methods of the parents and taught their children to be even more selfish than themselves.

So what is the solution? What is the retardant for the flames, the antidote to the poison, the cure to the disease of selfishness? It is love.

The definition, as given by Jeff A. Benner, of the ancient Hebrew verb that is translated as the English verb “love” is “to provide and protect what is given as a privileged gift.” Love, to the ancient Hebrews, was not an abstract idea or feeling, it was “an intimacy of action and emotion.” That is the love that will cure what ails society-a love that doesn’t just sit and feel warm in our hearts, but that moves us to act in the best interest of others, and it MUST BEGIN IN OUR FAMILIES.

One of the most difficult things I have had to do as a mother is to push away my own hurt, quiet my own pride, and tenderly, lovingly hold a raging child in my arms. It is incredibly difficult to affectionately embrace someone who is hitting, biting, and screaming hateful words, but it is the only sure way I’ve found of putting a peaceful end to a tantrum. And I believe it is the only way to break the cycle of selfishness that is raging in ever-increasing destructiveness throughout society.

The ancient Hebrews saw love as “an intimacy of action and emotion.” They also saw a mother as “the one who binds the family together.” If we bind the family together, and the family is the heart of the world, then we hold the world in our hands. Right now the world is having a raging tantrum of selfishness, and it is time for us, as mothers, to give the world a hug and hold on until the tantrum stops. The world will kick us, hit us, and call us names. It will hate us, call us worthless, and try to destroy us. We must continue to hold on until our children know that we truly love them. We must continue to hold on until our children share love and selflessness with the world, and until that selflessness becomes the new societal trend. We can change the world one child at a time. It can–it MUST–begin with us.

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Being Brave Enough to Choose Love

Elanor from Disney’s Brave

 

If I am emotionally compromised in any way, the Disney movie Brave will turn me into a sobbing mess. There’s something about the animation of the turbulent mother/daughter relationship that gets right to my heart.

Why is it that daughters tend to fight so hard against the “control” of their mothers? And why do mothers allow their need to nurture and protect their daughters to morph into an absurd power struggle? I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do know from personal experience that far too often my daughters’ teen years have, at times, devolved into a contest of wills instead of the time of golden opportunity they should be. The solution to the heart-wrenching problem is not easy, but it is simple. Love.

Love is the root of many of my conflicts with my daughters. Because I love them, I want them to make the choices that will bring good things into their lives. But far too often when I want to see them accomplish something, I drag them along like a steam engine, jerking through the twists and dragging  up the inclines. What I ought to do is act more like an aerotow for a glider–lifting them to great heights and then letting them glide through their own flight. Love is the root emotion behind the panic when I see them falling, but what is too often expressed is the screaming anger my panic inspires. If I could realize and remember the deep love behind the panic, it might be a little easier to have the wisdom necessary to guide them as I should.

As a daughter, I often feel the need to break the proverbial apron strings and manage my own hearth and home. I misinterpret concern as meddling and advice as manipulation. If I can open my heart to the love my mother feels for me when she tries to guide me along and embrace that love instead of fighting against it, perhaps I can resist building the walls that close me off from all I still have to learn from the woman who loves me in a way no one else knows how to love me.

I watched Brave again last night with my youngest daughter. She and I have not yet entered the turbulent mother-with-a-teen-aged-daughter years. We didn’t start out the movie watching it “together.” She sat on one side of the room and I on the other. But in the pivotal final moments of the movie when I began to weep as I so often do, my “baby girl” (who is almost eight) closed the distance between us, wrapped her arms around me, and just held me. When I echoed Elanor’s movements and covered my daughter’s face with kisses, she giggled and held me closer. It was a moment of blissful emotion-filled joy unencumbered with unnecessary struggle. I hope and pray I will be wise enough to hold that memory in my heart and mind so that I will choose golden opportunity over a contest of wills, so that I will remember the love at the root of the panic, so that I will lift her up and then watch her soar.

Thoughts about Prom

 

Tonight is Prom night–a night that fills some mothers’ hearts with worry, fear, even dread, and if it doesn’t, it probably should. But my heart is filled with different emotions, positive emotions. My heart is filled with happiness, joy, peace, and most of all gratitude.

