Mom Shame: Whom the Lord loveth, He maketh cry like a baby.

I paraphrased that scripture in the title a little bit.  It really says “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” but I was just trying to make it more accurate as it relates to me.

(Deep breath.)

I’ve been drafting this post in my head for five days, and it’s still going to sting a little.  In fact, as soon as “the incident” happened, I knew I was going to have to blog about it, but that I would have to wait until I had recovered my dignity.  I don’t know why I feel so compelled to tell this story, but my best guess is that it has something to do with confessing and moving on.

I’ve been busy. There’s the regular busy:  the meals, laundry, carpool, church responsibilities, volunteering at kids’ schools, homework and chore supervision, etc.  On top of that, I have several writing projects going on, many of them with deadlines (even if they’re self-imposed). I’ve also had some lesson and teaching preparations happening on the side. I’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes research and really-small-scale activism about some social issues that have captured my attention and that I feel strongly about. It seems like I’ve had a really long ever-growing list of emails to reply to and appointments to make and stuff that just keeps taking a few minutes here and a few minutes there.  Other tasks and details added to my juggling efforts, and I started to feel a little out of balance.  You know, the nagging feeling that maybe I needed to pause and refocus, but I was too busy to do that, so I just left the thought hanging and kept on going.

Fast forward to Friday.  I was hosting a girls’ night party at my house that night, so I was engaged in must-get-the-house-clean-and-do-party-prep mode.  I got sucked into some emails and other online “business” in the morning that I kept going back to and checking on in between chores.  The boys were at school and Natalie was working on her own chore chart and then I turned on a show for her.  The phone rang and I talked to my good friend for a while.  Toward the end of our conversation, I told her I would email her a link about something we were discussing, and I headed toward the computer to log in and pull it up on the screen.  When I walked over to my desk, I saw this note taped to my keyboard.  It knocked the air out of me.

It felt like a kick in the stomach. I stumbled through a quick goodbye to my friend, hung up the phone, and carried the paper into the family room.  Natalie was sitting on the couch.  She saw the paper, and her eyes were wide waiting for my reaction.

I started to cry.

“I’m sorry, Natalie.  Do you feel like I think the computer is more important than you are?”  She nodded yes.

“Have I been a bad mom?”  Yes again.

I cried more and said I was sorry more.  She looked a little worried, but she hugged me, and she mostly seemed relieved for having voiced her grievance and been understood.  I, on the other hand, was mortified.  Here I was writing a book about motherhood, blogging about motherhood, trying to find ways to fight pornography and protect my children, and frankly, forgetting to be a good mother.  I felt it deep.  You can talk it away and rationalize, but I know it was a necessary, personal wake-up call.  It was a guilty flame that burned out a little hole inside of me, and God was giving me a chance to fill it back up again with the right stuff.

I talked to a friend.  I talked to my mom.  And when I thought I could tell the story without crying, I told Matt.  I was wrong.  We all came to the same conclusion.  I was doing good things.  I really was, but I neglected the most important things.  It was a classic case of good, better, best, and I failed.  It’s not like I had abandoned my children and all household responsibilities, but I could have done better.  I should have done better.  I like to think that God heard my silent heart-prayers about feeling out of balance and not quite knowing where to fix it, and then He sent me a lightening bolt answer.  It wasn’t a fun answer.  It was humiliating.  But it was the right answer.  It was just hard.

Natalie and I have talked about it more, and we’ve come up with a system that allows me to work on some projects, but still gives her the time and attention she needs from me.  It will take a little time for me to change some habits, remind myself often what matters most, and get things balanced again.  It’s totally worth it.  Maybe even the shame part.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” –Luke 12:34

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A few post-scripts:

1.  The girls’ night was fun!  Natalie joined in and loved it.
2.  Next weekend is the Story @ Home conference in Salt Lake, where my friend Jana is teaching this workshop: “Striking a Balance with Real life and Online: It’s unacceptable to put our families in crisis or fail and give up on our dreams, both can work.  Come learn five essential principles for following your dreams and striking a balance while keeping God and family first.”  Coincidence?  I think not.  Come join us.
3.  The book I contributed to is still at its special pre-sale price.  Here’s a link to know more and buy a copy or two.  🙂

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GCBC Week 16: “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

First of all, thanks to all of you who checked in to the roll call last week.  I’m glad to know there’s still a little army marching along.  🙂

I really, really like this talk by Elder Christofferson.  Maybe it’s because the Lord teaches me often through chastening. The “naggings” of the Holy Ghost have frequently been the means by which I finally get my act together and do what I know I should be doing.  And I’m grateful for that.

“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Some of my favorite quotes in this talk were:

Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path.

If we sincerely desire and strive to measure up to the high expectations of our Heavenly Father, He will ensure that we receive all the help we need, whether it be comforting, strengthening, or chastening.

