Monday, March 26, 2012

Who You Are

Ever wonder if you're doing it right?

I guess by "it" I mean everything you are committed to--being a mother, being a wife, being a coach or a neighbor or an employee, or whatever else you may be. There's no doubt "it" can be so overwhelming it seems impossible to really excel at. I guess in reality, "it" is simply life. And so I wonder, am I doing life right?

If there is anything being named Utah's Young Mother of the Year has done, it has made me more aware of my mistakes and weaknesses as a mother. Maybe it's because I'm afraid my life is under more scrutiny now; maybe it's because I know I have a lot to live up to; maybe it's simply because I never want to be a hypocrite--encouraging mothers to be something I'm not being myself. Whatever the reason, I have definitely spent more time in introspection, wondering deeply if I am doing enough and being enough.

I think being aware of weaknesses can definitely be a good thing. It can bring humility and earnest striving to be better. But I also know for many, me included, it can also be a source of discouragement. The thing is, I know discouragement doesn't come from God. He may prompt me to change, show me a better way, and plant seeds of desire in my heart for me to understand my true potential and strive for it, but he doesn't prompt feelings of failure or doubt or uncertainty. So, if God's true desire for women is to feel capable and worthy and valued and loved, why do we as mothers so often feel the opposite?

Maybe one disadvantage to blogging is that we tend to record the good and silently deal with the bad and the ugly. And I think that's a good thing overall, but I promised myself when I began writing about motherhood that I would be honest. That I would be real. And so, today, as tears fall on my computer keys, I will tell you, that no matter how things look outwardly, the truth is, I feel so inadequate.

I am no one special. I can look at the women all around me and see so much that is great and fabulous and incredible, while I stumble over the simplest things. I long for peace but my heart only seems to feel unrest. I want to be so much more than I am, but something--maybe lots of somethings--hold me back. Why is that?

Maybe it's because, without even realizing it, I've begun to listen too much to what the world thinks of me, and not enough to what God thinks. Today, while in the shower, I stuck a new CD in, Woman of Destiny, hoping to find some vision and some clarity. I listened to the uplifting words in the songs and before I knew it, I was wracked with sobs. Not because I was sad, but because I remembered something I had forgotten momentarily--that God knows me and loves me, and He sees me so much differently than I see myself. He knows my weaknesses, but He also knows my strengths and He knows what I can become, and so He believes in me. He's not constantly disgusted with me, as I sometimes envision He must be; instead, He's filled with deep love and respect--and even admiration at times--for my willingness to be a mother at this time in the world and my desire and effort to do the best I can.

And so, for anyone who feels like they are not enough, who feels lonely and inadequate, listen to the words of this song and remember Who You Are. (even better, watch and listen: It's by Hilary Weeks: )

I know you wonder if you'll ever have a day
When the kids stay calm, the laundry's done, and the dishes are put away
And sometimes you feel like your days are spent and gone
And the question running through your mind is what have I gotten done?
And when you finally have a moment to slow down
At the end of your day
I know Father would say

Believe in what you're doing.
Believe in who you are.
Hold tight to the truth that you're a daughter of God
Believe in who you're becoming
Believe in who you are.

It may seem simple--all the little things you do
But the lives you touch matter so much
And there's no one else like you.
And Father needs you to stand tall and faithful
To be all you can be
Oh, if you could see what He sees you'd

Believe in what you're doing.
Believe in who you are.
Hold tight to the truth that you're a daughter of God
Believe in who you're becoming
Believe in who you are.

When it's hard to believe in yourself
And you feel like you're beginning to doubt
Remember . . .

He believes in what you're doing
He believes in who you are
Don't lose sight of the truth that you're a daughter of God
That He believes in who you're becoming
He believes in who you are.

If God believes in me, how can I doubt? If He knows I can do this and do it well, well . . .

I believe it, too.

So today, when I feel the desire to be so much more, I'm grateful to remember that to God, I am enough. And so my tears of sorrow are now tears of gratitude for the knowledge of who I am. And even though I know I will still make mistakes and do "it" wrong sometimes, it's OK. I know God believes in what I'm doing. And so I will, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Most Important Function

As part of the portfolio I was asked to complete for my nomination as Young Mother of the Year, I was asked the following question:

On a daily basis, what do you feel is your most important function?
What a great question! I pondered it deeply before I wrote the following response:

My most important function each day is this: to help my children know of my love and God’s love for each one of them, and to help them develop daily habits that will lead to righteous decisions so they can reach their fullest potential, for I truly believe that decisions determine destiny. There are many nights I go to bed with the realization that I did not get the house work, laundry, or other tasks done that seem important to daily living. It’s easy to feel discouraged or guilty. But then, I remember that I read scriptures and prayed with my children that day, and I told them I loved them many times and hugged them and kissed them and I listened to them. That’s when I know my day was a success—because I did the most important things.

