Friday, May 28, 2010

"And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly"

The recent realization that I pray more when I have migraines sort of left me feeling frustrated with myself. "I don't want to have to be compelled to be humble! Why can't I figure it out without being in pain?"

Nevertheless, true to form, in my post-more-intense-than-usual-migraine state, Saturday night I prayed harder than I have for a while. Hubby was out of town. I was feeling alone and weary, and frankly, quite scared about how bad my headaches and dizziness have been. Recent doctor's appointments have left me feeling nervous about other things as well.

And so, I lay on the couch and sobbed, pouring my heart out to God. When I woke up Sunday, I considered staying in bed. After all, I think health-wise I had a legitimate reason to do so. And it's hard for me to go when I feel so spent, so weary. I just want to curl up into a ball and pull into my shell.

But I really was feeling well enough to go. And I know I need church. I need the consistency. My children need to see me go. And going to church is one way I seek to show God that I'm not going to give up (even though sometimes I think I can't keep going). I made a decision long ago that I would just always go to church as part of keeping my covenants. Church is often a place, too, where I find peace, solace, and inspiration. And I really do love to worship with my brothers and sisters; we have a fantastic ward family.

I dragged my weary self out of bed and went.

True to form, God gave me help.**

I'll write about other insights another time, perhaps, but here I want to share just one. During the sacrament, I opened up my General Conference Ensign, hoping for some insights. I scanned the table of contents, looking for a talk that might catch my eye.

This one did: All Things Work Together for Good (need I say that that is from one of my favorite scriptures, Romans 8:28?)

As I read the talk, this paragraph in particular stood out:

[W]hen we face our challenges, we must seek greater help from God. Even the Savior of us all found a need to pray “more earnestly” as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.5 We can learn to gain great faith if we do this. We must remember that often the answers from our Heavenly Father do not remove the trial from us, but instead He helps strengthen us as we pass through the experience. As He did for the followers of Alma, the Lord can “ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs.” [Mosiah 24:14, another favorite scripture of mine.] In our trials, let us not become bitter or uncommitted, but let us follow the Savior’s example of becoming more earnest, more sincere, and more faithful.

Suddenly, I wasn't berating myself for praying harder when I'm in pain. Even the Savior, the perfect Son of God, did just that!

I will be honest. I am having a really hard time right now not wanting my pain to just be removed. I'm. so. tired. Weary. Wanting to feel better. Wondering when and if physical healing will ever come.

Again, I am reminded, though, that sometimes our cups do not pass, but we can be given strength. And I take comfort and ponder truths from the Savior's experience in Gethsemane.

Even the Savior of the World was "sore amazed" (even "very heavy") when the time came to drink of His bitter cup!

Even He wanted His bitter cup to pass!

Even He "prayed more earnestly" in His time of agony.

And even He needed and received strength beyond His own to bear His pain.

I realize tonight that it was a physician, Luke, who recorded many of these details that have brought a measure of healing to my soul this week, reminding me of the power of looking to the Great Physician for help in facing my health struggles.

Much for me to ponder and remember....

**As a postscript, I will add that answers don't always come that quickly, so if you happen to be still waiting for answers, don't give up, ok?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

End of School Reflections (Ramblings?): Motherhood, Growth, the Atonement....

I really can't believe it's the end of another school year.

I measure my kids' growth not by birthdays, but by their progression in school, so this time of year is always a bittersweet time for me. I am so proud of them and the people they are becoming. By the end of the year, I'm so ready for them to be home and to have a break from the routine of homework and all.

But it's also a time when I come face-to-face with how fast they are growing. It's so cliché, that phrase, "They grow up so fast." But it's so. true.

Sometimes the reality of that cliché nearly takes my breath away. Sometimes it comes close to making me sick to my stomach, actually.

My children are close in age (all born within three years of each other). I love it. They are such good friends. Since we haven't been able to have more children due to my health, I try to just enjoy the unique fact that our children are all pretty close to the same stage of life, so that makes family activities really fun.

