Have It All

Image                                             I am so blessed to already “Have It All”

“ My husband and I have been married for 42 years. We never had much (in the way of material things). My husband made minimum wage when we got married and it increased up to 15% as the years passed. We never had a car. We never went to a restaurant. But I never regret my decision to stay home and be a wife and mother. We enjoyed coming home and preparing our meals together. We would go for walks in the park and just enjoy each other’s company. We were happy, our children were happy and I was there whenever they needed me.”

I could feel the tears well up in my eyes as this gentle, smiling woman stood up behind me in our women’s congregation at church to share her experience. She was petite, her clothes were faded and would be considered “out of style”, her face and hands wore the marks of someone that had worked hard and long her entire life. When I thought about raising a family on ONE MEXICAN minimum wage income I hung my head in admiration and a bit of shame. This woman’s contentment and peace radiated from her being and she stood up to share with us, and remind us, what we, as women, came to this earth to do.

The messages that bombard us on a daily basis are often overwhelming, sometimes downright nauseating.

Women should be equal with men, have a career that “fulfills” them, be able to come and go as they please, we travel to exotic locations, we look like a photo-shopped model at all times, we are completely up to date on all social media news, we have a delightful blog that oozes with wisdom and cuteness, our homes immaculate and beautifully decorated, our yards manicured, our gardens from which we home can all of our produce  is free of weeds, our children (2 of course, one boy, one girl) clean and neatly dressed in the latest styles, our meals perfectly balanced and prepared on time, our laundry ironed, folded and put away neatly by color and season(there are no dirty piles of course!), our budget balanced, our investments thriving, our cars (at least one for work and one for family) are washed and waxed and sitting in the spotless garage, we are involved in every sport and extracurricular  activity available, we attend and participate in all local political meetings, on the weekends we are volunteering at the animal shelter or food bank, on Sundays we’re at church, we teach Sunday School as well as facilitate other ecclesiastical meetings, a constant smile on our face and pleasant word on our lips….oh, and didn’t I mention, we’re writing a book….;)

The over-riding theme is that we can “HAVE IT ALL”. If we want it, we can have it, come and get it.

What I’m worried about is that it seems less and less women are worrying about what “IT ALL” really is, and where these messages are coming from. I find myself getting on to the treadmill of trends every so often myself. Sometimes I have to have a near breakdown before I realize I’ve forgotten my purpose.

Thus far, there have been two periods of time in my life where my desire to “HAVE IT ALL” nearly destroyed me.

The first time was as a pre-teen, going on teenager. My idea at the time of “IT ALL” was very much influenced by my passion for dancing. Unfortunately, I gave into the idea that I needed to be a certain way in order to succeed in the world of dance.

Long story short, my obsessive desires and thus behaviors led me very nearly to my death bed. Instead of fulfillment I felt emptiness and self-hatred.

Finding solace in the scriptures and prayer I remember when the sudden and forceful message came to me that I was not here on earth to be “fulfilling” myself, but to be a wife and mother. I remember the feeling that my future children were counting on me to be the mother that they deserve and I could not do that on the road I had taken. Fortunately, my ever faithful family and friends helped and supported me as I back-tracked and got on the right road.

The second time I felt myself getting horribly off track was during my last pregnancy.

As any wife and mother I have many responsibilities. Choosing to Homeschool adds another obligation, along with our extracurricular activities. I am very involved in our church and helping with our family business. Plus for me, pregnancy is hard work! 😉

Instead of pacing myself and setting priorities I started giving into the ideas of the world, of how I needed to be, what I needed to do, and how I was supposed to manage everything.

Where I ended up was one day having a complete melt-down, becoming a completely hellish beast to my family and finally driving off into the country-side, barely being able to see through the constant flow of my tears. I felt completely out of control, like I didn’t even know myself anymore.

