Category: Mother

A Mother’s Day Replay!

On Mother’s Day in 2012 my daughters hijacked my blog and gave me a HUGE Mother’s Day surprise. I was reviewing that old blog recently and reread their messages to me. I was again moved to tears at their kind words and generosity of spirit. I never was a perfect person, let alone a perfect parent. But my daughter’s words reminded me of what I weekly work to remind you – our kids aren’t looking for perfect. They want us, with all our flaws and all our love. When we stay the course, do the best we can, and keep learning, IT WILL BE ENOUGH!

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

A decade has passed, and they have grown so much. Their lives have been challenging and beautiful. I put current pictures in the article, so you could see them as they are now. : )

May 13, 2012

We’ve hijacked our mother’s blog for a surprise Mother’s Day Tribute. We wanted to share with all of you, her dear readers, and friends, how honored we are to be her daughters and what she means to us. We are grateful for your joining us to celebrate our mother and yours.

Kate Houston
I remember one of my favorite things when I was living at home was sitting in our “library” with you talking about our love for books. You taught me to hunger for knowledge.

When I was young you showed me how to make a meal out of almost nothing, how to grow a beautiful garden, and how to REALLY clean. You taught me how to be a homemaker.

The summer I wanted to study abroad in Europe, and we had no money, you spent the whole summer baking cakes and selling water bottles with me. You taught me how to work for what I want and be creative doing it.

When I wanted to be a varsity cheerleader my senior year of high school, even though I had NEVER cheered before, you were right there on the day of tryouts to make sure I stuck it out until the end. You taught me how to dream and dream big.

Growing up you loved to teach us how to make sugar eggs, gingerbread houses, and frosting flowers for cakes. You taught me the importance of cultivating my talents.

When you were in your 40s, you had seven children and an incredibly busy life, and yet you finished your master’s degree. You taught me the value of education.

When times were tough and family life was especially hard, I’d walk past your open bedroom door and ALWAYS see you on your knees. You taught me how to have a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Mom, it’s easy for us to look back on our time as a mother and wonder if anything we did gave our children what they needed to be successful in their life. Sometimes we look back and feel discouraged because as far as we can see, what we did wasn’t enough. But it’s the little things, the daily things you taught me that made all the difference. Because you were the person that you were, I am the person that I am today. Through your service to others, you taught me how to serve. Through your example of forgiving and being patient, you taught me how to forgive and be patient. Because you grew and blossomed, like the flowers out back in our garden, you taught me how to grow and blossom.

Now I’m getting ready to take my first steps into motherhood and because of you, I am not afraid. You have already walked the paths down this unfamiliar road and through the wisdom you have gained, you will teach me what it truly means to be a mother. Thank you, mom.

Marie Henry
There are so many things that I have learned from you but there are two things in particular that have forever changed me and how things have gone in my life. The first one was prayer. I remember always walking in on you praying. I knew Heavenly Father was your friend and that you trusted him.

When I decided to come back to the church, I knew what to do. I knew I could talk to Him about everything. That it was okay if I was angry, even at Him, as long as I talked to him about it. That even if I sat there and said nothing at least I was in the right place. I knew I had to build up trusting Him but I trusted you, so I knew I would get there and that it would be okay. The second thing was to never ever give up, that change is possible and that it is very real. That you need not give up hope. There is a way to return to happiness, and it is through Jesus Christ.

The past 13 years have been quite the journey for me and my family. There were times I didn’t think things would ever turn around or feel differently, but then I would pray and get through the day. I knew from watching you that no matter what you don’t ever, ever give up. You continue to fight even if the answer takes years to come.

Now, look where I am at. I finally love being a mother. I feel content and peaceful with myself and how things are going in my life, and I have the greatest man as my husband. There are many things I get to pass on to my children but the two things I continue to tell them about are to always pray, no matter how you feel, and to never ever give up, that Heavenly Father is there for us and no matter what you fight to stay on his side.

I know that one day you were praying, in the kitchen, I believe, and you said to Heavenly Father that we would have all been better off if he had just sent us to someone else. He said to you, that may be true, but he sent us to you. Well, I am proud that he did. I am very grateful to have you as my mother.

Our lives here on earth are meant to have trials in them. I left your home knowing how to make it through and come out the other side being a better me and closer to the Lord. Having fewer trials really doesn’t matter. That I know how to make it back home to Heavenly Father is what I came here to learn and learn it I did. I am grateful for the family I have and PROUD I get to say you are my mother. I love you.

Jenny Johnson
I really love my mother. And it is one of those interesting loves; the bigger the love gets, the bigger my heart gets, and the more it makes me love the entire world. Amazing!

I remember being a child and mom would take all her 7 children with her to the nursing home on Sundays just to visit the patients who weren’t getting usual visitors. It was the family’s volunteer work.

That is how I now kind of define my life. I prioritize (highly) having volunteer work in my life that serves the geriatric population. Also, I just finished the endeavor of earning my master’s degree. I will now start working as a professional in the skilled nursing home to serve the geriatric population with different modes of therapy. I feel so happy and grateful because I know that working in this environment and serving this population is really going to feed my life, daily! She has taught me that despite possibly never bearing children, there is a viable way for me to mother this world! I serve…and it makes me happy. It is how I run my life. This is the legacy my mother has left in my life. An ocean of thanks to you, my sweet mother.

