Tag Archives: parenting

The Beginning of Something

perlecotton

I’m really loving these colors lately – yellow, gold, peach, coral, pink.  They remind me of a sunrise as glowing colors chase away darkness, full of promise and clarity for the coming day.

There was a pause in my afternoon that could only be properly filled with a prayer of gratitude.   I began the year with a burning desire to conquer myself, to seek self mastery and discipline in the deepest parts of myself where my particular bundle of characteristics, gifts and gaps leave me lacking and especially in those areas that affect my family.   For the first time in years I haven’t spelled out specific goals, seeking instead a destination that I don’t see yet but sense is there waiting – beckoning – to me and my family.   Like those first golden rays of day, I feel like I’m at the beginning of something wonderful.   It seems like there should be a destination, but what really beckons me isn’t a what or a place but a WHO.  My calling at church right now has me flying back and forth through my scriptures – Genesis to Galatians, then to Helaman and on to Revelation, then back to Abraham and in the end I sit in the center of it all, my mind spinning and reaching and reeling.  And yet still.  Perfectly still and centered on the reality of Jesus Christ and his Atonement.  His atonement for me.  For my family.  For the lady sitting in the pew behind me who I’ve never met but when I introduce myself tells me her story and has me in tears before the meeting starts.  For all of us.  And like Hannah, I think to myself, “There is no other rock like our God!”

He is where the sunrise comes from.  I’ve been on my knees more, seeking help with challenges much bigger than I am, trying to place EVERYTHING on the table and hold nothing back, almost desperate for the recipe – both ingredients and ratios – he has for my family.  I feel willing to change anything he tells me to change if it means my children will be drawn closer to Him.  It’s so interesting to pray, try, fail, pray, try, fail and then suddenly to have more clarity than I can act on in one day.  It happened this weekend and it felt like a sunrise.  It would be easier if there was an overall need to pull in, or the prompting to push out in all directions – a simple shrinking or expansion of a circle.  Instead it’s a pull in here, a stay steady there, a bump out in one spot and a major push in another.  I think I understand my instructions but get going and make a mess anyway, then go back for more instructions.  The thought occurred to me this week that maybe the Lord is drawing a circle after all; I just never knew how misshapen mine was to begin with.  I look around at other parents who have seen teenagers through the tunnel of adolescence and into the light of adulthood and wonder if this intensely personal experience is really a rite of passage for all parents, the quiet that lives behind the gritted teeth and quiet determination I’ve sometimes sensed.

Here I go again making everything solemn and serious and important (one of those fundamental parts of me that I’m trying to master).  There’s so much more to it than that!  As I type this, my 16 year old son laughs and chases his 11 year old sister across the room to pick her up and swing her in a circle.   My oldest daughter sits at the piano working on her piece for an upcoming recital and I remember that not once have I asked her to practice and yet her music elevates everything, adding a layer of beauty to us all.  My 13 year old curls up with a book while the younger three girls sit quietly drawing.  The almost eight year old boy who never eats dinner asks if he can make another sandwich.  The dishes are done, the floor is swept, rooms are tidy.  If you walked in our door right now you might feel like you’ve entered a storybook of sorts because in this moment we have a beautiful family culture.  But it wouldn’t tell the story of this afternoon’s fight between two brothers, of the food that flew across the kitchen during dinner from the wildly waving fork of that youngest boy.  You would have missed the ill-timed nap of the four year old who awoke an emotional wreck or the accusations of teenagers about how unreasonable their parents are.  You never saw the girl whose cell phone isn’t working right nearly hurl it across the room.  The mess I made preparing dinner is gone and the stress of getting everyone up an hour earlier for school in the morning (daylight savings time)  has been delayed a day thanks to some random day off of school.  Which is precisely why I’m relaxed enough to sit here and type instead of being militant about bedtime.  I’m reminded of something Howard W. Hunter said many years ago about the story of Jarius who sought Jesus as his little daughter lay near death:  “I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”  President Hunter said, “These are not only the words of faith of a father torn with grief but are also a reminder to us that whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives.  If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives.  If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives.”

I want my family to live.

The bubble has burst and the moment is gone like the last traces of sunset in a now dark sky.  Someone is screaming and someone else is poking their neighbor in the back.   I think back over my week and see pieces of many things:  A conversation with a friend who carries an invisible but crushing burden with such grace and faith that she looks glorious to me, a school teacher reaching out to a struggling child, a boy weeping over his struggles, a little girl curled up on my lap fighting a fever.  I wish I’d kept count of the number of women I watched as they went about doing good, each of them teaching me something.  I did some things right and a lot of things wrong.  I talked too much (another fundamental flaw).  Yesterday I needed to repent and felt so good when I’d done it.  I remember teen-aged boys showing up at my house for lunch, another boy being humble enough to do what was asked of him, a little girl who worked hard to earn a privilege that was important to her.  I ran into a friend and my heart broke to hear firsthand her journey in recent months.   My heart felt broken for my little sister.  A far away friend shared a touching summary of recent months for her family.  Again and again I was struck by how hard life is for all of us, by how tremendous our burdens are, but also how perfectly tailored they are for our development and increased happiness.  I heard determination, faith, optimism and hope fighting their way to the front of their lives (those glowing colors again!) as they, too, reach for the promise and clarity that Christ has to offer.

He is where the sunrise comes from.  The beginning of everything good.  A journey worth taking.

 

 

Hello again!

orangetulips

It’s been so long since I posted that I hardly know what to write.  I never intended to allow my blogging to taper off so much in 2013, and then halt altogether for nearly three months.  Life just floods the hours, then the days and suddenly the months are gone and I’m left wondering at it all.  My mind and heart have traveled so many directions it’s difficult to choose just one to capture, and then capturing so many escapes me altogether and I’m left, empty handed but strangely full at the same time.

