When Founded upon Christ, by Becca Riding

Cover me, I’m going in…

I am a mother of 4.

In Jim Gaffigan’s most recent stand-up routine he says “Want to know what it’s like having 4 kids? Just imagine you’re drowning…and someone hands you a baby.” Mother of Four is a new title for me, having only recently acquired that Fourth, and I’m still getting used to the water, as it were.

It is a Thursday. I get up bleary eyed and stumble to my kitchen to dig out some stale cereal for the hungry masses to eat for breakfast. There, on my kitchen counter, is a box of peaches waiting to be canned. Half a bushel. Staring me down. “Yes,” I think, “I will get to those today.”

Cue the shrill cry of a distressed newborn. I throw a handful of cereal in my mouth, take a gulp of milk, and go scoop her up. And what’s this? Crying baby…who….won’t open her eyes?? This is new. Four kids, and the surprises keep coming. Quick call to my pediatrician to take advantage of the fact that I’ve now paid enough co-pays to buy him a car. Baby who won’t open her eyes? He has no idea. So, you know, we’re figuring that out. As I’m talking on the phone, holding Baby Four in one arm, I’m using the other arm to wash peaches in the sink.

Until Three starts puking on the carpet, raising the question: What in the world did she eat so early in the morning that is THAT color purple??? Awesome. But at least it didn’t seem to bother her; she never even took her eyes off “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Plunk Baby Four in her bouncer to fend for herself for a bit. I am on my knees, humming as I scrub the carpet.  The peaches on the counter roll their eyes at me.

I am going to get those darn peaches canned.

Two trips to the doctor and several hours later, I have pawned One and Two off on a Christlike Protestant neighbor, but Three and Four are both screaming at the top of their lungs. They are miserable. They want to be held, by me and only me. They cannot be comforted, but I alternate between one and the other, back and forth, as they continue to shriek. My eardrums are, quite honestly, over it.  I am trying, very hard, not to lose it utterly.

Which is when I lay them oh so lovingly and gently on the carpet, wrap an apron around my courtesy-of-your-children waist, and bottle those peaches. Happy little slices, sprinkled with Fruit Fresh, and packed neatly into their gleaming jars.  Perfect. Just like the good little Mormon I am, I am canning to the sound of misery and outrage, the soundtrack of this moment in my life. And as I stand here, white knuckle gripping my sanity and pouring sugar syrup into each jar, I think “Oh, please. Just let the Savior cover this day. Let Him cover my inability to do and be everything I need to be and can’t be today. Please let the atonement cover it.”

And the greatest thing is? It does.

Becca Riding was born and raised in Utah but calls North Carolina home. She served a mission in Switzerland, married her very best friend, and has four kids. She recently completed her first-half mile jog, which she’s pretty excited about, and she seriously needs a nap.

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Look at what you could win if you participate in today’s blog hop! You have until Sunday to add a link to your own Family Proclamation Photo Essay post at at We Talk of Christ, at Chocolate on My Cranium, or at Middle-Aged Mormon Man…  All you need to do is put up some of your own photos with phrases from the Proclamation. Better get busy!

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Click here to read a complete version of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The celebration will continue through Sept. 30.

Every time you leave a comment on any of the Proclamation posts or participate in any of the Blog Hops, you are entered in a drawing to win a giveaway prize.

← The giveaway this week is a gift certificate from Family Tree and Me redeemable for any of their Photo Family Proclamations, including the shipping cost. Readers of the Family Proclamation Celebration can receive a 25% discount off the price of the print if you use this code: Family Proclamation Celebration.25 The discount is good until September 30th. All those comment on posts will be eligible for the giveaway. Family Tree and Me delights in creating customized keepsake family photo art and would love the opportunity to make a meaningful art piece for you to display in your home. You provide the pictures and we create the art! We have four categories of art with a variety of options available within each one: Photo Family Trees, Photo Family Proclamations, Missionary Photo Art, and Photo Family Mission Statements.