A handful of years ago, when I was in a severe car accident and wasn’t walking, my mother flew to California and took care of me for 4 months. I mean REALLY was taking care of me, as if her 30-year-old daughter was 3 again. Feeding me, cleaning me, helping me move from point A to point B, etc. That was such a wonderful blessing given to each of our lives because what came out of that intimate tragedy was that my mother became one of my dearest friends. I feel so supported, loved, and valued and that, again, strengthens and augments my desire to serve and support this entire world, and it makes me love this world even more. A canyon of thanks to you, my sweet mother and friend.

What my wonderful, beautiful, vibrant mother is teaching me now about being a woman is that personal evolution never stops, and it is never too late to become 10 times more than you have ever been. Beauty, wisdom, self-love, personal manifestation, grand service – these are things I am learning from her and really beginning to value because she is performing these things and becoming these things and mastering these things and it is all so amazing to watch! She is painting such a colorful masterpiece across the canvas of her life. She is leaving such a mark, and I feel so honored and blessed to be a part of it. I love you mom, to the moon and back! A universe of thanks to you for everything.

Jodie Palmer
I turned 40 years old a few weeks ago. It’s sort of a surreal experience for me because it’s the only age that I distinctly remember my mother being. She gave birth to her last child at 40, and so have I. I am now where my mother once was, a place I remember her being.

A fascinating thing has happened now that I’m standing in the shoes, I remember my mother wearing. She has suddenly transformed into something more than my mother. I’m connecting with her as a woman.

It’s been hard to try to put this transformation into words or describe what it means to finally see my mother as a woman. I hate to admit it, but my mother has never been a “real” woman to me. She’s been . . . my Mother. Something different than, “a woman.”

Throughout my life, I’ve been walking these antipodal paths of both discovering who I am as a woman, and consciously putting myself together into who I want to be. But the change that has happened for me is that I am beginning to see my mother in the context of who I am as a woman—this complicated mixture of contradictions and messiness, grace and beauty, vices and flaws, backbone and tenacity, soft and tender places, guarded and hidden places, confusion and wisdom, fullness and emptiness and so much more all wrapped up in one heart.

I find myself feeling so tender towards her, not in a reminiscent way, as is usual for Mother’s Day, but in this current, primal, female, connected, Red Tent sort of way.

As I was attempting to write this tribute to her, I came up with my usual celebrations of memories, the ones that have informed my whole worldview and way of being with the world. Like the time she packed us all into the car to return something that had recently been purchased because we needed the money. On the way out of the parking lot, there was a man holding a sign asking for help. She rolled down the window and gave the man part of the change we had just received. She shared and gave, even when it hurt.

Or the time when she washed the body of a woman who had died and had no one in her life to give her that one last loving honor. She is a rememberer of the forgotten.

There are so many other memories that have served as the elements taken up as food by the beautiful garden of my life.

But, today I want to honor my mother differently than I have ever been able to before. I want to honor her as a woman. I want to honor her complicated, contradictory, messy, deeply beautiful, wise, lovely self. All of it is beautiful to me, and so needed by me, as a woman. All of her is so needed by the world. And the world is better for it—the little worlds of her children and grandchildren, the little worlds of her client families, the little worlds of her neighbors, and the strangers that cross her path. All these little worlds collide together in one big bang of goodness and beauty for all the rest of us.

That’s the beauty of women, we are wombs and birthers of beauty and goodness in the world through the complicated mixture of who we are. We are good for the world . . . And the Lord God looked and said, “It is good.”

I am honored to be a woman born and grown from this woman. I am honored to have her blood and her bone, her spirit, and her heart living in me.

I am grateful for these new eyes that have allowed me to not only see her differently but see my daughters differently. I newly see, and feel, that we are sisters, we are friends.

Again, Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

Love, Dependability, and Trust

  Life doesn’t always go as planned!

When our oldest son was young, he became involved in drugs. Don and I were totally out of our element and didn’t know how to respond. We took a parenting class.

Eventually, Seth, at fourteen, left home and moved to the riverbank for the summer. For the next few years, he was home and then gone again. We tried contracts, and tough love, making him earn back his possessions. If it was out there and we could access the information, we gave it a try. Remember that this was before in-home computers were widely available, so resources were harder to come by.

Eventually, we had three other children become involved in drugs. We faced some challenging things. Kids who came home after curfew. We couldn’t let them in because they knew the boundaries. Those clear rules didn’t make listening to them call out to us any easier. Phone calls from kids late at night who were miles away from home and wanted to be picked up. We couldn’t because they knew the boundaries but that meant a lot of knee time praying for their safety. There were the moments when we, as adults lost it and behaved like children. And then the grief over having to tell friends they couldn’t come to our home because of drug issues. Sometimes we were all the family they had. These were really tough times. 

Our kids didn’t always like us, and we worried about someone dying or going to jail. We had some narrow escapes on both counts. Some parents don’t escape these painful outcomes.