What parts of his message stood out most to you? How do you think we can apply these lessons?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  If this is your first visit to GCBC, visit here to learn more about it, and join the fun.

GCBC Week 15: Cleansing the Inner Vessel

Thank you to those of you who have been diligent with GCBC even when I have not been. The past few weeks have brought on several unexpected circumstances that have demanded large quantities of my time, so thank you for being patient with my very intermittent and lame posting.  🙂

This week’s talk is President Packer’s talk about the power of repentance and of the priesthood to heal especially some of the more common ills and temptations of today’s society.

“Nowhere are the generosity and the kindness and mercy of God more manifest than in repentance.”

“Cleansing the Inner Vessel”

President Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I previously wrote a little rant where I shared some of my feelings following much of the “controversy” that was arisen from this talk.  I want to make clear that this forum has never, will never and is not now a place to criticize or question the Lord’s anointed.  While questions may obviously arise, I feel that they should always be taken to the Lord, made an object of prayer and study, and not expressed as criticism.

Having said that, I invite you to look at this talk as directed at your very own life and how it can apply to you personally.  What are the stand-out messages, warnings, counsel, and encouragement that you get out of it?

If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, welcome.  Here is a link that explains how you can join us.

Pre-dawn ponderings

It’s 4- something in the morning and I’ve been lying awake in bed for over an hour, so I thought “Hey, maybe I should get up and do something productive since I’m not sleeping.”  And blogging sounded a lot more fun then laundry.  I don’t suffer from insomnia; I could sleep for a day straight probably, but when I get woken up (my children pee in their beds through their nighttime diapers on a regular basis and we have midnight sheet changing rituals.  My pediatrician swears it’s normal, but I’m ready to hook everyone up to some kind of automatic electro-shock system and stop giving them liquids after breakfast.), well, then I think too much and it’s hard to go back to sleep.

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So, lucky you.  Welcome to my sleep-deprived midnight musings.

With all the sickness around here lately, and a handful of unexpected drama in other areas of my life, there’s been a sense of trudging knee-deep through some drudgery lately.  I won’t lie, I’ve felt overwhelmed and run-down.  I can feel it getting better now as it always does once you just get through it and start to get to the other side.  Matt’s been down with the flu the last couple days and Natalie’s been taking care of him by bringing him pieces of candy (from the Great Pumpkin stash she discovered) and asking him if he feels better.  Matt, recognizing her nurturing instinct, said, “Natalie, thanks for taking care of me.  Are you like a mommy?”  She nodded and smiled and replied, “I’m a mudder (mother).”  Then she called me in the room and said, “Guess what mom?  I’m a mudder.”  I watched her with her kindness, and pride in her new title, and it was a grounding moment for me.  She saw the value in that nurturing role, embraced it, and wore it with pride.  There are days I forget that, but guess what everybody?  I’m a mudder.

I had an experience this week where some good intentions went wrong and I offended someone.  I know that I have a strong personality (I like to call it “resolute”), but I don’t think I’m controlling, and I really really hate contention, so I try not to rustle up fights or drama.  I may have offended people many times and not known about it, but in this case, I was was made quickly and abruptly aware of my offenses.  Can I just say humility sucks?  It is hard to step back when you feel under attack and realize that maybe you need to make some improvements.  I had to pray my way through this one and then have a nervous-stomach, heart-pounding conversation and apologize for my mistakes.  Anyway, the whole drama is not the point, but I just wanted to testify that prayer works.  And priesthood blessings.  I  knew I was heard, and I knew I was not left alone in solving it.  I could feel that Heavenly Father understood my heart, but that he also wanted me to acknowledge and change some things.  He was so nice about it, but it still hurt a little, as all stretching does.  But there’s a new lightness and hope after He helped me understand it better.  It’s the beginning of learning process for me.

On a lighter note, I shaved my legs yesterday.  Um, maybe I’m running out of substance here.  I think I’ll go back to bed.

General Conference Book Club Week 5: Elder Andersen

I loved all your great comments about last week’s talk.  When it comes to “schooling my feelings,” I’ve learned that I still have a lot of work to do.  Maybe that’s why I was drawn to our talk selection for this week:  “Repent . . . That I May Heal You” by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, given during the Saturday afternoon session of conference.

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“The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to “re-turn” toward God.”

“Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience.”

“Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we were climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don’t see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges.”

As women, we are so prone to guilt, to self-doubt, and to damning ourselves in our own minds.  I wonder how often this simple doctrine of repentance, when used sincerely and regularly, could purge us of that heaviness and literally lighten our souls, our outlook, and our understanding of our standing before the Lord.

You can read the talk here, or listen to it here, or watch it here.  Then share what you’ve learned right here in the comments.  (Click here to learn more about this book club if you’re arriving for the first time.)