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The power of purpose

One of the things that scares me the most about my book is that people are going to read it. It’s such a silly fear that I don’t even know what to say about it, except that I want to scream from the rooftops (because apparently that’s how you get all the right people to hear you): I do not think I’m an expert on motherhood! Come look in my house and you will see I struggle with being the right kind of mom every single day! But I believe everything I wrote about being a mother– I know that it is a divine opportunity, I know that it is infinitely important, and I know that motherhood turns me to Christ and helps me become who I should be. That knowledge gives my mothering purpose.

Purpose is what gives a person hope. It gives you perspective beyond an inglorious moment. And it gives me something to work toward, because we all understand that knowing something and doing it right are two wholly different things.

I saw this video today that explains the basic doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It answers those questions that every human has about the purpose of life: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go when I die? Anyway, it’s a lovely little clip, and something that I think would be great to share with people to help them understand a little bit about what Mormons really believe. I really do believe what this video talks about. I believe in Jesus Christ, and I believe in God’s plan of salvation. This knowledge gives me purpose.

What does purpose mean to you? And how does it make a difference to have one?

 

Countdown the the Family Proclamation Celebration: 3 days!

Mothers: Symbols of the Savior (+CD giveaway)

What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ?

That’s the question I asked Whitney Permann of MERCY RIVER because it’s the central theme of my blog– finding the divine among the daily details of motherhood.  MERCY RIVER is a musical trio of LDS women (Brooke, Whitney, and Soni).  With thirteen kids between them, they understand how busy a mother’s life can be, and they also juggle being recording artists and inspirational speakers.  Check out this video for a peek of them rehearsing and entertaining seven kids at the same time.

Here is Whitney’s answer:

What has motherhood taught me about Jesus Christ?

Motherhood has taught me many things. I’ve learned that patterned shirts hide snot and spit up better than plain shirts. I’ve learned that cell phones don’t work correctly after they’ve been sucked on too many times. And I’ve learned that I should always check for stray pull ups before I throw a load of laundry in.

I’ve also learned about polar bear habitats, all five signs of strep throat, and the name of every member of the BYU football team.

But most importantly, motherhood has taught me a lot about Jesus Christ. As a mother, I’ve learned about justice and mercy, faith and prayer, joy and sorrow, and deep, intense love. Each of these things connects me to Him.

We are taught that as mothers, we are “partners” with Christ. We offer ourselves as vehicles through which spirits can come to earth. But perhaps we are more than just “partners” with Him.  Take a look at Moses 6:58:

“As ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit…even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

Isn’t that stunning? Physical birth (from a mother) is symbolic of spiritual re-birth that will take place later in life (from Christ). So, as mothers, not only are we partners with Christ–

We are symbols of Christ.

We offer our physical bodies in pregnancy and childbirth to provide life for our children. Jesus Christ offered His physical body in death, to provide life for God’s children. And both involve water, blood, and the Spirit.

But it doesn’t stop there. A mother’s offering does not begin or end with her body. Yes, a mother offers her body through sleepless nights, weary arms, a well-worn lap, an aching back, and a listening ear. But what a mother offers most is her heart. Her entire soul. And isn’t that what Jesus Christ has offered us as well? Just as we see it symbolized in motherhood, He offers us His body, and His heart and soul.

So I ask, how does this knowledge–that we are symbols of Christ–change the way we view motherhood? Does it change the way I see myself or my children? Should it? And what is the meaning of it all? Why has He chosen to use mothers in this beautifully symbolic way?

I think it means He thinks we’re pretty special.

I think it means that mothering should be reverenced and protected.

I think it means that by daily nurturing, loving, teaching, and sacrificing for my children, not only am I coming to know more about Him, I am coming to be more like Him.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love that, Whitney, and I absolutely agree.  Perhaps no other calling on earth can give more opportunity to become like Christ than the calling of a mother.  Thank you!