Here is why I am sharing some of the darkness we experienced. I want you to know that even in the darkness if we are doing our best, we are a light for our children. What does that even mean? Let me share a message that I got two years ago from my oldest son, who is closing in on fifty. It filled my heart with peace and gratitude.

“Mom, when it comes to all the kids that hung out at our house, even though you didn’t see it, you were a mom to 150 kids. Our home life was so different than everyone else’s home life. That’s why people liked coming to our house because it was such a safe place. Even though we all had our issues, it was a safe place. I still hear it from so many of my friends. It was that you were a mom. It was a safe and secure place for more people than you’ll ever realize, mom.”

So there it is. Our lives weren’t perfect.

Don and I had a ton of baggage. We were inept at parenting. I have talked about that before. We didn’t know how to respond. We tried stuff, most of which wasn’t helpful. Our kids suffered. We suffered.

BUT here is what I want you to hear, we stayed the course.

We remained loving adults in our children’s lives and unknown to us, in the lives of countless other youth. We were home, and we had dinner together. I read to the kids, not consistently, but enough. We attended church together and went on trips to grandma’s. We went camping. We weeded the garden together and did some family canning. It was all ordinary, no big fancy anything, just plenty of family time.

Don and I made a boatload of mistakes. But we were there. Our kids could count on our being there. They could count on boundaries that didn’t change just because we were tired, angry, sad, or afraid. Our kids could trust us. This is all we really brought to the game: love, dependability, and trust.

I have shared some dark memories. Let me share some of the light from today that lets me know our children are OK. A few years ago, they began having a sibling call once a month. Anyone available got on, and they shared their lives. All seven of the kids made time for this call.

Later it was a video app. We have two video groups. The whole family is on one. The grands see and hear us, and we see and hear them. They see and hear their uncles and aunts. Everything gets shared: grades, holidays, mini-disasters, work, sports, etc. There are always videos to watch.

The second one is for the adults, us, and our children. The talk there is more personal: lost jobs, new jobs, illnesses, relationships, etc. Deep feelings are expressed.

Every other year we gather for a reunion. Rarely does anyone miss. Two years ago, we had to cancel our reunion because of covid. Last year we held it and our breaths hoping that everyone would be healthy and safe. We couldn’t wait any longer. The videos were filled with a longing to be together. On the last day, our youngest son asked us to do it again this year. The ‘yes’ vote was unanimous.

Early last spring, I decided that I needed a shed. I wanted to clean out more space in the garage for my daughter’s family, and well, I am a handywoman, and a handywoman needs a shed! : )

I found what I wanted and bought a kit. Then I headed out to Washington to help one of my daughters. While I was gone, a miracle occurred. I was worried as to how that shed was going to get built. Both my daughter and her husband work long hours. Then there are four kids to take care of after that, one with severe CP. I couldn’t do it alone, and my husband’s physical abilities and health made it impossible for him.

When I returned to Utah, there was a finished shed. Jodie had called Seth, our oldest son, and he took some time off from work, drove ten hours one way, and helped her and her husband, Doug, build the shed. Later, I painted it with the help of my nine-year-old grandson. I call it ‘The Shed that LOVE built.’ I can’t look at it or go inside without feeling loved.

How does that happen when a family is in so much pain and danger for so long? How does it come right? When you stay the course, when you keep parenting the best you can, when you keep learning and growing and changing, well, that is what helps it happen.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your family’s life. It may be a dark place, and you may feel hopeless and helpless. But you are not. Pray for help. Seek resources. Never give up. Stay the course. Be the parent you promised to be when you began, as best you know how.

Be there. Be dependable. Be trustworthy. It can and will make all the difference.

Christmas Past – A Gift of Charity

I wrote this true short story many decades ago for my parents, for Christmas. I was working on letting them know how much I appreciated all they had given me despite the lacks in my family of origin. Isn’t that how it is in most families. Our parents can only bring to their parenting what they have and they add to their skills as they go. Being the first child, I experienced some of those lacks but as I grew, I also saw my parents grow. Anyway, I wanted them to know how grateful I was.

I posted it on my old website way back in 2011. I can’t believe that ten years have gone by! I wouldn’t have thought to repost it this year except for an unusual happening.  I was asked to submit a Christmas story for an anthology, which I did. I submitted this story.

I have to say that it doesn’t match most of the stories in  Tis the Season: A Christmas Survival Guide. The stories are not the magical kind we usually read about but are filled with tales of the chaos and sometimes hurt that accompanies the holiday for many. I don’t know why my story was chosen as it is peaceful and loving. It is also the final story in the book. I suppose it was becuase I ended it with ‘Merry Christmas.’ : )

At any rate, it caused me to think again about this family happening and my parents who were doing their very best for me and my siblings. I thought it might bring some treasured Christmas memories to your mind at this season of family and Christ. I hope you enjoy the read, the heart, and the generosity of both parent and child.

Christmas Past – A Gift of Charity

A true short story, written by Mary Ann Johnson years ago when her children were young, and she was remembering.

black and white photo of little girl smiling
Mary Ann, almost five, see the buttons!

THE HEATER MADE a steady hum as it singed the small bits of pine I had placed on top. I’d never seen a heater like it until we moved into the new house. It was brown, shiny, and huge. It wasn’t as homey as Grandma’s Ben Franklin, but it was warm and didn’t create clinkers, for which I was grateful. The pine was Mother’s idea. She liked the smell the needles gave off as they slowly turned brown.

