Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Tender Mercy

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defines tender mercies as “very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ” (The Tender Mercies of the Lord, April 2005 General Conference). To me, these are the moments when Heavenly Father says, “I know you. I hear you. I love you.” I had one of these moments a few weeks ago.

To preface how much my tender mercy meant meant to me, I have to first address the “M” word. You know what that is? Money. This can be a touchy subject sometimes, depending on the amount of money people earn or wish they earned. Landon is a teacher. I am a stay-home mother. We have to carefully budget every penny we have. This is not a complaint; this is a lifestyle we choose and I know we are far better off than most of the world. I am grateful for what we have. However, if you ever want to complain that teachers are unappreciated and underpaid, I will be a great listener!

One night Landon and I stayed up late anxiously discussing financial issues. More specifically, how to either make more money or save more money because it keeps running out. Funny how that happens. We decided we wanted to pay more money toward our mortgage too, but where do we take the money from?

The morning after Landon and I talked, I decided to read my scriptures before our girls woke up. I sat in bed, opened my scriptures to a random page, looked down at a verse, and this is what it said:

“Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them”. D&C 111: 5.

Bam! A tender mercy! I know Heavenly Father answers our prayers, but I was not expecting an answer and peace of mind so quickly. I do not believe I “accidently” opened my scriptures to that page and just “happened” upon that verse. I think an angel was guiding my hands and my eyes. I think angels are all around us, guiding our lives in ways we never know. The Lord is helping us in ways we might not even recognize.

Although this scripture was given to Joseph Smith in 1836, I know Heavenly Father meant for me to see that scripture on that morning. I know He is aware of our needs. As long as we remain faithful, keeping our covenants and paying our tithing, he will bless us spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially.

Do you have a tender mercy to share?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Parable of the Peach Tree

One evening last spring, my husband and I drove our young daughters to a peach orchard near our home. It was our ward’s turn to prune the peach trees. We thought it would be a great opportunity to teach our children about service; plus, they could wear themselves out running through the orchard before bedtime! I was about to learn a significant gospel lesson that has stayed with me since.

We arrived at the orchard and gazed at the endless rows of peach trees. The workers passed out ladders and taught us about pruning. The excess peaches needed to be picked so the tree could support the fruit still left on the branches. One inch needed to be left between remaining peaches to allow each to grow bigger. Peaches also need to be pruned to allow sunlight to reach the twigs. New peach twigs can be killed in just one growing season by too much shading.

As I stood atop the ladder picking the hard, green peaches, I felt that I was wasting perfectly good peaches! I watched them fall to the ground and wondered if they would have flourished had I left them on the branch. It was then that I realized the lesson Heavenly Father was trying to teach me.

When we fill our lives with too many activities, no matter how good they are, we risk stunting our spiritual growth. So many wonderful opportunities are available to us, but at what cost? Just as the excess peaches needed to be pruned in order for the others to flourish, we need to wisely choose what activities will occupy our time so the ones we keep will blossom. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families” (Good, Better, Best, October 2007 General Conference).

Too many peaches will weaken the branch; I have felt this in my own life. When I overschedule myself, I feel discouraged and unable to accomplish all that is required of me. Unfortunately, my family suffers because I cannot give them the attention they deserve. The scriptures contain counsel on this matter. King Benjamin taught the Nephites, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4: 27).

I have also realized just as too much shade can destroy the peach twigs, spiritual darkness can weaken my testimony. This happens when I neglect personal scripture study and prayer. Peach twigs need the light of the sun to help them grow; I need the light of the Son to help me grow. I know as I trust in the Lord, he will guide me to select the opportunities that strengthen my testimony and my family.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Hollywood

Dear Hollywood,

I love many of the movies you produce, especially the inspirational (i.e. The Help) and the clean romantic comedies (Penelope, anyone?). I admire that your actors/actresses raise money to help people in poverty around the world. Thank you for songs that are fun to listen to while I clean the house or dance with my daughters. However, Hollywood, I have some issues. I'll talk - you listen.

What's up with your definition of beauty? Sure, the women on the cover of magazines are beautiful, even without the Photoshop work done on every image, but are you so narrow that you leave out the other 99% of females that are not a size 0? Do you really think women have to have a tiny waist with large breasts and perfectly-straight bleached teeth and expertly highlighted hair to be beautiful? I do not agree. I think a beautiful woman is intelligent, kind, strong, and selfless. Come meet my friends and you will agree. Since I was little, I have been taught that every woman is a daughter of God. That means we have divine worth, whether the scale reads 115 pounds or 210 pounds. You should check out Beauty Redefined. I have joined their fight to take back beauty.

Here's another issue. I love to workout to songs with a great beat, but how many songs do we really need about going to a club, getting drunk while rocking the dance floor, then finding a sexy one-night stand to go home with? Katy, Usher, Gaga - I know you are talented singers, but can you broaden your lyrics to make a song of substance? Despite what you may believe, women are much more than sexual objects to be used for male gratification. I don't know what's worse - a man singing about using a woman or a woman singing about being used! When I first heard Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO, I thought, "This song is awesome!" Then I read the lyrics: "Yo, I'm runnin' through these ho's like Drano." Are you KIDDING me? I have two daughters. If a man ever refers to them as ho's to be run through, he'll be running alright. Running away from me as I chase him down!