MERCY RIVER has just released a new album, “Higher,” and they are offering a free copy of their CD to one lucky reader.  There are some beautiful songs on this album.  I think my favorites are two songs I was already familiar with from the Christian radio station I like to listen to:  “Blessings” and “Better than a Hallelujah.”  This is great Sunday music, but it’s also upbeat enough for any day at home or in the car.

If you want to hear a song from this album, you can go to their Facebook page here and listen to “Beautiful Life.”  You’ll also find more information about their current blog tour and any upcoming performances.

So, you wanna be a winner?  It’s simple really.  In just one or two sentences, answer the same question Whitney did:  What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ? (Your answer doesn’t have to be original, just true to you.  It can be longer, too, but no pressure.)  Each person who comments before midnight on Friday will be entered in a drawing to win Mercy River’s new CD.

Coping and Mothering: Overcoming Discouragement

I went to lunch several months ago with some friends.  During a side conversation, one friend said to me, “That’s the worst part about growing up: learning about everyone’s problems.”  I don’t even really remember the context of our discussion, but her comment has stuck with me.  It’s so true.  As a child, we have a very limited view of the world at large, and most of my memories are happy and carefree.  As we grow older and our view of the world around us expands, we are exposed to more and more pain, suffering, and sadness– sometimes our own, but often in the lives of others too.

Over the last several weeks, Matt and I have been struggling with watching people we know and love go through some really hard things.  Not just one or two friends, but several.  There are marriage troubles, there are health issues, there are fears and anxieties.  It has made us heavy-hearted, and frankly, a little discouraged.  We want to fix things and we just can’t.  We want to help, but feel so helpless.  It kind of makes us want to hide from the whole scary world so we don’t fall into the same pits, but where and how?  We start to wonder if everyone else on the planet has some deep, dark secret pain going on, and maybe we’re the only people who have “normal” trials, like bad days at work or budget woes or struggling to keep up with the demands of busy lives.  (Does anyone else feel like that sometimes?)  It of course puts your own trials into startling perspective, but it leaves you feeling a vicarious pain for what everyone else seems to be going through.  And even though your own life is relatively “easy,” it’s not easy to watch the pain that’s happening around you.  It hurts.

I’ve noticed it’s difficult to brush those feelings aside and deal with the matters at hand, like helping children with homework or finding socks or making dinner.  They have no idea about the hard things going on in the lives of friends and family.  You certainly don’t want to make it their burden either, but it’s hard to put on a happy face and go on like nothing’s wrong.  This morning, after I got the boys off to school, I tried to get Natalie occupied with her own activities so that I could just crawl back into bed and think.  Rest.  Decompress.  She kept coming into my room every 5 minutes to ask for help with milk or TV buttons or questions.  I was losing patience quickly.  It’s really hard to heal and mother at the same time.  I wasn’t very kind.

I don’t have any real answers to this.  I’m still working through it, but I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about and learning about in the meantime.  Yesterday, I had a rare opportunity to be in the car by myself in between some carpooling drop-offs and pick-ups.  I wanted something to listen to in the car that would help me focus my thoughts, and I remembered that I had an old general conference CD set somewhere.  I scanned the bookshelf in the office, found it, and grabbed it.  I really wish I had some kind of system in my car where I could just hook up my iPod and listen to whatever I want whenever I want, but I don’t.  And it seems really dumb to invest in that kind of stereo equipment when my van is pushing 160K miles.  Anyway, I had general conference CDs from 1998, and I popped them in and listened while I drove.

This morning I had to go to the dentist, and the CD was still in when I turned on the car.  I heard the end of one talk that was nice.  They had all been nice, but nothing had jumped out at me so far.  Then I heard this talk:  “Overcoming Discouragement” by Elder Val R. Christensen.  Here are some of the things that I learned:

Many of us face significant challenges. Even the great prophet Enoch experienced sadness when he viewed the wickedness of the world: “And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44).