I have absolutely stunning twin daughters who are members of an elite high school drill team. They have an outward appearance that can, and sometimes does, attract a great deal of unwanted attention. But they are beautiful girls whose beauty doesn’t stop at their appearance; it radiates from the inside out. Because they are lovely at heart, they have beautiful goals and dreams, and they want to fill their lives with virtuous things. That alone would be enough to fill my heart with all the positive emotions I listed, and more, but I have even more to be grateful for.

My beautiful daughters are growing up in a world that is, in far too many respects, ugly. Sin and debauchery is no longer shunned, but, rather, embraced and even celebrated. Young girls are encouraged to flaunt their physical beauty by being more enticing and alluring than truly beautiful. This is especially true on Prom night. My daughters have happily chosen beauty over sexiness. They paid a talented seamstress who shares their values to alter their dresses for the sake of modesty. They chose to reveal less of their bodies and more of their character. They chose to help their dates focus on their eyes and their personalities. They chose to allow everyone to be a little bit more comfortable in their presence.

These wonderful choices and characteristics of my daughters have brought about another reason for me to feel gratitude today; the choices they have made so far in their lives have caught the attention of some very amazing young men, and today I am also grateful for them.

These young men have also chosen to fill their lives with good and virtuous things. They are involved in scouting and youth leadership training. They work hard at their jobs and have set meaningful goals for their future.  They are dedicated to their church, and they love their Father in Heaven and their Savior enough to act in their behalf by serving their fellow men. These choices and character traits have made them the kind of young men who treat my daughters with respect–treat them like the daughters of God they are. They are the kind of young men who will not take my daughters anywhere I don’t want my daughters to be, because these young men don’t want to be in those places, let alone take someone else there. They are the kind of young men who not only honor their parents by being obedient, but also honor their parents by doing things that bring honor to them.

I am also thankful for the parents of these young men. I am thankful that they have set rules and expectations for their sons that not only protect their sons, but also protect my daughters. I am thankful that these parents, themselves, have chosen to live virtuous lives and set good examples for their wonderful sons to follow.

All of these things fill my heart with gratitude and peace, because I am a mother, and I love my daughters. I want them to be safe. I want them to be treated with respect and dignity. I want them to act respectable and dignified. Their choices, and the choices of the young men they date, have made my desires for them very likely to be realized. This gives me peace. This gives me joy. This makes me grateful. But I am also happy.

I am happy because I know that they will not sit around reading scriptures all night. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when they read scriptures. I expect them to read scriptures, and they do. But there is a time and a place for that. Tonight (and today during their day-date) they will all laugh and joke and play. They will talk about silly things. They will have an abundance of good, wholesome fun. They will fill their hearts with wonderful memories to look back on and smile about when life gets difficult, because life will get difficult. But tonight they will set aside difficulties, work, stress, and hardship. Tonight is a night for building happy memories.

I love being a mother. I especially love being a mother to wonderful children who make choices that fill their lives with goodness and allow me to have days, like today, when I can bask in warm feelings of happiness, peace, joy, and gratitude.

Words of Love Have Great Power

Image found at motivequote.net

Some days I wonder if I make a difference in the lives of my children. I often feel like more of a lecturer/nag/maid than a role model or someone they trust and cherish, but every once in a while I hear tender words that tell me I really do make a difference in their lives.

A few weeks back I received six sentences in an e-mail from a son who’s been serving an LDS mission for 15 months:
“Thanks so much for being my mother. You are a great woman, and I am thankful for everything you have done for me! You have helped me learn so much and taught me more than you know. (I’m sure that you’re crying now. Stop crying. I love you!)”
It’s kind of cute how well he knows me, and that he thought to tell me to stop crying,  but his words of foresight didn’t stop the tears, then or now. I still cry every time I read his message.

How can the same six simple sentences so consistently move me to tears? The words themselves aren’t especially emotionally charged. I’m sure most people who read them don’t cry. So, why do they make me cry? Probably because I love my children like I’ve never loved anyone else. I devote my life to them, and I don’t regret the sacrifice. My greatest desire as a mother is to have my love and service give them the courage, strength, wisdom, belief–all that they need–to realize their full potential and to live lives filled with true joy. When I hear or see something that helps me understand that my greatest desire as a mother is being realized, even in a small way, it fills my heart with joy and the hope that I can continue to give my children good gifts.