But guess what else it means? The empty nest thing will not be gradual. Even as I can't wait to see how they will continue in their path to becoming their own people (it's so fun watching them grow!), another part of me wants to scream: STOP! Slow down!

Each year, I think I savor, value, appreciate, understand motherhood more. While I know I still have lots of room to grow, I have been doing this long enough to see that there has been progress in my personal journey. I get it more and more. I'm less and less threatened by talks about the ideals surrounding motherhood, because I see that it's all a process, and the ideals are essential in the process. And anger at the ideals distract us from the real work and give the adversary power.

The Atonement works, people. It really does. And wow, if there is ever a place where the Atonement is needed, it's in the realm of parenthood. Growth is sometimes so imperceptible -- sometimes so much so that it makes me crazy -- but it is real. Grace is real. Walking by faith bears fruit.

Being a stay-at-home mom for me has been in large measure an act of faith. I am grateful I have the choice to do that, and realize not all women do have that choice. But you need to know that it's not necessarily been the natural choice for me.

But there is lots about seeking to be a follower of Christ that isn't natural. It's a process to learn to become like God. Just because we have a divine heritage and birthright, just because seeds of godliness are within us (and that is truth), doesn't mean that everything divine will come without effort and sacrifice. I think we sometimes forget that. I think women in particular forget that.

More and more, what motherhood means to me is finding more of the divine within me through obedience and sacrifice. No, better said, it's having God reveal more and more of the divine within me -- and in this role -- through His grace.

And every year, at the end of school, I get to reflect on all of that. It both pains me to realize how fast they are growing and how much I still need to grow, and also excites me to see how we are all growing up together.

I love being a mother.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Migraine Madness

Migraines make me feel a little crazy. Like maybe I'm going to lose it.

But I realized tonite that I tend to pray more when I have migraines, or at least think about praying.

It's pathetic, but true. 

I'm trying to be positive here. There has to be a silver lining in the pain, right?

Opening Up

I've had a migraine the past 24+ hours. A bad one. As in maybe the worst one I've ever had. I shouldn't even be at the computer, but I am glad I got on for a minute, if for no other reason than to read this.

My situation is different than this woman's, but I know the pain of needing to really talk to God and yet not doing it. I don't think I do it to punish God, but I know holding back hurts me. I'm reminded of my friend, Sue, who has taught me much about God's goodness and love, about being so honest with God -- no holding back.

But I still do.

I just can't quite figure out why, though. I think there is a part of me afraid to ask for anything, because I've sometimes been just so wrong about what I've wanted. I think sometimes I'm probably afraid of the answers, even though I know that fear isn't consistent with what I know of God. I know that some of it comes that sometimes whatever I would want to say is buried so deep in my soul that I can't find words. I know He hears those kinds of prayers, but I think sometimes I use that as a crutch.

There are so many times when I have opened up that I have had amazing experiences.

It's time for some soul work.

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings. ~Bible Dictionary, Prayer

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garage Sale = Miracles

It started off as a lousy day, really. I had a hard time falling asleep (above and beyond the usual -- I didn't drift off until the sun had awakened. Zonk.)

When I woke up a few hours later, I knew I couldn't help with the garage sale. I needed sleep...again above and beyond my usual needs; I was still dealing with the remnants of the icky sinus/bronchial infection I'd had. And so, for the second week in a row, I wasn't going to be there with my kids, helping with their fundraiser.

As usual, my husband was kind and supportive. "Don't you worry about it. You get back to sleep."

I woke up after the 2 p.m. finish time. I was curious to see how they did, so I went over to the neighbor's garage. (Oh, my neighbor. She's one of my living angels. Seriously. I'll need to write more about her sometime.)

My mind immediately started thinking about trying to sell some of the stuff on Craigslist or something. That futon would likely make someone happy -- I mean, it seemed to me to be a steal at $25.