I was five years old, and Idaho Falls was cold and windy. Inside, it was warm and cozy. There were six of us, and the house was small. I saw it years later and small was a generous word for it. At the time, it seemed perfect.

Christmas was coming, and as always during that season, the sewing machine was humming away. Pieces of black velvet and red taffeta littered the floor. I noticed the buttons first, the most beautiful buttons in the world, shiny white with rhinestone centers. Those buttons were a treasure sewn on a cardboard square. I would have paid at least a quarter for them, a vast sum hidden away in my bank.

But the buttons weren’t for sale. They were going onto elegant dresses that my sisters and I watched take shape until I could hold back my curiosity no longer.

woman smiling picture
NaVon, our mom, a mere 23 years old.

“Mom, are the dresses for us? Can we wear them?”

“No,” she replied.

Who else would they be for?

With patience, mom explained that there was a family who needed help making Christmas special. We had so much, she said. She ticked our blessings off on her fingers. I remember the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had never had a beautiful dress like that, never a dress with buttons that shone like stars.

As the days passed, the emptiness in my stomach was being filled, for as my mother sewed, she poured into me a feeling of gratitude for blessings received and a spirit of giving. She made me a co-conspirator. I cared for the baby, played quietly, and picked up those lovely scraps so she could continue to sew.

Soon the dresses were finished and gone. The gifts of love had been delivered. Then my mother began pouring charity into the empty place that the actual departure of the dresses left.

“Now girls, when we go to church, you’ll see those dresses on three other little girls. Don’t say a word. We want them to feel happy and proud. This is our special Christmas secret. Remember that it’s important for people to have dignity and be happy.”

We three, Cindy, Shirley, and I, turned our young faces to her and beamed. We trusted the words of our mother. We knew we could keep the secret. I had a feeling of joy in my stomach. Emptiness no longer lingered there.

Christmas night was torture. Every child has felt the pangs of anxiety: will the doll be there, the train, the blocks? Every child has felt the excitement. How can I wait? How can I sleep? Sleep stayed away for a long time.

It was still dark when we raced to Mom and Dad’s room. They arose slowly—too slowly! — finding slippers and waking the baby. Then there was the interminable wait as Dad lit the tree and turned up the heat. Finally, we were free to run pell-mell into an ecstasy that would last all day.

three sisters smiling picture
Shirley Kay, Cindy Lu, Mary Ann

What? I stopped short. There they were among the gifts: those buttons attached to black velvet and red taffeta dresses. What a surprise and joy.

As I sailed into church later that day, I was wearing a prized gift, but the most precious Christmas gift I received that season was carried in my heart: gratitude for what I had, the love of sharing, and charity for others. This gift, given to me by my mother so many Christmases ago, has made all the difference in the quality of my life. Thanks, Mom!

Also, a thank you to my dad, who is now gone. He made wonderful toys with his own hands. We had them for many, many years, and they delighted all nine of us children.

baby cribs picture                  cupboard pictures                 toy horse picture

Merry Christmas!

My Magnificent Gift

I received a gift on my Birthday

that I want to share with you, but first, I want to share a portion from the introduction of my book, Becoming a Present Parent, because it will help you appreciate the beauty and value of the gift.

“As a young woman growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I didn’t contemplate any other occupation than motherhood. It was so much a part of what I expected to do that I didn’t give it much thought. It was what everyone did. I looked forward to it. I expected to sail along, doing what was required in the best way possible because I was made for it. It never occurred to me I wouldn’t know what to do and how to manage.

 

Raising my family was “the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” These words from the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities describe my parenting experience rather perfectly.

 

Don and I didn’t talk much about family and parenting before we embarked on this grand adventure. He was the second child of two children, and I was the oldest of nine. He assumed I knew what I was doing, and I thought I knew what I was doing. We never discussed how we would discipline, how we would manage chores, meals, vacations, schooling, the budget, etc. Frankly, it didn’t occur to us we might not agree on everything, that we might not have all the information we needed. After all, we were in love, we shared the same faith, and parenting is what everyone did. It couldn’t be all that complicated.

 

But it was complicated!

 

Don and I had seven beautiful and amazing children, four girls and three boys. I recall with great fondness camping, fishing, sewing, cooking, crafts, Christmas, Thanksgiving, dance recitals, band concerts, baseball games, wrestling competitions, and speech contests.

 

I remember the fun we had: breakfast on the tailgate of our old pickup truck at the park, a block from our home one early Saturday morning; quiet conversations with whichever child’s turn it was to help me weed in the early dawn hours; canning while lots of kids snapped beans and peeled carrots; reading to our children; dinners together, a daily occurrence; bath time; night time cuddles; sitting together at church, filling a whole pew, while tickling backs and squeezing shoulders. These were memorable and satisfyingly ordinary days. These were the best of times.

 

I also have seared on my mind the struggles we shared as a family of nine—a husband who traveled for a living, drug abuse, premarital sex and a child born out of wedlock, thoughts of suicide, failure in school, smoking, alcoholism, lack of belief in one’s value as a person, quitting school, abandoning the church, a mother who raged and yelled, managing feelings of despair, and coming to terms with same-sex attraction. These were the worst of times.