Reflecting on these thoughts today has turned my thoughts in another direction as well. I wonder how many times important words go unsaid–how many times important feelings go unexpressed. Marion C. Garretty said, “Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.” Is it? How can it be if it is never expressed in a way that it can be heard and deeply felt? And if it is the fuel that has enabled a normal human being to do the impossible, does his or her mother know her love has had such power? How can she if she has never been told?

I hope that we will all try to remember that though we desperately need to hear the words of love our hearts are hungering for, we also desperately need to express the important loving words in our hearts.
If your mother needs to hear that she helped you accomplish the impossible, tell her. If your children are running low on the fuel of belief and encouragement you have to offer, fill them up with pure unconditional love.
There is unimaginable power in love! Use your power for good today.

 

Are You Beautiful?

Are you beautiful?

Do you have perfectly shaped eyes with thick, full lashes? Is the color of your irises rich and deep? Do you have a perfectly shaped face and a clear complexion? Are your lips deep red and full? Do you have a perfect body shape with great muscle tone and definition, free of cellulite, bulges, and blemishes? Are your hands and feet perfectly manicured?

If you have all of that, or can afford to purchase it, then you are fortunate. You will have the ability to attract a great deal of attention and praise, and the world will never mock you for your physical imperfections. But, you are not necessarily beautiful. And, any or all of that can become disfigured, marred, scarred, bruised, or broken–gone in an instant.

Do your eyes sparkle with joy or shine with love? Do your ears hear the quiet pleas of children and the real need behind their whining? Does your mouth speak soft, kind words even in times of distress or anger? Do your arms steady the elderly as they struggle to walk, or embrace lonely, weary, broken souls? Do your hands prepare meals for the hungry or healing for the injured? Is your touch gentle and patient? Do your legs run to the aid or defense of the wounded or the weak?

If you do these things, you have the kind of beauty that lasts, can not be purchased, and can not be taken by time or circumstance. Your beauty is the kind that can reflect outward and fill the world with beauty. It can radiate from you and penetrate even the bleakest, blackest darkness. Your beauty will nourish and strengthen and heal. And it will be remembered forever.

Isaiah 53:2 says of the Savior, “he hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” But when we see him, if our hearts are right, we will not see anything that might be lacking in His physical appearance. We will see the love in His eyes and the compassion in His voice. We will see the service and sacrifice symbolized by the scars in His hands and feet. We will feel the warmth of His embrace. We will delight in His companionship as He walks beside us. We will remember Him, not for his outward appearance, but for the way He makes us feel, and we will recognize beauty beyond compare.

Are you beautiful?

Our Exemplar, Jesus Christ                                                                                             Image found at http://www.lds.org

Who do you want to be?

Triathlon legs

Twenty months ago I competed in my first (and at this point my only) sprint distance triathlon. I had several reasons for doing it, some of them silly, some of them reasonable and even touching, and maybe someday I’ll share some of that with you. Today I’m more interested in the significance of the other side of the thought process behind choosing to do a triathlon–the reasons that didn’t influence my decision.

didn’t do it because I’m naturally gifted at sports, or because I’m a fitness enthusiast.  I’m not exactly a couch potato by nature. I enjoy being active because I like the way it makes me feel, and the way it makes me feel about how I look, and the way it makes me feel about how I feel (again, a discussion for another time). But, I don’t live and breathe exercise. I regularly fall into the slump of inactivity. I never had “Olympic potential.” I had to work, hard, to be able to swim even one lap when I first started swimming. Biking was unreasonably painful until I built up my quad muscles and figured out proper seat placement. I couldn’t run the full three miles without taking walking breaks until about three weeks before the event.

I didn’t do it because I get a “rush” from swimming, biking, and running. I did love swimming by the time I started training for a triathlon, because I had already been through the hard work it took to learn to love swimming, but, when I started training, I loathed biking and running. There were days when I didn’t want to run, but ran anyway, even if was only one mile instead of three and I walked half the time. There were days when my butt hurt so bad from biking that I literally cried when I got on the seat, but I rode anyway.  And I kept on running and biking, even though I didn’t want to and even though it hurt, until I got to the point where I stopped not wanting to and I stopped hurting. I will never love running. I will probably never love biking. I will never choose to run a marathon or ride a century. But through the process of training I learned to enjoy both activities, and, more importantly, I learned that even when I don’t enjoy it, I can do it anyway when getting through it means accomplishing something greater.

