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

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Twenty-five Thousand Days

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We each get about twenty five thousand mornings, twenty five thousand nights, twenty five thousand days–in a life time; how many of those mornings are we mindful of how few we have? Twenty-five thousand may seem like a lot, but in reality those twenty-five thousand mornings slip by so fast. If you do not grip them tight, they will slip through your fingers like light and water. Once they are gone, they are gone, and can never be reclaimed.

Of those twenty-five thousand mornings, only a few hundred are filled with the smile of a waking child still young enough to climb in your bed in the middle of the night. The nights spent rocking with a child who wants to sit on your lap are so few, and soon gone. Before you know it, those precious mornings are over, and they can never be relived. We spend so many nights and so many days struggling to accumulate the worldly wealth to buy the detritus that we have been told we need to be happy. Of the twenty-five thousand days we get, how many are spent cleaning up the spills, and the messes of a child? So few that in the grand-scheme, in the course of a life, they will account for nothing. When your child spills yogurt on the rug, how few of those hours does it take to clean, or even replace it? When your twenty five thousand mornings are coming to an end, it is a sure bet that you would give anything for a few more of those days that you complain about now. When your precious little princess is gone, and has children of her own, you will look back with longing for the days that you sat up late with a crying child, when you had to bathe her twice in the same day, or when she painted her sister with chocolate. The days spent earning the money to have the stuff you think you need will seem like days that were wasted. The mornings spent with a child, reading a book, telling a story, playing a game, will seem like heaven on earth.

You have twenty five thousand days, more or less, make them count, use them well, waste them not.

Honoring Mothers by Choice

In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that I am not a mother. And I can never be a mother. I am a man. But I have been blessed through the great mothers I have known in my life. And I value motherhood and I am not ashamed.

In order to understand the rest of this post, you will need to watch this video (It is just over seven minutes long and has subtitles, but it is well worth watching and reading):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPtOm9UXfnU

A mother by choice

I saw this video earlier tonight and it has been haunting me ever since. I understand that it is part of an advertising campaign for Walcoal Thailand. And, I know that Walcoal is an Asian company that makes underwear. So, all evening I have been obsessing over an elaborate commercial for woman’s underwear. I know that sounds terrible, but it really is a great commercial, and it has made me think of mothers, motherhood, and the greatness that is inherent in the calling of mother.

I am a man of faith. I have not always been, but as I grow older, my faith grows deeper. Faith is the lens through which I view the world, and faith informs my thoughts and opinions. I do not apologize for that. It is who I am and who I will always be. But, let us be clear, I view mothers and motherhood through the lens of faith, and that shows me the greatness of this sacred calling. I know the value God places on mothers, and I know the great trust He places in them and their ability to care for His children.

But, anything that can be used for great good, can also be used for great evil. We live in a society that devalues mothers. Motherhood is mocked and derided. We live in a culture where those who should defend women who choose motherhood, instead write articles about how they scorn them. The amazing contribution that mothers make to society is belittled. The sacred nature of motherhood is corrupted, and mothers kill their children before they are born or abandon them after they become inconvenient. Either way, the world scorns motherhood, and too many women believe the lies they are fed.
In far too many ways, the world devalues all women, and children, and girls. And that is where this commercial comes in. Because, whether we recognize it or not, not all mothers ever bear children. And not all women who bear children should ever be honored with the sacred title of Mother. A mother is not just someone who gave birth to a child. A mother is a woman, any woman, who chooses to accept the role that God intended for her. A mother is someone who accepts God’s plan for her. A mother is someone who truly cares for one of God’s children entrusted to her care. A mother is someone who recognizes the value of that child-a son or daughter of a Heavenly Father. A mother is someone who willingly gives more of herself than she asks for in return. A mother is someone who willingly sacrifices her needs for the needs of her child. A mother is someone who gives love unconditionally. And in return, she is loved, unconditionally.

And that is a beautiful thing.

So, tonight, I honor all those great women who are mothers by choice but not biology.

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.”

We are doing God’s work

 

 

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Today I had a conversation with a friend and we began discussing our Valentine’s Day plans. We were discussing how we both hadbought the “cheapo” valenties and (insert gasp here) not even logged into our Pinterest account to make the latest and greatest Valentines, to make our children the “envy” of the class. And for a second, I really felt bad I hadn’t done more. But as quick as the thought popped in my head another soon followed. I was reminded of the Mormon Message, Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership. I went to the computer and pulled it up. Its an excerpt form a talk given by Elder Jefferey R. Hollad (An LDS Apostle) that he gave in April General Conference 1997, it reads:

“One young mother wrote to me recently that her anxiety tended to come on three fronts. One was that whenever she heard talks on LDS motherhood, she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task. Secondly, she felt like the world expected her to teach her children reading, writing, interior design, Latin, calculus, and the Internet—all before the baby said something terribly ordinary, like “goo goo.” Thirdly, she often felt people were sometimes patronizing, almost always without meaning to be, because the advice she got or even the compliments she received seemed to reflect nothing of the mental investment, the spiritual and emotional exertion, the long-night, long-day, stretched-to-the-limit demands that sometimes are required in trying to be and wanting to be the mother God hopes she will be.

But one thing, she said, keeps her going: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him.”

