Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Motherhood


Happy Mother's Day!

I am giving a talk in church today on Motherhood. This is something we do in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We get opportunities every once in a while to teach each other from the scriptures, our experiences, and to talk about our testimonies of how God's principles apply in and affect our lives. It is not necessarily an easy thing to do, but it truly is a growing experience and brings you closer to the spirit. So the following is the presentation I will give in church today...

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I have enjoyed preparing this talk about motherhood for today. I have thought deeply about this, it is one of my most favorite subjects. It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to focus on just one thing for several days. I am admittedly a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to motherhood. I love looking on the bright side of it. I believe as the Proclamation on the Family states that:

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.

Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. "

I believe in these principals and think that this proclamation sets out the very best way that family life can thrive. It is how parenthood, as well as, marriage can work best. By recognizing that Motherhood is enhanced in every way by a loving father to share equally in the calling of parenting, should make Mother's Day enjoyable to mothers and fathers alike. Father's Day as well, should really be celebrated as a joint effort in accomplishing God's work with his children entrusted to our care. I like that the obligation of these sacred responsibilities and helping one another as equal partners, truly is God's Plan.

So today is Mother's Day, the day we celebrate all the joys of being mothers and of having mothers. I am all for it, aren't you?

I know that Mother's Day can be a bittersweet day for many, if not all of us. I do not think anyone would deny that the love between parent and child is most unique among all other relationships. It has the power given to us to know charity, or the pure love of Christ like no other. No matter the circumstances, it is nearly impossible to put out the light of love between parent and child. For me this day is bittersweet because I love my mother with all my heart and she has passed from this life and I miss her today...and everyday.

Also in the same manner I love all of our children and our grandchildren and we are not together today either. But I can celebrate Mother's Day with Jim. He was every bit as much a part of raising them as I was. And who knows of and shares in my joy in motherhood more than he does?

For many there are sorrows associated with this day, loss of a mother or child in death, sorrow over things not being as we would wish with a certain child or mother, estrangement, or not having opportunity to receive the blessing of being a parent at all in this life. If you or someone you know struggles with this please read or refer them to this article by Sister Sheri Dew, entitled "Are We Not all Mothers?"

So when these unsettling types of feelings arise on Mother's Day, how can we best handle them?

One thing I have learned in my life is that thoughts precede and produce feelings and feelings govern our well-being. "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he," the Bible tells us in Proverbs 23:7. The gift of agency allows us to choose how we feel on Mother's Day and every other day. When I feel myself feeling sadly about not being with my mom and our kids today..I get to choose what I think about next.

I choose to think of God's promise of eternal families and that I will be with my mother again one day. And I can think about my gratitude that our children are where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to be doing, and then I am happy. Then I think of all the blessings they have brought to our lives and I feel joy. One of the secrets to a happy life is gratitude. You simply cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time.

So on motherhood, I can only share my subjective feelings. My experiences are difference than yours. If I had to think of one word to sum up what my mothering experiences have given me beyond love or joy, it would be "Enrichment."

Have you ever added up the accumulative parenting and grandparenting years you have so far? It is quite astonishing to know that number. For Jim and me it is, 189 years. Seriously scary isn't it?

Have these kids been perfect? Not hardly. Have we been perfect in our parenting and grandparenting...far from it. But do we love them unconditionally and wholeheartedly and think they are the best kids in the whole world...absolutely. Parenthood is not about perfection it is about building a child, a life, and adopting and teaching a value system in a way that allows them the most advantage and opportunity in this life and the next. They are our best people. That is how we feel...

And you should feel exactly the same way
about your own family!

The width and breath of the experiences we have had as parents could not be gained any other way. The highs and lows, the hard knocks and the blows of disappointment, along with the triumphs and joys, are priceless enrichment in a mother and father's life. In the total scheme of things, I think children teach far more to parents than the other way around. We serve and teach them with all of our hearts and they then teach and serve us...it is the perfect circle of life.

There are so many important stages in raising a family. When I see young mothers I am in awe. When I see how hard you work I cannot even imagine that I too once did all of that. If you don't believe in ministering angels, you should they are all about you helping and lifting you when you think you can't do it another day...another minute.

In those years I barely remember what happened between 1972 and 1990. For example I could not name one record on the top 10 charts during that time and I love music. I was pretty much absent from the world, down in the trenches, just running and serving and caring for our family. I'd get through each day and fall exhausted into bed when I couldn't do any more. Then I'd get up the next morning and repeat.

For those of you in that stage right now, I want to assure you that although you will never be released of your calling as mother, you will see the day when you remember what actually happened a week ago, and what it is like not to be dragging all the time.

When that bitter sweet day comes and your last one flies out of the nest, you will grief the loss of it even though it is hard to imagine now. You will long for the days when you had them surrounding you at home. A word of warning about that recapturing of your memory and energy...it doesn't last too long so enjoy it while you can. It is one of the joys of the Empty Nest.

We teach and we pray for our little children continually to be protected from the perils of this crazy world and we worry. If you are holding on to that notion that age 18 is magical, and then your struggles will be over~think again. You always have concern for your boys and girls and pray for them no matter how old they are.

There are so many help books to read about the whole process of parenting. But to me it boils down to a few important things.

I use to love to read books by Richard Eyre and his wife Linda on raising kids. In fact, I still read their books. Parenting Adult Children lies on our bookshelf at home today. Richard Eyre is the originator of The Joy Schools, if you are familiar with them.