My vacation to the dark corners of my soul

Matt went out of town for a job interview.  On a whim, to compensate for my anticipated loneliness at home, I decided to meet up with my brother and his family from Tennessee in Nauvoo, Illinois.  I have traveled by myself with the children before, but it has always been to a parents’ home, where there were lots of helping hands.  I figured I could handle it.

I was wrong about myself.

My post title might be a little over-dramatic, but it didn’t take me very long into the trip to realize that I don’t have the fortitude for such journeys.  I can’t figure out what made it difficult for me.  I do things alone with my children all the time.  My husband works full time and goes to law school at night.  Practically everywhere I go is by myself with children in tow.  But something about this trip kicked my trash.

Believe it or not, the seven-hourish car trip was not too bad, thanks to a stockpile of snacks, toys, coloring books, and the modern wonder of DVD players.  We arrived at the little cabin on the banks of the Mississippi River that, by providence, I had randomly discovered online.  The sunset view in the evening gives a (false) sense of peace and quiet in our little family cabin:

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My kids were out of control.  Was it because of all the time in the car?  Was it vacation excitement?  Was it the fact that dad was a thousand miles away?  I don’t know, but I’m quite sure that I was useless.  Imagine a cabin with three children, ages 6,5, and 2, totally unsupervised.  Try to get a good picture in your mind of the energy, chaos and noise.  Now add a frazzled mom in the picture running back and forth barking things like, “Stop screaming,” “Hands to yourself,” “I said put on your pajamas,” and “Get in bed now.”  Repeat four thousand times.  Here’s the weird thing: that mom was invisible.  No one listened.  No one responded.  The anarchy continued unphased by commands of the might-need-to-be-institutionalized-soon mother.  I even spanked.  I don’t spank.  I don’t think anyone was harmed by my whimpy whacks, and certainly no one was deterred by them.  I had feelings of rage and despair that I think might rival much more intense and life-threatening activities than readying children for bed.  I finally “succeeded” and they were in bed, but I was left simmering in my own dark feelings.  I hated that I couldn’t control them, and hated more that I couldn’t control myself.

This scenario repeated itself several times throughout the trip.  I’m sure my children were just being “normal,” but I felt like they were just so disobedient when I would ask them to stop something over and over and over again.  And then this yucky feeling of failure and anger and disappointment in myself would become heavy.  There were lovely moments in the trip, too.  Natalie and her cousin dressed as pioneers, and could they be any cuter?

DSCF0036We had studied the Doctrine and Covenants in preparation for our trip, and the boys were excited to visit Carthage Jail, the location of the prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.  Can you sense the affection they felt for Joseph and his brother Hyrum as they clamored to this statue when we arrived?

DSCF0026And Natalie returned again and again to this statue of Jesus Christ.

DSCF0042We have a tradition of a donut-picnic at the temple whenever we travel:

DSCF0045And there’s no denying that the cousins loved each other’s company.DSCF0044So in all fairness, I have to say it was a good trip, and I think my children will have good memories, and perhaps even some key testimony-building moments, but for me… well, for me, I saw the ugly side of myself– the impatient, not long-suffering, and definitely not joyful and carefree side of myself.  And the I’m-a-fool-if-I-ever-think-I-can-do-this-alone side of myself.  I felt like such a dork when I would visit these historical sites and think of the sacrifices the early Saints made and the trials that they would endure as they tried to live their faith while faced with real problems.  My issues seemed so stupid by comparison.  So the trip was one of those refiner’s fire, soul-shaping adventures for me.  The kind that hurt a little, but you know something better can and should become of you.  (And the kind that makes you think that just maybe you should put your kids in time out for a month when you get home.)

Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when I got lost on my way to church.  I was trying to get directions over the phone, but the kids were being loud and silly in the car, and my phone lost signal.  In a moment of peaked frustration, I turned around and yelled, “EVERYBODY QUIET!!!”  I am not a screamer.  But I screamed.  My children all froze in place and looked at me with wide eyes.  We silently continued toward the church.  Natalie said quietly, “Mommy, you scared me.”  I was so upset (again, mostly with myself), and the thought occurred to me that perhaps today, more than any other time that I could recall, I really needed the Sacrament.  I was acutely aware of my weaknesses, and boy, did I need grace.  I needed the power of repentance, the assurance of forgiveness, and most of all, a new start.

One of my favorite statues I saw at the visitors center in Nauvoo was this depiction of the Savior walking on the stormy sea:

DSCF0043When I think of those waters as my stormy feelings– the darkness, the chaos, the difficult-to-harness anger, I know that the Savior is the one who must calm the elements.  I need him.  Again, the lesson of my “vacation” hit home– I cannot do this alone.

We’re back home, and we survived.  Next week I’ll probably think it was a fun trip.  It was great to see my brother and his family.  My testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and the restored gospel was strengthened.  In the meantime, Matt is helping me remind our children why they should listen better, and we’ll work on that as a family.  Because another vacation like that one, and I might lose my mind.