 

When it’s all shaken together and poured out, how did we fare? Well, far better than we expected or than you might expect. Don and I had done just enough right, and with a full measure of the grace of God thrown in, we all survived and, strangely enough, thrived. We all live fully functional lives. We’re connected and bonded in unique ways. We look out for one another, and the kids support and lean on each other. We’re still a family! 

 

The story of our family is the story of an imperfect family. You won’t and, frankly, can’t do everything right. Your children will struggle as they grow. You’ll work to do all that’s required in your chosen vocation of ‘parent.’ It’s part of the process of being human, of being in a family.”

 

This year, I received cards, letters, and a few videos from my children for my Birthday. Each one gave an example of something I had done that made a difference in their lives. I was surprised at some. I hadn’t realized that they were paying so much attention to my efforts to grow, change, and be better. But they were.

 

 I want to share the contents of one gift I received, a video from my oldest daughter, Jodie.

 

“Mom, I am so happy to celebrate you. This morning, I was thinking about my mothering, the worries and challenges I face, and the potential regrets that I am thinking about already. Then I thought about where we are now, and I felt a deep sense of peacefulness that the story and the arc of family and parenting are long. I feel so grateful that you are our mom and that we get to celebrate you. I’m letting that gratitude steep in my heart today. Happy Birthday, mom.

 

Can you think of a more generous, more moving gift than words like these? As I have said many times, if we give it all we’ve got, learn a little here and a bit more there, and then implement, if we remain consistent and speak kindly to ourselves as we change and grow, then it will be enough. We will give our children the legacy of watching another human being engage in the process of becoming better. There isn’t much that we can provide them that is more powerful.

 

Here is something I do not share lightly.

During the years that our family struggled the most, I was despondent one day. As I washed dishes I thought about what a terrible job Don and I had done and were doing. Tears fell from my eyes. I looked heavenward and said out loud, “You should have sent these kids to another home. They would have done better.” Then clearly into my mind came these gentle and peace-giving words, “I knew how you would parent and that it would be enough.”

When you begin berating yourself for how imperfectly you are parenting, STOPwords matter. Your words to yourself matter the most. They will make it easier or harder for you to let go of old baggage, come up with solutions, find the resources you need to garner new information and get better at what you do. So, speak kindly. Be gentle. Give yourself charity, knowing that if you stay the course and keep learning, changing, and growing, it will be enough. It will! I know because in my family it has been enough!

Never quit. Never berate yourself. Keep working on you and loving your children, and it will be enough!

Who do you know that could use the comfort of knowing that it will be enough!

It Is That Important!

This article was written by a wonderful woman and friend, Laurisa Paul. She is an RN, a writer, homeschool mother of five, and an aspiring midwife. I felt that the topic hits so close to many women’s hearts and experience that it had to be shared. Read, enjoy, and learn.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

I hear this statement (question?) from women all the time. What I hear them asking is, “how do you live with so much peace and calm and joy?” (while a full-time mom to five kids, wife of an ambitious entrepreneur, committee member of a youth ministry, and taking on the great task of home school). “How do you find time for yourself?”

After thinking about this question for years on end, I have finally got an answer. The answer to how I take care of myself as a woman is easy: I meditate and pray. I assign my youngest out to the care of others so that I can exercise alone. I pursue topics that fascinate me. I set goals for myself and enjoy the challenge of achieving them. I think back to what I did for fun when I was single, and I DO IT!

But there is a real problem here: that answer doesn’t solve the dilemma for anybody. Women, both with and without children, are still perplexed (and sometimes irritated) with the idea of self-love, self-compassion, and self-prioritization, even given my quick and easy solution. The struggle continues because… the wrong question is being asked. It turns out, women don’t need to know how I actually go about doing it.

The more definitive question would be, “why?”

I grew up in the care of a deeply loving mother. She was the product of a broken home where she was not provided a model of parenting that met her standards. And so, when she became a mother herself, she gritted her teeth and gave her all. Quitting her job, giving up her own ambitions and dreams, she became only “Mother”. Even sleep became secondary to adorable birthday cakes, neighborhood preschools, incredible Halloween costumes made to order, Girls Scout cookies and badges, service in the classroom and church, play-dates, sports teams, piano lessons, and hand-sewn matching clothing for the whole family. We, of course, took advantage of all that was offered, leaving in the end, only a shadow of a woman we called Mom. When the door closed at the end of each day, all that was left was a hollow frame. She was exhausted. Unfulfilled. Angry. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Resentful. The mental hospital became the only place she could go for respite. I don’t have a single memory of my mom laughing.

I am grateful for this experience. Deeper-than-words grateful. Because of where I came from, I feel surer than ever that, as a woman, an individual, I matter. Just like every other mother on this earth, I want my children to have a great childhood and grow up to be successful, joyful adults. This is why I prioritize time for myself.

