This is a really good post. You should read it.

While walking the treadmill at the gym with my good friend Shantel the other day, we had a conversation about two things that are frequent themes on my blog:  the often misunderstood, nevertheless eternal importance of motherhood and the sometimes crushing sense of underachievement we women tend to drag around with us.  Amidst the pathetic huffing and puffing, our conversation turned to the scriptures.  I can’t speak for Shantel (who usually knows everything already), but I had a major lightbulb moment.

I’m hoping I can share it well because the principles are awesome. (Hence, the incredibly demure title of this post.)

Women are pulled in so many directions, our expectations dictated by an ever-demanding society and our own overactive sense of self-judgment.  We are bombarded with thousands of skills, ideas, practices, habits, philosophies, and even possessions that are somehow advertised as necessary pieces of the puzzle that is the “fulfilled modern woman.”  Give me a break.  Even when we can see through all the smoke and mirrors and try hard to focus our priorities on what we know really matters, we hear spoken and unspoken messages suggesting we should really be doing more with our lives.  Making a difference.  Making a name for ourselves.  We’re told we can be better mothers if we fulfill ourselves in myriad areas of our lives (like a career, for example) and focus on our own needs (“Spoil yourself.  You deserve it.”).  Elder Ballard taught recently:
“Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children.”
His message refers, I think, mostly to our spiritual reservoirs and certainly also to allowing ourselves opportunity to develop talents and interests.  However, society has twisted and abused this point to mean that women should do everything and anything we want to do or are capable of doing, or we’ll have nothing valuable to offer.  Anyway, all of that was more of a rant than the actual lesson I learned.  Here is what a couple Bible stories taught me about the simple glory of being a stay-at-home mom, or at least the best kind of mom and woman I can be.

Marys_Anointing_of_Jesus_small From Matthew 26:

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

Now, this woman brought the finest she had and shared it with the Savior.  The disciples called it a “waste,” suggesting she should give it to the poor or use it in a way to do so much more good in the world.  The Savior rebukes them and reminds them that He is a worthy recipient of her good works.  Think of this in terms of taking all our education, our precious time, our talents and resources that could maybe make us powerful or famous or of great influence elsewhere in the world, and yet, we wipe noses and wash feet.  Like the disciples, others may say or we may ask ourselves, “Don’t you wish you could do more with your life?”  Think of the Savior’s assertion just one chapter earlier that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  The same account in Luke tells us that she was also a sinner.  She was not perfect by any means, but the Savior accepted and honored her offering, deemed it better than any other way she could have spent herself, and he accepted her.

GREENE_Nathan_Martha_and_MaryFrom Luke 10:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Martha was trying hard to do what was right, but she also tried to impose her version of what-should-be-done onto Mary.  She even complained to the Savior that Mary should be doing more.  He gently pointed out that by simply focusing on Him, Mary’s “doing less” was actually doing more; a personal relationship with Him was– and still is– the good part.  Society and even well-meaning friends, family and peers may try to impose upon us their standards for our success, but what the Savior measures us by is solely our attention and response to personal revelation from Him as we act out our part in life.  He, and He alone, sets the only “rules” that matter.  We can try to meet everyone else’s expectations, and even our exaggerated own, until we are blue in the face, but it’s not supposed to be that hard, and we might just end up missing out on the needful good part.
Martha4
So in a world of mixed messages and voices that tell us we are never enough, I’m thankful for Jesus Christ, who asks so little of me by comparison.  I feel bold enough to say that what I often see as mundane He will (and does) crown with glory.  He loves my children even more than I do, and my heart is enough for Him.  And really, that’s all that matters.
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21 thoughts on “This is a really good post. You should read it.

  1. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as well. In our recent Stake Conference, my husband told me that the Stake President addressed them in Priesthood meeting solely on treating the women in their lives better, because when Satan is trying to attack the family, he shoots for mom. We have messages of not doing/being/having enough thrown at us from all sides constantly, and it is hard not to get caught up in it. Thank you so much for the scriptures you shared. They made an impact with me today.

  2. Thank you for your words, they explain very well a lot of what I have been contemplating recently. Along those lines, I have been trying to simplify my life by cutting out all the unnecessaries and focusing only on the absolutely necessary. It’s hard to determine those things when there are so many voices shouting about what we should have or be doing, but it is amazing to me how much we can do without. For example…We downsized to a smaller house and now there is less maintenance and so I don’t have to work as hard trying to keep up with a big house (or, more likely, feel bad that I can’t keep up with the big house). Many people would think that I am crazy for living in a 3 bedroom 1600 sq ft house with 4 kids (and planning on 1 more) but it was the best move that we made for my sanity. The house still gets messy, but it’s easier to keep clean. What you said reminds me also about several talks from recent years and mostly one that I heard from Elder Scot who came to my mission umpteen years ago. He said that if Satan can’t get us through the front door (ie: blatant sin) he will use the back door by making us so busy with things that are good, but not essential. I think that our feelings, as women, that we have to do more and be everything to everyone and that we deserve to be endlessly spoiled play into that back door theory. Anyway…thanks for sharing, it really echoes my sentiments (and better than I could say it!) Sorry that was so long! I just really love your thoughts and am grateful that you choose to share them with me!

  3. Stephanie, thanks. This is great. And I think we all know those Mary vs. Martha moments. The most devastating ones seem to be when my internal Martha attacks my internal Mary – This isn’t what you should be focusing on! Do something IMPORTANT!

    I am thankful for when He reminds me that there is good in both parts.

  4. I love it. I so love it, especially the principles from the first scripture of the woman who brings the oil to Christ. This is such a great post–you were right! I wish I could add something worthwhile and significant, but I think you did it perfectly.