There are at least three steps to take when striving to overcome discouragement:

  1. You can work on changing your attitude toward the problem. Even though you can’t change the circumstances in which you work or live, you can always change your attitude.
  2. You can receive help from those who are close to you—your family, friends, and ward members, those who love you the most.
  3. You can develop a more powerful and complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even before he started explaining his three points, I knew that there was truth in them.  I felt the Spirit– enlightenment and hope.

By looking at a problem in a different way, it may be possible to reduce discouragement. I have been impressed with the pioneer story told about Zina Young. After experiencing the death of parents, crop failure, and sickness, she was encouraged with a spiritual experience that changed her attitude. While attempting to seek divine help, she heard her mother’s voice: “Zina, any sailor can steer on a smooth sea, when rocks appear, sail around them.” A prayer came quickly: “O Father in heaven, help me to be a good sailor, that my heart shall not break on the rocks of grief” (“Mother,” The Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1911, 45). It is often difficult to change circumstances, but a positive attitude can help lift discouragement.

One morning, several days ago, I got some bad news from one of my friends I’ve been worried about.  I lay in bed in the quiet early hours of the morning and my heart just hurt.  I could feel a real, tangible sadness.  While I thought about that pain, I was reminded of something I’ve taught many times before in a lesson about the Atonement.

“I believe, to use an insurance phrase, we must pay the deductible. We must experience sorrow enough, suffering enough, guilt enough so we are conscious and appreciative of the heavier burden borne by the Savior.” (Elder J. Richard Clarke, in Conference Report April 1993, 10)

In that moment, I kind of got it.  What I was feeling was just the tiniest piece of what the Savior felt when He took upon himself the pains of the world.  It was pain from sin, but also every kind of sorrow.  It is His pain.  Not mine.  Not hers.  It’s His.  He bought it with a price and I need to give it back to Him. I don’t need to keep it.  So, I determined then that all I can do is hand the burden back and then pay close attention to what He wants me to do.  He can show me how to help and how to move on.  So in the several days since, whenever I’ve felt the weight of sadness, I try to replay this same scenario in my mind and let it go.  Here’s another snippet from Elder Christensen’s talk:

I’ve talked about changing attitudes and receiving help from others. Now, let me mention the need to put more trust and faith in the Lord. I once talked to a woman who received help with her discouragement. While waiting for a temple session to begin, she picked up a Book of Mormon to read a verse. Her eyes fixed upon Alma 34:3: “And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience.” The scripture in Alma was an answer to her prayer. The message was simple: the problem she faced was going to take a long time to solve. If we place a little more patience in the process and a greater amount of faith in the Lord, our challenges will find their way toward successful conclusions.

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read this: “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful” (D&C 136:29).

Some of these things will take time to work themselves out.  I have faith that some of them really will work out just fine, but it may take a while.  There may be long periods of down before the up figures itself out.  So that’s what I’m working on right now: finding joy and optimism despite sad things happening around me.  When the talk was over, I turned to Natalie in the back seat and said, “Natalie, I’m sorry I wasn’t very nice to you this morning when I was in bed.  I was frustrated because I just wanted some rest, but I still should have been kind.  I’m sorry.”  She, being the epitome of childlike forgiveness, simply smiled and asked what was for lunch.

Anyway, I’m sorry if this post doesn’t have a cute little conclusion that makes it all better. I’m still working on it, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully it can be helpful to someone who’s dealing with or feeling some of the same things.

My favorite New Year’s thought so far.

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It’s possible that I’m the only one who has recurring “Bad Mom Days.”

But I doubt it.

Goals are wonderful things, but they don’t always pan out like we intend them to.  (That’s code for: Sometimes we downright fail.)  I don’t know if you’ve seen President Monson’s New Year’s message or not, but one paragraph at the end of it has been rolling around in my mind a lot this week.  It’s a great reminder that new years are great, but new days are even better, and trying again and again and again is what keeps us on the right track.

Courage is required to make an initial thrust toward one’s coveted goal, but even greater courage is called for when one stumbles and must make a second effort to achieve.