And then I thought, "Hmmmmm. Maybe we could buy it." Wheels started turning.

Long story short, with the help of home teacher and a family friend, we miraculously got it down our bendy staircase. We put it in what had been a craft room for the kids and created a bedroom for #1. He is more than thrilled.

That means #2 and #3 also have their own bedrooms now, too.

(And so does dh. Due to my major sleeping and health issues and his major snoring issues, we don't sleep in the same space. Sad, but true. For the past several years, he's been sharing a room with #1. Now he's got his own space downstairs. He's by ds, so I can worry less. ds still has a parent close. And dh is pretty happy to have a place (old craft table now in the middle of the not-huge room) to spread out all his books. Which means they aren't on the kitchen table anymore. Ahem.) 

Anyway, I could never have imagined what this would do for our family and for my mothering, but I feel God knew. He knew what I needed and what they needed. (And He was so frugal about it, which makes me nearly giddy and, of course, deeply grateful.)

I feel He has helped compensate for things I cannot do very well as a mom, such as teaching them in focused ways how to clean and organize. I have felt much guilt about my weakness in this area, which is only compounded exponentially by the chronic illness issues which have plagued me for years. I can't fully capture here what it has felt like to watch my children suddenly have a stewardship, a place to order and organize and call their own, but it has been a spiritual thing to see something beyond myself happening. Divine intervention came in a wholly unexpected way, compensating for my mortal weakness in this role that matters so much (and where my weakness pains me so much).

Things just clicked. Without being able to anticipate this happening, each child now has a desk (I dare say homework has been more fun for them the past few days) and a CD player (one of those was also a garage sale find, one was a Christmas present from grandparents, one had already been in the girls' room). Should I confess that neither dh nor I knew that #1 loves classical music? He's been listening to it pretty much nonstop when in his room. He's never listened to it before. I have always hoped my children would resonate with uplifting music. Now they each have the means to do that in their own way, without having to answer to a sibling. (Having children so close together is such a blessing, but does have its challenges, and this has really helped with many of those. Just like that.)

Another tender mercy element of this that I'll capture here corresponds to recent inspiration (you know it's inspiration when it just works) to have #3 get herself to bed earlier than the other two (bedtime has been another challenge with three so close together). Now there is no need for #2 to tiptoe in or sleep on the floor in "the boys'" room.

And now, every night, my favorite ritual has even more meaning because it's truly one-on-one. I get to tuck them in and cuddle and chat in more personal ways, in their own little world. They are at an age where that personal space really means something, and being allowed in that space to help them end their day is sacred time to me.

As I stood in my kitchen eating a midnight snack tonite, I saw this on my pantry door, and it really says it all.

Believe it. Look for it. See it. And be amazed.

I sure am.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Musings (or soapbox, depending on how you look at it)

Mother's Day. It's arguably the most controversial, angst-filled, sometimes-even-anger-inducing days of the year in Mormondom. People ban church on this day. Numerous blog posts show up explaining why Mother's Day is so awful, or why church on this day is so difficult. Talks and programs and songs are mocked to assuage the pain. I watch year after year as people feel on pins and needles as they try not to offend. But year after year, people get offended.

Now let me say that I understand and sympathize (and even empathize) with some of the pain. I mean, there is perhaps nothing that brings more intense feelings than motherhood -- whether that means being a mother, or not being a mother and wanting to be, or not being a mother and secretly being relieved, or not having a good relationship with your mother, or not feeling like a good enough mother.

I don't know that there are any tears more shed than for reasons like the above.

And yet....

And yet!

There has to be more than this. I think there is something missing in this. (Remember, I've already warned you that I'm sorta in soapbox mode. And I write this knowing that not everyone is upset on Mother's Day (e.g., see here and here), so this is not a complete post about the topic.)

In my view, ultimately, whether that missing piece comes is not ultimately up to the speakers or the planners of Mother's Day programs or the writers of music or the gift givers or anyone else. It's not the bishop's fault or the culture's fault that Mother's Day is not perfect. It's not the leaders' fault that every talk given in General Conference doesn't suit every woman perfectly.

