Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Woman of Faith

The Book of Mormon tells a story about two thousand young warriors, dedicated to God.  Within this story there is a scripture that many mothers cling to.  These young men are described as having great courage and great faith.  And in Alma 56:48 they say, "We do not doubt our mothers knew it."  They trusted that God would protect them because their mothers had taught them this.

As a mother, I want to teach my children well.  I want to teach them truth.  And I want to help them become good people.  I also want them to be people of faith.  I want them to know God and trust that He will protect them and guide them if they will invite Him into their lives.  But there is only so much that I can do to make this happen.

My children must choose for themselves.  And that's scary.  They may choose to leave the church.  They may choose to disregard all that I have taught them.  They may go against everything I believe in.

All I can do is love them, teach them, and be a woman of faith myself.

Being a woman of faith is more than just believing or knowing that God is there.  It's more than trusting in Him.  It's more than telling my children that they are His children and He loves them. 

It's about living a life of faith.  It's about putting into action those things I believe.  As it says in James 2:26 "faith without works is dead."  I may believe in being honest but if I do not practice it, my faith benefits no one.  No matter what principles I believe, if I don't live those principles my faith in them will mean nothing.  And proclaiming belief while living in opposition to that claim does not teach faith to my children.

I cling to the story of the two thousand stripling warriors.  I live a life of faith for myself, but also for my children.  I want to model the behavior I'd like to see in them.  I try to be a good person.  I try to please my Father in Heaven.  I try to set a good example.

And occasionally I am rewarded for my efforts.  Several months ago I heard my son speak of his feelings and how difficult it was when his father left the church.  And then he said, "But I knew my mom still believed."  He talked about how he relied on that and how it gave him the strength to stay committed.  And then a few months later I got to hear him say that he'd found a testimony of his own.

These were incredibly humbling experiences for me.  I am so grateful for a teenage son who is willing to share his feelings with me.  I am grateful that he trusts me.  And I am grateful that he is finding out for himself, that he is becoming a man of faith.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

"Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."  Exodus 20:12

I am a religious person.  One of the driving forces in my life is to be obedient to God.  To please Him.  Knowing that I please Him brings me great peace.  Knowing when I don't brings me discontent and sadness.

I have struggled with this commandment.

When I was young I thought it meant that I should do what I was told.  Plain and simple.

As I got older I began to question that.  What if it isn't possible to obey my parents and God?  What if their desires are in conflict?

I also remember reading that scripture and imagining some parents using it as a threat.  Obey me and I'll let you live (that thy days may be long).

I hope I have learned a lot more about that command.  I have taught it to children many times over the years through various church callings.  I hope I have taught it in my home.  Each time I have taught it I have focused on the word honor.

I come from a difficult childhood.  I did not, and still do not, have a good relationship with my father.  I spent most of my life fearing him.  I often still do.  My mom did the best she could and we had a pretty good relationship, until I realized that I was often used as the surrogate spouse.  And now, when she is struggling, it can be tough to spend time with her.

And so, as I recently spent two weeks working on this commandment and trying to figure out how it fit into my life as an adult, I struggled still.

I no longer believe it is my job to obey them.  I must find my own way.  I do not think my father agrees with me.

I no longer believe it is my job to be what they want me to be.  I need to be who I truly am, to find my eternal self and be true to that.

And I no longer believe I must be at their beck and call.  It is time for me to concentrate on my family and build my life.

I do believe I owe them something.  I can treat them with respect, speak of them with respect when they are not around.  I can help them when I am able.  I can be grateful for the good things that are in my life because they are my parents.

Those would be great things.  Sometimes I can do those things.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes I can't be in the same room with my father without intense anxiety.  Sometimes I beg family members to rescue me from my mother.  Sometimes I talk about how crazy they are and how much stress they cause me.

I still feel like I don't have a good grip on this one.  The best thing I think I can do at this time is be a good person.  I think that brings them honor.  Even when they don't appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rewards of Motherhood

I am a woman of faith.  My belief in God, and His hand in my life, are the foundation for everything I do.  Including the way I mother my children.

I want them to know Him, to trust Him, to know that they are never alone -- even when I am not with them.

And sometimes I am rewarded for my efforts.  Sometimes my children say or do something that lets me know they have been converted.  For a woman of faith no reward is greater than a child who believes.

My daughter, Jessica, rewarded me recently with this beautiful poem.  And my heart melted.

I'm Yours

These are my hands.
They're not very big.
They aren't pretty or slender, either.
My fingers are stubby, and my knuckles stick out.
I have hangnails all over.
But here they are anyway:
My hands.