Have the determination to make the effort, the single-mindedness to work toward a worthy goal, and the courage not only to face the challenges that inevitably come but also to make a second effort, should such be required. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”

That little voice is a true friend because it points us toward the Atonement, repentance, forgiveness, and starting over.

So imagine me riding on my horse on the battlefield of motherhood waving my banner and shouting to all the mother masses, “Courage!”  (That just means get up again tomorrow and try again.  You’re doing better all the time.)  Or I guess all that imagination really isn’t necessary if you just listen to the prophet instead.  Yep, probably better to do that. Because me on a horse is kind of a stupid idea.

I might get a banner anyway.

If anyone has a link to President Monson’s talk (It’s called “Living the Abundant Life”), feel free to paste it in the comments so others can read it.  It’s a good one.  My dad sent me a copy by email, but I haven’t found it online yet.

Can of Worms: A Mormon Woman’s View on Womanhood

Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night with something in my head that my brain starts blogging about.  After I mental draft for 30 minutes or so, I give in, get up, and get on the computer.  So, it’s 4:18 a.m., and you’ve been warned.  🙂

Facts:  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The church has been spotlighted quite a bit in the media lately.  Such attention leads to a lot of online “chatter,” including long comment threads on national media sites.  Even though my better judgment tells me not to read those threads because they are crawling with trolls, I sometimes do, and good grief, people are ignorant.

Anyway, people sometimes use these forums to voice their concerns about “Mormons” and what they believe.  An informal calculation in my head tells me that about 75% of these critics are just dead wrong, and about 25% almost have it right, but they’ve severely misunderstood some point of our doctrine.  Simply stated, they are simultaneously misinformed and sure they’re not.  It’s frustrating.

One of the common threads I’ve seen running through these “discussions” is that Mormons are oppressive to certain populations (women, blacks, homosexuals, etc…).  All of these claims make my brain rattle and I want to yell at the universe, “Come on!  Have you ever met a Mormon?  Have you been to a worship service?  Or watched a faithful Mormon family in action?  Or read our scriptures (including the Bible)?  It would not take long at all to figure out that those claims are preposterous!!!”  But, you know how the universe ignores all that fist shaking and pointless yelling, so here I am venting on my blog.  I could not even pretend to tackle all those “issues,” but I’ve just got to address the women one.  I probably won’t do it justice (and frankly, internet trolls scare me to death), but it is with a small dose of trepidation and a large dose of fire in my bones that I must express what womanhood means to me, and what I believe it means to my church, and in short:  to God.

Let’s start with an anecdote, shall we?  Approximately one hour ago, my daughter woke me up to tell me she peed in her bed.  Her sheets were wet, her clothes were wet, and she was cold.  I helped her change out of her clothes, washed her body with a warm washcloth, stripped the sheets, started the laundry, and tucked her into a new bed.  She asked me to wrap her in the blankets “like a burrito,” and I did.  I kissed her on the head, she snuggled down into the mattress, smiled, and said “good night.”  As I walked out of the room, I turned off all the lights, and in the dark journey back to my bed, I was given some thoughts.  (Sometimes thoughts are given, not just thought.)  I reflected on Continue reading

Baloney.

This post may seem like a rant.  It’s not intended to be.  I’m not even angry.  It’s just me analyzing life in general and trying to get past the myths of motherhood. (For the record, I know how bologna is really spelled, but this alternate spelling seemed like the best fit when used as an exclamatory phrase.)

Do you know what one of my least favorite pieces of “advice” is when I complain about something I’m struggling with (because I am a horrible person and I do complain)?  It’s this juicy morsel:  “Just wait.  One day they’ll be grown and gone, and you’ll miss it.”

That’s a bunch of hogwash.  (a.k.a. Baloney.)