Once again I turned to the scriptures and prayer and I felt the answers come. I slowed down. I prioritized and focused, and my patient husband and family road the bumpy road with me as I got back on the right road.

For me, the right road is focusing on the family. I believe women were put here on earth to nurture and guide their families towards Christ. The family is not a trophy nor a hobby, it is the whole purpose of life. We are here as families to return to God as a whole family.

Women are the hearth-makers, with whatever circumstances we are given we can make our house a home. Women set the mood of the home. The husband is the head, we are the neck. We prepare, love, teach, guide, listen, help and nurture. This is our sacred responsibility; this is why we are here.

So, am I against careers, cleanliness, cash, and calisthenics? No, of course not. Nor any of the other wonderful and engaging things this wonderful world has to offer. I just have to remind myself that just because it’s good doesn’t mean its best. And what’s good, or even best, for another may not be the best for me. I have to remind myself what my first priority always must be.

Because when it comes down to it, when all is said and done… if I can look back and see that my husband and family were well-cared for and happy.  If I can say that I did my very best to lead and guide them towards Christ, then that is “IT ALL”, for me.

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Pondering Mary

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In the spirit of celebrating motherhood, I find my thoughts once again turning to Mary. Can we ever really know, really understand the kind of woman that Mary was, and is? For Christ to be the man we know Him to be, his mother must be remarkable, angelic, divine, virtuous, the epitome of womanhood.

I’ve been pondering on Mary more and more as I continue to become more and more involved in my role as a mother. My thoughts deepened around Christmas time of last year when I viewed this video: http://youtu.be/ugV6QGcafEE . Not only does the music stir your soul but the images portrayed of Mary reminded me of the very few scriptures shared about this heavenly woman.

For Jesus to be the man he was he had to have had a mother like Mary. He knew not only the scriptures but how to apply them to live a higher moral code. Could he really have learned such application by merely reading and memorizing? Would He not have to have been mentored and guided from childhood to have such a deep understanding? We know that Mary was a devote woman (Luke 1:38, Luke 1:46-55) and her Son is another testament to her piety.

Mary also did not question the angel when he mentioned the Messiah, she knew and believed in the prophesied mission of the Savior. We see this as she did not question the what and why, but merely the how (Luke 1:34 ). Her complete willingness to follow the Lord “ … be it unto me according to thy word.”( Luke 1:38); submitting her will to the Father, in complete faith. So we need not be entirely surprised as her Son also let His will be swallowed up in the Father’s as He partook of the bitter cup.

Can you imagine giving birth in a stable and then within hours having strangers come to visit you and your newborn child? Mary let the shepherds come to see the Savior on the same night she had just given birth, people she had never met before, what compassion and graciousness. So is it a surprise that her Son fed 5,000, healed the ear of the very guard that would lead Him to his trial, wept with those that wept, let the children come unto Him, and blessed and helped people day after day even when he was tired and hungry and spiritually exhausted?

Mary was there to see her own child crucified, what kind of devotion would that take? Even though she knew, what intense pain she must have felt. So, is it really a surprise that Jesus went to Mary and Martha and even shared in their mourning for their brother Lazarus, even when He knew He would raise Him from the dead?

All that being said, it is hard to believe that Mary was even mortal. But we know that indeed she was mortal, and thus a finite and carnal being. She must have felt the inadequacy and discouragement that we as mothers feel at times. Despite any weakness she may have had, she raised the only Begotton Son of God, the Savior of all mankind. He grew up and fulfilled all that he was meant to do. So what was her secret? Well,…. is it secret? We are told that she asked, trusted, submitted, obeyed, glorified and pondered (Luke 1:34 Luke 1:38, Luke 1:46-55Luke 2:19 ). I think it is quite clear that Mary was not a blind follower but an active agent in the work of God. A beautiful example of virtuous strength and faith, the perfect mother for the Son of God.