The peace we seek has to come from within us, as women -- and can only be found, I believe, as we really turn to Christ and let Him help us know what to do with all our imperfections and the imperfectness of our world.

Christ is the missing link in our pain. The Atonement is the balm we seek at these times. We come to these moments sometimes with such high expectations that no mortal will truly be able to fill them.

Nor should they.

The scriptures tell us that "All things must fail." I find that phrase interesting. Why must they fail? That could be interpreted as simply meaning that they will fail. But I take it to mean more. I think we have to come to grips with the fact that all things must fail so we can find that one thing that never faileth -- Christ's charity, evidenced through His Atonement. He is willing to help us.

But do we let Him? Really let Him?

I think too often we don't. We give way for the enemy of our soul by being angry about this or that talk, feeling depressed about this or that weakness, wanting this or that whatever to change around us in order for us not to be upset about this or that. The internet has made it easier to look for validation of these things from others, which often, imo, pushes His peace further and further away.

There is a continued insistence that the solution is 'out there' -- and as long as we think that, then we are really only there to be acted upon, to stay stuck in our misery. I'm not saying 'the culture' doesn't have ways to improve, but honestly, I think the best improvement to LDS culture would come not from better talks or most of the things people complain about, but from us all individually seeking more to follow Sister Beck's recent counsel about leaning hard on God and needing less validation from mortal sources.

I know from personal experience that this is much, MUCH easier said than done. But I feel strongly about it. I think we need to really trust more in the True Solution to our pain and insecurity. Let's stop insisting that the problem is 'out there.' It's not. Deep down, we know that God doesn't want us to be depressed and paralyzed by insecurity and weakness. That doesn't feel right, does it? So when those feelings come (which are different from God's invitations to repent) let's choose to let His light and hope in. When we hear something that hurts, rather than complain or criticize or curl up in a ball, let's learn to go to God and ask what He would have us do, now, given all our particulars. For many of us, this will take retraining from the usual knee-jerk reactions to things that touch on tender topics. The answers will be a little (or sometimes a lot) different for all of us. Let's do more of what Sister Beck counseled and seek personal revelation. And seek hard.

The power is in us to choose to let the Atonement Christ carry us over our valleys of sorrow and pain, and to find more peace in the journey, regardless of what goes on around us.

Even on Mother's Day.

p.s. See my other blog for how my day went. It was lovely.

Mother's Day

We woke up to the newness of all the rearranging we had done the night before. That will be a post for another day, but it was quite a day yesterday...a sort of fun springboard to a good day today, late night notwithstanding.

My family had set out their gifts on the table, and my daughter included the pipe cleaner flowers she had made a few days ago. I was touched that in all the craziness (and I'm talking CRAZINESS) of the day yesterday, he thought to get a couple of gifts...some favorites, including chocolate covered raisins (one of the few things these days that really tests my willpower) and a bookstore gift certificate. (I may like that even more than chocolate.)

Church was delightful. I have more thoughts on the many scriptural insights into motherhood, but that will be another post, too.

Then we had a great time gathering with my family. My brother-in-law found an email from four years ago where we shared some of our favorites -- and he made the dinner with something from each of the emails of the women there. The main course included a little something for everyone, and then he laid things in front of us as we ate (a grapefruit for my sister, chocolate for me). And then there was dessert (yes, more chocolate).  It was all delicious and a lot of fun.

We enjoyed watching the cousins play and just sitting around chatting about lots of things, from politics to books to old friends to the strangeness of getting older when you don't really feel older.

It was just a delightful day. How was your day?

p.s. I have more thoughts about Mother's Day, and yes, you guessed it, that's for another post. But this one has been written. (Whether that's good or bad is up to you to decide. Or not. There's are reasons I have two blogs, and one is that I know not everyone will want to read such things. And that's ok.)