I truly believe the way to teach is by example. It’s easy to nag my children about what they should and should not be doing every day, but I know my actions speak louder than words. Thus, I begin each day by personal scripture study and prayer. Our faith is the foundation of our lives, so if I expect and hope my children to develop their own faith and depth of character, I must show them the way. Of course, I make mistakes, and of course I am imperfect, but they see my daily effort, and I have to believe it’s making a difference.

We live in a world of shifting values and great uncertainty. It’s a time when our children are faced with important decisions nearly every day, even from the time they are young. They must know who they are as children of God, have a strong sense of belonging and self worth, and know that no matter what happens out in the world, they will always come home to parents who love them, forgive them and want to do all they can to help them. So, it is my responsibility every day as a mother to help my children gain this sure knowledge—one day, one example, one moment at a time. Such is each new day’s quest.
Since I wrote that response, I have thought even more deeply about the question and have analyzed just how well I am actually following through with that task each day. After all, it's easy to say I believe these things to be what is most important each day, but actually "practicing what I preach" is really the challenge. Our family happens to be right in the middle of our busiest time of year: tax season (my husband is a tax accountant), club volleyball, comp baseball, preschool, and much more. It has not been easy to balance everything on a weekly and daily basis without losing sight of what matters most.

Finally, last week as I was driving home from St. George where my son had played in a baseball tournament, I had some time to really think. I was feeling an urgency to rush back to a volleyball tournament in Salt Lake my daughter was playing in (I just happen to be one of the coaches and felt doubly responsible to get there as quickly as I could), and the questions came to mind, Am I doing this right? Am I living what I really believe? I truly think that one of our greatest challenges at this time in the history of the world is just plain busyness. It keeps us from feeling grounded and at peace, and it keeps us from taking care of our most important functions each day if we are not careful.

I offered a silent prayer as I drove, asking God to help me remember each day what really matters and to not get sidetracked, promising I would work harder to sift through each day's demands and make sure my most important function preceded all else. Prayers like that often are followed closely by a test. And so, this morning, it came. A phone call to substitute teach at the elementary school. Something I love to do, something I need to do to keep certified, something that forces me to drop my children off to someone else for the day. I told the caller I would try to find someone to take my kids so I could teach, but then I hung up the phone and I looked at my five-year-old, who was trying desperately to get his laundry put away so we could spend time together we had planned, and I knew in that moment what I had to do. I had to say no so I could perform my most important function today--letting my child know he was more important, following through with my promises to him.

It was not easy calling back and declining the offer because I wanted to help this person out. I even felt a tinge of guilt for not doing so, knowing it can be difficult to find a last-minute substitute. But when the phone call ended, and I grabbed my little guy's hand to go play a game with him, the feeling that overrode it all was . . . peace. And gratitude that I can choose.

Today, my most important function was staying home. Tomorrow it might be something else. But whatever each new day brings, it will always be to put my family first, to show my children and husband in every way possible that they are what matter most. If I can somehow do this, then I hope and believe I can look back someday with no regrets. And that is my goal.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What I Find Most Fulfilling in Family Life as a Young Mother

When I was a young girl and dreamed about becoming a mother one day, I knew it would not be an easy job. I watched my own mother struggle through sleepless nights, potty training, piles of laundry, and lots more, so I assumed it wasn’t always a picnic; what I didn’t know or even begin to understand was how fulfilling it would be, despite all the challenges.

For me, the best part about motherhood is seeing the personal growth of each of my children. Nothing is more rewarding than watching a child master something he/she once thought difficult or impossible, or helping him/her reach a personal goal, or seeing him/her gain the skills necessary to overcome challenges. I love watching my children problem-solve. I love seeing the excitement in their eyes when they learn something new or grow another inch or lose another tooth. Mostly, I find it extremely fulfilling to be a part of helping these amazing spirits become who they were always meant to be, to help them find the best that’s within themselves, to see them reach their potential. The amazing part is I find myself growing right along with them. Motherhood has stretched and challenged me in ways that have required me to become someone better, to reach within myself and be more than I previously was. How fulfilling that growth is!

I’ve also learned to enjoy the little things: one-on-one time with each child, arms around my neck, smiles, wet kisses, eating dinner together, spontaneous laughter, snuggle time, and so much more. Life can get so hectic and demanding it’s easy to miss the best parts. I never want to look back and wish I would have soaked it up better or appreciated it more, so I try to notice and enjoy all the little moments with my children that add up to happiness. In the end, I find there are tons of such moments. Even on the most difficult days, I can find moments to treasure. These small, seemingly insignificant moments are what truly make motherhood fulfilling.

Ice skating together--cold but memorable