And isn’t it wonderful to think that we too are raising the Children of God? What a marvelous responsibility and gift! Every day I marvel at the trust God has shown He has in me by sending me such remarkable children. Ought I not to have the same trust in Him? Besides, he knows me and my children better than anyone else and He also knows what we CAN be. He knows that the combination of us, as mothers, and our children, as our children, CAN become a divine combination. We must simply look to Him.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Pebble

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Do you ever wonder if you really make a difference? Do you ever wonder if what you’re doing really matters? Do you ever feel that your contribution is meaningless?

I’ve been thinking about this subject over the past few weeks. My thoughts became increasingly poignant when I watched a video the other day about WWII and some university students that tried to protest the Nazi regime through their own propaganda. In the end, the investigation pointed to 3, but mainly 2 students that had masterminded the majority of the information and distribution of the propaganda. They were executed for their efforts. However their legacy lived on and their voice was heard and made a positive difference.

After wiping away the tears, I got to thinking….am I making a difference? Is what I’m doing really going to matter?

My first thoughts were rather discouraging. But as I started to analyze my influence a bit more deeply I began to picture a pebble being thrown into an enormous lake. True, for the most part it would go unnoticed. But, that tiny pebble would cause ripples, even a bit of a splash, and had the power to even rock a boat.

I am not perfect. But I am trying my best. I am a child of God, a woman, a wife, a mother. I may not matter to others but I do matter to some, and I do matter to God. He sees me. He cares. He knows of my efforts.

I also know that every day I am making a statement. Every day that I choose to put my God, my marriage and family first I am telling them and everyone that will take notice that I know what real success is. Every day that I choose to use kindness instead of anger, disdain, or negativity, I am testifying that goodness wins. Every day that I choose to protect and sanctify my body with healthy habits and modesty I am showing God that I am grateful for His gift to me and my family and anyone else that will take notice that our bodies are sacred. Every day that I walk out with my family I am showing that I know that we are ALL beloved children of God, that He sees us, not our skin. Every Sunday when I’m going to church and spending the day in a worshipful attitude, I am testifying of my belief in the teachings of the Bible. Every day that I choose virtue and integrity over convenience and image I am telling my children what really matters. What I say and what I do says to the world and especially to my family what and who I am.

I think as Moms we sometimes get mixed messages.

The world tells us to do all and be all. This is more in the sense of superficial success, a skin-deep perfection…..have the amazing career, the money, the “perfect” body, the “perfect” house and the “perfect” family. Not only is this a tainted view of happiness, it never really brings happiness.

On the other hand, the Lord tells us to be virtuous and true to Him, our husbands and our families. Our purpose and mission is to teach and guide and lead the children of God to be the leaders and kind of people He wants them to be. What amazing trust our God must have in us women!

While trying our best and looking to God to fill in gaps, will bring happiness and even joy as we strive to fulfill this incredible role, it can seem daunting at times and we can become discouraged. Part of this discouragement often comes from the fact that although we have basic scriptural outlines and the Spirit to guide our efforts, we will find that there is no “blueprint” for success. Every woman and family is different and there are many details that the Lord will guide us in but not mandate.

Then we have our own personal demons to root out of our being. We all have weaknesses and while a spouse and children can help bring out the best in us, if we are not careful we and they can also end up with the worst of us.

Thankfully, this is all part of the plan. Just like a precious metal or gem, we cannot reach our potential without some tempering, some heat, some pounding off of rough edges.

As I was pondering on what I needed to do to be the kind of person that God wants me to be, and make the difference that I need to make in my children’s lives especially, I then pictured the little “Refresh” icon on my computer. Every now and then I have to sit back, look around, ponder, pray, study and click “Refresh”. The beauty of the atonement is that it works for everyone. I am not perfect BUT I can try again.