I never really reported on my goals for 2013, which has nagged at me, but now we’re so far into 2014 that I wonder how much value there would be in going back to dissect.  The start of this new year has been such a whirlwind that I’m not really sure I’ve even got a handle on it yet, let alone a capstone for the year that’s gone.  Tonight none of it matters.  My heart is shouting, “WRITE!!!”

I wasn’t a great mother today.  Every time I got a child on task and turned my attention to another one, everyone else scattered.   There are days it feels like the only thing they work at is escaping my notice while they quietly do whatever they feel like doing INSTEAD of the chore/assignment they’re avoiding.  Today was certainly one of those days and I didn’t rise to the occasion like I should have.  By mid-afternoon I felt up to my eyeballs in everything that isn’t what I wish it was within our home and family, leaving me frustrated and discouraged.

Then I walked past a mirror in our home and was reminded of something I read recently about how a baby, when placed before a mirror, reaches for its reflection in joy and fascination at the life it reveals.  When was the last time I looked at myself with joy and amazement at the life that is in me?  I made myself pause and look into my own eyes until I could really see myself in them, until I saw enough good that I smiled back at my reflection.  In spite of the ups and downs of motherhood and life, I have found myself lately in an ongoing experience of revelation, understanding and learning.  I’ll be sitting in a chair, or driving, and suddenly I’m filled with warmth as new (to me) ideas and understanding literally fill my mind.  I’m hungry, so very hungry, for the word of God, wanting to devour it all right now and yet feasting abundantly on a single sentence is equally enjoyable.  With it has come enhanced and distinct understanding of who I am, not just here, but before I came here – one experience bringing so much clarity and understanding that I still can’t get over it.  I am finally learning that although I am flawed in countless ways, God did not make a mistake when he made me.   He knows me, understands what makes me tick,  and loves me.  It’s a miracle and I’m amazed by it.

Alongside and woven with this golden thread of learning is the laboratory of life – life with a lot of children, in a busy household with clutter, fingerprints on every wall, dirty socks hidden in stranger places than I can predict and more meals to prepare than I have interest in cooking.   I often feel irritated with myself at the gap between my conceptual understanding of principles and my inability to actually put them into action in our family.  Too often I “get it” but struggle to really “live it.”  It’s occurred to me lately that perhaps never before has so much been expected of a generation of parents in so short a time as there is now.  Technology and media have completely changed the game in raising teenagers and in all our bumbling around trying to find the right balance we also make a lot of mistakes.   Tonight I’m grateful that my bumbling efforts also allow me to bump up against the reality and power of Christ’s Atonement.  I need it more every day, not less, and the need generates a lovely, prayerful dialogue in my days.

So I guess I’m back.  Back because I want my attention span to be longer than the fraction of a second it takes me to scroll past an instagram picture (fun as it is!), because I miss this layer in my life, because if I don’t do this I’m afraid I’ll turn around a few years from now unable to remember anything specific because it’s been such a blur .  Back because life is good and because it is hard and because I’m so blessed and because I struggle.    Because motherhood matters.  So does hope.  And family.   (And because I can’t get enough of quilting.)

Hello again!
Jennifer

Balance

bunting1

It’s been a really busy week and still many miles to go, but I wanted to pop in with something I’m sorting through tonight.

I mentioned the half-birthday party we had earlier this week for my 4th daughter, and tomorrow is the actual birthday of my 3rd daughter, who is turning nine.  Crazy.  The year has gone so quickly.

This will be her 3rd consecutive year spending a good part of the day on her birthday sitting at a soccer tournament for older sisters.  She’s handling it well, as usual, but it’s made me ponder balance and pursuing excellence and how sometimes they seem to be at odds with one another.

Today I took all eight children with me to a city an hour from home to sit in 88 degree weather while we watched four soccer games.  It meant waking them all at 5 am, getting on the road by 6 a.m. and sitting in the sun for 12 hours before we headed back home.  I tried hard to make it fun.  We packed lots of food, including fresh vegetables and fruits, found playgrounds to play on, checked out a skate park we’d never seen before, and went shopping for a little while (fun only for the oldest 4 – it only exhausted the little ones faster).  We had lots of cold drinks and they had a great time, but after about six hours the six spectators were fading fast and we still had two games to go.  More than once I heard complaints about the sacrifices they were making to be there, and I don’t blame them.  It wasn’t the kind of day anyone dreams of.

On the other hand, I watched my oldest daughter fight through a minor injury and find strength to play hard when she wanted to curl up and cry.  I listened to her coach insist that he needed her in the game for every minute of play but could see on her face what it was costing her.  I helped her ice, wrap, then ice and wrap her leg again and I think my efforts mean a lot to her.  My second daughter also worked hard in her games.  I think it’s awesome to send the message as a family that we stand with each other, that we’re willing to sacrifice our time and interests to BE THERE for important moments.  I think it’s awesome to support my daughters in achieving their goals and helping them progress.  I am happy they want to excel and love supporting them.

But it throws us out of balance.  When the third game ended and the little ones were crying that they couldn’t walk to the car I looked around and saw how much the day had cost us.  A few minutes later we were sitting on the sidelines in a light hailstorm as my children ran to me to take cover under a blanket – the only protection we had brought for a hot summer day.  Most of them fell asleep at some point in our little journey.  We came home and I could hardly find energy myself to make dinner, clean out the coolers, pick up trash and get things in order.  And we get to do it again tomorrow.  Same early hour, same distance.  Plus a birthday.

Tonight I’m wondering what I can do better to help my children pursue excellence AND have more balance in our lives.   While I know our numbers complicate things significantly I also believe that many families face this dilemma.

How do you do it?

Jennifer

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