  5. Thank you, Stephanie! Your title is completely accurate. One of the things I love about when you write about motherhood and the gospel is that your ideas are so well thought out and have substance. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  6. I have been trying to remember that lately. A mother’s nurturing responsibilities are so very important. My husband will tell people that although he brings in the bacon, so to speak, his job is not nearly as important as mine. I am glad he reminds me daily : ).

  7. This was a really good post and I’m glad I read it. :)

    And when Elder Ballard said that in Conference, I never leapt of the couch, shouting “YES!” because it’s so very true. We run ourselves ragged trying to take care of what we *think* is important that we forget to take time for what really is important.

  8. Oh, wow. Very timely for me, indeed.

    I skipped church the week before the baby was born — couldn’t fit into anything Sunday-appropriate, couldn’t bear the thought of one more person making a comment about how I’m still pregnant, refused to walk the halls during RS instead of sitting in an uncomfortable room that is ALWAYS 10 degrees warmer than it should be, especially for a bunch of menopausal women, who comprise the vast majority of our group. Anyway.

    My mom didn’t skip church, and the lesson in RS was about the Restoration of the Gospel, and talk amongst the class goers turned to Joseph Smith, and how valiant he must have been in the preexistence, and how he must have been prepared for his calling prior to coming to earth. The teacher then asked what that meant for us — because our presence here in the last days implies a great degree of valiance as well, and we were prepared for our missions as well. One sister raised her hand and said that she (a composer) felt that she had been schooled in music in the preexistence, and that she had a hard time reconciling the fact that despite these “fantastic” gifts she has been given, she still has to do dishes and laundry and the menial tasks that keep her home running smoothly.

    My mom began to squirm in her seat at this point. She is the Stake RS president, and, I think, sometimes thinks people hear from her a little too much. But the teacher is one of her dearest and oldest friends, and my mom’s discomfiture did not escape her notice, so she asked mom what she thought. She said that she never feels more like she is doing what the Lord wants her to do than when she is mothering or teaching. Now, understand, this woman is a gifted musician in her own right; she is incredibly creative in the quilt studio and with a camera, and you have never heard a better public speaker (need a speaker for a youth conference? She’s your woman!). She is vibrant and full of vitality and interesting and funny and intelligent with a vast base of Gospel knowledge and truly, truly wonderful. And she chooses to spend the majority of her time mothering (and, now, grandmothering) and teaching (not a school teacher, just in general) — two jobs that rank at the bottom of the worldly list of prestigious occupations. But those other talents of hers are merely icing, and sweet compensations for her sacrifices. Instead of seeing the “true mission” things — mothering and teaching — as obstacles in her otherwise talented path, she embraces them as her most important God-given mandate. Only in seeing the true order of things does she become more capable of finding legitimate, appropriate outlets for the secondary talents the Lord gave her. I feel the same way — that as important as music is, and has been, in my life, my most important premortal schooling was about raising my family, about teaching others (see, my missions are the same as hers!), about living the Gospel in a cheerful way. And regardless of how we feel about the other things that occupy our time, we cannot deny that the one job given to all women is not to be a CEO, an artist, a musician, a news reporter, a great philanthropist. It is to mother. And I feel certain that in the huge premortal college, our core classes were all the same — we were prepared for the hugest task the Lord could possibly give to any of His children here upon the earth: to raise up the next generation.

    Sorry for the hijack. I guess you can tell I feel pretty strongly about this topic!

  9. Thank you. This speaks volumes to my heart, being somewhat a new mommy of only 4 years and 3 beautiful boys to show for it. I wish that people truly gave us grace when they say we need it. It just doesnt happen. So I need to give myself grace where Heavenly Father would! Beautiful!!! I am going to chew on this for a LONG time. Thank you

  10. What you said totally resonated within me. It reminds me of my mission and how I felt like what I did was never going to be good enough. Satan was playing on my greatest fears (and what most women’s greatest fears are), while Christ wanted me to feel that my offering was acceptable to him. I remember being told this in blessings and having a hard time completely accepting it. Sometimes we just need to relax and let ourselves feel our Savior’s love surround us. Thank you for reminding me!

  11. Great thoughts! I’ve been forced to slow down this month (1st trimester), so I’ve had a little more time to just think… But it’s kind of nice – now that I’m not feeling completely gross. :) But seriously, I think too many of us have to-do lists that are WAY too long! I was just thinking about this last night. Someone asked me what my “basics” are each day – things I feel NEED to get done each day. And it was like 15 items long! Having to slow down has made me realize that there are really only a few essentials to each day. For me – make sure my kids feel loved, make sure I have some kind of spiritual nourishment, and make sure my kids have some kind of spiritual nourishment. That’s it, right now. If nothing else happens, I’ll be happy with that day!

  12. You know, one of the happiest moments as a hard-working, hard-on-yourself woman (you don’t have to be a mom to be too hard on yourself) is when you look around at all the things you DIDN’T get done that day and feel satisfied anyway because you know that you chose to spend your time on the more important things. Like looking at the pile of laundry and knowing that reading to the kids was a much better choice.
    Jesus loves us SO MUCH. He can help us all day, every day, with every thing, including being happy with our offering.
    Thanks for your really great post, Stephanie. Thank you very much.

  13. Love this post too – the image of Jesus with Martha and Mary is beautiful. I love the allegory you’ve brought out in these fables. I’m not a mother, but I am constantly striving to “Make the most” of my resources, feeling guilty that my mother (whom I live with) is still the primary household caretaker (I’m realizing now its because she wants to be and its HER house and I need to allow her that autonomy). It’s a beautiful thought for any situation, that the part YOU play is one that should make sense to you – it’s such a liberating lesson, to start seeing through the filters of external demands.

    Thank you

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