I prioritize time for myself because I know that when I am well-rested, I am more patient and kind.
When I exercise my body first, I have the energy to physically engage in their active lives.
When I prioritize time for connection with God, I open the door for grace to light my way.
When I make time to study my own topics of interest, I am mentally available to hear about theirs.
When I eat what I want to eat, resentment doesn’t follow me to the dinner table.
When I play regularly in a way that feels fun to me, it is easier to play in a way that feels fun to them.
I am the integral part of the livelihood of our family. I am that important.

Our children become who we are. More than anything, I want to raise empowered adults who take ownership of their own happiness. And so, I must teach them about boundaries. I must be a model of someone who says YES to things that matter most and NO to things that don’t. I must teach them that they are ultimately responsible to create the life they dream of. That it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do this, nor is it reasonable to expect that. I must teach that selfless sacrifice is a vital trait of a loving parent, AND that it does not have to be at the expense of one’s own joy. I teach my children these things by clearly setting the example for them. It’s worth carving out time for. It’s worth making a way!

Laurisa Paul

I see nobility in the call to motherhood and I feel great reverence for its importance. With the endless to-do lists that accompany family life, for what sake am I willing to keep honoring me as my top priority? For the sake of the highest aspirations that I hold for myself, and the dreams I have for my children and my grandchildren. For my sake, and for their sake. That is why I do it. It is that important.

I am sure you know a woman who needs this message today. Send her the link. : ) 

Choose to See Beauty!

Recently I read 

a post by an old and dear friend. It was beautiful and sad. There are so many areas where we, as women and mothers, struggle. We struggle because we think we aren’t doing a good enough job as a parent. We strive because we feel we aren’t filling our mission; we don’t have enough education or aren’t attractive enough.

Listen to the words of Laurisa Paul, a midwife:
I was sitting beside the pool the other day, and the most beautiful woman caught my attention. There she stood, in her bathing suit, resting a tiny baby in her arms. The baby perched contentedly on the protruding belly that had just created its life—beauty– in the deepest, holiest way that I’ve ever seen. I wanted to stare forever and kept this woman in my heart for days. This scene caused serious reflection for me.

We all agree that baby girls are beautiful and perfect in every way. This adoration continues as we grow, through every stage of our changing body… but then we reach early adulthood, and what happens? Quite suddenly, we halt the adoration of the continued growth and change and strive— for the rest of our lives— to achieve the young, thin, pre-maternal body.

I could not stop thinking about how fundamentally CRAZY we are as a society! How crazy we are to miss the breathtaking beauty of a postpartum body- with stretched-out skin and worn-out breasts, and sleepy, baggy eyes. The 45-year-old body, feeling tired of life’s marathon, and yet, still hopeful of the possibilities ahead. How absolutely crazy we are to overlook the beauty of a 60-year-old body! Its edges softened by growth, innumerable acts of service and courage held in its hips and thighs. And what about the body of a 75-year-old? New pains now reveal the many sacrifices and stories written along the way. I visualize the skin that hangs low from my 92-year-old grandmother’s face, her wrinkles marking the sage wisdom held in her eyes, and I ask…HOW IS THAT NOT ABSOLUTELY STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL?!?

It is pure insanity that we overlook ALL of it– all of the beauty that is resplendent in every stage of growth in a woman’s life– simply trying to reach for one very narrow ideal. It is shocking how irrational it is. And yet, we all go on doing it.

Her words went straight to my heart because of an experience I had just a few months ago.

I was sitting in church with my family. The meeting ended; I placed my hand on the back of the chair in front of me, ready to stand. I’m not sure why what happened next did, but it stopped me in mid-stand. I realized how beautiful my hand was. I was shocked by the sight and the feelings that came with it. I asked my granddaughter to take a photo. I wanted to remember the gift I had just received.

I know that not everyone would think my hand is beautiful because it’s the hand of a 70-year-old woman. The skin is looser than when I was young. There are age spots; the proverbial veins are showing. I didn’t see any of that.

I saw babies diapered. Children hugged. Hundreds of thousands of dishes washed. Mountains of laundry folded. I saw hundreds of hours of service rendered to friends, neighbors, and community. I saw articles written and paintings completed. I saw phone numbers dialed to cheer up a friend or counsel someone in need.

I saw love!

I don’t know how this happened in a split second, but I like to think that it was God showing me how much I matter in the world.

I posted the above to Facebook, and I was shocked at the response I received. There were over 40 comments. It was repeatedly shared. A few hundred people responded in some way. Why the considerable outpouring? I have thought about that. I am convinced that it’s because we are all searching for our worth.

As women and mothers, we need to embrace the journey. We need to embrace the difficulty, the challenges, and the learning. We need to embrace the growth and all that comes with it. We need to know that what we do as women matter more than how we look. Recognizing our value, our worth is a choice. Let’s choose to give ourselves a break as we grow and learn, as we give birth, serve, and age. Let’s choose to see the beauty in our hands, our bodies, and our hearts. Let’s choose to see ourselves as beautiful!

Thank you for sharing this article : ) 

There is NO Perfect in Parenting!

Perfect is NOT reality, especially in Parenting!

I had two daughters who had babies last year – one in June and one in Dec. One daughter suffered from postpartum anxiety, not to be confused with the blues or even depression. It was excruciating. Just functioning was a challenge. Besides the new baby, she had one preschooler and one grade-schooler.