I happen to believe that parenting is a little like cancer, not only because it slowly kills you (I’m kidding. Kind of.), but because it comes in stages.  (On the bright side, anyone who has had cancer or any other life-changing trial will testify that it is a refining fire and brings them closer to God.  Also, I haven’t really thought this analogy all the way through, so take it with a grain of salt.) Stage 1 is a very physically demanding stage– it’s the baby and toddler years where everything you do is awash in a haze of diapers and sleepless nights and picking up toys and doing laundry. You wonder if your body and mind will ever return.  I’d say there’s about a 50% chance of full recovery.

Stage 2– where I am now– is when your children finally break free from total dependence and start to exert a tiny bit of functional intelligence.  It means you can step outside and talk to your neighbor on the driveway for 5 minutes and leave your children unsupervised (with an obvious level of assumed risk).  It means you can give out chores and instructions and expect that they can be done.  Unfortunately, this functional intelligence does not come with a social compass or any real common sense, so you spend most of your day listening to your children argue with each other about absolutely meaningless things or constantly talk about poop, farts, or how hilarious it would be if so-and-so tripped and fell in the toilet, etc.  As far as I can tell, this is the mentally exhausting phase because, for the most part, you are required to have conversations throughout the day that make your brain want to explode if you haven’t already self-combusted due to a completely depleted reserve of patience.  You also find yourself repeating the same requests and family rules over and over and over and over and over again and wondering if your children’s brains will ever work rationally.  Again, I’d say there’s about a 50% chance.

Stage 3.  The teenage years. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve spent a lot of my years working with youth either professionally (as a teacher) or in church callings.  All I can say about this stage is that it seems like it will probably be the most emotionally challenging one.  There will be much to worry about as you watch your children grow and make decisions of their own– often wrong decisions.  You will be in the line of fire of their own hormonal and emotional roller coaster.  There are clearly some things to look forward to (like *maybe* kind of real conversations and camaraderie), but let’s not be naive– it will be challenging.

Stage 4.  This is the stage that Matt and I fantasize about the most– the one where they go off to college or on missions and we only have our very own messes to clean up at home.  I obviously have no real experience with this stage either and I know that like every other stage, it is fraught with challenges.  Adult children still make lots of dumb decisions and come face to face with a cruel world, and you probably struggle with how much to help and how much to let them struggle.  I imagine it is a stage of worry and anxiety with respect to your children, and perhaps a little longing to be more a part of their lives.

However, I promise that when I am in stage 4 parenting, I will not miss stage 1 and 2 parenting.  Will I miss my children and the joys that were a part of that stage?  Absolutely.  I will sometimes crave the sweet little newborn head that fits just right in the crook of my neck.  I’ll miss the eyes that stare up at me with unending trust and love while the baby nurses.  I’ll miss the giggling, the tickling, the hugs and kisses, the holding hands.  Oh, the holding hands.  It’s one of my favorite things– how they reach up for your hand instinctively as you walk them to preschool or through the Costco parking lot, how they choose to be connected to you.  I’ll miss looking over and seeing them sitting on the couch with their arms around each other reading a book together.  In short, there are plenty of things I’ll miss.

But I won’t miss what I’m complaining about in each stage.  I can’t imagine myself in my golden years reaching for the TV remote and wishing that someone had hidden it under the couch cushions.  I won’t walk into a room to find it exactly the way I left it and then wish that there were Legos and wrappers from sneaked food on the floor.  I won’t do a project from start to finish and wish I had been interrupted for 3 diaper changes and argument arbitration.  I’ll admit that I sometimes might think it’s too quiet.  Maybe.

So in summary, when young mothers whine about their exhausting struggles, please don’t tell us that we’ll miss them when our children are grown.  Should we wish it all away?  No.  Should we cherish the parts we love in every stage we’re in?  Absolutely. We will miss our children and the loveliest points of parenthood (and of course there will be new challenges at every stage), but we’ll happily kiss the hard parts goodbye.  President Monson says I’m wrong.

“If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.”

I can’t help but think that when he says “them,” he means the children, and not the fingerprints and laundry. Am I delusional? What do you think?