And while I'm on the subject, can you produce more romantic comedies without premarital sex? Can you back off the swearing? Can you reduce the gore and violence? If this is about money, did you know that PG-rated movies make more money than R-rated movies? Also, let's tackle those Photoshopped magazines I referred to earlier that clutter every checkout stand in America. Can you discuss more in your magazines than expert sex techniques and celebrity gossip?

I just wanted to tell you that I refuse to acquiesce my moral agency to your immoral standards. I will walk out of the theater. I will delete the offensive song. I will close the magazine. Most importantly, I will teach my daughters their true beauty and worth, despite your attacks to distort their perceptions.



Monday, January 9, 2012

I Am a Mommy

I am tired. Why? I am a mommy. I change my clothes as often as I change my daughter's diapers as one outfit after another is stained with food from messy hands and poop. I would love to go shopping for bags of new clothes, but lately the only bags I carry are the ones under my eyes! I can tell you more about Elmo's world than Obama's policies. Time for just my husband and I must come late at night after our toddlers fall asleep or early in the morning before they wake up, and only if we are not completely exhausted. The laundry piles up, the dishes pile up, the bills pile up, and some days my tears pile up and I just cannot laugh them off. Do you know what I mean?

But I am happy. Why? I am a mommy. I make a difference in the world! I get to spend every day with the people I love most. I feel peace when I lay my head on my pillow at night - next to my incredibly handsome husband - because I know I am following the Lord's plan for my life. I get all the smiles, kisses, snuggles, and hugs I could ever want. I get to relive my childhood, play dolls, and go to the park. I watch my girls grow and learn and every day I learn a little more from them about unconditional love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, service . . . and how to be an incredibly awesome multi-tasker!

Our first daughter was born just four months after we graduated from college and we were rich in love, but poor in money. We made sacrifices to have her, but it is no sacrifice to give up other dreams because I want to be a mommy even more! I know as I trust in the Lord, He will guide my paths as I raise these beautiful spirits (Proverbs 3:5-6). They are His children too. I would not trade these early years of motherhood for anything and treasure each day as a blessing. So bring on the poopy diapers! Although for the sake of my wardrobe, I need to run to Wal-Mart and buy a plastic poncho to wear tomorrow. . .

Shattering the Facade of Perfection

I read a blog post on Momastery by Glennon, a mother of three young children. She wrote that we should not feel guilty if we do not enjoy every moment of motherhood. Some moments are justifiably hard and the old women who tell us to "Carpe Diem and appreciate EVERY single second of parenting because it flies by" only say that because their children are grown up now and they have forgot the temper tantrums. Amen. Read the article. She is a gifted writer.

Here's the real reason behind this blog post. I saw Glennon's picture on her blog. She is thin and beautiful. Somehow that made her less relateable for me. I know that reflects my own insecurities screaming to be freed. Imagine my jaw-dropping shock when I read on Glennon's biography that she struggled with bulimia and alcoholism for 20 years. Her turning point came when she discovered she was drunk, alone, and pregnant. She changed her life, married her baby's daddy, and found God. Wow. This woman is incredible. Suddenly, I wanted to be her friend more than ever! I wanted to reach through the computer and give her a hug!

This being said, why the HECK do some of us strive to hide our weaknesses and pretend like our lives are perfect? It leaves us subject to stereotypes. It makes it all too easy to misjudge one another. Our trials and the chaos in our lives provides us with empathy that links us together as brothers and sisters. God never meant for us to travel the road of life alone. Our burdens need to be shared. I believe that creating a facade of perfection alienates us. A perfect person is a lonely person. If my neighbor was sick but refused to tell me, how could I bring her dinner or babysit her kids? If I never asked my friend to teach me how to make my bread rise, how would I know I had been killing my yeast by boiling it? (True story.)

When I want to talk to someone about how much I miss my brother, I tell someone who has lost a loved one and felt the ache. When I want to express how difficult it is to live within a teacher's budget, I talk to people who have struggled financially. I am not saying that we lay all of our soul bare for all the world to see, or that we whine too much about our trials; I'm just saying that it is difficult to connect with someone who "seems" to live a perfect life. We flock to blogs like Glennon's because her indomitable spirit inspires us. Her honesty is refreshing. Who wants Barbie for a friend, anyway?

So here is some straight-up Emily:
I am passionately in love with my husband. I have the most beautiful, smart, and creative daughters in the history of the world and I play with them every day. I can't smell. I love to talk and write, especially about the gospel of Jesus Christ; maybe I will write a book someday. My house is never completely clean. Reading is my catharsis. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing enough with my life as a stay-home mother, but then I look at my daughters and I feel peace. I know God loves me. I cook from scratch and love to eat my creations too. I wish I was more secure about my body. I would travel the world if I had more money. I love my smile. I am cranky when I am tired. I often forget how blessed I am and wish for a bigger house with a real backyard, despite having witnessed real poverty in the world. I suffer from post-partum depression after every pregnancy. I get anxiety if I am overscheduled. I am a bargain shopper extraordinaire. I naturally love people and think the best of them. I make and cherish friends easily. I try not to say unkind things about other people, but sometimes I still think unkind thoughts. I hate it when people blame their actions on others, so I always take responsibility for my mistakes. I wish I was slower to take offense and quicker to forgive. I love to be the center of attention if I am making people laugh. I do not love to run, but I do love triathlons and my road bike. I have strong opinions and like to be right, but I can admit when I am wrong. I can say sorry. I have always loved to sing, but was insecure about my voice until recently. I cry when others are sad.

Will you tell me more about the true you?