These are my feet.
They're really quite squat.
They're callused and a little dirty.
I have a hard time squeezing them into high heels.
I'm not sure they're the right shape.
But here they are anyway:
My feet.

This is my heart.
I know it's not perfect.
It's scared sometimes, and weak.
I don't use it as often as I probably should.
It just looks so small.
But here it is anyway:
My heart.

God,
it's hard not to feel like
I'm not very much.

Your power is so great,
and I'm only a tiny piece
of everything.

But I love you, and I know that -
incredibly -
you love me.

So I trust you.

Take them.

Take my hands.
Use them to reach people who need you.
Let them lift spirits and carry burdens.
Make them strong enough to do your will.
They're yours.

Take my feet.
Use them to get your gospel moving.
Let them guide me on the path of righteousness.
Make them quick enough to run to my brother's aid.
They're yours.

Take my heart.
Use it to find your children in their sorrows.
Let it show love to those who need it most.
Make it soft enough to hear when you whisper.
It's yours.

I give you all that I have,
all that I am.

I may not be much,
but
I'm yours.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lessons From Family Scripture Reading

Over the years we've tried to read the scriptures together as a family with varying degrees of success.  Sometimes we read together for three nights in a row before things fell apart.  Other times we kept it up for a month or two, with this kid or that kid missing half the time because of a busy schedule or unwillingness.  We keep trying.

But there was a time, many years ago, when we read as a family every night for months.  With almost everyone there every time.  (Yes, my kids were much younger, much less busy, and much more within my control.)

We read about a chapter a night with each person taking one verse as we went around the circle.  (There were fights, tears, and lots of bartering over who got to read the last verse.)  During this time I learned some important lessons:

1.  I learned that my children each respond to correction differently.  My children were all early readers.  And very advanced.  But let's not kid ourselves.  The scriptures can be rough.  Those are some big words that you just don't hear anywhere else.  So sometimes they would stumble.  One daughter would turn to me as soon as she got stuck, looking for guidance.  Another would try, struggle, try again, slow down and work on it, then get it right.  One daughter stubbornly insisted on doing it her way, whether it was right or not.  She'd read what she thought it said.  Too often, when she was wrong, one of the other kids or I corrected her.  (I wish I could go back in time and do that less.)  She got so angry with us for correcting her.  I learned then that I need to tread carefully when correcting my children, especially over something that doesn't really matter, in order for them to feel confident finding their own way.  I also learned that with time, they will find their own way -- even if it's not the way I would have chosen.  But the fact that I wouldn't have chosen it doesn't make it less right for them.

2.  I want them to come to me when they have questions.  Frequently, as we read, things didn't make sense.  Like I said, the scriptures can be tough.  And although some nights they just wanted to get through it and didn't care what it said, other times they wanted to understand.  When that happened they asked me to explain.  They were young and still believed that I knew the answers.  They knew I wouldn't lie to them or make stuff up.  I hope I can always be worthy of that trust.

3.  I want to have the answers when the do come to me.  There are many things I'm smart about.  And there are some I struggle with.  When it comes to the scriptures I have both strengths and weaknesses.  I believe I interpret fairly well.  But I do not remember who it was that did what.  Or where that story is located.  That part has always been difficult for me.  I remember the moment when I realized I needed to quit expecting someone else to have this knowledge for me.  I remember wanting to have it for myself.  It does not stick for me like it does for some.  I have to read regularly if I want to have a scriptural well for my children to drink from when they thirst after righteousness.

There were so many lessons.  Many from the reading material and many from the experience.  I still learn every time I read the scriptures.  And every time I'm with my children.  And I am so grateful.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Last Supper with a Friend

I read the accounts of the Last Supper from the different gospels last week.  As I did, I began to tear up.  I had a glimpse into that moment.  My heart was with Him.

I imagined sitting with my friend, the most gentle and kind person I've ever known.  I imagined this person offering me everything.  Offering me ordinary items that I had partaken of many times, items that would come to mean so much more.  This time it was different.  This time we knew we wouldn't be together long.  This time I knew my precious, tender friend would pay the ultimate price for me.

I should be grateful.  I should be filled with awe.  Instead I was just so sad.  I didn't want to lose my friend.  It was all so unfair.  Even with all I'd seen, I didn't understand.

And I don't understand.  The atonement is such an incredible miracle.  Such a gift of ultimate tenderness and love.  A gift from a friend.  It has saved me so many times.  It has healed me.  When I've been a victim.  When I've messed up.  When I've hurt and not understood the pain.

I do not understand.  But I am grateful.  And I miss my friend.