I think we can all agree that we have had these same feelings of doubt and inadequacy from time to time. And now even more so in the age that is SOCIAL MEDIA, motherhood has been put on center stage. With a click of a mouse we can proclaim that we are “perfect” mothers.

Social media in certain circumstances can be great. This blog and others like it that lift others are great. But if it is something that stirs up those feelings of  inadequacy, abandon it. Or if your inadequacies’ come from something totally different, whatever it may be abandon them and run as fast as you can away from them.  Be reminded of what Elder Holland said, WE ARE DOING GOD’S WORK.  We have been entrusted with some of God’s most choicest spirits at a time when our world is spiraling out of control. Our children need US not the latest and greatest  Pinterest project that demands hours of our time. THEY NEED US.

Motherhood is GODS WORK. I know it. I have felt it. I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father sent me here to Earth knowing fully that I could be a mother to HIS precious children. I have felt His love and support in those moments of inadequacy and in moments of joy. I challenge all you mothers out there to take a second and clear out all of those feelings of doubt and leave them behind and start new. Start being a Mother knowing that what you are doing is HIS work.

Writing Our Truth

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Editorial note: I know this post is long, but I hope you will keep reading to the end, because I feel it is something important that needs to be said.

One piece of advice that writers hear over and over again is, “Write what you know!” Why is that? I used to assume it was because writing about familiar things made the writing more factually accurate, and that’s true, but there are a lot of best-selling books out there that are full of factual inaccuracies, and there are many, many classic novels which have touched the hearts of readers for generations with completely fictional and wildly fantastical settings and plots that writers can’t possibly know in a real sense. So what, then, does it really mean to “write what you know?”

The more I ponder the idea, the more I believe that it means that an effective writer is honest with his or her readers. Take C.S. Lewis, for example: Narnia was not a world he was familiar with in a real-life-experience sense, but the character at the heart of his story, Aslan, was based on someone Lewis had studied diligently, and, through those studies, someone he had come to know very well. And it wasn’t just Aslan that was an honest depiction of something Lewis knew well; the story itself was based on a real-life struggle each of us faces daily, the internal struggle of choosing between right and wrong. Though the Narnia stories are set in a make-believe world, the truths that make up the core of Lewis’s writing have touched the hearts of his readers in a way that has helped many of them look at their real world through new eyes, and his writing has changed lives. Lewis was a Christian, and he wrote, honestly, without fear or hesitation, as a Christian about Christian ideas and even about Christ himself–that was the truth he knew well.

When I first started “I value motherhood, and I am not sorry,” I asked for the help of two of the most amazing women I know, and then I told them, in essence, “Don’t be too honest. We want to appeal to a wide audience. We don’t want to offend anyone or make them feel like outsiders. We want to be “multi-denominational.” But multi-denominational is not who we are, at least not yet anyway (Here I will insert my multi-denominational parenthetical pitch. If you’re not LDS, but feel you have something to add to our blog, please message us via Facebook or ivaluemotherhoodandiamnotsorry@gmail.com) Right now multi-denominational is not our truth.

Right now we are, all of us, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints; we’re “Mormons,” and not just “Sunday Mormons.” Between the three of us, we have been a bishop’s wife, a high priest group leader’s wife, an elder’s quorum president’s wife, a missionary’s mom–three times, a young women’s president–twice, a choir director, a Relief Society teacher, a Primary teacher, and on, and on, and on. If none of those things mean anything to you, that doesn’t matter, because those things don’t make us special, they are just an indication, or maybe an implication, that we’re trying really, really hard to live our religion. And each one of us strives to incorporate the teachings of our church into every aspect of our lives. Like I told Charity this morning, being LDS isn’t something that colors the surface of our lives, it defines us. I hope you will believe me when I tell you this, but if you can’t, I hope you’ll stick with us long enough to learn that: there is not a one of us who believes that any of this makes us better than anyone else.

Each one of us is flawed. Each one of us is broken or hurting or lost in one way or another. Each one of us has days when she feels like a failure. Each one of us sometimes struggles to live what she believes. Each one of us is a sinner, and so, each one of us knows she is in absolute need of infinite grace, and each one of us strives daily to draw nearer to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
And that truth brings me back around to my beginning–an effective writer writes what she knows, and that shines through in her writing and, hopefully, speaks to the hearts of her readers. Charity and Idelle have been wiser than I have; they have been honest with you from the beginning. I have tried to “scrub” my posts to make my writing appeal to all, and in so doing, I lost truth, and my writing lost heart. For that, I apologize, and I promise that in the future I will be honest with you, no matter what that makes you think of me.

If the fact that we are LDS makes you feel like you can’t possibly benefit from anything we have to say, that makes me sad, but it doesn’t change who we are–it doesn’t change our truth. If you, like I, feel that you can read the writings of Martin Luther, Francis of Asisi, Plato, Billy Graham, Pope John Paul II, Chaim Potok, and Mother Theresa and allow their truths to touch your heart even if you don’t believe in their religions, or even in much of what they write, then I hope that you will find that something we have to say will touch your heart or, perhaps, even change your life.But no matter what you choose, I hope that you will continue to value motherhood and act to honor the work women do in the home wherever you may be.