The desire to change is often with me but the urgency to do so has been heightened over the past week or so. This urgency to change was especially present today as I read and heard of a young mother, not much older than myself, that died a yesterday due to birth complications. Gratefully, she was a beautiful, Proverbs 31 woman that was ready to meet her Maker. Sadly, she left behind a young husband and 6 children, one of which she would never meet in this life. As I stared at my computer through a curtain of tears I began to think, “Am I ready?” “If I died today would my husband and children really know how much I love them?” “Would they remember me in a positive light?” “Has my pebble made all the ripples and splashes it was meant to make?”

I still have much work to do. I know that I am not alone in my quest. I know that my contributions seem small, but they are needed and they matter. I will “Refresh” and be better each day. Even if my life is only a pebble, the ripples will make a difference. Now I’m going to go hug my family and tell them I love them. Good night!

P.S. Here is the link about the woman I mentioned. A beautiful young woman that has left a husband and 6 children behind, please keep them in your prayers! Our Dearest Katrina!www.youtube.comhttp://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=GqBCZckcPSQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DGqBCZckcPSQ

Happy Medium

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So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact

and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.

And never mix up you right foot with your left.

By Dr. Seuss

This quote kept running over and over in my brain this morning as I was struggling to get my mind to concentrate on one subject at a time. Do you ever feel that way? You have a million and one things to be done and you feel so nutty and overwhelmed that you become completely ineffective? I was definitely feeling it this week in particular but I knew I needed to do something about it when I was sorting the laundry this morning and could not get my brights to stay out of my whites! That’s when I said to myself, “You need to figure out something to concentrate lady or you’re going to have twice as much to do because you’re doing it all wrong!”

Have you ever heard the phrase “happy medium”? You know, like a nice balance….maybe not everything is perfect but you’re happy with your progress? Well, this is what I’m striving for and lately I’ve been failing miserably.

A new baby along with my three other children, a new year, restarting homeschool, trying to add in a few extracurricular activities, trying to find some time to help my husband with his business, and exercise and devotional study, then just the everyday secretarial/parental/maid/cook(nutritionist)/ chofer/errand running/ etc responsibilities of being a mom just seem like Mt. Everest these past few days. I keep telling myself that I could do better but I can’t seem to stop the treadmill long enough to get a plan to move forward on!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a high stress person. I like order. I like plans. I like schedules. Yep, one of THOSE people. I can be creative and spontaneous but ironically it takes a lot of effort and I end up over thinking it. So needless to say, when something interrupts my ordered little world, I kinda get my feathers ruffled a bit.

Well, the “somethings” that interrupt are constant, as we all know, life is not stagnant! Not that I would want it to be. This is all part of God’s plan, how can we learn and grow and become more like Him is we are never challenged and stretched and tried? Just like water the freshest and cleanest is the kind that is constantly in motion.

What I’m learning in this journey is that sometimes amongst all the “motion” around us and involving us we have to PAUSE OURSELVES to get our bearings and create calmness within that will lessen the stress and make us more effective.

Am I any good at this? No, not really…remember I said “I’m learning….” Haha! But what I have noticed is that the best way for me to pause is to start with my spirit. Starting my day with a talk with my Father in Heaven helps me to calm and clarify things. Also, I try to have an open conversation with Him during the day, especially when I feel like my treadmill of life might be on a speed and slope that I can’t handle. He helps me to see the priorities more clearly and create a calm within that allows me to think more clearly. Then I return and report at the end of the day because I know at least He cares about my mundane world.

With this clarity I can create my path. As I said planning helps me. I outline what I need to get done and I’ve found that if I prioritize the list but not give myself a strict timeline (except for mandated timelines of course, ie: taxes! Ugh!) then I can get the most important things done first and still have enough­­­ room for some spontaneity.

Of course I have to watch my planning. Sometimes I get overzealous and get too motivated and start doing things as if I’ve got one day left to do it all in. This method always leads me to one end….tired and depressed.

