27 September 2008

The Power of Example

I have a grandson who thinks he's a dog. An only child, he's almost a year old, and he has grown up in close association with a very friendly and protective family pet. Although he can walk several steps alone now, he prefers to crawl; and lately he has taken to carrying toys in his mouth as he scurries around on all fours--just like his older and bigger "brother" does.

Very soon, of course, he will realize that he is really not a dog, but a human like Mom and Dad. Once he is able to walk faster than he can crawl, he'll see that hands are better than his mouth for carrying toys. But meanwhile, he is a living example of how naturally little children learn by example.

I'm around little children a lot, and I need to remember that the things I do and say, the way I deal with everyday crises and triumphs, even the expressions on my face that show how I react to things--all these are examples that can help those little ones to grow into honest, compassionate, hard-working adults.

Just as my grandson will come to know that he is more like his earthly parents than like his dog, I pray he will come to realize he also has the divine potential to develop the attributes of his Heavenly Father.

The family dog can teach a boy a lot about having fun, loyalty, obedience, and affection. But it will be the good example of the humans around him that will truly help him see who he really is, and what he can become.

25 September 2008

Plumbing the Depths without Languishing in the Dumps

(Note: I have never suffered from clinical depression, so in this post I am referring only to my experience with emotions. I recognize that my case may not be typical.)

Mulling & Musing has written a beautiful post on motherhood at her blog, entitled Digging Deep. It set me to thinking about how and why I had grown and changed for the better over the last 41 years since we had our first child.

My memories of being a stay-at-home-mother of six were sharpened earlier this summer, when I received a packet of about 40 letters I had written over a period several years to my sister-in-law, telling of our daily life when the children were growing up. As I read about some of the incredibly demanding times in my life, I recalled how much I had to learn to rely on the Lord to bring me through the tough times.

I could also remember how much I loved being a mother of my children at their different stages of life; and how much joy came into my life--and still comes into my life--because those six amazing spirits had been lent to my husband and me by the Lord. I can't imagine any other career that would have given me the breadth and depth of intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience that I have been privileged to have as a wife and mother.

Even though as LDS mothers we are bound to have feelings of inadequacy, and there are times when we aren't sure we can stand the pressure one more minute, we can know that if we are willing to have faith and trust in the Lord, there is a sure source of divine help that will never fail. Often, for me, the answers or solutions did not come immediately. But when I was willing to let go of my anger and/or anguish, the comfort and reassurance always came. The faith and trust part usually involved plumbing the depths of patience if I wanted to avoid remaining emotionally in the dumps.

My children are all grown now, and I try to treat them as equals--not demanding too much attention, and shying away from giving unasked-for advice. But I will always be their mother; and I continue to weep for their sorrows and rejoice at their happiness and success in life. My love for them only grows stronger, and I will always, always, care about how their lives are unfolding.

In her post, M & M quoted from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Because She Is a Mother” , given in the April 1997 General Conference. This is a favorite talk of mine, also, and I read that same quote to our Marriage and Family Relations Sunday School class recently because it is a key part of the lesson on the sacred role of mother.

I guess I must have cried a million tears over the years. But I have also laughed a lot more than I have cried. Fortunately, as time goes by, I find that I forget more and more of the sad times, and remember the happy times. As I have sorrowed over my mistakes as a wife and mother, I have tried to fully repent, and then allow the miracle of the Atonement to heal my broken heart. This is still an ongoing process for me, but I can see that I have made progress.

Whenever I am tempted to sink from sadness into despair because of my failures and shortcomings as a mother, I try to remember the sentiments expressed by Elder Holland in that same talk:
Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope." You are doing God's work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even--no, especially--when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master's garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, "Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole." And it will make your children whole as well.
That ultimate hope--that my children can be healed of any harm due to my thoughtless or unwise words or actions--sustains me when I wonder if I have contributed to the cause of any of their present sufferings.

Once again, M & M found the way to beautifully express the thoughts of my heart about why I have been, and still am, immensely grateful to be a mother:
. . . I am doing this motherhood thing -- giving so much of my life and self and time and energy -- not just because the children need me (which they do, imperfect as I am), but because I need them. I need to be their mom, to learn to overcome my natural self. This role is teaching me new depths of faith and love and sacrifice and endurance, and helping me feel new depths of God's love and grace and refining power.