I didn’t do it because I wanted to prove how awesome I am, or because I didn’t love myself before I completed a triathlon. I am and always  have been comfortable with myself as a non-athlete. I get that I’m “good enough” without competing in endurance sports. Running a triathlon doesn’t make me think that other people are going to think I’m cool. I’m totally comfortable in my nerd skin, and, honestly, I don’t care if people, in general, think I’m cool, or hot, or sweet, or sick, or whatever the popular term for being socially acceptable is.

But for every reason I didn’t compete in a triathlon I gained a dozen reasons why competing in a triathlon was good for me, and none of them had to do with physical fitness or appearance.

The most important thing I learned was that God cares about what I’m doing because He cares about me. He wanted me to finish a triathlon, not because of the triathlon itself, but because I wanted to finish a triathlon, and He knew that I could benefit from it. And because He cared, he helped me reach my goal. He provided me with the blessings I needed to accomplish the goals I set for myself. He was there with me in the calming voice of my teenage lifeguard son the first time I swam in open water. He was there in the quiet voice inside my head that told me I could run for one more minute before I took a walking break. He was there in the leg-shaking transitions between biking and running and in the nearly irrepressible urge to sit down and sob when I crossed the finish line. Finishing a triathlon taught me about God’s love for me.

It also taught me that I can do hard things.

I can do hard things if I tackle them one day, one hour, one minute, one circumstance at a time. I didn’t get up on the morning of the big event and go out and finish the race. I couldn’t have finished it that way, and a little voice inside my head tells me I might have died (If you’ve ever swam more than a few hundred feet in open water water or ridden a road bike in hilly Eastern Utah, you might know what I mean).

I can do hard things if I keep going even when I don’t want to. Like I said, I didn’t love the entire experience. I had a lot of hard days. I had to train through sickness, pain, and apathy, but I kept going even when I didn’t want to.

I can do hard things if I can keep things in perspective. I didn’t win the triathlon. I think I was second-to-last in my age division, and probably in the last twenty of the entire sprint. I didn’t win, but I finished, I accomplished my goals, and I gained and grew, in many ways, from the experience.

So what does all of this have to do with valuing and honoring motherhood???

So many times I look at myself as a mother and think, “I’ll never be a good homemaker,” or “I’ll never be good at doing my daughter’s hair,” or “I’m just not a patient mother,” “I’m not organized,” “I yell too much…” A hundred times a day I tell myself all about all of the things I’m not being, doing, or succeeding at as a mother. And then I stop there and tell myself it’s okay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for loving ourselves the way we are, but I think that far to often we give ourselves a pass and give up on becoming who we want to be by using the excuses of self-love, self-esteem, and self-acceptance. I never could have finished a triathlon if I told myself, “I’m not a natural athlete and that’s okay. I need to love myself for who I am.” My world wouldn’t have stopped revolving if I hadn’t finished a triathlon, but I would have missed out on a lot of valuable lessons if I hadn’t done it, including the lessons about God’s love for me. And, even though the triathlon in and of itself wasn’t important, I believe I am a better person for having overcome what seemed impossible.

Mothering is important. Being a little better at it each day is vital to our own well-being and the well-being of our children. I won’t get into the dangers of the societal view that we can’t overcome our natures and we don’t need to control our animal urges, that too is a discussion for another time. I will say, without apology, that it’s absolutely not okay to stay indefinitely the way we are and love ourselves that way. It is not okay to stagnate in any aspect of life and tell ourselves, “I am the way I am. That is my nature. I need to love myself the way I am…” That attitude isn’t any more healthy or right than telling ourselves we are nothing and hating ourselves for all that we are not.

Who do you want to be as a parent? As a spouse? Do you want to be more loving, more tolerant, more patient? A better nurturer, a better listener, a better cook? More organized, more efficient, more knowledgeable? Then be that. Don’t expect to be that today, or tomorrow, or next week. Study it. Work at it. Train for it. Expect one more ounce of patience than you had an hour ago. Fix a meal that was a little bit better than yesterday’s. Listen with your whole heart for this one story, even if you don’t want to. Whatever it is that you want to be, train for it and then finish it. Become it. Do it one event, one quality, one character trait, one accomplishment at a time. You don’t have to–you shouldn’t–accept yourself as less than you you can and should be. Becoming better doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself the way you are, it means that you love yourself enough to be better than you are now. Don’t accept less than your best self. Do what is right, not what is easy.