Despite her struggles with health and energy, I saw her remember what her kids needed to do to be ready for school. I watched her get them to their events and lessons. I saw her force herself to school with her new baby to participate in a classroom party with her daughter.

My other daughter has tweens, teens, and grade-schoolers. She was up multiple times a night. But one morning bright and early I witnessed this: she was in the kids’ rooms getting them up, reminding them of what they needed for the day, giving cautions about getting to work on time and bringing instruments home after orchestra so they could practice. It was all in her head, and despite her baby fatigue, she was letting it out at the right time, with the right tone. There is no getting around it,

MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.

 

My sons-in-law also experienced the addition of new babies into their families. One is in the last stages of genetic blindness and was ill at the time of the birth. However, he donned a mask and was by his wife’s side, not just during the delivery but until his wife came home a day later, even though fluorescent light burns his eyes. Then he returned, mask in hand because the baby had a severe bilirubin issue. His eyes burned as he endured hours of blue light. I watched him get up at night to feed his son, diaper, and cuddle him.

The other dad had a two-plus hour compute every day into the city. He left work early so he could get home sooner. When he got back, the load shifted from his wife’s shoulders to his own. He made food, played Candyland, fed the dogs, tucked kids in bed, and comforted his wife. There is no getting around it,

FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.

 

Neither of these couples is doing it perfectly. There are down days, moments of resentment, and checking out. BUT they get up daily and do it again because they love each other and their families. There is no way around it,

PARENTS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PERFECT!!

Know a parent struggling because they aren’t perfect. Share. : )

Remember, Life is Brief and Tender

“You will miss struggling in church.” WHAT!

A few Sundays ago, in church, a mother was talking to the congregation. She mentioned that at times, in the past, it had been hard to focus on the speaker. This was because kids and church can be a fussy business. As they learn to manage their bodies and acquire the ability to be reverent it can be a struggle. She had lived that struggle.

As she looked out at the congregation her next words caused me some reflection. “You will miss struggling in church.” Is that true? Do we want to be engaged in a struggle with our kids whether at church, in the grocery store or at bedtime? I don’t think so.

So, what was this mother really expressing? I think it was the nostalgia adults feel when children grow up and leave home. We all know it’s going to happen but while we’re in the trenches all we can see is the struggle. It’s one of those, “You can’t know till you get there” things.

It’s that ‘Family Feeling!’

What is it that causes this nostalgia? What is it that’s missed? I’ve not only thought about this, but I’ve lived it. We miss that ‘family feeling’. When our kids leave home, they’re still our kids. They come home for visits and eventually they bring their kids home with them. We have a family. But that’s not what I’m talking about and it isn’t what that mom in church talked about.

You will miss the energy of children. You will miss the hugs and kisses. You will miss the chaos and the quiet moments. You will miss the snuggles. You will miss your little children. You may not miss the laundry, dirty dishes, or cooking. But you will miss the activities that caused the dirty laundry. You will miss sitting down to eat with your children even if they spill the milk. You will miss having small faces to look at as they complain about what you have cooked.

I know, I know. You’re a busy mom or dad. You’re overwhelmed a lot of the time. Hearing this can rankle. I felt the same when I was in the thick of it. It irritated me when an older parent at church looked me in the eye as I was struggling with a crying four-year-old and said, “The time will come when you will miss this.”
But I have gotten there. I get it.

Why am I sharing this with you? I hope that my words will lodge in your mind and that they will come to you when you’re irritated, angry, frustrated, over the top. I hope they help you be a bit kinder, gentler, more forgiving, more joyous even in the mess. I hope they encourage you to smile more and hug more.

“Before I die I want to . . . ”

In a recent TED talk by Candy Chang, she shared a moving experience. Chang asked the question “Before I die I want to . . . ” She asked the question by turning the side of an abandoned building into a huge chalkboard for people to write their responses on. In one day, the whole side of the building was filled with chalked in answers and it grew from there. Some of the responses were humorous and fun but most were poignant, and many were related to the need we all have to matter and to connect with those around us. At the end of her talk, she expressed, “Two of the most valuable things we have in life are our time and our relationships with other people. In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember life is brief and tender”.

Don’t let the challenges of parenting make you lose sight of the beauty of it. Don’t let busyness take away your desire to hear and see. Don’t let childish learning and error harden your heart.

When you’re older, thinking back on those earlier days when your children lived in your home will cause you very tender feelings. You’re going to want to be able to call to mind moments when you held your child one more time for a little longer; when you were patient; when you allowed them to be themselves and grow; when despite the chaos or mess, you smiled and meant it.

I love this verse of scripture. Matthew 13:16: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” This verse of scripture is about seeing and hearing things that cannot be seen with our temporal eyes or heard with our temporal ears. If we remember that despite the challenges, life with our children is brief and tender, we will be blessed to see and hear in an extraordinary way. We will send the message to those we love most: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

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Lifting The Burden of Work and Family

Judgment is NOT Helpful!

