An open letter to two real moms

First of all, let me set the scene.

Wallflower

Imagine you are at one of your first dances. You’re standing on the sidelines and there are hundreds of people mingling all around you. You try to look alert and available and smile at people, but no one–no one–wants to make eye contact with you. After you manage to smile at a few boys, they come over and say hi, ask you a few questions about yourself, then half smile and walk away. You do that for two hours, and in the end you danced with a small handful of boys, but the rest of the time you just sweat bullets and tried not to run and hide in the bathroom.

That’s what it feels like to be an unknown author at a book signing.

Tonight I signed books for Ladies Night at Deseret Book. This is an actual picture from my phone of all the people there:

DBnight

Notice that none of them are looking my direction. It’s okay. If I could throw my name in a hat and win a dozen cinnamon rolls or free books and DVDs, I would have done that too. I don’t blame them.

Okay, so the two moms.

Mom #1 came over to my table, browsed through my book, and said, “Too bad I already failed as a mom. My son’s about to go to jail.” I tried to be encouraging and tell her how my book testifies that parents are not responsible for their children’s agency and should not feel they have failed when children wander. I told her that many general authorities have taught that our covenants have power to reach out after and rescue our struggling children. She just looked at me, crossed her fingers, and walked away.

Mom #2 came over and looked through my book with another lady. Someone else had asked me a question, so I only overheard their conversation. She opened to the table of contents and scanned the list of chapters.  It looks like this.

Introduction: Motherhood Testifies of Christ
Chapter 1: Jesus Christ Creates
Chapter 2: Jesus Christ Teaches
Chapter 4: Jesus Christ Provides
Chapter 5: Jesus Christ Cleanses
Chapter 6: Jesus Christ Defends and Protects
Chapter 7: Jesus Christ Loves and Sacrifices
Chapter 8: Jesus Christ Forgives and Shares Burdens
Chapter 9: Jesus Christ Saves
Chapter 10: Grace and the Covenant
Chapter 11: The Eternal Influence of Covenant Motherhood

And I heard her say, “I want a chapter called Jesus Yells,” and she put it down and walked away. Do you know what I wanted to do to both of these ladies? I wanted to shake them and then give them a hug. But I didn’t. On the way home, I thought about what I wanted to say to them. This is obviously too late, but here goes.

Dear real moms,

I get it. Motherhood is hard. We mess it up all the time. And even when we think we’re getting it right, our kids sometimes choose wrong. Hard. Really hard. But I can’t help but wonder… did you hear the same general conference that I did today? Because there are some powerful truths that were taught that you might have missed because you were so busy believing that you are failing.  Here are just a few I remember off the top of my head:

  1. President Packer testified of the power of mothers’ prayers. Sure that means prayers for our children, but I also think it means prayers when we need help being a parent. God will honor those prayers.
  2. Elaine Dalton declared that our daily contributions matter and that keeping our covenants will call down the powers of heaven to bless us.
  3. Craig Cardon said over and over again that Jesus wants to forgive us when we make mistakes, and He will do it seventy times seven times. He said the Savior allows for improvement over time and doesn’t demand immediate perfection.
  4. Elder Ballard told us the parable of the tomato plant and testified that we have unlimited potential. Even when we feel wilted, the light and power of the gospel can nourish us and give us life.
  5. President Eyring taught that our simple acts of obedience and service (hello, motherhood) can help us feel closer to the Savior.
  6. Elder Scott counseled us to recognize the good in others, not their stains. Mom #1 and Mom #2, recognize the good in yourselves, too, and stop staring at those stains.
  7. Elder Cook testified that we can feel peace even in times of disaster and chaos (that means every day from 4-8 pm at my house).

Those are just a few of the things I heard today from men (and women) who we sustain as mouthpieces for our Father in Heaven. I don’t care if you never read my book, but I hope you know that you are not failing if you are trying. The good you do every day is not cancelled out by raising your voice or a child’s bad decision. There’s the Atonement for that. Use it. Believe it. Rely on Jesus Christ. He loves that you are a mother. He loves you. I think you should love you too. That is all. I hope you like the rest of conference tomorrow.  Good night.