You can, I can, be the person we each want to be. Now, go get your “running shoes” on!!!

Pathetic

In my last post I promised you that I would be honest with you, no matter what that made you think of me. Today I created a new category for our blog: “Too Much Honesty.” I did that because there is honesty, and then there is honesty–the kind that leaves you wondering if you would have been better off to not read it. I’m afraid today’s post might be one of those.

I have been struggling lately with the kind of stuff most moms struggle with at one point or another, and most of us struggle with it often and a lot. I have been feeling under-valued and even unloved. It started over a week ago, and I’ve been trying to push those thoughts away and just keep on keeping on, but then I got sick, and I never do well when I’m not feeling well. So last week I was down, but this week I am pathetic! And when you’re pathetic every negative thing feeds your patheticness, and every positive thing seems to blow away with the wind. And then you wallow in your patheticness until something drags you out of your cesspool. Because I know you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for it, let me explain:

I am sick. Did I say that already??? Well, I am. I feel like crap, in fact. My head hurts, my ears hurt, my throat hurts, my eyes hurt, and yesterday I coughed until I threw up. I want to sleep. A lot. For a long time. But I am a mom, and moms don’t usually get that option when they are sick, so instead I do what moms do…you know, mom stuff, or, as my husband would say, ridiculous stuff, like getting up at 6 a.m. to taxi around seventeen-year-old girls who haven’t gotten around to getting their driver’s licenses yet but absolutely have to be somewhere at 6 a.m and can’t ask someone who’s going to the same somewhere and has to drive right past our house for a ride because that would be “awkward.”  And then getting up out of my warm bed a few hours later, wrapping up in several layers because I’m freezing, and going back to said somewhere to retrieve said daughters and a friend, because of course I feel good enough to drive someone else to their house too. not. but it’s irrelevant, because I am Mom, and Mom is always just there to do whatever we need her to do whenever we need her to do it and it doesn’t really matter how she feels. And so I go and do “mom stuff” even though I feel like crap. And that makes me feel more like crap–pathetic, like I said. 

But I also mentioned something about cesspools and dragging and all that, and, as is usually the case, it was the doing of the “mom stuff” that was both the way into pathetic and the way out of the cesspool. I, like Charity, am the mother of an LDS missionary, and one of the most difficult things about being a missionary mom is that you only have one shot a week at communication with your child. Today is my one shot this week, so when I got home I didn’t go straight to bed like I wanted to, I sat down to write my son an e-mail. Elder “Orpheus” is perennially happy, or at least pretends to be, but he seemed to be struggling with some things last week, and I didn’t want to drag him down, so I prayed for help with my e-mail, and I believe that Heavenly Father directed me to  Ephesians 3 so that I could write to my son about the love of the Savior and His ability to strengthen us in our tribulations, especially when we are doing His work. And, as I was writing to my son, trying to lift and encourage him, I realized that God was using my own words along with His to lift and encourage me, because he wants me to succeed in my work as a mother as much as he wants my son to succeed in his work as a missionary. We are both trying, and sometimes falling, failing, and struggling, to share God’s love with His children. We are both trying to help people find their way back to their Creator. And He is as eager to help me do His work as He is to help my son do His work. We just need to trust in “him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” and allow Christ to dwell in our hearts.

Now, if I’m true to my promise of honesty, I can’t tell you that I am no longer feeling pathetic. I still feel like crap, and I’m still annoyed that my kids don’t seem to recognize that fact, but I know that my Heavenly Father is not oblivious to my misery. He is aware of me. He loves me. He wants to help me. He expects me to choose love, to choose joy, to choose Him, even when I am feeling worn and broken and pathetic, and when I drag myself out of my cesspool He will be there waiting to help me be the best mom I can be.

**********UPDATE**********

Elder Orpheus’s reply to my e-mail was short, because missionaries hardly ever have a lot of time to e-mail, but I haven’t stopped crying since I read it. I’ll share the last line with you, because it is incalculably relevant, and because it made me feel a whole lot less pathetic. He said, “I love you! Keep up the good work. You are awesome. You are raising good kids.”