I have an older client whose wife has become unable to do many of the household tasks that she used to do. I was at his home one day, a few days after their family had gathered to celebrate the end of summer. There were about 27, many of them children. They had water fights and silly string fights. This made for a lot of towel use. As he came up the stairs, he let out a tired breath and said, “How do women do it. The laundry alone is overwhelming.” I asked him what their laundry room had looked like when they were raising their family. He replied that there was always a heap of dirty clothes on the floor and another of clean laundry. I then asked him, “What did you think about that back then?” He didn’t hesitate to answer but blurted out, “Why can’t she get this cleaned up!”
He looked a bit sheepish and told me that he realized now, years later, that he should have been kinder in his appraisal of the job his wife was doing. He could see that his judgment was harsh, and his help was too little.

Here’s the thing about my friend who was washing the family towels. He went to work every day. He had to juggle the needs of the boss, his teammates and his own. He had deadlines to meet. He dealt with situations and expectations over which he had no control. Then there was the commute. He may have felt that his days were far more challenging than his wife’s.

Life is a challenge. Being part of a family is a challenge. But there are a few things we can do to lift our own burden, as well as the burdens of those we live with.

Tips to Lifting Burdens

• Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best
of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively. We will be more willing to lend a helping hand.
• Regardless of how or what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in their place.
• Suspend judgment. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
• Choose kindness over frustration. We’re all learning. When we choose kindness, we increase our ability to problem-solve.

Running a family can be daunting. Supporting a family can be daunting. There are so many moving parts to family life. If we learn to reserve judgment and respond with kindness, we will have far better outcomes and our family relationships will feel stronger and safer.

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The Luckiest Person On The Planet

During the years that my family lived in ID. my dad was an over the road salesman. He bought a Cadillac and I hated that car. Every time we drove to my grandparents’ home in Afton, WY., with all the kids packed in the back seat, I would ruminate on my dad’s selfishness in buying such a stupid car for such a large family. Why didn’t we have a station wagon?

And here was another thing. He ate cold hot dogs in his hotel room. I loved cold hot dogs. In our money-strapped home, a hot dog was a fabulous treat. I knew he ate them because on occasion he had leftovers and brought them home. I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

After my dad passed away, while remembering these old memories, I had a moment of clarity. It came because I was older and wiser.

My dad was an over the road salesman because he only had a high school degree. Fortunately, he was a gifted salesman. He could sell you your shoes even if they were worn out. He needed to be good at it because it was commission work and he had a family of eleven to feed, clothe, and house.

To do well and keep his commissions high he drove an expensive car and wore very nice suits, both items we could ill afford. But they made my dad look successful and helped him be successful. He probably wished we had a station wagon too. It would have cut down on the back seat arguing and chaos.

And the hot dogs. He ate cold hot dogs with buttered bread and milk in his room to save the money that eating out would have cost. They weren’t a treat for him but a major sacrifice. He did this for years!

When I was a young mother my husband sold dental supplies. He would leave early Monday morning and return home Friday evening. He traveled the western half of the state of Montana. When he came home on Friday, he would ensconce himself on the couch with all the kids and watch television. On Saturday he would play ball, do errands with the kids, and hang out. How irritated I felt that he would leave me all week to manage everything while he slept in hotels, ate out, and had lots of quiet. I felt a better use of his time at home would have been to take me on a date or help me with the chores. After all, I had been home alone with six kids all week! I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

Years later, in a weak moment, for he is a man of few words, he confessed how desperately lonely he was on those long drives. How he longed to be with his family. How dreamed about home-cooked dinners filled with the chatter and arguing of children and spilled milk. He confessed that he hated being in sales. He told me of the close calls he had on snow-covered roads and his dread that someday he might not make it home. He felt I was the luckiest person on the planet surrounded by our children, in the warmth of a safe home, on a blustery winter night.

We each know our own story. We know what’s happening in our lives. We’re aware of our loneliness, our overwhelm, our shortcomings. But it’s harder to see the reality of another person’s life. We may look at their situation compared to our own and envy them. We may feel what we bear is unfair compared to what they bear. We may be resentful and judgmental. But our families will run better if we extend compassion, if we suspend judgment. This isn’t easy but it is doable.

In 1 Corinthians, in the Christian Bible, the Apostle Paul compared our imperfect knowledge of others as viewing them through a polished metal mirror of the period he lived in. He termed it ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ I’ve always loved that image. When I’m in a place of resentment and blame, I remind myself that I’m probably seeing through a glass darkly. Then I take a second look at the story I’m telling myself to see if I can clear the lens and get a more truthful picture.

Five Tips to Clear Your Lens

1. Suspend judgment. You can only see the outward behavior. You don’t know the heart or motives of another person. When we judge we’re using our experience? They are behaving from theirs. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
2. Take responsibility and stop blaming. You have control over what you think, which gives you control over how you feel. When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Check your story. Be honest with yourself.
3. Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.
4. View them as a person. Regardless of what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in error.
5. Forgive. Even if the other person is in the wrong, even if they do have a better deal than you, when you hold on to resentment and blame it only hurts you. When you extend forgiveness to others and yourself you increase your ability to be happy.

Families are filled with opportunities to judge harshly, blame, and feel resentment. As we practice clearing the lens that we see our family members and our circumstances through we will have more personal peace and family harmony.

The luckiest person on the planet is the one who sees through a clear lens.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. I’ll thank you for it. 🙂