And sometimes I just need a break! Sometimes when I’m running and running and so busy DOING that I’m not “stopping to smell the roses”. What’s the point of taking a hike through a beautiful forest if you’re so busy climbing or getting exercise that you don’t even pause to enjoy the view? Sometimes I have to just do something simply for the enjoyment of doing it. Which is why I’m writing and “drinking” the “juice and icecream” my two-year old just made me out of play-doh, instead of doing a long list of other things I could be doing!

Right now I’m in the midst of finding my happy medium. Like my mom always tells me….if I find the formula for it, I’ll patent it. O.K. I’ve taken my break, I feel better…..on to “the list” Wish me luck and take luck with yours!

I am an Avocado

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I love avocadoes. They’re one of those amazing foods that not only taste amazing but are amazing for you as well.

Anyway, for some reason as I was slicing some avocado today to put in my tunafish for lunch I started reflecting on the humble fruit (yes, fruit…I’ll admit I had to look it up!)

It’s somewhat pear shaped, a little wrinkly and rough on the outside, maybe not a beauty to behold, but when you open it, it’s lovely and incredibly useful and versatile. Then the thought came to me, “I am an avocado!” Right down to the firm but soft feeling and nearly 25% fat (Although I do hope to chisel that down as I’m losing my “baby fat”)….O.K. so maybe I’m not green, the comparison doesn’t hold true to the end, but you get the idea.

This idea struck me with intrigue. So then I started thinking about the tree of avocado. What can I learn?

Well, I’m not a botanist but I have noticed several things after observing the avocado tree. I’ve noticed that avocadoes do well in the sun. Well, that makes sense. I too, thrive and prosper when I am in constant contact with the Son. When I try to follow in my Savior’s footsteps and learn and study His teachings, every aspect of my life is not only more fruitful, but I also feel a greater sense of peace and joy from the “fruit of my labors”.

Another observation was that when the avocado tree gets too many avocadoes on one branch the weight will cause negative effects. Depending on the amount and weight of the avocadoes the branch can bend to the point of not receiving proper nutrition from the tree or even break off or die. I’ve noticed a similar effect in my life. When I pile on too many obligations, responsibilities and expectations I lose time and drive to nourish my spirit and body. I start to focus more on the doing and going and external worldly pressures become my god/idol. This always leads to a negative effect, from a general feeling of “under the weather” to a downright abysmal depression. Sometimes it is essential to “thin the herd” so to speak as we prioritize and  decide what we really HAVE to do.

My last comparison originated from the structure of the tree itself. I noticed that every part of the tree was essential for the avocado to reach its’ full purpose and potential. The roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves…all played an important and necessary role in the avocadoes life. This made me reflect on what my roots and tree are made of and how I can make them an ever present part of my life.

We talk about “our roots” all the time in referring to our ancestral heritage. Why is this so important? I’ve pondered this a lot of late as I’ve thought about how to teach my children about their dual heritage (my husband being from Africa and I from the United States). Having this knowledge helps them not only understand their parents and extended family but also themselves.

I also think about heritage in a spiritual sense. I believe we are literally spirit children of God and as such we have certain potentials and also expectations. I think that knowing about and experiencing your heritage helps you understand who you are. If you don’t know where you came from or who you are how can you decide where you are going?

Then comes the trunk, well I would consider that our family that we grew up in. It is what has supported us throughout our lives and “holds us up” in a very real sense. But I would also consider the trunk as our faith. This is what gets us through the hard times and the stronger it is the better we do in the storms of life.

Our branches are what are connected to us the most closely, our family that we have created with our spouse. They are with us through thick and thin, rich and poor, sickness and health. They see the worst and best of us and know us probably better than the family we grew up in. Without them we would be nothing.

I also think of this branch relationship as our personal relationship with God. He truly knows us better than anyone else and He connects us to the trunk and roots and brings all types of nourishment to us. Without Him we truly would be nothing.

It’s amazing the things we can learn and what we can learn them from. Have you learned anything interesting lately?