He has a new book about Parenting as God Does.
So why not simplify and look to the best parent of all for our mentoring? God our Father.
We can begin by remembering who our children really are and to help them remember too. They are our spiritual brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of a King! (This article by the Eyres is amazing and gives you some practical helps on how to do this.)
Examining How God Parents

"So here is a list of some of the things we know about how God, our Heavenly Father parents us.
  1. Complete, unconditional love. We know that God has a deep and unconditional love for each of us and that His love is individual rather than collective.
  1. God sees (and treats) each child as a unique and eternal individual. He knows each of us perfectly and loves the uniqueness that makes us each who we are.
  1. God gives clear, simple laws with well-announced consequences, rewards, and punishments. Our Heavenly Father has never been subtle or ambiguous about His rules. He wrote them in stone.
  1. God allows His children the chance to repent. Heavenly Father wants none of us to fail. His laws are not negotiable, and He knows we will fall short, so there is a provision for repentance.
  1. God taught us and trained us and held us close throughout the pre-mortal life; and then He gave us choices and let us go. God, in His marvelous model for parenting, held us close, kept us with Him in his home, and taught us all He could for eons. And then, when further progress required the responsibility, choice-making, independence and families-of-our-own that could not happen in His presence, He gave us our agency and let us go.
  2. ( I want to add here that when that time comes and they are gone realize, that your job as parents of adult children changes. We should love, support and give our two cents worth only when asked.) Still working on this one!
  1. God allows us constant availability to Him through prayer, and suggests regular communication. With God, there are certain set times when we anticipate spiritual communication--when we partake of the sacrament, when we kneel in family prayer, when we have our personal bedtime prayers. These are like set appointments for spiritual meetings that will keep us in tune and in touch.
  1. God finds joy in his children and in His relationship with them. This one we are good at!
God’s “glory” is the progress and eternal lives of His children, and “joy” is the purpose for which He made mortality. We know that he takes joy in our progress, in our learning, and in His individual relationship with each of us." Article here.
I would like to add a couple of ours to the list.

1. Teach them how to work and work hard. Everything we attain to in this life comes from hard work and lots of it. Sending a young adult out into the world without this skill, only comes back to bite you in the end. And coddling them along in their youth and doing everything for them is not doing them any favors in the long run.

2. Help them to love and support each other and be best friends. You do your best to be the glue that holds your family together when your children are grown. It takes work on your part, they are busy raising their own families, they love their siblings very much, they just don't have a lot of extra time and energy during this time in their lives to stay as connected as they would like.

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I love being a mother with all my heart and our family is what I live for, day in and day out. It helps me realize and fulfill the measure of my creation. It is ongoing and I try to never let it become ordinary or to forget what a blessing it is in all its aspects. From the heights of its joy to the depth of its sorrows, it is all good. It is an enrichment of our life experiences and teaches us to be more like Christ, like nothing else can. And when we think it cannot possibly get any better, the crowning glory of life comes along, being a grandparent. There is so much to be thankful for and family is at the top of the list. It is my prayer for all of us that that is where we will be our best selves. Charity, or the Pure Love of Christ, truly does begin at home.

Don't we all want it said of us one day ...that we had these traits from Proverbs 31 about a virtuous woman:
25Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. My personal favorite!
29Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

It is a life time pursuit for us as women. We need to have faith, pray often, follow our perfect exemplar and mentor, our Father in Heaven, and keep trying. Parenting is like filling our lamp with oil. Little by little, day by day we build our children with the things we say and do and the unconditional love we give them. It is humbling to realize how much faith our Father In Heaven has in us. It is my testimony that, one day at a time we can do it with His help.

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Please forgive the insufferable length of this post.

P.S. Happy Mother's Day Everyone, and to our sweet and precious daughters, Jen, Laura and Melissa this is your Mother's Day message from me. I love you with all of my heart and soul! You make me smile all the time. And that goes for the Chris, Robert and Lowell as well, and all the kids! As far as I'm concerned, every day is Mother's Day because I have all of you! So since I got absolutely no rest whatsoever today, just for the record...I am taking tomorrow off!
♥ ♥ ♥ and flowers to you all ~ Mom

4 comments:

LA Adams said...

Very nice, thanks Bonnie!

Marie said...

What a lovely talk Bonnie. I am sure your Ward got a lot out of it. Thanks for sharing it with us. XXOO

Caroline Craven said...

Wow! That was a great talk. I was missing mom a lot yesterday. I wanted so much to tell her how much I love her and to give her a hug and a bunch of tulips. Most of all, I was gratful for the many times I did that when she was here with us, so I have no regrets. I hope you had a lovely Mother's Day, despite having to give a talk. I could never do that. It seems like I always break down and cry and no one wants to see that!

Sister Susie said...

A lady after GOD's own Heart!

I was the proverbial little bird that was never kicked out of the nest. However, one day I found the nest to be empty except for myself; for the LORD had taken Home my parents.

I've never had children of my own, but I have taught almost 1,000 over the years of being an educator.

I thank my LORD that He knew me before I was ever formed in my mother's womb. I'm so glad to belong to His Almighty Kingdom!

I think the saying, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" should be changed to "Motherhood is next to Godliness!"

Thanks, Bonnie for your beautiful tribute to our moms and your motherhood as well.

Love to you and yours,
Susan